Monday, May 25, 2009

Tenacity revisited

Last year, Randy Rucker did a series of Tenacity dinners at his home. The food was pretty far out. So now that he's head chef at Rainbow Lodge, has he gone conservative, lost his chops, sold out?

Of course not. These are a few highlights of the Tenacity dinner at the Rainbow Lodge, last Thursday:

uni custard, salsify bacon, creamy miso

"Uni isn't for everyone," Randy announced when he brought out this:

I adore good uni because it captures the essence of the sea. Some people don't like sea essence. (Like my mother told me yesterday, "I don't want my fish to taste like fish.") So Rucker wisely toned down the sea-foam quality of uni by pairing it with a light miso cream.

The most unusual part of this dish was the dried, smokey strips of salsify. Salsify is a root that, when cooked, usually tastes like an oyster. In this dish, it tasted more like bacon. It made a good contrast.

salad of shark ham, running squirrels wild greens

Few chefs get their hands on Running Squirrel's hand-foraged greens. Running Squirel is a 75-year-old Native American who gathers wild greens near Fort Hood, Oregon. The flavors of these herbs, greens, and flowers range from floral to bitter. Every bite is intensely interesting.

Randy made it even more interesting with foam and bits of shark ham cured in toasted kombu. The bits of cured shark tasted salty and smokey, like a good smoked trout, but better.

fricassee of burgundy snail & snapper roe

Rucker has been playing with snails. A week earlier, his steak special was a filet mignon with a Bordelaise sauce and snails. He has a good snail supplier. These snails are firm, meaty, delicious. Here he paired them with smoked toast and an orange sack of smoked snapper roe.

I am a new fan of smoked roe sacks. (The first I tried was a few months ago at Feast). The flavor combines a salted fish flavor, like anchovies, with a bacon flavor. I hope to see more of this ingredient.

bison liver, barbecued morels, sour ketchup

Although liver may be my least favorite organ meat, this one was light and airy. The bison liver tasted a bit sour, perhaps from the sour ketchup.

Yet I enjoyed this dish because of an over-the-top barbecued morel mushroom. Morels have a complex, pourous texture that allows them to soak up flavors. Here, the giant morel soaked up quite a lot of barbecue sauce. The flavor was sweet, sour, and decadent.

These 4 dishes are just a sample. Rucker served 12 courses over the space of several hours. The dinner was consistently interesting.

Has Tenacity changed?

At Rainbow Lodge, Tenacity is a little more expensive. The crowd is a bit older. And the wine and service are better. But Rucker's dishes remain just as avant garde.

I hoped Rainbow Lodge would bring him to a larger audience. It has. I worried it might dull his edge. It hasn't. Yes, he does a great job with a mainstream beef filet. But he has kept in touch with his more radical roots -- even salsify.


Matt K said...

I'm glad to see Chef Randy is keeping the creativity flowing. Do you know if he is there during lunch or only dinner? I was thinking of stopping in to try a few dishes and I was originally going to go for lunch, but the dinner menu looks a little more exciting. I know you have spoken highly of the charcuterie and it looks like they only have it on the dinner menu.

anonymouseater said...

I seen him there at lunch and dinner. But I have only ordered off the dinner menu. His nightly tasting menus look fantastic, but I never can convince my dining companions to try them.

Don't expect anything quite as exciting as the Tenacity dishes on the ordinary RL dinner menu . . . yet.

Decklid18 said...

Try harder with your companions. Randy's tasting safari can be your own private tenacity. We ventured forth a while back and were very pleased. Ours included a pristine lobster salad, salmon two ways under a smoke dome, and venison loin served with accompanying aromatic "tea."
From the revisited tenacity, I especially liked the fresh trout, and that soft shell crab was incredibly light and flavorful.

tlman said...

Running Squirrel is dying and had not been doing the salad for 5 years it has been his son and fireds vince ahern jerry and robert hawk earl ahern known as Running Squirrel has been dying and has some major health problem and mental problem he cant even go in the forest any more vince know all he has more exspeiance that RJ or Jerry

tlman said...

not to be rude but for the past 5 years earl ahern which is running squrril has not been making salad it has been his son vince ahern that has made it better richer and his firends jerry and RJ earl had not done it cause he can bely walk he is dieing so sorry but it has all been because of vince ahern

anonymouseater said...

tlman - That's good to know. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

contrary to tlman's comments, Running Squirrel is doing well, and not dying..............he can still provide quality wild greens.
he can be reached via e-mail

disco said...

I sure wish I could sample this food myself.The level of creativity is refreshing.Beautiful.Running Squirrel is alive and well and picking today.I had coffee and a few laughs with him this morning before he went out.He is the best and passing his knowledge along to a select few who appreciate it.We are fortunate he is still with us to teach us.

custom essay write said...

probably need to try all these sauces. sure it's so great (at least it looks like this)

Anonymous said...

Just so everyone knows "tlman" is probably Robert or Vincent. Running Squirrel is 73 years old and is doing just fine. He has not given his business to anyone and is very upset about Vincent (his son) and friends (Jerry & Robert) using his name for their salad. Running Squirrel himself does not approve of what they think quality is and on numerous occasions has had to filter through their salads and pick out poisonous plant matter. I understand that they are upset but is no reason to spread false rumors.