"Cuisine is when things taste like themselves." -Curnonsky
Before I begin this post, I must come clean. Whatever degree of objectivity you may expect of me will not be present in this article. The reason for this is that the best meal of my life took place at The Coda. I am not skilled enough to describe how utterly sumptuous it was. Let me say simply, that it consisted of a well-comprised salad, an exquisite and perfectly prepared Salmon Coulibiac, and samplings from a few sweets that I shared with my companions. The first of the evening's desserts was a subtly flavored Earl Grey Creme Brulee, which I admittedly horded a bit. Next was the very intriguing Experimental Ice Cream Flight. I strongly suggest, to any guest, that this easily shared dessert make its way to your table, regardless of how full you may be. With whimsical and daring flavors like Egg and Bacon, Mint Flower, Chocolate with Cherry Pop Rocks, Poached Carrot, and Goat Cheese, your table will be a flutter with conversation, and declarations of surprise and delight.
Check out The Coda's website, which contains a very interesting and entertaining Chef's Food Journal. A post from last December lists the many ice cream flavors that were offered over the course of the fall. All of the entries are well-written and something any foodie will enjoy. Our evening at The Coda was perfect; we all had a very lovely time. I assure you that I will be checking the menu throughout the season for the amazing Salmon Coulibiac to make its return. Well, now that my confession is out of the way, I feel we can move forward.
The Coda is a small restaurant, located behind Kleinhans, on Pennsylvania Street. Open for just over a year, husband and wife team Roo (photo) and Keren Buckley, have pleased patrons and their palates ever since.
The Coda considers its cuisine country global with an emphasis on French technique. Diners are treated to a variety of dishes prepared with classic methods, boasting flavors and ingredients that have a foothold in the cuisines of other cultures. Along with the remarkable food, good service and lovely ambiance, The Coda provides us with something that is virtually impossible to find in a restaurant- a new and entirely different menu every week.
The purpose of the ever changing menu is twofold. It keeps the creative juices flowing, and it allows the menu to be structured around the freshest seasonal ingredients available. Roo is a fervent proponent of the "shop local" perspective. Unlike many restaurants which use large corporate wholesalers to provide them with their ingredients, Roo buys from smaller local purveyors. Every week, he peruses the wares at many of the farmer's markets in our area. He regularly frequents East Aurora, Downtown, Bidwell and also, Ontario's Port Colborne, (for produce that is unavailable from WNY growers). At the height of the growing season more than 80% of The Coda's produce comes from the markets. I'd much rather spend my money at the farmers market.i says Roo, "We need to keep our money in the community. Buying produce from a wholesaler just sends our funds out of town to be invested in California or Mexico."
For The Coda, freshness is the backbone of the menu. After purchasing over 30 varieties of herbs from Herbally Wonderful (of Batavia) in the spring, the restaurant's back garden and patio have been transformed into a little market all their own. Did I mention that there are blackberries, too? A dark, rich and well-kept composting system helps to maintain the garden and the potted herbs that line the staircase outside of the building. "There really isn't anything like stepping out back, in the middle of service, to clip the herbs that will be in the guest's salad or main course, while they are still enjoying their appetizer." This year, Chris Brown and Joyce Berg lent Roo their patches in the community garden. This provided the kitchen with a bevy of fresh, fragrant, heirloom tomatoes.
"A tomato should taste like a tomato, a peach like a peach. What you are buying in the grocery store isn't authentic. It was genetically altered, grown in a sterile environment and then shipped from somewhere like Mexico, Florida or California. It goes through central processing, is gas ripened, sits in a warehouse, and then takes a ride across the country in a truck. How many days do you think it takes before it gets to you?"
Keren, Roo's wife, partner, and as he describes it, the restaurant's palate is from Israel. They have just returned from a short vacation there. Fresh, whole foods are the foundation of the Israeli diet. "In Israel, produce that is sold in supermarkets is never more than two days old. Virtually all of Israel is under cultivation. Olives, pomegranates, rosemary, lemon verbena, lavender and zahatar (an Israeli version of oregano), all grow wild. That doesn't even account for what is actually farmed there." We can expect The Coda's fall menu to reflect some of the flavors and experiences he had while there. "I will aim for a simpler formula. I think I will use less cluttered ingredients, really let things stand on their own."
Below, Chef Roo has provided us with the instructions for a four course meal, where each of the dishes utilizes peaches. This luscious, downy-skinned fruit will be readily available over the course of the next few weeks. Locally grown peaches can be purchased at our farmer's markets, the Lexington Co-op and the Amherst Street Wegmans.
Please note that these recipes will serve approximately four guests. Additionally, a number of the ingredients carry through from one recipe to another, making your shopping list relatively short and manageable. At Wegmans today, I decided to calculate an estimate for the ingredients. I did not include the price for pantry items like vinegar, wine, oil, salt and pepper, or standard herbs. The total amount that I calculated was just over $50.00.
"I love working with peaches because they are so versatile," Roo wrote me this evening. "They may be used in sweet or savory applications; they can be roasted, braised, pickled, candied, brandied, stewed, grilled....and these apply to both free- and clingstone."
Roo was kind enough to email me these recipes, and I have included them here, in his voice. He is intelligent, witty, and well-spoken. The following recipes are a treat to read, as his personality shines through even the most mundane of instructions.
Soupe Aux Peche Lisse
-3 large peaches nripe but not soft -1 small container of plain yogurt -6 green onions -Feta or Parmesan cheese -1 seedless (English) cucumber -Kosher salt and ground pepper
Peel the peaches with a knife or peeler.
If they are too soft for this, cut a shallow x in the bottom, and plunge into boiling water for a minute or so, and then immerse in ice water. The peel should come free.
Cut the flesh from the pit, (or if a freestone, halve the peach) and cut into small dice.
Place the diced peaches into a food processor or blender, and whiz for a minute or so, add half the container of yogurt (4- 5 tbsp)
Take the white of the green onion, cut off the root end, cut in half, rinse well, and cut into small pieces. Add to the peach mixture and whiz again for a minute or so
Cut the cucumber in half, peel and cut into small pieces, add and whiz for another minute or so. The soup should be quite smooth but not too thick. If it is too thick for your taste, thin with a little water or milk.
Taste the soup, if not peach-y enough, add a small amount of honey or white balsamic vinegar depending on your preferences. The honey will bring out the sweetness of the peach; the balsamic will bring out the acidity of the peach.
Season with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight. Stir gently before serving.
Crumble Feta or shave Parmesan on top of soup to serve.
Variables for this recipe n Basil adds a little snap of mystery. Mint makes it a little sultry. Tarragon will bring out the onion and the sharp note of the peach. A dash of Tabasco will wake it up.
Salad with Pickled Peach, Blue Cheese and Wasabi This is modeled after a salad I had at Perry St., which is one of Jean-Georges Vongerichtenis places in NYC.
Salad and Peaches- -2 large peaches nripe but not soft -Frisee, Endive or hearts of Romaine -the other half of the cucumber from above -the tops of the green onions from above -croutons, sunflower seeds, pistachios or whatever you may like for a little crunch.
Take the peaches, and cut them off the pit in narrow slices, about six to a side. Drop them in the pickling solution, allowing them to simmer for about a minute, then, take the pan off the fire, and let them sit for ten minutes to an hour, depending on how strong you would like the pickle to be. Cut the cucumber in half the long way and slice it in thin half moons. Cut the tops of the green onions thinly on a slight bias.
Pickling Solution- -1 Cup Water -1/2 Cup Vinegar (Cider, Red Wine, White) -Salt and pepper -1 garlic clove -fennel seed or coriander -cumin or cinnamon (Or all of the above) Bring to a simmer on the stove.
Blue Cheese n At Wegmanis I prefer the Australian eRoaring Fortiesi, or the softer Domestics. I am sure it would also be great with Humboldt Fog if you wanted to splurge.
Wasabi Vinaigrette n -3 tbsp White Balsamic Vinegar -2 tbsp yogurt from the container for the soup -good squeeze from a tube of prepared Wasabi or 1 tbsp of Wasabi Powder -1/2 cup of regular salad oil (not corn) -Kosher salt and ground pepper
Blend vinegar, yogurt and wasabi together in a food processor or blender. With the machine still running slowly add the oil until it is well emulsified. If the mixture becomes the consistency of mayonnaise then simply add more oil or thin it with a little water.
Plating- Put a few pieces of lettuce on a plate, place a few slices of pickled peach on top, some cucumber, a bit of green onion, a few crumbles of blue cheese and some of the crunchy bits. Drizzle a little dressing and dust with a little salt and pepper. Repeat two or three times, depending on whether this is a course or a snack.
Chicken with SautEed Peaches This recipe is the only one where freestone peaches are best, for presentation and ease of execution.
-Chicken Breasts (one per person) -2 peaches per person (freestone, ripened) halved, peeled or not -the leftover green onions from the salad -whateveris left of the yogurt from the previous two recipes -white wine, rose wine, or cooking sherry -Kosher salt and pepper -Butter
A starch of your choice n Wild Rice, Couscous or Potato Puree is my suggestion.
Preheat oven to 275F. In a medium pan over a high flame, sear the chicken breasts on both sides in a little oil and place in an appropriately sized baking dish. Season them with a little salt and pepper. You want to use as little oil as possible so as to leave a good sear -not only on the chicken- but on the pan as well.
Melt a little butter in the pan, and place the peaches cut side down until they brown a little. Lower the heat a little so that the butter doesnit burn. It may take a little while depending on the sugar content of the peaches, which varies from type to type.
Place the peaches cut side up, between the chicken breasts, in the baking dish. Give the dish a little drink of wine, and cover with foil. Place in the oven for about an hour, or until the chicken is cooked through -not dead- but cooked through.
In the pan melt a little more butter and add a 1/2 cup of wine. Let this reduce a little, then add another 1/2 cup of wine and let that reduce by half. Pour it off into a bowl or coffee mug, and slowly mix in the yogurt until it is incorporated. Season it with salt and pepper.
Serve one chicken breast with three peach halves; holding the last half in case people eat them first (Iim guilty of this). Give the chicken a good coating with the sauce.
Peach Belle Helene This recipe can also be made with peaches that are a little firmer; they just need to sit in the sugar or stevia a little longer.
-1 Sara Lee Frozen Pound cake (with all of the trouble it takes to make one, this is the best product I have found for home use, and sometimes in a pinch for the restaurant.) -6 peaches (the softer the better) -good vanilla ice cream -chocolate syrup or chocolate ganache -sugar or stevia (for more information about stevia, you can go to www.stevia.net)
Peel the peaches over a bowl to catch the juices, feel free to lick whatever makes it to your wrist. Slice and then dice the peaches in the bowl if possible to make sure all the juice ends up in the dessert. Sprinkle a little sugar or a little stevia on the peaches. If they are dead-ripe you wonit need much. To serve, place a 1/2 inch slice of pound cake on a plate, put a spoonful of peaches on the cake, a scoop of ice cream on that, another spoonful of peaches and then drizzle with chocolate syrup or ganache.
Ganache- Melt one bar of bittersweet chocolate in a bowl with a teaspoon of butter, add heavy cream a little at a time while stirring until it is loose enough for you taste. It can be as thick or as thin as you like, just keep adding the heavy cream little by little.
The Coda is located at 350 Pennsylvania Street. After a late summer hiatus, they will re-open this Thursday, September 7th. The new menu is generally posted on their site (www.the-coda.com) on Tuesdays. You can also sign up for the mailing list so that one will arrive in your inbox weekly. They are open Thursday through Sunday. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 716-362-0435, or by emailing your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Herbally Wonderful is located at 3701 Pearl Street Road in Batavia. Their number is 585-343-9227.