A Visit from a Personal Chef

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Ellen's picture



Ryan Cunningham of RollinGreens came to cook for us last night. It was awesome. He had so much energy even after having worked the Shoot Out 24 Hour Filmmaking Festival in Boulder all day, and we had a scrumptious meal, caught up in the electric artistry of a very talented chef.

Ryan approaches his cooking as art, creating the right atmosphere for himself, even in someone else's kitchen. Yet, he was flexible enough to use our knives (newly sharpened by my husband, Dave) and our pots and pans. He set his phone to play contemporary Celtic music while he worked and he transformed our kitchen into a professional work space for a gourmand as well as a creative space for an artist.

It was fun to watch him do what he loved to do. He bounced and danced as he walked on his new kitchen shoes, moving his whole body in synch with the music and the task at hand, whether chopping cucumbers or stirring a pot on the stove. His is nervous energy: he talked non-stop as long as I was in the kitchen -- about the music, how we are both of Irish ancestry, and how it is so nice to have someone cook for you, so I made sure I didn't prolong the conversation too much so he could focus.

Ryan had arrived at our door with two shopping bags full of goodies from Whole Foods. He pulled out two lovely menus which described the five-course feast he was about to prepare. After a short introduction to where everything was in the kitchen, Dave and I took a bottle of sparkling wine (a Brut Reserva cava from Segura Viudas in Spain suggested by PJ's in Longmont out to the patio to enjoy the 70 degree October weather and the last of the afternoon sunshine. We chatted intensely on subjects like gaming, middle-tier celebrity, and Lisa Loeb's new album, while happily aware that Ryan was in the house behind us, crafting us a lovely meal.

We could hear the sounds of our own pots and pans being set on the burner or the counter top, the creak of the oven door– a familiar sound, but such fun to hear knowing we weren't doing the work. A professional was. Using our every day cookware. (I know!)

When we came back in, Ryan was ready. We opened a bottle of rosé from Italy also suggested by PJ's: a 2011 Regaleali Le Rose from Tasca D'Almerita in Sicily. Then we settled into the first course: Spinach Goat Triangles. Ryan's take on Greek Spanakopita. The goat cheese was so lively with the spinach and onion and garlic. The tofu and egg added a creamy smoothness. Yum!

Next was the Eggplant Lettuce Cups. Very dramatic and tasty. The eggplant is braised in teriyaki and then placed inside curved lettuce leaves. On top? Wonton crisps. Fun juxtaposition of textures: the soft eggplant against the crisp softness of the lettuce, and then the final crunch of the crisps.

The third course was Cucumber Salad tossed with umeboshi vinegar and dill. Neither of us had heard of umeboshi vinegar before. As Ryan explained, umeboshi is more a salt than a vinegar. The combination was like eating fresh cucumbers in light briny sea water-- Sea Cucumbers?


The fourth course was Thyme Tamari Chicken served with Cranberry Jasmine Rice. I've never had cranberries in rice before, but they were a perfect sweet/sour accent to the savory rice. The thyme chicken was so flavorful and baked just so the skin was golden and the meat was moist.

The final course was Chocolate Cashew Cream Tart built on a walnut agave crust and topped with strawberries, raspberries and kiwi. Very tasty! The chocolate was a dark undertone to the dish, which displayed bright sweetness from the agave, nutty salt, and earthy juices from the berries.

As if it wasn't enough that Ryan brought us the courses as we sat in our dining room in soft lamp light, he also cleared the dishes, then cleaned them and stacked them neatly. He even found our little compost bin in its draw next to our stove and used it. And the piece de resistance: leftovers are now wrapped and set in the fridge, including a small pan of Spanakopita which will be our lunch for today!

Will we do this again? You betcha! We loved having Ryan cook for us. Thanks to Ryan and to Lindsey Mandel, his partner, who set the whole thing up!

__________________________

Ellen
Ever learning, Everlasting