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  • Writer's pictureGregory James

We start every meal at Stars Restaurant with an amuse bouche, a little teaser to kick start your appetite. It can be very challenging to do something original every single night, so we gather concepts and alternate flavors or ingredients to make them unique nightly. We were playing around with puffed crackers to be a vehicle for the main star. Tucked inside these little pillows could be anything. Savory treats such as smooth sails cheese from Chapel Creamery, velvety butternut squash from Baywater Farms pureed or Foie Gras Pudding. Today we decided to try out some bluefish from the Chesapeake Bay that was hot smoked. We got the bluefish from Chesapeake Smokehouse out of Annapolis, about 20 miles from the hotel. We love the team up there. They have been willing to source and smoked just about anything we ask. They specialize in smoked salmon, which is out of this world, but we are partial to the bluefish which is a local fish that is oily and full of flavor. It is cut with a little cream cheese to smooth it out.

The crackers themselves were made of an combination of Teff an ancient grain from Africa that is gluten free and various flour combinations from Migrash Farms. We tried a couple different shapes and sizes and landed on a 35 mm square. We felt the edges, uniform shape and general appearance, looking like a small pillow to be the most attractive and functional. We made a small incision on top of the pillow to fill them and then garnished them with balsamic pearls and celery leaves.

We tried a couple different presentations and probably will make a few changes as the times go by, but we landed on

Cracker Dough : 215 grams warm water 13.5 grams yeast 4 grams sugar 370 grams all purpose flour

100 grams Teff, toasted and ground 4 grams sea salt, we use Barrier Island from the Delmarva Peninsula 55 grams melted butter

In bowl of stand mixer, stir together water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes to proof yeast. Add flour, teff, 4 grams of salt, and butter. Attach bowl to mixer, fit mixer with dough hook, and beat on low speed for about 6 minutes, or until dough comes together and forms firm ball. Remove bowl from mixer, cover, and let dough rise in warm place for 25 minutes. Then refrigerate bowl overnight.

The following day, transfer dough to warm place. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Line sheet tray with parchment. Preheat oven to 425 F. Using a pasta machine, roll out 1 piece of dough about 2mm thick. Save remaining dough for another use. Cut dough sheet into 35 mm squares. Transfer squares to prepared sheet tray.

Bake for 6 minutes. Each cracker will puff in center and turn golden brown. Let cool on wire rack to room temperature. Using needle of syringe, punch 1 small hole in each cracker. Reserve in airtight container.

Smoked Bluefish Mousse:

4 oz. boneless, skinless smoked bluefish, Chesapeake Smokehouse

4 oz. Smooth sails Cheese from Chapel Country Creamery or Cream Cheese

3 TBSP fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 Lemon

1 TBSP Old Bay Seasoning

Salt and White Pepper as needed

In a food processor or Pacojet, Combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Adjust with salt and white pepper as needed. We like to use the pacojet to infuse air into our mixture to make it lighter

Balsamic Pearls:

135 ml balsamic vinegar

2 grams agar agar

Olive oil, as needed

Before starting, fill a tall glass with olive oil and place it into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. The oil needs to be very cold so the balsamic vinegar pearls will cool before they reach the bottom. Once the oil is cold you may continue making the balsamic vinegar pearls.

Add the balsamic vinegar to a pot along with the agar agar and bring to a boil while stirring. Once it begins to boil remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly.

Drip the hot liquid using a dropper or syringe into the cold olive oil. It's best to try to leave drops of equal size but you can always sort them into different sizes of balsamic vinegar pearls once they are done. Once all the pearls are made you can remove them from the olive oil and rinse them in water.

Skylar plating amuse during dinner service

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  • Writer's pictureGregory James

Started the day with a trip to see our local dairy farmer Trisha and Jarred Boyce of Chapel Country Creamery. Being fairly familiar with farm life growing up in Midwest Wisconsin, I wanted to learn more about their cows, cheese, and other dairy products. I wanted to see how happy their cows are, as you probably know, happy cows = better cheese. We also talked about future ventures of our own proprietary cheese and wagyu beef, I got to see the cows, the cheesemaking process and how dedicated Trisha and Jarred are to their farm. I asked many questions about their feed, their pasture in which they graze and their lineage. Most of the their cows have been from the same family for over 50 years. I knew once I left there I needed to put as much love into our cheese service to match their love of their cheese.

One of the highlights was meeting their son. He was so energetic. I don't think I have ever met a little human that loved cheese more than him. I think he eats if from breakfast, lunch and dinner. Probably mid day snacks too. I know he will probably grow up to be the future of cheese making.

I left the creamery with so many ideas, we will see can come up with.

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  • Writer's pictureGregory James

It's important to continue to learn. Try new things, take risks. When creating a new dish it is important to sit down and eat the whole thing, not just take a bite or two. You have to experience it as a guest would. How does it feel in your mouth? How does it make you feel inside your soul? Does it make you crave another bite? Do you get bored of it after a couple mouthfuls? These are all questions you have to ask yourself. I love tasting food with my team and figuring out how to perfect a dish.

Today we were trying some wood oven roasted sweet potatoes sourced locally from Baywater Farms in Salisbury, MD. We then wrapped the potato in nori, sweet potato miso and shredded sweet potato. The sauce was a savory caramel sauce featuring our house-made menhaden fish sauce. This fish sauce took weeks to make. Garden Aromatics like sangria peppers, wood sorrell, corn flowers, and chervil garnish the dish. A pinch of Barrier Island Sea Salt from the Delmarva Peninsula finishes the dish.

We all really enjoyed the dish, in the end we decided it needed more acid to cut through the rich buttery sweet potato and caramel sauce. Tomorrow we will try again.

Stay Hungry,

Gregory James.

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