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  • Writer's pictureGregory James

Trial & Error



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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