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Adventure on the “High Seas”



On Wednesday,  June 22nd, I joined Chef Big John and his wife, Kimberly, for a little sailing adventure.  Big John was catering a luncheon on a 77′ sailboat.  After seeing him at Chef in Da House, we’d been exchanging email and when I heard about this job I volunteered to help out.  Since the Caudills are from the east side of the mountains, I knew their normal support structure wouldn’t be in place and I thought they might like some support.  It turns out they really didn’t need me but I was able to tag along anyway.  I spent most of the day taking photos and trying to stay out of the way, helping occasionally by passing a tray of hors d’oeuvre and serving the luncheon entrée. 



Monday and Tuesday were beautiful sunny days.  Wednesday was another story!  I awoke to rain pounding on the roof.  It was coming down in sheets!  The forecast had called for rain in the morning but clearing by afternoon so I got up and kept my fingers crossed that the rain would at least slow down by our boarding time of 9:30 am.  At 8:30 I received a call from Big John – plans were changing just a bit.  The tide was on its way out and our original boarding spot was too shallow for this big sailboat.  They were taking off and would meet us at another marina that was a bit deeper. 

The boat we’d be sailing on is a beautiful, privately-owned 77′ foot Carl Schumacher sailboat.  Big John, Kimberly and I met at the marina at 9:30 to load all the supplies on board and start preparations prior to the guests arriving at 11:00.  Two young crew members met us in the parking lot to help haul everything but it was still pouring and even with just one trip down the long dock we all got pretty soaked!  Hey, it’s the northwest and we’re going sailing – what’s the problem? :-) We made the best of it. 



Once in the boat we were happy as clams.  A 77′ boat has plenty of room – even headroom for the likes of Big John at 6’4".  We settled in, keeping just what we needed in the kitchen and loading all the extra or "for later use" stuff into the crew quarters.  Since the plan was to actually sail once the guests arrived, the crew made sure we knew exactly what would need to be put away and where to secure various items.  Big John did a little prep work, but had done much of it ahead of time, anticipating the limited space.  About 10:30 the rain started letting up and by shortly after 11:00 when the guests started arriving it had completely stopped, although the day remained gray. 




The hosts for the day were the owners of Stillwater Creek Vineyard. Their guests were representatives from wineries that use their grapes, and others associated with the viticulture industry in some way.  The luncheon was held in conjunction with the ASEV Annual Meeting being held at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center.  As the guests arrived and opened wine (as you can imagine with this crowd, several people brought bottles to share) we presented two appetizers: Roquefort Gougeres; and Profiteroles with Mushroom Duxelle, Smoked Pork Loin and Crème Fraiche. 

Both appetizers were nice and savory.  Instead of mixing the Roquefort cheese into the gougere batter, Big John added sprinkles of it on the balls of dough prior to baking, giving them a little bit of a flattened profile and providing a contrast to the round shape of the profiteroles. 

After everyone had a glass in hand and a couple of tasty bites we battened down the hatches – and everything else in sight – and made our way out to the Puget Sound, where we promptly set sail. 



I think we sailed for an hour or so.  I didn’t really keep track as I was mostly standing out on the very back of the boat snapping photos of the guests for the hosts.  As mostly happens in Seattle, since the sun wasn’t out it was a perfect day for sailing!  There was a nice brisk breeze and we sailed along between 8 and 9 knots heavily keeling much of the time. (Note the swinging stove in the photo of the galley above!) It was great!  Most of the guests were hardy northwesterners and they spent most of the time out on deck with just an occasional dip below deck to warm up. 




We arrived at our destination, a protected harbor off Bainbridge Island.  We served more of the gougeres and profiteroles and added slightly warmed Goat Cheese on Crostini that had been rubbed with garlic, oil and tomato.  The same crostini were used as the base for the grilled and sliced Tenderloin Medallions lightly seasoned with Gray Salt.  Big John prepared the tenderloins to varying temperatures so that guests who preferred their meat medium rare, as well as guests who preferred their meat medium could find a piece to suit them. 




The hosts had wanted something very "northwest" for the entrée and what says that more than fresh, wild salmon, especially at this time of year?  The entrée base was Organic Mixed Greens with a light Sweet Herb Vinaigrette.  Then a Confetti of Peppers and Onions was sprinkled around the plate.  Next, Marinated Mushrooms were placed on top of the greens, followed by blanched Asparagus on top of the mushrooms.  The final element was Wild Salmon that had been brushed with a tarragon mustard, placed on goat cheese with a sherry gastrique and topped with lemon and tarragon and then baked.  When we plated we added fresh tarragon as a garnish.  This entrée was really outstanding.  Everything was cooked to perfection and all the various dressings and seasonings were subtle enough to enhance without taking over.  It was very quiet in the cabin while the guests, crew and "help" (that would be me!) enjoyed their lunch. 




The finishing course was a supreme dessert – rich Chocolate Pot de Crème topped with Bing Cherry Compote made with berries picked just a day or two before serving.  It was so rich, but everyone finished it all!

After lunch we again battened everything down and sailed for another couple hours and then returned to dock.  The guests disembarked to meet their bus back to the convention area, the crew helped us load all the catering gear back into the vehicles and then they took care of the boat. 

It was a great experience; I took a TON of photos (about 100) that I’m in process of cleaning up for the hosts.  I learned a lot about operating in small quarters and keeping preparations simple but elegant.  And I loved the sailing.  Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat!

After wishing Big John and Kimberly a safe journey back home, I scrambled home to get changed for the evening’s activities – the Mariner’s were waiting for me! 

Chef Big John Caudill
Tasting Washington
Wine & Food Excursions

  1. Unknown permalink
    27-Jun-2005 12:21 pm

    Wow Brenda. That was a tough assignment! ; – )

  2. Megan permalink
    27-Jun-2005 2:29 pm

    B, That sounds like an amazing adventure! What fun!See you tonight… M

  3. Culinary permalink
    28-Jun-2005 1:11 pm

    Hey E!Someone had to do it and I was happy to be the one! :-)M: Glad you made it last night !~ B

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