Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Opening The Chef's Wine Cellar For Friends

 Opening The Chef's Wine Cellar For Friends

One of the things a chef or anyone with unique wines always contemplates
is when do you actually use that or those special bottles. So carefully
climate controlled for years, laying there turning into what they can
become. The aging process as the tannins unwind change the character and
smooth out the finish on the tannin laden reds. If you have a cellar, you
have special bottles. Not all are expensive, but they are special! I
have a duplicate bottle of Dom Perignon for my daughters wedding and my
sons wedding. These were purchased the same time I purchased the bottles
to celebrate each of their births. The exist solely to please the wife
and I the day the children each marry. We thought it would be cool and
so it will.

But you end up with other wines, 1999 Penfolds Grange, 2 bottles with
around $200 each, a 1976 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon "Reserve" that is
you can find it runs into the $375 range. So you sit and you contemplate
when would be the time to visit this wine and who would enjoy it? My
wife only cares for whites. So just when do you decide to open and share
the nectar within?

Let say you have 13 chefs flying in from all over the place, coming
together to help raise money for a scholarship fund. Now that, to my
mind, might contain people whom could appreciate what they were tasting,
people who understand what was done in their honor and most importantly,
the kind of party that gets things off on the correct foot. And so it
was that I would uncork some of my most prized wines for a group of
chefs that would spend their own money to visit Grand Junction and
become the structural fabric of what was a wildly successful first

I present to you the wines of the Thursday Night reception. Many of
these wines and one for sure and probably once in a lifetime. I will
describe what they tasted like to me, and hopefully those that
participated will share their own personal experience with the same

We started with great wines from Two Rivers Winery, it seemed since they
were our sponsor and made great wine we should begin the evening with
their whites! I find them excellent wines with great character and nice
balance. After everyone finally arrived (Elsner was late as usual!) we
got on with the party!

First up the Crios Malbec blend:

I chose this wine because it is dirt cheap, something like $8.50 per
bottle. And I think it tastes great. Not a cellar wine, just a drink me
now wine.

Then we needed to move up a notch or two and try something a little more
exciting. So Lorraine (bless her heart) sent a bottle of Catena Alta
Malbec 2001. This Argentina wine was very nice. This wine was very heavy
dark fruit to me. I got pepper on the end of it. Some just got allspice.

Then I wanted to bring it up another notch and really let the guests
explore a once a year type wine. Of course I have made my passion for
the Penfolds 1999 Grange known to everyone and so it was that I pulled
the cork out of a 1999 Grange for everyone to taste. For me a return to
what I knew was in the bottle. Velvet smooth, nice play on the sides of
the tongue and an excellent silk finish across the entire back of the
tongue. I truly think this is a great wine and love to drink it.

You will notice two empty bottles of the 1999 Grange. I will explain

Last I thought it should be a night like this one that everyone try a
once in a lifetime wine! For me, I knew it was time to pull the cork on
my 1976 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. As the cork was almost gone
some did drop into the bottle. But heck after laying down for 30 years I
guess we can give her the benefit that a little loose cork is OK. The
only way I can describe what thirty years did for this wine. It was like
when you were a kid and a butterfly landed on you, you knew it was
there, you could feel it, and you could tell it was leaving from the
flutter, but that is what is was in total. It was there elegantly, then
gone in a slight whisp and flutter of butterfly wings.

And then for the finish, they say you only know a wine if you have had
it prior to dinner and well after dinner. Then you remember it in your
minds eye forever. I am that way with 1999 Grange and so I wanted my
hard working dedicated guests to also carry that in their own minds eye.
So much to the chagrin of my daughter I pulled the cork on a second
bottle of Penfolds 1999 Grange. And it was that night that I drained
$900 from my cellar for friends and almost family so that they might
know how special I think of them for traveling so far and spending so
much in support of such a worthy cause!

As I sat their surrounded by this team of people, I knew I would not
regret the decision to pull some corks out of some of my prized wines,
because the longer the night and weekend went on, the more I realized I
had indeed been guided to the correct use of these fine wines! They say
the wine makes the glass, and they are right, but the company makes the
wine and the glass something to remember, and that first Junction fund
raiser weekend is something I will always remember! There will be the
second, third and fourth annual, of that I am sure, but there will only
exist one first time, and I hope my cellar made it a memorable
experience for each of the guest chefs that came to participate and
carry on and have a good time raising money for a good cause.

Next year I have a 1975 Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve that we may

Til we talk again, gets some friends together and pull the cork on a
"forbidden" bottle in your cellar, the memories made are worth more than
the wine in the bottle!

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction Colorado USA

Monday, July 3, 2006

Junction Fund Raiser Chef Feed; il Bistro Italiano


 Junction Fund Raiser Chef Feed; il Bistro Italiano


The saying goes, eat where the chefs eat when they are not doing the
cooking. And so we did! Il Bistro Italiano is the place I go when we are
not doing the food!  I work with a group of dedicated chefs and
accomplished foodies that spend there own money to help raise scholarship funds
to get people education in the culinary arts.  The
Chefs4Students group  The Chefs
use their own money to fly in and help put on a wine pairing meal like nothing
else in the world.  This is the dinner I hosted the evening prior to the
event for the chefs and other persons who came together to raise $12,000 allow
us to add another $12K to the pot of money.  This is a very great cause, as
no other gift has the ability to raise a standard of living for someone like

I would like to introduce you to my very good friend and a most
excellent Chef, Brunella, Chef Owner of the il Bistro Italiano.

The job she did was fantastic. Imagine you are the chef of a place, this
lunatic chef comes in about a fund raiser and he needs to have 18 chefs
fed and wined and dined and he wants you to do it. No pressure there at

And so we started with a wonderful Prosecco and a very nice calamari.
Brunella says "absolutely hand made Italian" and she means it. She even
makes all the pasta homemade!! Spinach Ravioli, a wonderful roasted red
beet cannanoli where the starters! Sorry no pictures of the dishes,
perhaps one of the invited chefs will have some pics of the food.

Any way we are on the mission: This team of chefs is coming together to
produce the Grand Junction Scholarship Fund Raiser, Seven Courses and
Smooth Jazz event.

I tip my hat to every single one of you, your professionalism and
dedication are beyond extraordinary! And I especially am thankful for
not taking a little trip through the ecolab dish machine!

As can be expected when a group of chefs get together for dinner, there
are many things to discuss. But mostly food, wine and spirits combine to
offer a slight break from the pressures that will follow in only two
days. As the monumental task of preparing food in a strange kitchen with
a group of people will begin in earnest in less than 24 hours and be
served in less than 48 hours!

Of course as the characters begin to know one another it gets louder and
more of a party atmosphere takes over!

Some of the characters I caught on camera;

Our own Derek Thomas and the lovely Marlene Cochran! Derek comes back to
us as a past grant awardee and is starting to help fill the coffers for
others to follow. Marlene makes the trip from Whitehorse Yukon territory

Of Course some of you will recognize Fred and Margie, in the Chef4Students
venture with Chef4students owner Pam and Dave Nelson. Fred appears pleasantly buzzed!

Guy Drew came in early to allow the chefs to taste some of his wines. He
drove up from Mancos to drop in on the Chefs and had about half dozen
bottles of his wine for all to taste!

And where would I be without Al and Mary. Big Dog Chef took some
ribbing, handle the kitchen and generally made it through the event
without lopping off any appendages. Mary poured wine for the event and
helped with everything and anything that needed a person where none was
available. Big Dog also put together the first course of the event. I
feel the first courses are so important as they set the stage and bar of
performance for the rest of the evening. Chef Tom was there with us in
spirit as he and Al invented the Appies that were offered.

Of course Moselle and Polcyn were in attendance. Moselle helped Chef
Polcyn with the prep of all things Quail. She actually told us she would
pay to get to do this type of experience. Perhaps a new business model
for fund raising?

And the man I leaned on a lot for doing this first event. Florian is a
wealth of information on this type event. He has done it several times
successfully. His wife Nova was there to support the cause as well.
Prepping the bass was a long hard job.

Picture of the lovely Pam Nelson and in the background my daughter
Rachel. These two handled the silent auction. From the beginning a true
team of focused individuals. The auction went off without a hitch!

The lovely Susan Thomas discussing things with Chef Instructor Jon St.
Peter of our local Culinary Arts school. Chef Jon's already working on
next years dessert! Susan was helping everywhere a set of hands was

All in all I think the dinner went over very well, the lamb was
excellent, the desserts divine! I was especially please to have this
dinner sponsored so the chefs did not have to dig into their pockets. It
was wonderful to see so much talent together in one room enjoying
stories and each others company.

Next up will be the reception, I kind of have to go in the order the
pictures are presented so I will be skipping around during the event.

Til we talk again

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction Colorado

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Grand Junction Fundraiser, real notes

 Grand Junction Fund Raiser, Real Notes


The Grand Junction Fund Raiser topped $6K in funds raised. While I have
several blogs to write on the event, I find myself with several (three)
e-mails asking questions that lead me to believe many people do not
understand what drives me or why I do what I do. I hope this short blog
will kind of give you all an idea of why and who.

I have never ever sat on the sidelines; I am not one to point and say
that was not done correctly. I understand better than a lot the
pressures and risks of putting on public events. I understand when I see
an event what it took, what it felt like, and what went on to make it
happen. I am more the type to stand up and say this is how I think it
will work! And if it does not, well I am also willing to take the blame
for the failure. Lucky for me it worked out as a positive thesis on the
Junction event! Because the failure side, while teaching you more
valuable lessons, tends to suck a lot and then you take a lot of crap
from the lookie loos! Looky Loo is defined as the person who never does
it, never takes on the risk (to scary) but sure seems to think they have
all the answers on how you should do it.

This led me to the first phase of the Junction Fund Raiser: The who is
doing it phase, which led me to be the Chef for dessert at Florian's
last year in August. Florian gave freely of his analysis and methods, he
showed me all the ways he obtained donations, how to get the wines on
board. How the money works and how to work the event so it made money.

Next I observed that Florian had a partner in this event that was quite
capable and really the logistics behind the event. Sarah McGregor is
more than a sommelier, she is an excellent detail oriented logistics
machine! So I invited her and her spouse to come to Grand Junction for
our Seven Courses and Smooth Jazz winemakers dinner in September. My
interest here was did she think we had a good enough system to put one
of these events on and pull it off successfully. Since she blessed the
event for everything but one stemware change, I figured we could move

Then I had to answer a few more questions: Could we do this well enough
to brand it a event along with our own name? Could I
convince Zane that we could pull this off in style and not hurt the
company name? Could I get the Chefs I wanted to attend to spend the
money and come help? Could I arrange enough of a good time for the Chefs
so they might want to attend in the future? I received my answers slowly
through research. And everything kept coming up positive.

Then the last question, did I want to put myself through the stress of
putting one of these together? Did I want to risk the dear online
friendships I have on with a fund raiser? While it may
seem like there is no risk, there is great risk with failure as failure
demands blame and blame usually comes with an ostracized individual! So
how confident was I that it could be pulled off? I wrestled with this
question a lot in my head, for the answer I will leave you with a quote
I found decades ago as a young man entering the Marine Corps. It was
Teddy Roosevelt who said it in 1910 in France, and it rings true for me
in everything I like to try. It is the reason I stand up even in
failures and take a freaking bow! Because I know those booing are the Cold
and Timid Souls spoken about by President Roosevelt in the last lines of
this quote and I take pity on them!

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the
strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face
is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs
and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without
error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great
devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best,
knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the
worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his
place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither
victory nor defeat."

Now I know Junction goes in the books as a success, but I thought you
all might want to know a little more about the whacky brain I have and
how it thinks. If you read the above quote and say to yourself "yea that
is RIGHT" we will get along. If you find it uninspiring, we can drink
together fine, but as the saying goes if I have to explain you will
never understand!

The adrenalin has drained, the deed is completed, time to plan next year
and write the blogs about this years event!

I truly thank each and everyone that came to do a course, help prep,
help put it together, those who helped anyway they could from everywhere
in this wide world, it is truly inspiring to work and associate with
people who are willing to get marred in the arena of life and not just
sit on the sidelines!

Lean into the job, we have a lot of work to do to pass the $100K offered
by that rich cooking club!

Bring you more on the fund raiser as I digest it and spit it out. The
good and the bad.

'til we speak again

Chef Bob Ballantyne

The Cowboy and The Rose Catering

Grand Junction, Colorado