Friday, January 30, 2015

Free Range Friday ~ Freaking Fabulous Fare, Cher

I just want to say at the outset that this isn't my every day fare. That will surprise a few of you, those who think we all sit under palms sipping pina coladas all day, while browning our skin under non-cancerous rays, listening to the waves gently crash ashore. Ok, for the one of you who thinks that. For the rest, who just wish that, you know Paradox is just full of wonderful surprises, I can only say may you get to have a Tres home meal someday.

When Doug comes to town, I know I'm always in for some sort of feasty treat and this year he promised to raise the bar by inviting along their friends Tres (pronounced like the three that it is, trace) and Nancy, Tres being a chef of New Orleans background, style and substance (was it the 'Hello, chère' that gave it away?). After months of hearing about this, the meal was on. And so was Tres, with his lovely assistant Nancy.

My first clue that something good was going on was what I first noticed on walking into the kitchen. At first glance, his scrap bowl could almost have been a sort of primitive salad. 

My second clue was that he moved faster than light and food wasn't flying except where it should be flying. 

I think the point I started whimpering was when he said that this was duck meat he'd brought with him to make the empanadas. 

Nancy and Tres making empanada skins from the delicious dough Tres had made earlier

And the goodness grows

Gandules, bacon (I think, I had been rendered speechless for a second there), pumpkin and brussel sprouts

Stuffing the yellow tail with his simply made cilantro pesto. Next time I'll turn him on to racao. Well, unless he already knows it, in which case I'll just pass on a handful.

Local fresh caught yellowtail

Corn meal and flour dusting for the gator bites. Yes, he brought along gator too. I know, right?

and the fires roared. Tres was making flash fried super skinny fries from...not yucca but..oh! one of the root vegetables that goes into Susie's island mash. I'll think of it later. Of course I will. 
Sometime in there, Tres headed off to clean up and the party started gravitating to the kitchen. Actually, the party had been gravitating on and off into the kitchen for the last hour or so, drawn in by the lasso of aromas curling around corners, right into our soul belly centers. 

But it wasn't ready yet. Insert the rumbling of stomachs. Not from hunger, there were plenty of horse de vores on hand, rather just from watching the island start to get loaded with the goods. It wouldn't be long now.

Yes please, everyone pour their own libation.

Tres and Nancy giving an overview of what will be pleasing our palates this night


All good boys and girls deserve flavor.

The yellowtail was ready to come off of the grill

At first, Tres considered deboning the fish. Then, no, just cut them in half to be sure everyone got some and let the grown ups figure it out.

Where is my drool bib?

What did we do before we could take instant photos of our food? I can't...oh, yes, we remembered and told stories!

Serve yourself up, master planner guy!!! 

At last, Tres and Nancy get their plates and we get stories. Really good stories. Food stories including Taj Mahal and Willy Nelson type stories (no bad gossip, nice guy stories), traveling and cooking stories. Like that.

Tres feeds me a brussel sprout. 
While eating his amazing food, I thought this might just be the time to break the 'I hate brussel sprouts' cycle. And damned if it wasn't! Crunchy texture and bacon for flavoring? I may never eat another brussel sprout I like but this one (and the other ones) were sheer brussel sprout heaven. I'll keep sampling now, but the bar is high. This photo is to prove I really did eat (more than) one. Yay, Tres!

I think the grown ups figured it out

It's the little things. Like roasting the seeds from the calabaza to sprinkle on the finished dish of mashed spiced pumpkin angels are singing on the tongue result.

Carrot escabeche that Tres says is as common to the table as s & p in his world.  
What is Tres world anyway? He is chef at Bouchon, a restaurant in Asheville, NC that specializes in French comfort food. From a New Orleans background, Tres has that pretty down, in this case taking French and Boricua based foods, combining them with his own flair with a lot of love poured over all of it. Bouchon is also a creperie, but Tres works the other side of it. It will definitely be a Turtle stop in the future!

I never made it to the cole slaw or rice, filled up with some of every other thing on offer. Oh regrets are made of these...but a very happy belly said 'Enough!' and it was exactly that. 

The thing is, there was nothing fancy here. Just good food prepared with skill and a knowledge of how to make flavors sing without the use of sauces or other covering ingredients. Comfort food indeed. Get inspired! and Buen provecho!

Thank you, Doug, for putting this all together. Thank you, Tres for your gift of really enjoying what you do and sharing it with us. Good food, good friends old and newly made, what a night!

Have a friends with food Friday. Do something finely. 


  1. What a wonderful feast. Great food, great company, great talks. A feast can't be any better.

    1. Exactly what I thought! (sorry for the delay, I've been having mucho issues with comments!)