Chef Series #1: Chef Andre Miller, Taza Chocolate and Clown Shoes Brewery
It all started with chocolate. Taza chocolate to be exact. I had been intrigued by this chocolate from the first moment I sunk my teeth into a wedge of a Taza chocolate disc and felt the urge to spit it out. This chocolate was unlike any other chocolate I had ever tasted and the texture was radically different from what I was expecting. As I came to find out more about Mexican stone-ground chocolate, how it is the least processed style of eating chocolate available, and more about Taza as a company, the more I became obessed with both.
Ultimately, this obsession led to the idea for a dinner inspired by Taza and led us to things like Champurrado, Mole Poblano, Nicuatole (the dessert) and Clown Shoes Sombrero Mexican Chocolate Stout. Chocolate seemed fitting for many reasons however:
1. Chocolate is in 'season' or at least the harvesting of cacao beans in Mexico is in season from October-April.
2. I had one of those food 'moments' with Taza chocolate when you remember where (Bartlett's Farm parking lot) and when (2012) you were when you first tried it. The flavor and the texture were incredibly distinct and the more I learned about stone-ground chocolate and how it is minimally processed and the more I found out about the ethos of Taza Chocolate, the more I fell in love with everything about it.
What was interesting about how Andre's menu developed was that this concept of 'time and place' became an underlying theme of the meal. I had my Taza experience, Andre Miller had his experience in Mexico and these two moments collided at the dinner table in January on Nantucket. This first Chef Series dinner was an excellent test for us and our sourcing skills and a challenge for Andre Miller who pulled off his menu (due to it being a rough month to be sourcing local produce) effortlessly as you will see from the photos below.
Evidence of our sourcing and taste-testing the week before...
The drinks were also a fun and integral part to the meal. We started with Champurrado made from Taza's cinnamon flavored chocolate and served up in the beautiful tasting cups the talented Tracy Daily custom-made for us.
and then had Clown Shoes Brewery's Clementine, Whammy #1 and Mexican Sombrero Chocolate Stout as our beers. Clown Shoes is out of Ipswich, MA and their beers not only have some of the funnier label graphics but also are solid, easy drinking beers across the board full of flavor and just enough Hops. It was hard to choose a favorite of the three we had - the Whammy was number one for the hoppy IPA lovers but the Sombrero was distinct in the intensity of it's chocolate flavor followed by a slight kick of chile pepper. I loved the Clementine as I find it to be a 'not-too-sweet', smooth white ale. Keep an eye out for these guys at Nantucket shelves.
Leah chose Pares de Balta as the wine as they are biodynamic, organic, family-owned and run in addition to being beekeepers!
And our pioneers had a selection of traditional Mexican drinks: Flor de Jamaica made with Hibiscus leaves, Yerba Buena Limonada and Horchata to finish.
Front of house, back of house, a hectic week of sourcing all came together for one special moment in time where a passionate and talented chef shared his love of Mexican cuisine, flavored by New England, with a guests equally passionate about supporting our local food network and all its players. And as always, a big thank you to Joy and Greg Margolis for having us in their kitchens.
The Chef - Andre Miller
of Straight Wharf Restaurant on Nantucket and Hungry Mother in Boston. Andre hails from the coast of Maine and although quiet, expresses his intense passion for food, community and impeccably sourced ingredients in every dish he prepares.
100 Mile Makers: “Where did this menu come from?”:
"The world of Mexican cuisine is fascinating in its history, complexity, and variation. Traditions there date back thousands of years, with the strong European influence of Spain and France, and more recent developments in cuisine coming from Lebanese and Japanese immigrations. The food of Mexico started me on the path to becoming a cook. Just after graduating high school in Texas, I spent 14 weeks living in Mexico city and Veracruz. The food blew me away, outrageously different and flavorful, I’d found myself immersed in a completely new cuisine that even some of the most authentic taquerias in South Texas and just over the border barely touched upon. I had to learn how to make it to eat it again, and thus began my journey into food and cooking. By no means would I call this menu authentically Mexican. It is inspired by the bounty of New England, by January, by my history with food, while ever leaning on the uniqueness and flavors of the cuisines that Mexico has to offer. Moles from Puebla, Gorditas from Mexico City, Flautas and Aguachile from the north, Sikil Pak from the Yucatan. An adaptation of a different world of flavor to this time and place.”
Weatherlow Farms, Westport, MA.
Owner Ryan Wagner - Lamb. Buy Direct.
Lazy Man Gardens, Nantucket, MA.
Farmer John Kusczpa - Kale. Buy Direct
Mi Tierra, Springfield, MA
Tortillas. Buy here
Ambrosia, Nantucket, MA
Owners/Farmers Dylan and Claudia - Smoked Anchos, Maple Syrup, Pimenton, Cinnamon. Buy Direct at their shop on Center St.
Narragansett Creamery, Narragansett, RI
Angelito, Ricotta, Queso Blanco - Buy here.
Stillman's Quality Meats, Gilbertville, MA
Pork - Boston Public Market
Nantucket Fresh Catch, Nantucket, MA
Owners Joan and Jeff - Oysters, Crab and Scallops. Bartlett's Farm
Stillman Farms, Lunenburg, MA
Potatoes, Radish, Celeriac - Boston Public Market
Clown Shoes Brewery, Ipswich, MA
Beer - Hatch's, Nantucket Wine and Spirits, Atlas Restaurant.
Pares de Balta, Spain
Wine - Buy at Bartlett's Farm
Pete's Greens, Stowe, VT
Beans, Beets - Buy at their store in VT.
Taza, Somerville, MA
Cinnamon, Guajillo and Original stone-ground chocolate, Chocolate Cocoa Nibs. Buy at Bartlett's Farm