Editor’s note: We are introducing a variation to our traditional Dining Out features. Periodically, Katy Budge will spotlight top local chefs and ask them to share some of their tips and secrets, especially about local and seasonal ingredients.
Deborah Scarborough opened her intimate Black Cat Bistro in Cambria on July 4, 2002. Its inventive menu showcases local and seasonal ingredients in dishes that pair perfectly with the restaurant’s wine selection, a list that has won eight straight Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence. Here, Scarborough discusses one of her favorite autumn ingredients — apples.
What’s your favorite local/seasonal ingredient currently on your menu?
I love apples. Windrose Farm has an amazing number of delicious heirloom varieties, and all year I look forward to getting some apples that you just can’t find in most stores.
I love biting into a crisp, truly flavorful and juicy fresh apple. The entire experience brings back childhood memories of when all produce was full of flavor.
How are you currently using apples?
Apples are so versatile. We currently have three menu items featuring them: a salad, a dessert, and a scallop dish. Our scallops are dusted with coriander and seared, then served with roasted fall squash (in this case butternut), sage brown butter, bacon, and sautéed Brussels sprout leaves. We then drizzle the scallops with an apple juice reduction and sprinkle finely diced Sierra Beauty or Mutsu apples. This dish would be nothing without the apples. They add texture and tartness that really brings the entire dish together.
How does this particular dish represent your culinary style/background/philosophy?
My basic philosophy is to create delightful and innovative dishes that are well balanced, match well with wine and are, first and foremost, wonderfully delicious.
Also, we have a strong philosophy about respecting the ingredients and where they came from. So we are very conscientious about waste and using as much of the product as possible. Other philosophies we have include being conscious about our carbon footprint and supporting local and like-minded businesses.
This dish features sustainably sourced scallops, local apples, squash and Brussels sprouts, and also sage from our garden. Any little bits of trim from the vegetables, including the stems of the sage, are used in stocks if possible and if not, are composted and eventually put back into the garden. Even the trims from the scallops are saved and made into soup.
The flavors of this dish are rich yet balanced, and there is interesting texture. It takes your taste buds on a journey, and is also made to go with wine.
What is your favorite wine pairing with this dish?
A new wine we just got in — Baker & Brain grüner veltliner from Edna Valley. This grüner is richer than most. It has an exceptional mouth feel, and wonderful structure and balance. The citrus and apple flavors and acidity accentuate the apples in this dish, and the roundness complements the scallops perfectly. Plus grüners are known to stand up well to herbs like the sage in this dish. It’s truly a match made in heaven.
How could home cooks approach apples in their own kitchens?
First, make sure to buy a wonderful apple. Not just any apple. Many grocery stores are now carrying locally grown product. This makes such a difference because of freshness and how they are grown.
You can find fun and different apple varieties at your farmers markets or food co-op. Buy a few different kinds and taste them. Then you can determine which kind would be good for which application. I tend to love a tart apple because they add acidity to foods like our new scallop dish.
Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at email@example.com.