When you think about “being home” for the holidays, what are the top images that come into your head? Probably some combination of welcoming smiles, gifts, colorful decorations, raised glasses and a shared meal full of slow-cooked care.
The Culinary Team at Café Provencal have been working hard to create a holiday home for guests joining us for our special Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinner menu. Chef de Cuisine David McClure is heading up the winter workshop. His team is busy creating sparkly table treats to delight and sustain your holiday spirit.
Coming from an Italian family, Chef David wanted to create a holiday meal that brings families together. His holiday menus were inspired by memories of family gathered around a full table, bustling with conversation and warmth.
“I like to make hearty dishes that people can share,” Chef David says. “Nobody should leave the holiday dinner table hungry.”
Chef is working on finalizing the Christmas dinner menu, which includes an aged Wagyu New York strip steak, rockfish with polenta, an oxtail soup (poured tableside), and lamb rack from the cycling shepherd at Border Springs Farm. The dishes will include tasty flourishes like winter greens from Manakintowne Farm, local cheeses and candied almonds and walnuts.
The New Year’s Eve menu will offer classics like champagne poached oysters, foie gras, and our signature seared scallops with Byrd Mill grits, bacon and lobster sauce.
“In my family the food itself is usually main topic of the dinner conversation,” Chef says. “So, I like to serve food that’s fun enough to get people talking, but not so unusual that nobody knows what it is. I like to play with food, but it should be recognizable and comfortable.”
Inspired by our local farms, Chef David likes to check out what fresh ingredients are available, and then create seasonal side dishes. “I like to try different things like pickling and fermentation, but I don’t need to announce all that on the menu. I don’t want a guest to miss experiencing a great flavor because they aren’t sure what the description means.”
One surprise ingredient that shows up again and again in Chef David’s food is cardamom. This mild spice from India is used mostly in baking, especially in sweet breads from Scandinavian countries. It blends well with nutmeg and cinnamon in desserts. You’ll taste it in Chef’s ginger shortbread with eggnog ice cream, or the ricotta tart, or the pumpkin butterscotch molten cake.
“Cardamom is underestimated,” Chef says. “The things it goes with are crazy, you can use it in both sweet and savory dishes. When you toast the pods in a dry pan, it takes on another flavor dimension.”
To make the pumpkin cake, Chef roasts fresh, local pumpkin and mixes it with butter, sugar and a little vanilla. After the pumpkin is done roasting, Chef saves the flavorful liquid it leaves behind. He peels the pumpkin skin, dips it into the cooking liquid and dehydrates it to make crispy little pumpkin chip garnishes. For New Year’s Eve, Chef’s desserts will include a trio of cheesecake pops with candy confetti in a “sparkling” presentation. You’ll have to see it to appreciate the festive flair.
“We are trying to make people feel at home with this menu,” Chef says.
So, join us in raising our glasses this holiday season – either for Christmas dinner or New Year’s Eve. We have the smiles, colorful decorations and a shared meal to make it feel like being home.