What do you do if you have been the chef at Chez Panisse and leave? What if, in your inner self, you are lover of fire and meat roasted upon it?
You open Camino, a restaurant devoted to classic fire-based cooking with a devotion for superior recipes, both world classic and California-inspired.
Camino represents a cultural journey. Mankind began by cooking raw meat over fire. At Camino the fire is there, meat abounds, but the results are surely a galaxy away from the first fire‑created dishes in smoky caves. We have evolved and become oh-so sophisticated, yet the fire remains and is central to the Camino dishes..
When we barbeque at home, we often do the “thing.” A chicken or a steak, perhaps with marinade or sauce. Ribs, for sure, can be indulgent in sauces. But at Camino, the recipes become complex for a different reason. They have a multiplicity of ingredients where it is no longer “dominant thing plus adornment.” No, here the dishes are partnerships.
Consider the Grilled Sardines and Asparagus with Citrus, chiles and Sesame. Is this a fish dish or a vegetable one? Or does it matter. It’s an assembly of flavors that will merrily overwhelm your mouth and reduce you to utter satisfaction.
Not only do the recipes here have lots of ingredients, they take time. There is a long and involved three-page recipe for Roast Duck Consummé with Herb Dumpling and Wild Nettles. No one step here is super-complicated, but the preparation is details and the cooking times will fill an afternoon.
There are chapters here for vegetables, dessert and cocktails, but most are protein-inspired: fish, chicken and egg, duck, lamb, and pork. The recipes are long and a tad complex, although there are photos to guide you on your way. Consider the Grilled Chicken Ballotine with Green Lentils and Parsley Root. A ballotine is a terrine made from a while chicken that is wrapped in its own skin. There is a branch of mathematics, called topology, that has to be invoked here. You need the photos, showing you how to start with a whole chicken and manipulate it into a pure round, stuffed log. I’m going to attempt this one weekend afternoon. I’ll need a flexible chicken and a good bottle of wine.
This is Camino is a tribute to the chef, the restaurant, and a style of cooking. You may settle for a trip to California and a visit to the restaurant. Or you may open the pages here and enjoy for yourself the power of the flame.