I must ask a question of all my readers out there in Czarland: Have both of you seen Iron Chef America? Well, if not, then a primer is in order. Basically, Iron Chef America is the legitimate, Uncle Sam offspring of Iron Chef, a Japanese TV show which featured resident Great Chefs squaring off in culinary battle against Rising Upstarts in a sort of jazz cutting contest to determine who is the best on that particular day. Oh, sorry, but I feel a vision coming on! (It often happens whenever I eat onions.) Picture an Old West movie, something with John Wayne in it, or better still an episode of Gunsmoke. A dusty, dusty street. A big, bad black-hatted dude comes riding into view. He halts and without dismounting, says to the local street urchin, in his most fierce voice: "Prithee, dear boy, knowest thou where your Top Gunslinger abideth at this moment, and if so, would you kindly fetch him for me? I have at this juncture the proverbial itch to play at pistols. Run along now, there's a good lad, and by the by, here's a shilling for your trouble." (I've just got to cut back on those onions!) All of this folderol is my way of leading up to the chief point at hand: I believe I may very well have found the next Potential Upstart for Iron Chef America. His name is Brandt Evans at he currently plies his pots at the newly-opened Blue Canyon Kitchen, Tavern & Wine Bar at The Harbor in the humble burg of Rockwall, hard by the shores of Lake Ray Hubbard. A dear man named Shawn very kindly arranged a tasting for me; unfortunately my lovely wife The Rock Star was unavoidably detained elsewhere, and I had to go it alone this evening. Therefore, I duly drove my car (the Mazda, as the Duesenberg was in the shop) to Rockwall, only to discover the madhouse that parking at The Harbor can be on a Friday night. (Yes, there is plenty of parking, but you will most likely either have to valet or hike.) After receiving directions from a kind valet, I successfully located Blue Canyon on the far side of a simply gorgeous fountain.
In a word: stunning. First of all, there is That View. Lights merrily twinkling, reflecting off the water, and generally doing whatever lights do on a starry, starry night. Next there is the structure itself, supposedly designed to resemble a Rocky Mountain lodge, as impressive in it's own way as a medieval castle but much more inviting. Finally, the interior is quite warm and cozy, with lots of wood, and of course That View. (I warn you: This could get monotonous!) I was warmly received by the black-clad hostess staff and conducted with only the shortest of delays to one of the best seats in the house. (It's actually quite nice to be me on occasion.) In due course Shawn, my waiter Loren, and The Man Himself Chef Brandt presented themselves to me and prepared me for a sumptuous repast.
If you've never been to a tasting, you're in for a real treat. (Wineries have them all the time, they are quite lovely, you should try one. Speaking of which, my wine for all courses was a lovely Astancia Pinot Noir.) Specifically, my tasting on this eve was presented very much like an episode of Iron Chef, with Chef presenting the dishes himself, describing their ingredients and preparation, then leaving me to feast on his latest creation. For starters, my appetizer was Asian Barbecue Shrimp with Lobster Fried Rice. The big, prawnlike creatures were incredibly fresh, and so good that the rice became rather unnecessary, although it was well prepared. For the fish course, I was given the Cedar Plank Tasmanian Salmon, which had literally been swimming in the ocean just a few short hours before, so I knew it was fresh. Chef apparently made the decision for Texas to change from root beer sauce to roasted vegetable bacon broth, and I applaud this decision, as the broth made for some good down-home sopping, indeed. The salmon? Simply the best I've ever had, period, and I'm not a salmon freak. (I prefer tuna and snapper, usually.) In due course, the game was literally afoot, and I was given the Duck Two Way. No, it wasn't at all kinky, but merely a breast and confit presented side by side. Chef is truly a great chef because he is a skin-on, bone-in man with his cooking, and the skin on the confit was literally crackling with flavor. (The confit meat was, sadly, a bit tough for my taste, but duck can be a tricky bird to master in the best of circumstances, so I wasn't too disappointed.) The breast itself was quite marvelous, as was the smoked tomato corn spoon bread near which it resided; however, I must admit I once again ate very little of the side as the breast meat was so scrumptuous. Then, a bone-in Cowboy ribeye made it's appearance, and I thoroughly enjoyed the juicy flavor, helped not a little by the accompanying smoked Gouda maple butter sauce. I must admit to being a little discomfitted at first glance: I order my steak medium-rare these days, and since the cut, though very attractive, was quite thin, I was afraid it might not quite work for me. One bite, however, convinced me otherwise and I was quite pleased at the result. Finally, at meal's end I was delighted by the Blue Canyon S'more, whose Graham-crackery goodness thoroughly reminded me of days gone by singing around the campfire. (For the record, the White Chocolate Malt Mousse which was also presented was quite delicious as well.)
Service was all that it should have been and then some, with Loren playing a key part in the evening's success. I think my favorite part of the entire experience was in meeting so many lovely people particularly Chef Brandt. He is truly a great artist, and like all great artists, is quite humble. ("I'm living the dream every day," he confided. My friend, it shows! Trust me!) When you assemble the right people and then treat them well, they will, in turn, treat customers well and bring a place lots of return business. When Chef was notified of the Rock Star's desire to sample some of his cuisine, he even made her a pretzel-crusted trout to go, complete with skin-on for added flavor. (Said skin peeled off quite nicely when we enjoyed the fish the next day for lunch with a glass of Texas blush. This dish, too, was quite wonderous.) Website is www.bluecanyonrestaurant.com; pleased be advised that the menu displayed is not the one for the Rockwall location, as all concerned have been rather busy with getting Blue Canyon open.
Before I conclude, I must thank all those involved, particularly Shawn, who made the whole thing happen, and Chef for being Chef. Visit our newest Iron Chef candidate soon and sample his wares, for as always:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!