Recently, while cooking for a ticketed dining event for 80 guests of the Agave Festival at Jett’s Grill at Hotel Paisano in Marfa, TX, it finally happened...failure! I designed an Agave-centric menu in honor of the festival, so my first course was: Cast Iron Seared Sea Scallops served on a bed of fresh-made Cilantro Angel Hair Pasta served with a Tequila Chile Lime Buerre Blanc. With all that said, being that it was my first course and serving it to 80 people, and as it’s an appetizer that’s actually cooked just as the guests are seated, there’s no room for error. I’ve done scallops so many times I could do it blindfolded. Well, this time the wheels came off the wagon as if I actually was blindfolded!
When I first arrived, I should have checked my sea scallops, as I had left the selection of the scallops to the purveyor and not chosen them personally, mistake #1. At this point, given the event was in little, bitty Marfa in the middle of the high desert of the Trans-Pecos, where there isn’t a seafood shop, much less a fishmonger in sight, there was no replacing these tiny scallops with what was intended. Oh, boy! Now instead of trying to adapt and improvise, I left the blinders on and continued at full speed, continuing down this failed path by still trying to sear thick, yet skinny (that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?) scallops, mistake #2. Had I checked them earlier in the day, I could’ve made the decision to adapt and improvise, something I’m quite comfortable with and accustomed to, given that almost every Cowboy Chef Newton Dining Experience is prepared in a different kitchen, and I could have made an alternate dish with the same ingredients, for example, like slicing the scallops thinner and making a small pasta dish, perhaps even adding a little crab meat with the sauce, then apologize prior to the serving, mistake #3! Fortunately, with the disastrous and disappointing appetizer behind us, the second course was a Chilled Avocado Jalapeño Crab Soup with a Mango Salsa and lump crab meat, and it came out with perfection! Whew! The salad course was a beautiful Grilled Village Farms Tomato Caprese with Buffalo Mozzarella served with a Cilantro Tequila Pesto, which was quite colorful in its resemblance of the tri-color Mexican flag. It was flawless! The entree we served was a Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin with a Tequila Bernaise, Green Chile Dauphinois Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus and Agave Tequila-glazed Baby Carrots, all spot on! Ironically, dessert was the course I was most concerned about, Sopapilla Cheese Cake served with a Margarita Cream Anglais, and the flavor profile, moistness and density of the cake with the anglais was the perfect ending. These remaining courses came out very timely, very well received with great reviews, however the first course set the pace and the guests’ expectations. We had to shift the gears, take it up several notches, and pull it off, which we did with perfection. It was a plus that the Herradura Tequila cocktail pairings were spot on! I still see the failure of this meal, and no one could ever be harder on me than myself. When someone attends a meal like this, they expect, and deserve, perfection! To quote the great chef & world traveler, Anthony Bourdain, "I'm a big believer in winging it. I'm a big believer that you're never going to find...the perfect meal without a constant willingness to experience a bad one..." we definitely experienced a bad one! Lesson learned, I will not go down that path again! My sincerest apologies! NEXT!!