Tom Douglas has already had a full house for Thanksgiving this year. Two weeks shy of Thanksgiving Eve on Nov 7th, Tom drew an eager and hungry crowd to Macy’s Downtown Seattle store Culinary Kitchen on Level 6, awash in gleaming cook and tableware on holiday display. The much anticipated guest, Tom Douglas, has been a member of the host Culinary Council for 6 years, traveling around the country for Macy’s Culinary Council (MCC) events, comprised of some of the nation’s leading culinary masters, including Ming Tsai, Todd English, Emeril Lagassi, Wolfgang Puck, and Cat Cora among others.
For his ‘Bring Something Tempting to the Table’ live demo, Tom, his staff, and MCC’s Executive Chef, prepared and sampled a selection of sweet and savory Thanksgiving dishes from his newly released Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.
He opened his talk with tales of his book tour, which landed him in NYC last week -posing a bit of challenge -coinciding with Super Storm Sandy’s imminent landfall. He recounted the treacherous transportation options and the city’s desperation to circumvent them, and of paying $300 for a taxi ride out of the city, after two earlier cab drivers refused similar inflated offers. Isn’t the honor of squiring this celebrated chef payment enough?
Recalling for me the NYC culinary publications like Bon Appetit posting pictures and recipes for fall comfort foods during the storm, Tom shared his recipe and warmed mini bites of his Grilled Cheese and Caramelized Broccoli Rabe and Fontina that had the audience cozily melting in contentment. Always the educator, Tom offered a prize to anyone in the audience who could tell him the Chinese form of broccoli – (it’s Kai-l) and treated the winner to a measuring cup full of a favorite libation.
Imparting a true Northwest flavor and local industry tie-in, aromatics from Starbucks’s Thanksgiving blend – a dark roast which Tom helped develop –featured prominently in his main dish –the ‘Coffee-Bean Turkey with Sweet Onion Gravy.’ With a ½ cup sprinkled throughout the bird cavity while cooking, any stray beans are removed from the roasting pan before making the gravy, or roux, from the drippings.
Another local favorite,Washington wine, appears in his roux, and he recommends Columbia Crest’s 2010 Pinot Gris and uses it in his Culinary Council traveling chef tours, noting that Wine Spectator lists it among ‘Best Wines Under $10 in the World.’ The bite of turkey, deliciously tender with its bottom brushing of rendered bacon fat, and buttering under the skin, was equally balanced with the dark, smoky flavor of the dark roast coffee beans, a perfect complement to the richness and sweetness of the roux’s butter, onion, and wine.
And what is Thanksgiving without dessert? Tom Douglas Co’s pastry chef, Stacy Fortner, who under his tutelage, perfected her artistry and now runs the show at Serious Biscuit –helped develop the evening’s sweet finish- ‘Pear Tarts with Dreamy Caramel Sauce.’ Made with a 1,000 layer puff pastry sheet, which his restaurant buys from a supplier from frozen, the complex dessert featured ripe, firm pears poached in water, sugar, and vanilla beans Tom demonstrated scooping out of the pod with a knife edge. He then demonstrated the making of the caramel sauce, with sugar, water, heavy cream, and unsalted butter at a high temperature until it turns a deep amber and joked that you can tell it’s ready by placing your finger in it. (Not recommended).
Once the liquid darkens, you immediately add the cream, and stand back, as it causes the sauce to sputter. Safety first, Tom cautions. His pastry chef also advised using the highest sided pan for this recipe –burns apparently have taught these chefs many a lesson. Topping the tarts were a drizzle of the Dreamy Caramel Sauce and a garnish of a fresh sweetened almond cream – a splendid combination of buttery and sweet richness.
Some of the evening’s best moments were Tom’s anecdotes and off the cuff comments, such as his message to his staff in front of the audience to page Stacy,“Can you tell her to get her stuff together and get out here?” He then turned to the audience, grinning, “That’s as Gordon Ramsay as I get.”
Another time, in the thick of his manic cooking -reminiscent of his Iron Chef moment, he remarked, “I’m in Beast Mode.”
With Tom’s cooking antics on display -his dishes a delight –the 2 hours flew by -cameras flashing and seatmates chatting while they passed the coveted samples down the line before gobbling their own.
His charmed and sated guests lined up afterward to have their purchased copies of his cookbook signed by the head chef and raconteur himself, cementing this experience to look back on fondly while preparing his recipes in their own home.
Tom Douglas, Chef and Entertainer, tempted and tantalized this lively Thanksgiving table and can do the same for yours.
Disclosure: I was contacted by Everywhere on behalf of their client, for coverage of this event in exchange for goods, services, or payment for my participation. Like Everywhere, I abide by FTC guidelines in disclosing this information.