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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.


March 8, 2016

Life is full of choices. Grape jelly or strawberry? Crunchy peanut butter or smooth? Waffles or pancakes?  White or wheat? Beatles or Stones? Keith Moon or John Bonham? Jeff Tweedy or Jay Farrar?

From the moment we can crawl we are faced with thousands of choices, and we are told that those choices we make shape and mold our lives. The choices we make when dining mold and shape our meals.

When broken down to its purest understanding, a restaurant’s menu is two things: 1.) An internal billboard for the restaurant and 2.) A bunch of choices. Obviously, the larger the menu the greater the choices.

We start making choices the minute we walk into a restaurant. Smoking or non-smoking? Booth or table? Inside dining room or outside on the courtyard? Once we are seated it’s tea or soft drink? Wine or cocktail? Appetizer or soup? Would you like a salad with that? What type of salad dressing? Which side order would you like with your entrée?

I am almost always going to order an appetizer. Usually I’ll order several for the table to share. Occasionally I’ll order a number of appetizers and then order a few more as the main course. Many times a restaurant’s most unique offerings are in the appetizer section. Two appetizers instead of one entrée is always a fun choice.

Beef or fish is one of the hardest choices I make when dining in one of our restaurants. I am a steak lover. But we usually have four or five species of fresh fish available which makes it a sub-choice category within the original choice. The choice is made easier if one of the catch of the day options is tripletail. A ribeye will lose out to tripletail seven times out of 10 if I am given the choice.

One of the most challenging menu choices is with dessert. First to order dessert or not, then which to go with— chocolate or fruit? I don’t have numbers to back this up, but my 36 years in this business tells me that 85% of customers would choose chocolate over fruit. I am in the minority.

I love to finish a meal with a cool, fresh, light dessert that features fruit— sorbet is perfect. I also like fresh berries with a light drizzle of crème anglaise or English cream.

The reason many people prefer chocolate over fruit is because it’s something that they wouldn’t prepare at home, also because almost everyone loves chocolate.

So when all is said and done it’s strawberry, crunchy, pancakes, wheat, Beatles, Bonham, and Tweedy— all easy choices for me.


Fresh Strawberries with Crème Anglaise

1 cup            cream

1 cup            half and half

2 Tbl            Grand Marnier

3/4  cup       sugar, divided

5                  egg yolks

2 tsp             vanilla extract

In a 1 quart stainless steel pot bring the cream, half and half, Grand Marnier, vanilla and half of the sugar to a simmer. While it is heating, combine the yolks and remaining sugar in a mixing bowl and whip until light in color.

Slowly temper (pour) the cream mixture into to yolks. Once all of the cream has been added into the yolk mixture, return the mixture back to the pot. Cook over low-medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula, do not use a whip. Make sure to stir the edges and bottom of the saucepot well while the sauce is cooking. Cook until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat a spoon or spatula.

Remove from the heat pour the sauce immediately into a stainless steel bowl and cool down over an ice bath. Refrigerate until needed. This sauce will hold for three to four days covered and refrigerated.

4 pints           fresh strawberries, hulls removed and berries quartered

1/2 cup          sugar

1 Tbl             fresh lemon juice

While the sauce is cooling, prepare the strawberries.

Place the cleaned and cut berries in a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the sugar and lemon juice over the berries and gently toss them in the bowl so that the sugar gets evenly distributed. Do this 1-2 hours prior to serving.

To serve, divide the strawberries evenly among 8 small chilled serving bowls or ice cream dishes. Drizzle one quarter cup of the sauce over the berries and serve.


8 servings



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