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Chef Daniel Crook

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | May 9th, 2012 | Chef Interviews
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From Boston we follow the coast to southern Maine and the town of Ogunquit.  This small seaside community becomes a bustling destination when the warm weather returns.  Many of the restaurants and lodging options close during the winter and reopen in the spring.  One such place is the Cliff House Resort & Spa.

Celebrating their 140th season this year, this resort knows how to make a grand impression on their guests and diners.  With a prime location and access to many fresh ingredients, dining here is a feast for the senses.  We spoke with Executive Chef Daniel Crook to learn more about the menu that he has created for the 2012 season.

TT:  How many new dishes have you added to your menu this season?

CD:  We have added several new dishes to the menu this season. I am particularly excited about the lobster tasting dinner that was designed in celebration of our 140th anniversary. Priced at $140 for two people, the tasting features Maine’s signature seafood in lobster bisque, lobster spring roll, mini lobster quesadilla, lobster citrus risotto and grilled lobster tail. This meal is served with a bottle of sparkling wine.

TT:  Out of these dishes which is your favorite new menu item and why?

CD:  One of my favorite new items is the bamboo lemon grass and ginger steamed halibut with kaffir lime essence cilantro pesto and edamame shiitake mushroom relish. This flavorful and healthy dish was developed as a complement to our spa offerings. It combines exotic flavors with simple culinary techniques to create an elegant entrée.

TT:  Are any of the ingredients in this dish locally sourced?

CD:  We use all local ingredients. Many of the fresh vegetables and herbs will be harvested from our own organic garden. The halibut is sourced from several southern Maine fisheries and delivered to the resort fresh each morning. Fresh, local ingredients are an important part of the dining experience. They are essential for superb flavor, and when you’re this close to prime fishing waters, you want to showcase fresh local seafood.

TT:  Do you change your menu every year?

CD:  Yes, we are always looking for new ingredients to use in our eclectic cuisine, and we change the menu to feature our favorite finds. Though our featured entrées are typically changed each season, our dessert menu changes biweekly to allow us to use seasonal ingredients.

TT:  Are there any menu items that you never would remove?

CD:  The blueberry halibut with a blueberry gastrique is a staple at The Cliff House. It is a signature dish and a favorite entrée of resort owner Kathryn Weare.

TT:  What do you think makes your menu unique?

CD:  I spent much of my career in Hawaii, and there is a Pacific Rim cuisine influence throughout our menu. We use kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, curries and shisho leaves to name a few ingredients.

Photo credit:  Paul Avis, Avis Studio

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