Photo by Laura Flippen
Executive chef, Murray Circle
Cavallo Point Lodge
By Katharine Fong
It’s the massive, gleaming Molteni stove that I remember best.
There’s much to embrace at Sausalito’s Cavallo Point. But the Molteni, inside the kitchen of the luxury lodge’s award-winning restaurant Murray Circle, is the hidden star.
From the 12-foot long, cast-iron Molteni, executive chef Joseph Humphrey creates his delectable dishes, which have earned him a Michelin star in both years of Murray Circle’s existence. Custom-made in France to Humphrey’s specifications, it dominates the kitchen with a flat, multi-temperature cooking surface, wood-burning oven and gas burners. Moltenis are considered “the Ferrari of stoves” and are in many of the world’s great restaurants.
Humphrey oversees a 30-person staff that turns out seasonal menus for the main restaurant as well as the Farley Bar and the spa’s Tea Bar. That means that the food throughout the lodge is uniformly excellent; indeed, our server at Farley Bar said that adults often order off the kiddie menu because the food – mac and cheese, chicken tenders – is so tasty.
Younger brother and sous chef Tim Humphrey points out that unlike assembly-line cooking at other restaurants, chefs at Murray Circle learn the whole process – for example, how to dress fish, how to make their own sauces, etc. – so they become familiar with the cooking arc and are well-positioned to move on to other jobs when they’re ready.
The Tallahassee, Fla.-raised Humphreys prefer oak in the wood-burning stove vs. the more common (at least out here) almond, because of its slow-burning quality. Naturally, most everything on the menu is organic and locally sourced.
The tasting menu on the night we visited was a mesmerizing array of flavors, textures, foods, including: quail breast on fava bean custard, with pickled cherry and olive ragout; endive and grapefruit salad with Aria cheese (made for the restaurant by local artisan Soyoung Scanlan from cow’s milk, goat’s milk and crème fraîche), baked in rye and atop whiskey-apricot coulis; and tofu made at our table.
Humphrey’s holiday menus include fuyu persimmon salad with Maitake mushroom “escabeche” (see murraycircle.com for more). His take on butternut squash soup (right) would no doubt be savory made on the Molteni. But if you can’t get to Murray Circle soon, try this at home.
Butternut Squash Bisque with whipped ricotta and pistachios,
Courtesy Chef Joseph Humphrey; serves 6.
For the soup:
2 medium-sized butternut squashes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
8 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat oven to 375. Cut the squashes in half lengthwise and place, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven until completely soft, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottom stock pot, heat the butter over medium high heat until melted and just beginning to brown slightly. Add the onions and garlic and cook until very soft, stirring frequently. Once the squash is done, use a spoon to remove the seeds, discard. Scoop out the flesh of the squashes and add to the stock pot. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, cover and let simmer gently for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender, in batches depending on the size of the blender, and puree until smooth. Transfer to a clean sauce pot and keep hot, covered, until ready to serve.
For the ricotta:
1 cup fresh sheeps’ milk ricotta
1 teapoon grated lemon zest
Place the ricotta in a large mixing bowl. Whisk vigorously with a strong whisk to break up the curds of the cheese. Whisk in the lemon zest and reserve until ready to serve.
1/4 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks
1/4 cup toasted, chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons pistachio oil
When ready to serve, bring the soup back to the boil. Whisk in the whipped cream. Place two spoonfuls of the ricotta mixture in the center of each warm serving bowl. Ladle the soup around the cheese and garnish with the pistachios and the pistachio oil.