Chef Jack Riebel is the best cook I know, and I know some cooks. For many years, Jack was the chef at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis, where my husband plays every Christmas with the Bad Plus. It was an absurdly glamorous experience to spend the holidays there, listening to the Plus, eating Jack's food, and being waited on by his wife Kathryne, one of those rare professionals who still views service as an art. Drummer Dave King's little son Otis could not pronounce "Chef Jack" and called him "Fresh Jack"; the name stuck.
Once I even worked the kitchen. It had been years since I'd done this professionally, and my performance on the leek and potato soup was similar to what Sosa, the head boxing trainer at my gym, said recently about my hand wrapping skills: "OK, but slow and fearful."
All good things come to an end, and so did Fresh's time at the Dakota. He moved on to help found Butcher and the Boar, a tremendously successful BBQ/bourbon/beer garden concept that landed Fresh in the finals for James Beard Chef of the Midwest.
This Christmas, Fresh announced he was moving on yet again, to consult for a new restaurant in Loring Park. Somehow I had still never eaten at B & the B, so I made him take me and Kathryne. The food was exquisite, much of it kissed by the wood grill, all of it bearing Fresh's distinctive signature: earnest, bold Americana meets French refinement.
Rare duck breast paired with foie gras boudin, served with "waldorf" garnish of pureed apple, celery, walnuts, and raisins. Also superb were the Texas-style jalepenos stuffed with peanut butter, mussels michelada with Fresno chili and smoked paprika, gorgeous lobster grilled cheese, and two items that I literally could not stop eating until they were all gone: the turkey braunschweiger, which is a kind of pate, and the grilled oysters, for which Fresh generously supplied the recipe (below).
In addition to being a great creative cook, Fresh is a wonderful leader. Here he poses with his staff, who were all a little sad, news of his departure having just hit the grill.
12 of your favorite, meaty, deep cup oysters, shucked
1 batch of oyster butter (recipe below)
¼ C toasted breadcrumbs. (Optional)
Make oyster butter and reserve at room temperature.
Light grill or preheat gas grill.
Place a teaspoon of oyster butter on each oyster, sprinkle with breadcrumbs if using.
Place oysters on hot grill and cook until butter has melted and bubbling. Move oysters around to avoid flare up. Some flare up will occur, no worries
When ready remove and serve with lemon wedge. Allow oyster to cool slightly as the shells are going to be very hot..
1 lb butter
½ c grated parmesan
1T fresh thyme
2 lemons zested
2 T minced chives
2 T minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Tabasco to taste
Butter may be made ahead and kept refrigerated up to two weeks or frozen indefinitely. Butter should be tempered before use. (Note: I'm not exactly sure what this last sentence means, as I have only ever tempered chocolate before. I found a description of tempering butter here.)