5@5 - Chef Rob Weland
October 4th, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

The National Restaurant Association recently announced that one in three chefs the organization surveyed named gardens as the next big restaurant trend. (Sorry, bacon - your time might be up.) If that’s the case, Rob Weland is plowing ahead of the curve.

The executive chef of Poste Moderne Brasserie in Washington D.C. grows approximately 20 percent of what the restaurant uses in the onsite courtyard garden, as well as composts about 40,000 pounds of food a year.

Let’s just say, you won’t find any semi-homemade cooking under Weland’s watch - and he paid a call to 5@5 to encourage you to do the same.

Five Favorite Things to Make from Scratch: Rob Weland

1. Vinegar
"I love vinegar and the complexity it adds to just about any dish - salads, chicken, fish, desserts. While vinegar has been made for thousands of years, modern and mass production has sadly altered the rich and diverse flavors that I presume were more pronounced in its humble beginnings years ago.

I source a lot of artisanal vinegars, but decided to start a little project and make my own - infusing them with fruits and herbs from the restaurant’s garden. My project keeps growing as the seasons change, and I love playing with the flavor profiles and making sure that nothing goes to waste in the garden.

Right now, I’ve got a few going like black heirloom raspberry, fig, heirloom apple and peach that will be infused with lavender. The process is more simple than it sounds - I start by juicing the fruit and placing in a clean vessel in a dark room, adding wine yeast and stirring it gently once a day. The process varies with each vinegar, but you can easily tell when the conversion from alcohol to vinegar starts happening. Once that happens, we strain through a coffee filter and seal in jars, keeping the vinegar in a dark room for another month or so."

2. Pickled stuff
"We pickle a lot of things at Poste, but my current favorite is our pickled muscat grapes, which we started growing in the garden last year. Since we don’t plan on making wine any time soon, we decided to just pickle them using pickling salt, sugar, tarragon and white wine vinegar. They’ve been working out well, and we serve them alongside our cheese and charcuterie boards - it’s a nice alternative to the typical tart accompaniments."

3. Jam
"Who doesn’t like jam? We’re all about not wasting a thing and trying to preserve the seasons as long as possible. I just finished large batches of fig and bay, elderberry, green gage plum and beach plum for the fall menu. My mom picked beach plums on Island Beach and sent me a huge box last week from New Jersey."

4. Compost for my garden
"Definitely not on the list of edible items, but like I said, we’re not in the business of wasting. Just about everything ends up in the compost for Poste’s garden - organic eggshells and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, old flowers from the dining room and stinging nettles. It cooks down nicely in the D.C. summer heat, but we also add some compost worms to expedite the process."

5. Head cheese

"I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but we try not to waste in our kitchen. The same rule applies to animals and we serve a lot of it at our Poste Roasts - so I try to make use of it all. My head cheese is made with pig heads consisting of the meat from the cheeks, tongue, snout and trotters. Our tête de veau (calf's head) is made from our Randall Lineback rose veal, which we receive a half-side of each month.

Head cheese is made by simply simmering the head gently in a flavorful broth, then picking the meat while the head is still warm, reducing the broth and then covering the picked meat again in a terrine form. We treat the tails the same way and usually bread and fry them for the bar menu."

Got a favorite thing to make from scratch? Think homemade really is always better? Share your homemade concoctions and opinions in the comments below.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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