Cooking from the Heart: Chef James Haller

This morning I opened my e-mail to find that Chef James Haller of Portsmouth, NH, would be cooking a very special meal on March 3 at The Wellington Room in Portsmouth. The menu consists of: 

  • First course: Roasted garlic and potato cream soup
  • Second course: Tenderloin tips in a rhubarb and vodka barbecue sauce
  • Third course:  Dungeness crab and avocado Napoleon with a Harissa aioli
  • Main course:  Duck confit with roasted potatoes in chive oil accompanied by Lima beans and rainbow chard sautéed in duck fat
  • Dessert: Tarte Bourdaloue (A Normandy regional delicacy: Pear and spiced frangipane tart)

Chef Haller will provide home-baked bread for the occasion.

If you live within driving distance of Portsmouth, you may want to consider this wonderful opportunity. Reservations are required: Call The Wellington Room, 67 Bow Street Portsmouth, NH.  Tel: 603-431-2989

It really sounds wonderful. It reminded me of the post below, from Valentine's Day 2007, which Chef Haller wrote especially for this blog.

From 2007: Cooking from the Heart
By James Haller

I've always thought that cooking for someone is one of the most loving
things you can do. The nourishment of the food, and the nourishment of
someone knowing they are "being cared for" make it truly a gesture of love.

A few years ago a friend was celebrating a birthday and wanted to have his family for dinner including seven children: the eldest aged six, the youngest age two.

For the birthday cake I made a chocolate Genoise cut into three layers and filled with a lavender mousse. I made a plain white, powdered sugar frosting for the cake. When dinner was over we cleared the table and I filled seven little pastry bags with different colored icing, handed them to the kids and said, "Okay, why don't you all decorate Uncle Jack's cake?" I showed them how to hold and squeeze the bags and with-in minutes the artful decoration was underway. The youngest, the two year old, had to stand on top of the table over the cake to have room. The event lasted for almost a half hour, a very long time to keep kids interested, and when they finished, the cake was truly lovely though I must admit it was a little abstract, a sort of multi-colored, very sweet Jackson Pollack.

But the enjoyment and the effort and the involvement of the kids to make Uncle Jack's cake beautiful was a gesture of love they still talk about.

Cooking has always been a passion for me, even before I ever thought I would become a chef. Part of that passion was a desire to see people enjoy what I had cooked for them. To hear the oohs and ahs as they smelled the aromas of a wonderful chowder made from wild mushrooms and prosciutto, or a chicken breast stuffed with pears and duck breast in an orange and fig dressing, is the reason cooking continues to make me happy almost forty years since I first walked up to a stove professionally.

My whole approach to cooking has always been instinct, almost what you might think of as design. The dinner is designed with tastes rather than presentation, and although presentation is commendable, I feel the dinner is going into your stomach and not the Louvre. Never repeat an herb during a dinner, use cream only once, either in a soup or an entrée or maybe anappetizer, don't repeat foodstuffs. Designing each taste so that it compliments the last and sets you up for the next is a constant effort to create a new taste. In the sixteen years I owned Blue Strawbery I never repeated a menu.

So it doesn't matter if you only make hamburgers, creamed chipped beef on toast or a chateaubriand, this Valentines day set the table, light a couple of candles, open a bottle of wine that you like, and as you're dishing out the food lean over and whisper to that wonderful person, "I love cooking for

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Penny said…
Lovely sentiment Mimi. I wish I lived close enough to enjoy meeting Chef James Haller and tasting his delicious sounding food.
Mimi Johns said…
I do, too. I was so hoping to get out to Portsmouth one summer, but it didn't pan out. It's not off the list yet. I love reading his book about cooking for his friends while on a visit to France. I have it, but the title escapes me at the moment.
Mimi Johns said…
It's called Vie de France. I loved reading about his meal prep.
Penny said…
I will order Vie de France from Amazon. I love reading books like that. Thanks.
Mimi Johns said…
Most of the review are excellent - I just posted mine yesterday. It's a gentle book, one to read on a stormy day or a cold afternoon.

How is your weather, by the way?

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