Andrew Haapala is the newly appointed Executive Chef of The Country Club of Virginia in Richmond. After serving as Executive Sous Chef for nearly nine years, Haapala is eager to lead the club into the future and continues its tradition of culinary excellence.
His Smoke Trout Salad is inspired by the region where he’s spent most of his culinary—Virginia.
C+RC: What was the inspiration behind this dish?
AH: Seasonality and locality. Almost every part of the dish is from Virginia. The trout, lettuces, cucumbers, and even the cedar I use are all locally-sourced. I pruned the applewood from trees at my home.
(Admittedly, the spruce tips are from the west coast, but they are an amazing seasonal ingredient if you ever want a fun splash of herbal citrus.)
C+RC: Why do you believe this is a special dish?
AH: Virginia’s state fish is the speckled or brook trout. The Bay’s crab, oyster, and striped bass offerings often overshadow it. This dish puts the trout up front and showcases its subtle, sweet flavor.
C+RC: What about this dish makes you most proud?
This dish combined my love of woodcraft with my love of the culinary arts. It has allowed me to create something our guests have not seen before. I cut each “plate” from a fallen cedar tree on the golf course. I then routed each one to accept a cloche that we fill with applewood smoke before serving. The flavor profiles are fun and slightly uncommon but pair together amazingly.
C+RC: How would you describe the flavors?
AH: Light, airy, and playful. The baby cucumbers are marinated in a mini keg with Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice gin, Fever-Tree tonic, and a splash of lime. I charge the keg with CO2 overnight. This carbonates them gently and creates a neat mouthfeel. The byproduct is also a delightful cocktail.
C+RC: Why is this dish relevant to the industry?
AH: It’s simple, clean, and easily reproduced but the show is fun, and the flavors are unexpected. Whether you have the cedar plates or not, this could be served to 12 to 120 people with relative ease, and the effect would be the same.