Monday 27 May 2013

Cuca Salts

After a couple of extremely busy weeks, I am finally back to the blog as I can’t let the one more day pass without writing about our Cuca salts. You may remember my post “A salty trip”, where I told you about the ancient technique of extracting salt in Amed, in the East of Bali. We went there back in November to understand how special and unique this salt is and came back home with tons to start developing one of Cuca stellar products: Cuca Salts. 

Our idea was simple: infuse these sea salt crystals with traditional Balinese flavors. The result could not go wrong as the base product is the most amazing salt you can imagine. Produced 100% naturally in incredibly small quantities and slowly extracted exclusively from solar evaporation, the crystals are 4 sided hollow pyramids for reasons unknown until now. Gourmet companies around the world have noticed this magical product and sell it at incredible high prices but for us is easily available so we can offer it at prices you can afford.

The second step in developing Cuca Salts was to identify the most traditional Balinese flavors, those always present in the popular “bumbu” (Indonesian word for spices mixture or seasoning). Kevin studied them, began understanding their traditional use and grouped them for specific purposes: one mixture for poultry, one for seafood, one for veggies, one for beef and one for pork. 

The challenge was then how to take advantage of these unique ingredients completely fresh, as capturing the aroma had to be a key feature of Cuca Salts. Applying a secret technique, Kevin managed to produce a very special end product: a magic salt infused with the essence of Balinese deeply rooted ingredients. 

We offer 5 “touches” identifiable by their different colors and aromas, to be sprinkled over food either before cooking (a 5 minute marination is enough) or after cooking, just before serving. You use them as normal salt for any type of cooking (steam, fry, grill, boil, barbeque, etc.) and they save you the time of manually preparing complex seasonings or marinades. If you are on holidays in Bali, this is the perfect souvenir to bring back home: a take away little box with the soul of Bali that will remind you of this very special island while you enjoy your lunch across the world. 

For pork: sea salt, young ginger, turmeric and lemon basil.
For poultry: sea salt, chili, kaffir lime leaf and ginger flower. 
For veggies: sea salt, galangal, lemon grass and salam leaf. 
For seafood: sea salt, white pepper, citrus, vanilla and pandan leaf. 
For beef: sea salt, Javanese black pepper, garlic and kencur.

We offer them in two sizes: 50 and 80 grams at 38.000 (USD 3.8) and 48.000Rupiah (USD 4.8) respectively. 

The first time we made them publicly available was last weekend in Jakarta and within minutes of opening our booth we had sold 20, within 2 days we run out of stock. The weekend promotion made us realized the great potential of this little first step by Cuca. One more reason to come to visit us!

Thursday 9 May 2013

Caught on camera

Among the hundreds of things we have in our hands right now, we are slowly but steadily filming the making of Cuca. This won’t simply be a video about the steps we are taking to build our restaurant but will actually tell the heartfelt stories of the wonderful people we found along the way, what took them to the island of the gods and why they love what they do. Through their smiles we want you to see with your own eyes how special is every item we have handpicked for Cuca and how much care and thought is put behind each of them.

Kevin explaining how special our plates are

Raymond filming in full wing!
Pak Kicuk helping us with the
time-lapse camera as it must be
reset every day. 
We have traveled all around the island to film the locations where our veggies are grown, where our salt is extracted, where our wood furniture is sanded, where our fish is caught… We have also captured the skillful hand making of our plates, the engraving of our cutlery, the weaving of our furniture… We have interviewed the individuals who listened attentively to our ideas, shared with us their priceless knowledge and helped us to make this dream come true.

Also we are producing a time-lapse video of Cuca’s actual construction. A camera has been set in front of the site to take photos every 3 seconds so we can show you in only a few minutes how Cuca has grown from a mere seed in a coconut grove to the building we sketched what seems ages ago.

Although the documentary will only be completed after Cuca is finished, we are preparing a teaser that hopefully will touch your heart. It is just a week away, so keep your eyes open!

Saturday 4 May 2013

Cuca Kitchen: a dream come true

After years of working in all kinds of kitchens using all types of equipment, Kevin had the opportunity to design his own dream kitchen. The process has been painstaking, being forced to take on step back for every three steps forward and learning as we progress but we are almost there. All the key equipment has arrived and installation starts next week.

Equipment patiently waiting at our supplier's warehouse
Salamander broiler waiting for action
Since we don’t have real photos to show you yet, we are sharing with you the floor plans. They are supposed to be confidential, but we cannot wait any longer and after months following us in this blog, you are already part of Cuca family and deserve access to this piece of juicy information that is one of the main reasons why we believe Cuca will be one heck of a restaurant.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the one and only Cuca kitchen!

1. Main finishing kitchen: it is an open kitchen that allows guests to see what is going on from two sides. All equipment is waist-high so the view of the cooks and their craftsmanship is uninterrupted. It is a “show kitchen” because its only purpose is to finish dishes. Butchering, cleaning and all other messy jobs are done somewhere else. The magic of this area is its flexibility, its tidiness and its functionality.

Built around two islands with equipment accessible from all sides, it allows cooks to move freely from station to station. Every single piece of equipment has been chosen taking into account Cuca’s menu. These machines will ensure that the process of making our dishes is highly accurate and consistent.

Another key feature in our kitchen is the vast amount of chillers we have ordered… they will be crucial to ensure sanitation, cleanliness and an outstanding organization.

2. Hot pass: it is separated from the dining room only by a glass window so guests can witness the magic of putting together all the components to build up the final dish. It is strategically located so the Chef can access any of the stations if required.

3. Food bar: it allows a theatrical view into the kitchen and the lucky guests sitting here will be directly served by our cooks. Heat will not be a problem, we have taken care of it!

4. Back of the house: divided in an area for butchering, bulk preparation and cleaning and another one for dish washing. This space is key as it keeps ingredients away from the heat of the kitchen and prevents flavors from mixing. A chocolate mousse will never taste like garlic as it is prepared in an entirely different room.

5. Dry-store: usually inexistent in restaurants, it allows us to keep non-perishables at a controlled temperature and in perfect order. Inventory control is going to be a piece of cake! Next to it, you can see in the drawing a room for all the gas tanks. As you may already know, we had to change all our equipment to gas due to the high cost of electricity in Bali.

6. Receiving area: the place where all items received will be checked before being stored. Kevin has more ambitious plans for this corner in the future. It will probably become the cold kitchen for pastry.

7 & 8. Walk-in chiller and freezer: it is the Chef’s version of any girl’s dream walk-in closet!!! A refrigerated cube where you can uncompromisingly keep all items from the moment of receiving them without having to cram them in a small space. It also allows to purchase whole pieces of meat or fish and then cut them exactly as we want. Extremely useful for functions and priceless when obsessed with sanitation.

Hopefully after reading all these details you agree with us that this is going to be a magical kitchen for both staff and guests. In the next few weeks we will see this dream unraveling piece by piece. Literally.