Crave 10: #6 – G. Michael's Bistro & Bar

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

This German Village staple never wavers from its Lowcountry roots, combining elaborately sauced and highly seasoned dishes with fresh produce and proteins from Ohio. The intimate, brick-walled G. Michael's is where we go for elevated comfort food, beautifully presented and seasoned to perfection.

G. Michael's chef David Tetzloff created one of the best dishes I ate this year: burgoo with braised and pulled rabbit and a confit duck leg served with creole-pecan compound butter. It was rich and buttery, and I was thankful for a heaping helping of cheddar grits to soak up every last bit of that sweet dark sauce with a touch of heat.

The Lowcountry spin on a traditional hunter's stew perfectly sums up what we've come to love about this German Village restaurant-layered dishes that punch every last inch of your palate with flavor. It's obvious Tetzloff takes great care to add the right finishing touch to every dish. It might be something sweet or something spicy, he says, adding, "It will certainly have an acidic component 'cause your taste buds like a little zing."

No other chef in town can persuade me to order a dish based on the sauce alone. Sometimes, I read the dish descriptions sauce first, protein second. Roasted garlic and red pepper jus on pan-roasted halibut. Shiitake mushroom butter sauce on sauteed walleye. Bourbon-molasses barbecue sauce on pan-roasted pork tenderloin.

Tetzloff's approach to sauces hails from the five years he spent at Slightly North of Broad in Charleston, South Carolina, under the tutelage of chef Frank Lee. Here, the classically trained Lee taught Tetzloff the importance of a well-crafted stock. "It all starts with the stock," Tetzloff says. "If you don't have a good stock, you're not going to have a good sauce."

Tetzloff admits G. Michael's couldn't live without four things: veal stock, chicken stock, cream and butter. But vegetable, shellfish and even corn stocks find their way into dishes. Here, he shares insight into how he makes his stocks and sauces-continually some of our favorite elements on his plates.

Reduce your stock. That's the most important piece of advice Tetzloff can give. "You can't make good sauce if your stock's watery," he says. "It might be one of the disciplines of cooking that takes the most patience. It's a concentration in flavor. Take your time, baby them a little bit and treat them well. It's the finishing touch on the plate."

Roastyourbones. "Get good color on them." he says. Whether chicken or veal bones, they should have a nice brown caramel color before they're tossed in the pot. "And then make sure you scrape up all the good stuff off the roasting pan."

Does it shine?

Tetzloff can look at a sauce and know if it isn't right. "It should have a sheen to it," he explains. "It shouldn't be dull. It shouldn't be watery. It should be an appealing looking sauce on the plate."

Brown Stocks simmer for 14 hours, before they're strained and patiently reduced to concentrate the flavors. "Our veal stock always has tomato paste," Tetzloff says. "It adds a depth of flavor, it adds color, it adds an acid point, and it just gives it richness. It balances out the boney flavor to me."

Bourbon Gastrique is the sauce he uses the most. "Gastrique being sweet and sour where you turn sugar into caramel and you deglaze with vinegar and bourbon, and then add stock on top of that," he explains. "That's probably been used on every pork dish. I guess you'd call that one of our basic or mother sauces around here. It's one of the first ones we learned."

"Our process has always been to try and take whatever the farmers bring and not screw it up.

-David Tetzloff