When restaurateur Don Durante and sommelier Lisa Rhorer first met, they discovered they had something in common: a strong passion for food, wine and the environment.
Those passions resulted in the popular , now celebrating three successful years in business.
Rhorer, Cin Cin’s wine director and co-proprietor along with Durante, said she was inspired by Europe, New York and Chicago when she came up with the concept for the wine bar. But she added that Executive Chef Chris Schloss was a big influence in targeting the direction of Cin Cin’s cuisine.
“He has a subtle Asian/Korean influence,” she said. “And like a good wine, his food has layered complexity and is delicious.”
You Can Go Home Again
Schloss grew up in Los Gatos, and though he spent years cooking and traveling around the world, he knew he wanted to return to his roots.
“I've always had the desire of returning back where I started, or somewhere near at least,” Schloss said. “I've had an affinity for the area and its ingredients for as long as I can remember, not to mention the weather.”
At an early age, Schloss was influenced by his father, who spent most of his career in the hospitality and restaurant business. The details of running a restaurant caught the young Schloss’ interest.
"I remember being fascinated by the action and aromas of the kitchen and the camaraderie of all the staff,” he explained.
Schloss graduated from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, a school that he believes is “the premiere school for culinary arts.” But, as good as that education was, he says his training and internships have benefited him the most.
And he has brought all that training, experience and creative expertise to the kitchen and dining tables of Cin Cin where he creates all the recipes himself.
Fresh and Inventive Cuisine
Schloss says his “combinations of flavors and textures range from classic to off the wall to mixing something very conventional, with something really unfamiliar and to bring those worlds together. I like the idea of creating a dish that is not only satisfying texturally but has the ability to touch all of your senses.”
The basis for the unique, delicious dishes that come out of his kitchen is the use of fresh, local ingredients.
“It's actually the most important part of my cooking,” he says. “Using fresh, local ingredients that already taste great just makes my job easier.”
I asked Schloss what he enjoys most about cooking at Cin Cin.
“I just enjoy being back cooking for people who I've grown up with,” he said. “The size of the restaurant as well makes it easier for me to put my stamp on each plate that goes out each evening.”
Schloss added his thanks to “everyone who dines and supports our restaurant. These are the people that make my job possible.”
I’m always curious where chefs like to eat when—and if—they have a night out.
Schloss replied, “As most chefs will agree, we don't have the chance to go out and eat as often as we would like, but when time allows, I generally like to eat outside of Los Gatos to see what is happening progressively with food. However, I do love having appetizers at . They do some creative stuff as well.”
Creativity is the key to Schloss’s cooking, and it’s why diners return again and again to Cin Cin—that and the excellent selection of wines, as well as Schloss', Rhorer's and Durante’s commitments to their passions.
“I truly believe that what we are doing at Cin-Cin is on par with any large cosmopolitan restaurant in a big city,” Rhorer said. “Yet we are customizing it for the Town of Los Gatos. Great, approachable cuisine, wine and cocktails for the neighborhood without sacrificing sophistication, yet easy on the wallet.”
And although Cin Cin had the impressive honor of being “Michelin Recommended” in 2010, Rhorer said that’s not what’s important. "Our customer's opinion,” she said, “means more to us than any award.”
Chef Schloss has generously provided us with this recipe for one of his delicious, creative creations.
Crispy Goat Cheese with Apricot, Currant and Apple Mostarda
(Note from Chef Schloss: Mostarda is a common Italian style relish.)
For the mostarda
1/2 red onion, peeled and finely minced
1 cup water
1/2 cup dried apricots
4 apricots or peaches, halved and seeded
1/4 cup currants
2 granny smith apples, cored and finely diced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed
Combine the onion, water, apricots, apples and currants into a medium sized stock pot and cook until soft. Then add the remaining ingredients and cook until syrupy. Pulse in a robo-coupe [food processor].
For the crispy goat cheese
12 oz goat cheese
2 cups flour
6 eggs beaten with ½ cup water
2 cups panko bread crumbs
Roll goat cheese into 1 oz. balls, dredge in flour, egg wash, and then
panko. Shallow fry at 375 degrees until golden brown and serve on top of the mostarda. Chef Schloss recommends “pairing this recipe with a lightly dressed arugula and some sliced baguette to bring it all together. Enjoy!”
Buon appetito, mi amici!