Friday, May 29, 2009

Chocolate and [Insert edible noun here]

The only thing better than eating artisan chocolate, is eating it while listening to the person that made it. That's exactly what I got to do Wednesday when Michael Recchiuti, San Francisco's preeminent chocolatier, hosted a media-only event to announce The Taste Project.

The Taste Project is a series of multi-sensory chocolate pairings bringing together Recchiuti's confections with savory ingredients like salt, olive oil, beer, mushrooms, along with the people that produce them.

While listening to Michael explain his concept, it was clear how much he enjoys bringing together these kindred foodie souls. More than pairing products, he's pairing people, and that's what promises to makes these tastings unique.

The evening began with a brief tour of his kitchen. A large, bubbling kettle of candied citrus peel was steaming away, scenting the entire floor of the building. Against another wall, molten white chocolate poured from a spigot into a churning vat.

He showed us how the chocolates are coated and the intricate designs applied to the top. He also gracefully handled the inevitable "Oompa-Loompa," and "I Love Lucy" jokes (I'm sure he never gets tired of those).

Then it was on to the main event. You can see pictured here, in order, what we had to taste and savor while Michael explained each paring and the thought-process behind it.

We started with a "Dip-it-yourself" Graham cracker breadstick. A custom-blended 64% Valrhona chocolate was slowly melting on a warm block of Himalayan salt, just begging for one of those housemade Graham-sticks to be dragged through. Now that's how you start a chocolate tasting.

Next we were served the "Salt Course;" a stone fruit pizza made with peaches, cherries, and some of the best puff pastry I've ever had. This was garnished with something called roasted Korean bamboo salt. Over the top were shaved curls of a wonderful, custom-blended Mexican/Colombian chocolate.

Eating this in silence would have been pleasurable enough, but as I said at the beginning, to taste while Michael
discussed the components of the plate took it to another level of enjoyment.

The "Spirits Course" was a tiny "cherry bomb" made with Kirsch-filled chocolates topped with a coated Amarena cherry. It was a great bite, and made more so when we were informed that due to its labor-intensive nature, this item would not be available for retail sale.

The most bizarre and interesting pairing was the "Mushroom Course," consisting of shiitake mushroom ice cream sandwiched between grilled slices of buttery brioche bread, topped with fried slices of shiitake. I have no idea how, but it worked. More so than anything else we had, this item best represented the mission behind The Taste Project.

We finished with the "Bread Course;" an Acme croissant soaked in rum custard, sitting next to a very light crème caramel. It came with a small vial of Stonehouse olive oil for drizzling over the bread pudding. The bitterness of the early harvest oil brought everything together and made for a very nice finish.

On our way out we were presented with a pint of Recchiuti's new "underground" ice cream. For fear of grave bodily harm, I really can’t give details about his mysterious new offering, but a very reliable source told me that if you check Michael's Facebook page you can learn how to get your hands on some.

If you would like to take part in any of the upcoming Taste Project events you can
get more info and see a complete schedule of pairings on the Recchiuti Confections website. Enjoy!

A Look Behind the Scenes at Recchiuti Confections

Top Photo courtesy of

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Caramel Pork Belly - Understanding Unctuous Unctuousness

The only thing more popular than pork belly is using the word "unctuous" to describe it. If you're not familiar with the word, it has several definitions, but in a foodie context it's used to describe something rich, luxurious, and fabulously fatty - think bone marrow, foie gras, and of course, pork belly.

If you're a food writer, and you're doing a review or article about pork belly, you have to use the word unctuous or unctuousness whether you understand what it means or not. Ironically, another meaning for the adjective is, "Characterized by affected, exaggerated, or insincere earnestness."

I wasn't really sure I understood the true essence of unctuousness, but after eating this caramel pork belly I'm
pretty sure I get it now. Each bite was pure pleasure. I'm usually a very fast eater (aka former line cook syndrome), but I tried to eat as slowly as I possibly could. It was just so unctuous.

While I used a very intense Asian-influenced sauce to compliment the rich pork, this same technique could be used for many variations. Once the pork is cooked and crisped-up, I can think of dozens of other sauces that would be stellar.

By the way, if you are concerned about eating that much fat, don't be. The piece of pork belly I used made two fairly modest portions, about 3 1/2-ounces each, once cooked. That's about three tablespoon of fat. That Chicken Caesar salad you had last week because you wanted "something light" had way more fat than that, so relax and enjoy!

If the Vimeo Player isn't working, here is the YouTube version:

10-oz slab of pork belly (Berkshire pork if you can get it)
1 bunch green onions
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp ginger juice
4 cloves sliced garlic
4 whole dried red chilies (unbroken)
1/2 cup water

Foodie Note: I almost used this recipe from Michael Ruhlman for Chicken Fried Pork Belly Caesar, which looked and sounded incredible! Maybe next time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

This sexy beast is a caramel-glazed pork belly. I'm happy to announce the video recipe will air tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Authentic Beef Teriyaki Really Better?

You may really love beef teriyaki, and still be completely disappointed with this recipe. I know I'm usually a little more optimistic in my intros, but this is one of those recipes that I know will bring a few emails with messages like, "Thanks for making me waste a good piece of top sirloin - what the hell was that?"

The reason for this is real teriyaki sauce is quite a
bit different than most food court aficionados are used to. Outside of your better Japanese restaurants, what's usually served as teriyaki is a very thick, very sweet, very salty, very one-dimensional sauce.

"Real" teriyaki sauce is fairly thin, and gets its signature taste from a heady combination of soy sauce, Sake, and Mirin, a sweet rice wine condiment. It's an extremely simple sauce, yet the flavors are much more complex that the familiar Americanized version; often made with just soy, brown sugar, and cornstarch.

But just because this recipe is more authentic, and contains classic Japanese ingredients, doesn't necessarily mean you will enjoy it anymore than the thick sweet goo they splash on your meat at Tugboat Tommy's Teriyaki Terrace.

I really hope you give it a try and I'm very anxious to hear what you think. By the way, assuming you do like it, this same sauce can be used on virtually anything with equally delicious results. Enjoy!

Note: this beef teriyaki video recipe was produced for and can't be played on the blog. When you click on the video a new window will open and the recipe will begin.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Celebrating Memorial Day

Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering those who gave their lives serving our country, and among these heroic souls are countless cooks and chefs that made the ultimate sacrifice. So today as you enjoy all that delicious food and drink, pause for a few moments to salute the real iron chefs.

This video was produced by the Pentagon and gives an interesting glimpse inside the culinary branch of our military. This is just part one - for the rest of the series you can visit their official YouTube channel here.

Photo (c) Flickr user acidcookie

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Have a Memorable Memorial Day Weekend!

Here's wishing all of you a happy and healthy Memorial Day weekend. I have no way of knowing what you have planned, but I assume it involves food.

Be kind to all those rusty grill chefs, its b
een months since they've rocked the bbq tool belt (that's a great look).

It's your solemn duty to pretend to like everything no matter how black and dry. It's our ability to spare the cook's feelings that separates us from savages.

The lovely plate you see here was our lunch today, and was every bit as delicious as it looks. The lamb steaks were marinated in yogurt, garlic, and herbs - then charcoal grilled and serve on some homemade whole-wheat flatbread (also grilled), topped with wild arugula and a minted honey sherry vinaigrette. It was heavenly.

Despite a very nice Frick Syrah, I was able to film the lamb steaks and the honey sherry vinaigrette recipes, so stay tuned for those. In the meantime, enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Santa Maria Beans - Little Pink Beans for Big Red Meat

Santa Maria, California might be famous for its barbecued beef tri tip, but for local aficionados it's all about the beans. Classic Santa Maria style beans are made with a special variety of pink beans called pinquitos.

These "little pink" beans are prepared in a spicy, smoky, tomato/chili sauce that's spiked with not one, but two kinds of pork. Santa Maria beans have come into my
life relatively late, so I plan on making up for lost time this barbecue season.

One thing I forgot to mention in the voiceover, do not salt the beans when you simmer them. Adding salt at the beginning when you cook beans is said to cause them to become tough.

Having said that, I have no idea if that's true since I've never tried it the "wrong" way. But, hey, why would someone makes up something like that?

Don't worry if you can't find the authentic pinquito beans - the recipe you see here was made with regular pink bea
ns, and pretty much any dry bean will work. Enjoy!

1 pound dry pinquito beans, pink beans, or pinto beans Legumes
2 strips pepper
bacon, diced
1/2 cup smoked cooked ham, diced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-oz) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper, optional
pinch of dried oregano
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peach and Blackberry Flognarde - As Delicious to Eat as it is Fun to Say!

I was looking around for a name for this unusual clafouti-like combination of peaches, blackberries, thyme and black pepper, when I saw an article that said in France, a clafouti that uses fruit other than cherries is called a flognarde.

A flognarde? Yes, a flognarde. I enjoy saying flognarde so much, I think even if this recipe hadn't come out as well as it did, I would have still made it regularly - just to say, flognarde. As I mentioned in the video, I couldn't find a proper French pronunciation, so please enlighten me on how it should really sound. Until then, I'm going with "flog-nard."

This recipe is dedicated to the more adventurous among you. I knew going in that the thought of adding black pepper and thyme to a dessert-ish recipe would freak some of you out. But, that's okay.

The pepper gives this a very subtle hint of heat, and the thyme adds an almost unperceivable herbaceous, slightly lemony aroma. Is this something you will enjoy? There is really only one way to know. Enjoy!

1/2 cup wheat flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp thyme leaves
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
pinch of salt
1 tsp butter
1 pint blackberries, rinsed
1 ripe peach, sliced

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Food, Inc." Rips the Shrink Wrap Off America's Dysfunctional Food System

Hopefully "Food, Inc.," the new documentary by Robert Kenner, will do for the American food system, what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for global warming - start a national discussion about something so obviously broken, and ways it can be fixed.

Wouldn't it be great if water-cooler conversations about what we eat, and how it's produced reached the same level of passionate discourse as, say, Dancing with the Stars?

Last night I attended an advanced press screening for the film, and for me it had everything I love in a documentary - it was funny, sad, scary, thought-provoking, and left me wanting to learn a lot more.

"Food, Inc." brings to life the works of Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") and Eric Schlosser ("Fast Food Nation"), the Batman and Robin of all things bound for the belly. To read their books about our dysfunctional food system is one thing, but to see it splashed (literally, in some cases) across the big screen was something else altogether.

It made me wonder how many of us, strolling through grocery aisles, realize that a small handful of huge corporations control almost everything we eat. Those shelves may look like an endless array of delicious diversity, but they're really nothing more than a collection of genetically-modified, nutritionally void variations of wheat, soybeans, and corn.

The movie does a great job of exposing just how far these companies are willing to go to keep you from understanding what's really going on. Ignorance may be bliss, but it's also very profitable.

Using a fascinating juxtaposition between the dark, disturbing subject matter and the film's colorful graphics, interesting characters, and ironically upbeat music, the filmmaker delivers an entertaining and engaging narrative. If you eat food, or know someone that eats food, you really need to see this movie.

"Food, Inc." opens in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles on June 12th, and then in selected theaters nationally in July. If you would like more information about this important film, please check out the Food Inc. website.

Watch the "Food, Inc." Trailer:

Movie Poster Graphic (c) Participant Media

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hoisin-Glazed Barbecued Ribs - No Photos, but Many Delicious Memories

One of the victims of my recent hard disc crash was a roll of photos taken during the filming of this Hoisin-Glazed Barbecued Ribs video recipe. Usually as I cook and film, I have my camera at my side to snap shots along the way. This is especially important at the end of the recipes when I like to get what we call in the business "the money shot."

All those sharp, well-lighted, color-corrected still frames you see in my videos are done with a digital camera, as my cheap camcorder doesn’t perform nearly as well. Here you can see a huge difference in quality, as I had to rely on some frame captures instead of photos.

Adding to the problem is the dark red color of the Hoisin glaze (a very hard hue to film), and the distortion the heat waves add. The result is one slightly annoyed video recipe producer. Thus concludes the venting portion of today's recipe post.

Notwithstanding the photographically challenged nature of this recipe, it sure tasted good. When I do pork spare ribs I usually go with the standard American barbecue rub and sauce, but an abundance of leftover Hoisin sauce and a stray can of pin
eapple juice nudged me further east.

I mention in the video that Hoisin sauce has an interesting story behind it. I probably should have said confusing, rather than interesting, but here it is. According to my extensive research (5 minutes on Wikipedia), "Hoisin" is a romanization of the Cantonese word for seafood. What? Why? It's traditionally served with pork, isn't it?

That was all they had. So, if you have any ideas why Hoisin means "seafood," please let me know (even if you have to make something up). Enjoy!

Full rack of pork ribs

For the marinade:
1/2 cup Hoisin sauce
6-oz pineapple juice
1 tbsp sambal chili sauce or hot sauce

For the rub:
2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp 5-spice powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of cayenne

For the basting sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Asian fish sauce
2 tbsp Hoisin sauce

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Food Blogger Code of Ethics

I know many of you publish your own blogs, and you’ve probably said to yourself many times, “I wish there were a short, concise set of blogging ethics I could refer to, so I would be like totally ethical when it comes to ethics and stuff.”

Well, you are in luck! I just created the Food Blogger Code of Ethics, inspired by the Food Blog Code of Ethics. As you’ll soon read, the Food Blog Code of Ethics is a recently published set of guidelines written by Brooke Burton and Leah Greenstein.

I decided to have a little fun, and reduced the “Code” down to its ethical essence, like a sort of Socratic demiglace. Enjoy!

Socrates Photo (c) bencrowe's Flickr photosteam

Friday, May 15, 2009

Orzo with Chicken and Asiago - Just Like the One You Saw in the Grocery Store Line

If this recipe looks familiar, there may be a good reason for that. This easy Orzo with Chicken and Asiago recipe is from the website, which is published by Time Inc., the creative force behind all those cooking magazines you thumb through while standing in line at the grocery store.

Time Inc., which publishes the popular periodicals
Southern Living, Cooking Light, Sunset, and Real Simple, recently contacted me regarding there new recipe website. They asked me to check it out to see what I thought.

I decided to surf the site as if I was looking for an easy weeknight dinner recipe. I found this Orzo with Chicken and Asiago recipe and decided to give it a try, pretty much as printed. It came out very well, which for many recipes printed online, is a rarity.

I really like how the site is organized, and I encourage you to check it out. I may actually be doing some guest blogging for, and hopefully I can eventually publish some videos for them.

So, check out this recipe, and for the full, written recipe with ingredients, go to Tell’em Chef John sent you. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Uh-Oh! SpaghettiOs

Denise from the blog ChezUs has posted a “gourmet” homemade version of the retro classic, Chef Boyardee SpaghettiOs, and I don’t know about you, but I can’t look at a picture of SpaghettiOs without smiling.

I don’t even remember if I was fed SpaghettiOs as a child. I’d ask my mom, but like any good Italian she would probably never admit to it. Regardless, I’ve always been fascinated by the SpaghettiO. Why hasn’t the ring caught on as a pasta shape?

You would think that the shape’s popularity as a canned foods staple would have caught on with pasta makers, homemakers, and chefs, but that hasn't been the case. Did Chef Boyardee have a gang of thugs from Piacenza, Italy, that “recommended” others not use it? Since there’s no way to know for sure, let’s assume he did.

Anyway, I applaud Denise and her fearless attempt to bring SpaghettiOs into your lives sans cans. Her recipe looks delicious, and I’m sure it will be making an appearance here in video form someday. Get the recipe, and read her post here. Enjoy!

Photo (c) ChezUs

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chicken with 20 Cloves of Garlic - Have a Little Chicken with Your Garlic

There's a famous roast chicken recipe you may have heard of called "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic." While the amount of garlic in that recipe seems impressive, the fact that the garlic cloves are left whole results in a sweet and fairly mild garlic experience.

This chicken with 20 cloves of garlic isn't quite so subtle, and features the "stinking rose" in a pungent one-two punch. The fistful of garlic is first pureed and used as a marinade, then used as a sticky glaze as the chicken roasts. The result is chicken as a very effective garlic delivery system.

As you'll hear in the video, I recommend throwing a handful of chopped Italian parsley on top when you serve this delicious chicken. Fresh parsley really does freshen the breath when large amounts of garlic are consumed. In fact, this is the origins of the ubiquitous sprig of parsley that sits uneaten on so many plates.

By the way, that reminds me of one of the first dirty kitchen jokes I ever heard, and still one of my favorites. Since I get a fair share of m
inors on the blog, you'll fill in the blanks yourself, but it really shouldn't be too hard.

"What's the difference between parsley and ________? Nobody eats parsley." Enjoy!

20 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large whole chicken, cut into serving pieces
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Parsley Photo (c) Flickr User Joylitas

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back That Asset Up

Pardon the juvenile, Juvenile reference, but I'm still reeling from a catastrophic hard disc crash. Friday my MacBook's hard drive died. It was a quick and hopefully painful death.

Luckily I had most of my movie files, photos, and recipes backed-up on an external drive, but it was still a traumatic experience.

My Mac was cover
ed by the AppleCare service contract, so thankfully I was able to have a new hard disc installed. I'd like to thank the fine folks at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco for their fine customer service.

You have to make an appointment at the "Genius Bar" where their technician (called geniuses) work. Although they provided me with top-notch assistance, as an actual genius, it sort of bothered me that they use that term so loosely. Anyway, after a long frustrating weekend of reinstalling, reloading, reviewing, and reevaluating my career choice, I'm happy to say I'm almost back to normal.

I did lose about a month's worth of photos, so if you see less than stellar pictures in the next few posts, it's because I had to use still frames from the video. I'll leave you with a personal plea to back up your files! Even though I only lost a small amount of content, just the thought of what could have been is enough to make me shudder.

Photo (c) Flickr user Joe Lanman

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan Casserole - Killing Two Food Wishes with One Delicious Stone

I've received a ton of requests for eggplant Parmesan, and I finally got around to filming my "low-fat" version. Speaking of requests, the most common request I get is for fried foods - fried chicken, onion rings, tempura, french fries, et al - and I always send the same basic reply; great fried foods requires a large commercial deep fryer to really give you the results you crave.

You can do a few things small scale at home with a fry-daddy, but for the most part those deep-fried delicacies you want me to demo are best ordered out. Normally, eggplant Parmesan would fall under this "needs to be fried to be good" category, but in this video recipe you'll see my method for a much easier casserole-style version.

One problem with eggplant is they soak up and incredible amount of oil. They can't help it, it's their nature. To counter this, we reserve the crispiness for the top crust. By using a nice thick layer of crunchy Parmesan breadcrumbs, we get a very similar fork full of food, but at significant caloric savings. Enjoy!

2 eggplants
olive oil as needed
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup shredded pepper Jack
salt and pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 cups tomato sauce (prepared pasta sauce is best)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
for the topping:
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 tbsp olive oil

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Happy Mother's Day and Congratulations Pauline and Peggy!

As you can see from this video still, my mother Pauline has been named 2009 Mother of the Year!

I'm so proud of her and even though she should have been honored long ago, better late than never.

Here is a link to watch the full video report about this prestigious award. Congratulations Mom! I love you and will see you soon.

In related news, Food Wishes Video Recipes is proud to announce the results of our first Annual Mother-in-Law of the Year Award. This year's inaugural winner is... Peggy Manfredi! Peggy is, and has been, a huge supporter of this site.

While her many contributions may go unnoticed to you, they are invaluable to me. Wow, imagine that, my mother and mother-in-law both being honored in the same year. Amazing.

I want to wish all you moms out there a very happy Mother's Day, and hopefully you had the forethought to make your kids and husbands watch a few of my video recipes, so they could make you a beautiful meal Sunday. Have a great day, and we'll see you back here Monday for more foodie fun. Hopefully your kitchens survive the weekend. Enjoy!

* Click photo to see full video

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Potted Plant" Ice Cream Cake - Giving Mom the Gift of Edible Dirt

The potted plant has always been a popular Mother's Day gift. Available at any grocery store, this foil-wrapped afterthought does a great job showing just how little effort you spent. Well, this year's going to be different.

This "potted plant" ice cream cake is so easy to make, and it's as beautiful as it is delicious. No matter how disappointed your mother is in you, one look at this creative cake you made for her, and she is guaranteed to be slightly less disappointed.

By the way, do a little research and use her favorite cake, ice cream, and flowers in its construction. I really hope you give this a try, and show her just how much you really do care. Enjoy!

ceramic flower pot(s)
pound cake
ice cream
oreo cookies

Thanks to a commenter, we have identified the website where I first saw this. You can see the original post here on

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Foodbuzz Says "Thanks a Million" at the Press Club

Foodbuzz, the Internet's largest social network for foodies, celebrated their one-millionth post by treating their featured publishers and other associates to a delicious Tuesday night of wine and food pairings at the beautiful Press Club in San Francisco.

You've heard me sing the praises of Foodbuzz before, and deservedly so. Ryan Stern (the Director of Publishing, pictured below with Nate Perry-Thistle, Director of Tech), and the rest of the F.B. team have provided valuable support for what I do here on Foodwishes.

I couldn’t be happier for their success and really appreciate the way they paid tribute to their food blogging partners. As I sipped and nibbled my way around the softly lit, subterranean wine bar, I felt that vibe a room gets when everyone is thinking happy thoughts and feeling appreciated.

Of course, the 16 tastes of wine poured, and the fabulous plates of "small bites" provide by Michael Mina may have contributed to this "vibe," but, whatever.

The Press Club features wines by eight of Northern California's top boutique wineries. I'll confess, I'm more of a wine drinker than wine taster, but I really enjoyed swirling and sniffing my way through each station
. My personal favorites were the Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Carneros 2006, and the Hanna Sauvignon Blanc, 2008.

So, a sincere thanks to Foodbuzz for the food and the buzz. It was also very cool getting to chat with some of the other bloggers about ideas and techniques they use to capture the hearts and minds of the chewing public. Congratulations, and here's to the next million posts!

Pictured below are the food offeri
ngs, which included (in order): "Shrimp Cocktail" with Horseradish Panna Cotta, Tuna Nicoise and Quail Egg, Duck Confit Cassoulet, Steak Tartare, Island Creek Oysters with Pickled Ramp Granite, and Pork Rillete with Honshimeji Mushrooms (click to see larger version). Everything was as delicious as it looked!