Monday, June 29, 2009

Average Betty Reinvents the Celebrity Chef Interview in Aspen

It's safe to assume that in the hundreds of interviews Chef Michael Chiarello has given during his long career, he's never been asked his thoughts on Kool-Aid soaked pickles.

Ming Tsai's could sit through another decade's worth of questions and never again be asked, "Who's a better cook, you or your mother?"

When it comes to how celebrity chef interviews should be conducted at the Food & Wine Classic, Average Betty didn't just flip the script; she juiced it and made everyone Jell-O shots. As you'll see in the video, her unique approach exposed these chefs' true personalities in a way you will never see on television.

Average Betty (Sara O'Donnell in real life) is a talented video blogger who mixes sketch comedy and cooking, and while we'd been admiring each other's work for years, we'd never so much as shared an email.

Well, we finally got to meet in Aspen, and it was so much fun picking each other's brain, trading ideas, and discussing the ups and downs of our similar existences as professional online foodies.

After much discussion and several cocktails, we decided that I'm a comedian trapped in a chef's body, and she's a chef trapped in comedian's body. Regardless, we're both searching for the same things – a larger audience to share our creations with, and of course, fame and fortune.

I hope to be collaborating with Average Betty on some future projects, and will be sharing more of her very entertaining work on this blog for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned and enjoy!

Photos (c) Average Betty

Richard "Don't Call Me a Molecular Gastronomist" Blais' Toasted Sesame and Root Beer Glazed Lamb

One of the most interesting demos I attended at the Food & Wine Classic, starred Top Chef contestant Richard Blais, who partnered with McCormick for a "Flavor Forecast 2009." The theme was new spice/flavor trends, and our morning started off with one such combo; a smoked paprika and agave nectar margarita.

Note to anyone planning an early morning cooking demo: start with a strong margarita. As we sipped the spicy, yet delicious breakfast-of-tequila-loving champions, Blais went on to describe the dish he was preparing. We were about to taste lamb ribs braised with root beer and toasted sesame.
As he explained his thought process for matching these ingredients, and the cooking methods he uses in his kitchen to achieve the best results, he made it clear he does not like the term "molecular gastronomist." He said it sounds soulless, and too clinical. Fair enough.

He then went on to use the term at least a half-dozen times during the demo. I'm not sure if this was done tongue-in-cheek, or if there just isn’t a decent term that's synonymous, but either way, I was amused.

This video recipe is my version of the spiky-haired chef's dish. I used easy-to-find lamb shoulder chop steaks instead of Colorado lamb ribs, which were quite delicious, but maybe a bit hard to track down.
As far as the root beer and toasted sesame glaze goes, when I first heard it, I have to admit it didn't strike me as a great combination, but at the end of the demo, as I sat eating the tender lamb with the sweet, aromatic, nutty sauce, I was a believer.
As if the lamb, root beer, and toasted sesame combination wasn't different enough, Blais served it with a coleslaw ice cream. That's right, he used the sweet, tangy juices from a traditional coleslaw recipe, and with the help of liquid nitrogen, he created a surprisingly delicious frozen side dish.

I'll try and figure out how to make it without the chemistry set, since I'd love to show you that video recipe also. It was a strange and wonderful combination. Enjoy!

1 tbsp vegetable oil
6 large lamb shoulder blade chops, about 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
1 bottle (12 ounces) good quality root beer
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup toasted sesame seed
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chipotle
1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 cup water
additional toasted sesame seeds to garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions

View the complete recipe

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Top Ten Highlights from the Food & Wine Classic

I had to narrow down like two-dozen things to do it, but I've finally posted a top ten list for my favorite Food & Wine Classic experiences. The four days were a blur of amazing food, wonderful wine, and a truly unforgettable cast of culinary characters, so choosing a top ten list was not easy. If you're so inclined, you can read the article on my American Food site.

I've been reading lots of similar recaps on other food blogs, and except for a few exceptions (everyone loved Jose Andres' barbecue), these post-Classic reviews are as varied as the food itself. And, you wonder why these star chefs are so high strung?

Tomorrow at some point I'll be uploading a super delicious video recipe for lamb shoulder braised in root beet and toasted sesame. The recipe was adapted from the one I saw Richard Blais make in one of the cooking demos I attended.

He served it with a scoop of coleslaw ice cream, but unfortunately I'm fresh out of liquid nitrogen, so you'll just have to settle for the lamb, Stay tuned!

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Could Live on Bread Alone (If it was Aioli Garlic Bread!)

As promised, here's an easy, beautiful, and delicious garlic bread recipe featuring the homemade aioli I showed you a couple days ago. If you think about it, there's really no such thing as "leftover" aioli; just aioli you just haven’t used yet.

I've already sung the praises of aioli's versatile and promiscuous nature. Hooking-up
(do people still say that?) with all kinds of savory ingredients is just what it does. When applied to some bread, and baked crisp with a pinch of cheese, this garlicky spread really shows it's more than just an easy cold sauce.

I mentioned it in the video recipe, but I'll repeat it here; this is not an overpowering, intense garlic experience. Since the garlic is pulverized in the sauce, when it bakes it cooks very quickly, and the sharp, peppery flavors turn soft and sweet.

If you want a more traditional garlic bread flavor, simply add some chopped garlic to the spread. The other issue here is butter, or lack there of. I like butter, I like it a lot, but when it comes to garlic bread, I'm an olive oil kind of guy.

I don't think you'll miss the butter since the egg yolk in the aioli gives it a beautiful buttery color, and adds a nice, subtle richness.

Make some aioli, use it for a few days, and then get some bread and give this try. Crisp green salad sold separately. Enjoy!

French bread
grated Parmesan Reggiano
fresh Italian parsley

Thursday, June 25, 2009

As the Night Falls at the Chateau de Grey Goose

The media cannot live on heritage breed meats and sustainably farmed vegetables alone. While I was primarily in Aspen to collect and share content regarding the all-star line-up of chefs, and their dizzying array of food, it was a perfectly made cocktail that may have left me with my most enduring taste memory.

The cocktail was called As the Night Falls
, and was being served exclusively at Chateau de Grey Goose, Grey Goose Vodka's beautiful Aspen lair. I was invited to a cocktail party to meet its creator, François Thibault (pictured here with Dimi Lezinska, left), and taste the intriguingly named concoction.

In the spirit of full-disclosure, let me say that I'm not a vodka drinker, nor do I regularly frequent cocktail parties. My wardrobe and personal style pair much more naturally with beer, but as I stood in front of the marble bar watching my As the Night Falls being muddled, measured and mixed, I was getting genuinely excited to taste this drink.

It was love at first sip – a delicious combination of Grey Goose L'Orange vodka, fresh grapefruit juice, and an exotic spice blend, including ginger and pink peppercorns. As I tipped the frosty glass for a second sip, François asked me what I thought.

It's moment
s like that where I really wish I spoke French, so I could have given him a compliment worthy of this brilliant formula – but I don't, so I said, "it's really good, I like it." Stupid English.

Happily, Grey Goose was mixing drinks at events and parties throughout the Food & Wine Classic, and thanks to my As the Night Falls experience, I consumed not a single beer. Thanks to François, and his French vodka, I had become a cocktail party guy.

Anyway, below I've included the recipe for the As the Night Falls, as well as another cocktail I had a few of (five), called the Pear Flower. I don’t know if I'll b
e running out to buy the box set of Sex in the City anytime soon, but thanks to Grey Goose and François, I have decided to expand my drinking horizons.

If you have any questio
ns you can check out Grey Goose's website site which has lots of recipes and information. Enjoy!

Grey Goose L'Orange As the Night Falls

2 parts Grey Goose L’Orange Flavored Vodka
1 part white grapefruit juice
2 coriander (cilantro) leaves
7 red peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
Small piece of
whole star anise to garnish

Add the peppercorns, ginger, and cilantro to the bottom a cocktail shaker. Muddle slightly (means to crush a bit with a blunt wooden dowel) to release the flavors in the spices. Fill the shaker with ice and add the rest of the ingredients. Cover and shake vigorously. Double strain into chilled coupette or martini glasses. Present a whole star anise floated on top to garnish. Learn French (optional).

Pear Flower

1 1/2 parts Grey Goose La Poire Flavored Vodka
1/2 part St. Germain® Elderflower Liqueur
3/4 parts freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/3 part freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 part sugar syrup
very fine granulated sugar

Rub a lemon wedge around the rim of a cocktail glass. Roll the moistened glass in the sugar. In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients. Shake well and double strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a pink grapefruit zest.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is Aioli the Greatest Sauce Recipe Ever?

As I watched Iron Chef Michael Symon whisk together a simple aioli during his pork demo I attended in Aspen, I was thinking, what savory ingredient (besides cheese) isn't great with aioli?

I couldn’t come up with anything. Whether you're talking about meats, vegetables, starches, or breads – everything tastes great with aioli.

I've done a few versions of aioli on the site before, but never a minimalist, special equipment-free recipe like this. Of course, a true aioli is made with a mortar and pestle, but not everyone has one, and sure you can use a blender, but is there anything more annoying to clean (besides a garlic press as the Iron Chef pointed out during his demo)?

Do yourself a huge favor and take 10 minutes this week to make a little ramekin of this aioli. Then, start spreading and dipping your way up and down the food pyramid. You will discover you can turn a turkey sandwich into a [expletive deleted] great turkey sandwich, a roasted potato becomes the highlight of your day, and a carrot stick is transformed into an incredibly effective endorphin delivery system.

By the way, I'll warn you in advance that I won't spend time answering comments and questions about using raw egg yolks. I've covering that in several other posts, including my homemade mayo video recipe. If you are concerned, google the subject and you'll get millions of pages on the subject.

Rachael Ray has a better chance of winning a James Beard Chef of the Year award than you have getting sick from making this recipe. Enjoy!

1 clove garlic
kosher salt
1 egg yolk
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Tuesday Tease: Tomorrow We Make Aioli ala Michael Symon

My favorite chef demo this past weekend was called "For the Love of Pork," by Iron Chef Michael Symon. In it, he made his basic all-purpose aioli, which reminded me that I've never actually done a simple, no-equipment-needed version for the site.

Tune in tomorrow for the vi
deo recipe for what is quite possibly the greatest sauce in the history of the world.

The photo here shows the chef whisking away, as captured in the overhead mirror above his cutting board.

He used the aioli on a pork belly BTL that was so good, when he bit into it he said to the audience, "It sucks to be you."

Free Tequila + Food Bloggers + Photo Booth = Lots of Explaining to Do!

As much fun as I had eating and drinking my way through four fabulous days at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, it was getting to meet some of my food blogger buddies that really made my time there so special.

Saturday night, after Food & Wine magazine's "Best New Chefs" Dinner (which you
can read about here), Patron Tequila hosted a very exclusive after-party at the Brexi Brasserie, which I attended with three of my new favorite foodie friends.

In addition to supplying copious amounts of very good tequila, Patron also set up a photo booth. As a steady stream of well-oiled party goers made their way in and out of the booth, the photos were projected onto a large screen for entire room to see (and make fun of).

Pictured here, with the u
sually reclusive Chef John, are (from left to right) Jen from Daily Blender, Sara from Average Betty, and Heidi from SavoryTV. Thanks ladies!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Heading Back to San Francisco after Four Days in Foodie Heaven at the Food & Wine Classic

I'm flying back into SFO tonight after experiencing my first, and hopefully not last, Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. With so many famous cooks all crammed into this beautiful, but very small town, the best way to describe this event would be to call it a "celebrity chef petting zoo."

By the way, I highly doubt any of the participating chefs would mind being objectified in the petting zoo analogy. In fact, I'm hoping they start using the phrase, and I get credit for coining it!

The chefs that come to Aspen for the Food & Wine Classic know the drill. Sure they're there to cook, lecture, and party with their fellow foodies, but more so they are there to be photographed with fans, asked questions, patted on the back, and told repeatedly, "you're my favorite chef!"

The food and wine were amazing, but what I will remember most about this event are all the interesting exchanges between the various participants. Ming Tsai and Jacque Pepin had a classic Smackdown, which I just blogged about on my American Food site on About.

There were Top Chef winners everywhere, and they certainly enjoyed chatting and joking with each other, as well as rubbing elbows with the cult-like fans of the show. The old guard – Jacque, Ming, Bobby, and Mario (you don't need the last names do you?), all appeared in multiple venues around the event to large adoring throngs.

I have a bunch of articles lined up to appear on, so I'll be sure to post links here when those go up. In the meantime, if you would like to see a few hundred photos I shot while there, I just created a photo album with Google Picasa. The shots you see here are some of my personal favorites.

I haven't had time to write any captions yet, or remove bad and/or redundant photos, but they still may be fun to take a peak at to get a glimpse of my Food & Wine Classic experience.

I also shot a small amount of video footage with my very low resolution Flip Cam. The video you see here is a short excerpt from a very entertaining demo by Iron Chef Michael Symon called "For the Love of Pork." How was I going to miss that one?

The sound isn’t great, but you should be able to hear him relay a funny story of how Tom Colicchio help him with the subtleties of naming a dish. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more. And yes, I will be back in the kitchen soon!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

I'm sorry I don't have time for a long, thoughtful father's day post (or even a short thoughtful one), but after a late night of celebrating, and a very early wake-up call, I'm dashing off to another event.

So, to my father-in-law Al, and all the fathers in Food Wish nation, I want to say thanks for all you do, and enjoy your day!

Pictured here is Jacque Pepin, the honorary father of all the chefs in Aspen (or at least that's how he's treated), with his daughter Claudine.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Aspen Food and Wine Classic Update: Chef Tim Love Gets Well-Oiled

I just posted a real "believe it, or not" article on my American Food site, which I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy. I don't want to spoil the ending, so I'll just say I have a new favorite chef "war story." Check it out here, and enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Aspen Food and Wine Update: Top Chef Champs Rock the Welcome Reception

I just posted a recap of the Welcome Reception I attended last night at the St. Regis Hotel in Aspen. The food was prepared by four previous winners from Top Chef. Harold Dieterle, Ilan Hall, Stephanie Izard, and Hosea Rosenberg eachhad their own station from which to showcase one of their dishes.

Here are the four dishes they did, and you can read all about it on my American Food site on Enjoy!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Rocky Mountain Reality Check

I landed safely in Aspen last night, just as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains. Upon arriving, I called the hotel to have someone drive out and pick me up. A polite young man was there in minutes, and as we drove from the airport to Snowmass, a small ski village outside of Aspen, I asked him, "have you picked up many famous chefs yet?"

He said, "No, they don't stay where you're going."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Happens When a Toasty Corn Salad Meets a Creamy Italian Dressing?

Simple deliciousness, that's what. This corn salad recipe is one of my favorite summer side dishes. It's a perfect complement to just about any meat you pull off the grill, and can be dressed in countless ways.

This time, since I had just made and filmed a light, creamy Italian dressing, I decided to try this particular combo, and it was wonderful. The garlicky tang of the mayo-spiked vinaigrette balancing the sweetness of the corn like we all knew it would.

By the way, there is nothing wrong with using frozen (great quality, preferably organic) corn. I love fresh vegetables, and use them 95% of the time, but every good chef h
as a bag of sweet peas, and bag of corn in the freezer.

Of course this salad would be amazing with freshly shaved corn right off the stalk in August, but we don't always have the time or energy, and in that case, this recipe will do just fine.

Special thanks to Michele's friend Robert, who provided the wild boar you see pictured on the finished plate. As luck would have it, we received this much appreciated gift right before the Cochon555 event, so not only did I taste dozens of pork dishes that night, for our lunch before the pig fest we ate… wild pork!

It was awesome! I can't wait until wild pig is regularly available in the meat case at your local markets. The taste of this meat, how pork used to taste (or so I've heard), is so much richer, meatier, and flavorful, there's no comparison. Enjoy!

1 lb frozen sweet corn
1 cup diced roasted red peppers
5-6 basil leaves, chiffonade
cayenne, salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the dressing:
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove crushed garlic
1/4 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp water

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Tuesday Tease Times Two

I take off tomorrow, but will be posting a video for, not one, but two delicious recipes. Pictured here is one of my favorite summer side dishes, a toasted corn salad, which is dressed with a very light, but extremely flavorful creamy Italian dressing. Stay tuned to watch both recipes!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chef Peter McNee Crowned "Prince of Porc" at Cochon555

I'm furiously working away, getting everything in order for the big trip to Aspen for the Food and Wine Classic, but yesterday I attended the San Francisco stop of Cochon555, and even though time is short, I wanted to give you a little video recap of the porkilicious proceedings.

Thanks to Taste Network for putting on such a fun event, and for helping support the effort to raise awareness about heritage breed pigs. All five chefs did an amazing job honoring the meat with creative preparations using every inch of the animal, literally.

Peter McNee, from Poggio Trattoria, was declared "Prince of Porc" by a combined vote from a panel of judges, as well as a poll of the guests. Any of the chefs could have won, and all together, according to my count, there were over 60 separate pork preparations!

Since foodies can not live by pork alone, there was also a great selection of wine by Krupp Brothers, Hirsch Vineyards, Elk Cove Winery, Arcadian Winery, K Vintners/ Charles Smith's Wines, Chase Cellars and (my favorite) Ghost Horse World.

My friends from Foodbuzz were one of the sponsors, so thanks to them as always (see you guys in Aspen!). I like I said, I just don’t have time for a full, detailed bite-by-bite account, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy this quickly thrown-together video recap. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chef John's Going to the 2009 Aspen Food and Wine Classic!

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably already know I'm headed to Colorado to cover the 27th Annual Aspen Food and Wine Classic for I received one of the extremely coveted, full-access press passes, and will be taking full advantage.

This time each year, the Food and Wine Classic becomes the absolute center of the epicurean universe. Everyone who's anyone in food and wine (not to mention food/wine writing and blogging) makes their way to Aspen for three days (five for some) of delicious tax-deductible decadence.

I'm flying out of San Francisco on Wednesday, and returning Monday. In between, my goal is to set the Food and Wine Classic record for media coverage – there's a chance I'll be moving from event to event, from tasting to tasting, from party to party, so fast and furiously that my press badge will actually burst into flames.

Of course, if tha
t does happen I imagine one of the rising star chefs will run over and try and smoke some scallops over it. It's just that kind of event. I'll be posting every day on, as well as doing my best to give you a play-by-play on Twitter. So, if you're not already following me, get on it!

As much as I'm looking forward to seeing, and being seen with, the food world's best and brightest, I'm also excited to meet and trade war stories with fellow food writers and bloggers.

I'll be meeting up with my friends from Foodbuzz (they always know where the party's at), and a couple new food blogger friends, Heidi from SavoryTV and Average Betty, who will both be there with Plum TV. Here's a little taste they shot at the 2007 Aspen Food and Wine Classic. Enjoy, and stay tuned!

Classic Fireworks Photo (c) Steve Mundinger
Jacques Pépin, Danny Meyer, and Bobby Flay Photo (c) David Sawyer
The Grand Tasting Pavilion Courtyard Photo (c) Perry Johnson

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Simple Italian Omelette – It's What I Had for Breakfast

I know some of you enjoy the occasional "What I Had for Breakfast" post and photo, so I thought I would do a quick video version of my breakfast this morning. I made a very simple, very thin Italian omelette, filled with goat cheese and chives.

I'm calling this an "Italian" omelette for a couple reasons. First, I used olive oil instead of butter, and secondly, I cooked the eggs quickly, in a hot pan, letting them get a little golden-brown. The traditional French omelettes are thicker, and cooked much more gently.

Anyway, this is just a quick, simple video recipe that shows a nice technique for lifting the edges and letting the raw egg run underneath. This helps cook the omelette faster and also gives it a nice texture. Enjoy!

UPDATE: What They Had for Breakfast
This is from iliea (the cheese girl) who wrote, "just thought you might be interested in what i had for breakfst too. this is a picture of frog hollow peaches, blueberries from the Ferry bldg farmers market, topped with Strauss Creamery whole milk yogurt, and finished with Snyders Farm oak wildflower honey. Oh, so good."

Thanks, Iliea!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Embarrass Your Wine Snob Friends AND Win $10,000 – Now That's a Win, Win!

I love watching blind taste tests. Whenever they show those taste surveys for coffee, bottled water, beer, etc., I'm always glued to the screen. I love to see the looks on peoples faces after they've chosen the 50-cent truck stop coffee over their $4.75 Starbucks.

Call me a jerk, but I really get my schadenfreude on watching the sweet humiliation of a Fiji bottle water drinker who picks the New Jersey tap water as their favorite. So, when I heard that Black Box Wine was going to give someone a $10,000 prize for posting a video of similar reactions, I had to investigate.

Black Box Wines does a 4-bottle-sized box of wine for $24.99, which according to my sources deep within the wine-tasting community have received very nice reviews. I will taste some next week, and give you my highly unreliable opinion then.

In the meantime, check out the “You Got Boxed” contest website for details on how to score the cash by filming your guests reactions to finding out the "premium" wines they have been tasting is actually a boxed table wine. Imagine the hilarious possibilities.

Here's a sample entry video they posted to give you an idea of what they're looking for. Even if you have no plans for making a video, and putting Mr. "I'm getting a hint of cassis and coconut" in his place, I still think you should watch, if only to enjoy what is quite possibly the worst acting ever. Sweet soundtrack too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rhubarb Crisp – Worth Fighting For

While I was making this delicious rhubarb crisp, I had the baseball game on in the background. As I sliced the beautifully colored stalks, I wondered why, in old-school baseball lexicon, a fight between the two teams on the diamond became known as a "rhubarb?"
I would be lying if I told you I've spent a lot of time searching for an answer, but a couple times a season I'll hear the broadcaster use the term, and I'll wonder to myself, "why rhubarb?" If you know, please pass it along so I can check this off my list of useless mysteries to solve before I die.

It's on there along with, "where are all the baby pigeons?" and "why doesn't San Francisco have any good radio stations?"

If you've never tried rhubarb before, this is the recipe for you. The sweet, crisp topping taking the edge off the tart, tangy fruit – both benefiting from a creamy scoop of vanilla ice cream – this is a great, old-fashion American dessert.
I don't know why such a great ingredient is so under-used, sure the leaves are poisonous, but that doesn't stop us from eating other foods. I think we have a tough time with fruits you can't eat raw. You can’t snap off a rib of rhubarb in the garden and chomp away while watering the roses.

Who knows? But, what I do know is if you're looking for a great summery dessert that's supper easy, and a little unusual, you'll want to give this a try. Just make sure you make enough to go around.

You don’t want your guests getting into a fight over the last piece. Nothing wrecks a nice relaxing summer meal like a rhubarb rhubarb. Enjoy!

3 large ribs rhubarb, diced (about 4 cups)
1 cup fresh strawberries, halved
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
For the topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup whole wheat, or all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/4 tsp salt
dash of cinnamon
4 tbsp cold butter, diced
vanilla ice cream