Tag Archives: chefs

Mexico City Healthy Gourmet

 

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Demand for fried churros dusted in sugar and dipped into chocolate sauce begins at breakfast and continues all day at Mexico City’s historic El Moro churreria open since 1935.

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Street food carts at busy intersections in this sprawling city of nine million serve up sweet corn slathered in butter and crispy chicharron fried pork skins.

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Bustling food markets such as the Mercado Merced boast rows of colorful candies to exquisitely shaped marshmallows.

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But Wait!!! There’s Good Nutrition News too!

IMG_2965 But, there’s a healthy side to Mexican food emerging in this city’s exciting culinary scene. Fish flown in daily from the Pacific coast is simply grilled and presented on top of wilted greens and sliced golden potatoes with a side of locally foraged mushrooms at chef Jair Tellez’s newly opened Amaya restaurant and wine bar.

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“We serve good food and strange wine,” said Tellez, who offers an entirely Mexican wine list.

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A light dessert at Amaya is a sampling of Mexico’s unique fruits including bright pink prickly pear and dark orange mamey served with a touch of fresh cheese scented with anise.

Rooftop Vineyard in the City

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At Vinicola Urbana, a restaurant set in a demonstration vineyard planted on a rooftop, the Baja California grown wines are paired with traditional dishes for modern palates including squash blossom soup and yellow rice wrapped in nopales (cactus leaves).

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Mexico City’s Healthy Moves

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There’s a fitness trend in Mexico City. Central streets are closed to traffic and open to cyclists and pedestrians only on Sundays.

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The St. Regis Mexico City hosts yoga classes with skyline views and the bartenders mix up breakfast fruit smoothies including one with orange, papaya, agave honey and oatmeal.

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Quinoa salad with dried mango chips and an avocado topped pizza are popular menu items at the hotel’s J&G Grill.

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“Many people who travel a lot like to take care of themselves,” said Manuel Aceves, a St. Regis Mexico City dining manager.

On the streets there’s healthy fare to find, too.

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A day spent with Eat Mexico Culinary Tours led our group to a woman on a street corner shaping and cooking blue corn tortillas filled with huitlocoche (corn fungus) and to a tiny shop specializing in Pavos (turkey) Tortas (sandwiches) made with roast turkey, avocado and chipotle salsa.

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Delicioso.

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Food & Wine Classic in Aspen Elevates Taste and Health

Aspen Heights of Food & Wine

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They come for the food, the wine and the wisdom.

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“A young chef adds and adds and adds to the plate. As you get older, you start to take away,” said French born chef Jacques Pepin, author of over twenty cookbooks and celebrated host of over 300 television cooking shows. The audience of loyal foodie fans for Pepin’s cooking class with daughter Claudine filled a ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel, just one of many culinary seminars featured at the 34th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Assisting her father in demonstrating how to make vinaigrette salad dressings Claudine Pepin advised, “Use a really good olive oil. You know the one you’re saving because it’s too good to use everyday? Well, throw that away because it’s rancid by now and go buy a new one.”

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Over five thousand food lovers and wine aficionados attend the festival to meet top named chefs and wine makers from around the world. Spirits have taken a more central role with the rise of interest in craft cocktails.

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Chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem created food pairings including honey glazed salmon and pork ribs with ginger and peach to match sips of Glenmorangie single malt scotch and a citrus infused whiskey cocktail.

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“Summer time is barbecue time and the spiciness goes with the sweetness and smokiness of the scotch whiskey,” said Samuelsson.

 

Fresh New Heights of Cuisine

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Aspen’s chefs know to put on a show when their rocky mountain town fills up with world-class foodies. “They literally eat it up,” said Matt Zubrod, executive chef of The Little Nell Hotel. “It’s a cool crowd who ask really good questions about food such as ‘where did you get the meat for this tartar?’”

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Executive Chef Matt Zubrod, Element 47 restaurant, The Little Nell Hotel, Aspen

Zubrod’s menu at the Relais and Chateau hotel’s Element 47 restaurant features plates as pretty as the Aspen scenery garnished with edible flowers and fresh herbs such as pineapple sage and chocolate mint and grown steps away from the tables. And just as the mountain air requires adding a layer of clothing with changing temperatures, Zubrod layers flavors in dishes, “Its evolved where I like to do a layer of pureed, then cooked and then raw of the same ingredient such as peas, corn or artichoke.”

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Halibut cheeks are served on a layer of pureed ratatouille with fresh corn and fava beans.

 

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Nilou Motamed, Editor in Chief, Food & Wine Magazine enjoys the tasting tents and saying hello!

Health and wellness was in focus on a panel led by Food & Wine Magazine’s editor in chief Nilou Motamed who noted, “I think in the last ten years the conversation have moved from a message of moderation to where our food is coming from.”

 

 

 

Octogenarian Jacques Pepin replied,

“It can go to far if we wonder where every carrot is from. I’m not a doctor, I’m a chef, but my best advice is finish your food.”

Thank you Jacques, that’s the best view in Aspen.

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Catch this Norwegian Fish

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Norwegian chef Espen Larsen

There’s more than one fish in the sea, as the saying goes.

Relatively new to the U.S. seafood scene is a premium white fleshed fish called skrei, a wild caught Norwegian artic cod available only from January through April.

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The name skrei (pronounced “sk-ray”) comes from the old Norse language for “the wanderer” because the fish is caught in cold winter months when it’s swimming to spawning grounds in northern Norway. “They swim against the current so they have more muscle and are very lean and have a delicate clean taste,” said chef Espen Larsen. “The meat has more body than other cod.”

 

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Larsen, who owns the Culinary Academy of Oslo, visited Atlanta recently to teach the culinary and wait staff at Legal Sea Foods how to best prepare skrei and describe the fish to guests. One of the menu items sampled was pan-roasted skrei with fingerling potatoes, Brussels sprouts, olives and Meyer lemon. “You don’t want to over power the delicate flavor of the fish,” said sous chef Alexander Clyatt.

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“The texture is awesome. Customers always ask about the flavor and texture of a fish and whether it’s wild or farm raised,” said server Lance Brady. “The more information the better.”

 

Skrei is a featured fish on March menus at Legal Sea Foods in Atlanta.

The fish is so revered in Norway that every part is utilized. The tongue is a delicacy.
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“It’s only available for a short time seasonally,” said Larsen. “For me it’s like looking forward to other seasonal foods like spring asparagus.” Premium prices for the short-term treat means strict protection. “There are fish police who make sure regular coastal cod is not being mislabeled as skrei.”

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Always fun to meet a new chef!

The Dish on Fish

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Espen and Legal Seafoods Atlanta chef Frank Judkins

 

Whether you’re discovering your first bites of skrei, enjoying a favorite fish taco or lunching on tuna salad, adding more fish and shellfish to your diet is a healthy habit. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we eat at least two four-ounce servings a week. “The guidelines tell us we’re eating plenty of protein in the U.S. but we should shift the types of protein to include more fish,” said registered dietitian Jennifer McGuire with the Marine Fisheries Institute.

 

 

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Galapagos Eco Gourmet

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Imagine if your grocery list was edited to remove foods considered a threat to the balance of nature in your own backyard.

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That’s the culinary challenge Norman Brandt faces everyday as executive chef of

the Pikaia Lodge in the Galapagos Islands.

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“When I got the position I made a list of ingredients I needed for the kitchen and I was told you can’t bring those in,” said Brandt.

No blue cheese, no cherries, no chia seeds and no imported citrus to name just a few of the foods tightly restricted by Ecuador’s biosecurity regulations for the Galapagos.

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The goal is to prevent the introduction of invasive species and pests that could threaten indigenous plants, many vitally important to the islands’ world famous wildlife.

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The Galapagos Islands have become a mecca for ecotourism attracting over 250,000 visitors a year who arrive with binoculars and cameras in tow ready to spot giant tortoises, sea turtles, penguins and unique birds including the blue-footed booby.

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Galapagos National Park rules control the number of people and time limit spent in wildlife areas and you must stay at least six feet away from the creatures.

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Birds don’t fly away when you walk by and curious cute baby sea lions hop towards you.

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“They thrive because there are no predators here,” said Andrew Balfour, general manager of the boutique eco-property Pikaia Lodge where rooms include a copy of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin.

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Elegantly furnished rooms overlook an extinct volcano now covered in lush green foliage.
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Strikingly modern architecture of Pikaia Lodge

 

Guests drink in the DNA Bar…

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….and dine in the Evolution dining room.

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Andrew Balfour, Pikaia Lodge

“The magic of the Galapagos is that you see nature in an intimate way and see how the adaptation of the species is crucial from island to island,” says Balfour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chef Brandt, from mainland Ecuador, has enthusiastically learned to adapt to his new environment by getting to know local farmers, discovering wild cherry tomatoes and showcasing Galapagos seafood including tuna, grouper, octopus, and spiny lobsters.

 

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On the menu is a seafood Carpaccio with peppers from chef Brandt’s kitchen garden and the crunch of yucca chips with seafood terrine.  Some imported foods are allowed but restricted and undergo close inspection. Chef Brandt has to make his grocery list at least 9 days in advance,

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Avocado, passion fruit, and oranges are grown here planted by early settlers.

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Dairies produce milk but only fresh cheeses.

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“So I’m trying to make my own aged cheese,” said Brandt.

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He showed me a small wheel of yellow cheese. “I want to wait for two or three months more. It’s an experiment so we’re all learning about it.”

He makes his own red wine vinegar and ages the local grass fed beef so it’s more tender.

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Traditional tastes of Ecuador at the Pikaia Lodge including a quinoa risotto and Arriba chocolate mousse with passion fruit chili coulis add a gourmet touch to Galapagos adventures. What’s a pikaia? It’s the first organism discovered with a spine. See the design with little dots in the dessert above? That’s a pikaia.

 

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Getting to the Galapagos and Getting Around 

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From Atlanta I flew to Quito, Ecuador which is super high altitude at over 9,000 feet above sea level. Took my breath away, literally.

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But so did the fabulous hotel we spent the night in before flying to the Galapagos islands the next morning.

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The historic and gloriously luxurious Hotel Gangotena in Quito, right of the wide San Francisco Plaza, is a member of Virtuoso.  It’s beautiful.

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I had the best, the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever experienced. What a way to get ready to launch off to wilds of the Galapagos!  Hey, even the airport in Quito was super nice.

Check out the sleek and modern airport bathrooms!

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Souvenir shops in the airport got us primed and ready to experience Galapagos wildlife viewing …blue footed booby neck pillow anyone?

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But….why oh why didn’t I buy that Blue Footed Booby throw pillow?! I love it! OK, next time for sure!

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Galapagos Glam – no vortex left behind!

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Fresh and Fit Diet Advice

13 to go

Weight loss regimens are a national obsession especially at the start of the New Year when fitness centers fill up with new converts and supermarket carts fill up with salad fixings.

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Whether your goal is to trim a few pounds or overhaul eating habits for the long haul, here is a round up of fresh nutrition wisdoms from registered dietitians who specialize in health coaching.

It’s All About You

One size does not fit all fits all when it comes to nutrition. Changing what you eat can make you feel better and your jeans fit better but it can’t make you into a six-foot tall supermodel. So have realistic expectations.

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“People, like dogs, come in differing sizes and shapes,” says registered dietitian Nancy Clark, author of the Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “There are St. Bernards, greyhounds, Labs, poodles and Chihuahuas. Be proud of your ‘breed’, honor your genetics, and treat your body with respect,” says Clark.

Fitness Friends

Congratulations

Phone a friend. Registered dietitian Annette Schottenfeld, of Nett Nutrition says, “Walk with a co-worker. Meet new friends in dance class or team training at the gym. Stay connected with fitness friends to ensure you will show-up, motivate each other and share successes.”

Some Like it Hot

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Fed up with cold rabbit food?  “Rather than trying to eat more and more salads, cook vegetables the way Mediterraneans do by roasting or stewing them with olive oil, onion, tomatoes and herbs,” suggests registered dietitian Elena Paravantes, health editor of Olive Oil Times. 

Learn by Example

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Demand for home delivered kits of pre-measured fresh ingredients with easy to follow recipes is heating up nationwide.  Mary Alice Shreve, registered dietitian with Atlanta based meal kit delivery service Peach Dish makes sure recipes feature healthful foods with seasonings that add flavor without relying on salt. How about a Super Foods Salad with kale and sunflower seeds or Red Quinoa Parsnip Stew? Shreve says, “It’s all about getting people back in the kitchen. If you can put olive oil in the pan you can handle these recipe.”

Add to Your Diet

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Registered dietitian Toby Amidor author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, advises setting short term goals, “It’s very important to establish short-term benchmarks and achieve different ones every few weeks,” says Amidor. “Short-term goals should be positive. For example, eat a fruit during at least one snack time each day.”

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Goals should be measurable and pleasurable!

 

 

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Pecans: Pecan Pie and Beyond

Pecans More than Pecan Pie

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 Traditional pecan pie may have met its match because creative cooks are introducing new ways to showcase pecans.

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Soup made with pureed pecans and chipotle peppers

They can literally be used from soup to nuts. Gathered at a culinary event in the Serenbe Farms community south of Atlanta organized by the National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) professional chefs rose to the recipe challenge.

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Think beyond sugar laden pecan pies and pecan praline candies. “Europeans often ask me ‘why is it you take such a healthy product and turn it into such an unhealthy product?’ so I’m very interested in the recipes developed here,” said Bruce Caris, of the Green Valley Pecan Company and chairman of the NPSA.

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The second culinary challenge- rather than relying on perfect pecan halves – invent sweet and savory dishes using pecan pieces and pecan meal. “We need to educate culinarians how to use the lesser known pecan ingredients,” said Christian Hallowell, executive chef for Delta Air Lines.

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Executive Chef Christian Hallowell, Delta Airlines

Pick up the Pieces

 

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Some of the first recipes demonstrated by Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture included a soup of pureed pecan pieces flavored with chipotle peppers and roasted lamb with a topping of pecan pieces cooked with garlic and thyme.

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Leif Eric Benson, chef for Oregon’s Department of Agriculture

Chefs, in a cook-off style contest worked together in teams at Serenbe’s Bosch Experience Center to create exciting new recipes with pecans and pecan products including pecan meal and pecan oil.

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“Pecan pieces are very absorbent and pick up the flavors of spices when cooking,” said Benson.

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Other inventive uses in the culinary world include using pecan meal as a meat extender or substitute. “Pecans can be used as a protein ingredient and we made a meatless all pecan pate today,” said Hallowell. “You roast and grind the pecan pieces to make a plant based protein dish.”

How about a pecan inspired cocktail? I made ginger ale from scratch using fresh ginger root, added sugar and fresh lime juice and then used Cathead Distillery Pecan Vodka to create a Pecan Mississippi Mule!

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Winning team: Trent Page, Google, Carolyn O’Neil and Keith Schroeder founder High Road Craft Ice Cream

Trent Page, chef for Google at the company’s You Tube headquarters, created a recipe for a miso pecan vinaigrette salad dressing using pecan pieces and pecan oil.But, when making menu changes affecting thousands of employees, he’s aware allergies must be considered. “You have to be transparent in menu signage because tree nut allergies are very serious,” said Page. Here’s a great resource on tree nut allergies

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Of course we made dessert! Pastry chef extraordinaire Kami Smith of Dawn Food Products quietly worked her magic to create a pecan desserts including a sumptuous pecan bread budding!

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Pecan Nut-rition

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Pecans, like other tree nuts including walnuts and almonds, are an excellent source of heart healthy fats, are rich in protein and a good source of fiber as well as other nutrients including vitamin E and potassium. What sets pecans apart from the rest of the nut pack is that they are the only nut native to North America and compared to other tree nuts have the highest concentration of antioxidants. Pecans are a win-win for taste and health.

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OK, now you can have a piece of pie!
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Wine with Your Veggies?

Wine Pairings for Vegetable Focused Menus

The restaurant trend reports are tumbling in with predictions for what will be “in” on menus in 2016. Topping the charts are vegetable focused meals. The National Restaurant Association puts “locally sourced produce” in their top ten. And food industry trend specialist Andrew Freeman says, “People want less animal protein and are requesting that veggies are ramped up to their fullest creative potential.”

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That taste trend has already emerged on Atlanta menus as vegetable side dishes multiply and vegetarian entrees get more chef love. Along side the meat centric South African inspired cuisine at newly opened Cape Dutch, chef Philippe Haddad offers a vegetable curry with South African spices and butternut squash ravioli with a peri-peri sauce.

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Even if you begin your meal at Cape Dutch with a bite of Biltong, traditional South African beef jerky, registered dietitian Sharon Palmer author of Plant-Powered for Life says you can practice ‘flexitarian’ eating by ordering the vegetarian entrée.

“It is hopeful to see the trends going on where meat is now at the side of the plate and veggies are front and center,” says Palmer. “Chefs are in love with farmers’ markets and post the farms where their produce hails from all the time. This has made an impact on consumers. Look at what’s going on with Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. They’re cool!”

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Wine Pairing with Produce

A sea change from menus focused on meats and fish first to vegetables on center stage means morphing wine list suggestions too. At the Century House Tavern in Woodstock, known for locally sourced produce, general manager Jon Hayano suggests pairing the Butternut Squash Soup and Spaghetti Squash salad first course selections with brut Champagne.

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“We often think of animal products such as cheese, red meat, and fish when it comes to wine pairing, but with plant foods you can also make beautiful pairings,” says Palmer. “Try pairing the seasonings and sauces with wine. A citrus sauce or Asian flavoring goes nicely with white wines; tomato and chili sauces pair well with red wines.”

Wine director and co-owner of Flyte World Dining & Wine Bar in Nashville Scott Sears, who is a vegetarian, says, “In general, when pairing wine with vegetable-based meals, you want a low-alcohol, low-tannin, not-overly-oaked, balanced wine.”

More Sip Tips from Sears:

-“Make note of the spice level. To balance the spice, select wines with a touch of sweetness to them, such as Riesling or Rose.”

-“Avoid highly tannic reds made from grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon to avoid the dry, course mouth feel tannin causes when it can’t bond with fat. Tannins can overly-emphasize any earthy favors present in the vegetable dish.”

-“The wine should add dimension to the dish without adding any elements that clash with the texture. Sparkling wine is a great option for just about any vegetable dish, as are bright, light, crisp whites.”

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fine Tuning Cruise Fare


Ahoy there from the Sunny Med!

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Hello from the Nieuw Amsterdam, one of the elegant ships of Holland America Line, as we sail on a 12-day dream cruise from Venice to Barcelona with many exciting and beautiful ports of call.

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View of the Nieuw Amsterdam from one of the ship’s tenders. Port of Kotor in Montenegro.

On the Menu Out to Sea

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Small plates are making big waves in cruise ship cuisine. From tiny dishes of mozzarella with fresh tomato or hummus with feta cheese, dolmades and olives, an artfully arranged selection of tastes from breakfast to late night snacking is set out for passengers dining casually in the Lido Market on Holland America Line ships.

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There’s no shortage of comfort food favorites such as roast beef and mashed potatoes and vacation treat foods including burgers and fries.

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But gone are the serve yourself steam table vats and buffet style trays that passengers used to fill to capacity.

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How about a Mediterranean meze plate?

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Now at each step of the way from the salad bar to the hot entrees, members of the culinary team smile and place what you want on a plate and hand it to you.

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The salad bar is a fresh cornocopia of creative ingredients

Prettily packaged sandwiches such as chicken salad with arugula on freshly baked multi grain bread take the place of a deli concept where you’d typically stand in line.
There are three distinct dining advantages here.

-Fewer people handling the food improve food safety. -Portion control allows passengers to enjoy a wider variety of tastes and decreases food waste. -And because the culinary staff create and garnish the plates they look much better for your vacation food photography.

Foodies at Sea

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My recent vacation on the Nieuw Amsterdam to celebrate a rather big birthday served up a bucket-list Mediterranean itinerary and a peek into current cruise fare philosophy.

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So much fun to dress up at night and enjoy dressed up dishes.

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I took notice that menus afloat from the elegant Manhattan Dining Room to made-to-order thin crust pizzas on the pool deck reflect dining trends ashore.

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There’s a sushi bar in Asian inspired Tamarind and shared platters of salumi and pastas at Italian themed Canaletto.

Popup dinners such as a special evening of dishes from famed New York restaurant Le Cirque add more glamour to gourmet meals in the Pinnacle Grill.

Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.
Lobster salad with grapefruit is a Le Cirque classic.

Specials on the Distant Lands menu connect to the local cuisine of each port of call. While docked in Dubrovnik, I sampled Croatian foods onboard including pastry stuffed with seasoned beef, meatballs with coriander sauce and a flaky cheese pie called Burek Sa Siron.

Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!
Croatian traditional dishes served with view of Croatia!

Chefs’ cooking demos and mixology classes add extra entertainment for food lovers on board.  After completing a series of four mixology classes you get a diploma!

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Nice work guys!
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Of course I joined the class!!

Galley Ho!

A behind the scenes tour of the ship’s gleaming galley leads guests everywhere from the dishwashing to dessert stations.

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I learned that 137, 000 pounds of fresh vegetables are consumed by two thousand guests in a typical week.

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Oh, and nearly 1700 pounds of butter.

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“At the start of the week passengers eat a lot because they’re excited about all of the choices,” says Martin Van Winden dining room manager of the Niew Amsterdam’s Pinnacle Grill “Then we do see a decline in food consumption as the cruise continues.”

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The elegant Pinnacle Grill on the Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Ship Shape

Special diet requests and food allergy concerns are taken seriously with gluten free choices and creative vegetarian fare such as barbecue tofu with creamy grits one day for lunch.
While there’s a fabulous fitness center and spa on board, my chosen exercise was taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

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When you walk up and down from deck 2 to deck 11 a few times a day it’s a work out. Especially when realizing you’re looking for a place that’s aft when you’re at the stern so have to walk another five minutes. Then you forget something in your stateroom……we racked up a lot of steps!

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There were 2300 passengers on board for the 12-Day Mediterranean Romance Cruise on the Holland America Line Nieuw Amsterdam.

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Actually the liveliness of this shared community at sea added so much enjoyment to the journey.  Traveling with my friend Liz McDermott, we never felt that any space was crowded or had to wait for a drink! We even got to meet Captain Edward G. Van Zaane for a special tour of the bridge.

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Did you know there are no paper navigation maps anymore? But still a tradition of handsome Captains at sea.

Now, how about a recipe from Allen and Antonio, our favorite bartenders and the “professors” of the mixology class series on board? Bon voyage!

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Chocolate Martini

Garnish chilled glass with chocolate sauce in swirled pattern

Shake 1 oz Vodka with 1 oz Creme de Cacoa White in a cocktail shaker with some ice.

Strain and pour into the glass.

Enjoy and you’re on your way to earning your very own bartender certificate.

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Stay tuned as we set sail for more foodie destinations on shore in my next blog post.

A cruise is a great way to explore and discover the traditional foods, exemplary eateries and exciting markets in ports along the way.

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Liz and I stumbled upon one of the best lunches of our lives at the tucked away and affordable Dior restaurant in St. Tropez. More to come……

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Happy Healthy Thanksgiving!

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Whether you’re doing the cooking at home, taking a dish to a gathering or making restaurant reservations for Thanksgiving dinner Atlanta area chefs offer some inventive ideas to add a deliciously healthy twist to menu traditions.
While Thanksgiving is not a day for dieting, it’s certainly smart to up the flavor appeal of holiday favorites with creative recipes that help keep the calories down. That way you have room for a bigger slice of pumpkin pie. Yes, you can indulge without the bulge.

Here’s the How to Indulge without the Bulge segment for #HealthyThanksgiving I did for WGN TV with Chicago food stylist Connie Pikulas.

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Enjoy Winter Salads

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Look at these beautiful Brussels sprouts!

The very first Thanksgiving’s mission was to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. Chefs turn to the season’s harvest for culinary inspiration. Salads are often overlooked in the parade of roasted turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy.
At newly opened Paces & Vine, chef Ian Winslade’s Tuscan kale salad with mandarin orange dressing, crystalized ginger and local radishes, is a great winter produce idea. The Thanksgiving to-go menu at Murphy’s, also under Winslade’s direction, features a winter salad of mixed greens, pears and walnuts as well as butternut squash soup with the flavors of apple and ginger cream.
Sweet New Ideas
What Thanksgiving spread would be complete without sweet potatoes? Sweet potatoes are rich in healthy fiber, potassium and beta-carotene. Chef Carvel Gould suggests roasting sweet potato wedges and tossing them together with parsnips and rutabaga wedges cooked in a non stick pan with some garlic and shallots for about four minutes until their tender but still have some texture.

Chefs at Seasons 52 restaurants, who specialize in creating just-as-tasty but lighter, lower calorie dishes are serving maple-glazed roasted butternut squash with their Thanksgiving menu this year.

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Modern Family Menus
From the head of the table to the kids’ table, there are bound to be a few folks at Thanksgiving gatherings this year who have unique diet needs including a nut allergy, a gluten intolerance or are vegetarian or vegan. No doubt whoever’s cooking the meal will feel a bit challenged. Sous chef Cooper Miller of JCT Kitchen says, “We are used to special diet requests so we create a bunch of sides that anyone can enjoy without nuts, bacon or breadcrumbs. Then we throw in a few dishes loaded with all of those ingredients for those who want to splurge.” An easy idea for home entertaining: create a condiment platter of ingredients so each guest can customize their plates depending on allergies or food preferences.

Everybody’s happy on Thanksgiving.

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How Not to Get Over Stuffed on Thanksgiving

• Fill your plate with your personal holiday favorites first. Don’t waste your calories on foods you can eat all year long.
• Turkey and all the trimmings may be the draw, but remember the main event should be sharing time with family and friends.
• Start a new tradition by taking a walk with family and friends after the big meal and serving dessert after the stroll. You’ll feel better and dessert will taste even better.
• Give thanks that even dietitians believe Thanksgiving is not a day to diet. You may not lose any pounds over the holidays, but if you maintain your weight you’re doing great.

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Rooting for Root Vegetables

 


handsimagesCarrots may enjoy a starring role on restaurant menus year round, but other less commonly consumed root vegetables take center stage in the fall. The slightly sharp flavors of parsnips, rutabaga, beets and turnips are a great compliment to hearty braised meats featured on cold weather menus.

“The parsnip has that dynamic light licorice flavor that lifts your palate with heavier dishes such as duck,” says executive chef Mike Deihl of Atlanta, currently the Southeast Regional Vice President of the American Culinary Federation.

Demonstrating his enthusiasm for the autumn harvest, Deihl prepared a salad of roasted parsnips, carrots and golden beets at the Taste of Atlanta food festival recently. “I call it my culinary fall trinity,” he says. “They’re roasted first to concentrate the flavors kind of like reducing a sauce.”

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Roots on the Menu

A quick survey of online menus posted by Atlanta restaurants proves chefs are rooting for root vegetables this time of year. At Woodfire Grill braised pork shank is served with roasted parsnips and an apple cider glaze. An apple, walnut and rutabaga compote complements roasted duck at Babette’s. Creamy parsnip soup is on the menu at Canoe and braised baby beets with burnt honey vinaigrette is offered at South City Kitchen. An arugula salad at The Optimist is topped with pickled turnips and carrots.

“What I like about root vegetables is their flexibility. You can eat them hot, cold, room temperature, pureed, braised, stewed and grilled because they’re so strong and hearty,” says Deihl. “I’ve even made a golden beet sorbet!”

Grounded in Good Nutrition

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While root vegetables come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors they’re all really good sources of dietary fiber, which promotes digestive health and is associated with lower rates of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Turnips and rutabaga are high in vitamin C.   And as with most members in the produce aisle, root vegetables contain the mineral potassium, which helps support healthy blood pressure. Rutabagas and turnips are in the same cruciferous family as broccoli and cauliflower known for cancer-fighting antioxidant nutrients that help boost the immune system. So, while you’re enjoying the seasonal taste treat of root vegetables this fall know that you’re also adding some pretty powerful nutrition to boost your health to help ward off the winter chills ahead.

 

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Atlanta Chefs Ahead of 2014 Food Trends

 

Chef Joe Schafer of King + Duke hands me yummy collards in kimchi broth with sausage from Whippoorwill Farms
Chef Joe Schafer of King + Duke hands me yummy collards in kimchi broth with sausage

Menu predictions for what we’ll be sampling at restaurants in 2014 are already showing up on the plate in Atlanta.  Guests at the Atlanta Les Dames d’Escoffier International 13th annual Afternoon in the Country were treated to a tasting of dishes from more than sixty Atlanta area chefs at an outdoor party set at the rural Serenbe community located about thirty miles south of downtown.

More than 60 chefs and 30 farmers joined forces to create great food at the annual Afternoon in the Country Event, south of Atlanta.
More than 60 chefs and 30 farmers joined forces to create great food at the annual Afternoon in the Country Event, south of Atlanta.
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Guests enjoyed a beautiful fall afternoon of tasting and talking to friends.

Rich, familiar and hard to resist earthy flavors such as The Feed Store’s braised root vegetables with braised chicken thighs were the order of the day.  Bacchanalia chef Anne Quatrano served up snails and Aria’s Gerry Klaskala dished out slow cooked black eye pea ragout with collard greens and country ham.

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These are the peas and greens.

The future of food is looking a lot like a polished version of dining’s delicious past according to the Sterling-Rice Group’s 2014 restaurant report which lists “Refined Classics” as one of the top trend picks.  Local Three Kitchen treated the gathered foodies to elegant bites of “meatloaf and potatoes”.

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Also on the list, “New Farm to Table” with lesser-known cuts of pork and beef and a wider variety of proteins from goat to rabbit jumping onto menus.  Veni Vidi Vici’s chef Jamie Adams served oxtail gnocchi.

Chicken makes way for duck. The team from Leon’s Full Service presented duck ham on a savory pancake frisee and pears from Whippoorwill Hollow Farms.

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Duck confit starred in caterer Bold American Events’ tasty offering with a sweet potato gnocchi and Brussels sprouts leaves.  More duck from Livingston restaurant in a petite bite of sweet tea infused duck breast with ginger applesauce and candied lemon pecans.  Which brings us to another predicted trend for the New Year -lots of lemon.  Preserved lemons added bright notes to Chicken and The Egg chef Marc Taft’s braised short rib with smoked Gouda grits.

And tart lemon with spicy ginger beer balanced the sweet notes of Belle Meade Bourbon in the Tennessee Stud cocktail served on the rocks for guests to sip.

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Kazia Jankowski, associate culinary director of the Sterling-Rice Group says, “Lemon is pure. Lemon is versatile. Lemon is nostalgic. For those reasons, it and not other citrus will be the flavor of next year. Lemon’s bright flavor is fresh and unadulterated.”

Year of the Yolk

Quail eggs sunny side up!
Quail eggs sunny side up!

Another yellow food beaming brighter on the culinary scene is the egg yolk. Good-bye egg white omelet, hello the whole thing.

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Chef Steven Satterfield of Miller-Union who presented a sunny side up quail egg on butternut squash hash says, “The yolk is where it’s at! The texture is unctuous and a runny yolk is one of my favorite things on earth.” Nutrition note: egg yolks contain important nutrients including choline, which supports brain health.

Registered dietitian, Janet Helm who tracks healthy food trends on her blog Nutrition Unplugged says, “I think it gets people excited about food. Quinoa, kale, Greek yogurt and chickpeas became trendy, so perhaps that motivated more people to buy these foods and use them more often.  That’s a good thing.”

Seven Lamps' Kabocha squash wrapped in surryano ham is a Southern twist on classic melon with prosciutto
Seven Lamps’ Kabocha squash wrapped in surryano ham is a Southern twist on classic melon with prosciutto
Thank you Ladies! The Atlanta Chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier. I'm in the back somewhere on the left.
Thank you Ladies! The Atlanta Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. I’m in the back somewhere on the left.

Congratulations to the LDEI Afternoon in the Country organizing teams!! We earned big $$$ for culinary scholarships and grants for culinarians in the Atlanta area to improve their skills so that we all can eat even better as the trends march on!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Grills & Thrills in Aspen

Don’t you just love sweet and juicy July watermelons? 
I do, especially with Patron Tequila and a little jalapeño.


Welcome to the 2013 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
Did I mention wine?
And in fact wines from all over the world ready to be discovered.
Let’s start with a party celebrating Wines of Spain.
Now let’s start eating…..

I know it’s out of focus. I was getting kind of excited.
……..and eat some more.



What I learned from the pros in Aspen.
Fire up the grill and prep the fresh produce – it’s summer time!!!

Summer meals with a bounty of salads, just picked vegetables, fruit based desserts, seafood and lean meats serve up the delicious and nutritious win-win of taste and health.  Many recipes are as easy as sliced tomatoes topped with basil, a swirl of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt. 

But, food fans gathered to acquire savvy secrets from celebrity chefs at the 2013 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen learned that what can look like a no-brainer actually takes some thought.

Rub, Season or Marinade?

A steak recipe or menu description may include the word ‘rub’ to describe the coating of herbs and spices added to meats but, Texas chef Tim Love warned the crowd at his cooking class, “Don’t rub it in!”  
Love, executive chef and owner of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, explained that rubbing a mixture of spices, salt and often sugar into the meat can create an undesirable crust, “They tell us rub it so we rub it. But we want to leave the pores open. Rubbing will close the pores of the meat. Then the meat won’t taste like the crusted seasonings because it stays on the outside.”  So, a rub isn’t really a rub, it’s a seasoning to spread on lightly.  

Chef Tim Love with fans at the 2013 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen

 

For leaner cuts of beef, such as a flank steak, Love recommends a soy sauce based marinade to help tenderize, “It breaks down the connective tissue.” But, he advised against using it on expensive cuts of beef, “They’re already tender and the soy sauce will actually take away the velvetiness of high dollar steaks.”


Food and Wine Classic in Aspen goes from dawn to dusk and into the night.

Veggie Master

There’s something mesmerizing about watching a skilled athlete or musician perform with ease. 
Claudine and Jacques Pepin share secrets and sips with their foodie fans
The same thing can be said of witnessing cookbook author and TV food personality Jacques Pepin slice an onion or peel as asparagus spear. “We’re in awe,” I overheard a fan exclaim while attending Jacques Pepin’s cooking class with daughter Claudine called Techniques to Create a Great Meal.  “He makes it look so easy, “ says daughter Claudine who adds, “He is the food whisperer.”  In less that forty five minutes the elder Pepin slices, dices, chops, stirs, whips, and whirs his way through a dozen different techniques and ends up with a roasted chicken, quick cured herbed salmon, a mayonnaise, a grapefruit segment salad and a tomato rose.  All while drinking Champagne.  (Well actually Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico.) 

Watch the hands of the maestro, Jacques Pepin season raw salmon for a fast cure. 
“It’s a question of practice,” says Pepin who’s been a headliner for the Food & Wine Classic for many of its 31 years in Aspen. “A sharp knife is important of course but did you know that when you slice an onion with a sharp knife there are less fumes?” Another veggie prep tip- lay asparagus flat on a cutting board and use a vegetable peeler to trim off the tough exterior flesh at the end of the spears. And don’t toss vegetable trimmings. Pepin keeps an empty milk carton in the freezer and adds bits and pieces, “Keep pressing it down, adding more, pressing it down and when it’s full you can make a wonderful vegetable stock.” Cooking class in your own kitchen: Jacques Pepin’s cookbook, “Essential Pepin” includes a DVD demonstration of culinary techniques.

Lexus dressed for Aspen chic
Basil on the Grill?

 Tim Love’s meat centric cooking class on best ways to season for the grill, did allow for a little dinner time diversity when he tossed in a shrimp recipe, “Eating seafood in Texas is like being a vegetarian! But, shrimp of all seafood does love a rub.” He even grilled some fresh basil to finish the dish. “Charred basil is fantastic. So is asparagus. Yes, I’m going to talk about vegetables. I don’t want to shock people.”
Another kitchen tip from Love, think of onions as another way to add heat to a dish.

And use your grill pan to create a mélange of vegetables. Slice potatoes so they grill as quickly as other veggies on the fire.  Love’s cooking demo drink of choice? Tequila shots at 10am. And all that after he ran the Food & Wine Classic 5K run, “Check with me at 5pm today and I’ll either be a hero or a zero!”

We say hero, Tim. And in your cute words, “Damn Skippy!”

OK Foodie Fan Time!
Guess which celebrity chef these gals are excited to see?

And my friend Liz McDermott, wanted to show her son Ford just how cool she is by posing with Ford’s favorite chef Andrew Zimmern.
And look a Thomas Keller sighting! He is as gracious as he is talented.

Ok the camera was shaking a bit. I think he’s actually taking photos of his dish, a creation of raw seafood.
No not Rocky Mountain Oysters in Aspen, this time.

As long as we’re having some fun. How about a musician in the tasting tents? 
Guitarist from Train

Woody Creek potato vodka is new this year, distilled just outside of Aspen near, you guessed it,
Woody Creek.  How about a sample? Gondola ride sized. 

New eatery in Aspen, Above the Salt.
New foods, new flavors, new wine adventures and new friends at the 31st Food & WIne Classic in Aspen.
Lindsay Feitlinger, Liz Moore McDermott, Carolyn O’Neil, Bridget Daley McDermott and
I don’t know who that guy is.

Congratulations Food & Wine Magazine for another great June weekend in Aspen.
Publisher of Food & Wine, Chris Grdovic Baltz salutes Devin Padgett, special events producer
for the annual party for 5000 food and wine lovers. 

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A Tale of Two Avocados

My copy of My Key West Kitchen…mermaid optional.

Florida citrus and seafood star in chef Norman Van Aken’s new cookbook, “My Key West Kitchen.”  From key lime pie to conch salad, Van Aken and co-author Justin Van Aken tell the story of South Florida cuisine through recipes and remembrances. 
Justin and Norman Van Aken talking about great Key West food. 
In town for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival the father-son duo, shared their kitchen secrets during a seminar dubbed “Conch Culture.”  They describe Key West cuisine as a geographically unique blend of Caribbean, Cuban and Southern cooking with a dash of American hippie escapism. 
Pulling fish from the sea and plucking fruit from tropical trees cultivated in south Florida is only the start of the Van Akens’ grocery list. But it got me thinking about the Florida avocado.

Why Florida Avocados Deserve Attention, Too. 
The great majority of the time, when a recipe calls for avocado, it refers to the dark green pebbly skinned Hass avocado grown predominantly in California and Mexico. 
The flesh of the Hassavocado is rich and creamy tasting because of the high content of heart healthy monounsaturated fats.  Often misspelled Haas, the varietal was named after Rudolph Hass and it rhymes with “pass.”

 

Hass avocado on the left and Florida avocado on right with My Key West Kitchen  conch salad 
Avocados grown in Florida are literally a different breed. Twice as large as the palm sized Hass variety, the smooth green skinned Florida avocado is lower in total fat and calories.  An ounce of Florida avocado has about 33 calories, whereas the richer California variety packs about 50-calories per ounce.

Brooks Tropicals, a major grower in the Sunshine State, smartly brands its Florida avocados the “SlimCado” to call attention to the fact they have half the fat and third fewer calories than their California competitors.

Starring the Slimcado!
The season for Florida avocados kicks off in June (I just bought one at Publix in Atlanta) and Justin Van Aken says, “I find that when they’re good, they’re great — creamy and rich, yet as light and refreshing as any good tropical fruit should be.”
Some folks they don’t like the Florida avocado because it’s ‘too watery’ and ‘not as buttery’ as the Hass, but others prefer the slightly sweet taste and lighter texture.  

Nutritionally both varieties are rich in potassium, vitamin E and folate but California avocados are higher in heart healthy fats and Florida avocados are higher in vitamin C content. Van Aken suggests, “A little salt, and something acidic — especially lime or pineapple — to dress it, and you’re good to go. We make a salsa with them diced, along with mango, black beans, and queso fresco that is out-of-this-world!”

Conch Salad extreme close up from photo in My Key West Kitchen, avocado in there.
So, just as there are many different types of oranges -from California navel to Florida’s Valencia – variety is a good thing.

In My Key West Kitchen, recipes such as Crabmeat Stuffed in Avocado call for Florida avocados first with a ripe Hass avocado as ‘optional.’ 

What do you think of Florida vs. Hass avocado?  What’s your favorite way to eat avocado? 
(I like them all by themselves with a sprinkling of crunchy sea salt.) 

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Oscars of the Food World

A Winning Weekend in New York with Top Foodies
Monday night at Thomas Keller’s Per Se James Beard Awards After Party with the legendary Jacques Pepin 

What a thrill to wine and dine and chat with the top chefs, cookbook authors, TV food show stars and writers who tell us who’s cooking what, where, why and how to cook it up yourself – or try!

Thank you Marion Laney for this fab photo of Gotham Hall glam! 

The annual James Beard Foundation Awards, held in NYC are a must for moi! Traveling with Atlanta gal pals, Gina Christman and Anne Marsden and my daughter Katie as an early graduation present – we took the town by storm with shopping sprees and the goal of dining in just about every ‘hood in NYC.

It’s easy to make new friends in NYC. Balthazar drinking rose Champagne Saturday while Anne and Katie shopped.

I am on the James Beard Foundation Awards National Broadcast Media committee so there’s a lot of work leading up to the big announcements, but the weekend is a magical ride of Manhattan fun.

Friday kick-off lunch at Harry Cipriani. Vanilla cake.  We sat next to Robert Wagner. 

The big night is Friday for the Journalism Awards and the tables were set with pretty pink peonies as the wine flowed.  There’s Martha Stewart with her entourage over there. Of course, I said hello to her!
Chef Marcus Samuelson at the table next to us and he won for his autobio book, Yes Chef!

Chef Marcus Samuelson of Red Rooster tweets out his news: Winner!

Martha Teichner of CBS Sunday Morning near us too. She won in the Best TV Food Program, in studio or fixed location. Congrats to her and the CBS Sunday Morning Team.

Martha Teichner accepts the JBF Award for CBS Sunday Morning’s annual food themed show.

The South won big in Yankee territory. Nathalie Dupree and co-author Cynthia Graubert won a big prize, Best American Cookbook for their six pound cookbook, “Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking” Nathalie accepted the award saying, “The South is the new Italy!”

A photo from the big screen of Nathalie and Cynthia accepting the James Beard Award !

More love! Martha Teichner and Nathalie Dupree congratulate each other on their James Beard Awards.
Both live in Charleston, SC.
We had dinner at Del Posto restaurant on Sunday night. 
Del Posto is my favorite restaurant in New York. The service is elegant but relaxed.
We sat down at 7:30pm and finished dinner at 11pm. I felt as if I’d been there 11 minutes.
A beautiful experience that began with flutes of 2006 Pierre Gimonnet Brut Cuvee Fleuron Champagne and the prettiest salad I’ve ever tasted or seen. Congrats to Del Posto for winning Best Service and Best Pastry JBF Awards and nomination for Best Chef NYC. As my daughter texted a friend, “I’ve just had dinner in first class on the Titanic.”
Shhhhhh….this lunch is a secret. 

The “Southern Mafia Lunch” is an annual sort of secret invite only gathering on Monday before the Gala JB Awards at Avery Fisher Hall.  Top chef nominees from the South and Southeast categories gather along with Southern food writers, food producers and enthusiastic “southern-aires” at Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s beautiful little Butter Restaurant.

Butter colored buttercup flowers on the tables at the Southern Mafia Luncheon.
Lots of fun – Andrew Zimmern sneaks into the photo with Gina Christman,
Publisher of Atlanta Homes & Lifstyle Magazine and Mary Reynolds, of The Reynolds Group, Atlanta

Here’s a link to ALLLL of the winners thanks to Andrew Zimmern’s website!  He won as JBF Best Media Personality 2013.  And I give him the “Nicest Best TV Personality Award!”
James Beard Foundation Awards winners

How about some punch? Top foodies tell us the cool places to go in NYC.
We’re at Pouring Ribbons cocktail bar wayyyyyy down town on Sunday night.

It’s all about the fun and frolic. As a busy food journalist, and three time James Beard Foundation Award winner including JBF Who’s Who in Food Beverage – it’s an absolute thrill to hang out with all of these great foodie folks. There are too many parties to go and too many people to hug – but we can only try!

JBF Award winner and uber famous chef, Todd English and I
 at Chef’s Night Out Party at Todd English Food Halls, Plaza Hotel

Yes, it’s important to burn some calories after burning the midnight oil eating and drinking so Gina, Anne and I hit the streets on Sunday morning and walked 5 miles through and around beautiful Central Park. A brisk start but sunny day and lots of needed oxygen. 

Nightlife followed by wildlife in Central Park. Birdwatchers abound and the flowers in full May bloom.
My favorite place to stay is The Kimberly Hotel. I booked a two bedroom, two bath suite for our Atlanta gals getaway for $322 and that includes free internet, a roof top bar/breakfast and free coffee/tea and pastries all afternoon on the rooftop terrace. Hello! Why would you stay anywhere else? 50th between Lex and 3rd. 

Goodbye Manhattan, thank you for a wonderful James Beard Foundation weekend!
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Farmers Market Month!

August is for Farmers  
Saturdays start early for farmers market fans who grab re-usable shopping bags, jostle for parking spaces and hit the stands.  As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm and in this case it’s the best tasting pickings of fresh produce, herbs, flowers, artisanal cheeses, organic eggs and just-baked breads.  It’s also the place your likely to learn about the foods you’re buying from the same folks who grew the vegetables or made the cheese. Overheard at the Peachtree Road Farmers Marketone recent Saturday; a woman attracted to a beautiful display of heirloom tomatoes but hesitant to buy asked the farmer, “How do I know which ones to pick?”  He replied, “Well, it depends when you want to eat them. If you want them for today choose the really ripe red ones. If you want them for a few days from now choose the firmer ones that will ripen on the kitchen counter.”  She smiled and began her personal harvest from the farmer’s selection.

More Farmers Markets

 August is National Farmers Market Month and just released statistics from the US Department of Agriculture shows a 9.6 increase in the number of farmers markets over the past year. While Georgia can’t beat California’s 827 or New York’s 647 markets, the percent growth in the Southeast region beats the national average with 13.1 percent more farmers market listed in the 2012 edition of the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, compared to 2011.  Marilyn Wright Yon, dietitian with the School Nutrition Program for Georgia’s Department of Education likes to visit farmers markets so much she seeks them out in other towns when on vacation, “You find amazing things and meet really interesting people.” She recommends bringing a small cooler especially if purchasing cheese, eggs or meats and says, “Buy something new to you to try.  Ask how to prepare it if needed.”

Chefs and Farmers

Another crop showing up at farmers markets is the chef! Chef demos are often part of the entertainment and education for shoppers. The Peachtree Road Farmers Market and Morningside Farmers Market, for instance, feature local chefs and cookbook authors each week.  Rebecca Lang, author of Quick-Fix Southern showed folks what to do with summer’s bumper crop of corn and tomatoes.

You’ll even see Atlanta area chefs leading private tours of the market.  I saw Linton Hopkins, executive chef of Restaurant Eugene followed by an eager bunch of foodies as he introduced them to farmers and spoke about unusual varieties or especially tasty ones.  Executive chef Thomas McKeown of the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead is a regular at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market too because he drops in to visit one of his favorite farmers, Cory Mosser of Burge Organic Farms of Mansfield, Georgia, “I use Burge’s produce in the hotel restaurant where we have a big commitment to supporting local farms.”  During his recent farmers market recipe demo McKeown prepared local goat cheese mousse with heirloom tomato jam. He’ll be on Mosser’s farm cooking lunch for volunteers pitching in work the fields on Sunday August 19th,  “It’s a crop mob. You’ve heard of a flash mob right?” explains McKeown, “Well this is an organized effort to help farmers with volunteer labor.”

www.crobmobgeorgia.com   A great way to celebrate National Farmers Market Month.  
To Market to Market: 
Tips from Nutrition Experts who Love Farmers Markets

Marilyn Wright Yon, MS, RD:  

Arrive early – right at the start of the market – if you want popular items like strawberries, blueberries, peaches, corn, peas or melons.  These typically go fast when in season. 

Bring change – small bills – for your purchases (some are taking credit cards now with their iPhones and the square thingy). 

Bring your own bags/baskets to carry home as sellers can run out of bags. 

Learn the seasons for your area so you are not disappointed if you do not find tomatoes and melons in May (at least in N Georgia) and decide to not return. 

Visit all the vendors even if you think you are finished with your purchases.  You may find something you would like to try the next week. 

Debbie King, MS RD LD :        
    Take a quick walk around to see what’s available before making purchases     
    If your local farmer will take orders the day before it saves lots of time and if you are running late you know what you ordered will be there.
      Buy your favorites but try one new veggie or fruit each weekLike garlic scapes,  they are not just for table décor.
     Ask other shoppers what they make with what they are buyingI was purchasing tomatoes this summer and another shopper said she was buying tomatoes to make tomato jam.  So when I got home I scoured the internet for good sounding tomato jam recipe and made itIt was a great idea as tomato jam is more like ketchup, so we have enjoyed yummy homemade ketchup on our veggie burgers this summer.
    Carolyn O’Neil, MS RD LD: Atlanta!
    -make sure to wear comfortable shoes, but make sure they’re cute. Lots of hunky farmers here. And guys shopping with their girl friends for Saturday dinner cooking dates. You want to look like you’re shopping for a dinner date, too.
    -make sure to wear something casual but fashionable. Avoid shopping bags that clash with your color combo. Lots of other cute girls with designer sunglasses and trendy designs on their re-useable shopping bags. You are not going for the “Rebecca of SunnyBrook Farm” look either. Avoid braids and gingham,  looks too theme-like. 
    -make sure to have lots of small bills. You don’t want to stress out the organic peach guy by handing him a twenty. Small bills especially important in the early hours of market when farmers and vendors haven’t collected a lot of small bills, yet. 
    -act like your bags are really heavy when you see a cute guy near the organic coffee vendor. It’s a long walk to the car. 


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Eat With and For Your Eyes

Cherry Tomato eye’s view of train going by Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, Atlanta

Food’s got to taste good and look good to win a cooking competition. Every contestant in a recipe contest or chef’s cook-off knows that. First we eat with our eyes, as the saying goes. The tomato cheesecake with an ice cream bun was so pretty and impressed the judges’ palates so much Donald Sargent of Morelli’s Gourmet Ice Cream was the big winner at Georgia Organic’s Fourth Annual Attack of The Killer Tomato Festival. 
Along with fellow Les Dames d’Escoffier member, Angie Mosier ( not pictured)  I got to emcee the
Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival
Put that on your resume! 
For the field of Atlanta area chefs and mixologists the food focus was on Georgia grown tomatoes of all colors, shapes and sizes yielding some crazy and creative bites and beverages for food lovers gathered at JCT Kitchen and around the west midtown complex. Tyler Williams of Abattoir whipped out the liquid nitrogen to create a frozen tomato Greek salad – a serving of tiny frozen balls that burst with flavor and ate like ‘dippin dots’ ice cream. 
Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene poured tomato gravy on pulled pork sliders and Drew Beline of NO. 246 presented elegant bites of roasted tomato and goat cheese tortellini in tomato brodo with small tomatoes and basil.


Eat For Your Eyes

Foods are more appealing when they look beautiful and nothing’s prettier than a summer tomato! But, looks like we should be eating for our eyes too. Nutrition researchers are gazing into our eyes to illuminate the link between nutrition and eye health.  Their important diet discoveries go beyond eating carrots to see better in the dark. Carrots still rank high on the eye-sight- saving menu but other heroes, perhaps even more important, are emerging from the farm. 
Scientists have set their sights on green leafy and deep orange or yellow vegetables such as spinach, kale, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, carrots, collard greens, yellow squash and turnip greens because they contain two natural carotenoid plant pigments called lutein and zeaxanthin. 
They are both potent antioxidants thought to protect the eyes against damaging light waves and free radicals that may cause cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  A 2011 study in the British Journal of Nutrition reports that lutein can reduce risk of cataracts by up to forty percent and a 2007 study in the Archives of Ophthalmology found that lutein may cut risk of AMD by thirty five percent. 
Pizza with arugula! Looking good for taste buds and eye health. 
Lutein is also found in eggs, especially the yolk.  Take note of that and skip the egg white omelets. 
Chef Carvel Gould of Canoe chose to perch a tiny quail egg on top of a biscuit with slices of fresh and preserved tomato for  her Tomato Fest entry. Talk about easy on the eyes! 
Cage free egg at Ecco restaurant, Atlanta. 
Recipe note: since lutein is a fat-soluble nutrient absorption is increased when consumed with a little oil. So it’s good to know that olive oil drizzled on summer’s fresh salads is good for your taste buds and your eyes.

Focus on Foods

Other powerful antioxidant nutrients associated with maintaining overall eye health are zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.

The two leading causes of visual loss and blindness are cataracts and AMD, affecting more than 22 million Americans. Lutein is important for the development of an infant’s eye sight (attention moms-to-be) and maintaining children’s vision health (another reason to eat your vegetables kids!).  So make lutein a routine for good eye health throughout the lifespan! 

Happily, many of the foods rich in nutrients good for our eyes are delicious additions to any meal and are beautiful to look at too. How about those tomatoes?


Make Lutein a Routine! 
Lutein/Zeaxanthin: kale, collard greens, spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, peas, corn, Brussels sprouts, tangerines, dark leafy salad greens. Also, eggs.

Beta-carotene: carrots, mangos, sweet potato, greens, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cantaloupe, kale, apricots. 

Vitamin C: papaya, citrus fruit, strawberries, tomato, mango, green peppers, berries.

Vitamin E: almonds, wheat germ, whole grain breads, avocado, greens.

Zinc: oysters, lobster, beef, poultry, pork, lentils, whole grain bread.

Source: USDA nutrient data base.

 


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Are you ready for your culinary close up?

Culinary Close Ups

Pretty in Pink: peel ‘n eat shrimp Florida and Georgia coast menus
It’s not enough to simply relax and dine on the dishes chefs create for restaurant menus, some folks want to jump in and help cook the meal.  The promise of an “Epitourian” experience in the professional kitchens of the Sawgrass Marriott Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida is what attracted Maureen and Billy Ray Price of Moultrie, Georgia. “I found it online. We wanted to go to the beach to celebrate our wedding anniversary but we wanted something different,” says Maureen Price. “My husband is a really good cook and I thought ‘he’ll learn to make even more great things for me’ and it will be fun.”

So while other guests at the golf centric resort, host hotel of THE PLAYERS Championship, headed out to play one of the areas eight championship golf courses or grabbed a book and a beach chair at the Cabana Beach Club, the Prices jumped on a golf cart with Executive chef David Scalise to visit the on-property bee hives.

Off they go to find the bee hives with Chef Scalise and Heidi Barfels of Miami
Scalise tends two bee hives tucked away in an area guests wouldn’t normally see behind tall trees and overgrown with black berry bushes and other natural plants of north Florida, “At first everyone panicked when they heard I wanted to set up bee hives on the hotel property. But these honey bees are not aggressive and finally even the lawyers understood it was going to be OK, “ says Scalise who set up the hives about a year ago. 
Sweet life: Executive Chef David Scalise tends the hives at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort
“Our first harvest yielded fifteen gallons. The honey is a little nutty tasting with nuances of the wild blackberries. We use pieces of the honey combs on our cheese platters.”  The hotel’s homegrown Sawgrass honey not only sweetens the culinary program, it’s sold in the gift shop and used in the spa for treatments. “We’re even working on using the bees wax to make lip balm, “ says Scalise.  
Proud beekeeper shows off part of the honey harvest.
He says another bonus from beekeeping is developing stronger relationships with local farmers, “We lend our bees to pollinate their crops including a strawberry farmer nearby. So then we get strawberry honey.”

Cook and Learn

Next stop for the Prices on their culinary adventure is the farmer’s market in nearby Neptune Beach to shop for foods they’ll cook with that afternoon.  On the menu for today is a lesson in making fresh pasta.  “I’ve always loved to cook. Even in college at the University of Florida I made spaghetti sauce every Sunday for the other students in my dorm,” says Billy Ray Price who’s a physician in Moultrie.   

Romantic lighting in the Augustine Grille captures the beauty of handmade gnocchi pasta with local vegetables.
A few notches up from spaghetti, Scalise led the Prices through the steps needed to make fresh gnocchi including the delicate broth based sauce that would be served to them for dinner that night as well as other guests in the Augustine Grille. So their “epitourian” experience went beyond creating their own courses, the Prices truly were part of the Sawgrass Marriott’s culinary staff for the day.

Maureen and Billy Ray Price celebrate their Epitourian experience in the Augustine Grille
Watch and Learn

If you’d rather stay out of the line of fire in a busy restaurant kitchen, but still want to be close enough to see exactly how the chef sears a piece of fish then you can take a seat at the Chef’s Table at The Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia.  
Elegant settings and sumptuous bites of the finest food and wine at The Cloister, Sea Island
Seating four guests comfortably in a small yet elegant glassed-in dining room the table overlooks the expansive kitchen of the Georgian Room where chef de cuisine Daniel Zeal and his brigade of chefs turn vegetables into jewel like shapes, expertly grill meats, poach lobster in vanilla and citrus, delicately prepare fine fish such as cobia, garnish plates with edible flowers and create multi-ingredient desserts.  Can’t keep up with the action? Just change the channel.  Above the picture window in the chef’s table dining room is a wide screen television. “We give the guests their own remote control to switch camera views around the kitchen so they can follow their meal every step of the way and I pop in to answer any questions they might have about techniques or ingredients,” says Zeal.

Under the direction of  Resort Executive Chef Jonathan Jerusalmy, Sea Island chefs
create a wide range of culinary experiences for guests.
Off the Farm

Snapper ceviche with micro greens at Edwards Fine Food & Wine, Rosemary Beach,  Florida
It’s nothing new to see the names of farms and farmers on menus today as more chefs create business bonds to bring the best in locally grown foods to their guests. But, take a look around the dining room and you may even see a farmer. 
Eating dinner one night at Edward’s Fine Food & Wine in Rosemary Beach, Florida I asked chef Edward Reese about the deliciously fresh micro greens in salads and garnishing plates. He smiled and replied pointing to the man sitting at the next table, “Why don’t you ask Claus Kazenmaier, they came from his farm this morning!”

So it seems that another component of judging culinary quality is today is how close we can get to knowing where our food comes from and exactly how it’s prepared even when someone else is doing the cooking.

Now let’s head to the beach……….
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Get IN the Kitchen on Vacation



Executive Chef Elijah Bowe’s Cooking Class at Graycliff Hotel in Nassau



Most folks go on vacation to get out of the kitchen and let someone else do the cooking.

But, when Atlantan Lydia Connerty began planning a bicycle tour of Vietnam with several other girl friends she chose a group cooking experience as one of their activities, “The first thing I did was sign us up to take a hands-on class in Vietnamese cuisine. What a fun way to get introduced to the country and its culture. And then we’d know more about what to order from menus on our trip.”

From cruise ships to resort hotels, cooking classes are joining spa treatments and zip line adventures as popular vacation activities. Joe Carlin, Associate Editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, has sought out cooking classes on his world travels with wife Julie for years, “We I took a class in Bangkok on green and red curries back in 2008 and found it a very positive experience. The class served as a nice introduction to the foods of the country. The class was a success because the instructor was knowledgeable, knew her audience and did not try to overwhelm us with too many dishes.”

Chefs at hotels and restaurants also find that inviting guests into their kitchens to cook is a great way to promote their properties and build customer loyalty. Executive chef Elijah Bowe, of the historic Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas welcomes his class with a flute of Champagne and then hands out the aprons and knives. After a review of culinary vocabulary associated with the evening’s recipes from “al dente” to “roux” he leads the group through a step-by-step lesson in how to clean a whole fish.

Then the group of six separates into duos to get dinner ready including blackened grouper with tomato compote. While his students slice and dice Bowe, a native of the Bahamas, shares stories of growing up in the islands and his enthusiasm for teaching, “Some people are very skilled and others are kitchen novices. It’s fun to see the teamwork develop. Eventually we do get dinner on the table!” Then the aprons come off and kitchen duties are left behind as guests take their places in the elegant colonial dining room and enjoy the courses they created with sommelier selected wine pairings.
The wine cellar deep beneath the floors of Graycliff Hotel with thousands of bottles of buried treasure! 

If you’re still craving time to cook on a trip to Nassau, the One and Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island has added cooking classes and mixology lessons to their menu of things to do at the beach.

Pretty Dune Restaurant at One and Only on Paradise Island, Bahamas

The evening I visited, executive chef Emmanuel Gibson of Dune restaurant showed us how to make plantain crusted grouper and led us through a tasting of spices used in Bahamian cooking before sending us off to the ocean front dining room where the classroom experience really added to appreciation of the Caribbean spiced fresh seafood dishes. 

Fresh caught seafood of course! Chef Emmanuel Gibson of Dune speaks fluent fish.

Kitchen Clean Lessons


One of the things that impressed me is the attention to sanitation before, during and after these amateur hours in professional kitchens. Everyone is firmly instructed to properly wash their hands, avoid cross contamination between raw meats and fresh vegetables and to wash their hands again before entering the dining room. During the Chefs Plate Gourmet cooking class at the Royal Playa del Carmen resort in Mexico, the lesson in proper hand washing technique included nail brushing and scrubbing up to the elbows. Good moves considering you don’t really know the other guests in your group or whether they’ve just come off the golf course or shopping in town before helping to cook your lunch. It was apparent the food and beverage staff of the hotel, part of the Real Resorts of Mexico, were trying really hard to dispell any fears of Montezuma’s Revenge. In fact, the kitchens were gleaming clean.  
So, whether you’re traveling to India or China or taking a cooking class at a restaurant in Atlanta, keep an eye on kitchen cleanliness as well as the cuisine to get the most out of the experience. The only souveniers you want are a few new recipes and new found appreciation for world cuisines.

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