Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Food: To be a better cook, buy the right knives |

I had the pleasure of working with Andrea Weigl from the News and Observer on this piece. It was originally published in that paper and has since been picked up by the Charlotte Observer and Cape Cod Times.

Food: To be a better cook, buy the right knives |

Smashburger Comes to the Triangle

The plethora of burger options in the area has made discerning one from another increasingly difficult. So, when Smashburger opened its first Triangle store in Durham (and only the second in North Carolina), I was curious to see what (if anything) would set this chain apart.

Upon entering the fast-casual eatery, I received a pleasant surprise. A smiling team member greeted me: “Hi, welcome to Smashburger. How are you today?” Walking to the service counter, I felt appreciated and at ease. After a few moments of small talk, she asked, “Have you dined with us before?”  When I told her I hadn’t, she explained the menu, the technique used to cook the burgers, and the company philosophy.

Smashburger’s menu features seven composed 100% certified Angus beef burgers (including one local, seasonal special), a vegetarian black bean burger, five composed chicken sandwiches, and three salads in addition to the option to create your own burger or chicken sandwich. Naturally, Smashburger offers the usual assortment of cheeses and a variety of sauces, but the toppings and salad ingredients are outside the norm. Here, they are fresh and either prepared daily (the raw red onions, jalapenos, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms, for example) or to order (like the fried eggs, guacamole, applewood-smoked bacon, and sliced avocado). Further surpassing burger chain expectations, Smashburger serves its sandwiches on artisan buns. Customers can choose between egg, multigrain, spicy chipotle, or gluten-free. Additionally, the menu not only offers traditional fries but also Sweet Potato Fries; “Smashfries” – seasoned with minced garlic, olive oil, and rosemary; “Veggie Frites” – flash fried green beans, asparagus, and/or carrot sticks; and “Haystack Onions”- thinly sliced onion rings, battered, fried, and seasoned.  Then, to go along with the typical soft drink options, Smashburger sells wine and local craft beer as well as hand spun shakes, malts, and floats, made with Haagen-Dazs ice cream.


My new friend then explained the “smash” in Smashburger: “Every time a burger is ordered, we take a loosely packed ball of fresh, never frozen, 100% Certified Angus beef and place it on a 400 degree butteredgrill. Then, we smash the burger with our signature smashing utensil, hold it for 10 seconds, and sprinkle it with our special seasoning mix. By doing this, we create a sear on the bottom of the burger that ultimately forces the burger to cook in its own juices and locks in all the flavors. The result is a consistently delicious, juicy burger that, we hope, will keep you coming back for more. This technique also enables us to cook your burger in less than four minutes, which is about half the time of a normal restaurant.”

After you place your order, the food is delivered to your table. So, unlike other burger joints, you don’t have to stand around awkwardly waiting for it to cook. Plus, Smashburger serves all its food in metal baskets, not in bags or wrapped in paper, and, if you’d like a knife or fork, you are given stainless steel to eat with, not prepackaged plastic.

Smashburger’s mission, to offer satisfying, affordable, fresh, high-quality food in a place with a burger soul, has definitely struck a chord. The Denver, Colorado-based company has more than 220 locations in 29 states and four foreign countries with new stores opening every month. If that’s not impressive enough, Forbes ranked the chain sixth on its list of Most Promising Companies.

The décor and atmosphere at Smashburger are atypical, too. Eye-catching local photos hang on the walls, and frosted glass separates the dining room from the entryway. Modern design, soft pendant lighting, cushioned booths, and wooden tables and chairs define the space.

How’s that for differentiation?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

With a little help from my friend...

I know, I know. It has been a ridiculously long time since my last post. I’m sure some of you are asking, “What have you been doing?” or “What made you decide to start blogging again?” The first question is easy. I’ve moved twice, started writing for OKRA Magazine, and taught over 2500 students in my cooking classes. As for the second, …

I recently had the pleasure of sharing lunch with the generous, kind, inspiring, amazingly talented, and always gracious Nancie McDermott. Nancie urged me strenuously to blog again. Her last words to me that afternoon were “1 post, 1 week, don’t over think it, and don’t make it too long…or I’ll have to yell at you.”

In the days that followed our lunch, two of Nancie’s insights kept playing in my head. The first was an old Chinese saying: “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the second best time is today.” That is, don’t lament what you haven’t done. You can’t change the past, but you can get started (or restarted) today. Just show up every day and take baby steps. You’ll get stronger along the way.

The other was that we, as professionals, have a lot of knowledge that we take for granted. The techniques and tidbits we have stockpiled may be common practice for us, but they could be what motivates someone else to get in (or back in) their kitchen. As a culinary instructor, that hit me hard. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen something on Facebook or Twitter liked or shared a thousand times or called “genius” and thought, “Really? There are people out there who didn’t know that?” So, please, don’t take your talent, expertise, or experience for granted. Celebrate and share them. As Nancie reminded me, “You never know what someone else doesn’t know.”    

Thank you, Nancie! Here is my first baby step, my first post in over two years. And, by the way, I’ve already begun writing my next!

P.S. On top of being such a wonderful person, Nancie is the author of 10 cookbooks chock full of delicious dishes (including Southern Cakes, Quick and Easy Thai, Southern Pies, and Quick and Easy Vietnamese) with another on the way. Please read more about her and keep an eye out for her new book at Nancie also runs her own blog  You can find her on Facebook and Twitter @nanciemac.  

Sunday, March 25, 2012

What's going on, you ask?

Another busy month is coming to a close, so I thought I’d get you caught up before getting into a new post, especially since it's an important topic.
I started a new semester at Wake Tech where I’m teaching the Cooking Fundamentals course as well as From Brunswick Stew to Manhattan Clam Chowder. The latter is an idea I’ve been kicking around and dabbling in for a while now. I’ve taught a couple of individual classes at A Southern Season on the topic and they were well received (they sold out, too!). So, I decided to dedicate a whole course to the subject. It’s been fun, challenging, and a great learning opportunity for me.

I’ve also tried to embrace a few more social media sites; Twitter and Linked In specifically. I’m starting to wonder if I’m just wasting time or truly sowing seeds though.
I also made the cover of the new A Southern Season CLASS booklet. Come “Grill & Smoke” with me on 4/14/12 or bring your children for a Father’s Day special: “Dad and Me in the Kitchen” for some fun and tasty bonding on 6/10/12!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If You Can't Beat 'em, Join 'em

After years of resisting, I have finally conceded. I’ve been using the same “Molten”, “Lava”, “Warm”, whatever you want to call it chocolate cake recipe since they first became popular (still my most requested dessert by the way).  The thought then, when I a sous chef and chef de cuisine in restaurant kitchens, was if you added truffles, ganache, or anything else to the batter, it was because you were a shoemaker and couldn’t make it oozy and gooey enough by using proper technique alone.

Well, this past Christmas season, I was obsessed with truffles. I must have ended up with at least 5 different varieties (can’t remember exactly because some failed). You name it; I played with balsamic vinegar, ginger, honey, bourbon, stout, scotch and so on, but when Saint Valentine’s Day rolled around, I was reminded again of the hack “Lava” Cake recipes with their secret hidden short cut. I was shocked. It seemed liked practically everyone was making it that way now. So, naturally, I set out to show them how unnecessary all of their extra steps were.  
Then, one night a few weeks ago, I made my old stand by Individual Warm Chocolate Cakes (the recipe is in my August 19, 2009 blog post). The next night, I made that recipe again, but this time I hid one of my “go to” truffles inside each. Night 2 comments went like this; “The best chocolate cake ever!”, “Mmmmm, this is definitely better than the one last night.”, and “Daddy, can you make this for my birthday?”

I’ve got to admit; it was pretty good. Sure, it could save a hack shoemaker of a pastry cook from turning it into an overcooked chocolate muffin, but if you cook it properly, the double shot of chocolate is ridiculous. The semi-sweet chocolate harmonizing with the bittersweet and cocoa is a very cool touch. I also love the extra flavor that the liqueur provides. Plus, if you are a fan of gooeyness, this version is hard to beat. So, without further ado, here is my compromise. Give it a try and let me know what you think.     
Warm Chocolate Cakes 
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Your choice of liqueur (i.e. Frangelico, Chambord, Grand Marnier, or Crème de Menthe)
3 tbsp. heavy cream
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 ¼ sticks of butter
Cocoa powder
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, plus extra to garnish
½ cup flour
3 whole eggs
3 egg yolks

Place the semisweet chocolate and liqueur in a small bowl; set aside. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer; pour over the chocolate and let sit for about a minute. Stir slowly until smooth, then let cool slightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled. Divide chocolate mixture into 6 portions and shape each portion into a cherry sized ball. Refrigerate until chilled and firm.
Pre heat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease 6 molds and coat with cocoa.
In a small sauce pan, melt the bittersweet chocolate and butter. Stir until completely smooth.

In a largish bowl, add the sugar and flour. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir until well blended. Whisk in whole eggs and yolks until well mixed. At this point, batter can be tightly covered and refrigerated for about a day.

Divide half of the mixture evenly among the 6 prepared molds. Place 1 truffle into the center of each mold and push it lightly into the batter. Divide the remaining batter evenly among the molds, totally covering the truffle.

Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until firm around edges but soft in center. Let rest 1-2 minutes then run a paring knife around each cake to loosen. Carefully invert onto individual plates. Sprinkle with powdered sugar (and/or whipped cream, if desired) and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Care to Share for Guiding Lights

Sorry for going so long in between posts. At least now, I’ve got a lot to catch you up on.
This Saturday (2/25/12) I’ll be at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill teaching a double header. Both classes will be Basic Knife Skills. The first starts at 11 am and the second is at 2pm.

More importantly, after those classes, I’ll be going to the Contemporary Art Museum in downtown Raleigh to judge a cooking competition. It’s part of an annual fundraiser for Guiding Lights, a nonprofit providing training, life management, connections, and support to family and professional caregivers who are assisting the elderly through difficult times.

Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and end of life issues affect us all and some of us may not have enough time or finances to properly care for our loved ones in their time of need. That’s where Guiding Lights comes in and for those of us who can do it ourselves, they provide emotional support, professional contacts, and counseling to give us some peace of mind.

If you can, please support them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Ring Out the Old, Ring In the New

I’ve never been one who looks at New Year’s as a time to make resolutions, reflect on the past, or create bucket lists. However, since 2011 was a pretty bizarre one for me (and my family), I decided to check out a few end of year posts by some of the writers I admire and respect. The exercise left me inspired and grateful. So, I thought I’d share those sites with you, hoping you have the same experience.

A few Blogs/Sites that inspired me in 2011:

Monica Bhide’s “A Spice of Life”                      

Susan Ely’s “The Shared Table”                        

David Leite’s “Leite’s Culinaria”                            and
                            “David’s Blahg”                            

Nancie McDermott’s Blog                                   

Michael Procopio’s “Food for the Thoughtless"

Marc and Angel’s                                                    

There are also several people who made my 2011 special and for that I’d like to thank:
the generous and talented Nancie McDermott and the amazing and inspiring Monica Bhide for all they taught me - I look up to you both as mentors and models of success,

the gracious educator Antonia Allegra ( ) and the golden standard of hospitality Lynn Swann for hosting one of the most amazing weeks of my life at the Greenbrier in West Virginia ( ),
Don Fry ( ) for sharing with me a priceless amount of advice and knowledge,

Marilyn Markel of A Southern Season ( ) and Susan Ajygin of Wake Technical Community College ( ) as well as the hundreds of students I taught in 2011 in their classrooms,

Crash Gregg, the tireless publisher of the Raleigh Downtowner Magazine, ( ) for continuing to allow me to write about the Capital City’s food scene,
and last but not least, my family and friends for their limitless love and support as well as their ability to put up with my crap.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some Things to Let Marinate or Stew Over

A quarter of a billion dollars is an insane amount of money and giving out a 10 year contract is an insane business practice.

Cashman has done a great job keeping his poker face on, but does anyone in baseball actually believe the Yankees will start the season with a rotation of CC, Garcia, Nova, Burnett, and Hughes after the disasterous '08 season?

I know I’m a chef, but does anyone really care what Paula Deen is (supposedly) making for Christmas?
I guess the knuckleheads behind the NBA lockout realized what I’ve been saying since June. No one cares about the NBA until Christmas and if there are no games on Christmas day, the chances of having a worthwhile fan base (i.e. revenue stream) after that would be slim. So, the greedy “bastids” settled just in time to make it happen.

Stern nixing the Paul trade is one of the biggest jokes of the decade, especially coming off of this lockout.
Speaking of nix and the NBA, in literally one day, the Knicks went from patsy to “contenda” by picking up Chandler and Bibby...and it's about time, too.

The Giants are a disaster. One week, a touchdown that wasn’t ruled a touchdown cost them. Another week, they don’t even show up. A different week, the D couldn’t stop a dripping faucet. Then another, no one could catch a cold. Yet, not only is Big Blue still in the mix, but the Cowboys are playing so scared that Pampers has bought stock in them. B-ELI-eve it!  

Have you ever had one of those out of the blue conversations with someone you don't know very well (or at all) and, as it is happenning, you realize you'll be better for it? Well, it happened to me today. It was a conversation that will stay with me for awhile and has affected me already (more on that after the holidays).

Since my Thanksgiving tips and recipes went over like lead balloon, I thought I’d do it again for Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

I hope you and your family had a great Thanksgiving avoiding the family drama and kitchen fails that sometimes come hand in hand with the holidays.

In order to catch our daughters’ dance performances, our holiday visitors will be spread out thoughout the entire month of December. So, this year we had a very quiet Thanksgiving, the calm before the storm so to speak. It was just the “Core 4” (as we have to come to call ourselves) with food to feed a dozen guests, nonstop football, and enough wine and ale to make Bacchus himself blush.

Since I always get asked, I might as well tell you now. We started our meal with a basic cold antipasto (soppressata, salami Milano, proscuitto di Parma, aged provolone, ricotta salata, fontina tartufo, roasted peppers, and olives), crostini, stuffed bread, and the 2011 Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau. While rooting for a Dallas loss that unfortunately never came, we snacked on chocolate covered pomegranate seeds, sweet potato tortillas, and pumpkin chipotle salsa. I washed it down with a fall favorite of mine The Bruery’s Autumn Maple Ale, while my wife opted for Cupcake’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc.

The main course saw us indulge in Turducken with Port Wine Gravy, Mushroom Bread Pudding, and a Butternut Squash-Sausage Gratin. We matched this course with a dry, fruity 2007 Poderi Aldo Conterno Dolcetto d’Alba recommended by my friend (and Travel + Leisure's wine editor) Bruce Schoenfeld.

Dessert brought Double Chocolate - Pumpkin Cupcakes (decorated by the kids), Five Spiced Ginger Cookies, and Fresh Market’s Christmas Blend Coffee. My after dinner drink was a snifter of American Honey bourbon.

Black Friday didn’t get a dollar of mine in stores but Hollywood (and Jim Henson’s Estate) did, via the new Muppets’ movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It was a blast. We were able to relive and share some of our childhood with our girls.

Then, on Small Business Saturday, I had the pleasure of cooking with my friend, author Sheri Castle, at A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NC.

To celebrate All Clad’s 40th Anniversary, I demonstrated a handful of recipes from Sheri's new book, The New Southern Garden, while she signed personalized copies.

I guess that’s it for now, but stay tuned for a weekend “Some Things to Let Marinate or Stew Over” as well as more holiday tips and recipes.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Here are a few of my favorite holiday recipes. All of them are appropriate for any of the upcoming holidays. Enjoy.

Cranberry Salsa

Serves 10

1 (12 oz) package fresh cranberries
3 tangerines, peeled, seeded, and sectioned
1/2 small red onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 jalapenos, seeded
1/2 cup honey
3 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 t ground cinnamon
Freshly ground pepper

Pulse cranberries in a food processor until minced. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Pulse tangerines, red onion, cilantro, and jalapenos in the food processor until finely chopped. Stir into cranberries.

In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice, and cinnamon. Drizzle over cranberry mixture and toss to coat. Season the salsa to taste with salt and pepper and toss again. Cover and chill at least one hour.

Cook's Notes:
Garnish with a spring of cilantro and/or tangerine zest. It can be served in place of traditional cranberry sauce with corn tortilla chips as a festive appetizer.

Balsamic Glazed Acorn Squash

Serves 6

1 large acorn squash, cut into wedges
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 shallots, sliced
8 sage leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons honey
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup pine nuts

Heat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the squash wedges, butter, vinegar, shallots, sage, and honey. Season them with salt and pepper. Toss again.

Transfer the squash mixture into a roasting pan. Add ¾ cup of water and roast for about 20 minutes. Turn the wedges over, sprinkle with pinenuts, and roast about 20 minutes more, until the squash is soft.

Gratineed Cauliflower

Serves 8

2 whole heads of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 stick butter, diced
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 1/2 cups whole milk
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
Ground white pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped

Place the florets in a pot and fill with cold water. Place over high heat and bring a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook the cauliflower for about 15-20 minutes, until fork-tender (but not mushy). They should remain firm. Strain and let cool slightly.

In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt all of the butter. Don't allow the butter to burn. It should be hot and golden. Raise the heat to medium-high and immediately add the flour, stirring continuously for approximately 2-3 minutes. The flour should absorb the butter instantly and form a paste (roux). Add the milk in 3 stages and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes until smooth and slight thickened. Reduce the heat to low. Add half of the mozzarella to the sauce. When the cheese is melted, add half of the parsley. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir well, and then let the sauce rest until it's time to assemble the dish.

Butter a 9x13 baking dish/casserole and spread the florets evenly in the prepared dish. Ladle the sauce over the cauliflower to cover. Top with a layer of mozzarella cheese.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 400°F and broil for about 2-3 minutes to get a nice golden top. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve warm.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What to do if your bird is still raw when you thought it was done courtesy of Leite's Culinaria

My friend and fellow Greenbrier attendee (and panelist), David Leite has an awesome website In a recent post, his team explains how to avoid the dreaded undercooked turkey. It's a must read for all who are responsible for cooking this year's bird. Please take a look here

You won't regret it.

Kitchen Tips for the Holidays

With Thanksgiving only a few days away (and the rest of the Holidays just around the corner), I thought I’d share a few suggestions to help you make the most of your time in the kitchen.

• Always plan ahead. If there's anything you can do a day or three before, do it. It'll make things a lot easier on the big day.

• Know your recipes. Take the time to actually read your recipes all the way through before you even start organizing your ingredients.

• Make your kitchen time fun. Enlist family and friends to help, turn on the music, and pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage.

• Do all of your “mise en place” (the prep and assembly of your ingredients and equipment) before you start cooking.

• Always taste your food while you’re cooking. It allows you to make any necessary adjustments to the dish before you serve it.

• Try to clean as you go and return everything to its place as soon as you can. After hours prepping and cooking, you won’t be in the mood to deal with a sink full of dirty pots and sticky greasy counters.

• Instead of placing your turkey on a roasting rack, cut onions, celery, and carrots into large chunks and place them in an oiled roasting pan. Then, place your turkey on top of the vegetables.

• Always let your meat rest. One of the biggest kitchen mistakes is not letting meat rest after cooking. So, this Thanksgiving, after roasting your turkey let it rest while you make the gravy (instead of making it while the bird is in the oven).

• If you don't have time to brine the turkey, heavily salt it (inside and out) about an hour before cooking. Then, pat the bird dry and roast it. The skin will still be crispy and the meat will be just as juicy.

• If you are going to bake anything, leave your butter and eggs out the night before. This will make incorporating them easier, smoother, and you’ll have a better final result.

• Pick up some parchment paper for lining your pans. It will make everything you bake easy to remove and it makes for a quick cleanup (no greasy or pasty butter-flour mixture; no errant batter; no scraping).

• Lastly, don't be too hard on yourself — sometimes the best recipes are discovered through mistakes.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Little Required Reading

You may have heard a bit (or a lot, maybe) about Monsanto and/or GMOs. Either way, here is a terrific two part article written by my friend, Robin Carpenter. She explains what genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are, why they represent a threat, and who is behind it all. To make it worse, they are pushing to be exempt from disclosing that their products are genetically modified. Is that really the future we want?

Please give Robin’s articles a look. Educate yourself and make your voice heard.

On a somewhat related topic (even if it is tangential), I get asked a lot about the flours and grains that are used in store bought baked goods. So, I thought I’d share my response with you, too.

Don’t let misleading package statements such as “made with wheat flour” or “seven grain” fool you. They are just marketing maneuvers. Remember when everything was “New and Improved?” This is the same thing. It is also impossible to tell by only looking at the product. Some companies just sprinkle white-flour breads with a coating of oats or color them with molasses (or artificial caramel coloring).

So, if you really want to know what you’re getting, read the ingredient list. The first ingredient should be whole wheat or some other whole grain (oats for example). Additionally, the fiber content should be at least 3 grams per serving.

I can’t stress this enough; always read the ingredients lists on ALL packaged goods, not just baked goods. You’ll be surprised by what’s in most of your store bought products.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Some Things to Let Marinate or Stew Over

My weekly (?) thoughts...

The Lions finally lost, preventing the Earth’s demise. Just goes to show, the Mayans don’t know diddly about football.

Before we start comparing Puljos to the Babe Ruth, let’s see Big Al drink a six pack and eat a dozen hot dogs an hour before a World Series game then go 5 for 6 with a couple HRs.

Can someone please explain to me how the heck Ron Washington is managing in major leagues, never mind being one game from winning the World Series? This guy couldn’t manage his way out of a paper bag.

At least this week we didn’t have to listen to ex con Michael Vick whine about getting hit too often or too hard.

What’s the story with Barley Wine? It’s not beer. It’s not wine. It tastes like raisin juice. Flat out nasty. Never again.

The jets are mighty proud of themselves for squeaking by the winless and hapless Dolphins last week. Yep, they are a legit contender now.

Last and most importantly …

I’d like to thank all of the brave men and women for continuing to fight, capture, and eliminate bad guys. You’re the real heroes. Thank you for making the world a safer and better place. Godspeed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Back in August, I had the privilege of teaching a hands on cooking class at Ger Nis Culinary Center in Brooklyn, NY and it was a true pleasure. The owner, Nissa Pierson, was terrific (as was all of her staff). The class, “The Tuscan Table,” was a sellout. We began the class with a choice of beverages. Some students had Prosecco with our Lovage Syrup and others our homemade, non alcoholic Italian Fig Soda.

Our menu featured Stewed Squid with Salsa Verde, Fresh Papparadelle with Summer Beans, Herbs, and Tomatoes, and Honey Lavender Fritters (Zeppoli, actually) with Fig Compote. It was a great experience and a fantastic class filled with lively conversation and delicious food.

I was scheduled to appear at Ger Nis a second time in August, but Hurricane Irene forced the evacuation of the neighborhood, cancelling the class. On the bright side, I hope to go back and teach at Ger Nis again in the late Winter/early Spring.

To see more pictures from this class, please check out my Facebook fan page and click like.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Don't ask me what I'm doin' 'cause I don't know

A few weeks ago I attended the Symposium for Professional food Writers at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. To say that it was an eye opening, mind blowing experience would be an understatement. My head is still spinning. The knowledge shared, ideas hatched, and tips given were extraordinary. I can’t think of any single period of time when I’ve had as much stimulating conversation or been exposed to as many interesting people as that week. I was exhilarated. It was absolutely inspiring. The symposium brought to light so many things that I want to put in motion, improve, and try. Yet, I’ve felt overwhelmed to the point of paralysis since I’ve returned. The most I’ve been able to muster is a “to do list.” And even that isn’t complete.

Anyway, here are some questions to start the week...

Does the Lions 4-0 start mean the word will end on 11-11-11?

When will our government start policing industrial farming so we can actually eat fresh, healthy food?

Who are the Dead Sox going to get that’s better than Francona? No, seriousy? Bobby Valentine? 

Why am I seeing so many Pumpkin (Punkin, Pumkin, etc) Ales and so few Oktoberfest beers?

Will anyone actually care if there are no NBA games before Christmas Day (or after for that matter)?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Beer Does a Body Good

Did you know that, per pint, Guinness Draught has less calories that milk and orange juice?

A pint of Guinness has 210 calories. While one pint of semi-skimmed milk has 260 calories and one pint of orange juice has 220 calories. Surprising considering how Guinness is usually described as a "heavy" beer. I think I should to go on diet. So, "Let's drink up, me hearties. Yo-ho!"

Wine and Dine 1-2-3

Nick Coletto and his nephew, Joe Coletto, recently co wrote the cookbook Wine and Dine 1-2-3. It contains over 500 recipes and over 2,500 specific wine and beer suggestions. They are, respectively, my uncle in law and cousin in law (if there are such titles). For more info, please check it out at and tell them Barbara's husband sent you. ;)

Monday, August 29, 2011

My friends, it's been a long, long time...

Sorry for the long time between posts. It has been a crazy year.  So much has happened and a lot is still going on. So as not to leave you hanging, I’ll do my best to intersperse those stories with what's going now and happening in the future. 

Over the past 15 or so months, I have joined the Adjunct Culinary Faculty of Wake Technical Community College, put our house up for sale, been interviewed by websites twice, moved into an apartment, tested recipes for national magazines and an internationally renowned chef’s recently published cookbook, been dragged into a ridiculous ongoing lawsuit, taught tons of classes at A Southern Season and Ger Nis Culinary Center, become a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance and Triangle Area Freelancers, watched my daughters dance in Disney World, and been elected Vice Chairman of our town’s Board of Adjustments.

Currently, I’m the food editor for the Raleigh Downtowner, preparing for my second year of teaching at Wake Tech, still trying to sell our house, testing recipes for one of my favorite magazines and a colleague's soon to be published cookbook, helping form the Culinary Historians Of the Piedmont, NC (CHOP, NC), and revitalizing my blog.

During the final four months of 2011, I’ll be attending the Symposium for Professional Food Writers, publishing a monthly e-newsletter, growing my Linked In and Twitter followings, writing and pitching my own cookbook, tweaking my blog and website designs, and writing a new blog post every week.

Aside from my little corner of the block, there have been wide spread food calls on everything from ground turkey to cheese, a war of words between two food TV icons, bans on shark fins, foie gras, and toys in Happy meals, arsenic and ammonia found in chicken samples, plastic routinely found in a popular frozen pizza, and US Marshalls seizing seafood shipments. As well as the debut of baguette vending machines and breast milk ice cream, a lawsuit over Vienna sausage recipes, the retirement of the "Burger King", and popular family restaurants serving alcoholic beverages to kids instead of juice.

...And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head. So, stay tuned as we learn, taste, get caught up, and plot a course forward … together.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Zucchini, Tomato, and Corn Salad

Nothing tastes like summer more than ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, and toothsome zucchini. Here is one of my summertime favorites. Enjoy!

1 1/2 lb medium zucchini
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 2 ears)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz grape or cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise (2 cups)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

1. Special equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer with julienne cutter or a julienne peeler
Working with 1 zucchini at a time, cut lengthwise into very thin (julienne) strips with slicer, turning zucchini and avoiding core. Discard core.

2. Toss zucchini strips with 1 teaspoon salt and let drain in a colander set over a bowl, covered and chilled, 1 hour.

3. Gently squeeze handfuls of zucchini to remove excess water and pat dry with paper towels.

4. Cook corn in a small saucepan of boiling water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, then rinse under cold water and pat dry.

5. Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and basil and toss well.

Cooks' note: Salad (without dressing and basil) can be made ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.