All posts by Brian Garrido

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Sanna-Mari Jäntt

Few people are experts, but then there are folks, like cookbook author and opera professional Fred Plotkin, who are knowledgeable on many topics. A native New Yorker, Plotkin became a student of opera while in college, working with various classical musicians and mentors, such as late mezzo soprano and director of the Lyric Opera House, Ardis Krainik, and well-known Broadway lighting designer Gilbert Helmsley. Always found in the back or front of the house, Plotkin has never graced the stage but has written compelling articles on the singing subject in books and articles. His bestselling and definitive tome Opera 101: A Complete Guide to Learning and Loving Opera, leads the pack for appreciation on the vocal art form. His literary essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and Daily Telegraph, to name but a few.

Apart from being a fount of operatic history and knowledge, Plotkin, who has traveled to Italy since the early 1970s, has become a resource for all edible things in Italy. In the nineties, he wrote arguably the greatest book on eating throughout the peninsula, called Italy for the Gourmet Traveler (Kyle Books), making him a famous food person on this side of the Atlantic.

He recalls, “Italy, being the birthplace of opera, was a must (life experience) for me. Of course, eating and learning about the regional food became another obsession.”

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks
credit Lana Bortolot

The book is currently in its fifth edition and, rightly, has become a must for all gourmands traveling to the boot country. Although still known as an expert on classical singing, Plotkin has become a foremost authority on Italian cuisine as well, penning another five bestselling and award-winning books including Recipes from Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera, The Authentic Pasta Book, and La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. After writing about opera for many papers and magazines, Plotkin now finds himself interviewed about on all things epicurean, appearing in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, Wine Enthusiast, and other leading food publications.

Plotkin can be found discussing his first love — all things opera — on Manhattan’s WQXR. And, in his New York City home, he resides in the kitchen with his mistress – Italian cuisine — making some of the best regional food from the country.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Everything Italian

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Parmigiano-Reggiano; Organic eggs; Sweet butter; Greek yogurt; Austrian apricot preserves; Organic Italian cherry nectar; Whole organic milk; Prepared mustard; Still water; Oranges; Lemons; Limes

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
The actual savoring of the food or drink being consumed.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Trendy, faddish foodiness, with no real awareness of what a food or ingredient means.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Carol Field

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spade for cutting Parmigiano-Reggiano

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian; everything made with fruit.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Fish and seafood!

Favorite vegetable?
Spinach

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Sardines

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Opera

Whom do you most admire in food?
Organic farmers; Seed-savers; anyone who provides sustenance to those who need it.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A tie: Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Liguria, two of Italy’s finest food regions.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Ristorante San Giorgio in Cervo (Liguria), Italy

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. If I did, it would be of a bunch of cherries

Scrambled Eggs Recipe

i8tonite with Food Person Fred Plotkin: Opera Expert and Author of Six Cookbooks

One of the most difficult things to prepare, and among the most gratifying when done correctly, are scrambled eggs. Doing it right required LOTS of practice. Here is what I do:

Break two large or extra large eggs into a chilled glass bowl, taking care to not get any shell into the eggs. Beat the eggs only until yolks and whites combine. Do not overbeat. Fold in any added ingredient, such as small dollops of scallion cream cheese or a grated cheese, such as cheddar or gruyere. Do not beat the egg mixture if you are adding ingredients. Instead, give the mixture a quick stir.

Melt 1 tbsp. sweet butter in a non-stick pan over the lowest heat possible. This should be a pan you only use for eggs and nothing else. Add the egg mixture, let it set for about 15 seconds. Then, using a non stick (and non metal) spatula, gently move the eggs about, occasionally stopping for a few seconds to let them set. Keep nudging them and sliding them in the pan. No violence…no intense heat, no flipping, no active stirring. Gradually the eggs will come to the degree of doneness you desire and then slide them out of the pan and onto the plate. By cooking slowly, you allow the flavor of the added ingredients to permeate the eggs and also achieve the same temperature as the eggs.
– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Four Seasons Chef Emmanuel Calderon & Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

The food world has many captivating stories, such as Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs: The Hunger for Food, Love, and a Search for Home, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. All feature great storytelling narratives detailing how food played an important part of their lives. However, Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara Emmanuel Calderon is not only fascinating, but humble as well. Here’s his story.

When I first met Calderon, he was the banquet chef to Executive Chef Mel Mecinas at Four Seasons at Troon Nort, Scottsdale. I had been writing two Arizona Latino stories – one on Mecinas, who had won an Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame award as best chef, and his new restaurant sous chef Sammy Sanz, who was, at the time, the youngest female sous chef working in a Four Seasons in North America. To me, they are both interesting accounts about the rise of a Mexican-born man becoming one of the top chefs in Phoenix, and with Sanz, how a woman, born in Mexico as well, rose to the top of a luxury hotelier while working with two of the city’s best cooks: Chef Beau MacMillian at Sanctuary and Virtu’s Gio Osso, before heading to work with Mecinas.

Mecinas said to me, “I want you to do a story on Emmanuel. He is like a son to me. One day, he will be a great chef.” Of course, I agreed. However, things happen, Mecinas went on to a new position at a private club after more than two decades working for Four Seasons, and Calderon became the executive sous chef at the luxury hotel company’s Santa Barbara property, working at the breathtaking Bella Vista, helmed by Italian-born talented chef Marco Rossati.

Having just turned 30 last year, he has already received an award for Top Ten Chefs Under the Age of 30 while working for the Four Seasons Mexico. He’s also worked in the kitchens of Four Seasons Punta Mita, Scottsdale, Dallas, and many other of hotels, as well as the cruise line Holland America, which took him to Italy, Philippines, and throughout the Mediterranean. Through these excursions abroad from his homeland, it taught him different flavors and techniques. Not bad for a guy who was born in the tourist city of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula and wasn’t planning on becoming a chef.

“I wanted to eat all the time,” says Calderon. “I think this has not changed at all. As a kid, I spent most of the time waiting for my grandmother and mom (serving up) the food.”

Now , as Calderon is an adult, we have the pleasure of eating his well-rounded dishes and get to explore the world through his global experiences.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
This year will be 14 years since I start cooking – but to be honest…not sure If I should consider the first couple of years, when I was just trying.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love seafood, I find it challenging and interesting to cook, plus reminds me: respect to the ocean.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas, habanero chili, limes, shrimp…………Negra modelo .

What do you cook at home?
On my days off, I like to cook easy but slow cooking food that allows me to do laundry and have food for a week…cochinita pibil, chicken soup, marinara sauce….this will help me to make a lot of turns up during the week!!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I really love when customers respect and make an effort to understand the menu and let themselves be surprised.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Modifications…I understand allergies but nowadays, you have people allergic to seafood that can eat lobster!! Gf that can eat pasta or vegans that eat FISH!!!!!

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Marco Pierre White

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef Knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Chilies of all kinds

Your least favorite ingredient?
I haven’t met him yet!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
I think while you are in the kitchen everything is fun…even pastry shop, but my least favorite thing to do is office work!! It’s the longest hour of my day…

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican…..or more specific Yucatecan.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Corn…. My mom sells a beautiful corn on the cob and “esquites” in Cancun

Chef you most admire?
This one is difficult. Since I started, I had been having a model to follow – I’m used to admiring to the person who share his knowledge and passion. I still remember the name of my first Chef de Partie….. But If I need to say a famous chef, it must be Marco Pierre White and a Mexican – Carlos Juan Gaytan.

Food you like the most to eat?
I love street food like taco stands, pho places, and when in Mexico you find everything in the street nothing fancy. I found a tasty relaxation after work…

Food you dislike the most?
As a cook, it is difficult to me to dislike something, but if I think as a kid, I don’t like fish soup……something that my mom used to make me when I was a kid… It was a soup made just with the head of the fish…I love my mom, though.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…yet

Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

1# Clean Fish Fillet (could be any kind of fish; the least fatty fish the best)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 habanero chili
2 roma tomatoes
1 avocado
1 small size red onion
8 Limes
1 orange
½ bunch fresh cilantro
8 corn tortillas

Get 3 ea 5 oz clean fillets, skin off, at your local market.
Dice the fish in medium size dice. Marinate with lime juice salt, pepper, and oregano.
In a dry hot pan, put 1 habanero chili to literally get burned – be careful and make sure you have ventilation.
Once the chili is burned in a black color, squeeze the juice of 1 orange and blend, add mix to the fish.
Small Dice ½ red onion and add to the fish.
Keep at the fridge for 20 min.
While the fish is in the fridge, small dice roma tomatoes, small size medium avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro and reserve.
Also, I love to do oven baked tortillas instead of using commercial tortilla chips or tostadas. It is more healthy and traditional, too – we used to cook it in a comal until they get crunchy.

Put your oven as high as you can then place whole corn tortillas in a sheet pan. Bake between 7 to 10 min, depending your oven, until they are firm and crisp.

At this moment, the fish should be ready. The fish should have a white color now. Add the tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. With the help of a kitchen spoon, mix all together – add more salt to taste, and enjoy!!!
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta RecipeManhattan and its boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens have long been viewed as bastions of great gastronomic experiences. From Elaine’s to The Four Seasons, Babbo to Per Se, no one doubts the Big Apple and how well it eats. Yet, as forecasters of doom say, “The rents are so high in New York,” what’s a budding restaurateur and chef do? If you are smart, such as Chef Chris Siversen, you move across the Hudson to Jersey City.

Born in Long Island and trained at The French Culinary Institute, Mr. Siversen, who proclaims himself a proud New Yorker, says, “After 9/11, my then wife and I started looking in different areas to buy a home and we came to New Jersey.”

As a chef, he had worked at landmark Big Apple institutions such as Alison on Dominick Street and the ‘21’ Club, as well as running the kitchen for famed caterer Pamela Morgan Flavors – and was looking to open his restaurant. “For me, pomp and circumstance matters, I want to see a show in the cooking,” he articulates.

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

Five years ago, Siversen opened his restaurant, Maritime Parc, and continues to operate it with a business partner while he executes delicious food in the kitchen. Since the introduction, the 30,000-square foot dining hall, which includes 18,000 square feet of special event space, has quickly become one of New Jersey’s brightest gastronomic institutions, landing in New Jersey Monthly’s best ten list every year. With sweeping views of Lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center, the slightly Nordic- and maritime-flavored experience has received accolades, including the New York Times, which stated, “…polished in presentation and execution.” No small words from The Grey Lady herself.

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

In late 2015, Siversen opened a fast-casual hamburger place called Burg, in Newark’s Military Park. With a variety of burgers from tuna to vegetarian and chicken to good old beef, it’s quickly become one of the city’s buzziest eating places. Open only in warm weather, when the kids are out of school and dining outside is de riguer, the 1800-square foot restaurant is packed with those coming from the other side of the tunnel.

Let it be known Chef Chris Siversen is smart – smart enough to move outside of New York City and into New Jersey…and of course, our bellies are better for it.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
23+ years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything with pasta

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Condiments-I’m a condiment junkie

What do you cook at home?
Simple-mostly based around my children’s needs

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Appreciation for food and wine and willingness to try new things

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Lack of manners and respect for others dining in the restaurant

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine at home and cocktails when I’m out

Your favorite cookbook author?
The late Charlie Trotter’s books were a game changer

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My 3” serrated paring knife is my crutch

Your favorite ingredient?
Vinegar and Salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Okra

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Drying the dishes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian and Asian

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Mushrooms

Chef you most admire?
Daniel Boulud

Food you like the most to eat?
Anything with pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Not a fan of Offal other than liver and sweetbreads

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero tattoos

Recipe: Mushroom Pasta

i8tonite with Maritime Parc Chef Chris Siversen and Mushroom Pasta Recipe

Ingredients:
½ # Orecchiette Pasta
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Small Spanish Onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1# Oyster Mushrooms or a mix of your favorite
3-4 Scallions, sliced-from the stem up
1-2oz. Red Wine Vinegar
2-3 Bulbs Peeled Garlic,chopped
Baby Spinach-Large Handful
Parmigiano Reggiano-a small piece to grate with microplane
1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
A few big branches of Italian Parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
Cook pasta according to directions of brand you buy.

Remove slightly early to leave room for cooking in sauté pan and reserve with a couple oz of cooking water.

While pasta is cooking, heat a sauté pan on medium heat-add olive oil then onion and cook until slightly translucent.

Add scallions and cook until barely tender.

Add mushrooms and season with salt and pepper and cook until slightly crisp on the edges-add more olive oil if the pan gets dry.

Add vinegar and cook until reduced to a syrup, then add back pasta with the cooking water.

Add the spinach, toss, and cook until barely wilted.

Finally, add butter and grate the parm cheese until well covered, then add the parsley.

Adjust seasoning and serve.

– The End. Go Eat. –

My Favorite Dishes of 2016

As 2016 began, it was planned that Nick, me and the kids — Holly, the 11-year-old pitbull and our 7-year-old Frenchie, JJ — were moving to Denver from Phoenix. Our intention after twelve months in the Sonoran Desert was to relocate to the Mile High City for his work. Our last stop was the Rocky Mountains. However, after all that, we have found ourselves back in Southern California, where we had originally started. Not in Los Angeles – coming full circle — but in Newport Beach, behind the Orange Curtain. Still for Nick’s work, but with a fluffier job description.

It’s a good location for us. Far from the histrionics of the world’s entertainment capital. Yet, we discuss missing Camelback Mountain rising out of the valley, the vast blue skies and, of course, the food. Phoenix taught me that good eating can be found anywhere if you are looking for it. It doesn’t have to be in one of the anointed culinary islands such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco or Los Angeles.

While living in Phoenix, I discovered deep blended roots of Mexican and Native American food. Indeed, it’s common for local hunters born of Mexican descent to shoot game such as moose or elk during the holiday season. The braised meat is then turned into Christmas tamales and frozen to eat throughout the year. It’s a practice that goes well beyond the area’s 114 years as a state. Originally, Mexican settlers joined with the natives crafting unique food and then in turn, became Americans when the 48th state entered the Union.

I bring this up because I read a well-known restaurant writer’s suggestions of “best food trends”. In her lengthy piece, she proffered gastronomic extravagances in Copenhagen, Paris, and of course, the Big Apple which is where she is based. I can always choose what is great elsewhere, from Singapore to Argentina, France to Greece. However, I think it’s our duty to describe what is “great” in America. Our culinary prowess is the myriad of cultures creating our nation – borrowing from here and there, making our own indigenous taste profiles such as fried chicken, pot roast or apple pie. Derived from other places, but made here crafting American comfort. We need to recognize that we are great, looking only to our dinner tables.

Unlike the writer, who travels often, I didn’t get on a plane this year except a roundtrip to Vegas and Phoenix. After almost two dozen countries and nearly 250 cities, I’m not big about getting on planes anymore; plus, I love the dining scene in smaller cities such as Phoenix, Portland and even in Orange County, California. They aren’t massive but what’s cooking is robust and lively.

As go into the new year, as a nation, we have dreamed up all types of unique food – Mexican-Korean tacos, Japanese sushi with Brazilian flavors, Thai with Texas BBQ– turning it into one melting pot of goodness. The ingredients simmering on the American stove is where we have always been welcoming, tasting little bits of this and adding some of that. Authentic American flavor is made from our fusion of cultures right here at home and it’s always been great.

Hoja Sante stuffed with Mennonite Cheese, Gran Reserva Barrio Café : Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza (Phoenix, Arizona).

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza should be a nationally recognized chef and it’s a shame she’s not. She is a proud Mexican American born in the United States and is un-WASP-like most Food Network stars such as Giada, Rachel or even Paula Deen.  At her five restaurant mini-empire based in Phoenix, her cooking is Mexican but with European techniques. At Gran Reserva Barrio Café, her new restaurant which opened in spring 2016, Esparza’s creativity is evidenced in the simplicity of a melty hunk Mexican Mennonite cheese, wrapped burrito-like in a large hoya sante leaf and served with two smoky chili pastes. Simple. Traditional and yet still other worldly.

Image result for Hoja Santa Gran Reserva Arizona Latinos

The indigenous plant is not commonly found north of the border, and when it is, it’s usually used in stews and braises. Esparza uses it whole, instead of strips, allowing the anise flavor to compliment the queso’s milky texture. The venomous bite of the peppers is nulled by the dairy and leaving only smokiness. Texturally, the crunch of the leaf, emission of creaminess and a nullified heat is eye-opening. As I sat eating the dish, along with interviewing the Phoenix-based chef for Arizona Latinos, she imparted the history of the Mexican Mennonites and how they are still important to the agriculture of the country.

This gooey delicious dish is modest, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

Chicken Liver Pasta, Sotto:  Chef Steve Samson (Los Angeles, CA)

On a media tasting invite, I went through a selection of items chosen by Chef Steve Samson at his almost six-year-old restaurant Sotto. The cozy space is inviting with blue walls, wooden tables and chairs as is Mr. Samson, who is one of the kinder cooks in the culinary world.

Going through his menu, which is all yummy the standout, became the housemade Rigatoni tossed with Chicken Livers, Parmigiana Reggiano and Porcini. It’s a daring dish for Angelenos to embrace. First, there are the carbohydrates but second the livers aren’t normally found on regular menus much less Italian. Having traveled often to Italy, I didn’t recall pasta and innards used in this way and asked Samson where it was based. It was his unique twist on the typical Bolognese ragu. Instead of throwing away something tasty, he invented this earthy and rustic dish. I’m not fond of chicken livers – and I don’t know many people who are – but this I would eat every day for the rest of my life.

 

Jardineros (Garden) Tacos, Taco Maria: Chef Carlos Salgado (Costa Mesa, CA)

Taco Maria is a high-end eating experience much like the Rick Bayless’ chain Red O or even Phoenix’s independent Barrio Café (see above). White tablecloths, waiters with crumbers and sparkling water served in wine glasses, my type of my place, where a diner feels special. Located inside a mall within a mall, it is an indoor-outdoor space which is a good showcase for the unique tastes presented by Chef Carlos Salgado.

Much has been written about Salgado and for good reason, his fusion of California agricultural and Mexican cooking produce, arguably the country’s best tacos. Ordering a la carte during lunch, there are a five varieties of the national south of the border food: chicken, beef, pork,  fish and vegetarian. Exceptional eats every single one, wrapped with the housemade delectable blue corn tortillas found only at Taco Maria. (B.S. Taqueria gets their masa from here too.) The standout is clearly the vegetarian (jardineros) made with shitake mushroom chorizo, a crispy potato and queso fundido. Separately, each one would make a great filling but together, they create something truly different. The minced fungi spiced with traditional south of the border flavorings texturally give the chorizo a meat-like consistency. However, it’s the flavor which is a standout.

Pasta dishes, Tratto: Chef Chris Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)

Legendary chef Chris Bianco is  renowned for Pizza Bianco. Matter of fact, his pizzas have been called the best in the world by former “Vogue” food writer Jeffrey Steingarten. Therefore, when someone invites you to Tratto, his new restaurant which opened in early summer 2016 in the same mall as his world-renowned pizzeria, you go – but not for his pizzas. At his new space, he has opened his creativity to showcase other goodness derived from Arizona farmers; mostly notably, the wheat growers.

Bianco does everything else but pizzas. Old-fashioned, Italian food but a real display of southwestern growers. I don’t mean peppers, tomatoes and cheese but bold pairings such as beets and gorgonzola roasted in a fig leaf. All ingredients are sourced from the 48th state, crafting Italian food. Don’t question it but eat his handmade pastas which are carefully crafted by Bianco. Get off the carb diet and have a bit of heaven.

Beef Tenderloin with Mole Negro, Talavera at Four Seasons Scottsdale: Chef Mel Mecinas (Phoenix, Arizona)

To reiterate, I’ve listed the dishes I’ve eaten over the course of the year which I remember fondly. Eating them, at the restaurant, the conversations around them and how good they are. Nothing comes as close to Chef Mel Mecinas and his mole negro and beef tenderloin.

Mole is probably one of the world’s most difficult sauces to make. Consisting of more than two dozen ingredients ground and simmered into a liquid, resulting in something edible which is complex, luscious and fortifying. Fish is too delicate for the earthiness but lean cuts of meat provide a great experience to taste the Mexico pottage which is what diners get at Talavera under the capable hands of Chef Mecinas.

Unfortunately, he no longer works at the restaurant where he was the Executive Chef for more than a decade. Greener pastures beckoned. However, one day I hope the world gets to eat his extraordinary mole.

 

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeOne of the great attractions of New Jersey are the small towns with picturesque streets, seemingly family values and charm. It’s no surprise than one of the area’s excellent restaurants, Serenade, in Chatham, New Jersey resides there. Great East Coast restaurants are starting to close as times change and rents become out of reach for independents. Yet under the guiding hand of chef/ owner James Laird and his wife, Nancy Sheridan Laird, their restaurant is celebrating two decades of delicious service.

Over the years, Laird has received accolades from The New York Times, calling him “one of the best classically trained chefs in New Jersey.” The glossy New Jersey Monthly has consistently rated his restaurant among “the best of the best,” and Crain’s NY Business stated, “Serenade is among the Garden State’s most rewarding dining destinations.” High praise for an autonomous cafe on the other side of the river.

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeHowever, it’s not surprising that his eating venture has lasted into a milestone old-age for a restaurant, as Laird has an enviable epicurean pedigree. Graduating from the renowned Culinary Institute of America, he traveled to Europe, gaining skills under a variety of noted chefs and increasing his knowledge of cooking. Upon returning to the States, he worked at three of New York City’s noted fine-dining establishments in the 90s – Lespinasse, The River Café, and Aureole – before becoming the sous chef at the culinary landmark Ryland Inn and eventually owning his own place.

Interestingly, Chef Laird says that rolling with the changing times has kept Serenade in the forefront of diners’ minds. “We used to serve foie gras when we first opened,” he says. “Now, we have a burger on the menu. We have a small (food listing) to keep the diners happy if they don’t want a full on dining experience. We also bought our building and it saves immensely on our overhead. We can create great dishes without passing on the high cost.”

As the dining scene changes around the world with quick service becoming the norm, it’s refreshing to see a chef feel comfortable in his surroundings and in his skin. One of the key reasons Chef Laird says he has a restaurant? “I love to cook.”

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)

How long have you been cooking?
35 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fish

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, Limes, Coconut Creamer

What do you cook at home?
As little as possible, toast is great!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
A customer who notices all of the details

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Closed-minded customers

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout RecipeYour favorite cookbook author?
Joël Robuchon

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Butcher’s Steel

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme

Your least favorite ingredient?
Rosemary

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Scrubbing the grill

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Asian, French

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli

Chef you most admire?
Joël Robuchon

Food you like the most to eat?
Anything my wife cooks

Food you dislike the most?
Very Spicy foods

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No Tats

Recipe: Veal Ragout with Dill and Crispy Mushrooms

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 lbs. veal, cubed
1 quart chicken or veal stock
1 cup white wine
2 medium onions, diced
2 TBS. flour
4 oz. sweet butter
3 TBS. fresh dill, chopped (about one bunch)
4 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
10 oz button mushrooms, sliced

Directions
1. Dry and season veal with salt and pepper. Brown meat in batches in heavy pan, suitable for the oven.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Sauté onions in same pan in 2 oz. butter until translucent and soft. Add flour. Mix well and cook for two to three minutes.
4. Add white wine. Simmer until slightly thickened. Add stock and bring to a boil. Taste and season lightly with salt and pepper.
5. Add veal and accumulated juices to pot. Bring back to boil. Lower to simmer. Place in oven, uncovered.
6. Heat remaining butter in sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms until very brown and crispy. Reserve.
7. Simmer in oven until fork tender. Remove from oven and stir in chopped tomatoes. Season.
8. Immediately prior to serving, stir in dill. Sprinkle mushrooms on top of veal.
9. Serve over buttered noodles or rice.
The End. Go Eat.
Recipe photo flickr cc: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/5032563727

All other photos courtesy and copyright Chef James Laird

i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe

i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies RecipeCEO of Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc starts the conversation saying, “I started working with the company 39 years ago. There were five of us then and we were all candy-dippers.” Immediately, the statement brings to mind the hilarious “I Love Lucy” episode when the show’s namesake and her best friend Ethel wrap candy on a conveyor belt. That moment became  television history and a classic showcase much the way Harbor Sweets has aligned itself into the specialty chocolate world. Founded nearly 40 years ago under the ownership of Ben Strohecker, the candy factory has become world-renowned for making Sweet Sloops,  toffee dipped sweets with pecans, resembling a sailboat.

Ben Strohecker 1977. From i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe
Ben Strohecker 1977

They’ve gone on to make a variety of unique confections, such as Salt & Ayre  and Dark Horse, cementing the Salem, Massachusetts-made treats as iconic as Tiffany’s blue box or Chanel’s logo. Ranked as one of the top women-owned business in the United States, under the guidance of Ms. LeBlanc, the staff has grown to nearly 100 people and a thriving food business.

At this year’s Fancy Food Show held in New York, Harbor Sweets unveiled their newest line, Gather. Says Ms. Le Blanc, “When I learned more about the plight of the honeybees and how important they are to our crops, our chocolates, and even our local economy, I started out on a mission to do what I could using Harbor Sweets…so we created Gather.” Gather is a flight of six unusual chocolates highlighted with the use of local wild honey. Partial sale proceeds will be given to the San Francisco-based non-profit Pollinator Partnership, whose work is carried out in North America via advocacy, education, and conservation of the bees and other pollinators.

i8tonite with Salem’s Harbor Sweets Phyllis LeBlanc & Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe

In the Harbor Sweets press release announcement, it quotes an alarming 2015 – 16 USDA Report stating that pesticides and parasites are seen as the foremost cause of a 44% drop in honeybee colonization in one year, making it the second highest annual loss reported in the past 10 years globally. Honeybee pollinators add more than $15 billion to America’s agricultural economy and are critical to the entire eco-system throughout the world. Ultimately, the true loss can’t be valued, since human beings thrive on our dependence of bees and pollinators like them such as bumblebees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, and wasps.

“We are always looking for something that people can relate to and it doesn’t stay the same,” says LeBlanc. “Part of what we are about is gathering friends. As much as we are about chocolate, we gather our local products with love of family and friends. It’s what we are about.”

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I don’t cook, my husband does! He is an excellent chef.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Half & half for coffee, ice cream, and wine.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
They eat slowly and appreciate the food

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
They are distracted by their cell phone.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lora Brody.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
There are tools in the kitchen?!? A spoon for sampling ice cream.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Does dessert count? Chocolate!

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chicken

Favorite vegetable?
Squash

Chef you most admire?
Julia Child – she took her food seriously, but not herself.

Food you like the most to eat?
Ice cream/gelato

Food you dislike the most?
Wow, can’t think of any food I dislike…

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Ride horses

Whom do you most admire in food?
Anyone who is a good cook

Where is your favorite place to eat?
By the water

What is your favorite restaurant?
Seasons 52

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No, and none

Harbor Sweets Chocolate Sweet Sloops Cookies Recipe

Somewhere between a cookie and a brownie, this chewy goodness is dotted with crunchy Sweet Sloops pieces and toasted pecans!

Ingredients:
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 ½ cup (packed) light brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 jar Sweet Sloops Ice Cream Topping (1 cup)
1 cup lightly toasted pecans chopped

Directions:
1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl and stir to blend.
2. Place the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler set over simmering water and cook, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes.
3. Place brown sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat on medium high speed until thick and light in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low and beat in the melted chocolate mixture and vanilla and almond extracts. Stir in the flour mixture, followed by Sweet Sloops topping and nuts. Cover and chill the batter for at least an hour an up to 24 hours to firm up.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking pans with parchment paper.
5. Drop heaping 2 T mounds of batter on prepared sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake until edges have browned but centers are slightly soft, 13-15 minutes. Let cool slightly and transfer cookies to a wire rack.

Keep cookies in an airtight container, Will stay fresh 3-4 days.

Adapted from NEW ENGLAND OPEN HOUSE COOKBOOK by Sarah Leah Chase
– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Phoenix’s TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo RecipeChef and owner of TEXAZ Grill Steven Freidkin is that rarity in restaurants nowadays. Long before the Food Network and celebrity cooks ruled our dinner tables, Freidkin had always been a good, respectable chef, and learning the trade not in fancy culinary schools, but employed in the eateries were he worked. As a pre-teen, he began his kitchen career working at his family’s kosher deli in Shreveport, Louisiana cutting up corned beef in the front and then hanging with his friends. Reminiscing about his youth, Freidkin said, “We would be hiding behind the pickle barrels.  We were the only store that cured our own pickles.”

His first job away from his parents’ store was as a dishwasher. Then while attending college in the Dallas, he cooked in many kitchens, learning that this could be his way of making a living instead of getting a social work degree. Ultimately, this led him to turn specifically failing restaurants into moneymakers. For a bit of time, he worked for well-known Victoria Station, a popular chain of railroad themed steakhouses that proliferated throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Arriving in Phoenix in 1976 on a proposition to a restaurant called Pointe of View located by Squaw Peak, he’s been in the Valley of the Sun ever since.

Before TEXAZ Grill, there were a couple of other stints in restaurants and a catering company, but in 1985, he, along with a former partner, opened the Phoenician steakhouse landmark. TEXAZ Grill isn’t one of the high-end places where people drop their credit cards to pay for the hefty price-tag on a wine and ribeye. No. Freidkin has established an important Valley of the Sun staple – as important as a saguaro cactus on a dusky evening — among the steak and chops set, leading the southwestern pack in crafting down home eats.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Regulars come to sit in the eclectically decorated space. Walls filled with hundreds of baseball hats, deer heads, pen and ink drawings found in thrift stores, black and white photos, and beer labels lavishly cover the space. It’s an homage to roadhouses long gone, or it’s an actual roadhouse, depending on your personal age and reference.

Among the ribeye and the New York Strip, listed above the delicious stalwart of fried chicken, is the house specialty – the chicken fried steak. Friedkin recalls, “When we first opened, we had a lot of requests for it. We put it on the menu for a special, and then gradually it stayed.” Two big breaded cubed steaks are dredged in flour, deep-fried, and served with white gravy. “We have served more than 900,000 of these since we opened,” Freidkin comments. Here’s to 900,000 more.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I started cooking in our family delicatessen in Louisiana when I was 10, so I have been cooking 50 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite dish to cook is noodles, Cajun and Creole.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have pickled okra in my fridge.

What do you cook at home?
I cook everything- Mexican, Asian, Southern, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern…and I fridge raid (clearing out the fridge and making a full meal).

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Friendliness.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfriendliness.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above. My favorites range from a Shiner Bock, Old Vine Zin, and Tito’s on the rocks with a pickled Okra.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Robb Walsh.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Japanese Cleaver.

Your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient is black pepper.

Your least favorite ingredient?
My least favorite ingredient is CILANTRO!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean up!

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Southern, Italian, Mexican, and Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef.

Favorite vegetable?
Eggplant.

Chef you most admire?
The chef I admire most locally is Robert McGrath.

Food you like the most to eat?
Noodles, Creole and Cajun are my favorite foods to eat. My absolute favorite is Texas BBQ.

Food you dislike the most?
Liver.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
N/A.

Recipe: Chicken Fideo

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Serving Size: 5
Prep Time: 0:21

Ingredients:
7 oz vermicelli — fideo
1 oz butter
3 cups cubed chicken thigh meat
1 c julienned onion
2 t minced garlic
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
3 cups water
2 t chicken bouillion paste
1 t oregano
2 t whole cumin
2 oz canned jalapeno peppers – juice

Directions:
Brown fideo in butter until golden.
Add onion and garlic and saute briefly.
Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over moderate heat, until done – about 30 minutes.
Serve topped with sliced green onion and grated cheddar.
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Phoenix’s Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe“After college, I thought I was going to go to California, but I got delayed,” says noted Chef Cullen Campbell, chef owner of the nationally known Phoenix-based Crudo, which he opened in 2012 with mixologist Micah Olson. Last year, the duo, along with Campbell’s wife Maureen McGrath, unlocked Okra, a Southern-themed restaurant with touches of Italy, harkening back to growing up in Arkansas. Although born in the 48th state, Campbell spent time on the Arkansas family farm and attended university in Memphis, where he picked up some of the deep Southern touches that craft the excellent flavors of his sophomore effort. Clearly, he wanted to bring some of that country to Arizona.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Like the Sonoran Desert, the interiors of both places are wide and vast. There aren’t any nooks or cubby holes  for clandestine dinners to hide in. The restaurants are boisterous, raucous affairs, letting the diner know they are in for a delicious meal. Crudo is the higher end of the two, with a collage of shutters as artwork at the entrance, but it’s the casual wood-tones of Okra which come across warmly. Both restaurants, though, are a showcase of Campbell’s kitchen talent. Arizona Republic’s restaurant critic Howard Sefetel said in his 2012 review of Crudo, “What makes Campbell’s fare stand out? Certainly, the ingredients are primo. But what Campbell does with them is often highly original and always skillfully executed.”

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

Since then, the kitchen star has been on the rise, putting Valley of the Sun’s dining and drinking culture on the national culinary map, with noted stories in Sunset Magazine, USA Today, and Los Angeles Times.

What’s next on the horizon for the Arizona cooking wunderkind? “I have a bunch of different concepts I want to try out. Something small and higher end with no more than a dozen tables. Then I have a hot dog concept I want to do with Micah. Cocktails. Beer and wine list all paired for the dogs.”

Whatever Campbell does, we know it will be delicious.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking for 20 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My least favorite food is Shellfish.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I have wine, water, & leftovers.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Squid Ink Risotto

What do you cook at home?
Not much but sometimes, I r&d at my house. I just made some pici, which is like a thick hand rolled spaghetti. I love hand rolling pasta!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The person wanting to try everything.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
The person that is scared to try new things.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine all the way, especially really great white wine.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Burrata

Your favorite cookbook author?
David Joachim. Not only has he written his own books, he has also collaborated on some of my favorite books.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spoons.

Your favorite ingredient?
Olive Oil.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Anything processed.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean. I make a mess haha!

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I go through spurts. Of course Italian & southern. But I have started playing around with Polynesian.

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Rapini.

Chef you most admire?
I have two: Jean Georges Vongerichten & Marc Vetri. One is very refined & the other is more rustic, but they both work with the best ingredients & don’t overcomplicate dishes.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheeseburger & fries!

Food you dislike the most?
I eat everything!

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e PepeHow many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I only have two at the moment. One of them is an alcohol in Japanese. But I want to get a fork & spoon on me. Also, one that celebrates my restaurants – Crudo & Okra.

Recipe: Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe

i8tonite with Phoenix's Crudo Chef Cullen Campbell & Recipe for Semolina Gnocci with Trotter Ragu & Cacio e Pepe
Semolina Gnocchi

Semolina Gnocchi
3 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
11/2tsp salt
4 egg yolks
1 cup parmesan
1 cup semolina

Put milk, butter, & salt into a medium pot (bring to a boil).
Add semolina & whisk vigorously for 4 minutes.
Add 1 egg yolk at a time while stirring.
Then add the parmesan and whisk until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes.
Spread mixture on a sheet tray & let cool for 45 minutes.
When cooled, cut out circles with a ring mold.
Sear the gnocchi in a pan on medium heat until golden brown.

Cacio e Pepe
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated pecorino remano
1tbs roux
2tbs fresh ground black pepper
Salt to taste

Heat heavy cream & both cheeses together until melted.
Add roux to thicken & then add the pepper.

Trotter Ragu
5lbs pig trotters
1 yellow onion chopped
1 head of garlic chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3oz thyme picked & chopped
6 cups da napoli crushed tomatoes
6 cups meat stock
2tbs salt
1tbs fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a roasting pan, brown the trotters in the olive oil.
Add onion, garlic, and thyme & stir until fragrant.
Season with the salt & pepper.
Add crushed tomatoes and meat stock & cover the pan tightly with foil or lid.
Lower the oven to 300 degrees & cook for 3.5 hours.
After pulled from the oven, let the trotters cool down for about an hour.
After cooled, shred the trotters off the bones & mix back into the sauce.

To Plate
Put the ragu in the bottom of the bowl, arrange gnocchi, & top with a generous amount of cacio e pepe

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw RecipeIn our global world, food is often the first thing that changes. Chinese noodles appropriated by the Italians after Marco Polo’s visit. How about al pastor brought to Mexico by Lebanese immigrants, or the deliciousness of a French-Vietnamese banh mi, which features tons of crunchy vegetables and savory pork stuffed into a baguette? This is the case for the much-lauded Revolutionario, near the University of Southern California, helmed by Chef Farid Zadi and his wife Susan Park. The couple came up with an ingenious concept of marrying North African diaspora (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya) tastes with Mexico. The successful result is a delicious fusion of international flavors as noted by the alternative paper, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and the queue of college students and food-oriented people standing at the counter ordering their $3.00 tacos.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Revolutionario

Zadi’s career started in his birthplace of Lyon, France, ultimately leading him to working in Michelin starred restaurants throughout the world, including stints in Seoul, Korea, and Scotland. Upon coming to the United States, Zadi focused his epicurean talents on being a chef consultant and culinary educator, teaching cooking classes – for the beginner to the accomplished – at such places as Sur La Table, Whole Foods Market, and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Makroud (Algerian Date Newtons)

Last year, he and Susan wanted to create something different. Park says, “We saw the market going in a different direction towards a fast casual experience. Millennials didn’t really want to participate in the sit down service.” Along Jefferson, Revolutionario is not hard to find, as there are hordes of people waiting for service. Together, the couple have created a refreshing and unique melding of cultures…and the world was ready. Algerian butter and Mexican crema top a cob of corn. An Algerian roasted chicken with rasa al hanout – a Northern African spice mixture — called mechoui — is served up with feta and tortillas to wrap the bird. Wood-roasted cauliflower is also a standout when bound in a corn tortilla.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Mexican Street Corn with Algerian Creole Butter, Crema, and Cotija

Park comments, “North African tacos are an interesting cuisine. Food writers, those who are well-traveled, and people exposed to unique flavors love our food. Where else can you get merguez sausage served like a burrito?

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
34 years professionally

What is your favorite food to cook?
Dover sole with lemon butter sauce

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cheese, and cured meat.

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Merguez and Crispy Potato Tacos

What do you cook at home?
Nothing

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Openness

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Don’t know what they want

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer in the summer, wine for fall and winter

Your favorite cookbook author?
Clifford Wright

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Water

Your least favorite ingredient?
Lard

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Home stove that doesn’t burn high enough

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe
Roasted Sweet Potato and Crispy Kale, Yukon Gold with Lentil Chili or Charred Vegetables.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mediterranean and Californian

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Potatoes

Chef you most admire?
Pierre Gagnaire

Food you like the most to eat?
Buttered pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Calf’s brain

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None. Never.

Recipe: Fennel and carrot slaw

i8tonite with LA’s Revolutionario Chef Farid Zadi & Fennel and Carrot Slaw Recipe

• 2 medium fennel bulbs
• 5 carrots, coarsely grated
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/4 cup Spanish green olives, pitted and finely chopped
• 1/4 teaspoon dried Aleppo chile or Espelette pepper flakes (optional), or to taste
• 6 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and very thinly sliced
• 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Chop enough fennel fronds to measure 3 tablespoons and reserve.

Discard remaining fronds and stalks. Cut bulbs into thin matchsticks and toss with carrots in a bowl.

Whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, oil, olives, Aleppo chile (if using), and salt to taste and toss with vegetables.

Chill, covered, at least 30 minutes (for flavors to develop).

Photo WILLIAM ABRANOWICZ

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoIn 2007, New York Times wine writer Eric Asimov devoted an entire column to Do Bianchi (a Venetian term meaning two wines), a blog started by Jeremy Parzen. Asimov calls him, “One of those annoyingly talented individuals who speaks multiple languages, writes music, plays in a band, and also writes about wine meaning and food.”

Even though the annoying part was a gentle ribbing, Parzen is all those things. He holds a PhD in Italian, having lived in Pisa. He continues to travel back and forth to the boot-shaped country once a month from his home in Houston. Via his wine blog, Parzen is considered to be the foremost authority on Italian wines currently being written in North America; he has also been a food journalist and editor for the defunct Cucina Italiana, the widely popular magazine that was solely about Italian food, products, and cooking. He has penned additional stories for Wine & Spirits, Gastronomica, Men’s Vogue, and The Tasting Panel.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Sotto dining room. Photo Sean Murphy

Yet more importantly for consumers, his formidable knowledge on the nearly 1000 grape varietals used in making Italian vino is on display and available for tasting at Sotto, the Beverly Hills restaurant dedicated to regional Romanesque cooking. Here, with his friend of 25 years, Chef Steven Samson, guests can drink extraordinary small productions of vermentino or the Sardinian red fruit, cannonau, pairing it with handmade rustic pizzas and pastas.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

“Working with Steve and knowing him for as long as I have, he let me push the envelope for the wine list,” says Parzen. “In the end, we have produced a menu that’s won a lot of people over and is selling.”
“Steve always said to me, ‘When I’m ready to open my restaurant, you will (create) my wine list.’ (At Sotto), we try and give a voice to the youthful wine culture. I specialize in Italians wines that are looking to (the restaurant) to  give it a voice.”

And when you can’t find Parzen drinking an Italian wine, you can find him on a stage playing French pop music in a band called Nous Non Plus. Renaissance man, indeed.

Chef’s Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Pasta.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Sparkling wine.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Hearty appetite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Fear of pickled herring or horse meat.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Wine pairing at Sotto

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Craig Claiborne.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef’s knife.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, American, but not Italian-American.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Horse.

Favorite vegetable?
Horse radish.

Chef you most admire?
Chef Steve Samson!

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta.

Food you dislike the most?
Junk food. Processed food.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Play music.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Darra Goldstein.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Italy.

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio PeperoncinoWhat is your favorite restaurant?
Sotto! For real…

Do you have any tattoos?
Jews generally don’t get tattoos, so n/a.

 

Recipe: Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino

i8tonite with Italian Wine Expert Jeremy Parzen & Recipe for Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino
Pasta Olio Aglio Peperoncino. Photo: Flickr cc: Yusuke Kawasaki

 

Heat EVOO in a pan. Add garlic and chili flakes.
An anchovy, washed and cleaned, can be added as well, if desired.
Cook spaghetti until al dente.
Strain well and add to the pan.
Toss well and drizzle with EVOO before serving with a glass of Verdicchio.

– The End. Go Eat. –