All posts by Jessie Voigts

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Irvine, a bedroom community in Orange County, is often spoken about as a homestead of possible Utopian living with green trees, cookie cutter homes, and maybe an ethnic market selling something as exotic as dark chocolate or unroasted nuts. In truth, it’s a thriving urban area with an incredibly diverse population – and food to match.

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Close to Disneyland, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly an hour and a half drive from the City of Los Angeles, resides Irvine, opened in 1965 as a “new town.” The area’s conception was a bedroom metropolis budding out of the 405-freeway connecting LA, OC, and San Diego counties. Its sole purpose was to be a pedestrian, and yes, a conformist archetype of 20th century modernism.

Now, in the 21st century, ironically, it is the largest city in the continental U.S states with an Asian diaspora, ranging from Indian to Korean, Filipino to Chinese, Malaysian to Japan. Irvine has become a blossoming food center, offering cuisine not only throughout Asia but Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern – and sometimes, a fusion of several.

For residents, the town’s proximity is close enough to enjoy Pacific Ocean breezes from Newport and Laguna Beach without having to pay for the pricey coastal real estate, although that, too, is changing as it continues to grow. Indeed, the area measuring 65 square miles is home to several higher learning schools including University of California, Irvine, Concordia, Brandman and Chapman Universities, and has a median income of a little more than $93,000 per household compared to the entire state at $63,000.

During the mid-sixties, people were the leaving urban centers for places like Irvine, which quickly become synonymous as a landmark of social and political conservatism. Often a hidden tag line, going to any city within Orange County such as Anaheim, Huntington Beach, or San Juan Capistrano was said to be “visiting behind the Orange Curtain,” a post-WW II reference to communist countries and much of the then area’s non-liberal viewpoint. Much of that has changed, as OCs head into the first quarter of the 21st century.

Matter of fact, Irvine proudly stated that for the first time since WWII, the entire area went “blue,” attributable to the shifting and dying demographics that once reigned in the area. Now Irvine, also called “SoCal’s Silicon Valley,” is one of the leading centers of the state’s diverse eats and eaten by internet company denizens from Google, Houzz, Microsoft, and Oracle populating each side of the 405.

No, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas, it’s Irvine.

Breakfast: Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace

If you’re staying here, this yummy place offers well-made grab and go sandwiches, pizzas, and salads throughout the day. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab a great sausage and egg on an English muffin ($3) or a breakfast burrito ($4). Want to order a la carte? Go for scrambled eggs ($2), any breakfast meat ($2), and a side of potatoes ($2). It’s far better than anything heated up at a chain coffee of fast food spot. Indeed, many of the young office workers start their days at Marketplace because the prices are low. Coffee is standard Starbucks, but you can have a breakfast meeting with the ample seating. Free wi-fi included so it’s easy to start up a Powerpoint presentation. Come back during the never-ending happy hour and enjoy inexpensive glasses of wines, unique cocktails, and beer along with a stellar small plate eating menu that is equally as delicious.

 

Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California, 92614
866.396.4201

Lunch: Wholesome Choice

You did well on that 26-slide Powerpoint presentation during breakfast, but that was at 8:00 am. It took hours to get through, and you’re famished, but the chain restaurants which proliferate in Irvine – and they do – aren’t what you want. Head to Irvine’s possibly greatest food spot: a grocery store called Wholesome Choice. At lunch (or even dinner), they have one of the best ethnic food hot bars probably in the country. Running the gamut from Chinese-American, Persian, Indian, Mexican, traditional American, to Middle -Eastern, it’s a food person’s dream. Enter in on the right side by the vegetable and fruit area, and you’re walking into a Turkish bazaar stateside.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

The bins are overflowing with pomegranates, Persian cucumbers, key limes (in season), parsley, ginger, and other items not seen in traditional grocery stores.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Before getting there, though, you have to sidle by the sangak bread bakery and its bakers (who are Mexican). In line waiting for the unleavened curtains of whole wheat, which drape the shopping carts, are people of all backgrounds – Latin, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Filipino, Persian, Arabic – reflecting the neighborhood and the locals.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Buy a bottle of orange water, rose water, lily water, or drinking water. Nearly a dozen varieties of tahini rest in the sauce aisle – it’s hard to choose. If you’re a little queasy about meat products, don’t head to the butcher cases. Whole sheep and cow reside there in pieces. An eye there, a testicle here, and a little bit of tongue. (Don’t forget trying a little bit of the house-made Turkish delight. There seem to be nearly as many choices of the confection as there are stars in the sky.)

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 551-4111

Cocktails

After shopping through one of the many malls, including Irvine Spectrum complete with a ferris wheel, head to Angelina’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in another strip area across the 405. Even though it’s a cement block with all the appeal of a wood chip, inside, the Italian bistro is light with grey, burgundy, and white.

Cocktail at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Additionally, it’s well-appointed with racks of wine bottles (mostly Italian), a full bar, and a pizza-oven creating robust aromas. Although you could order a glass of Pinot Grigio with maybe a pizza to share for as an appetizer before a meal, my recommendation is a flight of Italian food and wine. It consists of three tastes, with a trio of wines of about 3 to 3.5 ounces each. For example, the Sophia Flight ($12) focusing on rosatos, imbibers sip a sparkling from Setteanime, Raboso Marca Trevigiana, paired with a bruschetta of shrimp, garlic, and bell pepper. Another pairing is a Sangiovese rosato from Il Poggione Brancato in Tuscany coupled with a bruschetta of brie, olives, and micro-basil and lastly, from Puglia, a beautifully dry rosato, Tormaresca Calafuria Negroamaro, is combined with goat cheese, artichokes, and parsley slathered onto toast. There are others, but it’s a tasty way to travel the Italian wines without going bottle by bottle. Granted, you can do that, but there are checkpoints in Irvine.

Flights of food & Wine at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Los Olivos Marketplace
8573 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 536 – 5200

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market

Union Market is one of my favorite destinations in all of Orange County, both for eating and retail shopping. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind retail and food hall destination showcasing the best of the independent shops.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Located in Tustin, a small town to the north of Irvine, it’s based in another mall, called The District.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

There are about seven full restaurants, including Hatch which serves only sliders, Kettlebar, a New Orleans steam cooking experience, and several others. In the center of the mini-mall within a large mall – sort of like the Russian stacking dolls — lies a horseshoe shaped bar, appropriately named Central.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

Here you will find locally-sourced beers, hand-picked wines, and craft cocktails served to a robust gathering of area workers. Order a deliciously messy Country Fried Chicken Poutine ($9) from The Kroft (the tagline is “comfort food re-invented.” ‘Nuff said.), or Market 2 Table’s freshly made rigatoni served with Bolognese ($8.95), and eat at any of the tables. How much fun is doing a buffet to your liking?

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

2493 Park Avenue
Tustin, California 92782

Dinner: Puesto

Across the parking lot from Angelina Neopolitan Pizzeria lies a Mexican restaurant created by three brothers in San Diego. Offering a variety of tacos and other South of the Border goodies, Puesto is a unique offering in the world of California Mexican food.

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Begin the evening in the kitchen, where four dining tables are close to the culinary action. If the meal conversation lags or your companion is completely dull, start watching the sous chefs make batch after batch of perfectly pressed blue corn tortillas. Monthly, their Executive Chef Katy Smith creates a taco, of which a dollar from each sale goes to a local charity. It’s not always a taco, either. Sometimes, it’s a margarita, and in April of this year, a frozen horchata was chilled up. The inspiration comes from a variety of Mexican states, including the street food of Distrito Federale. It’s also one of the few restaurants where I’ve had freshly made chicarrones (pork skin deep-fried). Lightly salted, they can be a gluten-free or an alternative to corn chips. Fresh, intensely flavorful, and charitable all at the same time. What more can you want from a dining experience?

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

8577 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 608 – 9990
www.market2plate.com

Hotel Irvine

Within the confines of staying in the city area of Irvine, hotel choices are limited. However, a nice casual business stay is the Hotel Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Looking more like a seventies securities exchange building, the 536-room property is nicely appointed – free Wi Fi – with a thriving food scene. Some of the rooms have balconies but overlook a business park and freeway. Regardless, it’s a quick escape from either North or South on the 405 and comes complete with a pool. (My motto: No pool. No stay.) The restaurant is called Eats Kitchen & Bar, which in January changed executive chefs. It’s now overseen by Jeff Moore, who comes from a fourth generation Palos Verdes-based grocer. The atmosphere of the restaurant is conflicted between being a gastropub, as is seen in the décor, and an industrial edifice.

EATS Kitchen & Bar Dining Room. Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

EATS Kitchen & Bar (Nicoise Salad). Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Regardless, it’s a great place to stay – hell, it’s really the only place to stay in Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

Word photo courtesy creative commons: Derek Liang 

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers RecipeThe first thing I noticed, when talking with Oy Vey Vegan Cookbook author Estee Raviv, was her passion for her work. Now in food, you will find passionate people (we all love to eat). Raviv is an artist. Cooking is an outlet for her creativity – and that anyone can relax – and cook – in the kitchen. Cooking is Art!

Cooking is Art. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Raviv’s foray into Vegan cooking and eating came about because of her digestive issues. After being raised in Israel, where cheese and dairy are plentiful and delicious, she experimented with elimination diets – and found that eating vegan changed her life. That change is why she started writing her blog, as well as her new cookbook, Oy Vey Vegan. She was so happy that she felt so good, and wanted to share this with the world.

Raviv noted that, like all of us when faced with changing our way of eating, she found it difficult to change her state of mind, and said, “What am I going to do now?” How could she change her routine – and ways of thinking? Well, we can all learn from her – she created her own menu for every day, and found alternatives that are healthy and not trying to be something else. Raviv avoids processed food – she noted that “you can be vegan and eat junk, so coming to veganism as a healthy aspect of a plant-based diet is helpful. Vegan eating is very healthy for us and, of course, it can prevent all types of cancers and other chronic diseases.” Her own menus sound delicious, starting with oatmeal for breakfast (which she loves), and then whatever healthy snacks she chooses for the day – lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and very creative salads that contain plant-based protein. Eating vegan is a whole new world that is fascinating and creative, and she thrived in it.

cooking segment on TV. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
cooking segment on TV

Appearing on a regular basis with a cooking segment on tv in Oregon and Washington, and teaching cooking classes with From Estee’s Kitchen, Raviv is happy to share the things that she is cooking for her family every day.

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
My book in store

Her cookbook, Oy Vey Vegan, includes recipes that she uses every single day. It’s an excellent tool for people that want to eat vegan and don’t know how, as it includes simple and accessible global recipes using fresh ingredients. Most recipe ingredients are in the fridge or pantry all the time, and there are also traditional Jewish dishes with a vegan spin. Examples include vegan pate, which is a staple in every Jewish holiday meal, and matzo ball soup, which she recreated into a vegan version (without eggs) and says, “it tastes better than the traditional dish.”

My herb garden. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
My herb garden

Raviv was most passionate about the joy of eating, remarking that “most if not all of the recipes in Oy Vey Vegan are guilt-free – you can eat and feel good about yourself, and don’t worry about quantities. If you put good things in your body, food is medicine, food is good – as long as you eat the right things, you can eat without guilt.”

As a takeaway from her cookbook, tv segments, cooking classes, and blog (i.e., her life’s work!), Raviv hopes that she can help people with health issues, by teaching about using food as preventive medicine. If you eat right, you can prevent so many diseases. Raviv said, “Act now – don’t wait to be sick, but start now – and change your opinion or stigma about veganism…there’s so much more to eat than seeds and lettuce. If you eat a balanced vegan meal that contains protein, you won’t be hungry, and will be super-satisfied. And if I can change other people’s lives, I’ll be very very happy.”

She loves to eat, is passionate about food, and can eat as much as she wants. Delicious food as preventive medicine? Sounds good to me.

Book signing event at New Seasons Market. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Book signing event at New Seasons Market

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Eggplant, salads, tempeh, quiches. I love to cook mostly everything! I love to cook, period:)

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Fruits, vegetables, tempeh and Almond milk.

What do you cook at home?
Everything vegan, mainly recipes from my book and new recipes that I develop. Today, for example, I made a sprouted lentil salad with orange slices and sunflower seeds, homemade hummus and stuffed eggplants.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
First, I love people that love to eat. People that appreciate good healthy food, and people that are passionate about food in general.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? People that are not open to try new food. People that think that vegan food is not satisfying food or not good food.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex for sure.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Crossroads cookbook author Tal Ronnen

Cooking at my outdoor kitchen. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Cooking at my outdoor kitchen

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Food processor

Your favorite ingredient?
Love avocado, every day! Year round!

Your least favorite ingredient?
Margarine – does not exist in my kitchen

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean up

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Hard to choose because I love so many but Probably Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Tofu

Favorite vegetable?
Eggplant

Chef you most admire?
Giada de Laurentis

Teaching a cooking class. i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe
Teaching a cooking class

Food you like the most to eat?
Kale salad with crunchy tempeh on top…and avocado, of course

Food you dislike the most?
Bok choy

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Travel with my family / barre class / hikes with my husband /

Who do you most admire in food?
My mom – she is an amazing and creative cook

Where is your favorite place to eat?
If to be honest, at home but I do like to eat out in an Ethiopian cuisine, or at Jory restaurant at the Allison inn and spa (Oregon wine country)

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not my thing

 

Recipe: Vegan Stuffed Peppers

i8tonite with Oy Vey Vegan Author Estee Raviv & Vegan Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Growing up, my mom used to make stuffed peppers all the time. And I loved it! Of course, she used meat and rice in her recipe. I recreated it vegan-style and it turned out so flavorful! No meat is necessary to create an amazing stuffed peppers dish.

Ingredients:

6 colorful bell peppers

Filling:

1 teaspoon olive oil

4 cup celery stalks, chopped

4 green onions – chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 cup pearl barley or brown rice

1/4 cup quinoa

1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

salt

pepper

Sauce:

1 1/2 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon no chicken base

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon agave

Salt

Pepper

 

Directions:

For the filling:

In a sauce pan on medium heat add olive oil, celery, green onions, salt and pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes.

Add the spices: turmeric, paprika and onion powder, Saute for a couple more minutes, then add the pearl barley, quinoa, boiling water. Lower the heat and let simmer until all the water have evaporated. Add parsley or cilantro, mix and Set aside.

For the sauce:

Add all the ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

For the peppers:

Cut the top part of the peppers and keep it to cover the peppers after you fill them. (You can remove the green core.)

Scoop out the seeds.

Place the peppers in a wide pan; try to fit the peppers tightly.

Fill the peppers with the filling mixture and cover them with the top part of the pepper.

Pour the sauce over the peppers and let simmer for an hour, or until the peppers are soft.

Every 10-15 minutes, take a spoon and pour some sauce on the peppers, to keep them moist and flavorful.

Be creative and you can always use the filling in any other veggie you like. This specific filling is super light because it has a large content of the celery, and a lesser amount of carbs.

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeNicole Gulotta is a writer, editor, and tea enthusiast. She’s the author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017), and pens a blog by the same name. I first discovered Nicole’s website years ago, when looking for travel guides that encompassed both bookstores and great food. What gems Eat This Poem’s literary city guides are – written by those in the know, so it’s a local’s guide to goodness, when you travel. Nicole’s website is fill of musings on cooking – and life, and is one that I turn to again and again.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeImagine my elation when I saw Nicole’s new book being created, published, and released (next week!). I caught up with Nicole in sunny California, while snowbound in Michigan, and asked her about writing a combination of food and poetry. She noted that while she had been writing the blog for several years, and had felt rooted in the combination of food and poetry, she was approached by an editor about starting the book – and it felt like the right project at the right time. And while the gestation process for Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry was long, she had been writing of these topics for years, had found her footing with it, and was excited to do something more substantial with it – for which I am grateful.

When I delved into her history, I learned that while poetry arrived early in her life, food came much later – and so it wasn’t a natural fit to pair the two. But Nicole noted that when you can step away from your life experiences and look at them, it enables those insightful moments to happen.

The Eat This Poem cookbook features more than 75 new recipes paired alongside verse from 25 of America’s most beloved poets. Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

You know me – when I asked what she hoped readers take away from the book, Nicole said, “The idea of being still in a kitchen, and having food and poetry be an opportunity to do something that takes care of yourself and the people around you as well. Our lives are so rushed and busy and we have all these things to do…and I want people to feel like they can indulge in poetry and food and ENJOY that, even if only for a brief moment.”

And, when I asked about poetry, Nicole (a life-long poetry lover) remarked, “Poetry is so great because it really keeps you rooted in the moment/present, and if you read a poem it might take a short time (or longer), but it is a special, be-present time. You can do this and inspire your day!”

Indeed – food and poetry are the perfect combination for stillness, thoughtfulness, and a good life.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Something Italian, like bolognese that simmers for hours

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Homemade almond milk, Dijon mustard, a wedge of Parmesan, and eggs from the farmers’ market

What do you cook at home?
I keep things simple, especially Monday through Friday, like quick bean tacos, lentil curry, and pasta with whatever fresh vegetables are in season.

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

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Chewing with your mouth open

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Nigel Slater’s writing is so welcoming and poetic

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeYour favorite kitchen tool?
My Japanese chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Garlic. It’s the beginning of everything.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Dried fennel

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Empty the dishwasher

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Indian, and Mexican. But these days, anything I can get on the table in under 30 minutes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef, medium rare, with a touch of flaky salt on top

Favorite vegetable?
I know they’re technically a fruit, but tomatoes have my heart every summer. I also love roasted cauliflower.

Chef you most admire?
Suzanne Goin

Food you like the most to eat?
Always pasta, preferably spaghetti with a slice of garlic bread alongside

Food you dislike the most?
A poorly dressed salad

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Spend time with my son

Who do you most admire in food?
Anyone who helps support local farmers, treats animals and the environment with respect, and values seasonal cooking

Where is your favorite place to eat?
My kitchen table, or Bestia, in downtown Los Angeles

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

Recipe: Energizing Orange Smoothie

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

In a high speed blender, add 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 chopped carrot, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 small piece of peeled ginger (1-inch), ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1 cup ice.

Process until smooth, and garnish with chia seeds, if desired.

 

Find Nicole on social media:

Twitter: twitter.com/nicolegulotta
Instagram: instagram.com/nicolegulotta
Facebook: facebook.com/eatthispoem
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ngulotta/

 

  – The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with New Irish Table’s Leslie Conron Carola & Cod and Octopus Recipe

When we visited Ireland, I fell in love with the food. Not only that famous brown bread, and the smooth, creamy butter, but the seafood chowder that we ordered at almost every meal, and the hearty breakfasts, and the Guinness stew, and the seafood, and…well, you get the picture. But most of all, what I admired and happily ate was the creativity and local ingredients that went into each meal.

Imagine my joy at finding a cookbook, The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs , that celebrates new Irish food, by chefs that are leading the charge for creativity in Ireland’s artisanal food movement. They come from all four of Ireland’s provinces (including Northern Ireland), and each shares a menu of recipes.

i8tonite with New Irish Table's Leslie Conron Carola & Cod and Octopus RecipeI learned more about Ireland, and its food, than I imagined gleaning from a book – and am inspired to not only cook these delicious recipes, but to head to Ireland and visit their restaurants.

Luckily for us, I was able to chat with editor Leslie Conron Carola, who is the owner and director of Arena Books Associates, LLC, has produced many illustrated books, including Ireland: A Luminous Beauty; Spectacular Ireland, and Ireland’s Treasure’s with Peter Harbison. The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland’s Top Chefs is published by Charlesbridge.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Hmm-that depends on the season for particulars, but it’s always fresh, fresh, fresh and as-local-as-possible. Lots of fresh vegetables and fruit and again as-local-as-possible meat and fish (with exceptions, of course. I love Chilean sea bass, and salmon, and shrimp!).

Quickly sautéed and/or roasted fish or chicken with lightly steamed or grilled fresh vegetables, and/or a lightly-dressed salad. Fresh herbs and lemon and a bit of butter doesn’t hurt!

Carpaccio of Scallops with Chilli, Lemon, and Wood Sorrel Recipe by Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shannagary, Co. Cork. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Carpaccio of Scallops with Chilli, Lemon, and Wood Sorrel
Recipe by Chef Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shannagary, Co. Cork.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Chicken broth–homemade when possible; fresh vegetables and cheese, yogurt. A piece of chocolate.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Conversation- sharing ideas and the pleasure of eating a well-prepared meal, a meal engaging our senses. It doesn’t have to be a complex meal.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
No conversation and very quick eating without much enjoyment.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Alice Waters

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Vitamix and sharp knives

Orange, Spinach, and Salmon Salad Recipe by Chef Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Glenealy, Ashford, Co. Wicklow. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Orange, Spinach, and Salmon Salad
Recipe by Chef Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken House and Cookery School in Glenealy, Ashford, Co. Wicklow.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Natural, seasonal, fresh. And Italian and French, and, of course, what the Irish chefs are preparing!

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chicken and pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Oof, this is difficult, I love many: spinach, broccoli, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, fresh tomatoes and salad vegetables.

Chef you most admire?
Alice Waters. And all these Irish chefs: Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Kevin Dundon, Martin Bealin, Ian Orr, Ultan Cooke, Noel McMeel, etc.

Food you like the most to eat?
Again, that depends on the season, but hearty soups, stews, and wonderful Italian food are lovely complements to wintry days. And lighter weather suggests lightly prepared fresh vegetables and meat or fish. With fresh berries or other fruit to top it off.

Food you dislike the most?
Heavy meat organs.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Concerts, operas, museums and galleries, and reading

Potato, Prawn, and Lime Soup Recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. Wexford. From The New Irish Table: Recipes from Ireland's Top Chefs
Potato, Prawn, and Lime Soup
Recipe by Chef Kevin Dundon of Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. Wexford.

Who do you most admire in food?
In the U.S.: Alice Waters and the late MFK Fisher. In Ireland: Darina Allen, Derry Clarke, Kevin Dundon, Ian Orr, and all the Irish chefs in The New Irish Table.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A comfortable home dining room or terrace, or a quiet restaurant.

What is your favorite restaurant?
U.S.: Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA; Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, Balthazar (for needed steak frites), and Eataly is a lot of fun in NYC. Lots of choices.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Not a one!

Recipe: Cod, Octopus, Purple Broccoli, Broccoli Puree, and Horseradish Mayonnaise

Recipe by Chef Derry Clarke of l’Ecrivain, Co. Dublin

FOR THE OCTOPUS
2 qts/2 L court bouillon
1 octopus (2 lb/1 kg)

FOR THE BROCCOLI PUREE
2 medium size heads of broccoli, shaved and cleaned

FOR THE HORSERADISH MAYONNAISE
1 egg yolk
1 tsp mustard
1 lemon
2/3 cup/150 ml vegetable oil plus more to sauté the cod
2 tbsp/40 g horseradish, grated

FOR THE COD
4 cod fillets

FOR THE PURPLE BROCCOLI
¼ lb/100 g purple sprouting broccoli

In a deep pot, add the court bouillon and the octopus and simmer for 1 ½ hours until tender. Remove and chill. Portion octopus into 1 ½ in /4 cm pieces.

Place the egg yolk into a small bowl and add the mustard and a squeeze of lemon juice. Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil until thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the grated horseradish.

Bring a pot of water to boil and add a little salt. Cut and blanch the 2 heads of broccoli in the salted water for 2 minutes. Remove and squeeze out the excess water with a kitchen cloth or towel. Discard the water. Place the broccoli in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season and chill to keep a bright green color.

Season the fish fillets with salt and pepper.

Heat a pan with a little oil on a high heat, and place the cod skin side down and turn heat to low. Cook for about 4 minutes until the skin is crispy and golden. Turn the fish over, add butter and lemon juice, and cook for 1 minute.

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the purple broccoli for 1 ½ minutes until tender. Season.

Heat broccoli puree in a pot until warm.

Heat a little butter in a pan and toss the octopus pieces in the butter until warm. Season with salt and pepper, and add a teaspoon of chopped parsley or dill.

To serve, place a few spoons of broccoli puree and some purple broccoli on a plate and arrange a cod fillet on top. Garnish with the octopus and horseradish mayonnaise.

Serves 4
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe’s Cornbread Recipe

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeWhat do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.

Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeStop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats

What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer

Your favorite ingredient?
Cilantro

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Your least favorite ingredient?
Liquid smoke

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Latin

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Golden Beets

Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence

Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught

Food you dislike the most?
Overcooked Beef

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe

 

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix

Directions:
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast’s Michael Zee and Idli Recipe

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeWhen I asked Michael Zee, author of the incredibly beautiful cookbook and popular Instagram, SymmetryBreakfast, what inspired him each morning, to create such lovely meals? Well, I bet you won’t be surprised by his answer: “I love to cook a lovely meal for Mark to make breakfast a special moment for both of us.”

SymmetryBreakfast incorporates world cuisines, contemporary design and a story of love over the meal of breakfast. Featured in the Guardian, Washington Post, Telegraph, Bravo, and endorsed by Jamie Oliver, it is also a favourite account of Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO and co-founder.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Dutch Puff

Michael studied photography at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth in 2003 and later went on to teach Art and Design in secondary schools in London’s East End. He then completed his masters in Museums and Galleries in Education and went to work in public programming at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

He now works on SymmetryBreakfast full time.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Tapioca Pancakes

Michael’s passion for cooking comes from his parents. His mixed English, Scottish and Chinese heritage. Weekends and school holidays would be spent working in his father’s Chinese and English chippies in Liverpool and teaching himself to bake for his mother’s sweet tooth.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Churros y jamon con cajeta–hurros with ham and caramel dipping sauce © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Michael created SymmetryBreakfast for his partner Mark in their Hackney flat in 2013. Mark’s hectic job as a menswear fashion designer means late nights and weekends in the office. Early on in their relationship, breakfast became a sacred moment in the day and Michael started on his mission to make each meal as celebratory as possible. Over 1,000 breakfasts later, Michael still wakes up early to make breakfast for Mark, looking carefully around the world and at home for inspiration, taking a simple idea and making it beautiful.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli RecipeHis new cookbook, SymmetryBreakfast, contains over 100 recipes from around the world. The book takes an anthropological view of how food shapes culture and vice versa and how in the many different ways we break the fast.

The book has been published by Transworld (part of Penguin Random House) in the UK and Commonwealth, by PowerHouse in North America and by Shanghai Insight in mainland China.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Kaiserschmarrn with redcurrants © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

How long have you been cooking?
Since I was about 5 years old in our family restaurant in Liverpool. It was a Chinese food and English fish and chip takeaway (very popular in Liverpool and probably nowhere else!)

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh pasta. It becomes such an event and is so much fun to do with friends, whilst having a glass or bottle of wine, one person turns the handle and the other feeds it through. You get in a huff when it goes wrong, but it’s pure joy when it comes out perfect.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Pastel de nata-Egg custard tarts © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter. If there isn’t any then something is wrong

What do you cook at home?
Absolutely everything from every country and cuisine possible.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Being British, I only have one Pyrex thing in my kitchen and it’s a measuring jug.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All three in that order.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ernest Matthew Mickler of White Trash Cooking . One of my favourite books ever, too, food with soul and humour.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Magic grits © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku chef knife from Blenheim Forge

Your favorite ingredient?
Tea – its not just a drink! An Earl Grey infused gin or a tea smoked salmon are delicious and add excitement in so many ways. I have over 50 teas from The Rare Tea Company and I love that they can be paired in so many ways

Your least favorite ingredient?
Olives, can’t stand them.

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Indian Slapjacks

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Doing the dishes. It’s a luxury to have a dishwasher in London. I’m very happy Mark loves doing the washing up.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I love cooking Middle Eastern food. There are some fantastic shops and markets in East London that you can get fresh pistachios or pomegranate molasses easier than getting white sliced bread.

I also have a soft spot for French country cooking, things like Soupe à L’oignon or Pot-au-feu. I also have a deep love for Comte cheese and particularly love a Tartine au jambon et Comte

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
A Japanese Breakfast Gohan Shoku Salmon With Green Beans And Tofu

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
I’d prefer to say a pig rather than pork. I love crispy belly pork or char sui pork, but lets not forget jamon and a glass of wine.

Favorite vegetable?
Aubergine, or as you might call it, eggplant. Roasted whole on a fire and mashed with some olive oil.

Chef you most admire?
Jamie Oliver – he’s changed the way the majority of people eat in the UK for the better.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese, in every form

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Cassava Porridge

Food you dislike the most?
Dark chocolate, I also hate it when people pretend to like it because it’s somehow cool. Give me the cheapest milkiest chocolate any day.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None!

Recipe: Idli – South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea

i8tonite with SymmetryBreakfast's Michael Zee and Idli Recipe
Idli-South Indian fermented rice pancakes with masala chai spiced tea © Michael Zee / SymmetryBreakfast

Makes about 20 idli

3 cups rice (long–grain is fine)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1⁄2 cup water
1 cup black gram lentils (urad dal)
3 tsp salt
Oil for greasing the pans

Start in the morning of the day before you’d like to eat – as I said, some forward planning is required. In a bowl, mix the rice with the fenugreek seeds and cover with the water. In another bowl, put the urad dal and cover with water. Leave both bowls for a minimum of 5 hours.

The evening of the day before eating, drain the water from the rice but don’t discard it. Put the wet rice in a blender and add 1⁄2 cup of the water. Blend until you have a smooth batter, adding extra water, a little at a time, until it flows easily. Decant this into a large bowl and repeat with the dal (start with 1⁄4 cup of water this second time, as you should have some residual liquid in the blender).

Add the liquid dal to the rice with the salt and mix together using your hands. The bacteria on your skin will help kickstart the fermentation. Leave this covered overnight to ferment in a warm oven; I leave the oven light on. Depending on the time of year, this process will give different results, but you should have a huge, bubbling white mass.

The day of eating, give the batter a good stir. The consistency should be that of thick cream.

Prepare your idli pan by lightly oiling each of the sections with either a brush or a paper towel. Fill the bottom of the pan with water, making sure it doesn’t touch the idli holder. Ladle in enough batter to reach just beneath the edge; you’ll get some rise but not lots.

Steam the idli for 20 minutes with the lid firmly clamped on.

Remove the idli with a wet spoon, running it round the edge of each pancake. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with sambar and coconut chutney.

Leftovers can be transformed into idli fry, a delicious snack of deep fried idli served with a dip, chutney, or sauce of your choosing and a cup of tea.

– The End. Go Eat  –

All photos courtesy and copyright Michael Zee/SymmetryBreakfast

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash​ Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFor over 25 years, Annie Mahle has honed her craft with both knife and pen. Annie and her husband, Captain Jon Finger, run the Maine windjammer, the Schooner J. & E. Riggin. Not only is Annie a maritime captain, she also is the captain and chef of her galley, where she has been cooking meals on her cast iron wood stove, Lucy. In the winter, she continues to create new recipes and shares them on her recipe and lifestyle blog, At Home & At Sea. Her third cookbook, Sugar & Salt: A Year At Home and At Sea – Book Two is the second in a series of cookbooks featuring a collection of recipes, crafts, thoughts, and stories from Chef Annie’s adventurous life on the coast of Maine.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe
Lucy

Chef Mahle notes, “In Sugar & Salt, I share more memories, stories, and recipes that are inspired by my life on the coast of Maine. Whether it’s through my cooking, crafts, or gardening, I’m always creating, and I hope that this book will be a inspiration for the reader.”

 

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

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

How long have you been cooking?
My first cooking memory is of canning tomatoes with my grandma in her kitchen. Several years later, I had a love affair with chocolate chip cookies. I started cooking professionally after I graduated from college and haven’t looked back!

What is your favorite food to cook?
Anything from the garden but kohlrabi.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Half and half, kale, leftovers.

What do you cook at home?
All of the comfort food.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love someone who is willing to try something new. Like oysters. And really savor that first bite.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Boorish or selfish sorts who are unaware of how much airtime and space they take up.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Ball jar.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine. Red. Although I do love creating new cocktails.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lori Colwin, Laura Brody, Dorie Greenspan. I wish I liked James Beard more.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My santoku. One day I wasn’t thinking and used the tip to pry something open. Rookie move. The tip broke. But then Jon, my husband, ground the tip down to look like a blunt sailor’s knife and I love it.

Your favorite ingredient?
Flour. Or eggs. They can become so many creations.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Kohlrabi. Hate it.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean.

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash RecipeFavorite types of cuisine to cook?
The type you eat with family and friends.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork. Flavor, flavor, flavor.

Favorite vegetable?
A ripe tomato picked just off the vine on a warm summer day.

Chef you most admire?
Is it a cliché if I say Julia Child? Well, it’s true.

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m loving poached eggs, kale, and avocado for breakfast right now.

Food you dislike the most?
Food that is too clever for its own good. The sort that looks like the height of art on the plate, but leaves you still feeling hungry and wishing for a burger.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I’ve never gotten a tattoo, but my crew has poked at me for years to get one. I think a tattoo would bore me after a time. If I did get one, it would be a ring of a knife, fork, and spoon around my wrist or bicep.

Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash with Poached Eggs and Asparagus Recipe

i8tonite with Maine Windjammer Chef Annie Mahle & Pork, Potato, and Parsnip Hash Recipe

Hash is usually made with leftover meat or fish from a previous meal. Feel free to substitute beef, pollock, or other flavorful fish in place of the pork.
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 1⁄2 cups diced parsnips, peeled; about 2 parsnips
5 cups diced red potatoes; about 11⁄2 pounds or 6 potatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion; about 1 medium onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic; about 1 clove garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
several grinds fresh black pepper
1 pound cooked pork shoulder or other tender pork meat, pulled apart with a fork into bite sized pieces
1 pound asparagus, ends cut or snapped off; about 1 bunch
Poached Eggs
Herbed Salt (recipe below)

Directions:
Place the parsnips and potatoes in a wide saucepan and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until tender when poked with a fork. Remove from water with a basket strainer or slotted spoon and set aside. Keep the water hot for the asparagus. In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil and onion. Sauté until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the parsnips, potatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until the potatoes begin to brown. Add the pork and sauté until the pork is warm. Remove from heat and cover.

Add the asparagus to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute or until the asparagus is tender. Timing will vary with the thickness of the stalks. Remove from water with tongs, transfer to a platter and cover. To the same pot of water, add the vinegar (from Poached Egg recipe) and poach the eggs. Plate the hash, asparagus, and poached eggs and sprinkle the eggs with a pinch of Herbed Salt.

Herbed Salt
Makes about 2 tablespoons

1 tablespoon kosher salt
1⁄2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill

In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Store in a glass jar indefinitely.

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeChef David Pan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota – one of my favorite towns in the world! After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Mendota Heights, he began his career at WA Frost in St. Paul with Chef Russell Kline. WA Frost, one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities, is a leading culinary institution in the Midwest, winning multiple awards, including the “AAA” Tour book 3 Diamond Rating – they also have a great outdoor patio, FYI. Pan noted, when I expressed my joy at eating at Frost, that it was a great place to start! He said, “they have a great culinary vibe – everyone is there because they love to cook. There are hard core line cooks!”

He then moved on to the prestigious Minneapolis Club, one of the last invitation only clubs in the US, and his culinary skills were put to test cooking for the elite clientele. Pan spent his summers in Gustavus, Alaska working at The Gustavus Inn, a 2010 James Beard America’s Classics Award Winner. There, he worked side by side with the chef – being a prep cook, gardening, washing dishes, driving a van, and learning how to do just about everything! Pan remarked, “It was the first time I’d been outside of my comfort zone – getting fish straight from the ocean, growing vegetables in a very short summer. It was eye-opening to work with vegetables straight out of the ground, and learn the difference between something processed. I now have a great appreciation for fresh veg – from seed to harvest. When I think of the fresh (and small!) strawberries there, they were so potent and delicious. It changes how you think of foods.”

Pan moved to the Gulf Coast in 2013, and had the honor of working for Chef Bill Briand of Fishers Orange Beach as well as working for Eric Beech of Brick and Spoon. He worked very long days for 14 months, and then made a big life decision. In 2015, he and his wife launched Orange Beach Concierge, one of the only private dining services in the Orange Beach area. He said that there is a big fear to step out on your own, and lose the stability of a full-time job.

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeHowever, he’s doing many private events, and loving it. From private chef work to themed weddings (a recent Greek-themed wedding saw him making gyros meat from scratch, as well as kebabs, hummus, tabbouli, and every kind of traditional Greek food – and they loved it) and smaller events. When he described his menus, well, I started thinking about a trip down south. He’s very talented – and creative. His kitchen at Orange Beach Concierge specializes in locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible – and that that healthy dining should and CAN BE convenient – as well as affordable.

I asked (as a former Minnesotan myself) what changed about his cooking, when he moved south. He laughed, and said he couldn’t help but be influenced by the South! A man after my own travel heart, he said that “one of the greatest parts of traveling and cooking is that you are influenced by that area, and you take it with you in your education and life experience. I never want to stop – I always want to travel and eat and learn as much as I can about foods (especially locally sourced) and different places.”

I also queried him about what new foods he loves, living down south. Don’t be surprised that he answered fresh seafood, especially  oysters. He shared how delicate they are, and how sensitive they are to the environment that they grow in. Pan also noted that with the longer growing season (than Alaska, for sure, but also Minnesota), the agricultural environment in Alabama is abundant and great. The corn is amazing, and there is definitely a bbq scene (I laughed when he said that chefs “have to be on your game because many bbq critics will let you know if you know how to cook pork or not. I passed the pork test…”).

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe
Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée, Chef David’s way. Traditional French Cooking for the current times. This is the winning dish for the FLAVOR category at #thewharfuncorked2016.

Pan earned the Flavor Award at the Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival in Orange Beach. His style is traditional French cooking for current times; his winning dish was a Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée. Held in mid-September, the three day event combined tastings of delicious food and tantalizing wines, live entertainment, a pinch of southern flare, and a dash of Gulf Coast hospitality.

Chef Pan is relatively new to the coast but his culinary impact is already well known by his peers. His new storefront (a commercial kitchen, located at The Wharf), is available by appointment only for events, private chef table dinners, and more. Did you know that the Orange Beach area has about 5,000 year-round denizens, but over 6 million people visit from Memorial Day to Labor Day? That’s some kind of crazy tourist season (imagine private cheffing during the busy season!), and also influences his cooking the rest of the year, he noted. I expect we’ll hear much more about this innovatibve, interesting chef, who cares deeply for his fellow cooks, as well as his (lucky!) clientele.

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

How long have you been cooking?
16 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Roasting and brining proteins

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cream, and Wickles pickles

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeWhat do you cook at home?
Ramen – I use the noodles to make sticky noodles…never use the packet

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Willingness to be open and try new foods

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Taking issue with others without bringing it to me first. I can make anyone more pleased if I know there is an issue

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Your favorite cookbook author?
Thomas Keller

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My tongs

Your favorite ingredient?
Kosher salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Bouillon

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peel potatoes – I am allergic

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork (Bacon)

Favorite vegetable?
Carrots

Chef you most admire?
Francis Mallman

Food you like the most to eat?
Pizza

Food you dislike the most?
Whole olives

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not sure if I will ever go there.

Recipe: Chargrilled Oysters

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

1 lb butter room temperature
1 large shallot minced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 fresh lemons squeezed
2 tbsp creole seasoning
1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
Hot sauce to taste
Worchestershire sauce, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan shredded

24 oysters shucked, toss top shell
French bread crostini or favorite saltine crackers to complement

Directions:

Fire grill
Reach 500 degrees and hold
Combine all ingredients except oysters in KitchenAid and mix
1 tbsp of mixture on shucked oyster
Place oysters on grill
Cook for 4 minutes, lid closed
Remove from grill
Squeeze fresh lemon juice on each oyster and serve and enjoy!

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Traverse City’s amical Chef Dave Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie RecipeTraverse City, Michigan is a special place. Globally known as an incredibly beautiful location, there’s so much more to Traverse City than Sleeping Bear Dunes, named the most beautiful place in America. It seems that everyone here loves food, as you can tell from the array of incredible restaurants, second homes of well-known chefs, and a farm to table movement that has been going on for over a hundred years.

Two of the things I love most about TC are the friendliness and sense community. Whenever I head north from our cottage an hour south, I ask my friend Mike Norton, of Traverse City Tourism, for a recommendation. He’s got the goods, and knows the best in town (including his contributions for my 50 best Midwest Coffee Roasters, but I digress). Mike recommended amical restaurant to me a while back, and I couldn’t wait to share this favorite restaurant with our readers.

Owner and Chef Dave Denison is one of those people you immediately love. He’s funny, creative, and extremely interesting. You’d pick him, if you were going to be stuck on a desert island (hopefully, his chef knife would come with him, because I would be carrying sunscreen). He started by cooking at a young age, and has always worked in restaurants. When he moved out west to California, he thought about getting out of this line of work. Luckily for us, his plan backfired, as he got a job at a growing chain restaurant, and moved up through the ranks and opened up restaurants all over the country for them.

Denison grew up in Southeast Michigan, as well as in Alamaba and Georgia. When he and his family decided to leave California and find a place to start a new restaurant, Traverse City fit the bill. He’s one of Traverse City’s top chefs, with his restaurant amical, which opened in 1994. amical started as a quick service gourmet cafeteria, and has evolved into a European-style bistro.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Denison remarked that they were fortunate in that through all these changes, their customers supported them and kept coming back.  He noted that “how amical started, to where we are now, is very, very different. We’ve always treated our guests and visitors with respect and knowing that they are the reason we are here.”

I was intrigued by his description of the local food scene. Denison said that “TC has obviously enjoyed national and international recognition over the last 10 years, and it’s well-deserved. It might look like it’s an overnight sensation, but people have worked a long time at their craft here, and many established chefs have been here for a while – in fact, moved to the area with the intention of practicing their craft, using local ingredients. Generations of families have been raising these local ingredients for 100+ years! The farm to table movement was always here, but we were able to utilize it well in our restaurants, and then people ‘discovered’ it. However, it’s always been going on in this area – now just on a bigger scale. This is an agricultural community that has lived for centuries with such natural beauty. We’re surrounded by farmers and people that create a bounty from the land, and we’re happy to be able to be a part of that legacy, and know that this will continue for quite some time.”

amical’s food is local, fresh, creative, and delicious. The staff are incredible – supportive, supported, and intent on creating an excellent dining experience in the community.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Cookbook School!

There’s one more thing you’ll love about amical – the annual Cookbook school, held during the winter months. Denison shared, “for those new to the series, this is what we do: once a month, our kitchen staff will create a week-long dinner menu that consists of recipes from a cookbook. You will find a nice blend of cookbooks from the past, previously featured chefs with new publications, and first time cookbooks. Over the past 19 years, the kitchen team has developed menus from over 100 different cookbooks…while preparing almost one thousand recipes. We credit our loyal patrons for their support and our staff for their passionate drive in making this series an incredible success.”

A community treasure, indeed. 

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
The winner of the big game gets milk and cookies! Go (your team here)!

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
“Professionally” since I was 15. My mom was, admittedly, a lousy cook, but for some reason I had an interest at an earlier age. She says it was due to my survival instincts.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Amish chicken with ancho chile cream and tomatillo salsa

What is your favorite food to cook?
I like to prepare hearty soups, especially during the winter months. Can you tell I’m from the Midwest?

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas (corn & flour)… and cheese – usually a St. Andre or a local chevre or Raclette. P’tit Basque, too.

What do you cook at home?
For a quick bite, it would be tacos. Or a stir fry.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Cardamom-Nutmeg Custard

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
The fact that they continue to return!

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Paranoia. A few people think “we’re out to get them” or treat them differently because they were late, not from around here, etc… and for the record, we are not, unless you are late or from another town. JK on that.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex, then it’s on to ziplocks.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail. Right now its tequila, ginger beer, and lime.

Your favorite cookbook author?
I plagiarize cookbook authors on a frequent basis. Everyone from Mario to Jamie Oliver are represented somewhere on our menus. Right now we are using Pickles, Pigs and Whisky recipes from John Currence. But Yotam Ottolenghi is quickly becoming a new favorite.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
A 10” French knife but I like having a good quality mandolin around. A garlic slicer is a neat little gadget to have around, too.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Garlic Shrimp, Potato Shells, Lamb Meatballs, and Mussels in Coconut-Chile Sauce

Your favorite ingredient?
Onions, onions of all kinds. Caramelized onions, grilled onions, roasted onions, onion soubise, fried onions, don’t forget the chives, red onion, Vidalia onion, green onions…

Your least favorite ingredient?
Eggplant. My mom would pan-fry it and pour maple syrup on it. Yikes! Did I mention she was not a very good cook? But I love you, mom!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Re-make a dish because we made a mistake.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Asian preparations for their versatility, quickness, and healthy attributes. Mexican is a close second.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
C’mon. Pork.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Heritage appetizers

Favorite vegetable?
Local asparagus. It’s only around up here for a few weeks in the Spring.

Chef you most admire?
One you would recognize would be Eric Ripert. Locally, it would be Harlan “Pete” Peterson of Tapawingo fame in Ellsworth, Michigan. He is so talented but incredibly humble. He just opened Alliance here in town. Already a favorite of many!

Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh seafood and shellfish. Walleye is a favorite. But put a fried egg on something and I’ll order it.

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe
Rice Centennial Farm Ribeye ready for the Carnivore menu.

Food you dislike the most?
I never really acquired a taste for calf’s liver. I’ll get my iron somewhere else, thank you. (<<Look left)

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None so far, but my wife has one. Does that count?

 

Recipe: amical’s Chicken Pot Pie

 

i8tonite with Traverse City’s Amical Chef David J. Denison & Chicken Pot Pie Recipe

Servings: 6
Size: 1.5 Cup(s)
Prep. Time: 0:35

Ingredients:
2 c chicken breast, cooked and diced
1/2 c carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 c celery, diced
half a medium onion, peeled and diced
1/2 c frozen peas
1 pound potatoes, peeled, cooked, diced
1 c mushrooms, sliced
1 c heavy whipping cream
1 c whole milk
1 T chervil
1/2 T dried basil
1/4 T salt
1/4 T pepper
2 c chicken stock
4 oz butter
1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 T grated parmesan
2 pieces puff pastry dough
1 egg, beaten

Directions
1. Saute vegetables in butter in a small stock pot.
2. When onions are translucent, add flour and mix. Simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add milk, cream, potatoes, stock, spices, and parmesan. Heat until sauce has thickened. Check for seasoning and proper thickness. Add more roux if needed.
4. Place filling in individual oven-proof dishes. Cut out a puff pastry dough lid to fit the top of the dish. Brush with eggwash and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until pastry is golden brown, and the filling bubbles.

– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

 

i8tonite with Minnesota’s Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs

i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached EggsMinnesota-born-and-bred writer Amy Rea loves food, and she loves the Minnesota State Fair. Fortunately for her, the two are combined each year, as the Fair offers up wildly creative (and sometimes wildly disgusting) new foods. Oh, and part of her writing work involves going with a crew from the food site Heavy Table to the first day of the Fair to try all the new foods, then report on them. Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. And, as any Minnesotan will tell you, the State Fair is a Big Deal. See that smile on her face? That’s  the joy of good fair food.

MN SF Buffalo Chicken in a Waffle Cone Topped w Sausage Gravy. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Buffalo Chicken in a Waffle Cone Topped w Sausage Gravy

Amy is the author of three guidebooks to Minnesota, and she blogs about Minnesota travel at wcco.com/wandermn and writes about Minnesota food at heavytable.com. She lives in a quiet suburb with her husband and their elderly, neurotic border collie, and lives for the times when her 20-somethings sons come to visit so she can cook for them. In between visits, her food writing draws me in every time. My favorite is her article about a traditional Ethopian coffee ceremony held locally – I love the diversity of people and food in the state, and she explores those so well in her writing.

MN SF Spam Sushi. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Spam Sushi

Take a look at all these Minnesota State Fair goodies – which would you pick? Thanks to Amy and Heavy Table’s hard work, we can narrow our options down when we hit the fair next summer. Thank you for this visual tour!

2016 Minnesota State Fair New Food Review from Save The BWCA on Vimeo.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Hash. Such a great way to use leftovers.

MN SF Cracker Jack Sundae. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Cracker Jack Sundae

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, fresh herbs, eggs, pickles, leftovers.

MN State Fair Pronto Pups. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who truly enjoys food and cares about it.

MN SF Salem Lutheran Dining Hall. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Salem Lutheran Dining Hall

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who goes to a well-regarded restaurant and orders a salad with the dressing on the side, eats half of it, and says Oh, I’m so full. Life is short. If you’re at a good eatery, enjoy it. You can skimp on calories somewhere else.

MN SF Sweet Martha's Cookies. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Sweet Martha’s Cookies

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Yes.

MN SF Sangria Beer with Iced Sangria on Top. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Sangria Beer with Iced Sangria on Top

Your favorite cookbook author?
Lynne Rossetto Kasper.

MN SF Grape Contest. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Grape Contest

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My Microplanes (although my new Instant Pot is creeping up the ladder of my affection).

MN State Fair Maple Syrup and Vinegar Contests. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN State Fair Maple Syrup and Vinegar Contests

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
American, Italian.

MN SF Craft Beer Hall. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Craft Beer Hall

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork. Also, salmon.

MN SF Fried Pickles and Cream Puffs. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Fried Pickles and Cream Puffs

Favorite vegetable?
A tie between summer tomatoes and Romanesco cauliflower.

MN SF Fried Green Tomatoes. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Fried Green Tomatoes

Chef you most admire?
Julia Child.

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta.

MN SF Turkey Legs Pork Chops on a Stick. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Turkey Legs Pork Chops on a Stick

Food you dislike the most?
Beets.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Hang out with my family, read, write, hike.

MN SF Princess Kay of the Milky Way Butter Carving in Process. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Princess Kay of the Milky Way Butter Carving in Process

Who do you most admire in food?
Anthony Bourdain.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
At home. Or a greasy spoon. Or someplace that’s authentically ethnic.

MN SF Oof-Da Tacos. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Oof-Da Tacos

What is your favorite restaurant?
Just one?? Masu, Bulldog NE, Ettlin’s Café, Quang Vietnamese.

MN SF Prince Themed Crop Art. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Prince Themed Crop Art

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No, but if I did, most of them would be food-related.

MN SF Bridgeman's La La Palooza Sundae. i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
MN SF Bridgeman’s La La Palooza Sundae

Tomato-Poached Eggs Recipe

This is something I learned from a friend on Twitter, and there are nearly countless ways to customize it. It’s especially fabulous when there are tomatoes at the farmer’s market.

. From i8tonite with Minnesota's Heavy Table Writer Amy Rea & Recipe for Tomato-Poached Eggs
Tomato-Poached Eggs

To serve 2:
Take a couple good-sized tomatoes (heirloom or standard slicers) and dice them (you don’t need to peel them, although you can if you want). Place them in a nonstick skillet with a couple of teaspoons of water. Heat over medium high until the tomato pieces begin to release their juices and bubble. Crack 4 eggs into the tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, and cover and cook the eggs to your desired doneness. Serve over polenta.

I’ve added various kinds of cheese and herbs to this, and put it over different kinds of grains (quinoa is good too), and it’s always delicious. But when tomatoes are at their best, I like to just let them shine here.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Amy Rea/Heavy Table