Category Archives: Cheese

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn Grits

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsIn September 2015, Chef Scott Simpson, along with his partners, opened the seafood restaurant, The Depot in Auburn, Alabama. It’s the  newest dining establishment in a town which is also home to the well-known University of Auburn. Overall, the southern enclave, although small compared to larger urban areas, is home to more than sixty thousand individuals, mostly employed by the liberally based higher learning institution.

It’s a far cry from the Southern California beaches where Simpson grew up and many of the global culinary regions where his chef skills were perfected. For more than a decade, Simpson worked at the JW Marriott, first in Palm Springs and then, cheffing at the property in Quito, Ecuador. He joined Capella Hotel Group, luxury hotelier, as the opening chef for many of their new global properties. He skillfully crafted menus for the room and boards’ restaurants in Mumbai, Bali, Mexico, Singapore, the Caribbean, and domestically, in the United States south including Washington D.C, Virginia Beach, and then to Auburn. At each global stop, Simpson acquired cooking nuances used in each cuisine.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsSimpson says of The Depot, “It’s not Auburn’s normal cuisine. The area hasn’t had global food, so our objective was for the eating experience to be educational yet still be identifiable as having Southern roots.”

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsHoused in a former train station, The Depot was reincarnated as a restaurant, a Southern hospitality showcase to its Victorian birth and former life as a transportation hub. Original black and white tiled floors have a polished sheen, a massive shining chandelier dusts a warm glow over the tufted, leather booths and wooden tables. It’s breathtaking food hall for Simpson to display his virtuosity, skillfully turning the former rail station into a delicious seafood brasserie. From the menu descriptions, there’s an international traveler and culinary master manning the stove, with the flash fried cobia wings served with a buffalo buerre blanc, blackened amberjack with a hoppin’ john risotto, short rib osso buco with an ancho demi glaze. Each item plucked  is an ode to the Deep South combined with an international flavor.

With The Depot under Simpson’s adroit cookery talent, Auburn may have a destination restaurant to rival any of the big cities. Luckily, for the college town, Simpson is calling it home.

CHEF QUESTIONNAIRE (with a nod to Proust): 

How long have you been cooking?  Since I was 8. I have a picture of me on a chair so I could reach the stove and first cooked an omelet.

What is your favorite food to cook? Super fresh Seafood (It’s also my favorite NOT to cook – nothing like a delicious crudo or sashimi).

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsWhat do you always have in your fridge at home? Kerrygold butter, fresh garlic, cilantro, Hass avocados, lemons. Local farm eggs, cooked rice, raw tortillas, an array of international condiments ,and at least 3 distinct varieties of cheeses and some Albarino chilling.

What do you cook at home? “Somma Pasta” – I like to open my fridge and make a simple and spontaneous some-of-this and some-of-that dish. I love making creative pasta dishes. I received formal culinary training in Florence, and pasta is always a comforting and quick dish to make.

What marked characteristic(s) do you love in a customer? Adventuresome diners eager to step outside their norm and willing to trust me to introduce them to a new flavor or dish. Sharing guests who have enough appetite to keep tasting and tasting and sharing dish after dish at their table. AppreciativeI love customers who understand this is my artwork, I crave feedback and comments, I am always waiting to hear their honest assessment of the dish.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsWhat marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer? I confess I am disappointed in those guests who come in, smile, and say “everything was so wonderful and delicious,” and then terrorize you later that week on Social Media.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? We use clear square Cambro’s in the restaurant to be more space efficient and reduce potential breakage. At home, my wife and I like more eco-friendly, Pyrex style glass containers. They don’t get scratched from scrubbing or stained from a curry or a Spicy tomato sauce.

Beer, wine, or cocktail? Wine: I spent a lot of my life working in restaurants with amazing wine cellars. I am totally spoiled and have a strong appreciation for the pleasure of wine with food. Plus, I’ve never read a Bible story of Jesus changing water into anything else but wine.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsYour favorite cookbook author? I really respect the meticulous research and commitment to the authenticity of chefs like Rick Bayless or Marcella Hazan. Many other chefs throw all that out the window in order to market a gimmicky twist. Many longstanding recipes and techniques are the way they are for a reason.

Your favorite kitchen tool?  Tasting spoons.

Your favorite ingredient? I think Garlic is delicious in most anything and the same for a squeeze of fresh lemon…and never underestimate the difference a great sea salt like Maldon makes.

Your least favorite ingredient? Sugar!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Waste something.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsFavorite types of cuisine to cook? I really enjoy cooking Latin inspired dishes. Certainly I remain humbled by true Indian Cuisine. Still I try to satisfy myself with a semblance of Indian cooking I enjoyed there while working with some of the very best Chefs in all of India.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? I love them all, but beef is hands down what I most often crave – after fresh seafood. I start salivating when I see a tender juicy medium-rare steak. Fewer things are more satisfying than slicing into a perfectly cooked piece of properly aged, high-quality, well-marbled meat.

Favorite vegetable? Super tough question! Frequently I incorporate exotic mushrooms, or eggplant, which enhances many dishes. Also, I enjoy a very simple side of Sea Salt Maple Roasted Carrots that we pair with our Pecan Brown Butter Trout. Right now, I’m featuring some delicious Malabar spinach, rainbow chard, and Red Mustard frills, which are fresh and seasonal here in Auburn, Alabama.

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn GritsChef you most admire? I admire Jamie Oliver, simple pure style of cooking, his obvious, passionate enjoyment of cooking. More importantly, he aspires to more than selfish glory or feeding his own pocketbook – he puts his popularity and voice to much better use.

Food you like the most to eat? I enjoy bold spicy flavors. The cuisine of the Sun and Sea.

Food you dislike the most? Unauthentic, “mis-prepared” or ruined ethnic specialties.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? My art is all edible.

 

Recipe: Chef Scott Simpson’s Blue Corn Grits

i8tonite: Chef Scott Simpson from Auburn, Alabama’s The Depot and Blue Corn Grits

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 qt. water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 ½ tablespoons butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons mascarpone
  • Crumbled artisan bleu cheese to taste

Preparation

1. Bring salt and water to a boil in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Whisk in grits, and cook, whisking constantly, 45 seconds. Scrape bottom and sides of the pot.
2. Return to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook 20 to 25 minutes or until tender. (For a looser consistency, whisk in 2 to 4 Tbsp. water halfway through cooking.)
3. Stir in butter and mascarpone until fully melted. Garnish with artisan crumbled bleu cheese and serve immediately.

The end. Go eat.

(All photos courtesy of The Depot)

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee

The largest city in Wisconsin, Milwaukee is perhaps best known for beer and a great Midwestern immigrant tradition (think delicious Polish and German food!). Today, you can celebrate those cultures with food, events (Irish Fest and German Fest, an 11 day music festival, the largest Bastille Day celebration in the US – it’s a city of festivals), and entire neighborhoods that represent immigrant communities (hello, South Side!). All of this – plus an extremely beautiful location, right along Lake Michigan, mean that this is a place that is serious about food, culture, and enjoying the best of life with friends and family.

i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee

There’s so much to do, from visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Discovery World science center to shopping the Milwaukee Public Market to sports galore. But let’s be honest – we’re all about the food and beverages here.

Did you know that Milwaukee has historically been famous for beer? Yes, that strong German tradition carried over across the pond, and Milwaukee was the #1 beer producing city in the US for many years, with local breweries Schlitz, Pabst, Miller, and Blatz being the largest in the nation. The only large brewery still in town is Miller (you can see their impact all over town, notably with Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team). But in keeping with that brewing culture and tradition, as well as a diverse population and close proximity to Chicago, there is SO MUCH to eat, drink, and explore here. It’s not just about the beer any more.

What surprises visitors most is the quality and diversity of great eats here. You can find global meals, innovative American cuisine, a fantastic public market, and traditional Friday Fish Fries.

What are you waiting for?

Breakfast: Blue’s Egg

A perfect way to start the day is a meal at Blue’s Egg, a brunch spot serving traditional items as well favorites with a modern twist, with an emphasis on from-scratch cooking and locally sourced ingredients. If you’re looking for something more traditional, choose a dish from the “basics” section of the menu: a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes; thick French toast with sausage or thick-cut cherry wood bacon; or two eggs any style with choice of meat, slices of toast with butter or jam, and fresh-cut hash browns (with just the right amount of crisp).

Florentine Benedict: poached eggs, fresh spinach, beefsteak tomatoes, house-made English muffin, and hollandaise. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Florentine Benedict: poached eggs, fresh spinach, beefsteak tomatoes, house-made English muffin, and hollandaise. Photo: Blue’s Egg

In addition to the classic eggs benedict, Blue’s Egg offers the Dubliner (corned beef, leeks, rye toast, paprika aioli) and the Florentine (fresh spinach, beef-steak tomatoes, English muffin, hollandaise sauce). Menu standouts include the hoppel poppel (scrambled eggs, cream, sausage, bacon, caramelized onions, shredded potatoes, spinach, toast, hollandaise sauce); the blue crab cake (mixed greens, poached eggs, pickled peppers, challah toast, remoulade sauce); and corned beef hash made in-house (the best ever). A lunch menu is available Monday to Friday in addition to the brunch items and offers burgers and sandwiches with hand-cut fries, soups, and salads, but once you see the overflowing plates of eggs, bacon, and toast being delivered to other tables, you will want to stick with the brunch menu. Blue’s Egg also serves creative cocktails, wine, local beers, fresh squeezed juices, and coffee and café drinks to enjoy with your meal.

Look at those hash browns! at Blue's Egg. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Look at those hash browns! at Blue’s Egg

My suggestion: The restaurant is spacious but fills up quickly on weekends, so arrive early or consider having a seat at the counter. Take home some monkey bread, coffee cake, or cookies from the front case (if there is anything left).

Price $6-13
Hours every day 7am-2pm
Address 317 N 76th St, Milwaukee, WI 53213
Phone (414) 299-3180
Website http://bluesegg.com/

Second Breakfast: Clock Shadow Creamery

Wisconsin is home to cheese – so of COURSE I’d suggest you stock up on some cheese snacks over at Clock Shadow Creamery. This is an urban cheese factory that uses local milk (some of their cows are at the ZOO!) and creates fantastic cheeses. I won’t be lying when I say that when I walked into their clean, bright storefront, I felt like a mouse in Switzerland. I just wanted to EAT ALL THE CHEESE. But there’s a back story – with local founders, an extremely green and clean building, and a strong environmental and community commitment.

Fresh quark and cheese at Clock Shadow Creamery. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Fresh quark and cheese at Clock Shadow Creamery

Yelp Haiku by Rachel F
Urban cheese-making/
Flavored cheddars everywhere/
Lemme at that quark!

Fresh cheese curds at Clock Shadow Creamery. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Fresh cheese curds at Clock Shadow Creamery

My suggestion: While there are tons of cheeses, made by Clock Shadow and others, I’d get a tub of fresh quark to slather on crackers or bread, and a bag (or five) of fresh cheese curds to snack on all day. If you are in Milwaukee in winter and won’t be long, you won’t need a cooler (we just use our cars as freezers). In the summer, bring a small cooler so you can enjoy your chilled cheese curds all day long. Squeak squeak!

Price inexpensive. A bag of cheese curds is under $7
Hours Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm. Closed Sundays
Address 138 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone (414) 273-9711
Website http://www.clockshadowcreamery.com/

Lunch: Vanguard

Finding great sausages in Milwaukee is easy. However, Vanguard

Sausages, poutine, fries, cheese curds from Vanguard. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Sausages, poutine, fries, cheese curds from Vanguard.

takes it a step further – these are, hands down, some of the best sausages I’ve ever eaten. The flavors are both traditional (brats, dogs, cheddarwursts, super fun toppings) and creative – look at the KHING KHAN (Lamb, Pork, Galangal, Chilis & Lemongrass Sausage, topped with Red Curry, Carrots, Cilantro, and Jalapeños)! Whether you go hot or mild, traditional or creative, you’re bound to be happy. They also serve local and global beer, spirits, and have delicious sides (fries, a variety of poutines, baked potato balls, corn, deviled eggs if you get there before they run out). Be prepared to spend a bit of time talking while you wait – the chefs take their time grilling and assembling the sausages with love.

Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits at Vanguard

My suggestion: I absolutely loved the Thai Breaker – pork sausage, lemongrass, ginger, cilantro, topped with peanut sauce, carrot, lettuce, and some fun crunchy bits. Get a side of cheese curds, no matter what else you order.

Price $5-9
Hours every day 11am-2am
Address 2659 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53207
Phone (414) 539-3593
Website http://www.vanguardbar.com/

Coffee: Anodyne

If you’ve followed my instagram, you know I can’t get enough good coffee. And frankly, Anodyne is the best. Let’s start with the Walker’s Point location (one of three) – an historic industrial building, turned warm and inviting inside with enormous round mirrors over the coffee bar, a stage, and plenty of honey-colored wood. Splashes of red for accents highlight the red A in the labels and Anodyne logo.

Anodyne - the menu at the Walker's Point location, and coffee roastery in back. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Anodyne – the menu at the Walker’s Point location, and coffee roastery in back.

This place? It freshly roasts their coffee in the back – you can view the roasters from the counter, and if you don’t see the kind you want to purchase in bags, they’ll head back to see if there is some freshly roasted and not bagged up yet.

The friendly baristas, relaxed environment, and delicious coffee

Sumatran pour over at Anodyne Coffee. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Sumatran pour over at Anodyne Coffee

make this my favorite in town. The menu features brewed to go, lattes and cappuccinos, a honey bee (honey latte with milk), a my buddy (almond and vanilla cappuccino), mochas (including additions of frosty and turtle – mint and caramel, respectively), espresso, Americano, red eyes, and seasonal apple cider.

My suggestion: A pour over. I love Ethiopian, but the Sumatran was also excellent. Get a slice of layer cake from the Cake Lady to accompany your delicious brew.

Price 12 oz pour over $2.75, 20 oz mocha $4
Hours Monday-Friday, 6:30am-9pm; Saturday 7am-9pm; Sunday 7:30am-9pm
Address 224 W Bruce St, Milwaukee, WI 53204
Phone (414) 763-1143
Website https://anodynecoffee.com/

Happy hour: Lakefront Brewery

Come for the microbrews and riverfront seating, stay for the polka. Yes, this true Milwaukee brewery features a polka band on Friday nights for the fish fry. With a rich family history in beer, Lakefront started in 1987, and has won over 200 awards over the years. You can take an informative, hilarious tour ($9-10) of the Brewery with samples (!)– check the website for details.

Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall - from i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall. Photo: Lakefront Brewery

My suggestion: try the beer flights to ascertain which you love best.

Price pint $5, flight $8
Hours Monday-Thursday, 11am-8pm; Friday 11am-9pm; Saturday 9am-9pm; Sunday 10am-5pm
Address 1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212
Phone (414) 372-8800
Website http://www.lakefrontbrewery.com/

Dinner: Fortune Chinese Restaurant

At Fortune, you’ll have the option to peruse two different menus.

Salt and Pepper Squid at Fortune. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Salt and Pepper Squid at Fortune.

Get the red menu – it offers more authentic dishes. Try to go with as many people as you can round up, so you can order more dishes (they are served family style). You’ll see large families sitting around large, circular tables. This is to take advantage of the lazy susan in the middle of the table, to scoot the food around so everyone can reach it. The food is delivered as it is made, so it’s hot and fresh. Milwaukee’s Chinese community likes to get together there for family gatherings and special events.

Plenty of delicious food at Fortune Chinese Restaurant. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Plenty of delicious food at Fortune Chinese Restaurant

My recommendation: dumplings, of course – with a thick wrapping and flavorful meat, they are scrumptious. The crabmeat rangoons are hot, crispy, and delicious. My favorite entrée is the Salt Chicken – crispy, salty skin, tender, juicy inside. Love at first bite. We also get the salt and pepper squid (served with jalapenos) and the fried pork intestines (a dish my husband loves) and the tender, gently sautéed pea shoot leaves with garlic.

Price $11-30
Hours Sunday-Thursday, 11am-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-10:30pm
Address 2945 S 108th St, Milwaukee, WI 53227
Phone (414) 328-9890
Website http://www.fortunerestaurant.net/

Late night dessert: Kopp’s Custard

A visit to Milwaukee is not complete without indulging in frozen

Peach melba custard at Kopp's. i8tonite: A Cheat Sheet to Eating in Milwaukee
Peach melba and butter pecan custard at Kopp’s.

custard, and Kopp’s Frozen Custard serves some of the best. A Milwaukee institution since 1950, Kopp’s scoops up vanilla and chocolate custard daily, but the real standouts are the specialty flavors. Each month, Kopp’s posts a Flavor Forecast so customers will know when to stop in for their favorite custard (there are two specialty flavors each day). The flavors are irresistible and include tiramisu (espresso flavored custard with fudge swirl and pieces of ladyfinger cake), peach melba (chunks of peaches and raspberry swirl), macadamia nut (loaded with whole nuts), Sprecher root beer float (highlighting soda from a local brewery), and cherry amaretto cheesecake (cherries and chunks of New York cheesecake). Specialty sundaes, floats, malts, and shakes are also available.

Haven’t tried frozen custard yet? It’s rich, smooth, and has a creamy texture – I like it more than ice cream! Kopp’s doesn’t freeze their custard, so it’s not hard packed when served, like ice cream – it’s served up straight out of the frozen custard machine. If you’re looking for lunch or dinner or a heartier late night snack, Kopp’s serves delicious burgers and chicken, fish, and grilled cheese sandwiches – just remember, there’s always room for dessert.

My suggestion: Try the flavor of the day!

Price 2 scoop cone/dish: $3.45 (they price it up to 6 scoops!!!)
Hours every day 10:30am-11pm
Address 7631 W Layton Ave, Greenfield, WI 53220 (two other locations in the metro area – check the website for addresses and phone numbers)
Phone (414) 282-4312
Website https://www.kopps.com/

 

We couldn’t narrow it down. Here are 12 more of our favorites!

The End. Go Eat.

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Jessie Voigts, except where noted

 

Photos

i8tonite: Sex on The Table’s Chef Fed Comes to Los Angeles: Recipe for Brie Fondue, Smoked Duck and Apricots

Chef Fed: Photo Courtesy of Chef Fed
Chef Fed: Photo Courtesy of Chef Fed

Chef Fed made a culinary name for himself in New York City. Teaching and pairing wines under the pop-up moniker of Sex On the Table, a showcase of edible aphrodisiacs,  he established a considerable following among the discerning palates of the nation’s Big Apple. He’s even garnered a lot of media attention appearing on Chopped, The Today Show, E! News and profiled in Cosmopolitan, New York Daily News and Maxim to name a select few.

Now, the city  of Los Angeles will have the opportunity to dine on Chef Fed’s noted cuisine. Every Friday and Saturday evening, over the next two months, Chef Fed – whose real name is Juerg Federer – is cooking at his pop-up, Fedish, in the former Scratch|Bar Space on Beverly Hills Restaurant Row. It will be an opportunity for Angelenos to dine on the food of who may be the next rising star on the world’s gastronomic stage.

Chef Fed
Chef Fed

Chef Fed’s background and cooking credentials are so appetizingly delicious that without tasting his food but viewing the planned menu, there should be no hesitation in paying for your dinner in advance. Born in Switzerland, Chef Fed attended European culinary school. He then went to work with two Michelin-starred chefs (see below), one who helmed the kitchen at the greatest restaurant in the world – heads to New York City to ply his trade; then, needs change. Warmer weather and close proximity to California’s famed agriculture brought the trained European cook to California. Of course, the story also conjures other notable immigrant chefs who traveled to the West Coast such as Christophe Eme, Wolfgang Puck, Joachim Splichal, Piero Selvaggio, and Ludo Lefebvre. There is no question the five-course tasting menu will be worth the $75 price of admission (an extra $49 for wine pairings) . Where else are you going to have a New York dining experience cooked by a famed European chef in the balmy weather of Los Angeles?

Angelenos will have the opportunity to partake of his cooking class, Sex on The Table. It’s a new year so do something new, fun and exciting. Besides, Chef Fed is very smart, funny, talented and resembles a cooking Gabriel Aubry when in the kitchen.  What more do you want?

Chef Questionnaire with Chef Fed:

Brie Fondue: Courtesy of Chef Fed
Brie Fondue: Courtesy of Chef Fed

How long have you been cooking? By the time that I was tall enough to overlook my mom’s kitchen counter, she wasn’t safe anymore. I graduated from culinary school 15 years later. And that was exactly 20 years ago.

What is your favorite food to cook? It changes with the seasons. But I certainly have a thing for dishes that develop over a long cooking time. What never changes is my childish excitement for super fresh, sustainable and organic ingredients.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Besides a light bulb and a box of baking soda, there are always some fresh limes, ginger and unsalted butter (the real one).

What do you cook at home? For my next cookbook, I’m actually developing all the recipes at my house because I want to create the recipes in the same environment as my readers will cook them. When I cook for myself, I focus on greens, grains, and beans. And the occasional Swiss Cheese Fondue with my girlfriend…

Chef FedWhat marked characteristic do you love in a customer? I love it when they’re adventurous eaters. The most exciting customer for me is the person that knocks on my kitchen door and says: “Hey Fed, me and my friends are hungry. We eat everything. Here’s my credit card, we’ve got to be somewhere in 2 hours…”

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?It can be tough when the customer thinks in boxes. When you’re basing your expectations on your experiences, you stop creating. That’s true for chefs and customers alike.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? You’ve got to love it when a brand a becomes so dominant that even their competitor’s  product takes on their name: Tupperware.  My company’s called Sex on the Table, so a rubber has different uses in my vocabulary. And Pyrex, I mean I love German engineering, but that applies more to my car than to my kitchen utensils. I’m going with Tupperware on this one. It reminds me of home.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Yes please, exactly in that order.

Chef Fed 2Your favorite cookbook author? My mother is pretty cool. Her last cookbook was on vegan cuisine, though. That’s a tough sell with me. But she autographed it for me.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Bob Kramer knife. Don’t even think I would ever let you touch it.

Your favorite ingredient? Agave Nectar, Fresh Lime Juice, and homemade chicken stock share the win for this one.

Your least favorite ingredient?  Everything genetically modified, especially canola oil.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Cleaning the freezer tops my most hated list.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? I was born and raised in Zurich, which comes with a weird mix of Mediterranean style and Bohemian precision. I believe that, even though I traveled far and I explored a lot, when you get to the bottom of it you will always find that little boy in me that was surrounded by French and Italian chefs growing up.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? What the hell is tofu? It makes your manhood go away, did you know that? It’s a testosterone killer. A Rib Eye from Flaca Vaca farm in upstate New York would be my last meal on earth.

Favorite vegetable? My favorite vegetable is a flower: The artichoke, where the heart’s the best.

Yes-ChefChef you most admire? My first executive chef has no fame, and he’s still cooking the same menu from 20 years ago. His name is Meinolf Zarnitz, and he had a huge impact on me. But you probably want to hear some celebrity names. I have a lot of respect for Marcus Samuelsson. His book “Yes Chef” made me cry twice.

Food you like the most to eat? I’m on a lifelong quest for the perfect burger. They’re so relaxing to me that I never put them on any of my menus.

Food you dislike the most? Ever been to McDonalds?

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? I don’t know, can you eat a lion?

Recipe from Chef Fed: Brie Fondue with Grilled Apricots & Smoked Duck (Serves 2). 

  • Grilled Apricots
  • 1 apricot (can be frozen and may be substituted with Peaches or Red Pears)
  • 1 tsp champagne Vinegar (or any other white acidity that you may have handy)
  • 1/8 tsp chili Flakes
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Nutmeg
  • Cut the fruits in wedges, marinate in the seasoning, then dry roast them in a skillet or on the grill. Set aside.

Brie Fondue

  • 1/2 Cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 lbs. Brie
  • 3 oz. Mascarpone
  • Black Pepper, coarsely ground
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 sprig of mint cut to Chiffonade
  • 1/2 Breast of smoked Duck (hey, if you have leftover chicken breast or a little bit of chorizo, feel free to substitute the duck. What you’re looking for is smokiness… Did I mention thick cut bacon?)

Bring the wine and the spices to a boil. Melt the brie and mascarpone without boiling them. Keep warm. Before serving, slice the duck breast and pour the fondue in a soup bowl. Plate the fruits. Arrange the duck in a fan shape on top. Garnish with mint chiffonade.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Special Thanksgiving with Famed Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch: His Wine Selections & Celebratory Cheese

Everyday folks will not know the name, Gary Fisch, but in the wine world, to those who sell and make wine, he is an icon. He personifies entrepreneurs at their best.  Fisch’s stores are considered to be the number one  seller of high-end California wines. Although based in the state of New Jersey, the stores sell throughout the United States. To honor such a distinction, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace was chosen as Market Watch Magazine’s 2014 Retailer of The Year.  This year, They have received the honor of the 2015 Great Oak Award from New Jersey Monthly for corporate social responsibility.

Since opening his first store in Madison, Fisch has grown his business from $800,000 – starting in 1987 — to a $50 million business today. Gary’s Wine & Marketplace have an additional three locations including Bernardsville, Wayne, and Hillsborough along with the original site. They also have an on-line shopping experience with shipping to 37 states.

Fisch followed in his father’s footsteps and began his career in the 1980s as a salesperson for a local wine and spirits distributor. Gary and his brother purchased their first 1,200-square-foot liquor store in Madison, NJ, then named Shopper’s Discount Liquor. In 2000, the Madison store was re-branded as Gary’s Wine & Marketplace and associated it with Gary’s personality, presence and his increasing accumulation of wine knowledge.

Fisch travels annually to Napa Valley sometimes three to four times a year tasting, selecting and purchasing wines. He says,” There is great wines in the world everywhere, but I have a fondness for Napa Valley. I was able to celebrate my daughter’s 21st birthday with our family. It was truly unique.” He recounts the day fondly as his family feasted and drank with wine doyenne Margit Mondavi and celebrity chef Michael Chiarello.

However, he also has a fondness for Italy as well as he talks about luscious Tuscany and Piedmontese grapes which he loves to taste and explore.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace is the source of top Napa and international wines and bottles. They may be in the Garden State but their retail arm is omnipresent. For collectors, oenophiles and everyday people, Gary’s Wine & Marketplace – which also sells cheese and wine accessories – is the emporium for an unparalleled selection of luxury vintners and knowledge.

Food People Questionnaire with Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch:

What is your favorite food to cook at home?  Burgers on the grill. Or if no one’s looking, sardines on a salad.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Umm…wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Someone who laughs at my jokes, which means I can only eat dinner with the same person once.

GaryFischWhat marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Wine snob.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine, of course!

Your favorite cookbook author? I don’t use cookbooks. But if I had to, I would choose one of Bobby Flay’s books.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Spatula.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything my wife cooks.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Chicken.

Favorite vegetable? Spinach.

Chef you most admire? Michael Chiarello.

Food you like the most to eat? Anything.

Food you dislike the most? Blue cheese.

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

Who do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer, his staff continually delivers exceptional service and hospitality.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Napa.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Napa, Farmstead and Bottega. In New Jersey, Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen (Morristown, NJ) and Redux (Madison, NJ).

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?  No tattoos!

GaryFischThanksgivingPicksSPECIAL THANKSGIVING DAY: WINE PAIRINGS CHOSEN BY GARY FISCH. (Find more selections by visiting Gary’s Wine & Marketplace website.)

2013 Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” (White Blend)
Livermore Valley, California
$15.99

If you’re not sure whether to get a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc, we suggest you go with Murrieta’s Well “The Whip”—a white blend of 28% Semillon, 24% Chardonnay, 14% Sauvignon Blanc, 11% Orange Muscat, 11% Viognier, 11% Gewurztraminer, 1% White Riesling.  This sophisticated white blend can hold up to the variety of flavors at Thanksgiving dinner, and will delight both Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc fans. With pronounced aromas of white peach, pear, citrus and melon, along with flavors of cantaloupe, green pear, and butterscotch, Murrieta’s Well “The Whip” is the perfect crowd-pleaser wine for Thanksgiving.

2013 Second Growth Pinot Noir
Willamette Valley, Oregon
$22.99
This Oregon Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley is an enjoyable, silky, multi-layered wine that you are sure to enjoy during Thanksgiving Dinner. With bright red fruit aromas and flavors of candied cherry, pomegranate, cranberry and raspberry, along with a touch of nutmeg and cinnamon, this elegant Pinot Noir Pair will pair with salmon, ahi tuna, veal, pork, poultry or hearty vegetarian entrees.

2012 Chase Cellars Hayne Vineyard Zinfandel
Napa Valley, California
$45.99

Capturing the essence and complexity of our ancient vines, while maintaining youthful appeal from the fruit of the younger ones, this Zin has sweet red and black fruits which surround a rounded core of soft but ample tannins, offering up a mouthful of supple textures and layers of lovely fruit.

GARY’S GUIDE TO CREATING AN IMPRESSIVE HOLIDAY CHEESE PLATTERS: Need to make a cheese platter?  No problem!  Just following the simple steps below and you are guaranteed to impress your guests.

Start with the basics; You should always have a creamy cheese, hard cheese and a semi soft cheese. My recommendation would be a Delice de Bourgogne (a brie like French cow’s milk triple crème cheese), Manchego (a Spanish Sheep’s milk cheese) and Cotswold (an English onion and chive cheddar made with Cow’s milk). You always have the option to add a goat cheese and/or a blue cheese to the mix depending on your taste.

Dress up your cheese: You can dress up your cheese with all types of yummy items. Try Truffle honey drizzled over a fresh goat cheese, fig jam with Spanish cheese, like as Manchego, or red pepper jelly with brie.

 How to eat your cheese: You can eat your cheese on so many things!

  • Assortment of breads, such as, baguette, ciabatta, semolina or a cranberry walnut bread (delicious with blue cheese)
  • Don’t restrict yourself to a plain cracker.  Try something with flavor such as, Jan’s farmhouse cranberry pistachio cracker or Stonewall Rosemary Parmesan Cracker.
  • Add fruit to the platter.  Any addition of fruit is a perfect paring for cheeses.  Try these on your next platter, grapes, strawberries, fresh figs, pickled pears, cherries soaked in brandy and that’s just to name a few!!

 

Let’s get Plattered (this is the fun part)

There are so many options.  You can choose from a ceramic plate or a rustic looking slate board.  There are so many option so let loose and have fun.

 

When you’re finished making the platter pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and dig in.  Cheers!