Category Archives: Cooking

i8tonite with Food Scientist Dr. Stuart Farrimond & How to Make the Perfect Vegetable Stir-Fry

i8tonite with Food Scientist Dr. Stuart Farrimond & How to Make the Perfect Vegetable Stir-FryWho wouldn’t love to cook like a Michelin star chef? According to Dr. Stuart Farrimond, the only way to truly uncork our culinary potential is to get a handle on the science of cooking. In his new book The Science of Cooking: Every Question Answered to Perfect Your Cooking (DK Books), he provides cooks of all abilities with a comprehensive and visually stunning guide to every question you’ve ever had on sautéing, searing, slow cooking, and more, providing the building blocks for becoming a great chef.

Specializing in food science, Dr. Farrimond is a science and health writer, presenter, and educator. He has conducted wide-ranging food science research and makes regular appearances on TV, radio, and at public events, and his writing appears in national and international publications, including the BBC, The Daily Mail, and New Scientist. Stuart is an experienced science communicator and founded the online lifestyle-science magazine Guru, which won support from the Wellcome Trust – the world’s largest medical research charity.i8tonite with Food Scientist Dr. Stuart Farrimond & How to Make the Perfect Vegetable Stir-Fry

The Science of Cooking answers over 160 of the most common culinary questions, drawing on the latest research available, to give a deliciously accessible jargon-free read, full of practical know-how. He explains flavor and alcohol pairing, cooking techniques, essential equipment and more, making it the go-to book to master any dish.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Anything stir-fried. When you cook small pieces of food in a searing-hot wok, you coat them with a unique complex smoky flavor, called ‘wok hei’ (meaning ‘breath of wok’). Stir-frying is a fast and exciting way to turn out great tasting dishes. Unfortunately, most of us Western cooks do stir frying a disservice by not letting our pan get hot enough, meaning that ingredients simmer and steam, rendering them soft and oily.

i8tonite with Food Scientist Dr. Stuart Farrimond & How to Make the Perfect Vegetable Stir-Fry

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
A selection of cheeses. At a minimum, there is a super-strong mature Cheddar, something very stinky (like a traditional Camembert), and a more delicate-tasting soft cheese (like a goat cheese). Who would have thought fermented, moldy milk could taste so good?

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Someone who can be both silly and serious.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine. Preferably red.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Ken Hom. I discovered his cookbooks while at University, and his easy-to-understand writing opened my eyes to the idea that cooking was more than simply putting frozen food in the oven. I was never taught how to cook anything other than scrambled egg when a child!

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Surely the quintessential kitchen tool is a chef’s knife? If a knife doesn’t count as a ‘tool,’ then my instant read digital thermometer is easily worth its weight in caviar.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I think good, old-fashioned stews are woefully underappreciated. With nothing more than heat, time, and a sturdy casserole dish, an inedible, rubbery joint will miraculously transform into mouth-wateringly succulent morsels that are deeply infused with deep meaty flavors. Beef bourguignon is my favorite slow-cooked meat dish. Because, let’s face it, few countries do it better than the French.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef. Good quality fillet steak, bought from a local butcher, served rare or medium-rare.

Favorite vegetable?
The humble carrot.

Chef you most admire?
The British chef Michael Caines is truly inspiring. Despite losing his right arm as a young chef in a road accident in 1994, he returned to the kitchen in just two weeks. He defied the odds by going on to become one of the world’s best chefs, winning multiple Michelin-stars and countless awards. I have had the privilege of eating at one of his restaurants several times – and his fantastically flavorful dishes are elegant and unfussy, with a focus on seasonal produce.

Food you like the most to eat?
Ice cream. Sweet, icy-cool and soft – I love ice cream so much that I have sometimes wondered whether it should be considered as a food group in its own right! (Just kidding.) The Italians and (oddly enough) the Germans know how to make truly great ice cream.

Food you dislike the most?
Pork rinds. They are a traditional British bar snack, but these pieces of deep-fried and salted pork rind are utterly repulsive. I’d rather chew on my shoe.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Cycle. The freedom of riding a bicycle on the open road on a summer’s day is hard to beat. It helps to clear the mind and the spirit.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
A small eatery in the city of Bath, in the South West of England, called Menu Gordon Jones. Tuesday through Saturday evenings it opens up to serve a six course ‘surprise’ tasting menu, which is put together by the chef based on the fresh food that he has been able to source that morning. You don’t know what you are going to be served – it could be snails and chocolate bread – but it always tastes great. It is quirky and achingly stylish and has fun little touches, like flavored oil served out of test tubes.

What is your favorite restaurant?
My all-time favorite restaurant is The Dining Room restaurant at Whatley Manor. This two Michelin star restaurant is in a manor house hotel nestled in the picturesque green rolling hills of the English countryside. They understand that eating is an experience that involves all the senses and every dish is like a work of art – that tastes even better than it looks.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos. Although if I were to have a food-related tattoo, it would probably have to be a strawberry. Because who doesn’t love a strawberry?

Make a stir-fry

i8tonite with Food Scientist Dr. Stuart Farrimond & How to Make the Perfect Vegetable Stir-Fry

To capture an authentic-tasting stir-fry flavor, get the wok as hot as you dare on a burner running at full-tilt. The metal should be smoking or shimmering.

Add a good slug of groundnut/peanut oil. This is the best oil for stir-frying as it can tolerate very high temperatures without burning.

Never use olive oil.

When the pan is steaming and smoking, drop in finely chopped fresh ginger and garlic and stir-fry for a few moments to brown off and flavor the oil.

Now add other, ingredients chopped into equal-sized slices. Add onion first then other ingredients in small batches in quick succession – too much at once will cool the pan down. Crank up the heat and keep the food moving! Add vegetables in the order of how long they take to cook – harder vegetables first. If food starts to burn and stick, try adding some more oil. Don’t turn down the heat but instead add extra ingredients to cool the pan or momentarily lift it off the flame/hob.

If some ingredients won’t soften, add a tablespoon of water and immediately cover with a tightly fitting lid. Keep the heat up on maximum and don’t lift the lid. After a couple of minutes, everything should have been steamed to ‘al dente’ perfection.

For a ‘quick marinade’ of meat:
Place cubed chicken in a bowl and cover with equal quantities of light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil – about a tablespoon of each is sufficient for a pound/500g of meat. Add a crack of black pepper or Sichuan pepper. You can leave the meat to soak for 30 minutes in the fridge (leaving for too long can make the meat turn mealy). Mix in about a tablespoon of corn flour so that the chicken is coated. Drain off excess liquid then add to your stir-fry!

Tips:
Steaming, as is described above, is a technique known as chao (pronounced as ‘chow’, as in chow mein). Rather than using water, try adding a good splash of light soy sauce with an equal quantity of rice wine (optional). It is well worth getting hold of some rice wine as it helps gives a dish genuine flavor. When you have tried it in your cooking, you won’t go back!

Experiment with other ingredients and flavors – try adding lemon grass or Chinese Five Spice!

Dark soy sauce is a stronger tasting, stickier sauce that has been fermented for longer than light. Use it for marinades rather than for adding to a stir-fry. (‘Light’ soy sauce does not mean it has been diluted or is low in calories!) Always go easy on the soy sauce – our sense of saltiness is dulled at high temperatures and will taste saltier when served. Diners can always add more later.

When cooking meat or fish, make sure that it has been cubed or thinly sliced evenly. Don’t add meat too early to a multi-component stir fry else it will overcook. This is especially true if finishing with some ‘chao’ steaming. Instead, try cooking the meat pieces at the start with garlic and ginger until they have a nicely browned crispy coat then set aside. Add it back in with the other ingredients toward the end of cooking.

Finish your dish with a drizzle of sesame oil. For a warming, spicy kick, grind some Sichuan peppercorns. Don’t cook with sesame oil because it will smoke and burn, producing an acrid taste.

 

– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon FrittataMatthew Dolan  is an established chef and restaurant owner who trained at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. His restaurant, Twenty Five Lusk, was named Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurant and Open Table Diners Choice Top Hot Spot Restaurants in the United States since its opening in 2010.

Dolan notes, “I am an American, aware of my Celtic roots, and I blame these roots for the passion that I carry forth in all things, especially my love of cooking and creating dynamic experiences through food. Cooking for others is a joy rewarded by seeing the enjoyment of others. Passion and care are the fundamentals of excellent food, and I am passionate about fish.”

Chef Dolan has a new venture out, one that is accessible to food lovers around the world. His new cookbook, Simply Fish, is a treasure.

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

“Simply Fish is your definitive guide to preparing seafood that is sustainable, healthy, and delicious. Matthew Dolan’s recipes are accessible and brilliant, and his stories are engaging. The bounty of the sea is here, in a book you’ll treasure.” — Drew Nieporent, restaurateur, Tribeca Grill, Nobu, Bâtard

Simply Fish explores many recipes, techniques, and secrets to delivering a restaurant-quality experience in your own home, simply through cooking fish. You’ll learn about fish, sustainability, and enjoying cooking with seafood, and get inspired by the beautiful, delicious, seasonal recipes (including no-fish desserts!). I especially love the section of each recipe entitled ‘what to tell the fish guy’ – because I think many people are stumped by fish right from the point when you need to purchase it. Genius!

Chef Dolan has also included a few stories of travel, fish, and eating that showcase his humor, quick wit, and thoughtfulness. About a sauna, swimming in the frozen sea, and the meal afterward, Dolan said, “One by one, these crazy Finns leapt in and swam about as if it was noon and they were at Club Med somewhere in the Caribbean. What else was I to do except take the plunge—literally. What a contrast as I felt my heart implode and an unexpected feeling of warmth. I thought I was dying. Then this passed and it was time to get out. Thanks to a little insane moment of ice swimming, we were ravenous and alive. At the center of the table was a beautiful arctic char, roasted whole and awaiting its place in our bellies. Dill and butter-poached potatoes, smoked whitefish, pickled herring, roasted beets, butter lettuces, caviars, and mind-blowing sour breads encircled this magnificently roasted cold-water fish. There were marinated cucumbers known as grandma’s cucumbers, sausages, wine, and beer. The inherent simplicity and care with how this feast came together would later redefine my cooking.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Risotto, seasonally driven, usually with mushrooms.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Beer and ham. Simple staples.

Caviar+Lobster. i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata
Caviar+Lobster

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Excitement for the experience, the food, and the effort that surrounds it.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Inferior table manners. I am worried that we are losing sight of the importance of table manners. I still believe that good manners shows that we respect each other, as well as the time we have committed to one another. And speaking with food in your mouth is silly and awful…it would be nice if we stood when others join the table, but I realize this is asking too much.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer mostly, softer and gentler wines always, but I am not a tough guy who can handle heavier brown spirits, so if it’s cocktails, we are talking Dark and Stormy or a very fresh margarita – no salt nor triple sec.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michel Roux

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Tasting spoon. The difference between good and great is determined by this tool.

i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Tough question. I’m an Irish-American with a classical French background. I employ the French and Italian, borrow from the Chinese at times, but the favorite path is driven by sustainable seafood and making the most of ethical choices that are market driven.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork.

Favorite vegetable?
Asparagus

Chef you most admire?
Pierre Gagnaire

Food you like the most to eat?
Szechuan Dumplings

Food you dislike the most?
Kidneys. Can’t do it.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Sky dive – only been once, but need to go again quickly

tuna cucumber persimmon terrine. From i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata
tuna cucumber persimmon terrine

Who do you most admire in food?
Anybody that agrees that food has the ability to take people away from their lives, their issues, and create a moment of joy. There are loads of us doing this, but those that care about the individual receiving the food first, I admire you. And we waste too much food in the USA. So if you are controlling your portion size and making efforts to reduce food waste, I admire you even more.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
There is a Korean inspired place here in San Francisco, Namu Gaji, and it has become a regular thing. They do a really good job.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I have to say, Farm Shop in Brentwood (LA), California is a very amazing and consistent place. That said, Liho Liho Yacht Club in San Francisco is a stunner, as well.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
I only have accidental tattoos, or scars from burns if you will, after twenty-eight years in the kitchen. I think that they are a lot cooler and less of a time commitment. Not opposed, maybe one day?

Recipe: smoked salmon and farm egg frittata with basil, lemon, chives, and tomato

serves 4

Recipe for smoked salmon and farm egg frittata. From i8tonite with Chef and Simply Fish Author Matthew Dolan & Recipe for Smoked Salmon Frittata

what I cook at home, actually this is also from the book

10 free-range or organic eggs (if farm-direct, the flavor’s even better)
½ cup sour cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ pound Pacific or sockeye smoked salmon, sliced into thin strips
1 cup basil leaves, destemmed, torn
2 Tablespoons (½ bunch) fresh chives, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise (reserve ½ cup for garnish)
2 Tablespoons cooking oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter

what to drink
Blanc de blanc champagne
Txakolina Rosé from Spain
Your favorite daytime drinking beer
Bloody Mary

what to tell the fish guy
You probably don’t need the fish guy for this one. There is usually a refrigerated case close to the fish counter that will have what you are looking for. But, if the fish guy has some smoked fish options that are not pre-packaged, you can ask where the fish is from and when it was smoked. Normally, fish will be brined or cured before smoking. If you go the prepackaged route, check the sell by date; the fresher the better.

method
Preheat your oven to 400°F. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and cheddar cheese. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in the sliced smoked salmon, basil, chives, and ½ cup tomatoes. Heat a cast-iron skillet or nonstick pan over high heat and add the oil and butter. Once the butter has melted and the combination begins to slightly smoke, add the contents of the mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir everything in the pan in an effort to evenly distribute the garnish throughout the egg mixture. Cook for 3 minutes and place in the oven. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the eggs are fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow the frittata to cool for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the frittata over onto a cutting board and serve.

plating
I usually cut this into pie-shaped slices. Add ½ cup of the sliced cherry tomatoes on the side to serve.

 – The End. Go Eat. – 

 

Photos copyright 2017 by Anne-Claire Thieulon

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Vineyards Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesA cursory internet search on Los Angeles wineries pulls up lists such as 10 Best Places to Go Within 50 Miles or 18 Spots to Go Wine Tasting. Although we are sure the wines are good, they don’t have the star power of, say, Napa’s Opus One or Santa Barbara’s Au Bon Climat. But, as they say, times are a changin’, and last year Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch purchased Moraga Vineyards in the tony neighborhood of Bel-Air.  Celebrities who have resided in the area include actress Meg Ryan and rocker Avril Lavigne; Star Wars creator George Lucas recently purchased his only Los Angeles home in the wealthy community, according to Variety, at nearly $34 million. Other residents over the years have included Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Candy and Aaron Spelling. Therefore, Mr. Murdoch’s winery, once owned by Tom Jones, CEO at Northrup, and the former home of Gone With The Wind and Wizard of Oz director Victor Fleming, is probably one of the most expensive pieces of land in the United States…and possibly wine world.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesEmbedded in the Santa Monica Mountains, winemaker Scott Rich, who started the making the wines under the Jones ownership, spoke to us from his home in Sonoma, where he lives part-time, tending to his vineyards and grapes at Talisman Vineyards. He travels down to the City of Angels once a week, staying three to four nights, crafting Moraga Wines under the new owner. He says, “It’s a unique grape growing area. It’s like a refrigerator at times, as we get cold Pacific Ocean air, which is only 9 miles away. We consider it hot if it reaches more than 85 degrees.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

He continues, “Because of that, our wines are soft and elegant, not big and overpowering, as most associate with California.”
Rich also says that the wines they produce are from soils much like that of Bordeaux. However, true to California form, the vines sit on a fault line. “We are bisected by the Benedict Canyon fault. On one side, we have ground that was churned up two plates millions of years ago. On the south side, we have primarily uplifted sea bed. At one time, this was the Santa Monica Bay.”

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesBut at the end of the day, it’s not about the growing region so much as how they taste on the palate. Rich says, “We don’t do lots and lots of things to the fruit. We have perfect grapes, and we try not to mess them up while we craft our delicious wines.”

At the winery, the winemaking team only makes an Estate Red and an Estate Sauvignon Blanc. The white’s aromas are of peaches and nectarines, while the red is soft with currants and tobacco, which is indicative of the limestone soil. Only 10,000 bottles are produced annually, and are generally over a $100 per bottle. Not inexpensive, but it’s definitely more economical to taste the terroir in the bottle than it is to plant your mansion in the multi-million-dollar neighborhood.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food Questions with Winemaker Scott Rich (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Meyer Lemon and Ricotta Puffed Pancake with Macerated Strawberries. It’s this beautiful lemony doughy-bottomed, airy-topped steroidal (pan)cake with slightly sweet clouds of ricotta, topped with strawberries from the garden that have been soaked in Meyer lemon and Grand Marnier

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas. Coffee. Milk (plain and chocolate). Veggies. Fruit. Leftovers.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi CanapesWhat marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A love of food and flavors. The sharing part is important. Curiosity.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Lack of the above.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Do you have to make a choice? There’s a lot of territory to explore in everything.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Christopher Kimball and the whole gang at Cook’s Illustrated. They do a remarkably rigorous job of testing and tweaking recipes to arrive at the best result.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
A sharp knife and a corkscrew.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian and California/Mediterranean. It’s all about the best, freshest ingredients, rather than the process. I have a pretty decent garden and lots of fresh produce most of the year. My go-to dish during tomato season is caprese – simple preparation, rather than cooking.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Yes.

Favorite vegetable?
Bok choy.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Daniel Patterson of Coi (and a few other ventures). Daniel is curious, creative, discerning, demanding, humble, and very thoughtful in his pursuits. His interests run the gamut from creating the finest, fussiest, artistic food in San Francisco to providing delicious, wholesome, inexpensive fare in one of L.A.’s poorest communities. Then there are his projects in the East Bay.

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

Food you like the most to eat?
I’m a sucker for really good French fries. Crunchy outside, soft pillowy innards.

Food you dislike the most?
Mayonnaise.

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

Whom do you most admire in food?
See the question four above this one.

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
At home with a bunch of friends.

What is your favorite restaurant?
Coi in San Francisco for something mind-blowingly fancy and beautiful.
Pizza Azzurro in Napa for their margarita pizza and an Anchor Steam beer.
Any number of taco trucks in Sonoma.

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

i8tonite: How to Put a Million Dollar Hollywood Landscape in a Bottle with Moraga Wines Winemaker Scott Rich & Recipe for Tuna Wasabi Canapes

No-Recipe Tuna Wasabi Canapes

• Pound of Ahi Tuna
• Package of won ton wrappers (found in the Asian section of your grocery store, by the tofu)
• ¼ cup of grated fresh wasabi (Japanese markets)
• Vegetable Oil
• Wok or deep skillet
• Alfalfa sprouts
• Freshly made aioli or grated garlic, mayo, and a dash of lemon juice to thin.
• Salt and Pepper

In the center of each wonton wrapper, smear some grated wasabi and alfalfa sprouts. Fold the wontons like a miniature taco and quickly fry them in about a quarter inch of oil. Drain on a paper towel. Salt and pepper the tuna and then sear in a hot pan about two minutes on each side. Cut the tuna into bite size pieces and place on a wonton. Add a dash or two of mayo for a little fat and the perfect appetizer to accompany our Moraga wines.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceAccording to food history, the earliest known burger recipe is mentioned in a Wikipedia citation alluding to a 1798 recipe from The Art of Cookery made Plain and Easy written by Nigella Lawson’s forerunner, well-known English cookery writer Hannah Glasse. In it, she refers to a “Hamburgh sausage” which is roasted and served on top of bread as her serving suggestion.

However, California took the idea and ran with it. While some 20th century chains began in Minnesota and other far-flung places such as Connecticut or Ohio, the burger became part of the surf and sand culture. Perhaps it was because of the portable ease of the sandwich, but chains such as Bob’s Big Boy, In-n-Out, and the grand-daddy of them all, McDonald’s, were conceived in the Los Angeles metro area. This truncated past of ground chuck meets roll leads us to Adam Fleischman, who in 2007 essentially revitalized the patty culture for today’s standards.

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceIt’s a familiar script; an East Coaster comes to Los Angeles like so many starving artists before him. However, Fleischman is different. His medium isn’t film, and he isn’t an actor. He’s an entrepreneur, and his business is the stove. Like many food inventors before him, he had minor success with dabblings in wine and other dining experiences around the city.

In an October 2016 Inc. Magazine article, he states, “I was trying to start a business around umami, a savory flavor that’s found in every country’s cuisine. Basically, I Googled the foods highest in umami and took out my cast-iron pan and improvised a recipe with some ground beef. The concept of the restaurant was also quick. I just wanted to make Umami Burger gourmet, an adult place that had waiters and served alcohol.” And the Umami Burger was born. With progeny gaining ground in Dubai and Tokyo, the more than two dozen locations have made Fleischman a million many times over.

800 Degrees Pizza. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Now he is a “passive” owner stealthily building new concepts and food ideas, such as 800 Degrees Pizza (which he sold), and most recently, the Culver City-based Ramen Roll, which closed after four months.

Regarding the original Los Angeles location of Umami Burger, Fleischman commented, “We opened on La Brea because it had a lot of potential. It was languishing. It was risky, but this area seemed like a good bet.”

On the future of food, Fleischman said, “I think food is changing. I think the internet has made everything sort of cross-cultural. It used to be that people would only make the food in their town. Now, people have more information and access to recipes.”

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle SauceFleischman talked to i8tonite while in his Los Angeles office, located behind his Hancock Park home, mentioning that he had a couple of new food ideas in the future…and a cookbook, too.

Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I like to cook Italian food at home. I make everything.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have club soda for cocktail making. And, lemons and limes.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I only share meals with people who don’t have dietary restrictions. They have to be drinkers. They can’t be sober.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I won’t invite anyone I don’t like. I’m picky about who I eat with.

Umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
I’m a mixologist and a sommelier, so wine and cocktail.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Paul Bertolli. He has a great cookbook.

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
My cast-iron pan. You can cook anything in it. It retains heat well.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Italian, American, and Spanish.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Seafood.

Favorite vegetable?
Artichokes.

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Heston Blumenthal. He is such a technical brilliant chef.

Food you like the most to eat?
Moroccan and Indian.

Food you dislike the most?
I like everything if it’s cooked well.

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

Whom do you most admire in food?
Everyone, really.

pumpkin spice latte umami burger. From i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
Copenhagen.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I like Castagna in Portland.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Zero tattoos.

Recipe: Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

i8tonite with LA’s 21st Century Burger King, Adam Fleischman & Recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle Sauce:
Take two large, ripe tomatoes (heirloom), half an onion and three small cloves of garlic and broil until dark. Blend with two dried chipotles, reconstituted in ¼ cup water and some sherry vinegar and s/p. Strain and blend with meat juices from shredded beef.

Shredded Beef: 
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (2 1/2 to 3 pound) beef brisket flat, chuck or any well marbled beef.
1 ancho or New Mexico dried chile, stemmed and seeded
I small diced onion onion
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add oil and brown the beef on all sides. Pour off as much oil as possible.
Just barely cover the meat with water. Bring to a boil.
Skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
Add remaining ingredients.
Cover the pot and place it in the oven until the meat is tender about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Remove the meat, reserving broth.
When the meat is cool enough to handle, shred it. Hold a fork in each hand, and shred the beef with the forks.

Serve in griddled tortillas and top with grated cotija cheese.

– The End. Go Eat. –  
Recipe photo courtesy and copyright Wikimedia Commons: helmadatter

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupThanks to the entertainment industry, the City of Los Angeles creates opportunities arguably better than most cities in the United States. Case in point is the The Lucques Group, headed by chef Suzanne Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne, who has been the sommelier and wine director for the company since its inception.

A scant 20 years ago, there still weren’t many women who owned restaurants. Of course, Josie La Blach had her eponymous Santa Monica eatery. We also can’t forget the Border Grill ladies, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feininger. Nancy Silverton was baking bread and scones at La Brea Bakery, and Joan McNamara, a caterer turned restaurateur, are about a few of the holdovers from the previous century.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Started in 1998, the now legendary Lucques was a success cementing at least the future of the two young women at the helm, Goin, in front of the stove, and Styne, managing the business and front of house and beverage direction.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupFormer Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbilia noted in her 2009 review of their Brentwood Larder, “Styne and Goin are the food world’s equivalent of Lerner and Loewe or Leiber and Stoller. Everything they do just seems to work effortlessly. The two share a certain sensibility and aesthetic. At any of their restaurants, there’s a sense of comfort and sensuality, contemporary rustic cuisine and warm but crisp service, and enticing environment. But most of all, they each have a strong sense of place.”

Ms. Styne, along with Ms. Goin, are native Angelenos, which is as hard to find as needle in a haystack. Both exude the clean living of a California life, but Ms. Styne was the epitome of West Coast style at a recent Hollywood Bowl media event. She appeared nonplussed by the media attention around her and her partner. In LA style, she smiled for the camera in a black and white herringbone frock perfect for the chill air on the stage of the arena. A glass of white swirled in her hand as the lightbulbs burst; she looked elegant and fit.

In her blog, Styne on Wine, she noted, “At my home, I played the role of wine steward and service captain. I would set the table, open the bottles of Bordeaux and pour wine for my guests throughout dinner.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupNow as part owner of one of the most thriving restaurant businesses in Los Angeles, with not one but five restaurants, a James Beard nominee, and catering for the Hollywood Bowl, Styne is a quintessential L.A. person living out their California dream in food and wine!

Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I’m the vegetable and grain cook in our home. My husband does the grilling because I’m the least comfortable with that. I love roasting or sautéing vegetables, making salsas and other yummy sauces to spoon over them.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
We always have Greek yogurt, olives, an array of cheeses, and wine!

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I love sharing a meal with people who love food and like trying new things. I don’t necessarily need to discuss each morsel and aspect of the food to death, but I like to know that I’m with someone who appreciates food and the art of cooking.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I don’t love eating with people who are uber picky or don’t love or appreciate food. It makes me feel uptight and uncomfortable. I’d rather just meet that person for coffee.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupBeer, wine, or cocktail?
There is a time and place for all three, but usually cocktails and wine.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Suzanne Goin

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Breville Citrus juicer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mediterranean

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood, or tofu?
Chicken and seafood…love pork, too

Favorite vegetable?
Romanesco

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Chef or culinary person you most admire?
Jose Andres….great chef, great attitude, great humanitarian.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cheese – all kinds, from all milks in all shapes and sizes

Food you dislike the most?
Offal…just not into it

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
I’m big on physical fitness. I really like to keep active and actually enjoy walking, jogging, and just moving my body. I also love fashion in too big a way.

Whom do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer

Where is your favorite place to eat/drink?
I think Italy is one of the most fun and satisfying places to enjoy food and wine.

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques GroupWhat is your favorite restaurant?
If I’m not at home, I really love eating at my restaurants. I obviously love the food and the drinks. Suzanne and I always try to create restaurants that we ourselves would like to patronize, so I guess we’ve succeeded in that respect

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
No tattoos…I’m boring that way.

Recipe: Asparagus and Proscuitto

Recipe from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. To drink, Styne recommended in a William Sonoma blog post, “You can never wrong with champagne or rosé. I think both say, “Party!” and can take you from appetizers to dessert.”

i8tonite: L.A. Woman Caroline Styne: The Other Half of Lucques Group

Ingredients:
• 1¼ pounds asparagus, pencil-thin variety
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
• ½ cup creme fraiche
• 12 thin slices prosciutto di Parma or San Daniele
• ½ lemon, for juicing
• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Light the grill 30 to 40 minutes before you’re ready to cook.

Snap the ends off the asparagus to remove the tough woody portion. Toss the asparagus on a baking sheet with the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper.

Stir the mustard and crème fraîche together in a small bowl, and set aside.

When the coals are broken down, red, and glowing, drape the prosciutto over a platter. Grill the asparagus 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly charred and tender.

Arrange the asparagus on the prosciutto and drizzle the mustard crème fraîche over the top.

The End. Go Eat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food People Questions (with a nod to Proust):

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

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

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

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

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Carol Field

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Spade for cutting Parmigiano-Reggiano

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

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

Favorite vegetable?
Spinach

Chef you most admire?
Michael Romano

Food you like the most to eat?
Pasta

Food you dislike the most?
Sardines

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

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

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

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

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

Scrambled Eggs Recipe

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

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

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

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

 

 

i8tonite with 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. – 

My Favorite Dishes of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Hoja Santa Gran Reserva Arizona Latinos

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)

How long have you been cooking?
35 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fish

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

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

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

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

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

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

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Butcher’s Steel

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme

Your least favorite ingredient?
Rosemary

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

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

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli

Chef you most admire?
Joël Robuchon

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

Food you dislike the most?
Very Spicy foods

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

Recipe: Veal Ragout with Dill and Crispy Mushrooms

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

Serves 4

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

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

All other photos courtesy and copyright Chef James Laird

i8tonite with 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. –