Category Archives: Food Musings

Recipes from Editors and their Musings on food and life. It’s fun.

I8tonite: A New York Pizza Experience

Pepperoni Pizza

On a recent work trip to the Big Apple, I found myself working voraciously from one area of the boroughs to another, with only an opportunity to grab a quick slice of pizza for lunch, before hailing an Uber (Who takes cabs?) or jumping on the subway, repeating this action until dinner. I did this for five days. By the end of the trip, exhausted and not feeling well plus I felt bloated from the amounts of consumed dairy and wheat. (Yes. I  realized that milk products including trace amounts of butter and I are no longer friends.)

With this said, the trip provided me a rewarding experience that only Lactaid can cure the next time I venture forth with so much mozzarella. And, although, the New York slice, the version that you dab with a napkin to relieve of extra grease, rolling-up like a New York Times straphanger, is becoming extinct like said transit-rider, it still is served deliciously — and for me, gratefully.

On Quora – the internet answer for everything — someone tried to figure out the number of shops, reckoning it’s anywhere from 3200 to 32500.  Suffice it to say it’s a broad number. They even try and figure out how many per day a pizzaiolo must toss, bake and sell (about 50) to stay in business.

Whatever the case and take this with a grain of well-tossed salt hidden in the folds of rising dough, here are my selections for a few grand pizzas – in today’s Manhattan.

Prince Street Pizza

Formerly known as Ray’s when I lived was a poor New York student in the eighties, I would stumble by for a pepperoni slice after nightclubbing, something to soak up the alcohol. Purchased a decade ago, the existing owners kept the place alive and very much a Soho tradition. Instead of the fold-and-go variety of pies, they execute a Sicilian square loaded with small circles of spicy pepperoni. When baked onto one of the gooey delicacies, they become mini-cups of flavor, holding liquid fat, ready to drip down your chin or shirt. There are only a line and a counter so may do like a New Yorker and eat while walking.

27 Prince Street (between Elizabeth and Mott Streets)

(212) 966 – 4100


Days of cheese and pepperoni

 I came by the Romanesque pizza shop after Uber hightailing from a meeting in Brooklyn to Lexington and 78th only to be thirty minutes early. Rarely do opportunities arise with time on your side, so I sought out a quick place to eat and came across Farinella Pizza and Bakery.  Here the pies are elongated rather than round and the dough stretched rather than tossed. Regardless, it’s really delicious with a crispy under-carriage while it grips onto the selected toppings. The margherita is divine Italian simplicity at it’s best.

1132 Lexington Avenue (between 78th and 79th Streets)

New York, New York, 10075

(212) 327 – 2702


Pepperoni Pizza

Who knew that pizza – an import foodstuff brought over by Italian immigrants – could be so delicious in the hands of a Turk? Hakki Akdeniz worked for many years making $300 per week to learn the tasks of pizzaiolo trade. The outcome is a true slice of New York pizza. Folded in half, paper plate underneath – and a walk to the subway – or hanging out at one of the few tables. Eating the chewy dough and cheese with just that right amount of giving made me feel like all is right with the world – that Andy Warhol, Deelite and Nell’s where still around.

17 Cleveland Place, New York, New York

The end. Go eat.

(P.S. Apologies for the long space between posts. Life happens.)

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i8tonite: Farm Musings – Husbandry at Hateful Acres

This is part of the on-going series on Food Musings written by award-winning poet and writer, Julie Fisher. She is also  the founder of Litmore, Baltimore’s Center for the Literary Arts. 


“The industrial mind is a mind without compunction; it simply accepts that people, ultimately, will be treated as things and that things, ultimately will be treated as garbage.” Wendell Berry

These Musings are a reflection of my amateur farming experiences and research which intertwine with waxing poetic about the genuine pleasures of cooking, growing, harvesting, and sharing food. Our relationship to food is a biological imperative first, of course. But I believe the evolution of our food science and artistry is also an ingredient of our humanity. The good, generous, and delightfully curious part of all of us.

How we eat is no longer dependent strictly on what we can hunt or gather. It’s become this incredibly complex soup of choices and emotions and evocative memories and politics and class and income and marketing and industry. We no longer eat just to survive. Our daily lives are consumed by food and eating. We order our schedules and plans around food- shopping, preparation, and clean up. Food is a part of ritual. Food is so closely intertwined with our memories as to be inseparable. We remember the cooking smells of growing up, the scents of certain foods linked to great experiences, there’s the association of food eaten during an illness or particularly rough time. We are as fervent about food and eating as we are about religion and politics and sports. Our emotions and intensities cannot be separated from what we eat.

Some of us are fortunate and were taught to treat food mindfully and with a reverence for the ordinary. Some of us have such a helter skelter relationship to food we find ourselves with addictions and other harmful eating habits. Most of us fall in the middle. We don’t take food for granted, but we like convenience and ease of preparation. We are aware there are nutritious food choices and comfort food choices – and we tend to teeter between the two. As modern lifestyles evolve, we spend huge chunks of time away from home and we overschedule our time. This feeling of time scarcity makes us so susceptible to food impulses. As citizens of modern civilization, we are also recklessly bombarded with food marketing. We are consistently taunted by food AND food like substances.

Husbandry at Hateful AcresAs farmers, our food choices are simplified. We eat what we’ve grown or managed to stock up on, freeze, or jar. We only get taunted by the food industry when we are out and about, like when we are shopping for what we can’t grow or we didn’t pack snacks to bring along and we’re starving. I’m so grateful for this simplicity, because we spend less money on conglomerates and we eat nutritious food.

But farming has attuned our minds another way too-food is no longer an abstract list of purchases. Food becomes not just a thing but an interlocking process. Food is not just a jaunt to the store or market to get onions but a continuity. It’s also not a process with a beginning and end. Of course we plant, grow, and harvest onions but the harvest is not the “end.” There is no concrete end to the process because a) once you grow onions you will want to continue to grow onions, and b) the ability to grow onions doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Growing onions requires un-polluted, nutrient dense soil. Growing onions also requires sunlight, and non polluted rain water and good drainage and few predatory insects and a watchful eye on potential blights.

Nutrient dense soil is acheived with the right mix of compost and manure. Compost and manure don’t arrive magically, but through a fantastic, reciprocal energy exchange between animals, dead matter and decomposition. The result is beautiful, dark, rich soil full of complex nutrients, beneficial bacteria and good microorganisms. Nothing is wasted, there’s no garbage because a millenial old natural cycle is maintained.

AND we are intrinsically included in this natural cycle as labor and as consumers. We aren’t an anonymous cog in an assembly line wheel. We see and eat the fruits of our labor.

Husbandry at Hateful AcresSince we are learning from scratch to be farmers, we’ve had to make a significant choice early in our farming goals and decisions.
The decision was whether we would go into food production or farming. That seems at first glance to be a semantic choice, but any, even brief, research into food growing advice uncovers the duality of food production or farming. One method is heavily mechanized, reliant on machinery and man made chemicals. The other is small scale and labor intensive. We chose the latter. Part of the decision was pragmatic. We didn’t want to go into heavy debt. We aren’t borrowing money to buy equipment we can’t afford, much less maintain. One part of the decision was impulsive. We prefer the sensation of our hands in soil and the “normal” sounds of outside like birdsong and creek burble over the constant sound of large tractor engines.

Before WWII, it was simply farming. but its not simple now. The military/industrial complex learned large scale food production ccould use up the stores of unused munitions chemicals. Farming “science” spread and convinced farmers that bigger is better and more profitable. I don’t begrudge farmers who had their eyes on a comfortable, future living. But as it turns out, what seems to be too good to be true is mega-agriculture/factory farming.

Wendell Berry is a writer and farmer who I respect immensely. His writing has been instrumental in clarifying my goals as someone who grows food and raises animals. I am currently re-reading Bringing It To The Table, Wendell Berry On Farming and Food,  and I’d like to share this excerpt that somewhat sums up our aim…

“Husbandry pertains first to the household; it connects the farm to the household. It is an art wedded to the art of housewifery. To husband is to use with care, to keep, to save, to make last, to conserve. Old usage tells us that there is a husbandry also of the land, of the soil, of the domestic plants and animals-obviously because of the importance of these things to the household. And there have been times, one of which is now, when some people have tried to practice a proper human husbandry of the nondomestic creatures in recognition of the dependence of our households and domesti life upon the wild world. Husbandry is the name of all the practices that sustain life by connecting us conservingly to our places and our world; it is the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.

And so it appears that most and perhaps all of industrial agriculture’s manifest failures are the result of an attempt to make the land produce without husbandry. The attempt to remake agriculture as a science and an industry has excluded from it the age-old husbandry that was central and essential to it, and that denoted always the fundamental domestic connections and demanded a restorative care in the use of the land and it creatures.”

We practice husbandry at Hateful Acres.

Husbandry at Hateful Acres
Farm Cooking: Vegetable Stock

There are infinite uses for cooking with vegetable stock. AND you can use the “scraps” from vegetables you use in other dishes.

Take any vegetable scraps you have around – carrot peelings, onion skins, celery ends and leaves, etc. If you think ahead, freeze these as you get them, and then just pull them out of the freezer when you make stock.

Cook the scraps with a little bit of your favorite oil – just until soft. Then add water (how much you add depends on the quantity of your vegetable scraps), and simmer gently for an hour. Cool, strain, and use. Freeze extras!





Our Pastured Chicks Kill Fascists

This is the second of the ongoing series on Food Musings written by award-winning poet and writer Julie Fisher. She is also the founder of Litmore, Baltimore’s Center for the Literary Arts.

Our Pastured Chicks Kill Fascists. Musings by Julie FisherSo! Hateful Acres has chickens! Fifteen at the moment. Six who are in the weird feathered but still slightly fluffy, huge feet, awkward stage and nine fluff balls with emerging feathers. I am SO excited. I have wanted chickens of my own for AGES. Our wonderful outdoor space coupled with shared labor and generosity is making it possible.

Chickens are a fun mix of endearing and industrious. I’m repeatedly surprised how long I can just watch them and listen to their little conversations. Even my mostly city slicker kids are enchanted by the chicks and their antics. It’s not that chickens do anything particularly dramatic, they are simply a little silly in their seriousness.

Before I go any further, a disclaimer: I make sweeping generalizations and OVER simplify complex politics and science. I do this hesitantly, but with the goal of opening conversations and encouraging us to investigate for ourselves. End of disclaimer.

Chickens are currently an excellent symbol for the controversy over where our food should come from. In the United States, the science, technology, and expectations of our food culture changed dramatically post World War II. Advertising from food manufacturers waxed poetic and seduced us with promises that new convenience foods would grant us more leaisure time. After war time years of rationing and Victory gardens and let’s face it, quite a bit of labor, we were ready for some convenience.

But behind the scenes and with little media coverage, relationships were forged between chemical manufacturers who had a surplus of stock post war, agricultural colleges, and food regulating branches of the federal government. Strategies were put in place for a long term process to move wealth from the large number of traditional American family farms to a tiny sliver of corporate owned mega farms. In a kind of stealth mode, farmers were “taught” that modern farming informed by space age science could be very profitable. Agricutural colleges were at the forefront of the new science and praised introduction of chemical feritlixers and pesticides. The resulting high volume yields could be farmed with very expensive machinery. It was expensive but it was modern machinery with perks like air conditioning and fast processing speeds. Not to worry, the money for the purchases of all these chemicals and machines could be easily borrowed and the fat cat life would soon be in the palm of the farmers’ hands.

Our Pastured Chicks Kill Fascists. Musings by Julie Fisher

But Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp alerted us back in 1985 that American farmers weren’t making a living anymore…farmers were finding out that all those loans became a heavy burden. The market that promised to make them rich instead got flooded with crops and prices plummeted. No profits mean no money to pay back all those loans. The banks didn’t want to hear what happened to the market, they just wanted their money. So, many farmers lost farms that had sustained their families for generations. Despite the best funds raised by FarmAid, auctions for farms and equipment became common place and farm families were evicted from their farms.

Can you guess who swooped in and bought all those deeply discounted farms? Property developers who build Mcmansions? Sure, a few. But the bulk was purchased by corporations like Purdue and Tyson. Farming became food manufacturing. Instead of pockets of farms raising small numbers of animals based on what the land could support and the farm families could sustain. Food production rather than farming became the new normal. For example, here is some information from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service:

U.S. poultry meat production totals over 43 billion pounds annually: over four-fifths is broiler meat; most of the remainder is turkey meat; and a small fraction is other chicken meat. The total farm value of U.S. poultry production exceeds $20 billion. Broiler production accounts for the majority of this value, followed by eggs, turkey, and other chicken.

Broiler production is concentrated in a group of States stretching from Delaware, south along the Atlantic coast to Georgia, then westward through Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas.
Most U.S. broiler production is under contract with a broiler processor. The grower normally supplies the growout house with all the necessary heating, cooling, feeding, and watering systems. The grower also supplies the labor needed in growing the birds. The broiler processor supplies the chicks, feed, and veterinary medicines. The processor schedules transportation of the birds from the farm to the processing plant. In many cases, the processor also supplies the crews who place broilers into cages for transportation to the slaughter plant.

The U.S. turkey industry produces over one-quarter of a billion birds annually, with the live weight of each bird averaging over 25 pounds. Production of turkeys is somewhat more scattered geographically than broiler production.

The United States is by far the world’s largest turkey producer, followed by the European Union.

U.S. egg operations produce over 90 billion eggs annually. Over three-fourth of egg production is for human consumption (the table-egg market). The remainder of production is for the hatching market. These eggs are hatched to provide replacement birds for the egg-laying flocks and to produce broiler chicks for growout operations. The top five egg-producing States are Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Texas.

The large majority of the U.S. table-egg production is consumed domestically. U.S. egg and egg product exports are a relatively minor proportion of production. U.S. per capita consumption of eggs and egg products is around 250 eggs per person.

Did you catch that? 43 BILLION pounds of poultry. Also notice the language in the obove excerpt. Does it sound like the USDA is discussing sentient animals that breathe and have feelings and enjoy the sun on their feathers? No. The language refers to products. Units, not actual animals.

That staggeringly immense number of birds are not raised on a farm and they are not treated like animals. Food manufacturers, otherwise known as factory farms, raise chicken-like animals in sunless warehouses where they sit in their own excrement or in tiny cramped wire cages, eating and fattening up or laying eggs in an endless succession. Factory-farmed chicken-like animals don’t get to manifest their “chicken-ness,” to borrow a term from farmer/ food activist Joel Salatin. Factory chicken-like animals are not given the chance to act on the chicken behaviour impulses embedded in their chicken biology. They don’t get to scratch for tasty stuff outside like grubs or caterpillars or peck at vegetation to hunt aphids. They don’t get to select their own obscure egg laying spot or even get to choose which roost to claim for the evening.

Our Pastured Chicks Kill Fascists. Musings by Julie FisherMaking space for these distinctive chicken activities is the hallmark of a good chicken farmer. In my opinion, genuine farming includes, no – plans, the space for animals to be themselves. A good farmer helps chickens produce eggs and offspring or fattens them to be food in exchange for a steady food supply and thwarting predators and illness. But in this exchange, a good farmer RESPECTS his animals are alive and have feelings and sensations. A good farmer doesn’t try to just ignore this fact.

Factory farming subjugates an animal ONLY according to its use and with zero respect. Factory farms don’t recognize consciousness or sentience, only product and profit. Even the human workers in factory farms are de-humanized. They are expected to just distribute food, dose the antibiotics, and remove corpses from the same toxic climate the where the chickens live.

I’m drawn to raising chickens because I feel like my family and I are closer to the truth of eating. We can see how we are included in our “food chain”, not isolated from it and misled about the origins of our food. Most consumers have almost no awareness of HOW their eggs appear in a carton under flourescent lights in the refrigerated food warehouse. Or HOW the pre-butchered meat wrapped in plastic wrap gets there. This lack of awareness severs all of us intellectually from our animal-ness. The tragedy is we can pretend we aren’t predators. We are just shoppers.

Our Pastured Chicks Kill Fascists. Musings by Julie Fisher

This is the crux of our Earth crisis. Consumers do not recognize the consequences of being a shopper. Consumers cannot comprehend their purhases are the end point of a chain of events that ravages nature at the total expense of the future. Advertising has brainwashed us into believing all animals are raised and nurtured on bucolic red barned farms. But food manufacturers are lying to you. Only a tiny fraction of the animals we eat are raised as animals. The majority of those 43 billion birds are birthed, fed and butchered in a cruel, mechanical over medicated feedlot or warehouse and most of us don’t even know it.

So I confess my urge to keep chickens is because I love the cluck and the scratch and the funny way they look up to swallow water and how freaking adorable the fluff muffin chicks are in the first couple weeks and the squee! I will get when we see our first eggs. But I DECIDED to raise chickens becasue pasturing chickens is one of the most subversive things you can do on a piece of land in 21st century United States. So in homage to Woody Guthrie, my bumper sticker is gonna say, “Our pastured chickens kill fascists.”

Care to find a middle ground between total dependency on convenience foods and and raising your own animals? Find a local farm that pastures their animals and buy from that farmer. I also offer you the EASIEST chicken breast recipe ever, if you have access to a crockpot:

3 Ingredient Salsa Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 6 hours, 5 minutes


4 chicken breasts, trimmed
2 cups salsa
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro (optional)
2 cups cooked rice (for serving)


Place 4 chicken breasts in your slow cooker, top with 2 cups of salsa. Cover and cook for 4-5 hours on low.
Top with cheddar cheese, cover and continue to cook for 1-2 hours more, or until the cheese is very melted and the chicken is tender and cooked through.
Top with cilantro and serve over rice.

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs – the highlight of any group gathering…one look and people cluster to snag some, long for more, become sad when they are gone too soon.

What is it about deviled eggs that we so love? It could be the variations – from Chef Thomas Keller’s classic deviled eggs for the Oscars last night to the blasphemy/brilliance of buzzfeed’s deep fried deviled eggs. It could be that they are comfort food, or holiday food, or party food, or deeply nourishing food.

I don’t know one person who doesn’t love deviled eggs – if I met one, I’d be suspicious (Are they human? Do they have taste buds? Who are these people?).

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs

While in Milwaukee last month (“researching” our great food recommendations for our Cheat Sheet to eating in Milwaukee), my friend Amy Sobczak and I started discussing deviled eggs (because Vanguard was OUT of them. Oh, the sadness). The longer Amy and I talked, the more I realized how important deviled eggs are – to our meals, families, and celebrations.

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs

Here are some deviled egg musings from Amy and I – and a few family recipes.

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs

What is your first memory of deviled eggs?
A: Ah, the deviled egg… a cherished treat made for holidays and celebrations. I realized as a young girl that these little delights go fast at family functions, so the hover and snatch move at the serving table was necessary to enjoy as many as possible. Once they’re gone, they’re gone!
J: I remember peeking over the table when I was small, eyeing that platter of deviled eggs and wondering if “they” would know if I took one out. Of course, I was too short to see that the deviled eggs were placed on special dishes that had egg-shaped indentations on them, thus letting anyone know that there had been a egg-snitcher. Two words: WORTH IT. And, I went back for more.

What family traditions do you have around deviled eggs?
J: Well, deviled eggs are holiday food in my extended family. My aunt brings them at Christmas. Others bring them to summer gatherings. In our house, I make them often because they are good protein, and good snacks, and we can’t get enough of them.
A: Deviled eggs are a special occasion treat for us as well, rarely made for just your typical day. A family member or friend would always bring them to showers, birthday parties, and holiday get togethers.

egg plates. From i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs
My mom’s collection of deviled egg plates

What ingredient can’t you stand in deviled eggs?
A: I never met a deviled egg ingredient I didn’t like.
J: Pickles. Onions. Anything super strong or crunchy. My granny added olives, and/or topped them with caviar and I’d (gasp) avoid them.

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs

Favorite part of the deviled egg… Yolk or white?
J: YOLK all the way!
A: The yolk… hands down!


What’s with the name ‘deviled egg?’
A: Hmm… perhaps it’s deviled because of the mixing and mashing of several ingredients.
J: I add a titch of horseradish – devil-ish? Or maybe that the Hungarian paprika we sprinkle on top can be spicy?

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs
Why yes, there are *four* kinds of Paprika here.

Why do you think deviled eggs are so popular? They are always first to go, at a potluck!
J: Maybe because they can be tedious to make (although easier than many) and people reserve that cooking effort for holidays? I’m not sure, but when I see them anywhere, I grab a few!
A: They go with anything and everything!

We’ve seen some pretty crazy things (such as deep fried deviled eggs!) – would you eat them? why or why not?
A: Look, I love to try new things but I’m old school when it comes to the deviled egg. There’s something about that delicate balance between the firm white against the tangy yolk mixture. It’s just so delicious. Can’t mess with that.
J: Um, NO. Just no. It’s blasphemy. Eggs need to be cold, not warm; soft, not fried. Please stop.

Our favorite ingredients:
A: A good horseradish, pickle relish, and celery seed
J: Mayo, mustard, horseradish, chives, topped with paprika and salt

How to boil eggs

You can’t beat the directions from Food 52 and Serious Eats.

Recipe: Amy’s Deviled Eggs

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs
Amy’s Deviled Eggs

6 eggs, hard boiled, shelled, cut in half
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp pickle relish (drained)
½ tbsp cream style horseradish
¼ tbsp dried chopped chives
⅛ tbsp dried green onion flakes
⅛ tbsp dried onion powder
¼ tbsp dried celery seed
Hungarian paprika to taste/finish

Remove the yolk from each egg half and place in a small bowl. Put whites aside. Mash yolks with a fork add next eight ingredients and mix well to a fluffy consistency. Add relish juice if mixture is too dry (¼ tsp at a time). Fill egg whites full to heaping and sprinkle with paprika. Store in refrigerator.


Recipe: Jessie’s Deviled Eggs

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs
Jessie’s Deviled Eggs. See the ones my dad loves at the bottom?

1 dozen eggs (from a local farm is best. Trust me, I grew up reaching under chickens to grab them)
Squirt of yellow mustard
Mayonnaise, to taste
Grated horseradish, to taste
Fresh chives, snipped to small pieces
Salt, to taste
Sweet and Hot paprika, to taste

Boil your eggs. Run them under cold water and crack the shells a tiny bit, to let the cold water in and cool them down. Drain. Peel the eggs and cut in half.

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs

Place the whites onto your special deviled egg plate (or a regular plate, if you don’t have one yet). Put the yolks into a food processor and buzz a few times to create crumbles. Scrape into a bowl and add your ingredients.

Be careful with how much mayonnaise you put in – you can always add more, but you can’t take it out. Stir carefully until all is blended. Then scrape with a spoon into the hollows of the whites. Sprinkle with paprika, to taste. Keep them chilled until serving.

My husband and dad love the hot paprika. I love the sweet. Everyone loves different amounts, so start with a light hand and keep the paprika next to the plate, for those that like to add more. We usually have several kinds of paprika around – the latest is some very delicious paprika direct from Budapest, brought back by my best friend (thank you!).


What do you add to your deviled eggs? How often do you make them?

i8tonite: On the Joy of Deviled Eggs
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Mona Dolgov: A Perspective on the Food Experience…Why I Do What I Do

This is part of our on-going series on Food Musings. Today, we share the words and thoughts of Mona Dolgov, co-author of The Perfect Portion Cookbook.

Mona Dolgov: A Perspective on the Food Experience…Why I Do What I Do

I have always been fascinated with our relationship with food. It fuels our bodies, heals our ailments, gratifies our accomplishments, expresses our culture and identity, and graces our happiest celebrations. It can also be the culprit for risk and disease, even a crutch to combat sadness. Despite this, the pure chemistry and sensory experience in the kitchen, of cooking a meal from sight and aroma, to taste and the “natural” (vs. chemical) reaction satisfies both my creative spirit and my scientific curiosity.

As a nutritionist, business marketer, product and recipe developer for the past 30 years, I’ve pondered the complexity of the food and how consumers value it.

America’s dramatic decline in healthy eating is striking. The increase of dual working households and overscheduling of children, and technology has altered the traditional sit down meal and led to minimal time for “real home cooking”. The microwave oven, a welcomed kitchen technology, in addition to the myriad of prepared food items has led to the decline of quality food and the uptick of quick and easy prepared meals. Mealtime has become a function to feed a belly fast to get to the next task, rather than focus on the soul-satisfying home-cooked food.

The result? Weight gain, obesity, and all the bad stuff that comes with it—increased incidence of diabetes, heart disease, and based on medical research, certain forms of cancer. On an emotional level, it has led to diminished self-image, emotional stress, and depression. All of this drives me to provide consumers with knowledge, advice, healthy recipes and kitchen products that encourage a return to the kitchen to eat “real” food. I’ve chosen to work with product goods companies, home appliance companies, and supermarket chains that similarly embrace these goals.

Some phenomenal thought leaders have recognized these issues: the rise of healthcare costs (due to the increase of obesity, Type II diabetes and heart disease), the recognition of the “paragraph ingredient lines” filled with unpronounceable additives, and the unacceptable better-for-you quality of the food served at schools today for our children. Over the past 5-10 years, there has been resurgence toward eating healthier. Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables, “perimeter supermarket shopping,” and product development in the appliance and food industry that has led to slow cookers, blenders for nutrient juicing, and cleaner and healthier ingredient in products, such as Greek yogurt, snack bars, plus lower sugar and sodium options, in boxed foods, like pasta, cookies, and soups. Consumers are beginning to seek this new lifestyle, and the tables have started to turn.

An issue still remains. The baby boomer generation is reluctant to cook and their lack of participation in the kitchen influences their children. Parents have worked like crazy, had families, and relied on the microwave and other pre-made offerings to get food on the table. Cooking has become a “holiday hobby”, or a goal if I had the time (and wasn’t using that time for something else I preferred to do).

The weekday home-cooked family dinner is a real challenge. Who doesn’t want to serve dinner around the table to family and friends? To overcome, consumers have increased buying delicious prepared foods, take-out, and frozen meals instead of toil over a hot stove and fail. Everyone eats at a different time, and most of the meals are eaten on the go or standing up! Moreover, kids are not taught the basics of cooking. I am one of the rare mothers who taught my children to cook. Their friends are amazed that they can prepare a meal from “scratch”.

For the past ten years, it has been my goal to make the entire food experience from purchase to the table, better for consumers by making it less intimidating, engaging and easier. I like making it fun — creating game changing products or sharing healthy tricks that ease the intimidation and open the door to blissful food experiences. Such was my involvement with launching the one-pot slow cookers and cooking systems, easy one-press blenders and food processors to make smoothie making and vegetable chopping a breeze. Plus, I’ve worked with great teams to create and design cookbooks for countertop appliance manufacturers and retailers, developing entertaining, easy- to-make recipes that provide 5-star cooking results. By having this lofty goal, my other intention is to help reduce obesity in this country. Knowledge is power—if I could, in some way, be an ally to provide actionable advice to better eating habits, then my personal passion has been fulfilled.

The Perfect Portion Cookbook is my personal and most exciting project to date. Co-written with Anson Williams of Happy Days TV fame and Bob Warden, this two-year project combines all of my scientific background, product development, marketing, consumer insights, and nutritional and culinary expertise. Anson’s idea to create recipes and snacks that use a 100-calorie system spoke to me. It is a simple way to help consumers eat responsibly and visualize how much to eat (100-calories at a time!) with simple and delicious comfort food favorites. Yes, you CAN have great tasting food that IS better for you! The biggest challenge was improving recipes to make them satisfying, delicious, and the caloric value divisible exactly by 100. We wanted readers to be mindful of their everyday food choices through 100-calorie portions.

My favorite part of the book was sharing nutritional and culinary tricks that are simple and clever. Our 100-calorie French toast, made with “better butter batter” (can you say that 5x fast) uses a little butter and honey in the batter. It replaces the butter cooked in the pan and can save hundreds of calories, without compromising on taste. The creamy mac and cheese recipe serves up a filling portion at 300 calories and has a punch of flavor using extra sharp cheddar and Parmesan cheese. Or how about using simple cupcake pans for making individual 100-calorie cheesecakes? I hope that these cooking tips are passed through the generations to become easy go-to habits for a healthier life.

I dream of many goals: the return to the kitchen as a ‘family central’, inspiring future cooks, and once again sitting around the table talking about our day. Small steps to create eating patterns through healthier meals and scaling recipes to 100-calorie portions is the future to getting consumers back on track and will help to contribute to slashing diabetes, heart disease and lowering obesity. Yes, we can do it!
Mona Dolgev: A Perspective on the Food Experience…Why I Do What I DoA nutritionist by training from Cornell University, with 25 years of acquired marketing acumen, Mona Dolgov has created her sweet spot. She has led and contributed to over 20 launch campaigns, created over 75 products in her career, and owns 3 product patents (NINJA®, Jarden®, and The First Years®). She has led the development of over 20 cookbooks for Jarden® (Crock-Pot® Slow Cooker), Ahold® (Taste of Giant®), and for Euro-Pro® (NINJA®). She is known for defining innovative trends, creating engaging consumer stories and WOWs, and creating innovative consumer uses and recipes that are on-trend.

Mona has also led and created scripts, recipes, and tips with a variety of celebrity chefs and food bloggers, dietitians, in addition to co-producing the development for You-Tube recipe videos.

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits

Warm, flaky, steam rising, slathered with creamy Irish butter… you’re visualizing my favorite food in the world: BISCUITS.

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
Brush the tops with butter

It started when I was small. No tube biscuits for this family, oh no. We’ve got strong southern blood in our veins, and it shows at biscuit time. My gramma or my mom would make them, and I’d sit in the kitchen and “help” by taste testing. Of course, anyone knows that when you have this kind of help, you need to double the recipe. It’s worth it for the hot biscuits, enjoyed before dinner with someone who appreciates them. Who GETS YOU. You know who you are.

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
Hungry yet?

There are (vast) differences between southern biscuit culture and northern biscuit culture. Here’s a bit of history from our family, showing just how different they are. My gramma and her mother (full south, all the way) went over to my grampa’s mom’s house (northerners, every one). Biscuits were on the menu. My paternal great gramma pulled the biscuits from the oven, and SET THEM ON THE COUNTER TO COOL. Gramma and Gramma Lillie waited, aghast, for these northern biscuits. Who eats cold biscuits on the first bake? Sure, for leftovers (ha! who has leftover biscuits?), with country ham for a sandwich, or buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and put under the broiler until the tops are crunchy. Those are all great uses for old, cold biscuits. But to not eat them hot? Well, I can’t even imagine. I’d have stared, too, sad at the warm biscuity goodness rising into the air and not into my mouth.

One of the ways my gramma served up biscuits was with southern ham (a country ham, salty and chewy) and milk gravy. Sometimes, she’d make redeye gravy (with coffee). Now, the only gravy I want to touch my biscuits is sausage gravy – homemade, because everyone else puts too much pepper in, and I don’t do hot.

But mostly, I love biscuits hot, buttery, and plentiful. For my birthday this year, I asked for biscuits for dinner at my parents’ house. My mom asked what I wanted for sides – ribs? salad? coleslaw? She gets me.

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
Melted butter works best like this: put a large slab of butter on one half, then put the two halves back together and flip upside down, so the butter melts one way – then flip it and let it melt another way. IF you can wait, that is. Here, I obviously could not wait. That poor biscuit half needs more butter.

Recipe: Flaky, buttery biscuits with yogurt

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

2 cups all-purpose flour or cake flour
3 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt, fine grain
5 T cold butter, plus a bit more, melted, to brush the tops
7/8 c plain yogurt (I love Trader Joe’s European whole milk yogurt) or buttermik

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in your food processor. Add the butter, cut into bits, and pulse until it is crumbly. If you don’t have a food processor, mix it with your hands until it is completely blended.

Add the yogurt and stir until it is just mixed into a ball – no more! Knead 10 times. Too sticky? Add a tiny bit of flour. It will stick to your hands – this is normal.

Scoop out onto a floured board and pat it into a 3/4 inch rectangle. Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter or glass. Bittman notes this will produce 10-14 biscuits. Au contraire for me – 9 max. So, you might want to double or triple it. Note: In the photos below, my dough is a bit too thick – I could have gotten a few more biscuits out if it was patted out a bit more.

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
Cutting out biscuits – just push STRAIGHT down, do not twist.
i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
Cutting out biscuits – if the dough goes over the top of the biscuit cutter, as this one shows, you need to pat it out a bit more.

Place onto an ungreased cookie sheet, with or without a silpat. Take the last bit of scraps and form into the tester biscuit (cook’s reward!).

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet
i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)
If you put them close together, the sides that touch will be extra tender

Bake 7-9 minutes, until golden brown. If you want to gild the lily, brush those tops with melted butter. My dad eats them with honey. My daughter eats them with jam. I just eat them.

Eat. Be Happy. Biscuits are good.

Pin for later:

i8tonite: An Ode To Biscuits (with recipe!)

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Day at H8ful Acres by Julie Fisher, Poet

This is the first of the on-going series on Food Musings written by award-winning poet and writer, Julie Fisher. She is also  the founder of Litmore, Baltimore’s Center for the Literary Arts. 
Julie's place 2I live on the East Coast, in Northern Baltimore County to narrow it down. We had three days media notice of the impending snow doom threatening the Mid-Atlantic. I am responsible for hunkering down prep. H8teful Acres is our “farm” a little off the beaten path with a ¼ mile driveway, so it’s smart to be prepared. We are fortunate as a family, my time is flexible during school/work hours so I can stroll through a supermarket during non-panic hours and before the shelves are stripped of bread, milk and toilet paper. Maryland started getting notice of the incoming snow on Wednesday. By Friday shelves were basically bare.

On Friday, I realized we were nearly out of milk. So I sauntered down to the local farm where we buy or pastured foods. Their business hours are weekends only, so they were just opening and were plenty stocked with their pastured milk. I even remembered to grab some bacon, eggs and sausage patties too.

I look forward to big snows. Maybe it’s the remnant thrill of snow days from school or the anticipation of slowing down, sleeping in, leisurely meals and snacking.

For Snowmageddon 2016, I’ll give my attention to turning a baked chicken into chicken soup, a pork butt for pulled pork barbeque, some Italian turkey sausages.  I’m thinking mornings that begin with eggs, hash browns and bacon or sausage and for a pre-shoveling low effort morning meal, you can’t go wrong with Irish oatmeal. I’m eager for no bossy schedule defining my time so I’ll have the calm to undertake gluten free blue corn muffins, yellow cupcakes with chocolate icing and maybe some chocolate chip cookies.

Since I’m a Pinterest user, I have lots of recipes I’ve saved. I daydream about uninterrupted time that to try these recipes. Some of the recipes are common dishes customized to be gluten free-I’m fixated on baking actually tasty gluten free breads. Some recipes are gorgeously photographed and I want to recreate the work of art. Of course, a range of flavors or ingredients I’m repeatedly drawn to- figs, aged cheeses, dark chocolate, pears, hazelnuts, quinoa and brassicas.

So this morning, squinting at the dawn glitter on 30 inches of snow, I had lethargic, cozy plans. The snow did not quiet my demanding senior cat Whitney. I still shuffled down to feed her and grind my coffee. It also did not quiet the apparently nocturnal, terrified kitten we adopted two days ago and named Scully. She mewed pathetically, off and on all night. Despite this, in my pre-coffee blur I snapped some camera phone shots of the sunrise-tinted trees before their drapery of snow melted.
Julie's PlaceKidlets and hubby intermittently arrived downstairs. Coffee levels were topped off, bacon was sizzled, eggs were fried in ghee and gluten free blue corn muffins were baked. Soon, my fantasy of cozy, lethargy became suiting up to shovel. First we dug a path to The Dragon (our outdoor wood burning furnace), knock icicles from the gutter over our doors. More shoveling to free my Subaru, even more shoveling to clear a path to the Subaru, and to the front and back door.

It’s not until the sun starts to sink behind the tree line that we go inside to shed our snow and ice crusted clothing. Our ache-y muscles whined when our stomachs growled. Dinner, or more accurately foraging in the kitchen, included hot dogs, Trader Joe’s Olive Oil popcorn, some slabs of cheddar and crackers and blue corn muffins. The pork butt will keep marinating. The Italian turkey sausages made it into a frying pan. Just the sausages. No onions or peppers or such. We just managed to get some pasta boiling.  Oh, it’s whiskey o’clock after dinner.


Finally, we reach destination cozy. Feet and fingers are thawed. We sit together in the glow of our laptops and phones while outside is almost daylight bright with full moon on expanse of snow. And I think to myself, what crazy, beautiful luck to live here at H8teful Acres with my family –a total surprise trajectory in the arc of our lives. I think of all the people who lived here before us and built this house and farmed this land and raised critters here.  For roughly 100 years now, this has been someone’s home. 100 years ago would be when my great grandparents would have been raising families. How, I wonder, would they have prepared for a blizzard bearing down on them? Would they scramble for bread, milk and toilet paper?

As it turns out, after leaping into internet rabbit holes, the answer depends greatly on where you lived and if you had any money. For one thing, toilet paper was a brand new product in the early 1900’s. It was expensive AND it was difficult to market to customers with delicate Victorian sensibilities. Most used the less vulgar Sears Roebuck Catalog or Farmers’ Almanac pages. So my great grandparents who lived in Baltimore City would need to run to the newsstand. My great grandparents who lived on a farm in West Virginia probably had to make do with corn husks or cobs. Yikes.

After reading, I’m hoping my great grandparents who lived in Baltimore City had some money. If they were a poor immigrant family, they were basically at the mercy of shop owners. Most likely they lived in a tiny apartment with only a coal or woodstove and maybe running water. No pantry or root cellar and definitely no refrigerator. No critters either to give eggs or milk. The most common groceries were cabbages, potatoes, onions and oats. If you had more money to spend you could get eggs, milk and a poor cut of meat. A green vegetable beyond cabbage was a splurge. Vegetable scraps were a staple for the really poor. Yum.

My West Virginia farming great grandparents were set if Mother Nature cooperated. They would can, ferment and smoke their cellar full. A good harvest would mean full winter stomachs especially if they had livestock to slaughter. But rural West Virginia can be unforgiving-harsh weather and a lot of brutal physical labor. A good year would let them store jerky, bacon and hams alongside pickled veggies and jams. Flour would be on hand for breads and cakes. Lots of root vegetables stocked in the cellar. Often the reality was- not quite enough. Mother Nature can be fickle and cruel. Injuries and sickness took their tolls too. So, even farmers likely ate a lot of cabbage, potatoes and oats through the winter. I don’t even want to think about what they did if they went without coffee.

I’m glad I wondered about my great grandparents…. Surfing the internet reminded me again what a cool life I’m living. I am spoiled in so many ways my ancestors couldn’t even imagine. I know I’m not going to starve or even really lose any variety in my eating choices through this blizzard. I can reach in the fridge and pull out the marinating pork butt. I’ll pop it in the oven to bake on low for a few hours and fill my warm house with a barbeque aroma. I’m going to grind some beans and brew one more pot of coffee before I go out to finish shoveling. Thanks Universe!

Marinade for any pork roast

  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 3 – 4 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of coarse mustard
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of honey.
Whisk together the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Place thepork loin in a large resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Fifteen minutes per pound. Cooked covered for the first half, and uncovered for the second. 
The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite’s Call for Submissions

Food, for all of us, has many implications. We need it and can’t do without it. Yet, something so necessary can create illness, disease, laughter, memories and happiness – it’s as conflicting as hot and cold. We manipulate what we eat so we can become leaner, bigger, faster and stronger. There is no end to the discussion of what food can do and the stories we can tell.

Therefore, we, at i8tonite, have decided to open up “Food Musings” to writers who want to write about food. Whatever that may be from the extremes of eating,  tending to a garden and maybe raising a family chicken. It’s a no-holds-barred story.

Unfortunately, we aren’t paying – yet. We are working on finding a sponsor but then, just to be clear; we started i8tonite five months ago.

Besides, I get sick of listening to my own ramblings. When we don’t have one, I will pinch hit because – personally, every time I eat something, I have a story.

Please send all submissions at a word count of 1000 – 1200, and photos you would like to use (because we all love photos) to

With every essay, we want the author of each story to supply a recipe. Something fun for the reader to make at home  — easy and homecooked. It can be part of the story or something you just want to highlight. You decide.

We will promote the story for you to our readers – making you famous.

  • — Brian and i8tonite team

I8tonite: with Friends, Team Changes and Mashed Cauliflower

Courtesy of Apatow Productions
Courtesy of Apatow Productions

I was watching “Bridesmaids”, the hysterical friends and relationship comedy with Kristen Wiig.  Though the movie is heavily based on deep female friendships, there is a poignancy — that as a gay man with a multitude of amazing women comrades I can identify — that underlies the relationships. In one side-splitting scene, and there are so many, Melissa McCarthy’s character visits Wiig’s Annie, who is feeling sorry for herself. Her baking business went belly-up. She’s lost her apartment because she doesn’t have a job, lives with her mother. Her car is a junker. The only thing she isn’t doing is entering rehab. Basically, she’s hit rock bottom. But McCarthy, with her robustness, throttles Wiig’s character, by knocking her upside the head, proclaiming, “I’m life. Is life bothering you?” And yes it is…,.and it’s not going away, like McCarthy in the scene.

Six years, ago it was like that for me. A 14-year relationship went into the toilet. My business tanked. My ex-partner in business and in life, well — turned out not to be such a significant other. Broke. No home. No car. And starting life again past the age of forty. After leaving everything behind in San Francisco– including the dog – (heartbreaking), I retreated to Los Angeles and to my best friends: Shelley, Lulu, and Bonnie. There are also my dear friends such as Kim, Pat, Sophia, Margot, Barbara, Kathy, and Jenny – many of whom I have known since the beginning of my career — but the pattern for me is women. With a couple of exceptions, such as my oldest friend Sean, John and former therapist Peter, these women, plus many more (Tanya, Annie, Myra, Myrna, Linda Chester, Katherine Lape, Julie, Charlotte, Teryann, Rita, Beverly, Katherine, Christine, Beth, Janet, Penny, Sharon – I know I’m forgetting someone. Forgive me if I am as the list is lovingly long) have been my salvation. My family. My friends. My confidantes.

I know the fairer sex isn’t all peaches and cream. There are some women I would never want in my corner: Lizzie Borden, the female half of Bonnie and Clyde, and Sarah Palin to name a select few.

Overall, the ladies in my life have been strong, resilient and loving. (This is what my memoir is about: a series of personal essays on the women I have loved as a gay man.)

Jessie with Mallard Cottage's chef Todd Perrin - site of one of my favorite meals this year! St. John's, Newfoundland
Jessie with Mallard Cottage’s chef Todd Perrin

With all that said, in less than five months – I can’t believe it – has grown as a site to roughly over 10,000 unique visitors per month. I can’t keep up with its content and rapid growth. So, I have brought on Dr. Jessie Voigts to become my collaborator, co-publisher, and co-editor to assist in the endeavor. Another great feminine presence – to keep my ass moving forward.

Jessie has another site called Wandering Educators. There she is Queen Bee, holding court amongst her loyal subjects discussing the importance of travel in education.

Cauliflower by Liz West.
Cauliflower by Liz West.

Mashed Cauliflower: This holiday eating season, I baked up cheesecakes, biscuits, breads, assorted pies, and cakes. Now, I need a sugar and flour respite and some weight loss. I’m getting older, and it doesn’t come off as fast as it once did. Additionally, I’m 49. I want to look good as I hit that mid-century, I want to look Daniel Craig-splendid, all sinew, and muscle, one more time before I hang up the Speedo. Not for anyone else…..but for me, and Nick.

I made this dish, and I may never ever go back to mashed potatoes again. (I love potatoes!) It held the pot roast gravy perfectly and was luxuriantly delectable. Who cared that there wasn’t a spud in it? And it’s low carb.

To Make: Boil a head or two of chopped cauliflower, minus the outer leaves, along with several garlic cloves. Cook until it falls apart. Strain. While, the vegetables and garlic are still hot, add a dollop of cream cheese (don’t argue), grated parmesan or asiago. Use an immersion blender to puree. Add some chives. Serve this puppy with anything. Game-changer.

The End. Go Eat.

Finding Food, Friends, and Conversation On The Road – My Most Memorable Meals of 2015

This is a memorable guest post from Penny Sadler, blogger at Adventures of a Carry-On. 

My best meals of 2015

I grew up in a big family, but as a teenager there was a period of time when it was just my dad and I living together. Neither one of us was a whiz in the kitchen, so we often ate dinner out. Those early dining experiences ingrained in me a love for delicious food and conversation. They shaped who I am today – a good listener and a good conversationalist, with a penchant for excellent food (preferably cooked by someone else), with a healthy dose of listening and sharing by all parties at the table.

Writing about my top five most memorable meals of 2015 was easy…except that I had so many memorable meals. When I really thought about the meals that stood out for me, I noted that I was always traveling. From San Francisco to Piedmont, Italy, 2015 was a year of new food experiences and wine pairings. Another reason these meals were memorable…all of my favorite meals this year included reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances or dining with new friends. And of course, great conversation.

Cacio e Pepe at Locanda - one of my favorite meals this year
Cacio e Pepe at Locanda – one of my favorite meals this year

California: Locanda – The Mission: Let’s begin in San Francisco, voted the best food city in the USA by Bon Appetit Magazine.  I can’t disagree. I had several memorable meals in San Francisco. but the one that really stands out for me was dinner at Locanda  in the Mission District. Owners Craig and Annie Stoll have turned to Rome for the inspiration behind Locanda – and for this reason, I was eager to try it.

Aside from being some of the best Italian food I’ve eaten in the US or Italy (there’s an Italian who is going to argue with me about this I know), what made this meal special was my dinner companion. I met Jody on New Year’s Day in Cambria, California, under not the best of circumstances. I fell on the beach and couldn’t get up. Jody rescued me. Jody lives in Mill Valley, I live in Dallas. We met up in San Francisco almost a year later, and had an amazing dinner and wine pairing at Locanda.

Locanda - home to one of the best meals I ate in 2015

I decided to try the Cacio e Pepe for a primi. It’s about as basic as you can get – pasta, cheese, and pepper with some olive oil. And yes, it did remind me of Rome. For an entrée, I had the Pancetta-wrapped Mary’s Chicken with Anson Mills polenta and grilled turnips.  I rarely ever order chicken, but Mary’s Chicken is a family-owned business that has been raising free-range, organic chickens for three generations.  The dish had the perfect blend of flavors – slightly salty, savory, and the perfect portion size. The sommelier paired it with a Francesco Rinaldi Barbaresco. The dark red fruit and licorice flavors of the wine were a perfect balance with the savory notes of the pancetta and chicken. Jody had the Berkshire Pork Saltimboca paired with a lovely Beaujolais. She left with a doggie bag. For dessert, we had a Barolo Chinato. It’s a dessert wine with aromas of stewed fruit, but not too sweet. Lovely.

No matter what you order at Locanda, you can’t go wrong. We loved everything.

Locanda chef making pasta - one of my best meals of 2015
Locanda chef making pasta

Since I’m a recent WSET (Wine Spirits Education Trust) graduate, I did take note of the excellent wine list at Locanda. Many Italian wines from Piedmont were included, and I was pleased to see I’d visited several of the wineries on the list. One of them is part of this article, as I also had an amazing meal there. Read on.

Locanda, 557 Valencia (San Francisco)


Acquolina - location of one of my best meals of 2015Aquolina – North Beach: I spent Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco mostly walking around the North Beach neighborhood.  There was a place right on the corner facing Washington Square with lots of windows and sidewalk seating that looked inviting. I grabbed a seat at the bar, ordered a spritzer, and watched the crowd for a while. I was scouting for a place for myself and a friend to have Thanksgiving dinner, but we didn’t want to spend a fortune on a pre-fixe menu.

Aquolina was serving their regular menu, casual Tuscan-style Italian,

Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina - one of the best meals I ate in 2015
Pizza with speck and mozzarella from Aquolina

in addition to holiday specials. I saw a few pizzas being served and decided that was where we’d have dinner later. We ate a wonderful thin-crust Roman-style pizza, with mozzarella and prosciutto. Delicious! It was the perfect antidote to a traditional Thanksgiving meal…and I got to dine outside on a crisp San Francisco night with a friend who happened to be in town that week.

Aquolina, 1600 Stockton St. (San Francisco)

Courtesy. Harmony Cafe
Courtesy. Harmony Cafe

Harmony – San Luis Obispo County: South of San Francisco, just off of Highway 101, is the tiny town of Harmony,  population: 18. I was starving, so stopped to see what I might find in such a small place.

The moment I stepped foot inside the Harmony café, I felt like I was in Italy. And guess what? Chef Giovanni is

House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - part of my best meals of 2015
House-made butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce at The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

indeed Italian. He made me a butternut squash pasta with a light marinara sauce, which paired well with a glass of pinot grigio. While I waited, I chatted with other customers who told me they were regulars there – they return every year on vacation from New York. That’s how good Chef Giovanni’s food is. For dessert, I had the house-made tiramisu.  Pasta and tiramisu in one meal is an indulgence I don’t often allow myself. But tiramisu made by an Italian is the next best thing to going to Treviso, the home of the original tiramisu.

Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough - location of one of my best meals in 2015
Chef Giovanni, The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough

Note: Harmony Cafe has relocated to Cambria, and is now called The Harmony Cafe at the Pewter Plough. Chef Giovanni is still cooking in the kitchen.

Harmony Cafe, 824 Main St. (Cambria)


Piedmont, Italy: Barolo

why go to Barolo, Piedmont, Italy @PennySadler 2015
Photo by Penny Sadler

In September, I toured the wine country of Piedmont, Italy. I completed my Wine Spirits Education Trust certification in August (you can read about it here), and the time seemed right for this trip. Many of the wineries in the area also have dining rooms and tasting menus serving regional dishes paired with the local wines. I recommend La Foresteria at Cantina Marchesi di Barolo, in Barolo,

Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner's daughter at Marchesi di Barolo, location of one of my best meals of 2015
Angelo, Me, and Valentina Abbona, the Marketing Manager and owner’s daughter at Marchesi di Barolo

Italy. Here I met up with an Italian friend who had hosted me at his home in Italy over two years ago. A reunion over food and wine in Barolo doesn’t sound too shabby, does it?




Marchesi di Barolo - the location of one of my best meals of 2015
Dining room, Marchesi di Barolo

There are three menu options, and depending on how hungry you are, you can chose three to five courses. Whatever you do, you must try the veal with tuna sauce (veal con tonnato). I thought it sounded disgusting until I tried it. Buonissimo! It was paired with the Gavi di Gavi, a wine I enjoy drinking on its own – it was perfect with this dish. The desserts were to die for, as well.

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit served with Moscato d’ Asti

The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo -dessert from one of my best meals of 2015
The Moscato jelly with fresh fruit at Marchesi di Barolo

Zagara tasted crisp and fresh. I could have eaten a gallon of it. The ambiance was very elegant, with white tablecloths, delicate stemware, and enough silverware to make me feel like I was in a scene from Pretty Woman.

Marquesi di Barolo, Via Roma 1


Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Santa Fe, New Mexico: Now, believe it or not, I do have one amazing dining experience to tell you about that was not Italian, nor in Italy or California. This memorable meal was in Santa Fe, New Mexico, another well-known foodie city. It was, and remains, the most unique dining experience of my life so far. Yes, I think I can honestly say that.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

Prepared in the parking lot at the Santa Fe Opera, the locals call this dining a tailgate party. We had our table set up under a beautiful white tent.  Executive Chef Todd Hall, from La Posada de Santa Fe, prepared a four-course meal for us while black tie waiters served us grilled bacon wrapped peaches, lobster in little gem lettuce, and ahi tuna, paired with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc. Those were the appetizers.

The second course was a salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled

Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Salad of Sicilian burrata, asparagus, boiled egg, and lemon curd aioli, La Posada de Santa Fe ©Amiel Gervers Photography

egg, and lemon curd aioli. To die for. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Ever. I could have made the main course out of that.

Next up was Prawn and Diver Scallop Brochette on a salad of chilled

lemon mint tabbouleh, icicle cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, and yellow watermelon, paired with a buttery chardonnay from Walt vineyards. Wait, did I say the second course was the best thing I’ve ever eaten? Honestly, the entire meal was a work of art. The combination of flavors and textures was sublime. I will never forget this meal.

Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography
Opera Tailgate dinner at La Posada ©Amiel Gervers Photography

And then there was dessert: a dark cherry tartlet with Kahlua salted caramel ice cream. Swoon! The sad news is, we barely had time to inhale this heavenly creation because we were being swept off to see the opera.

My suggestion: go to the newly remodeled Julia,  at La Posada de Santa Fe. Todd Hall is a James Beard-recognized chef and Julia is a beautiful, warm environment. The experience may not be the same as a tailgate party at the opera, but the food is sure to be five-star, and the warm and inviting atmosphere at Julia is pretty swanky, too.

La Posada de Santa Fe, 300 East Palace Ave. (Santa Fe, New Mexico)

The End. Go Eat. Happy 2016.