Category Archives: Food People

I8tonite with Food Person: San Francisco’s FoodGal, Carolyn Jung

Carolyn Jung and Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai
Carolyn Jung and Celebrity Chef Ming Tsai

For more than fifty years San Francisco’s Bay Area is  considered to be North America’s epicurean kingdom – long before the term Silicon Valley entered into our lexicon and made it a technology-based realm.  With American Wine Country, Napa and Sonoma, sitting at the back door along with Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry, Charles Phan’s Slanted Door, Cindy Pawlcyn’s Mustard Grill and Fog City Diner leading the culinary pack, it’s also created and ushered some of the country’s best wordsmiths and journalists in the world of food and wine.  Michael Bauer, John Birdsall, Amy Sherman, Marcia Gagliardi, Harvey Steinman all stand at M.F.K Fisher’s door including winning awards from the famed epicurean organization James Beard. However, for almost two decades, James Beard award-winner Carolyn Jung, the former food editor at San Jose Mercury News, and sole proprietor of FoodGal.com, have put on a different face to the Northern Californian dining scene.  Residing outside the kingdom’s walls in the San Jose area, although  born and raised in the City by The Bay –  Jung’s writing’s on the area’s food scene is full of knowledge and has made her one of the pre-eminent voices in the national culinary circle . FoodGal is  read far outside Northern California with readers international in scope. She is also one of the area’s non- Caucasian food media which we discussed at length after she posted an article from First We Feast about the lack of diversity in food writing.

A true San Franciscan, Jung was born at Clay and Polk to Chinese parents. She was then raised in Diamond Heights, near Twin Peaks where the roads are all named after gemstones. Jung has been at the forefront of San Francisco’s cookery explosion reporting first-hand on its continued national influence including visiting my client, at the time, The Restaurant at Meadowood when it received its second star Michelin star under Chef Christopher Kostow.

Jung with Chef Alex Ong, formerly of Michelin Bib Gourmand Betelnut
Jung with Chef Alex Ong, formerly of Michelin Bib Gourmand Betelnut

Before becoming the food editor at San Jose Mercury News, which she refers to as “the Merc”, her beat was on race and demographics. She says about the transition to food writer, “In a great way, my previous beat allowed me to transition seamlessly into the food one. There were so many times on my former beat where I’d start to report on a story, and community leaders would always say, ‘Let’s go eat first.’ Food has always been important around the discussion of community. It may be a cliche, but breaking bread with someone really is the ultimate icebreaker.”

After she was laid off in 2008 from San Jose’s leading newspaper, she craved an avenue to continue communicating with the readers she carefully cultivated, hence FoodGal.com which has nearly a hundred thousand unique visitors per month. It’s where Jung continues to use her journalistic reporting on the area she loves so much and the epicurean people and foodstuff within.  When asked if she ever considered leaving, she responded, “I had several opportunities before I left the newspaper but I wanted to stay. My parents lived here. I’ve also love working the Bay Area and its diversity. We start the food trends – although New Yorkers might disagree.”

Jung is also a gifted emcee hosting many events throughout the Bay Area including many of the Macy’s cooking demos in Santa Clara as well as in San Francisco.

She just completed for the fourth year Chefs’ Holidays at Yosemite’s luxury Ahwanhee Hotel. Upcoming, Jung will be at Macy’s on February 10th with Pastry Chef, Christy Ikezi.

Her cookbook on her hometown San Francisco Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City by The Bay is available at leading retailers and online. Her stories have also appeared in San Francisco Chronicle, VIA and Eating Well.

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

Book Cover: San Francisco Chef's Table
Book Cover: San Francisco Chef’s Table

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Does baking cookies count? It is my favorite thing to make. In fact, there are times when I get so stressed with deadlines that I think, “I must go bake some cookies right now — or else!” It’s my relaxation; and my vice.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Condiments of all kinds — I love them. Cheese; fresh seasonal fruit; good jam; and a jar of preserved Meyer lemons (I make them every winter with lemons from my dwarf tree).

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Good conversationalist, great sense of humor, and a willingness to try most anything at least once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Talking about themselves non-stop, taking no interest in the other people they are dining with, and staring at their cell phone constantly.

Comrades in arms: (L to R) Pastry Chef Rodney Cerdan of Prospect Restaurant, yours truly, Chef Will Pacio of Spice Kit, and photographer Craig Lee

Beer, wine or cocktail? I like all three. But I am partial to a creative and balanced cocktail, followed by wine — if someone else is driving me back home.

Your favorite cookbook author? My friend Andrea Nguyen, because she is so meticulous with her recipes, and we share a love for perfect dumplings. Joanne Chang and Emily Luchetti because their baking recipes never disappoint. Bruce Aidells because he is the authority on meat. Jean-Georges Vongerichten because he is as renowned and sophisticated a chef as there is, yet he can actually write recipes that won’t make your head spin, teach you practical techniques you may not have known before, and create distinctive, flavorful dishes that one can actually make at home.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My Le Creuset Dutch oven. In fall, winter and spring, it gets a real workout, as I use it for all manner of soups, stews and braises. Not to mention, it’s a looker in dazzling blue.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Most anything. That’s the fun part about getting so many cookbooks to try — you get to learn about so many different cuisines and cultures. And of course, the baking books are always the ones I look at first.
Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Ooh, that’s a tough one. I’m going to have to go with pork because it’s such an important part of my Chinese heritage. Plus, pork is so versatile. And let’s face it, so delicious, too.

AbsintheGermanChocolateCake
Absinthe German Chocolate Cake: Photo by Carolyn Jung. 

Favorite vegetable? I would like to say heirloom tomatoes, but that’s a fruit, despite what most people think. So, I’ll go with asparagus. I look forward to its appearance every spring, then go crazy buying it every week at the farmers market, until its season comes to an end all too quickly. I like it especially grilled or roasted, which brings out its natural sweetness.
Chef you most admire? There are so many. I give them so much credit for how hard they work, the endless hours they put in, cooking on the line, on weekends and holidays, and missing so much family time. I admire Thomas Keller for being a class act, and always pursuing perfection; Jamie Oliver for shining a light on childhood obesity; and Jose Andres for working to get solar ovens in third-world countries, where young women are often accosted, beaten or raped while trying to gather firewood for their families.

 

Ginger Apricot Cookies
Ginger Apricot Cookies from Carolyn Jung’s website. Recipe available. Photo by Carolyn Jung.

Food you like the most to eat? Have I mentioned cookies? OK, well, there’s also my obsession with kouign-amanns. Basically, if I could eat pastries morning, noon and night — without any consequences — I would.
Food you dislike the most? I’ll try anything once. But I must say after having natto once, I probably don’t need to have it again.
What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Exercise (heck, I do have to burn all the calories I consume); read a good book for hours on end (a luxury I rarely have time for, unfortunately, except when I’m on a long plane ride); treat myself to a spa day (yeah, that happens about once every five years); catch up on movies with my husband; hang out with friends and family (though, that most often does involve food in some shape or form); and watch “American Ninja Warrior” (yes, I’ll cop to that).
Who do you most admire in food? Farmers, who are so dedicated, don’t make a whole lot of money in return, and have to put up with the uncertainties of Mother Nature year in and year out. Without the work they do, our lives would be a whole lot less delicious, nutritious, and full of wonderment.
Where is your favorite place to eat? It can be a fancy restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall, or even my own home — as long as the company is delightful, the food prepared with care and love, and the vibe comfortable, relaxing, and stimulating.
What is your favorite restaurant? Depends on my mood, craving, and thickness of my wallet on any given day. I could pick The French Laundry because I’ve had several memorable meals there, and my husband actually proposed to me in the parking lot there. I could choose Yank Sing because I adore its dim sum, and I held my wedding banquet there. I could say Nathan Myhrvold’s “Modernist Cuisine” lab, because I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually dine there. Or I could pick the Honolulu bare-bones, plate-lunch spot, Nico’s Pier 38, where chilly and bleary-eyed after getting up at the crack of dawn to tour the Honolulu Fish Auction, I ate a simple ahi omelet made with fresh fish from that auction, while sitting outside as the sun came up on a glorious Hawaii morning.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? None. My Mom never would have approved of that.

Carolyn Jung’s Recipe:

Chicken stir-fry over Hong Kong noodles at M.Y. China restaurant in San Francisco, California, on Friday, May 10, 2013. Photo by Craig Lee
Chicken stir-fry over Hong Kong noodles at M.Y. China restaurant in San Francisco, California, on Friday, May 10, 2013. Photo by Craig Lee

I chose this dish because it’s nearly Chinese New Year’s. It’s also a dish that reminds me of the type of comforting, satisfying food my Mom used to cook when I was growing up. I’d pick the crispy noodles out of the pan with my fingers, as she’d shoo me away. When it was finally ready, my brothers and I would line up at the stove to help ourselves to a tangle of noodles, and sit down to a bowl of joy.

Crispy Noodles with X.O. Chicken & Bok Choy
(Serves 4)

For the marinade:
2 teaspoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1∕8 teaspoon ground white pepper
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced

For the sauce:
4 tablespoons chicken broth
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon X.O. sauce (available in jars at Asian markets)
1 teaspoon chili bean sauce
1/4 teaspoon sugar

For the rest of the dish:
8 ounces fresh, thin Chinese egg noodles
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1 fresh hot red chili, thinly sliced
4 fresh shiitake mushrooms, caps only, sliced
1 small zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise

To make the marinade: Combine the rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl and mix well. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

To make the sauce: Combine the broth, soy sauce, rice wine, X.O. sauce, chili bean sauce, and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

To cook the noodles: In a large pot of boiling water, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water, and drain again.

Place a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirling to coat the sides. Spread the noodles in the pan and press lightly to make a firm cake. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the noodle pancake over, add 1 more tablespoon oil around the edges of the pan, and cook until second side is golden brown, 3–4 minutes. Remove to a serving plate and keep warm.

Place a stir-fry pan over high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the garlic, ginger, and chili and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Add the marinated chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a small bowl and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan over high heat, swirling to coat the sides. Add the mushrooms and zucchini and cook for 1 minute. Add the sauce and bring it to a boil. Add the bok choy, cover, and cook for 1 minute.

Return the chicken to pan and stir to heat through. Pour on top of the noodle pancake and serve immediately.

Recipe Courtesy of San Francisco Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City by the Bay by Carolyn Jung. Photo by Craig Lee.

The end. Go eat.

 

 

i8tonite with Abby Dodge, Pastry Chef and Cookbook author … and her Lemon Ginger Mousse Soufflés

What began as a love for baking at a young age, developed into a i8tonite with Abby Dodge: Pastry Chef and Cookbook author…and her Lemon Ginger Mousse Souffléspassionate and successful career for Abby Dodge. A widely respected, award-winning expert in baking and cooking for both kids and adults, as well as a popular food writer, instructor and media personality, Abby has a simple mission: To streamline baking and cooking for home cooks of all ages.

She studied in Paris at La Varenne and worked under superstars Michel Guerard and Guy Savoy, specializing in pastry. She has held food editorial posts at Parents and Woman’s Day, and has contributed to over seven dozen special-interest publications focusing on baking and family cooking. Abby is currently a contributing editor at Fine Cooking magazine, where she has been on the masthead since its first issue in 1994. She founded the magazine’s test kitchen, has written and contributed to over eighty articles to date, and serves as the magazine’s guru for all things baking.

In addition to her regular blog postings, Abby hosts a Baking Boot Camp video class on the popular site Craftsy.com, where she teaches and encourages an international group of bakers of all skill levels to become better bakers.

The Everyday Baker. Lemon Ginger Mousse Souffle. Recipe by and interview with cookbook author and pastry chef Abby DodgeHer tenth book, The Everyday Baker ~ Recipes & Techniques For Foolproof Baking (The Taunton Press, Dec. 2015), has just been released to much critical praise – including my own! I love this book – and have recommended it far and wide. It’s the most comprehensive – and interesting – baking cookbook I’ve ever seen (and I own more than 5,000 cookbooks). I love the detailed instructions (with photos), as well as the creative, intriguing recipes (176 of them!). I’ve reviewed many of Abby’s cookbooks through the years – they are all amazing, and keep getting better. Highly recommended.

Abby’s  Ten Popular and Award-Winning Cookbooks:

  • The Everyday Baker ~ Recipes & Techniques for Foolproof Baking, 2015 (Washington Post Top Ten Cookbooks of 2015; Dorie Greenspan Top Baking Cookbooks of 2015)
  • Mini Treats & Handheld Treats ~ Delicious Desserts to Pick Up & Eat (September, 2012)
  • Desserts 4 Today – Flavorful Desserts with just FOUR INGREDIENTS , 2010 (a viral & critically acclaimed sensation)
  • Williams-Sonoma Mini Pies, 2010
  • Around the World Cookbook, 2008 (Good Morning America Top 10 Cookbooks of 2008; Parents Choice Recommended Award 2008; Cordon d’Or Culinary Academy Award 2008)
  • The Weekend Baker, 2005, reprinted 2008 (Food + Wine Top Ten Cookbooks of 2004; IACP Cookbook Award Finalist)
  • Kids Baking, 2003 (Over 347,000 copies in print, translated into Spanish)
  • Williams-Sonoma Dessert, 2002 (Over 300,000 in print, translated into Spanish)
  • The Kid’s Cookbook, 2000 (Over 368,000 copies in print)
  • Great Fruit Desserts, 1997 (Translated into six languages)

Abby has also contributed or co-authored many cookbooks, including:

  • Baking Out Loud (Hedy Goldsmith, Clarkson Potter 2012)
  • B. Smith’s Southern A to Z (Scribner, 2008)
  • The Joy of Cooking, 75th Anniversary Edition, 2006
  • Savoring America, 2002 (James Beard Award finalist; Ben Franklin Award winner)
  • Cookies for Christmas, 1999
  • The All New Joy of Cooking, 1997

 

Banana Rum Truffle Tart. i8tonite with Abby Dodge: Pastry Chef and Cookbook author…and her Lemon Ginger Mousse Soufflés
Banana Rum Truffle Tart

 

Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Eggs. Easy & options abound.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Unsalted butter.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Keeping it real – no posers at my table.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Open-mouth chewer.

Beer, wine or cocktail?
Yes, please.

Maple Pear Slab Pie. Banana Rum Truffle Tart. i8tonite with Abby Dodge: Pastry Chef and Cookbook author…and her Lemon Ginger Mousse Soufflés
Maple Pear Slab Pie

Your favorite cookbook author?
I’m promoting a book so.. me.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My Oxo kitchen scale

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French… Italian… Greek… Spanish… don’t make me chose.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Easy: Chicken

Favorite vegetable?
Brussel sprouts but ask me again tomorrow, I happily bounce all over the veggie aisle.

Chef you most admire?
Alfred Portale – insanely gifted, a bear to work for & surprisingly shy.

Food you like the most to eat?
Cake. Make mine chocolate and in big pieces, please.

Food you dislike the most?
I’ll take some heat for this one but… beets. Chalk it up to a bad childhood experience.
Don’t ask.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Watching RHOBH with my darling daughter- a guilty pleasure.

Who do you most admire in food?
Michael Rulhman. A straight talker and brilliant writer worth listening to.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
On a warm day, I’ll be sitting at an outside table, preferably by the water. Please pass the Rose.

What is your favorite restaurant?
See above.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
My Motto: Don’t answer questions that you don’t want your kids to read.

Lemon Ginger Mousse Souffle. Recipe by and interview with cookbook author and pastry chef Abby Dodge
Lemon Ginger Mousse Souffle

Recipe: Lemon Ginger Mousse Soufflés from The Everyday Baker

Serves 6

These light, billowy individual soufflé-like mousses are a variation on a pie filling in my book, The Weekend Baker. Instead of adding heavy cream to the mousse, I use puréed ricotta (for a smooth texture) to add richness without heaviness. The lemon and fresh ginger make for a refreshing flavor profile, but it’s the ginger cookies hidden inside that are the surprise ingredient. Softened by the mousse, they bring texture and a burst of ginger flavor.

Adding a collar of parchment adds additional height to the ramekins. This way you can mimic the impressive height of a baked soufflé without the need for any last-minute fussing.

Neutral oil (safflower, canola, vegetable, or corn), for the
ramekins

For the mousse
3⁄4 cup (180 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 envelope (1⁄4 oz./7 g) unflavored powdered gelatin
11⁄4 cups (111⁄4 oz./319 g) ricotta (part skim is fine)
3⁄4 cup (51⁄2 oz./156 g) granulated sugar
1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
Pinch of table salt
4 whites from large eggs (4 oz./ 113 g), at room temperature
1⁄2 tsp. cream of tartar
1⁄2 cup (2 oz./57 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted if lumpy

12 gingersnap cookies + more for the crushed cookie topping
(I use Nabisco or homemade molasses cookies)

Blackberry Compote (recipe in the book) or other berry sauces, optional

Have ready six 6-oz. (180 ml) ramekins (31⁄2 inches wide and 12⁄3 inches high/9 cm wide and 4.25 cm high) arranged on a flat plate or quarter sheet pan. Cut parchment into six strips 21⁄2 inches (6 cm) wide and 12 inches (30.5 cm) long. Wrap one strip around each ramekin so that the paper covers the ramekin and stands 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the rim; secure with tape. Lightly grease the inside of the paper rim (I use a paper towel dipped in a bit of neutral oil).

Make the mousse
1. Pour the lemon juice into a small heatproof ramekin (or keep it in the measuring cup) and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Set aside to soften. Once the gelatin has absorbed the liquid and is plump (about 3 minutes), microwave briefly until it is completely melted and crystal clear, 1 to 2 minutes. This can also be done in a small saucepan (instead of the ramekin) over low heat.

2. Put the ricotta, granulated sugar, lemon zest, ginger, and salt in a blender. Scrape the lemon–gelatin mixture into the blender, cover, and process until the ricotta is smooth and the mixture is well blended, about 11⁄2 minutes, scraping down the sides once or twice. Pour into a medium bowl and refrigerate, stirring frequently, until the mixture is cooled and thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. It should be as thick as unbeaten egg whites. For faster cooling, set the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice, stirring and scraping the sides frequently until cooled.

3. Put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a medium bowl and using an electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters) and beat on medium speed until the whites are frothy, 30 to 45 seconds. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the whites form soft peaks, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue beating while gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat until the whites form firm and glossy peaks when the beater is lifted.

4. Scoop about one-quarter of the whites into the thickened lemon mixture and, using a silicone spatula, gently stir until blended. Add the remaining whites and gently fold in until just blended.

Assemble the mousses
Arrange one cookie in the bottom of each ramekin. Using a large Lemon Ginger Mousse Souffle. Recipe by and interview with cookbook author and pastry chef Abby Dodgespoon, fill the ramekins halfway with the mousse. Arrange a cookie on top of the mousse and evenly portion the remaining mousse on top of the cookies. Using a small offset spatula, smooth the tops.

Lemon Ginger Mousse Souffles. Recipe by and interview with cookbook author and pastry chef Abby DodgeCover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 1 day.

 

 

To serve
Using a sharp paring knife, carefully peel away the parchment from the ramekins (up to 3 hours ahead). Just before serving, place each ramekin on a small plate and top with some of the crushed ginger cookie or a little of the blackberry compote, passing the remainder at the table.

MAKE AHEAD
The soufflés can be prepared, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days before serving.

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

Recipe and author photo courtesy and copyright Abby Dodge. Recipe photos courtesy and copyright Tina Rupp  [finished dishes] and Sloan Howard, Taunton Press [how-to photos]

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 submissions@i8tonite.com.

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 Anson Williams: Entrepreneur and Happy Days Icon

PerfectPortionCookbook-CoverWhat do stars of iconic television shows  —  such as Anson Williams from Happy Days — do after their show goes off the air? Do they continue to act like The Mysteries of Laura Debra Messing, leaving lovable Grace Adler of  Will & Grace behind? Or do they create entire behind-the-cameras careers, such as Laverne & Shirley’s Penny Marshall, who went on to much acclaim directing Tom Hanks in Big and Madonna in A League of Their Own? How about the Olsen Twins from Full House – Mary-Kate and Ashley — creating a billion-dollar fashion business? Williams, who played the adorable Potsie from Happy Days, turned out to be all those things and more. He’s directed many television shows, including episodes of the fabulous Melrose Place and The Secret Lives of An American Teenager. But he also became an incredibly successful entrepreneur with Joanna Connell, a Hollywood make-up artist. For the past 18 years, Connell and Williams have created a mini-empire with StarMaker Products, a skin line used by a variety of television actors.

French Toast for Perfect Portions Cookbook 2015
Williams, QVC’s Bob Warden and nutritionist Mona Dolgov

After a trip to his local store, there was a lightbulb moment when the actor-director-entrepreneur saw the 100 calorie snack packs. Williams said, “I realized it was all about portion control. I can eat all the foods I love, but I need to keep it at 100 calories.” Williams approached QVC’s Bob Warden and nutritionist Mona Dolgov to help him create The Perfect Portion Cookbook. Over a two-year period, testing and re-testing, writing and re-writing, tasting and re-tasting, Williams – along with his team of Warden and Dolgov – developed his vision, starting off with this debut cookbook. Eventually, Williams will turn the perfect portion into a library of cookbooks and healthy products.

Fundamentally, all the recipes in the book are divisible by 100 calories, creating the perfect portion. Each recipe has a graph, calorie count, and how much is in that portion. For example, follow the instructions for the Pumpkin Pie cookie and once made, each sweet is 100 calories. Simply, it’s not so much a diet, which is restrictive, as it is a change in eating habits. Nothing is taken away, as much as everything is counted.

At the age of 66, with four kids, Williams – who over the phone sounds as if he’s thirty — states, “I’m as buff when I was in my 30s. I did the 100 calorie portion. Sixty is the new sexy.” And a new food trend is born.

Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):

PerfectPortion-Guacamole-StuffedCherryTomatoes
Guacamole Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Gosh. Definitely Saturday and Sunday morning breakfast with my kids. I love getting together and making French toast as a family.

 What do you always have in your fridge at home? It’s what stays in the fridge when you have four kids. We are always adding to it. Always greens. Quick proteins. Healthy drinks. Mostly stuff for the kids.

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

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Self-involvement.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Red wine. I love finding small, family-run vineyards.

PerfectPortion-photo-collage-6-300x300
Bob Warden, Williams and Mona Dolgov

Your favorite cookbook author? Bob and Mona. We put the cookbook together. Giada de Laurentis is good, too.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Blender.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? I’m not an expert cook, but I do love family recipes. Food that has meaning. My wife Jackie, who is Swedish, cooks family recipes handed down to her.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Chicken and tofu. But all of them in moderation are good.

Favorite vegetable? Spinach.

Chef you most admire? Hope Berk. She is our eighty-four-year-old next door neighbor and has made all the kids their birthday cakes for years. She’s been a huge influence on our family. Making food for us that has been generational.

Food you like the most to eat? Bob’s Pot Pie from our cookbook. Best thing I’ve ever eaten.

Food you dislike the most? I despise fast food. I think the companies are corrupt and greedy. They created an addiction.

PerfectPortion-BonelessBBQRibs
Boneless BBQ Ribs

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Before the kids, I sailed planes. Now, I love being with my kids and spending time with them. I love creating. Writing scripts. I do more now than ever.

Who do you most admire in food? Bob and Mona.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Home.

 What is your favorite restaurant? Café Escobar in Malibu. All the food is made from family recipes and is really delicious. Inexpensive. No pretense. I can sit at the bar, have a great meal and a glass of red wine.

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

PerfectPortion-HotCocoaPretzelsAnson’s “Hot Cocoa” Pretzels (Adapted from The Perfect Portion Cookbook)

  • 100 mini pretzels
  • 1 large beaten egg white
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

 Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, mix the egg white and vanilla. Toss in the pretzels and coat well.

In a smaller bowl, combine the sugar and cocoa. Taking 2/3 of the sugared cocoa mixture, toss with the pretzels.

Spread evenly on the baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining sugared cocoa. Bake for 20 minutes, turning the pretzels over after the first 10 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: My Favorite Recipe from 2015: French Apple Cake and Becoming Us

 

Photo: Michael Stern
Photo: Michael Stern

I8tonite is simply about food. On the surface, we hope — along with the contributors — to engage the reader in what chefs cook, what makes them human and why they love their profession. (Chefs love their work.) We want to share new recipes we’ve discovered and talk to food industry people. We want to learn. As we’ve said in several posts – without food, we can’t be artistic, physical, intellectual or emotional. Food, water, and shelter are fundamental human needs.

Underneath, we want food to be a main topic of discussion  – whether it’s becoming a vegan, how to butcher a pig, pick coffee beans or discuss biodynamic wineries – but try and leave the politics out of it.I8tonite is not meant to be solely a cooking blog. As the creator of this blog, I don’t have that warehouse of culinary knowledge. Although, I do have a vast amount of food experience including working as a waiter and bartender as well as in hospitality marketing. From these practices – which meant a lot of travel – I ate very well and learned cooking techniques from culinary teachers including Michelin-starred chefs, well-known cookbook authors, and international epicurean eateries.

Photo: Michael Stern
Photo: Michael Stern

Working in restaurants taught me another thing: chefs love other chefs. They admire the work of their peers. Therefore, I8tonite is meant to be a storehouse of what other chefs and people in the food industry are cooking – for the professional and the home cook. I8tonite will not only focus on chefs who have publicists, but the unheralded cooks are who are chopping onions somewhere in Peoria, Arizona or  Ubud, Bali.

In the five months, since I’ve devoted myself to i8tonite, the blog has amassed unique monthly views of over 12,000. How? Well, I’m a damned good marketer plus i8tonite was meant to be different. It’s supposed to showcase the cook as a creative individual and where they get their inspiration. It’s also meant to inspire by learning what and who inspires them. For me, there is no better indication of who you are than by what you eat.

Photo: Michael Stern
Photo: Michael Stern

The other key to the blog is that I cook religiously. Others go to church, I go to a stove. People can quote scripture from their chosen faith, I can recite a recipe. Same thing…but not. The commonality resides in a spiritual devotion.

As the readership develops, we grow and learn together. With i8tonite; I want people to become motivated by the chefs, food people and places we cover.  Editorially, we want the reader to get inspired by the individual behind the recipe’s development, and then possibly become creative themselves and write a cookbook, a cooking blog, become a chef, start a garden, or just become a more conscious eater.

#             #             #

Photo: Nolan Williamson
Photo: Nolan Williamson

As my parting gift to 2015, I wanted to share my Favorite Recipe of the Year: Dorie Greenspan’s French Apple Cake from her cookbook Around My French Table. I’ve made it about a dozen times, and it’s now committed to memory. I also played around with the fruit and the required liquors which are not necessary but hey – everything is good with a glug or three.

It was a close contest between cake and poultry. I thought about Sascha Martin’s Hungarian Paprikash –I make it almost weekly — found in her memoir “Life from Scratch,” a book full of hope and lovely recipes. Ultimately, sweet won out over savory and adaptability over dependability.  Regardless, they are both delicious. I encourage you to read Martin’s book and her blog: Global Table Adventure. Both are memorable

Dorie Greenspan’s French Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Other adaptations and suggestions:

  • Chopped crystallized ginger and substituting Bloomery Sweetshine’s Ginger or Domaine de Canton for the bourbon.
  • Calvados, a brandy made from apples, is also an excellent choice instead of the dark rum.
  • Pineapple and peaches can be used in place of the apples. The cake will still be moist.

Let’s Make This Puppy: 

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch Springform pan and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet parchment paper.
  • In small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt
  • Peel, core and cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and mix for a minute or so to blend. Add the liquor and vanilla.
  • Stir in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter
  • Fold gently after each addition so that you have a thick batter.
  • Add the apples fold in the apples, rotating the fruit so that it’s coated with batter.
  • Scrape the mix into the springform. Flatten the top so it becomes even in the pan and along the sides.
  • Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
  • Run a butter knife around the edges of the cake before removing the pan.

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
Locanda

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.

 

i8tonite: Patrick O’Malley, North America’s Coffee Man & Holiday Espresso Martini

Patrick O'Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Patrick O’Malley: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Where do you think North America’s leading authority on coffee is located? Seattle? Portland? Boston? New York? San Francisco? If you guessed Tempe, Arizona, you could win Jeopardy. On a small street, not far from Arizona State University and the nationally known brewery Four Peaks, is Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Italia, a roastery creating some of the country’s most sublime caffeine brews. In a warehouse full of beans and leaves, O’Malley, the leading national authority on coffee and possibly tea works, lives and breathes caffeinated beverages.

O’Malley is unique as he is the only trained individual in the United States and 43rd in the world, allowed to teach Specialty Coffee

Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.
Ground Coffee: Photo by Joanie Simon.

Association of Europe’s certification. Matter of fact, mostly Europeans train – with a smattering of Americans — at his International Barista Coffee Academy where they learn every facet of making the perfect cup and cupping. He educates students on a specially created espresso machine that he – along with five of the world’s leading coffee authorities — and Sanremo, the Italian high-end coffee manufacturer produced. O’Malley’s students are much like him, fans of the brew and owners of cafes throughout the world such as Belgium, France, Italy, Turkey, although some do come from the States to attend.

According to O’Malley, his hardest test was passing the Q certification – the system by which all coffee is graded. He ranks number 1043rd in the world out of a little over 3500. “It was harder than a sommelier’s test,” he notes.

Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith
Coffee bags: Photo by Joanie Smith

The good thing for global coffee lovers is O’Malley opened a European-like café in April called Infusion Coffee and Tea. They just have to travel to Tempe.

In i8tonite’s Food People Questionnaire O’Malley talks about his love of soup, dislike for tofu, why he loves butchers and how to create a caffeinated martini, a new tradition for the holidays – sort of like egg nog except with caffeine. Heh.

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Wow. Good one. I would have to say my potato and leek soup because that’s what brings the biggest smile to Bugs. (Devin, my daughter.)

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Butter, white wine for cooking and garlic. My go to base for sauces.

O'Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.
O’Malley grades coffee beans. Photo by Joanie Simon.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Adventurous people who will gladly try anything once.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? If they won’t even try something; how do you know if you don’t try it?

Beer, wine or cocktail? Guinness, Hendriks tonic and fresh cracked pepper. Its stupid good.

Your favorite cookbook author? Anthony Bourdian.

Your favorite kitchen tool? My knives.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Anything where I need to make a sauce. I love making a sauce.

Beef, chicken, pork, seafood or tofu? NO TOFU. I love meat. All meat. Even entrails sometimes. They are the best bits.

Favorite vegetable? Beets.

Chef you most admire? Locally?? No way I can answer that we have so many in this town (meaning Phoenix and the surrounding communities) that deserve to be named. I have to go with my Mom. She was a baker but could cook very well. She raised 6 of us (5 boys, 1 girl and Dad) on not a lot but we ate like kings. Her liver and onions was the best you will ever have.

Food you like the most to eat? Just about anything placed in front of me, but I am a soup guy for sure. So soup.

Food you dislike the most? Tofu.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Travel, because I get to try new food.

Who do you most admire in food? Butchers. I love to watch them break down an animal that people can take home and eat, it’s cool to watch a good one work.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Every one of our customers’ restaurants. I rarely dine at a place unless they are an Espresso Italia customer, our accounts are our family.

Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.
Treviso Street: Photo by Marta Z.

What is your favorite restaurant? In Treviso, every time I arrive, Carlo, the owner of Sanremo espresso machine factory takes me directly to L’incontro. They have an appetizer bar that opens like a clam’s shell, once open its full of some of the best seafood and pure goodness ever.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? Nope not one, I don’t follow trends. It’s just not who I am. I have never had a desire to have one, and if I did I don’t think tripe or liver would look good on my arm. LOL.

Patrick O’Malley’s Espresso Martini 

Martini: Photo by Edsel Little
Martini: Photo by Edsel Little

Espresso made with Infusion Push blend (blueberry, lime and chocolate profile) or if you can’t find it any espresso will do.

Vanilla Vodka 1oz

Chambord .25oz (or any good quality raspberry liquor)

 

Shake over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Look out! It’s yummy.

 

The End. Go Eat.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food People Questionnaire with Wine Retailer, Gary Fisch:

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

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

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

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

Beer, wine or cocktail? Wine, of course!

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

Your favorite kitchen tool? Spatula.

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

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Chicken.

Favorite vegetable? Spinach.

Chef you most admire? Michael Chiarello.

Food you like the most to eat? Anything.

Food you dislike the most? Blue cheese.

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

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

Where is your favorite place to eat? Napa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

I8tonite with Food Person: Sasha Martin, Author of “Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness

“Most people who have had a rough background will admit there’s something unsettling about finding happiness after difficulty – that even after we unwrap this gift, we don’t know how to stop searching, rummaging, pilfering for something else. We walk haltingly through life, ready for the other shoe to drop. The question is not if, but when.” – Sasha Martin, “Life from Scratch” (National Geographic Society, March 2015).

I had never heard of the food blog GlobalTableAdventure.com until I read Sasha Martin’s engaging food memoir “Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family and Forgiveness” (ISBN 978 – 1- 5462 – 8, National Geographic Society) published in March of this year.  Martin’s blog is about cooking globally and bringing that experience IMG_0788_Hof culture to the table, but it’s her book and story that’s the winner. “Life from Scratch” begins light-heartedly enough but as Martin’s life progresses from child to teenager, it becomes disquieting and uneasy. Once, Martin moves to Tulsa, Oklahoma as an adult, I breathed a sigh of relief.  To Ms. Martin’s credit, it’s her calm  style of writing that gives the reader emotional balance to understand the truth of what’s transpiring.  Otherwise, one might  get squirmy reading in the Lazy-boy.

Speaking with Martin on the phone is a pleasure. Her voice is like her writing — soft, easy with hints of apprehension. (Apprehension because she’s talking to me. I make people wary.)  She disclosed that
Sasha MaltaLife from Scratch
came about in an unusual manner. Martin was approached by a literary agent who liked GlobalTableAdventure. The agent shopped the proposal around to a variety of publishing houses — they all loved it —  but Martin felt a “kinship” to National Geographic Society (NGS). Interestingly, her NGS editor really liked the story of the blog and global cooking up until the first draft.  But she felt that Martin wasn’t forthcoming with her childhood history…. that she was holding back. Martin admitted she was. She explained to her editor about growing up, the death of her brother and the twelve European countries she visited with her legal guardians. She details the story of her mother letting her and her brother go into foster care. Once, the real story of Sasha Martin was out, it was the truth and book the editor wanted.

Martin said, “I never expected so much of this book to be about my past. It was supposed to be a lighthearted exploration of world cooking but digging deeper made me realize the real story wasn’t how I cooked the world but why. Being forced to face my past was a gift. I have so much more understanding and perspective now.

Punctuated withcake netherlands.food.img_9950 loving memories of home cooking with her mother, a lonely teenager in European and global cuisine from her blog, GlobalTableAdventure.com, such as Hungarian Paprika Chicken, German Cake and Maldivian Fire-Roasted Fish, “Life from Scratch” may turn out to be my favorite book of 2015. It offers hope and fulfillment on a spiritual scale.

“There’s a difference between poverty of resources and poverty of spirit.” – Sasha Martin, Life from Scratch.

(Correction/Revision:  Previously, it was noted that Ms. Martin lived in twelve countries her foster parents. She visited twelve with her legal guardians. A correction and revision to the original post was made. )

Food People Questions: (with a nod to Marcel Proust)

What is your favorite food to cook at home? Argentinian Acorn Squash Salad with baby arugula and aged goat cheese.

marshall.islands.food.img_1992
The Marshall Islands.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?  Spicy mustard.

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

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? Treating their cellphone like a guest at the party.

Beer, wine or cocktail? Any cocktail with grapefruit or a Riesling spritzer with a wedge of orange.

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Japanese Bento Box for kids

Your favorite cookbook author? I’m a huge fan of what Christopher
Kimball does – very methodical, reliable recipes. Every single time.

Your favorite kitchen tool? Microplane.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Cooking a meal from every country in the world taught me to love trying recipes from obscure-to-me parts of the world.

 Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Tofu.

 Favorite vegetable? Brussels Sprouts.

date balls
Date Balls

Chef you most admire? Nigel Slater – he overcame a rough childhood and has the most beautiful way with words. Tender and Ripe are masterpieces

Food you like the most to eat? Hmmm… on most days a hearty salad, like Malaysian Herbed Rice Salad, with a crusty loaf of homemade artisan bread.

Food you dislike the most? I’m not much for eating something just for the shock value. My goal is to share international food that’s easy enough for a weeknight and elegant enough for the weekend.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Write or paint.

Who do you most admire in food? The millions of families struggling liberia.food.img_4326to make ends meet. My own mother struggled to make ends meet and yet she scrimped and saved so we could eat foods like 19-layer German Tree Cake.  She taught me that food can help us see beyond our circumstances; there’s a real difference between poverty of resources and poverty of spirit.

Where is your favorite place to eat? Any patio, 75F.

What is your favorite restaurant? I have fond memories of eating at Vietnamese restaurants in Paris. Go figure!

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Martin and her daughter cooking.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? No. I have a theory that I could never truly be naked if I ever got a tattoo.

 

 

 

Sasha Martin’s Recipe: Mongolian Carrot Salad (Serves 4 hungry people)

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb carrots, grated or julienned (on a mandolin is easiest)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water

For the dressing:

  • 1 large clove of garlic, grated
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Toss everything together and refrigerate until needed. Best after about 30 minutes. Check seasonings before serving (be sure to use plenty of salt to bring out the flavors).

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

i8tonite: with “Food Person” Victoria Granof and Recipe for Chickpea Soup

Victoria Granof
Granof. Courtesy of Granof.

With work published in T: Magazine (New York Times Sunday Magazine), Vogue, Bon Appetit, The New Yorker and many more  beside such acclaimed photographers as Irving Penn, Steven Klein and Annie Leibowitz, you would assume that we would be talking about Gisele, Naomi or Kate. In fact, we are talking about, Victoria Granof – whom I’ve personally dubbed the Madonna of the food stylists. Why the comparison? Like the entertainer, there isn’t anyone like Granof. She took food styling to innovative heights using her art and culinary background to convey the editorial or advertising message.  She’s everywhere. (Vogue, Bon Appetit, the New York Times? Who are we kidding – she’s worked for all the mighty publications on multiple occasions.) Lastly, she’s good. No matter what you say about Madonna, she made us dance and sing and gets paid for it – Granof makes us look at food as beauty, edible and artistic – and gets paid for it.

Purse CakeHaving studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, Granof has been a pastry chef, cooking instructor and chef in her hometown of Los Angeles before she became a food stylist. Cherry Bombe, a print publication devoted to women and food did an in-depth profile about Granof and food styling, working with photographers and staying at the top of the food chain.

Currently, Granof published Short Stack editions cookbook with the ingredient of chickpeas. (You get to test a recipe below). Short Stack cookbooks are ingenious collectors’ item that highlight one ingredient.  The mighty food stylist was asked contribute to the growing series oeuvre accompanied by likes of Chef Virginia Willis, Liquor.com’s editor in chief Scott Hocker and Jessica Battaliana, editor of San Francisco’s Tasting Table.

Photo Courtesy of New York Magazine
Photo Courtesy of New York Magazine

As we chatted over the phone for the introduction to i8tonite’s newly developed “Food People Questionnaire”, — which was created specifically to interview her and people in the food industry not in front of a stove —   I could hear deep affection for her son, Theo, who played in the background, admiration for Irving Penn, the first big photographer and love of her job. (C’mon, she gets to play with food.) As far as food people go, Granof is many things besides a food stylist – she is an artist, observer, food lover, inventor, and inspirational.

Food People Questions (with a nod to Marcel Proust’s Questionnaire):

 Times New YorkWhat is your favorite food to cook at home? Duck confit.  I make a huge pot when the weather cools, and eat it all winter long — with red cabbage and apples.

 What do you always have in your fridge at home? Yogurt, greens, milk, anchovies, miso and a jar of tomato paste covered in oil to keep it fresh.

 What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? I’m completely in love with anyone who pauses to regard their food (even better – to close their eyes and let the aromas waft up!) –  before they begin eating.

Sonia Arrison What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal? POOR TABLE MANNERS!  Also can’t stand anyone who salts their food without tasting it first.

 Beer, wine or cocktail? Never beer, always wine, sometimes cocktail.

 Your favorite cookbook author? Mary Taylor
Simeti.

 Your favorite kitchen tool? Tongs.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? Cuisine Mènager, Sicilian, and Ukrainian.

VG00055 Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? You forgot beans!  And seafood! I love a good steak about once a month, pork if I’m down South, tempeh rather than tofu and chicken only if it’s been cavorting outside and not in a factory.

Favorite vegetable? The kabocha that I smell burning as I write this!

 Chef you most admire? Massimo Bottura.

 Food you like the most to eat? Anything with tomatoes, lemon and salt.

 Food you dislike the most? Cheese and lamb.  Yes I know – blasphemous – but true.

 What is your favorite non-food thing to do? Salsa dancing and flea marketing!

Bon Appetit 2 Who do you most admire in food? Mothers and fathers who feed their children well.

 Where is your favorite place to eat? My friend Monica’s table.  Which is now at her restaurant, Nickle Diner, but it still feels like you’re eating at her home.

 What is your favorite restaurant? Cafe Katja in New York, during Asparagus Week.  They do a whole menu based on white asparagus.

 Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food? I have the sun (with the face of Pele, the goddess of fire) on one ankle and the moon (from the Mexican lotería card) on the other.  Not food exactly, but I remember stopping at a shave ice truck in Kauai right after getting the sun tattoo done and having a shave ice with coffee, condensed milk and whipped cream.

Chick peas

RECIPE: Dead-Easy Chickpea Soup:  

Chop a peeled onion and boil it in a pot with 6 cups water, 2 tsp. ground fennel seed and 2 tsp. salt for 10 minutes. Take a stick blender to it while you slowly pour in a cup of chickpea flour.  Simmer another 5 minutes, and finish with 1/3 cup of good olive oil.  Do NOT skimp on either the salt or the olive oil.  Serve it in bowls topped with sautéed greens and aleppo pepper flakes.

The End. Go Eat.   

Note: All photos were styled by Victoria Granof.