Category Archives: French

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup RecipeJamie Schler writes stories inspired by food, culture, travel, and the real people she meets in real life, every day and she’s an advocate for authentic traditional French home cooking. Jamie has worked in the world of art in Philadelphia and New York, as a milliner in Milan, Italy, and gastronomic tourism in Paris. She grew up on Florida’s Space Coast but now lives in Chinon, France, where she owns and runs the Hôtel Diderot with her husband, and where she makes a whopping 1500 pounds of jam a year. An IACP award-winning writer, her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Art of Eating, Fine Cooking, France Magazine, Modern Farmer, Leite’s Culinaria, and The Kitchn, among other publications. She blogs at Life’s a Feast, and she just wrote her first cookbook, Orange Appeal, featuring her favorite fruit, the orange.

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

Orange Appeal highlights one of my favorite fruits…but the one I always forget how incredible it is until I’m eating it – the orange. Schler is incredibly creative with oranges, and brings them into everyday life with ease.

I asked Schler about including oranges into our cooking and eating repertoires. She noted, “A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine” was more than just a familiar television jingle, it was our mantra, emblematic of the culture of my childhood and youth. I grew up on the Indian River in Florida, famed for its citrus and one of the world’s largest producers of oranges. My first cookbook, Orange Appeal, is, in some sort, an homage to my favorite fruit, the fruit I became addicted to growing up in Florida, a central element of our food culture. But a transformation happened during the creation, development, and testing of the recipes for Orange AppealI stopped thinking of the orange as simply a fruit and began thinking of it as an astonishing and versatile staple ingredient. My recipe testers and I were just astonished at how the orange in one of its many forms (fruit, juice, zest, peel, marmalade, orange blossom water, liqueur) transformed the flavor profile of every single dish we made in such unexpected ways!”

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup Recipe
Moroccan Orange Slices in Orange Blossom Water

It’s hard to stop reading Orange Appeal. When I queried Schler about her favorite recipes in the book, she said, “My favorite dishes from the book? That’s tough to answer, there are so many! Maybe the Sweet and Spicy Caramelized Onion, Raisin, and Orange Compote; the Blood Orange Hummus Vinaigrette; Mediterranean Lamb Meatballs and the Curried Cod in Coconut Milk, Lime, and Orange. For sweets, the Moroccan Spiced Orange Slices in Orange Blossom Water, and the Oranges in Spiced Wine Syrup; the Orange, Ricotta, and Chèvre Tart, and the Orange-Cranberry Spiced Granola with Almonds. Is that too many?”

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Cake! Always cake! There have even been times when my family has arrived home after a long day of work and school and my answer to their “What did you make for dinner?” is “Cake!”

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Yogurt, milk, mustard and salad dressing, butter, olives and pickles, a jar of cherry jam. Packets of butter and a few out of date packets of phyllo.

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup RecipeWhat marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
There are 2 necessary characteristics I love in a person with whom I share a meal: real interest in and knowledge about food and a great sense of humor!

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
I get little pleasure out of dining with a glutton, someone who swallows down food without savoring or appreciating it.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine, of course! I have never liked beer and rarely think of a cocktail, maybe because I have lived the last 30 years in France and Italy, both wine countries!

Your favorite cookbook author?
Anna Thomas and Françoise Bernard

Your favorite kitchen tool?
A great knife and my Better Zester zester! I love a good whisk, too!

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French and Moroccan – and I have several recipes from these cuisines in my cookbook!

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Lamb! Always lamb!

Favorite vegetable?
Oh, hard question! Garden-fresh tomatoes in summer and zucchini all year round! Although I love Belgian endives and cauliflower, too. And eggplants. Is that too much to love?

Chef you most admire?
Antonin Carême

Food you like the most to eat?
Trick question?

Food you dislike the most?
Liver and offal. Ugh. I’m not particularly crazy about sorrel, either, much to my husband’s chagrin. And don’t ask me to eat overripe bananas or mealy apples.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Read. And write.

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup Recipe
Hôtel Diderot in Chinon, France

Who do you most admire in food?
I admire people who break barriers. There are several men on my list, from Antonin Carême, to Graham Kerr to Paul Prudhomme, but let’s concentrate (mostly) on the women. I admire the first women chefs who, against norms and misogyny, worked their way to head great kitchens in France, from women such as La Mère Brazier to Rougui Dia, Anne-Sophie Pic, and Hélène Darroze. I admire women like Anna Thomas, Rose Levy Beranbaum, Mollie Katzen, Madhur Jaffrey, Françoise Bernard, the intrepid and groundbreaking cookbook authors who inspired me, just out of college and just married, to cook and bake fearlessly and adventurously and, in extension, to begin to eat better, too.

I’ve always admired TV chefs like Graham Kerr and Julia Child, Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver who brought the raw passion and casual simplicity to millions and inspired us to cook and to love cooking (even if and especially when we messed up) and sharing food with others.

I admire chefs like Virginia Willis, Kathleen Flinn, Zoë François, Sandra Gutierrez, Nancie McDermott who reach out and teach others to live better and eat better by cooking real food, local food, ethnic or regional food, those loud voices who, with grace, passion, generosity, and humor, continue to instruct and share and inspire and push forward to carry on their mission.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
Living in Europe for more than 30 years, I head straight to the nearest – and best – diner whenever I visit the States. I love a great American diner! I’ve eaten in many Michelin-starred restaurants and bouchons in Lyon and have had such sublime and truly memorable meals, but my favorite place to eat is at home when my husband (or now my son) cooks.

What is your favorite restaurant?
I’ve had some amazing and incredible meals in France, Italy, and the States. It’s hard to commit to a favorite, although I could draw up a list.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Tattoos? No, none. They are against my religion. But I’d gladly wear food-inspired jewelry!

Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

i8tonite with Author, Jam Maker, and Hotelier Jamie Schler & Leek and Potato Soup Recipe

My French husband is constantly busting those myths about French cuisine that I, as an American, have ingrained into my mind, that French home cooking is fussy, complicated and complex, and expensive. This Leek and Potato Soup proves the point: while utterly elegant and flavorful, it is simple and quick to make and absolutely thrifty. Leek and Potato Soup for Two is at once warming, comforting, and sophisticated.

3 medium leeks, whites only + 1 extra small leek for topping
1 small red onion
2 cloves garlic
2 medium potatoes (about 10 ounces / 300 g)
Olive oil and butter or margarine
50 g smoked lardons or bacon in small cubes
1 small cube vegetable bouillon (or 1/2 large cube) or enough homemade to cover vegetables (soup for 2 bowls)
Olive oil or equal parts olive oil & margarine
Salt and pepper

Prepare the vegetables by chopping the white parts of 3 leeks, the onion and 1 clove garlic.

Peel the potatoes and cut into small cubes. Simply crush the second clove of garlic, leaving in one piece.

Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil or half oil, half butter into a soup pot.

Heat and add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute or two; add the chopped leeks and bacon and a couple grindings of pepper, stir and cook “until it smells good” as the French cook told me… just a couple of minutes until the onion is transparent.

Add the potatoes and just cover with water, adding the bouillon cube, or bouillon.

Bring to the boil, lower the heat and allow to simmer gently for 15 – 20 minutes just until the potatoes are tender.

Taste, add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the soup from the heat, cover and allow to sit until dinner time (we make this about half an hour or so before dinner).

When ready to serve, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a clean skillet or pot; add a tablespoon or two each of cubes of bacon or lardons and very thinly sliced white leek; cook, stirring, until crisp.

Reheat the soup and serve topped with the crisp lardons or crumbled bacon and leek strips.


– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with A Taste of Paris Author David Downie & 1691 Crème Brûlée Recipe

i8tonite with Taste of Paris Author David Downie & 1691 Crème Brûlée RecipeOne of the things I love most is to combine history and food. And no one does it better than David Downie, in his new book, A Taste of Paris: A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food. In A Taste of Paris, Downie traverses time and space (cultural space, that is) to bring us the history of food in Paris over the last 2,000+ years. In doing so, he explores Paris and shares with us places from antiquity (and today), cultural changes, restaurants and reviewers, home cooks and chefs, important food people in the history of Paris, recipes, and more.

Downie, a native San Franciscan, lived in New York, Providence, Rome, and Milan before moving to Paris in the mid-80s. He divides his time between France and Italy. His travel, food, and arts features have appeared in leading print and on-line publications including Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Saveur,, and Gault & Millau, the premier French food guide. He is the author of over a dozen nonfiction books, including the highly acclaimed Paris, Paris and A Passion for Paris. David and his wife, photographer Alison Harris, create custom walking tours of Paris: His author website is

Downie writes, “…the city of Paris itself grew like an oyster shell, in layers, built from the intermingling of imported styles, merging the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, and so did the culture that produced the often-complicated delicacies and refined nectars Parisians and visitors adore today or prefer to fashionably disdain as unworthy of past greatness.”

i8tonite with Taste of Paris Author David Downie & 1691 Crème Brûlée Recipe

When I asked Downie about the book, he noted, “A Taste of Paris is a freewheeling, entertaining history of food, wine, and fine dining à la Parisienne. The narrative follows the cityscape, from the Ancient Roman core of Paris outwards, creating what I call a “culinary topography” covering 2,000 years. I take readers by the hand and show them Paris today, telling the city’s story as we go, which is why the book doubles as an insider’s guide to food and dining in Paris in 2017.

And what about history? Downie related, “One big question I ask is, how did gastronomy become a highbrow activity in Paris over 200 years ago and why is the love of food and wine still considered a bona fide intellectual pursuit to this day? The evolution of mere hedonism into the cult of food as high culture was spearheaded in the private dining rooms, literary salons, and pioneering restaurants of the city by a certain Grimod de la Reynière and Brillat-Savarin, two fascinating historical figures and legendary eaters. Their lives and times feature large in my book.”

A Taste of Paris is a book I couldn’t put down, a book I love, a book I’m very happy to recommend to our readers.

i8tonite with Taste of Paris Author David Downie & 1691 Crème Brûlée Recipe

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
Do we have 90,000 words for this? No? Then anything with wings, lots of fat, crispy skin. Confit de canard or goose, or a perfectly roasted chicken, are hard to beat, but I can also think of 20,000 other things I love to cook at home including a casserole of vegetables and cheese baked for hours at low heat, unctuous inside, crispy on top, redolent of greens and curds.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Everything needed to feed a king and royal court. Also, at least one chilled bottle of fine white wine, often a Sancerre or Menetou-Salon, sometimes a nice little Vire’-Clesse’ from the Maconnais, hugely unrated, all of them organic needless to add.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Well, chewing with her mouth closed and wielding the flatware with skill, naturally. They are a prerequisite for undistracted, intelligent conversation, preferably about history, the arts, literature or politics, never food or wine, honestly, though, as I enter my seventh decade, reminiscences are also appreciated, in other words, I love my wife and love sharing meals with her. She is the ideal dinner partner and after 30 years get better by the day.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
The opposite of what I’ve outlined above. Above all, loudness, vulgarity, and the clumsy placing of dirty implements on the tabletop or the edge of the plate. Also I currently find it impossible to share a meal with anyone bent on defending the politics of 45. That is an act of indecency.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine, wine, always wine!

Your favorite cookbook author?
If I name a living author other than Paula Wolfert, who is not only great but a wonderful human being and a mentor, if I have such a thing, the ones I fail to name will seek to murder me with a sharp knife. How about someone long-dead and uncontroversial like Apicius or, if you insist on modernity, Massialot, for a time Louis XIVth’s valet/maitre d’ and the inventor, it is thought, of crème brulee? I give his recipe for it, with fixes, in A Taste of Paris.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
The fly swatter. Just kidding. Sort of. The mortar and pestle taken together must be among them, the whisk is another.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
I’m an amateur home cook, but if I’m allowed to be immodest and you will agree to dine with me, I suppose I would make you something Italian, French, or improvised Californian, in that order.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Surely you jest? I would pay to never eat tofu again. The first three choices are equally swell. I would refer you to my earlier answer about favorites, including duck. I’ve come to love cows, so eat little beef these days and while I like pigs, I cannot resist cooking them in a thousand ways. As one of the fathers of French gastronomy, Grimod de la Reyniere, said, they are the “encyclopedic animal.” Everything in them, leaving aside the contents of their bowels, I would think, is good to eat. It’s tragic for the species but I can do nothing to save them from their own deliciousness.

Favorite vegetable?
Artichoke: a great aphrodisiac, especially if you believe in aphrodisiacs.

Chef you most admire?
Let’s go with another dead one, for safety’s sake: Raymond Olivier. He ran Le Grand Vefour at the Palais Royal in Paris for decades, had three Michelin stars when they meant something, but wasn’t smarmy or cynical, and actually did the cooking himself. He helped nudge French cuisine from the glom and goo and silly flimflam of Escoffier into the modern age. He also happened to be the first chef ever, anywhere, to have a TV show about food. That was in the 1950s, long before Julia Child who was, by the way, a huge admirer of his and a regular at Le Grand Vefour.

Food you like the most to eat?
Egad, we need another 90,000 words. Simple food, delicious, wholesome food, authentic, satisfying real food, food that tastes like food and not silly putty styled by sorcerer’s apprentices calling themselves great chefs and artists! Give me a leg of lamb roasted with rosemary and garlic, a poule au pot, a blanquette de veau, a plate of pasta alla carbonara without whipped cream for chrissakes, and no daubs of color and edible skyscrapers on an outsized designer dish!

Food you dislike the most?
See my last answer and add in processed or semi-processed karaoke cooking made by microwave practitioners serving schlock to tourists, cyborgs, and bobos born without taste buds.

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Beyond making love? Walking!

Who do you most admire in food?
Without naming names, because I fear the knives and tongues of fanatical foodies: those who are modest and sincere and nurturing and do not seek to turn tables and ravish wallets or torture diners with high-stools and other discomforts for the infantilized, taken by many in the business as prerequisites to hipness, chicness and sophistication. The latter three are inimical to good eating.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
At home.

What is your favorite restaurant?
If I tell you on the Internet I’ll never be able to get a table again. Read my book and you’ll go on a treasure hunt and discover all of my many favorites in Paris.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
My thumbs, in particular, are permanently stained by the juice of artichokes. If stretch marks are tattoos, then all of them are food tattoos, at least, they are caused by the overindulgence of food, and make me resemble lardo di Colonnata or perhaps some French country ham.


The Original Healthful Crème Brûlée Recipe au Citron Vert Recipe by François Massialot, 1691
(With a few modern tweaks in parenthesis)


Take four or five egg yolks, it depends on the size of your serving dish. Stir them together in a casserole (or nonreactive pot maybe) adding a generous pinch of flour (I’d skip the flour and add the four tablespoons of sugar the chef forgot to mention). Pour in two cups of milk a little at a time and keep stirring.

Add stick-cinnamon (about half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon is more practical) and (about three teaspoons) minced fresh lime zests and (the same amount of) minced candied lime zests (which don’t add much and might even subtract from the deliciousness). Alternatively use minced orange or lemon zests instead and call it Crème Brûlée à l’orange (or au citron).

To make your Crème Brûlée even more refined add (about five tablespoons) ground pistachios or almonds and a drop of orange blossom water.

Put the pot on a (medium-low source of heat on your) stovetop and stir gently, making sure your Crème Brûlée does not stick to the bottom of the pot. When the crème is cooked (nearly set without being scrambled), put a serving dish (oven-safe is best) on the medium-low stovetop, pour in the crème and continue stirring until the mixture starts to stick to the edges of the dish.

Remove to lower heat and sprinkle on lots of sugar (as much as you need to generously cover the top of the crème) in addition to the sugar already in the mixture (which chef forgot). Get a red-hot fire shovel (or maybe an iron rod or blowtorch) and scorch the (sugar on top of the) crème until the top is a beautiful golden brown.

Pin for later:

i8tonite with Taste of Paris Author David Downie & 1691 Crème Brûlée Recipe

Excerpted from A TASTE OF PARIS: A History of the Parisian Love Affair with Food by David Downie. © 2017 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.


– The End. Go Eat. – 


i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

The world is full of great food and chefs – we only need to open our tastebuds to them. For instance, at Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse, at The Phoenician, a Starwood property, French-born Executive Chef Jacques Qualin may be the area’s only stove helmer to have worked at four Michelin restaurants – two in France and two in New York – a very rare distinction. If you are a sports fan, it’s like saying you played soccer with Manchester United and Real Madrid; then moved to the United States, and played baseball with the Yankees and Mets.

Qualin, like many chefs, started cooking with his mother, tying his apron strings and sticking close to her, learning about food from the region of his birthplace, Franche-Comté, home to Comte and Emmenthaler cheeses. As a young cook, he traveled to Paris, where he studied under Michelin-rated chef Michel de Matteis, working at his three-star Restaurant Taillevent, defined by The New York Times as “the best in Paris, if not all of France.” Several other kitchens later, including working for Daniel Boulud in New York at the world famous Le Cirque, Qualin worked again in Paris as at the cosmopolitan Restaurant La Marée, before working with his friend Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Jojo’s on East 58th Street as the culinary great’s first sous chef.

After closing his seventy seat restaurant in upstate New York, The French Corner, The New York Times reviewer said, “(Qualin) created a unique and wonderful restaurant…delightfully rustic and complex all at once.” Vongerichten asked him about working together again, this time in Phoenix. He says, “I had been in France and New York City for fourteen years and I was looking for opportunities to come to the West Coast.”

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu SauceWorking in the Valley of the Sun, Qualin now defines himself as a “Frenchman who cooks with an Asian flair,” speaking to Vongerichten’s penchant for European and Asian cuisine. He says about working at J& G Steakhouse, a long distance from European Michelin restaurants, “I like good food and I like the brasserie-style we have at J&G. It’s a different restaurant than before, but it’s a steakhouse. I like that.”

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

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

How long have you been cooking?
I have been cooking as far back as I can remember, I have loved cooking my whole life.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I get very excited when I see or find a product that looks pristine in quality and freshness, and that’s the way the flavors will come out the best. French cooking is my soul, Italian my guilty pleasure, and I like all Asian types of cooking.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I love hot sauce, so I always have good selections from wacky hot to mild. French mustard is a must too and fresh herbs.

What do you cook at home?
Everything from a six course tasting for my friends, to a simply grilled fresh fish. I do like to do some classical French dishes that remind me my childhood or some Asian dishes, like a Pad Thai.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
To be open to try new things and flavors.

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
I used all of them, but I tend to go back to Pyrex as it’s PBA free and can take extreme heat or cold, such as liquid nitrogen.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of them! Depending on the mood and the occasion or the food. I love to start with a ginger margarita or a crafted beer and wine (red or white), with a preference to the old world.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Many of them! I do have quite a extensive collection, from old traditional French cookbooks to the latest trends in cooking.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Cake tasters are very helpful for checking the food.

Your favorite ingredient?
Hard to say; there are too many I like, from yuzu to ginger or mint.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Fish sauce.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Not doing anything in the kitchen.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu SauceBeef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
All, I like a nice Prime beef grilled to perfection, Milk feed Chicken roasted whole, Smoked and Braise Pulled pork sandwich with Habanero sauce, or seared tofu with a cilantro pesto.

Favorite vegetable?

Chef you most admire?
Hard to pick because there are so many. Maybe Francis Mallman, as I like his philosophy of cooking and being genuine to the product.

Food you like the most to eat?
I like perfectly cooked pastas, Miruguai sashimi, fresh line-caught fish, and flavorful soups.

Food you dislike the most?

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not into that at all.

Recipe: Roasted Whole Snapper Citrus and Garlic with Yuzu sauce

i8tonite with Scottsdale’s J&G Steakhouse Chef Jacques Qualin & Recipe for Roasted Whole Snapper with Yuzu Sauce

For the Yuzu Mayonnaise
3 each Egg yolks
1 tsp Salt
2 oz Yuzu juice
1 oz Lemon juice
1 oz Orange juice
1/2 qt Grape seed oil

Combine all but the oil in the robot coupe and drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Put in a siphon and charge with 2 cartridges.(soda)

Roasted Snapper:
1 pc Snapper 1.2# deboned from the inside and still attached and scored.
3 slices of Yuzu
3 slices of oranges
6 slices of fresh Ginger
1 tbsp. cilantro picked and chiffonade
1 tbsp. mint picked and chiffonade
6 slices of Serrano peppers
15 g garlic sliced ¾ inch
½ cup Olive oil

Season the fish with salt on all sides, arrange all the slices and the herbs evenly inside the fish. In a Dover plate, pour the oil and the garlic in the bottom then lay the fish on it, baste with the olive oil. Cook in the oven at 375 F for 10 min, basting it often. When almost cooked, finish under the broiler to get a nice brown color while basting. Drain ¾ of the oil, leaving the garlic inside.

To serve:
1 pc of fancy lemon
1 small bunch of cilantro
On a big black plate, fold a white napkin squared, put the hot plate on it. Add the lemon and cilantro and cover with the lid, serve the Yuzu mayonnaise on the side.
– 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


  • 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.


i8tonite: Chef Questionnaire with Brian Konefal, Flagstaff’s Coppa Cafe, and Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette

Dining Room at Coppa Cafe. Photo by Awe Collective.
Dining Room at Coppa Cafe. Photo by Awe Collective.

Roses, Spain. Yountville, California. Terni, Italy. Corenc, France. Flagstaff, Arizona. These small, unique picturesque towns share a very special attribute. Each offers a gastronomic dining experience in their respective locations created by master chefs. Roses was home to El Bulli with Ferran Adrià. Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry located in Yountville. Terni, a small town of less than three thousand houses the two-Michelin starred Casa Vissani, home to celebrated Italian chef, Gianfranco Vissani. The Golden Horn (Le Corn d’Or) in Corenc, France is populated by a little less than four thousand and Flagstaff, Arizona (population: 68,784) is becoming notable for Coppa Café.

Since opening four years ago, Coppa Café, helmed by husband and wife cooking team, Brian Konefal and Paola Fiorvanti, has become a noteworthy restaurant in Arizona’s growing epicurean scene. Konefal was born in Flagstaff and trained to be a chef in Italy. While in culinary school, he met the lovely Fiorvanti, Brazilian by birth, she was learning the dessert trade – spinning sugar and learning the nuances of buttercream.

Chefs/ Co-Owners, Brian Konefal and Paola Fiovanit. Photo by Awe Collective.
Chefs/ Co-Owners, Brian Konefal and Paola Fiovanit. Photo by Awe Collective.

Once married, they traveled throughout Europe and the gastronomic countryside, learning the hallmarks of great European cooks. Eventually, Konefal landed a position at San Francisco’s famed Campton Place working under Chef Daniel Humm. At this petite and elegant hotel, a block from the celebrated Union Square and just feet from Michael Mina and Hubert Keller  establishments — Humm and Konefal, became an award-winning culinary team gaining praise from the finicky City by the Bay’s food world; ultimately receiving four stars from Michael Bauer, San Francisco Chronicle’s noted restaurant critic.

IMG_6276The restaurant world took notice and Konefal moved with Humm to New York City’s Eleven Madison Park, then just another elegant eatery. Humm, Konefal and the Eleven Madison Park team established the restaurant as a destination inside the Big Apple – already one of the world’s great culinary stops. During their tenure as a team, the restaurant received multiple New York Times stars, accolades from the James Beard Foundation and eventually received three coveted Michelin stars making it only one of nine establishments in the United States to do so.

All  things come to an end and Konefal and Paola, ambitious in their cooking wanted to open their own establishment. They looked no further than Konefal’s hometown of Flagstaff. Hence, the couple opened, Coppa Cafe, a delicate and nuanced European eatery.

With its global sensibilities, small town location and it’s attentiveness to flavorful French techniques, Coppa Café is a restaurant to be reckoned; indeed, some of the interesting menu aspects include locally foraged edibles such as herbs and mushrooms,

Veal Agnolotti. Photo by Awe Collective.
Veal Agnolotti. Photo by Awe Collective.

a growing trend in France, Umbria and the burgeoning Arizona restaurant industry. The café atmosphere is homespun filled with thrift-store finds, not the fussiness one associates to an accomplished chef who once dwelled in a Michelin-starred room. All the charcuterie is house-cured. The pastries and breads are made in-house and I don’t believe you will find too many Flagstaff restaurants serving Seared Foie Gras, Roasted Braised Wild Boar with Juniper Berries, RidgeView Farm Quail or “Kelly Farm” Veal Agnolotti raised humanely from a local Arizona producer.

So, if you are traveling Route 66 or headed up to the Grand Canyon, you might want to stop for the night and eat a little bit of sophistication. Good food exists all around us, sometimes you just have to travel outside your comfort zone.

Beef Tartare
Beef Tartare with Juniper Berries. Photo by Awe Collective.

How long have you been cooking? I’ve been cooking 13 years in professional kitchens. Personally at home, nearly all my life.

What is your favorite food to cook? Foie gras.

Photo by Jeremy Keith.
Photo by Jeremy Keith.

What do you always have in your fridge at home? Fermented veggies. I eat them with everything.

What do you cook at home? A mix of everything. Mostly ethnic foods, particularly Brazilian. Lots of rice and beans.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer? An adventurous and curious diner.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?  Legitimate allergies aside, diners with stubborn food hang-ups. Life’s too short to limit yourself from exploring different foods and new flavors.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex? Pyrex.

WINE_previewBeer, wine or cocktail? Wine.

Your favorite cookbook author? Pellegrino Artusi.

Your favorite kitchen tool? A great chef’s knife.

Your favorite ingredient? Good quality salt.

Your least favorite ingredient? Cheap table salt.

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen? Yelling. I like a quiet, organized and efficient kitchen environment.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook? French.

Beef, chicken, pork or tofu? Pork.

Favorite vegetable? Fennel.

Photo by Nick Saltmarsh.
Photo by Nick Saltmarsh.

Chef you most admire? Daniel Boulud.

Food you like the most to eat? French.

Food you dislike the most? Hard to say. If prepared correctly, most foods can be delicious.

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

Lemon Tarragon Vinaigrette: 

A popular French dressing used on many salads or seasonal vegetable dishes throughout the year. One that needs to be in every homecook’s tool box. 

  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 small shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tsp freshly chopped tarragon
  • Pinch of good-quality kosher or sea salt

Start by peeling and mincing the shallot, continuing until the shallots almost turn to a paste. Place shallots in a small mixing bowl, add lemon juice and pinch of salt. Whisk together vigorously while incorporating the most of the olive oil simultaneously in a small stream into the mixture, reserving just a little oil. Stop whisking temporarily to add the chopped tarragon. Begin whisking again while adding the remaining oil.

Mix preferred greens or vegetables in a separate bowl and toss them with the vinaigrette. Finish with an additional sprinkle of salt to taste.

The End. Go Eat.