Category Archives: Restaurants

Weigh-to-Go: So Cal’s Best Hot Food Bars

While attending my New York City fashion school during the eighties, my academic cohorts and I would venture out for lunch. It wasn’t often, as most of our money was taken up in the purchase of school supplies. We’d take the elevator from our seventh-floor institution to Park Avenue South below, just south of 23rd Street. We smoked a couple of cigarettes, chased by a styrofoamed cup of coffee, and then we bustled into the market with the rest of the noonday office crowd. Owned and operated by, we assumed, a Korean family, we never knew their names but were always greeted with a pleasant, “How are you!!!?” It came across more as, “hey, good to see you,” rather than an actual question about our welfare.

At the center of the grocery were two large stainless steel table tables, one for cold eats and salads, and the other filled to the brim with piping hot multi-ethnic delicacies. Once you filled up your plastic container, it was weighed by the cashier, and you were given your choice of wooden pull apart chopsticks or plastic utensils. It was $4.00 by the pound at this particular market, but at times, if you searched down in Wall Street or the Upper West Side, prices could be lower. Somewhere in the back, cooks were making varieties of kimchi, Filipino lechon, Chinese American fried rice, refried beans, roasted pork, cool sautéed string beans tossed with sesame and soy, white and brown rices, cold tofu in peanut butter sauce, kefta, and on and on went the menu. At times, there were more than 30 to 35 items on the hot buffet, and equally the same on the cold including many glass rice noodles salads.

After leaving the Big Apple for Los Angeles in the early nineties, I didn’t think about the weigh-to go food bars. It wasn’t until I started seeing them at Whole Foods did I remember dining from them. Recently, I’ve noticed more at a variety of markets, and have been pleased by the array of eating choices from these familiar metal stands.

Over the past decade or so food, grocery bars seem to be making a comeback. It’s a natural choice for many, especially when you’re single, don’t feel like cooking, or just want to grab and go. Each store has a distinct selection of items they offer.

Here are my top five Southern California picks for best places to eat and go.

Bristol Farms: Gourmet American Comfort Food

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bristol Farms are Gucci eats compared to the low-rent items at other well-known stores. My fave is located in the building which formerly housed the celebrity old-school restaurant Chasen’s. Here, ghosts of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton roam the pasta aisle looking for cuisines of the past; occasionally, you might catch a glimpse of Ryan Seacrest or even Diana Ross wheeling a cart.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestOffering all three meals at the warm and go, I would often pick-up an almost two-pound breakfast burrito in the morning. Heavily packed with roasted potatoes, eggs, cheese, and bacon or sausage, it was the perfect beginning to a day. Additional fare included scrambled eggs, French Toast, pancakes, egg, cheese, potatoes, and biscuit egg sandwiches – with or without sausage or bacon. During lunch and dinner, items include macaroni and cheese, chicken in many forms (stewed, roasted, fried, boneless), spaghetti, warmed rolls, individual pizzas, vegetables medleys, sometimes with tofu, and the menu goes on.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Sometimes, the pastas do get a little dried out from sitting on the table. At the end of the day, for something hot and satiating, Bristol Farms is the chew!

Seafood City: Filipino Foodies’ Fantasy

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

This was recommended to me by OC Weekly food writer Anne-Marie Panoringan, whom I met at a press dinner. We discussed our Filipino-ness. She said there was great adobe in her former Nor Cal home base. Living in the OC – she is an actual neighbor – she pointed out that I could go to Seafood City to get pancit for a birthday party. Pancit is to Filipinos what spaghetti Bolognese is to Italians at a gathering – a must. Just like the world-renowned slurpy strings, pancit’s base begins with vermicelli-like rice noodles, tossed with a variety of ingredients such as fowl, beef, goat, Chinese broccoli and string beans, green onions, carrots, etc. The list is endless.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestAlthough technically not a grab-and-go but more of a buffet, Seafood City features traditional cuisine from the archipelago, such as brothy stews like nilaga with boiled oxtail, potatoes, and bok choy, or singang, a savory pork stew with tamarind and jalapeno. Of course, there are the pinoy faves Filipino sausage, lechon (slow-roasted pork), and lumpia (eggrolls), as well as the traditional adobe. When native Filipinos bring their families to dine on food from the store, you know it’s going to deliciously authentic.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bonus points: Buy your seafood from the fishmonger, and then they will clean and fry it for you. You can take it home to the family.

Cardenas: Ceviche, Corn Tortillas, and Mas Comida

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Like Seafood City caters to its native and non-native Filipinos, Cardenas market, a Latin grocer with almost 30 outlets throughout the Southern California area, does the same. Ingeniously, instead of trying to go against the tide of political opposition, the markets carry piñatas and play mariachi music. The grade school Spanish never mastered comes in handy when trying to find everyday items from the store’s employees. It’s almost like being in rural Mexico without ever having to get on a plane. That’s a compliment.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestFrom the morning desayuno to the evening cena, eaters can stock up on weigh by the food, including birrias, tamales, guacamole, and molacajete salsas, which are made right before your eyes. All their masa made on site can be purchased, and include unusual types such as blue corn and nopales. Regular white corn available to for those looking to make homemade tamales. Using leftover tortillas cut into triangles, batches are fried and salted into hearty housemade chips, making them the best in the land.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Bonus points: Watch them make fresh tortillas in at their tortilleria and then buy them still slightly warm.

Whole Foods: A Better Balanced Bar

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Since its beginning – sort of like when God created man – Whole Foods has always had a prepared food table. On the massive metal stages, which include breakfast, it almost a combination of Bristol Farms, Cardenas, and Seafood City – meaning it’s appealing to the masses and those who like ethnic foods. American eats are available but it’s “Hey, here is some macaroni and cheese as well as roasted chicken quarters for those who aren’t into it. “ Personally, I’ve always found Whole Foods to be underseasoned, needing more salt and pepper for brightness.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestWhole Foods does have the most extensive salad bar, with everything from freshly cut vegetables to dips and about a dozen salad dressings to appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores. Chilled pastas and meats. Whole and chopped hardboiled eggs. Fresh beets, not that jelly stuff that comes in a can, as well as an array of cheeses and nuts.

For additional cooked treats, the Whole Foods kitchen makes excellent pizza and flattops, where burgers and paninis can be whipped up to its adoring masses.

Wholesome Choice: Irvine International

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

A food lover’s dream come true, Wholesome Choice ostensibly is a Persian market, but it caters to every ethnic group who lives in a the Orange County area. Located in a strip mall, next door to a Wells Fargo, this is a food bazaar. There’s no need to go anywhere else. A sangak bakery pleasantly assaults customers on arrival.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s BestLong curtains of unleavened Middle-Eastern bread, baked throughout the day by a team of Latins, draping over the front of shopping carts is a common sight. Waiting for the aromatic freshly baked dough is a global community of Asians, Middle-eastern, Africans, and Europeans from Central and eastern Europe. Additional baked goods such as Barbari, mashadi, and Persian sweet bread get doughed in-house too.

Head over to International Food Court, where a hot buffet tables offers an array of global cuisines. Patrons can choose from six different fares to satiate their appetite, including Persian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Italian and American. Over in the cold cuts area, all six varieties of feta are on offer, as well as dolmas, a selection of olives, and spreads such as hummus and tabbouleh.
If you are shopping to make food at home, I’ve counted about a dozen tahini sauces. Bundled tangles of chives, rosemary, oregano, thyme, or other branchy herb are on sale for $1.99, and will last you a lifetime. The butcher area is not for vegans or vegetarians, as there are often many sweetbreads and organ meats available, including testicles of lamb and goat. Longon, loquats, bitter Indian melon, fresh unshelled almonds, and grape leaves sell faster than the store can keep them in.

Steam Tabled for Your Supper with Weigh to Go Food Bars: Southern California’s Best

Never in all my travels, which include 30 countries and nearly 250 cities, have I seen such a Western grocery store offering a selection of international goods.

Bonus Points: The store proves that world peace can exist if we shop together for food.

Pin for later:Southern California Tips: top 5 places to eat and go!

 

The End. Go Eat. 

 

Whole Foods photos, courtesy Brian Garrido. All other photos courtesy respective stores via facebook. 

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Irvine, a bedroom community in Orange County, is often spoken about as a homestead of possible Utopian living with green trees, cookie cutter homes, and maybe an ethnic market selling something as exotic as dark chocolate or unroasted nuts. In truth, it’s a thriving urban area with an incredibly diverse population – and food to match.

i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Close to Disneyland, 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and roughly an hour and a half drive from the City of Los Angeles, resides Irvine, opened in 1965 as a “new town.” The area’s conception was a bedroom metropolis budding out of the 405-freeway connecting LA, OC, and San Diego counties. Its sole purpose was to be a pedestrian, and yes, a conformist archetype of 20th century modernism.

Now, in the 21st century, ironically, it is the largest city in the continental U.S states with an Asian diaspora, ranging from Indian to Korean, Filipino to Chinese, Malaysian to Japan. Irvine has become a blossoming food center, offering cuisine not only throughout Asia but Mexican, Italian, Indian, and Middle Eastern – and sometimes, a fusion of several.

For residents, the town’s proximity is close enough to enjoy Pacific Ocean breezes from Newport and Laguna Beach without having to pay for the pricey coastal real estate, although that, too, is changing as it continues to grow. Indeed, the area measuring 65 square miles is home to several higher learning schools including University of California, Irvine, Concordia, Brandman and Chapman Universities, and has a median income of a little more than $93,000 per household compared to the entire state at $63,000.

During the mid-sixties, people were the leaving urban centers for places like Irvine, which quickly become synonymous as a landmark of social and political conservatism. Often a hidden tag line, going to any city within Orange County such as Anaheim, Huntington Beach, or San Juan Capistrano was said to be “visiting behind the Orange Curtain,” a post-WW II reference to communist countries and much of the then area’s non-liberal viewpoint. Much of that has changed, as OCs head into the first quarter of the 21st century.

Matter of fact, Irvine proudly stated that for the first time since WWII, the entire area went “blue,” attributable to the shifting and dying demographics that once reigned in the area. Now Irvine, also called “SoCal’s Silicon Valley,” is one of the leading centers of the state’s diverse eats and eaten by internet company denizens from Google, Houzz, Microsoft, and Oracle populating each side of the 405.

No, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas, it’s Irvine.

Breakfast: Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace

If you’re staying here, this yummy place offers well-made grab and go sandwiches, pizzas, and salads throughout the day. However, it’s the ideal spot to grab a great sausage and egg on an English muffin ($3) or a breakfast burrito ($4). Want to order a la carte? Go for scrambled eggs ($2), any breakfast meat ($2), and a side of potatoes ($2). It’s far better than anything heated up at a chain coffee of fast food spot. Indeed, many of the young office workers start their days at Marketplace because the prices are low. Coffee is standard Starbucks, but you can have a breakfast meeting with the ample seating. Free wi-fi included so it’s easy to start up a Powerpoint presentation. Come back during the never-ending happy hour and enjoy inexpensive glasses of wines, unique cocktails, and beer along with a stellar small plate eating menu that is equally as delicious.

 

Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

17900 Jamboree Road
Irvine, California, 92614
866.396.4201

Lunch: Wholesome Choice

You did well on that 26-slide Powerpoint presentation during breakfast, but that was at 8:00 am. It took hours to get through, and you’re famished, but the chain restaurants which proliferate in Irvine – and they do – aren’t what you want. Head to Irvine’s possibly greatest food spot: a grocery store called Wholesome Choice. At lunch (or even dinner), they have one of the best ethnic food hot bars probably in the country. Running the gamut from Chinese-American, Persian, Indian, Mexican, traditional American, to Middle -Eastern, it’s a food person’s dream. Enter in on the right side by the vegetable and fruit area, and you’re walking into a Turkish bazaar stateside.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

The bins are overflowing with pomegranates, Persian cucumbers, key limes (in season), parsley, ginger, and other items not seen in traditional grocery stores.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Before getting there, though, you have to sidle by the sangak bread bakery and its bakers (who are Mexican). In line waiting for the unleavened curtains of whole wheat, which drape the shopping carts, are people of all backgrounds – Latin, Korean, Jewish, Russian, Filipino, Persian, Arabic – reflecting the neighborhood and the locals.

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Buy a bottle of orange water, rose water, lily water, or drinking water. Nearly a dozen varieties of tahini rest in the sauce aisle – it’s hard to choose. If you’re a little queasy about meat products, don’t head to the butcher cases. Whole sheep and cow reside there in pieces. An eye there, a testicle here, and a little bit of tongue. (Don’t forget trying a little bit of the house-made Turkish delight. There seem to be nearly as many choices of the confection as there are stars in the sky.)

Lunch at Wholesome Choice. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

18040 Culver Drive
Irvine, CA 92612
(949) 551-4111

Cocktails

After shopping through one of the many malls, including Irvine Spectrum complete with a ferris wheel, head to Angelina’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in another strip area across the 405. Even though it’s a cement block with all the appeal of a wood chip, inside, the Italian bistro is light with grey, burgundy, and white.

Cocktail at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Additionally, it’s well-appointed with racks of wine bottles (mostly Italian), a full bar, and a pizza-oven creating robust aromas. Although you could order a glass of Pinot Grigio with maybe a pizza to share for as an appetizer before a meal, my recommendation is a flight of Italian food and wine. It consists of three tastes, with a trio of wines of about 3 to 3.5 ounces each. For example, the Sophia Flight ($12) focusing on rosatos, imbibers sip a sparkling from Setteanime, Raboso Marca Trevigiana, paired with a bruschetta of shrimp, garlic, and bell pepper. Another pairing is a Sangiovese rosato from Il Poggione Brancato in Tuscany coupled with a bruschetta of brie, olives, and micro-basil and lastly, from Puglia, a beautifully dry rosato, Tormaresca Calafuria Negroamaro, is combined with goat cheese, artichokes, and parsley slathered onto toast. There are others, but it’s a tasty way to travel the Italian wines without going bottle by bottle. Granted, you can do that, but there are checkpoints in Irvine.

Flights of food & Wine at Angelina's Neapolitan Pizzeria. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Los Olivos Marketplace
8573 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 536 – 5200

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market

Union Market is one of my favorite destinations in all of Orange County, both for eating and retail shopping. It’s a unique one-of-a-kind retail and food hall destination showcasing the best of the independent shops.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Located in Tustin, a small town to the north of Irvine, it’s based in another mall, called The District.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

There are about seven full restaurants, including Hatch which serves only sliders, Kettlebar, a New Orleans steam cooking experience, and several others. In the center of the mini-mall within a large mall – sort of like the Russian stacking dolls — lies a horseshoe shaped bar, appropriately named Central.

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

Here you will find locally-sourced beers, hand-picked wines, and craft cocktails served to a robust gathering of area workers. Order a deliciously messy Country Fried Chicken Poutine ($9) from The Kroft (the tagline is “comfort food re-invented.” ‘Nuff said.), or Market 2 Table’s freshly made rigatoni served with Bolognese ($8.95), and eat at any of the tables. How much fun is doing a buffet to your liking?

Outside the Box of Irvine: Union Market. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

2493 Park Avenue
Tustin, California 92782

Dinner: Puesto

Across the parking lot from Angelina Neopolitan Pizzeria lies a Mexican restaurant created by three brothers in San Diego. Offering a variety of tacos and other South of the Border goodies, Puesto is a unique offering in the world of California Mexican food.

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Begin the evening in the kitchen, where four dining tables are close to the culinary action. If the meal conversation lags or your companion is completely dull, start watching the sous chefs make batch after batch of perfectly pressed blue corn tortillas. Monthly, their Executive Chef Katy Smith creates a taco, of which a dollar from each sale goes to a local charity. It’s not always a taco, either. Sometimes, it’s a margarita, and in April of this year, a frozen horchata was chilled up. The inspiration comes from a variety of Mexican states, including the street food of Distrito Federale. It’s also one of the few restaurants where I’ve had freshly made chicarrones (pork skin deep-fried). Lightly salted, they can be a gluten-free or an alternative to corn chips. Fresh, intensely flavorful, and charitable all at the same time. What more can you want from a dining experience?

Dinner at Puesto Taco. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

8577 Irvine Center Drive
Irvine, CA 92618
(949) 608 – 9990
www.market2plate.com

Hotel Irvine

Within the confines of staying in the city area of Irvine, hotel choices are limited. However, a nice casual business stay is the Hotel Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Looking more like a seventies securities exchange building, the 536-room property is nicely appointed – free Wi Fi – with a thriving food scene. Some of the rooms have balconies but overlook a business park and freeway. Regardless, it’s a quick escape from either North or South on the 405 and comes complete with a pool. (My motto: No pool. No stay.) The restaurant is called Eats Kitchen & Bar, which in January changed executive chefs. It’s now overseen by Jeff Moore, who comes from a fourth generation Palos Verdes-based grocer. The atmosphere of the restaurant is conflicted between being a gastropub, as is seen in the décor, and an industrial edifice.

EATS Kitchen & Bar Dining Room. Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

EATS Kitchen & Bar (Nicoise Salad). Breakfast at Hotel Irvine’s Marketplace. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

Regardless, it’s a great place to stay – hell, it’s really the only place to stay in Irvine.

Where to stay: Hotel Irvine. From i8tonite: 24 Hours of Eating in Irvine, California

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

 

Word photo courtesy creative commons: Derek Liang 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food Questions (with a nod to Proust):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite vegetable?
Artichokes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recipe: Shredded Beef Tacos with Chipotle Sauce

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

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

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

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

Serve in griddled tortillas and top with grated cotija cheese.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

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

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

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

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

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

Your favorite cookbook author?
Suzanne Goin

Your favorite kitchen or bar tool?
Breville Citrus juicer

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Indian and Mediterranean

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

Favorite vegetable?
Romanesco

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

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

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

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

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

Whom do you most admire in food?
Danny Meyer

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

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

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

Recipe: Asparagus and Proscuitto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: From Zookeeper to Culinary Guardian: The Dream Jobs of Chef JT Walker

i8tonite: From Zookeeper to Culinary Guardian: The Dream Jobs of Chef JT WalkerChef JT Walker remembers meeting his wife at the Santa Ana Zoo, where they both were employed as zookeepers.

“We started on the exact same day,” he recalled. “There are very few zookeeper jobs in the United States, so to move up in the field, one of us would have to leave our (hometown). We were married and I was already at a point where I wanted to make a change. I turned to her one day, saying, “Hey, why don’t I go back to school and become a chef.” She already didn’t cook because I did all the cooking. “That sounds like a great idea!” she said. “It would be cool to tell everyone my husband’s a chef, instead of a zookeeper.” She already held that title and we didn’t need two zookeepers in the family.”

“Look, I’m very blessed that I was able to have my two dream jobs,” the Orange County native continues, “When I was at Oregon State University studying, I was awarded an internship at the Cincinnati Zoo. After I finished it, I was offered a job working there and wound up staying. Knowing how difficult it is to find these (zookeeper) positions, I jumped and took it.”

Now a veteran of restaurants, the 36-year-old Walker is excited about his continuing culinary adventures and re-opening Pacific Hideaway in his hometown of Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City. Located inside Kimpton’s Shorebreak Hotel, the executive chef is overseeing all the culinary attributes of the beachside eatery.

“This is going to be one hundred percent my menu”, Walker states. “We are calling it a modern American coastal tavern focusing on craft beers and cocktails. For me, growing up in So Cal, it was a unique experience. We could find inexpensive Latin and Asian cuisine. We are trying to bring that back. We will feature a crossover including possible vegetarian bim-bim bap, various kimchees, and Filipino lumpia to snack on.”

Calling himself a mutt, Walker’s background is a quarter Filipino, an eighth Polish, and the rest everything else; he says growing up, his family always made dinner together. “Nothing ever came out of a box.” As a child, he said to his father, an entrepreneur who had started a printing business at the age of seventeen, that he would like to cook dinner. Chuckling, the kitchen-helmer remembered his dad saying, “You want to make dinner. Awesome. You make dinner every night now.” It wasn’t meant to be mean – it was to take something of their plate, basically. Growing up my father cooks, my mom cooks. And, then I cooked. I’m hoping to bring that casual vibe I had growing up.”

With the Shorebreak Hotel located over a stretch of white sand in Huntington Beach, the Pacific Hideaway is promising to be more of local hangout. Said Chef Walker about the new restaurant, “We want to part of the destination, not be the destination. We want the locals to consider (us) their hang out spot. If they to plan a celebration, such as a baby shower, we want them to get a private dining room and have us write out a menu.”

Mussels. From i8tonite: From Zookeeper to Culinary Guardian: The Dream Jobs of Chef JT Walker

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
In fifth grade, I told my parents I wanted to be a either zookeeper or a chef. They are self-employed and had me making dinner right away to take that off their daily list of things to do. I came a little late to cooking, as I was a zookeeper for over five years. I have been cooking professionally for over 12 years now.

What is your favorite food to cook?
That’s like asking your favorite child (or dogs for my wife and I—we have two Basset Hounds and an English Bulldog). I love working over a grill or on my smoker at home. Asada for tacos, a dry aged ribeye steak over a wood fire, or slow smoking a pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
It is bare right now with me working on PACIFIC HIDEAWAY. My sweet pickle relish, Kilt Lifter Irish Ale, strawberry jam from my mother, assorted pickles I made last year, Filipino Banana Ketchup, eggs, and bacon I cured and smoked.

What do you cook at home?
According to my wife, not enough. I try and make whatever she is in the mood for. She puts up with my long hours and night shifts, so I try and bring hospitality home for her.

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I love regulars. Those that choose to visit us on a semi regular basis. I also love those willing to try new things, step outside of their comfort zone.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
The guest that doesn’t let us take care of them. We are here to guide the guest to the best experience. Ask our team questions. Let us do what we do best.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Deli containers from Smart and Final

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Red Ales or an old fashioned

Your favorite cookbook author?
I like the Thug Kitchen crew, fun and tongue in cheek writings and recipes

Oysters. From i8tonite: From Zookeeper to Culinary Guardian: The Dream Jobs of Chef JT WalkerYour favorite kitchen tool?
My tongs and spoons

Your favorite ingredient?
Barrel-aged fish sauce

Your least favorite ingredient?
Lentils

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Cleaning out clogged drains

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Growing up in SoCal, pretty much anything that touches the Pacific Ocean. Specifically, Latin American and South East Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork all the way

Favorite vegetable?
Zucchini or corn

Chef you most admire?
All the chefs who helped guide me to where I am today

Food you like the most to eat?
Food that has soul

Food you dislike the most?
Food without thought or care

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
Just one, a panther, from my zookeeper days

Misoyaki Marinated New York Steak

Serves 3-4 people

Ingredients for the Misoyaki Marinade:

1 cup white miso paste
1 cup red ale (JT prefers San Diego’s Karl Strauss Red Trolley)
2 cups sugar
3-4 New York steaks
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 green onions, with only the roots trimmed off

Directions:

To make the marinade: mix the miso, ale and sugar thoroughly.

Reserve ½ cup.

Add the NY steaks to rest of misoyaki mixture and marinate at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

These steaks taste best when cooked on a grill.

Remove the steaks from the marinade and season with freshly ground black pepper. Place on pre-heated grill.

While the steaks are grilling, bring reserved marinade to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Grill the steaks to desired doneness.

Once the steaks are cooked, grill the green onions until cooked through.

Serve the steaks with the misoyaki sauce and grilled green onions. These steaks pair well with steamed rice and sautéed edamame.

Bonus tip: Drink a hoppy IPA or spicy Malbec to help balance the sweetness of the misoyaki sauce.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe’s Cornbread Recipe

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeWhat do you do when you love BBQ? You learn from the best – and then smoke, cook, and eat well. And, if you’re Moe’s Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez, you turn that business into a way to give back, teach, and provide great food. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Fernandez, originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, learned how to fire roast meats from Tuscaloosa BBQ legend Moses Day. From there, he founded Moe’s Original Bar B Que out in Vail, Colorado (where he went to culinary school) – and has gone on to grow a business with over 50 franchises in a plethora of states.

Fernandez’s mission is two-fold – to provide a unique and delicious dining experience, and to be a cheerleader for young entrepreneurs by providing opportunities and education.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

The geography of the popularity of southern cuisine, especially BBQ, is interesting to track. When we talked, Fernandez noted, “people love BBQ – it’s unique, and you know what you’re getting into. In Vail, people eat BBQ four times a week; in Maine, once every few weeks…and in the south, everyone is always bbqing!” At Moe’s, people enjoy a meat and 3 – which is an entree, two side dishes, and a beverage. A look at their menu shows me that it would be difficult to choose exactly which, to be honest. But one thing that I always love is cornbread, and so I’m extremely pleased that Fernandez picked that recipe to share with us!

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What most impressed me, when talking with Fernandez, was his commitment to the growth and development of young entrepreneurs. Having been one himself, he knows how important it is to have a mentor. So most of Moe’s franchises are located in college towns, and hire young adults as staff. When these college students graduate, Fernandez helps them get a store. He said that he has a vested interest in these young people, and is always trying to figure out how to help them. When I remarked on this generosity, Fernandez said he’s humbled by his success, lucky as hell, and happy to teach and share what is important. Indeed.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread RecipeStop by Moe’s, in one of their 50 and growing locations (come to Michigan, Mike, please!), and know you’re not only getting great food, but supporting a business that is a cheerleader for their employees and creating small businesses that serve communities. Win/win!

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
40 years. My mother taught me to cook when I was young. She is from Sicily, Italy, and we cooked together every Sunday.

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fresh fish that I catch myself.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Various pickled vegetables, homemade jams, and homemade cured meats

What do you cook at home?
A lot of Latin food

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
One that knows about food and can tell when something tastes different. I love when they want to learn, because I love to teach.

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
When they refuse to try an item I prepared “as it is”

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

Your favorite cookbook author?
Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn (Charcuterie)

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Kitchen Aid Mixer

Your favorite ingredient?
Cilantro

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Your least favorite ingredient?
Liquid smoke

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean floor drains.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Latin

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Golden Beets

Chef you most admire?
Frank Stitt and John Currence

Food you like the most to eat?
Fresh fish just caught

Food you dislike the most?
Overcooked Beef

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None – my mom would kill me.

Moe’s Original Bar B Que’s Cornbread Recipe

 

i8tonite with Moe's Original Bar B Que Founder Mike Fernandez & Moe's Cornbread Recipe

Ingredients:
6 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup yellow onions, fine dice
1/4 cup jalapenos, filet and fine dice
3 7-ounce packages Martha White Sweet Yellow Cornbread Mix

Directions:
Beat eggs, add jalapenos and onions.
Add milk and then mix in 3 packages of cornbread mix.
Spray with Pam heavily (if old pan, add parchment paper to release) onto large 4×10 loaf pan. Pour in cornbread mix.
Preheat to 325. Bake 1 hour. When done, it should be firm to press. Do not overcook.
Using rubber spatula, slice into 12 slices at 3 quarters of inch each. It’s easier to cut cold or bread will crumble.
Brush one side with margarine or butter. Place buttered side down on griddle. Fry til crispy.

 

– The End. Go Eat. – 

i8tonite with Four Seasons Chef Emmanuel Calderon & Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

The food world has many captivating stories, such as Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs: The Hunger for Food, Love, and a Search for Home, Born Round: The Secret History of a Full-Time Eater by former New York Times restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. All feature great storytelling narratives detailing how food played an important part of their lives. However, Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Santa Barbara Emmanuel Calderon is not only fascinating, but humble as well. Here’s his story.

When I first met Calderon, he was the banquet chef to Executive Chef Mel Mecinas at Four Seasons at Troon Nort, Scottsdale. I had been writing two Arizona Latino stories – one on Mecinas, who had won an Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame award as best chef, and his new restaurant sous chef Sammy Sanz, who was, at the time, the youngest female sous chef working in a Four Seasons in North America. To me, they are both interesting accounts about the rise of a Mexican-born man becoming one of the top chefs in Phoenix, and with Sanz, how a woman, born in Mexico as well, rose to the top of a luxury hotelier while working with two of the city’s best cooks: Chef Beau MacMillian at Sanctuary and Virtu’s Gio Osso, before heading to work with Mecinas.

Mecinas said to me, “I want you to do a story on Emmanuel. He is like a son to me. One day, he will be a great chef.” Of course, I agreed. However, things happen, Mecinas went on to a new position at a private club after more than two decades working for Four Seasons, and Calderon became the executive sous chef at the luxury hotel company’s Santa Barbara property, working at the breathtaking Bella Vista, helmed by Italian-born talented chef Marco Rossati.

Having just turned 30 last year, he has already received an award for Top Ten Chefs Under the Age of 30 while working for the Four Seasons Mexico. He’s also worked in the kitchens of Four Seasons Punta Mita, Scottsdale, Dallas, and many other of hotels, as well as the cruise line Holland America, which took him to Italy, Philippines, and throughout the Mediterranean. Through these excursions abroad from his homeland, it taught him different flavors and techniques. Not bad for a guy who was born in the tourist city of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula and wasn’t planning on becoming a chef.

“I wanted to eat all the time,” says Calderon. “I think this has not changed at all. As a kid, I spent most of the time waiting for my grandmother and mom (serving up) the food.”

Now , as Calderon is an adult, we have the pleasure of eating his well-rounded dishes and get to explore the world through his global experiences.

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
This year will be 14 years since I start cooking – but to be honest…not sure If I should consider the first couple of years, when I was just trying.

What is your favorite food to cook?
I love seafood, I find it challenging and interesting to cook, plus reminds me: respect to the ocean.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Tortillas, habanero chili, limes, shrimp…………Negra modelo .

What do you cook at home?
On my days off, I like to cook easy but slow cooking food that allows me to do laundry and have food for a week…cochinita pibil, chicken soup, marinara sauce….this will help me to make a lot of turns up during the week!!

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
I really love when customers respect and make an effort to understand the menu and let themselves be surprised.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Modifications…I understand allergies but nowadays, you have people allergic to seafood that can eat lobster!! Gf that can eat pasta or vegans that eat FISH!!!!!

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Beer

Your favorite cookbook author?
Marco Pierre White

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Chef Knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Chilies of all kinds

Your least favorite ingredient?
I haven’t met him yet!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
I think while you are in the kitchen everything is fun…even pastry shop, but my least favorite thing to do is office work!! It’s the longest hour of my day…

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Mexican…..or more specific Yucatecan.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork

Favorite vegetable?
Corn…. My mom sells a beautiful corn on the cob and “esquites” in Cancun

Chef you most admire?
This one is difficult. Since I started, I had been having a model to follow – I’m used to admiring to the person who share his knowledge and passion. I still remember the name of my first Chef de Partie….. But If I need to say a famous chef, it must be Marco Pierre White and a Mexican – Carlos Juan Gaytan.

Food you like the most to eat?
I love street food like taco stands, pho places, and when in Mexico you find everything in the street nothing fancy. I found a tasty relaxation after work…

Food you dislike the most?
As a cook, it is difficult to me to dislike something, but if I think as a kid, I don’t like fish soup……something that my mom used to make me when I was a kid… It was a soup made just with the head of the fish…I love my mom, though.

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

Ceviche Tostadas Recipe

1# Clean Fish Fillet (could be any kind of fish; the least fatty fish the best)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 habanero chili
2 roma tomatoes
1 avocado
1 small size red onion
8 Limes
1 orange
½ bunch fresh cilantro
8 corn tortillas

Get 3 ea 5 oz clean fillets, skin off, at your local market.
Dice the fish in medium size dice. Marinate with lime juice salt, pepper, and oregano.
In a dry hot pan, put 1 habanero chili to literally get burned – be careful and make sure you have ventilation.
Once the chili is burned in a black color, squeeze the juice of 1 orange and blend, add mix to the fish.
Small Dice ½ red onion and add to the fish.
Keep at the fridge for 20 min.
While the fish is in the fridge, small dice roma tomatoes, small size medium avocado, and chopped fresh cilantro and reserve.
Also, I love to do oven baked tortillas instead of using commercial tortilla chips or tostadas. It is more healthy and traditional, too – we used to cook it in a comal until they get crunchy.

Put your oven as high as you can then place whole corn tortillas in a sheet pan. Bake between 7 to 10 min, depending your oven, until they are firm and crisp.

At this moment, the fish should be ready. The fish should have a white color now. Add the tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. With the help of a kitchen spoon, mix all together – add more salt to taste, and enjoy!!!
– The End. Go Eat. –

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust)

How long have you been cooking?
35 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Fish

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

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

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

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

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

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

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Butcher’s Steel

Your favorite ingredient?
Thyme

Your least favorite ingredient?
Rosemary

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

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

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Broccoli

Chef you most admire?
Joël Robuchon

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

Food you dislike the most?
Very Spicy foods

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

Recipe: Veal Ragout with Dill and Crispy Mushrooms

i8tonite with Restaurant Serenade Chef James Laird & Veal Ragout Recipe

Serves 4

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

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

All other photos courtesy and copyright Chef James Laird

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeChef David Pan was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota – one of my favorite towns in the world! After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu Mendota Heights, he began his career at WA Frost in St. Paul with Chef Russell Kline. WA Frost, one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities, is a leading culinary institution in the Midwest, winning multiple awards, including the “AAA” Tour book 3 Diamond Rating – they also have a great outdoor patio, FYI. Pan noted, when I expressed my joy at eating at Frost, that it was a great place to start! He said, “they have a great culinary vibe – everyone is there because they love to cook. There are hard core line cooks!”

He then moved on to the prestigious Minneapolis Club, one of the last invitation only clubs in the US, and his culinary skills were put to test cooking for the elite clientele. Pan spent his summers in Gustavus, Alaska working at The Gustavus Inn, a 2010 James Beard America’s Classics Award Winner. There, he worked side by side with the chef – being a prep cook, gardening, washing dishes, driving a van, and learning how to do just about everything! Pan remarked, “It was the first time I’d been outside of my comfort zone – getting fish straight from the ocean, growing vegetables in a very short summer. It was eye-opening to work with vegetables straight out of the ground, and learn the difference between something processed. I now have a great appreciation for fresh veg – from seed to harvest. When I think of the fresh (and small!) strawberries there, they were so potent and delicious. It changes how you think of foods.”

Pan moved to the Gulf Coast in 2013, and had the honor of working for Chef Bill Briand of Fishers Orange Beach as well as working for Eric Beech of Brick and Spoon. He worked very long days for 14 months, and then made a big life decision. In 2015, he and his wife launched Orange Beach Concierge, one of the only private dining services in the Orange Beach area. He said that there is a big fear to step out on your own, and lose the stability of a full-time job.

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeHowever, he’s doing many private events, and loving it. From private chef work to themed weddings (a recent Greek-themed wedding saw him making gyros meat from scratch, as well as kebabs, hummus, tabbouli, and every kind of traditional Greek food – and they loved it) and smaller events. When he described his menus, well, I started thinking about a trip down south. He’s very talented – and creative. His kitchen at Orange Beach Concierge specializes in locally sourced, organic and sustainable ingredients whenever possible – and that that healthy dining should and CAN BE convenient – as well as affordable.

I asked (as a former Minnesotan myself) what changed about his cooking, when he moved south. He laughed, and said he couldn’t help but be influenced by the South! A man after my own travel heart, he said that “one of the greatest parts of traveling and cooking is that you are influenced by that area, and you take it with you in your education and life experience. I never want to stop – I always want to travel and eat and learn as much as I can about foods (especially locally sourced) and different places.”

I also queried him about what new foods he loves, living down south. Don’t be surprised that he answered fresh seafood, especially  oysters. He shared how delicate they are, and how sensitive they are to the environment that they grow in. Pan also noted that with the longer growing season (than Alaska, for sure, but also Minnesota), the agricultural environment in Alabama is abundant and great. The corn is amazing, and there is definitely a bbq scene (I laughed when he said that chefs “have to be on your game because many bbq critics will let you know if you know how to cook pork or not. I passed the pork test…”).

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe
Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée, Chef David’s way. Traditional French Cooking for the current times. This is the winning dish for the FLAVOR category at #thewharfuncorked2016.

Pan earned the Flavor Award at the Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival in Orange Beach. His style is traditional French cooking for current times; his winning dish was a Boeuf Bourguignon with Roasted Garlic Pomme Purée. Held in mid-September, the three day event combined tastings of delicious food and tantalizing wines, live entertainment, a pinch of southern flare, and a dash of Gulf Coast hospitality.

Chef Pan is relatively new to the coast but his culinary impact is already well known by his peers. His new storefront (a commercial kitchen, located at The Wharf), is available by appointment only for events, private chef table dinners, and more. Did you know that the Orange Beach area has about 5,000 year-round denizens, but over 6 million people visit from Memorial Day to Labor Day? That’s some kind of crazy tourist season (imagine private cheffing during the busy season!), and also influences his cooking the rest of the year, he noted. I expect we’ll hear much more about this innovatibve, interesting chef, who cares deeply for his fellow cooks, as well as his (lucky!) clientele.

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

How long have you been cooking?
16 years

What is your favorite food to cook?
Roasting and brining proteins

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Butter, cream, and Wickles pickles

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters RecipeWhat do you cook at home?
Ramen – I use the noodles to make sticky noodles…never use the packet

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Willingness to be open and try new foods

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Taking issue with others without bringing it to me first. I can make anyone more pleased if I know there is an issue

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Rubbermaid

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Cocktail

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Your favorite cookbook author?
Thomas Keller

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My tongs

Your favorite ingredient?
Kosher salt

Your least favorite ingredient?
Bouillon

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Peel potatoes – I am allergic

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French, Mediterranean, and Vietnamese

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Pork (Bacon)

Favorite vegetable?
Carrots

Chef you most admire?
Francis Mallman

Food you like the most to eat?
Pizza

Food you dislike the most?
Whole olives

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
None, not sure if I will ever go there.

Recipe: Chargrilled Oysters

i8tonite with Orange Beach Chef David Pan & Chargrilled Oysters Recipe

1 lb butter room temperature
1 large shallot minced
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 fresh lemons squeezed
2 tbsp creole seasoning
1 tbsp fresh thyme chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
Hot sauce to taste
Worchestershire sauce, to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan shredded

24 oysters shucked, toss top shell
French bread crostini or favorite saltine crackers to complement

Directions:

Fire grill
Reach 500 degrees and hold
Combine all ingredients except oysters in KitchenAid and mix
1 tbsp of mixture on shucked oyster
Place oysters on grill
Cook for 4 minutes, lid closed
Remove from grill
Squeeze fresh lemon juice on each oyster and serve and enjoy!

– The End. Go Eat. –

 

 

i8tonite with Phoenix’s TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo RecipeChef and owner of TEXAZ Grill Steven Freidkin is that rarity in restaurants nowadays. Long before the Food Network and celebrity cooks ruled our dinner tables, Freidkin had always been a good, respectable chef, and learning the trade not in fancy culinary schools, but employed in the eateries were he worked. As a pre-teen, he began his kitchen career working at his family’s kosher deli in Shreveport, Louisiana cutting up corned beef in the front and then hanging with his friends. Reminiscing about his youth, Freidkin said, “We would be hiding behind the pickle barrels.  We were the only store that cured our own pickles.”

His first job away from his parents’ store was as a dishwasher. Then while attending college in the Dallas, he cooked in many kitchens, learning that this could be his way of making a living instead of getting a social work degree. Ultimately, this led him to turn specifically failing restaurants into moneymakers. For a bit of time, he worked for well-known Victoria Station, a popular chain of railroad themed steakhouses that proliferated throughout the 1970s and 80s.

Arriving in Phoenix in 1976 on a proposition to a restaurant called Pointe of View located by Squaw Peak, he’s been in the Valley of the Sun ever since.

Before TEXAZ Grill, there were a couple of other stints in restaurants and a catering company, but in 1985, he, along with a former partner, opened the Phoenician steakhouse landmark. TEXAZ Grill isn’t one of the high-end places where people drop their credit cards to pay for the hefty price-tag on a wine and ribeye. No. Freidkin has established an important Valley of the Sun staple – as important as a saguaro cactus on a dusky evening — among the steak and chops set, leading the southwestern pack in crafting down home eats.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Regulars come to sit in the eclectically decorated space. Walls filled with hundreds of baseball hats, deer heads, pen and ink drawings found in thrift stores, black and white photos, and beer labels lavishly cover the space. It’s an homage to roadhouses long gone, or it’s an actual roadhouse, depending on your personal age and reference.

Among the ribeye and the New York Strip, listed above the delicious stalwart of fried chicken, is the house specialty – the chicken fried steak. Friedkin recalls, “When we first opened, we had a lot of requests for it. We put it on the menu for a special, and then gradually it stayed.” Two big breaded cubed steaks are dredged in flour, deep-fried, and served with white gravy. “We have served more than 900,000 of these since we opened,” Freidkin comments. Here’s to 900,000 more.

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

 

Chef Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

How long have you been cooking?
I started cooking in our family delicatessen in Louisiana when I was 10, so I have been cooking 50 years.

What is your favorite food to cook?
My favorite dish to cook is noodles, Cajun and Creole.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
I always have pickled okra in my fridge.

What do you cook at home?
I cook everything- Mexican, Asian, Southern, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern…and I fridge raid (clearing out the fridge and making a full meal).

What marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
Friendliness.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Unfriendliness.

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex.

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
All of the above. My favorites range from a Shiner Bock, Old Vine Zin, and Tito’s on the rocks with a pickled Okra.

Your favorite cookbook author?
Robb Walsh.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Japanese Cleaver.

Your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient is black pepper.

Your least favorite ingredient?
My least favorite ingredient is CILANTRO!

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Clean up!

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Southern, Italian, Mexican, and Asian.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef.

Favorite vegetable?
Eggplant.

Chef you most admire?
The chef I admire most locally is Robert McGrath.

Food you like the most to eat?
Noodles, Creole and Cajun are my favorite foods to eat. My absolute favorite is Texas BBQ.

Food you dislike the most?
Liver.

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
N/A.

Recipe: Chicken Fideo

i8tonite with Phoenix's TEXAZ Grill Chef Steve Freidkin & Chicken Fideo Recipe

Serving Size: 5
Prep Time: 0:21

Ingredients:
7 oz vermicelli — fideo
1 oz butter
3 cups cubed chicken thigh meat
1 c julienned onion
2 t minced garlic
1 can Ro-tel tomatoes
3 cups water
2 t chicken bouillion paste
1 t oregano
2 t whole cumin
2 oz canned jalapeno peppers – juice

Directions:
Brown fideo in butter until golden.
Add onion and garlic and saute briefly.
Add chicken and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over moderate heat, until done – about 30 minutes.
Serve topped with sliced green onion and grated cheddar.
– The End. Go Eat. –