Tag Archives: California

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 Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeNicole Gulotta is a writer, editor, and tea enthusiast. She’s the author of Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry (Roost Books, 2017), and pens a blog by the same name. I first discovered Nicole’s website years ago, when looking for travel guides that encompassed both bookstores and great food. What gems Eat This Poem’s literary city guides are – written by those in the know, so it’s a local’s guide to goodness, when you travel. Nicole’s website is fill of musings on cooking – and life, and is one that I turn to again and again.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeImagine my elation when I saw Nicole’s new book being created, published, and released (next week!). I caught up with Nicole in sunny California, while snowbound in Michigan, and asked her about writing a combination of food and poetry. She noted that while she had been writing the blog for several years, and had felt rooted in the combination of food and poetry, she was approached by an editor about starting the book – and it felt like the right project at the right time. And while the gestation process for Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry was long, she had been writing of these topics for years, had found her footing with it, and was excited to do something more substantial with it – for which I am grateful.

When I delved into her history, I learned that while poetry arrived early in her life, food came much later – and so it wasn’t a natural fit to pair the two. But Nicole noted that when you can step away from your life experiences and look at them, it enables those insightful moments to happen.

The Eat This Poem cookbook features more than 75 new recipes paired alongside verse from 25 of America’s most beloved poets. Forage mushrooms with Mary Oliver, then wander into your kitchen to stir creamy truffle risotto. Study the skin of a pear with Billy Collins while you bake a warm vanilla-pear crumble. And honor the devoted work of farmers with Wendell Berry while snacking on popcorn dusted with rosemary and drizzled with brown butter.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

You know me – when I asked what she hoped readers take away from the book, Nicole said, “The idea of being still in a kitchen, and having food and poetry be an opportunity to do something that takes care of yourself and the people around you as well. Our lives are so rushed and busy and we have all these things to do…and I want people to feel like they can indulge in poetry and food and ENJOY that, even if only for a brief moment.”

And, when I asked about poetry, Nicole (a life-long poetry lover) remarked, “Poetry is so great because it really keeps you rooted in the moment/present, and if you read a poem it might take a short time (or longer), but it is a special, be-present time. You can do this and inspire your day!”

Indeed – food and poetry are the perfect combination for stillness, thoughtfulness, and a good life.

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

Food People Questionnaire (with a nod to Proust):

What is your favorite food to cook?
Something Italian, like bolognese that simmers for hours

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Homemade almond milk, Dijon mustard, a wedge of Parmesan, and eggs from the farmers’ market

What do you cook at home?
I keep things simple, especially Monday through Friday, like quick bean tacos, lentil curry, and pasta with whatever fresh vegetables are in season.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
A good appetite

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Chewing with your mouth open

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
Wine

Your favorite cookbook author?
Nigel Slater’s writing is so welcoming and poetic

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie RecipeYour favorite kitchen tool?
My Japanese chef’s knife

Your favorite ingredient?
Garlic. It’s the beginning of everything.

Your least favorite ingredient?
Dried fennel

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Empty the dishwasher

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Italian, Indian, and Mexican. But these days, anything I can get on the table in under 30 minutes.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef, medium rare, with a touch of flaky salt on top

Favorite vegetable?
I know they’re technically a fruit, but tomatoes have my heart every summer. I also love roasted cauliflower.

Chef you most admire?
Suzanne Goin

Food you like the most to eat?
Always pasta, preferably spaghetti with a slice of garlic bread alongside

Food you dislike the most?
A poorly dressed salad

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Spend time with my son

Who do you most admire in food?
Anyone who helps support local farmers, treats animals and the environment with respect, and values seasonal cooking

Where is your favorite place to eat?
My kitchen table, or Bestia, in downtown Los Angeles

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

Recipe: Energizing Orange Smoothie

i8tonite with Eat This Poem author Nicole Gulotta and Energizing Orange Smoothie Recipe

In a high speed blender, add 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 chopped carrot, 1 banana, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 small piece of peeled ginger (1-inch), ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1 cup ice.

Process until smooth, and garnish with chia seeds, if desired.

 

Find Nicole on social media:

Twitter: twitter.com/nicolegulotta
Instagram: instagram.com/nicolegulotta
Facebook: facebook.com/eatthispoem
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/ngulotta/

 

  – 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 Napa’s Chef Sean O’Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za’atar Roasted Chicken

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted ChickenSean O’Toole, the chef/owner of critically acclaimed TORC in downtown Napa, developed a passion for locally farmed produce early on in his cooking career. Originally from Massachusetts, O’Toole has a broad understanding of global cuisines and techniques as well as a deep appreciation of locally sourced, artisanal foods.

Over the course of his cooking career, O’Toole cooked at San Francisco’s Ritz Carlton hotel, Restaurant Maximin in France, and Tabla Restaurant and Café Boulud in New York City. He cooked as Sous Chef at San Francisco’s Fifth Floor restaurant and Masa’s, Chef de Cuisine at Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas, the Culinary Director of San Francisco’s Mina Group, Executive Chef at Bardessono in Yountville, and Chef/Director of Kitchen Operations at San Francisco’s Quince and Cotogna.

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

O’Toole is culinary focused on cooking with the region’s bountiful selection of fresh products, forging longstanding relationships with the people that produce, forage, and glean them. His combination of experience, passion, and culinary skill define O’Toole’s ingredient-driven cuisine at TORC — a very personal endeavor that reflects his family heritage, and the culinary influences and mentors that have shaped his career.

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

What is your favorite food to cook?
Any

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Straus greek yogurt

What do you cook at home?
Mostly meats and grilled vegetables

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted ChickenWhat marked characteristic do you love in a customer?
People who know what they want

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a customer?
Indecisiveness

Tupperware, Rubbermaid, or Pyrex?
Pyrex

Beer, wine, or cocktail?
In that order: beer, wine, cocktails

Your favorite cookbook author?
Currently David Thompson

Your favorite kitchen tool?
Microplane

Your favorite ingredient?
Any mushroom wild and foraged

Your least favorite ingredient?
Ripe papaya

Least favorite thing to do in a kitchen?
Direct unmotivated people

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
French infused American

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Beef

Favorite vegetable?
Artichoke

Chef you most admire?
Currently Chef Jean-Francois Piège

Food you like the most to eat?
Chicken wings

Food you dislike the most?
Ripe papaya

How many tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
One!

Recipe: Sumac and za’atar roasted chicken with roasted vegetables

i8tonite with Napa's Chef Sean O'Toole of TORC & Recipe for Sumac and Za'atar Roasted Chicken

Recipe serves 4 people

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground sumac
2 teaspoons za’atar (Eastern Mediterranean spice blend containing thyme, cumin, sumac, and sesame seeds)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 2 1/2- to 3-pound chicken, wings and wishbone removed

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Soften 2 tablespoons of the butter to room temperature and combine with the parsley, sumac, za’atar, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. Fill a small disposable piping bag (or plastic bag with a corner snipped off) with the mixture and reserve.
Place the piping bag under the skin at the top of the breast and squeeze the butter mixture under the skin. Using your hands, spread it out to cover the whole breast. With butchers twine, make a loop below the knee joints on the drumsticks. Pull the neck skin underneath the bird and tuck the drumettes. Using the twine looped around the legs, tie a knot.
Coat the outside of the chicken with the remaining tablespoon of soft butter, and season with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a hot cast iron pan. Cook the chicken in the oven for 50 minutes, basting with the renderings every 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to rest and reserve the pan and the renderings to roast the vegetables.
Roasted vegetables:
1 piece fennel bulb, cut into quarters and cored
6 white pearl onions, peeled
6 small potatoes, cut lengthwise into quarters
Finely grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
10 Taggiasca olives, pitted
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Increase the oven temperature to 425° F. Toss the potatoes and fennel in the pan that was used to roast the chicken, so that they are coated with chicken renderings. (You may also choose to roast the vegetables in a clean pan, tossed in the renderings and additional butter or olive oil, if needed.) Roast for 15 minutes, then add the pearl onions and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Drain the excess renderings from the pan if necessary, then toss with the zest, olives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, quarter the chicken and cut the legs in half, at the joint between the drumstick and thigh. Serve the chicken and vegetables together on individual plates, or pass family-style.

 

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill Recipe

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill RecipeNiya Sisk is an editorial illustrator, designer, and author. She is happiest in the with either a wooden spoon or pencil in hand. Niya was raised in Northern California, where she built tree forts to host pretend dinner parties for the kids in the neighborhood. Luckily, she now has a real kitchen for real dinner parties.  She recently created a gluten free cake cookbook, Cakes of Color—a purse size portable gallery of cake art with modern organic cake recipes. Cakes of Color: Gluten free recipes, illustrated and catalogued by color, was inspired by the Food and Wine section of The Art of Daily Cultivation. They Draw and Cook features  her Green Tea Cake recipe in their wonderful world of food illustration.

Cakes of Color is a gorgeous cookbook, full of inspiration, joy, and, of course, color. Cakes of Color was approved to retail in 5 Whole Foods stores in the Bay Area in 2015. She’s currently illustrating a coloring book featuring food & wine and a portable gift book featuring her favorite recipes for clients and friends. Find more colorful inspiration at Niya’s Instagram.

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill Recipe

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

What is your favorite food to cook at home?
I have a few of those.
Native American Crab & Corn Cakes with Abodo Sauce comes to mind immediately. I learned of this dish while in Sedona at the Enchantment Resort Mii Amo Cafe. The cookbook is simply exquisite. I brought it home with me, along with a beautiful wool cape. The cape has nothing to do with how good the food turned out. Well, who knows, maybe it did. Food and ritual are so closely tied. The Crab and Corn Cakes are very authentic and so delicious with the Abodo Sauce. I love to serve them with Champagne and arugula salad.

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill RecipeAnother favorite is a simple comfort food recipe my mother taught me growing up – rosemary chicken. It’s such a flexible recipe. The staples are rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. But I will add ingredients like a bit lemon or olives and roast some red potatoes.
And I haven’t even begun to talk about Salmon. That’s nearly a staple in my home.

What do you always have in your fridge at home?
Carrots with parsley for my pet rabbit.

What marked characteristic do you love in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
Slow eating, passion for the art of conversation, and a love for red wine. Okay that was 3 characteristics. But they all go together in a person who loves life.

What marked characteristic do you find unappealing in a person with whom you are sharing a meal?
That’s easy. Mobile phone at the table. Looking at a person while enjoying amazing food is such a luxury these days. I’m a redhead. A statistic when it comes to all that means. Fiery and quirky, often unpredictable. If a mobile phone is on the table, I simply can’t take responsibility for my actions after that. ; D

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill RecipeBeer, wine, or cocktail?
A full bodied Spanish wine. Smooth, complex and opens up in rhythm with the conversation in play.

Your favorite cookbook author?
This is the hardest question yet. Alice Medrich is right up there. She has a gift for bringing history alive with her use of flours in baking. Baking is my main passion. I’ve learned so much from her. She’s such a master at gluten-free she’s removed the word from her taster’s vocabulary.

Your favorite kitchen tool?
My bright lime green spatula. I swear it’s my new power tool.

Favorite types of cuisine to cook?
Salads, Cakes (desserts), Seafood.

Beef, chicken, pork, or tofu?
Chicken.

Favorite vegetable?
Jicama. But my rabbit is convincing me (with his abundant enthusiasm) that kale is best thing on earth.

Chef you most admire?
Maggie, the chef at Omnivores Cookbook, is amazing. She has recently captivated my imagination with how authentic, fresh and accessible her Chinese cooking recipes are. And her photographs are stunning. I’ve always been afraid of cooking Chinese but she makes it so captivating and easy. So delicious.

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill Recipe
coffee on the beach (SF)

Food you like the most to eat?
Unfortunately, I’m crazy about CAKE. Luckily I also mountain bike and swim. ; D

Food you dislike the most?
No matter how amazing and awesomely cooked a beet is, I still can’t like it. People have tried. Oh, have they!

What is your favorite non-food thing to do?
Paint on a large canvas to loud and gorgeous music. Or illustrate whatever book I have in process. Coloring books, art books, cookbooks have been the theme the past 4 years.

Who do you most admire in food?
Deborah Madison, Greens Cookbook San Francisco. I have admired her for 20 years. I’ve worked through most of the recipes in Greens Cookbook. I have to say, I think she is a genius. Her meals, like Eggplant Gratin with Saffron Custard, could save the planet. So good.

Where is your favorite place to eat?
France. So creative and delicious. So much history. I never worry, I’m always up for all food adventures in France. Especially Paris and a few tiny village towns in the South of France.

What is your favorite restaurant?
That changes every month. I’m always food adventuring wherever I am. Right now, it’s Mediterranean Exploration Company in Portland, Oregon. I was blissed out for days after just one meal there.

Do you have any tattoos? And if so, how many are of food?
All my tattoos are on paper. I love to sketch, watercolor, monoprint the many colors and shapes of food. Food illustration is big passion.

Salmon and dinner party prep. Salmon recipe included. Illustrated for the Food & Wine section of The Art of Daily Cultivation by Niya C Sisk.

Recipe: Salmon with Lemon and Dill
Recipe adapted from Shauna Prince, Portland, Oregon

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill Recipe
Illustrated for the Food & Wine section of The Art of Daily Cultivation by Niya C Sisk.

Ingredients – serves 8

Two whole fillets of salmon (skin on/or skin off, ideally wild, around 2 ½ pounds each fillet)
Four medium lemons – two sliced in rounds (with skin on), one juiced, one sliced in wedges for garnish
1½ oz butter
Half a medium white or brown onion, cut in thin slices or wedges
3 tablespoons of white wine (optional)
1½ teaspoons of Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of fresh dill – chopped. Plus sprigs for garnish
Salt (approx. ¼ tsp Kosher salt)
Freshly ground pepper (approx. ¼ tsp)
1½  tablespoons of olive oil

Method

Lightly sweat onion in butter until soft, but not browned. Add white wine, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice. Stir together and cool.

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill RecipeFor each fillet, cut a piece of aluminum foil and a piece of parchment each slightly more than twice as long as your piece of fish. Be sure it’s large enough to fold over and seal your fish lengthwise. Lay the foil on the counter, then add the parchment paper on top of the foil. Place the fillet on top of the parchment – near one of the ends, skin side down. Repeat with the second fillet.

i8tonite: Illustrator and author Niya Sisk & Salmon with Lemon and Dill Recipe
For the love of Olive Oil

Brush the top and bottom of each fillet lightly to coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Pour half the butter/wine/mustard/lemon juice mixture evenly over each fillet. Lay round slices of lemon, and chopped dill on top of the fish. Close up the foil packets to seal.

Heat up barbecue to 350F or medium-high heat (or your oven to 350F). Place fish packets on grill. Cook until the fish flakes lightly (be careful not to overcook it). Timing will depend on how thick your fish is – likely 10+ minutes for 1½ inch thick.

Serve with additional lemon wedges and dill sprigs. You can also make an easy accompanying sauce with good mayonnaise mixed with a small amount of lemon juice and salt. Add chopped capers and dill to the sauce if you like.

* Leftover salmon makes amazing fish cakes. Flake the fish, add 1- 2 lightly beaten raw eggs, any herbs that you want (e.g. dill, tarragon, sorrel), and enough breadcrumbs to hold the mixture together (panko works well). Add additional salt/pepper to your taste. Form into balls, and cook in a lightly oiled or buttered frying pan until brown. Turn and brown on the other side, and serve with lemon aioli.

 

The End. Go Eat.

i8tonite: A Road Trip with My Mother, Baked Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving

As I do every year, I picked my mother up for Thanksgiving from her San Bernardino home. She will stay with us for a couple of days but instead of Los Angeles, the drive is from Phoenix, a round-trip excursion through the Sonoran desert. We will laugh, and I will tease her about her hearing as she’s asked me the same question three times, which I’ve answered three times.

I will finally state:  “I think we need to get batteries for your hearing aids.”

She’ll roll her eyes in amusement and swat at me, laughing in annoyance, “Brian! You know I don’t wear hearing aids.”

I respond, “Exactly.”

She’s aging and frankly, so am I; these car journeys won’t be happening forever. My mother gave me a love of road trips. We took them often from Duarte, California, where I was born to wherever she wanted to go. Disneyland. Pasadena. San Diego. Santa Monica. The best voyage was when my parents divorced. She wanted her maternal family closer – they lived in South Carolina — and her best friend lived in Baltimore. The ink was barely dry on the papers, and she packed up the red Pontiac Firebird with the vinyl top.  It was game on, a car trip through the southern half of the United States – East Coast bound.

She drove that car – a single woman and a kid — through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas (two days), all the way to South Carolina in the early seventies. The AM radio was blaring Helen Reddy, Tony Orlando and Dawn, Vicki Lawrence, and The Carpenters. Wolfman Jack’s raspy baritone kept the truckers company and single family station wagons happy on long stretches of nothing. I recall a preacher man who drove his van around the dusty highways, solely to assist stranded drivers with broken cars. After fixing our ruined timing belt, his payment was joining him in prayer. My mother’s not a religious woman, but she believes in God. She was incredibly grateful for his help, so we held hands on the side of the two-lane desert highway and prayed.

This time, as we crossed the Colorado River, the border between California and Arizona, I was driving. She was the passenger, and the music was coming from an iTouch playing singalong Cher, Dusty Springfield, America and maybe Florence and The Machine. I threw in Elvis for my mom. The road has expanded from one car in each direction to a six-lane thoroughfare, at times almost eight – half going east, the others going west.  I’ve rented a car, so I don’t have to worry about breaking down. I will call the rental company and be on the road in no-time.

Yes, it will be a good holiday.

Baked Sweet Potatoes (No recipe) (“It’s not Thanksgiving without them,” my mother’s declares)

Find the largest sweet potatoes you can grab. Wash and then dry thoroughly. Determine where the top of the tuber is and poke a line along the length of the skin. Then do the same with the center width (You should have a cross.) Rub with vegetable oil, wrapping in aluminum foil. Bake for about an hour or until done. Serve with crème fraiche (my favorite) or butter (my mother’s favorite). Throw some chives and serve.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The End. Go Eat.