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I love Food. Cooking it. Eating it. Experiencing it. As a result, that's what this blog has evolved into: A journal of my gastronomical journeys abroad, as well as my culinary creativity at home. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and I'd love to hear your comments... Cheers!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Philly Food & Wine

Good times at the Philly Food & Wine Festival this weekend. I'll post pics once I get them all, but wanted to deliver on my promise of posting the recipe I demo'ed ASAP. Thanks to all the wonderful peeps in the crowd for turning out, and staying put. Following Aaron McCargo, Michael Voltaggio, and Fabio Viviani ain't exactly an enviable position for a rank amateur like myself, and the crowd that was there made life a whole lot easier and more enjoyable...

This recipe resonates with me for a couple of reasons: it's easy, tasty, and healthy. And it was the perfect thing to demonstrate on Halloween Eve, because of the "trick" of the squash posing as spaghetti!

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

  • Slice one large spaghetti squash lengthwise. Place cut sides down on a greased baking sheet and roast for approx. 45:00 in a 400 degree oven. Cool completely when done.
  • Meanwhile, cook 4 slices of bacon in a pan. Remove and drain to cool.
  • Dice an onion and add to same pan with bacon grease. Saute until soft. Set aside.
  • Grate 4 oz. Havarti cheese, 4 oz. Swiss cheese, and 2 oz. Romano cheese in a large bowl.
  • Chop the bacon and combine with 2c bread crumbs (I prefer Panko) and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Set a side (this is your topping).
  • In another bowl, combine 1/4c stone ground mustard, 1/4c sour cream, 1/4c chopped parsley.
  • Scoop out the squash seeds from the cooled squash. Using a fork, scrape the insides of the squash halves, forming long strands, and add to the wet mixture. Mix completely. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Mix in the remaining 2/3 of the cheese mixture to the squash mixture. Spread in a 9x13 greased casserole dish.
  • Top with the bread crumb/bacon/cheese mixture.
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for approx. 25:00 until golden brown, then broil and additional 2-3 minutes until the cheeses bubbles and the top is crispy.

My demo went pretty well (there were no leftovers!)... and I hope this dish serves you and yours well in your home...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Squash This!

It's that time of year for recipes. The time of year where the glorious Gourd takes center stage, in its manifold forms: pumpkin, acorn, and, my personal fave, spaghetti. In fact, I will be posting my Spaghetti Squash Casserole recipe I will be demo'ing @ the Philadelphia Food & Wine Festival shortly. But this post is dedicated to the colorful, popular, if not sometimes vexing butternut variety. A name that congers cozy, comfort food... but can be a real witch to deal with, if ya know what I mean.

I found this recipe from CHOW to be pretty simple to prepare. I enjoy a chunky texture to my pastas, and this one certainly had that, but I would recommend taking your with the squash in the saute pan to make sure they're nice and tender. And I chose egg noodles, because the creamy sauce clings to them nicely...

Egg Noodles with Butternut Squash & Thyme Cream Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

  • Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the egg noodles until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic, and salt and sauté until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the squash, thyme, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the squash is starting to brown and just gives way when pierced with a knife, about 15 minutes.
  • Pour in the cream, stir to coat the vegetables, and bring to a boil. Stir in the cheese and simmer for 2 minutes.
  • Transfer the pasta directly into the sauce. Remove the pasta and sauce from heat and toss with tongs to coat the pasta.
  • Add the reserved pasta water by the tablespoon to reach the desired sauce consistency. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

The Cool Kids Call it CoMo

Spent most of the last week in Columbia, Missouri -- or CoMo, as it's known to the locals. I was there shooting a pilot for a top-rated cable network, but the rest of the details are to remain under wraps for the time being. Rest assured I will be shouting it from the rooftops once I get clearance, Clarence... but I digress...

Two eating experiences I can share with you, amidst 5 days of basically eating to survive, not indulge. Our 12-14 hour days permitted only 1 memorable restaurant endeavor, and we were fortunate to have enough time to sit down for a proper lunch one day, as well...

The Wine Cellar Bistro of Columbia, Missouri, boasts over 1000 bottles in their collection, and the interior promotes exactly that. Wine bottles, crate tops, racks, pictures and more are displayed seemingly everywhere. I enjoyed a glass of Layer Cake Shiraz before my meal. Very enjoyable Australian wine, with dark berries and, aptly, a hint of chocolate on the back end as well. My salad was impressive in portion size and ingredients. Nice chunks of mozzarella, hearty tomatoes, and oranges, which was a first for me with this type of salad. For my main course, I couldn't resist the Chicken and Pancetta Ravioli, which came with a rich and creamy sauce dotted with pine nuts. Nice layers of flavor and certainly tasted freshly made. It was a quality meal to start our production schedule...

The other shout out goes to what is seemingly the unanimous pick for Best Pizza in CoMo: Shakespeare's. This, straight from the web site: "We make fresh dough, on site, several times a day. We start with Stanislaus pizza sauce - it's made from tomatoes, not concentrate - and add some of our own spices. We use high grade provolone that's aged just right, and shredded, not diced... because it makes a difference."
And while I will respectfully resist any over-the-top raves, I will say the whole wheat crust was a nice consistency, and the toppings were plentiful. The best I've eaten? Not close. But I can see why the denizens of Columbia would be proud. This is a distinctly local joint, which is proud to stay just that. A big fish in a small pond, you may say (I just did!). Every college town has one; this is simply where you get your pizza if you are a student at University of Missouri...

So, there ya have it. Two places to hit up if you ever find yourself smack dab in between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aloha Means, Congrats!

What a treat last night... my wife and I planned on stopping in to Roy's to pay our respects for his 10th Anniversary celebration in Tampa. What was intended as a brief 'hello' and a quick drink turned into an incredible eating experience. Roy Yamaguchi, in his inimitable fashion, was more than gracious as the host. He works the room like a champ, and even though his amiable and talented staff will tell you he begrudgingly spends most of his time in the front of the house these days, the menu on this night serves notice that the guy still has the flair to create spectacular food in all its fusion glory...

We were first presented with a sample of Yellowfin Tuna with a crushed pistachio & rice cracker crust, which was like a perfect meld of his typically amazing sesame seared ahi tuna and a more substantial tuna steak. It rested on top of a butternut and leek pave which you could have sopped up by itself! Next to it on the plate was a Napa Cabbage pillow filled with Duck Confit, Bok Choy, & a Foie Gras ganache. Holy Taste Sensations, Bat Man! So many different, distinct flavors... just amazing.

Next came a sampling of two hearty offerings: first, sliced Wagyu Beef with a Morel & Shitake Ragout, and Porcini Buerre Blanc, served with a Parmesan Yukon Gold Mash. The beef was rich and the mushrooms the perfect complement, bordering on decadent. Next... my first time tasting Veal Cheeks. It was served Marsala style, atop a Poblano Mash. Wow! You could sense this was a bit of a stretch outside of Roy's comfort zone, but that is when a chef like Roy is at his best. His excitement about these components came through in the dish itself. Outstanding...

And just when we thought the joy ride was over... dessert! An light, airy version of Pumpkin Cheesecake with a moist graham cracker crust and a (pleasantly surprising) side of glazed, plump cranberries to add a touch of tartness to the plate. What a way to end a meal.

My thanks, as always, to one of the people I hold in highest esteem in the business. Roy Yamaguchi is a testament to the fact that talent can get you where you dream of going, but equal measures of kindness will keep you there, and take you farther even... the Aloha spirit is alive and well at Roy's!

Good Eats Good Times on the Gulf Shores

Spent last weekend in Orange Beach, AL, an area hit hard by the BP oil spill. It's a gorgeous part of the country most of us (myself included) wouldn't ever know about, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to visit. They suffered greatly from the oil spill, but it was heartening to see how well they're rebounding. Much like the other Gulf Shores spots, it most reminded me of Destin, FL. In fact, Orange Beach sits almost precisely on the state line dividing Alabama and Florida...

Which is why and where there exists, in all its ply-wooded glory, a place called FloraBama. It stands not only as a symbol of the festive atmosphere typical of a sun-drenched, white-sand, vacation destination, but also as a a beacon of resiliency of the local population. Whatever Mother Nature has thrown her way, the FloraBama has endured; prospered, even. It's original coordinates situated quite literally on the state line that divides the Deep South, FloraBama has been forced to shift its moorings through the years. But you can sense its "bend, don't break" attitude: Katrina destroys part of the bar? Build another room. Tropical storms sweep through? Build up and out! It's now a sprawling treehouse-like structure, with additions slapped on like so many Legos or Tinker Toys sets.

Being that my TV crew and I were finished shooting for the day, we treated ourselves to a famous FloraBama Bushwacker, which was accurately described by a local patron as "a frozen Yoo Hoo with alcohol." It was sweet, and had a distinct bite of vodka in every sip, all the way down. A thirst-quenching, buzz-inducing, sweet-tooth-satisfying treat, for sure...

Two shout-outs for meals I enjoyed during my stay in Orange Beach. First was a stellar dinner of local seafood at Cobalt, where I enjoyed an appetizer of Bayou la Batre Crab Claws (sauteed in fresh tomatoes and basil with a garlic butter sauce) as well as a delicious piece of blackened Wahoo. The location cannot be beat: floor to ceiling windows provide a sweeping view of the Gulf. A teriffic spot that's equal parts dressed-up and dressed-down...

My final morning, always on the hunt for a good breakfast recommendation, I found Duck's Diner and filled my belly with exactly what I was looking for: a good, down-home breakfast. I ordered Jacob's Special: eggs (medium) over crispy corned beef hash with a side of cheese grits. Southern hospitality is in full effect at Duck's, as I got to know my server, Justin, almost instantaneously (without even asking to). Luckily, his service was as fast as his Southern drawl!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Saturday Morning Market

Now that my local (St. Pete, FL) Saturday Morning Market is open, after another long, hot summer, all is right with the world once again. There's a certain lightness of being I experience knowing that from October-May, I can count on this constant in my life.

This past weekend, I was thrilled to see it bigger and more buzzworthy than ever...

There are a couple of booths we always hit up: the kids especially love Sweet Caroline's, for their ginormous chocolate chip cookies. I personally favor their Glorious Morning muffins, which is a hodge podge of hearty, healthy ingredients, like carrot cake, raisins, nuts, and the like.

My wife and I always enjoy the breakfasts served up courtesy of Uhuru Breakfast Cafe (sans political innuendo, thank you) -- huge tortillas folded around generous amounts of eggs, cheese, potatoes, peppers and onions.

Always a fun indulgence is Mot-sa-pie: Hot and cheesy, warm and chewy, Hispanic in origin, it's a yummy, grilled cornmeal pancake with melty mozzarella cheese inside. Add a slice of ham for our "deluxe Mot-sa-pie." Traditionally served with powdered sugar on top.

But, at the risk of burying the lead here, I sampled two of the newer vendors at the Market this time around: couldn't pass up the booth for Brooklyn Knish. I was really impressed with their wide selection of knishes: no fewer than 17 on the menu! As I approached, I'd prepped my taste buds for an original potato variety, but was swayed when I spotted the Sweet Potato Pumpkin Spice version beckoning me.

Bonnie Wachtler and her hubby run the joint, and had mini-steamers on hand to make the knishes nice and warm and moist. I enjoyed my rather eccentric order, but can't wait to get back there for an "original" ... or maybe and original with bacon... or I could go for the one with corned beef... either way, any way, mission accomplished in the way of "taking me back home to New York"...

Next up, we happened upon an unassuming, classic-looking Popsicle cart. What I came to quickly discover, though, was Pop Craft is anything but.
I've experienced authentic paletas before (in Nashville, at an award-winning outpost, aptly called Las Paletas), so I was psyched to see these Mexican treats served up locally. Paletas, for the uninitiated, are frozen bars, chock-full of chunks of fresh fruit and available in a hypnotizing array of colors and clear, not-too-sweet flavors. This Sarasota-based company boasts "all natural artisan Popsicles," and their flavors on-hand made our tongues wag just reading the chalk-drawn menu. The kiddies ordered the Strawberry-Lemon. I couldn't resist the Coconut Cream. Both were dynamite! Incredible texture; so refreshing. And an extra benefit of these au natural creations: they don't melt as messy as store-bought kinds!

All in all, a great morning spent with the family in a fun environment, and a fantastic way to support local growers and businesses, too.

Can't wait 'til next Saturday...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Healthy Tailgating

Just shot a cooking demo for the syndicated TV show, "Daytime." I brought them this recipe for Stuffed Turkey Burgers, which I've used for a while now, and really enjoy. I especially like it for tailgating, because
a) no untensils required,

b) the toppings are inside the burger...less mess!, and

c) it fills your belly and your tank!

I like to tweak this one by preparing the turkey as if it's meatloaf: add bread crumbs and garlic to the burgers to get some extra flavor inside, along with the peppers and cheese...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Sophisticated Scallop

I had the pleasure of befriending a very talented chef/baker/caterer extraordinaire, Scott Bishop, while working at a Food & Wine Festival in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Scott was, during that weekend, putting out seriously copious amounts of food to satisfy the masses, on hand to see cooking demos from the likes of Guy Fieri, Aaron McCargo, Jr, and Fabio Viviani. If you're ever in Hilton Head, you gotta look him up!

Here, Chef Scott is kind enough to regale us with a simple and savory dish, that pays tribute to a South Carolinian staple, the Scallop.


  • Cut appx 2 doz dry pack Sea Scallops into small dice; season with salt and pepper

  • Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and 4 thyme sprigs

  • Stir and let sit appx 10-15 mins.

  • Fill 60 wonton wrappers with 3/4 tsp. of Scallop filling, seal with egg wash, trim excess wrapper to make raviolis

  • Poach Ravioli in approx. 1 qt. fish stock (or clam juice) appx 1 min (or until they float)

  • Drain and drizzle buerre blanc sauce (see below) over and serve immediately

Beurre blanc, or white butter, is a classic and delicious French wine and butter sauce. Versatile and simple to make, beurre blanc has a light texture and rich flavor that goes great with different types of seafood.

  • Mince one shallot and place in a medium saucepan with 1/4c white wine and 1/4c white wine vinegar.

  • While gently stirring, cook over medium heat until the mixture has been reduced to the equivalent of two tablespoons. This should take about six minutes. Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little bit before adding the next ingredient.

  • Slice a stick of butter into 1/2 inch cubes. With the burner now on low heat, add a few of these butter cubes at a time and whisk them into the shallot/wine/vinegar reduction you have made. Each batch of butter cubes should be pretty much emulsified before adding the next batch.

  • Chop 1 tbsp. Italian parsley.

  • Add the chopped parsley, as well as a dash of salt and white pepper and stir until well blended. This will yield approximately 1/2 cup of Beurre Blanc sauce.