Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fun in Charleston, SC with Personal Chefs Network

I had the pleasure of attending the national gathering of personal chefs at the Denise Vivaldo, who brought along copies of her new book, Do It for Less Weddings. I am not going to start doing weddings, but her menus and catering tips were definitely worth the price of the book.

Legendary cooking teacher Anne Willan also did a demonstration and shared some recipes. I am looking forward to recreating her beef daube recipe tomorrow because it is down right chilly here, especially after spending a week in the south.

The keynote speaker was fellow Northeast Ohio resident, writer and Iron Chef America judge, Michael Rulhman. I am regular reader of his blog and it was great to hear him speak in person.

There are a lot a great places to eat in Charleston. My favorite meal, and probably one of the best I've ever had in my life was at McCradys. Everything was perfect - the ambiance, the service and the food.

The first picture is my first course - Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Caramelized White Chocolate, Pears, Parnip and Coffee. The second is my sister's entree of Snake River Farms Karabuto Pork with cornbread, Heirloom Field Peas and Root Beer. For dessert I had a peanut butter cake that came with some some dried apple chips in liquid nitrogen. The server put a spoonful on the plate and instructed us to put it in our mouths quickly and breathe through the nose. They popped like pop rocks! It was a killer meal and they were gracious enough to provide a chef signed menu when I asked.

I also had great meals at Ansons, FIG, and High Cotton. Try the Shrimp and Grits fritters at High Cotton if you get a chance.

Another great discovery was Firefly Sweet Tea Infused Vodka. It's a locally produced concoction that is delicious. I enjoyed it in a take on a Long Island Iced Tea at High Cotton - a little Madiera, some lemonade, some tea and fresh mint, as well as in martini form at a rooftop bar. It can't be shipped, but I did manage to find the package store and had the shipping store wrap mine in bubble wrap and it survived the flight in my suitcase.

There is also a fabulous cook's store, Charleston Cooks, and PCN kindly provided 10% coupons to shop there. Needless to say I found gagdgets that I didn't have but I will save those for the next post.



Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Getting the Garden Ready

Ok, where was I? What started with the best of intentions, well life (and death) intervened yet again. Many gadgets and recipes have been tested and undocumented, but there are plenty left for the future.

Now it's time to get the garden ready. Unfortunately the weather has been less than cooperative. The temperature has been on the cool side and we've had more than our share of cloudy, drizzly days.

Yesterday I finally got the vegetable garden tilled. I braved the plant sale at Crown Point Ecology Center last Saturday and got tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants. I usually start them under shop lights in the basement; I just wasn't in the mood for that much babysitting this year.

So my first photo (still learning to use my new camera), is officially "The Garden Before". The brick path in the foreground is my recycled former patio. It was a pretty small patio, but yielded a lot of bricks to make a nice path around the garden. Still a work in progress, and one of many things on the outdoor 'to do' list.

My Japanese Tree Peony is in full blooming glory this week. I will try and get a good picture to post. Ok - drizzle or not, there's work to be done. Off to the garden.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year Organizing Frenzy

Happy New Year! With the New Year always comes the urge to purge for me. The accumulations of the year suddenly seem like they might overwhelm and smother me. So I have been busily cleaning, organizing, and filling the recycle bins.

Resolutions? I suppose I'm going there too.

Number 1: I would like 2008 to be the first year that I am 100% smoke-free. I did pretty well last year, but alas, I had a few slips. Chantix has been a wonder drug for me; no ill side effects, and it really does kill the urge 99.9% of the time for me.

Number 2: Stick with the gym. I have been going pretty regularly since last March. When I started I thought 10 minutes on the elliptical was going to kill me (and I wasn't smoking at the the time). I am now up to an hour, and I am there most days. Going to do a few training sessions to get a routine going for all of the machines and other body parts I am currently ignoring.

Number 3: At least double my personal chef business. After the purging and organizing is complete I really need to work on this year's marketing strategy.

I have made time to make some nice meals. (I am working on getting a new camera so I can post photos.) I jazzed up the usual pork roast and sauerkraut with a little vermouth, cider, a Granny Smith and a topping of Muffalata Mustard from Garden Vineyard Grove. I also made this Chocolate Hazelnut Tart from Gourmet magazine. Easy and delicious!

I made a good Parmesan Crusted Chicken the other night. I took two bone-in breasts and removed the skin (use a paper towel for a good grip, and pull off). I mixed about third of a cup of preshredded parm (the kind you buy in the tubs in the deli case, not the good stuff), with a good splash of vermouth, a tablespoon or so of finely chopped fresh rosemary, a good shake of Penzey's salt-free Mural of Flavor Seasoning, and a few tablespoons of Panko breadcrumbs, until it formed sort of paste. Patted it on the breasts and baked on the top rack 35-45 minutes (depends on the size of breast and mine were very different in size). The crust stayed on nicely and was really tasty. The second one was also good cold for lunch.