Saturday, April 30, 2011

I'm Not In California Anymore

Originally I was not going to blog on my trip to Athens but so much has happened and I really want to stay in the moment and remember things while they are fresh in my mind. I have the urge to write so here it is.

The weather is beautiful here. Not an ounce of humidity in the south this time of year.
I was picked up at the airport by Darla who is Jason's assistant and we hit it off right from the start. She was very surprised with the size of my suitcase that we had to load into the car and it wasn't until we opened the trunk of the SUV that I realized why she was concerned. There was a huge 165 pound frozen pig in the trunk / back seat of the car. I was in shock with what my eyes were seeing and at that moment I knew I was not in California anymore. I was about to leave my safe zone of the ATL airport and head out on a culinary adventure like no other.
I helped Darla maneuver the frozen sawed in half pig and slid my luggage right next to it. I brought Jason and Laura some cured meat from The Linkery and took it out of my luggage and placed it on top of the pig to keep it cold. I guess that worked out well.
We made our way in a car packed with a 165 frozen pig with a GOVEGGIE license plate, on a 1.5 hour drive to Athens and got acquainted on the way. One of the topics of conversation was about a Chicken Kill on Sunday morning I would be attending, and the pig in the back seat will be roasted on Saturday afternoon at the seed swap. Oh man! What have I gotten myself into? I could only nervously laugh and it was comforting that Darla laughed out loud with me as she new the culture shock I was about to experience was going to be life changing for me.
We turned down a dirt road to head to the Mann house and the site was beautiful. We were surrounded by 5 acres of forest. The sunlight through the tree's was beautiful.I love this shed which Jason's wife Laura wrote the words I love you in red but something about it in black & white is amazing to me. It caught my eye right when we pulled up.Jason, Laura, & Judah arrived right after us. This is Judah. He is beautiful.Jason and I got to it and started cooking up a feast. Darla and Laura got to it and started hanging up screens on all the doors since the bugs are a buzzing this time of year in the south....and they are BIG!
Jason put me in charge of a Greek salad which was filled with feta, olives, fresh tomatoes and red head leaf lettuce from the farm. I made a Greek salad dressing with red wine vinegar, dijon, garlic, dried oregano, and olive oil.
I helped Jason prepare a pasta dish which was a take on a carbonara pasta. It consisted of Gemelli pasta, locally grown huge shitake mushrooms, green garlic from the farm, and bacon from moonshine meats which was personally cut by Darla this last Monday. The sauce consisted of egg from a local Athens farm, parmesan cheese, lemon zest, and unpasteurized local goat milk. You add the pasta to the mushroom mixture which is sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper and then add the egg mixture stirring it constantly which cooks the eggs and makes the sauce creamy. Jason added some pasta water to it for extra flavor and he threw in some fresh arugula from the farm which was amazingly fresh and peppery. I love pasta and greens together. I will be doing this more often.Everything so far has been so beautiful..except that pig, but I am sure I will see the beauty in it when I taste it. I can already tell this trip is going to make me see food and life differently. I think I am in for a treat here.I'm here now, I like it and its fresh.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My Southern Sojourn

I just turned 33 and it was a good one! I am starting off my 33rd year with a vacation I have been wanting to take for some time now. It's not your average laying-on-the-beach-pina-colada-in-hand type of vacation but rather one that has much more depth & meaning to it. I am packing light with little make up and jewelry as where I am going, there is no need for it. I am traveling south and heading to Athens Georgia where I will be temporarily staying with my dear life long family friend Jason Mann. I plan to get a little taste of all he is doing in Athens which is awe-inspiring to me. Jason is Farm Director of Full Moon and Moonshine Meats, and President of the Settebello Restaurant Group, LLC. He oversees the financial, political, and culinary direction of Farm 255. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2000 and is currently a doctoral candidate in Ecology at the University of Georgia in Athens. For the past 13 years he has been directly engaged in all sectors of the food and beverage industry. With his extensive connections and experience within the organic agricultural community of the Southeast he helps facilitate the sourcing relationships that are paramount to Farm 255’s long-term strategic vision. Jason is also a founding partner of Farm Burger, Farm 255's sister operation in Decatur, Georgia, as well as 1000 Faces Coffee in Athens. Jason and his wife Laura are responsible for cultivating their vegetables, the animals, and their rising star butcher farmer entrepreneur-in-training Baby Judah the Lion, their first born son.

I wanted to share my itinerary from Jason's assistant Darla. Together they mapped out a pretty sweet agenda for me. I don't know how it can get any better then this and I feel so thankful they put so much thought into my trip!
I am signing off for the length of my southern sojourn to really be one with nature, the animals, the food of the earth, the people I meet, and myself. So expect a full report when I return. Several full reports!
I am beyond excited. This trip is going to change me, inspire me, challenge me, and teach me.
I am so ready for all I am about to discover.

My Southern Sojourn Itinerary
jason and i sat down tonight and put a pretty little plan together for you. hope you're happy with what we came up with (subject to change due to chef/farmer availability and the precarious whim of a vacation):
friday, april 29
arrive at 1:30. i'll be at the airport to pick you up. call when you arrive and i'll be there with bells on. we'll drive to athens where you'll check-in to chez mann and have dinner at farm 255.
saturday, april 30
it's a good day to be in athens. there's a huge seed swap and farm festival as well as some block parties and a national-recognized nighttime bike race. dinner back at the mann compound.
tour of the animal farms and dinner with the family.
lunch at farm cart followed by a farmthought session (a really great thing that we do every 6 weeks or be explained upon your arrival) and a farm 255 bocce tournament at the roaster.
harvest at one of our vegetable farms in the morning followed by a day in the life of a farm 255 chef.
off to atlanta for some jeju with jason (an authentic korean spa) and dinner/slumber in the city.
a tour of west georgia processing (where the animal becomes the meat), lunch at farm burger and a 3 pm departure.
sound like a plan? i look forward to meeting you oh so very soon. darla

and i look forward to seeing you all very soon jason, laura, judah & darla and i can't wait to meet the whole family.

Until my return ya'll. Heading South now and I will see you in May. xo

Friday, April 22, 2011

OB Bread Co.

I recently ventured out to the Farmers Market in Ocean Beach only to try my neighbor Jeff Shinn's catering company OB Bread Co. I noticed him in front of our houses unloading items from his truck almost every day when I finally asked him what he was doing. He said he had a catering company. I was instantly intrigued since that is right up my alley. He told me I can try it at the OB Farmers Market on Wednesday and he dropped a menu off for me to check out. Handcrafted Soups, Bread Bowls & Panini Sandwich's...oh wow, I'm there!
Jeff has been in the restaurant business since 1990 as his parents were restaurant owners. He started at the bottom and worked his way up to chef and manager. He is totally self taught and has no formal training which I think is the best kind of training!
The restaurant industry and cooking is Jeff's passion and roots...So the seeds for OB Bread Co. were planted and it is blossoming. He started the company in December of 2010 with the plan of offering San Diego only the best, freshest, local ingredients with the service to match.
Jeff Shinn: "It is my opinion that there are very few good small restaurants in San Diego. I eat out frequently and am often disappointed with the food quality, menu choices, freshness, and service. It seems San Diegans do not get the opportunity to eat well often, without having to go to a upper scale restaurant and spend a ton of money. My plan is to change that, at least on the small scale. My mission is to offer a superior product, made from local ingredients, for an affordable price".

Most of the menu items are Italian inspired. The idea is fresh food that is light and pleasing and Jeff's food is just that. The flavors are big but you don't feel like you just scarfed down a huge sandwich filled with enough meat for a family of four.

It all starts with the bread. He will be baking his own bread when he moves to a permanent store front, but as of now they are having their bread baked daily by Bread & Cie. Hey if someone has perfected a product like Bread & Cie has perfected their bread why stray away. You can not go wrong! The best baked bread in San Diego hands down.

All of OBBC's meats are hand picked from local butchers and all of the organic produce they use are hand picked daily at local farmers markets. Jeff makes all of his dressings and spreads from only the best ingredients. As for the soups, they are made with all locally grown, organic ingredients. Jeff says, "The recipes are mine and made with love",

and I tasted the love when I tried the Mushroom & Brie Soup. I was worried it was going to be so rich I would only be able to have a little taste. That was not the case. It had a delicate richness to it and I enjoyed the first bite as much as the last and I could not stop eating it. It was decadent. Loved it.

I can't wait to try some of the other soup's on the menu such as, Lobster Bisque with Sherry, Creamy Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato, and Potato Leek.

Oh and the best part is if you want to have it served in a bread bowl you can do so.

My friend and I split 2 panini's so I got to try 2 sandwiches! Deciding was a bit difficult for us as all of them looked so good. Jeff recommended his signature panini and we couldn't resist the chef's recommendation.

Turkey and Cheddar with Wild Blueberry Preserves. I wasn't sure how I would feel about the blueberries but it was amazing. Remind me why we eat cranberries with turkey on Thanksgiving? Blueberries might just be the way to go. The panini had fresh carved oven roasted turkey breast, sharp cheddar, arugula, with wild berry blueberry preserves and baked till hot on fresh sour dough bread. YUM! I could really tell that the meat was fresh and the precise sweetness of the blueberry preserves was spot on. It didn't over power the sandwich but just enhanced all the flavors. A favorite for sure.Jeff's girlfriend Stephanie who was working the counter recommended our second panini. Prosciutto Caprese Panini. This one was filled with fresh basil, roma tomato's, fresh mozzarella, black pepper and topped with prosciutto with a balsamic vinegar dressing and served on a fresh sour dough bread...baked till hot. The tomatoes tasted newly harvested and fresh mozzarella cheese was melted and hot. A very pleasant sandwich indeed and I seriously could not decide which of the two sandwiches I liked the best. I loved them both. Here is the full menu.

Right now OB Bread Co. is operating at the Ocean Beach Farmers Market and plans to expand to Little Italy, North Park and Point Loma. They plan to open a full scale store front within 6 months to a year and plan to open a number of stores all over San Diego. I can't wait till they open up a store near me. I will be popping in for lunch on a regular basis.

Jeff does live just across the way from me. I wonder if he delivers? huuuuuuuuuuum?

OB Bread Co.

1921 Bacon St. San Diego CA. 92107


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Seder In The Barrio

As we all followed the song sheets and sang we opened up the Seder with the first song of the night, "There's No Seder Like Our Seder" (to the tune of "There's No Business Like Show Business"). What a perfect way to start a Seder which set the vibe for the evening. It screamed fun! I have been attending the Spiegler Seders, who are very close family friends, for a few years now and was asked for the second time not only be a guest but to do most of the cooking for it. I took on the huge task of cooking a kosher Passover Seder for 46 people. 34 attending the first night of Passover and 12 attending the second night of Passover. Now Thanksgiving feels like a piece-of-cake to me and I will no longer complain about peeling a dozen potatoes. Try peeling two 10 pound bags of carrots. I'm talking about 160 carrots. I have been grocery shopping, prepping and cooking since the beginning of April all for Passover which fell on Monday April 18th. It was huge success and everything came out better then perfect. I could not of been happier and from what I saw the guests and my boss was pretty happy too!
Since the size of the Spiegler Seder is so massive and keeps growing they have been having it at local restaurants around San Diego who are willing to host a Seder and allows me to do most of the cooking. Last year was K & B Cellars in Del Cerro. This year, the Seder was held in Barrio Logan at Blue Print Cafe and the home of In Good Taste Catering. It was an awesome location and perfect place for a Seder. It really felt like we were in someones home and not at a restaurant. As guests arrived they got to snack on this awesome Baba Ghanoush with a kick served with matzo and vegetables. It was made by In Good Taste.I had 7 things to make and I will share them all with you. If you want a recipe then please email me. If I listed all the recipes on my blog then it would be ten pages long. So if something sparks your interest please contact me here and I will email it over to you.
First Course
Avocado Egg Salad
Gefilte Fish
Mock Chop LiverThe Avocado Egg Salad is something that my grandma Geta used to make at every Passover Seder. It usually turns out to be a favorite for people who have never had it before. I love making it on Passover and feel like my grandma is with me while I am doing so.
Gefilte Fish is poached white fish which I poached with carrots and yellow onions to give it a great sweet flavor. It's awesome when served with purple horseradish which is horseradish made with beets. If you leave the peel on the onions it will give it nice color too.
The Mock Chop Liver I didn't make and was made by In Good Taste. I didn't care for it that much.
The Second Course was Matzo Ball Soup. I made the chicken broth from scratch and I made 3 gallons of broth. I boiled the chickens with carrots, celery, onions. parsnips, Italian parsley, thyme, dill, and lots of salt and pepper for flavor. It came out awesome. The Matzo Balls were light and fluffy.
Main Course
Orange Chicken
Mushroom, Artichoke, & Onion Matzo Kugel
Carrot Kugel
Brisket - made by In Good Taste which was awesome. A huge hit of the night and had a taste of barbecue and was cooked with mushrooms and onions. I would love to get my hands on that recipe.
Grilled Veggies - made by In Good Taste which was also amazing.This chicken is so good and so simple. The marinade has orange marmalade in it and you bake it for 2 hours till it turns this amazing golden brown color. It was perfectly cooked, sweet and moist!
This Matzo Kugel is so good and it's a great option if you want to add something Savory to the menu. It's made with mushrooms, artichokes, sauteed onions, fresh rosemary and thyme. You can play with this recipe and add just about any vegetable you want to add to it.This Carrot Kugel is so sweet and this recipe was given to me by my Aunt. It is so moist and a true hit of the night. The recipe is so easy you can't mess it up no matter how hard you try. It freezes very well too so you can make it in advance.

That just about sums it up. It was a modern day Seder filled with fun songs, lots of laughs, modern day 4 questions and some intellectual and political thoughts to ponder on.
Last year the Seder was in in Del Cerro, this year in Barrio Logan, maybe next year in Jerusalem....or Lakeside??? I will let you know.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Little Things

To me its the little things that make me the happiest. When I buy meat, seafood, produce, cheese, wine and really all things culinary I like to buy the best. When I can do it and it is available I do it. I don't take it for granted and I have a high appreciation for the best of the best and it's those little things make me happy.
Today I want to share with you two little things that make me happy.
The first one I recently discovered on a recent trip to Los Angeles. It's my new favorite coffee. I am not a huge coffee drinker but I recently bought a french press so I am getting more into good coffee. This coffee is so good it doesn't need to be doctored up with a flavored creamer. Intelligentsia Coffee was started by Doug Zell and Emily Mange in 1995. They opened a in-store coffee roaster-retailer on Broadway Ave. on the north side of Chicago. Now Intelligentsia has 3 great cities to call home. Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. Intelligentsia does not just buy coffee they work along side growers to help develop the coffee they offer. Almost all coffee roasters claim that they "work with farmers" but few can back the promise. Intelligentsia travels to their coffee’s source each of the 12 months of the year. They visit farms, roll up their sleeves, and get to it. They take 24-hour red eye flights and 10-hour, high-altitude pick-up rides over serpentine roads. You pick up a cup of their coffee and they shake the hand of a farmer in Peru. Or Rwanda. Or Guatemala. And when you see the Intelligentsia Direct Trade logo on their bags, you know how much effort is invested in each bean.
I can taste the perfection in this coffee and I am sure you will too. You can purchase it here.

The second little thing that makes me happy is fresh baked croissants from Williams-Sonoma. They are the best thing to wake up to on a Sunday morning. I love them! The smell alone will make you salivate before breakfast. You can only order them on-line and you can do it right here. They can take about a week to ship to you because they are shipped directly from the bakery of Chef Jean-Yves Charon so it takes a bit to process. Once they are sent out to you they are shipped frozen over night. You store them in your freezer and use them as you want to. They are great if you are entertaining with a brunch and they are great to keep all to yourself!
You put them out the night before you want to eat them and the magic happens while you are sleeping. They rise over night and in the morning they have expanded to triple the size. You pop them in the oven and in 20 minutes fresh hot croissants in your own kitchen. They are buttery, flaky, and AMAZING! They come in plain or chocolate. The chocolate are insane. You can even buy an assortment of chocolate croissants and plain croissants and that is the way to go if you ask me!There is nothing like it.
Oh the little things that make me happy. They will do the same for you. I promise.
Williams-Sonoma & Intelligentsia

Monday, April 11, 2011

KG Black Linguine

Ever since Kensington Grill changed their menu about 5 years ago I have been longing for my favorite dish on the old menu that is no longer an option. Me and three of my fabulous girls friends (LJSC) would go to KG and we would all order the same thing. Black Linguine with Shrimp & Spicy Red Pepper Drizzle. We each would have our own bowl of it (sharing was not an option) and if anyone strayed away from the Black Linguine and tried something different would leave the restaurant saying, "I should of ordered the Black Linguine". Not that the other dishes were bad by any means. In fact they were all amazing and sometimes we were overwhelmed by all the intriguing choices. I'm sure you are familiar with having your favorite dish at certain restaurants and find it hard to stray away. When you do, you wish you hadn't.

I have tried to re-create it so many times but failed to make it exactly like KG. My taste buds have not been satisfied from the flavors of the Black Linguine I have been making. Until NOW! I decided to email Tracy Borkum who is the owner of Kensington Grill and Urban Kitchen Group. I knew it was a long shot and I didn't expect a response back but to my surprise she responded! Not only did she respond she was going to have Chef Hanis Cavin prepare the recipe for me! I shot her my email address and on March 23rd an email with the subject KG Black Linguine came through! I emailed the recipe right away to my three girl friends who I used to share the black linguine culinary experiance with and the subject line read, "The Search Is Over". I made a date with one of my girl friends to cook the Black Linguine and now I plan to share it with you! It is not a difficult recipe and I did alter it a little bit to my liking. I decided that roasting the peppers would be a bit easier then charing them over an open flame. This pasta is so flavorful and the spicy red pepper drizzle is awesome but really spicy. Feel free to adjust the chili flakes to your liking. I would even make half of the drizzle recipe. I had a lot left over and you really just drizzle it on the pasta. Use a squeeze bottle if you have one. If you want to cook it for more then 2 people you really don't need to double the sauce recipe but double the pasta. The sauce goes a long way! I felt as if I was sitting at Kensington Grill eating the Black Linguine. It was just as I remembered and now I can make it any time I want! The best part was the amount of fun I had making it with my friend. It was a blast! Kensinton Grill Black Linguine / Shrimp / Spicy Red Pepper Drizzle serves 2 12 oz squid ink linguine (Assenti's Pasta) 20 ea. large shrimp - peeled and deveined 1/2 cup red bell pepper - diced 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper - diced 1/2 cup green bell pepper - diced 2 T shallots - minced 2 T garlic - minced 1 cup white wine 1/4# butter - cubed salt & pepper to taste 12oz. Spicy Red Bell Pepper Drizzle - recipe below Spicy Red Bell Pepper Drizzle make half this recipe for less 3 ea. Red Bell Peppers - seeds and core removed & roasted 6 oz. vegetable broth 1T garlic 1 T red chili flakes salt & pepper Preheat oven to 350 degrees and roast red bell peppers till black around the edges. Around 20 minutes. Let cool and peel the skin off the peppers. Place bell pepper, vegetable stock, and garlic into blender. Puree until there aren't any more large pieces. Add chili flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a hot saute pan add a little oil then add the shrimp and cook 3 minutes, turn shrimp and then add all the diced peppers, shallots and garlic.

Cook another 3 minutes then add wine and butter, cook for another 5-10 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Cook the fresh Black Linguine for about 2-3 minutes, strain and toss with the sauce and shrimp. Drizzle the spicy red bell pepper sauce around the edge of the pasta.

Enjoy. Kensington Grill 4055 adams ave. san diego ca. 619-281-4014