Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chef Celebration's Final 2014 Event This Sunday at Stone Brewing Liberty Station

For years, dozens of chefs have gotten together annually at host restaurants to collaborate on unique, multi-course meals. The chef combos can be dizzying. Last week, for instance, Amanda Baumgarten of Waypoint Public hosted Chad White (Común), Joe Magnanelli (Cucina Urbana), Matt Gordon (Solace Restaurants), and her own Jenn Reinhart.
All this, under the auspices of Chef Celebration, to raise scholarship funds for young aspiring chefs to attend a week-long course in Napa. How important are these courses? Well, in 16 years dozens of San Diego chefs have attended and you've enjoyed their food; think Hanis Cavin of Carnitas Snack Shack, Victor Jimenez of Cowboy Star, Denise Roa of the Art Institute and El Lugar de Nos, and Llasa Landry of Lion's Share and soon Heart & Trotter Butcher.

This year's Chef Celebration culminates Sunday afternoon with the 4th Annual Chef Celebration Artisan and Craft Beer Festival at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Liberty Station. From noon to 3 p.m., you'll enjoy 12 dishes from 12 chefs and craft beer pairings. Here's the incredible lineup:

Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Liberty Station: Chef Tom Connolly

  • Bacon Gremolata crusted fried poached egg, frisee and asparagus salad paired with Stone Liberty Station Witty Moron

The Wild Thyme Company: Chef Dawn Parks

  • Roasted leg of lamb, stuffed with Spanish chorizo, currants & swiss chard, basted with Aged Sherry Vinegar & EVOO /grilled spring onions, charred onion petals, romesco / Patatas Bravas in spicy tomato sauce paired with Stone Smoke Porter with Chipotle Pepper

Sycuan Casino & Resort / Sadie Rose Bakery

  •  Cider Short Rib, apple risotto, barley relish paired with Stone Liberty Station Mimic

Waypoint Public: Chef Amanda Baumgarten

  •  Baby Crab Cake Benedict on a pretzel bun with a smoked tomato hollandiase paired with Matt’s Burning Rosids

Handlery Hotel: Chef Karl Prohaska
  • Smoked halibut, losch braised onions, egg yolk, confetti microgreens, and sweet potato vinaigrette paired with Stone Saison
The Crossings Carlsbad: Chef Justin Cullimore
  •   Hops-cured pork belly-pickled Fresno Chili, quinoa salad, smoked paprika vinaigrette paired with Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Black IPA

Encore Champagne Bar & Dining Room: Chef Ryan Studebaker

  • Hiramasa crudo: Blood orange, tarragon, avocado, hazelnut, and smoked salt paired with Cali Belgique aged in Red Wine Barrels
BlueFire Grill: Chef Greg Frey Jr.
  • Ricotta and Fava bean angolotti – fava tedrils, green garlic, genovese basil, tuscan pork ragu paired with Hess Habitus Rye IPA

Monkey Paw: Chef Karen Blair

  •  Swordfish Birria street taco paired with Stone Enjoy By 5.16.14

Carnitas Snack Shack: Chef Hanis Cavin

  •  BBQ baby back ribs/ Ivan’s BBQ sauce/ bacon potato salad paired with Smog City Brewing Saber Toothed Squirrel
Table #10: Chef Jason Gethin
  • Roasted wild mushrooms, anson mills grits, grilled ramp vinaigrette, parmesan foam paired with Rip Current Rip Ryeder Red Session IPA
Tom Ham’s Lighthouse: Chef Lance Repp
  • Swordfish bacon slider with whole grain aioli, pickled onion, and cilantro on sweet rolls paired with Societe The Widow

Chef Celebration Foundation: Scholarship Recipient Collaboration

  • Chimayo Chile braised pork cheeks, white cheddar cheese curd cornbread, bacon masa “tots”

Tickets are only $55 and can be purchase online at See you there!

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sunday's Bombay Bazaar Raising Funds for Just Call Us Volunteers!

Bring a little Bollywood into your life on Sunday by attending Bombay Bazaar! The event, being held this Sunday starting at 5 p.m. at SILO in Makers Quarter, will transport guests to a market somewhere in India where dozens of San Diego’s finest chefs will be serving up Indian fusion street food and mixologists will be shaking up Indian flavored cocktails. Our guests will enjoy Bollywood dancers, sitars, henna artists, and more. There will also be updates on the organization and the critical work JCUV is doing in the San Diego community to feed the homeless.

Sam "the Cooking Guy" Zien and Troy Johnson of San Diego Magazine will be the event's co-masters of ceremonies. And, here are just some of the participating chefs and restaurants--as well as their dishes:

BARRIO STAR, Chef Isabel Cruz
BROOKLYN GIRL, Chef Colin Murray
CALIFORNIA'S TABLE, Chef Marguerite Grifka
CARDAMOM CAFE, Chef Joanne Squires-Sherif: Cardamom Rice Pudding
CARNITAS SNACK SHACK, Chef Hanis Cavin: Pork Curry
CHARLIE'S BUTTER, Rachael Noble: Indian infused butters and fresh naan
COMúN KITCHEN & TAVERN, Chef Chad White: White Murg Tikka Mesquite Chicken Kebab
CUPCAKES SQUARED, Chef Robin Ross: Cupcakes: Pistachio Rose/Vanilla Chai/Mango Lassi Sweet Potato Halwa
HEART & TROTTER, Chef Brandon Brooks: Badami Lamb Korma
ISABEL'S CANTINA, Chef Isabel Cruz
LA VALENCIA, Chef Daniel Barron
MASALA COTTAGE, Chef Ranjit Singh: Samosas in assorted flavors
PETE'S PALEO, Chef Peter Servold: Pork Vindaloo
ROYAL INDIA, Chef Sam Kambo: Royal Kabab Biryani
SUNDARA, Chef Adam Lowe: Chicken Tikka Masala, Channa Masala, Tandoori Chicken, Papadum with chutneys
THE PATIO ON LAMONT STREET, Chef John Medall: Smoked aubergine and fresh pea curry
THE RED DOOR and WELLINGTON STEAK HOUSE, Chef Karrie Hills: Mini Tandoori Chicken Pops
TIDAL, Chef Amy DiBiase: Khaman Dhokla and chutneys
WILD THYME, Chef Dawn Parks: Mango Lassi Panna Cotta
BALLAST POINT BREWING: Indra Kunindra Export Stout
Rx BITTERS Cocktails: Bombay Paantsch
SNAKE OIL COCKTAILS: Chennai Cocktail featuring Tito's Handmade Vodka
URBN ST BREWING COMPANY, Chef Alex Carballo: Brink Brown Ale and IPA

Plus, we'll have a stunning list of silent auctions you'll want to bid on. We have some very generous vendors who have offered restaurant gift certificates as well as home dinner parties, brewery crawls, a Baja winery tour, yoga, team building, horseback riding, a truffle/confection making class, and so much more. Many of these are one-of-a-kind experiences. The full list is here.

Just Call Us Volunteers is a 501c3 founded by my friend and chef Julie Darling.

With her leadership JCUV has been preparing and serving meals to the underserved of San Diego since 2006. They've steadily grown both their efforts and volunteer base. The organization is completely volunteer based; there are no full-time associates.

JCUV provides more than 20,000 meals to the homeless in downtown San Diego at the Veterans’ Shelter, the Winter Shelter, Rachel’s Women’s Center, The Monarch School for Homeless Children and the Metro Hotel as well as coordinating and serving lunch at The Housing Commissions Homeless Connect at Golden Hall. Additionally, this past year they again had the honor of serving the final meal of Veterans’ Village of San Diego’s annual “Stand Down” event to more than 1,400 homeless veterans.

All-inclusive tickets for the event are $75. For $100, you can get early admission to the Chefs Toast Preview Reception for conversation and champagne with the chefs and a special dish, as well as all-inclusive food and beverage throughout the evening. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Mediterranean Feast for Paula to Raise Alzheimer's Awareness & Funds

When my smart and funny and oh so talented friend Paula Wolfert disclosed last year that she'd been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, the food world was stunned and desolate. That lasted all of a moment or two--because Paula dismissed the grief and took charge in her usual way. Instead of wallowing and retreating, she stepped up to become an activist for awareness and research.

Back in November, she appeared on the PBS's NewsHour with interviewer Judy Woodruff. What she said bowled me over:

"My head is with my children, my husband, my friends, and sharing with the Alzheimer’s Association whatever I can share, because this is the most important thing I want to say. The shame that people have about their memory loss is — and the denial that exists and their friends saying, oh, everybody has — you know, it’s senior moments, forget it.

"And by the time they finally become like the old ladies or old men become, it’s too far. You can’t help — those people can’t be helped. It’s too late. It’s too late. We have to come out the way people with HIV came out, the way people with cancer came out. We’re not going to get enough money from the government or from anybody else unless we stand there and say, hey, I’m not an old zombie. I’m me, and I need help, and all the people around me who are suffering the way I am, we need help.

"But we have to come out and say it. We’re worried. We need to do something."
Food writer and friend Amy Sherman and I visited with Paula at her Sonoma home several years ago. Oh, the feast she made us and her husband Bill Bayer!

Indeed. And this cause has become that much closer to my heart because just a couple of months ago my dad also was diagnosed. I've relished how quickly he has improved thanks to drugs, but we don't know how long that will last. Thankfully, we have the close support of the San Diego chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, along with family and friends. That is huge for him and for those of us caring for him.

This Sunday, Mediterranean Feast for Paula, a grassroots fundraising and outreach campaign organized by chefs Farid Zadi and Susan Park, with the support of Paula and the Alzheimer's Association California Southland Chapter is being held at the Daily Dose in downtown L.A. from noon to 4 p.m.

Of course, a Mediterranean food fest is only appropriate to honor Paula, the author of eight cookbooks--five of which are on Mediterranean cuisine. The event is set to be the largest Mediterranean food event to hit L.A., with participating chefs including Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Feniger, Farid Zadi, Nancy Silverton, Robbie Richter, Josiah Citron, Kris Yenbarmroon, Matt Molina, and others. Amy Scattergood and Evan Kleiman are the keynote speakers.

There will, of course, be tastings (think rabbit with preserved pears and ginger, duck with green olives and herbes de provence, berber skillet bread and sauteed kale with garlicky white beans, a whole lamb roast, porchetta, paella, bouillabaisse, briks, bisteeya, and so much more). There will also be a talk by Paula, and a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Alzheimer's Association.

All this for a general admission ticket price of $75. VIP admission of $125 includes free valet parking, a goodie bag filled with spices and ancient grains, and table service with wait staff.

For tickets and more information, visit the event site.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mexico's Chocolate Clams Finally in the U.S.

In November of 2011, I wrote about a day trip I took with my friends Dan Nattrass and Chad White to Tijuana. Dan, who works at Catalina Offshore Products, and I enjoyed going down with chef friends to introduce them to favorite places. We took Chad first to the fish markets, where we got our first glimpse of chocolate clams, a beautiful bi-valve with a creamy brown shell that inspires thoughts of milk chocolate. After shopping at Mercado Hildalgo we headed over for lunch at Javier Plascencia's Erizo Cebicheria and, what do you know, the clams were there for sale at his little fish market. And we enjoyed them for lunch as a ceviche with tomatoes, cucumber, and ponzu sauce.
I could see the wheels turning in the chef's head. Chad wanted those clams.

But the clams were technically not allowed to cross the border into the U.S. back then. I won't say if Chad got them or not. What I will say is that as of April, any of us in San Diego can get them--finally--at Catalina Offshore Products. They're one of a small handful of distributors bringing them into the U.S.

These clams are harvested in coastal lagoon areas in Mexico from the Magdalena Bay south along the Pacific side of Baja, throughout the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland down to Guatemala. It's the first time wild clams have been permitted to cross from Mexico into the U.S. since the 1940's, according to Catalina Offshore Products owner and CEO Dave Rudie.

The key to enjoying chocolate clams is to eat them raw. When they're cooked, they're pretty much like any other clam. Raw, you get the exquisite briny flavor and juice that lends itself to crudos and ceviches.

Last week I went over to see Tommy Gomes at Catalina Offshore Products so we could play with the clams. One thing I learned is that they need cleaning; you can eat almost all of the clam but not the guts. So, Tommy showed me how to remove them.

He then sliced up the rest of the meat--the lips and the vibrant red tongue--and squeezed lemon juice over it, slowly drizzled black truffle oil, and finished it with a little salt. We took a taste and grinned; it was just that good--sweet and briny and tender, complemented by the lemon's acid and the earthiness of the oil. The presentation's no slouch either, with the red lips popping on the plate and back in the shell.

Then Tommy pulled out some pesto and cheese. A dollop of pesto went on the chopped clam, then a sprinkling of parmesan, then some shredded cheddar. He lit up his grill and in a couple of minutes we had another winner of a dish. Easy to make, easier to eat.

The chocolate clams are seasonal, so check with Tommy on Facebook to make sure they're in stock. But make a point of trying these delightful shellfish.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pumpkin Seed Oil and Butter Croutons

Back in 2008 I wrote a post about several culinary oils--olive, of course, as well as avocado and butternut squash seed oil. I was especially smitten with the butternut squash seed oil from Stony Brook. It was so utterly redolent of the squash, even to the heady scent. So, when the folks at Emile Noël Artisan Oils got in touch with me to offer me a sample of one of their many organic oils--and I saw they had pumpkin seed oil--I immediately selected that as my sample.

But, the pumpkin seed oil surprised me. Clearly, I was expecting a similar experience to the butternut squash seed oil--anticipating a wild rush of pumpkin concentrated in oil. It's not. The flavor in this oil, which looks like a thick balsamic vinegar or maple syrup, is more of a cross between sesame seeds and shitake mushroom. A deep, dark flavor.

Like many of these high-quality oils, they're primarily used for finishing or dipping. I had another idea. Croutons. But not just any croutons with your basic white bread. These needed a bread worthy of the oil's deep flavor, so while shopping at Whole Foods I picked up a dark pumpernickel and a bread new to them, an S-shaped Pane Siciliano made with semolina and lots of sesame seeds. It actually reminds me of challah.

While I was at it, I also roasted a little pumpkin I had, with the idea of putting together a salad of greens with the pumpkin and the croutons--and a pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette.

Homemade croutons are easy to put together and the taste is so much better than store bought that it seems silly not to do it. Plus, you can create your own flavor profiles with herbs and spices. Because I wanted to feature the oil, I kept the seasoning to just sea salt, but you can add freshly minced garlic, various ground peppers, dried oregano or parsley--whatever you please. These came out with that heavenly umame flavor, enriched by the butter but nicely offset by the sea salt.

Pumpkin Seed Oil and Butter Croutons
(printable recipe)
Makes 1 pound of croutons

1 pound of slightly stale bread (crusts on or off--I like on)
6 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Freshly ground sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚.

Slice bread into one-inch cubes and place into a large bowl.

Combine the oil and butter. Add to the bread cubes and mix thoroughly so that all the cubes are coated.

Spread onto one or two baking sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and put into the oven. At the five-minute mark, pull the croutons out and turn them over with a spatula. Place back in the oven for another five minutes or until the bread is browned enough to your liking--perhaps another five minutes after that.

Remove from the oven and let cool. You can then store the croutons in a plastic bag for several days, that is, if you can keep yourself from nibbling on them.

You can find Emile Noël Artisan Oils online or at Whole Foods in San Diego.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Clear Chicken Soup--Just in Time for Passover

I was raised on chicken soup. Sure, it was Jewish penicillin for when I was laid up with a cold or flu, but it's also been the centerpiece of holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Passover. Add some matzoh balls and, really, is there anything else on the table that so completely epitomizes family love?

So, I was shocked--Shocked!--when I tasted my friend Candy Wallace's chicken soup last week. I help out Candy and her husband, Dennis, with social media and blogging for their business, the American Personal & Private Chef Association. The organization trains chefs and good home cooks how to start and run their own businesses cooking for families and individuals, many of whom have special dietary needs--a great alternative for talented home cooks  who want to enter the culinary profession and trained chefs who no longer want to work restaurant hours. It gives them more flexibility in their lives and extends their career from a life on the line.

Periodically we get together to do some planning at their house and Candy, a chef and culinary educator of over 40 years, makes lunch. This is my idea of a great meeting! Lunch last week? Yep. Chicken noodle soup.

So, why am I kvelling over this soup? The flavor, of course. Pure, focused sweet chicken flavor ladled out in a clear broth, punctuated with chunks of chicken, vegetables like carrots, celery, and broccoli, and swirls of fusilli. Mom, Nana, Grandma, I'm sorry, but I think we've been doing it all wrong.

What we have been doing is good enough. Fill a large pot with chicken legs and thighs; cut up and add carrots, celery, and onion, turnips or parsnips, some salt and pepper, and garlic cloves. Cover with water, bring to a boil, skim, and let simmer, covered, for several hours. My mom adds minced dill at the end (Love it--don't stop, Mom!). There's no doubt it's delicious. And it certainly is pretty easy. But I realize now that it could be even better.

Candy explained to me that the goal is to serve a clear--not cloudy--broth. Bring it to a boil and you get cloudy results. A clear broth is cooked low and slow. Got it?

The reality is that this method does take longer and it involves more steps and ingredients because you make a separate stock first. But, Mom, are you reading this? The flavor is amazing! Imagine this with matzoh balls!

Candy Wallace's Clear Chicken Soup
Serves 6 to 8
(printable recipe)

Clear broth was always required for soups being served in my grandmother's restaurant. In order to achieve clear stock you must always heat low and slow, never allowing the stock/soup to actually boil. My chicken soup is an example of this visually delightful stock process. I actually use a combination (50/50) of homemade chicken stock and water to make the soup.

Start with an organic chicken for the soup. Place breast down in the pot.
4 cups homemade clear chicken stock*
4 cups water
1 medium chopped yellow onion
3 quartered carrots
3 quartered celery stalks
A handful of fresh thyme stems (6 or 8)
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 fresh thyme stems
Other vegetables you enjoy

*Candy's Chicken Stock
Stock is chicken parts or a whole chicken, chicken bones, vegetables you have on hand and want to use or lose, plus carrots, celery, and onion (mirepoix), fresh herbs, and salt (no pepper--it can turn your stock acrid) slow cooked over low heat, strained, cooled, and stored. (But remember the old adage of garbage in/garbage out, so don't use your stockpot instead of your garbage disposal.) Also, always start with cold water and use enough of it to just cover the chicken and vegetables--about four inches over. Skim often if needed, but you don't need to stir often. Just cook low and slow for hours.


1. Add stock, water, onion, carrots, celery, thyme, and salt to the pot with the chicken. Heat on medium low flame and allow it to just begin to simmer before cover, reducing to lowest heat and continuing to cook for several hours. This process produces almost no scum on the top of the soup, but if it does produce any foam or scum, simply skim it off and discard.

2. When the chicken in the pot is cooked through and falling apart, remove it from the pot so the skin can be removed and the chicken boned and shredded. Cool it and store it separately.

3. Pour the stock through a sieve or chinois to separate the mirepoix  and thyme from the stock, leaving the enhanced clear stock base.

4. Cool and store separately. When soup is fully cooled, you may skim the layer of fat that rises to the top.

5. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the broth for the final soup, along with three to four stems of fresh thyme and any other vegetables you care to add to the soup, like small florets of cauliflower or brocolli, haricot vert, spinach, or whatever you enjoy and have at hand.

6. Once again, bring soup to a simmer on low heat, stir in the shredded chicken and allow to simmer until the vegetables reach the level of firmness you enjoy. If you wish, you can add pre-cooked whole wheat pasta, brown rice, or pearl barley at this point and serve with hot rolls, a fresh salad, and cheese board.

"This low-and-slow approach is such a loving process that honors the ingredients," says Candy. "The stock starts you off on the right foot for whatever dish you wish to prepare.

"Good stock rocks!"

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