Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Complete New Year's Eve Guide

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If you live in, or plan to be in the New York area, it's all here courtesy of New York Magazine with everything from the best cork-popping bashes to the best spots for hangover brunches well after daybreak on January 1.

And with this, I'll wrap things up here for the year 2006. Have a blast whichever way you decide to spend the evening, including a little bit of "the hair of the dog" if you're so inclined the following morning. Let each and every one of us also try to make the year 2007 the best one of the new millennium -- to date. Additionally, as well as most importantly, let us all try to keep our fearless U.S. soldiers stationed in various outposts overseas close to our hearts and *always* in our thoughts.

Here's hoping to see more of these brave men and women COMING HOME to their families and loved ones soon.

A HAPPY AND A HEALTHY 2007, everybody!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Chests and Nuts Roasting...

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...on an open fire,
Al Davis nipping at your toes
Tom Walsh being strung up by the choir
And fans dressed up like Raider-Shmoes...


I've got to hand it to my good friend Ivette Ricco and the inimitable Femmefan website for giving me my biggest holiday chuckle -- to date. Needless to say, I totally love this site, and the gracious lady who runs it (yes... I've also contributed an article or two there in the past).

So given that there's bound to be a "sports fan" in all of us -- even though perhaps some of us don’t always care to admit it (really, you'd be surpised at...well, never mind), I highly recommend this latest issue filled with the usual contributed "tailgater" recipes on the Food Bowl page, and lots of other holiday stuff. You can also check out the rest of her "Chest-nuts" poem here.

Have A Holly, Jolly Christmas, One And All!

Friday, December 15, 2006

New Year Plans For Old NY Eatery


The long-shuttered and graffiti-ridden Childs Restaurant in Coney Island, Brooklyn could soon be re-opening as a seaside food court or upscale restaurant, according to a recent article in the NY Daily News.

Childs Restaurant, which opened the first of its nine cafeteria-style diners in 1898, extended to Coney Island in 1922 and included rooftop dancing. At one time, they were also a familiar sight and very much part of the overall fabric further north in Manhattan, along with their great meals and affordable prices.

So for all you nostalgic New Yorkers like me, who remember this great restaurant chain, and possibly what you were up to in those glorious yesterday years of Coney Island, the original Nathan's Famous eatery, the super-fantastic Steeplechase Amusements, etc., paste on your best smiley face of the day -- and read more here.

Oh, the memories...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Holiday Italian Style


Yes, yes…I'm back here again, with yet *another* holiday gift idea (hey, what can I say, I heart Christmas, and yes, it often shows).

Super chef Mario Batali's Holiday Food , although a bit on the slender side as far as conventional cookbooks go (approx 145 pages in all), presents typical Italian dishes that are served for Christmas and New Year's. A rich, compilation of authentic Italian foods made by an Italian-American chef, needless to say, this one is my pick for the best stocking-stuffer item for all the consummate "foodies" on your gift list.

Also thrown in, is a pretty fair shot of Chef Batali's signature orange "clog" footwear -- for good measure, of course.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Finding A Fortune



I'm pretty sure the owner of this site actually got my attention with this:

I'm willing to collect more of these things. Why? I don't like stamps.

A collector of anecdotes for fortune cookies that are odd, unusual, or just plain bizarre, the Weird Fortune Cookie website is one of the most cleverly "entertaining" sites I've visited in a while.

And then of course, by the time I read this… I already knew I was definitely hooked:
If you would even consider using lucky numbers given to you by a fortune like the one above (okay... here's where you *must* refer to the link provided above) -- you need to do the following:
1. Go get a dictionary and look up the word irony.
2. Mark the page so you won't lose it in the next step.
3. Beat yourself over the head with the dictionary and repeat the phrase "I am unfit to live without supervision" 300 times.
Now leave my site at once.


Sweet.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Edible Ideas


Harry & David's Ponsettia Gift Basket

With Harry & David being one of my favorite catalogues and all-round venues for holiday baskets (Godiva chocolate lover that I am, I have to say their line of assorted chocolates is just as outstanding for gift-giving too!), I was happy to see that they were also mentioned among a few other quality vendors in this month's Food & Wine magazine that features 12 Incredible Edible Holiday Gifts.

As indicated, these are all gifts that many true food lovers dream of receiving, from fresh truffles, to artisanal olive oil, fruit baskets, gingersnaps, and the list goes on.

So check out the link above for some exceptional "foodie" gifts for all those on your holiday list who'll appreciate it.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Revolution According To Kamp


A definite must-have as well as a "must-give" this holiday season is David Kamp's latest book The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation.

In it, the Vanity Fair editor and GQ writer tells how America went from being a nation of icebox lettuce eaters to a nation of Rocket and Swiss Chard connoisseurs. And along with this came a host of temperamental French chefs into the mix, a greater love for standard reference books like Larousse Gastronomique -- and allowing a tall, surprisingly affable woman named Julia Child into our homes on a daily basis. In this story of America's gourmet revolution, Kamp focuses on the real-life characters behind the big culinary names, thanks to numerous interviews and a few newly reported facts.

A book that's not only just for foodies, The United States of Arugula satisfies an appetite -- you probably didn't even know you had. Trust me, if you're in doubt about what to give this Christmas and you happen to be thinking "books," then do think about this one.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Full Of Fowl Play


Axia 3 Turkey Invitational Top Prize Winner

Coming in as a close second to the fast-paced, fast eating indigestion and agida of the Annual Nathan's Famous Fourth Of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest at Coney Island, Brooklyn each year, is the Axia 3 Thanksgiving Invitational held further uptown last week at Artie's Delicatessen here in Manhattan.

The top prize went to Pat Bertoletti of Chicago, who scoffed down 4.8 pounds of turkey in twelve minutes, but Manhattan's own Tim "Eater X" Janus came in second, with famed downtown roué Jason "Crazy Legs" Conti coming in fourth. Arturo Rios of New Jersey took third.

Needless to say, the results were encouraging for all fans of New York's competitive eaters -- antacids, not included.

Be sure to burp first, then read more about it here at NY Metro's Grub Street.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Drinking The Holidays

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The entire meal, that is. And I'm talking about drinking your meal in one of several Jones Soda holiday flavors. (And just in case you were wondering, the holiday gravy is included.) Yum... I think.

In business since 1987 and known for their quirkiness when it comes to soda flavors, for the holiday season The Jones Soda Co. offers flavors such as: Turkey and Gravy soda, Sweet Potato Soda, Dinner Roll Soda, Green Pea Soda, and of course -- Antacid Flavored Soda. Also included: A medicinal cup for accurate servings.
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And for dessert: Cherry Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Key Lime Pie, Apple Pie, Blueberry Pie.

All sodas are said to be completely vegetarian, certified kosher, and contain zero caffeine, calories, and carbs.

So looking for something a little more than your usual ho-hum holiday meal? Well, here's your chance at something a bit different -- with absolutely zero dishes to wash up afterward.

By the way, Turkey & Gravy doesn't interest you? Feel free to say so by visiting their suggest a flavor page, and tell them what flavors you'd like to see.

Seriously, with the links above to support it...you can't make this stuff up, guys.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rocco's New Reality


Rocco DiSpirito

In keeping with the story that broke earlier this year, it looks like Rocco DiSpirito's reality TV show for A&E , where the noted chef and cookbook author goes into to the average kitchen and helps out with a major cooking catastrophe -- or special event, will be a reality after all. Sort of a cross between a Food 911 and The Discovery Channel's Take Home Chef, the pilot episode for this new show has now been shot and completed, according to sources working close to its production.

The subject of Rocco’s culinary makeover is a woman who owns a speed dating service, but ironically chooses to remain very much single herself. Sources say A&E loves the pilot and is expected to pick up the series as soon as they can figure out the time slot.

This also marks Rocco's return to the small screen since NBC's ill-fated The Restaurant . So, lots of luck this time around, Rocco, and I'm sure many of us will... stay tuned.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The One And Only Original


So popular was the 1990s Japanese Fuji TV phenomenon that a book was made about it, and is still being sold today as a reprint done by Food Network and Berkley Publishing here in the U.S. And could we ever really forget the original flamboyance of the sequin-jacketed Chairman Takeshi Kaga, or the masterful Kitchen Stadium skills of resident chefs Hiroyuki Sakai, Chen Kenichi, Masahuru Morimoto, Masahiko Kobe, et al?

The remake of this landmark cooking showcase titled, Iron Chef America, is now just a few years into the annals of TV history here in the U.S., with the comparable mastery of chefs Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Masahuru Morimoto (the lone holdover from the original version), and female super chef Cat Cora. The old Kitchen Stadium setting has been recreated with a more 21st century facelift, and Chairman Kaga has been replaced by actor and martial artist Mark Dacascos, who, if I remember correctly, once mentioned something about being Chairman Kaga's...nephew?

In any event, for me the most interesting matchup for the new Iron Chef America to date, would have to be the one coming up this Sunday: Flay/DeLaurentiis vs. Batali/Ray

In a special Iron Chef America presentation, Food Network All Stars Rachael Ray and Giada De Laurentiis come to Kitchen Stadium to battle it out. In a special twist, the Chairman decides to pair them with Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Mario Batali in an unexpected battle.

Needless to say, this one oughtta be quite interesting, as Giada, the granddaughter of legendary film producer Dino De Laurentiis and the E.V.O.O. girl and talk show host herself, Rachael Ray, duke it out (as well as show us exactly what they've got -- under pressure) with chefs Flay and Batali.

So check your local TV listings on Sunday, and tune in to watch what happens.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Reinventing The Pumpkin

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and the usual pumpkin pie expectations for dessert waiting in the wings for the "traditional" dessert, I thought I'd offer an interesting alternative. So for all you dyed-in-the-wool cheesecake lovers like me, and with my full compliments to Diana Rattray and Southern U.S. Cuisine here's a holiday recipe (tried it last year -- to thumbs up reviews!) for Pumpkin Cheesecake:

. 2 packages (16 ounces total) cream cheese, softened
· 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
· 1/2 cup sugar
· 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
· dash cloves
· 2 large eggs
· 1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

PREPARATION:
Combine cream cheese, pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, and spices; mix with a hand mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs; mix until blended. Pour into graham cracker crust. Bake at 350° F.

A dollup of your favorite whipped topping (Cool Whip, et al) goes a long way in making this delicious dessert a true holiday classic.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Making The Difference

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Chef William Bednar

Over the past seven years, Bednar, executive chef of the H20 Restaurant and Lounge, has been a SOS Share Our Strength leader by teaching 17 Operation Frontline classes to children, young adults, and people living with HIV/AIDS.

His students have learned how to read nutritional labels, budget their money while grocery shopping, and make healthier food choices. Making an *all-round* difference in the day-to-day lives they lead.

Kudos and thanks, Chef Bednar.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chocolate At The Algonquin

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingI'd like to give a big shout out to this historical hotel here in NYC, and their seemingly uncanny knack for making the BEST Chocolate Martini this world has ever seen!

I was there last night at a kick-off celebration for the Backspace All-Agent Conference and needless to say, a good time was had by all. It was also great seeing my good pal and prolific writer Devon Ellington who also stopped by.

No doubt, Dorothy Parker and all the other Round Table inhabitants would have been proud, I'm sure.

Heating Things Up

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G. Garvin

Urban chic and totally unique as the featured chef at the 2006 Megafest Christian Conference and host of TV One's Turn Up The Heat , Gerry "G" Garvin combines his impressive culinary resume and funky, down-to-earth style to offer simple techniques for savory recipes along with laugh-out-loud anecdotes and overall cooking know-how.

Clearly, I can't get enough of watching his easy to follow instructions for some of the most scrumptious stuff you could ever imagine. And, as of just last month, many of these recipes are now in his first cookbook offering titled Turn Up The Heat .

Trust me, nobody does for chicken…what G. Garvin does.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Revisiting Jamie's Fifteen


UK uber chef and cookbook author, Jamie Oliver

Long before his School Dinners program for the purpose of serving more healthful foods throughout the British School System, was the 2002 documentary aptly title, Jamie's Kitchen . And agreeably, some of the students he pledged to help in this effort, appeared to have the most questionable work habits, leading many to see exactly *why* they were jobless -- in the first place. Still, Jamie Oliver, one of the UK's youngest and brightest master chefs was nonetheless dedicated in giving these 15 young Londoners a chance, as well as an "opportunity of a lifetime" at a full-fledged culinary career. Ultimately, it all became a part of his Fifteen Restaurant charity program, in collaboration with the original London restaurant, of the very same name.

This week, TLC: The Learning Channel is airing this series again, and for me, it still remains a must-see, especially for those who never had the privilege of seeing it the first time.

Clearly, there's a lot of true-to-life food service TV reality... going on here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Where To Go

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Although you're probably *more* than aware of it, the clocks falling back an hour this weekend is yet another sign that t'is the season for pumpkins, apples, and all other harvest foods. And a thorough guide for the best locations for the picking of these autumn delights is here at Chiff.com (the "ff" is for "fast find")

Among the links and loads of information on the subject here, are those featuring an agritourism listing of farms around the world that welcomes tourists to harvest their own fruits and vegetables. According to these, September and October are the big months for apples and pumpkins-- but you'll also find plenty of fall raspberries and winter squash around this time too.

So if you've got an extra minute spare and want to take advantage of this fantabulous time of the year while you still can, take a look, and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Good Question


Cat Cora in a recent Iron Chef America battle

One was posed recently here at New York Magazine in one of their weekly Grub Street articles. And needless to say, it certainly got me thinking (as well as a few other people, I'm sure) and taking full note.

Basically, it involved the now familiar "food battles" featured on Food Network's Iron Chef America and a few other TV programs following the same exact format, where the emphasis is on showcasing several *masterfully* done dishes by expert chefs -- in little or no time at all.

Which of course, has left the good folks at New York Magazine, as well as many of us, to rightfully ponder:

If that much good food can be invented and cooked in an hour, why do restaurants that have six months to prepare a menu so seldom come up with more than two or three interesting dishes?

Hmmm....

Monday, October 23, 2006

Top Chef's Lee Anne Is Back

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Lee Anne Wong

She was one of the favorites among the contestants on Season 1 of Bravo's Top Chef, and now, Lee Anne Wong of NYC returns in this neat little video clip to show you her talents.

Dubbed very cleverly The Wong Way To Cook, it has only the best of connotations for Lee Anne, an accomplished chef and graduate of the French Culinary Institute here in NYC. And in it, she shows you step-by-step how to fully master one of the "Mystery Box" challenges that has already taken place in the first episode of Season 2, using a minimal amount of ingredients (one of the main purposes of this particular Top Chef challenge).

Check it all out here.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bravo For Season 2


It's back for a second season, hopefully with all the hyped up "back-stabbing" spice that made this show a true keeper in my opinion after last season's successful run. No doubt, even with all its usual "reality TV" spin, a judges panel including executive chef and restauranteur Tom Colicchio still succeed in keeping the show's high drama down to a saner, far less manic medium than its sometimes scream-fest counterpart, the Fox Network's Hell's Kitchen.

Clearly, with Top Chef, the emphasis of the show(at least, it appears to be)is on each chef's ability to perform on his or her best level under pressure, as demonstrated in the random "Quick Fire" challenges -- as opposed to how wide the judges can bug out their eyes for the cameras, or come up with new and inventive ways to foam at the mouth as they smear unfavorable food bits directly down the chef coats of the contestants while publicly berating them. Not at all to say, however, that harsh criticisms don't happen on Top Chef, nor cat claws bared, or that feverish tempers don't fly. Trust me... they do. Big time.

But special kudos to the Bravo Network for bringing this program back for another season, to showcase what behind-the-scenes in a restaurant kitchen would *generally* look like.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Mario Stands Out


Mario Batali

While official NASCAR chef and Food Network host Mario Batali's face is a familiar one to many, if you've ever wondered what the faces of the Blue Man Group actually look like -- without the blue, of course -- well, okay, here's your opportunity.

Following the remarkable impact of "Making a Name for Yourself," OPEN from American Express is pleased to present their second forum, "Standing Out in the Crowd," at the Nokia Theater here in NYC, dedicated to the art of marketing and how it can transform your business.

Moderator Jean Chatzky hosts business innovators Liz Lange, Mario Batali, and the founders of Blue Man Group as they share the stories, lessons, and insights behind their incredible successes. Also, will be the rare opportunity to interact with these panelists, and exchange ideas and inspiration with other business owners.

Read more here for ticket information for this event on the subject of small business ownership.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Emeril On The Book Scene...Again


Emeril Lagasse

Super chef and all around "terrific guy" (yes, I've met the man, and can personally attest to this!) Emeril Lagasse recently noted that 25 years ago, American chefs were not respected in the world because the U.S. had no cuisine to call its own. "But now," he further states, "It's like we're... on fire"!

And that's why he is also the author of kids' cookbooks, especially his latest, titled There's A Chef In My World , encouraging the young ones among us to rise to the occasion -- as well as summon their own food creativity.

A cookbook for kids of all ages and adults to use together, this one offers 75 recipes for daily meals, special occasions, and everything in between, along with cooking tips and safety precautions. You can make a meal with dishes from one region or mix it up for a truly international feast. Plus, Chef Emeril includes "Did You Know . . ." tidbits of cultural information behind some of the recipes.

"Hey, who's going to make (American cuisine) *evolve* if we're not doing that?" he recently said.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Chef Emeril. BAM!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Rocco's Latest Pitch


Executive Chef and cookbook author, Rocco DiSpirito

Okay, his appearance on the Awful Plastic Surgery website may not have been the best thing to happen to his career (or anyone's for that matter). But after his failed stint as the host of WOR Radio's Food Talk as well as his short-lived reality TV career and subsequent disputes with NBC's The Restaurant financier Jeffrey Chodorow, he's now being bashed for his appearance and/or endorsement for the Bertolli company, i.e., the gathering of 100 or so "chefs" staging a mock protest against Bertolli brand pasta products, supposedly designed to keep people from eating out.

Come on, folks. As a fellow New Yorker, I say cut this Queens, N.Y. native and one time wunderkind a break here. He was once lauded as one of the most talented young chefs in New York, or, so you once said. Well, then...career setbacks -- or no -- that kind of basic "talent" doesn't just evaporate into the air once you're no longer considered to be the culinary world's "flavor of the month."

In any event, you can read more about it here in this month's New York Magazine .

Jeez, lighten up, guys. Or, at least just a little.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Morgan For The Cause


In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan ravaged the small Caribbean island of Grenada, completely dismantling homes in its wake -- and changing lives forever.

Academy-Award winning actor and longtime island-lover, Morgan Freeman, particularly fond of the peace, beauty, and idyllic serenity Grenada has always had to offer, was devastated when a friend on the island called to tell him about Ivan's destruction. Firmly dedicated to offering his help, Freeman established the Grenada Relief Fund in 2005. And now comes a totally gorgeous cookbook titled Morgan Freeman & Friends Caribbean Cooking For A Cause also featuring a host of celebrities lending their support to the needs of this lovely island paradise.

And, I don’t mind saying that I've already scoped out a Mahi-Mahi and Shrimp and Lime dish that I'll be trying in the very near future. (Even if it's in my very own sort of "non-island paradise" kitchen at home.) Use your imagination, improvise, play some funky steel band rhythms on the stereo...well, you get the picture. And please, don't even get me started on that luscious-looking Coconut Cheesecake!

Baby Watson's, New York Cheesecake, Junior's Famous, et al, eat your hearts out, buy this book, read, watch -- and learn.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Power Of The Cosmo


The Pomegranate Cosmopolitan

A perfect fall crowd pleaser, as well as the perfect topper for Spanish tapas this fall season is, in fact, the Pomegranate Cosmo. Yesterday, I put this one out during the usual group of onlookers around my TV screen (yep, you guessed it – the NY Jets game) and it went over quite well:

The Pomegranate Cosmo
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves 10

Ingredients:
Handful of ice cubes
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1 cup Vodka
1/2 oz Triple Sec or Cointreau
3/4 oz Pomegranate Juice

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain and serve in chilled martini glasses Garnish with a twist of lime.

By the way, my tapas were as followed (as well as just plain super!):
. Cubed garlic beef and Spanish olives
· Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelet)
· Grilled Serrano Ham and Manchego Cheese Crostini
· Cherry Tomatoes Stuffed With Spanish Olive Tapenade and Crabmeat
· Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
· Mussels With Ham, Bell Peppers, and Tomatoes
· Pan Roasted Shrimp With Toasted Garlic

Interesting game (as well as a nail-biting one for all of you who tuned in to watch it!), but the food spread around the old "homestead" made everything even that much more enjoyable.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Tyler At Applebee's


Chef Tyler Florence

First came the reports of Iron Chef Cat Cora's vow to "take mini-mart foods to a whole 'nother level," by signing on to prepare meals worthy of a five-star rating for the Circle K mini mart chain in Los Angeles. By the way, you can check out more about that, as well as um... chef Cora's ample cleavage here. (Er, Cat? Is that really...you?)

And now, Food Network chef and TV host, Tyler Florence, has done some teaming up of his own with the Applebee's chain to "inject a youthful flair into an already outstanding menu." This meaning that the restaurant primarily known for its family fare, is now hoping to attract diners from a slightly different segment of the population.

The match up is said to be totally designed and geared toward -- yes, you guessed it -- a "younger" audience of less experienced cooks, which has been Florence's real focus since his highly popular TV shows, Food 911 and How To Boil Water. Florence is also currently featured in the chain's ads, along with his photo on their menus.

And what a neat idea -- since he's not exactly hard on the eyes.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A True Original


"The Galloping Gourmet" Graham Kerr

He's in my memory as far back as I can remember, and especially on those days I'd come home from school, throw my books down, and flip my way through to his light-hearted, fun cooking show on the TV dial. No doubt, those were the days of the * original * talk show/reality TV formats. Yes, it's true what they say kids...there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. And he, along with the late great Julia Child (who revolutionized it all) were, in fact, the two iconic "it" factors in the pre-Food Network days -- of yesteryear.

Well known British chef and TV host Graham Kerr filmed this Australian remake of The Galloping Gourmet TV show in Canada, which at that time was produced by his wife, Treena Kerr. Back then, in a far less health conscious society than that of today, Kerr and The Galloping Gourmet were known for its high jinks, humor, and the generous use of wine, clarified butter, cream, and fat. And yes, his most famous line on the show just might have been his response to someone's criticism of his cooking: "Madame, you could go outside and get run over by a bus right now, and just think what you would have missed"! Kerr also liberally featured a variety of wines, serving them with most meals, drinking them while cooking, using them in his dishes, and waxing stone-cold poetic about the "virtues of the grape." During The Galloping Gourmet's successful run, Kerr became a worldwide sensation, wrote several cookbooks, and earned two Emmy nominations. Sadly, the show ended in 1971 after a tragic car accident that left him temporarily paralyzed.

When additional tragedy set in with his wife Treena's heart attack in 1986, Kerr was prompted to create a new style of cooking that he called "Minimax". This new food stressed aroma, color, texture, and taste over fat. Minimax led to two successful cookbooks: Graham Kerr's Smart Cooking and Graham Kerr's Minimax Cookbook .

And until this very day, along with his very first publication, The Graham Kerr Cookbook which holds a prominent place on my cookbook shelf, his zany antics of galloping onto his 1970s cooking show set to a wild applause from his studio audience, and his tastefully well-constructed recipes, will remain a part of the memories I treasure the most.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Simplicity Squared


Creme De Menthe

So much for the old cliché that the most basic of pleasures -- are always the best.

For me, it's not necessarily so, and certainly not *always* the case. And especially not after this knockout recipe I tried this weekend, which totally kicked up, pimped out, and made what would have been an ordinary batch of brownies -- into a batch that the football fans gathered around my TV this weekend couldn't help noticing... along with asking for more.

So for all you chocolate brownie lovers, who also happen to love a creamy hint of fresh mint, here's one you've just got to try:

Creme De Menthe Brownies

Yield: 32 oven-fresh, totally decadent (as well as just plain flat-out deadly!) chocolate-mint brownies

INGREDIENTS

1 cup Unsalted butter, divided
1 cup Granulated sugar
4 Eggs
1 cup Flour
1/2 ts Salt
16 oz. Chocolate syrup
1 ts Vanilla
2 tb Creme de menthe
2 tb Milk
2 cup Powdered sugar
6 oz. Semisweet chocolate chips

METHOD

Add salt in a separate bowl, and add to creamed mixture alternately
with the chocolate syrup. Stir in vanilla.

Pour batter into a 9x13 pan and bake for 25 minutes. Cool completely.

Mix creme de menthe, 1/4 c of the butter, and the powdered sugar. Add
milk or water until consistency is spreadable. Spread on cooled
brownies and refrigerate.

When creme de menthe frosting is set, melt chocolate chips and
remaining 1/4 c butter together. Pour onto brownies and spread
evenly over top.

These little numbers are VERY rich in flavor, so be sure to cut them into moderate sized pieces before serving them.

And guaranteed...you will not have as much as one crumb left on the serving plate!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Paula's Talking


Food Network host, Paula Deen

As expected, the barbs are already flying, and since there are so many changes at Food Network these days, including Rachael Ray devoting more time to her brand new talk show and the decision to cancel chef Mario Bateli's Molto Mario, the channel is said to be attracting younger viewers and challenging competitors by introducing "Paula's Party," starring America's favorite country cook and down-home Southern belle, Paula Deen. Unfortunately, this new talk show idea is now being panned as "more Romper Room than Cooking With Master Chefs," according to this recent article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette .

However, also on Deen's busy plate these days is a new cookbook titled Paula Deen Celebrates which debuts on Oct. 1, along with the penning of her memoirs, to be later published in April 2007 by Simon & Schuster. This comes in addition to marketing her own line of food products, but so far, there have been very few details on that.

But the question still remains: Can this mature Southern grandma really dish with the younger generation about sexy footwear (as she did during an episode taping) while officiating crab races (which she also did during an episode taping), interviewing booty shaking rap video divas, recommending where to get the best deals on the latest iPods and skateboards, etc., etc.? (Okay, okay...that may be stretching it a little.) No doubt, we'll soon see.

And just for the record, my money's totally on Paula -- for being just the right person to pull this off.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Leafy Controversy Continues


The original Pitch Man

Certainly, not in any way to make light of the human lives that have been gravely affected by this recent outbreak, still, with rampant reports of E. Coli tainted fresh spinach on the rise, one hastens to ask the burning WWPD (What Would Popeye Do??) question that's on everyone's minds these days.

Thankfully, Zoe Singer of At The Greenmarket has some helpful suggestions:

1. Swiss and rainbow chard are the closest to spinach -- sweet but with a similarly chalky mouth-feel. They should be your first choice for most cooked dishes.

2. Dark leafy greens like kale and beet greens are beginning to arrive at the Union Square Greenmarket. Sauté them with garlic and olive oil, but for a few minutes longer than you would spinach ....

Read more of Singer's substitute picks for spinach currently over at New York Magazine.

Monday, September 18, 2006

NY's Best Chefs Come Together


In celebration of their 30th year in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer SHARE, along with:

Rebecca Charles, Executive Chef and
Owner of the Pearl Oyster Bar
and
Abigail Kirsch and Alison Awerbuch of Abigail Kirsch Catering
invite you to partake in the Third Annual
A Second Helping of Life
A Tasting Event to Benefit SHARE
Featuring New York’s Top Women Chefs
The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, Pier 61
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
7-9:30 pm (VIP reception from 6-7pm)
The evening will include a brief program in celebration of
SHARE’s 30th Anniversary and a Live Auction

Read more about this event and bidding on auction items for this extremely worthy cause, as well as tasting the offerings of several *top* NY female chefs at the SHARE website.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Party In The Parking Lot?

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Yes, it's the question on the minds of many, now that the "fall and football" seasons are officially here. So be sure to check out all the latest (and more) on this subject over at Tailgating America.

And while you're there, ever wondered what they're cooking on the parking lot grills in Green Bay, or Pittsburgh, or closer to home for me...right here across the Hudson River at the Meadowlands Arena in New Jersey? For the answer, take a look at Recipe Themes, for what fans of the AFC and NFC teams are whipping up and charbroiling this season. Also, for the latest in custom-built tailgating buses to get you to and from the game, you've got to check out the Fanatical Vehicles page.

Are these some of the most flat-out, totally and completely devoted football fans you've ever seen, or what??

Go team.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Just Ask A Pro


Straight from the horse's mouth (yikes, please…no pun intended!), clearly the best source of a beautiful cut of meat is also the right person to tell you how to eat it. And, out of all the New York area butchers recently interviewed by the New Yorker Magazine, the one featuring Sal Biancardi titled: Whole Rack Of Lamb was my personal favorite on the subject.

Biancardi, co-owner of Biancardi Meats , 2350 Arthur Ave., nr. 186th St., in an under-recognized area of the wonderful Bronx of yesteryear(and for me, one of the last bastions for fresh, prime meats in the uptown NYC area today) states:

"Good American lamb has no lamb flavor, no lamb smell. It's very, very sweet. I like a whole rack of lamb ($11.99 a pound) pan-seared and finished off in the oven. I roast it and then slice it after—that's how it stays nice and pink. I'm not big on seasonings. Having grown up in an Italian household, I like Italian seasonings: a little salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary, fresh thyme. I'll put a little drop of canola oil in the pan so that it doesn't stick. Then I pan-sear and roast it for ten to fifteen minutes in a 500-degree oven, and it comes out rare but brown on the outside."

Read more in this month's New York Metro about the NYC butchers who can tell you about your cuts of meat -- better than anyone else can. So when in doubt…just ask a pro.

Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, September 11, 2006

In Memoriam

And lest we ever forget.



Today, five years after this fateful tragedy, if nothing else, let us always remember to celebrate a precious gift called LIFE.

Good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Throwing Out The Junk


UK TV host and uber chef, Jamie Oliver

Considered miles ahead of his chef counterparts here in the U.S., famed British chef and cookbook author Jamie Oliver has been on a nationwide campaign on the other side of the pond to ban junk foods served in schools, and get kids eating tasty, nutritious food instead. As a result, a revolution of sorts has been initiated in schools to prove that school meals can, in fact, be better.

The new guidelines on meals follows Jamie's Feed Me Better campaign, which debuted in 2005, and his popular TV show, Jamie's School Dinners on the UK's Channel 4.

Jamie further states:

"It’s all about making radical changes to the school meals system and challenging the junk food culture by showing schools they can serve fresh nutritious meals that kids enjoy eating. What we eat affects everything: our mood, behavior, health, growth, even our ability to concentrate. A lunchtime school meal should provide a growing child with one third of their daily nutritional intake."

A healthy existence (and future) for the world's future adults -- can't be bad at all, Jamie.

Well done.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The "Bigger" Wines


The Cabernet Grape

These days, it seems it's all about the "big wines." And no, we're not talking about the big, bold taste of those nifty "wine cooler" thingies of a decade ago. (Gosh, are those local littles convenience store "refrigerated treasures" still around?) In any case, bred predominantly but not exclusively in places like California and Australia, these wines are said to be markedly different from the traditional wines of countries like France and Italy -- different not only in taste and texture but in alcohol levels and aging potential. And in addition to all other aspects, the big wines, according to this month's Food & Wine magazine, are also about power and pleasure and simple -- unabashed hedonism.

Made from grapes that are totally ripe, they're wines with big, rich flavors, a generous amount of fruit and relatively high alcohol levels -- 15 percent and more. They're also precocious; that is, they're ready to drink upon release, although many will benefit from cellaring.

While select Cabernet wines are considered among these "big wines" and my own beloved Pinot Noir is not -- I'll forgo the "hedonistic" aspect of it all -- and say that I both enjoyed and actually *learned* a few things from the above link to this article. Interesting stuff, indeed.

Who knew?

Good Tuesday, all. Peace.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Back On The Book Scene


Executive Chef Marcus Samuelsson

It's been three years since his first book titled Aquavit: And the New Scandinavian Cuisine hit the bookshelves, and now, Marcus Samuelsson is back this month with a new one titled The Soul Of A New Cuisine: A Discovery Of The Foods And Flavors Of Africa.

Born in Ethiopia, adopted by Swedish parents, and raised in Sweden, Marcus Samuelsson became the executive chef at Aquavit, a well-known Swedish restaurant here in NYC, at the tender age of twenty-four. Since then, he has continued to exhibit a natural and unique perspective on all facets of fine cuisine -- from international cooking to classic baking.

The Soul Of A New Cuisine is scheduled to be in bookstores on the 24th of this month. Don't miss it. Guaranteed, I won't.

Chef Samuelsson will also be one of several participating chefs at the Gourmet Institute on October 20th through October 22nd, for a behind-the-scenes look into the world of Gourmet Magazine(their eight test kitchens and photo studios)at their headquarters, located at 4 Times Square here in New York City. Read more here about this special weekend-long event, and how to purchase tickets.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Velvet Smooth


Classic Red Velvet Cake

With all the attachments of a healthy urban legend, Red Velvet cake has no doubt been a favorite with many here in the U.S. for decades -- including yours truly. Generally, it's a welcome treat around Christmas time for those living down in the Southern half of the country. However, a tasty dessert treat just about any time of the year, no one seems to know exactly when and where this scrumptious cake originated. Rumor has it, that a story (and a recipe) began circulating around the United States in the 1920s about a cake that supposedly was served in the restaurant in New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel...

In any event, you can read more here about that original recipe, the Waldorf-Astoria chef -- who wanted to be *paid* for it, etc.

Meanwhile, here's the recipe I followed to rave reviews from my dinner guests this past Sunday for Red Velvet cake:

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 ounce liquid red food color
3/4 cup water
1 pudding-type cake mix (white or yellow)
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
4 tablespoons buttermilk powder
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Directions:
Heat oven to 325F.

Mix together cocoa powder, red food color, and a small amount of the water forming a paste. Add remaining ingredients except vinegar. Mix 2-3 minutes on medium speed until well blended. Add vinegar and blend completely. Pour batter into prepared 9" x 13" cake pan and bake for approximately 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

This recipe serves 10.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Post Katrina: The Effort Continues

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Tomorrow, August 29th, will be the start of another effort in the recovery of the Gulf States ravaged last year by Hurricanes Katrina & Rita. It will once again be hosted by American Express and SOS (Share Our Strength), two organizations that have been at the forefront of this rebuilding since these disasters occured a year ago.

Find out more about Restaurants For Relief 2, and how you can help, at the Share Our Strength website.

Good Monday, all. Peace.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Taming Of The Anti-Cook

A friend and I had a discussion yesterday that reminded me of something. It's an otherwise sad (well, in some opinions, anyway) but nevertheless truthful commentary that there are in fact some people who * do not * love to cook.

This conversation also brought to mind one of my favorite cookbooks, and I don't mind admitting, one of the first cookbooks I ever bought in my younger, non-cooking-because-I- really-didn't-have-to days when it was first released titled the I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Bracken. However, on my cookbook shelf these days, remains a follow-up to this classic book titled, The "Compleat" I Hate To Cook Book, which is just as much of a true winner, as its predecessor.

If you really would rather hunt for a meal -- than cook it, and approach a food processor or blender the same way you would a guillotine (or a weed-whacker), Bracken has got some totally easy-to-follow recipes and sharp, insightful anecdotes that would make the staunchest of kitchen haters stand up and take notice.

Peg Bracken is also the author of several other related books of good humor and helpful hints that are, unfortunately, no longer in print. And, I can only say that I wish they still were.

Thanks again, Peg. From the days of that "younger" me, that surprisingly still lives deep down inside there somewhere.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Build Your Own


Half-pounder at The Counter

After hearing much about them over the past year, one of the stops on my next trip to the West coast, is The Counter Restaurant in Santa Monica, California, now known for their famous custom-made burgers. Not to mention the numerous endorsements they've received courtesy of Oprah and GQ Magazine, where they were listed as one of the: 20 Burgers You Must Eat Before You Die.

The Counter starts off daily with freshly ground meat and the same amount of "freshness" applied to their veggie burgers. For those who always have to customize their orders with more of this and less of that, The Counter’s do-it-yourself menu is said to be an epicurean delight. From the Step-by-Step Checklist on a mini clipboard, you choose one of 10 cheese selections like yellow American, Danish blue or horseradish cheddar; four of 17 toppings ranging from your basic lettuce and tomatoes to the more exotic dried cranberries, grilled pineapple or roasted red peppers; and one of 17 sauces from mayo to peppercorn steak sauce to peanut sauce.

So after putting all those pesky cholesterol counts aside for the moment, read more here about "pimping out" your own custom burgers when you visit The Counter.



Good Wednesday, all. Peace.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Cadaver Chic Is Out…Chunky Is Back


Of silk purses, and sows' ears?

For all of you guys and girls who jumped the bandwagon with Kirstie Alley on her Jenny Craig weight loss odyssey a few months back -- take heart. According to all the latest reliable trend sources, a little more meat on the bone is all the rage these days, and what was once considered chunky is now quite...trendy.

Holly Millea breaks it all down even further in this month's Details Magazine :

"The curve," Mae West observed, "is more powerful than the sword." Measuring 38-24-38, the five-foot-one sex goddess spoke from experience—lots of it. West’s bodacious successors—women like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Drew Barrymore, Rachel Weisz, and Kate Winslet, who hold fast to their cushioned curves even as their peers downsize more aggressively than General Motors—understand that maxim. Their faminista sisters do not. Now, the bigger-(relatively speaking)-is-better argument could easily be made with logic. But a growing faction of actresses who appear to have a healthy relationship with carbohydrates are making the point better than any polemicizing ever could. Simply line Hollywood’s wispy players up next to the lush likes of Scarlett Johansson, Lost siren Evangeline Lilly, Liv Tyler, Big Love star Ginnifer Goodwin, and an increasingly curvy Mandy Moore (gosh, is she really considered to be on the "Ruebenesque" side of things these days, too??)

Anyway, if you're interested in reading more, pick up that container of Ben & Jerry's "Cherry Garcia" instead of putting it down -- and read more here, along with a visual smorgasbord of the "sexiest plate-scrapers" ever.

Good eats, and good Monday, all. Peace.