Monday, November 22, 2010


Thanksgiving is by far one of the best holidays, topped only by Halloween in my humble opinion.  It is nothing more than a feast of thanks, literally.   In fact in the early days of this nation people had thanksgivings regularly.  It wasn't until 1863 that Thanksgiving was made a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in a proclamation.

This will be our first Thanksgiving as a family of four, and our first as the hosts of the meal.  Chef has quite a feast planned.  I am making pumpkin pie two ways, pecan bourbon pie, and sweet potato casserole.  He has the rest covered...with a dish or three by Gan Gan.

We are doing a little pumpkin pie experiment.  We are going to cook a pie from a canned pumpkin filling, then we are going to make one from total scratch using a recipe from Chef Nancy Silverton of the famous La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles.  I am putting all bets on Chef Nancy's recipe.  While it calls for canned pumpkin we are going to use roasted pumpkin puree.  It also calls for sweet potato in addition, and yams make everything better if you ask me.

I think we could do with more national days of Thanksgiving.  It might make us a little more thankful for the simple things in life, like real food cooked from scratch...or baby toes and socks with bows if we celebrated thanks more regularly.

We have so much to be thankful for this year.  How about you?  Anything you are particularly thankful for this year?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chefs' Table

Monday is a night off for most chefs in the business.  Sundays and Mondays.  This past Monday we had a special sort of dinner party.  About 2 months ago Chef had the idea to invite a group of chefs from the region for dinner in the garden. Chef is one of those types of people when he gets an idea in his head he immediately sets to action.  It is a sort of compulsion, which I believe serves people in his trade well.  

The Chefs

Chef Adam Sears of Merge
Chef Sam Efron from Taverna
Chef Tom Gray of Bistro Aix
Chef Jonathan Insetta Orsay and Chew
Chef Thomas Tolxdorf of the Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island
Chef Brian Siebenschuh of Orsay
Chef Karey Raulerson Sottile, executive Sous Chef Orsay
Chef Scott Schwartz of 29 South

Then he got to talking with Tapha Sears, wife of Chef Adam Sears and wine rep for Premiere.  They decided to sponsor the event...which made for amazing juice served.  So there were some wine folks there, and wherever there are wine folks there are usually smiles.

I began work with Shannon our garden virtuoso in order to make sure things were looking spruced.  As Chef talked more about the dinner, the more I wanted to attend.  Then it came to light that many of the wives were coming because many of them were partners in business with their husbands, as well as in life.  Bravo. The Farm/Garden Coordinator was in. 

The Menu

Clam Belly Roll with Meyer Lemon Tartar Sauce
Conner's Farm Mixed Greens with Fried Pig Ears
Heritage Pork Chianti Truffle Sausage with Kale and Homemade Ricotta
Braised Piedmontese Beef Shank on Chestnut Lasagna
Roasted Pears and Figs with Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese, Sweet Wine, and Naked Bee Honey

The meal was provincial and delicious.  We ate family style, passing heaping plates around the table.  We talked shop, and I got to finally meet the mysterious man my husband calls every night.  At 8:45 pm an alarm goes off on Chef's phone, no matter where we are or what we are doing.  He picks up his phone, calls 29 South gets an order then immediately calls a man named Jeremy.  Jeremy is the rep for Inland Seafood.  If Jeremy answers the phone Chef is happy, if he doesn't lets just say Chef is... disgruntled.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jeremy during dinner, and it was nice to finally put a face on a phone call.  This is him on the left, and throughout the evening he was receiving calls from all over the region from other chefs placing their nightly orders.

At the end of the meal we all agreed this is something we need to do regularly.  Northeast Florida is not exactly the epicenter of the culinary arts in this country, but I venture to say we are a diamond in the rough thanks to these people, and it was a pleasure getting to know the folks behind the food.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Puerto Rico

The Sprout has sprouted a chomper.  Lil' Bit is pooping for chocolate. Chef is on a diet...and I thought my head was going to implode yesterday.  Life has been more than full lately, and ever since I stopped nursing my mental state has been far from balanced. 

Yes, I stopped nursing.  I know, I should really nurse for a full year.  The thing is I went to Puerto Rico for 3 days and when I returned The Sprout was so acclimated to the bottle I just didn't see the point in reintroducing the boob for another 4 months, only to wean her again.  And to be honest, and I say this with a twinge of guilt, it has been nice to have my body back to myself.

I went to Puerto Rico in celebration of one of my best girlfriend's 30th birthday.  It was 4 women pushing 30, tons of rum and sun, and a hotel with a casino.

We hiked in the rain forest and went swimming in a waterfall.

We went horseback riding on the beach.

We played craps and slots, but they don't let you take pictures in the casino.

We did a lot of eating.  Here is a run down of some of our more memorable meals. 

We had breakfast at La Bombonera one of the oldest restaurants in Old San Juan, to eat mallorcas and have coffee.  Mallorcas are spanish pastries dusted in powdered sugar.  I had mine with egg, cheese, and bacon sandwiched between it and it was divine. The restaurant  was listed as super authentic, and as an old diner it has a lovely charm.  But Rachel Ray had eaten there on her $40 a Day travel show, and when we walked in they handed us little Food Network cards with her face grinning up at us, which immediately detracted from the ambiance...if you know what I mean.

Another great regional food we tried there was called mofongo.  It is mashed plantains served in a bowl with something on top of them, like pork or beef.  Many times it is served in a soup as well.  If you are ever in Puerto Rico go for the mofongo, if not for the fact that it is fun just to say out loud. Mofongo.

The best meal we had was at Dragonfly.  It is a seafood/latin fusion restaurant and the dinner was extraordinary.  One of the highlights of the meal was the truffle infused tuna tar tar served over a sushi roll.  It was amazing.  The only thing that put a damper on the evening was the real estate lawyer who interrupted our meal to hit on us, and the sad fact that the birthday girl had been stung by a terrible jellyfish just hours before. 

It was tragic.  We were enjoying ourselves during a late afternoon Caribbean swim.  Four tipsy gals bobbing along the beautiful briny sea. When all of a sudden the birthday girl let out a yelp.  She had been stung and tentacles were still trapped in her monokini.  We dashed out of the ocean in immediate crisis mode.  The victim was lead upstairs by one girl, the other grabbed our stuff from the beach, and I set off to the poolside bar for vinegar.

An entire gallon of vinegar later...the most expensive vinegar we have ever purchased at $30 a gallon from room service, mind you, did little to alleviate the burning.  So we all chipped in and tried to drink the pain away.

In the immortal words of Stevie Wonder...that's what friends are for.

On a totally different note, I just launched a new blog in honor of my upcoming kid's book which is going to hit the virtual shelves of Amazon come December 9th...if all goes as planned.  Please, swing by if you get a chance.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Great Balls of Fire

You see this grill.  Well, it almost burned my face off.  Literally.  It was a normal Tuesday evening.  Chef was at work.  The Sprout had gone to bed.  And Lil' Bit and I were getting ready for dinner. 

I had turned the grill on to warm up for 15 minutes. I traipsed back into the kitchen to season the chicken breasts we would have that evening.  I brought the meat out to cook and the dang thing was no longer lit.  Like a total moron, paying no attention to the fact that the gas had been running at full force under the closed lid, I hit the starter button and WHOOMPH!

A giant fireball came flying out of the grill into my face.  It was like something out of the movie Backdraft.  As fast as the fire engulfed me, it disappeared and I was left there breathless holding my raw chicken breasts.  It took me a moment to realize that I was okay...that in fact my face had not been torched.  My eyebrows were still there.  I stood there and looked into my living room window at my little girl sprawled out on the floor with the dogs and the most terrible though entered my mind.  What if I had caught fire?  My two year old would be the only person home to help me...and would undoubtedly be scarred for life from the experience.

From 2003-2006 there was an average of 7,900 fires at residences related to grilling...and 10 deaths.  Across America, 3 out of every 4 households have grills.  So I suppose since there is 307 million Americans and 75% of them have grills, 10 deaths over the course of 3 years is minor statistic.

I love the grill.  There are no dishes involved.  It is sooo easy.  You get to cook outdoors and there is just something that really resonates with me in a primitive way when I cook over a fire.  I will not let its recent explosive outburst deter me.  

Tonight we will eat steak, grilled to perfection.