Dining SF!

Hello everyone!

I realize it has been forever since I have written. I have been working on many odds and ends events and I am still working on the restaurant in SF! So, I apologize- the season has changed and I have barely written or posted a thing…

Lately, I have met some really good foods and tasted some really good cocktails and wines. I went to Alembic in San Francisco in the Haight-Ashbury, and was SO impressed by their cocktail making. If you haven’t been, you should go! I hear that the food is really good, but we went to Locanda that night instead in the Mission. What a beautiful place! I had offal, pizzas, pastas- incredible. Check out their curing box above their line. Pretty cool. I also had cocktails at BIG and loved every minute of it. I have recently been to Rich Table and also loved our food. San Francisco is blowing up right now culinarily! I don’t have enough time to eat it all!

I just got off the Top Chef Cruise and had a blast. We were on a boat for 4+ days. It was fun seeing all of my old friends and fans in such a fun place! We did demos, cooking classes, dinners and attended parties (gambling). I really enjoyed myself and am already looking forward to next year. See my Face Book and Twitter for photos!

I hope the spring is treating you nicely. I will be back to chat with you all soon. Until then, take care and keep me informed with your dining!

C

Falling into the Fall

Hello dear friends! How was everyone’s summer?  This year was such a gorgeous growing season in Napa (my current hometown) and I am happy to see the grapes coming in… they look beautiful!  The wines are going to be fantastic for 2012! Making me thirsty just thinking about it.

Along with the change in the weather, the type of food I’m cooking is changing to match the season. I made my “First of Fall” pot of stew and I can’t wait for Halloween so I can bring back my family’s long-standing tradition of the perfect Texas-style chili. Every year my dad becomes impatient and tries to make chili in August…my mom quickly puts a stop to it (thank goodness). If you’ve never been to Texas in August, trust me on this one: the heat and chili don’t mix. Hence why my mom is adamant that we wait for Halloween for the cooler temperatures. Now that I’m now back in California, I keep this family tradition alive by making chili at my house for my friends and loved ones while we pass out candy to the neighborhood kids. Halloween in my neighborhood is CRAZY busy, which makes it hard to even get a bite down before the doorbell starts ringing, and ringing, and ringing.  I love it, though. Some people go out, get dressed up and head to the parties. Me? I like to stay at home and chill (I’m getting old, right?).  It is still super fun.

I have some great things in the works and I will be sure to fill you all in as soon as we solidify it all!  It is going to be an AWESOME 2013, I just know it.  And don’t forget about the cruise with Top Chef in April! Would love to have you join me as we sail around the Caribbean. So many things to look forward to…

Love you all!

C

(Hope you enjoy this photo of me sorting grapes at Hartwell Vineyards in Napa…gotta love this life!)

 

Today I am inspired by BBQ…

Today I am inspired by BBQ.  Have you ever really craved bbq?  I do and have driven lengths to get it!  But, when I walk in the joint, what is my favorite smoked food to order.  Is it the Texas brisket that is traditionally slow cooked with nothing more than a salt and pepper-paprika rub?  Or is it the fall apart ribs with a dry rub and a side of bbq sauce?  The links?  The pork shoulder, the chicken!?  Don’t get me wrong, I put myself in the caloric danger zone with the sides.  I CAN NOT pass up the potato salad, fried okra, macaroni OR the beans!  Don’t even factor in the rolls with a honey-butter mix brushed on top.  I guess the warmer weather makes me think of bbq, so I want to talk about it.  I am ready to sink my teeth into the smokey hue of ‘que.

First and foremost, let’s think about how many variations of the word barbeque there actually are. BBQ, barbeque, bar-b-q, ‘que, and there is actually a place in Napa called Q! So many stories, so many locations that would want to claim the word or spelling as their own. I would love to think that some cattle rancher in Texas had a brand “BBQ” for his ranch and they used to cook large cuts of meat over indirect heat and that is how it was all started! Texans can dream big, can’t they?

Someone decided once upon a time that cooking all of the juices out of meat was a bad idea, and that a cooking method that could keep the meat moist and tender was a no-brainer. It was probably a Texan. ;) Once it was decided upon that juicy meat was good, you can factor in all of the extras that followed. These “decorations” come with the territory. What choice of meat? To sauce or not to sauce? Should you use a rub? And, what kinds of wood come from your location? Oak burns hot, Apple is delicious for pork, pecan provides a sweetness, mesquite is your choice if you like smoky flavors- and, last but not least, green, hot burning hickory. What is bbq without it?

I know that Texas bbq is different and it is mostly about BEEF! We love our brisket. This might be my favorite. Brisket on soft Texas Toast with bbq sauce, jalapenos, pickles with pungent white onion-chopped to order..! DELICIOUS! My mouth is watering something fierce! The meat has got to have a crusty exterior and a pink ring underneath the dark crust. This sandwich is usually served on paper and the napkins have to be tiny. You just eat and then go wash your hands when you are done. There is no classy way to do this. The only class-less thing to do would be to complain that it is messy. There is absolutely no pretty way to eat ribs. To much of diner’s surprise, our ribs come with a little grip. Meaning, the meat sticks to the bone more than you might find in other bbq joints. You will actually lose a competition in Texas if your ribs pull too easily away from the bone!

I think the next best place for bbq is North Carolina. What exactly is “Carolina style”? I took this from www.bbq.netrelief.com “Eastern North Carolina style barbeque is, by most accounts, the oldest style of barbeque in the United States. Originating during Colonial times in the coastal regions of Virginia and the Carolinas, it endures and thrives today in the eastern third of the state of North Carolina. According to Vince Staten and Greg Johnson, this style of barbeque “originated in those days when people thought tomatoes were poisonous and refused to eat them. When the early settlers wanted a seasoning for their barbequed pig, they chose English ketchup, a vinegar seasoned with oysters and peppers and other spices, but containing no tomato.”” I love the line about “by most accounts, it is believed…it is the oldest bbq,  and that they were afraid of poisonous tomatoes”. Hilarious. So, what does this actually mean? It refers only to the sauce? A molasses and ketchup free sauce? So, what is left is vinegar and mustard? We have all had it, a thinner more vinegar based sauce. Prefer it?

What other places are putting out delicious bbq? Kentucky? California? Alabama?? I am sure there is something to be said for the Smoky Mountain Sauce of Arkansas and Tenessee. That is the great thing about America, there are many variations of great things. One thing I know, is that I love the flavors of bbq. I love beef. I love pig. I love smoke. I love how long it takes to eat that glorious meal- it is worth every hour. After all is said and done…after the brisket, ribs, okra and beans, I still love the site of a HUGE pan of peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream. Come on summer! We are waiting on you!

Get out there an eat some ‘Q!!!! I want to hear about it !

 

 

Confit Chicken Wings

24 free-range, organic chicken drums, skin cut on the small end of the drum and bone scraped to the larger end like a lolly-pop

Marinade:

1 cup soy sauce
¼ cup fish sauce
3 T brown sugar
1 knob ginger, grated
1 thai chile, split in half, stem remaining
1 tsp red chile flakes
2 T cilantro, rough chopped
½ cup lime juice

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl and pour into a ziplock bag and add chicken. Marinate 6 hours. Remove and discard marinade.

1 gallon canola oil
1# bacon
1 yellow onion, rough chopped
8 garlic cloves
1 T salt

Heat oven to 300 degrees. In a roasting pan, add bacon in whole strips with onion and garlic cloves. Render the bacon fat just until soft and fat has released. Add one gallon of canola oil and the chicken wings. Place the pan back in the oven and cover with foil. Cook the wings for 3 hours or until tender. Remove the chicken and strain the oil carefully. Keep the wings in some of the oil so that they stay moist. Place the strained oil in a frying pan or small fryer.

Dredge for wings:

2 cups cornstarch
2 cups rice flour
½ T salt
4 cups cornflakes ground

Mix all ingredients in a shallow pan. Set aside.

Heat the fryer oil to 350 degrees. Dredge the wings in the flours and press to stick. Fry the wings in the oil for 2 minutes or until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

For the sauce:

½ bottle sweet chile sauce
¼ cup sambal
3 limes, juiced
1 tsp salt
1 T fish sauce
3 T cilantro, chopped

Place all ingredients except for the cilantro. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Reduce the sauce by 1/3. Finish by adding cilantro. When wing is hot from the fryer, dip the lollipop part of the chicken drum in the sauce leaving the bone dry.

 

 

Baby Arugula, Dill, Fennel and Pumelo Salad

 

Baby Arugula, Dill, Fennel and Pumelo Salad

Serves 4

1 shallot, minced
1 T fresh dill, minced
½ cup fennel, shaved on a mandoline
2 cups baby arugula
1 ½ cup iceburg lettuce, white part only, torn
½ cup good olive oil
2 T raspberry champagne vinegar
¼ cup pumelo, diced
¼ tsp fennel pollen
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper

In a large bowl, place minced shallot, dill, fennel and fennel pollen and pumelo. Season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil, vinegar, toss to combine. On top of the ingredients in the bottom of the bowl, place arugula and iceberg. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. We eat our slad at the and of the meal, I toss it right before we eat it. Adjust the seasonings if necessary.