Archive for October, 2008

Notes from the Road – Minnesota & Wisconsin, October 2008

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I know you are all used to usually hearing about my travels and experiences traversing the country to more ‘cosmopolitan’ destinations, however this past weekend was a little bit different.  We traveled to the Great Midwest for a quick weekend getaway to Minneapolis and the North Woods of Wisconsin.  This included spending the weekend in Hayward, Wisconsin in a friend’s cabin – hanging out, cooking and fishing Round Lake.  It was chilly, but fortunately true Midwest Fall and Winter hasn’t set in just yet – the low was only about 25 degrees!

 

Interesting times, with some of the highlights:

 

  • Thursday night dinner.  We ended up cooking for our buddy the first night in Minnesota and created a very simple, but outstanding meal.  It included hand-caught Alaskan Red Salmon done with salt, pepper and an orange maple syrup glaze, grilled zucchini and a quick risotto-style orzo with chicken stock, Romano cheese and rosemary.  The recipe for the glaze is extremely simple and listed here:

 

  •  
    • Hand-tapped Maple Syrup from Wisconsin, 5 oz.
    • Juice of an Orange, 1
    • Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
    • Chardonnay, 2 oz.
      • Mix ingredients together and reserve.
      • When ready, spread liberally on Salmon when ¾ cooked through.

 

  • Dinner at Tally Ho (www.TallyHoSupperClub.com).  This Wisconsin-style supper club has been operating in Hayward for over 62 years!  It has had a collection of different owners, but currently this fellow Tom Stocker is really doing a great job in keeping with tradition.  I had an outstanding ‘Friday Night Fish Fry’, Walleye in a cornmeal herb breading, which was extremely light and flaky.

 

  • Fishing license purchase at the Happy Hooker (www.HaywardLakes.com/HappyHooker).  We were taken to this bait and tackle shop to purchase our temporary Wisconsin fishing license.  It is a classic general store/community staple where you can get just about anything, hear town gossip and learn about what types of fish are biting.  And of course, what a great name!

 

  • Fishing on Round Lake.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been fishing and it’s been MANY years since I’ve fished on a lake, but what a blast.  Three of us went out on an 18’ boat, in search of Northern Pike and Small Mouth Bass.  After learning how to properly cast and screwing it up multiple times with ‘backlashes’ we were on the water.  Day #2 brought me catching a gorgeous 2 pound Small Mouth, the ‘biggest’ catch of our trip.  Fishing is definitely out of the ordinary for me, but it was a blast and I can’t wait to go back out!

 

 

Travels are next taking me over to Scottsdale, Arizona to Eats 3 – Savor Scottsdale, a new Food & Beverage Festival being held and sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine.  Check it out at www.Eats3.com.  It sounds like it will be a great event with over 100 wineries represented and some outstanding chefs present.  I’ll keep you all posted – and, Always remember, Keep Eating & Drinking!

Notes from the Road – Los Angeles, September 2008

Monday, October 13th, 2008

This past weekend I had the pleasure of joining the President of The Nyman Group, Robert Nyman to work along side his best friend, Piero Selvaggio at the American Wine & Food Festival (the 26th year – www.AWFF.com), representing his restaurants; Valentino (Los Angeles & Las Vegas) and Caffe Giorgio (www.WeLoveWine.com).  This is a wonderful event, which was originally started by Wolfgang Puck & Barbara Lazaroff and held in the parking lot at the original Spago on Sunset & Horn Avenue.

 

It began with only four restaurants, including Spago and Valentino and has now grown to include over 3,000 guests being held on the back lot of Universal Studios!  Robert, as usual, was the point person for Valentino – manning the pizza station and dishing out slices of Piero’s famous grilled pizza with flair.  As the line snaked around other tables and restaurant stations, it held steady between 50-100 people at a time!  Robert’s signature line of, ‘Pizza, pizza’ could be heard throughout the evening…

 

 

Some of our best experiences and highlights were:

 

  • The lovely ladies and wine of Peju Province (www.Peju.com).  HB and Lisa Peju were pouring their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Wonderful Napa fruit and well worth a visit when you make it up to the Valley.

 

  • Chef Cal Stamenov and Bernardus Lodge & Winery (www.Bernardus.com).  Chef Cal was serving a flavorful seared Abalone with Celery Root Angnolotti, topped with shaved Black Summer Truffles.  Wow, wow and wow.  They were pairing with their newest release of Carmel Valley Pinot Noir, which had a great body, light smokiness and outstanding mouth feel.

 

  • Chef Lydia Shire (www.LockeOber.com).  Lydia was ‘on-point’ as always this year and did a combo-plate of pork goodness.  I wish I could remember all of the variety of meats, but the true winner was her Cumin-scented, crisped Pork Belly.  Succulent and rich, with the right amount of saltiness.

 

  • The After Party.  Just to let you know, Wolfgang Puck knows how to throw a party!  Held at The Highlands (Hollywood & Highland – www.TheHighlandsHollywood.com) once again, this event was a superb gathering of chefs, restaurateurs and friends gathering together to eat, drink and be merry.  Wolf’s catering company was up to the challenge with outstanding quality sushi and sashimi as well as classics such as his Smoked Salmon Pizza.

 

I’m not sure yet where the next travels are taking me, however there is a rumor that it will be to Eats 3 – Savor Scottsdale, a new Food & Beverage event being held in Scottsdale, Arizona and sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine.  Check it out at www.Eats3.com.  I’ll keep you all posted – and, Always remember, Keep Eating & Drinking!

Notes from the Road – Miami, September 2008

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

On Wednesday, September 17th I had been invited to host/chair a panel at the HD Boutique Convention down in Miami.  The panel was titled, “Finding the Core: Essentials for Launching a Successful Restaurant Concept.   The members of my panel who I had invited to join me were – Peter Kasperski, founder of Spaghetti Western Productions (www.SpaghettiWesternProductions.com), Payton Curry Executive Chef, Digestif Restaurant (www.digestifscottsdale.com) and Ron Ackerlund of Desert Designs (www.AZHomebuilder.com). 

 

To even be invited to participate in such a prestigious experience would have been enough, but to chair a panel was a complete honor.  The discussion went extremely smooth and far exceeded my expectations from attendance to fantastic discussion over to overall reception! We had a great roundtable discussion about restaurants, operations, design elements, comedy relief from Payton and outstanding guest feedback and questions.  The panel was scheduled for one hour and it felt after we started like it lasted for 15 minutes – a wonderful experience overall.

 

Some of my Miami highlights are listed below…

 

  • Café Versailles – amazing Cuban coffee!

 

  • Ice Box Café (www.IceBoxCafe.com).  The Ice Box is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner offering creative cuisine with flavors rooted in French, Spanish, Cuban and Caribbean traditions

 

  • Sardinia Risorante & Enoteca (www.Sardinia-Ristorante.com).  Sardinia is one of my favorite restaurants in Miami; a neighborhood venue that has a great local following, outstanding selections of salumi, roasted vegetables and cheeses, as well as features from its wood burning oven.

 

  • I had to go see my buddy, DJ Ross One (www.SkamArtist.com), who was spinning at Mokai (www.MokaiMiami.com), a club located off of 23rd & Collins.  This is more of a lounge with a killer vibe, beautiful people, great drinks and a true Miami experience.  Ross was manning the tables, spinning a variety of Top 40 hits, Hip Hop, Funk and House music.

 

  • Nobu Miami Beach (www.ShoreClub.com).  I know that there are now many Nobu restaurants in the world (how many, I’m not sure) but let me tell you, this experience was pretty damn good.  After being seated and having a little rough service to start, we dove into the menu including the Nobu classic dish, Yellowtail with Jalapenos in Ponzu sauce, Avocado tempura (really good) and the winner of the night Tai (Red Snapper) sashimi.

 

  • Gansevoort Hotel (www.GansevoortSouth.com) – the Southern version of the New York original.  Now, it takes a lot to impress me, however one of the coolest things I have ever seen were their bathrooms – completely outside and open to the elements on the roof deck.  Wow.

 

Lots more happening on my end here in Vegas and also while traveling the world.  Next stop is Los Angeles for a series of meetings and participation in the American Wine & Food Festival (the 26th year – www.AWFF.com), working with Piero Selvaggio at his booth, representing Valentino.  I promise to have lots of updates and stories as there will be over 50 chefs and 50 wineries represented at the event.  Always remember, Keep Eating & Drinking!