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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Colin's Pork Chops

Teaching my sons how to cook has been an ongoing process from the time they were old enough to have an opinion about how their food is prepared.  One of the first dinners they both learned how to cook was chicken cutlets.  I am always asked questions when grilling steaks (how long per side), and my younger son, Colin, has certainly shown a solid interest in Spanish influenced dishes.

The best way to learn, is to do and so Colin gathered his ingredients for the chops.  He wanted bone in chops though I already had some boneless in the freezer so I asked he purchase only a small package of bone-in and use up the meat on hand.  I understood his theory, but I really have a harder time with food waste.

He marinated the chops a day ahead of time and I stayed out of the kitchen.  I do know he used my garlic press and had to purchase some Goya products.  Other than that, I will leave the secret recipe for him to disclose.  He let them go in a medium hot pan on the stove and he knew he wanted "that brown color" on each side before turning.  He then place the chops in the oven while the next batch carmelized.

I stayed in the family room, which is close enough if he wants to talk to me, but far enough that I cannot see his every move.  I did offer to make a salad and he agreed this was a good idea.

The rest of the meal sides were Goya prepared either frozen or boxed; rice with pigeon peas, plantains and tostones.  All was quite delicious.  I needed some freshness and juice so I diced up a tomatoe with no other seasonings and simply spooned it over the chop.   

It was not the food that filled me with feeling of being Fed Well, it was of course my son in the kitchen, preparing dinner for his family.  Learning which stove burner heats slower than the others, the meat will take the longest amount of time, and if you do not remove a pot from an electric stove top, the food will continue to cook as the hot coil takes take to cool.  I look forward to the next cooking adventure and wonder if it may be from my older son?  He tends to make Sunday morning breakfasts -  a fabulous way to share and be Fed Well.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Launch - Bocuse - Part 4 of 4

The Culinary Institute of America hosted the launch of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week at a very exciting time for the CIA.  Just one week earlier, their newest restaurant, Bocuse was opened with 87 year old Chef Paul Bocuse in attendance. My group was the first to tour with Stephen Hengst, Marketing Director of the CIA, as our knowledgeable and affably entertaining guide.  

A partial glimpse of the collage of photos including Chef Bocuse.  I am quite drawn to the one with the life size rat, seemingly from Ratatouille.  A wonderful movie by the way, but I confess to never having had the dish.

Each one of the photos do convey the feeling of a life with many chapters within an epic story.

The private dining room's portrait features Chef Bocuse's infamous truffle soup with puff pastry topping and a meaningful nod is also shown by using soupieres (are these very different from tureens? I am such a beginner.) in the chandelier.  The chairs somehow remind me of the 1970's and I have the same glasses.  I confess, mine were quite inexpensive.

Bocuse features more table side services from cocktails to ice cream.  No more pesky ice crystals and a creamier, denser ice cream are the explained benefits, but imagine the feelings of decadence when ice cream is blended just for you.  Though I have yet to experience it, I am sure the visual show provided by flaming cocktails or the addition of liquid nitrogen to the dessert must certainly add to the dining experience.

Wine, wine, everywhere.  

The colors, the pillows, the design scheme, oh my.

This antique silk spinning table houses roosters as a nod to Chef Bocuse and every aspect of the dining room either has meaning or distinct design reason behind it's use or placement.  Nothing is by chance or mere suggestion.

The wall sconces created are based on a classic chef's touque are topped by figurines of Chef Bocuse.

During the kitchen tour, Chef Bocuse was inclined to sign an area of wall tile next to a poster of his likeness.  This impromptu action has yet to be preserved by covering with glass to ensure the signature is not treated as vandalism.  It is noted with yellow sticky notes.

Simply peeking into the kitchen is a treat for me.  The students are busy with their tasks at hand and part of the training must include of course, how to work while under constant observations whether it is members of the press/media, prospective students, or visiting culinary professionals.  Every aspect of life in the food trenches must be touched on in their curriculum.

Post Hudson Valley Restaurant Week I will begin to plan my pilgrimage back to Bocuse as an enchanted diner.  I am looking forward to a magical meal leaving me feeling Fed Well.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Launch Part 3 of 4

Exploring the vendors and suppliers was next on the agenda.  Many not only brought samples of their wares, and knowledgeable representatives, but a few also included chefs preparing locally grown or raised culinary selections.  Chefs and other participants in the event were easily drawn to tables with items like cheese, 

teas from Harney & Sons Fine Teas (I tried this Lingonberry Green for Chef Marcus Samuelsson and found though it could be called light, it smelled comforting, it tasted smooth and felt soothing),

Chef and Culinary Institute of America Graduate, Shawn Hubell (owner of Amuzae) gently and simply prepared mushrooms 

from Madura Farms in a pan with a splash of oil.  

The mushrooms had a soft, meaty texture and full bodied flavor with just a bit of salt for seasoning.

Jason Friedman from Lowland Farm in Warwick on left with Chef Jim Haurey (Chef Haurey will soon open The Grange in Warwick) offered guests a sample of pork confit.

The mushrooms and pork were among my standout favorites from the event (although I still dream about the blood orange...)

Learning about local products, trying local products and looking forward to sampling more during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week from March 11 - 24 all keeps me feeling Fed Well.  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Launch Part 2 of 4

Immediately following the group photograph of Chef's in attendance, everyone crossed over to the Culinary's Ristorante Caterina de'Medici for networking, questions/answers, and yes, a sampling of both vendor and CIA treats. 

I have to admit, I have a hard time with crowds and so I found the less congested second floor a great place to start so I could ease into the throng of excitement.

This platter of goodies was one of the first things I encountered.  Fresh mozzarella dusted with strawberry powder in a chocolate balsamic.  Who would have thought about this at home?

After watching one of the chef's try out one of the knife vendors wares, I headed downstairs and to the buffet line.  The CIA is not just about the food and presentation, it is also training people to have stellar manners.  It is refreshing enough to hear, "Excuse me," but it is quite a new sensation to hear, "Pardon me."  Something about utilizing the next level.

I also observed the platter exchange.  As foods were depleted, fresh was not simply added, instead the tray with less food was removed to the kitchen.   Here is just an idea of the food available on the buffet...

I confess, I did not try them all, but I was wildly happy with the bites I tried.  Delicate and tender meats, creamy risotto, and as I mentioned in the first post, the most succulent slice of blood orange. 

While taking a few moments to eat, I met Ellen Maher, Community Relations Manager for arcs (AIDS Related Community Services) and we discussed "Dining Out For Life."  the event is held Thursday, April 25 to raise forks and funds for HIV/AIDS.  For more information, please visit Dining Out For Life.

I was also happy to meet Hudson Valley GoodStuff's Vanessa Geneva Ahern and Happy Hudson Valley (and the Mid-Hudson Times) Stefanie Pearl. 

Feeling fueled well, I mean of course, Fed Well, I return my attention and focus back to the event and visit the sponsors and vendors (more about the experience in the next post).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hudson Valley Restaurant Week Launch - Part I of 4

As a blogger, a community columnist and a lover of food, I simply cannot express the level of excitement I felt when I opened my invitation to the launch of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week 2013 at the Culinary Institute of America.

Janet Crawshaw, found of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week and Publisher of Valley Table magazine (Link to Valley Table) would be speaking as well as Dr. Tim Ryan, President of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

Upon arrival, press and guests were offered tours of the CIA's newest restaurant, "Bocuse" and for a preview, please visit the 4th post in this series.

In the Ecolab Theater, more press, sponsors, chefs, advisory board members and guests assembled.

First to speak was Dr. Tim Ryan who shared a few facts and thoughts about Hudson Valley Restaurant Week (HVRW) and the restaurant business in general.  For example, the audience was asked what the second largest private employer in the nation is and yes, the answer was restaurants.  Though the largest employer is the Federal government, the largest private employer is the healthcare field.

Dr. Ryan also explained, "restaurants have a vibrant multiplier effect..." and can be considered the economic backbone of a location due to their impact on agriculture, tourism and lodging.  

A bit of background was shared about Chef Paul Bocuse and the new CIA restaurant. Though Chef Bocuse was praised for his truffle soup in 1975, when asked about the inspiration behind his dish, the Chef shared nothing is really new and that he was thinking of chicken pot pie and the crust when he topped his creation with puff pastry.  The award Dr. Ryan presented to Chef Peter X. Kelly, Co-Chair of Hudson Valley Restaurant Week's Advisory Board and restaurateur, was based on the appearance of that infamous dish.

Janet Crawshaw also shared facts and figures about HVRW.  The entire geographical area is approximately a 5 hour drive, 7 counties, 175 participating restaurants and contains about 2,500 farms. 

"Farm to Table" awards were presented to Dr. Sam Simon who after retiring as a notable orthopedic surgeon, grew a non-profit dairy farm co-op to Hudson Valley Fresh (Link to Hudson Valley Fresh here) which will soon include 10 farms in Dutchess, Columbia and Ulster counties as well as Chef/Owner John Novi of Canal House.  While Chef Novi smiled during his acceptance speech and claimed he was "a hippy in shorts and sandals" when he started, his career has resulted in about 300 externs launching their own professional lives.

(Left to right: Janet Crawshaw, John Novi and Dr. Sam Simon)
Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro also reminded the audience of the local representation of the Hudson Valley at this year's presidential inauguration.  In addition, Putnam County Executive, Mary Ellen O'Dell was on hand to support HVRW.

At the close of the press conference, participating chefs posed for a group photograph.

The story continues...

I know though some are hungry to see a sample of the tasty treats served at the CIA and so, a peek at my plate.  Be sure to visit the upcoming additional posts to this series for more fabulous plates and dishes.

All of the contents on this fabulous plate were delicious without a doubt.  I wonder if you can tell which was element was surprisingly my favorite?  I confess, it was not this delicious assortment of fine foods that left me feeling Fed Well, it was being a part of such a spectacular event.  

To answer the question - my favorite was the simple slice of blood orange on the left hand side of the plate.  I wondered if some one's sole purpose was to guard the fruit tree and pick the citrus at the exact moment it would be simply perfect to eat.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fajita Night

What to cook when you are tired and bored with your same old recipes, but are not in a good place for learning something new?  I can compare the feeling with wanting a new hairstyle but not willing to really have too much length cut off or change the color.  Pretty tough order.

Instead, I reach for the less frequently made but still relatively simple.  Fajita night.  "Can we have fresh salsa with it," my younger son requested.  Certainly and easy enough.  Chopped tomatoes, fresh garlic, fresh parsley, a sprinkle of Goya seasoning and fresh cilantro.

Fresh ingredients really do create the best dishes and I prefer to keep things relatively simple with a short list of seasonings as well.

I'm finding out I love not only the look and taste of food, but reading, learning and of course writing and photographing my food.  I now have an Instagram account as well so I can post food photos and maybe find others who share my passion.  The beer and salsa shot is on Instagram.

Simply sauteed peppers and onions... necessary and a huge component of the smellosphere.

My son and I talked about the benefits of using some beautiful and tender sirloin sliced relatively thin for the beef fajitas.  I also sliced some strips of chicken breast in a separate pan.  How to season? 
Irony is knowing you prefer simple and fresh seasonings yet hold on to the belief you need prepackaged "fajita" mix for the chicken.  While it was flavorful, next time it will be skipped.

It was nice to have my younger son not only home, but in the kitchen with me.  The joy of this meal carried over when he took some of the leftovers to work and then again the next day after that when he called me at work to find out how to duplicate the salsa.  Knowing my family enjoys the foods I prepare or we prepare together certainly leaves me feeling Fed Well.

Coupons are Worthless

All meals can be shared with friends and family.  Sunday breakfast with girlfriends (womanfriends/ladyfriends????) are a noteworthy star on the calendar.  It's not about time of day, but since we do not have adult beverages, we cannot officially call it brunch.

Three of us meet at a local chain that specializes in breakfast.  No free advertising here since their marketing performance was less than stellar.

We can be fairly predictable in our orders, but one of us had a slick paper of coupons ranging from 20% off the entire bill to certain dollars off based on total dollars spent.  The big feature on the page was a particular breakfast, let's just call it, "The Most Magnificent Breakfast" which she had been considering since TUESDAY.   

Our server, Christine, (I don't think it can hurt to tell you her name, just not that of one of the three chains in our area that specializes in breakfast - not IHOP), cheerily brought us our teas and coffee.  When the ordering began and my friend asked for "The Most Magnificent Breakfast," Christine's smile disappeared.  "I'm sorry, they took away our button on the computer for that and we are not offering that special."


The page of coupons clearly state an expiration date of March 1.  It is mid-February.  Ok, it is a holiday weekend, but no restrictions are expressed regarding timing of using the coupon.  The button is no longer on the computer?  Ummm, does the kitchen still have the ingredients?  Eggs, pancakes, potatoes, breakfast meats, etc?  

I can feel the prickly-ness (yes, I use this word and so does my family regardless of it's lack of dictionary listing) radiating out of my friend.  I almost ask for the manager myself when I see her give up with a sigh.

"We need more time then."

We are able to laugh it off, recover and find other things to order.  For one, it is her stand-by French Toast but instead of breakfast potatoes she tries the hash brown which she is not likely to order again.

When Christine brought our food, by the way, she did apologize again for the lack of computer button and inconvenience.  She identified the syrup flavors for my friend with the French Toast.

I opt for something different and have two eggs over easy, biscuits topped with sausage gravy and the breakfast potatoes that are the entire reason for coming to the chain.  They are crisp on the outside and tender inside.  Yum.  I bother Christine for an orange juice and she remains calm.

Instead of a magnificent breakfast, my friend goes for a classic with scrambled, bacon, potatoes and a side order of fruit.  Unfortunately, you cannot see the hair stuck to the piece of melon from this angle.  If you look very closely at the highest peak of orange cantaloupe you may make out some foreign matter.  Oh, Christine...

The offending fruit is removed and replaced with a corn muffin in a to-go bag.  She tried.  Really, she did and we laugh at this point and wonder if she is convinced she will not be receiving much of a gratuity.  Well, what she does not realize is though we found some of the experience truly frustrating, we have all worked for tips and simply could never take that away from someone for reasons that have nothing to do with service.  We spent time together talking about life and our families and so we still felt quite Fed Well.  Christine still received a fair 20% and we were able to use the coupon for 20% off of our total bill.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lunch at Hacienda de Don Manuel - Meet Some VIP's in my Life

Lunches with coworkers fall into three general categories: those we eat in our department's conference room and the food is either brought from home or purchased in our cafeteria, the Chinese restaurant or the Mexican restaurant.  Sometimes we break the rules and head to the diner or one of the pizza places.  Rarer still is fast food from either Wendy's or McDonald's. 

On a fairly sunny Friday afternoon, four of us walked to Hacienda de Don Manuel and my mouth was wishing for fresh and table side prepared guacamole.

We could be considered an eclectic blend of women.  One has been with the company for 25 years, one is a newlywed and looking at us I believe the range of ages may span about 30 years.  Our life experiences, backgrounds and interests are all over the map and that is partially what makes going out to lunch together so interesting and fun.

The newlywed will be celebrating the Chinese New Year this weekend with her inlaws.  They will be staying at her house, preparing and eating traditional foods and perhaps a shopping excursion or two.  She has a warm smile, easy laugh and sincerity that radiates from within.  For her, the Devil's Pork Chops.

My vegetarian friend also works a part-time job on Saturday and will look forward to a day of rest on Sunday.  She shares her home with a husband and three beloved kitties.  She is a woman with no time for BS, has a wicked sense of humor and outstanding with comedy movie quotes, is impatient with women who depend on men and if you are looking for an honest opinion, she will give it to you.  However, she will not intrude nor try to impose her thoughts on others unsolicited.  The quesadilias prima vera (or veggie quesadilias) are her request.

Going through some turbulent times, this woman also finds joy in volunteering, giving back, the beach, butterflies and her senior kitty.  She is compassionate and a true people person with a love of the shrimp quesadilias.

Me?  Well, I love food, my sons, the Mr. and my family.  I miss the beach terribly and was worried when my emotional yellow Lab, Maddy, recently had some stomach issues which seem to have passed.  I love to play loud music while I clean my house which sometimes turns into a full blown concert/dance event instead.  Today, soft steak tacos.

Life is a buffet - though sometimes we take what we want and sometimes we are served some "icky" things.  We need those VIP's to help get us through and keep us feeling Fed Well.