Monday, December 29, 2008

Iron Chef: what is myth, passion + tomatoes

amuse bouche ~ playfully taut shot of freshly puréed tomatoes, watermelon topped with a layer of pop rocks.......artistry of Chef Erika Davis of Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Catching up with my 2008 posts!

This past summer I had the opportunity to be on the panel of judges for a local Iron Chef competition hosted by Publix Aprons Cooking School and Shands Jacksonville for the annual Art & WineFest at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront.

First off ~ my apologies about the photography.

These were done by *ahem* a friend in between the evening's gourmet tastings + open bar, so you can well imagine.

Well, at least he was having a good time.

Alas, the photos are by unless otherwise noted.

Also, I have been having a serious problem with people borrowing my photos without asking (((sigh))). Please see copyright notice @ the sidebar and be nice.

So the secret ingredient of the evening?

from the left: Chef ?, Chef Tony Corrente, Chef Erika Davis, Chef Grace Glhan discover the secret ingredient......tomatoes

The annual event is hosted to benefit the UF & Shands Medical Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Jacksonville Florida. It's a community event that unites local chefs, restaurateurs, artists, collectors, the business + medical community as well as food enthusiasts.


I thought to share with you just a glimpse......

Chef Patrick Walley of Publix Aprons Cooking School overseeing the assembly........

for the babies: proceeds for the event benefit the babies in the UF & Shands Medical Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

toasty beginnings: an earthy bowl of tomato soup with potatoes, bacon and of course toppled with truffle oil

perfectly caramilzed scallops with chutney like tomato salsa served wtih blanched asparagus al denté to the bite

savory + sweet: grilled snapper lovingly takes bed with yellow heirloom tomatoes + topped with just a breath of microgreens

*Photo courtesy of Publix Aprons Cooking School
Chef Patrick Walley, Publix Aprons Cooking School

I met Chef Patrick a couple of years ago when I signed up for The Basics of Culinary at the cooking school. He definitely inspires his students to learn skills with great ease, fun and insight. Also to note, the local 'Iron Chef' competitions hosted by the cooking school have become his signature appeal which is a perfect example of how Chef Patrick is dedicated to building community + comradarie around the gourmet food culture. The cooking school also offers everythig from knife skills, dim sum, Italian cooking, regional cooking, kids camps and sushi making. They are also noted for having incredible celebrity guests as Top Chef's Tom Colicchio, Food Network's Michael Chiarello and the ever cool Chef Ming Tsai.

You can learn more about the cooking school here.

Also here's my interview with Chef Patrick Walley.

TM: What made you decide to become a chef?

CPW: Most chef's will claim that watching their mother, aunt or grandma magical whip up childhood treats in the kitchen is what spurred them into the crazy world of culinary. This is partly true for myself.....but I can pin point the moment that I just know that I had a connection with food. My senior year in high school in West Virginia. I needed to fill a class so I enrolled in home economics and that hand made cherry pie scored me a date with a very pretty girl. I found the power to lure women my way!! WOW. The rest is as they say, history.

TM: What was your first job in a professional kitchen?

CPW: Mostly every chef started as a dishwasher, or they should have. I to was a sud buster at a local chain steakhouse in my hometown. My true first pro chef job came when I had ran into C.M.C Michael Russell at a culinary salon in Morgantown West Virginia in 1985. I apprenticed under Chef Russell for 3 years at Travis Pointe Country Club in Ann Arbor MI. This experience at such an early stage of my career begin shape my view of what great food should be about.

TM: What experience was a turning point that formed your viewpoint as a chef today?

CPW: For years chef's have been talking about knowing where your product comes from. From 2003 to 2005, I was the executive chef at an upscale guest ranch in western Colorado where I sourced 95% of my products from local ranchers and farmers. Hand picking my eggs once a week, helping harvest local fruit and vegetable to be served to our guests that night to petting the goat that gave the milk to produce great unpasturized cheeses. Knowing the people that put their heart and soul into producing the highest quality product that the earth would allow them.

TM: Who do you admire and why?

CPW: I admire the individual who is willing to take a culinary risk and taste or cook something different. Everyone has the ability to change what they consume on a daily basis and I applaud and admire the people that go out of their way to try something different.

TM: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

CPW: I enjoy introducing someone to a product that they have not used before but may have walked past a hundred times and always wondered how to cook this product. I enjoy the fact that I am making a difference in someone's daily life by helping them expand their culinary repertoire and getting them out of the rut of cooking the same dishes with the same ingredients over an over again.

TM: What is one of your favorite meals.....ever?

CPW: A year or so ago I was in Charleston South Caroline visiting some friends and was invited to a oyster roast party. Every 20 minutes a fresh batch of steamed local oysters came spilling out onto a huge wooden table, where a group of 10-12 people would quickly devour the succulent bivalves quickly as possible. No white linen tablecloth, napkin, chair or snooty waiters; just impeccably fresh food.

TM: Well said.....*just impeccably fresh food*

Thursday, December 25, 2008

as sweet as can be: season of lights + memories

from our house to yours......

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas ~ Season of Lights ~ Happiness + Peace!
I wanted to share this vintage spot from Coca~Cola which I think aired back in 1971. I recall watching this when I was little and to this day it brings back insightful taste memories of the late sixties and early seventies. There was so much going on during that time socially + culturally. Coca~Cola came out with a later version of the same commercial in the mid-eighties and it just didn't have the same feel.

Here's the original version from 1971.

Wishing you blessings, p e a c e + prosperity ~

Monday, December 22, 2008

the importance of being: The Present Moment Cafe

fresh pecan-apple cobbler with dairy-free house made ice creme

Dessert first?

No, although I do like the concept.

I recently made several trips to one of my favorite restaurants The Present Moment Cafe in St. Augustine Florida.

The restaurant features organic, raw, live + vegan cuisine. Their slogan of excellence: Fresh Organic Living Food Made With Love & Gratitude

I just love that!

simple beginnings: pot of fresh mint leaf tea, cucumber infused water and Samuel Adams......

Middle East Peace Hummus: light + fluffy, no beans, "no mean hummus is blended with cashews and topped with mint oil and tahini sauces.....served with fresh veggies and FRESH corn chips" ~ excerpt from The Present Moment Cafe menu

The creamy hummus always arrives with an array of dehydrated crisp and crunchy house made corn chips.

I am completely addicted to them as they are sweet, savory and enticing.

The chips are made with finely ground golden flax seeds, almonds, fresh corn, yellow bell peppers, onion powder, cumin seeds, oregano + Himalayan pink salt. Thus spread onto flat trays and dehydrated to crispness.

The use of conventional heating elements such as a stove, grill or oven are obsolete here. It's the art of raw food preparation which relies much on the marinating process to 'cook' down the natural elements of vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits without losing the nutritional healing properties.

Don't fear, as I grew up an ardent meat eater, gourmand and still consider myself a slight food snob. Okay, serious food snob.....the dishes are delicious, intriguing and you will NOT leave hungry. That always seems to be the fear for those entering here without knowing....will I still be hungry?

No, and the best thing about it is you'll leave feeling fantastic.

vegetable sushi maki roll made with ground fresh parsnip root with shiitake mushrooms, bell peppers, herbs, carrots + avocado rolled in nori and served with wasabi aioli + namu shoyu dipping sauce.

I make this at home often. I like to make my *sushi rice* with ground parsnips, fresh + raw ground almonds and a bit o' ginger.

You can see my raw maki sushi roll here.

Too answer your question: YES it tastes like a sushi vegetable roll!

coconut wrap samosa filled with curried veggies + lentils with a creamy cashew nut creme drizzle on a bed of fresh spinach leaves.....

Fresh young coconut meat is ground to a pasty consistency and spread on flat pans then dehydrated to form these lovely samosa wraps that are crisp + tender to the bite.

The dining room itself beholds for creativity, ease, tranquility + lotsa fun......

pad thai noodles - savory, crunchy, slightly spicy + sweet with glass noodles made out of fresh sea kelp......Is this getting too weird?

Upon visiting The Present Moment, you will want to note the menu does change with the they must be ~ in the present moment.

*Me, TasteMemory and Jenn, The Left Over Queen just being girls + foodies.....*

Isn't Jenn cute? She is the sweetest thing too. She wrote a lovely post on our visit with her usual intrinsic + passion fitted detail.

If you haven't already, you must visit her blog and read about it

And mind you ~ she's the real deal (exquisite food writer that is)....did not even see her flick out a pen + pad during the dinner! Now that's expertise + taste memory!

flourless pure cacao truffle with cashew nut ice cream

Imagine chocolate in its purest form.

Imagine food in its purest form.

The Present Moment Cafe

*this photo courtesy of The Left Over Queen

Monday, December 15, 2008

yellow curry with pumpkin: savory spun thoughts over rice alongside taste memories

like stone soup: little bit of pumpkin.......

little bit of asparagus......

little bit of spinach........shredded just so

simmered to slightly sweet savory spicy perfection

This is one of my favorite seasonal dishes to make for the family. I like to make a vegetarian version as well, but opted to make this version to blog about since it's a definite crowd pleaser. I often times cook with organic preferably free-range chicken. The meat is more tender + tastier. I pre-marinate tender bite size trimmed chicken breast meat with a little bit of yellow curry powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, olive oil and a touch of agave nectar to bring the flavor forward.

Cover + chill in the refrigerator for three hours or overnight will do.

adding coconut butter + coconut milk adds another dimension to this dish......

The fresh pumpkin wedges are simmered slowly in a heavy saucepan with minced garlic, olive oil, extra virgin coconut butter, fresh ginger root, coconut milk, garam masala and freshly ground black pepper.

Simmered and stirred on occasion to avoid scalding the curry concoction developing.....

comfort and delight in every bite

Stir in the marinated chicken.

Add dried chiles, curry powder, chili garlic sauce, touch of fish sauce, water to smoothe and asparagus.

Fast simmer . stir . reduce to low simmer . stir on occasion . saucepan to be simmering until chicken is cooked through just so yet still tender to the chew........

Fold in shredded spinach leaves, fresh basil + cilantro just prior serving with steamed Jasmine or Basmati rice.

homespun curry with asparagus, pumpkin, shredded spinach, organic well-tended chicken breasts + spiced to love

When I was little my mother used to make Japanese inspired yellow curry served over rice for the mid-week meal. Curry brings back taste memories of home.

Reflections of home include thoughts of nourishment, enclosure, growth, sense of community, peace, a place to take flight, a place to come back to and nourish again.......

This is a version using the abundance of pumpkins from this season. You can also add your own batch of favorite vegetables.....

As usual, am time sensitive here. I have FOUR posts I want upload before the end of 2008, including my visit with fellow food blogger Jenn at The Leftover Queen in St. Augustine recently. She wrote a lovely post about our recent visit together, you can read about here.

I plan to blog about my recent happenings + insight before the end of December ~ yikes!

With that said, I'll be right back.....

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

the abundance of giving thanks.....

fruits of our labor: new granite counter tops for this foodie

Well here it is.

Brand new granite counter tops.

The former was a Formica powder blue atrocity.

It took us awhile to pick out this design. What's amazes me about the beauty of granite is that it is not a man made design. So you can image me in the granite yard (yes a huge Flintstones like quarry with a variety of granite slabs) as I was overwhelmed with the natural beauty of granite.

I felt as if I were at The Louvre.

Each slab, quite exquisite.

For the new counter tops; I am ever so grateful!

pomegranate season: illuminated, jewels, vibrancy and the visual harvest

the morning cup: my le petit déjeuner cup reminds me of the *white shoulders* perfume bottle......wish one could forget the scent though

intermezzo toward winter

Day at the beach: Dad and I in Vung Tau, Vietnam during the war

Remembering Dad.

I was born is Seoul, Korea yet we moved rather swiftly to and through Vietnam during the mid-60's. This picture was taken when we lived in the coastal resort town of Vung Tau, Vietnam. Dad rented a French style villa not too far from this beach. This was during the war and just prior the deadly takeover that prompted us to leave. When I look at this picture it reminds me of how courageous Dad was. This was a difficult time for Korea's economic make a long story short, Dad was able to gain employment with the U.S. Army stationed in Saigon. Yes, he was a risk taker. Amazing to recall, his job had to do with managing services for food and beverages for the various U.S. Army barracks stationed throughout Vietnam. Another point in my food lineage!

A taste memory: I remember going to bed after eating homemade ice cream made with condensed milk and orange juice (the dreamsicle, 50/50 bar) while watching fighter jets go by. You can read more about it here and here.

This was a very strange, scary + sad time. Talk about fate and all things falling into place.......

Dad had friends in high places, we left swiftly left Vietnam through the central port city of Can Tho by way of army helicopter to Saigon, then somewhere in between a flight on a military cargo plane, then finally we boarded Pan Am to Hawaii to San Francisco.

My mom gave me Juicy Fruit gum to ease my nausea from all the traveling. To this day, I have mixed feelings about Juicy Fruit gum!

My father passed away six years ago, November 29th.

Remembering you Dad for your brilliance, sowing the seeds for a new life and most importantly finding ~


For this, I am so grateful.

biting into bliss: just like jewels from a crown

Pomegranate fruit is the perfect seasonal dichotomy. The abundance of these seeded capsules loaded with high vitamin juice content during the Autumn season of harvest is a peripheral reminder of more things to come.

What are you expecting as the new year beckons around?

Isn't amazing how much you have lived in this past year?

Do you already see what the new year is unfolding?

Of course, new taste memories revealed.

To American readers, blessings that you had an incredible Thanksgiving holiday!

Autumnal equinox + winter solstice bliss as well to everyone.

Also to many others welcoming in the new spring; a new found vibrancy.

Wishing you today + the days to follow an abundance of peace, good cheer + most of all.......