Archive for the ‘My Travels’ Category

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Still Full from Last Night

November 13, 2009

JBF Logo

What a meal!! Yesterday evening I attended the James Beard Foundation Gala Dinner and Auction. It was in New York at the legendary Four Seasons Restaurant on 52nd street. The Four Seasons just celebrated their 50th anniversary. It is, and always has been, the classiest place without being stuffy. It is very 50’s but at the same time it is timeless. I am surprised they haven’t filmed an episode of Mad Men there. The first time I went to The Four Seasons I was about 19 and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was my first New York City fine dining experience. I couldn’t believe one could have such a fine level of food and service. If you have never had the opportunity to see The Four Seasons, the next time you are in New York you have to go.  It is fabulous the restaurant has endured all these years both in terms of food and décor. It is memorable just to have drinks at the bar if you can’t go for lunch or dinner.

It was fitting to have the Beard Foundation dinner there as James Beard was a consultant in its early days. The auction is the annual fundraiser for The James Beard Foundation. There is a silent auction and a live auction. I was “auctioned off” with my friend Michael Lomonaco, the chef and co-owner of Porterhouse at The Time Warner Center. I am going to give a hands on baking class for 6 people at the Beard House and Michael will cook a steak dinner with all the trimmings for 12 afterwards. It’s a perfect combination. After all that sugar you crave a big piece of prime meat! And if it is cooked by Michael it will be perfection.

The evening was called The American Icons Dinner. Here’s the menu.

Reception Cocktails

Dale DeGroff

Flame of Love Martini -Absolut Vodka, Tio Pepe Fino Sherry, and Flamed Orange Peel
Absinthe #2 -Plymouth Gin, Pernod Ricard Absinthe, and Regan’s Orange Bitters
Irish Blond- Jameson, El Maestro Sierra Oloroso Sherry, Lustau Pedro Ximénez, and Angostura Bitters
Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Brut NV
Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, and Leffe Blonde

Hors d’oeuvres

Fabio Trabocchi, The Four Seasons Restaurant, NYC

Otoro with Fennel Pollen
Kumamoto Oysters with Cauliflower and Lobster Aspic
Parsnip Cappuccino with Périgord Black Truffles

Foie Gras Sandwiches on Pain d’Epice
Nantucket Bay Scallops with Parsley and Piment d’Espelette

Dinner

Dan Barber- Blue Hill, NYC and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Pocantico Hills, NY
This Morning’s Farm Egg
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Larry Forgione-  An American Place, Saint Louis, MO, & Monkey Bar, NYC
Butter-Poached Maine Lobster with White Asparagus, Fresh Hearts of Palm, and Roasted Parsnips
Heitz Cellar Chardonnay 2007

Alfred Portale-Gotham Bar & Grill– NYC
Braised Artichoke Ravioli with Shaved Black Truffle, Wild Mushroom Broth, and Pecorino Romano
Oakville Ranch Vineyards Robert’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2005

Charlie Palmer and Christopher Lee- Aureole, NYC
Niman Ranch Pork Loin with Pork Belly Cannelloni, Mostarda, Brussels Sprouts, Pickled Mustard Seeds, and Tarragon
Staglin Family Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Gale Gand-Tru, Chicago
Butterscotch Pudding with Molasses Crisps and Black Pepper Whipped Cream
Beringer Vineyards Nightingale 2005

Breads provided by Amy Scherber of Amy’s Bread, NYC

The chefs are individuals who have each made amazing contributions to American cuisine. Each course was as good as the last. Thankfully, Amy supplied her delicious bread so I could soak up every bit of sauce on every dish. Since you weren’t able to enjoy the chefs’ food last night take my word for it that these are exceptional chefs and visit them at their restaurants.

Last night The James Beard Association was selling raffle tickets for a trip to Mardi Gras in New Orleans hosted by Dickie and Leslie Brennan.

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Whoever wins will get a VIP Mardi Gras experience plus you will get to hang out with Dickie and Leslie, two of the finest and most fun people I know. Check out the website for more details. Tickets are on sale until November 30th.

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Where the Girls Were

September 18, 2009

fortune waterbar sign

I just got back from Fortune Magazine’s Most Powerful Women’s Summit near San Diego. I and 4 other lucky female chefs were asked to cook one of the dinners at the conference. It was a blast!

The meal we cooked was organized in my favorite way to serve large crowds. All the chefs had full kitchens set up around the perimeter of the garden at the Four Seasons Hotel. The tables were in the middle and the 350 guests came to each of our stations to pick up their food.

Since I was the only pastry chef of course I had to do two desserts. (It was too hard to pick between chocolate and fruit so I did one of each.) I made the servings small so the women (and some men) could have one of each. I prepared Brown Butter Crepes with Raspberries, Vanilla Ice Cream and Orange Beurre Blanc and Chocolate Brownie Cakes with Caramel Sauce, Chantilly Cream and Candied Almonds.

The savory chefs and their food were as follows:

Anne Burrell, chef and TV Food Network, a Vegetarian dish with Farro.

Alexandra Guarnaschelli, chef at Butter restaurant in NYC and who also has a show just about to debut on the Food Network, Sautéed Shrimp with Crispy Rice.

Cindy Pawlcyn, chef owner of Mustards, Go Fish, and Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen all in Napa, Halibut with Red and Yellow Pepper Piperade.

Suzanne Tracht, chef and owner of Jar in Los Angles, grilled humongous pieces of Rib eye, thinly sliced them and served it with Horseradish Cream and Green Beans.

All their food was incredible. These women can cook!

The event was special on two levels. It was cool to be serving so many intelligent savvy women but also as chefs we got to hang out and cook together. We each spend most of the time in our own kitchens and don’t often have the opportunity to get out. We have all heard of each other and have eaten each other’s food but to do a dinner like this is a unique and fun experience. It is very motivating and I came back home inspired to create new desserts.

Here’s a picture of me with, Cindy Pawlcyn, Theresa, the pastry chef at Waterbar, and Noreen Morioka, an AMAZING graphic designer from Los Angeles. She came along for moral support and to help us all plate our food. If she ever wants to switch careers I would hire her in a minute.

Cindy, Theresa, Emily and Noreen

P.S. Don’t forget the ice cream sandwich sweepstakes is going on until the end of October. See last week’s blog for details.

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Pastry Pen Pals

August 28, 2009

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A couple of years ago I got a note from a woman who was in pastry school in Florence. I was intrigued as her card was hand drawn and very artistic, not your average pen and paper. She asked for some advice on pastry schools and the business in general. I wrote her back and gave her some ideas. Time went by and the next time she wrote me she was at The Cordon Bleu in Paris. Later she wrote she came back to The States and worked at a B&B in Maine. After that we lost touch.

Last month I was doing a book signing at my good friend Anne Sadow’s shop, FLORA, in South Dartmouth, MA. She told me the pastry chef from Gracie’s Restaurant in Providence, RI was coming. Always interested in meeting fellow pastry chefs I was looking forward to it. When she arrived, I discovered it was Susan Vandenberg, my pastry pen pal from Italy, France and Maine. What a small world!

So of course I had to go to Gracie’s for dessert and dinner. Want an amazing meal we had. I went with Anne and Richard from Flora. As soon as we opened the menu we wished we were part of a bigger group so we could order more dishes. Everything sounded delicious. For first courses Joseph Hafner, the chef and owner, and his kitchen team made us corn soup with crab rangoon agnolotti. (Anter, the general manager, told us that the corn soup is a special summer dish but even in the height of corn season it isn’t always on the menu. Although the corn is grown just outside Providence and is picked daily the flavor can vary. If it doesn’t have just the right flavor the soup is not offered that night.) We also had some house-made gnocchi that melted in your mouth, just like Italy. We all have had our fair share of heavy gnocchi but these were perfect. We also had a summer vegetable hash served with smoked pork and a slow poached egg. After eating it I wanted to sleep there so I could have it for breakfast.

Our main courses were equally as amazing. Local skate with braised rapini, fried capers, white beans and a brown butter buerre blanc and Colorado Lamb Rack with artichokes bariagoule, summer vegetable couscous, tabouli salad and romesco sauce.

All this wonderful savory food whetted our appetite for Susan’s dessert creations. Here’s the amazing array of sweets she sent out.

gracie's desserts 

My first bite was a little fudgesicle square that far surpassed the bars you get in the grocery store. As much as I loved those as a kid Susan has now spoiled me. A “milkshake tart” had a chocolate crust with a milk chocolate ganache center and small pieces of brownie inside. Three different flavors and textures of chocolate. Need I say more? A mango cream with fruit and a baked ricotta custard were light and delightful. A small plum cake with an almond crust and streusel would be great any time of day.

When they brought a tray of mignardises with the check I thought I couldn’t eat any more. Sure glad I did. The chocolate macaroons were light and chewy and as I write this I wish I had one to nibble on. I may have to go work for her to get the recipe. The raspberry paté au fruit burst with flavor.

I feel so fortunate that Susan corresponded several years ago and that we ended up meeting (and eating).

Here’s Susan’s recipe for her fudgesicle squares.

Susan’s Fudgesicle Squares

4 oz best quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use Valrhona 70%)

4 cups heavy cream

pinch of salt

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Place the cream and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, then pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot chocolate cream and place all back in the saucepan.

Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, but don’t bring to a boil.

Strain into a clean bowl, place over an ice bath and whisk occasionally until cooled. Put the custard, with plastic wrap directly on the surface, in the frig over night where it thickens even further.

Pour the cooled chocolate cream into flexi-molds and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.  Pop out of the molds and serve with chocolate sauce, candied nuts, chocolate streusel or whatever accompaniment strikes your fancy.

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Ice Cream in Summer

July 9, 2009

ice cream machine

Earlier today I sat down to write about ice cream for this week’s blog entry. No sooner had I downloaded the picture of my trusty White Mountain ice cream machine when I heard a knock on the door. There stood my neighbors, Kia and Christy, with a pint of candied ginger ice cream from Gray’s Ice Cream in Tiverton, Rhode Island. (No, they did not have to drive it across the country to my home in San Francisco. I am staying near the Rhode Island/ Massachusetts border for a few weeks to test recipes for my latest book.) I saw the Gray’s logo and practically grabbed it out of their hands. Not only is Gray’s my favorite ice cream- candied ginger is at the top of my list. Since they had travelled 25 minutes over country roads to get it to me, it had half melted into a thick milkshake consistency. I was in heaven. Good thing no one else was home so I didn’t have to share it.

In summer the question isn’t whether or not one should eat ice cream but what flavor you want to have. I ‘m not talking about ice cream you buy in the freezer section of the grocery store, that you can get all year. Thes long days and warm nights should be reserved for homemade ice cream or going to a creamery where the ice cream is made right there. For me part of the fun is standing in line wondering what I will order. Will I get my usual mocha chip-candied ginger double decker or will I branch out and get black raspberry? I never know until I get to the front of the line.

I love to make ice cream using summer’s incredible fruits. Peach and strawberry are amazing. Serve blueberry pie or nectarine raspberry crisp with homemade vanilla ice cream and you are guaranteed people will be licking their plates.

You probably won’t be surprised to learn I own three different types of ice cream machines. I have the KitchenAid and Cusinart versions with the pre-frozen insert for small batches and one with a built in freon unit for when I have to test lots of ice cream recipes. My party machine is the White Mountain pictured above.

In summer when I have a crowd to feed I make the ice cream base in the morning and refrigerate it until about 6:00 in the evening. While we are relaxing with a glass of wine or cocktail and waiting for the wood oven to heat up to cook dinner, I spin the ice cream. Hearing the motor churn is the perfect way to wet our appetites for what is soon to come. Once the ice cream is frozen, I put the metal canister in the freezer. (When I remove the dasher all of a sudden I have a lot of people leaning over my shoulder trying to scrape it clean.) Come dessert time I put the canister in the center of the table. I hand the scoop to whoever has helped the most with getting dinner together and he or she gets to go first.

For some delicious ice cream recipes go to my website www.emilyluchetti.com.