“Team Building Exercise 1999”

Team building exercises were something I was a part of often when I worked in the Bay Area. Not as much down here but that might be my marketing. I like team building exercises. They’re fun, exciting and rewarding; and getting work mates together outside of work is always a hoot. The last group I did was actually two years in a row. Not a third as they moved to Canada, but it was fun both times. The hosts were foodies so we did alot. It got crazy with 15 people in a medium kitchen :-o, but we it got done with smiles and laughter.

Appetizer cheese dish
Chicken wings of some awesome flavor
Lightly smoked fresh fish
Ceviche or shrimp cocktail
Ribeye with umami mushrooms
Curry sauce for naan
Grilled carbs–naan as mentioned, pizza, panzanella salad

Although they can get crazy and busy, my goal is always to keep everyone involved, engaged and eating a delicious meal at the end.

I remember one time we broke everyone into teams with a knife and cutting board. They got to choose ingredients from a big table and utilize anything else in the room. There was a sink, microwave and dishwasher. I got to taste all the entries and it was awesome. The winners used the dishwasher to steam some salmon :-)Grilled veggies that are not usually seen on the grill

I can’t not think of this when I say team building exercise.

 

 

Staying In Vacation Mode

Vacations can be crazy and tiring, especially if you’re coordinating people and especially if you have kids. Staying in “vacation mode” is real and important. Ever had the feeling you need a vacation after your vacation? That’s where I come in. You already rented a great house. Having me come in to cook a mind blowing dinner while you throw the kids in the pool and refill cocktails is a smart decision.
Let me paint a picture…vacation night 3 of 4. You’ve already done Legoland and the beach, but you spent this day at the zoo. You pull back to your rental around 3:30 and as you carry in the sleeping children, you realize you only have an hour or two to chill before you need to start getting everyone ready to go out for dinner. Feeling hungry, you attack some of the leftovers from the night before in the fridge. A cocktail sounds nice but you have to drive and wrangle the kids in a little bit, so you forgo. After showers getting ready and parking; you are 10 minutes late looking at your phone seeing a message from your mother in law wondering where you are. Dinner was some good, but mostly “just ok”. Full, you pile everyone back in the car just to come back home to have the kids still be hungry. Bummed you missed the sunset on your deck, you put the kids to bed, pour a glass of wine and finally exhale with your love.
Or…I arrive at your place and create a memorable and highly delicious dinner with apps and dessert, served at your leisure. You get to relax, relax with your kids, relax with your parents, relax with your love, relax in the pool, relax chatting up the chef whirling around your kitchen. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you to watch the sunset.

Desert Salad

New ingredients are the best Jerry…the best! Platforms for new textures and flavors beget new textures and flavors.  As soon as I pull in a new ingredient, old standbys become fresh fodder for new avenues.  Stumbled upon these barrel cactus fruits and whipped them into a “Desert Salad” that was high on interest and flavor. Along with the cactus, which I boiled in lightly salted water until tender then nipped the tops. I tossed in 4 different types of date, pickled radish and boiled peanuts; dressed with lime/peanut water vinaigrette.

 

Along with the cactus and dates, I lucked out on my first green peanuts, which has been on my mind. Boiled peanuts can easily become a new obsession, after all, I love beans and I love peanuts and I love simple. I boiled them with water, salt, sugar, toasted/charred dried red chile, vinegar, garlic and onion. So good and addictive. Unfortunately I didn’t make anymore at home as I underestimated green peanuts perishability.  I also wanted to touch on a trip I took to the Colorado river recently. On our way there we passed some gigantic date farms which plugged dates into my brain for a week before I came upon my salad dates; hense the “Desert Salad” theme.  The river also supplied some tasty treats.  The kids fished and  pulled in some little Blue Gills.  The next day we sauted up the little fillets and they where shockingly delicious…like whoa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Totality Or Bust!

Took a trip with my brother to Columbia, South Carolina for the eclipse.  Although traffic hindered us and we had limited time, good food and giggles were abound.

Our first stop for awesome was Dogfish Head in Arlington. I consider Dogfish in the argument for best brewery in the U.S.  A favorite of mine I rarely(if ever) get from a tap here out west.  I ordered  a flight and was instantly gratified that it met and exceeded expectation.  It was a kick to the head reminder of how much I enjoy great beer.
I flew into D.C because my brother lives there and our plan was to head to SC the next morning.  We did; with ibuprofen and itunes, we arrived at our shady, but “not as shady as we thought” motel outside Columbia..10 hours later.  After a good stretch and a text to my wife about the hole in our bathroom door, we surveyed our dinner choices and settled on Fuddruckers.  Mind you, we were beat, it was 9:00, and we were too far from downtown. We thought an easy, good burger was fine, just as long as they served beer.  After we walked in, I noticed a sign from across the street at another place we hadn’t seen.  “Indian & Mexican Food”.  I pointed it out to my bro and we b-lined it.  It was a good decision.  Although there was no noticeable Mexican, the Indian we had was great.  I got to introduce my brother to paneer, and their Chole Bature was on point.  Other highlights of the trip were my first boiled peanuts, and probably the best damn fried chicken I’ve ever had.  I was looking to see D.C a bit upon our return, but alas, another looooong traffic day put the kibosh on that idea.

Not only will I be boiling peanuts and frying chicken in the near future, I’m looking forward to utilizing the boiled peanut into my cuisine.  Boiling peanuts takes them back to their legume roots as they become soft and absorb whatever flavor they are cooked in. The ones I had were probably over cooked as they were very soft, as was the shell.  We chewed up the whole thing and spit out the fiber, it was glorious.  I had a vision of a Carolina tostada that will soon be realized.

 

 

 

Peruvian Scallop Ceviche “Tacos”

This dish originated a month or so ago at a dinner party I did for a 50th birthday.   When I got in contact with Bryan from Whissel Realty a couple days later.  This delicious little creation was all I could think about.  It was a fun experience taping this episode of East County Eats, everyone was professional, flexible and upbeat.   Thank You Bryan, Kyle and Shasta and thank you for representing East County!

 

 

 

 

Seafood and Eat It

Had a lovely time cooking a 10 person dinner party the other night.  Seafood for a 50th birthday was requested;  I went a bit overboard on the seafood request…gigitty.

I was fired up to cook a few items this night.  Hooked some beautiful Opah abductor and Monchong at COP.  While the latter isn’t totally unknown, the flavor and texture is just melty love that will always get a look. The abductor is daunting because it looks like the fishy blood line on a tuna.  Instead, it’s like fish beef…or, the elusive land grazing cow fish, found herding through Mission Valley during flood season.  Totally badass and steaky with a meatier texture then tuna or swordfish.  I was excited about a few other things on this party as well.  The asparagus lettuce was rich, buttery and umami.  The bay scallops were my favorite.  I had a vision that I knew would crush, and it didn’t disappoint.  The combination had that balance and flavor blast that makes you totally weak in the knees.

Peeled and stuffed apricots/ fuji apple / parmesan / truffle 
Charred and buttered baby turnips
Thai pickled watermelon
Kalamata, feta and truffle duchess potato
Baby brussels with honey walnuts

Golden beet soup with chèvreberg / pistachios / roasted beet
Grilled Opah abductor with grilled tomato/ sauteed potobello / beef jus / soy/ sherry vin
Charred carrot and chile calamari  salad / feta / pickled white strawberries/ dill / huge lime supreme / strawberry dust
Ceviched baby scallops with corn chimichurri / avocado / crispy potato skin
Herb painted Monchong/ broiled broccolini / Japanese purple yam / asparagus lettuce / blood orange butter
Macerated strawberries / coconut tuile / mascarpone / egg caramel

Night out in North County

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I’ve always enjoyed talking to people at my cooking classes. Last year someone recommended Bellamy’s in Escondido. She also wanted me to try a strawberry cream cake that I have yet to do. Which reminds me of a poke cake I needed to try as well :-/ Aaaaanyway; she happened to write it down and it made its way under a fridge magnet. My wife ended up getting a gift certificate there for Christmas and we just now used it :-)
Lovely restaurant.  Offers all the standards I’d expect to keep the locals coming in with a smattering of interest and ingredient change out to keep it chic. Highlights were the beet ice cream, cod skin and oysters, (not one dish). I personally enjoyed the escargot (pictured), because I hadn’t had it in years; also, the “soil” was playful and appropriate.
Definitely worth a try and absolutely somewhere to go if you live in the area.

Big Parties, Small Parties…Whatever.

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Did a few cool parties around July 4th.  I had the pleasure of cooking for a proposal dinner…she said yes :-)  I also did two totally different parties for the same client.  They were in east county, which is great…cause so am I.  This busy couple decided for their much needed week off, to forgo travel rigamarole and relax at home for a staycation.  Friends, family, food and drinks in a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere; sounds lovely doesn’t it?  I had the pleasure of cooking an intimate dinner for them and their family (5 total).  I did my usual thing; 8+ courses of farm to table awesomeness.  The picture above was what I was working with.  The wild strawberries pictured below made an appearance as well and were a personal freak out moment for me.  As referenced in my last post, I had just returned from Youdapimp after experiencing my first wild strawberry.  Then, what do I find upon my arrival home?  A clamshell of wild strawberries at Specialty Produce’s farmers market cooler.  A whole friggin clam shell!  Got me gigitty for the party and it felt like finding gold.

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The night after that dinner, I cooked for his birthday bash.  40 people enjoying an abundance of fresh, locally farmed produce, served as a casual buffet.  Here was the menu for the big party.

Apps:
Roasted tomato, chevre and oregano baguette
Pickled turnip mini taco with avocado “salad”
Mango gorgonzola nachos

Dinner:
Grilled tri-tip
Carnitas
Basmati rice with toasted vermicelli and zaatar
Roasted cauliflower
Chile/garlic broccoli
Bacon and onion collard greens with almonds and hari cot vert
Big summer salad- romaine, water cress, herbs, cucumber, celery, carrot and red wine vinaigrette
Cherry cobbler with milk chocolate mousse

Family Vacation 2016

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Had a great family vacation recently. 35 other family members descended on the Idaho panhandle through various means of travel and it was fun from start to end.

What a bounty of life the Northwest is. Even hiking is mellow cause the ground is bouncy and spongy from all the fallen debris and rain. Keeps a bounce in your step while hiking. I crossed a few things off my bucket list and also crossed some off I didn’t even know were on that list. Like when we were foraging for huckleberries, I found my first wild strawberry. It was so damn cute and delicious. We had many fresh handfuls of huckleberries but on our last day, we were treated to huckleberry pancakes and waffles :-) I’m pretty sure huckleberries are not cultivated and only found in the wild…but I’ll have to Google that. Wow, I saw a skinned bear foot in the river, I saw a moose pretty close. Caught a fish with a lure for the first time. Caught and ate lake trout…which is more like salmon then what I know here in california as trout. Went mushroom hunting and found hedgehogs, chanterelles and shaggy manes…or I found their poisonous cousins…not sure cause I didn’t eat ’em. Not going to the northwest again without a couple good wild edibles books.  Also saw my boys reel in their first fish :-)  Camping is usually cool, but five days of cool is even better.


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Fun In The Southwest

IMG_1721Wife and I took a little mini vacation to Arizona.  Pit tickets to “The Boss” in Phoenix then up to Sedona for a couple days of hiking and no kids.  Sedona is known for having Energy Vortexes around specific areas that are supposed to bring the feels.  Although we did not feel anything this time, the landscape is breathtaking and the hiking is phenomenal.  After hiking almost 10 miles, we were looking forward to relaxing and seeing some live music in Jerome.  Jerome is a cool, old, haunted little mining town north of Cornville where we were staying.  As we were getting ready, I saw an add on the back of our canyon map for Puscifer the Store.   “I had forgotten about Maynards winery!” (read like a Cathy AACK!)

One of my all time bands is Tool.  The singer (Maynard), became a wine enthusiast and started making his own wine.  He sought out grapes suited to the dry Arizona climate and set up shop in Jerome under the name Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room.  Merkin is the more affordable offering but still very high quality.   We settled on the Chupacabra Rosa, which was outstanding.  The Caduceus wines were the most interesting wines I’ve ever had.  The first blew me away, the rest were…challenging.  If you can picture licking a Werewolf right before mornings first light.  A werewolf that’s been running, hunting and killing all night.  Funky hairy beast…although the wine merchants described it as sweaty man, it was just so different, and so perfectly Maynard, that the experience was the memory.

As we settled in with our Chupacabra, Primus is simmering over the speaker system and the ambiance takes over and settles our tired bodies, life is good.

As we were perusing the shop before leaving, I stumbledIMG_1725 upon a tiny little baggy of weird. This little baggy was $18 :-|  The merchants didn’t know much but they knew it was edible, so, of course I had to buy it.  After using the power of the Googlez, I read they are cactus buds.  An old school southwest food staple that hasn’t quite made it out of the region.  Labor intensive to harvest but nutritionally packed and mellow enough to flavor any way you see fit.  Once re-hydrated, they become texturally interesting chameleons. I threw ’em into a steak dish with mushrooms and sunchokes. Turned out great and got me excited about using them for parties this summer.