A Different Kind of Stadium

Dream Team Photo

Dream Team Photo

It was dark outside when we woke up, but I’m used to that. I’m definitely an early bird and I love the mornings, but today I awoke with the feelings of someone who had stayed up late last night. To tell you the truth, one thought and one thought only occupied my head: I don’t want to get out of bed! Nevertheless, I got up, packed my bag, and jumped in the car, excited for the day ahead of me. I couldn’t wait to see the stadium and the stars, to eat, and to write. This would be spectacular.

But today, we were not tailgating at the Rose Bowl or the Coliseum. This was a different kind of stadium… what I might call a “food stadium”. The first annual All Star Chefs Classic was hosted on Sunday, March 23, from noon to 2:30 at the new “Restaurant Stadium” at LA Live, and both local chefs and nation-wide foodies came to cook at an event not to be challenged.

The All Star Chefs Classic

The All Star Chefs Classic

A bar lit up the center of the large room, and around it sat tables surrounded by ten food booths. At each station, one fantastic chef or another would whip up an amazing sample, and you would be able to try it without a wait. The decor was classy and prestigious, and it made me nervous even to be in this foodie’s paradise. At the same time, however, it was almost laid-back and an awesome DJ kept us all on our toes.  Everyone was trying to balance a plate, a cup, and a camera, and yet I didn’t feel that it was touristy at all.  You were close to the chefs, but there weren’t too many people and we never had to wait more than two minutes for anything. Oh, here I go. I won’t be able to find anything wrong with an event featuring spectacular food AND Han Solo’s grandson.

Chef David LeFevre and His Creation

Chef David LeFevre and His Creation

First up, Chef David LeFevre. If you’ve followed my blog site before, you’ll recognize him as the genius behind the restaurant I spent my eleventh birthday at: MB Post. (http://www.southbayfood.com/?p=1795).  At his booth, creamy mashed potatoes were complimented by grilled asparagus, speck, mushrooms, and a delicious potato puree on top. It was adorned by crispy leeks, and I wouldn’t have changed anything about it. The flavors melded together perfectly but were still distinct in the best ways, and each thought back to it made my mouth water for more. Overall, it was an astounding first dish and I was extremely happy with Chef LeFevre’s creation.

 

Then, we slid over next door to Chef Vinny Dotolo’s station, where beef tendon with kolrabi salad was being presented. The beef tendon had a really nice texture, and it was soft but chewy. A perfect amount of what seemed to be a peanut sauce was drizzled over the top, and it was subtle but noticeable and definitely sweet. Overall, it might not have been my favorite dish of the night, but it was extremely impressive nonetheless.

By Wylie Dufresne

By Wylie Dufresne

Next, we walked to Chef Wylie Dufresne’s booth, which revealed a creative new idea: edamame gazpacho. I loved the textures with the milky gazpacho and the crunchy chunks to top it off. It tasted fresh and you could tell that a lot of effort was put into the making of it.

 

 

Lamb Sweetbreads, there's nothing better

Lamb Sweetbreads, there’s nothing better

Chef Alex Seidel’s dish blew me away. It was lamb sweetbread confit (otherwise known as lamb organs :)) but it was fantastic! The lamb had a beautiful texture and a great flavor, and it was overall very impressive. I’m so glad I got the chance to meet him, because this was the spectacular outcome of the work of a man who knows what he’s doing. The dish had an amazing “mushroom marmalade” and the mushrooms paired outstandingly with the creamy sheep’s milk ricotta. Also, Chef Seidel let us try his cheese, which was aged for two years in his home of Denver. Overall, Chef Seidel came and left us all awaiting the next time he can come to LA to cook us some more of his delicious food.

Let’s travel over to Chef David Myers’ dish: tuna with sesame tofu and a kumquat fava bean salad. Chef Myers prepared this cool dish for us in the booth right next to Chef David LeFevre’s. Although I didn’t enjoy the tofu very much, that’s probably just because I’ve been a carnivore since birth. The kumquat fava bean salad was strongly flavored and very citrusy, but in the best way because it was a great match with the tuna. I’m glad that Chef Myers included it. The tuna was the bomb; pink, silky, and impeccably prepared. I can’t say I’ve ever had such perfected,  melt-in-your-mouth tuna, and I only have one thing to say to that… yum.

Chef Ben Ford

Chef Ben Ford

Scrumptious Sea Bass Crudo

Scrumptious Sea Bass Crudo

And guess who I met next? One of the friendliest chefs ever, good in the kitchen, and he has a famous history. Chef Ben Ford, son of Harrison Ford and father of Indiana Jones’ grandson, happens to be madly talented, as I figured out as I practically inhaled my serving of sea bass crudo. The fish itself was smooth and tasty and it disintegrated in my mouth with a lingering taste of lime. The chilies on top added a nice spicy kick at the end and the avocado, which was also enriched by citrus, I think, was fantastic paired with the sea bass. It just overall showed a great knowledge of food and I’m really glad Chef Ford made it. I also got to see his son, an adorable little blond boy that seemed to be all smiles. (The Force is strong with that one.)

Chef Josiah Citrin: A Legend

Chef Josiah Citrin: A Legend

A legend held up the next station with a focused expression and hardworking hands. I could tell that Chef Josiah Citrin took his job seriously, and it definitely paid off. The wild monkfish cheek reminded me a bit of scallops, and monkfish might be known as the “poor man’s lobster”, but this was anything but insufficient. I hadn’t tried very much monkfish before this event, but I really enjoyed it and I look forward to trying it again soon. Though I didn’t know exactly how it was supposed to be cooked, I thought that it tasted great. The fish wasn’t too tough but it wouldn’t fall apart, with a great texture, and the herbs, like fennel, paired nicely with the monkfish. I was very happy with what I tried from Chef Josiah Citrin’s booth and I hope to eat more of his food soon!

My mother’s dentist, local foodie Dr. Gary Warburton, had suggested this event to us in the first place, and all throughout it, we had stopped around to talk to him and his wife Terry. What was really cool was that he knew a lot of the chefs, so I met a lot of them and I was so thankful that Dr. Warburton included us. Thank you!

Chef Ludo!

Chef Ludo!

I also met Chef Ludo Lefebvre, the famous chef who stars in TV show “Ludo Bites”. And although his persona on TV is definitely intimidating, he was really patient and friendly in person and I am very grateful for him for letting me waste his time. 🙂

Dr. Warburton, Chef David LeFevre, and a few others were having a conversation as we walked up. Chef LeFevre raved about the event, its great kitchens, its reserved parking, and just its atmosphere in general. It was nice to know that not only did the guests love the event, but the chefs enjoyed it as well.

 

Chef Elliot:  Salad Pro

Chef Elliot: Salad Pro

After a quick break, my dad and I returned back to our food

Deconstruction Site

Deconstruction Site

sampling. Next up was Chef Graham Elliot’s twist on a classic Cesear salad, otherwise known as his “deconstructed Cesear salad”. It was a lettuce wedge with a fantastic crunch and doused in crumbled parmesan cheese. On the side came a crispy toasted bread slice with a white dollop of soft spread on top, which was almost buttery, and I’m not sure exactly what it was but it was addictive. It was a fresh spin on a classic dish, I really enjoyed it, and I was very glad to try it. Nice job, Chef Elliot!

Pork Belly Not To Be Forgotten

Pork Belly Not To Be Forgotten

Two words could be used to describe this next station, and that’s all you need to know that it was a positive review: PORK. BELLY. The cardamom brined meat had a great texture and really stood out for its creativity with spices and flavors. A creamy coconut asparagus veloute topped it off and the flavors matched each other very well. I enjoyed this dish, and I thought that it was a great way to prepare pork belly.

 

Chef Silverton and Me

Chef Silverton and Me

Lastly, Chef Nancy Silverton’s booth stood next door with a black sign sporting kale salad. Being a meat-lover, I thought I would be disappointed to end on this, but boy was I wrong! The kale salad was served with ricotta salata, pine nuts, and an anchovy on top, and although I was not a fan of the anchovy, the nuts and cheese went well together and the kale was perfection. In all, it was a great way to end the event and the salad definitely left you craving more.

In all, this amazing culinary event was a great way to spend my Sunday, and not only was the food delicious, but the chefs were friendly, welcoming, and, above all, inspiring. I have been slow to post recently because I’ve been very busy and I had been putting other activities before this (mainly soccer). This spectacular day reminded me how important it is to continue my blog and put in that extra effort, and I am so glad that I got to experience such an extraordinary event.

Thank you especially to Gary Warburton for encouraging me, showing us around, and keeping us laughing all day. Also, thank you so much to the chefs that I met: Ben Ford, Josiah Citrin, David LeFevre, Nancy Silverton, Wylie Dufresne, Alex Seidel, Graham Elliot, and Jennifer Jasinski. They were all so inspiring, kind, and, of course, spectacularly talented!

And, last of all, thank you Dad for a memorable opportunity and an experience I will never forget.

Fried Lobster at FISHBAR–The Debut of the Classy Take on a Well-Known Dish

Fried Lobsters and Waffles!

Fried Lobsters and Waffles!

Our server smiled.  “I haven’t seen you in a while,” she greeted us.

“You are so popular now… We find lines here every night!” my mom replied. It’s true; FISHBAR is now a favorite in the South Bay. And it should be! Chef Jessica Jordan’s creative ideas for new dishes, drinks, and creations are always loved and flavorful.

I discussed this morning’s debut dish with Chef Jordan, and we talked about different ways to incorporate lobster into classic dishes and desserts. She’s inspirational and impressive, and I was so lucky to interview her a little while ago: http://www.southbayfood.com/?p=1725

October 26 was the debut of FISHBAR’S new “Fried Lobster and Waffles”. At first, I was reluctant to try this new dish, because I have never even had Roscoe’s Famous Chicken and Waffles. But I am glad I gave this a chance, because I was pleasantly surprised by this twist on a classic. Fresh, delectable lobster, enveloped in a light beer-batter, crowns a crisp, fluffy waffle. The huge chunks of lobster were best drizzled with Tabasco hot sauce and dipped in maple syrup.

I was extremely impressed with this dish, but who knows how long this will remain on the menu? So get it fast! This is a delicacy not to be looked over.

 

An Unbeatable Breakfast

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

One crucial concept you must know to cook:  “Mise en place,” a useful phrase meaning “everything in place or set up.” Every chef who excels must know how to set up, and how to clean up.

Remind yourself of “mise en place” every time before you cook.  Why use this important phrase?  Later, you will not be running all over the kitchen in order to find what you need.  Second, you will make sure you actually have every ingredient before cooking.  Running out of stock when you are creating a dish would never be a good thing.  So, I suggest that you use “miss en place” whenever you are in the kitchen.

*******

Sharing My Ideas With the World

Sharing My Ideas With the World

This morning, I decided to make Mini-German Pancakes for our family breakfast.  I thought it would be nice to make breakfast without any help, so no one else would have to work for a delicious breakfast.  (Dad sat this one out!)  German pancakes are “a mildly sweet pancake, oven-cooked in a skillet until brown and puffy.”  I personally prefer them with fresh fruit or a good-quality fruit syrup, like our unique Blackberry Patch “Whole Blackberry Syrup” or “Peach Cobbler Syrup” from Belgian Waffle Works in Lake Arrowhead.  I enjoy these delicacies with my dad’s tasty sauteed cinnamon apples.  So, let’s see what’s on our menu today …

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Mise En Place

Mise En Place

Step 1:  “Mise en Place.”

  1. First, lay out your recipe (ours being Bobby Flay’s Mini-German Pancake recipe) in your workspace.  Also, read through your recipe carefully to make sure you have the ingredients, the right quantity, and it is in your time range.
  2. Second, preheat the oven.  For this recipe, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Next, once you are positive you are capable of cooking the dish, lay out all of the ingredients, including refrigerated items.
  4. In addition, get yourself ready:  Get your hair out of the way, roll up your sleeves, and make sure to wash your hands.  Now, you are ready.

Step 2:  Follow your recipe.

Blending it Up

Blending it Up

Bobby Flay’s Mini-German Pancakes

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 heaping tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we used Mexican vanilla and we might have put a bit too much — totally on accident!)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest (we did not include orange zest, but feel free to try it and comment about how it works out)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (we used Trader Joe’s Pink Himalayan Salt)
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar to sprinkle

Directions:

  1. Pour O Pour the Pancake Batter

    Pour O Pour the Pancake Batter

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Blend eggs in a blender until smooth and frothy.
  3. Then add milk, sugar, vanilla, and zest (optional).  Blend again to smooth.
  4. Add the flour, butter, and salt, and blend for about one minute.
  5. Spray muffin tins well with nonstick cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into each muffin tin, filling about three-quarters full.
  7. Bake until golden and puffy on top, about 15 minutes.
  8. Remove and let sit on baking rack or stovetop for a few minutes.
  9. Remove the individual pancakes to a platter.
Bon Appetit!

Bon Appetit!

Serve with syrups, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. Enjoy!  I personally make a deep cut into my German pancake and let all of my syrups pour out.  While I am eating, I dip pieces of my pancake into the dripping syrup.

 

 

Heaven

Heaven

Notice:  Beware!  Almost immediately after these delights are taken from the warm oven, they start to collapse.  Eat them quickly and enjoy every last bite, because they are not transportable.

Overall, I had a blast making our Mini-German Pancakes!!  I think everyone else enjoyed eating them as much as I did.  Tabitha and I each ate five! Unfortunately, Mom was out, so she could not try our dish, so that meant more for us!  It was certainly a great feeling to call Tabitha down for breakfast and tell her that I made German pancakes.  She said “Thank You” so nicely!

Thank you, Bobby Flay, Tabs, and Dad!  See you next time at Southbayfood.com!

How Does This Birthday Dinner Sound to You?

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.”  -James Beard

Just Getting Started

On January 21, my 11th birthday, I decided to go to MB Post for dinner.  As my early readers remember, I toured this restaurant at cooking camp, and I have been inspired to eat there ever since.  There was only one way to make it better, and it happened:  My grandma flew out to our house and surprised me on my birthday!  So, she joined my friend Angie, Dad and I on my birthday dinner experience.

MB Post is a unique restaurant in many ways, including seasonal harvest changes to the menu, the chef’s instinct of the day, and its family-style seating.  But something that stood out to me was the one-of-a-kind decor.  The entire restaurant is themed like a post office, because that is what MB Post’s building used to hold.

I think it is important to write about MB Post because it is “all the hype” in the South Bay right now.  As my dad said, “David LaFevre (MB Post’s chef) is practically a legend.”  So stay tuned for an extra special birthday post.  Let the culinary adventure begin…

*******

I walked into MB Post with high expectations.  I knew this place was great.  Legendary.  Unbelievable.  But what I didn’t know was that I would leave far more satisfied than I expected.

Thank You!

Our server hand-delivered an envelope addressed to us, containing the evening’s menu, which had “Happy Birthday” written across the top.  As we scanned through a menu like I have never seen before, they were already on my good side.  MB Post serves only small plates, so we could order many different dishes to try.

Yum, yum, yum!

 

 

First Parcel of the Night:  Bacon Biscuits.  I saw it on the menu and it screamed out my name!  Angie was with me – we just had to get them, so we did.  Our bacon biscuits were obviously concocted by an accomplished baker.  The biscuits were crunchy but flaky, melting but solid, with a perfect balance of all pastry textures.  The bacon was cooked to a crispy, dissolving state, and worked in unison with the crunchy dough to create what was probably the best biscuit I have ever had.

Heaven Times A Million

Next on the list was the Salumi Cutting Board.  A wooden cutting board supporting piles of cheese and cured meats, this was perhaps the most impressive selection of meats I have ever laid eyes on.  Cabacero, also known as “Literally The World’s Best Pork!”, was “literally” unbelievable.  Served like salami, it surprised me the way it was prepared, but I loved it anyway.  It was not too fatty, but was still moist and well-loved at our table.

We also ordered Speck on our Salumi Cutting Board, which was prepared with a little bit more fat than some other cured meats.  In my opinion, it truly tasted like heaven.  Cold and smooth, it melted in my mouth and brought immense joy to my taste buds.  I would definitely suggest the Speck — and the entire cutting board — from MB Post.

Also for our cutting board, I chose a delicious cheese called Challerhocker.  It was on verge of SHARP, but that is how I like it!  It wasn’t too firm, but it wasn’t creamy either.  I enjoyed it, and it was a good choice.  Also, on the side of the cutting board was a cup of pickled grapes and selection of luscious honey.  I wasn’t so sure about the pickled  grapes, but I tried them and fell in love.  I guess it was an acquired taste, one that I enjoyed though.  I was so sad when the cup was through, and I would suggest to you to try the pickled grapes if you order a cutting board.

The honey assortment was excellent.  There was chestnut honey, truffle honey, and honeycomb, and it ALL blew me away.  Who knew honey could be so darn delicious?

*******

Shrimp Starter

Next we drifted into the real dinner course.  We started by ordering Thai Marinated Shrimp Ceviche.  The shrimp were, unfortunately, lacking much flavor, but the acidity of the limes made up for most of that.  It was not the best ceviche I have ever had, but it was not bad either.  I cannot say I would order this item again, but I would not disapprove of it either.

Scrumptious Scallops

 

The Diver Scallops, on the other hand, were incredible.  The seared goodness was placed directly in front of me, as if they were intentionally meant to be.  The scallops had a perfect crust, and they were moist and well-seasoned.  I hate scallops that are seared to perfection, but tasteless or fishy inside.  This, however, was not the case at MB Post.  They were rather large, but I ate my share gladly.  The cabbage and bacon butter on the side were tasty and approved of.

Our Veggie Delight

Next, Romanesco took flight to our table, or “Broccoflower,” as they called it.  I practically shoveled it in my mouth, savoring each splendid bite.  The Broccoflower was perfectly cooked, well-seasoned, and about as good as veggies can get!  Yum, yum.  The Broccoflower definitely earned our stamp of approval!

 

Luscious Linguini

 

Then we had the sausage linguini.  it was delicious in every way possible, and the sausages’ kick flavored the entire concoction.  It was not unbelievable, but nonetheless enjoyable and always welcome in my stomach!

Ready for some mussels?  Angie and I ordered the steamed mussels, with green curry, Chinese sausage, and coriander rice.  They were perfectly cooked and the chef who created these obviously had some good taste and contrasting flavors.  The mussels were exceptional in combination with the bacon, and I would definitely order it again.

Saucy! Saucy!

Last for the dinner course were the pork ribs, smothered in a pungent mahogany sauce.  These were pretty good ribs, but could definitely be beaten.  I was not head-over-heels for this entree, but it was not bad.

********

NOW … for dessert!  We ordered panna cotta and “The Elvis”.   “The Elvis” is “a wonderful mess of chocolate pudding, peanut butter mousse, and bacon brittle,” as described on the menu.  It was wonderful, yet it was a bit too rich for me.  Me, can you believe it?!?  (Thank you to MB Post, for making this dessert their birthday present to me.)

Music in My Mouth

The chocolate pudding was like taking a bite out of heaven.  Just perfect.  But the heavenly chocolate, luscious thick peanut butter mousse, and crunchy bacon brittle were a little too much.  Individually, they were all amazing flavors, but together they overpowered each other.  Overall, it was a so-so dessert, but filled with spectacular flavors.

The panna cotta was really good.  It was the first time I had ever tried panna cotta.  The fruit was sweet, and the cream was a bit tart.  They matched together, and it was a unique flavor that my taste buds had not yet been introduced to.  When they finally met, my taste buds were pleased, but I don’t think they will be meeting again very soon.

Our Destination

Overall, my experience at MB Post was exceptional, fantastic, and very memorable.  Thank you so much to Angie, Dad, and Grandma for such a great night!

Go MB Post!

 

*******

MB Post

1142 Manhattan Avenue

Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Tel:  (310) 545-5405

www.eatmbpost.com

Twitter:  @eatMBPost

 

 

Chef Jessica Jordan, FISHBAR Manhattan Beach: Past, Present, and Future

As a kid, Jessica Jordan took after her mother, a chef, and learned to love the kitchen at a young age.  Growing up, Jessica decided that cooking was a dream she wanted to pursue.  After going to the Art Institute of Santa Monica for two years, Jessica had her culinary school diploma and she set out to find a place to work. After putting the weight of cake decorating on her shoulders for years, Jessica moved to North End, a seaside restaurant in Hermosa Beach.  She began by only doing Wednesday night dinners, but she eventually took charge of some Monday night tapas as well.  Soon, chefs and customers alike were following the talented, young chef like crazy!  Jessica Jordan was a star!  And she deserved it too!

A Restaurant Established!Meanwhile, a man bought a big bar on Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach.  He wanted to open a restaurant in the building, but he had no chefs.  Not surprisingly, the landlord heard about Jessica Jordan, so while he was thinking up hundreds of themes for his restaurant to be, he sent spies — watchful eyes, you might call them — to monitor Jessica’s incredible work like hawks.

Jessica knew the whole time that people were watching her and reporting to someone, but for what?  To who?  She didn’t know.  She just kept doing her best and pushing these visitors out of her mind.  A while later, the landlord walked up to her with a proposal.  He asked her to come be his Executive Chef!  After much thinking, Jessica took up his generous offer.

The landlord decided that FISHBAR was going to be in his building.  He wanted his bar/restaurant to be seafood-based!  And don’t get me wrong, Jessica loves seafood, but at first, everyone was a little shaky about the idea.  A fresh seafood place in an old Sharkeez building?  No one was sure, but Jessica came up with a menu anyway.  It consisted of not-too-pricey, but unbelievable dishes, and everyone’s thoughts were changed when business began.  People love FISHBAR, and soon lines were forming around the soon-to-be-famous restaurant.

**********

Chef Jessica JordanAs Jessica Jordan, Executive Chef of FISHBAR Manhattan Beach, told me her story, I listened with fascination.  I had never heard anything like that!  As I complimented Jessica on her phenomenal accomplishments, we started to get into her life now.  The same landlord that owns FISHBAR owns a place called Katella Deli in Orange County.  We talked about why she likes it there at FISHBAR and her favorite foods.  Her favorite dish at FISHBAR is her crispy fried chipotle calamari, and her favorite restaurants in the South Bay are Charlie’s in Redondo Beach and Gjelina’s in Venice.  She loves Mexican food and seafood.  We talked about other careers we would like to have.  Jessica told me: “Well, if I wasn’t a chef, I would be a food blogger.  It gives you the opportunity to eat, write, and travel.”

“I’d love to be a chef,” I told her, “but what I would also love to do is judge on a cooking reality show, like Food Network Challenge or Chopped.  I’d get to eat and compliment such good food,” I explained.  She nodded.

“Do you have any hobbies other than food blogging?” she questioned.

“I like to sing,” I told her with a smile.  She nodded again.

After I asked her pretty much every question I could think of, I thanked her for her time, and she drifted over to have lunch with the restaurant manager, Jacqueline Leanza.  “I’ll cook you up some of my favorite dishes.”  Soon afterward, crispy fried chipotle calamari was on the table.

An Amazing Suggestion“Yum!   I love that!  Maybe we will get crispy-fried calamari next time, instead of our usual sautéed calamari,”  I exclaimed to my mom.  She agreed.

“This is delicious, and so nice of Jessica,” Mom added.  Next, Jessica herself brought her sweet and sticky shrimp.  They were delicious beyond belief!  I’m telling you, Jessica Jordan is a chef you will want to check out.

I would like to thank Jessica Jordan for being so generous and giving her time to meet me!  We love FISHBAR, and I really enjoyed interviewing a chef like her!

 

FISHBAR Manhattan Beach

3801 Highland Avenue

Manhattan Beach, California 90266

Tel:  310-796-0200

www.fishbarmb.com

Twitter:  @FISHBARMB

Twitter:  @ChefJessicaJ

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp: What a Week! :)

Me and Counselors Ashley and Cindy

Me and Counselors Ashley and Cindy

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a cooking class camp called Kitchen Kids.  This week was Italian Week, which was called “Mangia! Mangia!” meaning “More! More!”  I had so much fun learning the different ways to use different knives safely, how to core and seed or pit fruits, and lots of other things that were useful in the kitchen.  I made lots of friends, including Ellen, Jackson, Wiley, and Jocelyn.  Our counselors (Cindy, Ashley, and Sam) were incredibly nice, helpful, and experienced. 

Dream Bruschetta Bar - Yum, yum, yum!

Dream Bruschetta Bar - Yum, yum, yum!

My least favorite dish was the caramelized carrots, but they weren’t so bad.  Four of my favorite dishes we made were:  the bruschetta bar, the zucchini risotto, the fluffy potato onion soup, and the chocolate and cocoa powder truffles.  The bruschetta bar had three different kinds of bruschetta:  a ricotta cheese and chopped kalamata olive spread, a cannellini bean spread, and a tomato, garlic, and basil bruschetta (my favorite!).

Me and Some Friendly Campers

Me and Some Friendly Campers

 

On the first day of cooking camp, I made focaccia bread, basil pesto, and broiled zucchini and potatoes with parmesan crust.  Jocelyn and I worked on the whole wheat focaccia bread (which had basil) while Wiley and Jackson worked on the white bread focaccia (which was topped with rosemary).  Then, Wiley and Jackson worked on the pesto, and Jocelyn and I worked on the parmesan crusted veggies.  This recipe was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, my favorite Italian chef on Food Network.  Here is the delicious, kid-friendly, 3-step recipe:

Ashley, Ellen, and I At Work

Ashley, Ellen, and I At Work

Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes With Parmesan Crust

4 small new potatoes, red or white, about 1.5 inches in diameter

2 TBS butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves

2 small zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise (about 1 inch wide by 5 inches long)

Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/4 grated parmesan

1.   Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain the potatoes and let them cool.  When cool, cut the potatoes in half.

2.   Place a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add the butter, garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and let cook until the butter melts, about 2 minutes.  Meanwhile, season the cut sides of the zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper.  Carefully place the zucchini and potatoes, cut side down, in the melted butter.  Let them cook until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. 

3.   Preheat the broiler, and line a baking sheet with foil.  Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the baking sheet, cut side up.  Sprinkle the tops with the parmesan.  Place under the broiler until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and serve.

So good!  Makes 4 servings.

*****

The focaccia was a big success!  I enjoyed the crunch of the thin wheat more than the soft doughiness of the white bread, but I adored the rosemary’s strong delicate flavor.  Here’s the easy, four-step recipe:

Focaccia Bread Recipe

Flour for the work surface

1 1-lb package refrigerated white pizza dough

1 1-lb package refrigerated wheat pizza dough

12 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

8 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese

1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary needles

1 1/2 tsp fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the white focacccia:

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Spray and 8 x 8 square pan with Pam or nonstick spray, and then gently press the dough into it.  You may also do a free-form loaf by stretching the dough into an 8 x 12 rectangle pan and placing it on a parchment-covered cookie sheet.

3.  Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.  Use your fingers to make dimples in the dough.

4.   Bake for 5 minutes, and remove from oven.  Brush the dough with the remaining oil and sprinkle with the garlic, rosemary, and asiago cheese.  Return to oven until golden brown, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For the wheat focacccia:

Use the same steps as the white focaccia, just substitute wheat pizza dough for the white dough, and substitute basil for the rosemary.

******

The basil pesto was extraordinary!  I loved watching Jackson and Wiley make it in my rare free time; it seemed like tons of fun! 

The other group (Ellen, Erin, and Tyrell) made Giada’s marinara sauce (obviously adapted from Giada) and honey-drenched struffoli (adapted from Mario Batali).  I couldn’t believe that there were healthy vegetables in Giada’s marinara.  It was so good it could have been served in a restaurant!  Yum!  The honey-drenched struffoli (also known as Christmas fritters, or little round dough balls) was very well made, but I personally don’t love sprinkles, and they put rainbow sprinkles on top.

Jocelyn and I Serving Cheesecakes

Jocelyn and I Serving Cheesecakes

What a fun week at Kitchen Kids!  There is a camp in Santa Monica, California and one in Manhattan Beach, California.  I’m so glad I found one!  Thank you to Ashley, Cindy, and Sam for inspiring me to do even more cooking at home, and to all my fellow campers for helping me along the way!

***

 

Kitchen Kid Cooking Camp

www.kitchenkid.com

Tel:  (310) 450-3462

Border Grill Dessert Challenge!

The Dessert Nominees

The Dessert Nominees

Last Friday, my family (including my grandparents) went to Border Grill, where I have been wanting to go ever since my cooking class.  When I was there, I was lucky enough to see Chef Susan Feniger!  She came over to our table, and we talked about my blog!  She seems to like it, and I thanked her for tweeting it out and putting it on Border Grill’s Facebook page.  Unfortunately, right when I walked into the bathroom, Chef Mary Sue Milliken walked up to our table and guess what … I MISSED HER!  (My dad thinks this is hilarious, but I do not.)  She talked to my whole family, and by the time I came out, she was gone!  I was very sad, but I had already met her, so it was OK.  The nice waiter who served our food took me back to the kitchen (Eeek!), but Susan told me that Mary Sue had already left for the day.   It is so painful to tell my sad tale!   

That night, we ordered an entire satisfying meal, but this story is about dessert!  We ordered four delicious desserts, and here is what each dish was like:

The Pastel Rufina ... Heavenly!

The Pastel Rufina ... Heavenly!

Grandpa had my favorite dessert.  It was a chocolate puff pastry dish that reminded me of the mini-eclairs that I have had for dessert sometimes.  It was so delicate and chocolatey, and it had delicious fresh berries on top.  His fantastic dessert was called Pastel Rufina.

Our Churro Tots

Our Churro Tots

Mom, Grandma, and I all ordered the Churro Tots with Dulce de Leche.  They are bits of dulce de leche-infused churros.  So good!  They came with chocolate and caramel dipping sauces and whipped cream.  After the cooking class, I have the recipe for these, so I can have them whenever I want!

Banana Cream Pie of a Lifetime!

Banana Cream Pie of a Lifetime!

Dad ordered the Banana Cream Pie.  The thick graham cracker crust crumbled with each bite, and the flavorful banana cream melted in my mouth!  It was a well-made dessert that will come to mind whenever I think of banana cream pie.

Sweet and Creamy!

Sweet and Creamy!

My sister, Tabitha, enjoyed a scoop of “smooth” and “yummy” (as Tabitha put it) dulce de leche ice cream, which came with a coconut and berry macaroon.  It was full of the sweet flavor of dulce de leche caramel.  It was so pleasantly sugary! 

Do you have an idea of what each dessert is like?  Please vote for your one favorite dessert by commenting below.  Which one sounds best to you?  Thank you!

Border Grill's Decor

Border Grill's Decor

Border Grill Downtown LA

445 South Figueroa Avenue

Los Angeles, California 90071

Telephone:  (213) 486-5171

www.bordergrill.com

Twitter:  @BorderGrill  and @eatatstreet

My Dream Come True!

My Heroes and Me!

My Heroes and Me!

Mom, Dad, and I signed up for a cooking demonstration by famous chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, and I was very happy to be there.  As we walked into Border Grill downtown on a rainy Saturday morning, a server handed us quinoa fritters.  Simply delectable!  What a great start to the day!  They were crunchy and spicy, and they were topped with a creamy sauce made from aji amarillo paste.  The fritters were filled with the best quinoa I’ve ever had!

Appetizing Quinoa Fritters

Appetizing Quinoa Fritters

I walked into Border Grill in awe.  The walls were so kid-friendly, and were covered with cool, artistic drawings.  We received our table number, and we walked into the demo room.   Wow!  Table 31, our table, was right smack in the middle of the front row!  We were so surprised that my dad went back to the counter to make sure the table was ours!  Once we were reassured it was our table, I paid attention to our surroundings.  As I looked around, my eyes landed on the demo stage.   OMG!  There was Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.  They are both cooking legends, and I am a huge fan of Mary Sue from “Top Chef Masters”.  I mean HUGE!  I stood there for a few seconds, just staring.  It was really her!  Susan Feniger noticed me and walked toward our table.  First, she asked me if I would help in the kitchen if they needed me during the class.  I was too shocked to say yes, so she moved on to another question.  She asked me if I would help her pass around food, if she needed me.  Very timidly, I said OK and sat back down.

Susan Feniger was so nice!

Susan Feniger was so nice!

I walked over to the bar for some pomegranate lemonade.  The nice server from before offered to bring it to our table, so I thanked him and sat back down.  Mom and Dad were talking and sipping their margaritas when I came back.  As I started to take pictures of the two chefs, Susan Feniger called me over to take a picture.  I was soooo happy!  She gave me a hug!

After a while longer, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger took the stage.  The server brought me my lemonade, and I whispered:  “Thank you.”  Everyone quieted as they started the demonstration.  Susan Feniger started:  “Today, Mary Sue and I will be cooking for you a lunch about five courses long.  We are very excited, and we hope you are too!”  She said something like that… I can’t remember her exact words.  All I remember is the absolute pleasure of being there.

Teaching Us Tips and Recipes

Teaching Us Tips and Recipes

Avocado Tostadita Salad and Spanish Gazpacho

Avocado Tostadita Salad and Spanish Gazpacho

As they started cooking and explaining the quinoa fritters, we sampled the Avocado Tostadita Salad and Spanish Gazpacho.  The avocado salad was lettuce, avocado, jicama, and some other fun ingredients, over a crispy tostadita shell.  Right on top of everything was a fried avocado, smothered in quinoa, amaranth (which I think is a seed), sesame and black sesame seeds, and some poppy seeds.  It was tangy and delightful.  Under the tostadita shell were some refried black beans.  They had the perfect melty texture that makes your mouth start to water.  The smooth gazpacho was filled with fragrant herbs, fresh vegetables, and homemade mayonnaise.  I don’t usually like mayonnaise, but it was amazing, and it slid down my throat easily like a fresh raw oyster!

Teaching Us Tips

Teaching Us Tips

Meanwhile, we were intrigued by the cooking tips they gave us.  “It drives me crazy to see people buying egg separators,” Mary Sue Milliken informed us.  “Everyone has one — their hands!” added Susan Feniger as she showed us the separated yolk on her palm.  Mary Sue started talking about sharp and dull knives:  “Always use a sharp knife when you are cutting, because if you cut yourself, a sharp knife will make a nice clean cut, but a dull knife will make an ugly cut which is hard to stitch.  To make sure you don’t even cut yourself, always keep your thumb behind your other fingers.”  Mary Sue told us that her thumb crept up under the knife when she was nervous, so she was always growing back thumb tips. 

After a few more tips on peppers and grilling corn, we got to try yet another satisfying dish.  This one was our main meal.  When I was told what it was, I was very excited!  Rib Time!  Tomatillo-glazed baby back ribs were placed in front of me.  It was one of the best things I had that day!  The pork was so tender and juicy, and the gravy-like tomatillo glaze was full of flavor.  It was a bit spicy too … and it contained pork fat, which I liked.  The portion size was big, but I polished it off with a smile on my face.

Meat and Potatoes (Don't Forget the Corn!)

Meat and Potatoes (Don't Forget the Corn!)

On the side of the baby backs was Esquite, a corn dish, and “Smashed Potatoes”.   The Esquite was too sweet for me, but it had the perfect corn texture:  crunchy and a bit juicy, but not too much that it was soggy.  The Smashed Potatoes were easily related to twice-baked potatoes in the sense that it melted in my mouth and gave me that comforting flavor.  It was a great companion with the ribs.  You know what they say, meat and potatoes makes a perfect meal!  (My mom doesn’t say that!)

Churro Tots and Coffee!

Churro Tots and Coffee!

The last course, dessert, was Mary Sue’s Dulce de Leche Churro Tots and a luscious chocolate mousse.  It was the winning dish on an episode of “Top Chef Masters,” which is probably why she chose to make it for us.  I devoured the crunchy, sweet churro bites in seconds, and then I licked the dulce de leche caramel and chocolate mousse off of Mom’s, Dad’s, and my plates.  Yum!

After the fabulous meal, we waited in line to get the two chefs’ autographs and a picture.  When it was our turn, I told them and their publicist, Leah, about my blog.  They were very interested and really, really friendly.  They asked me to email it to them when I was done, and I agreed. (I am very excited to have famous chefs reading my blog!) 

Notes and Recipes from the Cooking Stars!

Notes and Recipes from the Cooking Stars!

They signed our cookbook and our recipe books from the class, and on my recipe book, they wrote some nice comments.  “Megan, you’re gonna be a kitchen star!” wrote Mary Sue Milliken.  “Wow, so excited to see your blog!” wrote Susan Feniger.  I was elated!  We took a picture together, and then I left, reflecting on all the things I had done that day.

I left the restaurant screaming:  “I’m overjoyed! I’m overjoyed!”  Literally.  What kind of drama queen does that!?  Oh, I forgot, I’m the drama queen.

When we got home, my dad and I made the dulce de leche syrup they taught us how to make.  We drizzled it over our homemade ebelskivers, and it was fantastic!

Trying the Recipes at Home

Trying the Recipes at Home

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the finale of “Top Chef Masters,” and Mary Sue is a finalist.  Be sure to watch her compete against Floyd and Traci.  It will be exciting!

I just want to thank Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger for giving me an amazing day!  Thank you!

 

 

Border Grill – Downtown LA

445 S. Figueroa Street

Los Angeles, CA 90071

(213) 486-5171

Twitter:  @BorderGrill

www.bordergrill.com

Susan Feniger’s Street

742 North Highland

Los Angeles, CA 90038

(323) 203-0500

Twitter:  @eatatstreet

www.eatatstreet.com