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
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!
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
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
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!)
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!
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!
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
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
Susan Feniger’s Street
742 North Highland
Los Angeles, CA 90038