Asian Risotto: Sushi Rice, Shrimp, Thai Basil, Shiso, Yuzu

asian risotto, shrimp risotto

Asian Risotto
Sushi Rice with Rosé & Sautéed Shrimp
Flavored with Thai Basil, Shiso, and Yuzu
Chiffonade of Shiso Garnish

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Vegas Brunch Fav: MESA GRILL

mesa grill
Bobby Flay’s  MESA GRILL  Las Vegas

shrimp corn tamale, mesa grill

When the JetBlue flight touches down at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, many people get that familiar tingly feeling. Excitement, adrenaline, gonna win big this time! But our thrill comes not only from fantasizing about hitting the $10 million MegaBucks jackpot (although that’s part of it). Our unique-to-Vegas sensation is mainly about hitting the Culinary Jackpot.

We agonize over our restaurant reservations well in advance of the trip, painstakingly coordinating visits to hot new Chefs, old favorite Chefs with new venues, various cuisines and locations. This time, my brother Don imposed a requirement – we could not eat anywhere we had previously eaten. Except, of course, Mon Ami Gabi @ Paris, because it’s our favorite spot for al fresco breakfast and the bar is our afternoon hangout for drinking vin gris and enjoying the Bellagio Fountains.

Another trip to Vegas, another trip to culinary heaven. Thanks to Don’s edict, this recent journey introduced us to Andre’s @ Monte Carlo, the bar at Michel Richard’s new Central @ Caesar’s, Bradley Ogden @ Caesar’s, Sirio @ Aria.

And brunch at Bobby Flay’s MESA GRILL @ Caesar’s:

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Wood-Fired Pizza & Pink Wine POOL PARTY

wood-fired pizza

It’s about the heat. With temperatures between 750° and 800°F a wood-fired pizza oven delivers an exceptional pizza that simply cannot be matched by a regular oven. High heat creates flavors and textures that cannot be duplicated when pizza is cooked more slowly. A pizza cooks in under three minutes right on the oven floor. The crust is crisp on the bottom, the cheese is exquisitely melted and slightly browned, and the toppings are cooked to perfection. A thing of beauty, pure pizza bliss.

wood-fired outdoor pizza oven
wood-fired outdoor pizza oven

Our dear dear longtime friends, Chip & Pat, invited us all over for a pizza party. My nephews were thrilled to go swimming in their pool and hang out with the world’s most adorable dogs, Sophia & Luca. We brought along some pink wines to taste as well as ingredients for some pizzas. Chip had already prepared the dough and the pizza oven was heating up. We were looking forward to Pat’s caramelized onion and feta pizza, a perennial favorite…

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We LoVe LA & Wolfgang Puck

ritz-carlton, los angeles
The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles

We LoVe LA & Wolfgang Puck

Roll down the window, put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys, baby
Don’t let the music stop
We’re gonna ride it till we just can’t ride it no more

From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody’s very happy
‘Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day, I loVe LA

original spago c. 1989
The Original Spago c. 1989

Spago in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip

Back in the late 80’s, maybe 1989, my foodie friends and I first dined at Spago. For better or worse, the word “foodie” was coined in the 80’s. We worked, lived, and breathed restaurants – we were chefs (Aldo & Bruce), bartenders (Tamara), waiters (Lauren & Scott)  – and I had the restaurant business in my blood – having been a restaurant cook, bookkeeper, manager, hostess, and waiter. At the time most of us were working at a cutting-edge restaurant in Redondo Beach called Chez Mélange. My friends from Aspen, Aldo and Bruce, were in town and we were dying to take them to Spago. Inspirational restaurateur and owner of Chez Mélange, Michael Franks, graciously called over to Spago to secure us a reservation. We felt like we were on the A-list. Upon arrival, Michael had surprised us with a big bottle of Champagne, and we were thrilled when Wolfgang Puck himself brought over a duck sausage pizza to welcome us. (It never occurred to me to take a photograph of the food, my how times have changed!)

Spago Hollywood wasn’t stuffy or traditional. Wolfgang’s then-wife Barbara Lazaroff  designed it to be friendly, fun and colorful – where everyone could see and be seen!  Were we really “hanging spoons” at Spago? She designed the first exhibition kitchen in the United States for a fine dining establishment, the view of the city from high above Sunset Boulevard took everyone’s breath away. It was so California!

Wolfgang Puck redefined pizza. That they came topped with everything from goat cheese and Black Forest ham to artichokes and exotic mushrooms was totally new back then. Duck sausage pizza was legendary as was his famous pizza of smoked salmon, creme fraiche, chives, red onion and a dollop of caviar.

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Do You Have a “House Wine?”

wine bar alfresco, house-wine

Originally they were the least-expensive wines bought in bulk and poured by-the-glass at a hefty profit margin in restaurants. Many house wines nowadays reflect pride of the chef, sommelier, or restaurateur and a commitment to quality. These wines say something about the establishment.

Do you have a “house wine” at your home? A wine on-hand, chilled and ready to pour when friends drop by. Your go-to wine? A wine of good value, reasonably priced yet still somewhat unique, special. A wine that isn’t on every supermarket shelf, but still handily available. An enjoyable wine that is equally suitable on the patio or at the dinner table paired with classic foods…

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La Cucina Calabrese – A Rustic Southern Italian Dinner Party

calabria, calabria dinner, my calabria
Discovering Calabria – A Rustic Southern Italian Dinner Party

Inspired this past weekend, by the recent gift of a new Calabrese cookbook, my friends and I prepared an authentic Southern Italian feast. The setting was beautifully simple, complete with herbs, flowers and citrus fruits from our gardens. For the menu, we adapted seven recipes from My Calabria by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher, with outstanding results.

We enjoyed exploring this lesser known regional cuisine, learning about the remote and somewhat mysterious Calabria as we constructed our menu. Dusty and hot mountainous regions, steep slopes, and narrow coastlines all contribute to the uniqueness that is La Cucina Calabrese.

We served esoteric Italian wines with the meal, wines that paired well with the simple yet robust Calabrese cuisine. Unfortunately we had difficulty locating wine specifically from Calabria, but we certainly were not disappointed with the fabulous bottles that graced our table. And we enjoyed Gino’s locally famous homemade limoncello to cap off the affair.

Unlike most of our dinner parties, the dishes were served family style. There was plenty of conviviality and great food & drink, as we experienced Southern Italy via Southern California.

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