Monday, November 30, 2009

Maryland Crab Cakes – The Good News is They're Almost All Crab, and the Bad News is They're Almost All Crab

This video recipe for Maryland crab cakes is the first official full-length clip posted using the new Canon HD SLR camera. In addition to watching what I hope you find to be a delicious looking crab cake recipe, I would also like to know if you have any suggestions for the video specs.

I saved this in iMovie at a size of 1280 x 720 HD, set at 24 frames per second. It looks good, but a little "jumpy." Would 30 frames per second be better? I also saved it at "High" quality, not "Best," which would have made th
e movie like 800 MB!

Anyway, back to the food! This video will hopefully show you what crab cakes
are supposed to be like. A real crab cake is basically a fried lump of crabmeat, held together with a minimum of filler.

As I explain in the video, this makes shaping them a little challenging, but once they are in the pan and browned on both sides, they are far superior on every level. Your basic restaurant crab cake is probably less than 40% crabmeat, which is why they are generally tough and bready.

These are closer to 75% crab, which is a blessing and a curse. Since the crab content is so high, you really can't make these unless you have a nice pile of super fresh, sweet, high-quality crab. Even using the correct technique, these special occasion appetizers will only be as good as the crabmeat used.

So if you can't get real lump crabmeat consider this video recipe food porn. Watch, enjoy, and just imagine yourself in the scene. However, if you can get your claws on some fresh crab, give these cakes a try. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
1 pound fresh crabmeat, the lumpier the better, well drained
8 saltine crackers
1 egg beaten
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp mustard
1/4 tsp Worcestershire
1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt to taste
cayenne pepper, optional
butter for frying


View the complete recipe

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to give a sincere thanks to all you smart, funny, interesting, dedicated (and I'm sure very attractive) readers of this blog. You make publishing this blog the wonderful pleasure it is, and thanks to your support 2010 promises to be Food Wishes' best year ever!

Don't be afraid to eat and drink a little too much today. Remember, you can always burn it off by watching football on the couch later. Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Huckleberry Jam – Possibly in HD!

I finally got a new camera! A beautiful Canon T1i (thanks for the advice Danielle!). I've been dying to improve the still photography on the blog, as well as have something that can take decent low-light plate shots with when I'm in restaurants.

When I got home from the store I went immediately to YouTube to get some tutorials for using it. Thankfully there were lots of photographers who had posted videos on what all the buttons do (so many buttons), as well as some pretty good SLR photography basics.

It was during this initial research that I discovered something wonderful and unexpected. My new camera apparently has a really nice HD video feature! Bonus. So this quick and sticky video recipe for huckleberry jam was basically done as a test to see how much better the quality would be.

In addition to not really knowing how to make jam (I just winged it from memory of one I made like 15 years ago), I have very little experience with HD anything. Some folks on YouTube already commented on the video, regarding how to save the video in iMovie to take advantage of the higher resolution. I saved it at 640 x 480, but have been told I need to save it at 1280 x 720.

I know I also have to change the movie settings to letterbox to match the camera's video dimensions. If any of you former A/V clubbers want to chime in with recommendations for using this camera for HD video, I'd love to hear it! Thanks and enjoy!



Ingredients:
1 quart berries
4 cups sugar
1/2 lemon
1 box pectin powder (1.75 oz)

* You should refer to the box directions for best results. I was more interested in the camera, and so I just made this from memory. It tastes great, but at the time of this posting it hadn't chilled long enough to analyze the firmness, or lack there of.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

What is Up?

I wanted to do a brief post today to get you up to date on all the newest developments, and also to give you a heads-up on my plans for the holidays.

I Guess They'll Let Anyone Write a Cookbook!


If you follow me on Twitter you probably know, but I'm officially announcing here on the blog that I've signed an agreement with Parragon Publishing to do a cookbook!

If everything goes as planned, it will
eventually be four cookbooks , all focusing on American food (or at least what I consider American food).

I can’t give any firm dates or titles yet, but you will be the first to know. In a
ddition to the regular distribution channels, I'll be able to sell them here for a special discount price, only available to my loyal Food Wishes fans. Stay tuned for more info in the coming months.

The Open Sky Project

I was contacted recently by an ecommerce start-up call Open Sky, and asked if I would b
e interested in being a "Shopkeeper" for their Home & Garden category. Their mission statement is "to connect consumers to experts and the products they love and use." Since I get so many emails about what products I use and recommend, I decided to go for it.

My Open Sky store is just getting started, and they only have a few products sourced so far, but eventually you will be able to find a wide range of my favorite kitchen and cooking-related products. By the way, the shopkeepers are given a share of the revenue, but NOT paid to endorse specific products.

One reason I decided to get involved was the company's founder is John
Caplan, who was one of the founders of About.com. They've also signed on some very high-profile foodies including one of my blogger role models, Michael Ruhlman. Stay tuned!

Now Warming Up in the Bullpen…

My mother Pauline is having some work done to her shoulder in a few weeks, so I'll be traveling to New York to help her out, and steal more of her recipes. I keep telling her she is too old to become the first female short reliever for the Yankees, but she just won't listen. She thinks this surgery will add at
least 5 mph to her fastball, and who am I to argue.

SFQ and a Very Special Surprise Package

I will make the official announcement on Cyber Monday, but this year's "please send me some money because I'm going broke doing free videos" holiday gift offering will include a sneak preview of my wife Michele's soon to be famous San Francisco-style barbecue sauce, SFQ. The package will also include a small wooden bonus gift that will be sure to cause a "stir" (literally, that's your clue).

Last year many of you supported the site by forking over your hard earned cash and purchased the Food Wish Favorites Vol. 1 DVD, containing 12 recipe videos that you could have watched for free online. I hope we can expect the same fantastic effort this year. It makes a huge difference. Stay tuned!

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

If you've been following the blog for a while you know things always slow down a little bit around the holidays. That will certainly be the case this year, especially with the unexpected travel back east, the cookbook project, gift package sales, and all the other normal holiday distractions. So, if you see a few days go by in between posts, do not be alarmed! I'm fine. Just really busy. Enjoy!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Red Curry Butternut Squash – When it Comes to Side Dishes, the Food Gods Hate a Coward

As you decide on what to include in your fabulous array of vegetable side dishes for the upcoming holiday feasts, keep one thing in mind. No guts, no glory. For some reason, normally adventurous cooks when faced with a house full of hungry relatives, play scared.

It's probably driven by the desire to want everyone to enjoy everything (you know that's impossible, right?). Serving something too exotic just doesn't seem prudent. I take a different approach. Since these holiday meals are one of the rare times we get to serve multiple side dishes, I think it's the perfect occasion for springing a surprise or two.


This lovely red curry butternut squash certainly fits the bill. Sweet, spicy, and mysterious – this turkey-friendly side dish won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for those at the table that let it work its magic, it promises to be one of their favorite parts of the meal.

Like I said, there are plenty of other side dishes on hand, so even if the worse case scenario happens and everyone from little Billy to Grandma Jean agrees this is the worst squash dish ever, so what? There are seven more sides to pick up the slack. Besides, after the third bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau who's really going to care?

If you've never worked with red curry before, be careful. It's really spicy, and you can always add more as it cooks. To be safe, you can even cut my measurements in half for the spices and then adjust. I hope you give this interesting butternut squash side dish a try. Enjoy!



Ingredients:
3-4 pounds butternut squash, peeled cut in 1-inch cubes
1 bunch green onions
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp red curry powder (I used McCormick)
1 tsp red curry paste (I used Taste of Thai)
2 tbsps tomato paste
1 can coconut milk
1 rounded tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce (or sub to-taste with soy sauce or salt)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves
*adjust for salt and heat before serving

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do You Feel Lucky? Well, Do You? Carnation Evaporated Milk's Loaded Potato Potluck Favorite

I'm not sure how popular potluck dinners are these days. You don't hear the term as often as you used to. Maybe it's our litigious society… "Hey, your baked beans made me sick, you own me one billion dollars," or maybe it's just not called a potluck anymore.

Potluck was kind of an odd name, implying that you would be damn lucky to get anything edible. Well, this loaded potato casserole recipe from Carnation Evaporated Milk would certainly improve everyone's odds of getting at least one thing that was delicious.

Who doesn't like a loaded potato? I mean, besides people that don't eat cheese and/or bacon. This super simple, but ultra satisfying retro American classic is sure to make your fellow potluckers smile.

Since this video was sponsored by Carnation, I followed their original recipe pretty much exactly, but this type of casserole screams out for personal customization, so feel free to jazz it up as you see fit. Enjoy!

A Message from the Sponsor:

It's that time of year when we’re all looking for a little more inspiration in the kitchen. You’ll find plenty of that in this Holiday Recipe Guide from Carnation Evaporated Milk, sponsor of this post.

One delicious idea is to substitute Carnation Evaporated Milk for regular milk in your go to recipes. It makes all kinds of dishes richer and creamier.

Get your Holiday Recipe Guide as a downloadable PDF or by email
.



Ingredients:
8 medium potatoes (about 2 1/2 to 3 lb. total), peeled and cut into equal chunks
1 cup Carnation evaporated milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups (8-oz. pkg.) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, divided
sliced green onions (optional)

Cheese Blintzes and My Empire State of Mind

There's nothing you can’t do, now you're in New York.
These streets will make you feel brand new, the lights will inspire you,

Let's hear it for New York, New York, New York.

– Lyrics from Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z, Rapper and Trophy Husband

There are certain recipes that change the way you think about food – for me, cheese blintzes is one of them. I was raised on the traditional American suburban breakfast repertoire of pop-tarts, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., so when I was told these odd looking cheese-filled bundles sitting on the dark pool of fruit sauce were "breakfast," it took a few moments to register such a thing was possible.

In addition to helping me realize there was a whole new world of breakfast
options out there, cheese blintzes also fed my fascination with New York City. My father grew up in New York, but the small town in which he married my mother and started his family was about as far removed from the City as you could get.

His colorful stories (many of which were true) about growing up in New York City often included mentions of strange and exotic foods from his childhood. I loved these stories, and fell in love with New York through them.

On the occasions when I would get to taste things like knishes, lox, pastrami, and blintzes, it was more than just something to eat; it was a visceral connection to another place.

Ukrainian immigrants (John senior was half Ukrainian) brought these wonderful cheese-filled crepes to New York City, and the Big Apple is now considered the blintz capital of the world (Photo (c) Flickr user kennymatic).

As you watch this video recipe, it may seem a little complicated, but while it does have several steps, they're fairly simple and so worth the effort. This video wa
s shot for About.com during my trip to NYC a couple months ago, so when you click on the video below, you'll be taken to the recipe page there.

Cheese blintzes are a perfect special occasion breakfast or brunch dish, and can be made up ahead of time and finished at the last minute. I hope you give them a try. Thanks Dad. Enjoy!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning the Easy Way at Kingsford University

This past week, Michele and I spent three wonderful days at something called Kingsford University. "KU," as it's called in charcoal-related academia, is an event sponsored by Kingsford Charcoal in which food writers and bloggers are brought together to learn all about how charcoal is made, watch demos on the finer points of grilling and barbecuing, and of course enjoy lots of great food and wine.

I'm happy to report we all passed with flying colors (although a few of the other bloggers paid some nerds to do their homework). We even received a diploma! After I finish this post I'm going to start looking into some grad school options.

The master of ceremonies was world champion pitmaster Chris Lilly. Chris is vice president of the legendary Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q in Decatur, Alabama, and Kingsford Charcoal spokesperson. He was really fun to listen to, and I learned quite a bit. I've sprinkled in a few videos of Chris below, so you can get a little taste of what we enjoyed.

The trip began Tuesday evening. After checking into the beautiful Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, we headed out to dinner and introductions at Pican in Oakland. We met our fellow bloggers (a complete list of attendees with links to their blogs will be added to the bottom of this post as soon as available!), Kingsford reps, and other dignitaries, and enjoyed a delicious dinner prepared by Chef Dean Dupuis.

Dinner began with a perfectly crispy fried chicken appetizer (now that's the way to start a meal!). I was even asked to demo my now famous chicken wing de-boning technique. I assume they were mocking me, but I did it anyway. Will this chicken wing trick become my "Freebird?" (FYI - that was a vague, dated Lynyrd Skynyrd reference)

I enjoyed a nice piece of grilled Loch Duarte salmon with root veggie puree and smoky savory cabbage. Michele had the southern classic, shrimp and grits. Everything was great, and as we ate we chatted with our fellow foodies – discussing the differences between food blogging and food writing, and how it's been years since any of us has actually had a hot meal.

At these affairs, no one eats until the pictures are taken, lots of pictures, at every conceivable angle and composition. This shouldn't be taken as a complaint – it's a very small price to pay for the great food and even better company.

The next morning we headed to the Clorox Technical Center in Pleasanton, CA to learn all about charcoal briquets. I'll be honest, of all the things I'd always wanted to learn more about, charcoal briquets wasn't one of them. But I was honestly fascinated by the process, and what could have been a long morning went by quickly.

Like most wannabe backyard grill masters, I already use Kingsford charcoal and really didn't need any convincing it was superior. My own anecdotal evidence the few times I've had to use the bargain brands showed that this stuff is clearly better, but I didn't know why. Now I do.

We watched them make a batch from scratch, and also got to see this really cool room were they do hundreds of burn tests a day. They were really excited to show off a newly designed, "ultra briquet" that promises even better performance despite being lighter and more eco-friendly.

We were not allowed to take photos inside the labs where they showed us the secret proprietary methods with which Kingsford charcoal is made and tested, but outside we did see live comparison demos and testing verses the alternative brands. It wasn't even close. Give or take a few minutes, their briquets lit twice as fast, were ready in half the time, and lasted twice as long. Class dismissed.

After lunch we headed up to the gorgeous Hotel Healdsburg, located in the middle of Sonoma's beautiful wine country. The remainder of KU was held at the Seghesio Family Vineyards and hosted by Peter Seghesio and the rest of his amazing family. The family has been making wine in the area for four generations, and to be able to enjoy their wine during the next two days of classes and demos was a great treat.

We attended a special dinner prepared by Chef Jon Helquist, formerly of the venerable Chez Panisse, in the winery's beautiful Redwood Room. The food was classic northern California fare – fresh, local, seasonal food simply prepared and served family style.

The highlights included Chris Lilly's barbecued pineapple sweet ribs, grilled Tuscan-style game hens, locally foraged wild mushrooms, and charcoal grilled fingerling potatoes with salsa rustica. Chef Jon's offerings were paired with an array of Seghesio's highly regarded Zinfindels.

That evening Chris Lilly showed us his famous low and slow method for cooking pork shoulder (see video). In between his many tips and tricks, we were treated to some very entertaining war stories from the championship barbecue circuit. A live band and s'mores cooked over small fire pits brought the evening to a sweet and smoky end. By the way, this is a man clearly willing to suffer for his art, as he had to get out of a warm bed and come back at 3 AM to tend the fire!

Chris Lilly's Low and Slow Barbecued Pork Butt



Note: this video shot with an iPhone in the dark.


The next day we enjoyed the fruits of Chris' late night labor with what was probably the tastiest and most succulent pork butt I've ever had. After being pulled and chopped, the moist, smoky meat was turned into slaw-topped sliders. Speaking of fruits, they were served with chili-rubbed skewers of grilled banana, pineapple, and persimmon. I thought this was an ingenious and inspired pairing.

After lunch we participated in two hands-on demos. We got to blend our own Zinfandel varietal with the help of Pete Seghesio and his talented team, and yes, it was as fun and interesting as it sounds!

We also formulated our own custom dry-rub spice mix. Chris Lilly showed us a great 4-step process for making a spice rub, which I will explore in more detail in an upcoming article for my American Foods site.

Kingsford University came to a delicious
and interactive end as we made and grilled our own pizzas over charcoal. After Chris demo'd an insanely tasty Asian-influenced spicy shrimp pizza (see video), we headed around to the back of Seghesio's wine cellar where a long line of kettle grills waited for us with already glowing charcoal topped with pizza stones.

Chris Lilly's Charcoal Grilled Spicy Shrimp Pizza



After everyone had made a pizza (or three), into the wine cellar we went to share our offerings with each other. The meal was made complete with an impressive array of salads and side dishes from Chef Jon's kitchen, as well as more of Seghesio's delicious wine. What a special way to end a very memorable experience.

Special thanks to Chris Lilly and everyone at Kingsford Charcoal! Who knew learning about charcoal and grilling could be so fun and delicious? I'd also like to extend a very special thanks to the Seghesio family for being such gracious and generous hosts!

You can find a lot more information at the Kingsford Barbecue Facebook page. Enjoy!

Read other recaps on Kingsford University by these very talented bloggers:
The Bachelor Guy
Use Real Butter
Food Woolf
Pork, Knife, and Spoon

Kingsford University Class of 2009!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cooking Turkey for Chickens! A Two-Part Thanksgiving Turkey Tutorial

By knowing just a few basic tricks, you can guarantee yourself a moist, delicious, and beautiful Thanksgiving turkey every time. The two videos posted below were done last year, and according to the many emails and comments I got, they proved very helpful to lots of your fellow foodwishers.

If you don't have one, make sure you buy a meat thermometer before thanksgiving. They're only a few dollars, and on Thanksgiving at least, it's the most important tool in the kitchen. Other than that, these turkey and sauce techniques don't require any special skills or equipment, and you probably have everything you need
already.

As I said in the original post, with these videos you can proceed with confidence, joy, and the knowledge that since you are cooking the turkey you won't have to wash any dishes! See you on the couch. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Turkey Part 1: Prepping and Roasting



Thanksgiving Turkey Part 2: It's All About the Gravy



To get the ingredients, use these links from the originals posts for Part 1: Prepping and Roasting and Part 2: Making the Gravy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Apple Swan Instructions Now Playing!

Thanks for your patience! The full version of the video I did for How to Make an Apple Swan has gone live. Click on the video player below to see the technique in normal speed, with narration of course. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Oh Fudge! Carnation's Classic Chocolate Fudge

This video recipe for chocolate fudge is the first of two I've been commissioned to do for Carnation Evaporated Milk.

They've hooked up with a select group of food bloggers to promote this classic American ingredient for the holidays.

I don't want to spoil the surprise for what the second video will be on (and I have no idea yet), but the choice for this first one was very easy. When I think of Carnation evaporated milk, I think of chocolate fudge.

There are hundreds of different recipes for chocolate fudge, most requiring a candy thermometer and a good bit of finesse to achieve that elusive rich, creamy-smooth texture. This recipe does not. As you'll see in the video, this is boil, turn off, stir, chill, and cut.

The holidays are a time of celebration, but with the festivities comes the occasional need to "bring a dish." What better way to impress your hosts than with a plate of chocolate fudge? Remember, it's not about how much effort you spent making something special for your friends and family, it's all about how much effort they think you spent. Enjoy!

A Message from the Sponsor:

It's that time of year when we’re all looking for a little more inspiration in the kitchen. You’ll find plenty of that in this Holiday Recipe Guide from Carnation Evaporated Milk, sponsor of this post.

One delicious idea is to substitute Carnation Evaporated Milk for regular milk in your go to recipes. It makes all kinds of dishes richer and creamier.

Get your Holiday Recipe Guide as a downloadable PDF or by email
.





Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (4 ounces) miniature marshmallows
1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The First Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival: The Greatest Food Blogger Event in the History of the World.

I'll say right up front that this is the only food blogger festival I've ever attended, but I can't imagine there has ever been anything to match this weekend's level of fantastic food, extraordinary drink, and amazingly diverse group of attendees.

When smart, creative, fun people plan an event, it should come as no surprise that the event ends up being smart, creative, and fun. That was certainly the case this weekend as I attended the First Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival.

It was a smashing success on every level. Super delicious food, thought-provoking seminars and demos, and best of all, a chance to meet and mingle with the fine
st food bloggers in the country.

They were all there; from fast-growing newcomers to food blogger royalty like Jaden from Steamy Kitchen, Pim from Chez Pim, and Elise from Simple Recipes (it was Elise's blog that first gave me the notion that blogging professionally could be a reality).

It was a glorious weekend of eating food, while talking about food, while talking pictures of food – for a food blogger, that's the ultimate experience. That, and getting a link on one of the aforementioned blogs.

The following recap is woefully incomplete. I made a conscience effort to stay in the moment and enjoy the food and people without being consumed with trying to get every shot and record every bite. Besides, with hundreds of the greatest food bloggers attending, I knew I could just link to their recaps later!

What follows is a collection of highlights and pictures from a weekend I will never forget. Thank you Foodbuzz!

The festivities began on the 8th floor terrace of the Hotel Vitale. The views were incredible, as were the cocktails provided by Skyy Spirits. Bloggers from all over the country greeted each other, sharing similar tales of crazy commenters, blogroll slights, and annoyed spouses. Joie De Vivre chefs Nick Balla and Michelle Mah provided plenty of tasty tidbits, including a spicy bacon-laced mac and cheese that had the crowd buzzing.

Then we all walked across the Embarcadero to the beautiful Ferry Building for a S.F. Street Food Fare. We were greeted by plates of Chicharrónes (crispy puffed pork skin fries). This one was expertly passed around by Kiersten from Foodbuzz, and one of the festivals driving forces. I've never been to a party where Chicharrónes were passed around that didn't turn out to be a great time, and this was no exception! (photo from Joel at Six By 10 Tiny Kitchen)

Street food is huge in the City these days and some of our finest practitioners were there, including; Tacolicious, Spencer on the Go, 4505 Meats, and my favorite Roli Roti’s Porchetta. The porchetta sandwich you see here is simpy one of the most delicious things in the entire city. Succulent pork, crispy skin, caramelized onions, tiny peppercress – it is a masterpiece of culinary engineering. (Photo from Jo Boston at Taking Over the World One Bite at a Time)

The next set of photos is from the Saturday Tasting Pavilion at the Metreon's City View. Over 40 participating food producers, wineries, chefs, and bakers, shared their offerings to throngs of camera wielding food bloggers. It was a blast meeting and re-meeting bloggers here from all over – trading likes and dislikes, business cards, and many laughs.

This marinated squid and scallop dish from Fuego at the Maya was every bit as delicious as it was beautiful.

Bertolli was a major sponsor of the Foodbuzz Festival, and this simple crostini was one of my favorite bites. Caramelized onions, pinenuts, gorgonzola, and one of their prepared sauces made for a simple, but very satisfying snack. Using prepared sauces as a base for quick appetizers like this is a great trick for holiday entertaining.

Rouge Beer was sampling something called Morimoto Soba Ale. I didn't know the taciturn Iron Chef was so into beer, but it makes sense, to me there's nothing better with simple, clean Japaneses food than a tall, cold beer. I didn't get an exact translation, but I believe the characters on the bottle read, "It's always Beer-thirty somewhere."

Pranther Ranch Meats were serving these perfectly portioned hot dogs. With all the "fancy" food we had over the course of the weekend, it was great biting into a reminder of what my inner-most foodie always craves. And look at those mustard racing stripes! Perfect.

I didn't have one of these beautiful mini cupcakes, but the way the cloudless blue sky was reflecting off the white tray made me feel happy. Mini cupcakes are huge.

I also attended a fun wine tasting seminar by Alder Yarrow, celebrity wine blogger and proprietor of Vinography.Com. It was called "Underappreciated California Merlots." Alder started the class by saying, "We're here today because of a comment some asshole made in a movie called Sideways." We tasted four great Merlots, and the take-away was it's now safe to buy and serve Merlots again.

After a 10-mile run and a brief nap (only one of those is true - guess which), it was off to the Foodbuzz Farm-to-Table Dinner & Blog Awards. We enjoyed an incredible dinner by Outstanding in the Field, which was served family style on one long table that snaked around and through the Greenleaf Produce Warehouse. The feast was prepared by Chef Dennis Lee of Namu and featured an amazing array of fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.

There was a passed amuse bouche of Ahi tonnato on buttery toasts, garnished with gochukaru and parsley. Speaking of gochukaru, for the rest of this post you are going to see lots of strange sounding ingredients listed. Feel free to google them, I'm getting ready to head up to Sonoma for a press trip and just don't have time to research them. All I know is they were GREAT. It was a very memorable meal to say the least.

There were wooden plates of marinated vegetables on all the tables. Beans, greens, roots, shoots, and my new favorite thing, kim chi. Every meal should start out this way. The cold, tangy crunch of the quickly pickled vegetables revived our weary tastebuds like a charm. I was now ready for the magic to come.

Next was a super-light mushroom dashi. The clear soup a perfect vehicle for the earthy array of maitake, shimeji, enoki mushrooms.

Next came an Udon noodle (is that redundant?) topped with grilled Monterey calamari with a browned butter ponzu reduction, cucumber, kaiware, frisée, yellow pear tomatoes, chojang and sesame vinaigrette. It was spicy, but not so much as to cover the staggering layers of flavors these ingredients produced.

This was one of the weekend's highlights for me, and brought about a sadness that came from knowing I could never make this myself. The chef had told me earlier that the squid was grilled over imported Japanese white oak. Where the hell am I going to get Japanese white oak?

We enjoyed refreshing seltzer water from these cool blue bottles. Take that regular water!

My buddy Jesse from Beer and Nosh (who won Best Beer Blog!) smuggled in a few bottles of home brewed beer which he shared with the table. It was fantastically funky and a great treat. Next year he needs to sneak in some beer mugs, these wine glasses were just too dainty for the muscular brew.

People kept saying how awesome the salmon was, but it was actually sea trout. It was cooked very rare on dashikombu and topped with fried garlic and Japanese curry powder. It was phenomenal! I could have eaten a pound of this with very little effort.

The sea trout was served with a creamy risotto made with koshihikari rice and topped with crispy maitake mushrooms. Wow. In a perfect world, crispy maitake mushrooms would replace popcorn as the snack of choice for watching movies. Can someone work on that?

Wines for the dinner were provided by Randall Grahm of Boony Doon, a very legendary California winemaker. If you want to read a very intersting story, google "Le Cigare Volant" and read the history of how this wine got its name. These wines were a close encounter of the best kind! (that last line only makes sense if you know the story)

I have no shots of the last course, which was a soy braised beef cheeks and oxtails served with baby carrots (you can see the carrots below) and fingerling potatoes. It was incredible, but the roasted brussels sprouts with ponzu fried garlic, guanciale, and bonito fakes stole the show. They were perfect. By the way, as soon as my fellow blogger start uploading photos I'll snag one to place here, so you can see the whole course.









UPDATE: Thanks to Brooke at Foodwoolf, we now have photographic evidence of the aforementioned beef cheeks and oxtails course! Thanks Brooke!

The dessert was Koshihikari rice pudding with cookie crumble and warren pears. Unfortunately, I didn't have any as the nominees for the First-Annual Foodbuzz Blog Awards were asked to approach the stage for the moment of truth. The collection of food blogging talent was staggering, and I realized just how special it was to be among the nominees.

When Director of Community & Managing Editor Ryan Stern and co-Mistress of Ceremonies, Jenn Di Piazza of The Leftover Queen, announced I had won the Award for Best Video Blog, I made my way to the stage with one simple goal. Do not fall down. Mission accomplished!!

The weekend ended Sunday morning with a sunny brunch with Nature's Pride Bread at Restaurant LuLu. The gathering included a make-your-own Bloody Mary bar, and not surprisingly no usable photos were taken. It was sad saying goodbye to all my new friends, but it was time for everyone to get back to "real life." I hope I get to see them all again next year!

A million thanks to Foodbuzz and all the sponsors that made this magical weekend a reality. I met so many inspiring bloggers from all over the country, and have a renewed sense of purpose for my blog. Thanks to everyone who voted, and stay tuned as I add links to the bottom of this post to other recaps of this wonderful event. Enjoy!