Friday, May 28, 2010

How to Make Grill Marks with the "10 and 2" Method – You Have to Give Me Marks for Trying!

I shot this grill marks tutorial before rushing off to New York in anticipation of the Memorial Day weekend, and all the grilling that traditionally goes along with it.

Now, I'm not saying that unattractive grill mark anxiety (UGMA) has ever prevented anyone from grabbing a pair of tongs and heading out to the grill, but it is a nice technique to know.

Invariably, if you're grilling in front of a group of people, and turn over a chicken breast sporting a nice set of diamond-shaped grill marks, someone will say, "Man, I wish I knew how to get those." Well, here's how.

Whether you’re doing the cooking, or are in charge of "quality control," I wish you all a delicious and wonderful long weekend. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Heading Back to San Francisco After Making it Here

Weather permitting, we'll be back in San Francisco tonight after a great trip to New York City. The meetings with the publisher went very well, and I got to check the final proofs of the cookbook. By the way, I'll be posting soon with much more specific details. There are some very exciting things in the works.

Here you see my newest food obsession, Venezuelan sandwiches called Arepas. We enjoyed these at a place called Caracas Arepas Bar in New York's East Village, and I was completely blown away. How is it possible I've only now just discovered these amazing buns? If you have any information, recipes, tips, or tricks you'd care to pass along, please do. Thanks, and stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Web's Most Camera Shy Chef Introduces YouTube's New Moderator Feature!

YouTube's "Moderator" feature allows a YouTube publisher (me) to collect commentary, questions, or ideas (hopefully in the form of very creative videos) on our channel, and then watch the best ones rise to the top, as voted on by the Food Wishes faithful.

To celebrate the launch I'm running the first ever official Food Wishes contest, called "The Summer of You." What is that, and how do you play? Watch the video, and then do what the guy with the mustache says. Enjoy!

If you would like to submit an idea, click here
! Good luck, and please, no side bets.

Stay Tuned for an Important Announcement!

Later tonight I will be posting a video and making an announcement about an exciting new feature that's launching on YouTube. I can't say anything yet, but be sure to check back later tonight for details!

Michele and I are having a great time in the big city, and will be back in San Francisco on Thursday. By the way, I was at Parragon Publishing today, proofing the final layouts for the cookbook. Everything looks great, and it should be going to press soon!

We dropped in last night to Pulino's, the city's hottest new restaurant, where our cousin, Tony, is the sous chef under star chef Nate Appleman.

We had an incredible Margherita pizza, and the photo you see was the view from our booth, out the front door of a Shepard Fairey mural across the street on E. Bowery and Houston. You may know him as the creator of the now famous Obama "Hope" poster. Thought it was a cool shot. Enjoy and stay tuned.

Monday, May 24, 2010

We're in New York!

Michele and I are in New York City! I had to fly in to do some PR for the book with my publisher at the BEA Bookfair. The event will be in the Javits Centre on Wednesday. I'm happy to announce that I'll be checking the final proofs for the book, and soon thereafter it will go to press! The standard Food Wishes travel advisory is in effect, so any unanswered emails and comments should be forgiven and/or resubmitted. We'll be back Thursday. Probably won't have time to do a real post from here, but as always, you can follow along on Twitter. Thanks, and see you soon!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi with Fresh Peas and Morel Mushrooms – A Tale of Two Recipes

This lovely bowl of spring is a perfect example of when recipes are, and are not, important. The ricotta gnocchi part of the plate requires a fairly precise formula. If any of the three main ingredient amounts are altered, you could be looking at quite a mess. That's certainly not the case for this sauce.

If I made this same combination of ingredients 100 times, each version would be different, which I how I believe these things should work. When I buy peas at the farmers market, I'm not thinking I need 2 cups, I'm thinking I need to buy some peas. The same goes for the mushrooms. Grab a handful and keep moving.

Here's the recipe. Take some mushrooms, preferable wild morel, and saute in olive oil until they smell meaty and delicious. Add some garlic and cook for a minute. Add some vegetable broth, about a 1/2 cup per person, and bring to a boil. Add some peas and cook until tender. Season, add a little cheese and fresh herb, and use as a sauce for the gnocchi.

Besides a general guess at how much broth you need, there's no reason to measure anything else. You could halve or double what I used and argue either way that your sauce is better than mine. Of course, we'd both be right.

There's a common belief that chefs never use recipes, which in the case of the sauce is totally true. But, when a specific texture, density, or viscosity is required in a dish, like for these delicate dumplings, chefs have no problem whatsoever following a formula.

What's my reason for pointing all this out? I don't really have one. You should make this. It tastes good. Enjoy!

For the ricotta gnocchi:
1 pound really good ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of fresh nutmeg
Makes enough for about 6 servings

For the sauce:
Splash of olive oil
handful of mushrooms
some fresh peas
few cloves of garlic
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
about 3 cups of vegetable broth
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
chopped parsley, mint, and/or basil

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Salmon Baked on (inspired by one baked in) Aromatic Salt

If you read my Vegas Uncork'd recap, you heard me raving about the fish baked in an aromatic salt crust as demonstrated by Chef Paul Bartolotta at the All-Star Interactive Luncheon, held at the Wynn/Encore.

It was truly amazing, and I will be showing that ancient seafood technique sometime in the future on Food Wishes. While I didn't go for the full fish-baked-in-salt thing here, Chef Bartolotta's recipe reminded me of a salmon dish Michele used to make for me years ago.

Thick center-cut salmon filets, skin-on, are simply placed over coarse salt, which has been liberally studded with aromatic spices, such as cinnamon, clove and star anise. As the salmon bakes on the heat absorbing and distributing salt, the aromas from the spices subtly permeate the fish.

As you'll see in the video, this is so easy and makes for a pretty impressive presentation for a dinner party. You can bring the salmon, still sitting on the aromatic salt, out to the table to serve. You can even dress up the salt more creatively than I've done here, as almost any dried herb or spice is a candidate.

This is a fun technique to play around with and see if you can come up with your own signature blend. I really hope you give it a try. Enjoy!

Ingredients: (makes enough salt mix for 4 pieces)
7-8 oz center-cut salmon filets, skin-on
2 cups coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoon whole cloves
8 whole star anise
4 cinnamon sticks, broken up

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Y'all Would Have Loved the San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival

I'm back in significantly cooler San Francisco, after three great days of food and wine (and beer and tequila) at the San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival.

I was inv
ited by the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau to come and check out this annual event, and I'm sure glad I did!

Above and beyond all the delicious food and drink we got to enjoy, I really loved the look and feel of San Antonio. Super nice people, tons of history even beyond the iconic Alamo, and the famous River Walk was just as cool as everyone told me it was.

To be able to walk along the banks of the San Antonio river, past so many interesting shops, bars, and restaurants, was unique to anything I've experienced before (and if you're not into the walking thing, you can jump into a river taxi). Like most of these trips, there's just too much to cover, but here are a few of the highlights.

We drove deep into Hill Country for a winemaker's lunch at Becker Vineyards, where we enjoyed a very nice multi-course menu paired with Dr. Richard Becker's award-winning European-style wines. Having had zero experience with wines from Texas, I have to say I was pretty impressed.

One of the afternoon's highlights was this pork belly with parsnip puree and braised sweet and sour Swiss chard. I have to admit, I'm getting a bit bored with pork belly these days, but this was outstanding.

Later that evening, we attended the New World Grand Tasting. The area's top chefs and restaurants served their best bites alongside over 100 wines from Texas and around the world. You know I love a good Grand Tasting, and this did not disappoint.

I found it fascinating to see how the chefs combined influences from around the food world with local Tex-Mex classics. The offerings ran the gamut from simple and delicious, like a spicy fig and apricot-glazed chicken legs, to this very sophisticated Hawaiian striped marlin served with togarashi, yuzu, radish, and coconut, from Pesca.

One of my favorite bites of the weekend was this unique take on the Cuban sandwich from Achiote River Cafe & Bar. Ham, cheese, pork belly, and pickles were placed into split gougères (cheese puffs). It was a great idea, and to me represented the best that these events have to offer.

The next day we had the chance to tour the historic Pearl building. This former brewery is being converted into a culinary center, and cultural gathering place. We had a chance to taste some locally produced olive oils from Texas' growing olive industry, which I enjoyed a great deal. I had no idea there were 300 different varieties of olives grown in Texas.

In addition to new apartments, restaurants, artisan shops, and a farmers market, the complex is home to a new Culinary Institute of America campus. This is only the renowned school's second location outside of Hyde Park, NY. For a city with such a vibrant culinary scene, having a world class culinary school will only accelerate San Antonio's standing as a foodie destination.

After a tour of the school, we enjoyed an amazing lunch at Chef Johnny Hernandez’s brand new restaurant La Gloria. The menu is a sort of Mexican street foods "greatest hits," and we enjoyed a huge selection of tacos, quesadillas, panuchos, ceviches, and something called a tlayudas from Oaxaca, which is a sort of ultra-thin, crispy (and very addictive) pizza.

We joked with the chef about just sending out one of everything. I'm not sure the chef could tell we were joking, as we literally got to sample items from every category on the menu. I really need to be careful about that whole keeping a straight-face thing.

Speaking of Mexican-inspired food, later that day we headed out to The Best of Mexico celebration at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.

We enjoyed more great wines, beers, and premium tequilas, all paired
with favorites like red moles, fried tostones topped with beans and beef, and spicy shrimp taquitos.

You’d think I would have been weary of Mexican food after our epic lunch at La Gloria, but not even close. I never get tired of that style of food. I wish I had better photos from this event, but did I mention the tequilas?

The last big highlight was a trip to Totally Texas at Rio Cibolo Ranch. You could smell the barbecuing beef as we drove up the long road to the event.

In addition to all the usual wine and food pairings we enjoyed all weekend, there were a half dozen of the area's top barbecue teams getting their smoke on.

I enjoyed some great traditional Texas barbecue including pork ribs, chicken (which the pitmasters kept telling tourists was armadillo, rattlesnake, or alligator, much to my great amusement), hot sausages, and the undisputed king of the smoke-ringed meats; beef brisket.

Sitting under a huge shade tree, eating brisket and sipping on a Lonestar beer, I couldn't help but look down and picture what I might look like in a pair of cowboy boots. After a couple moments I decided I'd leave the pointy footwear to those more suited, like Anthony Bourdain.

The trip ended with drinks and hors d’oeuvres at Acenar, adjacent the amazingly beautiful Hotel Valencia. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that my stay was complimentary, but in all honesty, it really was a world-class hotel experience. Great service, gorgeous rooms, and the best 3/4-pound room service sirloin burger I've ever had.

I’d like to thank the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau and Geiger & Associates for making this trip possible. I had a wonderful time, and I will be back for sure.

If you want more info about this event specifically, or San Antonio's food scene in general, here's the Visitors Bureau's official website. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Roasted Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus …And That's It

This super simple prosciutto wrapped asparagus recipe sets a new record on Food Wishes for fewest number of ingredients. Some asparagus, prosciutto, and that is it. The fat from the roasting prosciutto provides numerous benefits.

It adds the perfect amount of saltiness. It imparts that rich meaty flavor that only pork can deliver. You'll even get a little pepperiness . I'm more than happy to enjoy asparagus in its natural, swine-free state, but once in a while I need to animal it up a little.

This is such a versatile dish. You can make it for a quick snack as I did, but image a little raft of these glistening spears as a base for a piece of grilled chicken, or tossed on top of a pasta, or salad. You can also break from the two ingredient plan and add lemon, parmesan, aioli, romesco…actually, it would be quicker to list what it doesn't go with.

Asparagus is plentiful right now, so next time you're at the grocery store, or better yet, the farmers market, pick up a few bunches and give it a go. You can really use any thinly sliced cured meat, and I've done this with Serrano ham, as well as smoked Black Forest ham with equally delicious results. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What to Do with Fava Beans [insert Silence of the Lambs joke here]

I'm in San Antonio for one more day, so in lieu of a new video (btw, you'll see a fantastic asparagus recipe Monday), I decided to link to this fava bean how-to. Fava beans are one of my favorite spring vegetables, but many people just don't know how to prepare them.

They do take a little bit of work, but you've never let that stop you before. Click here to watch the fava bean fun. Enjoy, and see you soon!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hello from San Antonio!

My hangover from Vegas Uncork'd had barely subsided before I was packing for another food and wine festival. This time it was the 11th Annual New World Wine and Food Festival in San Antonio. I'd heard it was a beautiful city with a great food scene, so I jumped at the chance to go.

Thursday was opening night of the event, and featured the Winemakers’ Dinners, held at six of San Antonio's top restaurants. I ended up dining at Las Canarias, in the historic Omni La Mansion del Rio. This gorgeous Spanish colonial-style hotel overlooks the city's signature attraction, the River Walk.

The River Walk is a system of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, sunken one story beneath the city streets. It's lined with restaurants, bars, and stores of all types.

It struck me as a sort of cross between walking through Venice
, and navigating the piers of San Francisco's fisherman's wharf – except it didn't smell like dead fish.

The menu was designed by Executive Chef John Brand, and the wines were done by J Vineyards from Sonoma's Russian River Valley. Since I saw a Texas winery on our itinerary for Friday, I assumed the wine would be local, but was more than happy with the pairing, as I've been a fan of their wines for years.

By the way, the dinning room was really dark, so you'll forgive the less than perfect photographs, as I didn't want to spoil the ambiance with my flash.

After some tasty passed appetizers, the first course was presented. We started the meal out with duck egg agnolotti with langostines, American sturgeon caviar and local English pea broth.

This was paired with J Vineyards 2008 Pinot Gris. It was a great match, except I was annoyed I couldn't identify the cheese in the stuffed pasta. Unfortunately, by the time the chef came out to chat, I had forgotten my question. Wine will do that.

Next we enjoyed a very ambitious plate consisting of tuna involtini with Kurabota pork, beet jam, rusty goat cheese, and avocado oil. This was washed down (do I have a way with words or what?) with J Vineyards' highly regarded Cuvee 20 Brut NV.

The main course was my favorite, and offered a breast of Muscovy duck, stuffed with duck leg confit, served with warm bitter greens, Pedro Jimenez sherry and foie gras vinaigrette, fava beans, heirloom carrots and lavender honey. It was delicious on it's own, but ever more impressive with a 2007 Pinot Noir.

Dessert was crispy Cariabe chocolate polenta cake, with white chocolate, cajete, compressed rhubarb and strawberry chips. It was paired with a J Vineyards' Brut Rose NV. This was the most controversial dish, and our table had a spirited disccusssion of whether this worked or not.

That would have been fine, and even fun, except it was at that point the chef had come over to out table to see how we liked everything. Several guests, now 3 or 4 drinks in, pulled the chef into the debate. Personally, I loved the flavor, but the texture of the polenta was challenging.

It was a great way to start the weekend! Still to come is a recap of today's surprising trip to Becker Vineyards, in Hill Country. That's right, Texan wine! Tonight was also the event's Grand Tasting, and you know I had the camera out for that. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Popping Off! A 2010 Vegas Uncork'd Recap with Top 10 "Best Bites" List

It's hard enough blogging about a long weekend in Las Vegas under normal circumstances, but try doing a proper recap after Vegas Uncork'd, a three-day wine and food festival featuring hundreds of delicious bites served by over 50 world-class chefs.

By all accounts, the 4th Annual Vegas Uncork'd, presented by Bon Appetit, was the biggest and best yet. This was my first Uncork'd, so I was curious to see if it could live up to all the pre-event hype. It did, and then some.

The weekend got off to a bubbly start with a VIP grand opening reception hosted by Bon Appétit's Editor in Chief, Barbara Fairchild, at miX on top of THEhotel. Master chef Alain Ducasse took a sabre to a bottle of Champagne with explosive results (see bonus video below!), and Uncork'd was officially underway. It was pure chefophile nirvana. "Chef of the Century," Joel Robuchon was joined by such culinary superstars as Bobby Flay, Hubert Keller, and Cat Cora, just to name a few of the headliners.

We also met Julie Murry, the CEO of Three Square, the official charity partner for Vegas Uncork'd. This event raises much-needed funds for Southern Nevada’s only food bank, and Julie couldn't say enough about how gracious the chefs were with their time and energy.

After the reception we had a behind the scenes tour of the various Masters' Series Dinners at Caesars Palace, hosted by Rao's, Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill, Restaurant Guy Savoy, and our final dinner destination, Bradley Ogden.

Watching all the various plates and platters going by, it was clear these chefs were not about to be outdone by each other. They understood what a special showcase this was, and the guests were the beneficiaries.

Day one came to a wonderful end with a sushi and sake celebration at the ultra-slick and very sexy Shibuya in the MGM Grand. If it's possible for something to be decadent and demure at the same time, this was.

As several lovely young ladies danced on the bar in furry white bikinis to the Black Eyed Peas greatest hits, revelers snacked on oysters and sushi, washed down with a seemingly endless variety of sake.

Day two started with a very special Masters' Series Lunch hosted by Bon Appetit's Barbara Fairchild, and featured the one and only Wolfgang Puck showing off his considerable skills at CUT in The Palazzo. It was a magnificent meal, prepared by a chef still very much on top of his game.

Then it was off to Cocktails and Cuisine at the Wynnn/Encore. Bon Appétit's Steve Olson, the Wynn's Patricia Richards, and the Michael Jordon of modern mixologists, Tony Abou-Ganim, demonstrated five amazing, Italian-inspired cocktails, which were each paired with beautiful bites from chefs James Benson and Theo Schoenegger. The event started off with perfectly made white peach bellinis, and just kept getting better.

As great as the Puck lunch and Cocktails and Cuisine were, the highlight of day two had to be the epic Grand Tasting, held at the Garden of the Gods Pool in Caesars Palace. Fifty of the city's top restaurants set up stations around the glistening pool, most also featuring their star chef right alongside to explain what was being served, as well as to pose for pictures and soak up the admiration of the giddy crowd.

There really were too many outstanding bites and sips to name, and I can say with all sincerity that this event alone is reason enough to attend Uncork'd. Had a statue of Bacchus suddenly come to life, and took a stroll around the pool, I can't help but think he would have been very impressed.

The night ended with the Celebrity Chef Blackjack Tournament, held poolside at the Encore. It was so interesting to watch the chefs (a competitive breed by nature) interact with each other, feigning cordiality, while trying their best to crush each other and take the prize. Paul Bartolotta, chef at Bartolotta Ristorante Di Mare, and suspected card counter, won for the third year in a row.

While the night officially ended with the blackjack tournament, it unofficially ended way too late at the properties signature nightclub, XS. Besides a few people mistaking me for an undercover cop, it was a great time, and a lot of fun partying with fellow food bloggers, Sara (aka Average Betty), Mark (aka No Recipes), and Mika (aka Food Fashionista). One tip to anyone organizing a food and wine event – invite lots of food bloggers to cover – trust me on this.

While day two seemed like a very tough act to follow, day three turned out to be just as much fun. I attended Culinary Theater: All the Kitchen’s a Stage, which featured a sort of Top Chef Masters rematch between Rick Moonen, Hubert Keller, and Susan Feniger.

The event took place at Moonen’s RM Seafood in the Mandalay Bay. He attempted to redeem himself with another go at what he calls, “Moon Doggies.” These spicy shrimp mousse corndogs were not a hit with the judges on TCM, but the chef showed everyone, when given enough time to properly prepare them, how delicious they really were.

Hubert Keller was up next and did his famous lobster macaroni and cheese. If you're a fan of the show, you may remember him having to use a dorm room shower to drain the pasta. I'm happy to report a regular sink was used this time, and it was as rich and tasty as you'd imagine.

Lastly, Susan Feniger from the Border Grill, made a beautiful ceviche, served on crunchy, fried plantain chips. It also happened to be Feniger's birthday, and the other chefs led the room in a spirited rendition of Happy Birthday. In true chef fraternity style, she was toasted with cold beer and warm, gratuitous kidding.

I have to give a shout out to Bon Appetit's Andrew Knowlton, who hosted the event. In addition to somehow keeping the proceedings on track (no easy feet with those three personalities on the same stage), Knowlton also went above and beyond the call of duty; personally making sure all the guests at this standing-room-only event got to taste all the dishes.

It was refreshing to see, and I noticed VIP's from Bon Appetit and Uncork'd shoulder-to-shoulder all weekend with guests and chefs alike, making sure everyone was taken care of and having a good time. It's that type of culinary camaraderie that's at the heart of Uncork'd's success.

The last formal meal of the weekend was an amazing dinner at Chef Michael Mina's StripSteak in the Mandalay Bay. This is a gorgeous, modern American steakhouse, and the food was truly exceptional.

Any restaurant that starts each table out with a complimentary order of duck fat fried potatoes is clearly showing they know what the hell they're doing.

Uncork'd ended around the pool at the Palazzo with Crushed: Wine That Rocks. In addition to the usual stellar food and drink, and wall-to-wall culinary celebs, this event featured restaurateur and winemaker, Joe Bastianich who sat in with the band Six Foot Nurse. Also on stage was Scott Ian of Anthrax, who sports the best rock-n-roll beard since ZZ Top.

I got there very late, and after three days of non-stop eating and drinking, my only real goal was to not fall in the pool. As I sipped my last Stella in the warm, dry breeze, listening to the band finish with a stirring Led Zeppelin medley, two thoughts came to mind… how much more I enjoyed music before autotune was invented, and what a truly fantastic weekend of food and drink this had been.

Thanks to Bon Appetit, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, R&R Partners, and everyone else involved with Vegas Uncork'd. It was every bit as much fun as I'd heard, and I can’t wait for the next one. Cheers!

It sure wasn't easy, but here's a list of my…
2010 Vegas Uncork'd Top 10 "Best Bites"

Herbert Keller's Crab Salad Crostini Over Green Gazpacho

Whenever I'm at one of these tastings, I employ a simple strategy. I first visit the chefs that don't have anything to prove. Chefs like Herbert Keller from Fleur De Lys. Nothing wrecks a great bite of food like trying too hard.

This brilliant pairing consisted of a simple, but perfect crab salad crostini sitting on top of a shot glass of green gazpacho. The iced-out presentation kept the soup frosty, and made the whole station glow. Speaking of glowing, Chef Keller is pictured here with well-known San Francisco foodie, my wife, the lovely Michele Manfredi.

I was pretty impressed as soon as I crunched into the crostini, but after I chased it with the vibrant soup, getting the full effect, I actually closed my eyes and smiled. I repeated that procedure three more times.

Duck Fat Fries Trio at StripSteak

If you ever find yourself in some sort of high-stakes French fry contest, do yourself a favor and procure some duck fat. This trio of perfectly crisp fries (which I believe were paprika-dusted, garlic, and herb-flecked) were served with housemade ketchup, creamy truffle dip, and barbecue sauce. StripSteak starts each table off with this steakhouse-sized version of an amuse bouche. Talk about a great first impression. Yes, they had me at "duck fat fried."

This was just one small part of an epic meal we enjoyed, which included some of the most delicious steaks and side dishes in recent memory, like this gorgeous Caesar served with olive dressing and white anchovies. I enjoyed a perfectly prepared Kansas City strip steak, over which I spread roasted bone marrow and seared foie gras. Hey, I was trying to make the fries jealous.

Wolfgang Puck's Banana Cream Heaven

Since I'm not really a dessert person at heart, it takes an extra special preparation to pique my interest, let alone make it on a 'best bites' list. This was some kind of special. Banana ice cream, banana custard, crispy crust, topped with baby banana brulee – it was a light yellow block of pure inspiration.

Paul Bartolotta's Pesce In Crostate Di Sale Profumato

One of the most sought after events at Uncork'd is the All-Star Interactive Luncheon. Held at the Wynn/Encore, guests were able to cook along with three of the resort's top chefs; David Walzog, Alex Stratta (see risotto below), and Paul Bartolotta. It was Bartolotta's whole fish baked in salt that brought the whole room to its knees (a few guests, literally).

The coarse salt was laced with copious amounts of star anise, fennel pollen, and citrus, then bound with egg whites. The fish was roasted, and when that salt crust was cracked off, the succulence of the fish underneath was stunning.

It was one of those things you eat that leaves you questioning why you would ever cook that particular food any other way. I will be doing a video on this magical technique soon, so stay tuned for that.

Bradley Ogden's Roasted Petaluma Free Range Chicken with Butter Roasted Spring Onions, Poached Egg, and Chorizo

It takes a certain amount of courage to do a plate of food like this. There is no built in excuse for failure, like the chef was trying some exotic new flavor combinations. The only way this works is if every component is done just right.

The chicken must be seared crisp on the outside, moist and juicy inside. The chorizo well cooked, but not dry. The poached egg's yolk must be tranformed into a hot, thick, golden sauce – the cook that did this had about a 20 second window for perfection. This choice is dedicated to that cook, and the chef that taught him.

Alex Stratta's Interactive Sweet Pea Risotto

It's not everyday you get to enjoy a perfect risotto prepared table side. But what made this one even more enjoyable was the fact it was stirred into submission by my friend, and fellow reporter Sara.

At the All-Star Interactive Luncheon, each table of eight came with a chef and cooking station, and a volunteer would be selected to come over to make the course. What you see here, compliments of chef Stratta, is an exceptionally delicious, sweet pea risotto with wild mushrooms, and more than a touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano, butter, and cream.

The women they call Average Betty on the internet, claimed this was the first risotto she'd ever made. It was so good I'm questioning her claim, and offering a $100 reward for pictures of her making a risotto.

Wolfgang Puck's White Asparagus Salad

I'm not sure how many "best bites" lists this simple salad will make, but I loved everything about it. It was such a handsome plate, delicate, yet masculine enough to hold its own on any steakhouse menu. The dressing was spot on, the tempretures optimal, and most impressively, the thick asparagus spears were cooked to absolute perfection – firm, tender, and creamy.

Cat Cora's Lamb Sliders

This is kind of an ironic choice, since I'm so quick to make fun of the sliderization of America, which is now reaching ridiculous new heights. This little grilled lamb and olive burger was no joke. Expertly cooked and super flavorful, it came with a tangy, creamy garlic sauce.

It was paired with a blueberry cocktail that worked very nicely, much to my surprise. There is no real way to explain why it worked, so I'll give you the standard Sin City answer, "It's Vegas, baby!"

By the way, Cat Cora was unanimous choice for nicest chef at the event. She is a font of positive culinary energy, and never once did I see someone standing next to her who wasn't smiling. Also, if you're ever looking for her in a casino, head towards the "Wheel of Fortune" slot machines. I'm just saying.

Bobby Flay on the Half Shell

There may have been chefs with more stars, or longer resumes, but no one stopped a room like Bobby Flay. When Flay walked in, conversations stopped and the attention quickly redirected. Which was exactly what was supposed to happen. Guests with champagne in one hand and something delicious in the other, soaked it all in.

Bobby, as we call him in Vegas, served a lovely sea scallop "crudo" with red pepper, charred corn and avocado relish. I thought this really captured the chef's culinary point of view. It was bold, flavorful, and like it's creator, showed a measure of swagger.

Benson and Schoenegger's Brasato di Vitello with Kobe Beef and White Asparagus

This amazing braised veal bite, topped with a buttery slice of perfectly marbeled Kobe was the last savory course at the Cocktails and Cuisine event. Bon Appétit's Steve Olson created a cocktail called the La Buona Vita – an extremely potent blend of tequila, Mezcal, and vermouth – to pair with the decadent dish.

The drink was ready just before the food was severed, and as people sipped, waiting happily, more than a few twisted smiles appeared. Olson made note, and said that we would be pleasantly surprised how much the drink's character would change, once enjoyed along with the rich meats. He was right on – when sipped after a forkful of this dynamic duo, the cocktail smoothed out beautifully. This was my favorite bite of the event!

Bonus Video Coverage: Day One
Here are a few video clips and some images capturing the sights and sounds of day one. Stay tuned for more!

FTC Blogger Disclaimer: I was invited to cover this event as part of the Vegas Uncork'd press group. My trip was made possible by R&R Partners, and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.