Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Past Cooking Experiences (A Rare Event)

Years and years ago (no joke) my boyfriend and I took a cooking class at a local cookware store that hosts classes in the back. I can't remember the theme, but it was really fun and romantic. Years later (but still years ago, yes we've been dating forever) my BF's mom (my "MIL" for all intents and purposes) and I took our nephew (her grandson) to a few of the kids cooking classes they offered there. Again, lots of fun! I even got some good and simple recipes from them. (Which I have made one time each, I really never cook) My favorite was the Tomato & Leek (& Cheese!!) Tart ..... So easy!

If kids can do it, I can do it. :-) It's basically a premade pie crust, filled with a layer of cheese blend, then sauteed leeks (which were surprisingly delicious - considering I am not a big onion fan - haha, get it? big onion?), and a layer of tomato slices.

Then you pile on more of the cheese mixture with some bacon mixed in, for good measure. (This was a Southern Food cooking class, no skimping on the bacon.)

THEN!! You take the rest of the "dry" cheese blend, mix it with some mayonnaise and Parmesan (more cheese!) and throw all that on top in big dollops.

As you can see from the green stuff there are other ingredients but I am typing this from memory. If anyone is truly interested I have the recipe in the menu drawer in my kitchen and will gladly pass it on. :-) Once the cheese mountain has been constructed, you bake it for like 20 minutes and TA-DA!!! Mmmmelty, cheesy leek tart on your table. I'm going to have to make that again soon, I forgot how delicious it is, and easy! Bonus for me.

More recently (maybe 3 years ago?) we took another "grown up" class and it was about Raclette and Fondue. Super fun again! Learned something new (raclette) and fondue is actually something we do cook once in a while so it was good to get new ideas for that. We were very tempted to buy the raclette grille, but haven't yet taken the plunge. They look like this...

and you melt your cheese on the bottom in little individual trays, and cook meat/veggies up top, to later be mixed/served with the cheese. Sadly, no pics from this class. I suggest exploring raclette to anyone who enjoys fondue and the social aspect of eating fondue. Raclette is same idea, just different kinds of cheese, not as melty. :-) (yes, melty is - despite the blogger spellcheck's insistence that it is spelled wrong - a word, since I have used it twice in my post.)

Coming soon....my Top Chef Cookbook recipe attempts! haha

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yay for Food Events!

First I saw (ok, read about) ALadyinLondon attending not one, but TWO! amazing travel conference/trade shows over in Europe. Then, after finding out about eat.drink.read. from another SD food blogger, I decided to look into other food, travel, book related events around town to see if I can get some blogging motivation going. And, you know what? There are quite a few! The first one I found is for a travel trade show. I am not sure how exciting it is going to be since they don't seem to have an exclusive website, all I can find is this and then this, which doesn't seem very promising. BUT, if I have nothing else to do that day, I plan to check it out. Unfortunately I can't remember who it was that inspired me to look into the San Diego based Chef Celebration Dinner Series. Someone on the blogroll of this awesome SD food blogger, I am sure. He's my best source for new people to read. The website gives more details but I got the idea from "whoever's" blog... a few local chefs get together at one anothers restaurants and cook a fixed price dinner. Sounds so fun! AND - bonus - one of the restaurants this year is Harney Sushi, celebrating their 10 yr anniversary. As I have mentioned before, we know the owners (or one of them) of that establishment! :-) I'm really excited about getting to at least one or two of these dinners over the next couple of months.

The 3rd event I found was inspired by a show I "marathon watched" one rainy Saturday a few months back, The Great Food Truck Race. I was reminded of it by Andrew Zimmern's recently aired visit to San Francisco, where he cooked in a truck at a "meet up" of food trucks, which moves around the city. And guess what?? San Diego is having a "Gourmet Food Truck Festival"!! Best description I have found is here, and there are a few other links to buy tickets - although I am sure you can just go to the fairgrounds and buy a ticket on the day.

Anywhoo.... hopefully these events will be fun and worth my time and give me something to write about!

UPDATE: it's these two who went to a bunch of the SD Chef Celebrations last year. :-)

UPDATE #2: Looks like 2 of these events (travel show and food truck fiesta) have been cancelled but I found more! Info to come....

Monday, March 21, 2011

At Home Cheese Plates!!

We've been buying all kinds of cheeses and trying to drink up some of the wine we have been collecting over the last 10 years! We've yet to finish our pantry/wine storage in the new house kitchen so...it's all sitting on the counter and we realized some of it has probably been aging TOO long!! Oops. A lot of the wines are from Napa and our wine tasting trips of years past, and for some reason we always put off drinking it for more "special occasions". We've realized we don't have that many special occasions so we might as well start drinking them now. Plus, it gives us a good excuse to take another trip up to wine country. :-)

One of my favorite (available in your grocery store) cheeses (right now/so far) is Dubliner cheese, from Kerrygold, an Irish dairy. It looks like they have 10 cheeses, but we have only tried 3 so far. I am going to try a different grocery store, maybe Whole Foods, to look for some of the others.

We usually have bread or crackers, an apple or some other fruit, some jam or honey, and (recently) walnuts! There are so many combinations and they are all delicious! So far we have been going with fairly mild cheeses but when I make it over to Whole Foods I'm planning to be more adventurous! I've been browsing this blog, It's Not You It's Brie, and considering buying her book when it is released. Knowledge is power. :-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eat. Drink. Read.

Big thanks to these so cal foodies for mentioning this great event on their blog. I love food, wine and books so this is totally right up my alley! The San Diego Council on Literacy is hosting Eat. Drink. Read. on May 18th,to promote literacy in San Diego. I'm planning to buy my tickets after my next paycheck! The website says: Noted chefs are quoting their favorite books to concoct literary inspired dishes for a delicious event... How fun!! I remember my AP high school English teacher gave us a similar assignment once and we all had to bring in food based on a book we had read that year.

I'm really looking forward to it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

25 Forty Bistro and Bakehouse

(advance apologies for how squished all the text is, i kept getting html errors - whatever that means- when i had line breaks)

We LOVE this new restaurant!! OK, first...rewind - A few weeks back I got a random email (I think somehow linked to/from groupon) that was advertising 80% off restaurant.com gift certificates. Anything 80% off has to be worth looking into! The website basically sells discounted gift certificates ($25 for $10 for example) so I snatched up about $300 worth of certificates for under $40!! It has all kinds of restaurants, casual to fine dining. We got one for our local 24 hour diner, one for Cavaillon (yay! can't wait to go again!!), and 5 or 6 other (new to us) restaurants. They have these big "sales" all the time (I have since found out) but it's still a great deal.

So, back to 25 Forty Bistro, found it on the website, checked it out on Yelp and UrbanSpoon...and was very pleased with what we discovered! It's located in Old Town San Diego, on a quiet street back from the main tourist area. It's also right around the corner from the awesome Harney Sushi, which is owned by a previous neighbor of ours! Finding it was easy, parking not TOO bad, but a little difficult, which is to be expected in that area.

It was a chilly night and Oscar night, so we were only 1 of 2 parties the whole time we were there. Fine with us! The decor is all black and white, kind of "hip" modern casual... with one half of a large wall a chalkboard map with their featured wines highlighted near their country of origin. I thought that was cool. The kitchen was partially visible, allowing diners to see the chefs, and chefs to keep an eye on the pace of the meal. Chef Mark Pelliccia has worked for years in Italy and his fresh ingredients come together to make great food.

To start, I ordered a glass of sparkling Montecchia Moscato, more of a dessert wine but my
experience at Nine Ten had taught me that sweet wines go well with all sorts of dishes. I REALLY liked it and am hoping the have it at BevMo. While we were checking out the menu an amuse bouche of tuna (salad) on still warm toast arrived. It was light and tasty.

We ordered the cheese plate as a starter. It was composed of 4 cheeses, apple wedges, walnuts, celery, and homemade raspberry (if I remember correctly) preserves. Excellent combinations!! We are totally loving this whole cheese thing! We have even started doing cheese plates at home a couple of times a week.

As an appetizer we ordered their pork belly special which came with potato salad. The pork was covered in a sweet/spicy coffee (if i remember correctly!) based BBQ sauce. It was DEEEE-LISH! My boyfriend claims he would eat pork belly every night if we could. The creamy, mild house made potato salad was a perfect compliment to the flavor smackdown of the pork. The serving size could have easily been an entree. Luckily we were sharing everything!

For our main courses I had the pork chop (pork chops-fuji apples-sauteed spinach) and my boyfriend the duck pasta (homemade fettuccine-braised duck). The pork chops were served with the cooked apples and spinach in an excellent sweet sauce. Again, it was a great sized portion. We though the pasta would be like a bed of noodles with pieces of duck on top and some kind of sauce. But it was more like a nest of cut up noodles and duck, all sauced and mixed together. (not easy to describe but see pic!) It was a very different flavor (smoky, rich, gravy-ish) from both of the pork dishes so we weren't so sure at first, but it grew on us. In fact we ate the rest of it (leftovers) the next day and it was even better than we remembered.

On to dessert!! I read online that the pastries are great since they are a "bake house" but we decided to go with the suggestion of the waitress, and ordered vanilla custard crepe. Wow. She served it to us hot out of a pan with the custard all warm and melted and it was just amazing. I love sweets, but my boyfriend agreed that it was just as amazing as I was thinking. :-) I also ordered a hot chocolate.... and that is exactly what I got. A large cup of melted chocolate with fresh whipped cream on top. Holy cow! Even I had a little trouble finishing it at the end, it was that rich. Like drinking out of a chocolate fondue pot. But I won't complain and will probably order it again next time we go!

Overall - GREAT food, EXCELLENT service!! and the price was reasonable, even without a certificate. We shall return!! Hopefully when it is warmer and we can take advantage of their super cute porch seating with fire pits.

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