Thursday, June 5, 2014

Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America 2014

Photo by Niko Triantafillou
On Monday, I attended the 2014 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America awards selected by Dessert Professional Magazine presented by Guittard ChocolateKitchenAidBeurremontNielsen-Massey, and hosted by Institute of Culinary Education ("ICE"). Each year Dessert Professional Magazine crowns the top 10 pastry chefs in the country.  I look forward to this event each year as the most accomplished pastry chefs are being recognized and honored.  It is a great recognition to their achievement.  Though the most exciting part for me and probably for all the guests is we get to enjoy an array of amazingly creative and delicious plated desserts throughout the evening.  I was fortunate to be able to sample these tasty morsels prepared by the best in the country.

Check out the impressive list of this year's top ten below.  These talented chefs are masters of their trade. As a savory cook, I'm in awe of these extremely creative and skilled pastry chefs.  I also attached photos from the event so you could feast your eyes on their unique pastry creations. 

This year’s Top Ten:
Georges Berger, MOF
Owner, Chocolate Fashion
Miami, FL
Ebow Dadzie
Pastry Chef, NY Marriott Marquis
New York, NY
Pastry Instructor, Monroe College
New Rochelle, NY    
Della Gossett
Executive Pastry Chef, Spago
Los Angeles, CA
Katzie Guy-Hamilton
F&B Director and Corporate Pastry Chef, Max Brenner
Worldwide
Cher Harris
Executive Pastry Chef, The Hotel Hershey
Hershey, PA
Joshua Johnson
Executive Pastry Chef, Vanille Patisserie
Chicago, IL
Ghaya Oliveira
Executive Pastry Chef, Restaurant Daniel
New York, NY
Derek Poirier
Ecole du Grand Chocolate Pastry Chef Western USA, Valrhona USA
Rudi Weider
Master Pastry Chef, Hilton San Diego Bayfront
San Diego, CA
Jennifer Yee
Executive Pastry Chef, Lafayette
New York, NY
Assorted Eclairs: Coconut, Lemon Meringue, Cherry Pistachio, Espresso and Chocolate
Chef Jennfer Yee, Lafayette, NYC
Coconut Lime Dacquoise with Mango Olive Jelly, Coconut Mousse, Mango Pineapple Compote, Banana Lime Sorbet
Chef Ebow Dadzie, Marriott Marquis & Monroe College, NYC
Corn Macaron with Corn Panna Cotta, Jalapeno Gelee, Goat Cheese Dressed Arugula
Chef Joshua Johnson, Vanille Patisserie, Chicago, IL    

Mandarin and Chocolate Hazelnut Sponge, Ginger Caramel Macaron, Smoked Hazelnut Crumble
Chef Cher Harris, Hotel Hershey, Hershey, PA
Lychee Panna Cotta
Chef Ebow Dadzie, Marriott Marquis & Monroe College, NYC 
Hazelnuts, Prailaines, Opaly's Bahibe Chocolate
Chef Derek Poirier, Valrhona USA

Suntory Chocolate Torte with Toasted Matcha Pistachio Gelato, Coconut Shaved Ice, Cherries
Chef Katzie Guy-Hamilton, Max Brenner
Cherry Tarte, Rosemary Cherry Compote, Chocolate Financier, Tainori Bavaroise
Chef Ghaya Oliveira, Restaurant Daniel, NYC
Chocolate Expresso Creme Brulee with Bourbon Vanilla Gelato, Salted Caramel Sauce
Chef Rudi Weider, Hilton San Diego, San Diego, CA
Pistachio Brittle & White Peach Mousse
Chef Georges Berger, Chocolate Fashion, Miami, FL
White Chocolate "Crottin" with Surinam Cherry Preserve
Chef Della Gossett, Spago, Los Angeles, CA

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Circo - Bollito Misto Week


Is it old man winter or return of polar vortex that is causing this unbearable weather?  Another snow storm arrived Tuesday evening.  As much as I don't like the bitter cold and threat of snow, I'm getting fed up with it.  As the winter months grow longer, I'm feeling braver to venture out in a snow storm.  I don't want the weather to stop me from enjoying a good meal with good company especially when I'm craving comfort food such as hearty stews and soups.  I simply can't get enough of it so when I was invited to Circo for their preview of Bollito Misto week; I was excited to try this rustic Italian comfort dish.  I braved the storm to join my fellow food troopers (Arlyn Blake, Jackie Gordon, Jean Lee, Judy Kim and Matt Bruck) for a delightful meal.

If you're not familiar with Circo, it is an Italian restaurant in midtown owned by the Maccioni Family who owns Le Cirque.  Bollito Misto is one of Sirio Maccioni's favorite dishes. Every winter they offer it on the menu at Circo.  Bollito Misto means 'mix boiled' which is a very traditional northern Italian dish. It consists of various cuts of meat simmer in a vegetable broth until the meat becomes tender.  Then it's usually sliced thinly then serve with a variety of condiments such as mostarda, coarse sea salt and salsa verde.  This year Circo is launching Bollito Misto week which starts Monday, January 27 to Friday, January 31.  They will be celebrating this comfort dish by offering a 5 course dinner for $49 per person.  Don't miss your chance to taste some of the traditional Italian dishes that are favorites of the Maccioni family.  Most of these dishes are prepared using Mamma Egi's recipes, and I was delighted to meet Mamma Egi.  Marco Maccioni, one of the sons and owners, also joined us while we previewed the five course tasting dinner.

The highlight of this menu for me was of course the Bollito Misto, but I also really enjoyed the Antipasto Platter specifically with the house made panzerotti bread and Mamma's Tortellini.  Mamma Egi told us other than the brisket and capon, she also added house made chicken and beef sausages to the Bollito Misto. The sausages were so tender and delicious.  The broth was flavorful and well seasoned.  Chef Alfio Longo, the Executive Chef, is offering five condiments to pair with the Bollito Misto which includes mostarda, coarse sea salt, salsa verde, mustard and spicy tomato sauce which I love since I love a little spiciness in my food.  I also enjoyed the mostarda with the sea salt (a little savory and sweet).  Marco also told us his favorite condiment which is the salsa verde; so there really is something for everyone.  He also proudly told us that he is a big fan of his mamma's tortellini which I too enjoyed very much.  They are the cutest and tastiest little dumplings ever.  I could eat bowls of those too. To pair with the whole meal, we tasted some delicious Lambrusco. We started out with the lighter Lambrusco di Sorbara then the bolder Reggiano with the Bollito Misto.  Finally, for dessert, we had a sweeter wine of Brachetto d'Acqui which I also enjoyed very much.

All in all, it was a fabulous way to spend a cold snowy evening.  You could experience this tasty 5 course menu for a limited time starting Monday, January 27.  I highly encourage you to take advantage of this great price, and warm your heart and soul with this delicious five course dinner.  Enjoy and Buon Appetito!

Antipasto Platter of Culatello di Zibello, Mortadella di Bologna, Parmigiano, Panzerotti and Mostarda
Mamma Egi's Tortellini with Broth
Pumpkin Cappelaci with Butter Sage and Saba Wine Sauce
Bollito Misto of Capon, Beef and Housemade Sausages with 5 condiments


Red Wine Pached Pear and Zabglione
Group Photo op missing Jean Lee who is taking the picture featuring: Bruno,  Matt Bruck, Mamma Egi, Chef Alfio Longo, Marco Macchioni, Judy Kim, Me, Arlyn Blake and Jackie Gordon
Disclaimer:  The dinner was hosted by Circo.  All opinions are my own, and I did not receive any compensation for this post.






Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fennel Flower Crystals Dusted Shrimp, Roasted Fennel with Saffron Vanilla Sauce


Sweet to Savory is the recipe contest that Marx Foods (a specialty fine food store based in Seattle) is hosting.  They reached out to me to ask if I would like to participate.  I have entered a few of their previous contests and always had a great time so naturally I said yes.  Days later I received a box of ingredients.  It contained vanilla beans, granulated honey, coconut sugar and fennel flower crystals.  The rule is to at least use two out of the four sweet ingredients to make a savory dish.  I've heard about fennel flower crystals, but have never used it before so I tasted it and it's got a slight sweetness. It has a concentrated anise flavor with a floral component.  It has a crunchy texture.  I figure I would use it in a marinade as well as to finish a dish.  I also thought I would use the coconut sugar, but then I realized I've already used it in the Coconut Caramel Pulled Pork Empanada recipe in a previous contest.  The vanilla is a tricky one because not many savory dishes contain vanilla unless it's used in a sauce.  I remember making a saffron vanilla sauce in school, so I decided that I'd use the vanilla and fennel flower crystals together.

As to the protein I chose shrimp because I think the shellfish would go well with the sauce besides I already have some in my freezer.  I often have shrimp in my freezer because I love shrimp plus it makes for a quick weeknight meal.  I also like to save shrimp shells to make shrimp stock.  I just love the intense shrimp flavor you get from the shells.  If I'm making shrimp I often use some shrimp stock to make a sauce to add another layer of the shrimp flavor.  If you don't have shrimp shells to make stock, you could substitute it with some store-bought seafood stock.  To tie the dish together with the fennel flower crystals, I also made some roasted fennel to give it another element of the fennel flavor and texture.  

Fennel Flower Crystals Dusted Shrimp, Roasted Fennel with Saffron Vanilla Sauce - Serves 4 as an appetizer or 2 as main course

Fennel Flower Crystals Dusted Shrimp
12 colossal shrimp shelled and deveined
1 tspn of fennel flower crystals divided (use half in the marinate then half to finish the dish)
1 tspn of salt
1/2 tspn of black pepper
Juice of a lemon

Roasted Fennel
2 fennel bulbs cut in quarters
6-8 gloves of garlic
3-4 springs of thyme
2 tspn of fennel fronds reserve for garnish
Salt & pepper for seasoning

Saffron Vanilla Sauce
1 1/2 cup of shrimp stock (recipe to follow)
1 vanilla bean
4 tbsp of unsalted butter (cut to small pieces)
1 tbsp of heavy cream
1/2 tspn of saffron threads

Shrimp Stock (optional as you can substitute with store bought seafood stock)
3 cups of water
2 cups of shrimp shells
3-4 pieces of ginger cut 1/2 inch thick
3 pieces of scallion (green part cut in 2-3 inch pieces)

Put all the ingredient for the shrimp stock and let it simmer for about 45 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let it reduce then strain.  It'll yield approximately 1 1/2 to 2 cups of stock.  This can be made ahead and set aside for the sauce.

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut off the stalks from the fennel bulb, save about 2 tspn of the fronds for garnish.  Trim off the outer tough parts of the bulb.  Cut the bulb in half then trim off the core as it could be too tough to eat, then cut the rest of the bulb in quarters.  Season with salt, pepper, drizzle with olive oil then add the garlic and thyme and roast it for 30-40 minutes until fork tender.

For the sauce, split the vanilla in half then scrape the seeds into a small saucepan.  Add the vanilla pod, shrimp stock and saffron.  Simmer and reduce to half.  Strain the sauce then add the heavy cream.  Simmer for a few more seconds then whisk in the butter a little at a time over medium heat.  Keep whisking until the sauce thickens.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm until it's ready to serve.


Season the shrimp with salt, pepper and fennel flower crystals.  Add olive oil to coat and let it marinate for 15 minutes.  Heat a skillet until it's hot, then add olive oil to coat, then sear the shrimp 2-3 minutes on each side until the flesh turns pink.  Turn off the heat then add lemon juice.

To finish the dish, spoon the sauce onto a plate, then put the roasted fennel and shrimp on top.  Sprinkle more fennel flower crystals and garnish with fennel fronds.

I really love the sauce as you can taste the vanilla flavor, but the saffron gives it a great balance of the savory element as well as the vibrant color of the sauce.  The fennel flower crystals give a burst of anise flavor and floral note to the dish.  Thanks again Marx Foods for thinking of me for this contest.  As always I have fun with the ingredients.  Until next time...


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Get Ready for Pig Island 2013


25 chefs 80 local pigs is the theme of each year's Pig Island event.  This year is no different. Yesterday, some of the chefs gathered once again at the Union Square Greenmarket to pick up their pigs from Flying Pigs Farm so they can start preparing for the event on Saturday.  I am always excited to hear what the chefs will be making, and I'm eager to taste all of the dishes.  Luckily I only have to wait a couple of more days.

Other than all the various pork dishes, there will be a vegetarian station.  I spoke with Tim Cavaretta of Bittegreen, and they'll be making a kohlrabi rainbow carrot slaw, poached apples, celery root with maple spiced pecan.  Greenmarket Co. is donating a portion of the produce from local growers.  Other than all the amazing food, there will be beer from Sixpoint Brewery, New York State wine from the North Fork and the Finger Lakes.  Live bands, live butchering and cooking demos.  All inclusive tickets are still available so come have a great time on Pig Island in Red Hook, Brooklyn; and support our local farmers, chefs, brewers and vintners.  You can get your tickets here:  http://www.pigisland.com/tickets/  In case you still need convincing, here's my recap of last year's Pig Island to get a glimpse of what to expect for this Saturday.

Chef Danny Mena of Hecho en Dumbo will be making a Yucantan Style Relleno de Negro.  Posing with the host Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43 and Food Karma Project
Billy Fletcher and Pit Master Matt Fisher of Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ is making a Ginger & Soy Pork with Chick Pea Salsa 

Chef Michael Jenkins of Butter NYC - He and his team made a delicious Bacon Caramel Cookie last year, and this year he's planning to make another dessert.  Can't wait to try it!
Chef Will Horowitz of Ducks Eatery is making Crispy Pig Ear Lettuce Wrap with Smoke Liver and Fermented Chow Chow
Chef Joe Dobias of Joe & Misses Doe is making his version of a Burrito
Chef Evan Hanczor of Parish Hall had me at Pig Skin Noodles!
Chefs Zarela Martinez and Tyson Ho (Arrogant Swine) will be partnering up to make a stuffed whole pig in the style of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.  This is going to be a treat!   

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Garden Restaurant at The Four Seasons Hotel, New York City

This past Sunday, I was invited to brunch at The Garden at the Four Seasons Hotel in NYC.  It was such a lovely way to spend the afternoon tasting delicious food with some of my food blogger friends.  The brunch was organized by the Food and Beverage Director Simon de Swaan and Ken Leung.  The Executive Chef John Johnson created a delicious and playful menu that highlights local and seasonal ingredients available right now in the green markets.  Many of the ingredients he uses are sourced locally.  The brunch menu changes every few weeks which gives Chef Johnson the opportunity to be creative and playful. Currently, Chef Johnson is featuring some beautiful tomatoes and stone fruits. He's doing a wonderful job accentuating these seasonal ingredients.
First up we tasted three boozy cocktails featuring tomatoes.  There was the Tomato Watermelon and Cucumber Vodka, Classic Crushed Jersey Tomato Bloody Mary with spicy Brooklyn Pickles and Clear Tomato Martini.  It was definitely a good start to this tasty brunch. I enjoyed the essence of the tomatoes in each of the cocktail particularly in the Martini.  The flavor of the tomatoes was so clean, light and refreshing. Immediately followed by the cocktails was a whimsical take on crudites.  It includes baby carrots and radishes in olive soil. We were all very curious as to how the soil was made as by first glance it really looks like dirt.  I thought how odd that we were given baby vegetables in dirt to start our meal.  We eagerly waited for Chef Johnson to tell us the process of making the olive soil.  He explained the process by first dehydrating the olives in a low temperature oven, and then tossed with some almond flour to create the texture which results in a delicious olive mixture that resembles soil.
 
Another playful dish was the lemon ricotta pancake pigs in a blanket.  The pancake was so fluffy and tasty, and I'm always a fan of savory with sweet so I love the saltiness of the sausages with the pancakes as well as the sweetness of the Duchess County Maple Syrup. 

The grilled terrine of Hudson Valley Foie Gras with apricots and local strawberry mostarda was probably one of my favorite dishes.  Again love the savory and sweet contrast.   Another highlight was the lobster hash cocotte with choron sauce.  Oh and did I mention the gorgeous local heirloom tomatoes simply dressed in a 50 year old sherry and basil, soooo good.

Even though I don't have a sweet tooth, I couldn't resist the stuffed blueberry French toast with the whipped Nutella.  As to desserts, we tasted the Green Market Crisp with apricot and peaches and cinnamon ice cream as well as the chocolate hazelnut napoleon.  Both were so good, and I couldn't stop eating either of them.

I knew I would be in for a great treat as soon as I started talking with Simon, Chef Johnson and his team as they are extremely passionate about food.  They took pride in the menu they created based on the locally farmed and sourced ingredients as well as the commitment to highlight the seasonal aspect of the menu.  I truly enjoyed all the dishes that are featured.  The service was wonderful and the decor was soothing.  It is definitely a great place to spend a weekend afternoon enjoying brunch with friends and family. 


Disclaimer:  The brunch was hosted by The Garden at the Four Seasons Hotel.  All opinions are my own, and I did not receive any compensation for this post.
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