National Margarita Day

February 22 was National Margarita Day and February 27th was National Kahlua Day. So I made a margarita with a coffee flavored tequila. YUM! In a cocktail shaker add 3 Parts Patron XO Cafe (coffee liqueur made with tequila.) 1 part Grand Marnier, 1 part Roses Lime. Shake vigorously. Before staining into a cocktail glass add a little club soda.

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National Chili Day

In my haste to post praise of pistachios yesterday  I forgot that February 26 is also National Chili Day. To celebrate I’m posting my recipe for venison chili. The venison used in this recipe was a victim of a hunting accident not an auto accident. Yes, road kill stews are a reality here.

National Pistachio Day

February 26th is National Pistachio Day.
Don’t ask, I just know.

Funny Speaker on National Pistachio Day

The Incredible Edible Nut

My first experience with  the, “Happy nut” was on my first and only visit Monkey Jungle.  One summer in the late 50s my family took a vacation to Miami. It was a long hot drive without Interstates but my brother and I made the most of it. With no pesky seatbelts to restrain us, we had the entire backseat and the ledge above the back seat to play, fight and sleep. The highlight was Monkey Jungle.

Funny Speaker on National Pistachio Day

This Post Card Sold on eBay for $23

Funny Speaker on National Pistachio Day

These days you don’t see the dyed pistachios that often

The park had gumball machines filled with pistachios so you could feed the monkeys. My father gave my brother and me four nickels, two sticks of gum and some lint and told us to have fun. I tasted one of the bright red nuts after my brother told me I had to take the shell off first. It was delicious. Now it was one for the monkey, two for me then all for me. When I told my brother that we had to get more money from dad he started to laugh because he knew what was coming. My father wanted to know how we had gone through 20¢ worth of nuts so quickly.  I told him the monkeys were hungry. He did one of those things were he cocked his head to the left and raise the back of his right hand. The next words out of my mouth had to be chosen with care. It was at this point I could never lied to my father, because I didn’t want to know what happened next. Besides it became clear as my mother went into her purse for a hand-full of Kleenex, I had been caught red-handed and red-faced.

Looking Like Audrey II From  Little Shop of Horrors.

Looking Like Audrey II From Little Shop of Horrors.

I digress. The pistachio and its health benefits. The pistachio has been shown to reduce the LDL or bad cholesterol. They are also a good source of protein and fiber.

This may sound nutty, but the pistachio can be used as part of a weight loss program.  This of course is due to the “Pistachio Principle” which pretty much says that the act of shelling and eating pistachios one by one slows down your consumption, allowing you to feel full faster after having eaten less. Learn more about this incredible edible at the Pistachio Health Website.

And by the way, “Monkey see, monkey do?” No so much. Monkeys will pretty much do anything they want. I made a face at a monkey and rather than copy my expression the caged primate spat at me. They weren’t as kind to my brother.

Posted by Funny Motivational Speaker and Celebrity Chef Vinny Verelli.

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Food is the Star of This New York City Show

I still don’t know what lead me to the link that lead to one of the most spectacular dining experiences ever, but what a find.

Beard Menu

A True Culinary Banquet

Dinner at the James Beard House is a must for any one visiting the City that wants to take in a different type of “Show.” A show were the food takes center stage. This would be anyone who is serious about the dining experience and is seeking a feast for the senses, a true culinary banquet on the border of decadence.

Nestled in the West Village, The James Beard House at 167 West 12th Street is a block away from The Elephant & Castle, where I cooked 35 years ago.

Each night the spot light is on a guest chef who prepares a meal that shows off their particular talents.  On February 6th I was fortunate enough to get a single ticket for “Lowcountry Elegance,” a feast prepared by Chef Daniel Doyle and some of his, can’t do this without them, people from Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, SC. A “Bourbon Inspired” sub-theme was introduced for the dishes served while we were seated.

Hanging our in the kitchen. If the heat gets bad you can get out and get another glass of Bubbly.

Hanging our in the kitchen. If the heat gets bad you can get out and get another glass of Bubbly.

On site was Terrell Ham the general manager and ambassador extraordinaire  for Poogan’s Porch. Not only could you talk to the GM you could stand in the kitchen and talk to the chef and the other cooks, the servers and other guests. Also on hand was Anna Mowry, senior editor for the James Bead Foundation, to answer question about the venue and other foundation events. Members of the James Beard Foundation get discounts.


At 7:00 on the nose they started passing appetizers. And passing and passing. Be careful it’s easy to over eat.

Seared Pig Trotters (pork rinds) dusted with a vinegar powder. And Pimento Cheese Fritters.   Country Pâté Crostini with Housemade Pepper Jelly

Pimento Cheese Fritters with Green Tomato Jam • Seared Pig Trotters with Southern Rémoulade •  Country Pâté Crostini with Pepper Jelly  • Oysters with Texas Pete “Caviar.”

It’s hard to pick a favorite. The pork rinds melted in your mouth and were light and crispy. The Pimento Cheese Fritters were pure gooey goodness. But I found myself talking to the chef about the Pâté.  I’ve always left liver out of my Country Pâté so I could get more people to try it. Not everyone is an adventurist when it comes to pâté, associating the delicacy with liver. I realize now that liver adds so much to the texture and the taste. I can’t put my finger on it but the flavors of meat and liver complement each other in a way that meat or liver alone can’t capture. Poogan’s Porch’s blend created a pâté that was dense like my all-meat version and not spreadable but soft on the palate. The terrine was wrapped in bacon, the way I like to do it. I had to force myself to stop eating the bite-sized morsels as I knew there were six more courses to come.

They made you feel right at home and just like when you’re entertaining guests will hang out in the kitchen talking to those preparing and serving or just watching. When I couldn’t stand the heat, I got out of the kitchen and fought my way to the ice cold bottles of La Bubbly.

La Bubbly During the reception they had on ice: LA BUBBLY BRUT NV from Chile.

At 8:00 PM we were seated for the next 6 courses. The table was packed with wine glasses forks and knives. I’m not great at math but a quick survey told me that five forks wouldn’t be enough.  But not to worry, as the number dwindled additional flatware and wine glasses appeared as if Bacchus were watching over us.

I love to prepare food and especially like to eat food but I’m not the best food writer. It’s easy for me to write about something I don’t like because it’s easier to put my finger on what’s wrong with something. But when everything is done right I can sing it’s praises but have a hard time putting into words the taste of something. Therefore I’m going to let the photos below speak for me. Suffice it to say, I could find nothing wrong with the food.


Funny Speaker at the JBH

Sous Vide Duck Salad with Arugula, Bourbon-Boiled Peanuts, Pickled Shallots, Pecorino, and Pimiento Vinaigrette served with a Nikolaihof Hefeabzug Grüner Veltliner 2011

Funny Motivational Speaker

Pan-Seared Scallops with Trotter Rillette and Bourbon–Sweet Potato Vinaigrette served with Vigneau-Chevreau Cuvée Silex Vouvray 2010

Humorous Motivational Speaker at the JBH

Low Country Pho with Crispy Pork Belly, Bourbon-Laced Broth, Pickled Sweet Potatoes, Green Onions, and Chicharrones served with Belle Pente Murto Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010

Funny speaker eats quail

Pan-Roasted Quail with Butter Beans, Black-Eyed Peas, Lardons, Frisée, and Bourbon Gastrique served with a Arnot-Roberts Syrah 2010 North Coast, California,

Funny Speaker still eating

Bourbon-Braised Short Ribs with Duck Fat–Fried Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Cauliflower Purée, and Natural Jus served with a Justin Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Funny Speaker and celebrity chef

Bourbon–Pecan Pie with Bacon–Buttermilk Ice Cream
served with a New York Malmsey Special Reserve Madeira Nv

biscuitOnly complaint, it got very crowded in the reception area and there was only one biscuit per person.

Yes it’s expensive but not anymore so (and in some cases less) than an orchestra seat to a Broadway show. And just like you can hum a tune from a Broadway show you’ll be singing the praises of a special meal at the James Beard House.

I now know that all of my visits to New York will include a visit to the James Beard House and when I’m in Charleston I’ll be visiting Poogan’s Porch. I left the feast stuffed and satiated and a little tipsy. But another great thing about New York City there are busses, taxis and subways just a stone-throw away to get you were you need to go. Caution: Don’t sleep in the subway. But that’s another story.

Ciao Fro Now

MadeiraVinny Verelli is a humorous motivational speaker, celebrity chef and conference host.

Vinny’s Web Site

Cooking With Vinny’s Youtube Channel

Snowed-in? No Problem. Junior’s is Just Around the Corner

The key to giving great customer service is focus.

As a short, balding middle aged man I don’t expect wait staff to hang around to chat with me, but I don’t want to be ignored. Don’t feel sorry for me this doesn’t happen often, but when it does I make my voice heard to management. Likewise when a server shines I like to speak up as well. All too often people only speak up to complain about service.

I was in New York City this past week and it was cold and windy and snowing. Perhaps you saw the news. To take the chill off I stopped into Junior’s in Time Square for some Matzoh Ball Soup.

Funny Speaker at Junior'sI sat at the counter bypassing the wait, ordered my soup and a Manhattan. Often these days with younger bartenders I have to explain how I like the drink prepared. I was pleasantly surprised when the twenty-something bartender, Asif, nodded with approval at my choice and asked me if like bitters? In a day where anything served in a cocktail glass in considered a martini it was refreshing to know the art of bar tending is not totally lost. Asif also stirred the dink instead of shaking the crap out of it. It was delicious! I was off to Sardi’s to meet some friends.

The following night I stopped back in to Junior’s for some of their World Famous Cheese Cake.  Asif was there but with other customers. I order the cheesecake from another person behind the counter and added a hot chocolate with a shot of Hennessy VS. Asif walked by at this point and said, “What, no Manhattan?”

I can’t begin to tell you how many people sit at that counter on any given night or how many orders are taken. I might have been remembered or looked familiar but I wouldn’t have expected a bartender to remember what I ordered after only one visit. Although Asif didn’t “hang” with me (there were 2 very attractive women sitting next to me) he remembered what I had ordered because he was focused on his customers.

Basic RGBSaif is my SEE ™ (Service Exceeding Excellence) winner for the Month of February. Even if Junior’s didn’t have such great cheesecake I would go back. Below is a video I did for Junior’s in July of 2010.