Taste of Clarkesville

September 27, 2014 Historic Downtown Clarkesville, GA

Yesterday I headed to the square in Clarkesville for the 5th Annual Taste of Clarkesville. It didn’t take long for the crowds to arrive and the lines to form. Oh, the lines. It could take 15 minutes to get to the food and often for tiny portions. The video gives you a taste of the Taste of Clarkesville.

You bought tasting tickets for a buck each with the proceeds join got the hats off to The Copper Pot, Hawg Wild, Yakimono Express and the Midtown Grill for realizing that events like this are a cost of doing business and you don’t try an shave costs by giving out tiny portions. The Attic was serving tasty shrimp cakes the size of a quarter. El Jinete served a nice portion of guacamole or a delicious queso with beef.

Hopefully next year they’ll have more vendors serving food so the the crowd, although having to stand in more lines, won’t have to wait as long in each line. Thank goodness they had tastes of beer as well.


The Real Celebrity Chefs

United States Postal Service Honors Celebrity Chefs with New Forever Stamps
USPS_chefsAlthough I don’t send a lot of snail mail I bought a bunch of these stamps because I can use them… well FOREVER. Regardless of rate changes for postage these stamps will be good, locked in at 49¢. But hurry they are a limited edition.

Everyone knows the names of James Beard and Julia Chid even people who can’t boil water. Edna Lewis, Felipe Rojas-Lombardi and Joyce Chen are not house hold names so a little information is about their culinary contributions are below.

Edna Lewis considered the The Grande Dame of Southern Cooking inspired a generation of young chefs and ensured that the traditional folkways of the South would not be forgotten. She was cooking up Southern cuisine in the heart of Manhattan in 1949. Her cookbook, The Taste of Country Cooking is considered a classic study of Southern cooking. In 1979, Craig Claiborne of The New York Times said the book “may well be the most entertaining regional cookbook in America”.

Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, the Peruvian-born chef helped bring a Spanish and Caribbean influence into America’s haute cuisine repertory. He moved to New York City in 1967 and worked as the assistant to James Beard in his Greenwich Village cooking school. He was the founding chef of Dean & Deluca gourmet food store and was named America’s Bicentennial chef in 1976, the same year he became an American citizen. He was credited with introducing Tapas to America. He was only 46 when he passed away of heart failure.

Joyce Chen was credited with popularizing northern-style Chinese cuisine in the United States, coining the name “Peking Raviolis” for potstickers, inventing and holding the patent to the flat bottom wok with handle (also known as a stir fry pan), and developing the first line of bottled Chinese stir fry sauces for the US market. Joyce Chen Foods.

Julia Child is perhaps the most well known American Chef. She introduced French cooking for everyday Americans, with her groundbreaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and was the quintessential TV cook. Starting in 1962, “The French Chef” ran 10 seasons on PBS.  Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Julia made regular appearances on the ABC morning show Good Morning, America. She won a Peabody award in 1964 and an Emmy Award in 1966. When I was cooking in a French restaurant in Manhattan and there was any question about how something was prepared, it was WWJD.  What would Julia do? You can watch 10 seasons of the French Chef on Amazon Instant Video and if you’re a Prime Member the firs 5 seasons are FREE.

james-beard-stampsJames  Beard  was a champion of American cuisine who taught and mentored generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts. His legacy lives on in twenty books, other writings and his foundation’s annual James Beard awards in a number of culinary genres. Check out the James Bead Foundation website, it’s amazing and next time you’re in New York, skip the Broadway show and attend one of the Dinners held at the James Beard House in the West Village. To give you a taste of what one of these dinners is like read my post, “Food is the Star of This New York City Show.”

 I just might have to start sending people letters, or mail in checks in stead of paying online. Here’s a good reason to send a letter.

Chefs & Their Tattoos

I recently returned from the American Culinary Federation Convention in Kansas City. I was so totally humbled by the talent that was represented from all over the country. It also made me realize how much has changed in the food business.

My first restaurant gig was 1970 at the Top of the Hub, 52 floor of the Prudential Building, Boston. I was a fry cook. They hired me because — I showed up for the interview. I mean fry cook, right? Someone gives you something, you put it in the grease and then take it out before it burns. It’s not rocket science.

There isn’t much I haven’t done in a restaurant. Front of the house, back of the house, back of the walk-in. Everything from Slinging hash to tossing pizza, from salad prep to charcuterie chef. But it’s been 28 years since I’ve been on a kitchen line and a lot has changed.

The Biggest change I’ve noticed, tattoos. This is especially noticeable among the younger chefs. At the ACF Convention I did an informal survey with un scientific results. I wanted to see if there was any pattern that could be devised.

Okra and Garlic

Okra and Garlic

One man I met had a tattoo of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets. One man had two I CHING – hexagrams, ancient Chinese text on his forearm. One was the symbol for “OVEN” the other was for “MOUTH.” He talked about feeding the world and then he got all esoteric on me and my eyes started to glaze over.

One chef had two concentric circles on the palm of his hand. What, I asked, is the symbolism? The smaller inner circle, he said. was a teaspoon and the larger outer circle was a tablespoon. Practical.

I spoke woman just out of culinary school who had a beautiful tattoo of a chef’s knife with the words written in script, “Mise en Place.” A french phrase for putting in place. In the cooking world it is the the area that has all the stuff you need on a regular basis during your shift. She said it was a constant reminder to keep her shit together


Chef Jeff Morris’ Goonies Tattoo

Jeff Morris, chef/owner of The Copper Pot in Clarkesville, GA has an incredible tattoo. It is is not food oriented but is a tattoo of substantial meaning to him. His entire right arm is a storyboard for the 1985 Richard Donner film, “Goonies.” He was 8 years old when he first saw the movie and it obviously had a huge effect on him. There is only so much real estate on your body for ink so one needs to put some thought into what tattoos you’re getting. The photo here is just the upper arm. Down the rest of his arm and and forearm are other iconic images from the movie: The treasure map, the waterfall, the wishing well, the doubloon that was used to align clues, an image of Sloth with a pirate hat and of course the slogan, “Goonies Never Say Die.” True dedication.

And by the way, if you’re ever in North Georgia, make your way over to the Copper Pot for a great Lunch, Dinner or Sunday Brunch. They also have a full bar which is not always easy to find in the mountains of North Georgia.

Are you a chef? Do you have a tattoo? Tell me about it. Many more things have changed in the restaurant business and in the coming weeks I’ll be posting more of my observations.

Ciao For Now

Dining Alfresco

The Hotdog Cart Still Exists But in a World of Gourmet Delights.

Humorous Motivational Speaker Dines Alfresco

The old time carts are still on the streets.

Grabbing a gourmet meal from a truck is all the rage in cities across the country. You’re not limited to hotdogs, you can find anything you want on the streets of New York.

I use to live on pizza slices sold out of a storefront window and hotdogs from a Sabrett cart. Buy a dog, walk two blocks, buy another dog. Over the years I’ve seen the carts become more diverse and sophisticated. But now, the food truck opens up an entire world of gourmet treats.

On a cold day in February I decided to dine alfresco. What a pleasant surprise.

Links to the three trucks I visited on this day.
Hibachi Heaven I read some Yelp reviews the said the chicken was dry. The chicken I had tender and moist. The veggies were crisp and fresh. But it’s the sauce that brings these dishes to life. Yum Yum in deed. At the time of  this posting the Hibachi Heaven site is under construction check them out on Twitter @hibachiheaven

Kimchi Taco I loved this truck and everyone inside. I failed to get their names but you could tell they were enjoying themselves and their warmth was refreshing on a cold day. And the tacos? Their short rib taco was the best taco I have ever had.

Sweetery: The Guy in the cart was tight-lipped and wouldn’t tell me what the best seller way, he was protecting trade secrets. Don’t blame him, the pastries were beautiful and the toasted coconut cookie was fabulous.  It also may have something to do with Sweetery being  part of a, “full-service experimental marketing company.” Not sure what that means but it tastes good.

Post by Vinny Verelli, Humorous Motivational Speaker and Celebrity Chef

Mobile Pizza Oven

Cooking With Vinny at the Newest Wine Tasting Room in North Georgia

Today was the Grand Opening of Serenity Cellars new tasting room. They have a great tasting; 9 wines and a souvenir glass for $7.50.  However, the main reason I went out there on this beautiful day was to see if Pauli could make pizza from his new mobile oven that rivals the in-store pizza at the Tavern. Well it turns out he can. He is very proud of his new set up and he should be. I ate way more than I should have. The only problem? Try to find a nice cold beer at a winery. Pizza cries out for beer.

Serenity Cellars: http://www.serenitycellars.com
Nacoochee Village Tavern & Pizzeria: http://villagetavernpizza.com
Posted by Humorous Motivational Speaker, Vinny Verelli

Moonshine Margarita

Don’t Try This at Home

After making the “Verelli,” the drink I made up with the Coffee flavored Patrón, I made another margarita. This one was laced with Georgia Moonshine. Agave nectar was used as the fermenting agent for this moonshine and had a faint tequila taste.  This made for a high octane margarita that took be two days to finish.

I found this photo I took a number of years ago on the porch of Sautee Manor. Nothing beats an ice-cold margarita in the middle of july.

Summertime in the Mountains

Summertime in the Mountains

Drink Responsibly – Don’t Drink and Drive.


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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