National Margarita Day

What’s your Favorite Margarita Recipe?

February 22 is National Margarita Day. Why a cool refreshing drink has it’s “Day” in the middle of February is anybody’s guess. Perhaps because while it’s 33º here in North Georgia (19º in St. Paul),  It’s 77º in Cozumel. And it’s a way for people sitting on Palancar Beach sipping the chilled tart libation to taunt those of us North of the Border drinking hot chocolate and bourbon. Actually hot chocolate and bourbon is really good.

Here is a video I made two years ago. I plan later today to make a once secret recipe for the margaritas made at Crarumba, a Mexican Restaurant on 9th AV in NYC.

The story:
Last year my old friend Keith Elrod and his wife Marion stopped by on their way to visit family in Florida and Marion made us some killer margaritas. We were asked to guess the secret ingredient that gave the margarita a unique and fabulous flavor. We could not nor would we have ever guest.

For a number of years Marion was the personal assistant to Chita Rivera. The two of them use to frequent a Mexican restaurant called Carumba in 9th Avenue. They made a unique margarita. The restaurant manager gave up their secret recipe to Ms. Rivera, who gave it up to Marion who told me. Now that the restaurant is closed I figure I can give up the recipe to you without giving away a trade secret.

In your blender add equal parts:
Tequila
Frozen Limeade
Beer (that’s right beer!)
Use that can of Bud that’s been sitting in your refrigerator from when you brother-inlaw came over.
Add ice and blend. You are just blending the ingredients and chilling the drink. I prefer not to make it a frozen margarita. Optional: Pour 1/2 oz of Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur over top of the drink and enjoy, with or without salt.

I will make a video of this soon and post it.

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.

National Bratwurst Day

National Bratwurst Day is August 16

And what better place to partake in the succulent sausage than a tiny town that has within a 3 block stretch 10 places that serve bratwurst. Here’s the video of my pilgrimage to Helen, North Georgia’s very own Alpine Village. 

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

Goonies_post

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

Summer Salads

Just Add Lettuce

There are several varieties of lettuce that are looking and tasting great and we’ve been having salads for lunch and dinner. If we got up early enough to eat breakfast we’d probably have a morning salad as well. We can’t give it away fast enough so we’re making complete meals of salads.

Here are two of our favorites.

The Cobb Salad

funny speaker vinny verelli

The Ingredients.

Sharp cheddar, pickled beets, tomatoes, avocado, chicken and very thick bacon. The hard boiled eggs were placed in the jar of pickled beets for an hour to give them the red color. Leave them in for a day and the red goes deeper into the egg whites. We used a Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing.

Just Add Lettuce
Cobb Salad_close_post

Smoked Salmon Salad

Funny Speaker and celebrity Chef Vinny Verelli

The Ingredients. 

Smoked Gouda, hard boiled egg, capers, yellow pepper, pimento from a jar, chopped onion and smoked salmon. We used Annie’s Shiitake Sesame Vinaigrette. All the ingredients can be adjusted to your tastes.

Just Add Lettuce.
SalmonSalad_post

National Mint Julep Day

Funny speaker and celebrity chef gives his recipe for the perfect Mint Julep.

The secret to making a great mint julep is in the simple syrup that is infused with fresh mint. There’s only so much flavor you can get out of muddling mint.  When you use crushed ice in a drink it can quickly water down the alcohol. By using 120 Proof Single Barrel Knob Creek this dilution is minimized. The bourbon flavor is still there with sufficient kick.

Although May 30 is officially National Mint Julep Day I usually have my first Julep of the Season on Derby Day. If I’m going out of town on derby day I’ll bring fresh mint with me.

The video below was posted originally on YouTube on July 10, 2012.  I found a jar of mint simple syrup in back of the refrigerator from the day this was shot. There was a funky deposit on the bottom but I was able to skim some clean syrup off the top and make a quick julep to celebrate the day.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY… or stay home and drink.

Want some fun facts about the Mint Julep? Check out this site, MintJulepDay.com