Showing posts with label bloggers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bloggers. Show all posts

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: A New Tradition


Thanksgiving is the best holiday.
A celebration of the autumn bounty and togetherness... It's all so cozy and insular however that it can be easy to forget about those without a home, food, kith and kin.
Looking back on the past year, I am very thankful for the luxuries I've been afforded amongst friends, cooking meals, hosting events, and bringing people together. But there is a point when I have to question what else I could potentially be doing, bigger picture, to share with the community at large, outside of my social group.

Over the summer my friend Katie organized a volunteer "cooking club" one night to prepare a meal for the residents of the Downtown Women's Center in downtown Los Angeles. The DWC is an organization aiding the many needs of homeless women, serving as both a day center offering hot meals, showers, computers, phones, and case management, as well as 71 units of permanent supportive housing. The center has been a fixture in downtown since 1978 when founding director Jill Halverson offered a much needed respite to the man's world of Skid Row - its shelters, pantries and social services accessible only to men. Today, the DWC is nationally recognized as a prototype for programs striving to meet the unique needs of homeless women.

Preparing a meal that would feed 130 homeless and low income women that night was an amazing experience, and ever since I've been wanting to gather a group of my own to come to the center and cook a meal. And what better time than Thanksgiving to give back? Of all the food bloggers and culinarily-astute friends I have I didn't expect recruiting to be an issue.
Because budgets are tight and ingredients to cook for so many women can be costly, I submitted to Foodbuzz 24 x 24 and was so pleased that we were selected for their sponsorship. Now to organize a menu, and shop!


Collard greens. By the case. I suppose there's a first time for everything!


15 pounds of black-eyed peas: check.


(*Flair).


Heaviest cart I've ever pushed! I panicked a little how I'd store the perishables until the next day in my little fridge... Move over beer, I've got 30 pounds of chicken to get in there! (Ah, it's amazing the things you can accomplish with determination and a little elbow grease).


Day of! Katie, the DWC's volunteer coordinator welcomes us to the kitchen, and gives the group a little background about the center.


Hairnets on! Aprons tied! Hands washed!


Kristin The Cuisinerd harnesses her inner cafeteria lady and perfects her hairnet.


Our Menu

Oven-fried Chicken
Sweet Potato Fries
Collard Greens
Black-eyed Peas

We only had two hours in the DWC kitchen to complete our prep work. Clock ticking, I delegated tasks and everyone manned their work stations with good-natured dedication.


Popular lifestyle blogger H.C. of L.A. and O.C. Foodventures shows off his Nutty Professor apron, and mad chicken tender-making knife skills.


Teal tackling the collards, while Christine volunteered for the arduous task of sorting the peas...


Robin, our resident chicken man. Michael opted for sweet potato duty.


Project Collard: Complete.


Cat's laugh could be heard throughout the kitchen, and Alexis came all the way from Iowa to peel yams!


Kristin couldn't believe that 30 bunches of collards and 15 cartons of vegetable stock would fit in her cauldron.


Just like at Spago...


I couldn't have asked for a more enthusiastic, fun, and spirited group. We prepped a meal for 130 women in 2 hours flat, had everything labeled and in the walk-in for the following day's lunch service.
Before we parted, Katie lead us to the front of the building where Made, a new cafe/gift boutique run by the DWC was having a holiday reception. The beautiful space was created to "break the cycle of poverty and chronic unemployment by helping low-income and homeless women discover their talents and develop their skills through job readiness training and product development opportunities." The shop sells gift-ready homemade goods by DWC residents, such as vintage teacup candles, beaded ornaments, repurposed journals, and succulent arrangements. The cafe proudly serves Groundwork Coffee and prepared foods by Tiara Cafe (both also native to downtown). All proceeds go directly back into the DWC for job training and skills-building workshops. It felt SO good to get some early holiday shopping done there versus the Black Friday circuit. Highly recommended!


According to Katie the meal was a hit with the women, receiving rave reviews. While I think our group was confident about creating a good menu, what made me the most proud was how many people (almost everyone, really) thanked and told me how much they couldn't wait to come back and do this again, and soon!


If you want to find out more about organizing your own group or how to get involved as an individual, visit the DWC's volunteer page at http://dwcweb.org/volunteer.htm. And of course, the center has many holiday needs right now as they're giving each woman a personalized gift this season. To learn more about that, visit http://dwcweb.org/holidays/index.htm.
I urge those outside of Los Angeles to find an organization in your community that would benefit from a home-cooked meal. Food is love, fit to be shared.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Foodbuzz 24x24: YOU INSPIRE ME

This isn't a Chocolate of Meats post.

No, get ready for something completely different.

Yesterday, myself and four other LA food blogs turned Foodbuzz 24x24 into a game of culinary roulette and, we hope, raised the bar in the process. This is our Twitter-spawned adventure. And it started with a phrase.

YOU INSPIRE ME

Moved by the prospect of an homage to what really is the core of the food blogging community - how we continually inspire one another daily - Greg (Sippity Sup), Andy (the Wind Attack) and I drew up a plan.

The challenge:
5 Food Bloggers. 5 courses, inspired by - each other.
To help us find our spark we called on one of our favorite Northwest bloggers, Ms. Salty Seattle herself. Or should I say, Madame Saltzmerelda...



The players:
Greg of Sippity Sup
And our Twitter-delivered mystery guests (and lovely new friends):
Melba and Kim of Out A Thyme

And to make things even more exciting, we employed the genius of Jill Bernheimer of our favorite wine store DomaineLA to dream up course pairings, with the help of fabulous wine blogger Whitney Adams (of Brunellos Have More Fun). Furthermore, we were ecstatically fortunate to have Whitney attend the meal and give insight to the pairings as each was poured.
Day of event. Table is set and the kitchen is abuzz.
Our hungry plus ones. Looks they need a cocktail.
Amuse Bouche & Cocktail: 
The Chocolate of Meats inspired by Joy the Baker
Cucumber Sorbet with Herbsaint Sabayon and Vanilla Salt
Joie de Vivre cocktail
So I was fated to start the show. No pressure.
But let's be honest, Joy the Baker couldn't be a more exciting muse.
For the cocktail, I was directly inspired by a spirit I learned about reading Joy's blog: Ransom Old Tom Gin. The caramel-colored gin has been aged in oak barrels imbuing it with a rich bourbon-like mouthfeel, while retaining bright ginny botanicals. Basically it's perfect.
If you've ever taken a gander at Joy's blog, you know it's pretty perfect too. To invoke Joy's effervescent personality, I decided to mix the gin with prosecco, kissed by sweet rhubard and orange bitters.
And in light of Joy's infectious bon vivant nature, I fittingly call this the Joie de Vivre cocktail.

Joie de Vivre cocktail

1 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
1/2 oz Dolin Vermouth de Chambery Rouge
dash Fee's rhubard bitters
dash Fee's orange bitters
Prosecco

Shake gin, vermouth and bitters with ice and strain into a cocktail glass or flute. Top with Prosecco and garnish with a lemon twist and [slapped!] leaf of lemon balm.
Whitney on the Prosecco choice, Sommariva Prosecco Superiore di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Brut, Veneto, Italy:
My favorite prosecco to use for cocktails! The Sommariva has a fun, approachable fruitiness with a very dry, clean finish. And it's affordable.
Life is a LOT about dessert for Joy the Baker.
Perusing the recipes, you'll find every sweet, baked good, and indulgence under the sun. But clearly I can't bake for an amuse bouche, I wanted something light, crisp, refreshing.
I took a lead from Joy's cantaloupe sherbet - Summery and exotic, but familiar, and a little boozy. To keep the course dry I opted for garden-bright Persian cucumbers as a sorbet, challenged by a sassy Herbsaint sabayon and dash of vanilla salt. Dessert in disguise. And palate-cleansing to boot.

Get the recipe here

1st course: 
Joy the Baker inspired by Andy of the Wind Attack
Shaved Brussels Sprout and Poppy Seed Pineapple Salad
Joy on her inspiration:

The essence of Andy's Wind Attack is seasonal surprise... well, that... and bright lime green.
The green of the brussles sprouts, avocado, and herbs represents the lime green walls of Andys website. Sometimes I like to get literal.
This salad is a surprising combination of greens, spring, and tropics. Andy doesn't shy away from odd pairings: Avocado and Stout Cake, Raspberry and Persimmon Sorbet, and Emu Egg Frittata. All of his surprise ingredients and combinations have a distinct seasonal feel to them. The surprise seasonal element in this salad is the first-of-the-season pineapple. The fruit is tossed into the salad and it's both its flesh and juice is used to make a vinaigrette. Combined with both poppy seeds and macadamia nuts, I tried to make this dish a surprising celebration of early spring.

Get the recipe here at Joythebaker.com

Whitney on the pairing, 2005 Jacques Puffeney Savagnin Arbois, Jura, France:
We wanted to do something a little outside the box for the first course and chose an oxidative savagnin from "The Pope of Arbois" Jacques Puffeney. The nuttiness, acidity and texture of the wine really played well with the macadamia nuts and pineapple.
2nd course: 
Out A Thyme inspired by the Chocolate of Meats
Stone Crab Salad with Watercress, Red Onion, Avocado, Hearts of Palm
Out A Thyme on their inspiration:

Fresh and healthy – but with a sharp bite and more than a passing curiosity about what’s going on below the surface. Whether you’re about to meet Nathan Hazard (aka ChocoMeat), or this seductress of a salad, there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain. Arizona-native Chiltepin pepper stays true to its desert character, even in the midst of hearts of palm and watercress… and yes, that’s crab, the chocolate of the sea. All it takes is a fork to appease that curiosity. Now – or you’ll be Out A Thyme.

Get the recipe here at Outathyme.com

Whitney on the pairing, 2009 Domaine de la Pepiere Marc Ollivier Muscadet de Sevre-et-Maine Sur Lie, France:
After the savagnin, we knew we would need to give everyone's palate a little respite and this muscadet from Marc Ollivier was the perfect thing to do that. It's minerality and freshness was great with the creamy crab and lemon of the dish. And even worked with the subtle spiciness of the chiltepin!
Main Course: 
the Wind Attack inspired by Greg of Sippity Sup
Chuck roast braised in Stone Brewery Smoked Porter with red onion, mushrooms, fresh thyme and garlic. Roasted turnips, parsnips, carrots and mushrooms in a reduction of the braising liquid, fortified with syrah, avocado honey and tomato vinegar. Potato and cauliflower blue cheese mash. Sauteed pea tendrils with garlic, capers, red onion, lemon and grüner.
Andy on his inspiration:

Greg's blog is full of savory treats, but my real inspiration for the entree of this meal came from one of Greg's own blog inspirations: his Mother.

Greg writes about what an amazing cook his own mother was and how that was such an influence in developing his interest in food. Since her passing, Greg's brother took the time to collect some of her recipes, and Greg was kind enough to share some of them on his blog.

My own Mother wasn't a great cook, but I felt inspired to honor my deceased mother in a similar way to Greg... by cooking a dish inspired from her. The one food that she made that I enjoyed most was pot roast, which consisted of three ingredients: powdered onion mushroom soup mix, water and beef.

Naturally, I wanted to make something a little more gourmet and robust, so I braised the beef in porter with lots of real onion and mushrooms. Clearly not my Mama's pot roast, but I think she would have enjoyed it just as much as we all did.

Get the recipe here at Windattack.com

Whitney on the entree pairing, 2009 Donkey and Goat The Prospector Mourvedre El Dorado, California:
Porter braised beef and blue cheese mash! We would need a red that would have enough body and fruit to not get lost. One of my favorite wines that's just arrived to the store, Donkey & Goat's "The Prospector" mourvedre, was seriously gulpable and perfect with this course.
Dessert: Sippity Sup inspired by Out A Thyme
Baby Coconut Lemon Bundt Cakes Swimming in Lemon Cream, topped with a Chocolate Toasted Coconut Surprise
Greg on his inspiration:

What do you do when you are working with some of your closest blogging friends on a FoodBuzz 24 24 24 project about inspiration and one of the most inspiring bloggers in the group has to drop out at the last minute?
You could throw down your spatula and go all diva. Which had a certain appeal I must admit. But wait I thought, the whole point of this exercise is to find new inspiration from the wonderful blogs around us. So I went to Twitter and invited the first blogger fearless enough to respond to join us in our game.
Which was inspiring all in itself, because almost instantly Out A Thyme responded. A few mad volleys forth and these brave bloggers decided to throw themselves into the project, having never met any of the rest of us before!
But I have to admit I was not familiar with this blog. In fact a little research told me that these were new bloggers. Brand new bloggers. So new that when I went to their site– I saw they had but 4 posts. Four!
The spunk alone of these two women was enough to inspire me. Because let’s face it. When I was a newbie blogger I never would have raised my hand in the presence of blogging royalty like Joy The Baker and offered up my scant scribbles.
Right away I decided to find inspiration from the amazing character these women obviously possessed. I needed to find out what makes them tick. So I went to their “About” page to snoop around in their personal lives.
Well not only is their blog a newborn, but these bloggers are moms too. So to honor the spirit of Out A Thyme I became the proud papa to these Bouncing Baby Bundt Cakes with Lemon & Coconut. Hey, I realize it’s not the same thing as having an actual child, but it’s the closest I’ll ever come! Besides aren’t they the cutest thing you ever saw?

Get the recipe here at sippitysup.com

Whitney on the magical dessert pairing, Vergano “Luli” Moscato Chinato, Piemonte, Italy:
We took a gamble with the final dessert course. Instead of choosing a predictable moscato d'asti or late harvest dessert wine, we went with a chinato from Mauro Vergano called Luli. It is made from moscato grapes and fortified with spirit that has been infused with typical chinato herbs and spices- cinnamon, orange peel, clove and quina bark among other things. It has added sugar but also that classic undercurrent of bitterness and a cloudy, curvy texture. This was the standout pairing of the evening for me. The risk paid off!
(love).
And what comes after dessert? More prosecco cocktails!
With a toast to our success and our incredibly generous hosts Greg and Ken we drank up all the joie de vivre we could muster!

Follow us!
@ChocoMeat
@sippitysup
@windattack
@joythebaker
@Outathyme
@domaineLA
@ubriaca
Video created by the The Wind Attack and Sippity Sup, starring Salty Seattle. Edited by The Wind Attack. Featuring music by Oh Darling.