Thursday, April 22, 2010

THE PILLARS AT NEW RIVER SOUND

The Pillars at New River Sound is an exceptional getaway located in the heart of the Ft. Lauderdale, known to some as the 'Venice of America'. I have worked at two phenomenal 5 star properties, and have been to a myriad of hotels that range from grand to modest all over the U.S. The Pillars is a hotel that is just about perfect for my taste.

The staff did everything to make my stay comfortable; the food was terrific and the service was highly personable. This little piece of paradise touts an incredible scenic waterfront view in a lush atmosphere. I can't imagine getting tired of resting here. Should you want to get out a bit while staying here, you can easily hop on the private WaterBus; there is also a private kayaking excursion that takes you through the Las Olas isles.


The Pilars belongs to the
Small Luxury Hotels of the World group - a membership not easily earned. Besides meeting exemplary standards of service, each hotel is required to undergo visits from mystery inspectors. Now there is a mystery shopper job that might be worth applying for.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

OPENING DAY AT FENWAY PARK

All photograph by Elsa/Getty Images
Spring announces itself in different ways to different people. For gardeners, flowers blooms, the weather warms and nature awakes. But to a sports fan, Spring blares out the advent of baseball - specifically the first game of the season at Fenwick Park. Lucky me, I just happen to be in Boston right now and I can't think of a better way to spend the evening.

The sky is clear and slightly breezy. Fireworks and F-16's flying over Fenwick enhance the mood for pure excitement. The crowd is roaring. The outskirts of the park look like a giant street fair with thousands of people enjoying the open air bars, various baseball paraphernalia and food stands. It seems impossible to order up a more perfect night.


However, I didn't hold up much hope in nabbing stadium tickets; everything was sold out. I did find a great screen side view at the Cask and Flagon - the unofficial meeting place for hardcore Red Sox fans. There is a sea of Red Sox jerseys throughout this famous Boston sports bar to confirm its status.

The icing on the cake for tonight is that the Red Sox are playing the Yankees; a historic rivalry. It's been 25 years since the Red Sox have hosted an opening game against the Yankees. Thankfully, the game has ended up being everything it promised. The home team had a bit of a rough go at the start (behind 5 -1), but they made a magnificent come back for a 9 to 7 win. Red Sox fans everywhere have good reason to rejoice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

BLOGGER TO BLOGGER

I received a very thoughtful email today from Brandi Evans, a fellow food blogger. Brandi is part of a unique food blog community called FoodBuzz. She and her husband Nick took some time out to attend a benefit dinner I cooked for the James Beard Foundation this last weekend. I had a fabulous time and apparently so did Nick and Brandi. She gave me the highest compliment by taking the time to write about this event that took place at the Palisades Restaurant in Eggleston, VA.

I'm grateful that the James Beard legacy clearly carries on through these benefit dinners. He understood that, "Food is our common ground, a universal experience."

Brandi pens here at Bran Apetit!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

CHEF TO CHEF

The biggest news to hit the Palm Beach Post last weekend was that Blockbuster was bringing back its late fees. And, while Palm Beach does get its fair share of celebrity gossip headliners and Spring Break mayhem stories, I was happy to spend a somewhat serene weekend there for the Chef to Chef Conference. I had the pleasure of being the key note speaker for a distinct group of chefs from around the nation - they all work for private clubs and hotels.

The climate of private clubs and hotels has changed dramatically. Many banquet chefs are seeing smaller gatherings and cost conscious clientele who opt for pasta, chicken, and house wine menus. With this in mind, I set out to address the chefs with with a strong measure of common sense and hope for the future in a presentation called, "The Next Big Opporutnities for Club Cuisine." It was encouraging to see other presenters catch the same wave. Topics at the conference included, "Innovations in Club Dining", "New Spins on Old Classics", "Buy Vs. Make", and "Revving Up Takeout-Fast Casual Revenues". The Chef to Chef Conference is an exceptional gathering place for chefs to get connected with one another and share inspiration for their work.

The food at the conference was pleasing enough. When you're feeding a large group of trained chefs, you simply make sure the food is fresh and plentiful. Even with this in mind though, I took the opportunity to venture out one morning in search of something really hearty. I found it at an popular restaurant named John G's on the Beach. It wasn't hard to spot, I simply followed the line. John G's serves great breakfast. The "Original Cinnamon-Nut French Toast" is not to be missed. If you are happen to be in South Florida, make sure you make a breakfast date at John G's On the Beach.


Monday, March 1, 2010

SOUND ADVICE

During the 14 months that Desiree Rogers held office as the Obama's Social Secretary, she oversaw at least 330 White House events. Most White House staffers have upheld a tradition of carrying a low profile status. However, Ms. Rogers appeared very comfortable being in the limelight. She didn't seem to think twice about sitting in the front row of a haute couture fashion runway show or being the covergirl for Vanity Fair, Vogue, and WSJ magazine. Rogers was once quoted as saying, "We have the best brand on the Earth: the Obama brand......Our possibilities are endless."

I'm quite certain Ms. Rogers had no idea that her tenure at the White House would cease this week when she made that statement last year. Her position came under intense internal scrutiny when the Salahie couple crashed the First Obama State Dinner. Before the Obama administration, the Social Secretary was expected to coordinate operations behind the scenes. Desiree Rogers may not be the first Social Secretary to sit at a state dinner, but she is the first one in memory to overlook the detail seeing guest properly checked into the White House.

When I was hired as Executive Chef at the White House, Ann Stock (former Social Secretary) informed me,"Don't define yourself by how close you stand to the President in pictures, just try to do your best to make the President look good by doing your job perfectly." She's right. I hope the new Social Secetary understands the importance of what Ann conveyed to me. There is a lot to be said of traditional worker bees who are not distracted by immediate personal gain for the sake of helping others achieve success.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

BLIZZARD, TRUCK STOP, GOOD FOOD

Photograph by Steve Apps-AP
The Mid-Atlantic is currently being pelted by what the President dubbed, "Snowmageddon." The storm has been powerful enough to topple power lines, crush an airport hangar, cause several car crashes, and send in 400 National Guard troops to help with snow removal.


Of course I just happened to be on the road for a 600 mile trip during the start of the storm. There weren't very many places to take cover, but I did manage to find an interesting truck stop off of I-81 (exit 205) in Raphine, Virginia, called White's Truck Stop.

Amongst insiders White's Truck Stop is also known as “Whitey's Motorcycle Shop”. This stop has an array of vintage cycles on display, as well as a substantial gun and knife collection, wildlife head mountings, and a big stuffed alligator.

Photograph by Janet Galore

White’s also has a 24-hour restaurant teeming with comfort food. Depending on the night of the week, you can nab a $9.99 “all you can eat” special such as spaghetti, liver'n onions, roast sirloin, “cat fish”, country ham, or roast chicken; dinners often include a trip to the “sallet bar”. They have a room reserved just for truckers - although, I manged to make my way in! Other dining options include a cafeteria, convenience food, and fast food. Even if you're not a trucker, White's truck stop is worth the detour especially if you're craving comfort food and you can't get home.



Wednesday, January 20, 2010

COOKING, FRAN & WALLY - January 2010

While you are resolving to read more books, lose 20 pounds, volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, here is our suggestion: Promise yourself you are going to do something differently about food. To start, listen to the words of former White House Executive Chef Walter Scheib, now the “American Chef”.

Wally: Good food means good ingredients. Get fresh products and use them in your diet and eat more nutritiously. Patronize farm market vendors so they profit and can expand - it benefits everybody. Even though it’s winter now, you may find gardeners who have a winter garden. Follow Michelle Obama’s lead and start a garden yourself, even window boxes or pots on your deck. Get to know a farmer or join a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture). You help fund a farmer and get fresh produce or meats in return. You also might help save a family farm, build the community economy and, of course, you will eat great food. Supermarkets don’t have to be impersonal megaliths with the employees as shrink-wrapped as the chicken. One thing you can do right now is get to know the butcher, the produce manager, the deli people. They would welcome your friendship and it would make them feel that their expertise is valued. For example, if the produce department doesn’t have something you want, ask the manager to order it for you and promise to come in and get it. Begin to build your pantries—stock up on a selection of oils, mustards, vinegars, chutneys and the like. You can call up your foodie friends and have a tasting party. Set out complimentary hors d’oeuvres for the category you are featuring, provide drinks and you’ve got a good party. If that would be a bit expensive for you, ask your friends to bring their favorite mustard, chutney or whatever you’re tasting; you provide the hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and the conversation will flow with the wine. You could make it a contest and let the guests decide which condiment they liked best. You may be surprised what successful entertaining that can be.

Fran: Wally’s comments give us an excellent insight into the mind of a man passionate and joyful about both the complexity and simplicity of good food. No detail or nuance is unimportant in creating or making a recipe. Finding as much fresh stuff as you can shouldn’t be a chore but a delight and nothing wrong with its being fun. Obviously winter is not the time for the large number of farmers’ markets here, but last month a vendor from Purcellville was selling greens at the Del Ray Market site. The Old Town Market in Market Square is open year round. Both are worth checking out. Incidentally, Chef counts anything within 300 miles “local”. Keep this column on your desk to remind you to go even fresher when spring comes. Tell your friends. The more people who patronize market gardeners, the more there will be. We will also try to list CSAs in this area closer to springtime. I found one in The Plains listed on the Internet, but there may be others.

Many restaurateurs pride themselves on their own gardens or relationships with carefully chosen local vendors. You could certainly ask about this when you dine out. Again, the more we ask for fresh, the sooner restaurants will comply. Bon Appetit!

You will find the rest of the article under the "print" section here.