The Latest from Big City Chefs
January 16th, 2013
With all the recent Oscar nominations for Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed movie, “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field, we were pretty excited to discover that one of our Honolulu personal chefs heralds from the culinary pedigree of none other than President Lincoln’s own personal chef, Henri Lambert.
Chef Henri was our Private Chef Ave’s great-grandfather, and his story was a remarkable one in the days of primitive transportation. According to Wikipedia and other websites, Henri (later Henry) Lambert, after working as the personal chef to President Abraham Lincoln, moved west and settled in Elizabethtown, New Mexico, with hopes of making a wealthy strike. When he found little gold, he opened a restaurant and saloon. At this time, Elizabethtown, Cimarron, and much of the surrounding area was owned by Lucien B. Maxwell and was a part of the huge Maxwell Land Grant. Maxwell enticed Lambert to come to Cimarron, whereupon he founded the Lambert Inn, which would later be renamed the St. James Hotel, which still exists today. We are delighted that the Lambert family’s culinary roots have been passed down through the centuries to our own staff of personal chefs.
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November 6th, 2012
Despite our best efforts at recreating the dishes from the most authentic-appearing cookbooks, homemade Chinese food always eludes us. Printed recipes invariably use the same few ingredients to make the same inauthentic, Americanized sauces. Even our many Chinese friends keep their mothers’ and grandmothers’ secret recipes well guarded, so that we leave it up to the master restaurant chefs and private chefs in our stable to create those dishes for us.
We are therefore especially grateful to one of our private chefs in the San Francisco Bay Area, Chef Rommel, to whom none other than famed master chef Martin Yan has been a mentor for many years, for sharing a few of his favorite Chinese dishes for you to recreate at home. We hope you try and enjoy these wonderful dishes. Of course, if you’d prefer to let Chef Rommel prepare this or other authentic Asian dishes in your home, along with the wonderful stories behind his culinary experiences, please contact us to hire a private chef for a dinner party.
Traditional Pork Potstickers
I package of pot sticker wrappers
1 pound lean ground pork
1/4 c finely chopped green onions
1 egg white
1 tsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp white pepper
¼ c TBS oyster sauce
For the Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp Sesame oil
½ tsp sambal olek ( Asian Chili garlic sauce )
3 tbs of vegetable oil
Preparation: In a large bowl, mix pork, green onions, egg white, oyster sauce , sesame oil, and the white pepper.
Fill 1 wrapper of meat mixture in the middle of wrapper not too much, ½ tsp, moisten edge and close the pouch and pinch 4-5 pleats up to create a pouch to encase the mixture. Pinch the top together and continue with the remaining wrappers and filling.
Add 1/2 cup water to nonstick skillet, bring to a boil place pot stickers and cook 8 minutes, check to see if filling is cooked, test one. Drain water and add oil, be careful it may splatter, tilting the wok to coat the sides. Make sure dumplings are in a single layer not to crowd them and pan sear 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown. To make a dipping sauce, in a small bowl, mix the soy sauce with sesame oil and chili garlic sauce. Serve with the dumplings.
Ginger Beef with Vegetables
Marinade • 1 ½ Tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar • 4 Tbsp soy sauce (lee kum kee brand) • 1 Tbsp sugar • 1 ½ Tbsp peeled, grated fresh ginger • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper • 1 tsp corn starch • 1 egg white
Beef and stir-fry • 2 lbs. to 1 1/2 lb top sirloin or skirt steak • 1 Tbsp corn starch (make slurry with water) • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil • 1 Tbsp sesame oil • 3-4 green onions, cut on a diagonal, 1/2-inch apart, including the greens • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced • 2-3 thai hot chiles, (optional) • 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled, cut lengthwise into matchstick shapes • Add desired vegetables, such as baby bok choy, green beans , or what’s in season.
• 1 Freeze steak for 30 minutes before you slice it, this will make it much easier cut into thin slices. Slice the steak first crosswise in 1/2-inch thick slices. The cut each slice lengthwise into thin strips. • 2 In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients and chill for 3 hours. • 3 In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoons of cold water to make a slurry. • 4 Heat the oil in a wok, or a large sauté pan, over high heat until it is nearly smoking. As the oil is heating up, separate it into small batches no larger than what can fit into the palm of your hand. Working in batches, sauté beef until just brown outside but slightly rare inside, no more than 1 minute. Transfer beef to a bowl. • 5 When all of the beef is cooked, put the chiles and garlic into the pan and stir-fry 30-45 seconds. Add the julienned ginger and cook for 30-40 seconds more. Add the beef back to the pan. Add the cornstarch slurry. Add the scallions and mix everything together. Cook for 1 minute. • Serve at once with steamed white rice.
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March 16th, 2012
Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to enjoy the stirrings of a fiddle and a fife, and to raise a pint in festive cheer to commemorate solidarity with our Irish brethren celebrating the centuries old traditions of St. Patrick’s Day. Oh what the heck, it’s a great excuse to get drunk and have some really great pub food. So let’s get down to business. If you’re going to be drinking pint after pint of Guinness stout or Harp lager, and you’re looking for an easy and hearty alternative to (yawn) Corned Beef and Cabbage, then look no further, because Big City Chefs presents the perfect recipes for pub food that you can wash down with all those glorious Irish suds. We hope you enjoy a fantastic holiday!
Chef Michael’s Irish Soda Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons caraway seeds, optional
1 cup raisins
1 cup buttermilk
Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda and salt and stir well to mix.
Add the butter and rub in until the butter disappears into the dry ingredients.
Stir in the caraway seeds if used and the raisins.
In a small bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together and mix into the dough mixture with a rubber spatula.
Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and fold it over on itself several times, shaping it into a round loaf. Transfer the loaf to one cookie sheet or jelly roll pan covered with parchment or foil and cut a cross in the top. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes more, until well colored and a toothpick plunged into the center emerges clean.
Cool the soda bread on a rack and serve with plenty of sweet butter and bitter orange marmalade.
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
½ lb slab bacon (we like Fresh & Easy Markets’ British Back Bacon, but you can substitute with regular bacon strips (“rashers”)
1 lb thick pork sausages (Fresh & Easy Markets carry nice authentic ones from across the pond)
4 medium carrots, in large cubes
1 lb waxy potatoes (such as white or Yukon Gold, not Russet), cut into large cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable stock (can substitute beef or chicken)
NOTE: You’ll find many variations of this recipe online. The exact amounts of each ingredient are flexible and can be modified to your personal taste. You can do the entire stew on the stovetop, but we love the way braising it in the oven cooks it gently and melds the flavors.
Heat the oven to 425°F. In a large frying pan or skillet, heat the oil, add the onions and cook on a medium heat for abut 4 minutes. Cut the bacon piece into ½ “ cubes. Add the bacon to the onions and stir well. Cut the sausages in half and add these to the onion and bacon. Raise the heat and stirring constantly, cook until the sausages start to brown, taking care not to burn the onions.
In a heat proof casserole, place a layer of the onion, bacon and sausage mixture followed by the layer of carrots and then a layer of potato. Season with salt and pepper. Repeat the layering until used up, finishing with a layer of potato.
Carefully pour over the stock. Cover with a lid. Place in the center of the oven and cook for 45 minutes. If too much liquid evaporates during cooking, then add a little boiling water to the coddle. Lower the heat to 350°F and cook for a further 30 minutes until bubbling and the potatoes are cooked through.
Remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with Irish Soda Bread.
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February 9th, 2012
It really hasn’t been much of a winter here in the West. Northern California has been having sunny, 65-degree Southern California weather, and Southern California has been having sunny, 75-degree Baja weather. But when the sun sets, the mercury still plummets sharply, and we shed our daytime t-shirts, put on a sweater, and crave a steaming, hearty bowl of soup. Our San Francisco Bay Area lead private chef, Alex Tishman, shares three of his favorite soups for this time of the year. Rooted in California’s fresh local ingredients and our cultural connections to Mediterranean and South-of-the-Border dishes, these soups are perfect not only for cold weather, but also to imagine yourself out here in the West, perhaps sitting by the vineyards next to a crackling fire.
Butternut squash soup with brown butter and sage
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 1 stick butter
- salt and pepper
- 1 small bunch sage, leaves picked
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Toss the squash with a little canola oil, season with salt and pepper, and place on a sheet pan, cut side down. Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until browned and completely tender.
Meanwhile, heat a medium pot over medium heat, and add half the butter. Allow the butter to melt and then add the onion and garlic, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cook the onions and garlic until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer.
Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool enough to handle. Scrape the flesh out and discard the skin. Add the scooped flesh into the pan and return the soup to a simmer. Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender and then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot. Check for seasoning and reserve hot.
To make the sage brown butter, heat the remaining butter in a small pan over medium heat, a little at a time, until the butter is just beginning to get aromatic and golden. Add the sage leaves and cook until they begin to pop and sizzle. Remove from the heat before the butter burns. Drizzle a few leaves and some of the browned butter on top of the soup and serve immediately.
Chicken tortilla soup with chipotle and avocado
- 3 bone-in chicken breasts, roasted, meat picked off the bone and reserved
- 1 can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 quart tortilla chips
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 1 quart water, hot
- 3 each quajillo, 1 each arbol, and 2 each pasilla chiles (dried); seeds and stems removed
- 2 onions, sliced
- 1 each chipotle chili, packed in adobo sauce
- salt, and pepper to taste
- 1 cup sour cream
- juice from 1 lime
- 1 bunch cilantro, chopped
- 1 ripe avocado
- ¼ cup canola oil
- ¼ cup olive oil
Soak the dried chiles in the hot water until they are tender, about 10 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Strain, and reserve.
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the canola oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent and tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chipotle and the canned tomatoes and stir well to combine. Add the stock, reserved chiles and water and bring to a simmer. Add the tortilla chips and allow to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning.
Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until about halfway smooth. Add the reserved picked chicken meat, and the chopped cilantro.
Meanwhile, separately combine the avocado, olive oil, sour cream, and lime juice in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding a little water if needed to keep it moving. Season with salt.
Serve the soup in a heated bowl with a little dollop of the avocado cream on top.
White bean and prosciutto soup with rosemary, olive oil, and parmesan
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 cans white beans (cannelini, great northern, navy)
- ½ cup diced prosciutto, bacon, or pancetta
- 1 sprig rosemary, fresh
- 1 head romaine lettuce, sliced very thin
- ½ cup olive oil
- parmesan cheese, to finish
- salt, pepper, and chili flakes
- juice from 1 lemon
Heat a medium pot over low heat and add half the olive oil. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown. Add the red onion, rosemary, and prosciutto and cook until the onions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the canned beans, along with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.
Allow the soup to cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the beans are beginning to fall apart. Add the sliced romaine and check for seasoning, adding the lemon juice just before serving.
To serve, finish with a little shaved parmesan and extra virgin olive oil.
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December 23rd, 2011
by Tom Stieber, CEO
You know that list of fantasy dinner party guests, alive or dead? Admit it. You know you have one. Everyone does. In my imagination, I’ve had dinner parties with Oprah Winfrey and even Saddam Hussein. I like a little danger with my amuse bouche. I’m thinking about this as I’m sitting on an airplane, sharing in the annual human pilgrimage to visit family for Christmas, and I’m pondering who would be fun to have at the table. I haven’t decided yet.
Lucky for me, Christmas comes early for me each year, namely in the form of Hanukkah. You see, I had the good fortune to marry into a Jewish family and not only eliminate holiday conflicts but also vastly expand my yearly allotment of fattening, celebratory family dinners. Right now, I’m wishing I could shake out some crispy latkes and apple sauce out of my puffy bag of honey roasted peanuts, but my daydreams are quickly quashed. Just peanuts.
I am, however, enjoying one of my Hannukah gifts – a food journal from an unlikely but compelling writer, which is turning out to be one of the best I’ve read. One of my favorite things about it is that I’m not reading it on a Kindle, Nook, or iPad, but in a (gasp!) paperback book. Completely removed from the maddening clutter of indistinguishable online food bloggers, this book’s old-fashioned tactile approachability, complete with cartoonish drawings of sausages and sad-faced toilets, evokes an artsy, retro tone that I find ideal for reading about food.
The book’s premise mirrors its source, as the author is none other than Alex Kapranos, lead singer and songwriter of the talented Scottish pop band Franz Ferdinand. In Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand, Kapranos details myriad globe-trotting gastro-adventures while on tour with his bandmates. Combining an unexpected previous career as a drunken misfit chef in kitchens too rough for his sensibilities with an insatiable craving for new culinary experiences, Kapranos stitches together a series of vignettes that he originally wrote for a successful column in the UK’s Guardian.
Whether he’s “munching donuts with cops in Brooklyn” or swallowing bull’s balls… …in Buenos Aires,” his stories carry a raw in-your-face wallop that’s somewhat reminiscent of Anthony Bourdain, only with a genteel Scottish whiff of whiskey on the breath. Oh yes, he gives us similar locker room stories about the wild hijinks that take place in restaurant kitchens, but more of the book focuses on the more relatable perspective of a foodie who is ready to discover every possible culinary experience from the filthy to the sublime. Instead of letting us into a crazy, off-limits world like Bourdain does, Kapranos is part of our world. He’s the food nerd that every fledgling blogger and social media addict aspires to be, because while they tweet blurry photos of pho at this week’s hippest restaurant and clamor to write ‘the most ironic. Restaurant. Review. Ever,’ he’s created an enduring homage to that sublime mix of food, atmosphere, and conversation that makes for great personal stories and memories.
I’d like to call Kapranos a romantic, but maybe it’s just that he’s European. On my most recent trip to Europe this past spring, I was giddy over the fact that in a week’s time, I only saw one single laptop at the many cafés around town. People in Europe don’t text; they talk and linger for hours. And while a crop of new high-tech culinary businesses are encouraging American restaurant customers to increasingly dehumanize their dining experiences by ordering food on iPads, Kapranos reminds us that “the best background noise in any restaurant anywhere is the warm murmur of people enjoying their food and each other’s company,” while “the worst background noise is the… …bland house wash that appeared in the mid-nineties in hip minimalist bars and restaurants.” I happen to strongly share his sentiments and aspire to incorporate them into Big City Chefs’ vision to give our clients much more than a beautiful plate of food. The pleasure of eating is about connecting with our humanity, and whether you find it at a private dinner party or read about it in Kapranos’s stories, you’ll remember to slow down and notice life’s details. Hey, I may just want to invite this guy over for Christmas dinner.
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December 12th, 2011
by Big City Chefs, 2011
We are undeniably smack-dab in the middle of the entertaining season. And whether you’re looking to hire a private chef to make your parties effortless, or you’re an aspiring Martha Stewart who loves to impress with your own culinary accomplishments, here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse at some of the creative holiday party menus that our professional chefs have been custom-creating for our clients this season, coupled with some tips to steer you in the right direction:
Idea 1: Keep it Fresh, Local, and Light
In the San Francisco Bay Area, where fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and wines abound year-round and many of our clients tend to have healthy diets, Private Chef Alex likes to bring out winter flavors without the usual holiday heaviness. “Salads aren’t just for summer,” he says. “This time of year, my clients love a salad of winter chicories, creamy Gorgonzola balsamic vinaigrette, crispy shallots, toasted hazelnuts, and local grapes.” Chef Alex’s other standout dishes include brined and roasted chicken breast with bread salad (yum!), mustard greens, currants, and onions; Butternut Squash soup with bacon and apples; and Crispy Polenta with braised sausage, peppers, onions, and tomatoes. “All of these dishes have a light touch but totally satisfy those homey, hearty winter cravings.”
Idea 2: Put A Twist on the Traditional
Bored with Spinach and Artichoke dip? The same old stuffing? Too much pumpkin pie in your life? Our San Diego Private Chef Justin likes to prepare appetizers, dishes, and desserts that echo familiar comforts wrapped up in a whole new package.
For unique holiday appetizers, Justin recommends a mix of both hearty and light, as well as traditional and nontraditional items. For all menu items, always minimize your last-minute workload. “I love making a classic Italian Braised Beef in Barolo, served with Gorgonzola in a Phyllo Cup,” he says. ”You can braise the meat the day before — in fact, it tastes better the next day — and make your phyllo cups ahead of time. Just fill them at the last minute and set them out for your guests.”
For a light appetizer with crunch, Chef Justin likes a simple Goat Cheese Crostini with Organic Honey and Toasted California Walnuts. If you don’t have time to toast your own crostini, you can use store-bought ones that are ready to go. If you’re tired of stuffed mushroom caps or Spinach and Artichoke Dip, combine them into a single appetizer. A hot spinach, artichoke, and parmesan stuffing pairs perfectly with big mushroom caps. Lastly, don’t forget the unexpected. Crab Cakes with Poblano Cream and Mango Salsa are a fun south-of-the-border bite that break up the monotony of holiday appetizers.
Want to host a pre-holiday dinner without roasting a whole turkey with all the trimmings? “Try a Turkey Leg Roulade with Apple Sourdough Stuffin, simple Pan Gravy, Brussels Sprout Hash, Shallots, and Pancetta,” then finish the evening with Chocolate Pumpkin Bread Pudding, Ginger Crème Anglaise, and Cinnamon Whipped Cream.
For additional dessert ideas, especially for buffet style parties, Chef Justin recommends mixing up your old standbys with some unique offerings. “Assorted miniature Irish Pub Cakes are super whimsical. I make one called Irish Car Bomb, and I make others with Guinness cake and either Irish Cream Frosting or Whiskey Ganache. They’re great for parties.”
Idea #3: Take an Italian Christmas “Staycation”
The Italians sure know how to do Christmas right. Combine one of the most important Catholic holidays with the birthplace of one of the world’s most popular cuisines, and you’ve got a great reason to explore Italy’s vast holiday food traditions. Typical Christmas dinners have many courses served family-style, ranging from pasta to whole fish to “Seven Seas” seafood stew, but you can opt for anything from the Italian repertoire, and even give menus an American spin. For example, Pannetone, Italy’s fluffy, yeasty holiday bread, makes an amazing bread pudding that can be served with an Italian Espresso Zabaglione. Or, use crusty ciabatta bread as a base for an Italian sausage and fennel stuffing that pairs with any holiday meat. Of course, there’s no reason not to enjoy straight-up Tuscan comfort food, such as Atlanta private chef Emilee’s classic Chicken scaloppini with Marsala sauce, wild mushrooms, soft polenta, and sauteed rapini. Paired with Italian wines and spirits such as montepulciano, or a shot of amaretto with dessert, the holidays take on an entirely new dimension.
Great memories are made at holiday gatherings with friends, family, or colleagues. Whether you follow these make-ahead tips for yourself or you prefer to hire a private chef for the day, you’ll be sure to enjoy the party instead of manning the kitchen.
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November 16th, 2011
If you’ve never brined your turkey before, you are missing out! Brining is an amazing process which actually seasons the meat from the inside, mitigates overcooking, helps maintain color, and aids in caramelization.
Brining is the key to a successful turkey on Thanksgiving day, and Chef Alex wants to share his recipe for a seasonal and delicious brine which will make your turkey juicy, moist, and succulent!
For a 12-16 pound bird:
1 gallon apple cider
2 1/2 cups kosher salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches long
1/4 cup corriander seeds, whole
2 Tablespoons fennel seeds, whole
4 each dried whole thai chilis
2 yellow onions, peeled and sliced thinly
1 bulb garlic, cut in half
1 Tablespoon black pepper
3 sprigs thyme, fresh
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 piece fresh ginger, about 2 inches long, sliced
1 gallon ice water
To make the brine, heat the spices in a dry pan until fragrant, tossing to prevent burning, for about 3 minutes total. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
Meanwhile, in a large, place the cider, thyme, bay leaf, ginger, apples, onions, garlic, sugars, and salt. Place the pot over medium heat, and stirring frequently, cook until the sugars and salt are completely dissolved. Remove the pot from the heat, add the toasted spices and ice water and mix well. Allow to cool completely.
If your pot is large enough to fit the entire raw turkey and the brine, and fit in the fridge, then you are all set. If not, take a cooler or a clean garbage can, fill it halfway with ice, and then place a large trash bag over the ice, allowing room for the turkey. Place the turkey and enough brine to keep the bird completely submerged and tie the bag closed. If needed, replace the ice as it melts.
Brine the turkey for 36 hours, then drain completely, discarding used brine. Dry the turkey very thoroughly before roasting.
Enjoy your delicious and juicy turkey, and have a great Thanksgiving!
If you have any questions regarding the above recipe, feel free to email email@example.com
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November 11th, 2011
When I think of food the first thing I think of flavor, texture, appearance, smell…the basics. I think about pictures in food magazines. I think of Food Network where cooks like Paula Dean, in less than half an hour, convince me that my life is nothing without butter. But I also think about holidays, seasons changing and celebration. Food = love. It is how we celebrate life changes and how we show people in our life that they are special to us. Food brings people together and allows us to share. A meal does not have to be fancy or made entirely of butter in order for it to be delicious and memorable. All you need is fresh, well-seasoned food and good company.
Over the summer I lived in a Mixed community North East of Oaxaca and in January I returned to visit the family that I lived with. By coincidence I arrived the day before a huge two-day celebration for the baptism of three of the cousins of the extended family. It was the most amazing, most filling and exhausting two days ever. Almost immediately after we caught up and reacquainted ourselves, the eating began. It started with chicken tamales and bean tamales and tepache (a drink often had for special occasions and religious ceremonies that is made of maguey, the same plant used to make mescal); and was followed by beers and chicken soup made with cabbage, chicken that my family had sacrificed earlier that day, and a local variety of squash topped with lime, chile and onion. After nightfall we enjoyed ENORMOUS slices of layered cake with strawberry jam and a whipped cream frosting that my Uncle baked in his wood-burning oven. After cake the kids broke open the piñata and it was official…time to dance/continue eating and drinking (atole, pan, popcorn, coffee, more beer, mezcal and tequila and second rounds of tamales for those who were still hungry.) It was a feast to say the least!! The women worked hard in the kitchen making sure everyone was happy and well-fed and the men passed around round after round of drinks for those interested but everyone made time for a dance or two.
I tried to soak in the moment and take a moment to digest all of the millions of things I had eaten and the pounds of corn masa I had consumed before I was pulled up from my seat to dance. As people danced and yelled happily I looked around the tent in the dim light. The large table was littered with remnants of food and corn leaves I couldn’t help but think: 1. how much cleaning there would be tomorrow 2. how exhausted I was and 3. how lucky and happy I was to be here sharing this wonderful food and celebration with these amazing people. After a moment of sitting and quietly observing the scene my abuelo leaned in and gently pushed a beer into my hand and said “we live.” It didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I understood his point, work hard and play harder. Live in the moment. As if to say we are family and this is a celebration, a time to dance, drink and eat, and thinking about tomorrow is for tomorrow. So have another beer and keep dancing!
Dancing the night away
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October 26th, 2011
Like the chefs at Big City Chefs…I absolutely love to travel. We all love wandering around museums, experiencing different cultures, and learning about different people and places; but, one of our favorite things about traveling, do you even have to ask?! The food of course!! Exploring market places, learning about different cooking styles, ingredients and methods and maybe taste testing here and there
But the food discovery and mind blowing flavor combos doesn’t end when we go home. Those of us enthusiastic about culinary travel always bring a little bit of our trip home with us…trying to duplicate and put new twists on the amazing food we tried while abroad. Working with fellow food aficionados is awesome because we can share our exciting flavor discoveries and work together to recreate authentic flavors right at home!
Last year I went to Oaxaca Mexico twice and let me tell you…the food was incredible! They have all the regular classic Mexican dishes but with a unique twist. I am not a chef by trade…but I would definitely consider myself a food lover. In my spare time I peruse food blogs, food magazines, and cook books. I watch food network, cooking channel, Top Chef, No Reservations….my love of food goes way beyond just eating. I am the first person my friends go to for restaurant/recipe recommendations. So here are some of my culinary-related MUSTS for people thinking of exploring Oaxaca City… or even if you don’t plan on traveling any time soon maybe you will be inspired to try and incorporate some new delicious flavors into your next fiesta!
1. Holy Mole– Oaxaca is often called the “Land of 7 Moles.” I still haven’t found a restaurant that serves all 7 nor have I found a Oaxqueño that can name all 7 types… you still shouldn’t leave without trying the two most popular varieties, black and red mole.
2. Queso Oaxqueño—Similar to mozzarella cheese but better if that is possible?? It is stringy and white like mozerella but it has a more smokey, rich flavor that enhances any omelette, quesadilla, torta or naked piece of pan (not the dulce kind).
3.Manila Mangos—these mangoes are oh so sweet and cannot be beat. Many of the manila mangoes we import in the US actually come from coastal regions of Oaxaca. So when in Oaxaca do as the Oaxacans do and eat what is freshest and what comes from the region. There’s really nothing better than a simple sliced mango sprinkled with a little bit of chile powder.
4. Tyludas—I can’t say this for the life of me… but its worth stumbling through the pronunciation just for a bite of this pizza-esk dish. Tyludas are the name of the type of tortilla that makes up the base of the dish. The tortillas are super grande and crispier than the average tortilla and are usually made out of flour rather than freshly ground corn. This is then covered in a thin layer of beans topped with queso oaxqueño and avocado. It isn’t a flavor explosion because all of the ingredients have very subtle flavors; however, the texture combo of the tortilla, cheese, avocado, meat (opt)… all slathered in salsa (if you like it hot like me J) is extraordinary!! A dish enjoyed by all Oaxacans.
look at all that queso oaxaqueño
5. Abastos Market—One of the most lively and fun markets I have been two (a little like Chatachuk in Bangkok but less chaotic). We arrived just as vendors were setting up and people were still eating their morning meal of café and pan dulce. Wander the endless rows of raw meat, fruits and veggies, artisan crafts… taking pictures, inhaling the various food smells and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the marketplace.
Gringita WARNING: Don’t wear shorts, not only did I blind vendors with my winter-pale legs, who were setting up for the busy day ahead but I attracted a lot of unwanted attention. Long skirts or pants are preferred. Also, beware of pickpockets and avoid wearing flashy jewelry. This is a standard rule for travelers but especially when you are in a busy marketplace.
6. The nightly promenade on the Zocalo—I don’t really recommend the food at the restaurants around the square. You will see a few natives of the city eating there but I am convinced that this is more because it is the “happening” place to hang out and be seen whether you are seeing friends, meeting a lover or quietly listening to the live music. El jardin on the corner closest to Av Independencia has delicious beer on tap and elotes carts wheel out every night to grill up fresh ears of corn which you can then cover with delicious toppings like chile, queso and lime (Yum!!)
Elotes aka Corn on the cob with all the fixin's on the Zocalo
7. Mezcal—Mezcal, unlike Tequila is O-Natural. It comes from a plant called Maguey that looks a little like a giant aloe plant and does not contain any chemicals. I’ve heard it described as a cross between tequila and whiskey and the crema varieties taste a lot like Baileys… It’s pretty good. Definitely worth sampling.
WARNING: It is 18% alc. And while the man selling it to me said that I wouldn’t get headaches from drinking it because it is natural… I’m a bit skeptical. If that were the case I am sure Mezcal would be renamed “miracle,” and advertised as hangover free alcohol….but because this isn’t the case I am forced to believe it induces just as much regret as tequila if consumed in mass quantities.
Ginger mezcal-tini at Casa Oaxaca
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October 12th, 2011
by Jourdan Janssen, Big City Chefs writer
I don’t know why, but in my opinion, the best food when I am traveling generally happens to be the cheapest, and often comes from hole-in-the-wall mom and pop operations. If you are traveling with someone from the area who can point you in the right direction, usually where a lot of locals are crowded together, you can all but guarantee your taste buds will be satisfied by delicious regional specialties. While some people prefer sit down more expensive sit down restaurants from websites like Trip Advisor, the adventurer in me often takes more of a Rick Steves approach to seeking out clean restaurants and stands that are off the beaten path and generally but not always a bit farther from central tourist spots.
After three hours of driving, cramped in middle of the back seat of a pickup truck, my friends and I stopped for almuerzo at a roadside stand. I stumbled out of the back seat, exhausted from the drive and a 6 a.m. wake up and a tad cranky from the lack of coffee when suddenly a strong aroma of mole wafted in my direction. I closed my eyes to take in the smell and my friend who had been driving told me that these were the smallest tamales in all of Mexico… I certainly hope not. The tamales were the size of not one but TWO of my heads.
I ordered a green tamal (whatever that meant I didn’t really know but the color green sounded appealing at the time) and a cup of coffee. When I slowly peeled open the hot banana leaves that held the tamal steam poured out and into my face… a free mini facial. The green turned out to be green chile salsa and chicken and the corn masa was mad out of a local variety of yellow corn. I have had a lot of tamales in my life but this very possibly was one of the best things I have ever eaten. It was moist, the perfect ratio of corn to goopy insides of corn and green salsa. The salsa burned but in the way that real Laoatian food can make you cry and beg for mercy but just enough so your lips turned a brighter shade of red and you could still taste the subtleness flavor of the different ingredients.
Ever since I got home I have begun a hunt for truly amazing, mouth-watering, dream worthy street food. Right now street food seems to be a pretty big trend in the USA, the only problem is it looks like I am going to have to go on a culinary adventure around the country to get a sampling of the best street food has to offer. After extensive browsing I compiled a list entitled…”If this truck were in my town I’d be first in line..”
1. Saucá in Washington DC
I wish they would drive to California sometime…the global cuisine sounds incredible!!
Customers have “10 different sâuçá wraps that alternate on the menu daily, two from each of five geographical-gastronomical regions; (N. America, Latin America, Europe, Mediterranean and Asia. Each day the menu will change to include one of the two globally inspired sâuçás, as well as the Mumbai Butter Chicken, the signature wrap that is offered every day, to make 11 total wraps. Add any one of the 22 different sauces to the wrap for a truly unique – and personalized meal!”- Sauca website
My problem is that looking at the menu I have no clue how I would ever decide what to order. Buffalo chicken, pork Bahn Mi, Mexicali fish taco…The solution? Eat a lot, eat often.
Pork Banh Mi on saffron rice
2. Calexico Cart in New York City
Unfortunately, no tamales but I would definitely be willing to settle for one of the gorgeous carne asada tacos or a baja style fish torta. Calexico gets RAVE reviews on every food site, foodie blog and newspaper clippings.
Irresistable tacos from Calexico Cart
3. Tyson Bees in Philadelphia
Korean food with a twist! Try classic curry over rice or sample innovative combinations like Korean BBQ short rib tacos or a hot dog topped with Kimchi.
4. LIBA Falafel in the Bay Area
This is one of the most well-known food trucks in the Bay…well I should say on the UC Berkeley campus at least (next to Cupkates) which means it must be good! My next mission…hunt down the truck and sample the assortment of falafels that LIBA has to offer. I can’t wait!
5. Nom Nom Truck Los Angeles, CA
Vietnamese-inspired food. They have an array of Bahn Mi sandwiches and Vietnamese tacos. The best part though…the fresh, sweet, spicy flavor
6. The Frying Scotsman Portland, OR
My favorite pub food classic…fish and chips of course! Im not talking about the frozen fish sticks that come in the shape of sea animals at the grocery store. Gross! That is wrong for so many reasons. If you have only ever tried frozen fillets think again! The traditional street food usually comes served up in newspaper and is best when lightly covered in vinegar and served with an icy cold beer. You can’t go wrong with the classics. At the Frying Scotsman the owner and chef is from Scotland knows what he’s doing. The fish is fresh, lightly fried and salted to perfection!
Plus SeriousEats.com ranks Portland the number 1 food truck city in America for its fresh ingredients and innovative menus. SO if fish and chips for some reason ain’t your thing you’ll have plenty of other options. Check out http://www.foodcartsportland.com/ for more ideas!!
7.Baby’s Badass Burgers, Los Angeles, CA
The burgers sound juicy and scrumptious! Plus, you cant go wrong with a street food classic…friend of the hot dog, the burger is an American classic that always “hits the spot.” The truck’s powder puff/barbie pink gives it an old diner/ Hollywood feel (how appropriate ) and makes it hard to miss. Baby’s will be featured in Travel Channel’s Food Wars episode airing on March 16, tune in to see who is crowned with the title of best burger truck in LA county.
8. Sweet Misgivings in Chicago, IL
Sweet treats are amazing but this truck sounds particularly cool because if is a social enterprise bakery and jobs program. “100% of all profits go to help the formerly homeless and HIV/AIDS-affected men, women, and children of Chicago House.” So not only can you satisfy your sweet tooth/afternoon craving with a delicious muffin, cookie but you are also giving back to the Chicago AIDS community. So really that cookie is guilt-free…They also ship for those of us not fortunate to live close enough to the beloved truck/store front.
9. mmmpanadas Austin, TX
Order savory or sweet empanadas…or both.Why not?!
10. The Grilled Cheese Truck in Los Angeles, CA
Maybe I just have grilled cheese on the mind after watching the first two episodes of America’s Next Great Restaurant but this place sounds incredible….Like grilled cheese heaven really.
If you were inspired by the article just a heads up… Travel channel is doing a special on food truck street vendors in March. So EXCITED!
I’m ready to eat my way around the US. Road trip anyone? Or next best choice hire Big City Chefs for your next street food inspired party. Classy and elegant but fun and hip and oh so delicious. The best part? You don’t have to choose which type of food you want…a Bahn mi, a grilled cheese, burger, fish and chips, sweets or a falafel…you can try it all! I’ll have 3 of each please. Yum.
If you have any thoughts on the food trucks mentioned above or any recommendations of great street food you’ve tried we’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions! We’re always looking for great new places to try.
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