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The Latest from Big City Chefs

It’s Not Too Late to Plan This Easy Impromptu Oscar Party

March 3rd, 2010

by Betty Ho, Big City Chefs food writer

A self proclaimed film buff, I eagerly anticipate each year’s Academy Awards for the glamor that unfolds on the red carpet. It’s a wonderful occasion to sit down in the comfort of my own home yet take part in the very essence of Hollywood. And though I always intend to throw a fabulous, meticulously planned Oscar party for me and my friends, year after year the awards show always manages to sneak up on me. This year is no different; the 82nd Academy Awards airs this Sunday night, March 7 at 8/5p on ABC. While four days is not enough time to send out glittering invites or plan an elaborate affair to rival that of the Vanity Fair after party, it is ample time to put together a low-hassle yet enjoyable meal centered around delicious California cuisine (it is Hollywood, after all) and classic cinematic cocktails.

To start, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences own website has a great Oscar Party Kit with excellent recipes and party planning ideas. Their glittering roster of cocktails with names like Moet Golden Glamor and Red Carpet Fizz will definitely be making an appearance on my own menu. Equally applause-worthy is Epicurious.com’s “Oscar-inspired Movie Menus”. Hosts and hostesses can consider planning the night’s menu around the film they think will win Best Picture or take a sampling from each menu. With ten films up for Best Picture this year rather than five, there are plenty of choices for a mouth-watering awards night! I’ve got my eye on the soul food inspired “Precious” menu or, if I’m strapped for time, the incredibly easy “Up in the Air” menu, a clever update of the normally drab continental breakfast.

With so many menu choices and party ideas, the little time leading up to the Oscars might be spent on decision-making, but there are options for every budget and schedule. For Big City Chefs’ own Chef Rebecca, a private chef for hire in New York and Los Angeles, “Thinking of the Oscars conjures up high-end everything: fancy clothes paired with fancy foods and beverages.” Viewers at home have the option to dress up or down, but the glamor of the occasion can still shine through in a fancy cocktail. Chef Rebecca suggests her favorite:

The Ultra-Glam French Martini (courtesy of Los Angeles and New York Private Chef Rebecca of Big City Chefs)

1 1/2 oz. Vodka
1 oz. Chambord or Black Raspberry Liqueur
1/2 oz. dry Vermouth
Splash of Pineapple Juice
Garnish with pineapple wedge (or freeze pineapple and shave over the top of martini just before serving, or cut pineapple into small cubes, skewer and freeze, then add to drink to serve)

Whatever dishes you choose to serve, don’t forget to print out an Oscar-ballot and enjoy the show!

(C) Copyright 2010 Big City Chefs, Inc.

When Life Hands you Mud and Snow, Make Frozen Mudslides (recipe included)

February 9th, 2010

Although recent rainstorms have tragically brought down hillsides, we Californians are nothing short of resilient. Our sense of humor helps us rebuild time and again when natural disaster strikes, so while cleanup crews do their job, why not toast them with that eponymous libation, the Mudslide. Coupled with the mid-Atlantic’s crippling snowstorms, this frosty drink shows climactic solidarity and gives props to both coasts.

Here is a recipe for a Frozen Mudslide, or the ultimate adult milkshare as I like to call it.

Frozen Mudslide

In a blender, combine:
0.5 oz Coffee Liqueur
0.5 cup Crushed Ice
1.0 oz Vanilla Ice Cream
0.5 oz Irish Cream
0.75 oz Premium Vodka
Blend well at High speed. Pour drink into a tall glass and garnish with a Brandied Cherry.

Piping Hot Soups and Stews for the New Year (Recipes)

January 6th, 2010

Keep warm this winter! Try our celebrity chefss soup and stew recipes!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Toppings

Ingredients

  • 3 to 4 pounds butternut squash, peeled
  • and seeded
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored
  • 3 tablespoons  olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon good curry powder (use more to taste)
  • Minced scallions, dried coconut, and toasted, salted cashew for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the butternut squash, onions and apples in 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Divide the squash mixture between 2 sheet pans and spread it in a single layer. Roast for 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.) When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to make a thick soup. Add the curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Taste for seasonings to be sure there’s enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor

Reheat, Garnish with scallions, coconut, and cashews, and serve!

Seared Lamb Stew with Cipolline  Onions And Potatoes

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat and sinew, meat cut into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 18 small cipolline onions
  • 12 small red-skinned potatoes, halved
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

Directions

Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and pepper. Toss the lamb with the flour in a large bowl to coat. Working in 2 batches, add the lamb to the pot and cook until brown, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a bowl. Pour off the excess oil. Add the garlic to the same pot and saute over medium heat until tender and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced by half, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot, about 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot. Stir in the broth, tomatoes with their juices, and tomato paste. Cover partially and simmer over medium-low until the lamb is just tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, cook the onions in a medium saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool. Peel the onions and cut off the root ends. Add the onions, potatoes, and carrots to the stew. Simmer until the lamb and vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes longer. Season the stew, to taste, with salt and pepper.

“Glühwein” – The Ultimate Winter Beverage

December 21st, 2009

In my extended German family, few days during the holiday season pass without an afternoon interlude that includes a mug of steaming hot Glühwein and a piece of dense, buttery, homemade Stollen or a spiced gingerbread “Lebkuchen.” Glühwein is the favored recipe for mulled wine in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, where the beautiful, frozen landscape beckons into a warm living room by the fire. This drink will get you and your guests into a festive, glowing mood.

Glühwein Recipe

1 bottle fruity red wine
2 to 3 cups water (or, for extra kick, brewed black tea)
Add to taste:
Sugar
Cinnamon Sticks
Whole Cloves
Lemon and Orange Slices
Optional: Splash of Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Optional: 1 vanilla bean, whole

Bring to a simmer and allow flavors to come together. Serve piping hot. Makes 8 servings.

The Ultimate Holiday Party Recipe: Decadent Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

November 14th, 2009

Our customers keep requesting the recipe for these incredibly delicious bars over and over, so we thought we might as well share it with everyone! This was a recipe we pulled together a couple of years ago for the in-store Culinary Centers at Whole Foods Markets in Northern California.

Okay, so you probably would love to see a photo of these amazing morsels of perfection to whet your appetite. However, we’d like to see your photos instead! Please send us snapshots of your creations (feel free to include yourself in the photo) to info@bigcitychefs.com.

DECADENT PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE BARS

Bars:

4 Cage-Free Eggs
1 2/3 cups Granulated Cane Sugar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
15 ounces Canned pumpkin
2 cups Unbleached Organic Flour, sifted
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda

Icing

8 ounces Cream Cheese, softened
1/2 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Confectioner’s Sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Using an electric mixer at medium speed, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin until light and fluffy. Stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth. Spread the batter into a greased 13 by 10-inch baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. Cut into bars.

3. To make the icing: Combine the cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Stir in the vanilla and mix again. Spread on cooled pumpkin bars.

Sourcing Local Fall Foods at Big City Chefs

November 4th, 2009

In every season, we love to combine our excitement for what’s farm-fresh with our personal connections to local, organic, “under-the-radar” micro-purveyors of unique product. And of course, we love to spoil our clients with these special food finds. Today, we’d like to give you a glimpse into what makes fall an especially intriguing time of the year at Big City Chefs. While our private chefs in Denver have already been cooking hearty, braised winter dishes to take the chill out of early snows, our private chefs in Florida are still executing beachside dinner parties under balmy skies. As a result of these diverse weather patterns in different parts of the country, we’re faced with greater regional variations in culinary trends and locally available product during autumn than at any other time of the year.

Here in Northern California, we’re enjoying what seems like an endless string of clear, warm, short-sleeve afternoons and pleasantly cool, starry evenings, interrupted only on a couple of occasions by a damp day that foreshadows the rapidly approaching rainy season. It’s also one of the most interesting times of the year for local produce. While summer herbs are already breathing their last gasps, and fresh tomatoes are now ripening at a snail’s pace, we’re enthusiastically turning to many of those “only-in-California” fall crops, many of which are available solely through specialty farms or even backyard growers in our local area.

Our private sources have been providing Big City Chefs with a bounty of locally grown, organic pomegranates whose enormous size, flawless shape, deep red color, and intense flavor put store-bought fruit to shame. Ripened slowly over many months in our nearby inland valleys, and late-harvested at their peak, these Mediterranean fruits enjoy virtually uninterrupted sunshine and heat during their growing cycle. Our San Francisco-area private chefs enjoy using these antioxidant-rich pomegranates in our client’s menus, as the seeds make excellent additions to fall salads, and the fresh juice can be used in everything from refreshing spritzers, granitas, and sorbets, to thick reduction sauces that complement meat and poultry. We took so many photos of these enormous fruits that it was hard to pick the best ones!

Fall Produce from Local Growers to Our Clients

Some lesser-known seasonal crops that are abundant at the moment include the feijoa, or “pineapple guava,” which some tout as possibly the world’s most delicious fruit. This deep green, egg-shaped delicacy has a sweet flesh that is partially firm and partially soft, with a deeply aromatic flavor that evokes pineapple, lemon, apple, and vanilla. Because it bruises easily in transport, it’s hard to find at markets, is typically extremely expensive, and is often sold shriveled and past its peak. Our San Francisco-area private chefs are lucky to use ours within days of harvest, when they’re plump and delectable. Feijoa is delicious spooned fresh right out of the shell, served with a drizzle of lime, but we also enjoy using it in cobblers, house-made ice creams, and in jams to give to special clients as holiday gifts. (Nothing complements a breakfast scone like feijoa jam.) Outside of Big City Chefs, we’ve only seen this unusual fruit on the menu at Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry restaurant, although last year, we would have had cult-status ice creamery Ici in Berkeley turn a large batch into gelato had they been able to justify the cost.

Another unique local fruit you won’t easily find at markets is the strawberry guava, a very close sibling of the traditional tropical guava, but better suited to our Mediterranean climate. This year, we have an overabundance of these tiny, soft, burgundy-colored fruits available to us. The flavor is mild but distinctly guava-like, and the fruit (and its edible seeds) can be enjoyed fresh, out of hand, or cooked down, pureed, and strained into a delicious coulis to be served with macadamia nut cheesecake (my favorite). Their slight tartness also makes for a great vinaigrette component with which our private chefs like to surprise our clients’ curious palates.

As we look ahead to our local winter crops, we’re already seeing color coming into local citrus, especially Meyer lemons, Satsuma mandarins, and blood oranges, but it will be another two months before they reach their peak of flavor. In the meantime, the locals are planting winter crops of green, leafy vegetables such as chard, lettuce, and endive, as you can see in photos of the neighborhood community garden near our Big City Chefs offices. We’re very excited to incorporate this produce in the coming months.

Getting Ready for Cool-Season Crops

Getting Ready for Cool-Season Crops

Of course, we seek out unique and special sources of local produce, cheeses, meats, salumi, olive oils, and other products not only in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Chicago, and the many other areas that Big City Chefs serves. As we come across other exciting and unique finds, we’ll share them with you as well. If you know of any local growers or artisans in your area that offer something you think is just incredible, then please contact us to let us know!

Tom

How is TV Shaping Today’s Food Culture?

August 17th, 2009

As we get ready to unleash our pilot television show on Food Network in the months ahead, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what role television plays in defining our national food culture. I’ve been coming across quite a few culinary blogs whose content and comments are surprisingly critical of the perceived trend away from the high-level master chefs of 1990s television and towards personality-driven, commercialized culinary celebrities and reality drama.

Certainly, we serious food enthusiasts appreciate learning from the esteemed chefs like Jacques Pepin, Jacques Torres, and Hubert Keller, who still grace the airwaves on many PBS affiliates. On the other hand, a good thing about the personality-driven, less formally trained TV celebrities of other networks is that they bring a fresh, new level of interest in cooking to mainstream America. While they don’t elevate cuisine to the level of some of the greats, that’s exactly their point. Instead, they inspire a wide, new cross-section of America to spend time in the kitchen and gather friends and family together around food – which in my book is a worthwhile return to old-fashioned interests that hearken back to simpler, happier times. I like seeing more and more people demand fresh hormone-free meats and local organic produce to incorporate into their simple home-cooked meals. Even the most uncomplicated family dinner is wonderful and rewarding, and I applaud the trend of bringing cooking more and more into the mainstream.

I believe that Food Network in particular is doing a fantastic job of creating an exciting and compelling modern-day extension of Julia Child’s early success in bridging the gap between fine cuisine and a mainstream audience of home cooks. Just like today’s culinary TV stars, she was undoubtedly a personality-driven celebrity, and people thought, ‘if she can do it, then I can do it,’ which is not so different from what Paula Deen or Rachael Ray do today, even if their recipes aren’t classical French cuisine. Because they are down-to-Earth, today’s successful television chefs make cooking less intimidating and more approachable for the average person. As a result, it seems almost everyone now considers him- or herself a “foodie.” In fact, small-town America can now buy big-city ingredients like pink sea salt at Target or Thai fish sauce at Wal-Mart, which to me is an exciting validation of food culture expanding beyond the “in-group” culinary elite, even when for those in the “in-group,” it’s a devastating encroachment on their turf. What used to be unique has now become mainstream. But why is that so bad?

For more thoughts on this topic, I recommend the following article from the New York Daily News:
Article: Defining Food Snobs

-Tom Stieber, CEO

“Come on Down!” We’re on “The Price is Right” Game Show!

January 21st, 2009

“Come on down”! Big City Chefs will be featured as a live-action showcase prize package on “The Price is Right” on CBS, airing January 22nd and February 4th!

As a long-time childhood fan of this game show, and high school yearbook predictions of me in fact becoming a game show host, I had the unique opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the warm and wonderful staff of this legendary daytime program. Donning a crisp chef coat, I sliced, diced, smiled, and winked for the camera and a wildly cheering audience in the Showcase prize package giveaway. Although not my first time in front of the bright lights or the camera, this was definitely one of the most fun experiences of my life.

If you’re also a fan of the show, then you won’t want to miss the meaty details about what goes on behind the scenes, how contestants were picked, and what it was like to meet Drew Carey. All of these anecdotes share the spotlight with our many stories about weird chefs and crazy clients in our book, The Secret Lives of Private Chefs, which will be available later this year in our Web Store. Be sure to check it out, and thanks for watching me on “The Price is Right!”

-Tom Stieber, CEO

priceisrightnews

Big City Chefs Featured in Dr. Ian Smith’s National Bestseller!

February 10th, 2006

As seen on VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club,” Dr. Ian K. Smith’s national bestseller, The Fat Smash Diet includes an extensive selection of recipes developed for Dr. Ian Smith by Big City Chefs’ Los Angeles Personal Chef Bryan Wang.

fatsmashdietcover

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