Chef Mark….cookin’ the birthday food.

Our good friend Chef Mark recently had his birthday, and we were fortunate enough to host his gathering. So what does a chef want for his birthday meal? To make his own pizza! Chef Russell generously offered to make some of his “secret recipe” pizza dough (thanks Russell!), Chef Mark brought over some delectable toppings, and we were off to start cookin’ the birthday meal! Since the recipe for the dough is top secret, for now I’ll suggest picking up some pre-made dough at the store. Be sure to bake it on a pizza stone for best results. Place the pizza stone in the oven prior to pre-heating, and heat your oven as high as it can go. We had ours at 550 degrees. This will create a pizza with a crisp outside and a nice tender center. Top with whatever your heart (and stomach) desires. For this particular pizza, we created a version of the margherite with tomato sauce, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, olive oil and sea salt. Get creative….make your own masterpiece! Let me know what you come up with…

Chef Mark making his own birthday pizza!

The homemade sourdough margherite pizza. Yum!!

Blimey! That’s a good ale!

Get out your best British accent for this one! American Craft Beer week ended yesterday, so it’s about blimey time I got this posted. Why did I pick this beer? I just wanted to say blimey as many times as I could! Blimey right. Well, that’s not entirely true. I thought it would be fun to try another local brew, and this was the lucky choice from Three Heads Brewing. I think the British palace guard on the bottle might have knocked back a few of these to feel so peaceful….it’s bloody strong (as I noted near the end of this 22oz. bottle, at 6%). Sorry, I should say…it’s blimey strong! A blimey good ale, if I may say, as well. A slight bit of citrus and malt to start (some caramel in there somewhere too), gave way to a strong finish of hop bitterness. You’ll know you’re drinking it…as you blimey well should! Cheerio!

Three Heads Brewing Blimey - English Style Pale Ale.

"It's blimey good and strong", says our peaceful palace guard.....

A quick bite (and Heather says they’re cute).

I wanted to make sandwiches for lunch. There was no bread in the house, except for a baguette. Normally, this would make for a fantastic sub-like sandwich, but this loaf was pre-sliced! So, I decided to run with it.  A few thin chunks of gruyere, some turkey, a couple of apple slices, baby spinach and dijon mustard to top it off……voila! Grill them in a sauté pan with some cooking spray, and lunch is soon ready. Mmmm..sandwiches.  Mini, grilled, tasty, (cute), sandwiches….yum!

Sliced baguette sandwiches. YUM! (don't forget the apple!)

What shall we have with our Riesling? Sushi!

That was the question I asked Heather. We visit many of the Finger Lakes wineries, and during our last trip to Heron Hill we purchased the Dry Riesling. I thought sushi would be perfect (and she agreed)! Light and spicy (with the addition of ginger and wasabi) would pair with the wine nicely. The wine was excellent… as are most Finger Lakes Rieslings. Crisp, light and somewhat sweet for a “dry” (1.8% r.s.), with a nice citrus tone.

At some point, I hope to do a post on making sushi. This, however, we got at the store to go… and passed these giant aloe leaves on the way to the counter. I couldn’t resist. So this is my simple reminder to “present” the food that you serve, since I’m positive that good-looking food tastes better. 🙂

Present your sushi...then eat it!

Heron Hill Dry Riesling.

Just a hunk, a hunk, of burning whipped cream?

I hope Elvis doesn’t mind me changing the lyrics a little, but I thought it was appropriate for my thoughts on Cream. Vanilla-flavored, alcohol-infused whipped cream, that is. Looks like whipped cream, but after that 1/4 second initial hint of sweet you get the wham, bam…wow, that’s got a burn! I may be exaggerating a little, but at 30 proof it’s like mixing a watered down shot of vodka in with your whipped cream; A very unexpected, but interesting combo. The vanilla flavor (which was fairly subtle) was one choice, along with Cherry, Orange, Raspberry, Chocolate, and Caramel. We decided to try it with mango, as you might with plain ordinary whipped cream. It worked well, but I am positive that it would make a better addition to a drink. So, I’ll offer this up for now, and go work on a drink recipe with the rest of the can. Happy Friday….Wish me luck!

Cream. Vanilla alcohol infused whipped cream. With a kick! (very cool packaging)

Vanilla Cream over mango.

A fun red and a fungi makes a great meal.

It was suggested to us to try the 2006 Atwater Cabernet Franc with grilled portobello mushrooms. So…we did!

I find  portobellos to be a light, healthy, yet extremely flavorful, substitute for beef. They only take a few  minutes for each side on the grill….coated lightly in olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill a few small peppers at the same time. Slice them on a platter when done and throw on some blue cheese, letting it melt. Plate over a bed of arugula blend and thinly sliced red onion. Top with balsamic vinaigrette and you have a satisfying, healthy meal.

New York State doesn’t get a whole lot of credit for its red wines. The Atwater Cabernet Franc is one of the best ones I have had, so I think we’ll have to explore a few more. We thought the wine would pair well with almost anything grilled (including our mushrooms), not to mention the strong, earthy cheese. Its light tannins, blend of red fruit flavors, and slight earthiness made it very drinkable and a food-friendly wine.

It was a fabulous treat all around, and a great selection for a nice warm spring evening.

2006 Atwater Cabernet Franc.

Grilled portobello mushrooms over arugula blend. (click for bigger fungi)

I like it chunky: Guacamole!

What would Cinco de Mayo be without guacamole?! Our marvelous friend Chef Mark (yup…he’s a chef!), prepared a Mexican feast for  some friends 5 years ago on Cinco de Mayo . It was the 3rd date for Heather and I, and guacaomle and margaritas were a wonderful part of the memorable menu. This is my derivation of the recipes for both.

Chunky guacamole. Pit and scoop out 3 ripe avocados and chop into roughly 1/2″ to 3/4″ chunks. Place in a mixing bowl and squeeze the  juice of 1 lime onto it to keep it from browning (and add some great flavor). Finely chop half of medium white onion and a large handful of fresh cilantro. Dice a small to medium tomato into 1/4-inch pieces. Mince 2 jalapeno peppers (OK..I like it HOT and chunky, but this won’t be too hot if you remove the seeds). 
Throw them all into the mixing bowl with some sea salt (to taste) and stir. This will break up most of the chunks a little, but some hardly at all. Thus…. creating your chunky guacamole.

The margarita. Ah, the margarita. It took me a while to perfect this recipe. I prefer to use a reposado tequila for the smooth smoky flavor. 1800 is a good value and generally my choice. In a shaker with crushed ice add 2 ounces tequila, 1 1/2 ounces triple sec, 1 1/4 ounces fresh squeezed lime juice and 1 1/4 ounces simple syrup. Shake and strain into a margarita glass. Garnish with a lime and orange twist to signify the blending of the 2 flavors. I prefer it up with no salt, but feel free to salt the rim and serve over ice (as I do for Heather 🙂 ).

PS. If you’re in the Rochester area, I highly suggest you take a class from Chef Mark at the Wegmans Pittsford cooking school. It’s very entertaining and informative!

(Chunky!) Guacamole, with hearty yellow corn chips.

The margarita. Up, no salt.

Guacamole ingredients.