11 September, 2018

Liberty's Kitchen - Come Grow With us...

IFBC 2018 Excursion to Liberty"s Kitchen with Dennis Bagneris, CEO
No one can doubt that New Orleans is the city of delicious dishes,  With the melange of cultures, flavors, ingredients and history, amazing food is easy to find  in the in the Big Easy.

One place where you can do good by eating is Liberty's Kitchen.  On September 21st, around 700 attendees will be at their annual "Come Grow with us..." Gala at the elegant Ace Hotel.  The event is a fundraiser but also honors excellence in the program; this year it honors

  • Janet Gorence Davas Youth Achievement Award: Max Williams and Kisscha “Keedy” Tiffith
  • Calvin Johnson Youth Advocate Award: Troy James  
New this year,  an inaugural Food Justice Champion Award will honor the late Arthur “Mr. Okra”  Robinson .  Mr. Robinson was produce peddler whose efforts across New Orleans especially in areas where there wasn't a lot of fresh produce made it accessible to seniors and others. Now his daughter has taken up his mantle.

It will be a great event so if you are in the area, buy tickets here You can also donate here too.

More opportunities are the Guest Chef Nights During Guest chef night, the Broad Street Cafe at
Guest Chef night: It's a thing
Liberty's Kitchen turns into a 50 seat  fine dining experience.  A  3 course meal is planned by a notable New Orleans Chef, who in turn works with six students .  They get work with a master chef and that ends up being an audition for future work. Four  graduating students are recognized as VIP.  Part of the success of the program is recognition and the power that positive reinforcement can bring  There is no more delicious way to invest in the future than attending one of these, so if you can make it, do.

BONUS: Since there is no official wine program, you can bring a special bottle from home with free corkage.  If you are in New Orleans, be sure to see if there are any events you can attend as the School does  attract wonderful chefs for Guest Chef night ( Click HERE for list of events)

Well all that is well and good, but what all do they do, you ask?

Superstars of Liberty's Kitchen
Liberty's  Kitchen is an amazing organization that provides 360 degree support for at motivated  young people who are out of school and out of work and
trying to find their way in the culinary field.  With two locations in New Orleans at 300 Broad Street as well as a cafeteria on Poydras, traditional culinary apprenticeship is spiced with caring, molded with discipline, shaped by support for the whole person.

And true to form, these kitchens turn out wonderful fresh dishes.  As part of the International Food Blogger's conference this year, I was able to go and not only be dazzled by a program that does so much for its students, but turns out mouth watering food.

Delish breakfast
Kitchens can be rough - we've all seen Gordon Ramsay- but many of these candidates come from home situations that are rougher still.  Many are dealing with PTSD or worse from abusive childhoods or need a boost to emerge from difficult situations.

By combining support services with the apprenticeship, Liberty's Kitchen aims to fill in the missing gaps for these wonderful students who have so much to give.  The goal is not charity, but rather help the participants master resiliency and coping skills.  Liberty's Kitchen builds community by strengthening the individual and letting them take who they are and go from there.

It's a twelve week program that includes support services for a year.  In reality, successful participants build lifelong networks.  It's a place that honors the individual, even if that means a second chance to work on your character.  The main thing Liberty's Kitchen looks for is employees who care.

AM:School Kitchen /PM:Commercial Kitchen
It also empowers entrepreneurial activities. One very interesting pilot program is the Incubator. Since the classes run from 6 am to 1 pm,  from 2PM to 7PM, they are working on a pilot program for entrepreneurs.  The incubator concept will allow Liberty's Kitchen to transform the space into a rentable commercial kitchen for chefs and food producers.  Capital and start up costs are mitigated so more entrepreneurs can get access to the equipment they need.

Alumna who now runs a program
Another program, the Healthy Corner Store Collaborative reaches out to mom-and-pop grocers in food deserts and helps them be successful with more healthy fresh food.  Liberty's Kitchen helps the store, which might lack the scale or the know how to present healthy alternatives to fast food.  This program helps them learn how to market fresh items.  This way seniors and others can get better nutrition locally.
In partnership with the Top Box program students pack delicious fresh food into boxes.  Liberty's Kitchen program is able to help provide beautiful fruit for 40% less.  This program makes it easier for people to access fresh food and enables healthier meals at home.

Top Box Fresh Fruit
The CEO of Liberty's Kitchen, Dennis Bagneris,  gave several food bloggers the opportunity to see this great organization in action.  Dennis, aka Mr. D,  came from the private sector, and started out as front of house working nearly every job up to CEO where he now helms the organization.  It's clear that his passion for providing a safe space to grow and a sustainable path to a better future will help the world be a better place

New Orleans is a food destination to gastronauts.  Liberty' s Kitchen leverages that to create a space of success and closes off all avenues of failure for those that can change

Learn.  Grow. Lead. is what Dennis works tirelessly to enable.  We all win when these culinary voices learn to sing with harmony and flavor as I experienced when I tasted their food!  I hope you visit when you are next in New Orleans.

Many thanks to Dennis Bagneris aka "Mr. D" for the wonderful experience at Liberty's Kitchen and to the folks at the international Food Bloggers conference for organizing

21 August, 2018

Chasing Nancy Silverton - Review of Osteria Mozza

Neftlix Season 3 Episode 3
 Over the summer, BrixChick_Nesta and I sat down to watch the Netflix series "Chef's Table" which introduces you to a cinematographic story of a famous Chef.

Basically, it's food porn, but it's classy.

Season Three/Episode Three introduced us to Nancy Silverton and the story of the perfect bread.  Being generally enamored of all carbs, this episode left us drooling.  We were hooked.

Summer Squash Salad at Mozza Popup
As luck would have it, Nancy was coming to San Francisco for a pop up at Cotogna --- one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants.  We fangirled Nancy when we met her and were introduced to the wonderful palette of flavors she paints with.  Her salads possess an alchemical quality with light, laughter and seasons pouring over you in unexpected but delightful ways.

Honey, fresh oregano, chili flakes, and tender squashes served raw combined to make  a shockingly flavorful and tasty dish.

We were hooked even more.
LA for lunch? #worthit @brixchico_Vince&@brixchick_nesta

Levelling up, when Southwest had those crazy sales, we collected our Jetset Lunch pals and hit LA to try Pizzeria Mozza for lunch.

 We were dazzled by amazing pizza, more amazing salads and one of the most supple and toothsome preparations of grilled octopus ever.

Grilled Octopus at Pizzeria Mozza

 My stalking of Nancy's food even included an adjacency of a La Brea Bakery pop up at the wonderful Petit Marlowe in SF.  No better foil for perfectly seasoned foie gras than luscious bread, fresh and doughy, in the best way.  La Brea Bakery being the company who bought out Nancy when the bakery became too big to wrangle.
Foie Gras, perfect sourdough equals foodie heaven
So of course since the Chef's Table was filmed at Osteria Mozza I had been jonesing to try that restaurant. 

View from a bar seat 
Well, my bleisure karma paid off and I found myself with no dinner engagement on a recent trip to the general area and was twittering like a chipmunk (not literally--I don't think I posted a thing) and this chronically unpunctual diner was even early for my reservation at Osteria Mozza.  I sank into the calm blue of the dining room and let my immersive experience into the Netflix series begin.

Dining alone, I snagged the catbird's seat, with a view of the prep area.  Even though I saw it with my own eyes, I still cannot figure out how they made the food so wonderfully complex, tasty and satisfying.

The menu changes with the season, focusing on whatever is freshest and combining ingedients to elevate whatever is of the season.  Insight from Chef's Table series tipped me off to expect complexity based on the extensive tasting and testing that is done .  All this to create combinations that are magically delicious.  Every dish was beautifully prepared and served.

 First Course:
Burrata and a fresh peach half with an herbal dressing of basil and a little dill with San Danieli ham, cured with Alpine breezes and travelling in whole haunches to be planed into salty, tender slices and draped over the burrata stuffed peach.  Fried whole garbanzo beans circled the whole dish and added a crunchiness that was just perfect

Second Course:
Soft shell crab fried under a perfectly crisp armor of batter,  then served over a mesmerizing salad of fennel and greens with a Green Goddess dressing/dipping sauce.  The dressing is choreographed to perfection balancing the herbs, savory notes and creaminess.

Corn Tortellini

Third Course: 
Corn tortellini with perfectly soft and tender pasta filled with the freshest corn filling and dressed with a corn sauce.  Corn at this time of year is great simply boiled, but this preparation locked the joy of summer into a dish.  It was light and rich at the same time and bursting with corn flavor

What is more summer than a Fourth of July-Style finale?  Trio of nut tart, polenta gelato and blueberry cake?  Clearly this dish was meant to be shared but I did not get the memo and ate it all up...every crunchy, creamy, corny, berrylicious bite  My light lunch strategy worked!

Dining at Osteria Mozza was everything I dreamt of and more.  Great service.  Yummy, yummy food and the bread and cheese I craved since that first glimpse via Netflix.

When people say Nancy's genius is pizza and salads it is absolutely true.  Flavors are perfected and honed to an amazing degree of excellence.  I can't wait to go back!

Osteria Mozza is located at 6602 Melrose Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA.  They have valet parking to make your experience just a little more wonderful.  Reservations can be made on OpenTable

09 May, 2018

May 16th Is Albariño Day At Snooth

I hope you will join us for our next virtual tasting with Rías Baixas in celebration of the Albariño grape. We will taste eleven Albariño wines from eleven different producers! (Yes, that's a total of 11 wines.) 

Date: Wednesday, 5/16/18
Time: 8:30pm ET/5:30pm PT

Hope you will tune in for wine, food and fun!

Meanwhile here's a reminder of an impressive pair: Albariño and the food of Southern India:

Eponymous "dosa" at Dosa SF
Dosa in San Francisco's Fillmore District is an airy, elegant restaurant that focuses on Indian cuisine.  The balance of Indian dishes with heat and sour and tang and sweet compels me to eat, but not so much to pair with wine.  Finding wines to handle that challenge is usually to drink beer---not that there's anything wrong with that.  Indian cuisine has a history going back seven thousand years and spanning a huge country, whose culture has not always been wine friendly.  And given the climate, my first rule of wine pairing "Grows with ...goes with" doesn't apply either.  I was most excited to attend the Rias Baixas lunch to see what would happen.

Turns out, an amazingly tasty ringer was waiting to be discovered: Albariño from Spain's Rias Baixas region.  Typically this wine is low in alcohol, redolent with minerality, and fruity.

Master Somm, Yoon Ha of Benu teamed with Dosa Wine Director Todd Smith to fine tune the pairings and showcase the possibilities.  Todd has a love of Indian cuisine and skill with wine.  He gave us a master class on Southern Indian food styles the best way possible, by serving it.  We could tell the pair enjoyed the exercise of bringing the wines into focus with the specific food of Southern India.

The first item brought out was called "bread and water" in which a crispy husk of dumpling was filled with tamarind-cilantro chili water.  For once I paid attention and devoured the flavorful concoction in one bite.  A flavor explosion ensued with the tangy sweet, brightly herbal, spicy water matched with the texture of the dumpling.

Dish after dish of texturally interesting, exotically spiced delights came out in waves.  Initially I was skeptical during Yoon Ha's presentation, but when I tried the wines, good, great and synergistic matches happened.
The Eponymous Dosa

Savory Shrimp

Classic Wada
Spicy Scallops

Some of these contain more than forty ingredients, so these wines got put through their paces.  Many are easy to find and will be on my summer rotation

First a little about the region.  Rais Baixas located in Galicia it has a maritime climate with lots of rainfall and lots of sun, each in balance at the right season for grapes.  The soils are great with lots of granite.  99% of the wines from the Denominacion de Origen (DO) are white.  And the thick skinned, scrappy, and we found delicious, Albariño, is key variety.  The Tastemakers brought some great Albariños:

Martin Codax 2015 ($15): Aromas of apricot, subtle yeasty notes, freshness and apple.  Full bodied but still bright and refreshing with a kick of honey in the midpalate and a long apricot finish.  2g/l of residual sugar made this wine sing with the spicier dishes.

Pazo de Señorans - 2015 ($21) Aromas of apple, papaya with lime, honeysuckle and yellow grapefruit.  Freshness was the topnote in aromas and flavors.  It managed to be rich and crisp at the same time.A pleasant floral herbal note in the finish and no leesiness.  Medium plus body with an apricot laden finish.

Mar de Frades, Ramon Bilbao - 2015 ($14) This wine had a brightness with vinous aromas along with jasmine, apricot and coconut.  Nice complexity marked by a touch of sourness that really helped cement the pairings. Round texture with a hint of salinity in finish, I found it to be a wine I kept going back to try more.

Bodegas Vionta, You and Me - 2015 ($18) Aromas of white flowers, honey and stonefruit.  Bright with acidity and rich in texture but lithe, this wine has a pleasant bitterness in the finish, which makes diners go back for another bite, says Todd.

Valmiñor - 2015 ($14) This wine was more of a medium yellow, which was darker than the paler colors of the previous wines.  Aromas were pear and bay leaves.  Flavors were apricot, yellow grapefruit, an touch of beer-iness and a flash of green.  A full bodies wine with an unctuous texture, it held apricot and a surprise: Maldon salt in the finish.

Pazo San Mauro - 2015 ($18)  Medium yellow color.  Vinous aromas.  Full texture but shot through with the most pronounced acidity of the batch

Pairing these wonderful wines with such exotic tastes was a great experience.  Look for Albariños from Rias Baixas next time you order in.  Or better yet, make time to visit Dosa and taste their expertly prepared food stylings.

Many thanks to Gregory White PR for hosting the lunch.