Friday, February 24, 2012

Make Mine Virginia Wine

Gearhart's Criolla chocolates were the perfect ending
Last night, we had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Virgina Wineries Governor's Cup Gala where the top 12 scoring Virginia wines, based on a brand spanking new highly rigorous judging system, vied for the top spot at what now has become one of the most "stringent and thorough wine competitions in the United States", according to a press release distributed by the Office of Governor Bob McDonnell.
The 12 finalists selected from a pool of more than 400 entries were:

Bluestone Vineyard 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Delfosse Vineyards & Winery 2007 Meritage Blend
Jefferson Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc
Keswick Vineyards 2009 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Glen Manor 2009 Hodder Hill Meritage
Keswick Vineyards 2010 Merlot
King Family Vineyards 2008 Meritage Blend
Potomac Point Winery 2009 Heritage Reserve Meritage Blend
Tarara Winery 2010 Honah Lee White Vinifera Blend
Trump Winery 2008 Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc Sparkling
Veritas 2010 Vintner's Reserve Meritage Blend
White Hall Vineyards 2010 Gewurztraminer

Ultimately, the Governor's Cup would be awarded to Glen Manor Vineyards 2009 Hodder Hill Meritage, a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 6% Petit Verdot.
Jeff White, Glen Manor's Winemaker & 4th generation VA farmer

There were plenty of other standout wines at the event as well including a particularly lovely King Family 2008 Meritage served up by winemaker Matthieu Finot (sporting a rather dapper mini-handle bar mustache) along with a 2010 Veritas Vintner's Reserve which truly captured the essence of what makes Virginia's Bordeaux-style blends so outstandingly good.
One of my personal favorites was the 2010 White Hall Gewurztraminer an Alsatian-style wine made from a blend of Gewurztraminer, Muscat, Petit Manseng and Viognier grapes. All that was missing was a big plate of shrimp Vindaloo, some channa masala and a couple of pieces of hot Tandoori naan.

Conspicuously absent from the final 12 that made the Governor's Cup Case was Barboursville Vineyards 2008 Cab Franc Reserve, which was recently awarded "Best in Class" at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the wine world's largest competition of American wines, yet only received a silver medal at the 2012 Governor's Cup, which ultimately edged this nationally recognized wine out of the finals.

Conspicuously present was the grand dame herself, Patricia Kluge, who was there to pour Trump Winery's 2008 Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc Sparkling along with her signature brandy infused Chardonnay simply named Cru.
In the end a good time was had by all, yet most importantly, I was once again reminded of how truly outstanding Virginia wines are and how far the industry has come. As of 2012, Virginia now has 220 wineries and is ranked 5th in U.S. for total wine grape production. Just recently, Virginia was listed as one of the top 10 wine travel destinations in the world for 2012 according to Wine Enthusiast Magazine, so if you're not getting out there and sucking down some local juice, you are really missing out because some of the best stuff in the world is being produced right in your own backyard. With this in mind, March is about a become a big month for Virginia wines as it has been officially declared as Virginia Wine and Dine Month with hundreds of participating wine shops and restaurants offering special tasting menus featuring local wines.

Finally, don't forget today kicks off a long weekend of Virginia wine tasting at the Virginia Wine Expo at the Convention Center. Over 70 wineries will be present along with a bevy wine and food pairing demo's, gourmet lunches and food tastings. This is a not-to-be-missed event.
Pin It Now!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Exciting News: I'm Going to Be Cooking on TV

Image courtesy of Virginia Dept. of Agriculture
Yes, it's true, and dang-it, I am so excited I'm about to blast-off. As some of you may know, I had a pretty big setback this past month when my cookbook proposal, which I spent many months working on, was rejected at the last minute. Since then, in addition to doing quite a bit of pouting and moping around, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for interesting opportunities because I refuse to give up on the dream.

Well, someone upstairs must have be looking out for me, because about a week ago an email arrived in my inbox from a producer asking me if I was interesting in coming on to host a few cooking segments for "The Heart of the Home" which is part of the show, "Real Virginia" created by the The Virginia Farm Bureau which profiles local farmers, foods and purveyor's all across the Commonwealth. In a nutshell, this is a program that is all about Virginia grown, buying local and supporting Virginia's farmers. What could be cooler?

Currently, "Real Virginia" airs on Dish, DirectTV, and many independent cable operators throughout the state. It's a show that has been in production for over ten years with Sherri McKinney as lead host, Mark Viette as the garden expert, and one of my favorite people, Chef John Maxwell (a.k.a. Chef Maxwell's Kitchen), serving as culinary expert and cooking segment host. However, Chef Maxwell has since taken a position at a culinary school in Florida.

Words cannot express how excited I am about this opportunity, not only because it will get me out of my rejection rut, but because I'll have the opportunity to actively promote and support Virginia growers and purveyors.

Keep an eye out here for more...much, much more. I'll be sharing great recipes that celebrate local food, wine, cheeses and other Virginia products. I'll also be posting links to view the show online (along with my cooking segments). Shooting begins next week, and the first episode should be up and running in March.

I hope you'll watch!

Pin It Now!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Peter Chang Descends on Richmond

Peter Chang's lamb chops with *cough* a few dried red chili peppers.
He came. He saw. He cooked 25 different dishes, and like a bedraggled pack of wild animals we ate all of it, stopping only briefly to wipe the sweat off our brows while marveling at the fact that our lips had gone completely numb. The ever-elusive Peter Chang has done it again, swooping down on some poor unsuspecting Southern village with his army of Szechuan peppercorns, red chili peppers, chili oils, scallions and black vinegar, and with the deftness of a cleaver splitting open a freshly smoked duck, successfully made the whole lot of us his personal food bitch.
There were steamed Shanghai-style dumplings filled with ground pork-- so light and delicate yet still yielding to the tooth served with a pucker-up sour dipping sauce redolent with vinegar, ginger and garlic chives. Peter Chang's wife, Lisa, is a pastry expert in her own right, so perhaps these delightful bamboo steamed purses were one of her unique creations?
The beauty of Szechuan cooking is the careful marriage of its seven basic flavors: pungent, sour, hot, bitter, sweet, aromatic and salty. It's culinary balance in its purest form. It's an experience. From tickling the lips with numbing Szechuan peppercorns to drying the tongue with bits of tannic bitter melon, flavors arrest the palate in symphony's not quartets. It's playful cuisine designed to challenge the senses with seemingly infinite variations of texture, taste and sensory hot followed by cool.

Dry fried eggplant is crispy on the outside yet melts in the mouth once its outer shell has been broken. Chili peppers and peppercorns become almost prickly on the tongue yet subside as the soft, mild vegetable settles in. Classic shrimp toast is accented with spicy salt and freshly ground shrimp resting atop bread that is expertly deep fried while crispy spring rolls are far from the regular stuff and are filled with coriander and fish. Hot and numbing dry beef does exactly that, yet still retains its signature Sichuan jerky-that's-been-deep-fried quality, which results from a laborious four-part cooking process.

Those were just some of the passed appetizers and snacks we sampled. There was still dinner.

And, what a meal it was. Arriving family-style, with one seemingly endless dish passed around after another, our senses were teased again and again. Slippery Dan Dan noodles, which one well-known Richmond chef comically renamed "Jesus noodles" because they're that stinkin' good, arrived to the table swimming in a broth of chili oil, preserved vegetables, black rice vinegar, sherry and ground pork topped with minced scallions.
It wasn't long before a hand swooped in to stir the entire concoction (that hand belonging to Mary Lee, wife of Chang's business partner, Gen Lee).
And so it went. Course after course, hot pot after hot pot, it just kept coming, and we couldn't get enough of it. From a spicy sour chicken soup that we were instructed to top with rice a la chicken gumbo to the milder "House Special" fish filet, which married meltingly tender tilapia in a subtly hot broth laced with ginger, wood ear mushrooms, cabbage and broccoli.
Hot pot of sour chicken arrives.
Ate it gumbo-style.
A pork rib and wild mushroom soup cleansed away the heat with bits of on-the-bone braised meat swimming in a umami-laden clear broth of mushrooms and mini dumplings.
Jumbo shrimp were butterflied and topped with a three-pepper mixture and were beautifully presented with scattered bits of cilantro and scallions.
Alas, all good things must eventually come to an end, so we wrapped up our meal with a particularly stellar sesame bun filled with sweet red bean paste and called it a night.
To wit, Peter Chang's latest venture, which rather ironically sits front and center in one of Richmond's least adventurous eating destinations forcing it rather sadly to compete with 1500 calorie slices of brownie sundae cheesecakes and faux Chinese chain food conglomerates begs the question: how will Richmond ultimately respond to the arrival of the man Todd Kliman from The Washingtonian calls "the perfect chef"?

Without question, foodies of all shapes and sizes will flock to Chang's latest west end eatery, but will anyone who actually lives there be pulling up a chair on a regular basis (which is an important factor when it comes to the longevity of a restaurant)? Part of me wishes that the Short Pump crowd will rise to the occasion while the other half, the really selfish half, wants the whole kit and kaboodle to move closer to the city. Here's to hoping for a happy medium.

In the meantime, enjoy a few more tasty photos from last night's event and get thee to the Chang stat.
The man, the myth, the generally happy guy, Chef Chang.

Peter Chang
11424 West Broad Street
(804) 364-1688
Sun-Thur 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
Fri-Sat 11:00 am - 10:30 pm

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Pin It Now!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mekong is Pho King Awesome!

What do you get when you have a bunch of guys (and one ballsy girl) competing to be first in line to finish a giant (read: giant) bowl of Vietnamese pho swimming with meat, noodles, onions and Sriracha followed by a liter of Belgian beer? You get Mekong RVA's Pho King challenge, and it's a whole heck of a lot of fun.
The crowning of an annual Pho King is the brainchild of restaurant owner, An Bui, a.k.a. Mekong's Chief Beer Officer, and this Super Bowl day event is starting to be taken quite seriously by its contestants, partly because there's a nice little purse to be won ($500).
In addition to plenty of training and creative eating tactics, such as cooling down one's soup by circulating a glass of ice water in the broth, contestants were allowed to add whatever pho condiments they wanted in order to make this behemoth of a bowl of noodle soup as palatable as possible.
My personal recommendation would be to go easy on the Bird's Eye chili's
And there are rules, with the most important one being that contestants much finish the entire bowl of pho and liter of beer sans barfing, which is apparently not all that easy to do as we judged from the many can-I-really-hold-it-down expressions from the challengers. All upchuckers were immediately disqualified.

<-------This guy barfed.

Reigning Pho King, John Reinhold was on hand as emcee, and even came on board to train a protegee, Deejay Greenberg, to succeed him as the new reigning King 'o pho. Greenberg put in some solid slurping effort, but ultimately, he was not the one to take this year's title.
This year would go to Pho King newcomer, The Black Hole, a tall, thin, boyish-looking lad who seemed to effortlessly maintain a solid lead from start to finish.
All Hail the King!
Here are a few more photo highlights from the event. I figure next year will bring more entries, so if you're interested in tossing your hat into the hot pot, I recommend beginning your training now. Head over to the bar at Mekong, plop your butt down on a stool, get thee a Superbowl of pho, and start sucking down the suds. By this time next year, you'll be primed and ready to take the title.
Dieu de Ciel Peche Mortel and Saison Dupont. Beer is the Answer.
Spring rolls could be the answer as well.

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Pin It Now!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Meatloaf Slider Recipe

Item in photo may appear larger than it really is.
I love meatloaf. I love it even more when it's slathered in mayo (Duke's ya'll) and sandwiched in between a soft bun that's served alongside a generous helping of salty potato chips and an ice cold beer. Methinks, I smell a Super Bowl recipe....

Not long ago, I developed a meatloaf recipe for Food Republic (or should I say ripped it off from my mom, the master meatloaf-maker) for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs loaf doused in a homemade barbecue sauce. On its own, this particular meatloaf recipe is positively swoon-worthy, but slice it up thick and serve it cold on a smushy sandwich with all the proper Southern accoutrements, and it's slap-yo-momma good.

Admittedly, I'm not a big football fan, but I do like watching the Super Bowl for two reasons. First, it's the one day out of the year where it is ok to eat a bunch of crap all day long, and what I mean by crap are white-trashy originals like nachos dripping in Cheez Whiz, bourbon soaked Lil Smokies, ass-burnin' chicken wings, and all kinds of creations made from a box of Bisquick. This is the time when we can all proudly flip the bird at our snot-laden foodie friends while waiting for our turn at the beer bong.

The other reasons is this-- The Puppy Bowl. I mean, who can resist a beagle pup playing in his water bowl via the water bowl cam or a slo-mo replay of a klutzy yellow lab tackling a yappy Yorkie? Throw in shots of a pep squad of baby pigs and roll me over because I am done. It's a beautiful thing, the puppy bowl. Not only does it make me all warm and fuzzy inside, but I can escape being force-ably made to watch the grown-up version.

So, back to the loaf. My recommendation is to make this game day goodie the day before and chill it in the fridge over night before assembling the sandwiches. A proper meatloaf sandwich should never be served hot, otherwise you'll have wilty lettuce and half-cooked mayo to deal with. Speaking of mayo, use full fat mayo, not light or low-fat which often contains twice the amount of sugar (a.k.a. high fructose corn syrup) as the regular stuff. Read the labels. Lower fat anything isn't always the healthiest option because of the innumerable number of processed additions and sugar. Buy regular mayo and spread less of it on your bun if you're watching calories.

For bread, you'll want to get a smaller, snack-size (a.k.a slider) bun. I particularly like Martin's rolls which are super-soft and make for a decidedly less messy sandwich eating experience. Avoid using hard or crusty rolls unless you like squeezing the meat out of your sandwich with each bite.

To serve. Assemble your sandwiches on a big platter and skewer each with a toothpick to hold them together. Also, this recipe makes around 10-12 sandwiches depending on how thick you cut the loaf, so if you have a big crowd coming over, just double up the recipe and make two separate loaves.

Here's the recipe and I hope you enjoy!

BBQ Meatloaf Sliders
Makes 10-12 sliders


For the sauce:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, minced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons hot sauce, (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the meatloaf:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, or a mixture of pork and beef
3/4 cup uncooked oats or breadcrumbs
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon horseradish
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For Assembly:

Package of 12 soft slider buns
Iceberg lettuce
Optional condiments: sliced tomatoes, sliced onion or bread and butter pickles


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium pot, heat the oil. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic and saute another couple of minutes. Add ketchup, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire, brown sugar, chili powder and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool. Note: the sauce can be made up to two days ahead.

In a large pan, add vegetable oil. Then, saute onion, carrot and celery until soft. Remove from pan and cool. In a separate bowl, mix oats, buttermilk, eggs, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Add in 1/4 cup of your pre-made BBQ sauce and mix well. Gently form into an oval loaf and place in a shallow baking dish. Top with additional sauce. Be sure to save some on the side for your sandwiches. Bake for one hour or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

Let meatloaf cool. Best if chilled overnight.

To make sandwiches. Cut meatloaf into 2-inch thick slices. Slice open buns and place a slice inside each bun (slice again to fit the bun if necessary, but I recommend stacking them up high). Spread a little of the extra BBQ sauce on top of the meatloaf slice and then top with lettuce and any other toppings. Generously slather the top bun with mayo and place a toothpick through the middle to hold sandwich together.
©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
Pin It Now!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Conch Salad Recipe

Even the queen of fatback needs to eat healthy every now and then, and I can think of no better recipe to satisfy a craving for a flavorful low-fat dish than conch salad.

I first tasted fresh conch (as in pulled straight from the waters in front of you while you stare in complete awe) when my husband and I eloped to the Turks and Caicos islands to get married on the beach at sunset with a couple of witnesses, a minister and a photographer. (I have never been a big wedding kinda gal.) At any rate, we spent one afternoon touring a small conch farm and finished up our day with a lunch of fried conch fritters, lime-enhanced conch salad, and a couple of Heineken's on the beach. It was one of the best meals I ever had, so when I had the opportunity to visit Pink Sands Resort on the small yet mighty Bahamian outcropping known as Harbour Island, Eleuthera, to take a cooking class with the resort's Executive Chef James Van Dyke, I was all over it.

First off, the beaches of Harbour Island are mind-blowingly gorgeous. The water right outside my cottage looked exactly like this. If I recall correctly, when I first stepped out onto this deck, I wept.
Now this is a room with a view.
While one could easily hole up at Pink Sands for at least a month life, any visitor to this friendly island would be remiss if she didn't take a lunchtime stroll to the other side of the island (it's only a half-mile wide) to sample some local street fare. One of my favorite stops along this route was a waterside shack simply known as Queen Conch.
No cars on Harbour Island, so I recommend brushing up on your golf cart driving skills.
Talk about devoting your cooking prowess to one item and making that one dish spectacular. This is what Queen Conch is all about-- conch salad, and doing it up right. Served paper and plastic spork-style at outside tables right along the Harbor, this is probably the best conch salad you'll ever eat.
Rustic, simple and utterly divine, this fresh-from-the-water delicacy made from chopped conch mixed with onions, peppers, lime juice and hot sauce is best washed down with a cold Kalik lager (a Bahamian tradition) which can be conveniently purchased across the street for one whole dollar. As you can see, this is some seriously good gastropod. If you're lucky, while you wait for your salad, you can step around back and witness Queen Conch owner Richard Percentie pull a conch from his underwater cage and literally knock the sweet, white meat (still moving) right out of the shell. Told you it was fresh.
If you want to learn how to make your own conch salad, I highly recommend taking one of Chef Van Dyke's cooking classes at Pink Sands which are offered al fresco overlooking that stunning beach.

Conch salad is super easy to make. The hardest part, at least for us Mid-Atlantic folk, is getting a hold of fresh conch. You can order it online, but alas, it ain't cheap and arrives frozen in large quantities (usually 5 pounds or more). If you plan ahead, you can place an order with your local fishmonger or even go in on a larger order with a couple of friends. However, your best bet is just to pony up the cash and visit the Bahamas firsthand or at least put it on your bucket list.

As you can see from Chef James' recipe below, conch salad is awfully similar to ceviche except instead of fish, scallops or shrimp, your working with tougher conch meat. With this in mind, a nice, flaky whitefish would work very nicely in this dish as would scungilli, whelks or calamari. Just make sure your fish is super fresh and marinate "cook" it in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Fresh Briland Conch Salad with Sweet Pepper Confetti
Recipe courtesy Chef James Van Dyke of Pink Sands Resort, Harbour Island, Bahamas
Serves 4

For Salad:
Two freshly cleaned diced conch*, cut into small dice
¼ red bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ green bell pepper, seeded and diced
¼ cup red onion, diced
½ large tomato, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon Conchy Joes Bahamian Hot Sauce or other favorite hot sauce
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
Pinch of salt and black pepper
4 fresh corn tortillas
Oil, for frying

For Confetti:
½ red bell pepper, seeded
½ green pepper, seeded
One cup ice
½ cup cold water
Pinch of salt


For the salad, add all the salad ingredients into a medium sized bowl through to the hot sauce and then toss to combine. Then, add the fresh lime juice, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cut the corn tortillas into triangles.  Gently fry tortillas in hot oil for about 60 seconds or until crispy. Drain and then lightly salt the chips.  Set aside.

For the confetti, cut the peppers into quarters and then lay skin side down on the cutting board. Gently press the peppers flat with the palm of your hand. With your knife held horizontally filet the bell pepper to ½ of its original thickness and discard top layer. Lay the pepper flat on the cutting board and slice paper thin along the grain of the peppers. Put peppers in a medium sized bowl and cover with ice and water. When time to serve, drain peppers and then cut them into a very fine dice.

To serve, place the conch salad into four small serving bowls, martini glasses or coconut shells and garnish with sweet pepper confetti and chips. 

©2012 Fatback and Foie Gras. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Pin It Now!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...