Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Love Affair with CHEESE

It began at an early age, my love of cheese. It was the all around snack. Cheese & Apples. Sometimes Cheese & Peanuts. This was my staple food from the time I could eat it -- and in truth -- to this day it is one of my favorite things to eat. Now, as I've adventured throughout the world -- Cheese has become a part of my life and a passion I share with many of my friends. In college, I would buy Brie, and serve it to my friends, thinking I was at the pinacle of sophistication -- it wasn't about Cheddar anymore people... I was onto something! Upon moving to Chicago -- I met David Donnavan from the House of Glunz, who hired me to pour wine at his wine tastings. He would have a nice spread of some artisinal cheeses with thinly sliced Genoa Salami and I loved it. Then, I really discovered cheese. My friend Jake from Miami would spend a small fortune at the Epicure market and we would drink wine and eat cheese for hours! Stinky ones too. But soooooo delicious. It was a decadance beyond belief and I was able to partake as my budget would allow! Then, Chef Randy Z came over one day with a little care package. He had a half-loaf of fresh baked Sourdough, an Apple (That he cut so paper thin, I couldn't even believe my eyes -- this was also the first time I'd seen someone use a knife like this!) and he introduced me to more beautiful cheeses that they featured at Norman's restaurant in Coral Gables. I encourage you to get into cheese if you have the $$. Worth every delicious, stinky, creamy, bold moment. This photo is of the incredible array of cheeses at ANDROUET in Paris, France at the market with Gene & Christi in 2006. The other photo is from Bristol Farms' Cheese Selection in LA

The Best Things In Life

I dedicate this blog to my friend Chris Valterza. His contribution to my life since I've been 17 has helped to create and nurture my love of food and wine and service. Way back in the day he came to my apartment (while we were at NAU) with his mom's famous red sauce recipe and it was the first time I had used FRESH HERBS! He later introduced me to the delights of a perfectly cooked steak (Ruth's Chris) and great glass of wine. He and Grobstein treated me like a princess when I was a mere marketing assistant in Chicago -- by taking me out to extravagant dinners like I'd never seen before! He taught me about eating in courses and many elements of great service that have stayed with me. He always kept -- and continues to keep me near the best things in life. He moved to Chicago and is now one of the owners of the 3rd Coast -- one of Chicago's best and most legendary cafe's (25 years and still rocking). When I moved to Portland, he took me to the Coast (the Oregon Coast) for a pep-talk, built a big bonfire and we talked for hours about our mutual passion for food and libations and ingredients and cooking and every other element that is associated. He continues to keep me encouraged and inspired with his everlasting friendship, love, brains and ideas.

Kindred Spirits

I dedicate this blog to my friend Jules. We met back in the day at NAU and for the past two decades she has been a source of inspiration in my life in every way. She encouraged my move to the Pacific Northwest by offering up her home to me until I settled in. Not only was she the first to take me to the top of the San Francisco Peaks on a Snowboard and give me my first push down the mountain... (which defines our fearless nature) but her brilliance in sharing everything from personal endurance mehods to marketing and public relations expertise continues to make me who I am. We cook and drink wine together in Portland and I always look forward to walking into her house and smelling the mouth watering aromas from her kitchen. I mean... when your friend greets you at the door with a big glass of Rex Hill Reserve Pinot Noir (Oregon) you can just imagine what comes next! She continues to add to my life in a way I will never be able to explain. This photo is from Jules appearance on the Food Network with Chef Tyler Florence.

Life as a private cook

I dedicate this blog to Chef Amy Gilbert. A woman who hired me (a passionate home cook) to assist her with no prior professional food or cooking experience. She taught me the art of Macrobiotic, Vegan and Vegetarian cooking and techniques that have enhanced my life beyond my wildest dreams. She knew that my passion was true and we spent 5 of the most amazing, hard working months of my life creating beautiful and delicious food for an incredible family. The opportunity to cook for 8 - 10 straight hours every day sharpened my knife skills (pun intended!) and taught me how to cook without measuring cups and spooons! Everything we did was with love and powerful positive energy and I will be forever greatful for the knowledge I gained in the short time we spent together. Her patient, calm and caring ways and personality also inspired me in my own personal life and many of the dishes you will see in this blog came from the time we spent together cooking in Beverly Hills. I included the logo from the Kushi Institute here -- as this is where Amy received her culinary training.

My Culinary Mentor

I dedicate this blog to my mentor in the kitchen - Chef Randy Zweiban. He introduced me to the brilliant levels of food, cooking and service with the finest and most exotic methods I had ever seen. He continues to inspire me in every way when it comes to food and wine and service in every way. I will always be greatful for his unconditional friendship and support, passion for "THE VERY, VERY BEST" ingredients and techniques the knowledge he has shared and continues to share with me. In this photo I'm just finishing an incredible birthday dinner at Randy's restaurant Province in Chicago.

My Best Friend

I dedicate this blog to Marilu Lannon-Rice. My dearest friend and inspiration. A woman who came into my life and changed it in an instant. A woman with so much passion and love for food and cooking it you'd have to meet her to believe there even is such a person in this life. I will write about her and our adventures here and you will come to know her. Her love for me and encouragement to follow my dreams and my heart and my passions in every way has unbelievably defined my path. We created countless extravagant dinners together with our friends every Sunday when I lived in Miami and I treasure those experiences so much. We would criss-cross Miami to find the freshest fish, crustiest bread and sweetest produce and she single-handedly changed my life and introduced me to so many things that have made me the person I have become. In this photo, we are in the open air Market in San Ysidro, Costa Rica, 2006

My Mama

I dedicate this blog to my Mama -- who had me in the kitchen with her from the time I can remember. Friends would come over and we would bake cookies as a past-time. We constantly had company and guests over for dinners and brunches and good times and I was always included in preparing (even if it was my bed-time before the company would come!) My mom had me stirring something, setting the table or getting the house ready for guests. She cared so much about cooking and feeding us and it has inspired me in more ways than she'll ever know. The photo (circa 1977) is my sister and I proudly holding snow peas we grew in our garden.

This is me

I love life. I always have. Blessed with the truth and love of a brilliant family and incredible friends I continue this path and sometimes can't even believe the lovely things that have come my way. Cooking has always been a love of mine as far back as I can remember. I had the honor to work with some of the best chefs and food writers in the world when I was a restaurant and food publicist in Chicago and will always be greatful for my culinary moments with Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongrichten, Randy Zweiban, Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto, Mark Bittman and the countless other chefs and culinary leaders from whom I have learned so much. Moving to Portland has opened the most incredible doors to my heart as I discover organic farms and farming, local markets, the most beautiful Wineries and the best and freshest ingredients and tools at my fingertips. Here's to the adventures.

I love food and cooking it.

WELCOME! I finally did it. Thanks to the incredible world of "Blogging" I've been given the opportunity to share my LOVE OF FOOD AND COOKING! I recently saw the movie Julie & Julia and was so inspired I said -- I have to have a blog of my own to share the lovely things about food and cooking that I love. So here it is. Enjoy!