Sunday, November 30, 2008

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsor

Having spent almost half of November away from Dallas, my posts have below my normal 1-a-day goal. First trip was to an area with no internet, second trip was an extended Severson family get-together, and in between I had a other duties to take care of (like accounts payable, payroll, sales tax returns, Coldplay concert). The second trip, to Port Aransas way down by Corpus Christi was my first visit to south Texas - at least further south than San Antonio. I blame the mid-80's temps and the 5 pools at the resort for my laziness - oh, and maybe the 10 am wine coolers didn't help.

So back to blogging begins today. It's cold, the dogs are still boarded, the kids have homework, and I have lots of stories to tell.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How To Cook Friday Night High School Football

Your team has made it to the playoffs, and the day of the game the quarterback comes down with severe stomach pains. Nerves? No. Virus? No. Appendicitis? No. Kidney stone? Yup-erdoodle. But the doctors at the hospital say it must have passed that day. So what do you do? Well if you're Jacob Richard Sherrington, you tell the coach "I'm in."

Tonights game, Hillcrest vs. Pinkston (at Forrester Field) was amazing, and not because of the football being played, but because of the heart of one senior who didn't want to miss this opportunity. Sure he passed a kidney stone, he also passed an interception - but The Kid Did.Not.Give.Up. Taking a brief break after halftime, he came back into the game leading the drive to win, Hillcrest 23, Pinkston 15.

I've been a fan of his dad's column for many years, and I consider his mom a dear friend so it's no secret to those of us who know them that this young man inherited a whole bunch of Hero. Well done Jake, you deserve a little R & R - can the chef make you something to eat?

There has never been a question of where he's going to college, he's Razorback through and through. Mr. Jerry Jones, when this kid graduates he's going to need a job, it could only be a plus for the Cowboys. Wooo Pig Souie!

Farmer's Market Class - Sevy Brings Napa To You

Of course the inspiration for the cooking class Sevy is teaching tomorrow at the Dallas Farmer's Market Resource Center was a recent trip to Napa. Since I just typed the recipes for the class, I'll share with you the three courses he's preparing: Seared Jumbo Scallops with Heirloom Tomato Salad and Lemon Tarragon Cream; Braised Niman Ranch Lamb Shank, Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes and Balsamic Fig Reduction; and Pear Hazelnut Custard with Cinnamon Sticks.

The first dish was the course he prepared for the Cattle Baron's dinner at Markham Vineyards (sold at the 2007 Cattle Baron's Ball) for the purchaser and guests. The second two are featured on our Wine and Food Dinner menu for this upcoming Monday. Of course the plates at the cooking class are much smaller, as is the price to enjoy these wonderful dishes.

Class information may be found here, call today to reserve your spot.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Great Weekend For A Pie Contest

And I have a secret weapon to win the Northaven Gardens 2nd Annual Pie Contest. Since Sevy's Grill is a prize sponsor this year it wouldn't look good if I entered and won, so I'm going to share this incredible recipe with anyone who is looking for a hands-down best-ever pie. You don't have to sign up ahead of time, you just bring your pie on Saturday between 9 am and 11 am to their store. Rules can be found here.

It's a family favorite made by my grandmother, and every single female of the Alban clan makes this pie for holiday meals. That being said, we had some disagreements about the methodology, which my aunt put to rest at a family gathering this summer.

So even though this isn't a cooking blog, I consider this too valuable not to share.

Graham cracker crust (for 10" pie): 1-1/4 c. graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. melted butter. Mix together (reserve 2 TBL. for later), press into pie plate and bake for approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

3/4 c. sugar
2 c. sliced (fresh) peaches
1 TBL. Lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
2 TBL. HOT water (as in boiling)
1 env. Knox unflavored gelatin

Prepare crust and bake to allow time to cool, once cooled, put in refrigerator to chill. Mix sugar, peaches, lemon juice, salt together. Mix HOT water with gelatin and stir until dissolved (don't let it set), stir into peach mixture. Whip cream until thickened (almost to soft peak stage), fold into peaches, then pour into chilled pie crust, refrigerate immediately. When "set", sprinkle reserved crust mix over the top.

While I won't be entering this great pie, I will be at Northaven Gardens for the FREE program at 1:30 - "Growing Fruit Trees in North Texas", with Christine Hensle. Hopefully their fall stock of pomegranite trees are in, I've have been waiting since spring for the "real fruit" bearing version. Oh, and I want to find out who wins at 2:30.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Back From Napa - Stories To Follow

Well, I wouldn't call it "stuck" in Napa, but we barely had phone service, let alone DSL or wireless while guests at Rombauer Winery. Let's just say it was probably a good thing to go rustic for those few days and concentrate on what we were there for - drinking.

I've got to organize a few notes, pictures, thoughts, but I have lots to blog about, right after I watch the last episode of True Blood from last Sunday.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's Christmas In Plano This Weekend

At first I didn't think the 'Neath the Wreath preview event in Plano last night would have anything that would interest me. I mean, I still have a room full of Christmas junk all over my dining room that never quite made it up to the attic - like I need more? But it didn't take long to realize that there was a lot of food involved - Texas food - good Texas food. Which I purchased readily for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and to give as hostess gifts over the December holidays (maybe it was the complimentary wine?).

All Star Dips (East Texas) had packets of dip mix in about 20 different flavors, several were certified Kosher. But what caught my eye was the inventive container that kept their samples cold. A styrofoam sleeve inside of a wicker basket allowed for a storage container inserted in through the top which could keep a dish either hot or cold, depending on your requirements. Bought that. The sweet couple from Company's Comin' (Hearne, TX) had Dinner In A Jiffy bags and were serving piping hot samples of their King Ranch Casserole Mix, bought that too. And Easy As Pie (Hearne, TX too) was giving samples of various pies made from their mixes; added to my bag was Chocolate Puddle, Praline, Cherry Crumble and Sugar Daddy.

The one thing I would have loved to buy was the yummy nuts from Davis Mountain Nut Company (Fort Davis, TX), but as I tasted the 6 flavors he had out for sampling I knew that these would never make it out of my kitchen. I think I gained 5 lbs. just while talking to the gentleman running the booth.

There was much, much more, I had to leave early and only saw a fraction of the vendors' booths. But my VIP ticket is good for the entire run of the show (through Sunday), and I may send Sister and Gma back for more. This event benefits the Junior League of Plano, and is being held at the Plano Convention Center. Hurry before they sell out of everything!

Sevy's Grill November Food & Wine Dinner

It's our last one in 2008, and it promises to be extra delicious. Join Chef Sevy for a four course (plus reception) dinner on Monday, November 17th at 6:30 pm, featuring delicacies from Napa Valley. Wines specially paired to compliment each course, $59.95 per person. Seating is limited and reservations are required, contact or call (214)265-7389 to reserve your seats for this delicious meal.

"Tastes of Napa Valley"

My Favorite Napa Cheese Crostini
Cristalino, Sparkling Wine

Wild Mushroom "Burger" with Fennel, Baby Greens, Golden Raisins and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing

Ramspeck, Pinot Noir, Napa 2007

California Halibut "Alla Piccatta", Angel Hair Pasta and Lemon Caper Butter
Shooting Star, Chardonnay, Mendocino 2006

Braised Niman Ranch Lamb Shanks, Olive Oil Crushed Potatoes, Fig Balsamic Reduction and California Blue
C & T, Merlot, Napa 2005

Pear and Hazelnut Custard with Cinnamon Sticks and Caramel Cream

Bouchaine, Chardonnay D'Arge, Carneros Napa 2006

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Speaking of Napa - Another Cattle Baron's Dinner

In May, I was privileged to accompany my husband and four of his chef buddies to Aspen while they prepared a 5 course meal in a $100M home on Aspen Mountain (pre-crash value). That trip spawned three posts (A Dinner Fit For Barons, A Stowaway's View: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, and Eating Santa Fe - How To Dine At 8 Restaurants In One Day), and it was the dinner that was sold at the 2006 fundraiser. This weekend is the dinner that was sold at the 2007 event: a group dinner and weekend in Napa, it includes the previous chefs (Chamberlain, Garvin, Holben, Rathbun, Severson) plus Amador Mora of Trece.

And the girls get to go this time too.

So I'll be taking my little laptop along, we're staying with a couple of the chef's as guests at Rombauer Vineyards (who coincidentally is related to a renown cookbook author), hopefully they have wi-fi because I'd love to share it with you.

And of course this trip would not be possible without the services of Gma Gerry, who'll be staying with the Boy and Sister while we travel. Best Mother-In-Law In The World, (IJS).

Speaking of the Dallas Farmer's Market - Cooking Classes

It continually surprises me how many people are unaware of the Farmer's Market Resource Center (pictured left). It is a great facility, and over the years the teaching resource room upstairs has gone from a cavernous echoing room (with a great view), to a state-of-the-art culinary facility. Improvements have included a sound system and a video system that includes drop-down screens so even those sitting in the back of the room can see and hear.

Each spring and fall the AIWF, in conjunction with the Dallas Farmer's Market Friends holds a Saturday series of Chef's Cooking classes. This Saturday (11/8) features Chef Dunia Borga of La Duni, her theme is "Holiday Baking for the Family". Next Saturday (11/15), it's Chef Sevy Severson, Sevy's Grill, he's creating some dishes he'll be bringing back from a trip to Napa (this weekend). The final class on 11/22 features Chef Joel Harloff of Dali, who will be featuring the "Fall Bounty at Dali" This is a great low cost way to get to taste some amazing food, usually there are taster plates of 3 to 4 items handed out, for a ticket price of $25 (if pre-purchased, $30 at the door). Click here to download the pdf form to sign up.

Which leaves me with Holiday Gift Tip #2 (#1 was the infused vodka). Maybe you know someone else who would enjoy this, they sell gift certificates for classes, and a "Chefs at the Market" cookbook as well.

Days of Taste - The Unsung Heroes

Many in Dallas are familiar with the "big names" in our little food world, several participate in the Days of Taste program or other AIWF events that help increase food awareness in our community. However the majority who toil at these important culinary programs operate behind the scenes, with no glory for their hard work. Until now - because I spent the day working with many, who for various reasons gave up 5+ hours of their day at the Dallas Farmers' Market (and most like me had volunteered for more than one day of service), so this post is dedicated to them.

We have to begin with Robin Plotkin, RD, LD, she has been "running the show" for Days of Taste for the last five of it's ten years here in Dallas; getting it staffed, coordinating the schools, improving the program to perfection. And she's beautiful outside as well as inside (and a newlywed to boot). Then there's Melissa Keen (Lake Highlands, '83), co-owner with her chef husband of 3 Doors Down Catering in Richardson. Her crew included son Taylor Robertson (Sachse '08), and her staff of highly trained professionals, their smiles told everyone they were having as much fun as the kids. If they can do such a great job with 50+ fourth graders, imagine what they could do for your party!

Each class features a person who is connected to the production of food, last week it was Meaders of Empire Baking on one day and Paula of the Mozzarella Company on another. Yesterday it was Sandy Breuss of Sysco with her friend "Stubby". As Premier Protein Brand Manager her job is to educate restaurants and their staff about beef, now these kids know something about it too. Each class also features a local chef to teach about the "senses of flavor" and how the taste components (salty, sweet, bitter, sour, pungent, aromatics) influence our foods. Yesterdays chef was Brad Trudeau of DISD who handles the district's in-house Silver Star Catering in their food operations department. His talents kept the kids quiet, and he interacted by asking them questions as well as answering theirs.

It takes approximately 10 more volunteers to have the correct student-adult ratio, or rather it would have if the amazing Kramer parents hadn't shown up in force. They had 1 parent volunteer for every 5 kids, like dad Brandon Fox (Hillcrest '99) who seemed to enjoy every minute of his day with his daughter. Other volunteers included a spry group of ladies who said "Harriet got us into this a few years ago" (thank you Harriet) they were busily planning a girls'-afternoon-out after the Days of Taste work - I went home and collapsed; and some students from Tarrant County Community College Dietetic Technician program who were getting service hours towards their degree.

Just remember, this could be you. Keep your ears open for the next Days of Taste program, you won't want to miss the fun.

Pictures, from top: Staff of 3 Doors Down Catering were responsible for setting up over 20 tables each day; Melissa Keen, owner of 3 Doors Down gave the pre-show pep talk to the volunteers; "Stubby", Sysco's smaller model of beef parts (the larger version, "Studly" is life sized); Brad Trudeau chef of DISD's catering department.

4th Grade Food

Yesterday was shift #2 at Days of Taste with students from Kramer Elementary. I have just enough time (while the L'Oreal Excellence soaks into my roots) to post some great food pictures - I think the argument could be made that we have some future food artists in the group. Back with more about the day after I rinse this stuff out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

Just in time for the holidays, this site has the most amazing list of cakes. The names even look delicious: "Carrot-Pineapple Cake", "Night Before Christmas Coffee Cake", "Hummingbird Cake", "Neiman Marcus Cake" or my favorite name - "A Cake Thats Fit For A Queen". Maybe the five hours at the bake sale today was too long.

Thank you to Syndicate sister Ginger Simmons for sending me that link.

It's Finally Here!

No, not the end of those "Unknown Caller" phone calls that have been happening every 10 minutes. No, not the end of those political ads that are so much double-speak you don't rely on them for information. No, not the happy hours all over town that are tracking the elections.
I'm right behind you, sister!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Voting By the Numbers - The Chili Index

Since Hillcrest High School has several precincts voting in their library, the HHS Cheerleaders Booster Club will be serving hot coffee and freshly baked goods for the morning crowds, and food for lunch and dinner. Many other North Dallas schools will also be leveraging the increased traffic to help raise funds for activities or improvements. One year at Kramer Elementary, a gentleman was so glad to get a cup of fresh, hot coffee at 6:30 am, he paid with a $50 - and had the moms keep the change.

But it's more than a fundraiser, I've always said that when people come into a school they are unfamiliar with, nothing gives a better impression than parents greeting them and the smell of something delicious wafting through the air. Wherever you're voting, or even if you've already voted, look for these hard working helpers at your neighborhood school, and buy what they're selling - they're doing it for you.

Some years we've gotten together and made homemade tamales to sell for lunch, this year there just wasn't the time. So a couple of us have volunteered to make some big pots of chili, and I'm also baking mini-corn muffins to go with. I'm not cutting back on quantities, despite the prediction that the traffic on election day may be low due to early voting. If we have leftovers, we'll just share them with the teachers and staff.

The FUN of FUNdraising

We have a special culinary community here in Dallas, in addition to what patrons read in the newspapers many of the chefs and owners of restaurants happen to also be great friends on the side. We prepare and serve food at annual fundraisers to help raise money for some great causes. Not all of us do the same events, but we all (I'm certain) feel a satisfaction in helping our city be a better place through our efforts.

Saturday's Zoo To Do is a prime example of the fun these chefs have together, and it was true to its label, a Hullabaloo. Hurricane Ike actually proved to be a blessing in disguise, forcing a re-scheduling from late September to November 1, which turned out to be a lovely evening for an outside fundraiser. And while the date changed, our original dish stayed the same, a 5 Spice Duck Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette and Crispy Wontons - which is also a new menu item at the restaurant.

We were between Nick & Sam's and Chamberlain's, with Del Frisco's and Eatzi's down the way and Suze across our little cul-de-sac of booths. Several of the chefs brought their school-aged helpers, and we couldn't have done it without their help. Sister brought her friend Pamela and she enjoyed very much the evening (even though it meant four hours on her feet), she shortly became a pro at reciting the food we were serving. And it wasn't all work, work, work, they got to pet the stingrays in the stingray pool, visit the gorillas and taste some of the wonderful food that the 22 business provided for the evening.

Such is the recipe for preparing future volunteers.

The chefs' dine-around package sold for $16,000 in the live auction to a neighbor of ours, I'm trying to get the girls to throw in a little free babysitting to go with it.

Groovadelic Sevy with pal Richard Chamberlain, top left. Lisa Chamberlain called in to help for the evening, center. The staff of 3 booths, bottom.