Category Archives: Food

A hundred days of silence

Medieval grotesques, Basilica Saint Nazarius & Celsus, Carcassonne, France. They no longer frighten me into silence.

Nothing significant about the number 100 just a human penchant for symmetry.  Although I continued to write for publications for which I had deadlines, since February I took time away from my own website to reorganize a significant facet of life – to be settled or wander. Necessity for the change was partly dictated by the end of a long relationship – isn’t that the truth in literature.

But as a life-long traveler – I was barely 20 years old when I went off on a solo year in Europe – the decision I made did not cause much loss of sleep. Okay, a little. Perhaps it was loosing the relationship that caused more sleepless nights, but that’s more for a romance novel than a travel web site, and besides, it ended amicably.

Old & new in the Principality of Andorra

Being a full-time culinary and cultural travel writer since 2009 after a long and varied career as a chef, educator and historian, relocating – having a permanent address – in any number of suitable American locations appeared an oxymoron.  (I’m doing my best not to bring politics into this.)

on Paros Island, Greece

Except for frequent transportation connections – aka waiting – I freely admit being turned-on by the road. Why have an apartment when I don’t have to clean a hotel room? Why cook for myself when as a culinary writer it’s the cuisine of others that I seek? Why agonize over choosing among Earth’s beautiful locations when passport in hand I can be on a beach, hiking in a mountain or rambling through a vibrant urban space.

French House Party, Carcassonne – a loyal sponsor for 3 trips.

That doesn’t mean I seek the life of a wandering gypsy. I do have commitments to publications, fine public relations firms and tourism boards that work with me and my own interests that have already helped shape life for the foreseeable future.

One month ago, after considerable research and several invitations, I embarked on an ambitious seven month schedule that has already taken me to Mexico, France, the Pyrenees Mountain Principality of Andorra and, after several days in Barcelona, currently a long train ride through the beautiful Spanish countryside for a return visit to the ancient Roman/Visigoth/Moorish/Spanish city of Cordoba – a personal favorite.

Walls of the 9th century Mezquita mosque, Cordoba

By mid-June I’ll make a long-anticipated visit to Morocco. Having extensive life experiences with Spanish and Latino cultures and cuisine, Morocco – the wellspring of Moorish civilization – is essential in understanding the interplay of cultures that has so influenced the Western Mediterranean, Central and South America.

From Morocco I’ll fly east to the Balkans and a third return to beloved Greece. My smart sponsors for two months in Greece – September and October – not only admire my writing on Greek culture and cuisine, but also recognize my keen interest in history. I’ve always taken a holistic view that the life experiences of people in any region help determine its fascination as a travel destination.

Basilica Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

1917 was the turning point for the Balkans and Greece during the First World War. Thessaloniki in particular is honoring this pivotal year that saw Macedonia and Thrace reunited with southern Greece after centuries of separation during Ottoman rule. Besides continuing culinary and cultural explorations in the north and Halkidiki ­­­– including Mount Athos – the Corinthian coast in the south will be a new region that’ll only add to my Greek experience.

Mt. Athos as seen from Sithonia, Halkidiki, Greece

Prior to my Greek return in September there are the months of July and August which will be filled with culinary and 1917 experiences in the heart of the Balkans including first time visits to Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria and the city that sparked the world changing conflagration, the Bosnia-Herzegovina capital of Sarajevo.

raw oysters, quail egg, sea urchin & golden caviar in Puerto Vallarta

By the 1st of December I’ll have made a full circle from where this adventure started returning to Mexico where I already signed a year-long lease on a beautiful apartment in Puerto Vallarta with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean – and weekly maid service (I still don’t have to clean!) It’s fortuitous that just as life was changing, invitations for two culinary press trips to Puerto Vallarta occupied a month of my life last Autumn. Not only did the city’s excellent cuisine and vibrant culture win me over but solidified my acceptance that being on the road is the life meant for me.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

So a year in one city is not like being on the road? Not necessarily since exploring Central and South America has been part of my writing life since 2009 and Puerto Vallarta will become a hub.

After 2018…I don’t yet need to know. That’s the freedom of being on the road. The hundred days of silence are over, and a hundred articles are sure to follow.

sunset over the Bay of Banderas, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 

 

 

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So you think you know Mexican food?

“Thankfully, we’re starting to pull away from the idea that all Mexican food means burritos as big as your head.” Chef Rick Bayless 1

Chef Luis Noriega’s Grilled Tuna topping Mint Scented Vermicelli
Chef Luis Noriega’s Grilled Tuna topping Mint Scented Vermicelli

American Chef Rick Bayless has built his celebrity status on both introducing Mexican regional cuisine to the United States as well as creatively reinterpreting its concepts to a 21st century palate. Naturally the word fusion comes to many people’s mind. Yet fused from where and with what – other ingredients from the Americas?

If you accept that concept – other ingredients from the Americas – than it’s not a fusion (a joining of unknowns) it’s creativity with native sources that form a cuisine of the Americas. It’s estimated that over 50% of commonly eaten foods by North American descendants of European immigrants were unknown to their ancestors prior to 1492 including vanilla, tomatoes, bell peppers, catfish and ducks.

tuna steak from Mexico's northwest coast
tuna steak from Mexico’s northwest coast

So if we can get beyond the self-imposed value judgment of authentic cuisine – aka a real Italian pizza is only made with (American) tomatoes…? – than perhaps we can revel in our human culinary diversity and sit down to an enjoyable meal full of terrific flavors.

When covering the recent 22nd Festival Gourmet International in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, more than one first time visitor to both Puerto Vallarta and the festival commented how they had “no idea” cuisine in Mexico was so varied? The names of several popular American corporate chains of Tex-Mex food were often cited. The festival’s hallmark was highlighting Mexico’s ever-evolving New World cuisine.

Chefs Luis Noriega & Heinz Reize owner of Coco Tropical
Chefs Luis Noriega & Heinz Reize owner of Coco Tropical

Chef Luis Noriega’s illustrious international career has taken him from Acapulco to European capitals and Chef/Professor at leading Mexican culinary collages. He is chef/owner of Restaurant La Gula in the south central Mexican Pacific coast city of Zihuatanejo. At the November festival Chef Noriega conducted an in-depth daytime cooking workshop and lunch at Puerto Vallarta’s Coco Tropical on the beautiful beachfront Malecon.

Restaurant Coco Tropical, Puerto Vallarta Malecon
Restaurant Coco Tropical, Puerto Vallarta Malecon

Grilled sesame crusted tuna steak on a bed of mint scented vermicelli may not sound Mexican, but more than half the ingredients are indigenous to the Western Hemisphere and the remainder were introduced through European domination more than 500 years ago. So the recipe is as “American as apple pie” – apples are indigenous of central Asia.

Chef Luis Noriega’s Grilled Tuna topping Mint Scented Vermicelli

Ingredients for 4 servings:

  • 500 gr. (16 oz)  fresh tuna steaks
  • to taste                fresh ground sea salt & black pepper
  • 100 gr. (3 oz)     sesame seeds
  • 50 ml. (3½ tablespoons) olive oil
  • 100 gr. (3 oz)     rice vermicelli
  • 50 gr. (1½ tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 10 each              finely chopped leaves of fresh mint
  • 2 each                small ripe avocados
  • 2 each                green chili piquin – very small HOT chilis – finely                                minced – or substitute ½ to 1 teaspoon (hot) hot                                 sauce
  • 50 ml. (3½ tablespoons) sour cream

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 Preparation:

  1. Cook the rice vermicelli according to package directions
  2. Mash the avocados and blend in the chili and sour cream to make either a chunky or a creamy guacamole.
  3. Place the sesame seeds in a bowl, season tuna with salt & pepper and coat the tuna steaks.
  4. Heat  (preferably) a cast iron pan, add the olive oil and sear the tuna steaks for a minute or 2 per side until browned but pink in the middle. Transfer to a cutting board.
  5. Drain the rice vermicelli and toss with butter and the mint.
  6. Divide the vermicelli among 4 plates, top with slices of tuna steak and decoratively add a generous garnish of guacamole.

Serve with a fine Rivero Gonzalez Scielo Blanco (Chardonnay) from Mexico’s Valle de Parras, Coahuila and enjoy New World cuisine.

When you go:

Puerto Vallarta is served by many international airlines.

The 23rd Festival Gourmet International will be held November 10 – 19, 2017.

Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Festival Gourmet International, Puerto Vallarta Tourism, Restaurant Coco Tropical, Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel and Hotel Cathedral.

Footnote:

1 “Let’s Talk to Rick Bayless About Mexican Food.” The National Culinary Review, Vol. 41, Num. 2, American Culinary Federation, February 2017, St. Augustine, FL

Additional Puerto Vallarta articles by Chef Marc d’Entremont:

Oysters two ways in Puerto Vallarta

Vegan Chef Christian Krebs wows Puerto Vallarta

Cruising Bahía de Banderas with Mike’s Fishing Charters

Discovering the meaning of pride in Puerto Vallarta

Villa Premiere: excellence by design in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican New World Cuisine at Festival Gourmet International

Angus Beef recipe, Chef Luis Noriega and Puerto Vallarta

Wagu Tatki and Japanese Mexican Fusion

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You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

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Oysters two ways in Puerto Vallarta

Oysters au gratin & Raw oysters with sea urchin & quail eggs
Oysters au gratin & Raw oysters with sea urchin & quail eggs

For twenty-two years Puerto Vallarta – a food tourism powerhouse – has hosted the Festival Gourmet International attracting an eclectic and enthusiastic mix of international and Mexican chefs eager to turn the nation’s premium food products into culinary art works. Among many highlights of the 2016 festival were cooking demonstrations, tastings and special festival menus created by guest chefs at A-list Puerto Vallarta restaurants.

Since I have a passion for oysters, two dishes created by Mexican chef Luis Noriega and Japanese-American chef Hiroshi Kawahito were particular favorites. Mexico’s northwest Pacific coast – particularly Puerto Vallarta’s Bay of Banderas and the Gulf of California – produce both excellent oysters and sea urchins.

Chef Luis Noriega
Chef Luis Noriega

Chef Heinz Reize has owned the beautiful oceanfront Coco Tropical on the Malecon for years and is a co-founder of Puerto Vallarta’s Festival Gourmet International. Coco Tropical’s guest chef Luis Noriega’s international career has taken him from Acapulco, Europe to owner of Restaurant La Gula in Zihuatanejo. His inspired festival menu for Coco Tropical included grilled oysters over wilted spinach with chipotle hollandaise sauce.

Oysters au gratin with Chipotle ­­Hollandaise Sauce

Ingredients for the oysters:

  • 12 each                   fresh oysters on the half shell
  • 5 tablespoons     unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces                fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 5 tablespoons    dry white wine
  • 1 each                     shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 each                    clove garlic, finely chopped
  • several drops    Worchester sauce
  • pinch                      black pepper
  • pinch                    salt

Ingredients for the Hollandaise Sauce:

  • 4 each                egg yolks
  • 10 ounces        clarified butter
  • 3 ounces           white wine
  • 1 each                chipotle chili liquefied in a blender with a small                                   amount of white wine
  • pinch                   salt

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Preparation:

for the oysters

  1. Shuck oysters but reserve bottom shell. Wash and dry the shells.
  2. Sauté spinach, onion and garlic with 4 tablespoons of butter, salt, pepper and Worchester sauce.
  3. Saute oysters in a seperate pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter for 1 minute. Add the white wine and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove both pans from the heat but keep warm.

for the Hollandaise Sauce

  1. In a stainless steel bowl set over another pan with hot water beat the egg yolks, white wine and salt with a wire whisk until slightly thickened and creamy.
  2. Slowly add the clarified butter in a thin stream whisking constantly until the sauce is smooth.
  3. Blend in the chili puree.

dsc06430Assemble

  1. Divide the spinach among the 12 reserved shells on a baking dish.
  2. Top each with an oyster.
  3. Cover with Hollandaise Sauce.
  4. If you have a gas torch, gently brown the top or place the oysters under the broiler until lightly browned.
Monte Xanic Sauvignon Blanc
Monte Xanic Sauvignon Blanc

Serve immediately with a crisp, dry white wine such as Monte Xanic Sauvignon Blanc from Mexico’s Guadalupe Valley.

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Hiroshi Kawahito
Chef Hiroshi Kawahito

Chef Hiroshi Kawahito of Restaurant Zoku in Mexico City epitomizes the international trend that’s creating Mexican New World Cuisine. Born in Japan, grew up in Los Angeles, Chef Kawahito returned to his home country after university studies in architecture. Drawn to Japanese cooking he honed his skills over a decade and a half before returning to Los Angeles.

Despite a successful Los Angeles restaurant experience, Mexico attracted Hiroshi, and Zoku offered a venue for his imaginative Japanese inspired cuisine. During the 22nd annual Festival Gourmet International held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, he was quest chef at Casa Magna Marriott’s Japanese/pan-Pacific Rim restaurant Mikado.

Chef Kawahito’s recipe for raw oysters with sea urchin and quail eggs is not for the faint of heart. Yet for a true lover of raw food, I enjoyed ever morsel. It’s imperative that the ingredients are as fresh as possible and purchased from shops selling the highest quality ingredients.

Fresh sea urchin is available at Japanese or other specialty seafood markets. If you can’t find fresh sea urchin but want to sample this dish simply double the quantity of salmon caviar, or substitute two tablespoons of golden caviar. Gently wash the quail eggs with warm water and dry before cracking them open.

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Raw oysters with sea urchin & quail eggs

Ingredients:

  • 12 each              fresh oysters on the half shell
  • 2 each                sea urchin tongues thinly slivered
  • 2 tablespoons    salmon caviar
  • 12 each              quail eggs

Preparation:

  1. Shuck the oysters and discard the top shell.
  2. Top each oyster with some sea urchin and ½ teaspoon caviar.
  3. Carefully break a quail egg over each oyster being careful not to break the yolks.
  4. Serve immediately.
Sawanotsuru Itsuraku Premium Grade Saki
Sawanotsuru Itsuraku Premium Grade Sake

I often don’t think of sake as a dinner wine, but Chef Kawahito dispelled that myth pairing the oysters with a glass of chilled Sawanotsuru Itsuraku Premium Grade Sake. It’s mild umami notes and dry finish were perfect.

 

 

 

When you go:

Puerto Vallarta is served by many international airlines.

The  23rd Festival Gourmet International will be held November 10 – 19, 2017.

Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Festival Gourmet International, Puerto Vallarta Tourism, Restaurant Coco Tropical, the Mikado at Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa, Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel and Hotel Cathedral.

Additional Puerto Vallarta articles by Chef Marc d’Entremont:

Vegan Chef Christian Krebs wows Puerto Vallarta

Cruising Bahía de Banderas with Mike’s Fishing Charters

Discovering the meaning of pride in Puerto Vallarta

Villa Premiere: excellence by design in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican New World Cuisine at Festival Gourmet International

Angus Beef recipe, Chef Luis Noriega and Puerto Vallarta

Wagu Tatki and Japanese Mexican Fusion

Other oyster dishes in Puerto Vallarta: (clockwise from top left) raw, grilled with zarandeado sauce, grilled on coals with butter, fresh oysters on ice, raw served on the beach
Other oyster dishes in Puerto Vallarta: (clockwise from top left) raw, grilled with zarandeado sauce, grilled on coals with butter, fresh oysters on ice, raw served on the beach

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

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Wagyu Tataki and Japanese Mexican fusion

Chef Hiroshi Kawahito & Wagyu Tataki
Chef Hiroshi Kawahito & Wagyu Tataki

Chef Hiroshi Kawahito of Restaurant Zoku in Mexico City epitomizes the international trend that’s creating Mexican New World Cuisine. Born in Japan, grew up in Los Angeles, Chef Kawahito returned to his home country after university studies in architecture. Drawn to Japanese cooking he honed his skills over a decade and a half before returning to Los Angeles.

Restaurant Mikado at Casa Magna Marriott, Puerto Vallarta
Restaurant Mikado at Casa Magna Marriott, Puerto Vallarta

Despite a successful Los Angeles restaurant experience, Mexico attracted Hiroshi, and Zoku offered a venue for his imaginative Japanese inspired cuisine. During the incomparable 22nd annual Festival Gourmet International held in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, he was guest chef at Casa Magna Marriott’s Japanese/pan-Pacific Rim restaurant Mikado.

The up-scale design of the restaurant with seating surrounding expansive cooking stations allowed participants at Mikado’s festival cooking demonstration an up front experience of Chef Kawahito’s imaginative preparations. Crispy panko crusted giant shrimp from Mexico’s northwest coast rested on a tartar sauce seasoned with Japanese 7 spice. A personal favorite was fresh-shucked local oysters topped with raw quail egg, caviar and sea urchin.

Wagyu rib eye steaks raised in Durango, MX
Wagyu rib eye steaks raised in Durango, MX

The key to Mexico’s New World Cuisine is pairing local ingredients with international preparations. Wagyu beef is now raised in Durango. Sea urchin is available in the Gulf of California.

Wagyu Tataki is quick to prepare. The tender barely seared beef blends well with the subtle brininess of sea urchin. It’s a beautiful dish for a special meal.

For the home cook, wagyu beef is available at good meat markets. Fresh sea urchin is available at Japanese or other specialty seafood markets. Salmon caviar can serve as a substitute.

ingredients for Wagyu Tataki
ingredients for Wagyu Tataki

Wagyu Tataki – 2 servings or 4 as a first course

Ingredients:

  • 2                               3-ounce Wagyu rib eye steak
  • 2 teaspoons       truffle oil
  • 2 slices                  fresh lime
  • 1/3rd teaspoon    Hawaiian black salt or sea salt
  • 2                                sea urchin tongues or 3 tablespoons salmon caviar
  • 2 tablespoons     Japanese ponzu sauce
  • 1                                  radish thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons         finely diced fresh chives
seared wagyu steaks
seared wagyu steaks

Preparation:

  1. Thinly slice the sea urchin tongue and set aside.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan until very hot – a couple drops of water should dance in the pan and quickly evaporate.
  3. Sear the two steaks for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes per side. The steak will be rare but not bleeding. Transfer to a cutting board. Thinly slice each steak and arrange on 2 to 4 plates.
  4. Sprinkle half the black salt on each steak and then 1 tablespoon ponzu sauce and juice from 1 lime slice.
  5. Arrange half the sliced sea urchin or caviar over each steak and drizzle each with 1 teaspoon truffle oil.
  6. Garnish with radish slices and fresh chives.

Although this dish is easy to prepare, why not enjoy a vacation in Puerto Vallarta and feast in the full range of New World Cuisine in Mexico’s culinary powerhouse.   A historic seaport, dining on the beach, the warm water of Bahia de Banderas, beautiful hotels and guest houses make Puerto Vallarta a safe and easy choice for the whole family.

Wagyu Tataki
Wagyu Tataki

When you go:

Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) is served by many international airlines from major cities worldwide.

For the 23rd Festival Gourmet International in November 2017 check the web site: http://www.festivalgourmet.com/en/

Disclaimer: the author was a guest of the 22nd Festival Gourmet International, Puerto Vallarta Tourism, and the Mikado at Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort and Spa.

More Puerto Vallarta articles by Chef Marc d’Entremont:

Vegan Chef Christian Krebs wows Puerto Vallarta

Cruising Bahía de Banderas with Mike’s Fishing Charters

Discovering the meaning of pride in Puerto Vallarta

Villa Premiere: excellence by design in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican New World Cuisine at Festival Gourmet International

Angus Beef recipe, Chef Luis Noriega and Puerto Vallarta

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

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Vegan Chef Christian Krebs wows Puerto Vallarta

Quinoa sushi with wasabi panna cotta
Quinoa sushi with wasabi panna cotta

Swiss Chef Christian Krebs is not personally 100% vegan. But you know the old saying, “happy wife, happy home.” His vegan spouse, Vera Webber, is a second generation owner of the historic and renowned Grand Hotel Giessbach. Among its three restaurants is the vegetarian/vegan Le Tapis Rouge for which Chef Krebs serves as culinary consultant.

(left) Chef Thierry Blouet, (right) Chef Christian Krebs
(left) Chef Thierry Blouet, (right) Chef Christian Krebs

Based on the enthusiasm Chef Krebs displayed during the 22nd Festival Gourmet International in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for vegan cuisine his wife is a successful influence. As guest chef at Café des Artistes, considered by many to be Puerto Vallarta’s premiere restaurant, Christian Krebs took the challenge of proving vegan dishes are not simply a platter of steamed vegetables. He enthralled guests at both his vegan cooking demonstration and the sold-out themed dinner attended by Puerto Vallarta’s food aficionados.

(left) Chef Thierry Blouet, (right) Chef Christian Krebs & staff at the Café des Artistes festival vegan dinner
(left) Chef Thierry Blouet, (right) Chef Christian Krebs & staff at the Café des Artistes festival vegan dinner

Yet in a country known for its meat, fish and seafood, Café des Artistes owner/chef Thierry Blouet was not the only one who gave center stage to vegan cuisine during the festival. One of the original founders of Puerto Vallarta’s Festival Gourmet International, this multi lingual Puerto Rico born French expat has made Mexico and Puerto Vallarta his home for decades. The quality of his restaurants have justifiably gained Chef Blouet celebrity status leading with his flagship Café des Artistes located in the heart of historic Puerto Vallarta.

Smiling broadly at the Café des Artistes cooking class Chef Krebs conducted for the festival he stressed that all dishes are fascinating if they start with a good recipe and preparation. Like all excellent chefs, he uses multiple ingredients creating layers of flavor in recipes such as delicate rice flour crepes which held a fragrant filling of sautéed tofu and spinach seasoned with vegetable and herb reductions. Thin slices of sautéed eggplant, onions, tomato and herbs were arranged in individual timbale molds and baked melding the flavors into an eye-appealing dish.

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His twist on a vegan sushi roll of seasoned quinoa, papaya, mango and avocado paired with a wasabi scented soya based panna cotta is refreshing and not at all difficult to prepare.

Quinoa sushi with wasabi panna cotta – 4 rolls

Note: make the wasabi panna cotta one day ahead since it needs 24 hours to gel. Use agar not traditional gelatin which is made from animal ingredients.

Special equipment: bamboo sushi mat for rolling

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Ingredients for the sushi:

  • 16 ounces (2 cups) water
  • ½ pound (1 cup) quinoa
  • 5 ounces (1/3rd cup) rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 mango peeled and sliced lengthwise into sticks
  • 1 avocado peeled and sliced lengthwise into sticks
  • 1 small papaya peeled and sliced lengthwise into sticks
  • wasabi paste to taste
  • 4 nori seaweed sheets

Ingredients for wasabi panna cotta:

  • 4 ounces ( ½ cup) soy milk
  • 4 ounces ( 1/2 cup) soy cream
  • 1 teaspoon agar powder (or 1 tablespoon agar flakes or ½ bar agar)
  • 3 tablespoons wasabi paste
  • drop or two of green vegetable coloring
  • chopped fresh herbs (to use as garnish and/or add to panna cotta)

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Preparation of sushi:

  1. Cook quinoa in 2 cups simmering water, covered, for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed and the white “tails” are visable.
  2. Gently stir in rice vinegar, saki, salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Place one sheet of nori on the bamboo mat and gently spread with ½ cup seasoned quinoa.
  4. Spread a line of wasabi paste lengthwise across the quinoa and arrange sticks of sliced avocado, mango and papaya.
  5. Using the bamboo mat, roll the nori tightly. Allow the roll to rest for several minutes before slicing.

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Preparation for the panna cotta:

  1. Slowly heat the soy milk and soy cream for 2 minutes, stirring, until the agar melts. Remove from the heat. Add the wasabi paste and combine.
  2. Add the food coloring if desired.
  3. Line 4, 4-ounce custard cups with plastic wrap and fill with panna cotta. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
  4. Unmold each panna cotta onto a plate. Garnish with fresh herbs and arrange the sushi slices.

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When you go:

Puerto Vallarta International Airport (PVR) is served by many international airlines from major cities worldwide.

For the 23rd Festival Gourmet International in November 2017 check the web site: http://www.festivalgourmet.com/en/

Disclaimer: the author was a guest of the 22nd Festival Gourmet International, Puerto Vallarta Tourism, and Café des Artistes.

Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta

Additional articles on Puerto Vallarta by Marc d’Entremont

Cruising Bahía de Banderas with Mike’s Fishing Charters

Discovering the meaning of pride in Puerto Vallarta

Villa Premiere: excellence by design in Puerto Vallarta

Mexican New World Cuisine at Festival Gourmet International

Angus Beef recipe, Chef Luis Noriega and Puerto Vallarta

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

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St. Pete Wine & Food Festival on now through Sunday

The Tampa Bay area’s premiere culinary event, the St. Pete Wine & Food Festival is a showcase for this vibrant city!

bonefishgrill1

Set against the backdrop of sun dappled Tampa Bay, the 2nd annual St. Pete Wine and Food Festival is in full swing now from November 3 – 6.  St. Petersburg, Florida has established itself as an art and restaurant destination on the Gulf of Mexico coast. From stunning restorations of historic hotels to vibrant arts districts and such new restaurants as Sea Salt offering 130 artisan salts to stimulate one’s palate, St. Petersburg is a world class city content that it will be on everyone’s travel and food list.

Grand Tasting from the 2015 festival
Grand Tasting from the 2015 festival

One does not normally think of a supermarket chain and fine food in the same sentence. Yet Publix is not only the major sponsor of the St. Pete Wine and Food Festival, it has positioned itself as a choice equal to its amiable competitors Trader Joes and Whole Foods. The surprises don’t end there because a significant percentage of the festival’s profits go to the St. Petersburg Arts Council and the Waterfront Parks Foundation.

Wine selections at the Grand Tasting from the 2015 festival
Wine selections at the Grand Tasting from the 2015 festival
Tequila tastings
Tequila tastings

Lest one think St. Petersburg is an example of the old joke that Florida is ‘God’s little waiting room,’ The SPWFF attendees  are from all age ranges offering such events as Tequila tasting and Beer nights!  St. Petersburg is attracting residents from a vibrant cross section of educated world citizens that thrive on the arts, sun, beach, boating and fine food. An explosion of fascinating venues more than satisfies all of these eclectic tastes.

St. Pete Beer Night from the 2015 festival
St. Pete Beer Night from the 2015 festival

After Beer Night St. Pete tonight November 4 at the St. Pete Wine & Food Festival get ready for the signature event both Saturday and Sunday afternoons November 5 and 6  – the Grand Tasting.  Sample dishes from dozens of area restaurants and wineries and watch Tampa Bay’s most talented chefs create signature dishes in the demonstration tent.

Chef demos Grand Tasting from the 2015 festival
Chef demos Grand Tasting from the 2015 festival

For all event details check the St. Pete Wine and Food Festival web site.

 

Festival venue North Straub Park, Saint Petersburg
Festival venue North Straub Park, Saint Petersburg

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

Travel Pen and Palate Argentina

Original World Insights

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The best Greek shrimp recipe ever

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis Halkidiki shrimp
Chef Giorgos Kosmidis Halkidiki shrimp

The three peninsulas of Halkidiki – Kassandra, Sithonia and Athos ­– are the summer playgrounds of Macedonia. Blessed with numerous and secluded beaches, surrounded by the clear blue Aegean sea with pine forested mountains of wild flowers, olive trees and vineyards, it’s no wonder Halkidiki has been favored by Greeks since antiquity. Only a couple hours drive from the nation’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, and within a day’s drive from the Balkans, its many resort hotels especially draw a plethora of Eastern Europeans, Ukrainians and Russians seeking sun, sand, hospitality and Greek cuisine.

The Halkidiki penninsula Athos – Mount Athos
The Halkidiki penninsula Athos – Mount Athos
Ouranoupolis
Ouranoupolis

The Alexandros Palace is located just outside Ouranoupolis, one of many towns built in the 1920s as a result of the traumatic exchange of Greek and Turkish populations that took place after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the merger of Macedonia into Greece. Once the site of an ancient village – its 14th century tower fortress is a landmark – and still the gateway to 7,000 ft. Mt. Athos, today Ouranoupolis is a tourist and fisherman’s town.

pool: Alexandros Palace Hotel
pool: Alexandros Palace Hotel

The Alexandros Palace Hotel, within site of the autonomous and sacred Monastic State of Mt. Athos, is a self-contained 250-room resort village rising from its wide beach up the hill and spreading over 90 acres. Like most of Halkidiki’s resorts an all-inclusive meal plan includes extensive buffets for breakfast and dinner and offers something for everyone from meat lovers to the devoutly vegan. Yet true Greek cuisine shines in Halkidiki hotels a la carte restaurants for those not desiring a buffet.

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis
Chef Giorgos Kosmidis
Fresh fish/seafood at Alexandros Palace
Fresh fish/seafood at Alexandros Palace

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis commands the poolside Taverna at the Alexandros Palace Hotel. Having enjoyed several meals over two separate trips, it has taken this chef journalist a year to convince chef Giorgos to part with his intensely flavored yet simple shrimp creation. The Aegean is a seafood lover’s supermarket and the shrimp may well have been caught that very day off the coast of Ouranoupolis.

Chef Giorgos Kosmidis Halkidiki shrimp – four servings

Ingredients:

clockwise from far left: unpeeled shrimp, strained shrimp stock, Greek oregano, ingredients for stock
clockwise from far left: unpeeled shrimp, strained shrimp stock, Greek oregano, ingredients for stock
  • 1 pound large shrimp (reserve shells for the stock)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano – preferably Greek oregano
  • 2 tablespoons sweet butter
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups chopped parsley
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

Preparation:

Clockwise from top left: ingredients for sauce in pot, cooked sauce, sauteed shrimp, prepared Halkidiki shrimp
Clockwise from top left: ingredients for sauce in pot, cooked sauce, sauteed shrimp, prepared Halkidiki shrimp
  1. Remove the shells from the shrimp and reserve the shrimp in the refrigerator while making the stock.
  2. Place the shells in a quart size saucepan and add the bay leaves, nutmeg, oregano and a little salt and white pepper. Add cold water just to the level of the shells. Place the saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to 1/4th of a cup (2 ounces). Strain and discard the shells reserving the reduced shrimp stock.
  3. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and cook the shrimp for one minute turning once.
  4. Add the wine to the shrimp, bring to a simmer and cook for one minute.
  5. With a slotted spoon remove the shrimp from the wine and keep warm.
  6. To the wine add the 1/4th cup shrimp stock, parsley and garlic. Bring to a simmer and cook for two minutes.
  7. Add the heavy cream, cayenne pepper and sweet paprika. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes.
  8. Add the reserved shrimp and warm for one minute.
  9. Divide among four plates and serve with crusty bread used to absorb the sauce and a dry Greek white wine such as Mt. Athos ΙΕΡΑ ΜΟΝΗ ΑΓΙΟΥ ΠΑΥΛΟΥ (Holy Monastery of St. Paul), Monoxilitiko, a blend of 90% sauvignon blanc with local varieties. It had a nose of honey and sage followed by summer floral notes with a surprisingly dry finish.

While at the Alexandros Palace Hotel, don’t pass up the luxurious Panalee Spa and the new specialty shop ­selling Mt. Athos wines, skin care products and local foods. In the evening, the spacious Theater Bar with its lower level dance floor and stage might as well be the town square of this village resort. Twin brothers Thomas and Janis Aslanidis, the musically talented and genial young heirs to the Alexandros Palace Hotel, might just be tending bar and don’t be surprised either if managers Yiannis Misopapas and Kyriakos Mandouvalos are mingling among the guests. After all this is Greece with hospitality and cuisine as legendary as its mythology.

When you go:

Ouranoupolis is an easy 2 – 3 hour drive (busier on weekends) on modern roads from Thessaloniki International Airport.

Alexandros Palace Hotel, Ouranoupolis, 63075, Halkidiki, Greece. (Athos) Tel + 30 23770 31402 / 31424 Fax: +30 23770 31100

Email: info@alexandroshotel-halkidiki.com 2017 season runs April through mid-October.

Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Alexandros Palace Hotel and the Halkidiki Tourism Organization.

the beach at Alexandros Palace Hotel
the beach at Alexandros Palace Hotel

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

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Florida sunsets at Clearwater Beach

sunset at Pier 60
sunset at Pier 60

img_4607Clearwater Beach is one of a series of beautiful barrier island towns that stretch along Florida’s Pinellas County Gulf of Mexico coast. Blessed with powder white sand it’s a favored playground for tourist worldwide.

 

Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach

At dusk throngs gather at Pier 60 to enjoy a typically stunning sunset that for residents is one of the perks of living along the Gulf of Mexico. Pier 60 juts over 1,000 feet into the Gulf. In the daytime it’s a popular fishing pier.

Sunset at Clearwater Beach
Sunset at Clearwater Beach
vendor on Pier 60
vendor on Pier 60

But after 5:00 p.m. it transforms into a free sunset party complete with buskers, musicians and vendors selling a myriad of arts and crafts.

 

 

Clearwater Beach
Clearwater Beach

After sunset walk over to Pier House 60 Hotel and take the elevator to the 10th floor. Jimmy’s Crows Nest Bar & Grill offers  panoramic views of Clearwater Beach that at night are particularly impressive along with great burgers and drinks.

Florida, the Sunshine State, can just as easily be dubbed the Sunset State after spending an evening on Clearwater Beach.

Night view of Clearwater Beach from Jimmy's
Night view of Clearwater Beach Marina from Jimmy’s

 

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An easy recipe for Greek Spanakopita

Chef Marc d'Entremont's Greek Spanakopita
Chef Marc d’Entremont’s Greek Spanakopita

I’ve made Spanakopita most of my life. As a chef it’s been part of my repertoire my entire career. It’s flavorful, a classic vegetarian dish and easy once you become familiar using phyllo dough.

In North America phyllo is found in the freezer section of many grocery stores. (Making the same paper thin dough at home requires skill and helpers). Once you’re familiar handling phyllo its versatility is amazing.

I have wrapped anything and everything into attractive phyllo packets especially for hot hor d’oeuvres. They have graced many a buffet and cocktail party. Yet it wasn’t until I started traveling to Greece that I discovered not all phyllo is paper thin and difficult to prepare.

Flora and Nikos Kratzeskaros have operated Tsikali Taverna
Flora and Nikos Kratzeskaros have operated Tsikali Taverna

The village of Vathi on the Cycladic Island of Sifnos is a classic beauty. The winding road descends from the hills and one’s first glimpse is the gleaming white buildings clustered in a crescent on a white sand beach in front of the clear aqua water of the Aegean. Cars are parked at the entrance to the village because there’s nowhere else to drive. The few narrow streets – more stone paths than roads – were made for goats and donkeys.

After passing through the 17th century Church of Evangelistria Taxiarches, which creates part of the seawall, you walk a short distance on the beach to a grove of trees shading Tsikali Taverna. Nearly as many tables are directly on the sand as under the roof of the open-air restaurant. Flora and Nikos Kratzeskaros have operated Tsikali Taverna for decades.

Knowing that a chef culinary journalist was visiting that day Flora demonstrated how easy it was to make phyllo dough that isn’t the paper thin variation. Except for many dessert pastries, Greeks don’t use the paper thin sheets familiar to me. For savory dishes they roll fresh dough to the thickness of a thin pizza crust.

Flora Kratzeskaros rolling phyllo & wrapping Spanakopita
Flora Kratzeskaros rolling phyllo & wrapping Spanakopita

I developed this variation on classic Spanakopita decades ago and have used it my entire career. It calls for the frozen dough familiar to most outside of Greece, but you can certainly substitute this New York Times recipe for the dough Flora Kratzeskaros taught me.

Feta & cottage cheeses
Feta & cottage cheeses

I add cottage cheese along with feta because I like the mix. Sometimes I include a couple tablespoons of toasted pine nuts and a grating of fresh nutmeg. All are ingredients traditional to Greece and Eastern Mediterranean cuisine therefore as authentic as any dish can be that has existed for thousands of years and is part of several regional cuisines.

Spanakopita – 6 entrée portions

Ingredients:

  • 1/3rd pound defrosted phyllo dough
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach or 20 ounces of loose frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cups crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 5 eggs

Procedure:

  1. Defrost filo dough still wrapped for 24 hours in the refrigerator. DO NOT unwrap until instructed in step #8.
  2. chopped cooked spinach pressed dry & sauteed onions w/pine nuts
    chopped cooked spinach pressed dry & sauteed onions w/pine nuts

    If using frozen spinach: remove from the bag and place in a colander over a bowl large enough to fit the colander. Thaw the spinach for 24 hours in the refrigerator. Discard the collected spinach water or reserve for other uses. Place the spinach in a large square of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and press out as much liquid as possible.

  3. If using fresh spinach: remove the stems and chop the leaves. Rinse in a colander and place in a large pot. Cover the pot and steam, stirring several times, until soft, approximately 5 minutes. Place the spinach in a large square of cheesecloth or a kitchen towel and press out as much liquid as possible.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°
  5. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a sauté pan and add the onions, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Sauté until lightly browned.
  6. In a large mixing bowl combine onion, spinach, feta cheese, cottage cheese and eggs.
  7. Melt the remaining 6 tablespoons unsalted butter in a small pan.
  8. thawed phyllo arranged in flan pan
    thawed phyllo arranged in flan pan

    Remove the thawed phyllo from its wrapping and unfold onto a kitchen towel or waxed paper. Cover immediately with a slightly damp kitchen towel (phyllo dries and crumbles quickly when exposed to dry air).

  9. Brush the bottom and sides of a deep pie or flan pan (10” X 2”) lightly with butter.
  10. Spanakopita ready for baking
    Spanakopita ready for baking

    Arrange 8 sheets of phyllo overlapping in a circular pattern. The phyllo will larger than the diameter of the pan. (cover the remaining phyllo with the damp towel) Brush the phyllo with half of the remaining melted butter. Spread the spinach mixture into the pan and overlap the phyllo over the spinach one piece at a time. Gently press the phyllo onto the spinach and with a serrated knife score the phyllo into 6 wedges – do not cut through the spinach – this makes it easier to serve without the flakey dough breaking apart after baking. Brush the top with the remaining butter. (Wrap the remaining phyllo dough in waxed paper and then in aluminum foil sealing well. You can place that in a plastic bag. Refrigerate up to 3 weeks for later use.)

  11. Place the dish on a sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the phyllo is light golden brown. Allow the Spanakopita to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

A 9” X 13” cake pan can be used for the Spanakopita and it can be scored into smaller portions to be served as a first course.

Flora Kratzeskaros's Spanakopita with fresh phyllo dough
Flora Kratzeskaros’s Spanakopita with fresh phyllo dough

 

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Recipe for a Spanish inspired salt cod stew

Salt Cod for sale in the Basque market town of Ordizia
Salt Cod for sale in the Basque market town of Ordizia

I was a boy when I first became familiar with salt codfish. Racks of salted fillets would line the docks of our ancestral Nova Scotia Bay of Fundy village where my parents maintained a home. I loved sautéed Acadian cod cakes made with potatoes and the salty fish served with pickled chow chow.

fillets of salt cod before soaking
fillets of salt cod before soaking

Salting cod is at least 500 years old and became a staple food product and cash crop for Canada’s Maritime Provinces, Northern Europe and the Caribbean Islands. I grew up on stories of the infamous triangular trade route before I knew its full implications. The stories were romance for my early wanderlust as generations of my family caught, salted and transported this easily preserved fish to hot Caribbean islands in return for the dark rum and molasses that would warm my relatives during cold, wet Maritime winters.

ingredients for the recipe
ingredients for the recipe

While living in Puerto Rico as a young adult I immediately recognized the wooden boxes of salt cod marked with Canadian port towns I was familiar. Nothing had changed for centuries, except being introduced to the breadth of recipes this simple fish had inspired. Light fritters of salt cod – bacalaítos – became a favored comfort food.

Some years later traveling in Basque Country I enjoyed Bacalao a la Vizcaina, their codfish stew including hard-boiled eggs, capers and raisins. In France I scarfed down copious amounts of rich, elegant Brandade de Morue, a whipped spread with olive oil, cream and potatoes on crusty baguette slices.

ingredients for the recipe
ingredients for the recipe

As a chef I’ve often played with salt cod. With the worldwide decline of cod stocks due to over fishing salted pollock is a suitable substitute available in North American stores. I feel my recipe for a salt cod stew appeals to most North American tastes.

Salt Cod Stew – 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound salt cod prepared 2 days ahead of using
  • 3 cups prepared or canned, drained & rinsed garbanzo beans
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 scallions – green & white part.
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup chopped green olives
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 – 28 ounce can diced stewed tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 baking potatoes
  • chopped parsley for garnish

Preparation:

(Two days before making the stew)

  1. Place the salt cod in a stainless steel or glass dish large enough to completely cover with cold water. Refrigerate the cod changing the water 2 to 3 times a day for two days.
  2. prepared garbanzo beans (chick peas)
    prepared garbanzo beans (chick peas)

    If using dried garbanzo beans start their preparation the same day as the cod. Cover ½ pound dried garbanzo beans with 2 quarts cold water. Cover and soak for at least 12 and up to 18 hours. Drain and rinse the beans. Place into a heavy 2-quart pot and cover with two quarts cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour. The water should simmer not boil or else the beans may break up. Check after one hour. The beans should be tender but not mushy. Drain and rinse. Refrigerate until ready to use.

(Cooking the stew)

  1. Drain the cod and pat dry with paper towel. Slice the cod fillets into chunks about 1 to 1-½ inch squares.
  2. Dice the sweet onion, celery, green pepper, scallions and garlic.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy 4-quart pot. Add the onion and celery and sauté until the onions are translucent. Reduce the heat slightly and add the green pepper, scallions, basil and oregano. Continue cooking for 5 minutes stirring frequently.
  4. Increase the heat and add the salt, black pepper, chopped garlic, cod chunks, chopped green olives, the entire can of diced tomatoes and the 2 cups of cold water.
  5. Bring the stew to a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes.
  6. While the stew is simmering, peel and dice the potatoes. Place the diced potatoes in a bowl & cover with cold water to prevent browning until ready to use.
  7. After 45 minutes of simmering the stew, drain and add the diced potatoes and the prepared or canned and drained garbanzo beans.
  8. Return to a simmer. Taste test the stew to check for salt and add more if desired. Cover and simmer the stew for an additional 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  9. Ladle into bowels and sprinkle with chopped parsley. You may spice it up with hot sauce to taste.

Like with so many stews, you can make this a day ahead of time. Allow the stew to cool for an hour and refrigerate. Gently reheat before serving.

This stew is excellent accompanied with a green salad and a good dry wine such as a Spanish rioja.

My Spanish inspired salt cod stew
My Spanish inspired salt cod stew

 

You can read more articles by Marc d’Entremont at:

Hellenic News of America

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