From the moment we stepped onto the red carpet of last year’s LA Food & Wine festivals Asian Night, wide-eyed with an empty stomach and an uncontrollable grin, the decision to attend this year’s LA F&W’s Festa Italiana was set in stone. If California’s Asian food scene is this good, why wouldn’t the Italian food scene be as well?
Let’s fast forward a year and here we are sitting at the pre-show cooking demo by Alie & Georgia (of “Tripping out with Alie & Georgia” on the Cooking Channel) with Giada De Laurentiis along with 150 of our new closest friends.
Giada acted as the subtle and calm yin to Alie & Georgia’s brash and funny yang. They started off the demo by making a rum based cocktail called Pump up the Jams. As we were all given generous samples of everything that was made throughout the demo, we can report that this sweet and satisfying cocktail was just the right amount of citrus bite from the lime. This drink as a starter was an ideal way to kick off the evening.
After some Q&A from the audience, Alie & Georgia went on to create their Date & Blue Cheese Stuffed Meatballs. I know you are thinking–why dates? Yes, it may sound strange, but when combined with the blue cheese it balances very nicely. In fact, after the bacon is combined with the meatball mixture and cooked on a bacon grease coated pan, these party favorites take on the life of a rich bacon cheese burger. A person could get in trouble if left alone with a pan of these meatballs!
After all this “work” in the kitchen, it was time for Alie & Georgia to revisit what they do best… mix up another cocktail! We’re not sure if they wanted to get Giada tipsy or not (it was her birthday after all), but they did their best. This cocktail was called Fernet My Heart in San Francisco and utilized the old standby of Jack Daniels as a base along with Fernet (A bitter digestif decribed by Alie as Jagermeister without the shame), ginger beer, lime juice and a surprise ingredient of Chinese 5-Spice simple syrup. The overall result was a cocktail that possessed the full bodied characteristics of the whiskey while being sufficiently tamed by the other ingredients to make it easy drinking. And that Chinese 5-Spice simple syrup? It made for a nice spicy finish and a great after dinner drink.
For a final act Spicy Key Lime cupcakes were made and through the magic of Jenn-Air ovens (or accurately, pre-baking and planning) they were complete within a few minutes. These cupcakes are easy to make and both light and refreshing. They call for a box mix and some fresh limes for juice and zest. The unique ingredient is the cayenne pepper as a garnish. Again, a nice subtle finish that is a departure from the the rest of the flavors.
The event ended with a brief auction for charity and a few minutes of meet & greet time. Giada was gracious throughout and willing to answer any questions the audience posed. Alie & Georgia were friendly, engaging and approachable during and after the event as well. It was the perfect way to kickoff an evening of foodie heaven.
Review By: Daniel Miller
Photo Credit: LA Food & Wine & Allie and Georgia Instagrams
Life has been busy and I haven’t been spending as much time as I want in the kitchen. Last night’s foodie adventure helped motivate me to get back into the kitchen on my day off. I grabbed my inspiration for lunch from Giada’s latest cookbook, “Weeknights with Giada“.
The thing that most surprised me about this recipe was that she used corn flakes cereal as one of the ingredients. The corn flakes did help keep the meatballs light and added a little more texture. Giada used these meatballs to make mini sandwiches in her cookbook. This recipe makes 12 mini meatball sandwiches. If you are cooking just for one, I would just plan to make pasta the next day and use the leftover meatballs. Hope you enjoy the recipe and happy cooking!
1/4 cup finely crushed corn flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces ground beef (96% lean)
12 Sweet dinner rolls (like King’s Hawaiian) – Remember you can always use the meatballs in other recipes if you are just cooking for yourself.
Place your over rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 375 degrees.
In a medium bowl, stir together the corn flakes, parsley, egg, oil, 2 tablespoons ketchup, the cheese, salt and pepper. Add in the ground beef and combine. With damp hands, roll the mixture into 12 mini meatballs. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the meatballs on it, spacing it evenly.
Bake for 20 minutes until cooked and let them cool for 10 minutes. Serve them with pasta or you can make mini sandwiches by using King’s Hawaiian bread. Cut the meatballs in half and place in a halved pie of bread. I ended up adding a little more salt and pepper at the end for a little more flavor. It’s up to your personal preference. Add a little more ketchup on top and then add the top half of your roll on top. Enjoy!
I was craving pasta, but I didn’t want to make a huge pot of spaghetti since it was only me eating it (and I will eat a whole pot of spaghetti if it’s in front of me). This is a quick and easy way to have pasta (Serves 1) in less than 20 minutes.
1 tablespoon of butter cut into pieces
1 garlic clove chopped finely
2 ounces of linguine
Red pepper flakes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/3 cup of dry white wine
1/4 pound of large shrimp (Peeled & Deveined)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups of spinach
In a large saucepan, cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. In a nonstick skillet, melt half the butter over medium heat. Add a pinch of the red pepper flakes and the garlic. Cook until fragrant. This usually takes about a minute. Raise heat and add wine. Cook until reduced by 1/3 which also takes about 1 minute. Add shrimp and season with salt & pepper. Add in spinach. Remove skillet form heat and swirl in the lemon juice and the remaining butter. Toss in the pasta and combine.
Enjoy! P.S. If you really want a kick, add a little more red pepper flakes into the mix at the end!
I decided that San Diego was my next stop for a foodie adventure. After a few Google searches and some yelp review reading, I realized that it would be impossible to get a taste of San Diego in one trip. So, I narrowed down the possibilities and just focused on Coronado and Little Italy. I will definitely be back soon to explore The Gaslamp Quarter, Old Town San Diego, Mission Bay and La Jolla–the food options are endless.
Our first stop was the famous Hotel Del Coronado. The Del opened over a century ago and I can only describe it as classy. Edward, Prince of Wales, Clark Gable and Ronald Reagan are just a few well known people who have visited the Del. The hotel is sophisticated and elegant with breathtaking views. Because we had quite a few food stops on this trip, we decided on drinks and appetizers at the Babcock & Story Bar overlooking the ocean.
Nothing says classy more than a couple martinis paired with an olive & almond plate.The marinated California olives had an earthy, pungent taste. The toasted almonds as a “chaser” helped balance out the saltiness of the olives.
For drinks, we ordered a Marilyn Martini from their 125th anniversary cocktail menu and a Coronado Martini with pimento stuffed olives. The martini consisted of Nolet’s gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters and a lemon twist. It had a very strong floral taste while the Coronado Martini just tasted like straight vodka (or as I like to describe it–jet fuel). It was fun to try new drinks and tap into the “Old Time America” theme we were experiencing as soon as we stepped foot into the hotel. We will definitely be back to try some of the other dining options the hotel has to offer.
After a walk along the beach, where we can see Mexico from a distance, we made our way to our next food destination: Miguel’s Cocina of Coronado. It was only fitting to taste a bit of Mexico being that we were so close to the border. Miguel’s Cocina is located in the courtyard of the historic El Cordova Hotel and is right across the street from The Del. It was a perfect day to sit out on the patio and enjoy lunch.
The chips and salsa they served also came with a jalapeno white sauce which was so delicious. The spiciness of the jalepeno was softened by the white cheddar sauce. I loved it so much that we went with one of their house specials: camarones jalisco as well as their grilled swordfish tacos. The sonoran-spiced swordfish fillets with red cabbage and shredded cheese in corn tortillas were fresh and delectable.
The Camarones Jalisco was jumbo shrimp stuffed with jack cheese and rajas, wrapped in bacon and grilled. It was also topped with the jalapeno white sauce that I love so much. The frist bite of the shrimp wrapped in bacon was an explosion of smoked bacon mixed with the sweet, succulent taste of the shrimp. The consistency of the bacon and the shrimp together almost made it feel like I was biting into a juicy steak (crazy, I know). The portion of the rice and beans were also perfect. We didn’t leave there feeling “too full” for dessert.
After a quick trip across the water on the San Diego/Coronado ferry, we made our way through Seaport Village and walked our way to our last stop for the day in Little Italy: Extraordinary Desserts. As soon as we walked in, they handed us a piece of paper where we could write down the desserts we wanted so we could hand it off to our server when we were seated.
We might have went overboard with 3 desserts and french pressed coffee, but it was totally worth it. We also ended up having to run all the way back to the ferry so I feel like our 3 dessert dinner was justified. 😉
Probably my favorite dessert of the evening was a slice of their Viking cake. This cake was dangerously decadent, but so worth it. Chocolate Crème brûlée and milk chocolate cremeuse are hidden between chocolate cake layers. The cake was topped with crushed chocolate almond pralines that put me in a sugar coma within two bites.
Their banana creme tarte was also delicous. The sweetness of the cream and banana was paired nicely with the tart of the pureed mango on the side. Lastly, we tried their raspberry tart which was light and fluffy. It was the perfect end to our food filled day.
For more information on the places we visited, check out the links below. Remember to always take the time to explore new places and eat new things. It will leave your heart light and your stomach full 😉
Babcock & Story Bar: http://www.hoteldel.com/babcock-and-story.aspx
Miguel’s Cocina: http://www.brigantine.com/miguels_cocina/location-coronado.html
Extraordinary Desserts: http://www.extraordinarydesserts.com/