Monday, October 27, 2014

big winners

They say things are bigger in Texas . . .  

Witness the glorious sky; layered streaks of red and purple on fall and winter afternoons, cotton-ball-clouds fill blue space on spring days and in summer, vast expanses of blazing sun for days on end.   

Bigger means big-hair on ladies and bigger hats on men.  Big is often confused with bravado, defined as a boldness designed to impress or intimidate, the concept easily grasped if you've ever driven behind a truck with an iron scrotum dangling from its bumper.

Let's not forget Dallas Cowboys' AT+T Stadium though it reflects a bit of both. 

A Texas size event was held tonight at Dallas' Westin Hotel at the Galleria.  A spacious ballroom hosted the XXII Annual Caesar Salad Competition presented by The American Institute of Wine and Food/Dallas.  Eight chefs competed for bragging rights to this year's best Caesar Salad including my friend Mark McDaniel.  I was lucky to be one of his guests.

Here are the chefs and their dishes:

Chef Thomas Holt/Ruth's Chris Steak House
Great Caesar's Goat

Chef Chad Kelley/Cafe Pacific
Lobster Deviled Eggs

Chef Andrea Maricich/The Second Floor
House Cured Fennel and Black Pepper Lonzino with Orange and Oregano Compressed Melon

Chef Antonio Marquez/Lazaranda, Modern Kitchen & Tequila
Watermelon and Tuna Ceviche

Chef Mark McDaniel/ReMARKable Affairs Cafe
Cajun Gazpacho Soup "Shooter" and Polenta Cake

Chef Kenny Mills/Chop House Burgers
Chop House Burger Sliders

Chef Brandon Moore/Ocean Prime
PBLT; crispy pork belly, lettuce and tomato

Chef Julio Peraza/Komali
Ancho Braised Short Rib and Queso Fresco Tamal, Black Bean Sauce, Crema and Chile de Arbol Salsa

It was an evening of excess with no bravado.

Chef Julio Peraza was the winner and when asked what he would attribute to his success, without pause he gave credit to his sous chef.

No one cheered in agreement more enthusiastically than my chef friend Mark, his eyes on his own sous in the audience, his smile directed at her, Leslie Robbins.  He had moments before, when introduced, spoken heartwarming words which though he didn't win the title, won over the crowd, friends and colleagues who knew those words to be real.

There was a silent auction and a live auction.  Someone won this pony.

Others ponied up big bucks for dinners and weekend getawaysHearts were opened, pockets were emptied, tummies were filled and a new generation of future cooks was given--let's say-- a Texas size boost.  

Several glasses of white wine and eight Caesar Salads later, I switched to red and I ate this cake.  It was provided by the very popular Plano restaurant, Whiskey Cake Kitchen + Bar.  Though it was absolutely delicious, especially the nutty toffee crunch on top, I was thankful the slice was not bigger.

My appreciation to Chef Mark McDaniel/ReMARKable Affairs Cafe(dot com)
Dallas  972.462.7470
For information on the next Annual Caesar Salad Competition, contact The American Institute of Wine and Food/Dallas    

Saturday, October 4, 2014

the storm

It was a bright, temperate day as Spoke and I drove down Mockingbird Lane to catch a film at Angelika.  Little traffic made for a quick drive and we were settled into our top row seats before the previews started.  That can be a good thing or a bad thing I’ve come to think; good if the previews are new to you, bad if you must sit through them again, your small bag of popcorn half consumed before the feature begins.

I was looking forward to this one--- set in Paris!  Our post movie dinner plans would be based around croissants in the freezer and I was waiting to see if the film leaned us toward soup and salade or fines herbs omelets.  Either would be fine with me.  

When it was over, I'd wished for more sights of the city and its cuisine, but we left content and in awe of the acting.  Pulling out of the covered garage parking lot, we entered into what was, we thought, a typical Dallas afternoon storm.  It took only a couple of blocks for the severity to hit us.  Lightning was scary and winds were fierce, blowing rain sideways and taking metal signs along.  The light at Greenville Avenue made us thankful for the long city bus on our right which blocked the east moving winds.  Most stoplights were out, there was debris everywhere, crape myrtles were uprooted and one huge tree blocked the entire three lane street forcing us to drive up over the curb and across someone’s manicured yard.  Trees lay toppled across many home roofs.
We were lucky and feeling blessed by the time we’d detoured, able to pull onto our street and see the two huge trees still standing front and back at our house.  We love these trees.  They are our shade in summer and our rustling leaves in autumn.
Six hours later our electricity was not yet on, quite understandable considering the widespread damage.  I rather liked the evening, liked being forced into creative submission; a flashlight, pen and paper became my entertainment.  I studied the interesting shadows on the walls.  

It was canned tuna for dinner without complaint.  From our dark bedroom, several hours earlier than our usual, Spoke and I listened for owls but they were mute in the eerie quiet of the still night.  We played word games, waiting for a breeze, any brief breeze.  I fell asleep before Spoke gave me his ten syllable word beginning with the letter “l”. . .  

Seventeen hours from the hit, chainsaws were heard all around.  Friday's morning paper reports winds were up to ninety miles per hour and a quarter of a million people are without power.  I go into the kitchen to make my morning cappuccino, the act providing our first laugh of the day.  I drink water instead.  

By evening, the hassle of the past twenty-seven hours is diminished with the flick of a switch.  We have power!
Today there's tremendous yard clean-up to be done, the refrigerator and freezers need to be cleaned out.  Most of the bounty in the full freezer has fared well and I am thankful for it, especially the still frozen pesto which was painstakingly made by mortar and pestle.  This was a prolific summer for basil, yielding two large batches which filled numerous jars with pesto and more to be made soon.  

With the oven working again, tonight we'll finally enjoy those croissants.  I'll heat them; crisp on the outside with flaky layers inside.  We will have them with soup and salade.