Posts tagged ‘jenifer wanous’

October 15, 2012

When Directing a Culinary Event for 3,000, Try This

by Jen Wanous

With walkie-talkie in hand, I entered the raw space that took up an entire city block, as ready as I could ever be. The task at hand: to set-up a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people. Set up included: six kitchens for 140 chef presenters, seven different workshop rooms, one main stage that seated 400, two walk-in refrigerators, one freezer, a tradeshow floor room for 50, two pop-up restaurants, 24 different food cart chefs, electricity and plumbing to it all…and two days to do it.

When the opening day hit, like meat in a grinder, time crunched down hard. With a year of planning now behind me, hours transformed into minutes as every request that came in needed immediate action. Crises were near boiling points around every corner. Everyone needed solutions and I was in a role to give them. Like being a chef in a kitchen, this was trial by fire. My mind ran at a fevered pace as names and schedules flew around. There was no time to write down notes; everything was one long mental note demanding immediate action. Bruises on my toes told of my speedy pace, just shy of running for the 100 hours I worked that week.

With problems popping up left and right, I honed my skill of bringing solutions. Here are a few examples.

Problem: Chef Morimoto (read: uber famous chef, aka: “The Iron Chef”) needs wasabi powder in 15 minutes.
Solution: Instruct assistant to go to the nearest store stating, “Seriously, like Super Market Sweep style, run and get it and run back now.”

Problem: Your boss, and CEO of the company (during the second hour of the event), screams at the top of her lungs at you, bursts into tears citing a myriad of crises. Problems like a sign that is not hung and a walkway that is not wide enough. Oh and also during this moment, she threatens to fire you if you take another Instagram picture.
Solution: Fix all noted problems (it takes five minutes) and definitely hold off on posting Instagram pictures until after the event. (Discovering that deep place of compassion for her helps, but may take up to a week to attain.)

Problem: Your only dishwasher breaks.
Solution: Pray.

Problem: Unions threaten to blow up the rat in front of your event and set up a picket line.
Solution: Hire a union member to be your liaison (aka: Wonder Woman) and have her negotiate the union labor needs so that everyone is happy.

Problem: Upset stomach.
Solution: Don’t eat a doughnut covered in peanut butter, thinking you’re getting more protein that way. Eat a Clif Bar instead.

Problem: Your production assistant decides to drink and then has a diabetic crash, passes out cold on the floor, and refuses medical attention then insists on going to the drug store to get meds. You don’t think that’s a good idea but then a few minutes later, you realize he’s already left. Having visions of him passed out in the street, you leave your event and run after him.
Solution: Get an umbrella (it had to be raining), call your mom (because she always knows what’s best), follow your mom’s advice to go back to your event (he can take care of himself) and then when he returns, put him in a cab home and tell him not to come back. (Did I mention cry? Crying is definitely a factor in the solution.)

All in all, I was given a job to manage something that was unmanageable. This was a three-day culinary event for 3,000 people in a completely raw space on a shoestring budget with very little infrastructure. This gargantuan feat was only made possible by the amazing talents of the team I had assembled. I gave them my trust and they gave me their absolute best.

As the Event Director, I could sure sling a walkie-talkie, but what good was that if the people on the other end were not ready on the draw?

If this were a novel, this would be my page of thanks: Candy, the kiwi intern who worked for free (free!) and added value beyond measure. Jacquie who made more than her fair share of super-market sweeps. Amy–another stellar volunteer–caught the pieces before they hit the ground. Sam was the saving grace and saving sass of this event. Layla, was the backbone of the event, her victory (and mine) lied in not needing anti-anxiety meds! Renata, Renata!, my mentor and confidant. Her grace under fire inspires me like none other.

The whole Wizard crew including, Dana, Matt, Sarah, Caryn, and the redheaded guy John. You all bolstered our faith when you helped come up with solutions and powered through each day. To the electricians, the dishwashers, the carpenters, the film crews, the security guards, the cleaning crews, the volunteers, you all are the foundation of this event.

And to the StarChefs crew, everyone rallied! Thank you for humoring me, trusting me, and helping me.

This has been one wild ride of a culinary adventure. Oh, the highs, you ask? Well, eating a deep-fried pizza made by a chef from Naples, *just* happening to be there when the wining pastry champion passes around his cake for a taste; getting Richard Blais his liquid nitrogen (and getting his cell phone number); and tasting and interacting with 140 of the worlds best chefs. Amazing. These are the things that will feed me moving forward.

Check out the official event wrap up here:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

June 30, 2012

Fear Not Formal Dining

by Jen Wanous

As an event planer and a culinary event planner at that, I have had the pleasure of dining at some of the best restaurants in the country. Not only am I enjoying the food, but often times, I am evaluating the food to decide what will be the best option for the guests of the event. One time, I had the option of choosing a dish with the most buttery, yielding cannelline beans or a close second in flavor with deeply rich morel mushrooms. My personal choice would have been the beans, but thinking of 700 people eating beans in one small space made me opt for the mushrooms.

These “tastings” are certainly perks of the job. I recently attended a James Beard dinner with a chef from California, Sondra Bernstein of the Girl and the Fig. When I entered the room and saw the intricate table setting before me, I thought back to how intimidating this used to be for me. Growing up in Southern California, we were more likely to have a barbeque at the beach than a formal dinner at a restaurant.

Learning what fork to use, what to do first and in general how to be polite has been an on-going learning experience. I have gathered some tips along the way that I would like to share. The next time you are in a fine dining situation, you can focus more on the food and less on what you should or should not be doing. Make Lady Grantham proud.

Silverware Simplified: Start on the outside and work your way in (see the diagram below).

Napkin Know-How: as soon as you sit down, unfold your napkin and place it in your lap. When you get up, and you’re coming back, leave your napkin on your chair (some fancy places will fold it again for you) and when you’re all finished, place the napkin to the left of your dish.

Silent Service Code: When you are finished with your meal, place your knife and your fork together, between 10 and 4 o’clock. This tells the server that you are finished and they can clear your plate. (See the picture below.)

Hot Hands: When drinking wine, hold the glass by the stem. (You don’t want to heat up the wine with your hand.)

To Wait or Not to Wait: When you are served hot food, it is more polite to eat it when it is served then to wait for everyone to be served first. The chef has prepared your food at a specific temperature and to wait and have it cool down is an insult. If it is cold food, you should wait for everyone to be served to then eat.

Diagram credits: Tanya Hutchison

February 24, 2012

Doling Out a Dose of Summer with Pineapple

by Jen Wanous

It’s a bit premature to be anticipating warm and sunny skies, but taking a bite of pineapple can sure have you believing in the promise of summer. Below is a video on how to tackle the task of cutting up a pineapple, including how to tell when they are ripe. Go ahead, pick up that regal fruit, there is a lot of sunshine in each sweet bite.

Beef Teriyaki with Broccoli and Bell Pepper

This is a recipe from Vivian Sicherman, it is one of her family’s favorites. The meat is marinated and then broiled, imparting a nice charred flavor. Of course, if you have a barbeque, now would be a good time to use it. In light of my current focus on pineapple, I went ahead and added some of the sweet n’ tangy fruit to her recipe. More specifically, I pureed the tough and chewy center – which would normally be tossed and composted – to the marinade.

The enzyme in the core, bromelain, is a natural meat tenderizer. This quality is what makes it a great addition to a steak marinade, breaking down the chewiness of skirt steak. However, if eaten on it own and in great quantities, it will also start work it’s magic on the inside of your mouth. The lesson here, kids, is to take caution when idly gnawing on the woody center of your freshly cut pineapple! The powerful enzyme is concentrated in the core – so, though it might leave your hunger for protein-eviscerating enzymes sated, it will probably leave your mouth feeling like the bio-hazard bin outside of one of Dexter’s charming ‘workspaces.’ Simply put, having a technique for taking it out is key when preparing.

You can use the marinade on planks of extra firm tofu too for a vegetarian version. Serve with rice. Serves 3-4.


2 lbs skirt steak

1 lb broccoli, chopped

1 red bell pepper, sliced

½ cup pineapple, large dice

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Marinade

Core of a pineapple, pureed

¼ cup soy sauce

3 tablespoons brown sugar

¾ teaspoon ground ginger

1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons white vinegar (apple cider or rice vinegar is fine)

3/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a small dish or large Ziploc bag. Add the steak, coat well. Marinade in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 hours.

*If you don’t have a food processor to puree the pineapple core, you can combine all marinade ingredients in a blender.

2. Toss the broccoli, bell pepper, and pineapple with olive oil (or sesame oil if you have it), salt and pepper. Bake 30 minutes, flipping half way.

3. Turn your broiler on high (that part of your oven, on the bottom, that you hardly ever use). On a rimmed baking sheet, place the pieces of meat (retain extra marinade). Broil for 12-15 minutes, flipping half way, until you get some black charring.

4. Pour the extra marinade in a small saucepan. On high heat, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Cut meat, combine with vegetables, and pine apple, top with marinade reduction and serve with rice.

February 5, 2012

Guacamame: A Favorite Dip Reinvented

by Jen Wanous

We all know and love our dear, dear friend: guacamole. Why would anyone mess with a classic like that? Here are two good reasons: 1) avocados are dang expensive and 2) guacamole oxidizes, turning brown quickly. Enter, Guacamame. I had the fine fortune of meeting Guacamame at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and was wowed by how closely this soybean-based dip resembled the real deal. I came home to Brooklyn determined to figure out how to make this to share with you all.

Mimicking the flavor profile of guacamole was pretty easy since soy, lacking a strong flavor of its own, is a blank slate for all the usual add-ins of guacamole: red onion, garlic, cilantro, salt, pepper, lime, tomato, jalapeño and a little cumin.

My challenge was clear: without using any avocado, how would I achieve the rich, green creaminess of guacamole?

To achieve the signature guac texture, I started with a foundation of thawed and shelled edamame (soy) beans. For the creamy element, I thought firm tofu would do the trick. I blended these together and added the distinctive acid of limejuice. I also added some olive oil to help with the richness and ensure a smooth texture.

With my food processor on high, I let that baby roll for a while, hoping to blend it to the max, for an ultra smooth, creamy consistency. What I ended up with was a stiff rendition that was pale green. The flavors were spot on, but the texture and color left more to figure out.

If firm tofu wasn’t working, maybe sour cream or a firm silken tofu would. I tried both. The sour cream batch, looked too wet and soupy, the one with firm silken tofu was much closer to what I was looking for, however, it still lacked a little creaminess. Why not add a dollop of sour cream? The base of well-blended edamame beans, firm silken tofu and a tablespoon of sour cream was the winning combo for the creamy consistency.

The last puzzle now, how to infuse the necessary green color into this concoction?  I first thought to add a drop of green food coloring but wanted to push beyond that easy way out. The other green elements that I had to work with were cilantro and jalapeño. I decided to add these two ingredients during the blending process, hoping that the pigment in the green herb and pepper would diffuse and lend a greener shade to my guac. Turns out, this easy solution added both green and an even stronger guac flavor. Bonus.

Now, with some frozen edamame on hand, a creamy, delicious dip, reminiscent of your favorite Mexican topping, is always close at hand. The pluses of guacamame: it’s about a quarter of the cost of traditional guacamole, you don’t have to wait until you have a perfectly ripe avocado and the – biggie – it lasts for a week or more, not that it will with how tasty it is.  


This dip mimics a beloved favorite. It can easily be doubled or tripled. Will last for at least a week.

Yields 2 cups


1 cup thawed edamame

¾ cup firm silken tofu (6oz)

1 tablespoon limejuice (half a lime)

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup cilantro

½ jalapeño

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon salt

ground black pepper to taste

hearty pinch of cumin

2 tablespoons tomato, small dice

2 tablespoons red onion, small dice

1 tablespoon sour cream


1. In a food processor or blender, add edamame, tofu, limejuice, olive oil, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Blend on high for three minutes, scrapping sides half way.

2. In a small bowl add the blended mixture with the tomato and onion. Stir in sour cream.

January 26, 2012

Getting Oh So Fancy at the Fancy Food Show

by Jen Wanous

Think of a Costco on steroids. Take away the tire shop, keep only the gourmet food section and add a sample table for every product—then you have the Fancy Food Show. I visited my former hometown of San Francisco last weekend to attend this very convention.

The expansive convention center floor stretches out for easily 50 stations per row, amounting to a total of over 1,500 vendors. Each vendor has a gourmet food product and offers samples of their fancy food, almost cafeteria style (minus the hair nets). It is a prime opportunity for procurers of fancy foods to connect with major (and small) buyers from around the world.

With an aspiration to one day market a food product of my own, I went to the show to be inspired, to have an insider’s look into the industry and to meet new people in the fancy food world.

On the first day, I was wowed by only a small fraction of the 1,500 exhibitor’s goods. I went station-by-station tasting everything from Spanish prosciutto to sea salt caramel truffles to panda bear cookies to cardamom ice cream and soy chips (all in that order). Needless to say, I had a tummy ache within 15 minutes.

For round two on the second day, I had more of a game plan. I had a light breakfast and came fully prepared to gorge myself. There were many foods that caught my attention. One was a “guacamame” which was an edemame and tofu based dip that tasted (and looked) just like guacamole. It’s so much cheaper than avocados and keeps much longer. Genius. One of the clients for whom I currently consult on menu development is an Asian-Mexican fusion restaurant. You better believe that I’ll introduce this brilliant idea to them.

With a full smorgasbord waiting, I gravitated to the oils. I don’t know about you, but the price tag on most oils at the grocery is enough to scoff at—here, oils were displayed in all their glory in a plethora of flavors, all ripe for the pickin’. For the first time, I sampled hemp oil. Its grassy earthiness would go with any salad dressing. I had always wanted to try avocado oil, but sadly was disappointed by the flavor tasting like a turned avocado. What wowed me was a wok oil that boasted of lemongrass, Thai basil and chili.

Moving away from oils, another impressive sample was a chocolate cracker topped with goat cheese and peppered raspberry jam. Paired with a California Pino Grigio, it was a surprisingly perfect match.

Gluten-free products could have had an entire section to themselves. From GF sweet and sour sauce to GF crackers, it’s obviously the biggest current trend. In terms of marketing and branding, “natural” is plastered all over packages. Few were actually “organic” but the ones that were seemed to be the highest quality and best tasting. A great example of this was Jenis Ice Cream (I was a bit partial to the name), which comes from grass-fed cows and has a delightfully creamy texture.

Below are some pictures that I took while I was there, enjoy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

July 11, 2011

Favorite Five Ingredients for a Birthday Dinner (psst: a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake recipe is here!)

by Jen Wanous

Pick your favorite five ingredients.  I know, it’s like choosing between children.  Don’t worry, the artichoke won’t be offended if you don’t pick him and garlic is always a given.  To make things even more interesting, your “ingredient” can be a dish too, like: “my grandmother’s ricotta and spinach stuffed ravioli”.  Is the cream rising to the top?  I’m sure there are some standouts.

Now, imagine a creatively constructed three-course meal of all five of your favorites integrated in a unique way.  This meal was the gift I gave to my girlfriend, Annie, on her birthday.  Anyone that knows her knows that she has a particular pallet.  She has a strong aversion to anything small and round or explosive/oozy.  Peas, uncut cherry tomatoes and over easy eggs would not make her top five.  What did make her top five were tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, shrimp and chocolate.

These five were pretty easy to work with.  I took care of the first three right off the bat with a crostini.  On a sliced French baguette, I had the season’s first heirloom tomatoes, fresh water soaked mozzarella, Thai basil sprigs and a generous drizzle of a balsamic reduction.  I knew that steak should have made her list, but shrimp had the trump card of cocktail sauce.  For the entrée, I decided to bring on the surf n’ turf with a grilled skewer of lemongrass-jalapeño marinated steak AND shrimp.  Since we are in the middle of a New York summer, I kept things cool.  The grilled protein was propped on a dressed salad of quinoa and micro greens, topped with pickled red onions.

Dessert was the real winner, where the fave ingredient of chocolate took center stage.  I went all out and made a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake.  The kind you dream about as a kid being that it is the impossibly perfect combo of creamy, cold and cake.  And chocolate, of course!  And peanut butter!? YES!  It’s one of those amazing moments when I realized that I am a grown up and I am completely in charge of my destiny.  I can create anything I want, even a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake for my girlfriend.

I tried to get Annie to agree to a vegan version so I could eat freely too, (me being my lactard self), but she insisted it wouldn’t be the same with soy.  For the birthday girl, I bit the lactose bullet and used full-on heavy cream to make the peanut butter ice cream.  The ice cream was sandwiched between two moist espresso-laced chocolate cake layers.  Just to take things completely over the top, I covered the entire cake in a triple thick layer of chocolate fudge ganache and topped it with crunchy Reese’s Pieces. My roommate supplied full strips of Lactaid for the other lactards in the room.  (Thanks, I’ll take two…ahh…make that three.)  I was proud of the giant chocolate gift I gave her.  The smile on her face, with the birthday candles lighting her beautiful blue eyes, made the dinner so very worthwhile.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Cake

What you’ll need:  two 9-inch cake pans and a mixer.

2 cups cake flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ¾ sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

½ cup hot water + 1 heaping tablespoon instant espresso crystals (or ½ cup espresso)

4 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour cake pans.  Through a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar.

2.  Add the butter and with a mixer, beat on low for one minute.  Add the oil and keep mixing for 30 more seconds.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the vanilla, milk and espresso.  Add this mixture to the large bowl and mix for one more minute on low.

4.  Add the eggs one at a time beating on medium-high speed between each egg.  Batter will be thin.

5.  Split the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

This makes a rich and peanutbutter-y ice cream that yields about 2 quarts.  Oh and, you need an ice cream maker for this, obvi.

1 ¾ cups whole milk

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter

¾ cup sugar

1tablespoon vanilla extract

1.  In a saucepan whisk together all ingredients except the vanilla.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thick.  About one minute after you see little bubbles on the surface.

2.  Cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.  Freeze in your ice cream maker, per instructions.

Chocolate Ganache

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

¾ cup heavy cream

1.  Create a double broiler using a medium saucepan and a large metal bowl.  Fill the saucepan half full with water, bring to a simmer.  Combine the chocolate and cream in the bowl and place on top of the simmering water.

2.  Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water.  Wisk continuously, just until the chips melt.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

The method to the madness: 

You’ll need a 9-inch spring form pan.

  1. Clear out a space in your freezer for the cake.
  2. Make the cake first.  Let it cool completely.
  3. Make the ice cream mixture, let it cool.
  4. Torte the cakes by cutting off the rounded top to make it flat.
  5. Put the ice cream mixture in the machine.
  6. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the spring form pan.  Cover with the ice cream (now gelato textured).  Use a spatula to pat it down evenly.  Place the top cake layer on top of the ice cream.
  7. Place in freezer to set, at least 8 hours.
  8. Make the Ganache.  Pour generously on top of the cake, making voluptuous ripples.
  9. Place back in freezer to set, at least 30 minutes.
  10.  Line plate with Resee’s Pieces.  Your ice cream cake is ready to be served!
May 9, 2011

Special of the Day: Soft Shell Crabs

by Jen Wanous

While upstairs in the kitchen, during a busy 7pm dinner rush, Mashama asked me to get the soft shell crabs for her. I thought this would be a simple task, like fetching the garlic chives or the Serrano peppers I had brought up earlier. In the cool recess of the refrigerator walk-in, I saw the large plastic bin labeled “Crabs; Be Careful!” with little ventilation cuts takes taken out of the top.  Seeing those, I quickly put together that these soft shell crabs were still living! Suddenly, a little guy inside the box flailed its pinchers at me. Certainly, I wouldn’t be killing these crustaceans. I would just go up stairs and let them know that they had not been prepared and someone else would do it because I hadn’t a clue of how to.

Back upstairs, Mashama told me to bring her a crab so she could show me how to prepare them. With a snip of the sharp kitchen scissors, the crab’s face, butt, some of its shell and part of its inner workings were gone. She held them with such confidence and ease that I took the box of 14 wiggling crabs downstairs, each step telling myself that it would be okay, that I just had to do it, it wasn’t a big deal. With scissors in hand, I went to grab for the first one and it grabbed back! I flinched and might have squealed out loud too. I was so glad that no one else was downstairs to watch me freak out. And there, on the sanitary, industrial steel tables, I took a deep breath and snipped the face off of the first crab. Of course, it wiggled a bunch, and I dropped it, so I had to pick it up again and cut its tail off, then the pokie parts of its shell and then pull up the flaps of its sides to scrape out the gills. Its eyeball cavities oozed grey and green gelatinous substances and even with its face off, it still was flailing about. At first I was afraid that it would pinch me but then I realized that the claws weren’t actually grabbing anything, probably because of their small, pre-exposure-to-a-rough-life-to make them hard shells.

To get through the rest of the 13, staring googily-eyed in front of me, I started things like, “You were such a good crab. I’m sorry I have to cut your eyes off now. Thanks for being so big, someone will really love eating you.”  And other things, some even in a whisper, out loud, to myself, “You can do this. Only 10 more.”  My heart was racing and tight. It was comforting to remember that the owner of this restaurant (the person who essentially bought these crabs) had recently written a book telling about her first experience killing a creature. It was a chicken and she told about how hard it was and the delicate balance of life and death. It was deep. And here I was, in her kitchen, channeling her courage and before I knew it, the 14th tail had been chopped off and I was done! I marched my way upstairs, so proud of myself, arms extended, chest puffed and Mashama took them with a quick “Thanks.” and went on, in the fiery heat of the sauté station to make the seven orders in front of her.


Prune is the restaurant where I hope to do my culinary school internship. The owner, Gabrielle Hamilton is nominated for Best Chef at tomorrow night’s James Beard Awards (the Oscars of the food world). Her book is called, “Blood, Bones and Butter”.

April 25, 2011

Woman with a Knife! (and other fun things like how to cut an onion)

by Jen Wanous

One of the things I was most excited to learn about in culinary school was how to use a knife.  There is something so hot about wielding a dangerous instrument, executing a task with effortless precision.  I wanted to be that Wonder Woman that can fillet a fish and stop a bullet cold.  With back to back classes on how-to, I started to build my repertoire of julienne, bruniose, chiffonade and other fancy French cuts.  Last week I cut 14 pineapples into a small dice in preparation for a dinner serving 100 people at which I worked.  It took me about four hours to do so, my hands smelled sweet for a whole day after and I was dang proud of my symmetrical tiny pieces.

An onion is something we all cut often.  It saves so much time to have a method of how to cut one properly.  Below is a video on how I cut an onion.  Enjoy the video!  xo

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Always use a sharp knife.

2. To avoid tears while cutting, chill the onion for 10 mins.

3. Keep your fingers tucked back behind your knife–even your thumb.


April 18, 2011

Friends + Meringues + Alcohol (stir well)

by Jen Wanous

This week in school we covered a lot of ground—from eggs, to seafood, to grilling.  I was sampling oysters before 11am one day and another day whipping up hollandaise.  I was inspired to make some egg-centric treats for a party that my roommates and I threw last night.  The chocolate peanut butter meringues were a big hit, and one partygoer mentioned they would be perfect for a Seder dessert.  The recipe is below.

I also made a lovely little gem of a cocktail that may not or may not have inspired the dancing for the evening.  (That and some Michael Jackson!)  Though it was monsoon-like last night, we still had a great turn out.  I tell ya, our friends are really special.  People arrived with boots soaked, umbrellas broken and outfits wet.  Once inside, people warmed up, mingled and enjoyed.  There was no real occasion for our party other than that the three of us who live here have some really good looking, interesting friends and a little magic happens each time we stir our friend pot.

If you didn’t make it out, it’s probably because you got stuck on your couch or because you live in California.  I forgive you.  Make some meringues and mix up a cocktail in honor of spring and think of me.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Meringues


1 cup egg whites

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/3 cup coco powder

10 oz peanut butter chips


Electric mixer

Two baking sheets

Parchment paper

1.  Preheat the oven to 225 F and line two baking sheet with parchment paper

2.  Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and then add the sugar a couple tablespoons at a time until the mixture gets still.

3.  Incorporate the coco powder and fold in the PB chips.

4.  With a spoon plop out little dollops of the meringue onto the baking sheets.  Bake until crisp, about 2½  hours.

Makes about 50 small ones

Lavender Lemon Cocktail 


1 cup sugar

1 cup water

¼ cup lavender flowers (baking grade)

7 lemons

1 liter seltzer

1 liter vodka


To make this springtime gem, you need to infuse the simple syrup with the lavender.  They don’t call it “simple syrup” for nothing!

1.  Combine sugar and cold water with lavender in a small pot.  Slowly bring to a simmer for five minutes.  Strain out lavender buds, let cool.

2.  Juice lemons.  Combine with simple syrup.

3.  Over ice, add about 2oz of the above mixture with about a shot glass amount of vodka.  Top off with seltzer.  Stir.

4.  Drink and dance.

Makes about 12 cocktails


March 21, 2011

Bringing Beef Jerky

by Jen Wanous

Have I mentioned that my school is crunchy, earthy, herbal? Being educated in Santa Cruz, I am well versed in these ways. I have walked the straight and narrow as a vegan and was a proud (“meat is murder” bumper sticker sporting) vegetarian for 8 years. I have however since, changed my ways reigning as the current Bacon Throwdown champion of New York, enjoying the bounty of a carnivores diet.

In my class at culinary school, there are 16 of us. Five vegan. Four gluten-free. The rest are vegetarian, except for one other, besides me. (Maybe a few flexitarians when the ribs on the grill look too good.)

As a snack in my first week, I decided to pack along some beef jerky. High protein, low fat, stores well.  A shriveled up carcass of deliciousness resembling what a well mummified labia must look like.

As I slowly pulled it out of its pouch, I felt the 26 veggie eyeballs on my jerky. I quickly covered up the bag as I discreetly munched. I was sure that the beefy teriyaki aroma was filling the space around me and I would be detected. After getting through the tough chews of just a couple pieces, I stashed it back in my bag and decided to work on my corn chips.

Now, in my second week at school, I feel a bit better about my meat eating status. In fact, I just made a yummy bacon sandwich. As I’m writing this even, my fingers are slicked in a bit of lard, as I type this out on my handy dandy iPhone on my lunch break. (I do have a year’s supply of bacon you know!)

Here is the recipe:

Bacon Sammy

4 crisp pieces of bacon (more if you’re feelin it)*
2 slices of bread (sourdough is yum)
Goat cheese
Caramelized onions

Optional: sautéed kale
Parsley, chopped

* fake’in bacon will work too, veggies.

Here’s how you do caramelized onions:

Slice 1/2 an onion. Put about a tablespoon of hot fat in a pan. Add a few dashes of salt.  Med heat to get a little bit of browning on ’em then turn the heat down. Cook ’em for a good 15 mins on low heat until they get a really nice caramelly brown color. Pour a tad of wine in the pan (about 2tbs) to deglaze and pick up the deelish bits. Then you have caramelized onions to add to your bacon sammy.

Assemble all ingredients except the parsley in the sandwich. Place face open in a toaster oven or broiler for about 7 mins, until the goat cheese is browned. Add the parsley. Enjoy!