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Summer Reads to Whet Your Appetit For Food and Travel

Sunny- Sultry- Stormy- Scintillating

Sounds like a good book or film, right? Actually, it’s New Orleans in the summer, where we are now (with a pre-determined hurricane evacuation plan we hope we don’t need to use!)

As our 11th month on the #TheConnectedTableROADTRIP turns a corner, and the year we allowed to travel comes closer to its anniversary, we are taking July and August to unwind, unpack our suitcases and car for a while, and settle into one of our favorite cities. This allows us more time to write, read, look for more paid partnerships, and taste and savor the summer without the hustle.

And what better time than summer to tuck into a few books that transport us elsewhere? Here are two we recommend. Both authors were recent guests on The Connected Table LIVE.

Restaurant Critic Alexander Lobrano: “My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris”

How did a shy kid from suburban Connecticut become one of the leading restaurant critics in Paris? Many have asked Alexander (Alec) Lobrano that question with admiration.  Lobrano shares some juicy highlights  in his memoir, “My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris” ( Harper Collins).

My Place at the Table - Alec Lobrano
Photo of Alex Lobrano by Stephen Rothfield. Purchase book here.

A gifted storyteller with a curious palate, Lobrano had to fight the usual skeptics about his chosen profession, from his parents who questioned why he wanted to write about food to Parisians who doubted he knew anything about French food.

As a young boy, Lobrano preferred to write in his diaries over playing contact sports. He writes about being sent away on a cross-country camping trip, carefully documenting what he experienced and ate. Later, after graduating Amherst, he worked in publishing in New York City and then in London as a writer until Paris came calling.

Originally recruited to cover men’s fashion in Paris for Women’s Wear Daily, Lobrano continued to follow his passion, seeking out little-known restaurants with as much enthusiasm as booking a meal at Michelin-starred food temple. Frustrated with his requisite reporting on designers and socialites for Fairchild publications, he continued to pound the pavement to generate freelance articles on dining for other outlets to support his appetite for great food and his writer’s income. When an editor suggests Lobrano accept free restaurant meals, he demurs choosing to maintain his journalistic independence.

Reading Lobrano’s book makes us hungry for Paris and also humble about the chosen profession of journalism. As media outlets come and go, it’s always a hustle.  And when you schedule that visit to the Eternal City, make sure to check out Lobrano’s “insider list” of restaurants to try in the back of his book.

Paris Eiffel Tower - anthony-delanoix-QAwciFlS1g4-unsplash
Paris Eiffel Tower – anthony-delanoix-QAwciFlS1g4-unsplash

Television Producer David Page, “Food Americana: The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America’s Favorite Dishes”

If you are a fan of Food Network’s hit series, “Diners Drive-ins and Dives,” you have David Page to thank as the originator of the show and executive producer for eleven seasons. A two-time Emmy Award recipient, Page spent many years working in network news at NBC where he developed and-co-produced “The Today Show Weekend Edition.” He also worked at ABC as a senior producer/line producer for “Good Morning America” and as a senior investigative producer for “20/20.” Page’s career in television news comes with fascinating stories about covering world news.

On the home front, Page is author of a new book, “Food Americana: The Remarkable People and Incredible Stories behind America’s Favorite Dishes.” (Mango Media). If you are a fan of food pop culture, you will glide through this book, savoring the tidbits of information, colorful characters and notable chefs who helped shape some of the foods we enjoy today. Importantly, “Food Americana” sheds a light on the valuable contribution immigrants to our country have made on the foods we enjoy today from Chinese dumplings to sushi to Italian pizza.

David Page- Food Americana
                    Hungry for American food pop culture? Purchase the book here.  

In addition to “Triple D,” Page’s Minnesota-based company, Page Productions, has produced many food shows including “Outrageous Food,” “Hungry Men at Work” and- currently in production, ”Beer Geeks,” which takes viewers inside the world of craft brewing.

Listen to our show with Alec Lobrano and David Page on The Connected Table LIVE! here:

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Eat THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Women Command the Kitchen at Commander’s Palace

Commander’s Palace has been a breeding ground for many leading New Orleans chefs, including Emeril Lagasse, Tory McPhail and the late Paul Prud’homme and Jamie Shannon. For the first time in the restaurant’s 128-year-old history, a woman is leading the kitchen.

Chef Megan “Meg” Bickford is no stranger to Commander’s Palace. She worked closely with former executive chef, Tory McPhail who decided last year to move to Montana. McPhail was born in Bozeman and accepted a position working with a restaurant group there. Many were surprised and saddened to see him depart. He had served as both a de facto culinary ambassador for New Orleans and had earned many awards during his long tenure at Commander’s Palace.

Chef Megan Bickford (Photo by Chris Granger)

Everyone was equally delighted to see Chef Meg assume her new role. The Louisiana native has family in Bayou Lafourche and attended the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux. After graduation, she joined Commander’s Palace, advancing through the ranks over the years. For a time, she was executive chef at family’s restaurant, Café Adelaide until it closed in 2018.

Since taking over Commander’s kitchen, Chef Meg has upheld the restaurant’s award-winning haute Creole menu and “dirt- to- plate within 100 miles” philosophy, as in 90% of ingredients come from within 100 miles of the restaurant. And she’s added her personal flair.

Corn-Fried Louisiana Catfish with tomatillo, grilled corn and salsa over Bibb lettuce
Corn-Fried Louisiana Catfish with tomatillo, grilled corn and salsa over Bibb lettuce

Dishes we tried included Wild Louisiana White Shrimp Curry, ancho-citrus glazed Gulf shrimp with crispy artichokes, fire-roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes and spiced coconut curry broth; Corn-Fried Louisiana Catfish with tomatillo, grilled corn and salsa over Bibb lettuce and Griddle Seared Gulf Fishcakes, smoked redfish over Louisiana soybeans, local mushrooms, roasted squash and truffled cauliflower cream.

Griddle Seared Gulf Fishcakes, smoked redfish over Louisiana soybeans, local mushrooms, roasted squash and truffled cauliflower cream.
Griddle Seared Gulf Fishcakes, smoked redfish over Louisiana soybeans, local mushrooms, roasted squash and truffled cauliflower cream.
Pecan crusted Drum with Crabmeat, Kale and Corn
Pecan crusted Drum with Crabmeat, Kale and Corn

Hospitality is in Lally Brennan’s DNA. Both she and her cousin Tí Adelaide Martin grew up in the family restaurant business and now serve as co-proprietors of Commander’s Palace and Sobou, a stylish restaurant in at the W hotel in the French Quarter. They also co-authored In The Land of Cocktails from the Cocktail Chicks. After all, New Orleans is the origination of some classic cocktails, including the Sazerac, French 75 and Ramos Gin Fizz, among others.

Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin
Lally Brennan, Tí Adelaide Martin

Both Lally and Tí are longtime friends who make us feel like family every time we pay a visit to Commander’s Palace. But we’re really not alone. Everyone who dines at Commander’s Palace feels extra welcome. On any given day or night, one or both will be working the floor saying hello to every table of guests. And how lucky you are if you on hand for Sunday Jazz Brunch or twenty-five cent martinis at lunch. We’ve done both and celebrated a birthday and an anniversary.

In December 2016, we had the pleasure and honor of having both Tí and her legendary mother, Miss Ella Brennan, join us on The Connected Table Live! Ella was 91 and had co-authored a memoir with Ti entitled Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace: I Don’t Want a Restaurant Where a Jazz Band Can’t Come Marching Through. A film called “Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table” had been released. Both can be ordered at www.commanderspalace.com

In this edition of Link to podcast“>The Connected Table Live, we visit with Lally Brennan and Chef Megan Bickford.

Lally Brennan, Tí Adelaide Martin, Chef Megan Bickford outside Commander’s Palace (masked in 2020 due to COVID-19)
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A Must -Visit Museum For Southern Food & Beverage

For anyone curious about southern food and beverage culture, a visit to the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (a.k.a. SoFAB) is a must-stop when you visit New Orleans. Located at 1504 Oretha C. Haley Boulevard, the museum is chock full of culinary culture and ephemera, ranging from the history of Popeye’s Fried Chicken and traditional New Orleans foods to the many foods, products and culinary curiosities native to each southern state. There is a demonstration kitchen; cooking classes and other educational programs are offered regularly. www.southernfood.org

Inside SOFAB. Museum hours are Thursday to Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

SoFAB also houses the Museum of American Cocktail (MOTAC), a fascinating history of America’s cocktail culture, and the John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library, containing over 11,000 volumes of culinary books, food and cocktail menus, pamphlets, archival documents and a growing number of important collections, other literature and ephemera, collected by and donated to SoFAB. It’s also home to the Nitty Grits Podcast Network, a selection of audio and video podcasts addressing food and drink topics.

The museum may appear small at first but, trust us when we tell you to take your time walking through the exhibits. There is much to digest, especially if you enjoy learning about the history of food and drink. The exhibits on New Orleans’ culinary history alone, ranging from the impact of Hurricane Katrina to the history of cooking with beans and a tribute to the late Leah Chase, offer much to reflect on.

Learn the history of New Orleans' famous Popeye's fried chicken and its dynamic founder, Al Copeland.
Learn the history of New Orleans’ famous Popeye’s fried chicken and its dynamic founder, Al Copeland.

Meet SoFAB’s Founder

The Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SoFAB) was founded in 2004 by Elizabeth Williams, who wanted a place where the intersection between culture and food could be studied. The museum began with pop-up exhibits and was the first official exhibit for what is now the Museum of American Cocktail. Over time, individuals began donating family artifacts to the museum, requiring the need for more space. SoFAB has been at its current location since 2014.

Williams, who joined us as our guest on The Connected Table LIVE May 5th, was born and raised in New Orleans to a family with Sicilian heritage. She notes in her bio that she was “always fascinated by the way the lure of nutmeg and peppercorns motivated the exploration of the world.”

Elizabeth Williams, President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation
Elizabeth Williams, President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation

A lawyer by training, Williams has had a long career working with foundations and museums. She served as President & CEO of the University of New Orleans Foundation and UNO Research and Technology Foundation, Inc. working in foundation budget management and financing, development and fundraising and management for properties including UNO Studio Center, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the D-Day Museum, now the National World War II Museum.

Since 2004 she has served as founding President of the National Food & Beverage Foundation and established the Southern Food & Beverage Museum. She has researched and written on the subject of food policy and is coauthor with Stephanie Jane Carter of The Encyclopedia of Law and Food (Greenwood Publishing, 2011).

Over lunch at Café Reconcile, a nonprofit restaurant and hospitality training ground for at-risk youth ages 16 to 24, Williams shared some of her projects for the National Food & Beverage Foundation, which includes the cookbook library and culinary archives, the SoFAB Meat Lab, a state-of-the-art facility offering classes and demonstrations on everything meat-related, from butchering to grilling, and the Nitty Grits podcast studio and other programs around culinary history and education.

SoFAB’s repository library includes The John & Bonnie Boyd Hospitality & Culinary Library  which contains over 11,000 volumes of culinary books, food and cocktail menus, pamphlets, archival documents and a growing number of important collections, other literature and ephemera, collected by and donated to the Southern Food & Beverage Museum.  The collection is non-circulating but available for reference. The library also contains a collection of books written by members of Les Dames d’Escoffier, a nonprofit organization of leading women in food fine beverage and hospitality.

Williams is encyclopedic on food and drink culture, especially when it comes to New Orleans. Listen to our conversation on everything from Mississippi tamales and Alabama white sauce to New Orleans Krewe of Red Beans on this edition of The Connected Table. Click below or this link

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Eat Explore

“Bald” Peanuts + Oysters in Apalachicola

“Ma’am, what’s your preferred rice?” the woman on the other end of the phone call asked? Confused by the question, my food-centric mind drifted to forbidden black rice or jasmine rice, my two favorites. I asked her to repeat the question. After all, my call was to schedule COVID-19 tests for David and myself. Why would rice matter? Third attempt to clarify the question, she asks, “Are you Caucasian or black?” OK, she’s asking about our race, not rice.

Boiled peanuts are sold by the bag.

I may be a native southerner, but deep south cotton mouth is thicker than my ears are used to. “Bald peanuts” are boiled peanuts, and you pick up “ersters” and “shrump” from local seafood shacks. That’s life here in the Florida’s Panhandle known as “the Forgotten Coast,” where we are “rat now’ (a.k.a. right now). Apalachicola, Eastpoint and St. George’s Island are hours from resort development and crowded beaches further west on the Emerald Coast, and locals want it to stay that way. “Don’t tell people about us,” they write in a private Facebook group.

Well, sorry folks, but we like to share stories about interesting places and support local businesses. We happen to have a mutual passion for oysters. Here in Oyster City (a.k.a. Apalachicola) we enjoy a daily dozen slurp washed down with a cold Oyster City Brewing Company “Mangrove” IPA in the afternoons. (and recently Paumanok Chenin Blanc)!

Jeff Tilley teaches us  to shuck oysters
Jeff Tilley teaches us to shuck oysters

This week on The Connected Table LIVE we visited with Jeff Tilley, co-owner with his son, Reid Tilley, of Oyster Boss in Sopchoppy, Florida. Oyster Boss sells to restaurants, and the Sopchoppy retail outlet caters to drop ins and now has a growing ecommerce business launched during the pandemic. www.oysterboss.com

Apalachicola oysters have long been prized by bivalve fans, from chefs to consumers, but Tilley shared with us the challenges facing the industry as a result in changes in the water quality, resource mismanagement and the global sea level rise, among other reasons. Most are the result of human intervention. Pollution, runoff and waste disposal are all taking a toll on Florida’s coastal water system. Climate change is also a factor. The area has been impacted by drought and by Hurricane Michael, a category five that slammed the Panhandle in 2018. Much of the eye hit further west around Mexico Beach and Panama City, but we still saw some storm damage in Port St. Joe.

oysters on the half sheel
Did you know oysters are loaded with zinc, copper and vitamin B12- so good for the immune system!

Last year The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to shut down oyster harvesting in Apalachicola Bay through 2025, severely impacting an industry crucial to this region’s economy.  Apalachicola Bay historically produced 90% of Florida’s oysters and 10% of the nation’s supply.  Many restaurants rely on farmed oysters from Florida and Texas, although you can still find wild-caught from other regions of Florida.

Oyster Boss sources its farmed oysters from Alligator Point in Franklin County, where the water has a higher salinity resulting in a buttery, mild, salty oyster. Further south in northwest central Florida near Yankeetown (Levy County) Oyster Boss sources wild -caught oysters, that are plump, succulent and briney. Tilley brought us bags of both to sample, gave us a lesson on shucking and provided us with some education on the reproductive system of oysters.

One perfect pearl of an oyster.

Tilley is also a red mullet fan. These fish like to jump in the water, although we still have not tasted. He started the Facebook group, Wet Net Mullet Group, now with 12,000 members. “There is a lot of seafood power in this group,” he shared.

Shucking prowess is akin to having good knife skills. And the right knife. Tilley uses a knife called “Toadfish” which Oyster Boss sells. You need a sturdy grip and a glove. Find the “lip” of the oyster, insert the blade and start moving it back and forth until the shell starts to open slightly. Then, insert deeper. It can take some arm muscle and definitely nimble wrist action.

David shucks oysters
David shucks oysters

If you love pristine places to visit, care about sustainable aquaculture and are oyster lovers like we are, you’ll enjoy our conversation with Jeff Tilley. Listen here:

and share this link with friends: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/209-the-connected-table-live-27073513/episode/fla-gulf-coast-oyster-boss-jeff-77121731/

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Road Trip To Western NY – Buffalo and Niagara Falls

Greetings from “Roam.” That is our current state of being….wherever we roam on an indefinite road trip. In August we sold our house in the Hudson Valley, which we referred to as “Camp David.” That is one reason you have not heard from us in several weeks. Selling your home and most of your possessions and packing what is left into a 16 x 10 -foot storage Pod is a job unto itself. Watching the Pod leave our driveway August 11 to rest somewhere in upstate New York until we plot a permanent move was emotional. But seeing an “open road” ahead is exhilarating!

Camp David sets up at the Residence Inn located in downtown Buffalo. Western NY is known for its exceptional stone fruits, and these peaches were some of the juiciest we tasted. The Niagara region wines exceeded our expectations, especially the Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir we tasted. Here are a few selections we picked up at Schultze Vineyards, Chateau Niagara and Arrowhead Springs.

We kept a few key things for our #TheConnectedTableRoadTrip culinary survival kit: Riedel glassware, utensils, cooking knives, cookware and spices. Our handy VinGardeValise® wine suitcase is packed with select bottles. And we have our computers and radio equipment to write and broadcast from the road. What more do we need? Oh, right, the dog… Yes, @sazeracsays is with us and posting as we #roamNewYork.

Currently we have been spending time upstate in the beautiful Finger Lakes region having just returned from a visit to the Niagara region and Buffalo, where David’s family settled some two centuries ago. We visited Ransomville (named for the family) and David was able visit the town historical society which had a section dedicated to his ancestors.

David at Ransomville Historical Society
David explores his family roots at the Ransomville Historical Society.

Dubbed the Queen City of the Great Lakes back at the turn of the last century, Buffalo’s stunning architecture and Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks impressed. We also visited David’s grandparents’ (Ransom) home, now occupied by a law firm which has an appointed “house historian” named Amanda who was thrilled to meet an original Ransom!

Lobster Ramen
Lobster Ramen at Dobutsu Buffalo which focused on dishes from the American and Asian Pacific. Chef/Owner James Roberts is from New Orleans.

Buffalo restaurants are starting to serve inside – safely socially distanced- and continue to offer patio, takeout and delivery options. We visited Dobutsu, which serves an Asian-Pacific menu, and tried the lobster ramen and the spicy rice with pork. Owner/Chef James Roberts also owns Toutant, which focuses on specialties from Louisiana. Roberts resettled in Buffalo after Hurricane Katrina. www.dobutsubuffalo.com www.toutantbuffalo.com

Sea Scallops Ceviche at Marble & Rye, Buffalo www.marbleandrye.net
Sea Scallops Ceviche at Marble & Rye, Buffalo www.marbleandrye.net

The other was Marble & Rye, where the menu was gastropub with a twist. Standout dishes for us were the spinach ricotta dumplings with pan-fried smelts tossed in a spicy puttanesca sauce, Asian noodles in peanut butter sauce and sea scallops ceviche with rice crackers. The beverage program, overseen by bar manager Megan Lee, would rival any in the country, and as the establishment’s name suggests, there is a strong focus on Rye spirits.

Beef on Weck at Colter Bay Grill www.colterbaybuffalo.com
Beef on Weck at Colter Bay Grill www.colterbaybuffalo.com

Of course, David enjoyed the classic Buffalo sandwich, Beef on Weck (thinly sliced roast beef on a kummelweck roll (sometimes spelled kimmelweck) served with horseradish and beef jus) and Buffalo chicken wings. While The Anchor Bar can lay claim to inventing this spicy dish, good wings can be found all over the city, and there is considerable debate on who makes the best. Our pick? Let’s just say that those in the know head to Gabriel’s Gate in the Allentown neighborhood for theirs. www.gabrielsgate.page.tl

Mushrooms
Mushrooms from the Elmwood Village Farmers Market

Western New York is known for its stone fruits, and the bag of fresh peaches we bought were some of the juiciest we have tasted. We also purchased some gorgeous mushrooms and vegan burgers at the Elmwood Village Saturday farmer’s market. We also stopped in at several wineries (will report on that separately) and visited Niagara Falls.

at Niagara Falls
We were misted at Niagara Falls after taking the Maid of the Mist boat ride practically into Horseshoe Falls. Tip: Arrive at 8 or 8:30 to snag a first boat out and to avoid very long lines, especially now during COVID-19.

Taking the Maid of the Mist boat ride practically into Horseshoe Falls – and getting seriously misted in the process! – was a bucket list experience for both of us. We stayed on the New York side since Americans currently cannot travel to Canada due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Also, not to miss is a visit the to Martin House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This home, built in the early 1900s, belonged to Larkin Soap executive, Darwin D. Martin,  at the time one of Buffalo’s wealthiest citizens (he moved into the home in 1905). The design is Lloyd Wright’s “prairie style” with expansive. lean horizontal lines and open room layout. The Treesof Life glass windows are masterpieces in glass art design; we even saw one on display st the Corning Museum of Glass Design.

The Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces and a must-see when visiting Buffalo.
The Martin House interior once you walk in. Notice the open room format  horizontal lines.

We want to give a special shout out to Karen Fashana at Visit Buffalo Niagara for sharing tips on what to visit and where to dine www.visitbuffaloniagara.com and to Jennifer Redmond, General Manager at the Residence Inn by Marriott in downtown Buffalo, who arranged our spacious room, complete with a kitchen that offered real wine glasses and coffee mugs. Working on the roam, this hotel provided us what we needed both to relax and to work, and it is pet friendly! This hotel is located across the street from the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historical Site and is convenient to many attractions.

Buffalo (NY)’s food scene is more than its iconic chicken wings and Beef on Weck. Marble+Rye’s Christian Wilmott and team serve dishes focused on local, seasonal ingredients and craft cocktails on the episode of The Connected Table Live (second segment).

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Cookbook Eat Explore THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

Secrets of the Southern Table with Virginia Willis

Our August 14 edition of The Connected Table LIVE comes with a southern drawl and a discussion about food that left listeners (and us) drooling, courtesy of  Virginia Willis, author  of "Secrets of the Southern Table" and southern food chronicler.

The South is a delicious hodgepodge when it comes to its culinary heritage and it is one of the most fascinating places to visit because of it. Many customs are rooted in traditions that blend diverse cultures: Irish, Scottish, English, French, African, Hispanic, Vietnamese and Greek, just to name a few. In fact, the upcoming Les Dames d'Escoffier International Conference October 24-27 in Nashville has a seminar focused on sorghum and honey and another on the culinary influence of immigrants past and present in the state of Tennessee. Diversity is the fabric of the south, and it's delicious. Hopefully this unique cultural heritage will endure and achieve greater appreciation.


In Secrets of the Southern Table (Houghton Mifflin), Willis introduces us to the farmers, producers and fisherman who supply the foods many of us enjoy at the restaurants throughout the south. Some are multi-generational families; others are (relatively) newer enterprises born from the dedication of immigrants who settled in pockets of the south. It’s a culinary tour that runs the gamut from sweet potatoes and grits to gospel birds and game birds to sweet shrimp and sausages. Throughout the book you can’t help but ponder about what truly defines “heritage” in the new south. It’s a richer place today thanks to the many cultures you find there. We should never take that for granted.

Willis has written cookbooks covering everything from single subjects (okra and grits) to the complete southern table with Bon Appetit Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y'all. And then after filling us all up with rich delicious recipes, she taught us how to “Lighten Up Ya’ll” with a tailored approach to preparing southern dishes. - trimming the fat without losing the taste. Her  articles and recipes can also be found at her  "Cooking with Virginia" column in Southern Living magazine.

Read more about Virginia Willis on her website and blog: www.VirginiaWillis.com

Listen to The Connected Table LIVE with Virginia Willis here. Click image below:

 

Buy Secrets of the Southern Table Here. Click Image below.

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Drink Eat The Connected Table SIPS

A Visit with Bona Frescobaldi, Laudemio Frescobaldi

Bona Frescobaldi is a member of storied Frescobaldi family, whose history in Tuscany dates back over 1000 years and 30 generations, and whose wine estates are world-renowned. She serves as a global ambassador for the family to strengthen international relations. Frescobaldi has made it her life’s mission to support and preserve the art and culture of Tuscany, as well as its agricultural bounty, especially wine and olive oil.

Marchesa Bona Frescobaldi

In 1986, the family created the Laudemio Consortium, the first private Italian institution fully dedicated to expressing the art and terroir of Tuscan olive oil. The family has more than 300 hectares (750 acres) of olive groves and has been harvesting olives and producing olive oil since the 1300s. It wasn’t until 1989 when they produced their first harvest of Laudemio extra-virgin olive oil, a special cru representing the highest expression of terroir and quality.” In the Middle Ages, Laudemio was the name of the best part of the harvest, reserved for the “lord’s table.”

Much like picking grapes, harvesting olives takes place during a carefully monitored window of time in October to capture both the olives’ green color and fresh flavors. The olives are then pressed right after picking within 24 hours in a proprietary mill to ensure the ideal acidic composition and aromatic profile and optimum nutrients in the oil. Frescobaldi manages 100 percent of the entire production process, from plant-picking to packaging to maintain quality control.

Laudemio’s prestigious reputation even has a royal audience. During our conversation, Frescobaldi shared that HRH Prince Charles of Great Britain is a fan of Frescobaldi Laudemio extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over toast. She sends him bottles for his birthday.

 

In addition to her work in wine and olive oil, Frescobaldi is a member of the Friends of Florence, an organization dedicated to preserving and restoring Florentine artifacts; a cofounder of the Committee of the Friends of La Pietra, an association of New York University, whose goal is to maintain and improve relations between Florence and New York. She is also active in numerous civic and social causes around both the arts and women’s health.

What we tasted:

Laudemio Frescobaldi 2018 extra-virgin olive oil, a 30th anniversary special edition packaged in golden bottle that resembles a fine perfume. The olive oil has deep fruit and earthy aromas and flavors with a spicy finish and a deep emerald olive hue Just a few drops drizzled over crusty bread, salad, pasta or chicken is all you need. We even tried it drizzled in plain Greek yogurt for breakfast!

Listen to our SIPS podcast with Bona Frescobaldi on iHeart/iHeart App. Click here:

 

 

 

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Drink Eat Explore

Miami On and Off the Beach

Just about now watching the snow fall steadily all day and awaiting another deep freeze on Thursday, we look at each other and say, “At least we had Miami.” If you live anywhere in this week’s polar vortex, you know what we mean!

With Chef Norman Van Aken, who the late Charlie Trotter called “The Walt Whitman of American Cuisine.”

We celebrated New Year’s in Miami Beach. Actually, we were off the beach more than on it, catching up with friends and trying local restaurants. If you go, make sure to visit the Wynwood Arts District and take in the colorful street art and local cafes. That’s where we caught up with Chef Norman Van Aken at Three at Wynwood Arcade. We were glad to see him back in South Florida after closing Norman’s in Coral Gables. If you go, sit at the chef’s counter. Van Aken also has a cooking school and rooftop bar that is an Arts District hot spot.

Scallop Ceviche at Three at Wynwood

We continued checking out locally owned spots like Stiltsville Fish Bar on Sunset Harbor, owned by Chefs Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth. We enjoyed the well-prepared fish dishes and casual, no-attitude atmosphere. Our one Cuban restaurant was Bella Cuba, a small family-run spot opened in 2005 that serves authentic dishes and a popular blueberry mojito.

Mojitos at Bella Cuba

Lunch at Joe’s Stone Crab is always fun. Of course, we partook in the restaurant’s namesake menu item, along with the signature creamed spinach and key lime pie. We never would have considered ordering fried chicken at Joe’s, but one of our lunch mates did. The excellent one-half free-range fried chicken is one of the best bargains on the menu at $6.95!

Conch Fritters at Joes Stone Crab

Miami is filled with great restaurants. Just about every well-known chef has an outpost in one of the hotels that line the beach or downtown. As much as we’d love to try them all, there something about smaller locally-owned places that draw us in.

We left Miami in sunny spirits and ready to book another trip.

One of the many outdoor art displays at the Wynwood Arts District

 

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Drink Eat Explore

Chattanooga Chews- The Connected Table #RoadTrip

Market Street Bridge over the Tennessee River with the Chattanooga Aquarium in the background Photo credit: Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Burea

Chattanooga, Tennessee used to be a backwater for restaurants, but now it’s hopping. Whitebird at The Edwin Hotel, part of The Autograph Collection, is near the Hunter Museum of American Art and scenic Riverwalk. The hotel’s Whiskey Thief bar has become an evening hotspot.

Grilled salmon, vegetables and kale at Whitebird, The Edwin Hotel (The Autograph Collection by Marriott), Chattanooga, TN

We celebrated David’s birthday lunch with fried chicken drizzled with honey, served with a giant Cruze Dairy buttermilk biscuit at Daily Ration.

A perfect Cruze buttermilk biscuit at Daily Ration, Chattanooga, TN
Puffy Pancakes at Daily Ration, Chattanooga, TN

 

Breakfast of Champions: Kale, Black Beans, Crispy Mushrooms, Avocado Mash and Fried Egg, Chattanooga, TN

We noshed on and spicy okra chips, burnt romaine salad and wood-grilled salmon at Lawton Haygood’s Sidetrack. Haygood, who has been a guest on The Connected Table Live, also owns Sugar’s Ribs and The Boathouse, one of our favorite places to enjoy generous portions of both freshwater fish and seafood overlooking the Tennessee River.

Burnt Romaine Salad at Sidetrack

We also enjoyed meaty lobster rolls at the Bar and Billiard Room in the newly renovated Read House Hotel (where Melanie’s mother was married over 50 years ago).

Lobster roll and fries at The Bar and Billiards Room, Read House Hotel, Chattanooga, TN

We also discovered 405 Bistro, which features Middle Eastern dishes and a nice wine list (rare for Chattanooga). The lobster bisque cous cous with seared scallops was the big hit as were the mezze.

Lobster Bisque Cous Cous and Seared Scallops at 405 Bistro, Chattanooga, TN
David gets carded at 405 Bistro. It’s the law no matter your age.

 

Other terrific restaurants on prior visits to see Melanie’s mother include: Easy BistroPublic House and Feed Table and Tavern. Melanie’s favorite smoothie and juice bar is Southern Squeeze. Every time we visit Chattanooga, more restaurants are opening.

Just like the story of the Little Engine, Chattanooga has become the little city that could…and has…become a fabulous destination for food lovers!

Wood-grilled fish, The Boathouse, Chattanooga, TN
Best Bloody Mary, The Boathouse, Chattanooga, TN

 

Sunset view from The Boathouse, Chattanooga, TN. Best riverside dining!

For more information on visiting Melanie’s hometown, Chattanooga, Tennessee, visit the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau website www.ChattanoogaFun.com

 

Listen to our show with Chattanooga restaurateurs Lawton  and Karen Haygood, owners of Sugar’s Ribs, The Boathouse and Sidetrack, on The Connected Table @iHeart

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Cookbook David Ransom Eat Melanie Young THE CONNECTED TABLE RADIO SHOW

A Visit with Amanda Hesser, Co-Founder & CEO, Food52

Amanda Hesser, Food52 co-founder and CEO,

For anyone who aspires to build a brand that embraces the culinary lifestyle from all sides and seasons, look no further than Food52. The brainchild of journalists and authorsAmanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Food52 has amassed a devoted community of culinary enthusiasts who engage and share recipes and appoint their kitchens with carefully curated products. And with the mission of “eating thoughtfully and living joyfully,” visualized in stunning photography and video shots, it’s no surprise that Food52 has hit two million followers on Instagram alone.

We first came to know Hesser when she worked as a reporter and food editor at The New York Times, where her The Essential New York Times Cookbook was a NYT bestseller. One of her “star” moments was playing herself in Nora Ephron’s movie, “Julie and Julia.” She’s also the author of Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes and The Cook and the Gardener, and several Food52 cookbooks, including her newest (with co-author, Merrill) A New Way to Dinner.

The story behind the creation of Food 52 in 2009 is a case study in a successful digital enterprise that took foresight and calculate risk. The co-founders parlayed a cookbook advance into a successful destination website which has grown substantially to become an experiential experience. Hesser has been named one of the 50 most influential women in food by Gourmet, created the Twitter app Plodt, and served on President Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships.

Listen to our show with Amanda Hesser here:

 

Categories
Cookbook Drink Eat

What Would Julia Say?

I’m a bit clumsy in the kitchen and have a habit of making a big mess. David just shrugs his shoulders and grabs my knife to save my fingers.

But when I’m really inspired, I put my hands together, look upward and ask, “What would Julia say?” Will I ever be a good cook or just better at making reservations?”

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!” ― Julia ChildMy Life in France

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

And when I spend a week eating greens after a weekend of what feels like gluttony, I wonder, “What would Julia say?” Is it worth giving up food with taste to trim my waste?

The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ― Julia Child

And, when I finished breast cancer treatment in 2010 and debated when and whether I could eat what I want and drink wine again without fearing for my health, I looked upward and asked, “What would Julia say?” She was a sister survivor who lived well, long and fearlessly.

…small helpings, no seconds, no snacking, and a little bit of everything. –  
― Julia Child

And when I realize every day that much of what I do is a labor of love working hard to monetize, and the time clock is ticking, I ask myself, “What would Julia say?” She found her greatest success in her fifties and well into her eighties. Can I do it?

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.-  Julia Child

Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.
― Julia Child

Julia Child photo courtesy of Schlesinger Library at Harvard University

Happy Birthday Julia Child! August 15, 1912- August 12, 2004

While researching an article I’ve written to remember Julia Child on her birthday that appears in Wine4Food this week, I spoke to a few people close to her. Each shared some delightful Julia memories. I could not include them all in the story. I am sharing a few more here.

Dorie Greenspan

Dorie Greenspan, co-author, “Baking with Julia” – At the end of a day of shooting, we’d sit on the set, which was her kitchen, eat Goldfish, drink wine and talk.  I’d never been a fan of (Pepperidge Farm) Goldfish before, but ever since, I’ve snacked on them to bring back the memories of those good times.

Julia Child and Sara Moulton. Photo provided by Sara Moulton.

Sara Moulton, Chef, TV Host of “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” (PBS) and and protégé of Julia Child – “One of my favorite Julia Child quotes hangs in my kitchen, ‘Never apologize. Never explain.’ You don’t have to strive for perfection. After all, there is almost nothing you can’t fix. If your soufflé falls, just call it pudding cake.”

 

Geoffrey Drummond

Geoffrey Drummond, Executive Producer, “Julia & Jacques: Cooking at Home,” “In Julia’s Kitchen,” and “Baking with Julia.” – She was forever curious…relentless in wanting to know how things were done, and why, and then wanted to share what she learned. 

 

Julia-and-Jacques-Cooking-at-Home. Photo courtesy of The Schlesinger Library at Harvard-University

Jacques Pepin, Co-Host, “Julia & Jacques Cooking at Home” – She thought you should enjoy eating as much as cooking. She used to say, “If you don’t eat it with gusto and happiness, you are missing out.

 

Chef Patrick O’Connell, Inn at Little Washington, serving Julia Child on her 90th birthday

 

At The James Beard Foundation Awards in 1997. From Melanie’s photo archive.

 

Categories
Drink Eat Events

Playing with Fire!

We Came. We Saw. We Ate & Drank.

A Smoking’ Good Time! Chefs “Play with Fire” August 11, Hudson NY. With Zak Pelaccio (center in white hat) and team

A damp day and mud on our shoes didn’t stop us from heading to Fish & Game Farm in Hudson, NY Zak Pelaccio’s “Play with Fire” outdoor feast and music fest. Presented with Resy and Ketel One Vodka, this event combined open-fire cooking from visiting chefs, live music from an amazing band called Club d’Elf, badass Ketel One cocktails by Elad Zvi (Broken Shaker) and Yana Volfson (ATLA and Cosme) and some terrific natural wines from  Critical Mass Selections, Goatboy Selections, Zev Rovine Selection, Fifi Imports and Rosenthal Wines. This event benefited The Heirloom Foundation which helps employees of the hospitality industry deal with quality of life and other work-related issues.

Seamus Mullen with a giant pan of pork and snail paella. The the sweet surprise was the inclusion of fresh figs.

The food was all locally sourced, from Fish & Game’s smoked pork (Zak Pelaccio) and pork and snail paella (Seamus Mullen, El Colmado and Whirlybird + Greens) and corn-husked wrapped bluefin tuna with olives (Victoria Blamey) to heads of flame- licked cauliflower (Cortney Burns, TOURISTS wit Elise Kornack) and grilled peaches with candied cherry tomatoes with honey-chamomile ice cream. Oddest dish was, and we’re going to try it at home because we loved it: grilled whole kirby cucumbers.

Roasted cucumbers by the chef team at Estela,
Cafe Altro Paradiso and Flora Bar

The Ketel One cocktails also used locally sourced fruits.

“B*tch Don’t Kill My Vibe” Ketel One cocktail
created by Elad Zvi, Broken Shaker

 

Blackberry Bramble Ketel One cocktail
Perfect for blackberry season! Evan Sung photo

This is only the second Play with Fire event that Zak has produced. The last one was four years ago, and we hope it will continue. One of the most striking things about this event were the one-of-a-kind grilling stations at each cooking tent- actually works of art- created by Hudson Valley sculptor, Kris Perry.

Congratulations to Zak and his team and thank you to the chefs, sponsors and donors. Great idea for an event and for a good cause!