The Tampa Tribune’s food writer since 2005, Jeff Houck covers the way people live through their food. He also hosts the Table Conversations food podcast and believes that everything crunchy is good.
Most Recent Entries
- A Word Or Two About Great Bar Food [And The Golden Snacky Award Goes To…]
- This Haiku Contest/Is All About The Fruitcake/Get To Writing, Stat! [Guess Who’s Judging?]
- Five Edible Christmas Gifts To Buy For Friends and Loved Ones [Black Friday Comes Just Once A Year]
- Giving Thanks For Alternatives To Thanksgiving [Turkey, Shmurkey.]
- Taking A Bite Of The Pillsbury Bake-Off [Fear And Baking In Las Vegas]
- Sea Urchin Crostini, Tiger Beef Salad And Faked Alaska [This Week’s Weekend Eats]
- A Way To Eat Kale For People Who Hate Kale [Chef John Besh Cooks From The Heart]
- The Sip: 3 Daughters Brewing Comes To Live [Pumpkin Tap, Carmel Cafe Cocktails, Great Sips]
- Remembering Marcella Hazan [The Most Important Ingredient]
- Elevage Pops-Up, Offers Taste Of Epicurean Hotel [Duck Duck Goose Burger Blows Minds]
- Where To Eat Outdoors Now That It’s Not 1,000 Degrees [East Hillsborough Edition]
- James Villas’ New Book ‘Southern Fried’ Should Be Battered, Eaten [Everything Crunchy Is Good]
- Prepping For A Pop-Up [Chad Johnson Turns SideBern’s Into Elevage For One Week]
- Putting The Wine [And Other Drinkables] Into The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
- FishHawk Loses Park Square Cellar [Mary And Shawn Sarkisian Get Their Lives Back]
Sea Urchin Crostini, Tiger Beef Salad And Faked Alaska [This Week’s Weekend Eats]
Posted Nov 19, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Every now and again, a photo of food comes into your life and wrecks everything you think you know about what is tempting and salacious.
Like this Campfire Donut from @strangedonuts in St. Louis. It was photographed and enjoyed by my Twitter friend @ohalchemygirl.
I mean, I’m a friend of the s’more in all its forms. I have been known to enjoy a doughnut or five.
The two together? It brings tears of icing to my eyes, such is my joy.
For her efforts to assault me with baked goodness, she wins this topic-appropriate first prize:
Tit for tat, as it were.
But wait! There’s more!
In honor of her simple yet delicious photo of meatloaf, I am hereby bestowing an honorary mention to Mariah Milano, aka @DinnerMariah, for this bewitching little snapshot of protein.
That there meatloaf and mashed potatoes with homemade brown mushroom gravy is about as complicated as life needs to be. Good food doesn’t have to be a trigonometry test.
For her efforts, Mariah wins this book:
“Giada’s Feel Good Food,” by Giada De Laurentiis. Might I suggest the Beet and Marinated Goat Cheese Salad to go with that meatloaf?
Other contributions this week included:
* @otmdish - Marinated local guinea fowl roasted in (well-washed) Po River clay
* @BeerTampa - @Datz4Foodies Datchos w/ Pulled Pork. Oh my.
* @karenmcallister - Crab Cakes from @WFMCarrollwood. Easy dinner and delish!
To see all of this week’s mouth-watering delicacies, check out the Gallery of Noms. (Click on a photo to read its description.)
A Way To Eat Kale For People Who Hate Kale [Chef John Besh Cooks From The Heart]
Posted Oct 23, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 03:39 PM
I am not a friend of kale.
I am not kale’s enemy, per se, but neither am I its ally.
I love greens, especially mustard greens. I love spinach. I am a fan of broccoli.
I have even learned in my later years to enjoy a plate of Brussels sprouts, something I never would have expected until I had them shaved and broiled at Todd English‘s BlueZoo restaurant in Lake Buena vista.
But kale? Kale is to me what Fredo was to Michael Corleone. Dead to me.
Something bitter in the leaf clearly does not react well with my palate.
Another thing it doesn’t react well with: Pontification by kale disciples.
I know it’s a super-food. I know it’s full of vitamins and stuff. I know this. I just don’t like it.
To them, I say: Shhhh-shhhhh-shhhhh. Just shush. Enough with the words, please. Your kale-y-er than thou stance is almost as bad as the kale.
I may have to reconsider my stance, however, now that I’ve seen chef John Besh‘s recipe for Fried Kale Salad.
What many might not know - including me - was that he spent his early years cooking through Germany and France. He covers those years in his new book “Cooking From The Heart; My Favorite Lessons Learned Along the Way,” (Andrews-McMeel, $40).
Unlike his previous books, which have focused on Bayou cooking, this offers a glimpse at the classic European dishes that shaped his training. It’s a warmly told and offers a fascinating tour of his cooking discoveries.
Many recipes in the book are beyond the skill of most home cooks, but his recipe for Fried Kale Salad is something everyone could tackle.
“This is hardly a traditional salad,” he writes. “What I’m doing is frying kale leaves in oil, which for me makes a more satisfying dish than raw kale leaves. Shavings of Parmesan lend a salty tang to every bite.
Okay, John. I’m putting my taste buds in your capable hands. Don’t let me down.
1 bunch Iacinto or Tuscan kale, stems and ribs removed
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Heat 3 inches of oil in a medium heavy bottomed pot to 350 degrees on a candy thermometer. Fry the kale in batches until the edges of each leaf curl up, 1 to 2 minutes.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. In a large bowl, toss the fried kale with the lemon zest and juice, then top with shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Source: “Cooking From The Heart,” by John Besh.
The Sip: 3 Daughters Brewing Comes To Live [Pumpkin Tap, Carmel Cafe Cocktails, Great Sips]
Posted Oct 23, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Mike Harting’s new life as a brewer started off with beer-battered fish.
The co-owner of Bella Brava New World Trattoria in St. Petersburg asked his restaurant chefTy Weaver if they could make beer in-house for the batter. Everything else is made fresh, Harting thought. Why not the beer?
Weaver, who home-brews as a hobby, came back with the fish. Which made Harting wonder if they could make more beer. Weaver said they could.
About a year ago, they started featuring a rotating variety of TOBE beers – as in “Whatever Ty wants it to be” – on the restaurant taps. Last month, the TOBE line was popular enough to account for 33 percent of the restaurant’s beer sales.
Which got Harting to thinking: Could we produce enough for a tasting room. Weaver said they could.
Harting pulled a group of investors together, raised almost $1.5 million and began renovating and retro-fitting a 18,000-square-foot building on South 22nd Street in St. Pete. Sometime before the end of the year, he expects to open 3 Daughters Brewing.
Weaver has nine beer recipes finished, including a dunkelweizen, a Russian imperial stout, a brown ale, an India pale ale, an Irish red an oatmeal stout, a summer wheat and a porter. The signature beer to start with: the Beach Blonde Ale, which comes in at a very drinkable 5 percent alcohol by volume.
Build-out is finishing on the tasting room at the front of the building, which will include a 30-barrel brewhouse and a 1-barrel pilot system and about 180 barrels of brewing space. Harting already has plans for three more expansions to add fermentation capacity.
“With the package we have now, we can support about 300 taps, depending on how popular the beers are,” he said.
Another nice feature: Harting is building a lab at the brewery for home-brewers to bring their own batches in for analysis.
With Green Bench Brewing Co. and Cycle Brewing now open and St. Petersburg Brewing Co., about to open its doors, 3 Daughters is joining a quickly maturing craft beer scene on the Gulf Coast.
“It’s going to be fun,” Harting said.
For more information, go to 3DBrewing.com.
The Pumpkin Tap Kit by KegWorks. “ This tap kit has everything you need to turn an ordinary pumpkin (or watermelon) into a pumpkin drink dispenser that will have your friends thinking you’re more clever than Martha Stewart.“
The tap kit is available at KegWorks.com for $31.25.
On the Denver Post’s First Drafts beer blog, beer writer Heather Vandenengel named Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing and Dunedin’s 7venth Sun Brewery as among her favorite in the southeast United States.
About 7venth Sun, Vandenengel said, “The brewery has a knack for droolworthy names, such as Graffiti Orange Creamsicle Wheat and Donut Porter - a chocolate porter with glazed donuts. But seek out sours like the Berliner Weisse, Midnight Moonlight and fruit-augmented Berliner releases like watermelon, key lime and kiwi-cherry coconut.”
New Carmel Cafe cocktails
Carmel Cafe’s lineup of specialty cocktails now includes an Apple Pie Martini that blends cinnamon apple tea with Stolichnaya vanilla vodka, agave, toasted apple slices and a sprig of mint. Another favorite: The Guava Ginger Splash, [pictured above]which mixes reposado tequila with fresh, chopped ginger, guava juice and a splash of lime.
* Bartender Ryan Pines’ Edison Oldie [pictured above] at Edison Food + Drink Lab. Imagine a traditional Old Fashioned with a smoked ice cube and a spicy marinated cherry.
* Dean Hurst’s Vesper at the Elevage pop-up. It was made with Sazerac Rye whiskey instead of vodka, Beefeater Gin, and Cocchi Americano aperitif wine. The clean flavor cut through the starchy, bold-flavored food on the menu. Can’t wait to see what he concocts at Edge Social Drinkery in the Epicurean Hotel.
* Founders Brewing Co.’s Breakfast Stout at The Stein & Vine in Brandon.
Remembering Marcella Hazan [The Most Important Ingredient]
Posted Oct 20, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Oct 20, 2013 at 07:22 PM
The realization caught me suddenly the other night, as I reached for the lid to a pot full of meat sauce on the stove.
Wedged between the metal handle and the hot lid was a wine cork. For six years, I’ve used it to grab the lid instead of using a pot holder.
I put the cork there one day after interviewing Marcella Hazan in the kitchen of her Longboat Key condo. The maven of Italian home cooking in America saved a step by pushing the corks through her lid handles. It was a shortcut for a woman who lived most of her life with a right hand deformed by botched surgeries.
It was a simple yet elegant solution. If you were going to uncork a bottle of wine with your meal, you might as well use it to solve a problem. Two birds. One stone.
As I held the lid, a wave of sadness hit me. It reminded me that Marcella was gone.
On Sept. 29, Victor Hazan, her beloved collaborator and husband of almost six decades, announced on Facebook that she’d passed away at age 89.
“Marcella, my incomparable companion, died this morning a few steps away from her bed,” he wrote. The heartbreak was palpable. “She was the truest and the best, and so was her food.”
In the days after her death, the accolades poured in. She did for Italian home cooking in America what Julia Child did for French cuisine, many wrote.
It was a comparison that wasn’t entirely accurate.
Marcella herself was disappointed by what she saw as Child’s elevation of the chef to the detriment of the home cook. Julia’s greatest impact came largely through a television career launched by her early cookbooks. Marcella’s influence was primarily delivered through her own series of books, which taught an America that ate SpaghettiOs from a can to realize the glory of flavors found in fresh Italian ingredients, and through cooking classes in New York City and in her native Emilia-Romagna.
It was a legacy she passed on to her son, Giuliano. He carries the mantle by writing his own books and teaching cooking classes.
Giuliano, who lives in Sarasota with wife, Lael, and their daughters, was in Verona preparing to teach a course when he found out about his mother’s passing.
“My first impulse was to catch the first flight back to go hug my father,” he wrote on Facebook. “But I know it’s not what my mother would have wanted me to do.”
“My whole career has been about passing on all that I have learned from her,” he wrote. “What better way to honor my mother that to teach this group of people who have traveled here eager to learn about genuine Italian food. I will be thinking of la mia mamma as I cook with them this week.”
My memories of Marcella come from a day I ate lunch with her and Victor in their home, and another when I took them to a Chinese restaurant in Tampa that they had yet to visit.
It was Chinese food that led Marcella in 1969 to sign up for a cooking class with Grace Chu. When the class was canceled, her classmates asked instead to learn Italian cooking with Marcella.
A year later, New York Times food editor Craig Claiborne came to a lunch at her and Victor’s apartment. Claiborne’s story of his meal of Roman-style artichokes, veal, ricotta-stuffed tortellini and a shaved raw fennel salad gave her instant fame.
By the time we met, Marcella was past her cookbook years. I was there to talk about her memoir “Armarcord.” When I arrived, she and Victor were finishing preparation for lunch.
He slipped on his heat-resistant kitchen gloves to pull white enamel plates from the oven. She stirred her homemade pappardelle noodles in boiling water and kept watch on her classic Bolognese ragu.
For the Hazans, there was a sacramental quality to the noontime ritual, known in Italy as il pranzo. In every place they lived together during the first 44 years of their marriage — Rome, Milan, New York, Venice — the Hazans insisted on residing close enough to Victor’s work that he could come home at lunchtime. The tradition continued on Longboat Key.
Watching them cook together in their tiny custom-built kitchen was a thing of beauty.
Victor monitored the pasta, removed some with tweezers for his wife to taste. She would nod her approval. Utensils were efficiently at arm’s reach on a counter back-splash. Everything had its place.
Neither of them knew how to cook when they married in 1956. Feeding him forced her to learn. She would depend on advice from family and friends to catch up by cooking recipes that were native to Cesenatico.
Seated at their table, there was wine and a simple salad dressed only in olive oil and sea salt. With fresh vegetables, she said, simplicity is key. Let their flavors do most of the work.
Giuliano told me once that his mother always used to say the most important ingredient in the kitchen is common sense.
“It’s not just like a lab experiment, where you follow it exactly and it all comes out exactly the same,” he said. “It’s always different, and you need to adjust to what’s happening in the pan.”
Common sense. Simplicity. Like a cork in a lid handle.
Elevage Pops-Up, Offers Taste Of Epicurean Hotel [Duck Duck Goose Burger Blows Minds]
Posted Oct 19, 2013 by Jeff Houck
Updated Oct 19, 2013 at 03:01 PM
Food blogger Logan Crumpton wanted dessert. So did the other four people dining with him Tuesday night at the Elevage pop-up restaurant at SideBern’s.
But the group built a tasting menu of sorts, ordering dish after dish of such items as escargot tortellini, lamb flatbread, a steak sandwich and a burger made with ground duck and foie gras. Dessert was out of question. They were too full.
Still, Crumpton couldn’t help himself, so he ordered an omelet carbonara made with pecorino cheese, guanciale Italian bacon, sage and salted egg yolks.
The rest of the table joined in to put that one away, too.
“I wasn’t pleasantly surprised,” Crumpton said. “I expected it to be amazing and they exceeded that.”
The culinary team creating the food program at the highly anticipated Epicurean Hotel on South Howard Avenue built a restaurant-within-a-restaurant of sorts to train employees and give customers a week-long sneak peek at what the posh, food-themed resort will offer. The pop-up ends five nights of sold-out reservation-only dining tonight.
For Chad Johnson, executive chef at SideBern’s and the Epicurean, the pop-up is a chance to test-drive dishes he contemplated more than a year ago. The concept: Classic American comfort food with a fine-dining touch.
That meant matzo ball soup filled with foie gras instead of schmaltz. And lasagna filled with lamb shoulder, Taleggio cheese and Greek oregano. And fish and chips composed with seared sushi-grade tuna, house-made pickle chips and a Ranch-style tartar sauce.
Johnson said he put a few relatively safe items on the menu, acknowledging that not everyone enjoys a terrine of veal tongue and goat cheeks. The surprise: Diners went for the unusual items with gusto. Including omelets from the upcoming breakfast menu.
“We had four-top tables ordering 10 appetizers at a time,” he said. “That’s kind of a lot.”
Once the hotel opens on Dec. 23 following a soft opening a week or so earlier, Johnson will oversee operations at both the Epicurean and SideBern’s. Chef de Cuisine Courtney Orwig will take over day-to-day operations at SideBern’s while sous chef Price Evans will move to be chef de cuisine at the Epicurean. The event gave kitchen staff and servers a baptism by fire, forcing them to launch the equivalent of a new restaurant overnight. Several new hires for the hotel worked along with longtime SideBern’s staff.
Johnson interviewed kitchen applicants during the week, complicating the Elevage pop-up. Hotel general manager Tom Haines said applications to work at the hotel are still being accepted. When fully staffed, the Epicurean will have about 100 employees.
“We were trying to give customers the essence of the restaurant from the price point, presentation and flavor side,” Haines said. “We feel pretty good about the result of what we were trying to accomplish.”
Crumpton, who writes about local food on his Eat A Duck blog, said the food made him want to book a room.
“The time and care they took to make that menu show,” he said. “It was fantastic. I came away impressed.”