Sunday, September 30, 2007

Cattle Baron's Ball Dos

Just got home - my feet are swollen from the walking, running and service. Many thanks to my staff - they are the reason that the event went off so well and providing cancer research with over 6 million dollars.

I'm going to sleep until football comes on.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cheers to Louisa

Louisa Chu, Itinerant Chef and wonderful writer, has made the grade IMO. Not only does she write the best blog on the block - she has many great stories on CHOW and a wicked pic set on flickr.

Another plus is her totally hot friend with many pics from the EMMY awards.

Louisa - I hope you give those FNP whats commin to 'em. I can't wait to see you on Iron Chef!!!


I was told by phone tonight that Casey, my little brother's best friend in school and beyond, has died. He was a wonderful young man with a great future and has left behind a young daughter, a girlfriend and many, many friends.

I hope that his family and friends will get through this as I know he would - with love, compassion and peace.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Cattle Baron's Ball

To quote my 2 year old daughter:

"Uh-oh daddy...poo-poo in the potty!"

To quote my 15 year old daughter:

"Fall Out Boy, blah blah blah, Fall out Boy, my friend AJ, Fall Out Boy, blah blah blah...g'night and I love you." (jk ash)

To quote my 13 year old son...can you quote a fart on a cell phone call? No?

In all likes and circumstances in my life for the next 2 weeks I am in the shit. If you are in the food biz you get that - in the shit. The weeds. The weedz. Rien en place. (ty babelfish)

The Cattle Baron's Ball Dallas is a great charity event that happens annually for cancer research.

6,000 people with alot of money and alot of power. The event this year is 'Santa Fe' themed with an event company re-creating original Downtown Santa Fe

I am the chef of the catering company chosen for said event this year, and I need to poo poo in the potty.

In the shit does not even begin to describe the feeling I have had over the past month. If you can remember Chet, the ominous and shot gun toting brother from 'Weird Science' who, after finding his 'Grandparents catatonic in a closet!', was turned into a giant nasty poo monster - he's a close second to me right about now.

VIP tent with 8 action stations for 1,800 people for 2 hours prior to the main event.

Common Grounds will host a total of 5,000 people:

2 Large Sopa e Chili Stations with kettles with appropriate garnish

1 huge 4 sided Taco stand with 4 different tacos made to order (carnitas, tinga, fish and beef)

2 large Smokehouse stations with house smoked brisket, sausage, beans and Red, White and Bleu Potatoes

4 large Elote stations with roasted corn and vendors choice of turkey with toppings

2 Huge Tamale and Adobe Pie stations with Tri Color Chips and trio of Salsas

Huge dessert station with Churros, Mango Tres Leches, Adobe Pie and Peach Cobbler

Too many bars to speak of - and yes - we have the alcohol for the party (awesome!)

I am in the deepest of shit I have ever been and I am loving it.

I will post pics of the event as soon as I get them.

I will also post pics of anything as soon as I find out how to do so.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is Blogging Good?

I've missed the boat on alot of shit. When I was in Catholic grade school in Sister Bernadette's religious instruction class I would imagine her, in the same black and white standard nun uniform, singing 'Back in the saddle again' by Aerosmith. She wasn't flailing about - she wasn't making sweet weird gay love to the mike like S. Tyler. She was the same nun, in the same get-up, with the same knuckle cracking ruler in her hand. But in my head, she was swaying lightly singing that song in the droll catholic hymnal way we have all come to know and love. It cracked me up to the point of knuckle crackings, long talks with my far too catholic mother and finally, expulsion.

Then I saw Will Ferrell and that other chick do the skit on SNL about the teachers singing popular songs at a pep rally while wearing proper dork ass teacher attire...

I missed the boat, damnit.

I'm sure alot of people say this on the web. "Dude, I thought of YouTube 4 fucking years ago on the toilet! Really! Ask Jimmy!

JIMMY!!! Tell 'em!"

I was that ass for quite a while. Now I will be the ass that writes and blogs everything down not missing the boat. Either way I'm an ass but now it's documented. My life jacket is on and I have my Dramamine patch behind my ear. Blogs are good for me and you.

By the way, my little brother and I used to do 'Mystery science theatre 3000' 20 years ago on the couch of my parent's house on Sunday morning after church - as did many because the TV was shit before football came on.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A Sensual Deficit

Are we in one?


Has the recent rash of food books, television, blogs and total mass marketing of food related issues and cooking create mass hysteria in an otherwise normal world?


Do we really need another food challenge reality TV show or pretentious book on how to make micro grilled cheese sandwiches?


I have thought of this often and written about it some. Our culture in America seems to be in a Sensual Deficit - we seem to lack the sensual actions left behind by past generations that create meaningful memories and traditions to live by and teach children and friends.

Soon after the death of someone very close to me, I found myself in a library in downtown Miami on an unexpectedly cold February afternoon. I was a bit lost on all levels - I hadn't seen my children in a year, lost a job cooking in a SHIT restaurant in the Gables and had a torrid love affair with far too many bottles of booze. I had been thinking for the past 6 months on ways to repair damage done to my family and friends and reconnecting with the time lost with my kids.

I started writing about the idea of cooking with family and sensual deficit earlier in the year, but with great grandeur and and unbelievable arrogance. My ex wife had come from a poor upbringing - I from middle class and proper European teaching and cooking lessons. The text was pure shit, as was my behavior, and it led me nowhere. Upon almost 8 years of reflection I remember where I found the lesson.

Back to the library in Miami...

I was stuck in back corner, reading my Nietzsche, looking as horrible and pathetic as possible to get whatever attention I wanted at the time, when an old black woman and her Grand daughter strolled by looking for a certain section. The Old woman said, "See, I can't read, and my Grandbaby is looking for some books my Momma left here some time ago. Back in the day, we had no place to keep our writings, and the women that worked at the library would spend their extra time typing them up and such. That way, we could keep our history and lives so our children could learn what we went through and what happened in our times." She explained to me that she was looking for recipe and farming books and I helped as best I could, but the Library was closing in a few minutes and we didn't have a chance to get them. I told them both I would be back the next day and would look for them again if they would like. The said yes and went on their way.

I took the train the next day first thing in the morning - no Cuban coffee, no pastry - just the beautiful smell of urine to wake me up on the mass transit train to the library. I was trying to convince myself the whole time that I wouldn't be upset if the two ladies didn't show - total bullshit. I wanted to know what the hell she was looking for - what brought her and her Grandbaby to downtown.

I sat in the same spot, reading the same book - time seemed so slow that day. Grandbaby ran past squealing with Grandmother in tow - she had scuffed the new shoes her Father had bought her only 2 days earlier - she let EVERYONE know how upset she was. Her Grandmother was shuffling after her when she spotted me putting my book in my bag. "Do you work here?" she asked, and I explained that I was the man she had met the day before, and would gladly help her find the writings she was looking for. She accepted quicker than I had anticipated and told Grandbaby to COME OVER RIGHT NOW. As Grandbaby was running towards us Grandmother sat down in a chair and pulled out her pocketbook, took out 2 quarters and looked Grandbaby straight in the eyes - something I hadn't seen her do yet. Grandbaby obviously knew this meant 'pay attention'. Never leaving Grandbaby's eyes, she slowly pulled 2 quarters out and said "Go down to the next level and get 2 lemonades for you and this nice man. Don't make no noise, don't make me come get you." Grandbaby nodded wide eyed and took the quarters while walking away.

As soon as she was out of sight Grandmother stood up, walked directly to a section in the back of the room and started to scan books, papers and writings on a never looked at shelf. Within minutes she had 2 texts, several papers and booklets and sat back down in the chair as Grandbaby was walking back with the lemonades. It was totally odd to me but I didn't question what she did.

We sat with our lemonade as Grandmother asked Grandbaby to read her recipes, texts and stories from the selections. Grandbaby and I scribbled what we could as fast as we could - Grandmother correcting many of the recipes. My head was spinning from the stories and recipes of wonderful soul and creole foods. Grandmother, in the course of 10 minutes, taught us that soul food came from the scraps of slave owners. The slaves were left the scraps of the owners houses - turnip tops, beet greens, pigs feet and jowels. They took the trash of the house and made it into the great traditions still feeding families across our country today. I helped as best I could, scribbling away when I had a chance. When she decided they were finished, Grandmother got her things together and told Grandbaby it was time to go.

As they were packing up, Grandbaby asked the question..."Grandmomma, how did you find this stuff so fast? Did this man help you find it?"

Grandmother answered swiftly... "Fredrick helped me find all of this for you, baby. Didn't you, Fredrick?"


Hahaha...She knew how to read. She saw my book the day before - the Nietzsche book.

She saw my discontent. She felt my Sensual deficit.

I said yes. I thanked them both as they left and realised what had taken place. This woman wanted to make a mission for her Grandbaby to learn the recipes and pieces of time that she felt. Why she felt a need to act like she was illiterate was beyond me, but it made a point for sure.

It was a wonderful afternoon, truly.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Ahi Grissini Pops

If you have an Asian Market close to you it will come in very handy. They normally sell sushi grade salmon and tuna in “blocks” that you can slice lengthwise thinly for these canapés. If not, be creative. You can easily adapt this to vegetarian with zucchini strips or other vegetables. If you have the chance to get your fish monger to slice the fish for you do it – it helps a great deal.

· I “Block” (1” depth by 3”width by 10” length) Ahi tuna or sashimi grade salmon
· 2 packages Boursin Cheese (or 6 oz goat’s cheese, 1 shallot minced and 2 tbsp crème fraiche with salt and white pepper)
· 20 grissini sticks
· 20 chives blanched and shocked
· Edible orchids julienned
· Black Sesame seeds
· 1 tbsp olive oil

Cheese Mixture:

Place in mixer with paddle attachment and beat until soft and fluffy. Put in Pastry bag with ¾ inch tip and reserve.


Slice thinly lengthwise and coat with olive oil.


Blanch chives for 20 seconds and shock in ice water.


Place fish slice on a piece of plastic wrap - Using pastry bag, pipe cheese mixture along the length of the fish. Using the plastic wrap, roll fish over cheese mixture until wrapped completely and twist ends to tighten roll. Place in freezer to solidify roll (30-45 minutes).

Unwrap fish roll and tie blanched chives along the length of roll every 1 inch, keeping note of center of each “pop”. Slice each segment, dip bottom of each in black sesame seeds and reserve. When time to serve comes, Break Grissini in half (or leave whole, depending on presentation) and push into center of cheese/fish “pop”.

Garnish with julienned flowers and pass or display.


Do you know what this is?

I do.

Wanna know why?

Because I work with Pedro, damnit.

Pedro, for all intent and purposes, is the fucking god of corn. When you wake up in your hangovered stupor of morning bliss and reach for the box of corn flakes in the pantry - he is the vato standing there with his donkey saying "buenos dias". The maestro dello corneo, the prince of masa - American Indians come to his house and ask him for advice.

Orville Reddinbacher is in his 5, dude.


Pedro has made the best elote that I have had anywhere, and I have had it everywhere. Mexico, Galveston, Corpus Christi, Padre Island and too many places to name in Dallas. Actually, the best place to have elote was in Dallas on Harry Hines Blvd at a gas station by Northwest HWY, but the chick that had the cart died 6 months ago and her son who runs it now is a jerk off.

God rest her corny soul.

Elote is a simple dish of roasted corn with an addition of toppings that you can choose from. It usually includes a protien of some sorts (my fav is carnitas - a slow cooked pork), a variety of cheeses (cotija is best) and a fat of some sort (mayo, sour cream, Mexican crema and even Olive Oil). We offer other toppings that include chopped onion, cilantro, chipotle and so many others I don't want to type them.

I just wanted to throw something out there for Pedro - he has become my right hand as of late and I need to let people know what an asset he and all local cooks are. Dallas food is what it is because of the diverse culture and talented people that put their soul in every shucked cob of corn.
Olives, Charcuterie and Death

I believe every Chef has a defining moment in their career in which they really “got it.” Some eventually find out that they are in it for the money, sans the shit encrusted brunch you had last vacation at whatever hotel you were at. Some do it because they were lost at some point in a career search; some do it because they started as a bus boy or a dish washer after swimming across a border. Some do it because they realize that it’s a way into people’s souls – a memory creating experience that can change minutes, hours and situations in people’s lives.

My moment came at a death of a man that was most pivotal in my life. On a beautiful November afternoon in Miami, in a house that I had spent many afternoons drinking Pernod and eating a cheese course or some amuse prepared by my Memere, I watched as my grandfather lay riddled with cancer die. His cooking and techniques were the direct inspiration for me as a cook, his life practice, outlook and life lesson the inspiration as how to be a man. When he was gone…when he was finally gone…I did what I knew to do. Realizing how spent the family was at the time and how grim things felt, I went to the market to pick up some things so we could eat.

I felt I shouldn’t cook anything so I picked up some rich and satisfying things that would possibly offer a difference in emotion – anything to take the mind off the event that just took place. I picked up some brined olives, some French and Greek, some artisinal cheeses, breads, sausages both dried and cured. I arranged some platters with my cousin who with me, for the last week, had taken care of my Grandfather as he lay in his bed. We talked of cooking with Pepere and how to arrange the platter (Again, anything to take the mind off of the situation). I must say that cured meats, salumi, charcuterie and olives have been on my top list since a very young age. I have fond memories of holidays, special events and visits with large platters of these special foods with the most treasured of my family.

Pivotal was the moment of eating these great foods with these great people, with the unexpected feelings of grief at the time. Platters and items that were in retrospect a joyous release were met with sadness and discontent, in a somewhat reverence of a great man who was such an inspiration to us all.

Upon reflection, when I really got what had happened, it was an epiphany of sorts. Although a main sustenance in life, food isn’t really different than other necessities. It evolves like all else – making this world grow greater and stronger every day. Emotion reigns supreme in most things in life and that is what has happened in food in my opinion. If you go to a funeral, what do you bring?


House party?


Baby shower?




Swingers party…wait that’s different (never been but I’ve heard they are swinging). Food, as in all else, needs the yin to the yang, the difference of emotion that will bring great joy or upset to whatever the situation. It doesn’t always have to be a happy one.

I feed people the food I want to get the emotion that I want. Selfish or not that is why I do it. I ultimately want people to be happy and feel what I felt the first, not the last time - I ate olives, charcuterie and death. I still serve them often, eat them seldom.

The Pernod is still flowing freely.