Wednesday, December 27, 2006

San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival

by Sharon Hudgins

The multicultural cuisine of modern San Antonio, Texas, has been strongly influenced by the city's Hispanic heritage, which dates back to the early 18th century. So "The Reign in Spain" was a natural choice as the theme for San Antonio's 2006 New World Wine & Food Festival, an annual event held for ten days in November.
Chefs from Spain, Mexico, and the United States prepared special dishes for the many luncheons, dinners, grazers, seminars, and tastings offered at the festival. And vintners from Texas to California, Chile, and several regions of Spain showcased their wines alongside the colorful foods.

The festival focused on both the Spanish influence on New World cuisines and trends in contemporary Spanish cooking. Chef Ernie Estrada of Francesca's at Sunset, at the Westin La Cantera Resort, designed a six-course menu featuring two versions of each dish (Spanish and New World) paired with six wines each from Miguel Torres vineyards in the Catalunya region of Spain and from Becker Vineyards in central Texas. Billed as "The Conquistador and the Cowboy," the meal offered comparative dishes such as "Spanish Paella" (with clams, mussels, chorizo, calamari, lobster essence, and osetra caviar) and "Tejas Style Paella" (with striped bass, wild quail, bratwurst, blackened bell peppers, Fuji apples, and apricots).

Janet Mendel—author of Cooking from the Heart of Spain, My Kitchen in Spain, and other classic Spanish cookbooks—collaborated with Chef Shane Bruns at Oro Restaurant and Bar in the Emily Morgan Hotel to produce a menu offering a first course of "Scallop & Lobster Sandwich" with roasted butternut squash purée and preserved lemon beurre fondue, followed later in the meal by monkfish wrapped in Spanish serrano ham, with fava bean and quince ragout and wilted mustard greens.
And at Las Canarias restaurant in the Omni La Mansion del Rio hotel, chefs Jesus Ramiro and Mickey McPhail teamed up to make an especially memorable Spanish goat cheese ice cream garnished with caramel sauce and pine nuts, two popular Spanish flavors.
Flashing his long knife at several of the festival events was Florencio Sanchidrían, "The Offical Ham Slicer for the King of Spain." Looking more like a pirate on a Spanish galleon than a contemporary culinary professional, Sanchidrían demonstrated his technique for cutting paper-thin slices of Spain's renowned jamón serrano, dry-cured ham produced in several regions of Spain (and now increasingly available at specialty food stores in the United States). Sanchidrían certainly knows his craft: he holds the world's record for cutting the longest continuous piece of serrano ham (more than 40 feet of flesh).
The innovative cooking of today's Spanish and American chefs was especially apparent in the preparation of tapas, those "little bites" of food whose popularity has spread from Spain across the globe. Traditional tapas bars serve such tidbits as cubes of Spanish manchego cheese marinated in olive oil, thin slices of pink serrano ham, tiny casseroles of mushrooms sautéed with garlic, and wedges of thick potato omelets known as tortillas in Spain.

But at San Antonio's wine-and-food festival, several chefs took traditional tapas to another level. Spanish chef Javier Núñez "deconstructed" those popular potato omelets into shooters of liquid egg topped with potato "foam" and turned simple ham-and-tomato sandwiches inside out, with crunchy slices of Spanish serrano ham enclosing a filling of puréed bread, tomatoes, and olive oil.
"These are examples of modern tapas that Spain has come up with," said Gerry Dawes, an expert on Spanish foods and wines, at a seminar on "Transcendent Tapas" in San Antonio.
"The flavors aren't really different," said Dawes, "but there's a different way of presenting them."
At the same seminar Jason Dady, chef at The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and at Bin 555 Restaurant and Wine Bar, presented his own take on Spanish tostadas, open-faced sandwiches made from slices of toasted bread brushed with olive oil and topped with a variety of ingredients. Once you've tasted his chocolate-and-chorizo tostadas, spiced with vanilla-scented sea salt, you'll wonder why you never thought of this felicitous combination yourself!


Chocolate-Chorizo Tostadas

Country-style (chewy-textured) French bread, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)
Vanilla-bean-flavored fleur de sel (or other fleur de sel) sea salt
Spanish chorizo sausage, cut crosswise into 1/8-inch-thick slices (not Mexican soft chorizo sausage)

Toast the bread slices on both sides and let them cool. Lightly brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil, then spread a thin layer of Nutella on top (like spreading mayonnaise on sandwich bread). Sprinkle a small amount (a pinch or two) of sea salt evenly over the Nutella, then place two or three slices of chorizo in a single layer on top. Serve at room temperature, as an appetizer or snack, accompanied by a robust Spanish red wine from the Rioja region.
NOTE: Make vanilla-scented fleur de sel sea salt by finely crushing a vanilla bean and combining it with the salt in a tightly covered glass container. Let the mixture stand for several days for the flavors to meld.

Source: Jason Dady, The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills (San Antonio) and Bin 555 Restaurant and Wine Bar (Dallas and San Antonio)
Sharon Hudgins is a food writer who has lived in Spain and is the author of an award-winning cookbook about the regional cuisines of Spain.

©2006 Sharon Hudgins

2516 High Pointe Blvd.
McKinney, TX 75071
Tel/Fax: (972)-548-4866

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Growing concern about food in the Netherlands

Due to a number of factors the nature and future of food is becoming more and more of a concern for the Dutch. In the month of November two films were released, We Feed the World, by the Austrian director Erwin Wagenhofer, and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Both are documentaries that give a frightening look on our future. Wagenhofer focuses directly on food, but Gore’s more general message happened to coincide with the news that the seas might well be empty of fish fifty years from now (and Holland beneath the waves of those seas).

The Dutch IACP members are in the midst of this, trying to inform themselves constantly and so be able to inform their readers. Like elsewhere in the world the problem of obesitas is growing rapidly. Truths about food shift every few months, and the large food industries seem to have a tight grip on the public information institutions, proof of which was the nominations of several kinds of lower fat snacks like French fries, mayonnaise and cake for the Annual Good Food Prize by the official Dutch Food Information Centre, say opponents. “Low fat fries and mayonnaise are still fat and should not be promoted in such a way,” they argue.

In the elections for the Tweede Kamer, the Dutch House of Representatives, the new Party for the Animals got two seats (out of a 150). This is clearly part of a movement that doubts the regular production of food and particularly wants to reform the meat production and a more respectful attitude toward animals mend for slaughter.
Sales of biological and health foods have risen surprisingly the last year, after a couple of years of stagnation. This may also be due to the recent economic growth and risen consumer confidence. However, like in Britain, demand of biological produce is now exceeding supply, which may result in higher prices that would make the price difference with regular foodstuffs even larger, something nobody is looking forward to, and that includes the producers that have a long term view.

Onno Kleyn
IACP Member, Netherlands

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Homemade Brew

Special to The Japan Times
Umeshu is one of a variety of kajitsushu (fruit liqueurs). The recipe for classic umeshu is simply green apricots (not plums), rock sugar and white liquor (a simple shochu) that has been left to steep for several months.

For generations, the drink has been made at home. If you are curious (and patient), why not give it a go?

Homemade kajitsushu
Making umeshu, one of the more popular kajitsushu, from scratch is very simple. Take 1 kg of green apricots that you have washed thoroughly. With a toothpick, carefully dislodge the stem from the top of the apricot. In a large glass container, mix the apricots with 500 grams of rock sugar. To that add 1.8 liters of white liquor or shochu.

Place in a cool area and allow to rest for three months. At this point you can drink it, but it will be light in flavor. It is best to wait a minimum of a year, which will give the umeshu more depth. Click here to see the entire article.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Calling for Barbecue Recipes around the World

Rick Browne, author of Barbecue America, is writing a new cookbook entitled Barbecue Planet and would love to include one or two grilling or barbecue recipes from IACP members or chefs they might know.

If you or someone you know lives in one of the following countries and is interested in submitting recipes for Rick's upcoming cookbook, please send the information to

Attention residents or natives of: Finland, Denmark, Sweden, St. Marteen, Anguilla, South Africa, Italy, Spain, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Uruguay, Scotland, Ireland, Argentina, Hong Kong, Germany, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Tahiti, Fiji, Thailand, Israel, New Zealand & Australia.

Rick is looking for entree (main dish) and side dish recipes that are prepared on a BBQ or on the grill.

You will receive full credit in the book when it's published in the spring of 2008 and also a complimentary copy of the book.

Please send recipes ASAP as the end of the submission period is very near, also include exactly how you wish to be credited in the book, and a mailing address so Rick can send you your copy when Barbecue Planet is published.

You can read about Rick Browne's TV series on public TV and his other cookbooks, as well as see recipes from 4 years of the show, by going to

Dinner on the Diner – The Trans-Siberan Express

IACP member Sharon Hudgins has returned to the United States after working as the Resident Expert for National Geographic Expeditions on an 18-day tour across Russia and Mongolia—6,000 miles on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, from Vladivostok to Ulaan Bataar to Moscow. The tour visited many of the places she described in her award-winning book, The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East. Read more about her adventures here:

After working for eight days in Russia on a food article I was writing for Saveur magazine, I boarded a chartered Trans-Siberian train in Vladivostok, in Russia's Far East, along with 70 other passengers from the United States and 35 Russian crew members. We were embarking on the longest continuous railroad journey in the world, across the largest country on the planet, on the iron road that was the greatest engineering achievement of its time—the Trans-Siberian Railroad, built between 1891 and 1916.

For the next 15 days we ate most of our meals on the train, in two dining cars that each seated 36 people at tables covered with white linens and set with stemmed wine glasses and vases of fresh flowers. In both dining cars a staff of one chef, two sous-chefs, and a dishwasher (a person, not a machine) worked together in a galley smaller than my bathroom at home to prepare excellent multi-course meals accompanied by very good imported wines, Russian vodka, and dry champagne. All the meals were served by two friendly waiters adroit at balancing plates of food and pouring drinks while the train swayed back and forth along rough stretches of track.

The table d'hôte menu included red and black caviar, buckwheat bliny, smoked salmon, an enticing array of cold salads, freshly baked breads, a variety of traditional Russian soups, and main dishes such as beef Stroganov and Siberian pelmeni (meat-filled pasta, like tortelloni). Before and after dinner, many of us gathered in the comfortable lounge car for mixed drinks, glasses of wine, or mugs of cold Russian beer, on tap, as we listened to piano and guitar concerts by two Russian musicians who rode the rails with us. The food on the train was so good that many of the passengers asked for the dining-car recipes at the end of the trip.

My job for National Geographic Expeditions was to give lectures on the train as we traveled through the Russian countryside, from the Pacific coast in the Russian Far East, across Siberia, into Mongolia, back to Siberia, over the Ural Mountains, and onward to Moscow. Since this was a shared tour with Smithsonian Travel, their group's lecturer was on board, too—a professor of Russian history from the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill. Both of us presented our lectures in the dining cars when they weren't being used for meals.

I gave lectures on the History of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the Settlement of Siberia, the Buriat-Mongolians (history, foods, customs), Contemporary Urban Life in Russia, and Russian Holidays and Festivals. We had no blackboards, easels, projected slides, PowerPoint, or other visual aids. But I thought it was really cool to be lecturing about the Buriat-Mongolians as the train was rolling through the Buriat Republic, or to be talking about urban life in Russia as we passed through cities and towns. (The cities are changing rapidly, with economic development very evident, although the log houses in rural villages look just like those in 19th-century paintings, except for the big satellite dishes in their yards.) Instead of using standard visual aids, I could just point out the train windows and tell the tour group to look at the scenes going by. Those were the most fun "illustrated lectures" I've ever given. What an exotic venue for a classroom! (However, the challenge was to speak coherently, for an hour at a time, while standing in the aisle of a dining car and maintaining my balance as the train swerved around curves, lurched over bumpy stretches of track, and blacked out the "classroom" as it passed through long tunnels. I quickly learned to carry a flashlight so I could read my notes.)

We also had a full schedule of activities at stops along the railroad route. I treasure my memories of the guided city tours in Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Kazan, and Moscow; the visits to historical and ethnographic museums; a communal dinner at an Old Believer village south of Ulan-Ude; several folk music performances (including two "throat-singing" groups in Mongolia and Siberia's Sayan Mountains); boat trips on the Golden Horn Bay at Vladivostok, on legendary Lake Baikal, and on the Volga River at Kazan; a private classical music concert and champagne reception (by candlelight) at a historic house-museum in Irkutsk; a barbecue on the shore of Lake Baikal; the meals we ate at several very good regional restaurants; and a private vodka-and-caviar reception at St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. (Red Square was closed that evening, for security reasons, but we got special permission to be there, because of our event at St. Basil's. It was amazing—and a bit eerie—to have Red Square all to ourselves!)

The excursion to Mongolia was fascinating, too. Ulaan Baatar is an interesting and vibrant city, with an excellent historical museum and a colorful Buddhist temple complex. We also traveled to a national park and visited a nomadic Mongolian family in their yurt (where we tasted some of the homemade milk products that I wrote about in my book). In Mongolia I bought several hand-carved wooden ceremonial milk spoons, decorated with the images of the animals that produce the milk, which are used for making offerings and performing other rituals. The perfect souvenirs for someone interested in Mongolian foods!

After the tour ended, my husband and I stayed in Moscow for another week to visit the museums and scope out the food markets. We also discovered the Red October chocolate factory outlet store and another large shop that sells 100 different kinds of honey from all over the Russian Federation. Jars of honey and bags of chocolate confections added even more weight to our luggage already filled with pine-nut products (vodka, liqueur, chocolates, edible oil) that I'd carried all the way across the country by train from the Russian Far East.

I'm looking forward to working for National Geographic Expeditions again on their next Trans-Siberian Railroad tour, scheduled for July 12 – 28, 2007. For more information see (Click on Trips, Rail Journeys, then Trans-Siberia Rail Journey. For more information on Sharon Hudgins, click on the Experts tab.)

© Sharon Hudgins
IACP Member
Photography by Sharon Hudgins

Friday, December 01, 2006

Two cookbooks for two good causes

From the aromatic kitchens of ACE Bakery comes the latest collection of mouth-watering recipes for bread and all the delicious things that go with it. More From ACE Bakery is peppered with anecdotal cook’s tips,practical bits of food history and ingredient facts. The book features over 100 sensational recipes from delicious everyday fare to spectacular creations for family dinners and entertaining.

Linda Haynes is the co-founder of ACE Bakery in Toronto, Canada, with her husband Marin Connell. It is one of North America’s leading artisan bakeries, creating hand-made, European style rustic breads. Community involvement is an essential part of ACE’s philosophy. The company donates a percentage of its net profits to charitable organizations, with a focus on food and nutrition programs that assist low-income members of the community, financing culinary scholarships, and supporting organic farming initiatives. All royalties from the sale of More From ACE Bakery are donated to organizations that support women and children in crisis. ACE Bakery breads are available at locations across Canada, the Midwest and East coast of the U.S.A and the Bahamas.

Photo credit: Doug Bradshaw

Patricia McCausland-Gallo will release the Spanish version of her book "Secrets of Colombian Cooking" on December 7, in Barranquilla, Colombia. The book will sell for 38,000 Pesos and all the profits will go to "Nutrir" Foundation, a group working to feed the undernourished children of Barranquilla. The book will also be available for sale in Panama. Patricia McCausland is also the author of "Pasión por el Café" which will be released in 2007. She has Bachelor´s Degree in Food Science and Nutrition from the University of Louisiana, is a pastry chef, food writer, and cooking teacher. Pachi lives in Panama with her husband and three daughters. For more information visit Creative Culinary Works.

Patricia and Linda are members of IACP.