Holland cruise line invited me on a cruise to do a few cooking demos and a cooking class.. My first demo was for about a 100 people and we started with Greek specialties like Spanikopita rolls and Lamb meatballs. The second demo was Arancini and a steamed Mussel dish. Then on to a 90 minute cooking class where we did a 3 course meal which was super fun to have so many people really interested and interacting. It was a lot of fun to have people get involved in rolling meatballs and chopping herbs for me…Now onto the cruise itself ,I guess some people either love it or hate it, I am not really sure how I feel about it . I am not one who really likes to be on things that are constantly moving so needless to say there were a few times I said (Get me off this boat). The good side is I got to go see some pretty cool places ,try different foods and meet some really great people. First stop Turks and Cacos then on to San Juan, Puerto Rico ,St Marten,Half moon Cay,Bahamas which holland America owns .. My favorite stop San Juan I can’t say enough of what a charming ,beautiful city it is.. Kind of reminded me of the west village meets . I searched high and low and asked all the locals to send me to a local place (not a touristy spot) to eat a Puerto Rican specialty Mofungo which I really did not love ! What I also didn’t like is you are always in a rush to get back on the boat to go to the next place so there is not enough time in each port to really enjoy. I would suggest that everyone go on one cruise at least once .
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to visit Sam Adams Boston Brewery. As a New Englander, and my love for all things New England, I couldn’t have been more excited to visit. My experience was so awesome it even exceeded my expectations! Me and my best friend Richie (aka Lolly) got a private tour of the facility from a cool guy named Mike who explained everything that goes into making their delicious beers, and let me tell you there is a lot involved in making beer! I had no idea! Next, I met with Dean Gianocostas a brewmaster who has been there for over 26 years! He explained even more about the process and shared some amazing stories about being with the company almost as long as they’ve been around. Finally, I sat down with Jennifer Glanville, also a head brewmaster, and we sampled many varieties of their delicious brew. Including the Sam Adams Specialty Craft beers Utopias, which are 29% alcohol and cost $200 a bottle! Jennifer was so much fun and gave me such a wonderful insight as to why Sam Adams continues to dominate the competition, because the owner/creator Jim Koch refuses to settle when it comes to his product. Whether its ingredients, or the barrels, the research, the testing, etc. Jim insists on always using the best of the best, and refuses to cut costs or corners and jeopardize his product. This is why Sam Adams has continued to win awards in brew competitions consistently. Stay tuned for a collaboration between my New England cooking and Sam Adams New England beer….
Hood Dairy has just launched a new cooking channel on YouTube called Cooking with HP Hood. I had a wonderful time shooting episodes for their new channel using Hood Sour Cream in some of my recipes. They recently uploaded 3 episodes I shot with them, I’ve included the links below. Check out these videos to learn my recipes for Lamb Sliders with Tzatziki Sour Cream Sauce, Chili Empanadas and Panna Cotta for dessert. Stay tuned for more videos from me and Hood Dairy.
I know I haven’t been on here writing much lately, this New England winter was a rough one. It’s hard to find things to do, places to go and life and excitement when you’re snowed in for days at a time lol. Luckily… Spring is almost here.
Last night I was watching Planet Earth and I can’t even begin to tell you how awesome it was. There are few things I love as much as Food, and I think from watching last night’s Planet Earth I realized that nature is definitely up there on my list of important things. I become so enraptured and amazed when I am looking at, reading about or watching anything with nature. It reminds me of how much I love living in New England. I’ve lived a lot of places, and I have loved all of them for many many reasons, but none of them has beat New England for nature. Just the other day I saw a family of Turkeys walking down my street. Every time I walk to the beach I see oysters, scallops, perry winkles, little necks and steamers. In fact, the other day I saw a coyote in my yard! Which made me slightly nervous and now I am extra careful when I walk Max at night. And since Spring is almost here, I’ve even seen the beginnings of tulips and daffodils growing in my front yard. Which I can’t wait to see in full bloom. A long cold Winter really masked the amount of nature surrounding me in Rhode Island and I am so grateful that Spring is right around the corner and all of these wonderful parts of our world will be visible again.
I have been asked to film a 6-part series of Web-isodes for Hood Dairy. I love Hood. We New Englanders stick together. Hood has been a New England company that has been around for over 100 years. I have been using Hood Dairy products since I was a little girl so it is an honor that they asked me to film this. Hood requested that I use sour cream in every recipe. Sour cream is a great ingredient to add to food, it is occasionally used as a substitute for mayonnaise, which I also love but it can be very heavy at times. Saturday I filmed the Web-episodes and we did all the recipes in a total of 7 hours and then I even added a seventh recipe, which is crazy. Everything went so smooth, no technical problems and the crew was amazing. Let me tell you what I came up with… The first two recipes were “party” or “game day” recipes. Those were lamb sliders with a sour cream tatziki sauce (because I’m a Greek) and chili empanadas. Then, on to side dishes. I made spring broccoli salad and an orzo and asparagus salad. Hood wanted an entrée where sour cream is the star, so I decided to bring back an old favorite – chicken paprika with a beautiful sour cream wine sauce. For desert I made mixed-berry sour cream Panna Cotta. The seventh recipe was shrimp scampi using sour cream in the sauce. All the recipes came out great and the crew was thankful they got to eat a lot of delicious food. I just want to thank Hood Dairy for thinking of me and I will let you know when they are on-line and ready to go. Thank you Hood!
I just spent a week at my sister’s house in Connecticut. There is nothing like being around family and friends during the holidays. The one thing I did was eat way too much! Let’s start with me walking through the door and Phyllis, my mom, was already there cooking away so I’m in trouble before my coat was even off. There was stuffed sausage and broccoli bread, cheeses, Italian cold cuts and of course stuffed artichokes. That was just the pre-game to dinner. Porcini brown sugar rubbed rib roast, twice baked potatoes, yes with bacon, brussel sprouts with bacon and maple syrup salad and lots of vino. At this point I’ve eaten so much I can hardly breath. Then we all sat around the fireplace and watched movies and thank God it snowed so I can say it was a perfect start to my holidays. The next day my other sister Barb, my nephew Brett and niece Danielle all came down from upstate NY and Richard (aka Lolly) came in from his family in Long Island. We had a big bowl of pasta and sauce, a healthy salad and some not-so-healthy garlic bread for dinner. The next day for breakfast Phyllis made us greek bread, bacon and eggs and New England coffee cake. For lunch we had some chicken cutlets while Phyllis was starting a whole Thanksgiving dinner Turkey from the farm, mashed potatoes, turnips and the best stuffing in the whole wide world and lots of vino and an amazing canoli cake from Sugar bakery (winner in cupcake wars) again I can’t breath and so stuffed but its the holidays so we’re all allowed to indulge right? The next morning I wake up to the smell of coffee, bacon again and mom rolling the best meatballs and making sauce so we all hungout played games, ate more food, and made more memories. I even had the chance to catch up with some old friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Life is pretty amazing and its not even New Years yet. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and be safe and lets all make 2013 even better.
A couple of weeks ago I went to Savanna Georgia, what a beautiful city . I went to do a cooking demo for the humane society . One of my oldest friends Guinnevere Friedman runs the humane society and I wanted to help. So I called her after food network star and said maybe now that i have had some exposure my voice for the animals will be bigger so what can I do to help. WE planned to do a food demo with a place called zunzis a sandwich shop that was rated best sandwich in america by travel channel. They were nice enough to let me use their kitchen . the day was awesome instead of seafood I made a greek dish called pastitsio . the day was a great success. What I learned is that Guinn has put a program into place with the local jail . so I went to the jail to see the inmates train the dogs . They take troubled dogs and train them so that they can be adopted this program was amazing . taking troubled dogs and troubled people and letting them live together is a win win situation. the inmates care for the dogs 24 hours a day . and boy did I meet some amazing dogs and people . They were kind enough to show me how they train the dogs and take care of them. I am very proud of my friend for all the hard work and selfless acts she does for these animals so thank you Humane society for letting me be a part of this great experience.
I need to take the time to thank my parents. Thanks to them, I am of Greek and Italian descent. One of the things Greek and Italian people do great is cook. When I was a little girl that’s all we did in my family. My Mom, who I still think is the best chef I know, was always tearing it up in the kitchen. My Dad was always tearing it up on the grill. Lucky for me, they like to cook and we could afford great food. I always loved to watch them cook and talk about food. Eating and cooking were a huge part of my life,and attendance was mandatory at the dinner table as well as engaging in conversations about food and school. It was a good thing for me to be so involved with who we were and where we came from . My grandparents all lived in Astoria NY. When I was a kid it was mostly Greeks and Italians that came from there. My Italian side were all in the fish business. My grand father had a store in New Jersey and when he would ride the train home he would rub fish guts on him so he would smell because he would bring home cash and not want to get mugged haha. I remember eating well all my life going to my Yaya and Popoo, those are my greek grandparents, and there was always amazing food. Pastitsio, lamb, avgalemeno and so many more good things. Going to my nanas, the Italian side, and having Sunday sauce and meatballs, stuffed breads and the best meats around. Including soppressata, cappicola, and so on. It’s no wonder my parents picked up the love of food. My dad, being a fisherman and hunter, was a great guy to be around because we would always have fresh fish and pheasant. I am grateful to my family and my heritage that I found something that I can be so passionate about and creative, and still keep it as close to my heart of who I am and where I come from when I cook. My love for fishing and seafood has been in my family for generations and that is pretty cool..
It’s hard to make a menu for a restaurant that seats about 280, that’s a lot of mouths to feed and quite a bit of stress! The first thing I want to do is stay traditional New England. Then, I have to throw in my Greek heritage. Next, I definitely have to put my Italian flair and my love for Portuguese flavors. Since I work in Rockland Maine with some of the freshest food, I guess we can start there. Let’s start with lobster… at my restaurant, our lobsters stay in the ocean until they are ordered. We have crates under the restaurant that sit in the ocean, that we pull up when we need one for an order. Now that’s fresh! Now for “what am I gonna do with those lobsters???” Definitely thinking steamed lobster, lobster fritters, lobster marscapone wontons, lobster devilled eggs, lobster mac and cheese and we can go on and on. The fish is AMAZING and my fish monger is the best, and gets the freshest fish. The mushroom foragers and farmers make my fish specials easy and amazing. Since Im also Italian, of course we will have pasta! Im thinking linguine white clam with little necks from Rhode Island, lobster pasta and yes sometimes even meatballs. Yum! This year for the Greek influence I think I am going to throw a Greek shrimp saganaki with tomatoes, ouzo and feta. And lets not forget the Portuguese little necks with kale and chorizo. We do have a crispy chicken skin and beet salad currently on the menu, and this year Im going to do a play on a tuna nicoise, the best New England clam chowder, and amazing oysters from all over Maine. Of course we will have just about anything you want raw, and what I’ve been told are “the best fried clams next to Ipswich!!” This year, I think I want to add an Ox tail and lobster ragu, and a fiddle head ravioli. We do have some delicious meat on the menu already, NY strip and filet with a chive bone marrow butter. This year, I will be throwing in some lamb, duck and maybe some offal. If any of this sounds good to you then I hope you will make a trip to a very beautiful place to have amazing food.
I guess there truly is nothing more special than being home for the holidays. To be back in Rhode Island has given me a definite sense of peace that I just didn’t get anywhere else out of the many places I have lived. When I was a kid my family definitely got into the holiday spirit, from decorations to music and of course food. Every Christmas, my Dad took us to Jones tree farm to go walk on the farm and find the very best Christmas tree we could find, of course followed by my mom having hot chocolate ready when we returned home. Decorating the tree was my favorite part we would all decorate eat something amazing and listen to Johnny Mathis (my Mom’s favorite holiday singer haha). As a kid I would lay under the tree and just loved how soothing the lights on the tree made me feel. My Dad would always take me sledding. I would lay on his back and poor guy had teeth marks in his head every time we hit a bump. I once spent a Christmas in Florida and although it was great to be on a warm beach in December it was definitely not the same as the cold, a lit fireplace and watching the snow drop and having a snow day from school. Something about the rugged coastline of New England and the houses with plaques saying “built in 1877″ just always made me feel at peace so thank you New England for all your beauty. Happy Holidays everyone!!!