We just started posting some of our restaurant reviews on Urban Spoon. If you have not tried the site, we think Urban Spoon rocks. They do a good job of aggregating opinions on local restaurants, city by city and across the U.S.
We only wish they had a way to write up some of the more rural, but great restaurants we have visited on the Summer Food Drives in smaller towns like Holly Springs, MS, Buffalo Gap, TX, Sedona, AZ etc. Maybe they will launch Rural Spoon someday.
What started out as a classy, foodie party for before the Beta Launch (first test phase) of The Smart Kitchen Online Culinary School, lasted past the dessert hour and into the wee desert evening hours. It was a tight knit group of about 50 or so but there was a lot of excitement about the product, the food, the team and the conviviality of the whole thing.
Teaching Chef, Dominic O’Neill, our Chef Teaching Instructor, SK Chef, Eric O’Neill, our President & P Chef, Perry Herst the Chief Operating Officer, toasted the launch to kick off the party.
Teaching Chef, SK Chef & P Chef Toast the Beta Launch of Smart Kitchen
3 Philosophers drank Three Philosophers Belgian Style Ale
The toast allowed everyone to break into the drinks and then the food.
Prosecco Brut Started Things Off.
Renee representing the Web Dev Team & 2 Fists Shiner Bock and Widmer Hefeweizen Beer.
After the Drinks the food. The menu included:
An incredible Fish Chowder that will have to be in the Advanced Level Lessons.
The Incredible Fish Chowder Stood Out!
Roast Sirloin with ”liquid gold”, a Cream Demi-Glaze
Roast Sirloin with a Cream Demi-Glaze
Home Cured Gravlox with home grown Basil & Spinach put up into a delicate dipping sauce
Home Cured Gravlax was a treat
Crab Claws & Shrimp, simply prepared but worth every bite.
Maytag Blue Cheese & Point Reyes Blue Cheese share a photo.
The Brie Looked Great & Went Quickly.
For dessert the menu called for: Mexican Chocolate Cake, Lindzer Torte, & Pumpkin Bars
The Mexican Chocolate Cake was exotic and delicious.
But some of the team, including yours truly, baked up some extra action.
Some Looked Fancy and some Looked Plain but both tasted Fancy
Even the center pieces were noteworthy bits of “Flair”. Teaching Chef, shows that not even Smart Kitchen contains all of his “4th Lever” tricks. We will have to work on him about that and get those centerpieces in the Intermediate Food Preparation section.
A Simple but Beautiful Herb & White Navy Bean Centerpiece
Votive Fruit? Not really but who knew Pineapple & Cabbage made such seemly Candle Holders
The party was great but the reception of Smart Kitchen, the product was even better. Everyone liked the look and the feel. We are very excited to begin the formal testing next week.
SK Chef Explains the Finer Points of Smart Kitchen
Last and likely least, my shaved face above. I had promised in Mid-September to refrain from shaving until the Smart Kitchen Beta was up. We were 22 days behind schedule and the Beta Beard got a bit shaggy. With the launch shaving returned to its rightful place in the grooming regimen and I am happy the unwieldly monster is gone. But Round Two starts Monday with the deadline for Food Preparation Basics. Hopefully, nothing going forward will rival the Beta Beard. For a point of comparision, it is below. You will likely agree that it wasn’t looking very sexy just before Friday’s shave. I think you could call it the opposite of “Flair.”
22 Days Behind Schedule. The Beta Test Beard Grew Out of Hand.
We are excited around the Smart Kitchen. A lot of late nights and early mornings, like today’s posting @ 02.19 AM are coming to fruition.
Come heck or high water (not impossible with the last two desert gully washers we have had) 50 people are coming tonight for our pre-beta launch, for when the swaddling cloth comes off of our new culinary school next week.
The Content Management System (CMS) is up. The video delivery system is up, though throttled back. Two lessons, of the 30 to come, are up. The beard I promised to grow until we launched is even up, though I am getting sick of the Santa Claus jokes, and sick of having what feels like a sweater on my face.
The prospect of being clean shaven again and for such a good reason is exciting. The site looks really good, and seems to flow. Perhaps if the attendees, eat and drink well enough, they will want to break out the knives right then and get cooking. Though with tonight’s menu, they will most likely just want to pull up a chair and talk about it. We will be eating well. Teaching Chef and SK Chef are outdoing themselves.
The Menu for 50 includes:
Fish Chowder, Roast Sirloin with a Cream Demi-Glaze, Gravlox with a Basil & Spinach Cream Sauce, Crab Claws and Gulf Shrimp,
Artichoke Salad, and a Cheese Plate, that will have some Maytag Blue Cheese, a Summer Food Drive favorite.
And Desserts: Mexican Chocolate Cake, Lindzer Torte, Harvey Wallbanger Cake, and seasonal Pumpkin bars
P Chef, yours truly, is tasked with the bar service and has some Fin du Monde and Shiner Bock on tap, in addition to the wine selection and the martini fixings. There is also a sneak cake to be baked and transported for the party.
A lot of people are coming together to help us launch Smart Kitchen and we wanted to say thanks and to share the excitement they are helping create. Obviously SK Chef and Teaching Chef have done yeoman’s work. But so to have the tech guys (and gal), Mike W, Ross, Renee, and Chris. Daniel’s directorial efforts were above and beyond. Our intern Tessa was a great help. Megan at the “Office” kept the coffee and conversation flowing. And the SC team too, Nai, and Mike M. And I cannot and should not forget to thank Mrs. P Chef for the edits help, the ideas and the support for the tired or the kids for giving up so much of their Dad, for the sake of all that typing.
We wish you all could join us tonight, but if not tonight, in the coming days.
Going forward you best double check your Rhubarb, to make sure its not actually Red Celery.
This week celery was genetically modified, the safe old fashioned way, by generations of plant breeding since 1991. Larry Pierce ran the project which started with European Heritage varieties and ended this week with the unveiling of Red Celery at a produce trade show in Florida by Duda Farm Fresh Foods which cultivates 39,000 acres in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia & Michigan.
Americans use an average of just over 6 pounds of fresh celery per person per year. If you plan to make red celery part of your diet, look for Red Celery in Stores around December 1, 2010, just in time for holiday cooking & centerpieces.
Over the next five years Wal-Mart Corporation, the giant $405 Billion revenue retailer promises to dramatically increase the amount of local produce it purchases from small farmers in the U.S. and abroad. It’s goal is to double the amount of local food in its stores in the U.S.
The big questions will be if local producers can keep Wal-Mart supplied, and at what price. Hopefully, reducing waste and inefficiency (often up to 2/3 of best practices pay for themselves) will offset some of the upfront costs.
Wal-Mart can move the dial. We are pleased they are turning it towards the local farmer.
I am almost getting sick of myself at still being amazed by Smart Kitchen.
At our house, we try to have a Sunday breakfast policy of family made pancakes or French Toast done together. This past Sunday we were using a recipe from Joy of Cooking and my 5 year old who has been tagging along on my lessons in the Smart Kitchen beta test suggested that we add orange juice to the pancake batter. I said “sure” without thinking about it.
But then my new Smart Kitchen brain kicked in. “What about the extra liquid in the batter?” Can you believe it? Unbidden the answers came. “More flour and maybe a touch more baking powder. 2 eggs should still be okay.” Who was I?
We made the changes and poured the liquid portion of the batter into the divit Teaching Chef had taught me to make in the flour and which I had taught my daughter to make.
She whisked it all together in the big bowl as I pre-heated the cast iron skillet. My daughter timed our adding in the batter by the heat of the skillet, using the butter as a visual clue. Together, (safety first with kids & stoves) we poured in the first spoons of batter. She watched for the visual clue about when to turn them and scared her Dad flipping them, but actually did a great job.
OMG the pancakes were the best I’d ever made. That’s the shock, in a good way, of this Smart Kitchen. They break things down so you do different steps. A 5 year old was doing it. Now its kind of embarassing that over the last 40 odd years, I’ve made a lot of pancakes and these were the first that were truly great. Just practicing solo didn’t get me there. A few simple changes and the ability to improvise learned from Smart Kitchen did. We, my 5 year old and I, made 5 star, good restaurant quality food. She’s not really an eater like her old man but she had 4 pancakes yesterday and 3 more (reheated) today.
And I admit to having a few pancakes myself. They were like a treat, crispy, with just the right sweetness and orange tang. I didn’t want to risk wrecking them by adding syrup, even the real maple stuff. I actually had to exert some will power over the cakey goodness or I might have demolished the pile of them we were saving for the kids’ breakfasts this week.
That’s another Smart Kitchen thing. We do a bit more planning and make pancakes for a few days while we have the gear out. They keep and are real economical. I’m thinking of them now and can’t touch them so I’m writing about them instead. I can’t wait until next Sunday to see if we can do it again. I will be really excited to have those great pancakes be more than a fluke.
If I get bold, I might experiment with some of the batter to make something a bit more savory. Maybe add in some spreadable cheddar or some feta into the batter and see how that turns out. We will keep you posted.
With great food and a chance to feel a bit of fall weather, we are thinking of visiting the Northern Arizona Wine & Food Festival in Prescott, Az on October 16th. They’ll have wines and food from 40 wineries, 10 restaurants and 25 food companies and some cooking demonstrations by Jan D’Atri our charming & attractive local Arizona TV & Radio Chef and author.
Jan D'Atri Will Be Cooking
And a demonstration by the improvisational Eddie Matney known for meat loaf-on-a-stick, Mo’Rockin’ shrimp and filet mignon encased in a fried Parmesan mashed potato crust, among other wonders.
The Improvisational Eddie Matney
The Festival will be in Prescott, Valley AZ on October 16th 2010 @ 3201 N. Main St. The phone is 928-772-1819. If you are all the way in Prescott, don’t forget to visit the Palace Saloon, where the food is servicable but the westrn ambience & nostalgia is terriffic.
It's Old Timey Fun @ The Palace
I’ve got a birthday coming up, and might drag the family up to Prescott to celebrate & to talk to the folks about SmartKitchen.com “The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook.”(tm).