Oct 16

Ice Cream Ramen Is As Awesome As It Sounds

ice cream ramen
There is a new dessert in town. It is called ice cream ramen and it tastes exactly how it sounds. It is composed of is seaweed, specifically algae jelly, which look like noodles hence the “ramen,” and are tossed in condensed milk with crushed ice. You can feel free to add whatever toppings you like, like you would do with a regular ice cream or yogurt. Those who want to stay true to the “ramen” title can add mochi, fresh fruit, and peach syrup to give the “ramen” feel.
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Jun 16

How to Make Your Own Ice Cream

ice cream
Ice cream is a staple during the hot summer. Instead of going down to your local shop or grocery store, you can choose to make your own. This is also a great chance to really get creative with flavors. The best part about choosing to make your own is that you don’t even need any device such as an ice cream maker.
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Mar 16

Beautiful Desserts that are (Surprisingly) Easy to Make


Whether you want to excite the family over dinner or you want to make everyone drool as they walk into a dinner party, knowing how to make beautiful desserts is an important talent to have. If you’ve been disappointed by a dessert you tried to make from a social media post, we have some desserts that are easier to make than they look.

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Nov 15

Four of the Easiest Holiday Cookies You Can Make


There are a lot of holiday cookies that you can make. It can be a lot of fun to get into the kitchen and create some cookies that you can share with family, friends, and co-workers. Depending upon your skill level, you can get as fancy or keep things as basic as you desire. Here are four cookies that are very easy, and you can add some variations along the way – and even take some shortcuts.

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Feb 12

Has The Bacon-in-Everything Movement “Jumped the Shark.”

This is probably the end, right?

OK, if you know me at all you may not buy this, but for everyone else, this blog post is really a Public Service Announcement (PSA). Really. I derived no specific personal pleasure or glee from the activities described herein. That being said, we are food-blogging and cooking professionals and advise that you don’t try the following at home.
I read (maybe it was a late night TV Commercial) that Jack in the Box, the almost national burger chain with breakfast all day, was marketing a bacon shake as part of their loving bacon (Why don’t You Marry It!) marketing campaign.  We could not believe anyone would be so horrid & so depraved and were compelled by dark caloric forces to explore the rumor, if for no other reason than to spare our readers a similar fate. Of course it is only a coincidence that SK Chef was out of town and unable to veto this blog post.  : )

Before you say it, I strongly resent that anyone would accuse us (me) of wanting to taste such a concoction. I may drive all over the place in search of ridiculous dishes but in this instance, I am acting as a caring blogger concerned for my audience’s welfare. Really!

OK, let’s leave it at this, just because I am willing to sacrifice myself (and my unknowing friends) so that the general public doesn’t have to drink deeply from this strange taste combination that Jack is pushing from his box, doesn’t mean I am experiencing any pleasure from the act. To me, it is just culinary civic mindedness to save you, the reader, from being sucked into the dying act of an unhealthy culinary trend.  That is my story and I’m sticking to it but we can agree to disagree so that I can get back to the story.

So to begin the sampling, we slipped out of our Chef’s Coat, donned a disguise, spurned the drive-thru and since the SmartKitchen-Mobile carries distinctive “Smart Kitchen” signage, parked far across the parking lot . Unobserved, we executed a circuitous, calorie-consuming infiltration of the fast food den. We got our shake “to go,” inserted it into a brown paper bag and reversed our path to exfiltrate the house of fried calories.

Wisely, we had thought ahead and Organized, the 1st of Smart Kitchen’s 4 Levers of Cooking,™ our live sampling to account for the staggering number of calories and fat grams per ounce in something that is both a fast food milkshake and a bacon. We got a bit Tom Sawyer and disguised the rationale for the small focus group as a mid-afternoon “Gift” to our friends at the local coffee shop.

In return for the gift, we orchestrated a 3/4 reduction in the 773 calories (before Whip Cream & Cherry) of the Bacon Shake. Even with some protein (12 g) and a healthy dose of Sodium (319 mg), Nutrition is Not the Strong Suit of a 40 Fat Gram Bacon Milk Shake (only 28 g are saturated fat).


12 Grams of Protein and Loads of Sodium, Not Bad! (Not!)

In addition to calorie reduction, we also sourced “data points” on the shake as we now had 4 people who all complained, self righteously, about the decadence and depravity of such a shake, before tucking into a 1/4 sized portion.

A Healthy (er) Portion Cup of Bacon Milk Shake

The results were shameful. I should have known it, even with my good intentions, when entering upon such a caloric enterprise. It pains me to discuss it, so I won’t; all I will say is that we were all properly indignant and in the end we did our duty. Within 2-3 minutes there wasn’t a drop of bacon flavored potion in any of the 4 sampling cups. Rest assured, none can fall into untrained hands.

Now, as I type off the 193.25 calories, my mind turns to how to make the shake healthier….for others. Ingredients like hormone-free Heavy Cream, organic vanilla ice cream, and lean Nueske‘s Applewood Smoked Bacon or even Benton’s no-preservatives, traditional cured and smoked bacon comes to mind. And I am just getting started. Can a Cinnamon Beurre Blanc Milkshake be far away? Oops, did I write that? mmm…….I mean hmmmmmm…..

P Chef

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“The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™”

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Mar 11

The Four Levers of Cooking™ – Flair

a floral cupcake

Amber's Cupcake with a Definite Sense of "Flair."

At Smart Kitchen, we teach people to cook. One of the ways we breakdown the process is with the The 4 Levers of Cooking™, essentially a method of determining when and where to focus while making a meal.

One of the Levers, the final one in fact,  is “Flair” or making your dish your own. I was struck by the difference between a product with “Flair” and an ordinary product when I was shown the baking work of a friend of a friend.

The cupcake above was made by Amber (the friend of my friend) and if a picture is worth a thousand words, Amber’s cupcake describes “Flair” very well. Flair can elevate a cupcake to Culinary Art and show those close to you how you feel.

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

“The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™”


Feb 11

First Introduction of Smart Kitchen to the Public

The Smart Kitchen Team had been working a long time to reach this day. As you may have seen in a previous post, on February 4th, 2011 we finally went “Live” with the www.smartkitchen.com Online Culinary School Site. Going Live was a big deal but one that was heralded by little public fan fare or marketing. We celebrated internally mostly by overdoing it at our Super Bowl Party with family and friends, and setting our work flow back a bit come Monday. This Saturday event, a traditional Farmers’ Market was our coming out party.

Smart Kitchen at North Scottsdale Farmers Market

The First Booth in the First Hours

Its 04:30 AM as I write this message about another important date for Smart Kitchen, February 12, 2011, when our company and Online Culinary School product first met the public; and the meeting was good.

Eric O'Neill at the Smart Kitchen booth

Apparently, SK Chef was Serving up HAM!

Behind the Curtain of SmartKitchen.com's booth

Behind the Curtain

We had a heck of a good time, introducing ourselves to the people of our hometown and learning that many of them are interested in learning to cook. We had some sign ups, and a lot of positive feedback which feels great after so many months of long hours getting Smart Kitchen to this point. We also had a lot of support from our hometeam fans, thanks Mr. & Mrs. Teaching Chef (below supporting in close proximity). And thanks to Mrs. P Chef, who was exhibiting team play by watching the little chefs-to-be so that Dad could be with the public.

Family Support for the Smart Kitchen Foray

Family Support from the Teaching Chef's & C Chef

We also had some great neighbors, including Merissa and Billy who put on the North Scottsdale Farmers’ Market and have a new home delivery service they are offering if you aren’t able to make it to the market.

On our other side, our neighbor was Julia from Torched Goodness who (along with her husband Chef Eric Ireland), makes great Creme Brulee. Keep an eye out for them, or their sweet dessert coach. It was a bit of torture standing and watching so much fabulous dessert being prepared while working for Smart Kitchen and sampling nothing.

Julia from Torched Goodness

Julia of Torched Goodness Setting Up


Down the way a bit, was Royal Dogs, who offered up a pleasant sausage curiosity: Bison Dogs. My Bison Dog (close to closing time and off the clock) was enjoyable and a great novelty. The first bison item that was worth a return. The dog wasn’t too dry as Bison products can easily become.

I will likely be a returning customer this coming Saturday, February 19th, 2011 when Smart Kitchen returns to the Farmers’ Market, hopefully with  a banner.

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™

Feb 11

Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana

Don Alfonso Pizza from Pomo

The Quatro Stagioni

We have been hearing the buzz about Pomo for months now but have not been able to visit and sample the Verache Pizza Napoletana because Mrs. P Chef has been on a Gluten-Free diet for 4 months now (as a way to try and combat headaches). She unreasonably requests that we eat at places where she can find a filling, satisfying Gluten-Free Meal.

She even phoned Pomo in advance in December 2010 to see if they had any Gluten Free Pizzas, but being true to the ancient traditions requires gluten in the pizza dough. I am a lover of tradition as you can tell from the posts about what James Madison or Thomas Jefferson ate here or there and was dying to try authentic Neopolitan pizza. I am not against modern items either, in general if it is good, I like it, but there is a special place in my heart for the foods of our ancestors.

Perhaps Mrs. P Chef’s headaches stem from an insistent husband but she gamely tagged along (as did our friends Steve and Debbie). Mrs. P Chef had a nice salad, which is pictured below. I had the Buffala D.O.P. and was very impressed with the lightness, and crunch. The San Marzano D.O.P tomato sauce was excellent as was the signature buffala (buffalo) mozarella. The price is not light, $13-$17 for our pizzas but as experience, or an outing we thought it was worth it and will go back.

Buffala DOP Pizza

The Buffala DOP Pizza at Pomo

Before you go crazy asking yourself about the D.O.P., let me explain. D.O.P. stands for Denomination of Protected Origin in Italy. Did that help? Maybe not. In English we might call it a Protected Denomination of Origin, which means that the product so designated is made, processed and produced in a specific geographic area that has been thoroughly surveyed and certified. The reason for the claim is that certain regions claim to produce superior product by virtue of the land/climate. Think of Champagne, the most famous case. If that sparkling wine is not produced in the Champagne it is technically not allowed to use the name.  A similar term is Protected Geographic Indication, which means that at least one stage of the production of the product occured in the designated region.  So why does all that matter?

Buffala Mozarella from Pomo

A Gluten Free Side Dish Ordered for Mrs. P Chef

Come try Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana and find out for yourself. The Italian Buffala makes a difference, as do the San Marzano Tomatoes which are a good reason they named the joint Pomo (tomato in Italian).

The Parma Pizza

Mrs. P Chef's Gluten Free Roma Salad

They don’t have a Caesar’s Salad at Pomo but the Caesar substitute is the Roma Salad which Mrs. P Chef enjoyed. I hope she liked it enough to go back. If not the desserts, might be a draw.

Croccante alla Crema

The Croccante Alla Crema

The Croccante is a mixed nut basket, filled with mascarpone cream and topped with fresh seasonal fruit. 


Semifreddo Di Mandorle

The dessert above is the semifreddo di mandorle, which means semi cold in Italian but I have to admit I ordered it because I have always wanted to try the dish that is inexplicably linked up with the Godfather Series in my brain. The semifreddo is a traditional Italian dessert which is a very light cold mousse topped with amaretto cookies. I enjoyed mine but mostly from the place of being food curios. On my next visit I may be enjoying the Tiramisu.

Lastly, if you can’t visit in person, you might get a kick out of the History of the Pizza that Pomo has on their web site.

'Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Jan 11

Cartlel Coffee Lab a Great Place to Blab

Ready for Your 11:00 AM Coffee Lab?

Though the entry reminds me of a grade school classroom door, Cartel Coffee Lab feels more like a coffee “speak-easy,” especially if you aren’t a 20-something. Luckily, its not and all are welcome to this 3 year old Mecca of mocha.

Cartel Coffee lab Interior

The Cartel Space is Industrial Hip

My wife, Mrs. P Chef, is always looking in the desert for a place with the urban complexity of a New York or Los Angeles. I think she will like Cartel, which actually first rolled out as a small coffee cart and roaster. The original roaster sits at the rear of the shop today.

Jason Silberschlag and his wife Amy own and run the small chain. Jason researched coffee for a year, including a trip to Guatemala to observe farming, harvesting and processing techniques used in coffee production, before opening the original coffee cart. Serendipitously on the return flight from Guatemala, Jason bumped into Duane Sorrenson of Stumptown Coffee who encouraged Jason to simultaneously pursue a coffee shop and roastery.

They opened for business and were mostly sustained by their neighborhood and volunteers in the early years. As they grew, they were able to hire some part time help but kept themselves very involved in every aspect of the shop. In fact, Jason build the coffee bar that stands today.  He also welded together most of the tables, did most of the plumbing and electrical which all contributes to the industrial vibe (and personality) of the Tempe Cartel Coffee Lab.

Cartel's photo of espresso brewing

Harvesting Cartel's Espresso (photo courtesy of Cartel Coffee Lab)

They did very little advertising but relied on great product, word of mouth, some write-ups and some flyers to grow the business.

Word of mouth got me. I was turned on to Cartel by our web designer at Smart Kitchen (thanks Mike) and was very impressed with my decaf. It was literally a single drip coffee, hand finished with “Flair.” (See Smart Kitchen Blog Post on culinary Flair). The flair was even better and more pronounced on the cappuccino drinks where they have more to work with. Some of the Cartel baristas even compete in the United States Barista Championships in Long Beach, Ca. They want to get your drink just right.

Cappuccino from Cartel Coffee Lab

The Cappuccino Artistry at Cartel

Cartel Coffee Lab is also very particular about their beans. They visit origin countries as much as possible to see the farms themselves, observe the processing in action and bring back the story.  Typically, they prefer single origin coffees over blended ones.  They believe that there is something about unveiling the characteristics of a single varietal that is extremely rewarding and delicious.  Based on my experience, I agree.

They do some blending of beans such as in their Black Market Espresso which currently is about 85% Guatemala Chichupac and 15% Finca Alaska Bourbon which makes for a delightfully sweet, sparkling citrus espresso with a hint of cacao. 

Their roasting philosophy is also particular.  Cartel tends towards lighter roasts because their goal is to reveal the inherent quality of the varietal beans rather than roast over them. Even though most guests can’t discriminate between the roast or the bean, Cartel wants them to have the chance to choose for themselves, while doing their best to educate their customers about flavors and variety. I appreciated it.

With all that the brand has invested in quality, they don’t skimp on training for new hires either. They invest a lot of time and money in every new team member. All potential new hires complete an internship before even being considered for a part time job. Once hired, they provide hands on training and lecture sessions to continue building their coffee knowledge. 

The crowd and the vibe is also a lot of fun. It is mostly a college crowd with some young professionals. A very creative group which sparked extra creativity as I worked on my laptop.

working on Smart Kitchen at Cartel

Working on Smart Kitchen from Cartel Coffee Lab

Overhearing a neighboring conversation, sold me on trying a coconut chocolate cookie which I would not normally venture to do. Oh, not because of the cookie as calories reason but because chocolate and coconut are not usually enough of a reason (for me) to consume the calories.

Chocolate coconut cookies

Chocolate Coconut Cookies

The kids were not wrong. It was the best chocolate coconut cookie I’d had. I liked it so much I had to try something more to my regular tastes. Let me just say, I can also recommend the Blondie Cookie.

Cartel Coffee Lab blondie cookie

The Blondie Cookie was also Excellent

I actually ate my original cookies so quickly that I had nothing to photograph.

empty cookie bags

All That was Left of the First Round of Cookies When the Camera Came Out

Yes, I am busted, the cookies in the photos are the replacement cookies. Do you have to ask what became of them? The bags are empty. The cookies are gone. hmmm. Let’s just say that now that the pictures are taken, I can order a more reasonable (slightly) two cookies on my next visit.

If you are in Tempe and want to have a different, non-corporate coffee experience I’d stop into the non-descript strip office complex and find the little door and experience the illicit coffee pleasure that Cartel Coffee Lab has to offer. You’ll likely drive by the center once or twice the first time but think low rise, non-descript office building and you’ll find it, in back.

P Chef

Smart Kitchen

The Smartest Way to Learn to Cook™


 Cartel Coffee Lab on Urbanspoon

Nov 10

Alex Stupak and the Secrets Behind Edible Irony – WSJ.com

Alex Stupak and the Secrets Behind Edible Irony – WSJ.com.

We write about Molecular Gastronomy, the reunion of science and cuisine, in Lesson 1: Introduction to The Culinary Arts. The Wall Street Journal had an indepth interview with Alex Stupak a molecular gastronomy pastry practitioner at New York’s WD-50.

The article is fascinating because it explores Stupak’s thought process and methodology.

P Chef

Alex Stupak and the Secrets Behind Edible Irony – WSJ.com.