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Lobster B&W

It all starts with Lobster

Don’t be fooled by imitations, there is only one Chef Jack Lee. Call him what you want, he answers to Captain Jack or even Kangaroo Jack. His name aside, one thing remains the same; Taste, consistency and innovation in the kitchen. We spent the day with Chef Jack where we experienced a taste of the finer things in life; traditional dishes with an Escoffier twist as interpreted thru the eyes of Mad Jack.

Chef Jack – steady as she goes.

We entered the inner sanctum of a beautiful Beverly Hills estate that is also the private art gallery called the DeVorzon Gallery. The walls were filled with beautiful works of art. As we went through the art filled rooms and corridors we finally set foot into the center of this home of creativity. There it was the hub, the hearth known as the kitchen. It was fitting that the Culinary artist Chef Jack Lee was in his art studio creating excerpts from some of his different culinary portfolios. Unlike many chefs, Jack Lee creates food as an artist creates a portfolio or body of work. He gets his inspiration from the world around him and then begins the process of creating a body of work around a specific theme much like many well known artists before him. The inspiration that created Monet’s Garden series or Picasso’s portraits of women. Weegee’s Naked City and Warhol’s Series of Marilyn Monroe and then there’s Jack Lee’s Portfolio of food inspired by life events. He calls his portfolios “Tasting Collections”.

Chef Jack Lee used food to tell a story, to represent how his clients feel and to personify who they are through his experience of

$100 egg roll in all it’s glory

them. He takes these experiences and translates them onto the plate. A few years ago he went through jaw surgery where he lost his sense of taste. It took him a year and a half to recover his sense of taste and retrain his palate. During his recovery he came up with the idea of his 6th tasting collection called “My True Colors” where he used food and colors to describe his thoughts and feelings through his toughest period after his surgery and his journey back to the culinary world.

A plate full of $100 eggrolls now that’s eating.

It was just such an inspiration that let him to create the $100 eggroll.  He was inspired by the opulence and abundance that surrounded him. It was an homage to the relaunch of his new concept after his jaw surgery. He debuted it at a celebrity fundraiser in Brentwood.

He wanted to add some “bling bling to this modern delicacy that is a staple at Chinese restaurants throughout America.” By using the most expensive seasonal ingredients available to he successfully made the ultimate eggroll. He sourced Maine lobster, seasonal French truffles, the best caviar and gold leaf. He uses taro root instead of napa cabbage to keep the roll fresh and crisp. He makes a raspberry sauce using lobster stock and then pairs it with a glass of Dom Perignon.

We were also lucky to have the opportunity to sample some of the creations from other Taste Collections such as –
Lobster martini that Jack calls it “happy juice”
Lobster broth, lemongrass, vodka with a  salmon scallop lollipop

Lobster Martini

Prime Rib Bahn Mi
Not your average Bahn Mi – prime rib, Huson Valley Foie Gras instead of aoli and a soy foie gras dipping sauce.

Prime Rib Bánh mì

Escargot
with a garlic pesto

Escargot with Pesto

and a Special surprise

Chilean Sea bass (signature dish)
-infused w sake, scallions and ginger – served w green tea soba noodles, scallions soy sauce and garnished with salmon roe.

Chilean Sea Bass with Soba Noodles

So it was a feast for the eyes, palate and all the other senses combined. Chef Jack Lee is a true artist who is among the ranks of the finest chefs around. He is one to watch in the coming years as he will certainly climb to ultimate notoriety.

Cheers, Amelia, Chef Jack and Adam

Chef Jack

We are looking forward to his upcoming Taste Collections inspired by Sake, Tequilla and his travels around the world. Cheers to Chef Jack Lee for taking the time out of his busy Chinoise Catering schedule to show us all a “Taste of the Good-Life.”

Article co-written by Adam Rubenstein & Rico Mandel for The Culinary Image and  VivaLAfoodies.com
Photography provided by Rico Mandel for Mizenplace & The Culinary Image
Video produced, edited and provided by Amelia Yokel

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Antica Macelleria Falorni is the oldest butcher shop in Italy. In 1729 Gio Batta founded the Macelleria Falorni Butchers in Greve Italy. In 1840 the word Antica which means ancient was added and still hangs today. It’s in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Through the generations the techniques, recipes and “secrets” to the incredibly high quality products that they produce which have been passed down from father to son. Today it is being run by the 8th generation grandsons Lorenzo and Stefano Falorni. Their attention to quality begins with using the highest quality local certified meats, Chianina for Beef and Cinta Senese for Pork and wild boars that come from the woods of the Chianti region. Spices such as fennel, laurel, juniper, garlic, parsley, sage, rosemary and more are used and all come from the local region. With this plethora of local ingredients it couldn’t be helped to create the Salumi – Salted meats, ham, salami prosciutto and more that are are characterized by the unique smell known only to fine Italian products. Even the Chianti Classico is added to some of the preparations of sausage and salame that are typical to the region of Greve also contributing to the nature of the product.

Bistec Fiorentina

Mark Schatzker said in his book “Steak, One Man’s Search for the world’s Tastiest Piece of Beef”,  the Falorni is as much a busy butcher shop as a living ode to its butchering past. Out front, facing the town square stands a butcher block that was the primary meat hacking surface from 1820 to 1956. The interior is filled with tools of the butchering trade, a stuffed wild boar, old copper scales, black & white photos of Chianinas, a bright red meat grinder and a sausage stuffing machine from 1930.

The attention to detail even goes as far as to what kind of wood is best for grilling the beef. The recommend oak and Stefano will go as far as cutting his own wood and bringing it to friends homes to make sure that the meats get their due respect.

This is one of the wonders found in the Chianti Region of Tuscany Italy. A wonderful place that we will be visiting on our Photo/Culinary experiences. Come join us in 2011 and explore the culinary wonders of this rich part of the world. Early discounts available here’s the link – Experience Italy

* Photos courtesy of Vivandare.it, Informacibo.it and Antica Macelleria Falorni

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The limousine pulled up to the Double Tree Hotel in Santa Monica it was a sight to behold a long white stretch Excursion Limousine that normally seats up to 22 people for our group of 6 plus myself. We transferred the lunch supplies for the day and I went in to find our guests from Ireland. Dorothy and Catherine, two sisters from Dublin on holiday here in Los Angeles.


Pouring a barrel sample for tasting at Wish Vineyards

We loaded into the limo and took off up the coast. Toward Malibu Canyon. It was a beautiful day, the heat wave had broken from the previous week and I was elated. We came to our first stop Wish vineyards a wonderful boutique winery in Hidden Hills that specializes in Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.


Looking at a Brix tester

We were met by the owner who is also a sommelier and has a degree in the culinary arts from Le Cordon Bleu.  She took us for a tour of her vineyard explaining how she came to choose the grape varietals to plant that are based on the micro climate which has hot days

Jan and Cathie listening to Sommelier at Wish Vineyards

and gets some of the cool ocean breeze coming through the canyon at night.She brought back barrel samples from her wine maker from her 09, 08 & 07 vintages and that gave us the opportunity to sample the progression of the wine making process. It’s interesting to see how much it changes with the barrel aging and then further in the bottle.


Showing us the Merlot and Cabernet Grapes

We also tasted the Cabernet and Merlot grapes where we could taste the basis from which each wine develops.  Once we got done with the barrel samples we tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and their new cab merlot blend which were all wonderful. The Merlot went well with our lunch.


Gourmet Lunch at the Vineyard

The Limo arrives at Malibu Solstice

Next we made the trek to Malibu Solstice a vineyard at 2100′, high up in the Santa Monica mountain range. This wonderful vineyard has a 360º view that is breathtaking. His vines are divided up with a northern and southern exposure. His only varietal is Cabernet Sauvignon and he’s been making wine since 2001.

2001 Malibu Solstice Cab

He has an interesting philosophy about his wines which is to let mother nature make the wine. Each of his vintages are very unique. Yes they are all cabs but unlike most wineries he doesn’t do any blending to even out the taste from one year to the next.

The North Slope at Malibu Solstice

So in this case he allows nature intent to dictate what his wine will taste like with each vintage and the result is quite remarkable.  We tasted his 2004 first then the 2005 both of which were very similar then the 2006 had a bit more spice and pepper to the finish. The terroir came through in the wine which added to the pleasure.

Tasting Inside the Estate at Malibu Solstice

Our Group at the Malibu Solstice Estate

The 2008 although young, for a Cab offered a completely different take more fruit forward. The 2002 was a the last one that we had and that was such a nice was to end the tasting.

The View from the Estate

A well balanced Cab that was difficult to put down.  Unfortunately we had to leave this wonderful environment to get on to the second half of our experience. Since we experienced 2 estates we next went on to experience some of the tasting rooms.

One of the Cielo Woodstock Collection Lables

Our first stop was to visit Cielo which makes both estate grown wines as well as wines using

grapes from both the central coast and Napa/Sonoma. There is a very distinct difference between the estate wines and the others.

Andrew Pouring for us

Cielo has a it’s woodstock series of wines that are all named after songs from the concert. These wines are easy to drink with or without food. Some of them are very fruit forward with many hints of dark berries flavors.

Catherine and Alex at Cielo

Their Estate grown wines have a bit more of a spicy finish. Again you can taste the distinct flavor of the Terroir, which is

Bill Hirsh pouring Purple Haze

mostly chaparral, on the finish. Andrew began our tasting. We tasted about 6 or 8 wines having our first whites of the day. The environment at Cielo is very relaxed. There was live music while we were there.

Tasting at Cornell

We were also fortunate to have Bill Hirsh also pour for us which made the experience that much more enjoyable. Next we descended upon the Cornell Winery to end our tasting extravaganza. We were treated to a private tasting in their special back room which has a wonderful long


Meat & cheese platter Yum

wooden table that seats about 20 people with chandeliers has such a warm inviting feeling to it.


A bit of local folk entertainment

We tasted a selection of other local wines Surfrider Sauvignon blanc, Malibu Sanity Chardonnay, Cielo Misty Roses, Mandolina Sangiovese Blend, Cantara Old vine Zin, Bodega Bomez de Malibu 2007 Cab, Malibu Valley Syrah and Anglim Grenache.

The one that truly stood out for me was the Malibu Sanity Chardonnay. We were also treated to a meat and cheese platter composed of 3 cheeses, baguette and an assortment of charcuterie which was very welcome after a day of tasting and also went well with the wines.


Old Cornell Post Office Sort Boxes

Once we were finished with our tasting we went into the private room at The Old Place, which is the former post office for the town of Cornell.

We were treated to some wonderful locally raised sirloin steak, white fish and chicken along with desserts which were out of this world. The nice thing about the cooking at

The Old Place is that their meats are all cooked over a hardwood grill which imparts a smokey flavor that is the perfect compliment to the atmosphere that surrounds you there.


Tim Skogstrom and Me

The day was full of fantastic experiences, socializing with wonderful people, great wines and fantastic food. The other nice thing is the luxurious transportation and the fact that you are taken around in the lap of luxury for the entire day. What’s not to like!

A quote from Bella Shaw, one of the people on the tour – “It was a fantastic experience because it wasn’t “commercial.” Not like a Napa wine tour at all, and Rico was the perfect host. Wish I still had my travel show
on CNN. This exclusive excursion would definitely be featured.”

For more information on how you can come with us on one of these tours visit – http://www.fineculinaryexperience.com/malibuwine.html

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So I arrived at the Hotel Vitale to find the FoodBuzz Blogger Festival Table to my left in the lobby. At the table to greet me were several FoodBuzz employees including Dorian Asch whom I met at the Beso event several months earlier in Los Angeles. My festival pass around my neck and program in my pocket I proceeded upstairs to the 8th floor terrace for cocktails. As I walked out to the terrace I saw a sea of people with a bar in the corner.

Bar

Skyy vodka cocktails, sparkling wine and beer

The interesting thing about this sea of people was that they were all food bloggers. A bunch of foodies all in one place all talking about food.

partywithferrybldg-4108

The Ferry Building at night

The backdrop to this cocktail party was a picturesque night scene looking down the Embarcadero.  The yellow street lights illuminating the street trolly car tracks glistening as vintage trolly cars passed, each ringing their bell from times gone by. Behind that rises the Ferry Building perched at the waters edge, clock tower standing tall signaling that there is something special about this building. A building whose contents consist of some very special merchants who bring only the best culinary products to those who desire them. And isn’t it fitting that here on the terrace overlooking this marvel are about 200 to 300 foodies enjoying cocktails and telling each other of their culinary adventures.

I found my friend Adam Rubenstein from VivaLaFoodies on the lower terrace. We got caught up with the latest food goings on. He’s making sushi a the corporate café at Guess in downtown LA. It seems like he is having a good time.  Adam loves food and the blogging world. He has carved out a niche for himself writing restaurant and event reviews. The interesting thing about being amongst all these bloggers is that no two are alike. Everyone has their own story both about how they got into blogging as well as why they chose to write what they do on their blogs. Tomorrow I will have more information about some of the various bloggers here at the festival. Once the cocktail hour was finished we descended down the stairs to go to the Ferry Building where a veritable feast was awaiting us.

entry sign-4109We arrived at the Ferry Building arcade where they street food fair was awaiting us. We walked in to first have some beer from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers was pouring a wheat beer and an Ale. I chose the Ale and Adam and his wife went for the wheat beer.

adam beer-4112

Adam Rubenstein and his wife, capturing beer images for his blog

They had a nice refreshing taste to begin the dining portion of the evening. I was greeted by a woman holding a tray of chichharones to tantalize the guests with. porkrinds-0162These fried swine skin delicacies had a nice clean flavor with a spice mixture sprinkled on top.  The only problem what there was little to no crunch. Although they weren’t stale they were not crispy, but the flavor was good. So what goes with chichharones? You guessed it ice cream. Coffee ice cream to be exact. Why not. Who says you need to eat your meal in any particular order, this is after all street food which can be eaten as it comes to you. So there it was staring at me. the Strauss Family Creamery table. Topped with 2 containers of Ice Cream one coffee flavored and the other vanilla. This family owned dairy makes cream, yogurt and a wonderful european style butter with an 85% milkfat content for added flavor. The second generation agreed to stay on provided that he could make ice cream. Thus the Strauss Ice Cream was born. This is no ordinary Ice Cream it has a rich and creamy texture similar to that of gelato. There are no artificial binders or ingredients in it. The result speaks for itself. cupcakes-4115

Right next to this was the Mission Mini’s Gourmet Cupcake table. They make an assortment of cupcakes including Pumpkin, lemon custard, chocolate, ginger, red velvet and more. If you like cupcakes you’ll love these. I had the pumpkin and the lemon custard and they were both very good. Not too sweet and the frosting made a excellent compliment to the cake enhancing the experience instead of masking it.

So now it’s time to have some real food. I noticed people coming toward me with these wonderful looking tacos so I went in search of them. Luckily I didn’t have to go far. I got to the Tacolicious stand and found them busily making tacos. The were serving 3 kinds – Braised short rib, potato chorizo and blackeyed pea. I spoke to the proprietor and he told me that they were looking for something different to do with their tacos. Many tacos they tried were made with meat that was dry. So they came up with the idea of braising their meats to keep them moist. They also endeavor to use locally sourced product for all their tacos. The quality shows through.

tacos

Tacos, Tacos and More Tacos

I went to go see the Pie Truck table where they were serving 2 kinds of pies – Zucchini mushroom and steak & gruyere. These pies are all made from scratch. They have  converted catering truck that they use to cook their pies in and roll around the city serving these crusty saucers of deliciousness to their eagerly awaiting patrons. The great thing about these pies is that they are heavy on flavor and filling and light on crust. Which in my opinion makes for the perfect combination. There is just enough crust to encapsulate the filling so you get the full flavor without all the extra doughiness.

meatpies

The best meat pies

Next was Hog Island Oyster company who was shucking their Kumamoto oysters which they raise in Tomales Bay. These oysters are small with an oceanic sweetness to them. They need nothing other than perhaps a drop of tapatio or tabasco to add that bit of spice that I like with my oysters. Later they were also shucking Malpec oysters which are a bit bigger and very flavorful as well.

oysters

Kumamotos, shucking and the larger Malpac

I had seen these pork sandwiches going by and as you know I love all things pork. The meat has a sweetness that is not found in any other. I walked over to the Roli Roti Truck whos motto is I love crispy skin. And boy do they live up to that. In speaking with the owner who has a deep seeded passion for his craft. He is Swiss and he lives by the philosophy to do what you do the best that you can do it. He raises all his own hogs, which keeps his quality way up. He only butchers his hogs when they are at their optimum flavor. If they are not quite ready then he waits until they are. As he said – “If I have to wait a week until they are ready then I wait a week.” That is the type of passion that I admire in the culinary world. He makes a large roll out of his pigs with the skin on the outside of the roll. Then he slow roasts it on a spit to ensure that the meat stays tender and the skin becomes crispy. The sandwich contains succulent pork with crispy pork skin, onions carmelized to a dark brown with greens and placed on a fresh cibatta roll. This was my hands down favorite of the evening.

pork

The ultimate porcine experience

Next I explored the world of Raw food with Chef Leland Jung from Alive. He specializes in raw food. He was serving 3 things- 2 kinds of pizza and a lavender cheesecake. The pizza was made with a flaxseed crust that was dehydrated and topped with tomato and avocado. I had that one and it was surprisingly good for what it was. Not my favorite but if you are into the raw food thing then you’ll probably love his stuff.Raw pizza and cheesecake

I stopped by Spencer on the Go to see what was cooking. He had a mushroom dish comprised of oyster and shmeji mushrooms in a light cream sauce on top of a puff pastry topped with watercress and truffle cream. This was a wonderful dish. He added just a touch of parmesan cheese which gave offset the richness of the cream. He also made a beet salad from both red and golden beets. He slow roasted the beets in a 300º oven for about 4 hours to maximize the sweetness of the beets. It was a simple dish with only a very light olive oil vinaigrette and Point Reyes blue cheese which complimented the sweetness of the beets beautifully.beet&mushroom

So I’m getting kinda full. The bloggers are buzzing all around and some of them are beginning to dwindle down. I pressed on to find a mobile wood burning oven that was cooking pizzas to perfection. The pizzas that Pizza Politana was making were topped with spinach, olives, feta and mozzarella cheese. They got their start at the farmers market in Novato. They found that they really love what they are doing and are happy to make pizzas at all hours of the day or night. They buy all their ingredients locally with the exception of the mozzarella cheese which comes from Wisconsin and the San Marzano tomatoes which come from Italy. It’s interesting but when I was speaking with the owners wife she told me that the reason they import their tomatoes from Italy is because the American tomatoes were just too sweet. I thought to myself, that’s a first. I was always under the impression that most commercial tomatoes were relatively tasteless and not anywhere near the sweetness that I have found overseas, particularly in Greece. They also use a combination of 2 different flours for their crust. One is higher protien content which is good for building up gluten which gives it a good structure and the other has a malt flavor so the combination gives the dough the perfect flavor, structure and elasticity for their use. An you know what, it works. Their crust is thin and with a nice balance of flavor. Their woodburning oven is on wheels for easy transport to some of the street corners and farmers markets they frequent as well as the evening bar crowd.

pizza

Simply great pizza

last cocktail-0183

Last cocktail of the evening

So last but not least on my trek was to have a cocktail from Speakeasy Ales & Lagers. It was called a blood and sand that was made from Glenrothes Select Reserve whiskey, orange juice, Cinzano and cherry liqueur. The drink was a perfect way to cap off a wonderful evening filled with great food interesting people and the ambiance of San Francisco as a backdrop for the entire event.

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