Saturday, January 24, 2015

Chef Johnny Iuzzini Whips Up Delicious Desserts At Macy's For Valentine's Day

You know how they say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach? Well besides diamonds and and a Prada purse, the way to a woman's heart is through her sweet tooth - especially when the man making desserts is a bit of eye candy as well. This coming Saturday, January 31st, at 1 p.m., #MacysCulinary Council Celebrity Chef Johnny Iuzzini is going to help spice up your Valentine's Day sharing some of his award-wining desserts. The best part? There will be plenty to go around.

Chef Johnny Iuzzini Whipping Up Some Goodies

Join me at Macy's Aventura Home Store at the Third Floor Culinary Kitchen as we learn some of the secrets that have made Chef Iuzzini an award winning household name. He has made his mouthwatering creations in famous places like The River Cafe, Daniel, Payard Cafe Boulous and Restaurant Jean Georges in New York. While Chef Iuzzini was Executive Pastry Chef at Restaurant Jean Georges, it earned its most prestigious award to date, three Michelin stars. It was one of only four restaurants in New York City to receive this honor. Because of his incredible talent, he was awarded the prestigious title of "Pastry Chef of the Year" by the James Beard Foundation in 2006 and has been recognized as one of the "10 Most Influential Pastry Chefs in America" by Forbes. Perhaps you will remember him most though, as head judge of Bravo's culinary competition series Top Chef: Just Desserts, and for his popular cookbook Dessert Fourplay: Sweet Quartets From A Four-Star Pastry Chef.  

Chef Iuzzini has recently published his latest book, Sugar Rush: Master Tips, Techniques, and Recipes for Sweet Baking, and it can be yours to impress that certain someone on Cupid's Day by purchasing $35 or more in the Macy's Home Department on the day of the event. They'll also give you a $10 Macy's gift card to use for a limited time. My favorite part of the deal is getting to chat with Chef Iuzzini and having him autograph my book. Sweet!

Seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to RSVP here to ensure your spot. If you want to learn more about the Macy's Culinary Council and its fabulous chefs, or find out about other upcoming events, log on to

Bon Apetit and see you there!

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Calle Dao in New York City

Have you ever heard of Chinatown in Havana? They won't sell you knockoff purses there or whisper "Michael Kors" "Rolex" or "Louis Vuitton" in your ear as you turn the corners, but once upon a time, this thriving neighborhood was known as the largest such community in Latin America and occupied over 44 blocks of real estate. We're talking a blast to the past dating back to the late 1800s, but while the neighborhood has visibly reduced in modern times to just a small section on narrow Cuchillo Street, there's a spot in New York City that pays homage to this marked moment in time where the Cuban and Chinese cultures came together in a unique fusion of flavors. It is called Calle Dao and it is located on 38 W 39th Street. This was one of the most delicious experiences I had in the Big Apple on my recent trip.

Calle Dao

Walking into Calle Dao instantly transported me back to an era gone by. The decor was simple yet authentic, reminiscent of the old Havana times that while gone, continue to live in the hearts of many. The white-washed walls, distressed wood and softly whirring ceiling fans served as a stage for the Chinese artwork and Cuban trinkets that accentuated the walls. I looked at the cocktail menu and loved the way mixologist Joy Daniel gave historic names to the drinks, mixing signature recipes with modern ingredients. Always going for a sweet concoction, I ordered the Hai Chi cocktail, expertly prepared with Hangar 1, Mandarin Blossom Vodka, plum sake, Patron Citronge, lemongrass and pomegranate. If that doesn't scream Barrio Chino, I don't know what does. 

Hai Chi

As I sipped my libation, the Chef''s Tasting began. We started with a light and fresh Fluke Ceviche, made in a grapefruit, habanero-passionfruit pomme vinaigrette, mixed with small pieces of Youtiao. For those of you that are wondering, fluke (or summer flounder) is a type of flatfish, mildly flavored and somewhat lean. The Youtiao, a deep fried dough eaten in China, also known as the Chinese doughnut, added a crispy texture to the dish which intermingled with the tender fish. I enjoyed the sweetness of the fruit, that mixed with the other tastes, ultimately giving each bite a slightly acidic finish.

Fluke Ceviche
Next up, Executive Chef Humberto Guallpa sent out a mouthwatering sampler of Calle Dao's appetizers, which included a vegetarian Spring Roll, Oxtail Croquette, and Duck Empanada. The spring roll, filled with mushrooms and other vegetables, was drizzled with a garlicky, signature mojo sauce that was heightened with flavor. The Duck Empanada, generously filled with chunks of duck, had a ginger-scallion glaze and came atop a sweet dipping sauce. Finally, the Oxtail Croquette was a cultural fusion of oxtail, chili, mango chutney and achiote aioli. Experiencing some of each ingredient together made for the perfect bite. Of the three, my favorite was the Duck Empanada, but the others didn't fall far behind.

Appetizer Sampler consisting of a Vegetarian
Spring Roll, Duck Empanada and Oxtail Croquette 

The next dish to be brought to our table was the Grilled White Striped Bass, served with cherry stone clams, mussels, and taro, and spiced with chinese cinammon. It was slightly sweet and had a good combination of flavors. We also tried the Lechon Asado, Chef Humberto's take on the Cuban staple but with a Chinese twist. The juicy roasted pig, was served over a fried-rice style quinoa that was unbelievable and drizzled with a ginger-cilantro sauce. This was my winning dish of the night. I would have loved to bring a bag back to Miami for my mom to try.

Grilled White Striped Bass

Lechon Asado

We were getting quite stuffed but there's always room for dessert and I was curious what original fusion Calle Dao would offer. We indulged in their Five Spice Tres Leches, a traditional version served over a caramel sauce prepared with five different spices that balanced the sweet and tangy flavors. The decadent finale was topped with a scoop of ice-cream.

Tres Leches
I have to say our adventure at Calle Dao was spectacular and I highly recommend a visit when you're in New York. The service was top notch throughout the meal, and every dish was carefully executed using the freshest of ingredients. The great thing is you can enjoy this very same experience because you can order your favorite items from the menu or choose what I did - their Chef's Tasting. So whether you choose to believe La Caja China originated in Cuba when the Chinese laborers brought it with them or not, one thing we will all agree on is that Calle Dao sure knows how to bring a piece of the Chinese-Cuban fusion cuisine remembered by many to the Big Apple. For more information, you can visit their website.

Calle Dão on Urbanspoon

Carnival Cruise Lines and Kathie Lee Gifford - Ain't We Got Fun

The Fun Ships just became a little funner. Former spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Lines and Today Show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford just announced that she has partnered with the cruise line to feature her newest passion: Gifft Wines.

Kathie Lee Gifford Unveiling Her New Wines Aboard the
Carnival Breeze

Carnival Executives Are
Excited About The
If My Friends Could See
Me Now..
It was an emotional and exciting return to Carnival for Gifford, who more than 30 years ago began her journey with the cruise line, singing in memorable commercials and pumping up the passengers in the morning... in the evening with her iconic "Ain't We Got Fun".  Although she hasn't worked with Carnival in years, instead moving on to other projects such as co-hosting Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee alongside Regis Philbin from 1985-2000, and being a special correspondent on The Insider until 2008, Gifford always remained in contact with the executives. Once she reached out to them with her wines and they took a sip, it didn't take them long to decide to feature them in all 24 ships in Carnival's fleet.

The Media Announcement was held at Fahrenheit 555,
one of Carnival Breeze's Specialty Restaurants

During a recent media announcement aboard the Carnival Breeze, I asked Gifford why she had this passion for wine and she took me back to her childhood in France, and the way drinking wine was a tradition and a way of life for her family. "My happiest and most unforgettable family memories always include wine." For this reason, she decided to embark on this venture, and in April, partnered with Scheid Vineyards of Monterey, California to launch the line.

Chatting With Kathie Lee Gifford

Gifford insisted the wines had to be something she could put her name to and wanted to make them affordable for everyone. It seems she did. The Red Blend (pictured below) scored 91 out of 100 rating in Wine Enthusiast Magazine, and the very light and refreshing Chardonnay scored 88 out of 100. The wines are currently priced under $20.

Very smooth with a subtle finish

Steamed Duck from Fahrenheit 555…can't help sharing
this with's the Foodaholic in me.

In her signature magnetic personality, Gifford introduced the wines to guests aboard the ship this past weekend, and let them get a taste of yet another great reason to sail away on the Fun Ship. When asked what she couldn't do without when boarding on a cruise, Gifford responded, "Sunscreen and imagination… You need to let it take you wherever your ship goes." And Gifford lives by her words.  Be sure to sip on one of her vinos next time you go cruising.

Artwork or Dessert…you decide

Click on the following for more information on Kathie Lee Gifford's Gifft Wines or Carnival Cruise Lines.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chef's Tasting with a Side of Mojito at TK's at the Villa Mayfair

I get asked for recommendations to restaurants that offer Chef's Tastings all the time. Personally, I absolutely love when I go to a restaurant and the chef takes the reins of my meal and prepares their favorite dishes for me. One thing about great chefs is that they are creative and they have a passion for what they do, so allow them the opportunity to wow you and you can bet they will. Since I have no food allergies and an appetite for just about everything, I am more than happy to oblige.

TK's signature mojito

Having said this, you can imagine how excited I was to check out the Chef's Tasting Table at TK's at the Villa Mayfair, located at 2901 Florida Avenue in Coconut Grove. I had been there to enjoy their Mojito Madness and was looking forward to getting a taste of that fabulous cuisine again. To our surprise, the evening began with a quick lesson on making their signature and ever popular cocktail: the Mojito. After a few minutes of muddling and swapping secrets with the cool Bar Master David Ungar, Chef Maribel Gaynor came out and welcomed us. She gave us a special menu to choose our four courses from (each course offered two selections) and explained how she would bring out the dishes and telling us what ingredients and preparation went into each one. She also encouraged us to ask questions and pretty much give her our opinions on how well the tastes blended together. Immediately I knew this was going to be fun.

TK's Tuna Tartare
The first course choices were Tuna Tartare or Beef Carpaccio. My dining companion and I both ordered the tartare. I'm sorry but if it's on the menu, I'm having it; especially when I know how delicious the one at TK's is. He felt the same and there was just no negotiating. Out came a beautifully plated tower of fresh, diced tuna, topped with avocado, sesame oil and crispy shallots, then bathed in a flavorful soy lime dressing. Chef Gaynor took us through the process she followed when creating this dish, and I almost asked her to move in by the time she was finished. You know me and my love for the chicken of the sea.

Roasted Baby Beets Salad

We went ahead and ordered both dishes on the Second Course selection. I had the Baby Spinach Salad and he had the Roasted Baby Beets Salad. You would think that this is just a salad so there was no need for them to go all out with it, but guess what? They did. Both of them were amazing. The Roasted Beet Salad consisted of a healthy yet flavorful helping of slightly crunchy quinoa, crowned with a colorful mix of olives, pistachios, mint, red onions, cooked baby beets and a mild yogurt dressing. 

Baby Spinach Salad

The Baby Spinach Salad...ooh the baby spinach salad. I have no words to describe it, which is rare, but I'll try. The raw baby spinach were drizzled with bacon vinaigrette (yes, you read that right), and a sprinkling of pine nuts. They were served with roasted port shallots and a golf sized ball of warm crusted goat cheese. (For someone who didn't have words, I sure came up with a lot - although I salivated all the way through it.) It was spectacular.

Spice Rubbed Bison Sirloin

And now it's time for the Main Course. We ordered both the Spice Rubbed Bison Sirloin and the Catch of the Day, which was a Black Squid Ink Risotto served with a skewer of Fried Shrimp and Fish. Let me start by telling you about the Bison, which was tender, juicy and a memorable chunk of comfort food. It was accompanied by creamy White Cheddar Grits, crispy onions, and then drizzled with a most palate pleasing hot sauce. But it was the Risotto that took the prize, not just for the night, but probably for the year. Have you seen that Seinfeld episode where George's girlfriend is eating risotto and she almost has a happy ending because it's so good? Well, such was my experience with this dish. I pretty much wanted to take this skillet home and be alone with the risotto for a while. It was so unbelievably moist and tasty, and Gaynor nailed it bringing all these textures and bold flavors together. Believe it or not, we still talk about it all the time.

Catch of the Day: The best Risotto ever

Let me catch my breath before I tell you about dessert. Once again, there were two choices to pick from: the Vanilla Mousse Cheesecake and the Peanut Butter Mousse. I thought I was right back in Art Basel when Chef Gaynor brought these two plates out. Beautifully presented, each sweet finales had its own distinct appeal. The Cheesecake was creamy and melted in our mouths, with a border of fresh strawberries and raspberries framing it. The Mousse was just as delicate and was covered in a rich chocolate sauce. A road of vanilla ice-cream and caramelized bananas led us to ecstasy with each bite.

Peanut Butter Mousse

Vanilla Mousse Cheesecake

By the end of the night, we were raving about how superb our Chef's Tasting Table experience had been at TK's at the Villa Mayfair. Chef Maribel Gaynor absolutely rocked with her presentation, interaction and most importantly, tastefully prepared dishes. You won't believe this, but you can take part in this gastronomical journey for only $49 per person (plus tax and gratuity) and get a personalized look at how the magic happens from start to finish. These special tastings are happening on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 7:00 pm, for a limited time only. For more information on TK's at the Villa Mayfair or to make reservations for their Chef's Tasting Table, you can call 305-774-1500 or visit their website here.

TK's at the Villa Mayfair on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Miami Heat Score With Their New Food and Drink Options

Miami may have lost one reason to go watch the Heat play, but they have gained several others. The American Airlines arena has added a slew of gourmet creations to their food and beverage offerings that are taking the experience to a new level.

I recently went to the arena and had a taste of their new bites and blends and I have to tell you, they were Heat-worthy.  I'm not talking typical stadium nachos and beer here, but rather full blown culinary delights. They have partnered with local restaurant favorites such as SuViche, Pride & Joy, and 100 Montaditos to bring patrons the best of the best eats while they watch the three-time NBA Champions turn up the Heat. Just think of yourself biting into juicy, fire roasted top sirloin, or dipping fresh veggies into an artisanal cheese fondue, while badass Dwyane Wade brings home the win. (He's still got it even though he's getting up there.) Oh and please don't tell anyone 'cause what happens in the Arena stays in the Arena, but the libations were so good, I found myself cheating on Jack with Dewars.

Of course, one of my favorites was the Heat Roll. I couldn't stop placing that fresh fish into my mouth in between sips of their sweet, refreshing cocktails. (Did I mention I was sitting in the posh Dewar's Level Suite?) That was just one of the many specialty sushi rolls to choose from. Another must-have dish that blew my mind  was their ceviche. It certainly added some tickle to my tongue.

All I know is that you want to make sure to run up an appetite before you attend a Miami Heat game from now on.  It's not going to be just about rooting for the team, but about getting your grub on.- from gourmet snacks, to decadent desserts.

For more information on purchasing tickets for upcoming Miami Heat games, click here

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Love Is Blind New Seasonal Dinner Menu

Prosecco with Berries
& Mango
And so the tasting begins..
I used to love eating in the kitchen back at my mom's house but I have to admit I hadn't done it in a while. We were invited to go to Love Is Blind, one of Passion Restaurant Groups eateries with a catchy name and a prix fixe menu, to hang out at the kitchen and indulge in a special dinner prepared by Chef Fabio Morisi, who traveled all the way from Europe for the occasion. The dinner consisted of dishes that were being tested for their new seasonal menu (which has since been launched), live presentations from the chef and a selection of wines. We got to give our input into what dishes were our favorites and why, while interacting with the charismatic chef.

Chef Fabio Morisi

After starting with a refreshingly fruity Prosecco,, the tasting began. Chef Morisi described every dish and the ingredients in each, as he took our tastebuds trough a journey across Europe, mingling flavors from Spain and Italy.

Chips with Italian Pico de Gallo
Antipasto - Italian Focaccia with Mortadella
and Prosciutto

Chef Morisi showing us how it's done

Light and Crisp Pizza with Burrata and Fresh Basil

Thinly Sliced Carpaccios with the most mesmerizing Pesto
Tuna Tartar Topped with Strawberries

Burrata Pasta
Preparing our Sweet Finale
Nitrogen Ice-Cream with Berries
Love is Blind is located in the heart of Coral Gables at 225 Altara Avennue. If brunch is your vice, they have a fabulous one on Sundays and you can read all about it here. For more information about Love Is Blind and the new dishes that made the cut, visit their website or call them at 305 748-6118.