Great Chefs Event 2013

Great_Chefs_Event

Great Chefs Event 2013

Now that summer is right around the corner, it is time to get ready for the 8th annual Great Chefs Event. This year the event is being held at the Urban Outfitters Headquarters at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.

On June 11th, over forty chefs from around the world will gather to dish up decadent treats and sweets to event goers who will have a chance to feast on as many delicacies as their stomach can hold. Attendees will also be able to bid on items in a silent auction; all proceeds of the silent auction will help Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the Vetri Foundation for Children raise money for children fighting cancer and those whom cannot meet their nutrition needs.

This event also gives Philadelphians an excuse to relax and mingle with some of their favorite chefs. This years’ roster includes: Marc Vetri, Duff Goldman, Emilio Mignucci, Mark Rosati, Jose Garces, Joey Camponaro, Elizabeth Falkner, Adam Perry Lang, Drew Nieporent, and Jonathon Sawyer, to name a few.

For a full list of the Chefs attending click Here.
For tickets to the Great Chefs Event 2013 click Here.
Click Here to watch a video of the Great Chefs Event 2012

 

Music Makes My World Go ‘Round

Sitting with my brother at Damian Marley’s Welcome to Jamrock tour about six years ago at the Electric Factory,sipping on Mount Gay and pineapple, I was suddenly transported to a different era. Damian launched into his own rendition of “Exodus”, and for a moment it was if the legendary reggae performer (and one of my all-time favorites) was on stage. He sounded exactly like his father, Bob. In that moment I decided I would be traveling down to Baltimore the next night to keep this feeling going. Music moves me like that.

Since 1975 I have been to an average of 40-50 shows a year. I just can’t stop chasing the buzz. Almost 35 years have passed, but Pink Floyd’s The Animals Tour at the Spectrum is still number one on my list.

It was the summer of 1977. I was going into 10th grade and it was quite a carefree time. For the first time ever my mother didn’t make me go to camp, so I was on my own. I would meet my friend Betsy most mornings at General Wayne Park where we smoked cigarettes and hung out counting down the days until the show. Dark Side of the Moon had been on the charts for years and Wish you Were Here was constantly on my turntable. With the release of Animals, I couldn’t have been more excited. The show was simply amazing. It was one of the first to use a video screen, but most people only remember the giant pig that floated overhead throughout the show. I floated too.

The Pink Floyd Spectrum concert in the summer of  ’77 featured a giant floating pig – See if you can spot the one on this album cover.

Image of recent flying Pink Floyd Pig

Image of more recent flying Pink Floyd Pig

Later that summer my brother and I went down to Miami to stay with my father as we did every summer. AC/DC was playing at the Hollywood Sportatorium, a convenient 10 minutes from dad’s place. Not so convenient was the fact that unless I agreed to bring my younger brother along, the show would be a no go. Chris, who wasn’t quite 11, was not interested at all. After days of bribing him he finally gave in. Years later when his friends were just discovering AC/DC, he would brag about how he saw the band in Miami when Bon Scott was still alive. I can still see Scott sitting on Angus Young’s shoulders galloping through the arena and into the crowd. My heart raced.

And then it broke.

In 1982 JFK Stadium held a multi-billed concert like never before: Santana, The Clash, with local band The Hooters opening, and The Who in what was billed as their “farewell” tour. Today we call them “music fests” with a corporate nametag. Although I was a big fan of Santana and The Who, I came to see The Clash. They had recently gone mainstream thanks to MTV and the video for “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” I wanted to see if they still had their punk edge. They ended up getting booed off the stage. Philly fans can be as tough on their music as they are on their sports teams. Still, every time I hear “This Is Radio Clash” or “The Magnificent Seven,” my soul stirs.

My son Cody has inherited much of this same passion for music. And while I still chase the buzz, I sometimes let him lead. It was Cody who urged me to get tickets for Damian Marley & NAS at the House of Blues in the summer of 2009. A great show made even more special because NAS would announce that he and Damian were in the studio and set to release a joint album together. We were overcome with anticipation.

In November 2010 the magic struck again. This time it was Roger Waters and The Wall tour at the Wachovia. Just minutes into the first song I knew I would have to go back and bring my kids. Sadly Cody couldn’t go (due to a wrestling meet, his other passion) and I had to talk my daughter Julia into coming. She too became immediately transfixed, so much so that she didn’t hear me mention the spring tour in Italy. Like I said, music moves me.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….

Do you remember your first time?

My son texted me the other day and asked how I discovered the group Portishead.

Beth Gibbons of Portishead

Beth Gibbons of Portishead

It got me thinking about the first time I’d heard a particular song, remembering exactly where I was and what I was doing. His mother and I were in the car, driving to the city for dinner at Dmitri’s, and about to turn onto West River Drive when I heard “Sour Times” for the first time.

That night a DJ saved my life—or at least enhanced it. The haunting vocals of Beth Gibbons, backed by multi-instrumentalists Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley, were at the forefront of creating a new genre of music called trip hop that would captivate me for the next half dozen years.

There was the first in an art gallery.

I discovered Morcheeba in 1996 at the Owen Patrick Gallery in Manayunk and was immediately smitten. I asked the owner who it was. Main Street Music was only a couple of blocks away and I was able to fulfill the urge immediately. I caught their first U.S. show at the TLA a few months later and wasn’t disappointed: the Godfrey brothers (DJ Paul Godfrey and multi-instrumentalist Ross Godfrey) teamed with vocalist Skye Edwards, blending trip hop, rock, R&B, and pop to create their own blend of hypnotic sounds. Their self-titled debut is one of my favorite records of the mid ’90’s.

Then there are the ones you pick up in a bar. In July of 2002 I was in Ottawa, Canada, walking towards a string of outdoor bars, when I heard the luxurious intro to the O’Jays “Backstabbers,” and decided that this was where I would be drinking my Canadian beer that day. To my surprise, it wasn’t the O’Jays at all, but it was one hell of a Sound-of-Philly sample. The bartender informed me that it was Angie Stone’s “Wish I Didn’t Miss You.” Her sultry voice and some very personal lyrics make this one of the most-played songs in my music library. Definitely not a one-night stand.

And sometimes a first time happens while you’re watching TV. This time it wasn’t a DJ or a bartender who hooked me up—the Internet had come of age.

On August 12, 2007, I was sitting in my living room watching an episode of Entourage and about to fall asleep. As the show reached its conclusion, I heard a killer instrumental that worked like caffeine and sent me on a 90-minute hunt to find out what it was. Ironically, after all my searching, I realized I already owned the CD. Initially I went through my iTunes library and played all 150 Cat Power songs, but it wasn’t there.

Cat Power - Credit: Wikipedia

Cat Power – Credit: Wikipedia

I was sure I heard her voice. So I Googled Cat Power and found out that she had teamed up with Prince Paul, producer of De La Soul and Handsome Boy Modeling School. He also performed on the latter. It had been a recent purchase for me, but only because of a collaboration with Barrington Levy; I never made it past his song. If I had, I would have noticed the Cat Power track that was on the same CD: “I’ve Been Thinking.”

Sometimes what you’re looking for is right in front of you.

All of my firsts are special. It’s that combination of newness and discovery that gets your heart beating in time with the tune. And eventually they all become part of the classics you love, but you never forget the moment their rhythm first met your ear.

 

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….

 

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

In my family we have a way of referring to the postponement of unpleasant responsibilities: I’ll do it on a rainy Tuesday in June. One Tuesday in June, 2011 may have changed that saying for the better. It was a day full of responsibilities, but all of them joyful….

Lower Merion Grads

It was the kind of day where there’s just too much to do, and you have to make every moment count, especially when they’re milestones. My 15-year old daughter, at long last, would be getting her braces off, my son would be graduating from Lower Merion High School (31 years after I had done so) and six months of planning for the Great Chefs Event was finally culminating.

I picked my daughter up at school that morning and drove the few miles to her orthodontist’s office. I was almost as excited as she was. When they called her back I started to follow—and she quickly put a stop to that. Thirty minutes later, I couldn’t contain myself and ventured back to capture the moment on my cell phone camera. This did not sit well with her. Eventually she let me snap a few shots, and the smile on her face was priceless.

Fighting to end childhood cancer

Alex, Founder of Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Then it was off to the Great Chef’s Event hosted by Marc Vetri, for a walkthrough. His goal this year was to raise $1 million for Alex’s Lemonade Stand and for the Vetri Foundation; last year the event raised $500,000. (Vetri is simultaneously working on funding for Eatiquette, which will enable him to provide healthy and nutritious food to the Wissahickon Charter School starting in September.)

At this culinary masterpiece, 40 of the country’s top chefs gather every year and donate their time to help Marc with his passion of helping children. I’ve attended for the past four years and have tasted some phenomenal dishes prepared by Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay, Morimoto, Paul Kahn and many others. This year I was especially excited because I would get to meet Gabrielle Hamilton, the winner of the James Beard award and author of the best selling book, Blood, Bones and Butter (which I couldn’t put down).

In addition, my company was filming the event. The event was held at the Urban Outfitters corporate offices in the Naval Yard, a humongous atrium-like space in the lobby. The only unfortunate aspect was that I would only get to enjoy it for 90 minutes before heading to St Joe’s, but it was a welcome trade-off, considering.

Gabrielle Hamilton and I at the Great Chefs Event 2011

We shot our interview with Hamilton and I even managed a picture with her, as well as tasting some exquisite food. Del Posto, New York’s only four-star Italian restaurant, was there serving a crisped mini-pasta shell with an olive, caper and grilled vegetable dish; Colicchio & Sons was serving a tuna loin set up gyro-style on a spit and sliced into fish tacos; Hamilton had sautéed shrimp with anchovy butter and lemon zest. One of my favorites was the Big Easy’s John Besh serving shrimp and grits that were just delectable. And in a nod to the City of Brotherly Love, one chef served a baby quail egg over a piece of scrapple layered atop some creamy applesauce.

As I prepared to depart the event, which was now just starting to hit its stride, I took some solace in the after party at Amis which would feature The Roots own ?uestlove as DJ, and that my son would also be joining us. I was glad that I was able to get ?uest to donate his time, just as all the chefs that evening had done.

I arrived at St Joe’s in time to hear the superintendant of the Lower Merion School District give his speech. Eventually the graduates’ names were called one by one as I looked on—a proud papa I was. Cody had been given a leadership award earlier in the week at the capping off a superb four-year run where I saw him come into his own as a student, athlete and young man.

After the commencement, we headed back downtown to what I hoped would be a great nightcap to a long day. It ended up being so much better than I could have imagined: I shared a drink or two with Gabrielle to find that her personality was as lively as her book and her cooking. I caught up with some old friends and made a few new ones. But the party really took off just after Midnight.

?uestlove spinning at Amis

13th Street was closed for the expected crowd attending Marc’s thank you to the volunteers who worked the event and the VIP’s who paid $500 to attend.

Then ?uestlove took it to a whole other level.He didn’t move from behind his turntables and iMac for over 4 hours as he worked his magic with a playlist that was unrivaled. He mixed and blended songs that sometimes included dissecting the chorus or bridge of that song, mixing it with itself, while working in another song seamlessly. I actually lost track on more than one occasion while the music took me to another level. His improvisation was like watching a jazz band playing off one another as they ascended to new heights. He did this by himself, and I was in awe. At 1:30, thoroughly enthralled but getting very tired, I made my exit.

Chef Marc Vetri, myself, and DJ ?uestlove enjoying the Great Chefs Event after party

A truly magical day had ended and it couldn’t have gone any better.

This was one rainy Tuesday for the books.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Pasta in the Country

The Best Pasta in Philly being handmade at Osteria

Craving.

What do you want to eat? 

When we were kids this question would have been music to our ears—Pizza! Candy! Ice Cream! As adults, it often involves surveying what’s in the fridge, who’s in the mood for what, and when’s the earliest available reservation. But each time my girlfriend asked me that question this weekend, I knew exactly what I wanted and where to get it. My craving was satisfied each time, although a sacrifice was required. There really are only two problems with that question: driving and reservations. My hunger may have overcome my laziness on Saturday but there was no getting around the latter. That’s when it pays to be friends with the executive chef.

Saturday night when she asked what I wanted to eat for dinner, the only thing I could think about was the robiola francobolli with royal trumpet mushrooms and thyme, an outstanding ravioli from Osteria. I’ve had them at least three dozen times and every time is exactly the same: perfection. Their delicate structure belies the bold taste that lies within their petite postage-stamp size. There are many fabulous creations on Jeff Michaud’s menu, from the best antipasti in the city to the thin-crusted pizzas that are simply superb (he won last year’s James Beard Award for a reason), but it’s the pasta I crave. It is, no doubt, the best in the country.  Jeff hooked us up with a table but we had to be there in half an hour. Plausible for me, yes, my girlfriend needed that much time to choose an outfit. Seemingly more her sacrifice, but I had to hear about it the whole drive into the city. We made it, unbelievably, and my craving was quenched—at least until morning.

Always packed for brunch on the weekends: The Ardmore Station Cafe

I woke up Sunday morning and needed the Ardmore Station Café’s banana walnut pancakes, with the real maple syrup (definitely worth the additional couple of dollars). The pancakes were great as usual, it’s just that the service is spotty and they always forget one of our sides, or in this case, both of them. But sometimes it’s worth the sacrifice. We consoled our loss of sausage and potatoes with a stroll through the Clover Market and found some great buys.  All that bargaining built up an appetite, and if were going to make dinner, I needed to get girlfriend home for her full prep time. Not that she needed all afternoon, it’s just that going to Dmitri’s involves nothing short of a recon mission.

YUM!

Dmitri’s in Queen Village – Photo Courtesy of Yelper hotomelmoth k.

This tiny BYOB at 3rd & Catherine is always crowded, and for good reason. In order to get a table you have to arrive by 5:00, and they don’t take reservations, or plastic. The avocado citrus salad, pan fried flounder (unfortunately only available during fall and winter) and shrimp scampi are worth the stakeout. So with minutes to spare, I dropped girlfriend off with only our bottle and her city “charm” to hold a place in line. Just the homemade hummus alone would cause me to stand in the rain/heat/snow and wait, but someone had to park the car.

Next weekend maybe I’ll let her choose.

Full disclosure: Osteria is a client of my company (but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s my favorite place and their pasta is unparalled).

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch

When You’re Right You’re Right.

When you’re right you’re right.

I love being right; then again who doesn’t. Although this is more about a gut feeling and an instinct than being right. Even though I was.

It was a beautiful late spring night, so my girlfriend and I decided to go out to eat; the mandate was to dine outside. I didn’t want to go to Center City, as we’d been there two days in a row. I wanted something closer.

Manayunk’s Bourbon Blue

Our travels brought us to Manayunk. We hadn’t been since last summer. As I turned onto Main Street I saw a new outdoor cigar bar/lounge. I made a mental note to stop in on the way back home. We ended up at Bourbon Blue. After a dozen or so oysters and some paella, I had one thing on my mind, and it wasn’t healthy.

After that quick stop on the way home, I found out that the place had been there for about a year, but would only be open this evening for another hour or so. My time was limited, maybe just enough to run home for a Bolivar torpedo and my portable Bose system. When I told Jenna of my plan, she replied, “Just let them relax. They don’t want to listen to your music.” Having been a DJ in another life, I sized up the crowd immediately, knowing what they would want to hear. I guaranteed her that if I was able to play 20 songs before they closed, each one would be met with applause. Her look simply said, “Whatever.”

We sped home, I grabbed my cigar, a cutter, a bottle of sake (did I mention it was a BYOB?), my system, and we were headed back to Manayunk.  We parked next door and walked the 35 feet to the bar. I wanted to surprise the patrons so I tucked the Bose under my arm wrapped in my jacket. There were no longer any tables available, but a nice guy sitting by himself asked us to join him.

As soon I sat down, I put the portable sound system on the table and hooked the iPod to it. The gentleman that invited us to sit asked if I had any R&B. I chose the latest playlist I made that week which included “Good Man,” the stellar track from Raphael Saadiq’s new album, Stone Rollin, but first I wanted to introduce them to something I was sure they would like: K-OS and his nod to old school R&B, “The Rain.”

From the opening piano solo at 9 p.m. until the 10:30 last call, I watched as they all grooved to the beat and looked my way, acknowledging one selection after another. It was a great way to end the evening: smoking a fabulous cigar, drinking some sake, energizing a crowd of strangers that soon would become friends, and, of course, being right.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….

The Greatest Year in the History of Music

In 1977 I was listening to reggae and rock and roll. Later that year everything changed: I discovered Punk Rock. I suddenly became a rebellious teenager turning up the dial to 10 as I listened to the Sex Pistols’ and The Clash’s debut albums and their American counterparts, The Ramones.

Virtually every major artist of the past 35 years released an album that year. The Police, Van Halen, Dire Straits, INXS and Black Flag were formed and The B52’s played their first concert together. Of the major stars, only Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Bob Dylan and The Eagles didn’t put out an album in 1977; although The Eagles and Stevie held the charts with top-selling singles from albums they released the prior year.

It was a big year in music. Elvis Presley released three albums and died. David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Santana each released two albums. Peter Gabriel had his solo debut.

Heart, Earth Wind & Fire, Electric Light Orchestra, ABBA, The Commodores, Foreigner, Kansas, Styx, Journey, Aerosmith, Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Tom Waits, Bryan Ferry, Steve Miller, Eddie Money, Parliament, The O’Jays, Van Morrison, America, Paul Simon, Neil Diamond, Donna Summer, The Doobie Brothers, Jimmy Buffet, Diana Ross, Barry White, The Kinks, AC/DC, The Beach Boys, The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Alice Cooper, Queen, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Little Feat, James Taylor, Bette Midler, Joan Baez, Genesis, 10cc, Rush, The Band, T Rex, ZZ Top, Hall & Oates, Roy Orbison, Chic, Muddy Waters, The Rolling Stones, Joan Armatrading, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Carole King ,BTO, Blondie, The Runaways, Yes, Billy Joel, Steve Winwood and Kiss each released an album. Each artist went on to major success and is now considered a classic.

In addition, my top 10 albums from 1977 include, in no particular order:

  1. Bob Marley’s Exodus—the first reggae album I listened to in its entirety. It delivered a pulsing beat that hooked me into reggae forever. And you never forget your first.
  2. Pink Floyd, Animals featured three songs each over 10 minutes in length seamlessly blending searing instrumentals and exciting vocals like I’d never heard before.
  3. The Clash, The Clash. Joe Strummer is the Punk Rock Warlord!
  4. Grateful Dead, Terrapin Station: “Estimated Prophet”. Enough said.
  5. Steely Dan, Aja: Incredibly compelling piano, fabulous horns and a guest vocal from Michael McDonald makes this album soar.
  6. Fleetwood Mac, Rumours. “The Chain”, “Gold Dust Woman”, “Dreams”, “Never Going Back Again”, I could go on.
  7. Elvis Costello, My Aim Is True, the era’s greatest songwriter is born.
  8. Eric Clapton, Slow Hand, “Cocaine”—even though J.J. Cale wrote it, Clapton brought it to life.
  9. Supertramp, Even in the Quietest Moments, one of those albums that takes me to a happy place.
  10. Talking Heads, Talking Heads: 77, “Psycho Killer”, qu’est-ce que c’est fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa. Now there’s some depth.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….

Splendor in the Grass

“…nothing can bring back the hour/Of splendour in the grass…”

This quote from the Wordsworth poem that inspired the title of the 1961 movie also fueled my life-long pursuit (some might say mild obsession) of collecting significant lines. The imagery in the verse caused me to reflect on the meager 16 years of memories I had acquired. My grandmother had a simpler way of saying this; she used the term “the good old days”. Some of us still see them as good. Others, through time and circumstance have less than splendorous recollections. Either way, these memories have shaped who we are today. And whether they create longing or loathing, they will forever remain a part of us.

After gaining perspective and experience oh-so-many years later, I’ve found that the memories, no matter how small, are significant. Each one conjures a sense of my changing self and the community in which I’ve lived my whole life. Some of the things that I miss most:

  • Being able to make all the lights on the Parkway from 20th street to the entrance of the West River Drive in under three minutes when they were timed.
  • Playing softball for the Adams Mark Hotel at 9:30 Sunday morning at the Belmont Plateau. Those double headers built up a big appetite so after the games I’d head over to a stand at the Manayunk Farmers Market. On Sunday’s the owner slow roasted Bison for his amazing Buffalo Steak sandwiches, the meat melted in your mouth. (The owner of that stand is now selling flowers in the Ardmore Farmers Market. Props to Richie Freeman!)
  • Catching a show at the Wynnewood Movie Theater, which is now an Italian eatery.
  • Wolfgang’s, a cute little spot in Ardmore on Cricket Terrace. You can still see his sign from the back of the building on Athens Ave. He served a great ham sandwich on a crusty baguette that included a hard boiled egg and the best spaetzle around.
  • And the All Natural health store on Lancaster Ave—the one that served daily lunch specials.

I invite you to send me five memories from your own good old days, keeping the splendor alive and the grass green.

This blog post originally appeared in the Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood Patch….