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

 

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….

My favorite Food to eat in Philadelphia

1| Any pasta at Osteria is outstanding but the postage stamp ravioli are sublime. You can’t believe that something so small has so much flavor. Their delicate shell belies the fabulous taste that lurks within. I’ve had them 20 times and every time they’ve been cooked perfectly.

2| Chu Toro and the ?uestlove roll from Zama.

3| The Lasagne Bolognese sandwich from Paesano’s.

4| The pan fried flounder from Dmitri’s, note that this a seasonal item.

5| Vanilla iced vanilla cupcakes and the blueberry muffin tops (you have to buy the whole muffin, which is good, but the tops are incredibly crispy and delicious) from the Ultimate Bake Shoppe in the Ardmore Farmers Market

6| Percy Street BBQ, Turkey tails, pulled pork sandwich, Key Lime Pie, and Pecan Pie

7|  Cheese selection and the cheesemongers at DiBruno Bros in the Italian Market and 18th & Chestnut.

8| Banana Walnut pancakes from Station Cafe in Ardmore, make sure to order the real maple syrup. This is listed despite the fact I ask to hold powdered sugar every time and yet they manage to disregard my request.

9|  J.G.Domestic pork, the whole animal, as they call it: This is a special order when it’s available;  you might end up doubling up.

10|  Distrito, Duck confit with cherries