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May 14 2012

7 Foods You REALLY Don’t Want To Eat

I often preach about the benefits of buying organic, especially when it comes to fresh produce. A few days ago, I came across an interesting article that talks about the dangers of consuming some other staple pantry items…

If you eat: canned tomatoes, corn-fed beef, microwave popcorn, conventionally grown potatoes, farmed salmon, milk produced with growth hormones* and conventional apples, the article below is worth reading.


The truth is, there are many foods that we consume on a daily basis that pose health risks. Are these related to the increases in cancer and autism, the decline of the bee population, rise in obesity, etc.? Researchers are still trying to figure out correlations and new information becomes available everyday. My philosophy is you can never have too much information. An educated consumer makes the best consumer.

*If you would like to re-read my article from 5-4-11 on rBGH and milk, please click here.

May 8 2012

The Obesity Epidemic

A terrifying statistic was released yesterday: by 2030 42% of all Americans will be obese, up from 36% as of 2010, according to researchers at Duke University.

We know that heredity can play a huge role in obesity, but what about refined sugars and grains that drive up insulin levels and can actually increase our appetite? Or too large portions in toxic environments such as fast food joints (“supersize me”) or national chain restaurants.

I’m not saying that indulging in your cravings every once in awhile isn’t okay. Hell, I went to culinary school and lived on bacon and butter and an unlimited lunch buffet for a year. But I paid the price – 10 pounds or 10% of my body weight, in less than a year. I have since lost that excess weight by going back to my healthy eating habits: lean proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats, lots of fruits and veggies and smaller, more frequent meals.

I still indulge on weekends and when I go out for a special meal. I still have have a glass of wine every night with dinner.  For me, life is just not worth living without delicious food and cocktails.  But the phrase “everything in moderation” really rings true.  Portion control plays a huge role in weight, something the Europeans understand and America has not caught up with yet.

If being really fat is not enough to deter you from that second doughnut, what about all of the health issues that are associated with obesity? Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, joint and skeletal issues, etc. The financial implications of these medical conditions  is staggering… $550 billion over the next two decades, according to the study.

A documentary, Weight of the Nation, will be airing on HBO next week and may prove to be a huge shock to Americans who regularly indulge in processed foods, large portions and a nightly snack.

The beautiful thing about this health crisis – it can be averted. If the issue of obesity is to be resolved in America, it will take a tremendous amount of financial, economic and social support. We have to start where the problem lies…educating our children at a very young age and helping them develop healthy eating habits early on.

Mar 31 2012

What’s Next? A trip to El Bulli

For the second time in my life I had the opportunity to dine at Chicago’s very own NEXT Restaurant, a recent James Beard Nominee (and soon to be winner) for Best New Restaurant in America.

If I could, I would tell you to go. Unfortunately, tickets have been sold out since opening night. I am one of the lucky 3,600 people who will have the rare opportunity cross NEXT: El Bulli off their bucket list. This is in thanks to the complete strangers who so kindly invited me to dine at their table. But that’s a story for a different day…let’s get to the food!

For those of you who don’t know, El Bulli, winner of The World’s Best Restaurant and numerous other accolades, closed last summer. As only Grant Achatz can do, he convinced Chef Ferran Adriá to share his recipes for one last El Bulli homage in Chicago (lucky for me)!

To say the evening was magical would be a gross understatement.  This meal, perhaps, the highlight of my culinary adventures, was fun, beautiful and sublime. As each course was delivered to our table, my fellow diners and I were rendered speechless with each new bite.

29 courses and 10 beverage pairings later, I left in awe, giddy, satiated and high. Please allow me to share pictures from each course of this epic night.

PART 1: Tapas:

2004 nitro caipirinha with tarragon concentrate

2000 hot/cold trout roe tempura

2005 spherical (not actually real, just looks like it) olives

1991 coca of avocado pear, anchovies and green onions

2003 ibérico sandwich

2001 golden egg

1997 smoked foam (the only item that I didn't like)

1998 chicken liquid croquettes

2007 black sesame spongecake and miso

Jan 18 2012

Romesco Sauce

If you want to try your own Spanish night at home, check out my recipe for Romesco. Perfect with roast shrimp, grilled vegetables, chicken or pork. The possibilities are endless with this versatile sauce.

1 ancho chile

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1.5 cups small cubes of stale sourdough bread

25 skinned almonds

15 skinned hazelnuts

4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (about 2/3 cup)

1/3 cup dry white wine

2-3 tablespoon olive oil

2-3 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/2 teaspoon paprika (sweet or spicy depending on your desired heat)

1 Tbs lemon juice

Salt to taste

1. Remove seeds and stem from the ancho chile and place in a bowl. Cover with boiling water, weighing it down with a plate to keep it submerged. Set aside for 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and stir until they just begin to turn golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the nuts and continue to stir until they are golden. Next add the garlic, and stir until lightly browned. Finally, add the red peppers. Remove from heat. Season with salt as you go.

3. Drain and chop the chiles, add them to the pan, heat and stir briefly. Add the tomato, stir and cook a minute or so until softened. Remove from heat.

4. Transfer to a food processor or a blender and pulse until a rough paste is formed. With the machine running, slowly pour in the wine and oil. Turn off the machine, add vinegar, paprika, lemon and salt, to taste, then pulse briefly to blend. The sauce will have a slightly nubbly texture.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Jan 15 2012

An Evening in Espana

I had one of the most wonderful meals in Chicago on Friday night and I didn’t even have to make a reservation! Every 6-8 weeks I get together with a group of talented chefs and foodies, otherwise known as my “dinner club.” Each meal is a carefully planned orchestration meant to challenge and inspire all of us, centered around a specific culinary cuisine. Friday night’s theme, Spanish Tapas, was dear to my heart, having lived in Spain nearly 10 years ago when fell in love with the cuisine. At Kasey’s home on Friday night we stood around drinking Cava and Rioja, just as if we are at bar in Espana. Check out a few of the items we whipped up:


Crostini with fresh anchovy, fennel and orange

Bacon Wrapped Dates stuffed with Manchego

Mushroom Confit

Tortilla Espanola

A feast of food and wine

……grilled vegetables/roast shrimp with Romesco, cheese, salad and port, braised chicken with dried fruit and chocolate crostini with fine sea salt…

And what’s the best way to work off all those calories? A drunken dance party of course! A dinner club first, but won’t be the last. The end of the night may be a bit (or a lot) fuzzy, but I do remember amazing food, great wine and, most importantly, the best company.

Dance Party

You want an invitation, don’t ya?