Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner: Chicken and Dumplings

Now that the winter months are here the nights get quite chilly and the evening meal plan turns to the steamy hot comfort foods that warm your cockles. Chicken and dumpling is just such a meal. Hot steamy chicken soup; loaded with aromatic vegetables, chicken, and tender, fluffy drop dumplings.

The Last Bite Network member, Monilicious provided us with her recipe for this hearty winter fare.

*chicken broth
(I made a rich chicken stock from scratch. To save time you can use your favorite chicken broth).
*2 ribs celery, chopped
*1 large onion, chopped
*2 large carrots, chopped
*1 chicken breast
* salt & pepper to taste
*1 teaspoon olive oil

* 1 cup flour, sifted
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
* 1/4 cup milk


Cook chicken breast in broth at a slow simmer until done. Remove chicken breast from pot; set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove skin from breast, then remove meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces; discard skin and bones. Strain broth into a large bowl and discard any remaining chicken pieces and bones.

Sauté chopped vegetables in olive oil until they begin to sweat. Return strained broth to pot. Continue to cook vegetables until tender. Return cooked chicken to pot and continue to simmer.

Combine all dry dumpling ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter. Add chopped parsley. Mix in milk and egg with a fork; mixture should be moist and fluffy. Do not over mix. Drop into simmering soup by forkful.

These Are Not Your Mother's Cupcakes!

Remember the days when you were a kid; you get home from school and find the whole house filled with the intoxicating perfume of fresh baked goodies. Cupcakes to be more specific!

In the early 19th century, before muffin tins were widely available, the cakes were often baked in individual pottery cups, ramekins, or molds and took their name from the cups they were baked in.

Clearly the cupcakes of today have evolved into a gourmet version of your childhood favorite. It makes sense that America would be enamored with these tiny little cakes; they’re part tasty little oven baked treat and part heartwarming childhood memory.

Our curiosity got the best of us and we decided to test out the two more well known cupcake boutiques in the area; Sprinkles Cupcakes and Kara’s Cupcakes. The Sprinkles Cupcakes we visited is located at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California. Kara’s Cupcakes was only a short drive away, also in Palo Alto, at the Town and Country Plaza.

We purchased several cupcakes at each location, however in order to keep this review balanced, we will focus only on the flavor we found to be our favorite at each location.

At Sprinkles we sampled the Dark Chocolate, Red Velvet, Orange, and Chocolate Marshmallow. Our selection from Kara’s comprised of Chocolate Velvet, Kara’s Karrot, Banana Caramel, and Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel. This was a very close contest for best from each location, and while choosing was incredibly difficult my unwavering bias for chocolate will almost always prevail.

The Sprinkles Cupcakes favorite was their Chocolate Marshmallow cupcake, described by Sprinkles as; Belgian dark chocolate cake and marshmallow cream filling with bittersweet chocolate ganache. This is an impressive looking cupcake with a shiny dark chocolate ganache topping and marked with an uber modern candy dot. Beneath the rich, bittersweet chocolate ganache is a fluffy, sweet, marshmallow filling; surrounded by moist dark chocolate cake. Cutting into this cupcake releases a mouthwatering brownie like aroma. The bittersweet flavor of the ganache and cake is nicely balanced by the sweetness of the fluffy white filling. While Sprinkles call this a marshmallow filling, to me it was more reminiscent of the creamy white center of a Hostess Ding Dong. The dot that marks the top makes for a stunning presentation but detracts from the eating experience as it is very crunchy and has no flavor element to contribute. Overall a satisfying cupcake, however, I felt there was an absence of complexity in the flavor profile.

Our favorite from Kara’s Cupcakes was their Chocolate Caramel Fleur de Sel. Kara’s description is a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, ganache frosting and fleur de sel. Visually, this is a spectacular cupcake. The contrasts of the elements combine to make a particularly intriguing statement. Dark chocolate cake is topped with a large rosette of creamy dark chocolate ganache frosting. From beneath the frosting oozes the rich buttery caramel filling. In the center of the ganache is a sprinkling of Fleur de Sel; delicate crystals of French sea salt. As it turns out this cupcake tastes as spectacular as it looks. The cake, the foundation of this delight is moist, soft, and complex. Flavors of bittersweet dark cocoa and vanilla are prominent while the caramel filling’s sweetness plays off the sharper tones. The ganache is super creamy, almost buttery, and not to sweet. There is an espresso note in the frosting and when the fleur de sel hits your tongue it brings out the toasty, nutty, flavors in the caramel filling.

Overall, the consensus was that while both of these cupcake boutiques had superb examples of excellence in their craft, the Kara’s Cupcake product was the favorable of the two. Sprinkles has a more contemporary look that makes you feel that this is something new and exciting, while Kara’s has a more traditional appeal. When you get down to tasting we felt that Kara’s Cupcakes excels in the areas of flavor, moist cake, frosting mouth feel, and design.

No matter which cupcake bakery you find yourself in, we’re sure you will agree that a freshly baked cupcake will always put a smile on your face and bring back some childhood memories.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Launch Of A Gourmet Food Social Network

A social network for foodies? That’s what “The Last Bite Gourmet Food Network” is all about; people with a similar interests getting together on line to discuss issues, share recipes or techniques, or just read articles related to a subject that they are all passionate about.

While the giants like Facebook and Myspace dominate the social networking world Innuendo Enterprises LLC has created The Last Bite to offer a place where foodies can avoid the distraction of being “poked” or having 1500 friend requests to deny. We don’t have a Mafia or Texas Hold’em, and so far there is only one profile image of a scantily dressed person and he seems to be connected to a gas grill.

With no aspirations to become a social networking giant we will continue to develop and enhance The Last Bite to suit the need of our community. There is currently a forum where members can join in on an active discussion or start one of their own. There is a photo slideshow section where members can upload relevant images of interest; restaurants, products, or FoodPorn. The Blog sections of the site are currently being fed by three blogs; the original Last Bite Blog, The Smoky Chipotle with its 100% chipotle content, and The LABIT Report with its restaurant review and ratings data. Events pertaining to gourmet food are listed in the Events segment of the site, and there is a Chat area for real time live discussion and general interaction.

Each member of The Last Bite is allocated a member page that can be modified and personalized with their own blogs, photos, discussions, comments and even areas to promote their own sites, webstores, add widgets and links, RSS feeds, or anything relevant to the community.

This online foodie community is in its infancy and there are many future plans for expansion and enhancement as the needs arise.

Check out the buzz at The Last Bite Gourmet Food Network at

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sunday Night Dinner: Braciole

Every Sunday night we try to make a special dinner and spend the last quiet time of the week together as a family, enjoying good food and good company.

Last weeks recipe for Braciole comes from FoodTV's Alton Brown
. It was great as written but feel free to put your own spin on things and let us know how it came out!


* 3 cups tomato sauce
* 1 1/4 cups flavored croutons
* 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
* 2 eggs
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
* 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
* 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
* 1 clove garlic
* 1 pound flank steak, pounded to 1/4-inch thick
* Olive oil, for brushing
* Salt and pepper
* Vegetable oil, for searing


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the tomato sauce in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and place in the oven to heat.

In a the bowl of a food processor mix the croutons, cheese, eggs, herbs and garlic until it forms a paste.

Brush the pounded flank steak with the olive oil and season generously with the salt and pepper. Spread the filling evenly over the meat. Roll tightly and tie with butcher's twine.

In a large saute pan heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and sear all sides of the rolled meat. Remove from the pan.

Add to the hot tomato sauce, cover with a tin foil tent so that the foil is not touching the meat. Braise for 35 minutes or, up to 3 hours.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

S'mores; Not Just For Camping Anymore!

My good friend and fellow chef Ken Alary of Russian River Fine Foods has really outdone himself this time. It’s not that this is a revelation of culinary ingenuity; rules were not rewritten, and the cooking world has not been turned upside-down. But you have to admit this is an awesome idea that no one, until now, has put together.

Everything awesome about the smore; or “s’more” is translated to this quick and simple, easy to use package called the "your s'more". No mess, no fuss and it is every bit as good as the original version.

What you get is a graham cracker crust, filled with a layer of semi-sweet chocolate, and topped with a generous dollop of creamy marshmallow. This is wrapped in a single serving cello pack and is ready to be ripped opened and popped into the oven or even toaster oven for about three minute. Every bite of this nostalgic treat reminds me of days spent camping with the family or at the fire pit in the backyard on a warm summer evening; the warm graham cracker, the molten semi-sweet chocolate, and the perfectly toasted, gooey marshmallow topping. Now you can enjoy this iconic treat anytime, rain or shine.

What you won’t get with this version is the black charred flaming ball of molten lava that falls off your stick into your lap as you try to blow it out. You might also miss the way the graham cracker breaks and the chocolate spurt out of the side and down the front of your shirt. I especially felt a void when I thought about the sticky globs of ant summoning goo that was left all over the table, yard, and grill, and how I won’t need to clean up that mess tonight!

Everyone loves s’mores, especially kids. This tasty treat definitely makes it to my highly recommended list. Try one for yourself; you’ll be hooked!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Foodbuzz Publisher Community Launches.


San Francisco – October 13, 2008: Foodbuzz, Inc., officially inaugurates its food blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners, a global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world. At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content.

“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, Inc. “Food bloggers are the new breed of local food experts and at any minute of the day, Foodbuzz is there to help capture the immediacy of their hands-on experiences, be it a memorable restaurant meal, a trip to the farmers market, or a special home-cooked meal.”

Foodbuzz is the only online community with content created exclusively by food bloggers and rated by foodies. The site offers more than 20,000 pieces of new food and dining content weekly, including recipes, photos, blog posts, videos and restaurant reviews. Members decide the “tastiness” of each piece of content by voting and “buzz” the most popular posts to the top of the daily menu of submissions. Foodbuzz currently logs over 13 million monthly page views and over three million monthly unique visitors.

“Our goal is to be the number-one online source of quality food and dining content by promoting the talent, enthusiasm and knowledge of food bloggers around the globe,” said Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Inc.

The Foodbuzz blogger community is growing at a rate of 40 percent per month driven by strong growth in existing partner blogs and the addition of over 100 new blogs per month. “The Web site is like the stock of a great soup. The Web site provides the base or backbone for bloggers to interact as a community, contribute content, and have that content buzzed by their peers,” said Mr. Dehan.

Global Blogging Event

Demonstrating the talent and scope of the Foodbuzz community, 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs offered online food enthusiasts an international, virtual street festival of food and diversity. The new feature showcased blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz partner bloggers chronicling events occurring around the globe during a 24 hour period and included:

· Mid-Autumn Festival Banquest (New York, NY)

· The "Found on Foodbuzz" 24-Item Tasting Menu (San Francisco, CA)

· Aussie BBQ Bonanza – Celebrating Diversity (Sydney, Australia)

· The Four Corners of Carolina BBQ Road Trip (Charleston, SC)

· Criminal Tastes – An Illegal Supper (Crested Butte, CO)

· From Matambre to Empanadas: An Argentine Dinner (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

· A Sweet Trompe l’oeil (Seattle, WA)

“24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” captures the quality and unique local perspective of our food bloggers and shared it with the world,” said Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community. “It illustrates exactly what the future of food publishing is all about – real food, experienced by real people, shared real-time.”

About Foodbuzz, Inc.

Based in San Francisco, Foodbuzz, Inc., launched its beta Web site,, in 2007. In less than a year, and its community of over 1,000 exclusive partner food blogs have grown into an extended online property that reaches more than three million users.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Recipe: Bloody Mary Salmon

I bet you thought that Bloody Mary's were only for drinking! This recipe is so easy and is ready in no time at all. You can leave out the vodka for a family meal, or add it in to make it a bit more exciting :


1 cup Big Daddy's Bloody Mary Mix
2 ounces vodka(optional)
Large splash olive oil
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 salmon fillets, 6 oz each

In a shallow pan heat olive oil . Saute celery until it starts to sweat. Push the celery aside and add the salmon to the pan.

Add the Bloody Mary Mix and bring to a gentle simmer. Add in the vodka at this time.

Cover with a tight fitting lid and let salmon poach in the liquid for about 10-12 minutes, until it is just cooked through.

To serve plate the salmon and spoon the sauteed celery and sauce over the salmon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Review: Blue Rock BBQ

When you think about great BBQ you most likely envision the south; places like Memphis, Tennessee, and Alabama. But would you ever include San Jose as a city known for great barbecue? Blue Rock BBQ is the brainchild of Owen and Marie Jobson, and they are trying to change that. They have collected time tested family owned recipes and techniques from all of those classic barbecue regions and housed them all in a small but well appointed restaurant in San Jose.

Their menu is a celebration of flavors, aromas, and good times with family and friends, says Jobson. It reflects their motto, "Barbecue without Borders" in that it includes many US regions of barbecue as well as a few countries, like Cuba, Morocco, and Indonesia.

Starting with the menu item most exotic to this area, Alabama-style Chicken; smoked at high temperature then dunked in a white barbecue sauce. The leg-thigh portion was incredibly fall off the bone tender. The skin was nicely seasoned and drizzled with a red sauce as well. If the term “dunked in a white barbecue sauce” leads you to believe this will be a saucy mess, you are misled. This is about the most perfect piece of barbecue chicken I have tasted to date.

The Tennessee Pulled Pork was true to form. First pulled and them chopped the texture was tender and juicy with just the right amount of seasoning. Restraint with the sauce ladle is definitely a lesson taught well at the Blue Rock BBQ, and this dish is no exception. With just a drizzle of sauce to enhance the meat every bit was well balanced. For those of you who like the sauce flowing from the plate there is a squeeze bottle of sweet, tangy and ever so slightly spicy sauce on every table for your slathering pleasure.

Baby Back Ribs it seems are the litmus test for a great barbecue joint in California. Our order came sans sauce per our request. Dry rubbed, tender and moist, these ribs had a nice bark on the outside and were easily peeled clean from the bone with just the right amount of pull from your teeth. The flavors in the rub were complex but not complicated and enhanced the flavor of the ribs enough to be eaten as is, but also melded perfectly with the addition of the table sauce.

What would barbecue be without the sides? Blue Rock BBQ’s potato salad is a must have. Made of red skin potatoes and dressed lightly in a mayo based dressing the addition of crispy bacon elevates these potatoes to new heights. I mean come on, it has bacon!

When you order coleslaw there are two main varieties you will find; vinegar based or mayo based slaw. The slaw at Blue Rock BBQ is like a marriage of the two, tangy and snappy, yet lightly creamy. I found it to be a delightful change to the usually disappointing side, I’m a fan.

We also tried the Mac and Cheese and the BBQ beans. While I found the beans a bit sweet for my taste my dining companion was instantly taken back to her childhood days, and the BBQ beans served at a family barbecue in Kentucky. We’ll say they are authentic Southern cooking. The mac and cheese was a nice surprise, built from rigatoni with layers of creamy sauce and a cheesy topping. Definitely not your garden variety elbow mac n’ cheese and we appreciate that!

Since Jobson confirmed that all his desserts were made in house we felt obligated to work through the fullness and test out his baking skills. The pecan pie, house made from Jobson’s grandmother’s recipe was pure enjoyment. A crisp but tender crust filled with a rich and sweet, sticky custard and topped with pecan halves. The rich and nutty flavor is the perfect ending to a Southern BBQ.

Blue Rock BBQ is conveniently located in the Hacienda Gardens Shopping Center, near the intersection of Meridian and Foxworthy Avenues. You can easily access Blue Rock BBQ from the Willow Glen, Cambrian, Campbell, and Almaden Valley areas of San Jose. Ample parking is available in front of the restaurant.

3001 Meridian Avenue Phone: (408) 978-2583 (978-BLUE)
San Jose, California 95124