Monday, April 27, 2009

Foodbuzz Tastemasters: Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti

After a long Sunday loaded with household chores, a visit to the farmer’s market, and some light gardening it was time for dinner. Feeling somewhat drained I was looking for a simple solution to a tasty meal without a lot of mess and prep. Thanks to Buitoni and The Foodbuzz Tastemaster program I had that solution close at hand.

Buitoni’s new Riserva line of fresh pasta has eclectic flavors such as Quattro Fromaggi Agnolotti, Wild Mushroom Agnolotti, Chicken and Four Cheese Ravioli, and Braised Beef Sausage Ravioli. I received the Wild Mushroom Agnolotti in my package.

Buitoni describes it as follows:

A blend of earthy mushrooms, including sweet, rustic portobellos and delicate criminis, creates an impeccable pairing with fresh-roasted garlic and imported grana padano and parmesan cheeses, wrapped inside thin layers of stone-ground semolina pasta.

I wanted to keep the sauce light to compliment the pasta, so that we could taste the pasta and filling. So many sauces bury the flavors of the pasta so all you can taste is the sauce. I created a light garlic-sage cream to elevate this fantastic pasta. I sautéed a little garlic in olive oil and added in a splash of chicken stock and sage. Remove the sage leaves once the sauce has begun to reduce. Just a splash of cream and the pasta goes in to finish cooking. I arrange the pasta on two plates and finish the sauce by mounting with a little butter. The mounted sage cream is spooned over the Wild Mushroom Agnolotti. This pasta was fresh and delicious and the mushroom, cheese, and roasted garlic filling was earthy, smooth, and sweet. You could taste the individual elements of the filling and the combination of those elements was sublime.

This pasta was a perfect with the broccolini and vine ripened tomatoes that we picked up earlier that day at the farmer’s market. The broccolini was lightly sautéed and the tomatoes were sliced and sprinkled with kosher sea salt and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

The Buitoni Riserva Wild Mushroom Agnolotti was the perfect center of the plate for our farm fresh produce.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Marinade, Brush-on, or Dip. It Depends on the Sauce!

Have you ever marinated chicken in your favorite BBQ sauce overnight only to end up with a charred mess on the grill the next day? We tell you how to avoid this from happening again!

Marinade: There is no better way to get flavor deep inside your meat than the marinade method. You can use a dry rub or a wet mixture to impart that flavor. You do however need to be sure you are using an appropriate flavor delivery system to accomplish this. If you use a sugar, honey, or molasses laden blend you will surely find yourself in a sticky and burnt situation. If you like the idea of marinating try using a sauce like Stone Brewing Co's IPA Curry Mustard Grill Sauce. Perfect on chicken, pork, or even lamb, you can use more; brushed on top for a nice blast of flavor!

Brush-On: What could be nicer than a tangy glaze on your chicken or ribs? Many sauces are suitable for glazing. The key to identifying one of these is usually thickness. The thick sauce should be brushed or mopped on in layers during the last twenty minutes of cooking. This will give your sauce time to thicken further and caramelize on the surface of your meat. While BBQ sauce like Pebble Creek's, Phil's, or Russian River Fine Foods lines are all great for brushing on your meat, Tony Tah's Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing makes an incredible tangy glaze, especially if you are looking for something a little different for your family or friends!

Dip: Perhaps you opted for the dry rub method because you love that crusty bark on your brisket or ribs but you still enjoy some sauce with your barbeque. Dipping is the perfect way to have the best of both worlds. All the sauce previously mentioned are excellent for dipping, but don't just pour the sauce from the bottle into a bowl, nothing will put a damper on your BBQ like cold sauce! Heating the sauce for dipping is the perfect way to enhance both your sauce and the meal. The heat will help intensify the flavors and develop some caramelization and thickness, and you won't be giving your pork the cold shoulder!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Review: Silva's Taco Shop -El Cajon, CA

Have you ever gotten to the point where you just had enough? Enough Fresh Mex, or Tex Mex, and enough thinking outside the bun, or running for the border? Well when you hit the crappy Mexican food wall, and you will because there is definitely more crap than the good stuff out there, you will need to find a real taqueria to redeem yourself.

Silva’s Taco Shop in El Cajon, California is one such taqueria. In fact The Last Bite feels that Silva’s Taco Shop is the ubiquitous taqueria. This is apparent in the appearance and décor of Silva’s. The exterior of the building is painted in bright yellow and red high gloss paint and is trimmed out in orange. To the right is the patio; the furniture is made up of painted cinder blocks and table tops and benches are tiled. The interior of Silva’s is incredibly void of any décor, in fact other than the menu board and the special; hand drawn on paper an taped to the wall, I don’t recall any specific details of the dining room at all. This type of environment is crucial for the proper execution of taqueria fare. I’m convinced the more refined the atmosphere the lower the quality of the taqueria food.

The food at Silva’s is the shining star of the taqueria world. For this review we ordered a few of the different specialties that they prepare. The Rolled Tacos and Carne Asada Chips are both indigenous to the San Diego area and don’t try to tell me that these are the same as Nachos and taquitos ‘cuz they’re not!

The Carne Asada Chips starts with a large plate (Styrofoam clamshell) of tortilla chips and piled high with sizzling, savory, carne asada; under that carne asada is the smooth and delicious refried beans. The whole thing is then slathered with sour cream and Silva’s specially prepared guacamole. A mountain of shredded mild cheddar cheese buries this entire delight. We recommend having a bottle of Silva’s house made red sauce in hand for liberal application during consumption. It’s a huge portion so bring someone with you because it is so delicious you might try to eat it all by yourself and that will hurt.

If you’ve never had a Rolled Taco you haven’t really been to San Diego. Like I said before; the rolled taco is the furthest thing from the sad little taquito. Picture a fresh made tortilla stuffed with Silva’s shredded beef, rolled into a cigar shape and fried until it is crispy golden brown. Take 3 or 5 of those babies and line them up on a plate for the next step; toppings. The whole plate is topped with guacamole, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and a fist full of mild Mexican cheddar cheese. Again keep that red sauce, or green if you prefer, handy because once you start eating these addicting rolled tacos you won’t be able to put them down.

My favorite item on the menu is the Baja Style Fish tacos. Silva’s version starts with their house made tortillas. They are over stuffed with crispy golden brown pieces of deep fried fish, lettuce, pico de gallo, and their creamy rich white sauce. It’s served with a couple of lemon wedges and a squeeze bottle of the red or green sauce. Be prepared to drip this all over your shirt as it is so wonderfully indulgent you won’t even bother to stop and clean up ‘til it’s gone. The combination of flavors and texture in this taco will have you wanting for more but they are so big one or two is the limit.

Finally, my old standby, the Carnitas Taco, what could be more perfect than hunks of crispy seasoned pork; nestled in two house made tortillas and stuffed with the classic taco fillings of shredded lettuce and pico de gallo. The only thing that could make it better are the roasted Serrano chiles that are served on the tacos. Douse liberally with red sauce and get them in your mouth for an unforgettable taqueria experience.

All these dishes are served with Silva’s house made “Hot Carrots” in escabeche , just tender and fragrant with herbs and vinegar, they are the perfect accompaniment to cut the richness of the food and spank the pallet with a bit of heat between bites.

If you are looking for an authentic taco shop experience and not some prefabricated wannabe Mexican food slop, visit Silva’s Taco Shop in El Cajon and tell we sent you from San Francisco!

Silva’s Taco Shop
998 Broadway
El Cajon, CA 92021
(619) 447-4196

Friday, April 03, 2009

Things Are Heating Up For California Caterer.

Do you remember that Top Chef Quaker Oats Challenge I asked you all to vote on a while back? Well here's the skinny:

Our fellow Foodie friend Maurice "Ben" Larimer made it to the finals and then he won the cook-off event with his Oatmeal Crusted Chile Relleno. He used a combination of Poblano/Pasilla peppers to keep things lively! The Chiles are stuffed with an Oatmeal Goat Cheese, Mango, and Grilled Chipotle Shrimp Stuffing, and are topped with a Green Chile Ranchero Sauce. Even the description is enough to get your mouth watering! “Top Chef Winner Hosea loved the dish”, says Larimer, “and so did Annie from Quaker Oats and Nikki”

The grueling day began at 7am with a walkthrough of the small outdoor kitchen. At 9am the dinner bell sounded and it was off to the races; only 45 minutes to complete the entire dish. Ben tells us that his best time so far was 47 minutes during his home trials. It seems as though Ben had found his groove and managed to complete and plate the dish with 2 minutes left to spare. I can’t imaging cooking Chile Rellenos start to finish is such a short time. Incidentally, Chef Larimer was the only male contestant out of the ten semi-finalists.

This cook-off is scheduled to air on on Monday, April 6th in its entirety. So be sure to check that out!

When Maurice “Ben” Larimer is not whipping up prize winning dishes in record time he puts his 21 years of culinary experience to good use at CocoMoe’s Catering in Red Bluff California.

With his passion for food and perfection Ben has acquired a reputation for amazing food, and an incredible sense of what foods fit best for your event. His experience dates back to 1986 when his first job was a dishwasher/prep cook in a small restaurant in Oklahoma. From there he has apprenticed under 2 separate chefs 1 Spanish, 1 Italian for a total of 4 years. After working in the industry for a number of years, Ben decided to give catering a try.

CocoMoe’s has catered for many celebrities including the likes of, Brooks & Dunn, Reba McEntire, Trace Adkins, Colin Raye, The Beach Boys, Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods, George Thorogood and The Destroyers. Also businesses and groups such as the Redding Rodeo Association, Shasta Regional Hospital, Wal-Mart Redding , and their most important accomplishment to date, over 11,000 Marines at 29 Palms Marine Base. As well as many residents of the Northstate here in California.

To learn more about Larimer and his catering business, you can log on to

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Rediscover America's Legend - Tabasco!

By: Courtney Phillips

You can find it at any dinner across the heartland of America and in almost any refrigerator or pantry, but not many people know the history of this definitive American legend. Myth surrounds its early history, with some of the early rumors proving true according to the historians and curators at the McIlhenny Company,

The Legend Begins

It was a man by the name of Edmund McIlhenny who is credited with the development of the recipe and process that created the spicy red concoction focusing on a natural fermentation of the liquid instead of an accelerated boiling process. In 1868 he grew his own commercial crop of peppers for his first official batch. In 1869 McIlhenny sent out 658 bottles of liquid heat to sell to grocers and markets in the southern gulf coast.

Selling for one dollar a piece he labeled the bottles “Tabasco,” a word of Mexican Indian origin meaning “place where the soil is humid.” In 1870 he secured a patent for the name and the rest, as they say… well you can finish that one.


The brand is still in heavy production five generations later, being produced on Avery Island, Louisiana, where half of the factory’s 200 workers still live. Many are the descendants of the factory’s original workers and all working today for Paul McIlhenny, the sixth generation descendant of the inventor.

The Tradition

The recipe remains unchanged and the ‘mash’, or main pulp and spices for the recipe, is still made in much the same way as the original, although the quality of some of the ingredients has been improved over the years. The sauce is aged in white oak barrels for as long as 3 years and only at the permission of the family, who supervise the process very closely, is it allowed to be mixed with vinegar before being bottled.

Fun Facts and Secrets

One fact you may not know about Tabasco brand hot sauce is that every drop is aged in barrels which come from the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, TN. The company purchases used barrels that Jack Daniels brand whiskey has been aged in and subsequently uses them to age their hot sauce. The bottles that Tabasco goes into were not all that original at their start either. According to legend Edmund McIlhenny originally used discarded cologne bottles to package his first few batches, a fact confirmed through the company’s own historians!

This post was contributed by Courtney Phillips, who writes about the culinary school ranking. She welcomes your feedback at CourtneyPhillips80 at