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Kirk's Traveling Kitchen News and Blog

Cheesecake to end all Cheesecakes…

Kirk Warner


The summer of 2019 was a blur for many reasons, many great events plus a lot of travel, but the star occasion was undoubtedly catering Ellen & Sam’s wedding celebration on the shores of Lake Michigan in August. A beautiful event with (thankfully) perfect weather, there will be many memories from that weekend, but one of my favorite images will always be the artisanal cheese cake we made in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. The bride and groom don’t have a big sweet tooth, although we made plenty of sweets for the remaining guests, so together we agreed on a tiered “cake” of assorted small batch cheeses from around the world. With the help of one of my favorite importers, Great Ciao out of Minneapolis (www.greatciao.com), we assembled a perfect array of cheeses, aged + soft rind; cow, sheep & goat’s milk, and perfectly ripe for the crowd of 150 guests. There was even cheese left for the newly weds to take with them on their honeymoon.

Dispatch from Lone Mountain Ranch, Montana

Kirk Warner

Besides the expectation of a lot of meat (Bison/Elk/Etc.), I had pretty low expectations when I traveled recently to the great state of Montana. I knew that it would be stunning with incredible wilderness vistas, but I don’t think it would insult any native Montanans to say it is not commonly thought of as a great“food” destination. However, I was pleasantly surprised after my first meal at Lone Mountain Ranch just outside Big Sky. A pretty remote spot with a homey lodge that served some of the most creative wilderness cuisine I can imagine. In a place where the growing months are few, the quality and variety of the produce was really impressive. If you’re looking to explore the amazing landscape of Montana, but don’t want to sacrifice your palate I highly recommend Lone Mountain Ranch.

Here’s a recipe for my Braised Bison Ragu that goes amazingly well with Gnocchi:

Recipe Card for Item: Braised Bison Ragout with Chipotle BBQ Sauce

Quantity Produced:  Serves 8


Bison Chuck, Brisket or Sirloin, Trimmed/Cubed                 3#

Onion, Minced                                                                        1 Medium

Garlic, Minced                                                                        4 Cloves

Carrot, Shredded                                                                     2 Large

Celery, Minced                                                                        2 Stalks

Tuscan Kale or Swiss Chard, Sliced Thin (optional)              2 Cups


For the BBQ Sauce:

Ketchup                                              1 Cup

Canned Tomatoes, Diced                   1 Cup

Onion, Minced                                   ½ Cup

Water                                                  ½ Cup

Chipotle Chiles in Adobo                   1 Small Can, Chopped

Brown Sugar                                       ½ Cup

Vegetable Oil                                      2 Tablespoons

Apple Cider Vinegar                           2 Tablespoons

Worcestershire Sauce                         1 Tablespoon

Garlic, Minced                                    2 Cloves

Celery Salt or Kosher Salt                  To Taste

Freshly Ground Black Pepper             To Taste

Water or Chicken Stock                       as needed

Preparation Procedure-

For the Sauce, heat oil in a sauce pan. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until soft. Stir in brown sugar, celery salt and black pepper. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce thickens. Meanwhile in a heavy bottomed pot, heat small amount of oil and brown bison thoroughly, 15 minutes or so. Add vegetables (except kale/chard) and sauté until fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the BBQ sauce to the browned meat and turn the heat to simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for 45-50 minutes or until the meat is very tender. Add kale, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Adjust consistency with water or stock and serve over pasta or gnocchi.

Restaurant Dispatch from Portland, Oregon

Kirk Warner

The times that I’ve visited the Rose City of Portland I am always blown away with the breadth of restaurants available to the residents of such a small city. I asked my Uber driver who supports all of these fine eating establishments, to which he replied “people who work at the other restaurants” and, after a short pause “visitors”. As a recent visitor I was super excited to score a table at the tiny restaurant on the Western outskirts of town: Coquine (https://www.coquinepdx.com). In a city where almost all the exciting restaurants are in neighborhoods or in unexpected spaces tucked around the corner from an airbnb (my first restaurant visited was in a retrofitted garage/car dealership), Coquine is a bit of a drive from everything. Getting to it can be part of the pleasure, it really allows you to take in the “quirk” of PDX. Bathtubs in the front yard made into planters or bungee lines between houses, it is the city that started the “Keep ____ Weird” movement now popularized in college towns. Once at Coquine however any idea for strangeness goes straight out the window. It is a restaurant with incredible restraint and finesse. One where I could easily pick out produce in the dishes featuring items from the early season Portland Farmer’s Market i’d stepped through that morning. In a city where part of the charm is controlled chaos, it is a charming place that serves delicious, simple food that looks easy to make (but is absolutely not). One of my favorite dishes was a Leek Vinaigrette Salad with Shaved Raw Cauliflower, here is my much less subtle version with roasted cauliflower with crisp prosciutto:

Little Gem Salad with Roasted Cauliflower & Crisp Prosciutto

Little Gem or Romaine Lettuce, Washed & Chopped            6 Cups

Radicchio, Washed & Chopped                                              ½ Small Head


Crusty Bread, Cubed                                                               2 Cups

Butter, Melted                                                                         ¼ Cup

Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper                                          To Taste


Cauliflower, Cut into 1/8, Sliced ½ “ thick                              ½ Head

Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper                                          To Taste

Extra Virgin Olive Oil                                                             As Needed

Prosciutto, Sliced (Parma or San Daniele)                              2-3oz.


Lemon Balsamic Vinaigrette (Makes 2 Cups, Whisk to Combine)

Balsamic Vinegar, (Good but Not Great)                                1/3 Cup

Dijon Mustard                                                                         2 Tablespoons

Fresh Lemon Juice                                                                  1 Lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil                                                             1 ¼ Cups

Herbs, Minced (Chives, Parsley and Thyme)                         2 Tablespoons

Kosher Salt & Fresh Black Pepper                                          To Taste


Preparation Procedure-


Preheat oven to 375d.. Toss cubed bread with melted butter/oil and season thoroughly with salt & pepper. Spread out on sheet pan and bake on bottom rack in oven until browned and crisp, about 18-20 minutes. Toss cut cauliflower with olive oil, salt and pepper until just coated. Carefully wrap in thin slice of prosciutto and lay on parchment lined sheet tray. (You’ll want 2-3 pieces per person.) Bake prosciutto wrapped cauliflower until prosciutto starts to crisp and cauliflower becomes tender 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool. 


Arrange lettuce and radicchio on plate, top with crushed croutons (use a food processor or mortar/pestle for this) and cauliflower. Drizzle with lemon-balsamic dressing.

Tamales Bay, aka "Oyster World"

Kirk Warner

Had a fantastic trip down the west coast recently, it was capped by a trip to Hog Island Oyster Co. for a “Shuck Your Own” Oyster picnic. A super activity for small groups who love bivalves on the half shell or grilled (they provide grills) and a great boot camp for getting your shucking muscles fit. If you find yourself in Marin County and it’s a beautiful day, here is the pertinent info:



Precocious Tasting Menu @ Dialogue Restaurant Santa Monica


I will take full blame for an my eight-year-old's current obsession with tasting menus. In an effort to get her to be more adventurous as an eater I encouraged her to join the adults when traveling to unique restaurant locales throughout the world. She probably bit off more than she could chew at some of the spots: Astrid y Gaston in Lima was too much ceviche... Belcanto in Lisbon too much seafood "parts & pieces", but Dialogue in Santa Monica, CA was just perfect. Everything you want in a tasting experience (whether for a child or for an adult), whimsy, creativity, wonderful textures and variety. If you're ever in Los Angeles and want the adventure of finding it (atop a mini mall, next to a frozen yogurt stand, behind an unmarked door) I highly recommend a trip. (Not to mention the most famous/accomplished chef to come out of my tiny hometown of Paw Paw, Mi is the chef/owner).

Dialogue Restaurant

Dispatches from Maido Restaurante, Lima, Peru


When I realized I was going to be able to spend a few days in the food mecca that is Lima, Peru the first reservation I tried to snag was at Maido in the Miraflores neighborhood. Central Restaurante gets much of the acclaim (see the Netflix documentary series 'Chef's Table') for pushing Lima to the forefront of the global food conversation, but Maido is perhaps a better representation of the culinary melting pot that is Peruvian cooking. Technically a Nikkei restaurant, Chef Mitsuharu blends the best of Peru, potatoes, seafood, corn, beef...  into a multicultural menu that I couldn't get enough of (believe me I tried, we were the last to leave and shut the restaurant down during our visit). The most memorable of the 10-15 dishes we sampled was the '50-hour braised beef'. My seven-year-old ate most of it, so I did a little recreating to come up with their process. It's not as long and is still a work in progress, but it's a start. Enjoy!

Recipe Card for Item: Chile-Glazed Beef Shortribs

Quantity Produced:  Serves 8 as an entree


Boneless Beef Shortribs, Trimmed   5+ #
Flour 2 Cups (for dusting)
Soy Sauce 1 Cup
Beer 1 Cup
Water 1 Cup

Baby Bok Choy, cut in ½ lengthwise 8

Sweet Chile Sauce 2 Cup (See Recipe)
Braising Liquid As Needed

Crisp Pan Fried Noodles See Recipe
Scallions, Julienned 2 ea.

Preparation Procedure:  Preheat Oven to 375˚.
In large dutch oven, brown dusted beef in hot oil 4-5 minutes per side. Remove from pot and set aside on sheet pan. Brown remaining beef. Return beef to pot and add braising sauce, bring to a boil. When boiling, turn off heat, making sure beef is nearly immersed in liquid. Cover and bake for 1 ½ to 2 hours, checking periodically to baste with braising liquid. When finished cooking, carefully remove beef from pot onto a sheetpan, it will be very tender. Strain braising liquid and set aside. Drizzle Sweet Chile Sauce over each short rib and place in the oven. Bake until chile sauce glazed the beef, about 10 minutes. While beef is back in the oven, heat a large skillet, sauté bok choy in a small amount of oil. Transfer to platter and top with glazed beef. As needed add additional chile sauce (thinned with braising liquid) to the sheet pan on which the beef was glazed. Serve with crispy pan fried noodles. Garnish with sliced scallions.

Recipe Card for Item: Sweet Chile Sauce

Quantity Produced:  Makes 2 Cups

Chile Paste/Sambal Oelek 3 Tablespoons
Garlic, Minced 3 Large Cloves
Rice Wine Vinegar ½ Cup
Water 1/3 Cup
Sugar 2/3 Cup
Salt 1 Teaspoon
Cornstarch 1 Tablespoon dissolved in 1/3 cup water
Lime Juice 1 Lime
Cilantro, Stemmed/Chopped 4 Tablespoons

Preparation Procedure-

Combine everything, except cilantro, in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickens. Cool completely and add cilantro. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Dispatches from Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador


Took a quick trip South earlier this summer to unplug and immerse into nature at the Mashpi Lodge in the heart of the Choco rainforest in NE Ecuador. Amazing way to spend 4-days with nonstop adventures in old growth (& new growth) rainforest. Happily the food was up to snuff too, with great Ceviche (or Cebiche) at every meal. Highly recommended: mashpilodge.com

Quirky Wines: Graf Morillon from Weingut Muster


I like different wines. There's clearly nothing wrong with well made wines of almost any varietal (still waiting on you Pinotage). However, for me, it's fun when you come across something that doesn't work easily into oenophiles go to ways of describing wines. I came across one of these wines recently at Cosme the "nuevo" Mexican restaurant of Chef Enrique Olvera (he is the Thomas Keller + Grant Achatz of Mexico) in New York. Here it is (along with the  details of this outstanding eatery):

Graf Morillon (Chardonnay) Steiermark, Austria, 2011

It has some of the oxidized characteristics of a Chardonnay from Jura or Arbois, but is MUCH more restrained and drinkable (i.e.. you don't taste it an immediate ask yourself "is this how it's supposed to taste or is it corked?"). Would be a great wine to go with a hearty seafood dish (think fish + bacon/prosciutto).

I had it at:
Cosme (http://www.cosmenyc.com/#) 35 E 21st St, New York, NY 10010

Dispatch from somewhere North of Vancouver, British Columbia


As someone who grew up in the woods of Michigan, I love nothing more than getting out of the city. So when I had the opportunity to go up into the islands Northwest of Vancouver (about as far "out of the city" as you can go) I jumped at it. Even if it meant getting there in one of these:
For an unbelievable exercise in unplugging this area is amazing! And if you want to do it without roughing it in the slightest I highly recommend Sonora Resort on Sonora Island (https://sonoraresort.com). One of the best destination vacation experiences of my life.

If you like surfing or hiking rainforests (but not the Amazon variety) make sure you spin over to Tofino on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island. If you do, please visit Wolf in the Fog restaurant (http://www.wolfinthefog.com) and hopefully you can get some of the locally foraged Gooseneck Barnacles:

If this restaurant weren't 3500miles away I would go all the time!

Restaurant Dispatch from Austin, Texas (the day after SXSW)


Since my days living in Ann Arbor, Michigan I have been partial to large college towns.  The transient energy combined with a recession proof creative "can do" freedom makes them some of the best stops to explore what is happening on the culinary fringe. The possibility that an ambitious recent grad decides culinary arts are more interesting than say.. film study (like yours truly) can allow for some really great experimenting and risk taking (along with some well intentioned disasters). That is why I'm always excited when my travels take me to "UCity" meccas like Ann Arbor, Madison, Durham/Chapel Hill and, very recently, Austin. Here are my restaurant recommendations for that booming creative oasis in central texas:

Olamaie (http://olamaieaustin.com)  My second favorite restaurant in Austin. Retrofitted small house doing exceptional "New Southern Cooking". Great environment and really creative cooking without falling into the trappings of "NSC" (ie. cooking everything in rendered fatback).

Uchiko (http://uchikoaustin.com) This place was my favorite. It had everything I look for in a contemporary restaurant: well sourced ingredients, clean/distinct flavors and an unpretentious vibe.

Launderette (http://launderetteaustin.com) Had a great lunch at this neighborhood  "small plates" spot. Their take on a girl scout cookie was enlightening.

Restaurant Dispatch from Bay Area: Sir and Star at the Olema, Cotogna & Zuni Cafe


Was happy to spend a little time in N. California this year as it's been a while since I've visited the Bay Area, easily one of my favorite food destinations in the world. Among the whirlwind of culinary activities during my stay (Cotogna for outstanding regional Italian http://cotognasf.com; Sir and Star at the Olema for a quirky & fun meal up near Tomales Bay http://sirandstar.com; Blue Bottle Coffee for some of my favorite coffee in the USA https://bluebottlecoffee.com), I made my first trip to Zuni Cafe since the passing of it's chef/owner Judy Rodgers. I was glad that the energy and vibe hadn't changed, the spot was as quintessential SF as ever! And my favorite dish of Judy's to make hadn't changed a bit:

Zuni's Roast Chicken & Bread Salad

Quantity Produced:  Serves 6-8 (Entrée Portions)
Fresh Chicken, Seasoned with Kosher Salt/Fresh Pepper
                         & Fresh Thyme and Parsley Sprig under skin                       3# Whole
Crusty Bread, Slightly Stale/Crust Removed/Cut into 1” Pieces                       ½ Loaf (10-12oz)        
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Extra For the Croutons                                                1/3 Cup
White Wine or Champagne Vinegar                                                               2 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt and Fresh Black Pepper                                                                To Taste

Currants, Dried, Soaked in 1 Tablespoon Warm Water                                 1 Tablespoon
Red Wine Vinegar                                                                                           1 Tablespoon
Pine Nuts, Toasted in Dry Skillet on the Stove over Low Heat             3 Tablespoons
Garlic, Slivered                                                                                                3 Cloves
Scallions, Julienned                                                                                          4
Chicken Stock, Preferably Homemade                                                            2 Tablespoons
Mesclun Salad Greens, Such as: Arugula, Frisee, Oak Leaf, Etc.                     6+ Cups

Preparation Procedure-
Preheat oven to 475˚. Rinse chicken with cold water and THOROUGHLY dry with paper towel. Put a thyme sprig under skin of each breast section. Season completely with salt and fresh black pepper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes if time allows. Arrange cubed bread on sheet pan and cook in hot oven until some color develops, about 5-10 minutes. Turn bread chunks over so browning is even. Combine ¼ cup of olive oil with white wine vinegar and salt/pepper to taste. Toss bread with half of this oil mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. Soak currants in warm water and red wine vinegar.

Preheat a heavy bottomed skillet or roasting pan on your stove and heat until hot. Wipe and moisture from chicken and set it breast side up in hot pan. Place in center of hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn the chickens onto breasts and roast another 30 minutes. Check to see if chickens are cooked, using thermometer or twisting leg sections (turn easily=done). Allow chicken to cool.

Place a little of remaining olive oil in small skillet and sweat garlic and scallions over medium-low heat. When cooked scrape onto bread and toss to combine. Place on sheet pan and bake bread until warm and golden, 10-15 minutes. Drain the dripping from the chicken into the chicken stock. Heat the roasting pan and add drippings/stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove tasty bits. Remove meat from cooled chicken, skin-on or off it’s up to you. Toss pan juices with crusty bread, pine nuts, drained currants, and greens. Nestle chicken into salad and add extra olive oil/white wine vinegar mixture as needed.

 Oysters at Zuni Cafe
Puppy's Get Sleepy at Cotogna
Kitchen Theater gets old after awhile..

Piedmont Restaurant in Durham


We were frequent visitors to Durham, North Carolina over the past year for a series of culinary challenges at The Cookery (http://durhamcookery.com). And while it's not uncommon for us to travel to the same city several times for multiple events, usually we sample everything the region has to offer from a culinary standpoint (ie. "hitting" all of the restaurants/markets, etc.). However, we encountered a first upon visiting Piedmont Restaurant in downtown Durham (http://www.piedmontrestaurant.com, a place me (and my crew) were happy to revisit time and again for some of the most original, delicious "New North Carolinian" food imaginable. Piedmont is a tiny space, but the service is outstanding and the wine/beverage program thoroughly original. I wish there were more places like it on our travels.

They do a wonderful job with native North Carolina oysters, here is one of my favorite oyster preparations:

Cornmeal Crusted Oysters with Bombay Dipping Sauce

Fresh Oysters, Shucked                      12 to 24ea.
Flour                                                   2 Cups
Cornmeal,  Fine                                  3/4  Cup
Cornstarch                                          1/4 Cup
Fine Salt                                              1 Tablespoon

Canola Oil                                           3 Cups

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot. Dredge oysters in mixture of flour, cornmeal, cornstarch & salt. Fry until bubbles subside, about 4 minutes. Drain on towel lined plate and serve with lemon and this sauce:

Bombay Dipping Sauce

Quantity Produced:  Makes 2 Cups

Ketchup                                                                       1 Cup
Kejap Manis (or 2 T. Soy Sauce + 2 T. Honey)          ¼ Cup
Red Wine Vinegar                                                       ¼ Cup
Dijon Mustard                                                             2 Tablespoons
Sriracha Hot Sauce, or Favorite Hot Sauce                  3 Tablespoons
Curry Powder                                                              1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon
Cumin                                                                         1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon
Fresh Lemon Juice                                                      3 Lemons
Yogurt, Whole Milk                                                    ¼ Cup + 1 Tablespoon
Salt & Freshly Ground Black Pepper                           To Taste

Preparation Procedure-

Combine, mix thoroughly. Keeps 10 days. 

Dispatches from San Sebastian, Spain


Had the pleasure of spending a few nights in one of the capitals of modern gastronomy San Sebastian, Spain recently. San Sebastian has 15 Michelin stars spread over eight restaurants, which taken into account that it's approximately the size of Kalamazoo, Michigan is absolutely insane! Here are the two that we visited:

Mugaritz: http://mugaritz.com

Of all the restaurant meals I've had in my life, the one at Mugaritz certainly falls in the top five. Creative but classic, modern yet distinctly Spanish, and thoroughly accommodating and friendly despite being the #6 Best Restaurant in the World (according to Restaurant Magazine). It certainly warrants a trip to San Sebastian if not Spain and Europe.

Etxebarri: http://asadoretxebarri.com

I was thoroughly excited to make the long and winding trip into the hills outside San Sebastian to visit Asador Etxebarri. It is the most unique restaurant in that everything is cooked over custom build grills, but is anything but a "grill house". They serve up some of the most exquisite, subtle dishes that you wouldn't know had been anywhere near a grill (they call it "smoke kissed" cooking). That is until their signature slab of crusty, aged Basque beef is served. I won't soon forget my experience.

 Cepes & Shishito Peppers 

 Asador Extebarri

Gooseneck Barnacles 

Summer Culinary Lab Update


The annual Winston Saugatuck Summer Culinary Lab is in session. It is a time when I develop recipes while working on new cooking techniques with unique and seasonal ingredients. There are a number of new food developments, but after a short trip to Chicago where I dined at Chef Ivan Yuen's Shanghai Terrace restaurant (@ the new Peninsula Hotel) I am playing with Cantonese/Peking cooking. I visited the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong several years ago for a truly memorable experience with Peking Duck, and while I had Abalone on this occasion, it made me think about experimenting with a less intensive version of the classic (which can take 3+ days to produce). Here is what we've got so far:

Crispy Chinese Duck (Faux Peking-Style)

Quantity Produced:  Serves 4-6 as an entrée.

Ducks, Split and Quartered, Skin dried w/ towel                      2 Medium Ducks

Braising Sauce:
Vegetable Oil                                                                                    2 Tablespoons
Garlic Cloves, Crushed                                                       3
Scallions, Cut Large                                                             2
Ginger Root, Sliced                                                              2” Piece
Sichuan Peppercorns                                                          1 Teaspoon
Star Anise                                                                              3
Chicken Stock                                                                       ½ Cup
Soy Sauce                                                                              1 Cup
Brandy or Sake                                                                    ½ Cup
Sugar                                                                                      1 Tablespoon
Kosher Salt                                                                            2 Pinch

Water Chestnut Flour or Corn Starch                              1 Cup
Vinegar, White                                                                     2 Tablespoons
Water                                                                                     6 Tablespoons
White Pepper                                                                       ¾ Teaspoon

Hoisin or Plum Sauce                                                         1 ½ Cups
Scallions, Julienned                                                              2

Preparation Procedure: Preheat Oven 375˚. In a large braising ban heat small amount of oil and brown skin side of duck pieces, 4-7 minutes. When golden, transfer duck to plate. Drain some of fat off the pan, add the garlic, scallions, gingerroot, peppercorns and star anise and cook over high heat, stirring, until the garlic is golden and you can smell the spices, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the stock, soy sauce, sake or brandy, sugar and salt. Boil the sauce over high heat for about 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Add duck to the sauce, cover and bake for 2 hours or until the duck is cooked. While the duck is cooking mix the ingredients for the crust. Remove duck from braising sauce (reserve for another use) and allow to cool. When duck is cool, coat skin side with crust, spreading with a spoon. Allow the crust to dry for 5-10 minutes or as long as overnight. Heat 3” of oil in a large wok or pot, to 350˚, fry duck until crispy and golden 4-5 minutes. Serve with plum/hoisin sauce, scallions and flatbread.

Kinmont Restaurant- Chicago


I eat out a lot, usually when I'm on the road delivering a culinary challenge and looking to sample the local fare, it's one of the few benefits of frequent work travel. What happened to me after visiting Kinmont restaurant in Chicago this past weekend was a first though. Let me say that the place is great, a self-described "sustainable seafood" restaurant that uses a fair amount of local big lake fish (the stuff I grew up on in Michigan) and by-catch (smaller, less marketable fish that often get thrown away by commercial fishermen), they do a wonderful job of refreshing the seafood restaurant concept (seafood platters, market catch on a big chalk board, etc.). If you're in the windy city and in the mood for seafood (or just a great restaurant) I highly recommend Kinmont. Add to which, in reference to the above, the day after I visited I received a voicemail from someone at the restaurant thanking me for visiting. A classy touch.

Kinmont Restaurant

The Kinmont Seafood Platter (Purple Giraffe not included)

Lantern Restaurant- Chapel Hill


I've always been a sucker for "locally sourced, Asian inspired" restaurants (you had me at hotpot), and Lantern Restaurant in Chapel Hill is no exception. We'll be working a series of events in the NC research triangle over the next year and I fully expect to make Lantern a regular stop. Situated on main street in downtown Chapel Hill, with simple interior decor and a kick-ass al fresco garden, they have a great setting to compliment the solid work happening in the kitchen.

Lantern Restaurant

I had the whole fish (among many other things) at my recent visit, here is my version of what they're doing:

Wok-Fried Whole Fish with Sweet Chile Sauce

Quantity Produced:  Serves 3-4.

Whole Sea Bass or Snapper, Trimmed & Scored                    1/ 4-5# Fish
Waterchestnur Flour or Corn Starch                                       to dredge

Vegetable Oil                                                                           4 Cups

Chile Paste/Sambal Oelek                                           3 Tablespoons
Garlic, Minced                                                                        3 Large Cloves
Rice Wine Vinegar                                                      ½ Cup
Water                                                                          1/3 Cup
Sugar                                                                           2/3 Cup
Salt                                                                              1 Teaspoon
Cornstarch                                                                   1 Tablespoon dissolved in 1/3 cup water
Lime Juice                                                                   1 Lime
Cilantro, Stemmed/Chopped                                       4 Tablespoons

Preparation Procedure-

For the sweet chile sauce combine everything, except cilantro, in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickens. Cool completely and add cilantro. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Heat oil in large wok to 325˚. Coat scored fish with waterchestnur flour or corn starch, removing excess. Carefully lay in hot oil, cook 8-10 minutes per side until golden and crispy. Transfer to paper towel lined plate and serve on platter topped with sweet chile sauce.

Campania Cafe & Trattoria - Davidson, North Carolina


I wanted to send a quick "shout out" to Nancy and Vince, the great husband/wife team at Campania Cafe & Trattoria in Davidson, North Carolina (http://www.campaniacafe.com) for letting us take over their restaurant for a series of cooking challenges in early 2014. Added to this generosity, they also made some absolutely delicious food for us. If you're in this great college town, it is a must stop. Among the many great dishes was a fabulous Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) which was done really well. Here is my version:

Tuscan Tomato & Bread Salad (Panzanella)

Quantity Produced:  Serves 6

1/2 pound rustic coarse-textured stale bread
6 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 /2 cup extra virgin olive oil
12oz. Fresh Goat Cheese OR Shaved Reggiano Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation Procedure-

Preheat oven to 350˚. Slice the bread into 1-inch slices. Spritz with vinegar and toss with some olive oil. Season with coarse salt and fresh black pepper, bake for 15 to 20 minutes (until golden, but still slightly chewy).

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Tear the basil and add to the vegetables. Add the bread and toss carefully.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables and bread, top with cheese (if using) and serve. Place on a platter and serve.

Serves 6

Working in Hill Country


We delivered an interactive culinary challenge in San Antonio recently for a great organization assisting our veterans in a multitude of ways. And while we always try to feed our Southwest BBQ-fix while in Texas, the most inspired food while in Hill Country was at a tiny taco spot only open for breakfast/lunch: TacoTaco ( http://www.tacotacosa.com). Based on the varied Food Network/Food Magazine notoriety pasted to their walls, we are clearly not the first to acknowledge their taco mastery.

Dispatches from Nicaragua's Emerald Coast


Followed a fun event in Naples, Florida recently with a short (2+hours) flight to Managua, Nicaragua for a week of "Rum Research". The final destination was a 2-hour drive to the Pacific coast in an area known as San Juan del Sur and a new resort called Mukul (http://www.mukulresort.com). It is owned by the Pellas family who founded and operate the Flor de Cana rum distillery. If you find yourself in Central America I highly recommend a visit!