Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Rise of the Entrepreneur Generation

I know everyone who attended dinner #31 must think I would for sure write about the one guest that had one too many drinks. In fact, that same night I announced to this particular guest, as well as to the rest of the table that I would do just that! And that there is no way in hell he would get away with his comments to his fiancĂ©e (also a guest) – “you will cook for me because that’s what women do” (to name just one of many comments…are guys even legally allowed to say that these days?). Anyway, that was perhaps the longest run on sentence, forgive me for getting caught up in the emotion. There was, however, something else going on during dinner #31 which I found to be much more interesting. Without naming names, I found it fascinating that almost half of the guests we had over were on their way to start doing their own thing. Which got me thinking that what used to be the rise of the creative class is fast turning to be the rise of the entrepreneur generation. While there were many industries represented that night, there was one thing that tied us all together. We all new intuitively that today we have all the tools at our disposal in the case we decided to take our own independent path and begin executing on our ideas and interests. What are you good at? Whatever that may be, today’s economy has a place for it. What is the one thing that makes you get up in the morning? You are bound to find a twitter group that uses that same interest as their personal internal alarm clock.  What does your idea even look like? No matter what it is, you could probably make a prototype of it.

Amazed of the certainty of our dear entrepreneur spirited guests, I kept asking them if they were afraid to take the more uncertain path and of course they were, but it wasn’t a question of whether or not they could deal with that fear. The attitude towards that more uncertain future was more about doing it because they “owed it to themselves”. I also got the sense they felt they owed it to others like them as well, who are scared shitless to do cross over to uncertain territories. There was that sentiment of “if I do it, you can do it too” and this contagious behavior of “enterpeneurgitis” was rapidly spread through all the guests. Those who want to start their own gig want others to know that its ok, it can be done, and we can all be successful.

Thank you for those who keep pushing the limits and pushing others to do the same. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dinner # 30 - Seafood with a View to the Sea, Worth Kitchen Take Miami!

As part of a the plan as newly weds, it was decided that we would be spending the holiday season whose year ends with an even number with the Rofe's and the odds with the Donnelly's. So this past New Years we had the pleasure of not only spending it with Tamy's family, but also to take Worth Kitchen to the amazing apartment of Tamy's sister and brother-in-law.

Being in Miami is always a true pleasure. Not only does Tamy's family live there, but we both spent 3 years living and working there. It feels like being back at home... and so when we decided on the theme, I knew exactly where I was going shopping for the ingredients. A very special market that only very few people know about, but SO many more should know about. Casablanca Fish Market next to the Miami river is an amazing market that puts a new definition to fresh! Even though I already had a menu in mind, just stepping into this place lets the creatives juices flow at 100 miles an hour. Amazing fish, shell fish, mollusks, what ever you are looking for... anyways. If you are ever in Miami or live there, stop by. Highly recommended. 

Lia and Nathan have a beautiful apartment with an amazing kitchen, thank you for letting us come in and make a mess of it!

The Menu:
Cold Chipotle Avocado Soup with Grilled Calamari and Pancetta

Butterfly Cut Prawns Cajun Style served with Saffron rice and Fresh Fish Broth sauce

Coconut Mango Panna Cotta

Their apartment and kitchen is beautiful, as you can see here.

The avocado soup about to be served to the group.  Made with buttermilk and fresh avocados, very easy to make. The pancetta adds not only flavor but a delicious crunchy texture.
The giant prawns could not have been fresher and wonderful to work with. The special ingredient here was not only the garlic, the butter, the thyme, or the chives, but it was the Old Bay Spice. Amazing with shrimp!

Serving the entree. Lia likes to use this function on her camera where all color is washed away except one. Very fun
The wine was definitely a huge hit during this dinner! Thanks to Nathan for picking it all out. AMAZING!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Worth Kitchen in Better Weather

Dinner number 30 was a big one. It was the first time we took Worth Kitchen to sunny and weather friendly Miami. It was also a big one because it was the first time my sister participated in one of the dinners, at least with her physical presence that is. Even though she had never actually been a guest to one of the Thursdays, it feels as if my sister has been present all along, she has really been a big and critical part of this entire project. As the talented and creative producer that she is (among many other things), she has been great at contributing and adding to our ideas. Not only that, she gets the stories while they are fresh off the press! Lia has become the perfect person to gossip about the dinners on Friday mornings on my way to work. Oh but it doesn't just end there! my sister also started promoting Worth Kitchen among her Miami friends so much so that as we were preparing for our #30 Miami dinner, it was difficult for her to ONLY pick 12 guests. So difficult in fact, that she had to send a first come first serve email invite to all her friends who followed and liked what we are doing here in NYC. The final picks were a wonderful combination of guests that ranged from older friends of hers who I knew well, to new ones coming to the mix. There was one particular girl, Regina, who really was a true fan. She knew the stories of almost all previous dinners. As the other guests began asking us questions about the project, Regina had the answer for them even before Felipe and I had a chance to respond.
And that's when it hit me, we have long distance fans! Real ones! And more than anything, I have a sister who is a fan of pretty much anything I do.

Por mas locas que sean mis locuras, gracias por siempre ser fan! Te quiero sis!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dinner #29 - Croquetas, Duck and Chocolate: A Beautiful Combination

It gets very difficult to create these menu's thinking "do all the dishes work together in perfect synchronicity?" Sometimes you just have to let go and go with it, sometimes I just have to trust my gut feeling for what a menu should be. Dinner #29 was a great example of this. When we created the menu, it was very difficult to see how the appetizer worked with the entree and the dessert. But the end product was fantastic. 

I won't bore you with the details, you see I have to write 4 more posts after this one, but I let the menu be kind of dictated with the ingredients this round. I walked into Dickson's Farmhouse in Chelsea market and my eyes landed directly on one piece of meat that I have never seen there before... wild boar pancetta! How do you say no to that. Well maybe its because I am a foodie through and through. But that is where the croquetas were born. Wild boar and goat cheese croquetas.
The duck breasts were right next to the pancetta so that was an easy decision. The dessert was an easy choice seeing as how we had a brazilian chocolate addict. We prepared the Brazilian "brigadeiros" warm  chocolate cakes. 

The croquetas were prepared in the traditional manner. Olive oil and pancetta grease was heated until smoking, 3/4 cups of flour was added and cooked for about 3 minutes. After this, 1.5 cups of warm milk and .5 cups of chicken broth were added and stirred for about 5-7 minutes. The pre-cooked pancetta and the goat cheese was added at the end and stirred for 2 minutes. The mixture was then allowed to sit and cool for about 1 hour and in the fridge for another hour. Then with a greased up hand, the croquetas were rolled out into small balls, dipped in eggs and then in the bread crumbs. Once all were rolled out, they were deep fried. about 2-3 minutes each. 

The duck was presented in two different styles as we had two different seatings for this special edition. One at 8 PM and one at 11 PM. We had a couple of friends that arrived really late after a broadway show. The second picture is how I served them, and personally my favorite.

Frozen "brigadeiros" were added to the cake batter before placed in the oven. Brigadeiros are basically condensed milk with chocolate (whats not to love?).

mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... 'nough said.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Comfort Guests

There is something so peaceful about having people who are very close to us over at one of our Thursday dinners. While our followers react mostly to the idea of dining with strangers, the importance of adding those dear to us to the mix of invitees is a crucial piece to the equation. Close friends and family help level the dinners and make the experience even more authentic. The fact that there are emotional connections that are already pre established brings conversations back to things and people that matter. Be it to family, to friends, to those things that make us happy, they brings us back and connects us to the world. I was lucky to finally have my best friend Paula over to one of our dinners. She had come from Miami to be with Felipe and I over Christmas break and we knew that dinner #29, "Paula's dinner", had to be a very special one! But the funny thing is that there was absolutely no pressure. I did not feel tense at any moment of the night. Having Paula around kept things calm for Felipe and I, it brought it even closer to home. It was good to just sit down, relax and enjoy. And while there were a few guests who we did want to impress (including Paula who had been our virtual Miami fan for all this time!), we kept our calm and things turned out as smooth as can be.  

So to all our dear friends out there, who bring the familiar to the unknown, thank you! You are the heart of what Worth Kitchen is about.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Worth Kitchen "Pops Up"

It is with great pleasure that we annonce to you our loyal fans and readers that Worth Kitchen is finally hosting a one night dinner party for more than 8 people. In fact we are going to host an amazing "Pop Up Restaurant"for one night only on February 3rd (keeping with Worth Kitchen tradition, its on a Thursday). The location is secret, we will send out an email with the address 3 days before the event. All I can say is the space is beautiful and in Manhattan.

If you are interested in joining us, click on the following link. But remember, space is limited so buy your tickets early.

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From Worth Street to NoHo: Dinner for 20 People

December 16th marked an amazing night for Worth Kitchen. It was the first time that we were asked to take the concept outside of our 4 walls and into a brand new space. We had the complete and utter privilege of cooking in the amazing penthouse of Red Car, a well known and very professional post production house dedicated primarily to the advertising industry. It was a very natural fit for us and our guests were mostly all advertising professionals.

We are used to cooking and plating for 8 to 9 people on a weekly basis. Tamy is a huge help when we have these dinners, but the work usually is not so overwhelming. This time around, no amount of prepping could really prepare us for how crazy it is to plate 20 dishes all at the same time and have them served hot. Tamy was not only a huge help, she was indispensable. I am lucky to have found not only a life partner so great as her but such a strong support in the moments when I most need her.

What we both most loved about this dinner is the fact that the Worth Kitchen concept still survives outside of our intimate setting. 20 perfect strangers came together and for one night were great friends. I like to think that great food and wine can spark any type of conversation, and this case was not any different.

Our learnings: 1) Prep, prep, prep! I had everything cut and in containers the night before. The moment I arrived to cook, 70% of the work was already done. This made a huge difference in the final product. 2) At events of 20+ we will need more help, especially for the plating. Feb 3rd, we will need at least 2 additional hands in the kitchen! 3) Always have fun. I think this goes for everything we do and what everybody does. If you can do it with a smile on your face you already won!

The menu:
Amuse Bouche 
Butternut squash & rosemary with honey toasted pinenuts

Fennel salad w/ shallot & champagne vinaigrette, parmesan chips and valencia orange slices

Braised short ribs with barolo reduction, ricotta polenta & balsamic marinated portobello mushrooms

Warm chocolate cake with a vanilla cream injection

Some quick pics...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

When All Else Fails... IMPROVISE

One thing that I learned early on with cooking is that not everything always comes out as you expect. I guess you could say that this is a lesson in life... One of the most important parts of dealing with this lesson is the capacity to deal with these changes. I guess you could say this is the capacity to stand up quickly after falling down. Dinner #27 definitely tested my capacity at both.

The dinner was going fantastic, except for one detail. From the get go, the dessert was not coming out. I had to make dulce de leche in order to create a delicious argentine dessert, alfajor. If any of you have ever tried or know how to make dulce de leche, it is a long and tiresome process. One that did not come out to well for me. Regardless, at the end we had some caramel-like substance that tasted good and could be used.  The problem began when creating the actual alfajor. What came out of the oven was a solid 11 x 7 slab of caramel and phylo dough. Least to say it was unpresentable. And so, dinner #27 seemed as it would have no dessert... or would it?

A quick trip to the fridge would confirm that we had no ice cream, no nothing other than a bag of recently bought grapes. Yes, we freeze our grapes because they are delicious. So I threw the grapes into the food processor, added a tiny bit of white wine and viola we had a delicious granita which I then covered with some of the remaining caramel. Dessert was indeed saved at the last moment and improvising saved that dish. The result was delicious.

The menu for the night was:
Causa with avocado and flash fried octopus with chipotle sauce

Turkey bacon wrapped scallops with cilantro pesto accompanied by a Colombian coconut rice

Originally an Alfajor but instead a Grape Gratina with caramel

The causa is a very traditional Peruvian plate made of mashed golden potatoes layered with avocado and some fish, in this case an octopus. The potatoes includes the delicious flavor of the Peruvian aji amarillo.
The coconut rice is traditionally made with burnt coconut meat and milk, however in order to speed up the process, you can also cook the rice with a can of coconut milk and a can of coke! Yes coke, this is actually an ingredient that I use in some other "secret" recipes that I have.
And this was the final product of the dessert. It actually came out very tasty.
A very big and special Thanks to and for joining us on this special Saturday edition of Worth Kitchen. As always it was a great pleasure!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Where the world of food and travel collide

One thing I found out during dinner #27 was just how much the travel community and the foodie community have in common. Although we didn't intend for this to happen, it seems like lately we have been attracting a particular group of people: The travel junkies. These are those out in the blogosphere who talk about their love (and to an extent their addiction) to traveling. There is something about the Worth Kitchen and the social and culinary experiments we are doing that attracts many of these travel junkies and I have a hypothesis of why that may be.

Hypothesis: Both foodies and travel junkies live for the taste of the new

Let me explain further. I believe both foodies and travel junkies to have an unquenchable thirst for the unknown. These two groups of people don't just stumble upon new discoveries, these are people who have an ongoing NEED to discovery and to wonder. So while foodies live for that first byte, travel junkies purposely look to feel out of place in order to get in their zone.

During dinner #27, we had the pleasure of having over Kelley from tripfilms , who documented through video our entire dinner experience. She and her boyfriend travel across the country and the world, documenting different ways of living. Seeing them at dinner, taking those first bytes of undiscovered food, I got a pretty good idea of what they must be like when they travel, taking in and savoring all new experiences.

No matter which communities of people we open our door to, we know when they are walking into Worth Kitchen that they are looking for the new, the unexperienced, the never tasted before. Because of this, and while the stakes are high, one of our biggest 2011 resolutions is that we keep surprising all of you. Happy new year everyone, and be ready to for us, because we are ready for you.