Thursday, October 14, 2010

Chef Debbie Says: You Really Expect "ME" to Eat at a Gas Station?

Last weekend I went down to Maggie Valley to visit my dearest friend Beth Brown, her darling husband Kenny and some of my favorite doggies in the world: Heidi, Oscar and Charlie Brown.

I arrive in Maggie with a full cooler with enough delectable treats to feed half of the state: center cut filets, two big slabs of meaty baby back ribs and lots of juicy Amish chicken breasts. Oh, and cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. Parmesan, Sicilian Jack, Danish Blue and Honey Goat. All this for just 3 people for just 3 days!

Beth says she wants to take me to a new favorite restaurant for lunch. I'm game. She's a foodie, Kenny is a foodie and if they say it's good, then it must be.

Oh, one minor detail... this restaurant is in the back of a gas station. And it's in a tiny town 45 minutes away.

Say whaaaat? You want to take me to a gas station restaurant? I'm secretly thinking they might have been away from city life a little too long...

Being the good sport that I am, I "graciously" agree to try the gas station restaurant with the slightly pretentious name of Caffé REL.

Well, Caffé REL put this snotty city girl in her place!

It was nothing like I expected. A charming little restaurant that would fit anywhere on the Champs~Élysées, the extensive menu featured delicacies such as:

  • Lamb Lollies ~ Rosemary rubbed lamb lollipops finished with shallot scallion Madera sauce

  • Snails & Tails ~ Helix snails and crawfish tail meat sautéed in butter with portabella mushrooms, Glace De Viande, fresh herbs, shallots, garlic, sherry and fresh cream... and then it's finished with a homemade puff pastry braid

  • French Blue Bâtard ~ Blue crab claw meat sautéed in butter with shallots, garlic, scallions and capers served on French bread, topped with Parmesan cheese and then baked hot and bubbly.

    Not only was lunch simply amazing but when the server inquired about dessert, I ~ of course ~ suggested we "share" one. I naively asked which of the desserts on the extensive list was made in house... too many for me to keep track of.

    After much discussion and debate, we decided on the Lemon & Strawberry Cake ~ delicate yellow cake with homemade strawberry jam in between the layers and then iced with an amazing lemon curd icing. Oh, and served with a fabulous whipped cream and vanilla bean ice cream.

    I didn't want to leave the table and "laughingly" suggested we just order wine and keep the table until dinner.

    So next time a foodie friend suggests lunch at the gas station, hope and pray they're talking about a road trip to Franklin, NC.

  • Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Chef Debbie Says: And I'm Not Going To Use My Turn Signal!

    So I was in the Yummy~mobile today minding my own business. Not on the phone. Not yelling at the idiots all around me. Not driving too fast (well, no more than 20mph over the speed limit).

    And then my cell phone rings.

    Hi, this is Debbie
    I'm following you on the Interstate and I just wanted you to know that you didn't use your turn signal when you changed lanes.

    WTF? For once, I'm speechless.

    Wait a minute. You mean to tell me you had to pick up your cell phone, get close enough to read and remember my phone number and then take your eyes off the road to actually dial your phone just to tell me I DIDN'T USE MY TURN SIGNAL? What are you, the turn signal police?
    You don't need to be a bitch about it. I thought you needed a reminder that turn signals actually signal when you're going to turn.

    I'm going to hang up now because if you think that was "bitch" you're really going to be surprised when I actually turn into one. And, by the way, I'm not going to use my turn signal!

    He hung up on me!

    Damn, that was a good one! I usually come up with those witty~issimo come~backs about 2 days later.

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Chef Debbie Says: Uh Oh!

    Who the hell is in charge of their marketing department?

    And don't even start me on the childish package design...

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Chef Debbie Says: I Love Birthdays When They're Not Mine!

    Last Saturday was sweet husband Tim's birthday. Number 54 (in case you were wondering).

    In Yummy! world, a birthday means a party. And a party means friends. And drinks. And food.

    Lots and lots and lots of food. (Well, actually lots and lots of drinks too, but you knew that already didn't you?)

    After several days in the kitchen, here's what the masses nibbled on:

    Beef tenderloin, rubbed with bourbon barrel smoked sea salt, roasted rare and sliced paper thin

    Marinated jumbo shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce

    Honey Dijon marinated pork tenderloin, sliced paper thin and served with spicy mango and papaya salsa

    Salmon 3~ways with Yummy~ized blinis: salmon roasted with maple and dill; roasted with Dijon and sesame; and, sweet and spicy. Blinis were served on toasted sourdough, topped with dilled deviled egg salad, creme fraiche and Tobiko caviar

    An entire tray of 50 blinis ~ which were gone in about 15 seconds...

    Sesame chicken with sweet garlic chili dipping sauce

    Truffle paté and black peppercorn paté

    Creamy caviar dip

    New Orleans spicy crab dip

    Tim's favorite spicy deviled eggs with crab ~ 48 whole eggs were gone almost before I could put the platter down

    Brie with balsamic caramelized onion chutney and spicy pecans

    Cheese, cheese and more cheese

    Parmesan cubes with 2 dipping sauces: black truffle honey and red chili apricots

    Chunky Danish bleu dip

    Roasted 3~onion dip

    And desserts. And fruit. And chocolate truffles. And sweet and crunchy pecans...

    Judging from the amount of food left over ~ which was a crumb here and there ~ I'm thinking none of the guests had seen a scrap of food since about Tuesday...

    If I'd followed a traditional caterer's calculations of:
    # of Hours x # of People = Total # of Bites
    I would have been about 20 pounds short just on the protein!

    So even though it's a lot of work, I thank Bacchus that sweet husband is in good health, that we have amazing and wonderful friends and that I had Sunday off to clean up!

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    Chef Debbie is Nominated for a "Best of Cincinnati" Award!


    Yummy~issimo! is nominated for a prestigious "Best of Cincinnati" Award in the Catering Category!

    So, I'm going to grovel and ask that you all vote for me!

    So here's what you do:

    Click here

    Scroll down in the EATS Section to CATERER (New) and there's a drop down menu of names.

    Click on Chef Debbie Spangler which is the next to the last name in the column.

    That's all there is to it!

    You can only vote once for each email address so if you'd be so kind as to forward this to anyone and everyone you think would fill it out, I'd greatly appreciate it!

    Thanks so much! You, my darling friends, are AWESOME!

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Chef Debbie Gets Her Buttons Pushed

    I try to be a nice person. Really, I do.

    I put $5 in every Salvation Army Red Kettle I pass; I buy something from every neighborhood kid who comes to the door; I always let people with just a few items get in front of me in the grocery store checkout line.

    But. When I have to travel into the abyss that is Costco, all bets are off.

    So today I get to Costco around 12:30 ~ late enough that the young mothers with toddlers who meet and let the kids have play dates in the middle of the aisles are all home drinking lunch. And after the 11:00 a.m. rush of the food moochers ~ the people who have no intention of buying anything, but stroll 3 or 4 abreast sampling every food item at the end of every aisle.

    You know who I'm talking about. You've seen them. And had to push your full cart around them while they have a coffee klatch in the middle of everything.

    So today I'd gotten through all the freeloaders with just a minimal amount of pushing and shoving and the self~checkout lines are in sight.

    And then she happens.

    The old lady had just one item in her shopping cart. She was dressed in her finest fur coat, talking on a cell phone, hair and makeup done just so. She pushes her cart right in front of me and makes a dead stop. I try to go around her and she backs up.

    I'm thinking this could get ugly...

    Juggling her cell phone and grocery bag~sized purse, she pulls the one item out of her cart ~ a bottle of two zillion multi~vitamins and is trying to hand it to me.

    "I need you to purchase this for me. They want me to spend $50 on a card just so I can purchase this giggasize bottle of vitamins." She's flabbergasted that Costco would actually expect her to purchase a membership in order to buy something!

    And you know me... I said the first thing that popped into my head. "If you don't have a membership card, how did you get in here?"

    "They have to let anyone in who says they're going to the pharmacy. Then I just wander around until I find someone to pay for what I want." She's very, very proud of herself!

    Once again, mouth is much faster than the brain... "Absolutely not! If you're too cheap to buy a membership, then..."

    She walked away from me. She freaking walked away from me! And approached another person.

    So I shake my head, make a detour to the fresh flowers and spend a few minutes picking over the gorgeous bouquets.

    I get to the self~checkout and a woman with only a few items is in line behind me. Of course, I let her go in front of me.

    As I head toward the exit and line to show the checker my receipt, the woman I let in front of me is there.

    With the vitamin lady ~ who turns to me, smirks and sticks her tongue out at me.

    Is it wrong to want to run her over with my cart?

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Chef Debbie Asks "Is It a Quiche? Is It a Tart?

    No! It's a Quiart...

    So last night I actually had to make dinner for sweet husband since I didn't make any extra portions from my client cook day.

    What in the world was I thinking? This cooking thing at night takes me away from wine o'clock...

    So it was clean out the refrigerator for dinner and The Quiart was born.

    Flaky puff pastry was stuffed with caramelized onions, bacon crumbles, a mixture of ricotta, eggs, garlic, spices and sun~dried tomatoes and then baked hot and golden brown.

    Only limited by what's in your refrigerator, here's the basic recipe:

    4~6 bacon slices
    2 large onions, thinly sliced
    1/8t dried thyme
    1 puff pastry sheet
    15oz ricotta cheese
    1/2c Parmesan cheese, grated
    1/2c Mozzarella cheese, shredded
    8 sun~dried tomatoes, in oil, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    pinch cayenne pepper
    1/2t dried thyme
    salt and pepper, to taste
    dried parsley, for garnish
    your favorite Cajun spice, for garnish

    Preheat oven to 400. Thaw puff pastry at room temperature, approximately 45 minutes, until soft and easy to work with.

    While puff pastry is thawing, fry bacon in large skillet until it has rendered all of its fat. Remove bacon from skillet and drain well on paper towels. Reserve 2T of bacon grease in the skillet.

    Over medium heat, in the same skillet the bacon was cooked in, sauté the onions until they are golden brown and caramelized ~ about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with dried thyme and a little salt.

    In medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, Parmesan, Mozzarella, eggs, sun~dried tomatoes, garlic, cayenne, thyme and salt and pepper. Mix well.

    Place puff pastry in pie pan, stretching sides to cover all around the pie pan. Don't worry if it's not perfectly positioned ~ once this is folded over and is baked, it looks fabulous.

    Place caramelized onions in bottom of puff pastry and top with crumbled crispy bacon.

    Pour cheese mixture over bacon and pull edges of puff pastry up over the cheese mixture.

    Brush exposed puff pastry with a touch of water and sprinkle the dried parsley and Cajun spice all over the top.

    Place pie pan on baking sheet and bake 40~45 minutes until puff pastry is puffed and golden brown and filling is hot and bubbly. Remove from oven, let sit 10 minutes, slice and serve with tossed green salad and a chilled glass of your favorite Chardonnay.

    Some variations:
    To lower calorie and fat content, use low~fat or fat~free ricotta cheese and part skim Mozzarella cheese
    Substitute pancetta or diced ham for the bacon
    Add 1/2c chopped fresh broccoli or chopped fresh spinach
    Substitute Asiago, Gruyere or Jarlsburg cheese
    Add 2T toasted pine nuts or chopped black walnuts
    Change out the spices to your favorite flavors