Turn them all into wine spritzers and keep your party going! Gift wines. There. I said it. A bottle quickly picked up at the market, thoughtfully bought, but random nevertheless. Guests can’t help it. Buying a random bottle of wine for a house party is like bringing a bouquet of flowers not knowing the home décor or gifting a box of candy to someone who can’t eat sweets (I grieve for them, wherever they may be). A random bottle of wine is just that—it’s random. It isn’t necessarily bad, and you’re not being elitist for liking only certain kinds of wine. But there it sits. Those bottles of Merlot and over-oaked Chardonnay, all sitting there in the back of your collection, gathering dust. Now, if you’re a real elitist, you toss the bottles out unopened. And that’s a shame unless of course, the bottle is spoiled. But there is such…

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You’ll be blown away how much easier it is to BAKE your bacon. I may be stating the obvious but frying bacon is a real hassle. Everyone loves the taste, hardly anyone complains about the smell of bacon cooking BUT, to be perfectly honest, I don’t know a single home cook (myself included) or chef who actually likes to watch bacon fry. Here’s the scenario: you’ve invited everyone for brunch and decided that your menu will include bacon – which, to be fair, is an integral part of most brunches.  You need to make bacon for a group of 8-10 people but the last thing you want to do is stand over a spitting frying pan cooking enough bacon for the crowd all while watching your stovetop go from shiny and clean to a total greasy mess.  And, the bacon curls – won’t stay nice and flat and some parts…

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A little “insider” trick that keeps your salad from wilting. The fact is, a slightly wilted salad isn’t bad for you. But, it looks terrible on the table and it certainly isn’t very appealing either. There’s nothing worse than a soggy salad to ruin a beautiful meal.  When you have guests over, not only do you want your food to be appetizing and tasty, but you also want your guests to be eager and happy to try every dish you serve – including the salad. It should be no surprise that as a restauranteur for more than twenty years, I had the same goals. I was always on the lookout for tricks and ideas that made our food taste great and look the very best. Some of the “tricks” I picked up from my chefs (they always had the best ideas). Others were simply things that are passed along from…

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And so easy to make: Dijon Mustard, sea salt, champagne vinegar, and olive oil. You know me. I love to turn even the simplest things into a conversation. One easy topic that has a great and colorful history: anything and everything about the culinary arts. In fact, each major culture from all over the planet has their own story about how a certain dish came to be or how a particular recipe started. Interestingly, there is actually a long and lovely history of salad dressings. Seriously! Approximately 4,000 years ago, Babylonians may have been the first in Western Civilization to mix oil and vinegar for salads. Egyptians picked up the idea and added spices to the mix. After that, salad dressing became a standard for nobility with chefs from different houses competing for the most extravagant and delicious ones. The kitchens of every royal court from Italy to the English…

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This is the onion dip taste you’ve been looking for – seriously. You’re going to want to keep this one. You go to a party and – there it is – your favorite onion dip that we all learned to make with sour cream and dried onion soup packets from the market. It worked for us in the beginning, savory, salty, with all that delicious onion flavoring (and with all those ‘lovely’ preservatives). But, what if you can say that yours was homemade and much more delicious? Made one from scratch? Now, wouldn’t that turn some heads? The exciting thing is that roasted onion dip is actually very easy to make. I found a straightforward recipe from Bon Appetit that will have you and your guests craving this over and over. And, I guarantee that you will never look at the soup packets the same way again. Preheat your oven…

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A fabulous “quick” preparation for a favorite… wait a minute… what IS garlic anyhow? Here’s a fun fact about garlic. While it’s probably easy to call it a vegetable it’s actually an allium like onions, shallots and leeks and is rarely, if ever, eaten on its own LIKE a vegetable. But, as a friend of mine likes to say, the discussion is merely academic. Botanically speaking, garlic is actually part of the lily family and has been spicing up human food for thousands of years. Archeologists have found garlic among a list of favorite food flavorings and traditional medicine for Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Babylonians, and Greeks. These days, 80% of the world supply of garlic comes from China. I buy mine at my local Farmer’s Market.  It can grow almost anywhere it is dry and warm. There used to be a little restaurant – I forget the name – on the…

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It IS great time to entertain your friends and family—make those memories stand out with a themed cocktail drink! As you plan your football party, there are some quick and easy ways for you to enjoy the day too.  Keeping it casual and having plenty of food around is one way (see my previous post). But, one exception to the “casual” rule—I always have a ‘welcome drink’ ready for my guests as they arrive. I love thinking about focal points for my gatherings. One way to do this is by making drinks that are color coordinated with the teams playing. Mixed Drink Recipe: Polaroid So, how about something BLUE if one of the teams playing is the New England Patriots or the Denver Broncos? Blue Curaçao is made from the dried peelings of the Laraha bitter orange native to the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. The color comes from a…

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Make your kitchen functional and safe with sharp knives that can get the job done! Maybe you’re thinking it’s time to get a nice block of knives for the kitchen. I couldn’t agree more. MOST kitchens need an upgrade. But let me put a stop on snagging those knife sets you see on special at the department store (usually on sale). You know the ones I’m talking about: the nice wood block set with eight or more knives, kitchen scissors, and steak knives to boot. Save your money. Those sets are a complete waste. It’ll be better to purchase what a chef would get: what I call “the essential 5”—everything you need to get just about any job done in the kitchen. Watch my video so you can see what these look like and how they handle. Most important is what we call a “chef’s knife.” They come in different…

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Make it colorful and fun: alternatives for cheese boards, knives, serving bowls. I have a friend who grew up in England. One afternoon last spring, we sat out on her patio overlooking the valley with a light breeze blowing over our shoulders. We were having tea served in exquisitely painted china that her father collected decades ago, some light crackers, and slices of cheese served on matching silver plates. So elegant and light – so her. Later this summer, I visited another friend. We sat in her living room as her kids chased each other around in the backyard with a water hose. As they squealed, we chatted over tumblers of wine coolers, crackers and cheese served on dinner plates. We all have different ways to entertain, all different styles. Even for the friend who’s coming by for just a moment, we offer a little liquid refreshment and/or something to…

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Enjoy the relaxed pace and informality of a timeless continental style. One of the reasons I became a restaurateur is that I love to entertain. And, one of my favorite ways to entertain guests follows the Italian Aperitivo style: informal and wholly intimate. It’s a time to invite everyone – it can be a group of only friends after work or add family and have everyone all at once. This style is not about impressing people with your silverware and fine china. It’s all about the spirit of the gathering; making everyone feel welcomed and together as one happy group. It’s really a very simple way to socialize over light cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. Aperitivo is also not about impressing anyone with your kitchen prowess. Very often, Italians serve prepared foods that they’ve picked up at the local market to make it easier. Aperitivo itself is more of a prelude…

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The mystery of poaching eggs is lifted. I love poached eggs. My mom and dad used to have them with toast just about every Sunday morning. It’s a fond food memory for me. I think more people would eat them at home were it not for all the mystery of how to actually make a perfect poached egg (and that most people think it’s almost impossible!). Ask a dozen people and you will get a dozen answers. The problem is a lot of people are just guessing and the reality is, there’s no real “recipe” for the perfect poached egg. It’s like boiling potatoes – you either do it this way or that. I found this idea from Epicurious.com. They call it their “foolproof” method, and I have to agree. It’s so simple and works every time. Check my video to see how easy this is. First step, pour water…

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Bringing you 2 fabulous spritz drinks to help you keep cool during California’s dog days of summer-early fall. It’s not the end of summer in California until we endure those final “dog days” through early fall. It’ll be boiling here until Halloween! Sad for most kids because they’ve started school by now. Nice for us adults because we can sneak a dip into the pool with a nice spritzer before the kids get home from school! When entertaining at home, we look for smooth, refreshing adult beverages for our guests. The easiest and most refreshing are the spritzes; a simple combination of wine (sparkling or not) and soda.  You can add liquors or bitters to alter the flavors. They’re really the easiest of cocktails to mix. You can watch me mix the Aperol Spritz here on my video. Fun fact: Why are the last of the hottest days of the…

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