Rocco DiSpirito just might be the bravest man alive.
The celebu-chef -- who did not appear to be carrying any firearms or other form of self-protection -- sauntered into the middle of several hundred hooting, hollering, amped-up-on-coffee food bloggers, and attempted to sell them on frozen food. That's right, he was pitching Bertolli's new line of frozen foods to a group of (mostly) women who spend their spare time crafting recipes, cooking, and photographing, blogging, reading and commenting about all manner of food, glorious food.
I told you he was brave.
Rocco was one of the bold-faced names on hand for BlogHer Food '09, the first BlogHer conference dedicated solely to food bloggers. About 300 people were in attendance for the sold-out Sept. 26 event at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. It was so successful that discussions are already underway for a second food-dedicated conference, said Lisa Stone, co-founder and chief executive of BlogHer, an online community hub for more than 22,000 female bloggers on a variety of topics including politics, news, technology, family and, obviously, food.
For all of October, vegan-minded bloggers are being asked to toil around the clock (only a slight exaggeration) to celebrate a month dedication to vegan fare. Vegan Month of Food was started by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, vegan chef and cookbook author beloved for Veganomicon as well as Vegan Brunch. Moskowitz says her goal is to urge bloggers to write as much as they can this month about vegan fare:
The blog entries can be about anything food related -- your love of tongs, your top secret tofu pressing techniques, the first time your mom cooked vegan for you, vegan options in Timbuktu -- you get the idea. There is no strict guideline for how much you have to write, but we shoot for about 20 times a month, or every weekday.
Confession time: You know we love bacon in the L.A. Times Test Kitchen, and we just ran a front-page Food section story on making your own sausage. But we also enjoy eating (and writing about eating) lower on the food chain, so we're looking forward to seeing what Vegan Month of Food brings.
Ree Drummond, a.k.a. the Pioneer Woman, was a colorful interview. Self-effacing, funny, quick-witted and with a country twang to her voice, she comes across like she could be your bestest girlfriend. And lots of people feel the same, judging by the traffic generated by her blog, and the hot interest in her new cookbook. (It's not due out for another month, yet it's already at No. 1 on Amazon.com's pre-order list in the Cooking, Food & Wine category.)
I saved the most important question for last:
Why aren't you fat?
Drummond laughed, and laughed, and then insisted that she is not exactly skinny. Maybe she is not skinny by that hollow, emaciated, Hollywood standard. But look at these pictures. And then look at her blog posting on making tres leches cake.
I mean, I gained tres pounds just reading that.
Drummond conceded that she has gained about 5 to 10 pounds cooking, testing and crafting recipes for the new cookbook. Her saving grace, she said, is that she has mastered the art of tasting everything -- while not inhaling everything. She joked that someone should have warned her way back when about how sedentary a job blogging can be. Then, add cooking and eating on top of that ... the pounds can really add up. Luckily, Drummond said, blogging is just one of her jobs. Her other job is a full-time calorie-blaster: She also helps run a working ranch with 4,000 head of cattle and 2,000 wild horses, home-schools four kids between the ages of 5 and 12, keeps the Marlboro Man fed and happy, and shoos away those pesky cows that love to wander up to the back door.
(As we talked this week, she was lamenting the fact that a cow at that very moment was standing in her back yard experiencing ... how do we say this ... intestinal distress.)
A new Los Angeles-based blog, Saving the Season, celebrates the art of home canning (or "putting up") and all things deliciously jammy -- preserved huckleberries, blueberry butter, white peaches in lavender syrup, apricot jam with maple and vanilla, mulberry-plum preserves and more.
The blog is about "jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes)," according to its author, Kevin West, who is also West Coast editor of W magazine. Though it's just a couple of months old, there already are several recipes for jams and fruit butters, as well as one for cocktail onions -- for Gibsons, of course.
It's also rife with good reading, punctuated by canners' secrets (such as the judicious use of gin), literary references (Pablo Neruda's "Ode to Tomatoes"), and even personal advice from Alice Waters ("do everything neatly always").
On Saturday, West and Bettina Birch of BeeGreenFarm will give a free canning demonstration at Surfas in Culver City from noon to 1:30 p.m. They will show how to make peach jam and how to can tomatoes, with a tasting to follow. (Surfas is at 8777 Washington Blvd., Culver City; (310) 559-4770.)
It took basketball legend Jerry West a while to warm up to food. Raised as one of five children in a West Virginia mining family, his idea of a good dinner was one where he got to the food before any of his brothers. Even after he joined the NBA, he said he was slow to discover restaurants. He couldn’t afford them, he said. In the early 1960s, when he started, salaries were so low players had to work summer jobs.
“I couldn’t afford to go to restaurants, because I didn’t have any money,” he said. “Professional basketball wasn’t quite as glamorous in those days as it is now.”
Now, seemingly much to his surprise, West is getting into the restaurant business … in a way. He’s lending his name and a bunch of memorabilia to a steakhouse being opened by the Greenbrier resort back in his home state. The goal is to have the as-yet unnamed restaurant up and running this fall.
“I certainly wasn’t looking for a job,” said the 71-year-old West. But when his old friend Jim Justice asked him to help out after he bought the struggling property this spring, West pitched in. He has a vacation home on the Greenbrier property and lives there three months out of the year, when he’s not at home in Bel-Air. “So I figured, what the hell, I’ll do it.”
For non-basketball fans, West is a icon in his sport, literally. An all-NBA selection in 14 years of the 15 years, he played for the Los Angeles Lakers and was named to the league's 50th anniversary All-Star team. A silhouette image of him driving to the basket is the center of the NBA logo (in fact, that’s his nickname: “The Logo”). After retiring as a player, he became general manager and built both the "Showtime" Lakers that featured Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as well as the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant team that won three straight titles in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect West to be manning the broiler at his new place. His role will mostly be stopping by and shaking hands when he’s on the property. But as a lover of steakhouses, he has some definite opinions about what he wants his place to be. As part of his research for the project, he hosted a couple of visitors from the resort on a weekend tour of several Los Angeles restaurants: steakhouses Cut, Boa (where he liked the meat) and Mastro’s (where he liked the sides) as well as his old favorite Dan Tana’s (“I’m practically a piece of the furniture there,” he said.)
A great steakhouse, West said, has to have three components. “The first thing and most important is you have to have great meat. And I think the ambience is so important. Then there’s the service, the feeling of congeniality. I love Dan Tana’s and I’d love to have that kind of clubby feeling, but maybe with a little more elegance.”
West is also a compulsive collector of wine, mostly first-growths and Wine Spectator- and Robert Parker-approved reds. He keeps fully stocked cellars at his homes both here and at the Greenbrier. “I’m crazy about it,” he said. “I’ve got more wines than I’ve got sense.”
When chefs Susan Feniger and Kasja Alger were crafting the new menu for Susan Feniger's Street, the Kaya Toast almost didn't make the cut. The co-owners weren't sure diners would go for the unusual dish. Good thing they gave it a chance. It's turned out to be one of the most popular dishes on the menu, and if you've tried it, you know why: It's a coconut "jam" slather on a dense white bread that's been lightly toasted and dotted with thin slivers of butter, topped with a sunny-side-up egg and then drizzled with dark soy sauce. Among its fans: L.A. food blogger Jo Stougaard at My Last Bite: "There's just something so comforting about dipping the sweet coconut jam toast into the runny egg yolk... I need to get some soon! Next time I'm NOT sharing it. My husband can get his own."
Kaya Toast fans everywhere now owe Sherrie Gulmahamad of Los Angeles a debt of gratitude: Sherrie wrote to Culinary SOS to ask for the recipe, and Susan and Kasja were happy to pass it along to our test kitchen manager Noelle Carter, who adapted it for the home cook. Here it is, Sherry. Enjoy!
Fresh herbs are essential to Vietnamese cuisine. Their flavors and perfumes enliven countless foods. Pinched off their stems and/or chopped, raw leaves are tucked into rice paper rolls, dropped into hot soups, mixed into cool salads, stir-fried with noodles, and wrapped up with grilled morsels in lettuce. Vietnamese people enjoy large quantities of fresh herbs. In fact, herbs are collectively known as rau thom, which literally means "fragrant vegetable."
Survey says ... Taco Bell is a better money-saving deal than Chipotle. Well, I can't argue with dollar signs (or WalletPop readers, who were asked to weigh in on the best fast food values). But I find Chipotle's fresh guac and salty-crunchy chips hard to resist. Here's one finding I cannot argue with: McDonald's coffee comes out on top. Read the rest of WalletPop's survey results here.
The website winestilsoldout.com does just that: It sells just one wine at a time and at an incredibly steep discount until it’s all gone -- usually within eight hours. You can get in on the action too.