Posted on Apr 23, 2009 under Archives, Chefs, Interviews |
Master Baker Ben Hershberger at the Phoenician
While visiting the Phonenician in Scottsdale for a story on golf getaways I was lucky enough to sit down with Master Baker Ben Hershberger. I was there to write about golf, but after tasting some of his bread I had to speak with him. Holding the esteemed title of Certified Master Baker through the Retail Bakers of America, Hershberger is an expert on the “science” of bread making. By manipulating the time, temperature and hydration rate of the dough, he creates the recipes for the wide variety of breads that are baked fresh daily on property and featured at Il Terrazzo, the resort’s signature Italian restaurant, as well as through In-Room Dining and the Banquet Department. Hershberger uses organic flour, natural sourdough (which has been passed down for more than 100 years) and Mediterranean Sea salt for the highest possible quality.
Hershberger, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, has been baking for more than 20 years. He first started as a young child growing up in Nevada, where he would make home-made pastries and breads by milling whole grain millet, rice, barley and wheat by hand to use in his creations. In the corporate world, Hershberger held the distinctive title of corporate baker and trainer for Ritz-Carlton Hotels, opening bakeries in Japan, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Colorado, here in the United States. Most recently, he was an instructor at the Florida Culinary Institute, teaching students the art of baking. He was also a baker at Maddy’s and Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. In addition to tasting his lovely breads at the resort, he was nice enough to bake me fresh loaves of rosemary, rye, olive walnut, sourdough, chocolate cherry and a huge baget before I took off back to LA. I received many requests on the plane for samples, which I quickly refused, as I selfishly wanted all that bread for myself. Here are some pics of his delicious bread:
Pieces of loaves of different breads
My fave, olive walnut
Chocolate Cherry - very nice as a dessert bread
I highly recommend stopping in to try Chef Hershberger’s breads, or if in the Phoenix area you can pick them up at the Saturday Farmer’s market. I spoke with the chef about his baking philosophy and background – interview is below.
Posted on Apr 20, 2009 under Archives, Everything Else, Food and Travel News |
Little Italy San Diego, site of Festa Siciliana
Last weekend I headed to Little Italy to finish research for an article on the upcoming Festa Siciliana. On Sunday, May 17, traditions of Italian art, music and food will come alive during the annual festa, now in it’s 16th year.
Giovanna, Tony, Bernadette, Mike and me at Tratorria Fantastica
I met with Giovanna De Bono, her husband Tony (both belong to Roman Holiday – a group that sings and preforms Italian music at the festa and other venues), Bernadette Tarantino and her husband Mike Malone – she and Giovanna do much of the planning for the festa and Bernadette and her husband run Tarantino Gourmet Sausages – and Joe Busalacchi, owner of Trattoria Fantastica (where we all met for dinner) as well as six other Italian restaurants in and around Little Italy.
I learned a lot about the history of Little Italy. San Diego was the destination for many Sicilian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Little Italy’s neighborhood, bounded on the south by Ash Street, on the north by Laurel, on the east by the I-5 freeway and on the west by San Diego Harbor, is steeped in the history of the Sicilian families that originally settled the neighborhood in the early 1900s.
By 1930, some 6,000 Italian families who had migrated from coastal fishing villages in Genoa and Sicily had settled in what is now known as Little Italy. In 1967 the idyllic community was shattered when the I-5 freeway was cut south to downtown and broke the neighborhood up, scattering Sicilian families into pockets all over San Diego. It remained that way until the early 1990’s, when new real estate and retail development began to revitalize the neighborhood. In 1993, baker Mario Cefalu pulled together a few restaurants and bands to bring everyone back to the old neighborhood again – and the first Festa Siciliana was born.
Over the past 15 years, the festival has grown to include three stages housing singers, dancers and Italian bands, a Sicilian flag procession, children’s rides, arts and jewelry booths, a beer and wine garden, a Sicilian cultural center manned by residents sharing old photographs and memories and dozens of booths offering traditional Sicilian food.
Here is some of the wonderful food we sampled at Trattoria Fantastica:
Here is what my plate looked like – a sampling of all this yummy food.
Trattoria Fantasica owner Joe Bosalacchi joined us for dessert and more wine and shared stories of growing up in Little Italy.
Joe and me, enjoying some prosecco
We shared dessert – my fave was a wonderful canneloni that tasted like the ones I had in Sicily. Joe then escorted us to his neighboring restaurant (he owns seven) Po Pazzo, an upscale grill complete with a long bar and music.
The gang at Po Pazzo
Giovanna and her husband Tony are musicians and they serenaded us and the crowd of diners with a few songs.
Giovanna entertaining the crowd
Joe also got up and performed a nice rendition of “My Way,” accompanied by Giovanna’s husband Tony.
Joe, with female groupie, singing My Way
We all had a wonderful time – great food and lots of wonderful stories about the Little Italy neighborhood.
Be sure to hop on the train or drive down to San Diego to try some great Sicilian food, hear some music, and enjoy Little Italy at the May 17 Festa Siciliana.
Posted on Apr 15, 2009 under Archives |
The menu at Kitchen 1540 encourages people to share plates and new tastes. It is divided into several parts, including starters, raw plates, oysters, entrees, extras, cured meats and cheeses and dessert.
The new restaurant which opened in November of last year is light and airy with lots of seating options – the central dining room with vaulted ceilings and modern tables with a great view of the kitchen, private dining in a room surrounded by wine-encased glass walls or outdoor seating in the cabanas around a fire pit.
I was fortunate to be able to sample a tasting menu of Paul McCabe’s modern American cuisine while doing a story on San Diego getaways. It began with the Hiramasa Sashimi, above, with compressed fennel, duck cracklings and stellhead roe. It was paired with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from The Crossings winery.
Mano de Leon Scallop
Next came a playfully plated Mano de Leon Scallop, featuring a popcorn puree, baby corn and a maple syrup reduction with some popcorn on the top. Buttery and delicious.
The broth in this Alaskan halibut dish was really good. It included fava beans, artichokes, and mussels with some preserved lemon rind. It was paired with a chardonny from Wild Oak by St. Francis winery. Yummy.
Foie Gras, plated
The foie gras dish came with the foie gras perched on a 400-degree black sea rock with crackling blood-orange pop rocks (yep, like the candy, and it was a nice accent to the dish) and a citrus emulsion.
Foie gras, close up
When offered I will never turn down foie gras, and this dish was my favorite. The foie gras was perfectly cooked.
Foie gras sliced
Okay, three foie gras pics are excessive, but how can you not love foie gras? Here it is before I dived into it. It was paired with sauternes, an after dinner dessert wine that pairs perfectly with the foie gras. After eating this dish I slept really well.
Kurobuta Pork Shoulder
My final course before dessert was a succulant Kurobuta Pork Shoulder with herb gnocchi, napa cabbage and smoked bacon pickled onions. The pork was tender and rested on pillows of fresh gnocchi. Also delicious. Paired with a Cambria Syrah from the Santa Maria Valley.
My final dessert course was a strawberry martini and fresh strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream. Everything on the menu was cooked perfectly and tasted great. Kitchen 1540 is located at the L’Auberge Del Mar, 1540 Camino Del Mar, reservations recommended at 858/793-6460.
Posted on Apr 15, 2009 under Archives, Chefs, Interviews |
I sat down at Kitchen 1540 at L’Auberge Del Mar and spoke with Executive Chef Paul McCabe before I had a wonderful tasting menu that he prepared.
Chef McCabe’s background includes extensive training in French, Mediterranean, Southwestern, Pacific Rim and Spa Cuisine. A native of Sedona, Arizona, he began his career as an apprentice for Chef Michel Blanchet of L’Ermitage restaurant in Los Angeles. This classical training prepared him for a position at L’Auberge de Sedona and the Sibu Café in Kona, Hawaii, where he added Asian techniques to his classic styles. After stops in both Los Angeles at the five-star L’Ermitage Hotel and Arizona as Executive Chef at Enchantment Resort, McCabe settled in San Diego in 2001 and has been with L’Auberge Del Mar since fall of 2004. Heralded as a “rising star of American cuisine” by the James Beard Foundation, Chef McCabe has cooked for some of Hollywood’s hottest stars, world figures and epicureans from around the globe.