HoLiDaY PaRtY TiMe!

Happy Holidays!

It’s holiday party time!
Are you planning a gathering for your work or business?
Perhaps some of these ideas will be useful…

For the second year in a row, we held our party at The Depot Restaurant in Torrance, California. The banquet room is a warm space with red walls decorated with kimonos. Just the right size for 75 – 100 guests, the lighting is flattering and the acoustics generate good energy in the room yet allow for conversation.

Full bar, great wine by the glass, festive non-alcoholic drinks.

Live Music
Barry Anthony Jazz Band playing Christmas favorites as well as snappy jazz tunes.

Jalapeño Cheese Wontons
Reception with passed appetizers to encourage mingling among the guests.

Ahi Tuna Tartare
Neat little bucket to place used spoons.

Chicken Empanadas with Thai Chile BBQ Sauce
Global Flavors!
 And Fried Macaroni & Cheese (not shown)

Each place is set with party favors, Holiday Jam and Sugar Plum Jam by Stonewall Kitchen decorated with ribbons and bows and a recipe sheet for the Chef’s cooking demonstration.
Chef Shafer prepares the first course, Smashed Potato Corn Bisque, as a demonstration. Everyone gets a copy of the recipe to recreate at home. We had so much fun at the Depot last year, we came back again this year. Last year Chef Shafer demonstrated a Wilted Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Bacon, excellent recipe, here.
If you are cooking for A LOT of people, this recipe scale is for you:
  • 25 Red Skin Potatoes
  • 1/2 c. Canola Oil
  • 2.T. Course Salt
  • 2.T. Course Black Pepper
  • 2 T. Chopped Garlic
  • 1 T. Basil Dried
Soup Preparation:
  • 2 c. Diced Onion
  • 2 c. Diced Carrots
  • 2 c. Corn, Fresh off the Cob
  • 1/4 c. Canola Oil
  • 1/2 gallon Cream
  • 1 gallon Chicken or Vegetable Stock

Toss the potatoes with the list of ingredients above, roast on a baking sheet at 350° F for 35-40 minutes. Let cool then smash the potatoes by hand.

To prepare the soup:
Sauté onions and carrots in oil until soft.
Add cream, heat through.

Add smashed potatoes.

Look at this kitchen equipment, would ya? Oh, I love that pot, and how about that immersion blender!!!

Blend briefly, then add stock and heat through.
Add fresh corn kernels, salt and pepper to taste, then…

First Course: Smashed Potato Corn Bisque
Wouldn’t it be neat to recreate this demonstration for guests in your home during your next dinner party?

Main Courses:
Curry Roasted Salmon, Cashew Veggies

Roast Sirloin with Mixed Mushrooms and Mashed Potatoes
And Buttermilk Chicken & Fries (not shown)
All Served Family Style

Banana Cream Pie

Berry Cobbler
Pumpkin Trifle

Pumpkin Pie with Strawberries
Some tips I have learned over the years from planning holiday parties for the workplace:
  • Save the Date. Let guests know the date well in advance of the party.
  • Plan business party date early in the holiday season so as not to conflict with personal holiday parties.
  • Choose a convenient location, not too far from place of business.
  • Have clear communication (in writing) with the Chef regarding food and with the Manager regarding expectations for set up and service.
  • Encourage employees to bring a guest whether it be a spouse, significant other, family member, or a friend.
  • A pretty and joyful invitation indicates your intention to throw a special party.
  • Have specific start and end times (not too late).
  • Insure safe transportation.
  • Accommodate special dietary needs.
  • Full bar, good wines, special seasonal non-alcoholic drinks.
  • Live music.
  • Entertainment (We love the cooking demonstration)!
  • Employer to make a brief speech, welcome guests, share good tidings.
  • Have unique party favors to take home. (Since we have a cooking demonstration, we give food related gifts).
  • Festive atmosphere and decorations.
  • Encourage guests to wear holiday attire.
  • Pay attention to detail.
If you have holiday party tips for the workplace to share, we’d love to hear them!

Cheeseburgers and Crosstown Rivalry

It’s Friday before THE game, get yourself a Double-Double cheeseburger from the In-N-Out Burger truck in the parking lot on your way into the faculty lunchroom. Before you sit down to enjoy your lunch, you have a decision to make. On which side of the table will you sit?

Saturday is the big football game between longtime crosstown rivals USC and UCLA 1:30 PT at the Rose Bowl Stadium. Not surprisingly, at the K-8 school where I work here in Southern California, there are voracious fans on both sides, all good-natured and spirited! Many of the faculty and staff are graduates of one of these two universities, and those that are not get into the fun by sporting a sweatshirt from their own alma mater.

The lunch table is equitably and fabulously decorated by Judy (a USC fan herself) half the table with USC memorabilia, the other half representing UCLA. There have been 77 match-ups between UCLA and USC with USC winning 42 times, UCLA 28 times, and 7 tie games. Last year’s score: USC 24, UCLA 7.

Where are you sitting? Me, I’m neutral, I’ll sit in any open seat, except when it comes to the Fighting Illini. Then I sit with the Orange and Blue!
Final Score 2008 Match-Up: USC 28, UCLA 7

Lunch at La Mar

La Mar Cebichería Peruana has as its main mission “attaining that all who visit discover, enjoy and forever make their own the marvelous invention that is Peruvian cuisine, created throughout the past 5,000 years” with locations in Lima, Peru and San Francisco, California…and soon to open in Mexico City and Santiago, Chile.

La Mar San Francisco is located at Pier 1 1/2 on The Embarcadero in an amazing space with soaring ceilings, full of light, and views of the San Francisco Bay.

Have you tried a pisco sour, the quintessence of a Peruvian cocktail?
  • 2 oz pisco brandy
  • 1 oz key lime or lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 egg white
  • 1 dash Angostura® bitters
Shake ingredients vigorously with ice, strain, and garnish with bitters. Pisco is made by distilling 100% fermented grape juice in copper pot stills. It is a method developed by Spanish settlers in Peru over 400 years ago.

You can sample pisco flights at the bar. How does one describe pisco? Unique, rich, clean, lush, fruity, tangy, crisp, smooth, nutty, spicy, grappa-y… I would love to hear how you interpret the taste of pisco brandies.

Cebiche Criollo: Baja California yellowtail, mussels, calamari, scallops in a spicy aji rocoto leche de tigre with habenero, cancha, red onion, Peruvian corn and yam. Very spicy (that’s a habanero ring as garnish) and very flavorful!

Tamalito Verde: Fresh Peruvian corn cilantro tamale with red onion and lime juice.

Causa: Whipped purple potato with avocado puree and aji amarillo sauce.

Cordero: Braised lamb shank, mashed rice and bean tacu tacu.

Some other dishes we enjoyed included…
Chorillana: Roasted red snapper, mashed yucca, tamarind, red onion and tomato sauce.
Lomo Saltado: Traditional stir-fry of sautéed beef tenderloin, onions. tomatoes, cilantro, soy sauce, garlic, aji amarillo with fried potatoes.
Arroz: Peruvian style vegetable risotto.

The desserts were excellent too. I love the china in which they serve their sunken crème brûlée over purple corn compote.

And these little orange glazed chocolate beignets were a hit as well…If you are in San Francisco, we highly recommend La Mar for its interesting and fresh Peruvian menu, both classic and modern dishes, its breathtaking colorful space, and engaging knowledgeable staff.
When we dine out, we love to share. With so many interesting dishes and new flavors, we had to put all the dishes in the middle of the table. In fact, we started out at a table for four, but had to move to a bigger table so we had room for all the plates. How about you, do you prefer to savor your own dish or would you rather try them all?

Organic, Vegan, Raw

To celebrate my dear friend Gina’s birthday, we do lunch, and she suggested a restaurant called LEAF. Organic, vegan, raw food. Grains, seeds, and nuts are soaked and sprouted. The food is not heated to above 110 degrees F. I love my dear friend, and happy to go anywhere she likes, but I must admit I was a bit skeptical about this choice.

Cracklin’ Corn Chips with Hummus

Flying Falafel Salad: Sprouted chickpea falafel croquettes with creamy tahini sauce, mixed greens, marinated onions, tomatoes and sprouts.

This food is very colorful and photogenic…

Veggie Sunburger Wrap: Veggie seed croquettes topped with sweet tangy tomato sauce, mixed greens and sprouts rolled up in a collard green with house dressing.

We were pleasantly surprised, the food was tasty and interesting. I was especially intrigued with the marinated onions. Chef Patrick shared that the thinly sliced onions are left to marinate in a raw organic unpasteurized soy sauce, then are served atop the salad. I will be stealing this technique for some future salads, thanks Patrick.

Here in Southern California, my roses are still blooming. I brought along this bouquet for my long-time friend. The arrangement is a mix of Tahitian Sunset Rose (far left), Secret Rose (light pink middle) Tournament of Roses (front pink), Julia Child Rose (far right). Happy Birthday, My Friend! Glad to explore Organic, Vegan, Raw with you anytime…

David Burke Las Vegas

Chicken Club
grilled chicken paillard, smoked bacon, lemon aioli

Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake
mango, poppy seed honey

Classic “Caesar” Salad
lemon, anchovy, garlic, French toast croutons, grilled shrimp

Happy to share!

We fell in love with David Burke in New Jersey. So for my mother’s Las Vegas 75th Birthday Weekend we were excited to take her to lunch at his restaurant in The Venetian. Again, we were totally impressed with the food, the service, and the ambiance.
I’m excited about the new camera I bought last month, a Canon EOS Rebel XS. I think there is a distinct difference between these photos and the ones I took at Fromagerie. Working with this camera is turning out to be a terrific learning experience. The only drawback is that it is quite cumbersome to lug around Vegas, especially when trying to maneuver my big purse at the blackjack tables! But that didn’t stop me from bringing it to restaurants Guy Savoy and Alex. So please stay tuned for more fabulous Vegas food!