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Chef Heidi

Chef Heidi    |    Weddings


Who Counts the Fish?

In the last 15 years we’ve seen the collapse of fishing grounds as well as the decline of specific fish species.  As a user of fish purveyors I do my very best to keep abreast of fish populations.  But who do I rely on to keep me accurately informed?

There are government and independent groups around the world that monitor the fisheries and seafood stocks. In the a recent Food Arts magazine issue there is an article outlining the struggles of these groups to monitor the populations while struggling to maintain consistency in their goals. The struggle arises from the conflict of the goals, interests and missions of each group. 

“It’s a challenge to have that many different countries involved,” says Christine Patrick, NOAA spokesperson.  “They all have their interests and battles that don’t always align with what’s in the best interest of the fish.”(Food Arts, March 2011, pg. 50)

In 2010, President Obama signed an Executive to create the National Ocean Policy.

According to the White House website the Order established for the first time a comprehensive national policy for the stewardship of the ocean, coasts and Great Lakes.  This will set us on a path toward planning for preservation and sustainable usage.

But as Warner Chabot, executive director and CEO of the California League of Conservative Voters, the nonpartisan political action arm of California’s environmental movement.  “Regulations can solve part of the problem. But regulations also can be very tough to enforce.  That’s why we need market solutions like Seafood Watch.  In a decade, it’s made sustainable seafood a mainstream issue. It has rocked the ocean conservation world.” (March 2011, Food Arts, pg. 50)

And that brings me to the organization I turn to, Seafood Watch of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California.  These are the people who “count the fish” for me so I can fulfill my client’s wishes while aiding in the goal of sustainable fish populations.

Be an informed consumer.  Please see the following sites:

http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx?c=dd

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/

http://www.blueocean.org/sushi


Where’s the Beef?

We offer a porterhouse, a cowboy steak, a filet mignon and a Kobe skirt steak.  But we would be foolish to ignore the most recent driving force in the restaurant world.  There is a wave of meatlessness flowing over chefs from coast to coast.  And it’s not just meat but any product produced from any animal. This includes all dairy, eggs and even honey.  This is not vegetarianism but veganism. 

 

 

 

If you are assuming the vegan talking to the waiter at the next table is a throwback to the ’60s you are probably wrong. People are turning to a vegan way of life for their overall health, hormone imbalances, environmental concerns, the National debt, animal rights, longer life, religion and food budgets. 

 

 

 

If any of these reasons don’t suffice let me announce the best reason to dine as a vegan. Chefs are falling over themselves competing with one another to create incredibly delicious vegan dishes.  Go to Vegas and the restaurants are bubbling with vegan choices.  Steve Winn, the casino and restaurant mogul, is requesting his star chefs add vegan choices to their already exceptional menus.  New York City leads the way with not only vegan menu additions but exciting vegan restaurants.

 

 

 

This past November, I took my family to NYC.  While there we celebrated Thanksgiving.  On that day most were in pursuit of the turkey but I took my family to Peacefood Cafe on the upper Westside.  They offered a prix fix menu and we dined on four courses of some of the best food I’ve experienced.  The chestnut soup was delicate and exceptional.  My entree featuring a rich lentil loaf was served with a luxurious mushroom sauce, a whole cranberry sauce, golden raisin stuffing, purple sweet potatoes whipped with coconut milk, roasted lotus root and lemon kale.  Not one of us missed the turkey. 

 

 

 

At Black Diamond Caterers, we use organic agave nectar as often as honey.  We make a Tunisian Stew filled with aromatic spices, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans and currants as frequently as we make Tunisian Chicken.  We make Himalayan red rice salad filled with pecans, scallions, apple and dried cranberries as often as we make tarragon albacore tuna salad.  And while my paella can be filled with shellfish, sausage and rabbit, we also make a delicious vegan paella with sunchokes and exotic mushrooms.  

 

  

 

Next time, treat yourself well and order the vegan dish. 


Tempering Change

There is a down side to maintaining Facebook and Twitter.  Because I also blog I feel as though the mini thoughts I send out daily zap me of the interest and urge to create a written piece for my blog.  I love my blog so I will be putting a greater effort into maintaining it even if it translates into fewer Tweets. 

Recently, I suffered through the removal of Gourmet Magazine from existence.  I’ve been a lifelong fan.  My subscription has resulted in masses of Gourmet Magazines stuffed on every bookshelf, counter and storage box.  I simply loved the magazine.  I was thrilled with the most recent editor in chief, Ruth Reichl.  And when I received a note in November informing me that my subscription would be automatically transferred to Bon Appétit, another Conde Nast publication, I was less than thrilled.  I had passed this magazine in grocery stores hundreds of times over the decades only being enticed to buy one every few years.  So when I received my first issue I flipped through it as if I had a copy of the National Enquirer. 

Today I received my third issue.  When I opened the March 2010 issue I decided to give the booklet my full attention.  I read each page and every written word and I had a strange awakening.  I did find myself being pulled into some of the writer’s articles and I did examine the recipes with the sharp eye of a critical chef.  But it was page 32 that made me smile. 

The Restaurant Editor, Andrew Knowlton, is Bon Appitit’s “Foodist” and answers questions sent in by foodies.  I loved the answer to one question and I think it’s the best answer on the topic I’ve come across………….. 

Question:  “I often hear chefs on cooking shows and reality shows talking about a person’s palate.  “So-and-so has an exquisite palate,” they say.  What exactly does that mean, and can I train my own palate?”  -K.B.    

Andrew writes:  “When it comes to professional chefs.  I think a “great palate” is the ability to create or refine dishes simply by instinct.  I’ve seen some of the world’s most talented chefs, having tasted a flawed or incomplete dish, suggest improvements in a flash-adding a pinch of salt here or a squeeze of lemon there- with amazing success.  For professional eaters -and folks who simply love food- the term means something slightly different:  It’s the ability to identify flavors, ingredients, and even techniques in a particular dish. 

But what really defines a great palate, I think, is taste memory.  It has as much to do with your head as with your tongue.   …a well-developed taste memory comes with experience and the willingness to try new flavors.  ….” 

I think I might have a new foodie magazine.

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Luscious Hard Cider

Michael and I are big fans of hard cider.  And it seems there are many who feel the same way.  Today on NPR you’ll find a great story  on hard cider at Poverty Lane Orchard in New Hampshire.  Give it listen and it’ll make you smile.

 

It was shared with me by Hick’s Orchard in Granville, NY, my absolutely favorite orchard.  Maybe it’s because I used to live near by once upon a time and I could barely wait for the apples to ripen.  Hick’s Orchard is the oldest U-Pick apple farm in the state of New York.  Their orchard is charming, beautiful and very fun.  Their classic apple cider is a premium product.  We go out of our way to procure gallons for as long as it flows.  A few years ago Hick’s started Slyboro Ciderhouse and they’ve never looked back.  The motto on their website is “reviving lost spirits”.  They make three varieties of hard cider; still, sparkling and ice.  These beverages are not to be missed.  You can find places to purchase them on the Slyboro website.  Or go there yourself!  It’s well worth the trip.

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Slyboro Ice Cider from Slyboro Ciderhouse

18 Hicks Road    Granville, NY


Cheese Please

 

Long, long ago in a land far away ………………cheese was born.  This happened around 3500BC.  Think about how long ago that was.  This is considered the Middle Stone Age.  A rudimentary form of the wheel was invented about this time.  The first domesticated animal, the ass, was adapted to be a pack animal at this time allowing long caravans which could carry items great distances for trade.  It was on one of these long journeys that cheese was accidently invented.  Milk was placed in a dried animal stomach for consumption and down the “road” the creator discovered curds and whey.  If that person could only know what he or she contributed to us.                                  

In the United States we find ourselves in an exciting moment in time with the Artisanal Cheese Movement.  It is hard not to notice the amazing cheeses being created in many states.  I believe many of the cheeses of this country will become as sought after as any cheese from Italy, France, Spain or England just as the world grew to appreciate the great American wines over these last decades.  The American cheese artisan has a fresh approach to cheese making that often involves twisting classic methods of the old world European varieties.  

Several of the cheeses I’m serving right now fit in that category.  Two are from Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, California, and are among the hippest, award winning cheeses out there.  The moment the box arrives I have knife in hand and begin sampling.  Another favorite I have is a Twig Farm cheese from West Cornwall, VT.  I love to serve this rustic goat cheese with Wood’s Boiled Cider elevating it to a heavenly treat.

pierce-pt-cowgirl-creamery.jpg                           twig-farm-square-cheese.jpg

 

        Cowgirl Peirce PT                                Twig Farm Square

 

At our Rock the Holidays Extravaganza I will be featuring a large station featuring cheeses.  I will be creating a decadent Truffled Mac and Cheese.  I’ve been making this for some clients and it is unbelievably good.  From the Panini Grills I’ll offer a classic Aged Cheddar on Rockhill Bakehouse’s Sourdough bread and a Provolone, Hot Cappy Ham, Pesto and Roasted Red Peppers on Rockhill’s Onion Rye and, finally, I’ll have a Smoked Gouda, Sautéed Mushroom and Onion Jam on Konto’s Nan.  I have tried all of these a multiple times and the last one is my favorite!  Lastly, I will also be showcasing a cheese fondue “river” with loads of items to dip.  And as if that was not enough cheese, I will be serving small farm cheeses, including those listed above, alongside my Dessert Presentation.

Make an effort to discover American cheeses.  


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If you haven’t noticed the subtle evolution of gourmet marshmallows in your store or internet travels you might want to pay attention.  Marshmallows are on the verge of being the next big craze.  I’ve been a big fan of marshmallows all my life.  The marshmallows I make are to adults as some literature can be, if you get my drift.  They are sensuous and naughty.  My favorite are Kahlua marshmallows that I encourage guests to plunk in hot chocolate.  MMMMMMmmmmmm.

I will be making these treats for the already decadent hot chocolate we will be serving at The Rock The Holidays Extravaganza being held at the Canfield Casino on December 11th.  Haven’t got your tickets?  Shameful.

Some numbers to make my point will astonish you.  Retail marshmallow sales (excluding Walmart) totaled about $146 million in 2008, up from $141 million the year before, according to market research firm Information Resources Inc.  Wow!  Up $5 million in one year.

This past summer I noticed a larger strawberry flavored marshmallow from the famous Campfire Marshmallow company.  But there are some talented people out there with some great marshmallow ideas that are rocking this chic sweet  back into vogue.  Here are just a couple of my favorites easily ordered on-line.

Chocolate Stuffed Marshmallows from Gud Fud

Or Luxurious French Marshmallows from the exclusive Recchiuti’s of San Francisco

 

Caramel Swirl Marshmallows from Plush Puffs


A Shared Company Holiday Party?!

Have you ever wondered how you are the last one to hear about something that everyone else seems to know about?!  Well, that is exactly what the concept of a Shared Company Holiday Party is all about.  How is it that this concept is so insanely popular in England, our country’s closest relation, but it is rare to find someone here in the U.S. who has heard of it?  Well, it’s our job as a cutting edge caterer to learn about these things.  Not only have we learned all about them but we were so impressed that we decided to be a part of the birth of the concept here in the U.S.  

So….. we are officially announcing our Rock The Holidays Extravaganza!!  It will be held at the beautiful Canfield Casino on December 11th.  The Canfield is very excited to play a part.  We will offer over-the-top foods and décor.  If you’ve ever been to a BDC (Black Diamond Caterers) event you know you will be fed amazing food and lots of it.   

What exactly is a Shared Holiday Party?  It follows the concept that businesses, corporations and companies like to have holiday parties not to actually celebrate but more to release and create energy, extend gratitude to employees, offer a time for reflections and relationships as well as give a unique opportunity to socially network with peers from other forward-thinking and motivated companies.  

The age of the not-so-looked-forward-to and often awkward holiday party in the back room or the tight quartered restaurant with Muzac is over.  It is no longer the unending and unappreciated responsibility of one person to organize the holiday party.  We are offering a way out, a revolution for change in this new century and for a new way of thinking.  

It is as simple as:

1.      Buy the tickets

2.      Attend

3.      And we’ll do this step for you…. a portion of each ticket bought will be allotted to non-profits supporting children’s needs.  These will be announced soon.  So you can all go and feel good about it too.

If you were in England you, as a business, would have the choice of an endless list of parties to buy tickets to all through December and in every city and town.  For the 2009 season for example, there is currently advertised a James Bond themed party, a Comedy Club theme, an Arabian Nights theme, a Motown, a Big Band, a Masked Venetian Ball, a Disco theme, a Las Vegas theme, an ABBA theme…… you get the idea.  It’s huge.  These parties are attended by hundreds to thousands depending on the venue size.  It is the rage to book early and get into the best party in town.  

Well……………. WE WILL HAVE THE BEST PARTY IN TOWN!  BDC will be transforming the Canfield Casino’s parlor and ballroom into a winter wonderland.  The entertainment will be the amazing live band The Lustre Kings who have played a few times at WAMC’s The Linda as well as venues across the country.  They will fill the room with electric energy riding along their music of bluesy (is that a word?) rock and roll or in their words “preaching the rockabilly gospel”.  You will see blue suede shoes and pompadours.  If you’re not eating, which will be hard not to do, you will be dancing! 

There will be lots of cocktail tables and some seating but we expect everyone to be milling about dancing or eating at the many exquisite food stations I will be creating.  We will offer a coat and purse check complete with a security person.  For a the menu go to Rock the Holidays Extravaganza!  I have to admit the menu does not do the food justice.  Let me just say this event will be a diner’s delight.  

The ticket price will climb as the date draws nearer so I encourage you to talk it over, commit to making a change for the better and buy the tickets.  Viva la révolution!  

 


A Discovery

There is a part of me that does not want to share this perfect summer treat.  I want to keep it all to myself so I can enjoy it with selfish pleasure.  I want to smirk at you down the bar and know I am drinking the most amazing beverage I’ve had in ages. 

But I will share. 

Recently, Michael brought me to the Parting Glass here in Saratoga.  The Parting Glass is a famed Irish Pub with many, many beers on tap.  I started with a pint of Weiss.  I can’t remember the name but it was a very good one.  I completely enjoyed it.  As I was contemplating the contents of my next pint a couple further down the bar ordered two Guinness.  The lady asked for something to be drizzled in her beer.  My curiosity piqued I asked the bartender what this was all about.

Kathy, the bartender, asked if I’d like to try it.  I hesitated.  I’m not a Guinness fan.  But I’m a foodie and what is our motto?  We will try anything at least once.  “Sure,” I say.  She makes me a little glass and I sip.  I sip again.  My eyes open wide.  I’m hesitant to share with my husband.  I throw back what’s left and stare at the bartender.  “What is this?!” 

“The girls in Ireland drink their Guinness with a bit of black currant syrup,” she says.  “I had to take many, many trips to Ireland to get it right,” she quips with a smirk. 

The beer is complex with slightly sweet berry overtones.  My taste buds in the back, on the sides and on the tip of my tongue are all alive and wanting more.  I soon had a thick, creamy mustache.  Aaaahhh!

According to guinness.com this beverage is named a Black ‘n’ Black.  Even though it may be popular with the ladies I have to say “who cares!”.  Men should definitely drink Black ‘n’ Blacks. 

To make this beverage at home I recommend Ribena Black Currant Cordial which can be found at Celtic Treasures on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.  And Guinness can now be found in most stores.  It has this wicked cool ball inside filled with nitrogen that explodes when you pop the tab to give the rich beer its creaminess without a tap in sight.

To find out exactly how this gadget ball works check out How the Guinness Gidget Works

I’ve shared my secret now go forth and enjoy!

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Great Recipe for Your Party

I was on one of the best Public Radio Stations in the country, WAMC out of Albany, this morning.  If you’d like to hear and see the recipe click on the link below.

Because it’s a replay you’ll find the recipe for the Yellowfin Tuna hors d’oeuvre on the bottom of their page unless they move it to the top for viewer’s ease.

I will be doing a completely new set of five radio spots for the morning show on WAMC all focusing

on finger foods and hors d’oeuvres.   Coming soon!

Yellowfin Tuna on Cucumber

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