Archive for the ‘Culinary Clips’ Category

Head Trip

It’s just after midnight, and a late-night snack is in order. Downtown has some decent options: You can order from Big Daddy’s Pizza, head over to Kountry Kart Deli for a Rise & Shiner, or maybe grab a falafel at Ahli Baba’s Kabob Shop. Or, you can have fresh, homemade chocolate-chip cookies delivered to your doorstep.

A love of sweets and some entrepreneurial flair went into the creation of Hungry Headies, a late-night cookie-delivery service. Founders Greg Ramey and Wyatt Fowler, both community entrepreneurship majors at the University of Vermont, started the company on a whim. They began making cookies to satisfy their own nocturnal snacking needs and thought maybe others would be interested, too.

After UVM’s 2010 spring break, the pair put up posters — as a joke, they say, since they weren’t sure they’d have any takers. Little did they realize that nighttime cookie demand in Burlington was, well, high.

“We didn’t have hours when we first started,” Ramey says. “I had people calling me at 4 o’clock in the morning asking for cookies, and I was, like, ‘I need to sleep, man.’”

After the posters brought them their first orders, the two nascent businessmen set some official hours: Thursday through Saturday, delivery begins at 10 p.m. and continues until 3 in the morning. After just a few weeks, Ramey and Fowler had gained some very loyal customers. “A friend of a friend told me about it, and I’ve been all over it,” says UVM senior Aaron “AJ” Kasen. “How can you not like cookie-delivery service fresh to your door?”

Ramey and Fowler make sure the goods are fresh by whipping up a batch of 200 cookies from scratch at about 8 p.m. in the basement of their fraternity, Sigma Phi. If they run out, they make more — sometimes 600 cookies in a night.

Fowler, Ramey says, is the mind behind the cookies. His love of cooking is one of the reasons the guys started baking in the first place. They kept tweaking Fowler’s recipe and feeding the test runs to their fraternity brother and to high school buddy Ax Hayssen.

“I was one of the main testers,” Hayssen says. “I probably tasted 100 cookies.” Poor guy.

After two weeks of having their treats turn out too gooey or too dense, the duo had an “aha” moment. Now, with just the right balance of chips to batter, their cookies have the perfect consistency. Hayssen raves about them: “I’m a big cookie person,” he says. “I put [Hungry Headies cookies] on the same level as Oreos and milk, and that’s saying something.” Hayssen encourages customers to ask for milk with their cookies.

At first, moo juice was on the menu every night, but, Ramey says, people were too picky about whether it was skim, whole or 1 percent. Now, he and Fowler bring along a gallon jug of milk on their delivery rounds and pour out some if customers ask nicely and pay a couple of dollars extra. Other add-ons are energy drinks and Hungry Headies chocolate syrup (i.e., Hershey’s syrup with “Hungry Headies” written all over the bottle).

The head Hungry Heads keep their customers updated on specials and other events via Facebook and Twitter. They even have a competition for the “Hungriest Head of the Week,” which is more about enthusiasm than the number of cookies consumed. “We’ve had people with vomit on them order. It gets pretty rowdy,” Ramey says. “You can always tell when someone is competing to be Hungriest Head.” The winner gets a featured photo on the Hungry Headies Facebook page.

The owners have stories galore. Ramey’s favorite is about the time somebody requested delivery to the South Burlington McDonald’s. At first he and Fowler thought the Mickey D’s staff had the munchies, but they got blank looks at the front counter, and eventually found their customers sitting at a table.

Far-flung deliveries like that one aren’t rare. While Hungry Headies originally targeted campus-dwelling UVM students, Ramey and Fowler say most of their cookies end up in downtown Burlington.

The cookies aren’t available during the summer, but the arrival of the fall semester means Hungry Headies will reopen in full force: Students and townies alike will be able to order packs of a half-dozen cookies for $5, a dozen for $9, or two dozen for $16. The owners have plans to expand, too; they’re in the process of making T-shirts, relocating their kitchen and searching for a pro skier to represent them. They’re even sponsoring rapper Wiz Khalifa’s concert at UVM in the fall.

Despite all the time and effort the service takes to manage, Ramey and Fowler have fun. “It doesn’t really feel like work. [It’s] like a party, delivering cookies,” Ramey says.

Hayssen chimes in. “[Hungry Heads] are people who enjoy life … and want good cookies to complement their good life,” he says. “If you are a Hungry Heady, you are hungry for cookies and a whole lot more.”

Published in print and online by Seven Days on 08/18/2010. Read it here.


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For six hours, Jason Frishman — cofounder with his wife, Shana Witkin, of specialty-food company FolkFoods — and 10 close friends have been working together to create an almost ludicrous amount of Master Sauce. The flavorful condiment, sold at the couple’s booth at the Burlington Farmers Market, is made from a slew of flavorful ingredients, including carrots, maple syrup, tamarind and fiery habanero peppers.

“All right, everyone,” Frishman says as he begins to set up the jar-filling station, “when you go to the bathroom, don’t touch your genitals once you’ve touched the peppers.”

“Don’t touch anyone else’s genitals, either,” Frishman’s longtime friend and neighbor, Chapin Spencer, says with a smirk.

Putting body parts at risk is a given when one decides to help make FolkFoods’ summer supply of its signature sauce — 650 gallons’ worth. Since it isn’t something a home kitchen can handle, at 8 a.m. on a sunny summer day, Frishman and friends began production in the Vermont Food Venture Center in Fairfax.

A run-down, practically windowless building, the center houses an industrial-sized kitchen that can be rented by small food businesses that would not otherwise have access to one large enough to meet their needs. It has everything, including a Cuisinart the size of a small bathtub.

Peeling paint, grungy rooms and “well-loved” supplies make the 14-year-old building look like it’s on its last legs. The center will move to a new, modernized location in Hardwick next January.

Frishman, usually sunny and full of energy, looks a little glum when someone mentions the center’s relocation. It takes him forever to drive down to Hardwick, he points out, and he still doesn’t know where or how he’ll make his sauce after the move.

Frishman’s positive attitude returns when Eric Van Vlandren, compost manager at Burlington’s Intervale Center and a close friend, bursts into the room hallooing cheers and waving his arms. It’s the kind of reaction Frishman, whose day job is working as a family therapist, seems to elicit on a regular basis.

“I love working with Jason. He has such a carefree personality,” says Brittany Langdon, a FolkFoods employee, housesitter for the couple and friend.

Langdon starts directing traffic and setting up workstations — one for chopping two huge sacks’ worth of white and purple onions, one for measuring spices, one for cleaning.

Watching the scene unfold, it’s easy to see why Frishman attributes his success to his pals. Master Sauce was invented seven years ago when Frishman and Witkin were trying to write a cookbook, not build a company. After three years of urging by his sauce-besotted friends, Frishman finally decided to sell it. “The booth, the bottle’s label, the name — it couldn’t have happened without my friends,” he says.

For example, when crises hit, Frishman has ultimate handyman Sky Lewe on his side.

“What do you mean, the scale is broken?” Frishman asks, hanging on to a jug of cumin. A few minutes later, with the help of a pocketknife and batteries, Lewe has the scale up and running.

Next, helpers dump out gallons of maple syrup and jars of tamarind. To his friends’ chagrin, Frishman’s favorite brand of the pungent pulp comes only in relatively tiny, 16-ounce containers.

As each ingredient is prepared, the crew divides it equally between two huge cooking pots in the back of the room. The pots are set to a low simmer, and everyone gets a chance to stir the concoction with a five-foot-long whisk.

An immersion blender goes into the sauce next, and people begin to cough as fermented habanero pepper fumes from the vats fill the room. “It’s like going to a Cheech & Chong concert, except worse,” Van Vlandren says with a wink.

As the jarring process commences, the laid-back Vermonters form an automotive-style assembly line. Each jar must be placed under a mechanical funnel that spurts exactly six-and-a-half ounces of sauce, then lidded and boxed.

After five hours and numerous habanero burns — which make the skin sting for at least 24 hours — all the sauce is processed.

Given the time commitment, one would think Frishman must be making a great profit when he sells the sauce for $6.50 a jar, but he says he only makes enough to cover costs. He jokes that it’s because he gives away all his sauce to friends. “We don’t have money, and we don’t have time,” he says. “But what we do have is food, and that we can be generous with.”

Frishman holds up the final jar of sauce with a ceremonial flourish. “Done!” he exclaims.

When someone in the group asks what she should do with her allotment of free sauce — which has a subtle, intense heat mixed with a fruity spiciness — Frishman replies that it goes well in curries and on grilled-cheese sandwiches and eggs.

Van Vlandren has a different response. He looks at the questioner blankly, as if she should already know the answer. “Everything,” he says.

Published in print and online by Seven Days on 08/04/2010. Read it here.

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Fighting with the speaker at the Taco Cabana drive-thru near my house never gets old for me. It is the same scenario every time I go to buy a breakfast taco – I drive up, I order, and then I try to ask for salsa. The poor guy on the other end asks if I mean hot sauce. “No,” I say, “I want salsa. You know the red stuff with chunks of tomato?” “Ah, pico?” he asks. I sigh . . . “No, I’ll just take some red hot sauce.”

I usually give up in the end and simply ask for the hot sauce (which I always think of as salsa foolishly or not). Recently, though, I’ve been noticing it more in my culinary travels around San Antonio. Hot sauce or salsa? The tomato, pepper, and tomatillo concoctions – freshly-made and chunky – used to be salsa in my mind, but so many San Antonians seem to call that creation hot sauce. To me, hot sauce is the thin, spicy, red or green liquid which contains plenty of vinegar: Tabasco essentially. I needed to get the story straight, and maybe spare the poor man at Taco C.

First stop – the professionals. Elizabeth Kossick, a CIA Chef-Instructor and Latin Cuisines Specialist, seemed confused by my query. In interior Mexico, “salsas can be either green or red. They can be spiced with chilis, or they can be mild,” she says. “You could say salsa picante, but there is no specific term for hot sauce. It is under the umbrella term of salsa, and salsa can be made with anything and everything.”

“You know, I have more background on Mexican food, but what I think hot sauce means in San Antonio is a sauce that contains a vinegar,” fellow instructor and Latin Cuisines Specialist Iliana de la Vega says. “Everyone relates [hot sauce] to bottled ones – Cholula or whatever brand like that.”

That’s what I thought, too – where were the wires crossing? Mary Lou’s Café’s manager, Elena Joch, had a similar answer: “A hot sauce is not salsa. Salsa is a mix with tomato, and hot sauce is more of a liquid.”

Maybe the owner of Chris Madrid’s Nachos and Burgers, Chris Madrid, would know. Madrid’s serves house-made salsa with his famous tostada burger. “Sometimes we just say hot sauce. Sometimes we call it our homemade salsa,” Madrid said. “Years ago, I think when we did tacos and enchiladas, we called it salsa. Now for our burgers, we just call it hot sauce.” But when he looked at his menu, he realized that Chris Madrid’s menu says salsa goes on the tostada burger.

“Salsa’s definition is a sauce, especially a hot sauce containing chilis. It means basically the same thing [as hot sauce],” he said. “All the taco places I go to, I always ask for hot sauce.”

Madrid admitted to me that he had never really realized that there was this discrepancy before I asked him. I racked my brains trying to think of someone who might have noticed it as well. Diana Barrios, the owner of Los Barrios, a long-time San Antonio Tex-Mex establishment, perhaps. “We call it hot sauce for some people and salsa for others. We call it hot sauce because we have a bunch of different salsas that we use for topping different dishes,” she says.

So the different nomenclatures could be a distinction between types of sauces in general – like the sauce that you dip chips in verses the sauce you put on your taco.

“I know exactly what customers want when they ask for either one,” Barrios says. “It is just how people were brought up and what region of the country you are from . . . Some people will ask for cheese sauce, and I’ll say ‘Oh! Queso!’ because here in San Antonio that is the only thing we call it.” Having spent some time living in New England, I know what she means about queso being “cheese sauce,” but different from, say, a European-style “cheese sauce.”

I had to go back to the root of my problem – Taco Cabana – to confirm culture was the cause. Julian Ortiz, a TC manager, thought he knew the reason. “I think that [some employees] consider hot sauce and salsa to be the same, not really knowing the difference, whereas there are people who know the difference between hot sauce and salsa,” he said. “Maybe they weren’t raised with the difference.”

Phew! While I know that many individuals will forever have to succumb and ask for hot sauce at the Taco Cabana drive-thru when what they really mean is salsa, at least it is because of cultural diversity.

Published online by the San Antonio Current on 07/10/2009. Read it here.

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There is finally a way to procrastinate that is both noble and useful.

Www.freerice.com, a way to sound smart and feel good about it, builds vocabulary intelligence while simultaneously feeding the world.

According to the Freerice homepage, people can play a vocabulary building game that consists of matching words to their synonyms. Each correct answer donates the money to buy 20 grains of rice to the World Food Program.

World Food Programme, a site that represents “the food aid arm of the UN,” according to their mission statement, has also gathered a lot of attention due to Freerice.com.

According to National Public Radio, Freerice.com has “driven the most Inter¬net traffic to the World Food Programme site.”

Jennifer Parmelee, a spokesperson for the World Food Program interviewed by NPR, said the site has provided “the gift of awareness about world hunger.”

Freerice.com, as well as its sister site, Poverty.com, was started by a computer programmer named John Breen who began the site from his residence in Indiana to help his son prepare for the SATs, stated “The Christian Science Monitor.”

According to “The Christian Science Monitor,” after Poverty.com launched in January of 2007, Freerice. com was created in October of that year, and is one of the various websites that Breen began with a humanitarian goal.

By January of 2008, Freerice.com players had donated “more than 15 billion grains of rice…enough to feed more than 700,000 people for one day,” said Jennifer Parmelee of the World Food Program.

The funding, totaling to enough money to cover 6,948,988,060 grains for the month of December 2007, gifted by freerice.com to the World Food Program, is generated through a system of internet advertising, stated Freerice.com.

The advertisements are placed at the bottom of the screen of each new vocabulary challenge. With each new question, the advertisers give freerice.com enough money for that one question’s rice winnings.

According to freerice. com’s FAQs section of the site, the advertisers can afford this because they earn money from the products that people buy after viewing their advertisements on the freerice website.

All of the money earned is donated to the World Food Program, as Freerice.com is a nonprofit website, stated Breen.

The rice distribution is not limited to only a few countries either. According to the World Food Pro¬gram Web site, ten different countries, such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Nepal, receive support from the efforts of Freerice.com.

According to their Web site, even the purchasing of the rice itself assists in the fight against poverty and hunger.

All of the rice is “bought in developing countries, keeping the cost of reaching the hungry to a minimum and boosting farmers’ efforts to grow their own food,” stated the site.

Beyond the rice provided by the World Food Program, the site states that their group provides school meals to the children of supported countries, providing “hungry children [incentive] to attend school and help them concentrate on their studies.”

According to their Web site, the World Food Program also gives food to workers, allowing them flexibility to try new innovative agricultural techniques without as much pressure to find the necessary sustenance.

With both the World Food Program and Freerice.com, everyone has the ability for to help solve world hunger.

Any amount of money can be donated through the World Food Program to actively promote their humanitarian cause, stated the World Food Program Web site.

Even without some extra change to donate, anyone can help end hunger through the creation of Freerice. com. Saving the world one grain of rice at a time is just a mouse click away.

Published by The Vermont Cynic on 04/08/2008. Read it here.

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The smell of freshly baked pizza and the sound of avidly talking diners surrounds customers as they walk past Junior’s.

Located at 167 Main Street, the restaurant was constructed in an old Dunkin Donuts store, yet now, one could not imagine a donut store there instead of this little pizza joint.

There are a few tables in the restaurant that are covered in classic red and white checked tablecloths, as well as a dining counter looking out at busy Main Street, which is perfect for people watching.

While in line to order, a customer can easily see pizza dough being tossed in the back of the kitchen, and they can look at the different varieties of individual pizza slices in the case next to the register.

Although the menu is located somewhat awkwardly at the front of the restaurant, with only one other copy on the wall next to the door, the staff at Junior’s and the superb food completely remedies any difficulties looking at the menu.

The two members of the staff interacting with the customers were exceedingly accommodating, quick and helpful. They took orders accurately and were prompt to bring extra cheese and plates.

Even though there were only two people working the counter, every customer’s need was thoroughly met.

The pizza came out just as quickly as the staff helped. The restaurant was packed, adding to the classic pizzeria atmosphere, yet there was no significant delay in waiting for one’s order.

A fountain drink stand made drink refills speedy, and the pizza came out promptly at the perfect temperature. The crust was crispy, while simultaneously being quite soft on the inside.

Covered in onions, peppers, mushrooms, sausage and pepperoni, the original specialty pizza lacked nothing in the way of toppings and the vegetables were not over-cooked or soggy.

The menu was full of a wide variety of toppings, and the specialty pizzas were easily suited for many people’s individual tastes.

There were slices of pizza of any kind available for sale as well, enabling anyone to still enjoy the company of a group while eating exactly what one wants.

While there are other delicious-sounding options on the menu apart from pizza, such as Panini sandwiches, calzones and pasta, Junior’s seems to be a primarily pizza-oriented restaurant. However, this does not allow the presence of their marvelous baked goods to go unnoticed.

There are many different Italian and classic baked goods available, whether one desires an individual sized éclair or a large chocolate cake.

The pastries are kept in a glass-faced refrigerator easily seen from the dining area to draw in those customers with a sweet tooth.

Apart from the delectable options available for immediate consumption in the restaurant, there are custom birthday cakes, wedding cakes and assorted cookie platters that need to be ordered in advance, according to Junior’s website, http://www.juniorsvt.com.

Despite its size, this little restaurant has a lot to offer, providing one with a delicious meal and the perfect dose of classic Italian pizzeria atmosphere. It is definitely a restaurant to keep on the pizza-lover’s list of places to revisit.

Published by The Vermont Cynic on 04/29/2008. Read it here.

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After being noticed nationally by the Food Network in Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Bove’s has soared into new levels of attention, while still keeping its classic family charm.

“[The Throwdown] certainly has had an impact on our sales,” chef and president of Bove’s restaurant Mark Bove said.

“We have lasagna everyday now because of the Throwdown,” Bove said. “People just requested it so much.”

Stephanie Mann, a UVM sophomore and frequenter of Bove’s, is one customer satisfied with the change. “Lasagna night used to be Wednesdays, but now it’s every night which is great because their lasagna is really good,” Mann said.

When asked whether Bove’s had gone through significant changes after the Throwdown, Bove said, “We still carry on our routines every day. It is just on a larger scale now because we have customers who are traveling from all over the country to have our lasagna here at the restaurant.”

“We had one person who came last summer all the way from Tanzania,” Bove said.

After seeing the Throwdown, “several Food Network producers have come in just to see if the lasagna was real, if we were real,” Bove said.

Mark Bove’s publicist, Nicole Ravlin, hired soon after the Food Network episode, said, “Bove’s products are distributed up and down the East Coast [and] a huge mail order business is going out to the West Coast.”

As Bove’s publicist, “our main goal is to get him national exposure” and to “get food bloggers to take notice and write about Bove’s on their blogs,” Ravlin said.

Concerning Mark Bove’s own personal blog – which can be found at http://www.boves.com Ravlin said “it’s a great way for people to tell the personality behind the brand.”

“It’s great to keep everyone connected and make them feel a part of what is happening,” Bove said. “My blog is the 21st century of getting to know your customers.”

Bove recently shot an episode of the Today Show which will be aired soon, Ravlin said.

When asked about how the Today Show became interested in Bove’s, Ravlin said, “We (her public relations group) are well connected with the Today Show” and that the Today Show “loved the sample footage” of Bove.

“Mark is a dream client,” said Ravlin. “People like him and he has great presence on camera because he is incredibly enthusiastic about his brand.”

“The cameramen were watering over the lasagna,” Bove said.

Bove recently created a lasagna that uses his famous vodka sauce instead of the marinara, and for the show, “I did [both] the vodka and the marinara sauce lasagnas,” Bove said.

“Simon Pierce even made me a couple custom dishes for the Today Show,” Bove said. “My publicist is talking to Simon Pierce now, and they are going to market a pan called ‘The Bove’s Lasagna Dish.'”

While Bove’s has gained great popularity, “this is as commercial as I want to get,” Bove said. “People have approached us to franchise Bove’s, [but] that’s too bizarre for us.”

Glenn Xiques, a sophomore at UVM and a Milton, Vt. resident, said he has been going to Bove’s with his family “probably since I was about six.”

“I used to go with family, but now I just take friends there,” Xiques said. “When anyone comes from out of town, Bove’s is a really good place to take them.”

“The food is phenomenal!” David Dyke, a fellow UVM student and Essex Junction, Vt. resident said.

“Bove’s has always treated our customers as family,” Bove said, and he has no plans to change that aspect of the restaurant.

Yet Bove has one other mission.

“My mission is to have a rematch with Bobby Flay,” Bove said, and “I’m going to use my vodka sauce in the lasagna.”

“So Bobby Flay, if you read this article, I want a rematch.”

Published by The Vermont Cynic on 01/27/2009. Read it here.

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In the new season of “The Next Food Network Star,” UVM alum Melissa Donovan d’Arabian reveals her cooking prowess and aims to past it on to women across the country.

From her sorority girlfriends at UVM to her French husband and four daughters, d’Arabian found ample support and mouths for her cooking, practice needed to potentially become a Food Network personality.

Now living in Keller, Texas, just outside Dallas/Fortworth, d’Arabian prepares for the first airing of the competition on June 7 and the nation’s response to her style of cooking.

If d’Arabian succeeds in the competition, she will win her own show on the Food Network, according to the Food Network Web site.

In an interview with The Vermont Cynic, d’Arabian discusses the competition, her inspiration and her goal to make cooking easy, fun and fruitful for women no matter where they are in life.

The Vermont Cynic: How did you get selected to be on “The Next Food Network Star?” Did you have to apply?

Melissa Donovan d’Arabian: You can either go through one of the casting calls or go through the Internet by uploading a video. I uploaded a video.

One of the things that I do is speak to women and moms around the Dallas area about making homemade baby food and yogurt.

I get many requests from people wanting to know how to make yogurt without a machine, so I made a video to e-mail out to people who wanted to know how to make my yogurt without any equipment.

That is the video I submitted to the Food Network, so I killed two birds with one stone.

VC: How was the application process?

MDD: The deadline for submissions was the last week of November and I was contacted pretty quickly after that telling me I had been accepted for the next round.

I submitted more applications with information about me, my family and my culinary interests. Soon after that, I was contacted to go the Semi-final contest.

I flew up to New York to do a live camera audition and found out that I was in the competition.

I applied a bit late, so the process only took about a month.

VC: What are you feeling going into this competition?

MDD: I’m feeling very excited because winning would be a fantastic extension of what my life is about — providing ideas and solutions to women not only all over Dallas but women all across America. And yea, I’m nervous.

[I] hope that things don’t go wrong, but I’m here to win it.

VC: What are you planning on making?

MDD: On June 7 when the show runs, I’m going to make one of my favorite recipes that my kids love: an apple tart.

I spent a semester abroad and spent a year over in France working for Euro Disney. That is were I met my husband who is French, and my French mother-in-law helped me perfect my apple tart.

On the June 7 airing, we are charged with catering the party for the 16th anniversary of the Food Network.

We [the contestants] have between 75 and 100 people to cook for.

You can imagine what it is going to be like. We are going to be cooking for all the big names: Bobby Flay, [Masaharu] Morimoto, Alton Brown, Giada and Alex Guarneschelli, the executive chef at Butter.

VC: Are you going to include some Texas-style cooking?

MDD: My mom was in the navy, so I grew up in a number of places.

I’ve actually only been in Texas for a couple of years because we moved up for my husband’s job, although I have learned a lot from cooks down there.
I know how to do a good barbeque.

VC: How has your family reacted to you involvement in this competition?

MDD: My husband is my number one fan.

He’s gotta be if he has to manage all four girls while I’m in New York.

My girls have started seeing the commercials. They get so excited when they see mommy on TV, but I don’t think they really know what it all means.

For now, they just see the commercial and know that’s why I’m in New York. That is enough of a reason for them.

VC: Did any of your experiences at UVM contribute to your entry on this show or your love of cooking?

MDD: UVM has played a role in my culinary development.
I was a big fan of my sorority, which is Alpha Chi.

When my mom died, I wound up moving back into my [sorority] house, and my girlfriends were my network and my rock. My mom taught me that cooking was the way of loving somebody.

UVM helped me in a sense that here I fell in love with having girlfriends and that is who I am as a human being and as a cook — I was raised by a woman, my mom, and since my mom’s death when I was 20, my family was my girlfriends.

That is where I learned as a cook: I cooked with my girlfriends and for my girlfriends.

I learned how to build my family with my girlfriends around me. We create our families, and that’s what I did.

They are a big part of who I am and a big part of me in loving and honoring the girlfriends in my life.

My connection to my girlfriends is also why I want to help women around Dallas.

Also, through UVM, I studied abroad and learned French which is why Disney sent me overseas where I met my husband and lived in France.

Living in France chanced the way I cooked all over again. They have such an emphasis on the best and freshest ingredients.

That is a big part of who I am as well.

VC: How much did you cook while you went to UVM? Did you ever live off campus?

MDD: My first year on campus in Hamilton Hall was the lost cost housing option. There was no janitorial service – the discounted housing. There was one kitchen down at the bottom of the dorm, and I did cook there for my girlfriends.

My second and third year, I lived in the sorority house, and in sororities there was a live in cook that had dinner on the table at a certain time every night, so I didn’t get a chance to cook as much during that time.

But my last year I lived off campus, and I would cook so many recipes. Then, I would drive around and deliver it to all my friends who lived off campus. I just wanted to cook.

Later, when I got my MBA at Georgetown, I leveraged my experience cooking [at UVM] to get a live-in position with a large family in Georgetown as their personal cook, since I had cooked for so many people before.

VC: If you win this competition and get your own show on the Food Network, what kind of cuisine will you focus on?

MDD: I absolutely represent home cooking at its finest.
Sometimes that is the quick meal on the table, food to feed my babies or the feast that every one sits down to, relaxing after a long day at work. But every day you still just have to get the meal on the table.

I only serve one meal in my house. I am not a short order chef and it would get too confusing making everyone a different meal.

In my show, certainly people could look to see meals that are healthy and tasty for the kids and yummy enough for the parents.

The definite thrust is to give people take home solutions so life in the kitchen can be for all different types of women.

I’ve been a career women working on how to get the dinner party on the table that you thought was good idea, I’ve been the mom with a bunch of kids trying to get food on the table, I’ve been the cook for the Thanksgiving meal.

All those events to me encompass home cooking.

VC: How would winning the show affect your life? Do you think it will affect the time you can spend with your family?

MDD: My kids and my family are always going to be the most important thing to me.
I’ve learned early on that family and relationships come before everything else. I wouldn’t be here if this didn’t make sense for my whole family.

Being able to share ideas and help families across America fits into my life.

Winning the show absolutely fits in with my family’s goals and mission, and if it didn’t fit with my family, I would not be here.

Will there be days were I don’t spend as much time with my kids as when I was a stay at home mom? Absolutely.

Will there be a span of four months were I don’t see my kids or know what is going on at their preschool? Never.

Published online by The Vermont Cynic on 05/03/2009. Read it here.

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That little old man on the John the Greek salad-dressing bottle, smiling jovially from the shelf at grocery shoppers, always seems to make the dressing aisle at H-E-B more cheerful. I discovered recently that this tasty vinaigrette — made with mystery herbs, olive oil, vinegar, and garlic — originated from an eponymous local restaurant.

The day that Fast Foodie visited John the Greek, tucked in the back of the Thousand Oaks strip mall, a bird’s nest in the sign above the door and some trees off to one side of the entrance gave it a homey feel, fitting for a family-owned restaurant open since 1999. A friendly, alert server seated us almost immediately in the small dining room, which was busy but not crowded with lunch customers.

After extensive deliberation between traditional Greek dishes such as moussaka (layers of ground beef and eggplant topped with a béchamel sauce) and avgolemono soup (chicken soup Greek style, with egg and lemon), my friend ordered a gyro and a side Greek salad for $7.50. I decided to branch out and try the Arni Me Agginares ($13.99), braised lamb with artichokes and the house egg and lemon sauce. My accompanying Greek salad came with the namesake dressing, which is tangy, refreshing, and pungent, a well-balanced complement to the tomato, olives, feta, and shredded iceberg and romaine lettuces.

My friend declared the meat in her gyro very tender without any mushiness, and the toppings of tomato, onion, and tzatziki were fresh and not overdone. She proclaimed her meal “fit for a king.”

Sadly, I couldn’t say the same for my dish. The lamb, which was served in small chunks, had the consistency of cubed cheddar cheese. The artichoke hearts lacked flavor and were overwhelmed by the egg-lemon sauce. But perhaps I just had a bit of bad luck; the dishes being carried to other tables looked very appetizing, and my French fries were salivatingly crisp and minimally greasy.

With many other classic Greek dishes to try and the platters of Greek pastries at the front counter calling to us, we resolved to return. We might even get to meet the happy man on the salad-dressing bottle.

Published by the San Antonio Current on 08/05/2009


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Whenever Italian food is the topic of conversation, the first thing I think of is the film Moonstruck — the mood, the moonlight, the happily-ever-after for a cynical 38-year-old. Yet walking into Joe’s Italian Grill, ready for a delicious meal, my initial reaction was skepticism, not romance.

The exterior of Joe’s Italian Grill is not the most alluring, and the entrance opens onto an extremely spacious dining room — almost too spacious for comfort. Waiting for the server, I hoped that the many excited twitterings I had heard about Joe’s pasta and glorious New York-style pizza were correct.

Ordering a glass of wine was not an option because Joe’s is still acquiring its liquor license, but customers can bring a bottle of vino, and there’s no corkage fee.

My first two courses arrived after a short wait. The garlic cheese bread ($2.95) was the perfect balance of garlic and cheese. The toasted bread was not soggy from the butter, and the taste of garlic was potent but not overpowering.

The kitchen had run out of Parmesan, so I had a Caesar salad ($5.95) minus the cheese. The salad’s croutons were the perfect cubes that one can get from a bag at the grocery store, the lettuce was torn in large chunks, and the fishy flavor of the dressing indicated the strong presence of anchovies — great if you’re a Caesar-dressing purist.

When my Florentine pizza ($20.45) arrived, any lingering misgivings were washed away. The perfectly circular pie had a thin, crispy, but not crunchy, crust in classic New York style. There was no need to blot grease — not that I ever blot grease — and the toppings were in harmony, as on the garlic cheese bread. A burst of flavor alerted me to a few basil leaves scattered over the pizza, slightly crisped and pungent.

The pizzas might be a bit pricier than Papa John’s, but even if you don’t get Joe’s military discount, the quality is well worth the few extra dollars. And pizza is not the only item on the menu. I’ll be back soon to try the steaming bowls of baked pastas with mozzarella on top and the classic spaghetti and meatballs.

Published by the San Antonio Current on 06/10/2009. Read it here.

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What, can’t make it to the farmers market at Pearl Brewery every Saturday before the lines form? Mason Arnold, a UT-Austin grad who dreamt up Greenling Organic Delivery in Austin four years ago, expanded service to San Anto in 2007 and has been collecting enviro-entrepreneur awards along the way [see the MashUp, September 24, 2008]. Via his innovative shopping and delivery service, Greenling hooks up the potential eaters of organic and/or local products with the farmers and craftsmen who produce ’em. All you have to do is get online, hit a few buttons, and pick a delivery date. Despite the economic downturn — which did cause Greenling to prune — the company currently offers delivery to two-thirds of Ciudad 210, with plans to service the whole tomato.

“There is an underserved demand in San Antonio,” said Arnold. “There are much fewer options for local and organic food.” Arnold is looking for funding from private investors, so that he can ramp up his SATX campaign and expand into the rest of the Lone Star State. His new greenling.com website, which launched July 5, includes additional nutritional information for his comestible offerings and a handy substitution guide to help you shop seasonally without ditching your favorite recipes. Yum.

Published by the San Antonio Current on 07/08/2009. Read it here.

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