Sunday, August 31, 2008

Battle Farmers Market - August 31, 2008

Battle Farmers’ Market was a fun and interesting Labor Day weekend challenge. We had the opportunity to explore some of the farmers’ markets and roadside stands around San Diego. including Little Italy, Hillcrest, La Mesa and South Bay. All of our Chefs excelled once again.

We started off the evening with Dean’s colorful Sangria, made with Shiraz, apples, grapes, oranges and lemons. Dean also brought a beautiful vase of flowers for our table.

Jim and Melinda, and visiting friends Kathy and Melvin, shared a jar of Cran-Peno Preserves, purchased from a farmers’ market in Arizona, spooned over cream cheese and served with crackers. They also shared an assortment of Tamales from the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market, including Green Chile & Chicken and Sun-dried Tomato.

Pammy’s Zucchini & Tomato Pie was presented beautifully and incredibly delicious.

Kai created his delicious version of Farmers’ Market Ratatouille with a variety of vegetables from the Hillcrest Farmers’ Market, including beets, purple potatoes, zucchini, corn and string beans.

Jim and Carmen had to drive to the park in order to transport their 50 lb. enameled cast iron Le Creuset Dutch Oven full of Seafood Gumbo, featuring okra, bell peppers, shrimp, calamari and crab legs. They served it over white rice with a little dash of File on top and we were good to go.

John was inspired after watching an episode of Giada’s Weekend Getaways. Giada went to Santa Barbara and sampled Trattoria Grappolo’s Involtini di Melanzane. John’s version featured thinly sliced eggplant, which was rolled around a mixture of spaghetti, chicken, marinara and ricotta, topped with mozzarella, and baked.

I found some beautiful Dapple Dandy Pluots at the Little Italy Farmers’ Market and attempted a Tarte Tatin with Creme Fraiche. Pluots are extremely juicy and the Tarte was swimming in its succulent juices. Not my best presentation of the season, but my photograph is very Georgia O'Keefe..ish, don't you think?

Brad joined us for the Saturday morning Little Italy Farmers’ Market, but ultimately made a mad dash for Farmers’ Market Albertsons in order to create his delightful platter of Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Cherries and Apples.

Sparks visited Farmers’ Market a la Tartine for her Chocolate Mousse Cake, a velvety chocolate mousse on a thin layer of chocolate cake, finished with ganache, and adorned with gold dusted berries. After all those fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s mandatory to balance the meal with some heavenly chocolate!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Battle Melon - August 24, 2008

At some point during the evening, Mary Ann said “I can’t hear the music, the food is so good...”

What was once a casual Sunday evening in the park, with a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers, has blossomed into a full blown production and second job! With all the planning, shopping, cooking, packing, toting, setting up, plating, photographing, eating, drinking, packing up, hauling back home, dishes, more dishes, watching Iron Chef America, editing photos, writing the recap, and then starting all over again. Our tarp runneth over! Can I just give up “the law” and do this full time?

Who created this monster? Oh, that would be us!

Seriously, we are having a blast!

What appeared to be a challenging ingredient, melon, surprised and delighted the taste buds.

We learned Vodka and Midori complement each other quite nicely, melon balls float very attractively in a pitcher of Thornton Melon-Ball, Melon Granita with a splash of Midori, and Vodka makes for a very refreshing Summer cocktail (Vodka-Honeydew Bellinis win the Gold over those traditional Champagne ones), and Watermelon soaked in Watermelon Schnapps will knock your socks off!

In addition to the vast array of liquid refreshments, our Chefs presented wonderful appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts.

Our Battle Melon Menu:

  • Jack & Sandra’s Vodka, Honeydew Melon & Ginger Ale Bellini
  • Dean’s Thornton Melon-Ball, inspired by the classic cocktail, The Melon Ball, and the classic 1986 Rodney Dangerfield movie, Back to School
  • Melinda’s Fresh Fruit & Yogurt Salad
  • Melinda’s Blue Cheese & Kalamata Olive Bread
  • Pam’s Watermelon, Feta Cheese, Grape and Mint Salad
  • Kai’s Watermelon Ceviche with Shrimp, Scallops & Mahi Mahi
  • John’s Spice Rubbed Prawns, wrapped in Pancetta & Honeydew Sour Melon Sauce, inspired by Doc’s Signature Trio, Doc’s Restaurant, Orlando, FL
  • Rick & Victoria’s Grilled Midori-Marinated Chicken & Melon Salsa
  • Denise’s Cantaloupe, Brie & Prosciuitto Crepes
  • Brad’s White Chocolate Tart Shells filled with Watermelon-Schnapps Mousse, sitting atop Drunken Watermelon Cut-Outs
  • Carmen’s Luscious Watermelon Puree Reduction over Vanilla Ice Cream
  • John’s Honeydew Melon-Midori Granita Shots

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Battle Puff Pastry - August 17, 2008

The Coronado 2008 Summer Concert In the Park Season is winding down, with only FOUR remaining Concerts/Coronado Iron Chef Battles...what will we do when it’s all over??

Battle Puff Pastry was another great Battle. We apologize for arriving a little late with the tables, but the 461 Palm Avenue Kitchen Stadium was a bit hectic with only one oven and three Puff Pastry entries for the competition!
Thanks again to Sparks aka Dodo-catcher extraordinare, for setting up the tarp early, reserving our coveted grass under the Jacaranda tree, and supplying us with bottles of wine, plates, napkins and utensils. Also, big hugs and kisses to Rich for his sweet note and Fibber McGees’ shirts! We miss you and hope to see you for a visit soon.

The crowd was hungry and waiting, with plates in hand, and the Chefs’ creations disappeared quickly! As a result, I was a bit negligent in my photo journalism duties. I tried to photograph all the dishes, but failed to fully note all the names and ingredients. I also elected to remain firmly planted in my chair throughout the evening, with my glass of wine in one hand and too many calories to count on my plate in the other hand, and did not come home with any photos of our Chefs and guests! My apologies.

However, as you can see from the few photos attached, all the dishes were spectacular and included the following:
  • Kai’s Short Ribs Wellington
  • John’s Chicken and Black Bean Empanadas with Chile con queso
  • Pam’s Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Kalamata Olive Tart
  • Carmen’s Choux Cheese Pastry Puff, Avocado and Bacon-Wrapped Meatball Sliders
  • Denise’s Baked Angel Hair, Eggplant, Turkey Sausage, Marinara & Mozzarella Pie
  • Madeleine’s Strawberry Smootie Angelfood Cake
  • John’s Almond Joy Surprise

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Battle Curry - August 10, 2008

We all came to the park and got curried away, and then we all curried home and got lucky! According to Pammy’s research, Thai green curry could be the secret to a better sex life. It’s packed full of aphrodisiac ingredients, including spices such as cardamom, ginseng, garlic and ginger, and ingredients including basil, lemongrass and asparagus, and all widely believed to enhance sex drive and libido.


  • Pam’s Chiang Mai Chicken Curry

  • Kai’s Spinach & Chickpea Curry with homemade Naan

  • Dean’s Curried Shrimp & Chicken

  • Brad’s Curry Rubbed BBQ Chicken Skewers

  • Carmen’s Stand Away from the Curry Chicken Salad

  • Sandra’s Curried Deviled Eggs

  • Kristin’s Curry Pasta Salad

  • Denise’s Curry Marinated Mussels on the Half Shell

  • Denise’s Endive, Stilton, Curry & Pear Tart

  • John’s Chocolate Curry Cupcakes with Lemongrass-Infused Coconut Buttercream Frosting

If your libido didn’t kick in, certainly you indulged all of your 'other' senses with the Secret Ingredient of the night. A feast for the eyes. Beautiful platters and bowls overflowing with delicious food - even the woman in the group next to us commented we should be on the cover of Gourmet magazine; the sound of great music by Sue Palmer, Queen of Boogie Woogie and Motel Swing, and engaging conversation between good friends and family; the taste of curry in all the dishes, subtle in some, spicy in others, tempting your tastebuds and inspiring your palate, all unique and wonderful; the aroma of curry drifting ever so teasingly throughout the park and under the noses of those less fortunate; and the smiles generated by touching and playing with the food...smearing Lemongrass-Infused frosting on your face (Olivia) or, better yet, poking holes in the Curried Deviled Eggs (Max)!

Thank you for another great evening...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Battle Bobby Flay - August 3, 2008

We all came to Spreckles Park and got FLAYED! Battle Bobby Flay was another successful event in our 2008 Summer, Coronado Concert in the Park/Iron Chef, lineup. Bobby’s signature dishes, prepared by our talented chefs, were exceptional, marvelous, fantastic, tremendous and phenomenal!

Jim and Carmen commenced the festivities with a delicious Ham & Mushroom Pâté, surrounded by squares of Stephanie March’s Jalapeno Cheese Grits. Actress Stephanie March, Bobby Flay’s wife, apparently makes these special Grits for Bobby’s birthday.

Susan shared a gourmet selection of spreads and dips and pita chips from Whole Foods.

Pam presented Sophie’s Chopped Salad, named after Bobby’s daughter. The salad has romaine lettuce, chick peas, red beans, cucumber, tomatoes, cubes of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese, and a few crispy tortilla chips, all tossed with a tasty Balsamic, Dijon and olive oil vinaigrette. Another clear keeper.

Kerry made Chicken Curry Salad with the curry she brought back from last year’s trip to London and South Africa. Feel free to do a repeat of this dish for Sunday’s Battle Curry!

Kai showcased Bobby Flay’s Red Beef Chili. Talk about layers of flavor...sweetness, spiciness, and heat! This chili features cubes of beef, dark beer, semi-sweet chocolate, and a combination of at least 10 different chili peppers and chile powders. Kai’s version also includes beans and extra garlic and definitely needs to make an appearance at the Coronado Chili Cook-Off! After the concert, John absconded with some Chili and a handful of the Cheese Grits and we enjoyed a delicious Monday night dinner!

Jack & Sandra dazzled us with Bobby Flay’s Pressed Cuban-Style Burgers, made with ground chuck, mayo, Dijon, roasted garlic, smoked ham, Swiss cheese and dill pickles. After grilling the patty and assembling the burger, it’s wrapped in foil and cooked in a hot skillet with a heavy skillet placed on top to press the sandwich until golden brown and the cheese has melted. Very nice flavors.

Denise prepared a version of Bobby Flay’s Coffee-Rubbed Filet Mignon, using Tri Tip instead. The rub contains a couple different chile powders, ground espresso, paprika, brown sugar and some other spices. The Tri Tip paired nicely with Bobby’s Mesa Grill’s Southwestern Potato Salad, which derives its kick from chipotle chile puree and cayenne.

Madeleine came through again with another fantastic dessert, Madeleine’s Awesome Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake. Luckily, I was able to snap a photo before Madeleine and her friends devoured the cake in a single swoop.

Not to worry, we still had Keiser’s Robert Redford Dessert aka White Trailer Trash and...

Bobby Flay’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Apple Caramel Sauce, courtesy of John. For two days, he cooked pumpkin bread, pumpkin custard, apple caramel sauce and vanilla custard....and for two days we cleaned the kitchen! It was worth the mess and the wait. Once again, I’m starting that diet...tomorrow.

For the finale, Brad unveiled his collapsible, folding, three-compartment ice compartment for the chilled flutes, one compartment for the Champagne and one compartment for the container of Bobby Flay’s Grand Champagne Cocktail mixture. The cocktail is made by pouring a blended mixture of Grand Marnier, honey and fresh strawberries into the bottom of chilled flutes and then filling the rest of the flute with Champagne. Brad was flaying at the mouth the entire time, claiming to be the only “True Iron Chef” because he is able to spend under an hour in the kitchen each Sunday. I did check the Grand Champagne Cocktail recipe, which states: “ Difficulty: Easy; Prep Time: 10 minutes.” Good for you, but we won’t ask how long it took to go to every store in town looking for that ‘great’ deal on that food processor!

By the way, we’ve missed some of our chefs of late...what’s up? Can’t take the heat of Kitchen Stadium??? We hope to see the following chefs very soon: Todd & Kate, Brent & Lenore, Joe & Karen, Mike and Vicki, Zesty, Mike & Ruth Ann and Jim & Melinda. Dean was in Tucson last week and we’re sure he’ll be back this week with a fabulous dish. Welcome home to Peter & Julie! Please join us! We also hope to see Mary & Geoff, Rob Leach & family, Mike Singley, QM2, Dr. Speir and his wife, Stacy & Dick, Chris, Scott & Sara, MOM, and any other new friends/chefs anyone wishes to invite before the season ends!

Curry up Brad, the clock is ticking.

Denise & John

*In a very brief moment of brilliance, Brad coined the phrases, “We all came to the park and got flayed” and “Curry up.”