Friday, October 28, 2011

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good: French Fridays with Dorie

I should have continued with our Halloween Party preparations, but we needed something for dinner and I was so intrigued by this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe: Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good.

At about 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I decided to zip off to the store for my pumpkin and stuffing ingredients, knowing it would take me about 30 minutes to prep everything, two hours for the pumpkin to bake, and another 20 minutes to photograph, before we could eat. It was a rather late dinner, but one that was surprisingly wonderful.

Stuffed and ready to go into the oven

Basically, you start with a small, 3-pound pumpkin. Then, in a bowl, toss together cubes of crusty French bread, Gruyere cheese, chopped bacon, garlic, herbs, and heavy cream. Variations are endless.  Stuff it all into the hollowed out pumpkin, put the lid back on, and bake for 90 minutes. Take the lid off and continue baking another 20-30 minutes. Slice and serve.  Be sure to scrape away some of the sweet pumpkin with every bite of cheesy, bacon studded, moist stuffing.

For a touch of greenery, I added Swiss chard from the garden.  I sauteed the garlic and greens in the pan I used to cook the bacon before mixing it in with the bread cubes. I also threw in a handful of pine nuts.

Fresh, young Swiss Chard

You can find this Stuffed Pumpkin recipe on Epicurious.  I'm having such a marvelous time cooking through Around My French really should join us!  Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to the Pirate galley and continue with party food for tomorrow evening!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Mom, a Recipe from San Francisco's Miette

I baked these cookies for my mom, to nibble on while she recovers from hip replacement surgery. After a three-day hospital stay, she was transferred to a skilled nursing residence. Unfortunately, she wasn't too happy during the first few days of her stay, and we're hoping things improve and she recovers quickly.

The recipe for these Chocolate Chip Cookies comes from one of my newer cookbooks:  Miette, Recipes from San Francisco's Most Charming Pastry Shop. Miette (French for "crumb") is renowned for beautiful, delicate cakes and pastries, and modern American interpretations of classic European desserts.

Chef/Owner Meg Ray explains her aim has always been to create simple cakes that allow you to taste their true flavors. To complement her cakes, the pastry case is filled with cupcakes, tarts, pots de creme, brownies, shortbreads, and a number of American and French cookie classics. Miette's cakes are small and elegant, and the cookies bite-size.

These cookies are filled with semi-sweet mini-chocolate chips, and a mixture of coarsely ground rolled oats and toasted walnuts, designed to achieve a crisp, buttery, and crunchy cookie. I read there were some errors in the measurements in several recipes, in the first edition of the cookbook, but Amazon has indicated these have been corrected and will be sending me a corrected cookbook. One of the errors may have been in this recipe, stating it yields three dozen 5-inch cookies, or 10 dozen "Miette-sized" cookies. My batch yielded a little over three dozen 3-inch cookies.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Miette
Makes about three dozen 3-inch cookies


2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 2/3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet mini chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the oats to coarse crumbs. Transfer to a plate, than add the walnuts to the food processor and pulse, 3-4 times, just until coarsely ground.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then add the egg and beat until fully incorporated. Add the milk and vanilla and mix well. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again. Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the oats, chocolate chips, and walnuts. Stir by hand, just until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Using a small ice cream scoop, or spoon, scoop out small portions of dough and roll into balls. Place them about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and flatten the top of each ball slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake in batches until lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taking the $5 Challenge with Bobby Flay's Throwdown Adobo-Seasoned Chicken and Rice

Thanks to Nina's orchestration, our little culinary group gathered in the park on Sunday for a $5 Slow Food Challenge.  An organization called Slow Food USA issued an encore $5 Challenge to demonstrate that slow food can also be affordable. Slow Food is defined as good for its eaters, its producers and the environment. The challenge was to share a fresh, healthy meal for less than $5 per person... "because slow food shouldn't have to cost more than fast food." You can read more about the challenge in Mark Bittman's New York Times' article, Shared Meals, Shared Knowledge.

Nina suggested we prepare a one-pot meal for four, with a budget of $20, using farm-fresh, organic, and healthy ingredients. Assuming you have some basic spices and pantry items, this is fairly simple to do. I get a kick out of cooking with ingredients from our modest garden, and was able to use the last of the Roma tomatoes, and some fresh oregano, for this dish. For a healthier version, you can use bone-in, skinless chicken thighs, and homemade chicken stock.

I chose Bobby Flay's Adobo-Seasoned Chicken and Rice, from his Throwdown cookbook.  Jorge Ayala, head chef of La Fonda Boricua, New York City's best known Puerto Rican restaurant, won this challenge with his Arroz con Pollo.  The recipes are fairly similar.  Bobby's adobo seasoning appears more complex, but I like the addition of diced, dried Spanish chorizo and a bottle of light beer in Jorge's recipe.  Jorge also uses bone-in, skinless thighs and drumsticks, but I just couldn't give up that crispy, seasoned skin ;-)

Adobo-Seasoned Chicken and Rice
Slightly adapted from Bobby Flay's Throwdown
Serves 4***

Adobo Seasoning
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons granulated onion
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves

Chicken & Rice
10 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
2 medium red bell peppers, finely diced
1 Serrano chile, finely diced
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 cups long-grain rice
5 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas (not thawed)
2 cups green olives (Cerignola or Picholine)
Freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
Finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
Zest and juice of a lime


Mix together the salt, granulated garlic, cumin, granulated onion, paprika, black pepper, turmeric and oregano in a small bowl. Season both sides of the chicken pieces generously with the adobo seasoning mixture (I used all of it).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the oil, skin side down (you'll need to do this in batches), and saute until the skin is crispy and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook until the second side is golden brown, another 4 minutes or so. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until tender and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from oven and cover with foil to keep warm.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoon fat from the Dutch oven, and place it over high heat. Add the onions, red bell pepper, and Serrano chile, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the rice to the pan, stir to coat the rice in the mixture, and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, and salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Stir well, cover, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10-12 minutes. During the last few minutes, quickly stir in the peas, cover, and continue cooking until rice is tender and liquid is mostly absorbed.

Remove the pot from the heat and let sit 5 minutes covered. Remove the lid, fluff the rice and gently fold in the olives, parsley, oregano, lime zest and lime juice. Add the chicken, stir to combine, and serve.

***According to Bobby, this recipe serves four.  There's enough rice for 6-8, so you could easily add a few extra pieces of chicken if you are taking this to a picnic or party, or want leftovers!


Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, you may also be interested in Bobby Flay's Winning Throwdown Pumpkin Pie.  This pumpkin pie post is one of my most popular posts.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pissaladière aka Pirate Breath Pizza: French Fridays with Dorie

I've been cooking quite a bit this week, keeping us fed while John completes his over-the-top creations and renovations in the Pirate Workshop, front yard, courtyard, dining room, and living room. Yes, my man is totally immersed in his favorite holiday of the year, and our 4th Annual Halloween party.

This year, for the Pirate theme, you'll find me as Mary Read, an English Pirate who sailed with "Calico Jack" Rackham and Anne Bonny.

Last year's theme was Villains on Trial, with me as Cruella de Vil...

Sensing my irritation with frequent deliveries of Pirate stuff over the past few months, our friend Brad suggested Men Without Girlfriends for next year's theme.

After making this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, Pissaladière (pronunciation), with all the onions and anchovies on top, it could work as a nice hors d'oeuvre for the Pirate Party, but I think I'll change the name to Pirate Breath Pizza.

Pissaladiere, a thin tart topped with onion, anchovies and olives, is a specialty of Nice, in Southern France. The sweetness of caramelized onions is balanced with the saltiness of anchovies and distinctive, sour flavor of Niçoise olives.  I used Italian Cerignola olives, which have a mild, sweet flavor, because my market was out of Niçoise olives...and I loved the pretty green color. I mixed in some roasted garlic with the onions, and added a sprinkle of pine nuts and grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top.

The recipe has a boat load pirate ship load of onions...

But after over an hour of slow cooking, with olive oil and thyme, they melt down into caramelized sweetness.

The dough is rolled out thin, placed on a baking sheet, and covered with the onions. According to Jacques Médecin, former mayor of Nice and an authority on its cuisine, the layer of onions on a pissaladière should be half as thick as the crust.

After baking about 20 minutes, the top is adorned with strips of anchovies and olives, and baked a few minutes longer. This should most definitely be served only as hors d'oeuvre, but it was all Captain Juan Carlos Rodriguez Dominguez Christiana de Coronado got for his dinner last night!

Fine Cooking has published Dorie's Pissaladiere recipe, here.


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.  As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Feel Like Makin' Gnocchi

You should know I'm not one of many bloggers who receive frequent packages of gourmet products, small kitchen appliances, and cookbooks on my doorstep, in exchange for writing blog posts and linking to the companies providing those gifts. However, when something distinctive crosses my path, I am delighted to share it with you.

About a year ago, I came across a Fine Cooking video featuring corzetti - handmade, coin-shaped pasta from Liguria. The pasta is made by cutting the rolled dough into small disks, and then imprinting each side of the disk with a design. This is achieved with a corzetti stamp, a very unique pasta tool, carved out of wood. Fine Cooking explained these stamps are difficult to find, and settled for using a small cookie cutter in the video demonstration.

Why would I want to make these gorgeous pasta coins without the imprinted design? Within a few minutes, I was able to locate Artisanal Pasta Tools in Sonoma, CA. Terry handcrafts and sells corzetti stamps, and polenta, cavarola and gnocchi boards. His latest addition is an exquisite line of solid wood rolling pins.  I shared one of his corzetti stamps in this post, and now I'm pleased to feature his Garganelli/Gnocchi Board.

I saved this ricotta gnocchi recipe for the arrival of my gnocchi board, and I can honestly say it was worth shelling out $29.99/lb. for chanterelle mushrooms! With a few minutes of practice, I was expertly rolling gnocchi down the board with my thumb. I will treasure my artisanal corzetti stamp and gnocchi board for many, many years, and am eagerly anticipating my next pasta experience making garganelli with the board. When I'm not using these treasures, they are proudly displayed on a shelf in my breakfast nook.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Chanterelles, Sweet Corn, and Sage Brown Butter
Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3/4 pound chanterelles, cleaned
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, divided
1 tablespoon sliced sage leaves
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears)
2/3 cup diced shallots
1 recipe ricotta gnocchi, blanched (recipe follows)
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Toss the breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet, and toast for 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown.

If the mushrooms are big, tear them into bite-size pieces.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and heat another minute. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of butter, and when it foams, add the mushrooms, half the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a healthy pinch of pepper. Saute the mushrooms about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they're tender and a little crispy. Don't be tempted to move them around in the pan too much in the beginning; let them sear a little before stirring. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a platter.

Return the pan to the stove, and heat on high for 1 minute. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter to the pan, and cook a minute or two, until the butter starts to brown. Add the sage, let it sizzle, and then add the corn, shallots, remaining 1/2 tablespoon of thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Saute quickly tossing the corn in the hot butter for about 2 minutes, until the corn is just tender. Add the gnocchi and toss well to coat with the corn and brown butter. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, and add the mushrooms. Toss to combine, and heat the mushrooms through. Add the parsley. Arrange the gnocchi on a large platter, and shower the breadcrumbs over the top.

Ricotta Gnocchi

2 extra-large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound whole milk ricotta, drained if wet
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl (I forgot to whisk before pouring the eggs in the well).

Place 2 cups flour, salt, pepper and ricotta in a large mixing bowl. With a dinner knife in each hand, cut the ricotta into the flour (yes, I know, that's a fork).

When the flour and ricotta are combined, make a well in the center and pour in the eggs. Using a fork, and starting in the middle of the mixture, incorporate the eggs into the flour and ricotta.

Knead the dough with your hands briefly, just to bring it together (be careful not to overmix it). Shape the dough into a ball, and place it on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut the ball into four pieces, and cover with a clean kitchen towel.

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.

One by one, take each piece of dough out from underneath the towel, cut it in half, and roll it into a 3/4-inch thick rope on a lightly floured cutting board (each rope should be about 12 inches long). Cut the ropes into 1-inch long pieces, and sprinkle a little flour over them.

Using your thumb, roll each piece of dough down the gnocchi board, leaving an indentation from your thumb on one side and the markings from the strings on the other (if you don't have a gnocchi board, you can also use the back of the tines of a fork - but you won't have as much fun and your gnocchi won't be as gorgeous - just sayin').

Plunge the gnocchi into the boiling water in batches. Once they rise to the surface, cook them for 1 minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a baking sheet or platter. Drizzle the cooked gnocchi with the olive oil, and toss to coat them well.

Disclosure:  Terry graciously provided me with a corzetti stamp and gnocchi board.  I'm also hoping to receive "The Pear Tree" from his designer rolling pin collection ;-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Salad Inspirations: Pear Salad with Arugula, Blue Cheese, Candied Almonds and Port Vinaigrette

My inspiration for this salad came from adorable Seckel pears we received from Moceri Produce, one of the exhibitors at The Gourmet Experience. With only two little pears, I decided a salad would be the most appealing way to use them. And, because they were curvy and flawless, they deserved their own photo.

My Inspiration

Pears pair well with cheese, especially Blue, Roquefort and Mascarpone, and nuts, particularly almonds and walnuts. When I spotted Michael Chiarello's Frisee Salad with Pears, Blue Cheese and Port Vinaigrette, with candied almonds, I knew it was the one...Michael, you had me at port vinaigrette. I've been loving arugula in salads lately, so I used that instead of frisee and radicchio. You could also use baby spinach or any mix of baby greens. I also added crispy pancetta. When plating the salad, I felt it needed more color, so I tossed in a few pomegranate arils. This salad has all the right flavors, textures and colors, and the vinaigrette is amazing!

Arugula Salad with Pears, Blue Cheese and Port Vinaigrette

Port Vinaigrette:

1 cup port
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


5 ounces baby Arugula
2 Seckel pears, halved, cored, and very thinly sliced crosswise
2 ounces blue cheese
2 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
1 cup candied almonds
1 cup Pomegranate arils

Simmer the Port in a small saucepan until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Let cool, then whisk in the red wine vinegar, shallot, and salt and pepper, to taste. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.

Tear the pancetta into smaller pieces and saute over medium heat until crisp.

In a large bowl, toss the arugula and pear. Drizzle with the dressing (you won't need it all), and gently toss until the greens are lightly coated. Divide the salad among 2-4 plates. Crumble the blue cheese over the salad. Scatter the pancetta, candied nuts and pomegranate arils over the salad. Serve immediately.


Two more salad inspirations come from Leroy's, a new restaurant in Coronado. We recently did a food photography shoot for Leroy's, and these two salads are on my list to recreate at home.

...the sweetness of roasted beets, creaminess of the goat cheese, and crunchiness of almond brittle - all those elements come together for a great salad.

Leroy's Local Beets Salad, with Bucheron, Spicy Almond Brittle, Watercress, and Lavender Vinaigrette

Again, a nice marriage of flavor, texture, and color...

Leroy's Watermelon Salad, with Arugula, Watermelon, Heirloom tomatoes, Dry Jack Cheese, and Balsamic

Friday, October 14, 2011

Buckwheat Blini with Smoked Alaskan Black Cod and Crème Fraîche, for French Fridays with Dorie

Let me start by saying that buckwheat blinis are a walk in the park compared to soba noodles, both of which require buckwheat flour. Back in February, I blogged my completed Daring Cooks' Soba Noodle Challenge:  Buckwheat Flour is Not My Friend. Thankfully, I was able to use up a little more of that leftover buckwheat flour for this week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe, because you will never find me attempting soba noodles again!

Dorie tops her buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon, crème fraîche, salmon roe, and sprigs of dill. I strayed again, and used smoked Alaskan Black Cod, a touch of horseradish in my crème fraîche, chives, and a tiny squeeze of lemon juice.

I should have made a half batch of the blini batter, since it was only the two of us, but I experimented with making rustic, free-form pancakes, versus using a cookie cutter to make them all perfectly round and uniform (there are also blini pans available, but that's one pan I've yet to cram into my cupboards). After going through half the batter, with a half dozen of each variety, I preferred the rustic look.  I also liked plating the "second side" up, despite Dorie's opinion that it's not "as pretty." I think the lacy pattern and bubbles added to the rustic appeal.

We typically do not post actual FFwD recipes, but I discovered this one was previously published in Bon Appétit, and on Epicurious (however, the quantities are slightly different from those published in Around My French Table). The following recipe incorporates my modifications.

Buckwheat Blini with Smoked Alaskan Black Cod and Crème Fraîche
Adapted from Around My French Table
(Makes about blini, depending on size)


3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 package (1/4 ounce/7 grams) active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Crème fraîche
Cream-style horseradish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (4-ounce) package thinly sliced smoked black cod or trout (you'll need 8 oz. of smoked fish if you use all the batter)
Fresh chives
Lemon wedges


Whisk first 5 ingredients in medium bowl.

Place milk and butter in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until butter melts and thermometer registers 110°F (if mixture gets too warm, cool until temperature returns to 110°F).

Pour warm milk mixture into flour mixture and whisk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Whisk buckwheat batter to deflate; then whisk in eggs.

Preheat oven to 200°F. Heat griddle or large skillet over medium heat. Brush lightly with melted butter. Working in batches, spoon about 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons batter for each blini onto griddle, spacing apart. Cook until bubbles form on top and begin to pop, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn blinis; cook until golden brown on bottom, about 1 1/2 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet. Tent with foil and place in oven to keep warm while cooking remaining blinis.

Combine crème fraîche and horseradish, to taste (I used 5:1 ratio crème fraîche to horseradish). Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Arrange warm blinis on platter. Top with smoked fish. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoon crème fraîche atop each. Garnish with chives. Serve with small lemon wedges.

Note: The blini batter can be prepared one day ahead. After mixing in eggs, transfer to large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Before using, allow the batter to come to room temperature, and rewhisk. Cooked blinis can also be wrapped and refrigerated overnight (allow to cool first). Brush blinis lightly with melted butter and rewarm on baking sheet in 350°F oven 5 minutes.


French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.  As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Highlights from The Gourmet Experience 2011, Del Mar

We attended The Gourmet Experience this past Sunday, held for a second year at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and we were pleased to find much more going on this time. Last year's event highlight was watching Chef Brian Malarkey (Searsucker and Burlap) prepare his Screaming Shrimp N Dirty Grits.  Chef Brian is currently working on his third San Diego restaurant, Herringbone, scheduled to open next year, then plans to go national. Although Malarkey didn't make an appearance on the Gourmet in Action Stage, we were happily entertained by the charismatic duo of Chefs Bernard Guillas and Ron Oliver (The Marine Room).

We intercepted Chef Bernard as he made his entrance

The two chefs chatted with the audience, and mocked each other, as they prepared Portobello Mushroom Bisque.  They debated whether one should peel the Portobellos, in addition to cleaning out the gills, and teased us about what they would serve if we were guests in their homes. These two really need their own show on Food Network.

Chef Ron enlightens us on celery root

I'm not sure why Chef Bernard is passionately waiving his spoon...

Chef Ron serves one of the chosen few

Portobello Mushroom Bisque, garnished with pine nuts, creme fraiche, and marjoram

Chef Dave Martin, who gained notoriety as a Chef-testant and finalist on the first season of Bravo's Top Chef, elicited bursts of laughter as he prepared three dishes in thirty minutes - Roasted Brussels sprouts, Braised Cola Short Ribs, and Pumpkin Panna Cotta. He has the reputation for being easily flustered, but was able to temporarily calm himself with frequent sips of his cocktail.

Getting back to that cocktail Chef Dave was enjoying on stage, I later realized it must have been one of Chef Daniel Barron's (Blue Pointe Coastal Cuisine) awe-inspiring edible and nitro cocktails. We missed his presentation, but made it by his table for a sample. He called it a Cadillac-something, and it tasted like one of the best Cadillac Margarita's I've ever had, garnished with a slice of jalapeno and float of lime foam.

A bit earlier in the day, we had Champagne garnished with Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup. The flowers are chewy and sweet, with flavors of raspberry and rhubarb.

We continued to eat our way through the show, enjoying Little Cakes Cupcake Kitchen's cupcakes...

Chef Betsy G's gluten-free Out-of-Sight Orange & Almond Biscotti...

Sadie Rose Baking Co. artisan breads...

City Folk's Ranch gourmet pecans...

and Gianni's Fine Foods' olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and dressings (OMG - Dark Chocolate Balsamic, and Pear Lime & Cinnamon Balsamic - just sayin')...

Outside, we found Barbecued Tri tip sandwiches, and arancini and ravioli...

while catching some of the action on the Grilling and Outdoor Entertaining Stage 

Rancho La Puerta chef puts a spin on fish tacos

Back inside, we chatted a bit with Robert at Moceri Produce, who shared some cute little apples and pears from his table overflowing with exotic, unique, and vibrant farm fresh produce...      

There were exhibitors featuring food and drink tastings, knives, cutting boards, jewelry, cookware, furniture made from wine barrels, travel, and art - too many to visit during the time we were there. We stopped by to see our friends from EC Gallery, and featured artists Christopher M., Painter of Chefs, and Daniel Ryan, known for his tree-scapes.

Christopher M.

Daniel Ryan

We liked Barrelly Made It's distinctive outdoor furniture, created from re-purposed oak wine and bourbon barrels...

and the soapstone cookware from Soapstone Werks was particularly intriguing....

Pizza Stones, which can also be used as cheese boards

As I said, there were too many culinary, luxury, home and lifestyle products and services to visit during our short time at the two-day event, but we're very excited for the 8th Annual San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival, scheduled for November 16-20. This event promises to be the ultimate star-studded culinary classic, with hundreds of exhibitors, celebrity chefs, wines and spirits, cooking classes, food and wine tastings, auctions, competitions, and entertainment.  You can see our photo album from The Gourmet Experience on our Facebook page, under photos.

Disclosure:  We received Press Passes for The Gourmet Experience. We were not obligated to write this post, nor did we receive compensation or products from the exhibitors mentioned herein.