Friday, January 25, 2013

Mad Fresh is Mad Good

I crashed a cooking class yesterday at Mad Fresh Urban Bistro and Take Out in Fort Myers, FL. I walked into the cheery, cozy restaurant and saw a half dozen ladies at the bar, armed with pens, notepads and of course wine. My kind of party! They graciously allowed me to pull up a stool next to my new best friend for the next hour; Kathy. Kathy is a snow bird from Massachusetts, a self proclaimed foodie, wine lover and the leader of the pack.

As we watched Chef Partner, Xavier Duclos, chop the ingredients for his delicious salmon cakes, Kathy also revealed what a huge fan she was of Mad Fresh and how badly she wanted them to do well, one reason she organized the gathering. Oh yes, and  what a treat it was to watch someone so handsome in the kitchen. Nods of agreement by all.

Chef's salmon cake was full of flavor, a little heat and cooked perfectly. Accompanied by a slightly sweet Asian Slaw that I could've eaten all day, the dish was just the right size for a nice lunch. The Luzon Blanco wine was a nice crisp accomplice to the spice and fresh herbs. What I learned about making the salmon cakes: use wild salmon, don't chop ingredients TOO small and don't let the mixture sit for long to avoid a ceviche effect.

The lesson continued with Xavier's creme brule that he was certain would be the best we've had in Southwest Florida. He was right. And he made it look so easy, I may just give it a try in my own kitchen. What I learned about making creme brule: stir the mix as little as possible, the toothpick test is best for determining if it's done and an easy way to caramelize the sugary top is to heat a metal spoon in the flame of your gas stove, then press it on to the dessert. Viola!

Both of these dishes are regular menu items.
More to follow on Mad Fresh. For now, know that it is mad hot, mad cool, mad delicious! Mad Fresh Urban Take Out on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mama Likes Moonshine

What happens when you get a bunch of foodies together and you reach the end of the night? You reach in the back of the cupboard for the Moonshine of course!

I was at a fabulous Dessert and Cheese party over the weekend, giving an overview of what went well with the champagne I was drinking, when the host got a crazy look in his eye. He said, "Hey Gina, you ever try moonshine?" I sat up straight and said coyly, "Why no. Do you know where I can get some."

Bam! Within five minutes I was sipping a shot of Ole Smoky from Tennessee. The fact that this moonshine is legal, robbed me of a little forbidden fun, but the intrigue was certainly alive and well. The only thing I can compare the corn whiskey to is Grappa. Except if anyone had lit a match within three feet of me, I'm certain there would've been an explosion. I could feel the alcohol evaporating on my tongue as it warmed my chest.

Ole Smoky is 100 proof. It also comes in flavors like apple pie, peach and blackberry. The distillery is in Gatlinburg but the hooch is distributed in Florida through Southern Wine & Spirits.

Mama likey

Monday, January 14, 2013

Glass Adds Class

I love a good surprise and that's what I got when I took the foil off of a bottle of Autograph Pinot Noir by R. Stuart ($40). The surprise? There wasn't a cork, but a glass wine stopper instead.

Glass stoppers or Vino-lok closures are another clever alternative to the sometimes unreliable and expensive cork, and much more classy looking than a screw cap.

This wine smells really herbal. It tastes a little "green" too, with  smokey tannins on the finish. The more time it spends in the glass, the more it rounds out with delicious flavors including black cherry.

The Pinot Noir grapes in this wine come from several different areas in Oregon; Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills, Eola HIlls and McMinnville. It is one of the bottles I've featured in
 "New Wine For the New Year" currently published in all four TOTI Media magazines.