Highlights from the 2011 Foodbuzz Food Blogger Festival

Foodbuzz Blogger Festival

I’ve been back home in San Diego for a few days now but I’m still so EXHAUSTED  from the 3rd Annual Foodbuzz Blogger Festival. And you would be too if you talked, ate, and uh—drank as much as I did!

Foodbuzz Awards Dinner

And truth be told, I’ve been racking my brain on how to accurately convey and depict all of the events and highlights that transpired over the weekend. From the Awards Dinner, Tasting Event, Gala Event, and even the delish cooking demo from Chef Tyler Florence……it was all a fabulous time!

Chef Tyler Florence

But through it all, the most fulfilling aspect of the festival was reconnecting and meeting with the talented food bloggers from all over. I reveled at meeting some writers that I have long admired and especially those who I have corresponded with but have never met in person.

And let me just say….there were some shenanigans! With that much delish food and adult beverages—how can there not be???  :)

I’ve got a huge list of folks who I now will be following and I barely met a fraction of the attendees. So many bloggers, so little time!

Foodbuzz Festival 2011

Quick shot out to some amazing folks who really MADE my time at the festival—so thankful to have connected face to facel!

There were SO many of you that I was fortunate to have connected with and I CANNOT wait to give you a big ol’ hug next year! And for those who I didn’t get to see, I’ve got my eye out for you next year!

And although the festival was jammed pack,  I did get a quick chance to snag a few goodies outside of the festival…..

La BoulangeSalad Niçoise (not shown), Macarons and a Cannelé from La Boulange Bakery

Brunch @ Namu SFFrog Hollow  Blood Orange “Bellini”, Kimchee Fried Rice with Egg and Challah French Toast at Namu SF

Dosa FillmoreSpicy Mung Bean Dosas, Chicken Roti, and Bengali Gimlet at Dosa SF

THANKS so much FOODBUZZ….until next year!

Godiva Coffee-Chip Ice Cream

Godiva Coffee-Chip Ice Cream

It’s no secret that I began drinking coffee at an early age…..like at 11 or 12.

But before you judge my upbringing, you’ve got to remember that I’m Vietnamese and cà phê (Vietnamese Coffee) practically runs in our veins. Well, that and nước mắm (fish sauce) of course :)

Godiva Coffee-Chip Ice Cream

So you can imagine my delight when a box arrived at my door with a few bags of Godiva’s new line of coffee to play around with. There were so may different routes I could have gone with but since July was National Ice Cream month, I decided to make a coffee flavored ice cream using Godiva Chocolate Truffle Coffee.   And of course, adding in chocolate was a must!

The end results were AH-MAY-ZING! The coffee flavor was the star but the chocolate shards were such great little bits of surprises throughout the whole thing.

And you want to know a secret?

I didn’t even use an ice cream machine to make this! Yup….totally old school! Thanks to David Lebovitz, all you need to make your own homemade ice cream is a few ingredients, a cold freezer, and a little patience.

Delicious!

And if you’re looking to make an adult version of this ice cream, throw in some Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur! Because after all, why the heck not? :)

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Godiva Coffee-Chip Ice Cream
Makes approximately 1 Quart

Ingredients:

1½ Cups Whole Milk
1½ Cups Heavy Cream
3 Large Egg Yolks
2 Large Eggs
½ Cup Sugar
½ Cup Strongly Brewed Coffee (I used Godiva Chocolate Truffle Coffee)
1 Teaspoon Instant Espresso
5 Ounces Dark Chocolate, roughly chopped
1/4 Cup Baileys Irish Cream Liqueur (optional)

Dissolve the espresso into the brewed coffee. Allow the coffee to cool to room temperature.

In a mixing stand, whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar in a bowl for 2 minutes until its pale yellow in color. Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan until it is near-boiling and turn off heat. Turn the mixer on medium-high and gradually drizzle in ½ of the hot milk/cream into the egg mixture. Once the mixture has been tempered and combined, pour it back into the saucepan with the remaining milk/cream. Heat medium low, stirring constantly, for a few more minutes or until the consistency is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon when dipped in. Turn off heat. Whisk in the coffee/espresso and Baileys (if using). Pour the custard base into a bowl and chill over an ice bath.

Once the custard has chilled, pour it into a glass baking dish and place directly into the freezer for 45 minutes. Pull out of the freezer and use a rubber spatula to vigorously stir the mixture, breaking up any frozen bits. Place back in the freezer and continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it’s freezing.

When the custard is nearly frozen, take the chocolate and heat over a water bath. Take out the dish and drizzle the chocolate over the top of the custard. The chocolate should harden fairly quick and use the rubber spatula to break it up into small pieces. Transfer the ice cream to a covered storage container until ready to serve.

*If using machine, add the chilled custard base into the machine and follow manufacturer’s directions.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received Godiva Coffee. However, all views and opinions expressed here are my own.

Fried “Buffalo” Calamari

Fried "Buffalo" Calamari

The other day I came home to a package that had a big bottle of KC Masterpiece® Buffalo Marinade in it—-courtesy of the Foodbuzz Tastemakers Program.

I immediately thought of whipping up a batch of Buffalo Wings….because who doesn’t love a good Buffalo Wing? But at second thought, I decided to try something different and take a spin off of another great pub food—Fried Calamari!

Fried "Buffalo" Calamari

I attempted to mimic the Buffalo Wing taste by marinating the calamari in buttermilk and KC Masterpiece® Buffalo Marinade. After a quick toss in flour and a few minutes of deep frying, I had a plate full of crispy–yet tender, Fried Calamari.

Fried "Buffalo" Calamari

I’m not sure I fully tasted the flavors of the marinade in the Calamari by itself. But after a little squeeze of lemon and quick dunk into the Buffalo Marinade, the flavors were definitely more prominent.

But let’s be honest, anything fried and then dipped in hot sauce is pretty delicious in my book :)

Happy Friday, Friends!

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Fried “Buffalo” Calamari
Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 Pound Calamari, cleaned and cut into 1 inch rings—tentacles left whole
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
¾ Cup KC Masterpiece® Buffalo Marinade, or other hot sauce marinade
¼ Cup Buttermilk
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt, plus more to season after the calamari is fried
½ Teaspoon Black Pepper
Vegetable Oil, for deep frying
Serve with Celery and Carrot Sticks, additional KC Masterpiece® Buffalo Marinade, Blue Cheese Dressing, and Lemon Wedges


In a large bowl, mix the marinade and buttermilk together. Add the cleaned calamari—ensuring it’s well covered in the liquid. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.

Place a large colander in the sink and pour the calamari with buttermilk mixture into it. Gently shake the colander to drain off the marinade. Use paper towels to blot off excess liquids.

In a large pot (or deep fryer), preheat oil to 375 degrees.

In a large zip lock bag, add the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the calamari zip the bag closed. Shake well to evenly coat the calamari. Pour the contents of the bag into a large sifter (or you can do this in batches) and sift the calamari to get rid of any extra flour. In batches, carefully add the calamari into the hot oil and cook for about 3-4 minutes or until lightly golden and crispy.

Transfer the fried calamari to a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with additional salt. Repeat until all the calamari has been fried.

Serve immediately with celery and carrot sticks, additional KC Masterpiece® Buffalo Marinade, Blue Cheese Dressing, and lemon wedges

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos with Fat Tire® Chavelas

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos and Chavelas

I don’t indulge in beers too much these days. Let’s face it—without my college metabolism, it just doesn’t sit that well with me (or my hips!) anymore. But I do make exceptions for an occasional New Castle® or Fat Tire® from time to time.

So you can imagine my delight when, as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I was challenged to create a dish that featured and paired with a New Belgium Brewing Company beer. Which includes Fat Tire®! :)

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas

I immediately knew that I wanted to incorporate the “hoppy” amber ale into a slow braise pork—ultimately to create Carnitas. By adapting David Lebovitz’ recipe, I was able to achieve tender, flavorful pork that was beautifully crispy on the outside. O…M…G.

Wrapped in warm tortillas and topped with a few spoonfuls of pico de gallo, salsa negra and a squeeze of lime—the Carnitas were Delicioso!!!

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos

I confess, I turned to the local mercado for the fresh tortillas and salsas. I had every intention of making them myself but when I went to the mercado for some ingredients, I encountered these fabulous women making it all from scratch for a fraction of the cost it would take me to make.

Yep. I opted for the shortcut this time. But for the record……this gal can fix up some yummy salsas. :)

To wash it all down, I whipped up an homage to Taqueria Tlaquepaque’s Chavelas. Tlaquepaque was one of my beloved taquerias in San Jose that served up AMAZINGLY fresh and delish food. But the food was only 1/2 of the reason why my dear gal friends and I would congregate there. The other half was for the Chavelas —Mexican beer mixed with fresh lime juice and salt. Very few things in life are more refreshing than a frosty goblet of Chavela. True Story.

Fat Tire® Chavelas

Turns out that Fat Tire® in a Chavela is PDA.  (Translation: Pretty. Darn. Amazing.)

Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas Tacos & Chavelas

Incorporating Fat Tire® in a dish? Not as difficult as one would think  :)

And as luck would have it—just in time for Cinco de Mayo!!!

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Fat Tire® Braised Carnitas
Adapted from David Lebovitz

Ingredients:

5 Pounds Boneless Pork Shoulder, cut into 5-inch chunks, trimmed of excess fat
2-3 Tablespoon Sea Salt
2 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
2 Bottles Fat Tire® Ale (24 ounces)
1 Cup White Onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely diced
1 Teaspoon Chile Powder
¼ Teaspoon Paprika
¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Powder
¼ Teaspoon Ground Cumin
2 Bay Leaves

Using paper towels, dry off the pork and generously season with salt.

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the pieces of pork in a single layer until very well-browned, turning them as little as possible so they get nice and dark before flipping them around. If your cooking vessel is too small to cook them in a single-layer, cook them in two batches. Be sure to take your time to get a deep brown color as it enhances the flavor. This usually takes me about 30 minutes to properly brown all the meat.

Once all the pork is browned, remove them from the pot and blot away any excess fat with a paper towel. Discard all but one tablespoon of the grease that remains in the pot. Lower the heat to medium. Add the onions to the pot and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for an additional one to two minutes.  Then pour in the beer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits.

Heat the oven to 350F degrees.

Add the pork back to the pot and add the remaining of the seasonings and spices. Braise in the oven uncovered for 3-3½ hours, turning the pork a few times during cooking, until much of the liquid is evaporated and the pork is falling apart. Remove the pan from the oven and lift the pork pieces out of the liquid and set them on a platter.

Once the pork pieces are cool enough to handle, shred them into bite-sized pieces discarding any big chunks of fat. Return the pork pieces back to the roasting pan and cook in the oven, turning occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the pork is crispy and caramelized.

Serve with corn tortillas and your choice of salsas and toppings.

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Fat Tire® Chavelas
Serves One

Ingredients:

1 Bottle Fat Tire® Ale (12 ounces)
2 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
Sea Salt
Lime Wedges

Chill glass in the freezer for 15 minutes. Rim the glass using a lime wedge and dip into sea salt. Pour the lime juice in the bottom of the glass and pour well chilled Fat Tire® Ale  over it. Serve and garnish with lime wedges. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Spinach Artichoke Dip…and it’s a tad healthier!

Mediterranean Spinach Artichoke Dip

 

I LOVE Chips. Potato chips, tortilla chips, corn chips, taro chips…….I can’t get enough of them. So you can imagine my utter glee when I received a big box of TOSTITOS® Artisan Recipes™ Tortilla Chips as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program.

And what goes hand in hand with chips? DIP, of course!

 

Mediterranean Spinach Artichoke Dip

 

Spinach Artichoke Dip is definitely one of my favorites—though I rarely indulge in it. Most recipes are chock-full of mayo, sour cream and other dairy products. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE all those tasty things but they don’t necessarily love my hips! With bathing suit weather rapidly approaching, I wanted to create a version of this delish dip to compliment the TOSTITOS® that was a tad healthier and with a slight adaptation in flavor.


Mediterranean Spinach Artichoke Dip

 

I decided to go with a “Mediterranean” spin by adding sun dried tomatoes to the mix. Sun dried tomatoes pairs so well with artichokes and spinach that the addition made perfect sense to me.

To create a more figure friendly dip, I substituted two of the key ingredients with healthier alternatives. In lieu of the sour cream, I used nonfat Greek yogurt. Not only does the latter have a slew of health benefits but the texture provides a lovely creamy, thick texture that we like in our dips. I used an American Neufchatel Cheese in the place of cream cheese since Neufchatel is lower in fat and higher in protein. As for the mayo, I completely nixed it. The other ingredients provided enough creamy texture and flavor that it wasn’t needed.

This “healthy” dip worked really well with the grained tortilla chip. It was full of various textures and I had a clear conscience knowing that I cut out extra fat/calories without sacrificing the flavor.

If only I could make chocolate cake “healthier”…………..  :)

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Mediterranean Spinach Artichoke Dip
Serves 8

Ingredients:

10 Ounces Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and drained
8 Ounces Artichoke Hearts, finely chopped
5 Ounces Neufchatel Cheese, softened
½ Cup Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt, at room temperature
½ Cup Low Fat (or reduced fat) Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese, finely grated
¼ Cup Chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes (preserved in olive oil)
¼ Cup Shallots, finely chopped
2 Whole Garlic Cloves, finely minced
¼ Teaspoon Dried Thyme
¼ Teaspoon Paprika
1 Tablespoon Oil from the Sun Dried Tomatoes
Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, heat the oil from the sun dried tomatoes. Add shallots and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and dried thyme. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes before adding the spinach. Cook for an additional few minutes and then transfer all items into a large bowl.

Add Neufchatel, Greek Yogurt, Monterey Jack Cheese and paprika to the spinach mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Combine well. Lightly cover ramekins or other baking dishes with cooking spray. Spoon spinach mixture into the dishes and sprinkle the tops with Parmesan Cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes and then turn the broiler on. Broil the tops until they are golden brown. Serve with chips, bread slices, crackers, or vegetable sticks.

 

Hickory Farms Goodies from Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I got hooked up with a fabulous package from Hickory Farms. Yippee! I gleefully opened the “Beef Hickory Sampler Gift Box” that was packed with Cracked Wheat Crackers, Smoked Cheddar Blend, Italian Herb & Cheese Spread, Sweet Hot Mustard Jar, and Beef Summer Sausage.

Hickory Farms has a special place in my heart–particular around the holidays. The sibs and I used to chip in (okay, so maybe they bought it but my name was included) to buy gift boxes of their goodies for family members. And who could resist? Cheeses, smoked meats, crackers, spreads, and even sweets.

Still have some holiday shopping left to do? Skip the malls and jump online to send a few of their Gift Baskets. Because as far as this gal is concerned, tasty treats are quite possibly one of the best gifts.

Now excuse me as I dive right in to a tower of their smoke cheese and summer sausage :)

Hitting the Streets for the “SF Street Food Festival”

This past Saturday, I joined thousands of Food Goers and Foodies at the 2nd Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival hosted by La Cocina.

I was lucky enough to score a snazzy media pass from Foodbuzz (THANK YOU!) that allowed me early access to the event along with an insightful tour of the grounds. Our expedition allowed us the great opportunity to meet and greet with several of the vendors, sample delish foods and beverages, (YUM!) and learn in depth information about the amazing Incubator Program coordinated by La Cocina.

From La Cocina:

“By providing affordable, shared, commercial kitchen space, an array of industry-specific technical assistance and services, and access to market opportunities, La Cocina works with entrepreneurs as they launch, grow, and formalize successful food businesses. We focus primarily on women from culturally diverse communities and immigrant communities. Our vision is that our program participants will become economically self-sufficient and contribute to a vibrant and diverse economy doing what they love to do.”

Their three-step model (pre-incubation, incubation, and graduation) truly provides support and encouragement for many low-income entrepreneurs—giving them a real foundation for success as they start up their businesses. After speaking to many of the vendors from the program, it greatly reaffirmed the vital work that La Cocina carries out.

And now…..THE FOOD.

Five city blocks cradled over 40 vendors of delicious goodness. I was absolutely drunk from the mouth-watering aromas. Simply Intoxicating. Noodles, tacos, sandwiches, bacon wrapped hot dogs, cupcakes, ice cream, corn, and on…and on…and on!

“Festival Seating” pulled together with these really cute painted wood planks and milk crates


This is Azalina Eusope–a 5th generation street food vendor and head of “Azalina’s Malaysian”.  Incidentally, she started off as a Pastry Chef :)

“Air Bandung” (Coconut-Rose Milk)–Azalina said it’s perfect to accompany many of the fried foods from Malaysia


Chef David Bazirgan of “Chez Papa”

Melon Agua Fresca from “Chez Papa”


Stuff Figs and Sausage Sandwich from “Chez Papa)

Torta de Mole Verde and Tostada de Tinga from “El Buen Comer”–t


Veron­ica Salazar of “El Huarache Loco” whose family also has a restaurant in La Raza, Mex­ico City.

Tacos de Alhambre from “El Huarache Loco”

Vegetarian Banh Bao from “The Slanted Door”

Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee from “The Creme Brulee Cart”

Chef Thomas Odermatt of “Roli Roti“. Chef Odermatt grew up in his family’s butcher shop and was particularly cheerful and friendly to those stopping by his booth. Their booth was clearly the most visited that day. :)


Porchetta from “Roli Roti

Porchetta from “Roli Roti“…..Aaaah-Maaay-Ziiing.

Neal Gottlieb of “Three Twinis Ice Cream”. He insisted we taste the ice cream with the antique silver spoons to increase the experience. And he was right!


Dee-lish Frozen Treats from “Three Twinis Ice Cream”

Soba Noodles from “Hapa Ramen”

Mini-cuppies from “La Luna Cupcakes”

Sisig Tacos from “Hapa SF”

SO good, I had to throw in a close up :)


Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs…OH MY!

Chicken Adobo from “The Adobo Hobo”. We also had their Calamansi-Thai Basil Cooler….VERY refreshing.

Meat goodness…

And MORE meat goodness!

Piroshkies from “Anda Piroshki

There was SO many different foods to choose from. Even with the media tour/food sampling and an additional 1.5 hours at the festival with the family–we barely made a dent. What were my favorites of the day? Easily the Porchetta Sandwich from Roli Roti –though the Sisig Taco from Hapa SF is quite high up on the list, too. The Porchetta Sandwich was just utter perfection. Unctuously, savory pork with delectably crispy skin in a roll. The pork loin is cooked slowly on the rotisserie which allows the fat and juices to drip down to a bed of fingerling potatoes that are just waiting to soak it all up. Excuse me, my mouth is watering uncontrollably. Chef Odermatt–you are brilliant!!!

An awesome day in SF filled with passionate chefs, an organization with a wonderful mission, endless amazing foods, and quality time with loved ones. I only wish I had a spare tummy to try all of the goodies. But then, maybe I’ll just leave the massive eating to this guy………

Joey Chestnut–World Champion in Competitive Eating. Yup, he was there, too. :)

So until next time friends–hit the streets for some good eats! :)

Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program: Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two

I love food and I love deals. So when I received a voucher to try out Buitoni’s Frozen Meals for Two as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I was VERY excited!

For years, Buitoni has had a line of premade pastas and meals that can be found in the refrigerated section of your local grocery store. However, this new line that is found in the freezer section, could be considered a “high end” or premium frozen dinner. Oooh-la-la.

Once I received my voucher I went to several stores before I could locate them. And where did I finally find it? Target, of all places! (But since then, I’ve seen it at several other grocery stores).

We decided to try the Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Garlic Butter Sauce since the box boasted that the lobster was from Maine—and well, the photo looked delicious!

Preparation was extremely easy and our meal was done within 20 minutes. After filling a large pot of water, you drop in the entire plastic pouch of sauce to heat it through. When the water reaches a nice low boil, the frozen ravioli go in. Before tossing the sauce and ravioli together, I took a quick taste to check for seasonings. I found the butter sauce was a little too rich by itself and added a pinch of dried thyme and crushed red pepper to balance the flavors.

Overall, the entrée was pretty tasty! The pasta dough had a good bite to it and I was happy to see that the raviolis were filled quite nicely with fairly large chunks of shrimp and lobster. We paired the raviolis with an easy mixed green salad that offered a brightness to the rich butter sauce. Although a little bit on the pricier side for a frozen meal (at $9.99 for one box that serves 2), I found it to be enjoyable and wouldn’t mind having it again.

Thanks FoodBuzz and Buitoni!

Yeah…it looks like we didn’t like it at all :)