Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Mixologist Mat Snapp & The I.G.T. Cocktail

By: The Food Hunter

Mat Snapp is the mastermind behind many of the inventive cocktails found at Fox Restaurant Concepts. From the bold, creatively named cocktails at Culinary Dropout to the health-conscious, invigorating libations at True Food Kitchen, Snapp’s spin on cocktails is creating raving and loyal customers across the Valley of the Sun and beyond.

Snapp has an inherent ability to craft concoctions that mirror all the great aspects of each restaurant’s brand. When the urban, gastro-pub inspired concept, The Arrogant Butcher opened in Phoenix, Snapp designed a contemporary beverage menu intended to appeal to a more varied downtown crowd, capturing the York City, Chicago and San Francisco cocktail culture.

In addition, his commitment to using house-made syrups and infusions to get the desired flavor he’s looking for, led to the creation of a cocktail that mimicked all the distinct aspects of barbeque.

With a wide variety of diverse, original cocktails under his belt, Mat Snapp can be found behind the bar molding the next round of exclusive Fox cocktails.

What was his inspiration behind the I.G.T.?

Mat was introduced to Dimmi Liquore di Milano in 2010 as an “herbal background spirit” and included it in a quick and light cocktail that also featured Aperol and Peroni. It was very refreshing, but the Dimmi got lost in the midst. The idea hit him to learn about Dimmi by trying the Dimmi all on its own during a cocktail class he was teaching in Tuscson.

He went to the expo line and got a side of torn basil, stirred that in. Peeled two zests of lemon, stirred those in; hit the top with Peach bitters because Dimmi has peach and apricot blossoms in it. Then gently poured Mediterranean tonic over it. The Mediterranean tonic has less quinine, less face-smack to it – a subtle elegance even. The result is a light and refreshing Italian Gin and Tonic, which just so happens to have the same initials as the wine classification, Indicazione Geographica Tipica. Seemed like a match made in heaven to him.

The I.G.T.
2                      Lemon Zests
2 ounces         Dimmi Liquore di Milano
2 dashes         Peach Bitters
2 leaves          Basil
Combine first three ingredients in a hurricane glass. Add half ice and give it a quick stir. Add basil and rest of ice. Give it a quick stir. Top with chilled Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Eating Whole Foods: Coconut Cream Cake

By: The Food Hunter

Growing up, my mom was notorious for her coconut cake. Back then it didn't matter to any of us that it came from a box, was mixed with vegetable oil and was topped with canned frosting. It was good that's all we knew.

Fast forward to this year; for mom's 71st birthday, I decided to try my hand at a made from scratch coconut cake. I scoured the internet for a recipe and finally decided on one from Cooks Illustrated. I added my own touches and the cake turned out beautiful. Mom loved the intense coconut flavor both in the cake and in the homemade coconut buttercream. She was happy and I can't ask for much more than that.

****Enter below the spinning cake to win a $25 Whole Foods Market Gift Card****

Coconut Cream Cake
(adapted from Cook's Illustrated)
1 large egg, room temperature
5 large egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup coconut cream (not cream of coconut)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon coconut extract
2-1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), sifted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (6 ounces/1-1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces, softened, but still cool

Heat oven to 325℉. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour. Beat whole egg and egg whites in large measuring cup with fork to combine. Add coconut cream, coconut milk, vanilla, and coconut extract; beat with fork until thoroughly combined.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Mix on lowest speed to combine, about 30 seconds. With mixer running, add butter 1 piece at a time, then beat until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 2 to 2-1/2 minutes.

Add 1/2 of egg mixture, increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add remaining egg mixture. Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed until fully combine, about 30 seconds. (Batter will be thick.)

Divide batter evenly between cake pans and level with offset spatula. Bake until golden brown, cakes pull away from sides of pans, and toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen cakes from sides of pans with paring knife, invert cakes onto racks and then re-invert; cool to room temperature.

Coconut Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
3 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon coconut extract
4-5 tablespoons coconut cream

Cream butter in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add powdered sugar, coconut extract, salt, and coconut cream. Beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional coconut cream 1 tablespoon at a time.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Market Fresh Bistro Farm Dinner

By: The Food Hunter

From weddings, to honeymoons and even anniversaries Maui provides the perfect setting for your special occasion. Everywhere you turn there are pristine beaches, beautiful hotels and amazing restaurants to be enjoyed.

I recently had a chance to dine at Maui’s Market Fresh Bistro, a cozy restaurant that’s been serving mostly local, always fresh, food to a loyal customer base for upwards of 6 years. Chef Justin Pardo, his sister Olivia Coletti and her boyfriend David Magenheim are the masterminds behind this fabulous little upcountry restaurant.

Enjoy breakfast or lunch, any day of the week, either inside or under the trees on the charming outdoor patio. If you want a real treat I suggest making reservations for a Thursday night Farm Dinner which is put on in conjunction with a rotating list of local farms. Every Thursday morning Chef Pardo sources ingredients from a different farm and puts together the evening’s menu based on what was delivered.

On Farm Dinner nights the normal restaurant seating is converted into a communal table; making it the perfect setting for small groups. The farmer is usually seated amongst the guests and available to answer questions. David greets you at the door and shows you to your assigned seat at the table, where you are served some house made focaccia and dipping oil, while waiting for others to arrive.

The Thursday I attended Chef Pardo was working with Kupa’a farms, a local farm run by Gerry Ross. Gerry, a former, geologist has been running the farm, along with Janet Simpson, since 2003 and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to produce and how to cook it. It was a pleasure having him dine with us and to hear him passionately describe the fruits and vegetables used in the evening meal.

To get our palates started we were served an amuse bouche of Ahi Tartare placed atop a crispy purple potato chip and drizzled with olive oil.

This was followed by the Kona Lobster Bisque and a smoked heirloom tomato salad. Chef Pardo explained that he uses almost no cream in his cooking and utilizes the creamy texture of the Yukon gold potato as a thickener in various dishes including the bisque. 

The fish course included a pan roasted Opah with baby zucchini ratatouille. I loved the way the subtle hint of fennel and saffron from the jus complimented the delicate fish perfectly.

Up next was a slow roasted NY Strip from the Big Island served with a sweet potato puree and a pumba onion jam. Pumba onions are large yellow onions that are very sweet compared to the everyday onion.

Dessert was a vanilla bean panna cotta topped with amazing dragon fruit compote. This was my first taste of dragon fruit and I'll admit I was completely smitten.

No matter what the occasion, if you find yourself on the island of Maui, I would recommend a meal a Market Fresh Bistro, especially if it’s a Thursday night.

Market Fresh Bistro
3620 Baldwin Ave #102A, Makawao, HI 96768
Cuisine Type: Farm to Table
Atmosphere: Cozy with rustic charm. Serves breakfast & lunch daily. Group dinners available on Thursday & Friday nights.

This meal was provided complimentary. However, all opinions and comments are my own. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Maui For The Food Lover

By: The Food Hunter

Most people go to Hawaii for the sun, sand and surf. Not me, I went for the locally grown fruits and vegetables…but then again I’m not most people. Hubby and I recently spent 8 days in paradise visiting local farms, meeting chefs and cooking with interesting, ingredients.

The cottage we rented was nestled amidst avocado, lilikoi and peppercorn trees on a small coffee plantation in Maui Upcountry. We woke each morning to sweet fresh fruit, aromatic brew and the most amazing sunrises.

Our afternoons were spent visiting local farms, like O’o Farm, a culinary outpost on 8 acres of fertile ground; and roadside stands like the one that Kula County Farms operates.

We ate delicious street food which included; fresh coconut and homemade banana bread. And had the best Kahula Pork, purchased from Local Food, a walk up window located in a parking lot of a small strip mall.

Daily adventures included a visit to Surfing Goat Dairy where we hand fed and milked some of their 140 goats.

After our “evening chores” were done we sampled several flavors of the goat cheese which is made on premises and sold to local restaurants on the island.

We dined with farmers at O’o Farms and had an amazing 7 course farm to table dinner at Market Fresh Bistro. The rest of our meals came from local ingredients we found at stores like Whole Foods and Mana. It was fun and challenging to come up with meals based on local produce we purchased just that morning, some of which we had never laid eyes on before.

Homemade dinners included, purple sweet potatoes pureed with coconut milk, local opah and various other seafood stewed with corn, and pork steaks smoked over Kiawe wood with a fresh pineapple BBQ sauce.

Though food was a huge part of our trip we did find time to take in some of the island’s beauty. We saw the Twin Falls and the Bamboo Forest on the road to Hana.

We relaxed on some beautiful beaches and even spent time hiking to sacred birthing pools. It was a food trip I will remember for a long time.

In order for me to support my knowledge-sharing/writing/blogging activities, I occasionally may receive monetary compensation and or product in exchange for my recommendation, and/or testimonial. However, I only recommend products or services I have personally used myself and trust.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hearty Orca Bean Soup

By: The Food Hunter

This time of year I often find myself craving the warmth and comfort that comes from a thick, hearty soup; so when Bob’s Red Mill asked me to create a recipe around their Orca beans I knew right away what I was going to make.

The unique black and white hued Orca beans are a small, tasty, heirloom variety bean high in both fiber and iron. These beautiful beans retain their shape & color well when cooked and taste wonderfully in everything from soups, salads and stews.

It's impossible for me to describe just how good these beans are. I added them to a hearty Tuscan style soup with farro, which was flavored with pancetta. The creaminess of the beans and the saltiness of the pancetta blended perfectly. The soup is easy to make and elegant to eat. Serve it as a 1st course, or light lunch.

Now for the fun part Bob's Red Mill is graciously offering one lucky reader a package of these beautiful beans and a $30 gift card to use or their site. Enter below the recipe for a chance to win.

Want more recipes for these beautiful beans and more chances to win? Check out:
Diabetic Foodie
Miss In The Kitchen
Thyme In Our Kitchen
Bite & Booze

Hearty Orca Bean Soup
(printable recipe) 
1 1/4 cup dried orca beans
3/4 cup farro, quick cook
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz pancetta, cut into small dice
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 leaves fresh sage, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the beans in cold water for 8 hours or longer. Drain and discard the soaking water. Rinse under cold water and drain again.

In a 6-quart soup pot, combine the olive oil and pancetta and place over medium low heat. Cook, stirring, about 10 minutes, until the pancetta begins to brown. Stir in the carrot, celery, and garlic and continue cooking, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the beans, farro, 8 cups cold water, and sage and raise the heat to medium high. When the water begins to boil, lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour, until the beans and farro are tender and the soup is thick.

Transfer about 1 cup of the soup to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth and return to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue cooking, about 15 minutes longer.

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In order for me to support my knowledge-sharing/writing/blogging activities, I occasionally may receive monetary compensation and or product in exchange for my recommendation, and/or testimonial. However, I only recommend products or services I have personally used myself and trust.