Friday, May 29, 2009

white house sub shop

For three years I'd heard about the White House Sub Shop in Atlantic City. My fiance grew up in South Jersey and used to go there as a kid. He's told again and again about Sinatra having subs flown into Vegas. And I'm thinking... Did they have FedEx then? After the Beard Awards, we made a field trip so I could see what all the hoopla was about. The menu boasts "60 year tradition of excellence!" "25 million sold!" "If it doesn't taste like a White House Sub - it's not!"

Honestly Joe had a smile from ear to ear as soon as he saw the sign... Even more so as he hunkered into a booth. That smile never went away as he ordered "halfa regular" and a "halfa cheese steak," adamant that this was no Philly cheese steak! And honestly "halfa" sub is about a foot long!

The White House opened in 1946 by Anthony Basile and his Aunt Basilia and Uncle Fritz. Today their kids carry on the tradition.

Maybe the kids have been serving subs a little too long... There ain't no service with a smile. Half a sub will set you back about 6 bucks but it's about enough to feed a family of 6! The "regular" is jam-packed (and I mean it) with salami, provolone, ham, coppacolla, tomatoes, lettuce and onions plus this spicy hot pepper relish that I couldn't get enough of! And the soft bread is what makes it!

I'd just been at the James Beard Awards where they give five restaurants in the US an American Classic Award. It's always the best part of the Awards. Just that slice of Americana is worth a trip to NY to see the people who receive them! As I tried to wrap my mouth around the sub I thought, this place should get an American Classics Beard Award. As we walked out the door, I noticed the Award hanging behind the cash register right next to the toothpicks!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

tyler florence, chuck williams, whose next?

Everyone loves tequila including Tyler Florence! I did a talk with him last week at his "newish" store in Mill Valley. Huge turnout of tequila fans which resulted in a very spirited evening! We started with my recipe for margaritas made with Siete Leguas blanco and Tyler's first question, "Why did I write a book about tequila?" I explained Agave Girls, the group I founded a few years ago for tequila-loving women and how Ten Speed Press came to me and asked me if I wanted to write a book about the spirit I loved so much. I talked about my trip to the highland and lowlands of Jalisco where tequila is produced and the process of making tequila.

I dispelled a lot of misconceptions about tequila and agave... Why you get a headache from mixto tequila, that the blue agave plant is closely related to the lily family, that it takes 8 to 12 years for an agave plant to mature. Fernando Gonzalez de Anda, the owner of Siete Leguas and one of the most generous men in the business, couldn't be with us but donated his fabulous tequila. Where does the name Siete Leguas come from? It was inspired by none other than the revolutionary hero General Francisco Villa (Pancho Villa) himself, who named his horse Siete Leguas (Seven Leagues). David Grapshi, who reps Siete and is a true tequila aficionado, kept everyone's glass full of blanco, reposado and anejo.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

chuck williams

Chuck Williams has been an incredible supporter and friend of mine over the years. After writing 13 cookbooks together for Williams-Sonoma, I have gotten to know him pretty well. We did a variety of cookbooks together and just to give you an idea of how versatile we were in those days, we wrote "Pork and Lamb" and our very next book was "Vegetarian!" I think "Complete Seasons," is still my personal favorite though.
In 1994, I got my first contract for a cookbook to do on my own. At that point, I got really busy and didn't have time to do cookbooks for Williams-Sonoma anymore. I remember when my first cookbook came out, "From Tapas to Meze" who came to my book launch at the Ritz Carlton? Chuck Williams!!
My most recent book "Tequila" was just launched and Williams-Sonoma bought the whole first print run. This doesn't happen often with a cookbook but it's an author's dream! They asked me to do a big event at the flagship store on Union Square in San Francisco to celebrate the book. Who do you think came and sat front row, center? YUP! CHUCK WILLIAMS! In his nineties now, , ninety-three to be exact, he's a legend in our time. He sat with his little pot of tea as I talked reposado tequila, Coco Loco Tequila Cupcakes and made Chorizo Hand Pies. He smiled the whole time.
At the end he pulled me aside before he drove himself home(!!!!) and said in his quiet, gentle and self-effacing voice, "You've got a great idea here, Joanne. I love your book!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

texas hold 'em

I'm putting my blog on vacation hold this week as I travel from one corner of Texas to the other. Yeee-haaaa! Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston and Austin. Every day another flight, another city, and another tequila! Classes at Central Market have been a lot of fun - Texans are serious about their food and wine and everything really is bigger here! Ride 'em cowboy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

sweet pea gazpacho

I had dinner party on Sunday night for a friend's birthday and I made the best gazpacho! I was dying for a chilled gazpacho but of course, tomatoes aren't in season. I thought what about a sweet pea gazpacho! Inspired by my chef friend, Bruce Hill, I wrote this recipe. And let me tell you.... I have guts. One of my guests was a Spanish friend, Emmanuel Kemiji, also a great winemaker, and he LOVED it!


1 pound shelled sweet English peas, blanched 10 seconds
3 small slices stale bread, soaked in 1 cup cold water
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound sugar snap peas, blanched 1 minute
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Reserve 1/4 cup of the peas as a garnish
Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss together. Place in the blender and process until smooth as silk, 2 to 3 minutes per batch. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with a few peas and a drizzle of olive oil

Serves 6

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought I would give you one heck of a present! A recipes for the best-ever moist, yummy, over-the-top coconut, ginger and tequila cupcakes! You just have to make them!

And what's the significance of Cinco de Mayo? It's a common misconception in the United States that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico's Independence day. NOPE! The holiday commemorates the Mexican army's unlikely defeat over the French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Unlikely because the Mexican army was outnumbered almost two-to-one. The Mexicans of Puebla have reason to celebrate, they defeated a much better-equipped French army that had not been defeated for almost 50 years.

In the US, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo like we celebrate Chinese New Year, St. Patrick's Day and Oktoberfest. So make a batch of tequila cupcakes, pour a glass of anejo tequila and toast to our neighbors to the South!

Friday, May 1, 2009

my new favorite tequila cocktail, the prado

I'm talking about one of the absolute best tequila cocktails, the Prado. I'm not talking Prada, the designer, or the art museum in Madrid. No, no, no! Tequila is playing a big, big, big role in my house these days with the launch of my new TEQUILA book and for the last 3 Saturdays I've shaken up this tequila cocktail. Inspired by Kacy Fitch of ZigZag Cafe in Seattle, this is what I call sophistication in a glass. Throw a couple ounces of blanco tequila into a shaker with lime juice, Maraschino liqueur and egg white. Maraschino liqueur is made from crushing Marasca cherries pits which give the liqueur a mellow almond-flavor. Kacy doesn't do it, but I like to add a teaspoon of agave nectar. Next, shake it up so vigorously that you're winded and don't need to work out! Open the shaker and the trick is with a small whisk, I go like crazy to add some additional foam! Strain it into chilled martini glasses. It's sexy, it's frothy, its luscious. Check out the recipe.