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In 2008 Chef E began a journey in chronicaling her food enthusiast experiences. She shares her passion of cooking new and inovative flavors, amatuer food photography, restaurant reviews, and food writing/poetry, as well as investigating food history.

BYOB DINING: Sushi in Uruguay?

They always say Wednesday is the hump, but Thursday is the bump for me in the kitchen. I have worked hard all weekend, because that is what chef's do, shop on Monday for my own home meals, cook, cook, cook, and then I see the busy weekend starting all over again for me on Friday. I usually feel like going out for a light bite, or threaten hubby with a boring salad again; then he agrees to pick a bottle from the cellar and then we find a nice quiet BYOB meal.

This week it will still be light, soup and salad with maybe an appetizer thrown in to start, or finish in the case. I confess like always that hubby is a food snob and getting him to go to the same places more than once, or twice can be difficult. He feels that there are too many places in this world to try, and Jersey is dotted with BYOB eateries all over, and his wine cellar can only hold so much. We do like to pair a variety of wines with food and just see what happens, and so we are off.

We have errands to run, and Fiji is on our route. This will be our second visit, and the first experience was good, so he agrees and brings a white and red that will depend on our menu choices.

Tonight a light nosh of choices for the two of us. I realize not everyone likes Sushi or even Japanese food, but most have other choices different taste. We decide on soup, salad, vegetarian dumplings, two kinds of Maki rolls, and he orders BBQ Calamari. Out comes the white wine for this dinner.

The waitress pops out the cork and pours into our glasses a deep golden liquid that seem to fizz around the top edges, and in the bottom of the glass there appear to be tiny bubbles. I smell- floral and light; I taste- light, citrus, dry with hints of sweet; I think it must be a Muscato, so I ask hubby what kind of wine we are having tonight, and he replays, Argentina. He picks up the bottle and reads that it is from Uruguay. Huh?

I confess I am not up on all the wines from south America, and usually we hear about Chilean wines. This label has a map and reads like a short story. How many people can point to where the country is on the map? I am curious what made me think this was something familiar and I look at the description- 60% Gewurztraminer, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Muscato Bianco; well my taste buds are not to far off- It continues to read...Obscure uruguayan blend with an added Alsacian flair denotes Uruguay's traditional wine making style...silky white tones are exsentuated by tart passion fruit wrapped in pineapple skins...someone drank more than one bottle of this to write this description (me)...zucchini flowers...sauted...citrus oils...almond cream...but does it go with the meal? (me)

Yes, it does! With each bite of the tart ginger dressing on the salad, the nori in the miso soup picks up interesting flavors, a tangy bite of BBQ Calamari, and the spicy tuna in our Maki rolls. OK, so we ate a little off the chart tonight. I even feel that if they had a fruit dessert like a Mango sticky rice; it would have been a good finsih, but we were done, and I had to go home and research this wine region and share.

Uruguay is a small country situated below Brazil and just northeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Unlike neighboring Argentina, which boasts vineyards at the highest altitude in the world, Uruguay is relatively flat. Though a range of rolling hills sits on its Brazilian border, the inland of Uruguay consists mainly of wild grasslands. I thought that was one of the things I could not describe as well, grassy tones. This is one of those things that make some people not dabble in wine education is the use of descriptions, but it does make sense when you take time to learn about what you are putting into your mouth. Most of the information I found was about how south America is a big producer of red wines because they raise and eat a large amount of beef.

Wines coming in from this region is rare but they are out there, so if you find some buy it. Especially a white wine like this one, and only around $13 a bottle. Nice for serving with guests, and just sipping it chilled with some fruit and cheese.

The Wine- 2007, Estival, Produced and Estate bottled by
Vinedo De Lost Vientos

The Restaurant- Fuji Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi Bar
485 Georges Rd, #114, Dayton, 08810 (Route 522/South Brunswick

Pucker Up Baby!

Thursday, October 10th, 2008

I recently visited an older gentleman friend of mine, who also just happens to be a fellow poet and spoken word artist from PA, a neighboring state to my NJ. He was in the hospital, so I made a trip over to hang out with him, and we always have a great time laughing, telling jokes, reading each others work, and talking about how much we like to eat. This time he added politics to the menu of our growing friendship. That is like me sucking on a sour lemon sometimes. I have and always vote, and am trying to understand what is going on out there in the land of donkey's and elephant's, but it can be confusing, oh, back to the purpose...

Well some how the conversation switched back to food, and he put a whole new twist on one of my favorite condiments by telling me that he refuses lemons with any meals when he is eating out at any restaurant. Why? Like many others I hear stories about, getting ill from germs. Either by someone not washing their hands, or fields flooding with waste filled water, or bacteria contamination. Yes, contamination of all kinds, but the worst, hands that have handled money, touched the hair, face, mouth, others, menus, and who knows what during the course of their shifts.

Okay, I thought as he continued to condemn one of my favorite flavor punchers for tea, broccoli, chicken, salad, or any other bland food that is set down in front of me while I am out for a casual meal in town, or on the road. As soon as this conversation had simmered in my head for a day I decided to google uses for lemons and see if I was right about using it to sanitize my own hands in some cases along the foodie avenue. They have many useful purposes and should not be so discarded by the public, and I have even read that a fellow discovered by adding a touch of lemon to something you’re eating; it will help pair fruity or citrus under-toned wines, possibly whites with your meal.

Hello my friend, they are lemons! Beautiful mellow yellow and are used in cleaning products for sanitizing. You can squeeze one on your hands if you cannot get to a sink with soap and water if you feel you might starve or the meal will get cold before you can enjoy it right away. They are green and clean!

Face it, Anthony Bourdain already confessed to and about how wait staff and kitchen workers touch everything, like your glass edges, straws, the plate your food is on, not to mention any other things that should keep you out of fast food chain places. You might be lucky one of them washes their hands as often as we are taught in those safety and sanitation classes we attend. So, I said to my friend, get over it! Just pucker up in another of my favorite ways, and throw it out to your loving chef and friend.






September, 2008


The 'Behind the Wheel Kitchen' chef and traveler is ready to serve you up a large portion of the PNW on this month’s menu. Are you hungry enough for this three week course meal of scenic landscape, snobbery and shabby eateries, hotel ghost stories, wine till you drop, cougars, eagles and bears, oh my? Most of it did end up on my plate, in a glass, or on me any way you look at it.

Some have asked me what is 'PNW', and I reply the Pacific North West like I know it all (well I had not heard that either until we arrived). Each year for the past eleven years my sweetie and I go on a trip across the country(s), and he adds a day or two along the way. I have the luxury of going and coming when I feel like it owning my own company, and he gets three weeks a year. I know, I know, I realize most of you only get a week or two, but I did not say I liked being away that long. Three weeks in a car, hotel, and 24/7 with someone you live with? I might make the poor guy walk the plank, and in this case they would have been pretty cold waters...shiver me timbers!

The last three or four years the trips have gotten longer, yes, but this time I must say...I did not want to come home! I wanted to hibernate with the bears, pick blackberries, and eat salmon all year long. He had to drag me on the plane kicking and screaming, but I calmed down in the airport lounge. Sorry for sharing. I will get to the meat of the subject now, and end with a list of places to eat, sleep, drink, and play.

We started off in Portland for three days staying in the Avalon Hotel. I love boutique hotels and they usually love me back! Plenty of sight seeing if you rent a car (did that) or take those cute hop on, hop off tour buses. There were so many parts of the city to see I am not sure where to begin. I recommend starting off in the Pearl district where you can shop till you drop, and ate at a South American/Tex-Mex fusion place called Andina. What a very colorful atmosphere and great food this place offers. Many of the shops are one of a kind, and very artsy cool stuff you can ship home. There is an old school house in Portland that has been converted to a hotel, McMenniman's Kennedy School. They have three restaurants with a full bar and serve McMenniman's own micro brew. This was worth the extra calories from the beer but you can walk it off looking around the town. They were our first choice in hotel, but no vacancies, so we asked to see a few rooms, and they were very nice about my southern intrusion.

Where did we find the room for dinner next? I am not sure, but we had reservations at a place called Beast. The chef has been written up many times, and it was worth the money. She chooses a six course meal for you (the menu changes according to fresh ingredients), you sit at communal tables and enjoy the weirdness. They offer a wine pairing, or you are welcome to bring your own. Most of the PNW is about local, fresh, and organic ingredients, and we (NJ) are trying to catch up.

The next few days are a blur because we just drove, walked, drove, walked and slept. McMinnville was our next destination and we stayed at the Hotel Oregon. Some of the rooms come with a shared bath area. OK, this can get weird, but I swear no one was on the floor with us except an old prospector ghost (another story) who tried to get in bed with us the two nights we stayed, but I had the whole bathroom/showers all to myself otherwise; it’s a much cheaper deal. This area is where all the good vino is, like the one we all hear about, Pinot Noir of Oregon. Well it’s pretty true in my eyes, and the scenery is like being in Italy. All along the way places have ‘tasting’ rooms, so we tasted, drove, tasted, drove, he tasted, I drove, and we had our threesome (Ed the prospector). Beware most vineyards and tasting rooms do charge, but they add the cost to a bottle if you buy a few.

By now the road is leading us up the pacific coast by way of Washington for a scenic drive We see more beautiful landscape, vineyards, sea otters, a large variety of birds, and then we roll into Astoria. There is plenty of wine tasting, and amateur photography along the way. I will only mention one eatery, a Tex-Mex place that rocked my lunch palate. Since I forgot to write the name down, just try most any in the area, I am sure now that the PNW rocks in that cuisine department since I had two good hits on my trip so far. The maritime museum in the town is a good choice to visit and very entertaining, as well as sea lion watching off the main pier to the right of the museum. The Columbia River is wondrous and worth exploring in this area.

Our next town was Port Angeles, where you catch the ferry across to Vancouver Island. We stayed in a reasonable B & B, Seven Sea Sons that is just up the street from downtown and the ferry. We meet two couple staying there with us, because one of the women tried to break into our room after a night of wining and dining she could swear my door looked like hers (and they did). The couples were very nice and they were heading in our direction, so we all hung out. I have completely forgotten to mention that along the way you will find great road side markets, as well as the Portland Market on the edge of the university. The produce, flowers, and food to eat are great to fill in when you do not want a whole breakfast or lunch. Beware: one of the couples bought too much and if you are going into Canada they will not let you bring produce in. We helped eat apples along with a bottle of wine on the ferry, so they would not go to waste. They will not let you carry over two bottles each of wine either!

As we staggered into our car, off the ferry we drove, and into beautiful Vancouver Island. Victoria, BC is a great place just for the locals in Oregon and Washington to visit for long weekends. We stayed in my 'dream' boutique hotel, Oswego. I was in a one bedroom, fully stocked kitchen, huge bath perfect dream. We went to a local market off Moss Street and bought the fixin's for a Salmon feast. I pan roasted Chinook salmon and shrimp in a Cilantro Lime Cream sauce (recipe in another blog) with a side salad. We had it with yet another bottle of Pinot Noir!

We took the hop on, hop off bus and toured most of the city the first day. You decide what you really want to see and get off and walk around. We did go visit a new eatery and hip space, Stage Wine Bar. I love to sit at the bar when possible, the bartenders are friendly and very helpful (ours had an Irish accent). They have tapas style eating, with wines by the glass and full bar. The next day I had a mission, going on a bear hunt in the Sooke Mountains and lake area. Next time we will not go when it is getting dark and try driving down those rocky roads in a rented Kia Rhondo to find wild life that might or might not eat us. Scary! …no bears, but we did not really walk to far into the woods; it was too dark, so we hopped back into the car and drove fast back up the winding roads to our hotel.

More beautiful scenic ferry rides came as we traveled over to the Islands of Washington, San Juan and Orcas. The rest of the hotels I will not mention because I realize it really is a personal preference, and none really after Victoria will ever compare anyway. Food as well became a necessity after a week and half of eating so many rich meals, so we ate at local places that offered soup and salad. I always travel with my own bottle of scotch for a night cap, as well as buy snacks along the way in case we do not run across eateries we like. There are plenty of local organic markets like in Orcas that you can grab a cup of hot chocolate and piece of bread for breakfast. I believe in supporting these mom and pop places as often as I can even out of town. We visited the one and only vineyard on San Juan, and it is a lovely place. This was the site of an old school house and church, so very charming. We bought a bottle and gawked at the local pet camel across the street. Plenty of charm these places, oh, and I forgot the small deer that are not afraid to come next to your car as you are fumbling for the camera, they wait, and even smile as they nibble on grass. I found out that there was a local place, Doe Bay Cafe, that hosted an open mic with wine and gourmet pizza for me to share my poetry with other creative artists. The next day we just drove around the island and stumbled upon an oyster and clam farm. I had always wanted to visit one, and it was along the path to Doe Bay off to the right off an inlet. The owners had just gotten home and opened up shop just for us. I got to see the whole process, and we sat down outside and ate a few dozen with what? More wine, yes, we bought plenty along the Oregon Trail, and just happened to have our own corkscrew too.

Well, its time to leave and head over to the mainland via Anacortes and again, another ferry ride. We drove to Seattle and stayed put in the same hotel for a few more days. Once again we toured the city from one end to the other, and I saw a troll under a bridge, stopped at a garage sale and I bought a lovely new scarf, went dancing at a local 'fun' bar, Neighbors, drank more local brew, ate good food, visited Pikes Market, and had the best hot chocolate ever! Seattle’s Best Coffee, a triple trio (chocolate overload) all while people watching. This trip has inspired me to try and get back on my bike and loose some weight! I have to mention that my sweetie is a software engineer and what would the trip to Seattle be if we did not look for Bill Gates house? Well we gawked at his...gate (and he was not walking the dog either).

We topped off our trip at Purple Wine Bar down the steep hill from our hotel on our last night, just more good food and wine once again! After all I am the chef and my sweetie the wine guide on our many travels. Thanks for letting me share what I thought would be a long and over indulgent experience to a place that was absolutely wonderful, and we will be back, PNW.  -Chef E

Pan Roasted Salmon & Shrimp with Cilantro Lime Cream Sauce

Well, get ready, when I my pics posted there will be a blow by blow pictorial of my 'Pan roasted Salmon with cilantro lime Shrimp' recipe. Made here in the wilds of the PNW. I was suppose to cook this meal in the fabulous f'ing room in Victoria, but because I went off bear hunting in Sooke, supper in the room was delayed and we ate in China town; which was good provided I stayed away from Robert's jellyfish appetizer, and I did...ewwwwww. I like to try new things often enough, but I feel into a rather large one once in the gulf, and feel that I cannot allow myself to take that kind of revenge.

Here is the recipe if anyone wants to try it, and it even works in a limited kitchen with no:

cutting board, only small plate to cut on
only a steak knife for slicing and dicing
little coffee creamers
salt & pepper packets from restaurant
no baking sheet only foil for roasting tomatillas
small arse shrimp that are f'ing hard to peel, and even smaller once cooked
two small pans for actually cooking on stove top
assistant to help you, but make sure you have whiskey to ease the pain

Mis en place (to get ready):

Salad fixings of your choice; make and toss; place in bowls; keep cool for now
Bunch of green onions; cleaned and chopped half way up to green stems
2 medium Heirloom tomatoes (red or yellow); small dice
Olive Oil
salt & pepper
heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup cilantro; small chop
1 to 2 limes; juice
1 lb shrimp; medium to large
2 Salmon pieces; wild caught are the best

1 lb shrimp; peeled and cleaned
1 lime; juice over shrimp
handful of diced cilantro
salt and pepper; set aside in fridge

8 small tomatillas; clean and slice in half
olive oil; place on sheet pan and drizzle over; bake 400 for 10 minutes

Once done, in pan saute handful of green onions in olive oil and pat of butter for about five minutes on med-high heat; add tomatillas and saute about another few minutes and start mashing them down with a potato masher (in my case I used a spatula and gained a few more musles); strain the mixture to remove skins and do not waste sauce; add the shrimp mixture, 1/2 cup cream and cook for about five more minutes.

2 Salmon pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pat of butter; add both to pan; heat to med high; add salmon top side first and brown; carmilizing, and then flip over; adding shrimp mixture on top and simmer for about 7 minutes and if still to much liquid, pour sauce, removing fish and shrimp into another pan and reduce; serve!

I made a salad out of purple leafy lettuce and these lemon cucumbers I found at the market, along with some of the green onions and we had bought some raspberry basil vinegar at the Portland market with olive oil drizzle for dressing.

Oh, and a good bottle of Pinot Noir and dinner partner; the wine we chose one we bought from Vista Hills, 2006 Oregon, Estate Rollins; the partner I picked up in Texas eleven years ago and he ages well- Perfect match!

Bon Appetit!

The Shared Table - E Stelling

I believe that life is something we should share and experience with each other. I believe in educating myself on what life has to offer, in the form of food and drink, a part of my daily living. Doing so brings me joy, especially when I can share this joy with others. I see so many people going through life at such a fast pace that they cannot even remember what they had to eat or drink the night before!

We get up each morning, go to work, come home at night, and spend our evenings alone or with family and friends. We sometimes share foods we have produced or prepared at home, or have purchased from a market, with others. But when was the last time you discussed the foods’ or recipe’s origination or why you selected them?

Naturally, we are designed to be social beings. At least once a week or month, why not get together with others and share the good things that happened—or even the bad—during the week? Whether something was a good experience or bad, we need to tell others and share with them. The same should be true with foods and wines. How do we know that a Viognier wine is the right choice for tonight’s meal? Is it just because the label says so? What is a Viognier, anyway?

So many of us only buy wines under $10 because we do not want to potentially waste our money on something we have never tried—and may despise. After 10 years of ever-increasing wine consumption by Americans, why do you think that Chardonnay and Merlot remain the two most sold wines today? We still stick with what we know.

We are such blended and diverse generations of eaters and drinkers. “Fusion” seems to be one of the newest and hottest (and most over-used) words today. Hey, the word fusion has been around for generations! Looooooooong ago, spices came from India to the Americas, down far south, and across again to Asia, in different blends and forms and blended with many varieties of food ingredients! 

Take a chance and try something new! Here are some ways to expand your horizons:

  • Share some knowledge. Try a different type of wine with some newfound friends.
  • Taste something that as a child, you could not stand. You might be pleasantly surprised!
    Our taste buds change about every 10 years or so.
  • Maintain traditions by passing family-favorite recipes on from one generation to another. If you alter something, list your new ingredient out to the side of the recipe.

Generations alter traditional foods according to their own taste and the availability of ingredients. Let’s revisit the old. You never know—you might like it, plus, you’ll be keeping your heritage alive.

Join in and appreciate what others have experienced lately. Rediscover what your family has done in the past, and keep those memories alive. Many of our female ancestors did not work. They kept house and ensured that home-cooked meals were always on the table for family members and anyone else who happened to stop by. The great cooks in our families didn’t receive any true glory or honor for what they did—except from those us who enjoyed their delicious meals.

Some of us who stood on our tippy toes by the stove, observing a loved on in action—concentrating on the right consistency for a sauce or ensuring something didn’t boil over or burn—made our career choices right then and there. What a great feeling it is to watch each fork be lifted to each mouth and then see a smile of satisfaction slowly spread on each face as the food prepared delights the taste buds and settles the hunger. 

Make someone happy with your favorite food creation. Take a chance on a wine you cannot pronounce, or one that is more than just a pretty label or bottle. Add some books on “gastronomy” and ingredients to your home library. Elevate the quality of your food and drink.

Take time to enjoy what’s available to consume, educate yourself on each item and share the information with others!     


September 23, 2007

A New Approach: Fall Food & Wine

The first cool nights of Fall have rolled over into the morning recently—even though we have enjoyed the most wonderful 80-degree weekend weather here in Princeton over the past few weeks! 

Believe it or not, it will soon be time to drag out the holiday decoration, and get ready to turn up the heat in your kitchen. Foods like hearty stews, turkey and stuffing, pumpkin pie and cranberries are what will soon start appearing on magazine covers and tables, reminding us that we must either repeat those heirloom recipes, or recreate these comfort foods of past.
Most foods you see in cookbooks, magazines, or on restaurant menus can be turned into smaller and wildly inventive versions of what we are accustomed to being served. Root vegetables (like potatoes or parsnips); bold spices; thick, heavy thick cut meats; and featherless fowl await us. A simplistic approach to what we have made in the past can make holiday meals less boring unless you prefer bland. Just to name a few try Risotto infused with winter squash, and roasted turkey with five types of mushrooms. You don’t have to have meat to make a rich, thick stew—make just a vegetable stew, with a mixture of Indian Dal (lentils), Chinese eggplant, and a variety of other vegetables. Apple cider or orange juices blended with herbs are yummy when poaching fish. Make au gratin potatoes with blue cheese, instead of traditional cheddar for a delicious, new flavor. Try drizzling honey infused with cardamom around your plate of pecan pie. These are just some examples of the bold flavors that have emerged from commercial kitchens in the past few years. Subtle accents can revive old recipes, and aren’t too time consuming for the novice chef.

Dare to pair a bold, hearty wine that you have never tried with a good dish you love. Step over old boundaries and surprise your loved ones with new flavors and ingredients!

Eat, drink, and live hearty as you search bountiful food aisles this season!

                      ~ Elizabeth Stelling



I will be the first to admit that I am not as into politics outside of the kitchen as I should be. My catering clients will be glad to know that I search for new ideas and the latest trends in food to bring to their table on a regular basis. The web can provide an endless supply of ideas for the novice chef out there, but somehow, it just does not feel as “educational” as the classroom environment. The student/teacher relationship makes it much more educational.

So let me explain what a Chef’s Congress is.
What feels like about a hundred years ago now, an idea came to me about why there weren’t any culinary emporiums that offered continuing education for an experienced chef like me.  I was a hairdresser prior to my catering career, and there were an abundance of classes sponsored by hair care product suppliers, and conventions around the nation and world, that I attended on a regular basis. But honestly, I never felt that hairdressers could command the respect that we deserved. I felt that way even more when I got my big break as a chef about seven years ago. 

Sure food suppliers hold shows for the food industry, but walking around tasting different foods and drink samples is not the type of education most of my fellow culinary artists nor I want., a company offering online education, job placement and is a magazine for the food industry, introduced a “Chef’s Congress” learning forum a year ago that doubled in attendance this year. I attended this year’s congress, which had a “Kitchen Without Boundaries” theme. Three intense packed days this September from a food-artist perspective, it was a glorious experience.

The organizers brought in top, name-brand celebrity chefs from all over the country to teach some of their secrets for presentation, like gadgets for making large bubble foam soups and turning solid forms of food into space food, using liquid nitrogen. They all let us chefs pick their brains. I took classes and watched forums that involved cooking with chilies from Stephen Pyles, Chef/Owner/Author from Dallas, Will Goldfarb a New York Pastry Chef build a beautiful tower of natural ingredient dessert that was topped with edible flowers, and was marveled by chef’s who traveled from Errenteria, Spain, France, and the rainforests of South America. I participated in using new cooking techniques, to unusual wine and food pairing; and I saw the latest in dinnerware and was able to fine-tune my presentation demonstration skills.

From my past experience as a foodie and after dropping hundreds of dollars on tasting menus—or even just eating a cheap breakfast in a small corner bistro —I have found that many chefs are so very protective of their recipes. One time, at a restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine, I asked the waitress if the cook would tell me what the wonderful flavor in the corned beef hash was. The cook had the waitress tell me that the secret ingredient was ‘”love.” Later that afternoon my sensitive taste buds and experience told me it was maple syrup. I was not feeling the “love” when I left their restaurant that morning.

I share my recipes when someone asks me. At the time, I was living in Dallas, Texas, so would I have destroyed their Bar Harbor business if I brought their maple syrup idea all the way down south? Art inspires other art, as they say, and someone will figure that out soon enough.

This “Kitchen Without Boundaries”-themed congress was so inspirational for me, and I’d like to thank all my fellow culinary artist presenters for sharing their secrets.

I also got to meet one of my favorite authors, David Kamp. He wrote United States of Arugula: How we Became a Gourmet Nation and other food/culture books. His book is a good read and I highly recommend it. I can only hope that if he reads this blog, he finds my writings as interesting as I find his!

~ Elizabeth Stelling