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Will Travel For Food with Jane Ammeson

Will Travel For Food with Jane Ammeson

Food correspondent-at-large Jane Ammeson will travel far and near to write about her latest foodie finds. From tastings to chef profiles, Jane will whet your appetite.

Blog Archives

Jackie Shen—The Queen of Fusion

Jackie Shen—The Queen of Fusion
August 26, 2014 12:00 pm  • 

“The secret is very simple,” Jackie Shen tells me as I bite down on her messy but oh-so-delicious egg foo young sandwich which is a big seller at her newly opened Jackie’s Café in New Buffalo.

Let’s qualify that—simple that is if you’re a graduate of the Houston Hilton School of Management, worked at the Ritz Carlton, Water Tower Hyatt and Hyatt Regency before opening and running your own Asian-French restaurant in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area for 13 years, receiving the accolade along the way of “Queen of Fusion.”

But Shen did make it look easy as I stood next to the large gas stovetop as she sautéed ham and vegetables in a skillet before adding eggs in what looked like the beginning of an omelet but would turn out to be the filling for her egg foo young sandwich. While the mixture was cooking, Shen grabbed a couple of slices of brioche bread, popped them in a toaster and when they shot back up, slathered them with a combination of mayonnaise and sriracha sauce—the Eastern Thailand hot sauce consisting of chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt and named after the city of Si Racha where it was first made.

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The Pickle & Turnip puts a modern spin on mezze

The Pickle & Turnip puts a modern spin on mezze
July 30, 2014 12:00 pm  • 

Even though he learned to cook more classical dishes from his mother as the family moved between West Africa and Lebanon, Moe Mroueh likes to add contemporary touches to the menu at The Pickle & Turnip, his newly opened restaurant and wine bar in a trendy historic district on Franklin Avenue in Michigan City, Indiana.

The menu reflects this modern take on traditional while retaining classic Middle Eastern dishes as well Moe tells me as we sit at table laden with time honored favorites-- bacon wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with feta and goat cheese and drizzled with pomegranate molasses, fried plantains in a spicy red pepper sausage, hummus-- that pureed chickpea delicacy that goes so well with fresh pita made here, lamb chops marinated with sumac, oregano and thyme mixed with the only olive oil Moe will use—the specially imported Kolossos brand (which is available at Al’s Supermarkets which two locations in Michigan City, two in LaPorte, one in in South Haven, Indiana and also available at Barney’s Market in New Buffalo), lamb sausage spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and served with tahini, a paste made from ground, hulled sesame seeds and baba ganouj—toasted eggplant pureed with tahini sauce, garlic and lemon.

And there’s the not-what-your-Lebanese-grandmother-would-make-- watermelon caprese, layers of watermelon and halloumi cheese sprinkled with mint, salt and pepper, sumac seared sea scallops and a variety of dips for including hummus—muhummara which is a blend of roasted red pepper, walnuts and pomegranates, aubergine which Moe describes as a type of baba ganouj only made with avocado, roasted eggplant, tahini and lemon along with my favorite, toum--egg whites mixed with olive oil, lemon, garlic and potato.

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Honoring Maya: Delicious comfort food from the late author, poet

Honoring Maya: Delicious comfort food from the late author, poet
June 02, 2014 12:00 pm  • 

The other day, my daughter Nia told me that Maya Angelou had died. Nia knew about Angelou from an early age as I had returned from a trip to her home near the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. with a copy of her children’s book she had inscribed to my daughter. I had been there to interview her for an airline magazine story and one of the first things that this bestselling author of a series chronicling her life, the first being "I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings" and her poetry book, "Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘For I Diiie", won a Pulitzer Prize nomination, talked about was zucchini.

Angelou had made a decision that late summer morning that she must go to the market to buy a zucchini and not just any old zucchini but a perfect one.

“I want to make a ratatouille,” she explained and then we began talking about food. She was the author of two cookbooks, "Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories With Recipes", and "Great Food, All Day Long: Cook Splendidly, Eat Smart". In the first, she often told stories about the recipes, how she came to cook a white bean and sausage casserole for noted food writer M.F.K. Fisher who called it the “first honest cassoulet I have eaten in years.”

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In the kitchen with Gail Simmons

In the kitchen with Gail Simmons
May 27, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

I got a chance to catch up with friends Deb O’Connor and Beth Robinson right before Gail Simmons, Top Chef Judge, author and Special Projects Director with Food & Wine magazine was demonstrating how to cook Grilled Fish Tacos with Mango-Cucumber Salsa and Panna Cotta with Rhubarb and Ginger at the 75th Senior PGA KitchenAid Fairway Club in Benton Harbor yesterday.

Both Deb and Beth have known Gail for a decade or so back when they worked with her in coordinating culinary events around the country like the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen considered to be one of America’s premier culinary event

Deb is the Director of Global Sponsorship for KitchenAid and Beth is Senior Manager of Brand Experience for KitchenAid and both were onsite at Kitchen Fairway Club where the demonstration kitchen has been set up.

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DiVine Intervention: The perfect Memorial Day event

DiVine Intervention: The perfect Memorial Day event
May 21, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

Saturday, May 24th and Sunday, May 25th, the Round Barn Winery, which makes award-winning wines, hand-crafted micro brews, vodka, rum and walnut crème and is located in Baroda, Michigan, is hosting their 8th Annual DiVine Intervention event featuring DiVine Vodka, Rum and Black Walnut Creme drink specials. There’s live music and food available for purchase from our Round Barn Grille at this family friendly event. Bring lawn chairs and sun umbrellas.

As for the round barn itself, there really is one. More than 25 years ago, when Rick and Sherrie Moersch decided to start their own winery, they bought an old round barn made by the Amish near Rochester, Indiana, an area that bills itself as the round barn capitol of the world. Naming the winery after the barn, the winery quickly became a family business with sons Chris and Matt learning winemaking from their parents and opening their own, Free Run Cellars, just down the road and also working with their parents in running Round Barn and the newly opened Round Barn Brewery and Public House. Free run is the term used for first juice that runs off the vat without any pressing. Round Barn Winery, which also produces DiVine Vodka, made with grapes instead of grain, and award winning brandies made with local fruit, and have added other distilled spirits to their list including bourbon, rum and DiVine Black Walnut Crème. Free Run does small batch, limited release and single vineyard production.

Nicole Birmingham-Moersch, General Manager of Entente Spirits, shared some of Round Barn’s cocktail recipes.

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Recipes from a Southern kitchen

Recipes from a Southern kitchen
May 20, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

With the 75th Senior PGA taking place in Benton Harbor, Michigan in just a week or so, I thought I’d run a couple of recipes from Gina and Pat Neely’s latest cookbook, Back Home with the Neelys: Comfort Food from Our Southern Kitchen to Yours (Knopf 2014) with Ann Volkwein. The Neelys, known for their barbecue places and Food Network show Down Home with the Neelys, demonstrating recipes on Saturday, May 24 at 1:00 p.m. at the KitchenAid Fairway Club. The recipes I included are one for grilled succotash which Gina describes as an old Southern dish that’s been around a long time. According to her, a great succotash must include lima beans, corn, onions, tomatoes, and fresh basil. Grilling the vegetables used in making the succotash adds a smoky, charred flavor. The other, shrimp and grits, was created by Gina after she heard that Pat’s Aunt Leona added “a little pig to her version.” Grits don’t have much flavor on their own, but they absorb the flavor of whatever they’re cooked with continues Gina, adding that with the cream cheese, Parmesan, shrimp, and sausage, there’s plenty of flavor to go around in this dish.

Grilled Succotash

Serves 4 to 6

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Cooking in a different time: 'Downton Abbey' inspires a delicious look at Edwardian recipes

Cooking in a different time: 'Downton Abbey' inspires a delicious look at Edwardian recipes
May 07, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

I was really sick with the flu last week and didn’t have much energy at all. When I finally could make it to the couch, I decided to finally figure out how to download Amazon Prime videos to my Kindle so I would have something to do. It took like two seconds because all you have to do is click on the “watch” button but how was I to know it was that easy? Anyway, I had always wanted to see the PBS series Downton Abbey because I love those Masterpiece Theatre English costume dramas. I’m still on the first season and wondering if Lady Mary is ever going to get around to saying yes to Matthew, the entitled heir to Downtown Abbey but I also love the busy kitchen and elegant dining room scenes—did you know that women were not allowed to serve food to the aristocrats, it was definitely a man’s job but we were allowed to cook it. Now that I’m better, I’m interested in trying some of the recipes from "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals" by Larry Edwards (Arcade Publishing $19.95) with its anecdotes about the foods served at that time and recipes updated for our modern kitchens.

Those Edwardians knew how to eat and the book contains recipes for Edwardian Leg of Lamb, Lobster Pudding, Oyster Roll, Leek Pie, Downton Pheasant Casserole, Lemon Creme Soufflé, Raspberries in Sherry Sabayon Sauce, Stilton Chowder, Queen Victoria Rice Pudding and Downton Abbey Honey Cake. There was one for asparagus in a cider sauce that sounded very Southwest Michigan to me so I thought I would include it as well as another that seems so very British and of that time.

Asparagus in Cider Sauce

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'Ramp'-ing up Demand: Top chefs look to Medora for this spring ingredient

'Ramp'-ing up Demand: Top chefs look to Medora for this spring ingredient
May 06, 2014 3:30 pm  • 

There is local when it comes to food and then there is the in-your-backyard or at least in the woods nearby local. And that’s what Tim Burton of Medora, Ind. wild harvests each spring often with the help of well known chefs like Chicagoans Paul Kahan, named,Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation in 2013, and Bruce Sherman, 2012 James Beard Award Winner Best Chef: Great Lakes, as well as Ivy Denman, executive chef at Petite Chou in Broad Ripple just north of Indianapolis.

Burton, who is much better known as the owner of Maplewood Farms and organizer of the National Maple Syrup Festival, sells his syrup at Chicago’s Green City Market and to many restaurants including Black Market and Petite Chou. Several springs ago, he was asked by several of his Chicago chef friends if he had access to ramps. The short answer was yes and so he found himself on the road again, not only with bottles of his organic maple syrup but with a load of what he termed "Indiana Deep Holler Wild Ramps" to deliver to Rick Bayless at Frontera Grill. And from there the demand for ramps, one of the first spring vegetables, grew, enticing big city chefs to come on down to Southern Indiana to forage the woods for these abundant greens with a unique flavor—somewhat a cross of onions and garlic.

How to Cook and Eat Ramps

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Senior PGA: Chefs giving food and cooking demonstrations are on par with healthy and tasty foods

Senior PGA: Chefs giving food and cooking demonstrations are on par with healthy and tasty foods
April 23, 2014 3:30 pm  • 

I was very excited to see the line-up of celebrity chefs that KitchenAid is bringing to Southwest Michigan for this year’s 75th Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores. The chefs are quite impressive and include Gail Simmons of Bravo’s "Top Chef", Cat Cora of "Iron Chef" on the Food Network, Kelly Senyei whose blog "Just a Taste" is described as bringing you the flavors of life in small bites and Gina Neely of the cooking couple team Gina and Pat Neely who have several cookbooks and the Food Network show "Down Home with the Neelys".

Locally, area star chefs this tournament will be Tim Foley, who co-owns Bit of Swiss Bakery in Stevensville and the Bread+Bar in Benton Harbor with his wife Pat, Matt Pietsch, executive chef at Salt of the Earth in Fennville and Robb Hammond of Food Dance in Kalamazoo.

Last time around I saw Matt do a mini-dissection of a pig and it was so fascinating that he invited me up to Salt’s kitchen to watch as he and several others butchered a 200 plus pound Berkshire. The cooking demonstrations, like the one Matt did last time around (as did Tim Foley) are always informative and fun. At the 2012 Senior PGA I also had the chance to interview Patrick Neely—a very sweet guy who got his start working in a family owned barbecue joint when he was just a kid. I also watched—and talked to afterwards—my daughter’s favorite, Buddy Valastro aka the Cake Boss and Ming Tsai owner/chef of the Blue Ginger Restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., star of the Emmy nominated public television series Simply Ming and cookbook author. Tsai not only is an avid golfer who spent the time he was here golfing as much as possible but also was crazy about the burgers at the North Shore Inn across the street from the golf course in Benton Harbor. I can’t remember the final count of how many of those burgers he woofed down in a 36 hour period, but it was a lot.

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Modjeskas aren't the only thing sweet about revived, downtown Louisville

April 08, 2014 1:00 pm  • 

The 4-foot penguin first appeared at the end of my hall, but 30 minutes later when I opened my door, the rotund red bird was there in front of me. “Don’t worry,” said a man walking by. “They’re always on the move.”

The migratory birds, sculptures first exhibited at the 2005 Venice Biennale and now part of the collection of 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Ky., add a touch of whimsy. But with 9,000 square feet of gallery space and art in all corridors and rooms, three-fourths coming from the owners’ private collection valued at $10 million, 21c is a serious museum.

Carved out of five former 19th-century bourbon and tobacco warehouses, 21c is both part of the revitalization of Louisville’s delightful downtown and a transformation of art from backdrop into upfront and thought-provoking.

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