Cooking 101

Not sure about you, but we don’t remember the food in our college cafeterias being particularly memorable. After a recent episode of Chopped, it’s clear that students at the College of Charleston are much luckier than we were. Just check out their dining services Instagram page. Recently the college’s Executive Chef, Tonya Mitchell, traded in the college dining hall for the Chopped kitchen. Read on to learn about her and her experience on the show.

Executive Chef Tonya Mitchell. Picture courtesy of College of Charleston

Executive Chef Tonya Mitchell. Picture courtesy of College of Charleston.

FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the most difficult part about it?

TM: My experience on Chopped was incredible!! I am truly humbled by the opportunity that I was given to be a part of the show. The most difficult part about the competition was not the cooking. It was difficult because I actually liked all of my competitors. Chef Jason French, Chef Ben Bettinger and Chef Tim Witcher are a trio of talented chefs and regardless of comments that were made or emotions that ran high, I was grateful to have shared this experience with them. I often wished that they were so arrogant that I would dislike them, but that was not the case!

FP: Would you compete on Chopped again?

TM: Although, I made mistakes, I still believe in my talent as a chef and I would do it all over again if given the opportunity.

FP: We hope Food Network calls you back for Chopped Redemption!

How did you get your start as a chef? 

TM: My interest in cooking began with my mother. I have always been interested in how my mother would create meals for her kids out of nothing. We did not always grow up with a lot and so my mother would find items in our refrigerator and create a meal for our family. My mother asked her manager to give me a chance to work with her in the kitchen and she would show me what I needed to know. I hated it!!

However, I began to take an interest in cooking when I saw how much respect the chefs received and how beautiful my mother would make her food and the pride that she took in everything that she did. Once, I saw her work and the respect that the chefs in the kitchen commanded, I knew that I wanted to be one.

FP: If you could cook with any three chefs in the kitchen, who would they be and why?

TM: I would love to cook with Alex Guarnaschelli, Elizabeth Faulkner and Masaharu Morimoto. I simply just want to LEARN from all of them! I believe that each one of them captures all aspects of what I want to be as a chef; passionate, creative and driven.

FP: Great chefs indeed!

When you’re at home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself and your family?

TM: I am a “Southern” girl at heart and I love to cook soul food at home! My girls don’t like “fancy foods” (as they call it). They love simple cooking.

FP: We’re always up for some southern food!

We hear Charleston is a great foodie town; it’s definitely on our list of places to visit. Where are some of your favorite places to eat in the area? 

TM: I am a huge fan of Martha Lou’s Kitchen, Macintosh, Basil and O-Ku. All four of these restaurants are located in Charleston. Martha Lou’s has the best home-made fried chicken. Macintosh has a menu that changes daily and utilizes locally sourced foods not to mention Chef Jeremiah Bacon has the coolest last name! Basil has some of the best Thai food in Charleston and O-Ku has the best ambiance and sushi.

FP: Sounds like a delicious list…we’d eat at all four!

What are some of your non-cooking hobbies or interests?

TM: I am a movie buff! I enjoy science fiction, crime dramas and action movies the most. Not to mention, that under all of the chef’s clothes, I am a “girly-girl” and I love SHOPPING!!!!

FP: Cooking and shopping… what’s better than that combination?

If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?

TM: I would love to visit Thailand. I am “goo-goo ga-ga” over Thai food! I love the elegance, the freshness of the ingredients and the intense flavors that Thai food has to offer.

FP: If you ever go, make sure to invite us!

Thank you again for your time. If we visit Charleston, we’ll make sure to give you a ring. We wish you continued success at the College!

Taste Asia 2015 Recap

Thanks to an invite from Channaly Phillip of Epoch Times, we were excited to attend Taste Asia 2015 last Saturday. It took place in Times Square and the on and off rain certainly didn’t deter the crowd from enjoying the vendors and demonstrations. We were grateful to spend most of the day in the VIP Tent, where we enjoyed conversation with other attendees, watched the Chef Competition on TV (as it was taking place outside) and tried samples from the competition dishes.

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Outside the VIP tent, there were also plenty of vendors to enjoy. From Chicken Banh Mi from Obao to Spicy Cumin Lamb from The Handpulled Noodle and a delicious dosa from Dosa Royale, there was plenty to indulge in throughout the day.

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Did you attend Taste Asia 2015? If so, what did you enjoy most? Let us know in the comments below or reach out to us on Twitter (@foodiepleasure) or email at foodiepleasure@gmail.com. Hope to see you at the event in 2016!

Hot and Cool

Recently, we’ve enjoyed a few meals at Noda in White Plains. Noda is known for both its sushi and hibachi and we’ve given both a try over the last few weeks.

As the weather heats up, sushi is high on our list for summer fare. So, it was off to Noda! We couldn’t start our dinner without green salads with ginger dressing. When it comes to sushi, Kristina is more of a traditionalist and ordered salmon avocado rolls and cucumber avocado rolls. As usual, Allen had a bigger stomach and ordered a bento box that included teriyaki chicken, shrimp rolls and chicken tempura.

We were drawn back to Noda recently for a family dinner at the hibachi table. In addition to entertainment from the chef, we enjoyed filling meals cooked from the grill. While we don’t eat hibachi often, it was a fun change of pace. If you’re ever in White Plains and enjoy sushi, make sure to stop by Noda.

Do you have a favorite local spot for sushi or hibachi? If so, share below in the comments or reach out on Twitter (@foodiepleasure) or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/foodiep.

Noda
200 Hamilton Ave.
White Plains, NY 10601

Dinner on the Hill Family Style

If you’re a fan of shopping and live in Southern Westchester, you’ve likely stopped by Westchester’s Ridge Hill. With popular retail stores such as Apple, Banana Republic and Dick’s Sporting Goods, it’s a great location for some retail therapy.  Besides shopping, there are also great places to eat including Yard House, Lefteris Gyro and Elevation Burger. Of course, don’t forget about popular spots such as Starbucks and Whole Foods! One evening, we decided to check out Angelo’s Family Style Italian for the first time. We were a group of 6 and were seated quickly as we entered. Looking at the menu, there were lots of delicious options to consider. In traditional family style, Angelo’s allows you to order half plates to try different dishes or big plates for favorite meals. Our group decide to try a little of everything and did not hold back. Check out what we ate:

As you can see, we had plenty to eat with lots of leftovers. Nothing better than leftovers for lunch! If you’re looking for family style Italian food after a day of shopping, we suggest stopping by Angelo’s at Westchester’s Ridge Hill.

Angelo’s Family Style Italian
160 Market Street (Ridge Hill Shopping Complex)
Yonkers, NY 10710

Hidden Gem

When we’re not eating or working, we try to stay active whether it’s working out at the gym, enjoying yoga (Kristina), playing basketball (Allen) or riding our bikes. Riding on one of our favorite trails, we discovered La Lanterna, nestled away in a northern Yonkers neighborhood close to the Hastings-on-Hudson border. Interestingly enough, it had been recommended by one of Kristina’s colleagues, but we weren’t quite sure where it was. After seeing it from the trail, we told ourselves that we’d return minus the bike gear and helmets.

Recently, after a long week of work, we decide to visit La Lanterna for Friday night dinner. After a few missed turns and not reading the GPS correctly we arrived ready to eat and drink. From the outside, it looks like a small place. However, we were surprised to learn about all the tables inside and outside the restaurant. To top it off, there is a biergarten located in the back.

We decided to eat outside and ordered fried calamari and chicken wings to start

The calamari was delicious, with a unique spicy olive sauce to top them off. The wings were tasty as well– especially with the addition of the buffalo sauce!

For our entrees, we ordered gnocchi and blackened mahi and shrimp over angel hair pasta.

During our dinner, we were glad to learn that La Lanterna welcomes bikers riding on the trail that want to stop by for a quick bite or drink. We’ll keep that in mind next time we ride the South County Trailway.

Do you have a restaurant that is a hidden gem in your neighborhood? If so, tell us where by commenting below, reaching out over email at foodiepleasure@gmail.com, or via Twitter at @foodiepleasure.

La Lanterna
23 Gray Oaks Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10710

Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Festival 2015 Recap

With Kensico Dam serving as the backdrop and food and drinks from some of the county’s best, it was a great day for the hungrier half of FP (Allen) to be in attendance at Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Festival. Read on to learn more about what he ate throughout the day.

It was a hot day so it was good to start the say and cool off with some watermelon salad from Polpettina’s and strawberry lemonade from Whole Foods (Ridge Hill in Yonkers).

Since I do not drink wine, I was happy to visit the tables serving food as all the wine tables had long lines! It was good to taste food from places I’ve been to such as Cedar Street Grill where Chef Matt Kay prepared delicious brussels sprouts sprinkled with bacon. Navjot Arora of Chutney Masala treated the crowd with mango lassi and mung beans.

What I enjoy most about attending food festivals is sampling food from places I’ve never been. After tasting octopus from both Dolphin and Cooper’s Mill, these establishments are high on the list of places to eat in the near future.

Other plates that caught my attention was rabbit and waffles from Clock Tower Grill, the wonderful veggies and hummus dip display from Cafe of Love and shots of Bhelpuri from Samosa Shack. It’s always great to learn about new places and taste what they have to offer!

In between trips around the different tents, it was great to watch celebrity chef Peter Kelly of X20 put on a cooking demonstration for the audience.

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Of course, I had to save room for dessert so I saved the best for last and enjoyed some ice cream from Penny Lick. It was great to catch up with owner Ellen Sledge and learn more about her upcoming retail space in Hastings on Hudson…stay tuned!

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The food festival was a delicious time and I hope to be there next year also! If you attended Westchester Magazine’s Wine & Food Festival, share your experience by leaving comments or reaching out via Twitter at @foodiepleasure.

The Sweet Stuff

Kristina usually reserves Monday nights for yoga, but last week she gave her sweet tooth a workout instead and attended Dessert Professional magazine’s 2015 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America event at La.venue. As you can see from the pictures below, the event was a treat for the eyes as well as the stomach!

In addition to honoring the top ten pastry chefs, Sebastien Cannone, co-founder of the French Pastry School in Chicago, was honored with entry to the 2015 Hall of Fame. The evening also provided the opportunity to catch up with friends from C-CAP. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!

P.S. If these pictures aren’t tempting enough, check out our shots from last year’s event!