Trick or Treat

If you’re fans of of Chopped like we are, you know there are some interesting items in the mystery basket. A recent Halloween-themed episode featured ingredients such as gummy rats, mummy dogs, witch’s brew and pretzel spider webs. Along with the basket items, we were treated to not one BUT two contestants we’ll remember for both their culinary talent and entertaining banter. One of these contestants was Rian Morales, aka RoRo. We recently caught up with him to learn more about his experience on the show and what he does with his occasional free time.

Rian Morales aka RoRo

Rian Morales aka RoRo

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

RM: I essentially started cooking as a fluke. My first career was in fashion in NYC. I finished high school a year early and started attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was swept up in the glamor and the drugs. Mostly the drugs. I abused heroin and pretty much got myself blacklisted from the industry. About fifteen years later, I finally decided to get clean and I needed a new career path. I felt like cooking could be a good fit, since I come from an immigrant family and everything was made from scratch, I helped my mother cook from a young age. It was just part of the fabric of our family. So, it was a natural progression for me.

FP: Glad to hear you’ve found a new career path!

Tell us about your experiences on Chopped.

RM: My experience on Chopped was exciting, confounding and surreal all at the same time. Being from NYC originally, it was emotional to be back for the first time since we moved to Portland, Oregon. It was also extremely emotional to have to tell my story to the judges. It brought up a lot of feelings about my past and how I allowed myself to get lost, the hurt that I caused to the people that I cared about in my life and the way that my life has changed for the better.

FP: As NY residents, we were definitely rooting for you!

What was the hardest ingredient work with?

RM: The hardest ingredient I had to work with was probably the Graveyard Pudding, although I didn’t really find any ingredient all that difficult; it was more of the clock ticking away that was the biggest challenge.

FP: We can only imagine the pressure of cooking under a time constraint and hearing Ted Allen counting down…

What was your inspiration for the dessert round?

RM: My inspiration for the dessert round was Lexi Extine, Jeff’s wife. I have very little pastry experience and I am lucky enough to have a friend like Lexi, who gave me a 2-day, crash course in desserts. She showed me a bunch of tricks and easy-to-memorize recipes that I used in that round.

FP: Great to have talented friends!

Name three chefs you would like to cook with in the same kitchen and why.

RM: If there were 3 chefs I would like to cook with in one kitchen, it would be: Franklin Becker, Alex Guarnaschelli,  and Anthony Bourdain. Two of these chefs I have worked with already and one I have not.

Franklin was my mentor for 12 years and gave me many opportunities and believed in me when others would not. He showed me cooking could be fun and artistic. I would like him to see how much I have changed for the better. Alex, besides being a judge on the show, was my chef for a brief time when she took over the reins at Butter. I only got to cook with her for a short period and would like to have soaked up more from her. Anthony is like me, a former addict who challenged himself to change his life for the better. His success is an inspiration to me and I hope to one day meet him and tell him “thank you”.

FP: Talented and inspiring chefs indeed!

What are some of your favorite meals to cook at home for yourself?

RM: I like to cook anything Mexican inspired. It reminds me of my childhood, somewhat, since I am Puerto Rican. I love the earthy flavors, the vibrancy of the dishes and the aroma that you smell from down the block.

Also, my husband and I enjoy making Eggplant Parmesan together. He makes the sauce while I bread and fry the eggplant after it has soaked in milk. It is our time to cook together and connect with each other. Cooking strengthens our relationship. Lastly, I enjoy cooking for friends at dinner parties in our home. So, I like making all kinds of pates, terrines and other “cocktail party” type foods. I make a mean Deviled Egg and a decadent Chicken Liver Mousse.

FP: When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in your area or other cities you’ve visited.

RW: Three places that I like to eat at are: Biwa in Portland, Oregon, The Redhead in NYC, and Beauty and Essex, also in the Big Apple. My friend Gabe Rosen, who owns Biwa, does an excellent job of running a true Yakitori restaurant. Everything is so well prepared and the attention to detail is amazing. I think it is one of the best restaurants in Portland.

At the Redhead, I LOVE the fried chicken. It manages to have a crispy, well-seasoned skin but maintains a juicy interior, which is a difficult thing to achieve. And they give you free cookies with your check.

Beauty and Essex gives you an elegant atmosphere combined with excellent food and a gorgeous presentation. The space is absolutely one of the best in Manhattan: dark and sexy and mysterious. To get into the restaurant you walk first into a pawn shop and then quickly are shuttled through a secret doorway into a multilevel room with white chinchilla walls and the largest, grandest chandelier I have ever seen. It is truly breathtaking and extremely dramatic.

FP: Half of FP (Kristina) has been to The Redhead a number of times and LOVES those cookies! Beauty and Essex sounds interesting. We’ll have to check it out!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name :)

RM: My guilty pleasure is anything with peanut butter. I actually eat a spoonful of peanut butter before bed every night and my husband is instructed to bury me with a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Although, I strangely hate peanuts.

FP: Half of FP (Allen) is with you on Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!

What are some of your non-cooking related hobbies and interests? Describe a typical day off for you.

RM: A typical day off for me usually involves lots of drag queens, burlesque dancers and the body positive. Besides being a chef, I also make custom garments for many of Portland’s talented performers. My husband and I started a design house called House Ro Squared. Essentially, I spend my days off in a whirlwind of fittings, fabric shopping and LOTS of sewing. We then usually attend the events where our garments will be featured. Dressing up, partying with drag queens and dancing all night… Yeah, I do a lot of that.

FP: An artist in the kitchen and with fabric is a great combination! Thank you so much for your time. We wish you continued success!

Learn more about House Ro Squared by visiting its Facebook page. If you ever need sewing or cooking tips, you can email RoRo directly at ro2thesecondpower@gmail.com!

Patriotic and Proud

This past season of Great Food Truck Race had its share of engaging stories behind each team. Who could forget the Military Moms team comprised of Carol Rosenberg, Michele Bajakian and Wendy Newman? All three have active duty husbands stationed with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum in Northern New York. We reached out to Carol Rosenberg, a trained chef and leader of the team, to learn more about her and the team’s experience on the show.

Military Moms Team: Michele Bajakian, Carol Rosenberg,  and Wendy Newman (L-R)

Military Moms Team: Michele Bajakian, Carol Rosenberg, and Wendy Newman (L-R)

FP: We love the concept of Military Moms Food Truck. How did the concept evolve?

CR: Before the concept of The Military Moms Truck evolved, I actually applied to be on season 4 of The Great Food Truck Race. I wasn’t contacted to compete in that season, but I must have gotten someone’s attention because they contacted me for season 5. I had a strange feeling (my husband thinks its crazy but I have a history of strange good luck!) I would be cast if I had a great concept. I originally applied with two different people but one’s husband was deployed so she couldn’t come and the other wasn’t a military spouse. She had worked as my assistant with a private chef gig I had with the Busch family and lived in Minnesota.

So when I resubmitted my application I picked two military spouses, which I knew would make us unique and also super simplified my food to race! Comfort food is a broad base of good food and I just put a little twist in mine. I named the sandwiches with fun military names to further set us apart. The Private Jelly is actually made with a homemade peanut butter, sprinkled with toasted nuts and a homemade jam also sprinkled with fresh berries. The Sergeant Jelly is made with a pile of bacon, lots of sharp cheddar cheese and a drizzle of spicy jam! Its not expected but yet oh so delish! The Charlie Fox Trot was barely mentioned on the show but it’s  made with ground beef, andouille sausage, onions, spicy tomatoes, okra and rice. Its a twist on a sloppy joe, but much more fun to call it a Charlie Fox Trot! Its served on a toasted bun and topped with a couple of crunchy onions.

FP: Definitely some creative and delicious concepts!

Tell us about your experience on the show.  

Being on The Great Food Truck Race was an amazing experience for all of us! It was the most intense, high anxiety, thrill ride of a lifetime! The cast and crew were amazing. We had such a talented team of producers, camera, and sound crews that showcased us as very classy, which is what we have been told. It was a blast! It is so much harder than it looks and it was simply amazing to see what goes into a T.V. show.

FP: What was it like to compete with the other food trucks? 

CR: We kept a pretty low profile and got along with everyone. We felt a lot of respect from the cast and crew being military spouses and they were shy to tell us. Thank you all, it was felt by all three of us.

FP: Looking back would have you done anything different?

CR: Looking back, I would have trusted my instincts a little more. I took two rookies with no real cooking experience and a couple times I doubted myself and shouldn’t have but it is what it is. I learned that my guts are pretty good when it comes to food.

FP: What will you remember most about the experience? 

CR: I think I can speak for all three of us that the best part was the people we met, the people who stood in line for hours to try our food! Food is powerful stuff.

FP: So true!

Which city was your favorite?

CR: Tucson was our favorite. It was amazing to pull up to a vacant parking lot with a huge line of people who had come out to support us. Thank you Tucson! Our social media went nuts and people said and continue to say the nicest things. There were so many heartwarming messages you didn’t see on T.V. Our military really rallied behind us and we couldn’t stop them from donating money to us so we actually just took all that money and donated it to the Fisher House, this past weekend at the Army 10Miler, thank you!

FP: Besides Military Moms Food Truck, what is currently keeping you and other Military Moms busy? 

CR: Being moms and military spouses keeps us all busy and we all spend time volunteering in our communities. Wendy is working now so she stays busy with work and her three sons. We don’t see her as much as she lives about an hour from here in Canada. Michele has two kids with busy schedules as she spends time driving them to and from activities. She is also involved with lots of volunteering with her husband’s unit. I spend my time working on truck stuff. Our youngest is still at home so I taxi him around but he starts driving next month! I volunteer at the school on a couple of boards and auction my chef skills off a couple times a year. Recently, I just did a dinner for a bunch of local doctors whose donation went for some high speed medical equipment for our local hospital.

FP: Great to hear that you all are keeping busy while also giving back to the community!

What are some of your favorite meals to prepare when you are home?

CR: After graduating, I ended up as a private chef, which I think lends itself to being a well rounded chef so I wasn’t cooking the same thing day after day. People ask me all the time what’s my favorite thing to cook and thats a really hard question for me. I can cook just about anything and I like all sorts of food so I’m a pretty adventurous chef. That wasn’t seen on the show at all as I took food that was really simple to prepare, and out the door fast.  I can cook Asian, Indian, Mexican, great Italian, and German just to name a few. I canned four bushels of tomatoes this year and froze as many in corn.  I make a mean spicy corn chowder people will see on my truck when its up and running along side some homemade cheddar crackers and a smoked brisket chili.

FP: Sounds like your kitchen is the place to be!

If you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in Fort Drum, NY or other cities you’ve visited.

CR: When I do go out here I go to Jose O’Connor’s, in Carthage New York, which is my favorite place.

FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name :)

CR: It’s such a guilty pleasure of mine and its embarrassing, but I love malted milk balls. I can’t help myself and I don’t like to share! But give me comfort food any day of the week. A great sandwich will do it for me. I’m talking a braised beef and cheddar on toasted sourdough, a toasted tuna with avocado and cheese. Don’t even get me started on some homemade scalloped potatoes with some fontina and caramelized onions. I love me some good old soul food too, slow cooked collard greens with a pinch of sugar and bacon and spicy fried chicken. Being married to a military man has its perks as we have lived all over the States and also have spent time overseas we have eaten everywhere and everything! Kase Spatzle is so stinky and good after skiing in Austria.

FP: It’s great that you’ve been able to travel and taste the food from so many different places!

Will the people in Fort Drum, NY (or another city) see a Military Moms Food Truck cruising The streets in the near future?

CR: As far as the truck, there is good and some bad news. The one I had hidden away in a barn had some engine issues and needed $1,300 worth of repairs, ouch! It will be off to the builder to be swanked out very soon. I will be launching a Kickstarter program soon, hoping to get as much support as we did on the race. It’s not cheap to have a restaurant on wheels but it’s the only way for me as a military spouse to take it with me. I am hoping it turns into more opportunities to get other military spouses into mobile kitchens. I love how the Food Network branded us and we have so much diversity in the military community and comfort food is different for all of us. I would love to branch out and have trucks on other military bases in the U.S. serving comfort food to soldiers everywhere. We are sometimes away from big cities so we don’t have as many food choices as you would in one so it would be a way to offer great food to lots of people.

I love the idea of having Military Moms Alpha, Bravo and Charlie. Fort Drum will for sure see the first one roll out here in the north country as it’s hard to miss the pink camo even in the snow! It’s been a long time coming as I put it all on hold to go on the show. I will be so proud to serve and finally be up and open!

FP: Thank you so much for your time. We wish you the best of luck with your food truck! 

Tea Time

Every time we attend food events, we’re sure to come across new brands that we haven’t heard before. Last month at Greenwich Wine & Food, we tried some Tea-rrfic Ice Cream for the first time and had to learn more about the story behind this interesting concept! Read on to learn more about Founder Mario Leite and his delicious ice cream!

Tea-rrific!_8x10-3

Mario Leite, Founder of Tea-rrific Ice Cream

FP: We definitely enjoyed your ice cream at Greenwich Food and Wine! How did the idea come about? 

ML: I am an ice cream fanatic and tea lover. I was experimenting at home and made my first two flavors with Thai Iced Tea and Earl Grey. The reaction was so positive that we decided to build a brand focused on crafting all-natural tea-infused ice cream. No one is really doing it in the market and we felt the tea flavors available were not done very well.

FP: Great concept for sure!

Where can consumers find your ice cream?

ML: Consumers can get our ice cream in most Whole Foods from Maine to northern NJ as well as other stores, such as Mariano’s in Chicago and Central Market in Texas. Customers can also visit our website for a searchable map of locations.

FP: Good to know as there is a Whole Foods right near us!

Tea-rrific is delicious on its own, but what are you favorite ice cream toppings?

MG: Berries, nuts, hot fudge, whipped cream and our Masala Chai makes a great affogato!

FP: We’ll have to try that combination soon!

When you go out to eat, name some of your favorite places in your area or other cities you’ve visited?

MG: Sakura in Westport, Douro in Greenwich, Mecha Noodle in Fairfield, O’ Manel’s in Bridgeport, Modern Pizza in New Haven and SriPraPhai in Queens.

FP: A delicious and diverse list of places. We’ll add them to our ever growing list.

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name. :)

MG: Ice cream (of course), chocolate, donuts

FP: When you’re not busy operating Tea-rrific, what are your hobbies/interests? What’s a day off like for you?

MG: Spending time with family, travel, movies, golf

FP: Thank you, Mario for your time. We wish you continued success with Tea-rrific!

If you’re a fan of ice cream, make sure to try out Tea-rrific and let us know what you think. 

Taste of Westchester 2014

Join Cerebral Palsy of Westchester (CPW) on Monday, Nov. 3 at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in White Plains for A Taste of Westchesteran event featuring over twenty of the area’s finest restaurants & chefs noted for their culinary talents. In addition, there will be a great selection of wine, beer and beverages from local establishments. All proceeds from the event benefit CPW’s mission; this year, the proceeds will go towards CPW’s new playground.

Here is a sample of participating vendors: Angelina’s Ristorante, Antonees Gourmet CateringCaptain Lawrence Brewing Co., Chocolations, Coffee Labs, Emma’s Ale House, Ladle of Love, The Iron Tomato, The Olde Stone Mill and Wobble Café. There will also be a special cake decorating demonstration by Rockland Bakery at 7pm. Click here to see a full list of participants.

It’s not too late to purchase tickets for this worthy cause. For more information about Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, visit their website. We hope to see you there!

Taste of Westchester
Monday, November 3rd, 6:15pm
Renaissance Westchester Hotel – West Harrison, NY
80 West Red Oak Lane
West Harrison, NY 10604

Dinner in Dobbs

With so many places to eat and so little time, we always enjoy learning about new places to try delicious food. We were recently introduced to Cedar Street in Dobbs Ferry by fellow blogger and friend Katie Schlientz, aka IntoxiKate, for a tasting of the new fall menu.

On a chilly night, we were happy to start with a bowl of warm sausage and grits along with brussels sprouts. We don’t eat brussels sprouts often but just may start after tasting these! They were fantastic!

Next, we were treated to a variety of other plates, including crab cakes, meatballs and pork chops. Yum!

While sitting at the bar, we watched the bartender whipped up an assortment of drinks and we couldn’t leave without trying the Timeout, pictured below. Of course, we also made room for dessert, an incredible Nutella bread pudding with ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream.

Along with eating great food and catching up with Katie, it was great to meet Cedar Street Grill’s Co-Founder and Executive Chef Matt Kay and hear his story about opening a restaurant is his hometown of Dobbs Ferry. If you’re looking for some homestyle fare and great hospitality, put Cedar Street Grill at the top of your list!

Cedar Street Grill
23 Cedar Street
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522

 

 

Bikes and Bites

A few weeks ago, we focused our energy on fitness and food. We started the day with the Tour de Yonkers, a 28 mile bike ride throughout the city. Even though we’re residents of Yonkers, the ride gave us a chance to experience areas that we haven’t previously seen. In addition to camaraderie between riders, the tour offered quite the spread both before and after the race. From bagels and bananas to fuel up before getting started to sandwiches and salads to fill up on after the race, we both rode and ate well!

We definitely worked up an appetite after all the hills so we decided to treat ourselves and headed to Port Chester to check out Salsa Picante, a relatively new Mexican restaurant located right downtown. Ever since our favorite Mexican spot closed earlier this year, we’ve been looking for a new go-to place and this just might be it! Salsa Picante was the perfect spot to fill up after the long ride. We started with guac (of course!), which was prepared at the table in front of us. Kristina had her usual, enchiladas verdes with cheese, and Allen had the pollo picante. For dessert, we tried the coconut flan which was the perfect sweet bite to end the meal.

Port Chester is definitely one of our favorite towns to grab a meal. Have you eaten there yet? If so, please share your go-to spots with us via email (foodiepleasure@gmail.com), Twitter (@foodiepleasure) or in the comments below!

Salsa Picante
110 Adee Street
Port Chester, NY 10573

Lone Star BBQ

We loved tuning into The Great Food Truck Race over the summer. From week to week, we enjoyed seeing the truck concepts evolve and figuring out what types of truck stop challenges Tyler Florence had up his sleeve. Lance Kramer and his Lone Star Chuck Wagon made quite a statement on the show, so we had to learn more about how Texas roots led to success on the show.

Lone Star Chuck Wagon crew

Lone Star Chuck Wagon crew

FP: We love the concept of the Lone Star Chuck Wagon. How did the concept evolve?

LK: Texas is obviously the Lone Star State, and the Chuck Wagon was the original food truck, so it fits us perfectly. We threw around a few different names, including Republic of Texas, and Kramer’s Lone Star Food Truck. But at the end of the day, Lone Star Chuck Wagon fit just right.

FP: We like the sound of it!

Tell us about your experience on the show. What will you remember most?

LK: The part which stands out the most, was the difficulty of the entire show. I’ve seen every season of The Great Food Truck Race, usually sitting on the couch in the comfort of my own home! It was easy to think, “hey, that doesn’t look so hard!” I was wrong. While extremely rewarding, it was the most challenging 7 weeks of my life. But we have no regrets. We worked our butts off, and are very proud of how far we went.

FP: Your team definitely gave fans a good show!

Besides Lone Star Chuck Wagon, we read that you have your own line of award-winning BBQ sauce. What are some of your non-food related interests?

LK: We always seem to have our hands full with numerous projects, all at the same time! We keep busy with Catering, BBQ Contests, Product Development, Commercial & Retail Product Sales, to name a few.

Now we are gearing up to film a Texas Travel Show Pilot! We are super excited about the show, and will be posting more information later this month.

FP: Please keep us posted on the show!

What are some of your favorite meals to prepare when you are home?

LK: I really like cooking new things, and trying new cooking techniques. Usually the job has us cooking BBQ and Tex-Mex, so when we aren’t working, I cook everything from Asian to Italian. In fact last night, I made sushi, which is far from BBQ!

FP: Did you say sushi?!

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name. :)

LK: All food is a pleasure! Food is communal & it brings us together as a common theme. It puts smiles on our faces everyday. We are lucky to share food with people, and get paid for it! But as for my “guilty” pleasure, a giant rack of slow smoked ribs is hard to beat!

FP: Will fans of the show see a Lone Star Chuck Wagon cruising the streets in the near future?

LK: Whether it be a food truck, our retail products, or another TV show, you haven’t seen the last of us! Keep tuned to our website (www.rubresponsibly.com) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/kramerslonestar) page for information!

FP: Thank you for your time. We wish you the best in your many endeavors!