Beef Boss

It’s the middle of summer, which means two things: the air conditioner is on full blast at our place and a new series of Chopped Grill Masters is airing on Food Network. In a recent episode, Chef Ashley Pado displayed her talents on the grill and showed why, as the Head Chef at Certified Angus Beef, she can hold her own when comes to handling beef.

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Chef Ashley Pado. Picture credit to Food Network

FP: Being on both shows is a true testament to your culinary skills! Tell us about your experience on Chopped Grill Masters. How would you compare/contrast being on Chopped vs. Cutthroat Kitchen?

AP: Chopped is definitely set as a ‘higher skill level’ competition show, I’d say. Because it is the most watched food competition show, I think the public hold the chefs competing on the show to a higher standard. Chopped has been on my bucket list for years…I just needed to find the guts to actually show up!

Cutthroat Kitchen was an amazing show to be a part of. It has way more elements of ‘fun’ to it and Chopped is taken seriously from the moment you start until it’s over. I was more than flattered to be called about Chopped and I think that it’s a huge honor to be considered for a national television show let alone be chosen.

FP: Share with us a day in the life as the Head Chef at the Certified Angus Beef Brands Education and Culinary Center.

AP: Certified Angus Beefs Education & Culinary Center is a DREAM role for most chefs, and it’s something I don’t take for granted in the slightest! We are a center located in Wooster, OH right next to our main campus offices and we host partners of the brand here. I am one chef of four in the company that all hold different roles. As Head Chef at the center, I lead the creativity of our food, the ideas we put out there to the public and to our brand partners focusing on BEEF 101. We help with ideas on how to better understand and use under-utilized cuts of beef, how to better promote our brand and how to EDUCATE the people on just how amazing our beef truly is! It’s something different every single day!

FP: Sounds like an ideal job for you! Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Wooster or other cities you’ve lived or traveled?

AP: I really enjoy our local food scene here in Wooster. I am born and raised here and after living in Florida and Los Angeles, coming home was such a shock! It is such an amazing thing to be raised in such a small town where once you’ve been gone for a few years, everything becomes so much more meaningful and special once you’re back:)

I love our local steakhouse here in town called The City Square Steakhouse. They do a great job with the certified angus beef brand and it’s always nice to see familiar faces when eating there. Then for a great cup of coffee I visit Oak Grove Eatery! I love the people there and the atmosphere is just what little Wooster needed.

As far as other places I’ve traveled, I truly can’t pick! ANIMAL in Los Angeles will always stick out to me though. I love their concept and the chefs do a phenomenal job highlighting the proteins they put out.

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

AP: If I had all the time in the world, I would drive to NYC and eat PHO all day long. I’m not kidding. My fiancé and I took a trip in November JUST TO EAT PHO! Being from Wooster, all you really see here is meat and potatoes, so anytime we can, we take weekend trips away just to eat! I can whip some pho up sure, but it’s nothing like the authentic stuff:) A gooey, soft boiled egg with al dente noodles and perfect broth. WOW! I am always in the mood.

Also, I have the biggest sweet tooth on the planet! I could eat doughnuts and coffee for lunch and dinner if I could.

FP: Let us know the next time you visit NYC! If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?

AP: PARIS. I am a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, so I am trained in classic French cuisine and its been a dream of mine to visit and eat every chocolate croissant I lay my eyes on.

FP: Croissants?! Bon appetite! If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing? What are some of your non-cooking interests and hobbies?

AP: I have a few ideas – First, I would sell everything I own and become a drifter for a few years of my life. Camp. Boat. Hike. Fly to different countries and eat everything in sight. Learn about different cultures and just take everything in.

I have a serious passion for food styling as well. I worked as one in LA while living out west and fell in love with the art. I would be trying to squeeze my way in with Bon Appetite I believe.

Lastly, I would still be fighting for my own show on the Food Network. That’s too much a part of me to ever NOT consider:)

FP: We bet we’ll see you again on TV at some point in the future! What is the one item in the kitchen you can’t live without?

AP: It seems simple, but I wouldn’t function properly without a hand towel. Unless you are a chef or have worked as a line cook, your hand towel is an extension of your hand while cooking and I would be so lost without it.

FP: What are the three words that friends and family would use to describe you.

AP: Unique. Driven. Over-the-top:)

FP: Thank you, Ashley! We wish you continued success! 

Clergy in the Kitchen

What do you get when a priest, pastor and nun enter the kitchen? Well, if it’s on the the Food Network, you have a themed episode of Chopped! We recently caught up with contestant Sara Marks. Read on to learn about her foodie adventures and a recent life change!

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Sara Marks

FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the hardest part of being on the show?

SM: Being on Chopped on Food Network was an amazing opportunity. The best part was getting to see up close and personal the logistics of the show. I’ve watched Chopped for years now and having the opportunity to be on set, meeting Ted Allen, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, and Geoffrey Zakarian was very humbling and exciting! The hardest part of being on Chopped is when during the first round you realize you quite literally open your basket and go! I always imagined it was edited that way and that in reality you had time–even if it was five minutes–to think some things through. Chopped is VERY REAL! There is no editing to make things look more intense . . . it REALLY is that intense! Which made for a great challenge! I also have to say, the judges were amazing! Absolute best moment was having Geoffrey tell me my croutons were “Seasoned with authority” and having Alex rave over my appetizer. They aren’t easy judges and they really enjoyed something that I–little ole Sara from southeastern PA–had made! It was amazing and I felt on top of the world!

FP: When you’re at home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself or friends?

SM: My absolute favorite meal is a kale and pasta dish that I make. I saute onions,kale, craisins, and pecans in coconut oil. When it’s just about done I add some brown sugar to cut the bitter in the kale. I pour the whole skillet of goodness over fresh pasta and add Parmesan cheese! It’s really my guilty pleasure I think!

FP: That sounds delicious! We’ll have to give it a try. Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Philadelphia or other cities you’ve visited?

SM: Without a doubt, Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar in Glen Mills, PA–about 20 miles outside Philadelphia. Harvest keeps a seasonal menu using locally sourced vegetables, meat, cheese, etc. They are known for their flat breads which are often unique and appetizing. My three favorite meals so far are the Local Grass Fed Beef Burger, the BBQ Braised Short Ribs, and their Butternut Squash Ravioli. Their dessert shooters are to die for; my favorite is the Sea Salt Caramel!

FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We call them foodie pleasures, hence the name.😉

SM: It sounds ridiculous but Jelly Belly Jelly Beans! I like to pop them in my mouth and guess which flavor I taste! Bacon Cheeseburgers . . . like really amazing juicy ones with extra bacon! YUM! Bacon . . . just bacon! Fondue! I am such a food person, I love to eat, so I have so many guilty “foodie pleasures!” Churros! Anything with Pesto on it! Pineapple casserole!

FP: That’s a mouth-watering list! If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?

SM: In 2010 a friend and I traveled through India and Nepal. In the city of Kathmandu there is this seemingly small restaurant that opens up into a beautiful, quaint and intimate tiled patio. They offered an 18 course meal–YES you read that right! 18 Course meal! It was essentially a sampling of all the delicacies Nepal had to offer. We sat for hours eating dish after dish. It was the rainy season and so throughout our meal there were showers watering the surrounding garden area. To be outside, in beauty, eating, with one of my best friends, in a beautiful and welcoming country, with wonderful people–that’s the place I’d go! I don’t even know what I ate, no one spoke English, but I didn’t care, as the flavors danced upon my palate I knew I was happy.

FP: What an amazing experience! Besides being a nun-in-training, what are some of your interests and hobbies?

SM: Plot twist! A few months after filming Chopped I actually decided not to renew my vows as a sister of St. Francis. So, I am no longer a “nun”. However, I still work with the sisters, I continue to direct their long-term service program, and I love the continued journey I am on with the community! What is most exciting to me is that they are a congregation of women who are really all about relationship! So, if there is someone out there considering religious life I would totally recommend getting to know this group of women, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia . . . because in the end, if you stay or if you decide it’s not for you . . . you’ve gained 450 women who care, love, and support you through life either way!

FP: Plot twist indeed! Sounds like you are continuing your life of service in a meaningful way. Thank you for sharing your time and experiences with us. All the best in the future!

Greenwich Wine & Food Festival 2016

It’s only July but we’ve already marked our calendars on September 23-24 for the annual Greenwich Wine & Food Festival, presented by Serendipity magazine and taking place at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park. The festival will feature a Master Chef Dinner at Water’s Edge on Friday, September 23 and the Saturday Festival on Saturday, September 24. Both days will include great musical acts, delicious food from renowned chefs and a great selection of wine and drinks.

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On Friday, the Bacon Brothers, which includes Connecticut’s own Kevin Bacon, along with his brother Michael, will play their unique blend of folk, country and rock music at the Master Chef Dinner. The Saturday Festival features two co-headlining acts, Ziggy Marley and Old Crow Medicine Show.

In addition to the musical acts, celebrity chefs Michel Nischan, Adam Richman and Marcus Samuelsson will participate in this year’s festivities, conducting cooking demos, mingling with guests and signing cookbooks.

At the Master Chef Dinner on Friday evening, Adam Richman will award Serendipity’s Most Innovative Chefs from across Fairfield and Westchester Counties who will serve their signature dishes. The 2016 Most Innovative Chefs include:

We’re excited to attend the Saturday Festival, a day-long event offering tastings and demonstrations from more than two hundred of the area’s finest food, wine, spirits and product vendors in the main Grand Tasting Tent, as well as the Burger & Beer Tent, Master Griller Tent and Taco Party! There will also be a number of lively competitions, including the first annual Ultimate Sandwich Take-Down, the fifth annual Burger Battle and the third annual Top Bartender’s Showdown.

Proceeds from the events benefit Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp and The Greenwich Department of Parks and Recreation. Tickets are available at www.serendipitysocial.com or by calling (203) 588-1363. Keep checking the festival’s Facebook Page for information on restaurant participants, updates about the event schedule, participating celebrity and local chefs, musical talent and more.

Check out video and pictures from last year’s festival. Also, read our posts from 2015 and 2014, and you’ll see that we always have a delicious time at Greenwich Wine & Food Festival. This is a can’t miss event and we hope to see you there!

Arts, Burgers, Food & Wine

Last week was the official start of summer and we’re looking forward to relaxing a bit, traveling and of course checking out more food-themed events and new places to eat. Below is a photo recap from this year’s Arts Bash, Burger Bash and Westchester Wine & Food. Enjoy!

Burger Bash 

We attended Burger Bash for the first time this year and are glad we did! Part of Westchester Wine & Food, it featured burgers and other casual items from local favorites including Piper’s Kilt, Fortina and Emma’s Ale House.

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Arts Bash 

With the combination of arts and food, this is definitely one of our favorite events to support. We always enjoy seeing new art and learning about local artists.

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Westchester Wine & Food

This event is always great to attend because we learn about new places to eat (Kishuya Ramen, Coriander Modern Indian and 105-Ten Bar) and taste delicious small bites from the likes of Cooper’s Mill, Sonora and Cedar Street Grill.

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Make sure to visit ArtsWestchester and Westchester Magazine to stay updated on current events and learn when ArtsBash, Burger Bash and Wine & Food is taking place in 2017!

Francine does Queens

If you read our last post, you know how much we appreciate the Queens food scene. Kristina spends her days working in the borough, and Allen spent his childhood visiting Flushing for weekend grocery shopping. When our friend, food historian Francine Segan, told us she was planning a talk on Queens at the 92Y on Tuesday, June 14th, we were certain to add it to our calendar.

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Food Historian Francine Segan

Queens was rated American’s #1 tourism destination by Lonely Planet in 2015 and boasts more than 5,000 eateries and artisan food makers. During Undiscovered NYC: Queens, Francine will be joined by Rob MacKay, the director of the Queens Tourism Council and Joe DiStefano, who runs delicious Queens food tours, to share details about the food scene in Queens. In addition, audience members will sample items from six Queens eateries:
The Nest (Guyanese) ; O Lavrador (Portuguese) ; Brasserie du Dragon (Hong Kong/French fusion) ; Thai Rock (Thai); Queens Night Market (pan-Asian); RW Prime (steakhouse) and sip local gin courtesy of distiller Chris Murillo from Queens Courage.

We’d love to see you there! For tickets and more information, check out this link. The event is Tuesday, June 14th from 7:00-8:30 pm at the 92Y.

Queens Taste 2016 Recap

We were among the 600 guests in attendance for this year’s Queens Taste at the New York Hall of Science. Queens, well known as a diverse borough, offers everything from sweet to savory, crunchy to soft, and spicy to sweet. Queens Taste certainly didn’t disappoint as it offered a wide range of delicious fare from across the borough. Check out our pics below to get a sample of what we ate.

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From Kimchi Smoke‘s delicious chili to Alobar‘s potato pierogis with creamy sauce and Nest‘s curry, jerk, and BBQ chicken, we definitely had a delicious time! Let’s not forget about the delicious treats from Rudy’s Pastry Shop, Rose House and 8 Bit Bakeshop.

Proceeds from the event support the Queens Economic Development Corporation‘s ongoing efforts to attract, create, and maintain jobs in the borough through business services, neighborhood development, the Entrepreneur Space (our food-and-business incubator), and marketing attractions through the Queens Tourism Council and the It’s in Queens and Discover Queens brands.

We love the diversity of people and food in Queens and hope to attend next year’s event! Do you have a favorite spot to eat in the borough?

Westchester Magazine Wine & Food Festival 2016

Westchester Magazine’s 6th Annual Wine & Food Festival brings together top chefs from the area’s best restaurants along with wine experts and the best wines for a delicious and entertaining four days from June 8-11, 2016.

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The festival kicks off on Wednesday, June 8 with a special wine & food pairing with world-renowned wine expert, Kevin Zraly, and local celebrity chef, Rafael Palomino. Sample a variety of tasty treats from local restaurants while enjoying special shopping opportunities throughout Bloomingdale’s all evening long.

Cost: $25; 6:00-8:00 p.m., Bloomingdale’s, 175 Bloomingdale Road in White Plains.

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On Thursday, June 9, end your work day by attending “Burger & Beer Blast.” Attendees will vote to see which local restaurant will take home the grand prize and be named “Burger and Beer Blast Champion!” Food to be served includes beef burgers, lamb burgers and cheeseburgers, plus beer, wine and spirits to pair with the burgers and music for dancing. Click here for a list of participating restaurants.

Cost: $75; 6:00-10:00 p.m., Kensico Dam Plaza, 1 Bronx River Parkway in Valhalla.

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On Friday, June 10, start your weekend by attending “An Evening with Westchester’s Tastemakers” where twenty of the county’s most celebrated chefs will come together for a one-night-only feast at The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester. Sip, savor and enjoy delectable signature dishes from each chef, along with exceptional quality wines, specially selected to complement each chef’s offerings. Click here for a list of participating chefs.

Ticket cost: $125; 6:30-10:00 p.m, $175 VIP Ticket-includes 5:30 entrance, Ritz Carlton Westchester, 3 Renaissance Square in White Plains.

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Make sure to free up your Saturday, June 11 by visiting the Grand Tasting Village at Kensico Dam. An assortment of wines from leading vineyards, beer and food samples from 60 restaurants will be offered and celebrity chefs will demonstrate their culinary expertise. Click here for a list of participants at the Grand Tasting Village.

Cost: $75. Noon to 5 p.m. with chef demonstrations at 1, 2, 3, and 4 p.m. Kensico Dam Plaza, 1 Bronx River Parkway in Valhalla.

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All pictures courtesy of Westchester Magazine

A portion of ticket sales will be donated to two local non-profit organizations: Friends of Westchester County Parks, which is committed to the preservation and conservation of 18,000 acres of parks and trails and the Food Bank for Westchester, whose mission is to reduce hunger in Westchester County.

For more information regarding the event including participating restaurants, chef and personalities, please visit http://winefood.westchestermagazine.com/

It’s not too late to purchase tickets to this delicious event. You can also win two tickets to Burger & Beer Blast and two tickets to the Grand Tasting Village by following us on Twitter & Instagram at (@foodiepleasure), on Facebook at www.facebook.com/foodiep and look out for our ticket giveaways in the next few weeks. We hope to see you there!