An Evening at Home with Friends

An Evening at Home with Friends

Table Set for Dinner with Friends
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

An Evening at Home with Friends

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Saturday night we enjoyed the company of friends at our home for dinner. I met the women through the Wellington Art Society of which I am enjoying my second term as President. Lynn and Barbara are now on the Board of Directors so I have gotten to know them pretty well, but I really did not know their husbands, Tom and Jerry and I wanted to. To make guests feel comfortable when I entertain I like to keep the mood relaxed and definitely not formal. This is a 180 from when I was younger but over the years I learned that my guests are much more at ease with a casual setting. Part of helping your guests feel relaxed is the right ambiance so I always dim my lights, light candles in strategic places and play background music. Music is very important because there is nothing worse than a lull in conversation that is filled with dead silence. For me, smooth Jazz does the trick. It is not too loud, not too fast but also not so slow that it puts your guests to sleep. Jazz has the perfect rhythm. 

An Evening at Home with Friends

My Chef Friends Wall of Fame
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

An Evening at Home with Friends

More of my Chef Friends Wall of Fame
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

After the usual “dollar tour” of our home we all had drinks and hors d’oeuvre in the living room along with light conversation. For our starters I like to keep it simple and not too heavy. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the entire meal so they need to still be a little hungry when we sit down at the table. So I made Roasted Parmesan Chickpeas; a cheese board with blueberry coated goat cheese, brie topped with bacon jam and black, red and green seedless grapes and a basket of crackers; plus totally unintimidating pigs in the blanket which I served with Creole Mustard. And after about an hour of nibbling and sipping we all moved to the dining room table for our meal.

An Evening at Home with Friends

Cheese Board
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

An Evening at Home with Friends

All set for dinner
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

I must admit that I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to my menus, so when anyone asks what they can bring the answer is always wine, and this was no exception. Before planning a dinner menu I always make sure of my guests’ dietary needs and restrictions. I want everyone to be able to enjoy the entire meal. So after checking that, I needed to have a menu that suited my guests which meant no organ meats, lobster, crab, pork (but bacon was okay!), mayonnaise or white flour. And since I am on a very high protein/low carb diet I needed to plan carefully. I decided to serve Caesar Salad, Lemon Pepper Chicken with a pasta-free vegetable lasagna plus a decadent dessert. I have always agreed with Julia Child who said that “a party without cake is really just a meeting”!

I did make a lower fat version of my very popular Caesar dressing that is in my cookbook by replacing one third of the olive oil with chicken broth. The dressing tastes exactly the same but is ever so slightly thinner. For the chicken, after pounding my chicken breasts to within an inch of their lives, I marinated them in fresh lemon juice for about a half hour and then set up my breading station. Instead of regular all-purpose flour I used almond flour which is low carb and seasoned it well with kosher salt, lots of freshly ground black pepper, granulated garlic and Italian herb seasoning. Then I fried it in a large sauté pan over medium high heat until golden on both sides but not cooked through. I transferred the chicken to a parchment lined baking sheet so I could finish it in the oven just before dinner. About a half hour before I was ready to serve the main course I put the chicken in a pre-heated 350◦ F oven to finish cooking. And to round out the meal I made a noodle-less vegetable lasagna that was layered with grilled eggplant and zucchini; sautéd red onion, mushrooms and red and yellow bell peppers; and lots of cheeses.

But the best was saved for last which is how dessert should be. And no, it was most definitely not low carb! I made a Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie. What could be better on a sultry August evening than an ice cream dessert. This pie had an Oreo cookie crust which was filled with Mint Chip Ice Cream that I added a little green food coloring to, along with big pieces of Oreo cookies and Andes Creme de Menthe chocolate mint candies all topped with fudgy bittersweet chocolate ganache.

An Evening at Home with Friends

Grasshopper Ice Cream Pie Oh My
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Our conversation became livelier as the evening wore on and lasted till the wee hours of the morning. The meal was a huge success. But more importantly I know that lastly friendships were formed!

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

The Residence at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

On our very first trip to Charleston, South Carolina way back in 2004 we visited Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. Little did we know that 12 years later it would be “just down the road” from our son and daughter in law’s home. So after visiting Charleston numerous times we decided to revisited this gorgeous relic of the past on our most recent trip in May. We picked the perfect day to go because it was a weekday and slightly less crowded than on the weekends and the weather was perfect.

Our first tour was on The Nature Train which covered the grounds and introduced us to all of the flora and fauna on the plantation. It gave us a great overview and a good bit of history. All of the tour guides weave a wonderful tale of life on a plantation.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolias in Bloom at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation unfold before it from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond. It is the oldest public tourist site in the Lowcountry, and the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1870 to view the thousands of beautiful flowers and plants in its famous gardens. There are actually 5 different tour opportunities and we took advantage of all of them. There were a few new things to see from our last visit so we were happy to spend the entire day there. We started with the Nature Train which was a 45 minute trip that took us passed the former rice fields where we saw a multitude of birds drying their feathers along with families of turtles and alligators basking the sunshine. It also took us past the slave cabins but we didn’t stop to visit them on this particular tour. We ended at the main house with its kitchen and cutting garden in front and a spectacular view of a lake with one of the most photographed bridges in the world. I felt like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind!

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Bridge at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

Our tour of the residence gave us some insight into the life of the plantation owners over the centuries. Fires and war destroyed the home and with each rebuild the house grew to its present size. Thomas Drayton and his wife Ann arrived from Barbados to the new English colony of Charles Towne and established Magnolia Plantation along the Ashley River in 1676. Thomas and Ann were the first in a direct line of Magnolia family ownership that has lasted more than 300 years and continues to this day. It was lived in by descendants of the original owners until recently so there are only a total of ten rooms that are included in the tour, each with authentic glimpses into the everyday life of the plantation-era home, as well as its wealthy Charleston owners.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Slave Homes at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Slave Home at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Slave Home Stove for Heat and Cooking
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Slave Home Fireplace Ready for Cooking at
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

After a quick lunch at the picnic benches we departed on a journey dubbed the From Slavery to Freedom Tour. This gave a great deal of insight into the lives of the slaves living and working on the property. Though not free, they did lead a civilized life and were given cabins to live in and were treated fairly (or so we are told). A descendent of a slave who was the gardener is still living on the property and is the Head Gardener today! Now that’s loyalty. Of most interest to me were the stoves and cooking vessels. If the cabin was a bit larger there was a fireplace for heating and cooking but for some only an iron stove.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Rice Transport
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

Rice Transport Boat at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Rice Transport Boat at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Alligator Sunning Himself at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

After that we took a leisurely stroll through the magnificent gardens before boarding The Nature Boat which showed us where the rice was produced back in the day. Carolina Gold rice is still grown in South Carolina but not on the plantation. It is prized for its rich taste and texture and is as expensive as gold. I can attest to the flavor because I have cooked with it on many occasions and it is definitely worth the extra money.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

Our little jaunt to the Petting Zoo made us feel like kids! All sorts of creatures were roaming freely and very friendly to visitors. Deer who normally are very skittish were so calm that I could pet them. Geese and ducks waddled past us along with all sorts of other fowl including exquisite peacocks and their mates. The peacocks were quite happy to give us a spectacular show by fanning their tails all the way out. The colors were just breathtaking.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Billy Goat at Petting ZooMagnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Petting Zoo at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Petting Zoo at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Deer at Petting Zoo of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Steve Axelrod

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnificent Peacock at the Petting Zoo of Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

We ended our visit with a walking tour of the Audubon Swamp Gardens which was peaceful and serene with the one exception of a brief encounter with a baby alligator inches from our feet on the walking path. Fortunately it was more afraid of us than we were of it and it scampered off into the water pausing just long enough for me to get a photo.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Baby Gator Along Audubon Swamp Gardens at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

If you are headed to Charleston I highly recommend planning a visit to the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. It is a fabulous learning experience and it is gorgeous as well!

 

 

 

Chef Appreciation Week – Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

Host Bobby Flay plates his curry dish in the second round of competition against Palak Patel, as seen on Food Network’s Beat Bobby Flay, Season 2

The third week of August is Chef Appreciation Week. For me the Chef that I appreciate, respect and admire most is Bobby Flay. Many years ago I started watching his shows on Food Network and became inspired to master the art of grilling. In addition to teaching me how to grill he also taught me to use chiles to add bold impact to my recipes. I think he is just an incredible chef and probably the hardest working chef on television. But I find him to be an interesting multifaceted man!

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

Meeting Bobby Flay for the First Time March 28, 2009

No doubt he is easy on the eyes. But that is just the surface. I have done extensive research on Bobby Flay to learn more about what makes him tick. Okay some would even say I am obsessed but I don’t mind that at all. In fact if you know me, you know that some of my friends call me Sandy Flay! And a few years ago I wrote a post about that very fact titled They Call Me Sandy Flay. In doing my research I learned so many things about him and I am going to share some of them with you now.

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

Second time with Bobby Flay October 20. 2010

Rumor has it Bobby Flay is considering a run for Mayor of New York.  Does Bobby Flay want to eventually be the mayor of New York? On Bloomberg’s Titans at the Table, Betty Liu asked the celebrity chef flat-out, in the company of fellow TV hosts Rachael Ray, Mario Batali, and Tom Colicchio, who each talked about their careers. “That’s a rumor,” the Mesa Grill, Bolo and Bobby’s Burger Palace owner is quick to respond. “That’s a rumor. I’m proud to be a native New Yorker, and I love New York so much. It’s been a wonderful place for me to live and a wonderful stage to be on.” 

Any chance you’d like to run for office one day?
Definitely.
Really?
Absolutely.
Which office?
I don’t know. I’m a huge supporter of New York. If anyone loves New York more than me then it’s a tie. New York is the greatest city in the world. New York has always been so good to me, and I feel like when I have the opportunity I want to give back to the city.
Like as the mayor?
Maybe.

So, is that a yes? “I’m really passionate about New York,” Flay continues, adding that others have suggested a mayoral run, but he’s not so sure just yet. “I don’t know what position that would be.” Is it too early to start producing Flay 2017 stickers?

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

My Fabulous Crunchified Burger at BBP in Miami
Photo Credit: Sandy Axelrod

Quoted by Bobby: My last meal on Earth would definitely be a cheeseburger “crunchified” with potato chips for salt and flavor, double American cheese, and just really simple as long as there was a contrast of texture. I like to use chipotle ketchup, plus maybe a couple of picked jalapeños for heat. But I could either have those or not if they’re in front of me, I would put them on the burger. I would finish with an ice cream sundae. Ice cream is my single biggest weakness, pistachio by the way. When I eat ice cream, I go for the gold. I have to have chocolate sauce or caramel sauce and a cherry; whipped cream I could do with or without. Calories would play an important part of my last supper.

You know, I’m a guy who always enjoys a party. I love to dance, and I love music you can dance to. I don’t mean the tango; I mean, I grew up in New York City, and I spent a lot of time hanging out on the street corner with my friends. Urban-style dancing music is what I’m into. I love Jay-Z; he’s an amazing lyricist and great performer, and when his music comes on the radio, it gets me going. I wouldn’t want him there to perform – he’s too big and I don’t want him to steal the thunder of my last meal. We’d just have him send a disc.

The one thing about my last supper is, I’m cooking it. I like cooking even more than I like eating. There are plenty of times that I’ll cook some big meal and I’ll taste the food as I go along, and I forget to eat sometimes. Not because I don’t like to eat – I love to eat but also to watch things come to life on top of the stove. The very first time I actually remember cooking was a My T Fine chocolate pudding on top of the stove when I was five. I couldn’t believe all I had to do was scald some milk and add some powder and it thickened up.

Bobby has been seen in TV dramas Entourage, Law and Order SVU and sitcom Younger in addition to his many shows on the Food Network.

One of Bobby Flay’s horses, More Than Real, won a high-stakes race at the Breeder’s Cup. And WinStar Farm and Bobby Flay’s Creator needed every step of the 1 1/2 miles over Big Sandy to win the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets June 11. Bobby owns many race horses in addition to these two.

Bobby Flay runs marathons.

He gave President Obama grilling lessons at a White House barbecue. Chef Bobby Flay advises the President not to take a peek before flipping his steak at the White House Young Mens Barbeque on June 19, 2009

Bobby Flay’s awards: • James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year (1993) • French Culinary Institute Outstanding Graduate Award (1993) • International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for Design – Bobby Flay’s Bold American Food (1995) • Emmy Award nominee for Outstanding Service Show – Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay (2000) • Emmy Award nominee for Outstanding Service Show Host – Boy Meets Grill (2004) • Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Service Show Host – Boy Meets Grill (2005) • James Beard Foundation’s National Television Food Show Award – Bobby Flay Chef Mentor (2005) • James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America (2007) • Bon Appétit magazine’s Best Cooking Teacher Award (2008) • Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Culinary Program – Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction (2012)

Bobby Flay was voted the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year in 1993. This award honors the country’s most accomplished chef under the age of 30. In the same year, the French Culinary Institute honored him with its first-ever Outstanding Graduate Award.

Bobby Flay has been a Master Instructor and Visiting Chef at the French Culinary Institute, where he personally selects the recipient of the annual scholarship that he established for a New York City high school student to attend the French Culinary Institute.

Bobby Flay: (when asked what he misses the most after becoming so famous) 
I miss being a line cook. I cooked on a line as a cook for seven or eight years and I loved the camaraderie of it. I loved the energy. I loved being in the heat of being busy. I felt like I was part of a team. I was always an athlete growing up and into my early adulthood. I love being able to high-five someone next to me because we accomplished something. Now I’m the head coach. It’s a little bit lonelier being the head coach.

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

Bobby Flay Gets Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Bobby Flay is the first chef to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. No other food-focused television personality or Hollywood restaurateur has landed the honor, not Julia Child or the Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr, Dave Chasen or the Brown Derby’s Robert Cobb and Herbert Somborn. His star was unveiled at a ceremony on June 2, 2015 and it was also the first one for the Scripps Networks’ Food Network in its 23-year history. “Bobby was one of the first personalities to see the benefit of the unproven entity that was Food TV back at the very beginning of Food Network,” says Brooke Johnson, president, Food Category, Scripps Networks, where she oversees the Food Network and the Cooking Channel and associated websites. “Additionally, Bobby’s ability to also wear a producer hat, be it his own shows or when working with other talent, sets him apart. I would say Bobby Flay has become a go-to resource for a generation of television watchers as well as TV personalities.”

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

From left: Bobby’s Mom Dorothy Flay, Bobby, Bobby’s Dad Bill Flay, Bobby’s Daughter Sophie Flay at his Walk of Fame Induction

Flay, now 51, started making guest appearances within a year of the channel going on the air in 1993. In 1996, he landed his first show on the cabler, “Grillin’ & Chillin’”; it would last two seasons and establish him as the network’s master of the barbecue grill. With Southwestern cuisine as his calling card, Flay’s shows reflected the food served at his two New York restaurants at the time, Bolo and Mesa Grill. “They weren’t flying in chefs from Los Angeles or Italy,” Flay says of the network’s early days. “If you could get there on the subway, you could be on. At the time, a lot of chefs were averse to it, but I saw it as a way to broaden my base in terms of customers. It was a simple idea. If a family from Minneapolis is coming to New York for the weekend and they’ve seen me on TV, maybe they’ll consider eating at my restaurant.” The strategy, two decades later, continues to pay dividends. A four-time Daytime Emmy Award winner, Flay has starred in a dozen series for the network — two or three are currently on-air — and multiple specials; he owns two restaurants in New York – Bar Americain and Gato, a hamburger chain Bobby’s Burger Palace, several restaurants at resorts, several in Las Vegas and a production company, Rock Shrimp Productions, that produces most of his shows.

And my last fun fact is that he has a gorgeous red headed Maine Coon cat named Nacho Flay that he refers to as his son. He also has a beautiful daughter Sophie who is in college.

Bobby Flay - Chef Appreciation Week

Bobby and Nacho Flay