2014 Food and Wine Conference Brilliance and Giving Back

July 29, 2014

Rosen College of Hospitality Entrance

Rosen College of Hospitality Entrance

 

I attended the fabulous Food and Wine Conference this past weekend at the gorgeous Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel in Orlando Florida courtesy of  the Datz Restaurant Group  based in Tampa Florida and  Isabel Reis Laessig.   Isabel is the driving force and founder of the Sunday Supper Movement and The Food and Wine Conference.   She is an incredibly dynamic, warm, down-to-earth and altogether brilliant human being.   Isabel has organized this event for two years, doubling attendance and putting together an event that showcases classes, demonstrations, contests, sponsors, incredible food and wine and the perfect mix of leisure time for networking!   You can find Isabel right here at Family Foodie .

Before  the start of the conference (after my delicious  hug-fest in reception with Jamie Schler, Jackie Gordon, Jenni Field and Lora the famed Cake Duchess)   I was able to meet with both Deborah Silverman Bowen, the bright, sharp wit behind Datz, and the communications and voice behind their Facebook, Twitter, and all of their Restaurant Review Responses, along with the amazing Lorraine Ladish the founder of  VivaFifty, a bi-lingual lifestyle website devoted to celebrating life after 50.  Dr. Deb is both the Communications Manager and Digital Storyteller for Datz which is a Tampa Gastropub and Gourmet Market featuring “comfort food with a flair”.   Datz is owned by Suzanne and Roger Perry and a huge part of their business plan is transparency and giving back to the community which I truly admire.    My family is looking forwarding to traveling west to get a taste of their signature when pigs fly appetizer flight of bacon, and their datchos, a platter of  handcrafted potato chips,with chili, cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, blue cheese drizzle and scallions. topped again  with either pulled pork, chicken or brisket.    For a sweet at their bakery, or  if you need to cater your next party, Datz  Dough and, Dazzle are at the ready!  And lastly, the newest restaurant under the Datz banner is called Roux ( New Orleans Inspired Menu) and is  scheduled to open any minute.   We are going to dine there with the generous gift cards that were planted in my swag bag.

Datz Swag Gift Cards

Datz Swag Gift Cards

As with most of us, my real work happens in the quietness of my private workspace and behind large jampots at the stove, and what a joy it is when I can connect with kindred spirits that know and understand this and are willing to share themselves with abandon. I am not sure if I have ever been at a conference with so many talented men and women (of all different ages) who shared their knowledge and expertise in a way that was so educational, inspirational and energizing.

I wanted to begin with one  simple but  huge takeaway quote  from  Monica Bhide’s  presentation, and that is:

“Tenacity trumps Talent”

So powerful these three words are and they hit me so hard at the conference, so very wise.  You can see Monica below on the left with her  Tiara, Jamie Schler in the center and Jenni Fields on the right.

Monica, Jamie and Jenni

Monica, Jamie and Jenni

In terms of the agenda, it was one module after the other both Saturday and Sunday each jam-packed with information, fabulous and knowledgeable speakers and lots of fun too.  I just wanted to touch upon some of my absolute favorites here.  The SEO recipe with Don Cristo ( the cofounder of Triberr) bowled me over, I would love to spend a few hours with him (really a few days).  He took a live blog from one of our attendees and went line by line to analyze and give suggestions for placement and SEO.

The out of the box ideas from Blog to Business, oh my goodness, such inspirational stories from Michelle Northrup of Intensity Academy Gourmet Hot Sauce and Erika Kerkes of  Not Ketchup.  So interesting for me to see the different business approaches and to take inspiration from these  two women that are so successful.  So much to learn about WordPress, learned about lots of different plug-ins, but never knew that I could find a local word camp meet up group!  Writing Wisdom along with Blogger to Professional Writer  with  Monica Bhide and  Jamie Schler and Janet Keeler  – both modules were just outstanding.

The Branding bytes session with  Jackie Gordon and Coryanne Etienne asked, what are your four words?  Describe you in just four words….what do you want, what is your passion, refine your elevator pitch, define your audience, make your brand reflect your passion, think about how you can develop more revenue streams.  Sponsorships, video, Ads, Public Speaking, Affiliate links/Sales, Amazon Links, Ebooks, Products, Classes, Working with the community.  So much to think about.

Media Kit – Such great information provided by both Monica Bhide and Wendy Wallford Garcia .  Great ideas, beautiful graphics, so excited to get started.  The Picture Perfect Story with Janet and Scott Keeler she is the food and travel editor and he is a photojournalist for the Tampa Bay Times  and it is a match made in heaven!  Amazing  photographs and behind the scenes stories, what a fabulous couple!  Would love to join their Cookclub.    I managed to take a snap of the working with brands panel which was another great one!   Dr. Deb from Datz is the second one in from the left.

Working with Brands

Working with Brands

Another highlight for me was getting to watch the Giuliano Hazan Cooking Demo.  I  loved watching him make his  Spaghetti Alla Carbonara while all along having the pleasure of sitting next to his wife Lael.

 

Giuliano Hazan preparing Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with Zucchini

Giuliano Hazan preparing Spaghetti Alla Carbonara with Zucchini

And I got to meet Maggie Battista and Marisa McClellan!   Marisa did a fabulous presentation on writing her cookbook and spoke about her book tours and time on the road, she is a delight in person.  Marisa is the author of the blog Food in Jars  and has written a book with the same title, Food in Jars and a second book called Preserving by the Pint and there are hints of a third!   Her tours and demos are wonderful, you can check her website for her schedule.

Maggie Battista & Marisa McClellan

Maggie Battista & Marisa McClellan

What made this conference different was the people, from the welcoming speech from Harris Rosen with his message that being successful affords you the opportunity to help others, to Isabel’s opening words, so heartfelt,  that for her the conference was a dream come true…it is this type of passion and generosity that made this conference so unique and wonderful.

 

 

Mango Lime and Tequila Popsicles

July 13, 2014

Mango Lime & Tequila Popsicles

Mango Lime & Tequila Popsicle

Mango season is upon us here in Central Florida!  I have had 60 pounds of fresh, untreated Kent Mangos delivered to our kitchen to make various jams and chutneys for our Farmer’s Market tables.   One of the other things I love to do with our jams is to use them to enhance and create other easy to make dishes.   This is a simple recipe that I developed for a very light-tasting summer popsicle.  You can use any flavor jam for this, I chose to use my Mango Lime and Tequila Jam for a gorgeous tropical treat.  This recipe will make enough to fill a 4 pop mold which can be purchased inexpensively at any local market.    This is made using a 2 cup measuring cup and a blender.    

Yummy close up

Yummy close up

Gluten Free Meyer Lemon Bars

February 23, 2014

Meyer Lemon Shortcake Dessert Bars

Meyer Lemon Shortcake Dessert Bars

 

 My gorgeous Meyer Lemon tree still has lemons left to harvest, and I could not resist giving this recipe a try.    I eliminated gluten from my diet about 8 months ago, and I have been finding my way.   I have been working very hard not to simply substitute gluten free goods for all of the delightful wheat products I enjoyed my whole life.  You see I really, really want this to become my lifestyle.   I feel better–my digestion is better, my moods are better, my cravings and sense of hunger have changed, all in a positive way.   It was a huge change for me, just to be willing to give this a try.  How could it be possible that the Staff of Life was making me ill?  How could it be that something so central to my diet, my entire life, something I probably at every other meal, how could it be wreaking havoc on my digestive system?    I just could not believe it, I love everything about wheat and I grew up on it, plain and simple.  But I began the journey, I try not to obsess about it,  I try not to talk about it…I love to fit in, it is just about my favorite thing fitting in.  It’s just never been in the cards for me :) 

Every few weeks I experiment with a recipe to see how it will work substituting the flours that “agree” with me.   I wanted to post this one up for you and if time allows, I will continue to post them up.  I hope you try this one.  Feel free to use glorious wheat flour as I am sure it will improve the taste and texture, but if you are watching like I am….this is a great alternative.

Adapted very slightly from the Joy of Baking

 

 

 

 

Meyer Lemon Bars

Meyer Lemon Bars

 

My beautiful tree holds fast to its lemons and lets me enjoy them in treats like these for several months past their season.

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We Made It! The List of Simply the Best of Orlando 2014

Pineapple Tangerine Jam Wedding Favors.

Pineapple Tangerine Jam Wedding Favors.

I was thrilled when Orlando Life Magazine contacted me in late January requesting an interview for the March issue.    The feature is a list of simply the best in Orlando, from people, to places, to local restaurants, shops and artisans.    It is so incredible when a magazine contacts you through word of mouth and your reputation, for me it is the greatest compliment ever.    They were wonderful to work with and were good enough to provide me with interview questions so that I could put together my responses offline and turn around the interview quickly.   

After I sent away the interview, I realized that I don’t take the time out on my own blog to talk about my company or my progress very much.  Unfortunately, I really don’t love the entire marketing end of the business –I would much rather be the mad scientist in the kitchen focusing on the creative side or sampling products with my customers who give me the energy to continue to go on creating.  This is why the larger companies have PR and Publicists on their teams, but for the smaller companies such as mine, we juggle to do the very best that we can.  So that is why it is so great when a press opportunity comes along and especially one with such thoughtful interview questions!

I wanted to share the interview with you here so that you could learn a little more about me and Sunchowder’s Emporia and the directions we have come and gone with since December of 2008.  I hope you will enjoy reading about us!   Here we go: 

1. I know you started this business back in 2008 when you decided to pursue a passion of yours but tell me where the business is now compared to six years ago? How has Sunchowder’s Emporia grown? Is this where you pictured you business to be six years ago?

This little business of mine has grown beyond my wildest expectations!  We have had the good fortune to be featured in several national magazines and have more than tripled our sales since our humble beginnings in the middle of a recession.  Our mission to be part of and support the local food movement has not waivered and we continue to use only fresh fruits and vegetables and remain loyal to local farmers and produce whenever possible.   My stance on not using commercial pectin or artificial ingredients has remained firm, and our customers support us with their continued patronage.  Without our loyal customers, I would not be where I am today.  Each and every one of them contribute to my financial well-being and security.   In terms of how I pictured the business, each year I renew my goals and review our results and work hard to remain current and provide products that meet my customer’s needs and expectations.    Staying true to our name Emporia, we expanded our product line to include pickles and relishes back in 2011 and in 2013 we opened our Vintage Store on Etsy to complement our product line.   In 2014,  I plan to work on an outline and proposal for a cookbook with a focus on featuring recipes for my jams, pickles and relishes as the basis for your own home pantry, how to use them for appetizers, mains,  and desserts, and how to create meals with leftovers using all the gems that you have canned;  all with a touch of frugality and Florida influence.

2. You said that the changing of the seasons has been an inspiration for you throughout the creative process. Can you tell me more about that?

The seasons will always dictate what I will be processing in our kitchen.  Each season brings with it its own fruits, some harvests are sweeter, some are more tart.  It is the song of nature really.    In Florida, we move from Strawberries, to Blueberries,  to Mangos and then on to the summer berries Raspberry and Blackberry.  In the fall we have gorgeous Apples, Pears, and Pumpkins.   As I taste the fruits that we bring into the kitchen,  I will always make adjustments to the sweetness and acidity to balance each batch.   I love to experiment with different fresh herbs, spices and spirits to create unique flavor profiles.  This past summer season I was able to source over 100 pounds of outstanding fresh California apricots.  With the clock ticking on this gorgeous fruit,   I worked in the kitchen to develop a new flavor called Apricot Vanilla Bean with Tuaca.  I discovered Tuaca Liqueur which an Italian brandy infused with vanilla and citrus essences, and I  knew the moment I tasted it that it would be a perfect pairing with Apricot.  This flavor was a smash hit this past season in both the Farmer’s Markets and my online Etsy shop. 

The Blueberry season begins in March here in Florida.  I have a relationship with  Spring Valley Farms in Umatilla and I exclusively use their berries in my fresh Blueberry Jams.  Our standard “gold” flavor is our Blueberry DiSaronno, this jam uses only fresh berries and just a touch of almond DiSaronno is added to give this jam a special finish.   This season I experimented with several different herbs and introduced Blueberry Basil Jam which was another hit with our local customers.

During the Florida mango season which usually begins in May, we had a happy accident in our kitchen and created Mango Lime Tequila Jam.  My Dominican kitchen assistant misunderstood me when I asked him to grate lemon into the mixture and he grated lime zest instead and what a happy accident that was!  We went on to add fresh chili pepper from my garden to our next batch and those two flavors will remain in the recipe stack for next year.   Those jams are only made seasonally and in limited quantities.   Mango jams, both sweet and spicy pair beautifully with many different cheeses.

3. What are your most popular jams for each season

Winter:  Tangerine Ginger Rum, Jalapeno with Apricot and Wildflower Honey

Spring:   Blueberry DiSaronno

Summer:  Raspberry Cointreau, Blackberry Chambord

Fall:   Pumpkin Butter

4. Do you have specific jams that can be bought all year round, if so what are they?

Strawberry,  Blackberry Chambord,  Raspberry Cointreau,  Raspberry Pepper,  Jalapeno, Apricot and Wildflower Honey  and Pineapple Tangerine.

5. On average, how many jams do customers typically have to choose from?

I usually have a selection of about 12 to 15 different fresh fruit jams at both the Winter Park Farmer’s Market on Saturdays and the Lake Eola Farmer’s Market on Sundays.

6. Out of all the jams you make which is the one that is usually bought the most (everyone’s favorite jam) and why do you think that is?

I believe that would be strawberry!   I think this jam is familiar, comfort food for not only Floridians, but for visitors alike.  We have an amazing strawberry harvest here in Central Florida beginning in December and passing through till mid-April depending on the heat.  We are able to source Strawberries directly from the farms during our season and then I source the berries from Driscoll’s in our off season.  I only use domestic strawberries in our products, so it is either Florida strawberries or California berries in most cases.

7. Now tell which jam is your favorite, both to make and to eat, and why!

My favorite jam is to eat is my Strawberry Balsamic.   This jam is time-consuming and expensive to produce.    It is based on a recipe by Christine Ferber and combines fresh strawberries, the juice of fresh raspberries, sugar, lemon, black pepper and then is finished off with balsamic vinegar.  I love this jam because it has a richer flavor than a plain strawberry jam,  not too sweet, and tastes marvelous on a sandwich, as a cake filling, on ice cream or eaten straight from the jar!  This jam is available in limited quantities a few times during the year.

8. You said that one of your major goals is to have a creative space where you can teach. Tell me a little bit more about that and about the steps you are taking to achieve this goal.

This past March I taught my first Preserving  class at the Florida Hospital Diabetes Institute, and I  will be teaching two additional classes this year on Fermenting and another on Spices in March and October, those specific dates are to be announced.  I am also partnering with a small shop in Longwood called the Wild Hare Kitchen and Garden Emporium, and we also plan to put together some preserving classes to be held there this year.   I will announce the classes on my facebook page and at the markets as the dates are made firm.

9. I read that you use French methods of jam making. Can you explain specifically what that is to me?

None of the processes are automated in my kitchen.   The fruits are washed and cut by hand, and I use old-fashioned French Copper Pots to boil down my jams.   Many of the fruits are macerated overnight in lemon and sugar to begin the preserving process.  This method will allow the fruits to absorb the sugar slowly and also helps to maintain the shape and color of the fruit after it is cooked.  I also separate the syrup from the fruit after it has macerated for 24 hours especially in the case of my Strawberry Jam.  As I don’t use commercial pectin in any of my products, this helps me to achieve the gel in a fruit such as the low pectin Florida Strawberry.   European jams have a softer set than American Jams and I prefer this.   Many of my jams have a looser set that you will find with a store bought jam.

10.  If you had to summarize your favorite part about making these jams, and being the owner of Sunchowder’s Emporia, in just a couple sentences what would you say?

My favorite part by far is creating new flavors and experimenting in the kitchen.

My information: 

Website:   http://www.sunchowdersemporia.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/sunchowdersemporia     

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/sunchowder

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sunchowder/

 

 

Here is the original link to Orlando Life Magazines Article: http://www.ohlmag.com/topics/features/simply-best-2014#.UwnqlUPvfps.facebook

Copper Pour Pot

Copper Pour Pot

Candied Bourbon Chili Kumquats

February 6, 2014

Kumquats on the Simmer

Kumquats on the Simmer

This year I have been able to source locally grown and pesticide free Kumquats which is always a plus.   I wanted to experiment a bit and got some inspiration from Kaela over at the Local Kitchen blog.   I modified her recipe and technique a bit, and I used Dried De Arbol Chili along with the Bourbon.  For my taste, these pack a spicy punch, but for those that love spicy, these are quite mild.   They pair beautifully with chicken, pork and duck as well as sweet/spicy toppings for cheesecake and ice cream.  

You can use the jarred syrup to make a kumquatini or two in the heat of the summer, just fabulous!  They make lovely gifts as well.  This is the recipe that I use to make the jars for my Farmer’s Market customers. It can easily be cut in half for smaller batches.   I hope that you enjoy!

 

 

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Koshary on a Cloudy Afternoon

January 25, 2014

Egyptian Koshary

Egyptian Koshary

I was married to an Egyptian when I was 25.  It did not end well.  But…I was able to travel to Alexandria as my marriage was ending.  It was there that I was introduced to Koshary.    I remember arriving in Alexandria after more than 20 or so hours of travel time and pulling up to the apartment house in my rag-tag-taggety taxi.   The building was ancient, painted turquoise, crumbling.  There was a huge atrium where everyone would gather outside of their apartments and socialize and watch the goings on.   When I arrived, I would say it was a huge goings on.   Tall, blonde and American, I was a site to behold for this congregation of elderly housewives.   I was hushed into the apartment and I met my mother-in-law for the first time.  Beautiful, jovial and not a word of English.  We smiled and laughed and I used every one of my broken Arabic words to get myself settled in to this slice of life that was so very foreign to me.

Egypt has been in the news so very much lately, I think of her and wonder if she is still alive.  We had three weeks together more than 25 years ago,  and I still remember watching her prepare the meals.  She had a simple way, not overly spicy, not fussy.  I remember the morning she took me to the market to purchase cheese and fresh spices.  It was this day that she prepared a simple Koshary for our luncheon.

Koshary

Koshary

There are many different ways to prepare this dish, some add pasta, chickpeas and hot chili sauce, but my mother-in-law made it this way and I make it just as she did all those years ago.  I don’t have a recipe, she taught me to add handful of this and a pinch of that, never any measurements.

 

 

Sicilian Pineapple Ricotta Cheesecake

December 22, 2013

 

Sicilian Pineapple Ricotta Cheesecake

Sicilian Pineapple Ricotta Cheesecake

 

Her name was Anna.   A most beautiful Anna, sturdy around the hips. freckled arms so big and strong.  I loved her the moment I met her.   Her eyesight was failing then, but you would never know it really.   She was a force in the kitchen and I loved to watch her prepare and serve her specialties influenced by her Sicilian heritage.  Weeks before she passed away she could no longer eat, for me this was the most tragic.  I think of Anna quite often.  She made  a version of this lovely cheesecake every year in a large 9 X 13 glassbake dish.  I never did get her recipe for this cake, but I so wanted to create it this year as it has been so very long since I tasted Anna’s cake.

This recipe is close, it is a lovely and light cheesecake, not at all smooth.  It has a rustic texture with a background of custard and pineapple.  Decadent and delicious to finish off a holiday meal or a meal of any sort really.

Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake

Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake

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Blueberry Basil Jam and Spring Valley Farms

May 14, 2013

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Just as the Strawberries finish, in between the Zucchini…the Blueberry season starts in Florida.  We start to see the first glorious berries in March.  I am so lucky to have found the wonderful family that owns Spring Valley Farms in Umatilla, Florida.  Vesna and Chuck have been amazing and incredibly generous,  and I am so grateful to have them in my life.  This year I have produced Blueberry DiSaronno, Blueberry Verbena, Blueberry Basil, and Blueberry Citrus Jams along with Blueberry Syrup and sumptuous Pickled Blueberries.  We go out the farm as often as we can during the growing season.  Silvio rides in the car with me, he has worked with me for two years now, I don’ t know what I would do without his help to clean, prep and help me cook all of the wonderful products we make.

Silvio in the Blueberry Field

Silvio in the Blueberry Field

 

Ripened Fresh Blueberries at Spring Valley Farm.

Ripened Fresh Blueberries at Spring Valley Farm.

 

I wanted to post up a recipe for my Blueberry Basil Jam.  Fresh Basil gives the jam a really subtle and delightful flavor.  I make my jams without commerical pectin.  This is a bit more time consuming, but I believe it is worth it for the lose set it gives the final product.   If you give this recipe a go, I would love to hear how you like it.

 

Apple Slice

March 8, 2013

Apple

I was inspired by a recipe that I found here.  Of course, Giulia’s photos of the Apple Slice are gorgeous and appealing, unlike the ones I have posted here for you of my rendition!  However, I could not let my photos stop me from posting this here for you today.  This is reminiscent of a French Clafouti and uses very little flour.  I completely love this and will be making it again.  I made a few changes to her recipe which included translating it into American Measurements and then adjusting the cooking temperature and time as I did not want blackened bottoms on my slices.  I have recommended an 8 X 8 baking dish for this, but I believe you could also get away with using an 8 X 6 dish and come away with an even denser custard.  In my photo the apples (which had cinnamon on them) almost look like home fried potatoes!   Believe me, this tastes nothing like a breakfast casserole.   I wonder if a bit more butter and a bit less cinnamon would have given a more appealing and browned look in these photos.  I hope you try this one.

Apple Slice

Apple Slice

 

 

Apple Slice Piled High

Apple Slice Piled High

 

 

Florida Citrus Salt

February 24, 2013

Florida Citrus Salt

Here is a simple recipe for preparing a citrus salt that you can use on seafood, chicken, meats, potatoes (any vegetables really), rice, pasta and in your salad dressings.  We love it on our popcorn too!  I use so much citrus to prepare my jams, and this is a great way for me to make sure that the zest does not go to waste.  Make sure your citrus is not treated with pesticides and be sure to scrub it well and dry before zesting.  I use the microplane zester myself.   You can vary the amounts of citrus for your taste, I happen to like it heavier on the lemony side.

Florida Citrus Salt

Florida Citrus Salt

 

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