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Ingredients:

1 lb. large shrimp, cleaned and de-shelled
1 cup stone-ground grits
3/4 cup grated cheddar (I used white cheddar)
1/4 cup parmesan
2 tbsp butter
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped (reserve the pan drippings)
2-3 white mushrooms, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½ cup chicken broth
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
salt, to taste
black pepper
parsley, for garnish

 

Directions:

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook until grits are tender and creamy, about 30–35 minutes. Stir in the cheddar, parmesan, and 1 tbsp. butter and season with salt; cover and set aside.
Season shrimp with salt, cayenne, and black pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet with the bacon drippings and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate with a slotted spoon. Lower heat to medium; add mushrooms and scallions to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute until golden, about 1 minute. Raise heat to high, add chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Boil until broth reduces by half, 3-5 minutes. Return shrimp to skillet along with the lemon juice, remaining butter, and hot sauce and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Divide grits between 4 bowls; add the shrimp and its sauce and garnish each bowl with bacon and parsley. Bon Appetit!


 

1-DSCN13361-1-1-DSCN1327If you read my last blog post, you would know that Emily and I just returned from a 2 week California road trip. It was a great trip that took us to many destinations in the Golden State. One of the more memorable stops along the trip was the Exotic Meat Market in Perris, CA. Those of you that know me personally, or follow this blog are also aware that I am an adventurous foodie and I am willing to sample different types of foods. I may not be as extreme as Andrew Zimmern, but I have tried various insects, reptiles, ocean & swamp offerings, and wild game meats. I even purchased some insect treats while in San Francisco & Pismo Beach (photo below).

Deep Fried crickets & Scorpion lollipops I purchased during the trip

Deep Fried crickets & Scorpion lollipops

With that said, there was no way I was going to pass up the opportunity to finally meet the man behind the Exotic Meat Market, Anshu Pathak. I met Anshu via Facebook through mutual friend that knew of my interest in wild game meats. We struck up a friendship and I became a customer. Anshu also occasionally sends me different types of meats he thinks I should cook and sample while I’m on this culinary journey. There are many foods that I have tried for the first time thanks to Anshu’s Exotic Meat Market such as beaver, alpaca sweetbreads, and emu “fan filet”, llama,  and a few others.
Emu investigation!Anyway, we were headed to San Diego from Los Angeles and arrived to Perris at 5:30 pm; which was much later than expected due to horrible LA traffic . Fortunately for us it was feeding time for the animals at the Exotic Meat Market crew!farm. Immediately upon arriving Anshu and his lovely wife Claudia escorted us to one of their farms to feed the animals, and I was so excited! The farm we visited featured llamas, alpacas, ostrich, emu, heritage turkeys, goats, and a feisty baby lamb that had a close relationship with a teenage alpaca. This seemed obvious as they chased each other around the pen. I thought we were there to watch the feeding, but Anshu informed me that I would be actually helping out that evening, say what?

I was caught off guard but very much willing to get in and help.1-DSCN1357 The animals appeared happy, healthy, and a little shy at first. When I started dishing out the hay the llamas and alpacas nearly knocked me over in their excitement. DSCN1334The goats were a bit more calmer and stayed close to us. I was a little apprehensive about entering the ostrich & emu area since I know they both can deliver a nasty kick if they are provoked. A few of the birds were curious and approached me, but most kept their distance until we exited the pen. This was a really fun and enlightening experience for me, since I had a chance to actually see, touch, feed and learn about the food that I cook and eat.
PicMonkey CollagefarmAfter feeding the animals at the farm, we returned to the office for a small feast of our own. Claudia bought out a tray with exotic fruits and cheeses that were just plain delicious (did I mention that they own an exotic fruit market as well?). Among the most interesting of the cheeses was one called Swiss Flower – a semi hard cheese made from fresh cow’s milk. During the aging process, dried Swiss Alpine flowers are added to the wheel of cheese. This cheese was served with apple, blood orange, berry chutney, and Fejoia fruit. There was also a cheese plate with organic aged cheddar from the USA, pecorino with black truffle from Italy, and a really good Stilton cheese from England. We then had some freshly harvested alpaca burgers, and they were very tasty. I would certainly love to experiment with alpaca in the kitchen one day soon.1-PicMonkey Co The highlight of the evening was the Japanese Kobe steak. Anshu informed me that this was the highest grade of beef on the market. Kobe beef raised in Japan is graded from A1 -A5 , with A5 being the best quality. There is also a grading system called”BMS” (Beef Marbling Standard). The fat marbling of the meat is graded on a BMS scale from 1-12, with marble Score 12 being the highest. This steak that we were about to try was rated A5 with a BMS score of 12, exciting stuff! Throughout the world, Kobe Beef is much more expensive than any other cut of beef. At top Japanese markets, Kobe beef sells for more than $500 per Kg. According to CNN’s Money website, Kobe beef sells for at least $150 per pound. Needless to say, I felt very lucky to be treated to such a steak. I have NEVER tasted a more delicious cut of beef like this before! We ate it sashimi-style with a little soy sauce, which wasn’t necessary but it gave the fat that bit of saltiness while it melted in your mouth, outstanding! I felt like it would be a waste to even cook a steak of this quality.PicMonkey Collage5
We finished this fun evening with new friendships, laughs, wine, and a local brew created by one of Anshu’s good buddys. So now it’s off to San Diego we go! I would like to thank Anshu & Claudia for the food and the hospitality that we were shown during our visit. We had a great experience breaking bread with new friends, and hope to do it again soon! Anyone that wishes to purchase these wild game meats check out their website http://www.exoticmeatmarkets.com
Like their FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Exotic-Meat-Market-Inc/156936877702974

 

I’ll leave you with my latest dish featuring Elk meat that I purchased from Exotic Meat Market, Bon Appetit! Recipe Coming Soon!

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Elk w/ Cherry Sauce & Stuffed Cabbage


1-DSC05137 - Copy - CopyHello everyone, I’m back! I’m fresh off a two-week road trip down the coast of California. My girlfriend and I rented a convertible and drove from San Francisco to San Diego on highway 1, better known as “PCH” or the Pacific Coast Highway. It was my first time to California and we covered 1200+ miles and visited an astonishing 21 cities on our way down! (talk about a grand tour) Some places were on the beaten path and some were off. I experienced some of the most beautiful natural scenery I have ever seen in my life. But with all of that driving a dude needs to eat, right? Well I am never one to disappoint and I can tell you, I literally ate and drank my way down the coast of the Golden State and it was such an amazing and fun experience. Although we had a ton of mini adventures, I will share some of the highlights with you…

Our start point was San Francisco which I did not like at first glance. Not that the city seemed horrible, but our hotel was in the Union Square Neighborhood which resembled NYC midtown somewhat. The scary steep hills you need to drive up and down worried me as well. Especially when you stop at a light, because when you release the brake you roll backwards, Yikes! Anyway, after I explored the city and the entire Bay Area, I fell in love with this place. The unique neighborhoods, the scenic views, and the awesome food makes SF a city I could see myself fleeing to from New York.

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Cafe de la Presse

The Stinking Rose

The Stinking Rose

House of Xian Dumpling

House of Xian Dumpling

First, we had a garlic filled lunch at The Stinking Rose, I ordered the “40 clove Chicken”, Which was cooked with forty cloves of garlic! Stinky and good lol! The next morning we had a great breakfast at Cafe de la Presse. One of the places that I loved was a new spot in the Chinatown district called “House of Xian Dumplings” on Kearny st. and Columbus. Cheap prices and great food make this a good eatery to grab a quick-lunch of fresh noodles and dumplings that are prepared right in front of you. I also had a good lunch at a restaurant called Taste of the Himalayas in the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley.

Laura Martin Bacon, Zebot ,and Zoebot

Laura Martin Bacon, ZeBot ,and ZoeBot

Before we left the Bay Area a good friend of mine Laura Martin-Bacon who is a longtime writer for William-Sonoma showed up with her cousin (who is a zebra) Zebot. I was given a tour of the farmers market by Zebot and interviewed by him for his children’s food blog Zebot.org. I will link the interview to this thread when I receive it.

 

The Fish Hopper

The Fish Hopper

Next up was Monterey Bay/Carmel. I had good food in each one of these areas:

The Sardine Factory

The Sardine Factory

In Monterey, we started the afternoon at the Aquarium which was an awesome experience. We had lunch at the Fish Hopper and I had this delicious blackened swordfish salad which was worth the long wait. That evening we had dinner at the Sardine Factory that featured some kick-ass lightly breaded Abalone appetizers, fresh shellfish, and I also had a really good Halibut entrée. In Carmel we visited Flaherty’s Seafood Grill & Oyster bar. First Emily ordered the baked halibut in sherry and porcini sauce, which came out over-cooked and dry.Then we had a waitress with and attitude problem (whatever). Anyway the Chef redeemed himself by sending out a lobster gnocchi dish that was to die for!

We hit the road the next morning to drive The Big Sur. The dramatic landscape made for a great scenic views. The ride did get a little scary as we drove around steep rocky cliffs, but it was still fun! We stopped at a bar & grill named Fernwood and we had steak tacos and hot wings before we resumed the road trip. Another cool thing we got to see along the way, were the hundreds of elephant seals basking in the afternoon sun.PicMonkey Collage4

 

In the San Louis Obispo/Pismo Beach area we had breakfast at the iconic Louisa’s Place in downtown “SLO” which was a good diner-style meal. In Pismo Beach we ate at the Cracked Crab which had an 1 hour-long wait together a table. I must say that the seafood was good, but this place was more like an over-priced Joes Crabshack. At least we made good use of the wait time by hanging out and making new friends next door at Vino Versato Wine Bar.

Next we tackled Santa Barbara. We did not really look for an upscale dining experience here (which there 10154239_10201779614596898_586616420_nare plenty of options). Upon our arrival we had lunch on the harbor at Brophy Bros. and I watched them run through a couple of pots of clam chowder which I regret not trying. I order a salad so I never got a chance to taste it, but it must have been that good. We chose to eat dinner at the Sandbar nightclub & bar which served 2 for 1 margaritas and some tasty Mexican dishes. I also had lunch at the Shintori Sushi Factory which featured soft shell crab tempura. We ended our time in SB with cheese plates, drinks, and good cigars at the beautiful Bacara resort & spa.

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Shintori Sushi Factory

Along the way we accidentally stopped in downtown Ventura because of nature calling, and by no means was it a mistake! We checked out a cool spice store on Main st. called “Spice-Topia”which was like heaven to me. It had so many fusion spices such as aged balsamic seat salt, rosemary & porcini sea salts, and many others. Next door was an Indian restaurant named Taj which served up some tasty cuisine buffet style. I had the lamb vindaloo which was simply delicious. We sent our compliments to the chef and in return he sent us 2 double cut lamb chops tandoori-style on the house. Not only a cool city, but very nice people as well. Thanks Ventura!

Parks Korean BBQ

Parks Korean BBQ

1-DSCN1127 - Copy - CopyLos Angeles was the next stop on this road trip. We arrived in LA a little winded, because we stopped in Malibu and Santa Monica the same day. I wanted to rest but Emily quickly reminded me we had dinner plans with our friends William and Kasinee. I was cranky and tired to say the least, but my mood brightened up once we got to the spot Parks which serves Korean BBQ. We had some really good food and laughs here. Heck, it was my first time eating raw crab. The next morning we visited Roscoes Chicken & Waffles for my favorite breakfast which is…well, chicken and waffles haha! Perfectly fried and homemade waffles Yum! I also had the chance to see Beverly Hills and walk around Rodeo Drive. We visited Hollywood, and the Tar Pits which was a very cool and educational experience.

Anshu Pathak and myself at the farm

Anshu Pathak and myself at the farm

Now comes the part when we went off the beaten path. Our plan was to hug the coastline all the way down. But there was no way I was going to drive past Perris, CA without visiting my good friend Anshu, owner of Exotic Meat Market. He and his wife Claudia gave us a tour of his farm of exotic animals. When we returned to the office we were treated to an array of exotic foods. I will write about our experience at Exotic Market Farm in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.

San Diego was the final destination of our trip. We had so much fun in Perris at PicMonkey Collage2the farm, that we didn’t get to our hotel in Coronado until 1am. Problem with this is that we had reservations for a fishing trip at 6:00am, no rest for the weary. After about 3 1/2 hours of sleep we were on Fisherman’s Landing with coffee and rented fishing poles. The day was fun and we caught a few California scorpion fish and small rockfish which I had the mates clean and filet for me. That night we had dinner at Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana restaurant. We were seated in a place that gave us a beautiful view of San Diego. I tried the Petto di Pollo al Peperoncino which featured a juicy and delicious marinated free range chicken breast with a spicy peperoncino sauce. Emily had Cannelloni al Forno, Large pasta tubes filled with chicken, ricotta , smoked mozzarella, pecorino, spinach, sun-dried tomato, and topped with bechamel, marinara, and mushrooms. I would definitely eat here again!
DSCN1444PicMonkey Collage1Early the next morning we visited the San Diego Zoo, a place I have always wanted to explore. I never thought I’d visit a zoo that compared to our own “Bronx zoo” , but the one in San Diego was awesome and fit the bill. We made our way to Old Town San Diego for some sightseeing and Margaritas with our late afternoon lunch. Our last night in SD we had dinner with friends, Quincy & Melany. I had not seen Quincy  in 20+ years so I was very happy to see him. I finally had the opportunity to prepare a meal! Dinner consisted of rib-eye, shrimp, and that scorpion fish I caught the day before. What a perfect way to end the road trip, friends, food & drinks, and a whole lot of love!1-DSCN1867 - Copy (2) The next morning on the way to the airport we decided to visit the famous Hotel Del Coronado, the views were so beautiful and the hotel was amazing looking inside and out. We spent a little too much time here exploring, because we found ourselves doing 50 yard dash to catch our flight out! Haha, we made it just in time, amongst the last to board. We really had a memorable time in California and I want to thank our friends and the nice people we met along the way that helped make this trip a great one!

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The end of a successful road trip!

The Stinking Rose


img_4724Ingredients:

1 1/2 lb thickly cut salmon filet, skinned
2 sheets ready-rolled puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup soft cream cheese
4 Tbs dill, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
salt
pepper

Creamy Watercress Sauce:

4 cups watercress, stems removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs olive oil

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine the cream cheese and dill in a bowl and mix well. Season the fish with salt and pepper. Place 1 sheet of the puff on a non-stick baking sheet and place the fish in the middle of it. Spread the cream cheese mixture on top of the fish.
Brush the other pastry sheet with the beaten egg and place on top of the fish, egg side down.Carefully use the sides of your hands to push the pastry down and around the fish enclosing it.Trim the borders of the pastry neatly with a knife.
Using your fingers, press down along the border of the pastry lightly to seal it. With a knife gently score the pastry to create diamond patterns and brush it more beaten egg. Place in the oven for about 25 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.Remove from the oven and cut it into desired servings.

While the fish is cooking, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion until softened, then add the garlic and watercress. Cook gently until the watercress wilts down then add the cream. Bring to a boil and remove it from the heat.Put the mixture into a blender or use a stick blender and process until it is smooth. Season with salt and pepper and pour on top of the salmon and serve.Bon Appetit!


I have had my problems cooking lamb racks in the past. They turned out either too rare, or overcooked. Then, finally after a lot of trial PicMonkey Collage3and error my last 3 attempts at cooking lamb rack were very successful. I got the result I wanted; perfectly cooked juicy medium-rare rib chops and a nicely seared crust. One of the keys to success was using a cooking thermometer the last few times to keep tabs on the doneness of the meat (I hardly ever use one). My target temperature was 135 degrees Fahrenheit, and using a thermometer helped me achieve the perfect results. Here is my recipe for a perfectly cooked rack of lamb, enjoy!

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Perfectly Cooked Lamb Chops!

1 rack of lamb, Frenched  (have your butcher “French” them for you if you do not know how to do so)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 1 Tbs separated
2 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
meat thermometer

Directions:

Combine the 1/4 cup of oil, fresh herbs, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a bowl and whisk together until well mixed. Carve any excess fat from the meat, not all of it since the fat will help flavor the meat. Pour the mixture into a plastic storage bag along with the lamb coating the meat, and remove as much air as you can from the bag, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the lamb from the bag, shaking off any excess, then discard the marinade. Heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron pan or heavy bottomed skillet until it is smoking hot. Quickly sear the lamb on all sides until a nice crust forms, then put the skillet in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until the thermometer reads 135 degrees F at the thickest part of the meat for medium-rare. Remove the lamb from the pan and allow it to rest 5-7 minutes before carving. Bon Appetit!


1-IMG_1498Ingredients:

1 lb baby carrots, halved
3 Tbs honey
2 Tbs lemon juice
2-3 Tbs butter
2 Tbs finely chopped parsley
salt and white pepper, to taste

Directions:

Bring a medium-sized pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add carrots and boil until tender, about 5 minutes, then drain. Heat up a large saute pan with butter, honey, and lemon juice; then add the carrots and chopped parsley. Cook on medium-high heat and stir until the sauce thickens a bit and a glaze coats the carrots, about 7-8 minutes. Season with salt and white pepper, garnish with a parsley sprig and serve. Bon Appetit!


Beaver Meat

Beaver Meat

By now, you know I am a very adventurous cook & foodie who is willing to try all types of cuisines and ingredients. But I really love cooking and eating  wild game meats as explained in previous posts such as  Take a Walk On The Wild Side pt.1  It’s All In The Game. I have experimented with alligator, rabbit, kangaroo, elk, ostrich, buffalo, antelope, yak, venison, wild boar, Iberico pork, and quite a few wild game birds. Heck, I have even eaten live octopus! Nowadays, these items are starting to become readily available to the general public through online orders or even your local market. More and more I am seeing items like venison, ostrich, and boar meat on store shelves here in NYC. The meats are healthier and leaner compared to the common proteins we normally eat. Also, there are tons of people who are very health conscious  these days when they make food choices, so game can be a wonderful alternative to factory-farm raised animals. For me, I just love the products for the taste and the unique ways to prepare them. But just when I thought that I tried most of the game meats available in the U.S.A., a friend of mine on Facebook introduced me to Chef/Author/Food Connoisseur, Anshu Pathak. (Big shout-out & thanks to Chef Mike Zollner!)

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venison

Venison Rib Chops

Anshu Pathak is the owner of Exotic Meat Market in Perris, California. It’s a business he started in 1969, and he is very passionate about it. Anshu has traveled and cooked his way around the world for the last forty-four years. He has also worked with some of the world’s best chefs and “spice masters”. I know him as a kind and generous man. Anshu’s meat market sells a variety of game meats I have never dreamed of trying, such as alpaca, bear, Nilgai antelope, llama, camel, peacock, gemsbock, Scottish hare, some of the best Waygu beef and, his most controversial item, American lion. We will discuss lion meat at a later date, but it is 100% legal here in the states. Anyway, I immediately became a fan of Exotic Meat Market; and when Anshu visited this blog he had seen that food, cooking, and wild game meat is a huge passion of mine as well. His wife Claudia used one of my recipes, (tikka masala) and they both loved it and decided to award me with a $500 gift certificate to order items of my choice from their market. I was pumped!

1-IMG_0340But what should I order? There were so many items I wanted to try. I decided to spread it out and order a little of this, and a little of that. Emu, beaver, alpaca, llama, kobe, squab, Nilgai antelope, and gator sirloin are some of the items I received. One of the meats I was excited about trying, was beaver. I watched an episode of “Bizarre Foods w/ Andrew Zimmern” and this cook prepared beaver chili for him and it actually looked tasty. I am pretty good at making chili, so why not use that same formula? Upon receiving my package, I noticed that the beaver meat was dark red in color, finely textured, and had almost no fat, which is typical with most game meats. I did a little more research and learned that beaver meat is strong in flavor and should be balanced out with other strong-flavored ingredients. How can I kick this chili up a notch? In steps Ron Elkins, co-owner of GHOSTPEPPERFARMS.Beaver Chili

GHOSTPEPPERFARMS is a father and son owned and operated company located in Dunnellon, Florida. Ron and his son Nathan started pursuing their passion of growing fresh peppers in 2011. They are a growing company that provides a healthy, flavorful, and pure red ghost pepper to their customers. I had no idea what a ghost pepper was until I met Ron. He explained to me that it is the hottest pepper on earth, and when used in moderation, it can enhance food dramatically. I am a “wimp” when it comes to eating very spicy food, but I also believe chili should have a heated “kick” to it. So the father and son team mailed me these beautiful red ghost peppers. He also packaged a sample of the dry pods, which I smelled and began shaking in my boots. But hey, if I can cook and eat a beaver, I can handle the Elkins’ hot ghost peppers. Thank you Ron & Nathan! I decided to do a slow cooked chili recipe in my crock pot and kick it up a notch with a couple of those beautiful Ghosties (and for goodness sakes, please wear GLOVES when handling these peppers). The chili came out great after an 8 hour slow cook! The beaver meat was surprisingly tasty. I really thought it was going to taste very gamey and swampy, but it was unexpectedly beefy tasting, but like a stronger tasting beef (if that makes sense).

Special thanks to Anshu & Claudia Pathak for the continued support and inspiration.

If you want to purchase any of these products:

Exotic Meat Market: Order online@ exoticmeatmarkets.com
“Like” Their page : www.facebook.com/pages/Exotic-Meat-Market-Inc/
Ghost Pepper Farms: Order online@ www.ghostpepperfarms.com/
“Like” Their page: www.facebook.com/ghostpepperfarms

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Beaver Chili

Ingredients:
1 pound beaver stew meat, cut into small cubes
1 medium diced onion
2 Tbs olive oil
3/4 cup diced celery
10 cherry tomatoes
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh ghost peppers, seeded and minced (leave the seeds if you dare, and wear gloves to handle!)
2 cans tomato puree 24 oz.
1 can dark kidney beans or black beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can cannellini beans with liquid
2Tbs chili powder
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Directions:
Heat the oil up in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season the beaver meat with salt and pepper and add it to the skillet and brown all pieces, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add it to the crock-pot along with the onion, celery, green bell pepper, garlic, tomato puree, kidney beans, cherry tomatoes, and cannellini beans. Season with chili powder, parsley, salt, basil, oregano, black pepper, and minced ghost peppers. Set the slow cooker on low and cook 8-10 hours. Bon Appetit!