Chef's Table - behind the closed door wine & dine

Chef’s Table – behind the closed door wine and dine

If you’re in Florida – either full time or visiting, please pay attention!   LAST. MINUTE. STUFF.

Have you ever dreamed of escaping reality? If only for few hours?  To forget about the annoying boss, the omnipresent politics, family’s disputes, or anything else that bothers you at the moment?  To escape the stress, sit down with bunch of complete strangers, share gourmet food and wine, fascinating stories, exchanging ideas or experiences from different parts of the Earth, and not having a care in the world?

Me too!

Years back, when I used to sell wine for living, I earned a trip to Spain hosted by wineries whose wines we’re selling. Among the best in Spain. It was just 5 of us whose sales results earned us that privilege (me being the only woman). Not a tourist trip in any stretch of imagination, we didn’t do a lot of sightseeing.

Instead, we’re invited to wineries we already loved, often to their private dinner table and shared their wine and absolutely stunning food they prepared for us at their homes.  We toured vineyards, touched the soil the vine grew in, and saw firsthand how the wine, we already admired, was made. They treated us like celebrities.

Few winemakers invited us to some best restaurants in the area (like a Michelin star restaurant in La Mancha, a fantastic steak house in Madrid, or unforgettable del Asador Alameda in Rioja). The last one, owned by a chef couple, Esther and Tomas was a specially fun.

Tomas personally cooked a custom menu for us, then sat down with us to enjoy it and the entire evening a cigarette never left his lips. (OK, so he took it out for this picture). It literally hung off his lip until the end of dessert, when they brought cigars. Yes, I had one too, funny you should ask!

Yet some of the most beautiful memories that don’t fade away are those moments spent at the winemakers’ homes. Sitting around a long table, sharing local, sustainable and unforgettable courses, prepared by winemaker’s wife and few helpers. They knew which food complimented their wines the best. It was a long wine tasting complimented with multiple courses.

We tasted food some of us never had before, eager to try everything, lost in conversations about wine, food and life, despite the fact that most of us didn’t speak Spanish and the winemaker didn’t speak English. With the help of translators, we all had unforgettable evening, made new friends and didn’t feel like leaving even after several hours (I’m sure their politeness stopped them from kicking us out sooner).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think about this often. We formed life friendships at that table. We felt like a family with people we never met before. That’s what wine does to you (kidding).  I can’t go back to Spain anytime soon but I can re-create that feeling at my own table. I’m a chef, with serious addiction for delicious food and wine (I’m spoiled so it got to be good!!!).  At my home, we have the privilege of natural ambiance of tropical paradise we now live in (Florida) and multiple wine coolers filled with delicious supply.

All I need is bunch of complete strangers that have the same desire in common. Escaping the reality (at least for one evening) and getting lost in conversations with people you just met, from different background, heck even from different part of the world. Like those popular secret suppers behind the closed door in Buenos Aires, or in Asia (or >shhhhh< some I know off are in New York).

 

Would you like to be invited to the very first intimate Chef Vera’s Secret Home Dining Table in South Florida?

 

Because it’s in a private home, there are few rules you should know about if you want to apply for invitation:

  1. Are you adventurous and open to try different things? Please don’t apply if you’re dieting or only eat chicken. Use your judgment – if you’re complete vegan it’s probably not for you. If you worry about not liking something, rest assured that there will be array of alternatives offered. Don’t worry nothing out of comfort zone (no liver, monkey’s brain or anybody’s testicles) OMG did she just say that aloud?
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  2. Are you easy to be around, and friendly to engage in conversation with other people? You’ll be exposed to diverse group of different backgrounds, age, sexes and experiences. Couples and/or singles. Small group – 8 total.
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  3. Like in the old days, we ban politic or religious discussion. Our goal is to enjoy well-deserved fun evening, not make someone feel awkward, unwelcome or offended. You can get enough of it daily on FB !!
  4. You don’t have to be a wine drinker, but it’s preferred. I want to compose it as a wine dinner but rest your kidneys; other alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages are available. Not that we discriminate abstainers or something….
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  5. You’ll receive lots of info ahead of time, but I’ll announce the detailed menu of the evening when you arrive.
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  6. We’ll share the food family style, just like at someone’s home, around one big table.
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  7. If you have allergies, special dietary requirements, we can address that during our introduction communication. I’ll do my best to accommodate special requests regarding your dietary needs but I’ll have limited ability if it affects the menu in major way. It would be nearly impossible to accommodate dietary requests that were not expressed ahead of time.
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  8. Everything I prepare will be organic where possible, and sustainable always.
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  9. Count on the evening taking longer than “usual dinner” at the restaurant, min. 3-4 hours.
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  10. Each dinner will start at 7:00 PM and we ask you to arrive half an hour earlier if possible, so you can get to know people who’ll dine alongside you.
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  11. For a security reasons we’ll want to get to know you better to consider your application so if that’s something you’re not comfortable with, please do not apply.
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  12. The hosting house is small in size and nothing fancy but full of heart, charisma, ambiance and character. I’ll do everything in my power to prepare an unforgettable wine & dine experience and fun company. As far as the total experience, that will depend on everyone sitting at the chef’s table.
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  13. Unlike at your mommy’s house, we’ll not ask you to help with the dishes.
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  14. You might want to consider Uber or nearby hotel.

If you want to be part of the very first Chef Vera’s Table – a behind the closed door wine dinner, you can also contact me directly at: dine@verashomekitchen.com. Please include subject line: I want to be notified about your next Chef’s Table!’

There are just 6 seats open at the intimate chef’s table and it’ll be gone fast! First dinner coming up this Friday!

When you send your inquiry, please let me know a little about you (your social media link), which day would you like to attend, and I’ll send you all the details about the evening, and some questions to answer so we can consider the invite. Sorry, if it sounds little bit like TSA but I’m sure you understand we’re inviting strangers to our home and want to make sure that the group of guest will be a good match to enjoy each other’s company. And, to make sure that we address any possible allergies or potential dietary issues ahead of time.

I am sooooo excited to make this happen!

Intrigued?

Reviews

Sun Basket experiment – meal no. 3

review-of-sun-basket-picture

If you just came across my blog now, this is a fourth article to my experiment: Chef’s review of Sun Basket home meals services. You can catch up here ….

 

So, final meal of the week. Wow, somehow we managed to leave the best for last – so far my absolute favorite!

The third meal from our Sun Basket was

Braised chicken with carrots, potatoes and thyme

Even the recipe card admits that it’s almost impossible to develop deep flavors to the sauce when you cook the meal for 20 minutes instead of braising it for hours, like you would normally do this type of dish. However this one hit the golden spot and was absolutely amazing!
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The prep:  *****

Super easy, everything pre-cut.  For some reason I proceeded immediately to peel the potatoes (although I normally wouldn’t) and THEN noticed they were left with skin on in the picture. Well, my bet. Chicken was pre-cut so the prep was easy-peasy. If I was prepping, I would maybe leave a bigger chunks of chicken, as there is enough time to cook it through.

Braised chicken

Cooking time: ****

The total cooking time was slightly longer,  it took me about 45 minute (and I’m a fast chopper) but the result was so worth it! I used red wine where wine was suggested in the recipe (or vermouth or water).

 

Taste: *****

As promised, the dish came out like it was braising for hours to develop the flavors! I didn’t adjust anything in seasoning, just followed recipe to the letter. So far our absolute favorite.

Portion size: *****

Again, portions were way too large for two of us, so we had one more left over for next day (we didn’t mind at all).

Braised chicken

 

Overal:  ***** 5 stars out of 5

Five stars without exception. I’ll definitely use this recipe for my own clients. I ‘m always short on time, and this recipe gives me an amazing opportunity to cook something that tastes like it was braised for hours. Great job Sun Basket!

So, those were our first week dishes. Looking back at this first week of experiment, I must say that the service is amazing. All three meals were easy to prepare, tasted fine (OK, I adjusted 2 of them to my own liking, but my taste is totally subjective). The convenience of the Sun Basket service is priceless.

Having ingredients on hand when I need them, not having to think about “what are we going to eat again” after all day cooking for clients, or wondering if I have everything I need.  Having variety of different dishes available really works for me. What I also enjoy is the fact that the program is 3 meals for 2 people a week. Which gives everybody plenty of chance to come up with their own favorite dishes for the rest of the week days.

Would I recommend this to you? Yeah, absolutely! How about you – did you ever try similar service, or this one? What was your experience? How does it compare with Sun Basket? Please share with us in the comments!

P.S.  Catch up on how it all started?  My Sun basket experience

Want to see previous 2 meals reviewed?

Meal No. 1 – Chickpea and quinoa curry with toasted naan  REVIEW

Meal No. 2 – Steak and Eggs with Tomato Cauliflower Rice REVIEW

 

 

 

Reviews

Sun Basket experiment – meal no. 2

review-of-sun-basket-picture

 

OK, I’m back with a review of our second meal purchased and cooked from Sun Basket delivery service. I must say it’s quite exciting – testing new recipes, and having all of the ingredients on hand as I need them.

For our second meal we picked Steak and Eggs with Tomato Cauliflower Rice.

I was looking forward to this one because I only make cauliflower “rice” as “fried rice” with Asian flavors. This was a new and interesting twist.

Ingredients for meal No. 2

Surprise:  two steaks were so uneven in thickness when I removed it from the packaging that it could result in overcooked half and under cooked second half for an inexperienced cook. Knowing better, I’ve gently flattened the thicker end of both steaks so they cook evenly. Also, I’ve done some addition trimming. I don’t particularly care for the silver membrane on my steak. Here is the meat as it arrived:

 

Steak

scallion oil

The scallion oil was such a lovely surprise. Small amount of maple syrup didn’t give it sweetness but it interestingly elevated the flavor of onions in hot oil. I’m so stealing this for use in other recipes!

 

The prep:  ****

Described well on the recipe card. It took me little longer as I added the additional trimming of meat (perfectionist me). I started with scallion oil and proceeded to tomato-cauliflower rice while heating cast iron pan for steaks.

 

Total cooking time:  ****

I must say this took me longer than proclaimed 20-30 minutes. Not that I minded. But I’m a chef and can prep and cook fast,so I would guess that inexperienced cook may need more time for this one.  From the moment I took the ingredients from the bag and snapped a photo, to the meal on the plates it was almost 45 minutes.

Steak with eggs and cauliflower rice

Taste:   ****

As I learned with the first meal I suspect that my taste buds are just more demanding. Totally subjective. I used my own steak seasoning instead of just salt and pepper (which is optional for anybody) and prepared tomato-cauliflower rice following the recipe exactly. The result taste of the rice didn’t satisfy me. I could hardly taste that wonderful smoke paprika flavor in the dish. So I added a small teaspoon of Spanish spicy smoked paprika and, to balance the flavors and heat, added about half a table spoon of organic sweet ketchup. The final flavor was so much better!

The combination with the steak was spot on, and the fried egg on top reminded me of my home country, where they always serve steak with an egg. Running yolk over the delicious cauliflower rice, in combination with the scallion oil was absolutely scrumptious.

Steak and eggs with cauliflower rice

Portion size: *****

Again, more than generous for two people. We would probably split one steak for both of us, normally. Well, don’t you guess it, we ate the whole thing!

Overal: ***** 4.5 out of 5 stars (just because the seasoning of the cauliflower was kind of bland, again. It was easily fixable though and I’ll definitely make it again. The idea behind this dish and the unexpected combination was spot on!!!

P.S. By the way, did you notice how I didn’t bother making both fried eggs “picture ready”? LOL

P.S.S. Catch up on how it all started?  My Sun basket experience

See more meals reviewed:

Meal No. 1 – Chickpea and quinoa curry with toasted naan  REVIEW

Meal No. 3  – Braised chicken with carrots, potatoes and thyme REVIEW

 

Reviews

Sun Basket experiment – meal no. 1

review-of-sun-basket-picture

1st meal: 

chickpea and quinoa curry with toasted naan


Chickpea an quinoa curry

 

 

When I first saw the ingredients, I thought it’s too little of everything. But then I remembered it’s just for 2 people. Although I’m a chef, I have a hard time to cook for just two (luckily we love leftovers).

 

ingredients for Chickpea and quinoa curry

 


The prep:
 *****

Description on the card was easy and detailed. I can imagine that even experienced cook wouldn’t have a problem to prepare it. I would use much more seasoning but I trusted the recipe and went with it as  written.

Cooking time: *****

The recipe card claimed 25-35 minutes and we had a meal on the table in 30 minutes. Following the recipe was easy and the result looked close to what it was on the picture. I would prefer my curry to be thicker. Perhaps less water, or use of coconut milk instead of water would do the trick and result in better consistency.

cooking chickpea and quinoa curry

 

Taste: **

I wasn’t excited.  To my personal (probably little spoiled) taste it was bland. It’s understandable that cooking for mass of people, you can’t make things spicy, but I’d expect curry to taste like curry and have at least some heat, even tiny. What I was missing was the debt of flavor when I cook other recipes for curry. The addition of dill, although adventurous and out of the box in my opinion didn’t elevate the flavors anywhere. Sorry …

I easily adjusted the heat to my liking (cayenne pepper) and added generous amount of cilantro. I also strained the last few spoons of curry so our resulted meal wasn’t so watery.

Portion size: ****

There was more than generous two portions of meal, we don’t usually make such large portions.

Overal:  **** 4 stars out of 5

 

Catch up on how it all started?  My Sun basket experience

See more meals reviewed:

Meal No. 2 – Steak and Eggs with Tomato Cauliflower Rice REVIEW

Meal No. 3  – Braised chicken with carrots, potatoes and thyme REVIEW

 

Reviews

When chef decides to review home meals delivery – Sun Basket

I guess it isn’t accurate to call it home meals delivery. It’s a perfectly measured organic ingredients and recipes delivery for you to cook yourself. Which I love. And I thought it would be a good idea to share my view of the service with you!

Have you ever heard the saying:  Farrier’s horse walks barefoot? Probably not (I’m not sure if it’s used in U.S.A.!) , because it’s translated from the traditional saying used in my homeland. You get the point – it’s adaptable to any profession – the roofer’s roof leaks, or, like in my case, the personal chef has no food in a house… 🙂

Well, that’s not completely true. I always have food on hand, but when I cook all day for my clients, I come home and don’t feel like starting all over again just for two of us. So I did different things – a pot of hearty soup that I cook on my day off, and we’d eat it for few days. Luckily, my husband doesn’t mind to eat the same food second day and the third, and sometimes even forth. Or, I slipped into habit of cooking more portions of the same dish so we have food on hand when I’m busy.

But although I’m in the market daily, shopping for my clients, I hardly have time to buy stuff for myself. Sometimes I do double shopping but when I’ve plenty to get for my client’s cooking day, it’s often impossible to add other items on my personal list and separate the orders. So when I finally get to cook something at home, it’s often breakfast for dinner or something similarly simple, because I don’t have all the ingredients on hand.

I kept watching the advertising for Sun Basket repeatedly on Facebook, and finally clicked on it to see what it’s all about. I knew about these services, but never tried one. Sun Basket offers you to pick 3 meals for 2 people, (and organic, which was a big plus for me). You will then get shipped exact measurement of the ingredients needed for the meals you picked, with detailed recipe how to prepare it. In other words, I love cooking. I don’t mind the work. With the price of one meal coming to about $11 and change, the convenience of having the ingredients on hand when I need it won me over. So I went for it.

My first Sun Basket

Partially because I wanted to try it out, partially because I thought that not eating the same food for few days may be a good idea, and also I like the idea of being exposed to different recipes and perhaps even apply some to my own menu for my clients.

So we got the first box last week. Here is what I think:

  1. Packaging – absolutely amazing! I’m really impressed with the attention to detail, how perfectly isolated the box came, with all environment friendly ice inserts to keep the food cold, incl. meats and dairy.Sun basket packaging
  2. Inside the box all three meal’s ingredients came separated in their individual paper bags, so nobody needs to play guessing game which ingredient goes with what. I can just put those bags to my fridge and take out the whole package when ready to cook it. Awesome!c126
  3. Nicely done recipe cards with a picture of the meal, nutritional information and detailed recipe.

First impression: ah-ma-zing, Sun Basket! Please stay tune to my reviews of the individual meals we picked for our first week. Can’t wait to test it out! Coming up soon!

Heeeeereeee we go!

Meal No. 1 – Chickpea and quinoa curry with toasted naan  REVIEW

Meal No. 2 – Steak and Eggs with Tomato Cauliflower Rice REVIEW

Meal No. 3  – Braised chicken with carrots, potatoes and thyme REVIEW