Brussels (no – not the european city)

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Everybody gets their moment to shine. Same goes for veggies. It was micro greens. Then kale. And now its brussels sprouts. I hated these as a kid, often comparing them to carpet, which was not a big hit with my mother. But now – NOW – I am in brussels sprout love.

I recently spent some time at the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek. I found myself at the Grouse Mountain Grill and made a meal out of a tasty pineapple mojito and a brussels sprouts appetizer. You wouldn’t think the two go together, but let’s pretend they do.

I was lucky enough to meet the chef, David Gutowski who is sort of a big shot, I now know. And after a little banter, I learned that he is a friend and a fan of our fabulous Jenna Johansen. So he graciously gave me his brussels sprouts recipe. It’s amazing what small talk can get you.

These were the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever tasted and the recipe seems simple and straightforward, always a plus.

 

Crispy Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned, halved, and blanched
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBL smokey, crispy bacon, minced

Directions:

  • Mix maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan
  • Cook over medium high heat until boiling
  • Lower heat and and allow sauce (gastrique) to reduce
  • “Fry” brussels sprouts at 350 degrees until golden brown
  • Drain on paper towel and toss with  3TBL gastrique and bacon
  • Season with salt
  •  Enjoy
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Because Meat and Cheese Platters Are Sad and Root Canals Hurt (and other reasons to use an expert like Epicurean)

I am a fan of the entrepreneurial spirit. I love the DIYers out there, making their way in the world. In fact, I used to be one of them. But then I got … older.

As you now know, I recently enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Botswana. It was the best experience of my life besides the day I got married and the four times I was handed healthy, happy babies in the hospital. (Actually, Africa was better – but I had to write that other stuff because my children are learning to read and my husband usually buys me jewelry for anniversaries and God knows I don’t want to shut that door.)

Africa was phenomenal for a myriad of reasons, but the biggest? I. Did. Not. Have. To do. ANYTHING. I did not plan this trip. Instead, Uncharted Outposts did all of the work. My little sister was intimately involved, but she also got to get her ears pierced at five years old and I had to wait until I was 10 – so she owed me.

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Using an expert, whether it is for a root canal, an African safari, or party planning, is usually worth the money. We receive several calls every year from lovely individuals who were once Ambitious Catering DIYers and are now hoping to become Happy Epicurean Clients. Why? Because we’ve done the catering and event-planning thing for 35 years; and party platters from Costco leave a lot to be desired.

I could have NEVER pulled this off.

I could have NEVER pulled this off.

Hiring professionals often causes people to panic, fearing that the costs will be enormous. Not so. Using an expert actually saves money. Companies, such as Epicurean Group or Uncharted Outposts or whomever, know what they are doing. They have relationships with vendors, allowing for bulk discounts that are usually passed on to the client. They have trained professionals that can coordinate staff, work within a budget, act as a single point of contact, and save you from the headache and heartache and exhaustion that comes from trying to do everything yourself.

I was considering knocking down a bunch of walls in my kitchen because I never felt like I got to spend time with my guests during parties. Then I started using Epicurean for my catering (I have an ‘in’ you might say) and realized I didn’t need to renovate, I needed to delegate. I’m done standing in my kitchen while everyone else is celebrating on my patio. I’m done trying to do it all myself. And talk about saving money! Using the pros saved me thousands in renovations – and probably millions in marriage counseling. The Blackfords don’t do renovations well, let’s leave it at that.

I guarantee I could have never pulled off an 18-day trip to Africa – one that included a private helicopter tour, a morning spent feeding an orphaned baby elephant, and a hike up the cliffs at the Cape of Good Hope – and I wouldn’t have wanted to. It would have taken a bit of the shine off the whole adventure; instead I simply got to be.

Epicurean is all about allowing our clients to be a guest at their own party. After all, we are in the business of celebrations (a good business to be in – everyone is happy, happy, happy!) and being the host of a party, big or small, should be enjoyable – and shouldn’t include a meat and cheese platter from a big box store. Come on, you deserve more than that…right?

You deserve this. You do.

You deserve this. You do.

Share your worst DIY party stories with us on Facebook.

100 Kitchen Tips from the Pros (here’s one: read the recipe – brilliant!)

Apparently not?

 

The Food Network recently released their 100 top cooking tips of all time. For real. That’s what it’s called: 100 Greatest Cooking Tips (of all time!) 

I’ve been hoarding this list, which, after some quiet meditation and deep interpersonal reflection, I realize is wrong. We all deserve the greatest tips. Especially if they are the greatest tips of all time. Exclamation point.

Numbers 27 and 87 resonate with me – and for those of you who know me, there is no explanation necessary. Exclamation point.

27. Take the time to actually read recipes through before you begin: John Besh – Author of My New Orleans

87. Make sure the handle of your sauté pan is turned away from you so you don’t hit it and knock it off the stove. It happens all the time.: Jonathan Waxman – Barbuto, New York City

Yes, Jonathan, yes it doesHence the disturbing scar on my left wrist.

What’s your favorite tip from this list or from your own? Or, better, what’s your biggest disaster? Share it with us on Facebook. 

Out Of Africa: Wine Tasting

Image (view from Delaire Graff – aka – heaven)

I recently returned from a trip to Botswana. As in Africa. I was so inspired by the menus, the decor, the wine, the people, and the animals that I came back with loads of blog topics to share with you, our faithful foodie readers.

This is not one of those blogs.

I started on several blogs that were read-worthy – full of wonderful ideas and beautiful photos and lots of pithy humor and more.  But I am finding myself wallowing in despair because I miss Africa in a way that I can’t describe. So I won’t try.

As you well know, I turn to food or drink when times get tough. And we are out of jelly beans so I am focusing on drink. Wine, to be exact.

After our many days and nights on safari, we landed in Cape Town and embarked on a fantastic winelands tour, stopping off at Rustenberg Winery for a tasting before heading to Delaire Graff for lunch. I imagine the view from heaven is the same as the view from the deck of Delaire Graff, which is good to know because based on some of my past behavior, who knows where I’ll end up in the end. And at least I got to spend a buzzy afternoon in the promised land.

But – back to wine. We were introduced to the Riedel tasting glass at Rustenberg and were immediately smitten. This little glass has an empty stem, allowing for the perfect pour when tasting a wine. We were mesmerized; you can roll the glass around on the table without spilling a drop! SUCH a fun party trick and a great gift idea.

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(Kathleen, Rebecca, and Andy at Rustenberg – look closely and you can see the tipped glass!)

The glass was designed to emphasize the aromas and evaluate different wines in a small period of time. Apparently some people don’t open the wine and start gulping it down right away. These are the same people who don’t have four children and can do the New York Times crossword in pen. These are the same people who don’t know the sheer pleasure of pouring a mid-priced chardonney into a thermos prior to attending yet another showing of Frozen. 

I searched the web for a video of Riedel’s tasting glass, but I had very little luck because Riedel’s videos were a bit stuffy. So – thank you James The Wine Guy, for being sort of human.  And may I suggest something light and crisp for your thermos?Image (Delaire Graff’s delicious wine – I’m in the background gulping sipping in a ladylike fashion)

EggCellent Idea – The Golden Egg (for real!)

egg

So we are assuming that you are being inundated with recipes for Easter Brunch, but this idea for a “golden” hard boiled egg had to be shared. Eggs, dyed in springy pastels or not, are a great source of protein. My little people don’t like the yolk (aka – the pit) so by performing this magic trick, I am able to get them to eat the whole egg which makes everyone happy. I like to be happy. Click here for a short video and enjoy!

 

(submitted by Stephanie Blackford)

Food Addiction – The Real Thing?

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I joke about food addiction all the time, but it is a real thing. I didn’t realize how real until I read the latest issue of Experience Life Magazine, a publication put out by Lifetime Fitness, the gym where I donate $162 each month.

Anyway.

Dr. Mark Hyman’s article, “Beating Food Addiction” simplifies what can be a mystifying problem for many people. Food addiction must affect many, considering 70 percent of Americans are overweight. Why else do so many of us “eat foods that we know aren’t good for us, that aggravate chronic symptoms, and that make us feel sick, bloated, and guilty?”

The answer is tricky, but we are biologically programmed to eat sugar- and fat-laden foods and store the extra calories (as fat) to carry us through the times when food is scarce. But the food we are storing on the inside is never used, because we live in the 21st century and not in a cave. I do know some people that should live in a cave, but that’s not what this is about.

According to Dr. Hyman, it’s biology that’s getting the best of us. “What saved us as hunter-gatherers is killing us now,” he writes. Well-said, and pretty sad.

So how do you know if you have a food addiction and not just an unhealthy love of potato chips? You can take a look at Dr. Kelly Brownell’s nine points below – the more intensely or more frequently you experience these feelings and behaviors, the more addicted you are. (FYI: I am in some major trouble here.)

  1. You consume certain foods even if you are not hungry because of cravings.
  2. You worry about cutting down on certain foods.
  3. You feel sluggish or fatigued from overeating.
  4. You have health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food
issues and yet keep eating the way you do despite negative consequences.
  5. You have spent time dealing with negative feelings from overeating certain foods instead of spending time in important activities with family, friends, work, or recreation.
  6. You have had withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and anxiety when you cut down on certain foods (not including caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea, and energy drinks).
  7. Your behavior with respect to food and eating causes you significant distress.
  8. Issues related to food and eating decrease your ability to function effectively in your daily routine, at your job or school, and in social or family activities.
  9. You need more and more of the foods you crave to either experience any pleasure and/or reduce negative emotions.

So now what? Dr. Hyman recommends a comprehensive detox, not just eliminating a few trigger foods. A 10-day, cold turkey detox that eschews gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and celebrates lean protein, nuts, fruits, vegetables and water.

This is nothing new. We all know this and we don’t all do this and why? Because we’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid – literally – for years. We have been ingesting a drug in the form of something as innocent-looking as a vitamin water. It’s not our fault necessarily, but it is our problem.

Dr. Hyman’s book and supporting articles offer a bit of hope by simplifying the reason behind food issues, eliminating the guilt associated with them, and offering steps towards success.

Heidi Wachter tried Dr. Hyman’s detox and shared her daily insights. Reading about her experience was inspiring, until the part when she mentioned she’s been trying to “put on weight.” So then I hated her. But just for a second.

I originally wrote this post with a plan to post one of Dr. Hyman’s recipes, but if you are serious about attempting his plan, one little recipe is not going to help. So check out some of the resources he offers and fill us in on your success.

Epicurean has and always will offer a variety of foods and we never label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for our guests since we are all different cavemen and cavewomen. But – writing this blog reminded me of the importance of enjoying good food in any situation, while also being true to yourself and your needs. That’s why we encourage our guests to speak up when they need or want something different on their plate or at their table. And we won’t send you back to your cave just for asking.

Larry DiPasquale Inducted Into Visit Denver’s Hall of Fame

DSC_9143(photo by Wonderworks)

The great thing about working for Epicurean, besides the obvious (risotto and crème brûlée) is that I get to write and post these blogs about basically anything. The rest of the team is busy with other things (risotto and crème brûlée) and I have free reign. I am drunk with power.

So – while the one and only Larry DiPasquale would never, ever advertise the fact that he was recently inducted into Visit Denver’s Hall of Fame, I can. And I would. And I am.

Last Thursday evening, Visit Denver welcomed several stellar individuals, along with Larry DiPasquale, into the Hall of Fame. Honorees included Grace B. Gillette, Dick Monfort, and Joe and Jeff Shoemaker.

Visit Denver also recognized the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts | Denver Center Attractions| Denver Center Theatre Company, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Mountain Parks, Jennifer Jasinski and the Solheim Cup as Tourism Stars.

It was quite a night – and not just because our fearless leader was recognized. With over 500 people in the room, a beautiful dinner (by a fabulous caterer) complete with gorgeous centerpieces in Denver’s premier ‘room with a view,’ we were all reminded that Denver is a hub of arts and culture. We are a community dedicated to – well – our community.

Denver continues to draw thousands of leisure travelers and conventioneers annually. People like Jennifer Jasinski want to build restaurants here. People like Jeff Shoemaker want to keep our river clean. People like Larry DiPasquale want to feed the hungry and homeless, foster great talent, and encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs to carry the torch to go bigger and do better.

We also like to have a little bit of fun. So after making Impact Productions (Visit Denver’s production company) PROMISE to put our favorite picture of Larry With The Mustache in the video, we simply had to sneak in some fake ‘staches just for laughs. He was a good sport – as was his wife Jill, daughter Christina, and Christina’s date, Taylor. Is it just me – or would this photo make a great holiday card?

 

(submitted by Stephanie Blackford)