Monday, May 4, 2009

Thank you friends.

Last week Chefs On The Loose friend Jen Lee joined us as a Guest Chef. She brought her passion and expertise of Irish cuisine and culture to share with a group of eighteen or so guests. The night was filled with fun stories, beautiful and delicious food, and a wonderful assortment of guests. We had some really great feedback from several guests, in particular one woman who wrote a wonderful letter, that follows, and another that took some really great pictures on her really great camera. Here is the link to the photos, this gal had one of the nicest cameras I have ever seen in person, and the pictures she took really show the quality of the camera itself. It feels good to get positive feedback, after working so hard to create such a unique and special experience for our guests. It is like the cyber pat on the back that says "we got it and we loved it, Thank You.".

We say Thank You, to everyone out there who has been to a Chefs On The Loose event. Thank you for trying something different and spreading the word to friends and family. It is that word of mouth that is so important to our success and growth, so here is some really great word of mouth. Thank you Rose-Marie.

Fellow Foodies,
I have to share this surprisingly delicious and out-of-the-ordinary dining experience I had last evening at CHEF'S ON THE LOOSE in Tampa (it took an hour to get there because of a bomb scare and rush hour traffic, but only 40 minutes to return home).
"CHEF'S ON THE LOOSE is an interactive 'hands on' culinary experience where everyone can discover the art and excitement of creating gourmet cuisine. We're firing up the kitchen & heating things up for parties that sizzle. Unleash your inner chef."
In their open kitchen with an attached, upscale dining area that was outfitted with crisp white linen, sparkling glassware, unique dishes, and spring- flowered branches in 4' tall glass cylinders on a table that seats 20 and another raised butcher-block table that also seats 20, they offer an inviting place to get your hands scented with fresh herbs and organic flour or just watch the action, while sipping imported beers and memorable wines.There are many opportunities to get to know interesting folks during the 3-hour dining experience, surrounded by carefully chosen music and a glow from all the candles placed on shelves covering the walls.

They offer relaxed, hands-on experiences; themed dining fun, a Friday-night supper club, and private party opportunities. I chose the Celtic-themed dining, which was being orchestrated by Jennifer Lee, who was a special delight during the evening.
As I said, be ready to meet interesting folks or if you're too shy, bring your own crowd, because the dining is communal. I sat near a lively women who runs tours of up to 12 folks to Scotland and Ireland (813-317-6013); a charming man of Botanical Design Studios (813-831-0965) talkative with stories of jobs for celebrities and dignitaries (Tom Cruise, Obama, the Queen, etc.); and an interesting children's speech therapist and her event-planner friend.

I was on my own, not knowing what to expect, but folks came up to me and introduced themselves, so I felt very comfortable right from the start. The hosts are charmingly friendly and inviting. I felt as if I was at a private dinner party with friends.
Jennifer Lee owns Celtic Table, offering "Exquisite European Cuisine." ( 813-441-2051) She is a personal chef and offers cooking classes. Her story is movie material. She has a smidgen of Irish in her, but with her dark hair and eyes, pale skin and freckles, cute nose and mouth and infectious charm, you'd swear she was 100%.

Jennifer grew up in Vermont and moved with her folks to Tampa and has a degree in the culinary arts, specializing in organic and European cuisine. During a trip to Ireland, on her last day in a pub (of course) an Irish lad asked if he could take her out. She had to tell him she was returning to America the next day (oh, poop!). He asked (of course) if he could take her out if he came to America.

Well, she now runs a bed and breakfast on their sheep farm in the middle of Ireland in a village of 25 folks. An airline steward and friends who were at the dinner had spent a night at Jennifer's bed and breakfast during their Ireland vacation and lamented how they wished they had spent the whole time with Jennifer. (Drinking champagne in the middle of a flock of sheep during a glorious Irish sunset is not part of the usual commercial tour-bus agendas.)

Now for the food...the glorious food! And colors added visual excitement, along with the flavor and texture dances on out palates.

Forget-the-Economy Starters and Palate Wake-Uppers
Imported Irish beers and memorable wines

Palate Teaser
half of a peeled Pear filled with blue cheese and creme fraiche, nestled in a bed of purple and green baby tender greens, sprinked with golden edible flowers

Palate Tickler
Salmon mousse w/ perfectly ripen and seasoned bundle of tomato bits, dusted with purple feathery edible flower petals

Palate Cleanser
Honeydew sorbet w/lime zest served in a variety of fun, pedestal shot glasses. The baby ceramic spoons made dipping an Alice-in-wonderland experience. (Yes, I find that how food and drink is served can add to the epicurean experience. A fried-baloney and onion sandwich tastes entirely different eaten from a handmade, creamy yellow basket, lined with an azure blue-checked napkin, than from a Styrofoam plate...ask Martha!)

Palate Exciter
Velvety hallibut poached in hard cider w/boiled potatoes swimming in salty, smokey bacon bits and a big bubble of herbed Irish soda bread.

Palate Blaster
Sticky toffee pudding with homemade honey-brandy vanilla icecream
(It was like a having cold creme brulee that hadn't solidified. The recipe comes from Jennifer's sister-in-law. One of her husband's eight (we're talking Irish Catholic here) siblings who is a nun in Ireland. We are talking egg yolks, cream, honey and brandy...that's it. And she just cooks it and puts it in the churning! (I told you this is movie or romance novel material. I want to hear the nun's story, too; Brandy is the main ingredient.)

Palate Relaxers and After-Dinner Conversation Enhancers
Beer, grapes. homemade crackers, and a gathering of Irish cheeses and stories. The gentle white cheddar, clotted with sweet lemon-peel bits was my favorite.

Now for the biggest surprise: CHA-CHING Only $55!!

This was my first experince, but talking with the owners of this eight- month-old business, I got the feeling this is the experience they are stiving to deliver for their guests at all their dinners, and I do mean guests. The enhancement of your senses through lovely music, delectable scents, exciting tastes and textures, and given the time to unwind with interesting folks is all about your pleasure and delight.

Be well and well fed!

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