Sweet Chili: Thaietnamese Food With a Side of Power Ballads

By Emily Collins swtr Behind the Food Truck is a FoodtoEat original series where we meet the amazing men and women behind our favorite mobile cuisines and share their inspiring stories. At FoodtoEat, we’re lucky to have the best food trucks NYC has to offer in our family. Here are their stories.

This week, I was able to meet one of New York City’s local food-lebrities, Lisa Fernandes. Lisa is the passionate chef and owner behind Sweet Chili – a “Thai-etnamese” truck with a menu full of original and incredible recipes by Lisa herself! If you didn’t know already, Lisa was the runner-up on season 4 of Top Chef, so you’re literally trying some of her winning recipes from the show.

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Lisa & her sous chef, Tora, in front of her “baby on wheels” – Sweet Chili!

All throughout Lisa’s life, food was her passion. She started with her mom in the kitchen, served ice cream at the mall as a teen and went on to culinary school to pursue her dream of becoming a professional chef! It’s not very often you meet someone who can say they genuinely wake up every day and want to go to work, but Lisa does. She loves her customers and makes an effort to learn their names and wants the experience to be not only delicious, but entertaining! “We make it personal, we have a good time with them, we play fun music, we’re not prim and proper, ‘good afternoon, how may we help you today?’ ” And it definitely works for them. You can walk up to Sweet Chili, get on-the-go restaurant quality food, a 1980s power ballad serenade and maybe even a Vietnamese coffee sample if you’re dancing!

Her favorite thing about owning a food truck? “We have fun! People can relate to us. They say, ‘I’m not in the mood for that today, can you just make me something?’ and we just make stuff up. People like that. You can’t do that in a restaurant.” I was able to see this first hand when I asked Lisa and her team to just “make me anything” on the menu. I was served with their flavorful Heavenly Beef over white rice with bean sprout salad and was recommended by Lisa “get the fried egg on top, it makes everything better!” She was right; the dish was indeed heavenly and the fried egg? A perfect companion to the sweet and spicy dish.

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Lisa’s sous chef, Tora, with Heavenly Beef – coriander marinated sirloin beef with sriracha and thai basil.

At the end of the day, Lisa’s goal is to serve up unique, amazing dishes while giving the best experience to the customer, “If you’re in a good mood when you make the food, and the person’s in a good mood when they get the food, they’re going to be in a good mood when they eat the food.” You can check out Lisa and the Sweet Chili team this summer at their frequent spots, South Street Seaport and DUMBO Lot during the week and Governor’s Island on weekends for dancing to 80s and 90s jams and cooking some of the best Thai-etnamese food in New York City!

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

A Tribute to Judy Rodgers

By Jane Poretsky

Judy Rodgers
Judy Rodgers

They say the good die young, and while this may be somewhat of a cliche, it holds true for culinary legend Judy Rodgers, of the influential Zuni Cafe. Judy passed away at 57 years young, after a challenging battle with cancer.

We felt the best way to share our love of her radiant smile and delicious cuisine was to share the recipe for her roasted chicken and Tuscan bread salad. Arguably, the most famous {and delicious} rustic Tuscan dish that we have ever tasted, rush to your oven now. Don’t skimp on any ingredients, and you will never look at poultry in the same light.

Roast Chicken & Bread Salad
Zuni Cafe Cookbook via Food & Wine
One 2 3/4-pound free-range chicken
4 thyme sprigs
4 small garlic cloves, lightly crushed and peeled
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

  • Using your fingers, gently loosen the skin from the chicken breasts and thighs. Stuff the thyme and garlic under the skin and spread in an even layer. Sprinkle the salt all over the chicken and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 500°. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet in the oven for 5 minutes. Put the chicken in the skillet, breast side up, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken breast side down and roast for about 15 minutes longer, or until the juices run clear when a thigh is pierced. Transfer the chicken to a board and let rest for 10 minutes; carve.
  • Skim the fat from the juices in the skillet. Arrange the Bread Salad with Currants and Pine Nuts on a platter and top with the chicken. Pour the juices over all and serve.

    cafe zuni chicken
    Roast Chicken & Bread Salad
    (Photo Courtesy of The Amateur Gourmet)

For the bread salad:
1 tablespoon dried currants
1 tablespoon warm water
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound stale Italian-style bread, cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon pine nuts
4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups lightly packed small arugula leaves

  • Preheat the oven to 450°. In a small bowl, soak the currants in the water and red wine vinegar until plumped, 10 minutes. Drain.
  • In another small bowl, combine the Champagne vinegar with the 1/2 cup of olive oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper.
  • On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the bread with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Bake for about 5 minutes, until lightly toasted. Let cool, then tear the bread into bite-size pieces. In a bowl, toss the bread with three-quarters of the dressing and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a pie plate, warm the pine nuts in the oven for 2 minutes.
  • In a skillet, heat the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil. Add the scallions and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 2 minutes; transfer to a large bowl. Add the currants, bread, pine nuts and the remaining Champagne vinaigrette and toss.
  • Spoon the bread salad into a shallow 1-quart baking dish. Cover loosely with foil and bake for about 15 minutes, until heated through. Uncover and bake for a few minutes longer to dry out the top and brown the bottom. Transfer the bread salad to a platter, toss with the arugula and serve.

Jane Poretsky is a quirky gal who spends her days shuffling between working and fattening up family members. Creating recipes that are simple to follow and always from scratch, Jane loves to bring her humorous side into the kitchen. Check out her personal blog: Caramelized Sarcasm

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

 

Meet MasterChef Junior Finalist Alexander Weiss!

Alexander Weiss, MasterChef Junior Finalist  PHOTO CREDIT:  Greg Gayne/FOX
Alexander Weiss, MasterChef Junior Finalist
PHOTO CREDIT: Greg Gayne/FOX

By Debra Liu

Tonight, the entire nation will see Alexander Weiss, one of the remaining two finalists on MasterChef Junior, compete for the $100,000 prize on the show’s finale, which will air at 8PM on FOX.

Alexander, 13,  grew up in New York City and his adventures into cooking started at the early age of 5 when he began baking with his mom. As he got older, he learned how to cook savory dishes with his dad. “After that, I took what my parents taught me how to cook and made my food more elevated and complex. I had also watched the Food Network and cooking shows on TV. I have always been so fascinated by cooking and trying new things,” Alexander says. 

Alexander shares with us here at FoodtoEat what inspires him, what his favorites foods and recipes are, and what he hopes for the future:

FoodtoEat: What inspires you to cook?

Alexander Weiss: I’m inspired by the chefs I see cook on tv; such as Gordon Ramsay, Jacques Pepin, Daniel Boulud and by Anthony Bourdain, he doesn’t cook on tv, but his passion for food is inspiring, and of course my parents as well as knowing that I can make fresh tasty food instead of eating what’s in the frozen section of the market.

If you could choose any chef to cook with, who would it be and what would you cook?

Gordon Ramsay is still my number #1 choice. I’ve been trying to perfect his sticky toffee pudding recipe, but can’t quite nail it. I would love to learn the tricks from “the man” himself.  I  would also love to learn to make classic French dishes such as escargot and fois gras from Daniel Boloud.

What is your favorite recipe?

The next one I’m going to make. I have lots of favorites, but exploring new dishes is really the most fun.

Do you have a favorite type of cuisine to eat? Favorite type of cuisine to cook?

To eat- French & Italian  To cook- Italian

What is the most unique and fun dish you’ve ever created?

Vanilla bean roasted chicken and treacle ice cream in an almond tulle cup.

What is the one food you cannot live without, something that you could eat every day and never get sick of?

Pasta

Do you have a favorite restaurant in NYC? Why?

Jones Wood Foundry. It’s all amazing to me; especially, fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding, fresh crumpets with lemon curd and compound butter, beef and kidney pie, bubble and squeak.

What has been the most memorable part of being on MasterChef Junior?

Meeting all my great new friends and all the knowledge I’m taking with me from the MasterChef Junior kitchen.

What have you learned while being on the show? Any cool, awesome kitchen tricks? Were you nervous in the beginning?

I have learned how to work like a professional chef and how to be more organized, making aioli in a food processor, baking cakes in a bain marie (water bath) and a much better way to hold my knife. I was very nervous because all the other kids really looked like they knew their stuff.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

Being the chef/owner of my own NYC restaurant.

Can you cook for our office one day?! Only half joking. It would be amazing to try your food one day!

For sure!!!

See Alexander cook to impress tonight on the MasterChef Junior Finale on FOX. We know we’ll be glued to the TV!

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com

Le Grande Fooding Festival 2013

le grand fooding 2013 time machine

Tonight the Le Grand Fooding festival is being hosted in Red hook, not too far from our own culinary capital.  This year a multitude of chefs and culinary enthusiasts are going to be delighted with a three course meal with a ‘back in time’ thematic, being orchestrated by renowned chef Alexandre Cammas.

alexandre-cammas2
Chef Alexandre Cammas

Cammas and gang have portioned each of the three ‘stops’ back in time as per the following arrangement , In the first stop (The Fusion Cuisine Years 1991-1999) Peter Gordon will dish out the appetizers – plantain, tamarind and coconut with goat cheese, along with a smoked-salmon wanton. This will be accompanied with a cocktail concocted by Jeannette Levis

The second stop (The Bistronomy years 1998-2007) a French chef – not a bistrotier monsieur – will be doing a roasted veal breast with mixologist Tristan Willey making a ‘aughts-style cocktail.’

The third and final stop is being dubbed the The Farm to Table Years (2008 and beyond!) being served by two talented chefs Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. It’s a dessert with Jameson Black Barrel on the rocks. Be careful of this one.

Its tonight. At 7PM. In Brooklyn. Take the L, the J, the L the M…just get there. GO NOW.

If you see anyone from the FTE team…dont forget to show us some love!

P.S. just in case you miss it tonight, there on tomorrow evening as well.

Happy eating!

P.P.S. heres the address if you got a Tom Tom:

Le Grand Fooding
372 Columbia St
Red Hook
Brooklyn

DailyFoodtoEat is the official blog of FoodtoEat, a sustainable online food ordering and concierge catering service featuring your favorite restaurants, food trucks and caterers. Check out the deliciousness here: www.foodtoeat.com