An evening with Jacques Pepin

Since becoming a personal chef, I have been able to do many things that I never dreamed I’d be doing, and this week was a biggie! I was thrilled to be able to meet a personal hero of mine, Chef Jacques Pepin in Boston on Wednesday.

Boston University’s culinary program was founded by Chef Pepin (among others) and to celebrate the program’s 20th year he hosted “The Big Event” at BU. The event showcased talented chefs of the Boston area, from caterers to executive chefs at some of Boston’s best known restaurants, offering tastings of wonderful food and some wine tastings from local and regional wineries.

For this event, I took my mom on an adventure. Her birthday was this month and this was her gift. We made the 6 hour drive in pouring rain from Rochester to Boston, checked into our hotel in Brookline with just enough time to change our clothes and get to BU. The wind was really gusty and everyone arrived for the event with inside-out umbrellas and dripping wet, but nobody seemed to care. My mom and I met up with two of my personal chef friends, Laura Whalen and Martha Ulfelder for a spectacular evening!

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Martha, Laura, me and mom!

The Event was held in a large gallery and the perimeter was lined with tables for tastings. We had some amazing raw oysters courtesy of Boston’s Legal Seafood which were absolutely the freshest oysters I have ever eaten. We even went back for seconds! The guys behind the table just kept shucking oysters for almost 3 hours and they had a line all night!
Fabulous Raw Oyster bar courtesy of Legal Seafood

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Mom enjoying her oyster!

We also sampled a delicious tuna tartare with Serrano chili- Cucumber salsa and Wasabi Creme Fraiche in these precious tiny martini glasses.

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Tuna Tartare


The tartar was wonderful, but the glasses were a pain! (Several other tables featured the glasses too, but with hands full, and a tasting plate that was ours to keep for the evening, those glasses were just itching to slide off the plate and onto the floor!)

While making our way around the room we ran into Jack Bishop and Chris Kimball from America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Illustrated magazine.

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America's Test Kitchen Masters!

It was fun to meet these guys as I watch their show every weekend and love to use their recipes when I am cooking for my clients as I know they have been tested to the “endth degree.” I got an autographed copy of their current Holiday Entertaining magazine as a souvenier!

We continued around the room and found the booksellers from Jessica’s Biscuit with tables set up with a nice selection of cookbooks and food-lit books. I broke my “no new cookbook rule” (as if….) by purchasing a replacement of Risotto by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman (I had sold it in a garage sale when we moved a few years back and have kicked myself several times for doing so. It’s a great little primer on risotto and I am happy to have it back on my shelves!) I also purchased another Judith Barrett cookbook called Fagioli, The Bean Cuisine of Italy that has some great hot and cold dishes using legumes. You know, I didn’t even realize that it was by the same author until just now! How funny! I think Judith Barrett and I have the same taste in food, and I’d love to talk with her about that sometime 😉

We continued to eat and drink our way around the room (which now felt quite tropical from all the lights and bodies) and ran right into Mary Ann Esposito, another PBS favorite.

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Mom with Mary Ann Esposito

. She’s such a nice lady!
And then…it happened. There he was walking right toward us! Jacques Pepin! My mother had brought her dog eared copy of La Technique, and I had my copy of Jacques and Julia, that are now both autographed by Chef Pepin, and he graciously posed for a picture with me.
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Chef Jacques Pepin and me!

I didn’t get to talk with him long, but he was gracious and just as lovely as you’d expect. I was star struck to be sure! It was a great evening!

A delicious Viennese style dining experience on Seneca Lake!

This past weekend I had the great fun of meeting up with some of my personal chef friends at Seneca Lake again. It was a smaller group this time, and we met for lunch on Saturday.

Ladies who lunch!

Ladies who lunch!


We ate at Dano’s Heuriger on the east side of Seneca lake. A heuriger is like a small tavern in Austria or Vienna. They serve only a special local wine, that year’s vintage only, and simple foods served family style. I’ve been to Dano’s Heuriger before with Laura, and really enjoyed it. I tend to eat Mediterranean, Asian or classic American fare when I eat out, but Dano’s is very different and delicious from what we normally find around here. I do have German heritage in my pedigree, and this lunch was cause to embrace that!
Because we had a larger party, we were able to order a tasting menu called “The Chef’s Table” in order to sample many items. I think we were all surprised by the number of plates that were presented and the amount of food we consumed in our 3 hour lunch. That is right folks! 3 hours!
And yes it was due to the service, but I mean that in only the best possible way. We were allowed to sample and savor each course, drink our wine, chat and laugh, and never once were we hurried along. The staff was so welcoming and showed the greatest hospitality, it was a great place for our crew to meet!
Our fine chef for our adventure, Chef Dano Hutnik!

Our fine chef for our adventure, Chef Dano Hutnik!

At Dano’s most of the dishes are very simple, beginning with spreads and salads. There are at least 8 different spreads to choose from, served with a basket of fresh crusty breads, and 9-10 different types of salad. A selection of spreads and salads along with some great wine is a meal in itself! We began with Liptauer spread (an Austrian house specialty which is made with Liptauer cheese, paprika and other spices), a Hotel Sacher spread, and a Pumpkin seed oil spread (which is my favorite!) Each of the spreads is similar to cream cheese in it’s consistency and you schmear them on the delicious bread. Oh my, very addicting!

Hotel Sacher, Liptauer and Pumpkin Seed Oil spreads

Hotel Sacher, Liptauer and Pumpkin Seed Oil spreads


We were also served four of their salads including Large Bean, Celery Root Remoulade, Salsify, and a fresh Corn salad. The Large Bean is made with buttery butter beans in a light sweet and sour vinaigrette. It is by far my favorite here. The corn salad was very fresh and lightly seasoned. The celery root remoulade is crispy and creamy and the salsify salad is very unique. The salsify is very tender and mixed in with a creamy dressing as well. (Salsify is a root vegetable that is said to taste similar to oysters.)
Large bean and corn salads

Large bean and corn salads

Celery root remoulade and salsify salad.

Celery root remoulade and salsify salad.


We all sipped the heuriger wine ( a fresh wine, not aged) Berger Gruner Veltliner which is served in mugs instead of wine glasses.

Our main dishes and sides were plentiful. We were served some of the house made charcuterie including bratwurst, knockwurst and smoked Hungarian sausages, the country pate, and the Heuriger Eggplant. The sausuages were delicious, not too fatty, very flavorful and fresh. I am not usually a huge fan of pate ( I have a thing about offal~better known as innards…) , but had to admit it was tasty. We also had a vegetarian plate which was eggplant and tomatoes. I didn’t care for this dish as the tomatoes were very sweet, and as an Italian, it was just not right to my palate. Tomatoes should be a bit tart!

Knockwurst, Bratwurst and Smoked Hungarian sausage.

Knockwurst, Bratwurst and Smoked Hungarian sausage.

Country style pate

Country style pate


Our main courses included a succulent pork shank, and a piece of roast pork, a half of a small roast chicken and Wiener Schnitzel. Each was delicious, but my personal favorites were the pork shank meat that just fell off the bone, and the Wiener Schnitzel which was so crispy and tender. YUM!
Crispy Wiener Schnitzel

Crispy Wiener Schnitzel


The dishes were made so much better by the spectacular sides that accompanied them! We were treated to silky mashed potatoes, house-made spatzle, sauerkraut and braised red cabbage. Again, not a huge fan of sauerkraut (bad memories of the smell when I got home from school when mom made it as a kid~ sorry mom) I was assured by the kraut lovers in the group that it was fabulous, especially when eaten with the mashed potatoes and pork! I loved the braised red cabbage, and will admit I have never had it before, but will definitely be serving it to my family. Soft and just a bit sweet, maybe cider? Whatever it was it was tasty! The spatzle were also a treat that I haven’t had since I was a kid. I don’t know why I never make them as they are simple, and I’ll be making them soon too!
Spatzle!

Spatzle!


We ate and we ate and we ate some more, enjoying every last bite and still had a nice package of leftovers that I was delighted to bring home with me so my family could taste it all! We were so full that we couldn’t even think about any of the wonderful desserts (which for me is a rarity!) but the bread pudding that the next table over sure looked good… It’ll have to wait until next time I guess!
And here we are outside of Dano’s with a beautiful view of Seneca Lake behind us! We were fat and happy to be sure~ it was a great afternoon! Thanks Dano and crew for a memorable meal and a pleasurable afternoon! I’ll be back!
Well fed and happy!

Well fed and happy!


Visit Dano’s website for more information!