Monday, September 6, 2010

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Where to begin? It's been awhile since I've made an entry here and I'm sorry about that. I believe I also broke a promise to post the recipes from the BBQ back in July and I'm sorry for that as well. I was supposed to write those up on the plane traveling to Detroit but instead got sidetracked by the inflight movie selection. I'll make it up to you, I promise. I've decided to include more recipes in general so be prepared.

It was always a generic "back to school" assignment, an essay entitled, What I Did on My Summer Vacation. As a kid I remember this assignment to be excruciatingly painful because summer was over and why rub it in?

Funny that I return to that format for this blog post but I guess it's a lot more fun to recall things from an adult perspective- using photos to help in the process and now that drinking alcohol is allowed.

stylish service at the BBQ

The Feast BBQ turned out to be really great. It was during that heat wave we were having and I wondered if anyone was going to brave the steamy temps to eat our food- but they did! People brought their own blankets and water and we provided the rest. I had some bum coal to work with but with a little help from friends and our Turkish neighbor (who seemed to be a professional) it turned out fine. Oh, and the the nectarine white sangria was a big hit, chilling us out in every way. In the photo, Andrew laments over the dwindling sangria supply.

the old barn

First stop: my parents house.
It is a known fact that there is always a special meal prepared for all arriving family members and friends. My meal was grilled lamb chops, oven roasted potatoes and a green salad from the garden. Perfection. No, there aren't the world's smallest farm animals in that barn, just a few old Schwinns.

alberto & lamb chops

My Dad does the grilling- I'm not allowed to cook when I'm home. Not that they don't trust I will do a good job, rather they are certain that I will leave a disastrous trail of dirty pots and pans and mess. Well, it's true but I'm an artist, no? ;)

romeo fracassa designed bbq

This is a one-of-a-kind grill designed and made my my Uncle Romeo. Yep, that's a beer keg split in half, attached to a post which is connected to a hand poured cement base. This is the deluxe version with the lid- growing up we only had the bottom half of the keg. That one eventually got grilled to death.

michigan sunset

Next stop: Northern Michigan.
I was off to a family wedding in Bay Harbor, Michigan. I would have to devote an entire entry to this because it was such an unbelievably beautiful affair in every imaginable way. Instead, here is a sunset over Lake Michigan as the pre-wedding party was coming to a close.

view from the porch at pee wee

On to Pee Wee!
Named after my Mother (her childhood nickname) Pee Wee is the family cottage that my grandfather bought in St. Clair, Michigan sometime in the 1930's. Ever since then it has been passed down the line for all to enjoy. I spent pretty much every summer weekend here as a kid with aunts and uncles and a myriad of cousins and friends of the family. Those were great days but Pee Wee still gives us love and comfort, seemingly now more than ever. The next generation is swinging from the rope and jumping off the dock into the chilly, rushing river now but you'll find us big kids making the pilgrimage there whenever we possibly can. Long live Pee Wee!

hummus plus

An afternoon snack of grilled flat bread, hummus and minted cucumber tomato salad.


Grilled Red Snapper with fresh herbs and citrus. Remind me to get one of those fish shaped grill baskets for Pee Wee, it would have been much easier to flip 'er over.

Marlow & Daughters

Final Stop: NYC/Brooklyn
Just way too much good food to document here but I will let you in on an all time favorite. Thanks to a like minded, equally food loving friend, I have had the pleasure to dine at Diner on most of my visits over the last few years. This time, we walked down the street to Marlow & Daughters, the shop that has the same owners. It was quite a one stop, over the top shop with everything one could possible need for cooking up dinner at home. (phew... that was a long one.)

fresh butchering inside

There was something very "turn of the century" about this moment. This is what I would call getting up close and personal with your butcher.

dining at diner with JL

Damage done.

zucchini blossoms at the Turkish mrkt

Upon returning to Berlin, I was greeted by the last few days of summer (unfortunately that was the beginning of August) and made it over to the Turkish market off the canal. Perfect timing for zucchini flowers. Not pictured: those flowers sauteed with lots of garlic in extra virgin olive oil and served up on crusty Italian bread. Heavenly.

The End

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Photo Journal: Shellac, Photos and Food

Giovanna's Mother prepares the Gnocco Fritto dough, rolling it out with a rolling pin from Giovi's Grandmother.

It was incredible how the whole family worked together to set up the Gnocco Fritto station. They had never worked in my kitchen before and seemed to somehow know where everything was - and if they didn't, they minced no words asking for what they wanted. Nice and direct, just how I like it.


Nat, Giovanna's husband and Giovanna's Father, Claudio, were no slouches either.

We converted the cellar into a gallery and Joe Dilworth exhibited his collection Empty Spaces. It seemed perfect for the cavernous space.


I bought me one.

Ray played his collection of 78 shellac records and told stories about the songs and composers.


Orlando brought her sweet self and her cupcakes.


There was a nice little crowd, it made me very happy.

Elizabeth Rushe was around as well. She played records Saturday night but I was too busy dancing to take photos.

Andrew held down the fort while I chatted away with the guests. Christine did too but still looking for that photo...?

Neukölln is a mixed neighborhood. There seems to be tension sometimes between those moving in and those who have been. I find this totally understandable but at the same time refuse to let it get in the way. This event put Feast on the street for all to enjoy and we had the pleasure of meeting some of our tiny, lovely neighbors. They loved the pancakes.



Ray enjoys his first Slider.

My end of the deal, the casual fun food, seemed to be a success. Sunday's menu of pancakes, coney dogs and sliders was sort of a silly display of American food but I tell you, the peeps loved it.


It wouldn't have been complete without a tall glass of homemade cranberry mint iced tea.


Monday, June 21, 2010

On the schedule: Joe Dilworth

photo: Joe Dilworth 2010

Joe Dilworth is one of those people who you aren't quite sure how to categorize: is he a musician? a photographer? a photographer who takes pictures of musicians? a DJ? ...a teacher? He's one of those multi-talented types, I guess.

Recently it seems Joe is breaking some new ground with his photography. The photo above is from his recent trip to Shanghai and there is more where that came from. I don't have the knowledge or the vocabulary to properly explain why or how his photos inspire me, they just do. He seems to sneak in somehow and grab a nugget of honesty.

Joe will be exhibiting Empty Spaces in Feast's Cellar Gallery during Shellac, Photos and Food. It's a collection of photos of decaying structures: eerie and beautiful. This particular group of pictures resonate with me, bringing me back to my hometown of Detroit- the capital of eerie and beautiful.
empty spaces017>

Cellar Gallery - Empty Spaces by Joe Dilworth
Fri 19:00 — 23:00
Sat 13:00 — 19:00
Sun 13:00 — 19:00

On the schedule: Raymond Wolff




I first met Raymond Wolff when I was asked to participate in the Mobile Academy's Black Market for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge back in 2007. I was asked to be the "expert" on American Cuisine at the event, making me feel quite like a big fish in a little pond- there weren't (and still aren't) a whole lot of American cooks in town.

We, the experts, were lined up on one side of very long tables set in Hebbel Theater's HAU II main room. They were dimly lit by candle light and the seekers of knowledge would visit us for an exact time of 30 minutes- asking us various things about our area of expertise. FAQ "What is American cuisine?" I spent the evenings defending against stereotypes of hamburgers and hotdogs.

In came Raymond. He was recommended by a colleague of his who I spoke with the night before. I thought she most likely was won over by my offerings of atypical American style snacks. Maybe Ray was just hungry? Well, it turned into a fascinating 30 minute conversation and Raymond Wolff seemed to be more of an expert than I.

Since then, I have had the pleasure to get to know Ray as a friend. He has been a supporter of Fortuna's Feast before it was even conceived. He lives down the street so has become a regular character in the establishment. On any given Friday Night Little Dish or the occasional Sunday Brunch- you may find Ray having an American style meal of some sort and telling a gripping, real life story to anyone lucky enough to be sharing his table.

During Feast's 48 Hours Neukölln: Shellac, Photos and Food, Raymond will grace us all with his collection of 78's and most definitely stories only a historian can tell.

Rixdorf/Neukölln on 78rpm Recordings - Raymond Wolff
Sat 15:00 — 21:00

48 Hours Neukölln: Shellac, Photos and Food

Fortuna’s Feast will be participating in this years 48 Stunden Neukölln in the most unique ways! This time, the edible creations, though present, will take a back seat to the cultural events. We want to engage a few of your other senses .

Highlights include:

Featuring composers from Neukölln/Rixdorf and/or songs having anything to do with this area, Mr. Wolff will play his rare collection of 78 shellac records spanning the entire spectrum of the 78rpm-making era (1900 to 1960). Between sets he’ll share his knowledge with a bit of story telling.(Feast’s main parlor, Saturday 3-9pm)

Berlin based photographer from the UK, Joe Dilworth will present his recent work, Empty Spaces. Dilworth breaths new life into decaying structures through the eye of his camera. (Feast’s cellar gallery Friday-Sunday)

MotorFM’s, Elizabeth Rushe, host of Off the Record will provide the soundtrack for the evening after parties and Nat Fowler (Oxes on Boxes) does his thing too. (Feast’s cellar gallery Friday thru Sunday)


Friday, June 25th

Feast’s Parlor

FOOD: Open Dish featuring Italian peasant style street food. Dine in or take away as you wander the streets of Neukölln just as you would Rome.

Cellar Gallery

Empty Spaces
Berlin based photographer from the UK, Joe Dilworth will present his recent work. Dilworth breaths new life into decaying structures through the eye of his camera.

Cellar Gallery
9pm – open end

After Party
To start, MotorFM’s, Elizabeth Rushe, host of Off the Record will provide the party’s soundtrack and Nat (Oxes on Boxes) will follow up with his thing.

Saturday, June 26th

Feast’s Parlor
1pm – 10pm

FOOD: Lazy Cafe featuring tasty summer salads, soups and sandwiches. Cupcake menu by Projekt Puder Zucker. Dine in or take away.

3pm – 9pm
Music Historian Raymond Wolff
Featuring composers from Neukölln/Rixdorf and/or songs having anything to do with this area, Mr. Wolff will play his rare collection of 78 shellac records spanning the entire spectrum of the 78rpm-making era (1900 to 1960). Between sets he’ll share his knowledge with a bit of story telling.

Cellar Gallery

Empty Spaces – Joe Dilworth
(refer to Friday schedule)

Cellar Gallery
10pm – open end

After Party
MotorFM’s, Elizabeth Rushe

Sunday, June 27th
Feast’s Parlor
12noon – 7pm

FOOD: Weser Street Coney Island
Ray plays American oldies and Suzy serves up pancakes, coney dogs and sliders. What are those? Come and see.

Cellar Gallery

Empty Spaces – Joe Dilworth
(refer to Friday schedule)

Cellar Gallery
7pm – open end

Closing Party
Nat (Oxe’s on Boxes) plays Slo-Mo-Mo-town and we’re not talking about Stevie Wonder.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Welcome to hard labor, Orlando.


The timing couldn't be more perfect! Orlando comes on the scene at the very moment I decide to undergo an expansion in my catering business: home baked goods as the norm.

I bought myself quite a large free standing freezer and readied it to be packed full with all sorts of muffins, cakes and cookies for easy access. When catering for smaller functions, it isn't always possible or smart business to bake one batch of brownies to serve as the dessert after a lunch break, as well as it is not cost effective to order one dozen from my local baker. Solution: freezing a ton before hand.

I thought involving Orlando would be a great way to break the ice, get her in the kitchen, show her what goes where and see her in action. Poor thing, I almost killed her. It was her first exposure to "quantity". Oh sure, the quality was there too but if I was going to plug that energy sucking machine into the wall, it was going to have to be worth it. I'd be damned if we didn't have enough baked goods to feed an army of photographers, their assistants and those hungry hair and make-up types. So we toiled about 8 hours away.


It was also about experimenting... what freezes well and what doesn't. We decided on carrot cake, lemon bars, mixed berry cheesecake bars, two types of scones and brownies. We managed to do everything except the brownies. I challenged Orlando to a "Brownie-Off" ( I'm sure to get my booty kicked) and this needs time and maybe a judge or two.




We had fun. Since we both are into taking photos of food and the entire process, we were jumping between stirring the mix and aiming the camera. It was a dizzying combination that had us doing lots of laughing.

More or less, I had Orlando over for a play date. (and the freezer project is on it's way...)


Her name is Orlando.

I have to introduce you to someone... her name is Orlando. She is 16 years old and is very interested in baking, to put it mildly. She came to me by way of her Mother, a contact I had made quite a few years back- the accomplished Sophie Lovell.

Out of the blue one day I received an email from Sophie telling me that her daughter would like to get some experience in the cooking/catering department and would like to spend the summer helping out around Feast. I did what anyone would do and immediately checked out this youngsters Facebook page. I was sold.

16 years old? It was hard to believe. The photos she had taken of her creations were better than most I've seen... and the creations! Let's not overlook those: sweetly decorated tiny cookies, creamy, billowy, playful cakes, cupcakes of perfection! This and more is on her group page, Projekt Puderzucker. One can see the girl is obsessed with baking, photography, cookbooks.. and friends. There are little clues everywhere that Orlando shows love for those she loves with her baking.

Around this time I got a request for a "special cake" by a client, one that looks a lot like the cake in the main photo of this blog. I don't need to tell you again of my frail baking abilities so I of course needed a professional. Or not? Orlando... could she?

Well, as you can see here, Orlando rose to the occasion- above and beyond, in my opinion. I'd like to mention that this is the first cake the girl had ever done in this fashion. And it was tasty too. I am again reminded that a good challenge helps us breakdown our own barriers, giving way to wondrous possibilities.

Orlando, a baking prodigy? The proof is in the pudding, cake, cookie....


Sunday, May 2, 2010

You say holiday, I say vacation.


I was raised calling it vacation. We would pack up our station wagon with the faux wood panel siding and vacate to somewhere that took days to get to. All six of us piled in and we had our unofficial assigned places. Mine was in the very back with the flip-up, booth style seats that faced each other. A bonus was the electric rear window that lowered for some fresh exhaust as we motored along. Thanks to all the summer football camps that my Dad worked at across the country, we managed to visit quite a few States, even if a lot of it was seen from the inside of the wagon.

These days, don't ask me how, I've begun to call it holiday. That's what all the Brits and Euros call it and it just rubbed off I guess. Madonna called it a holiday way back when and she is American and also from Michigan so I have to wonder how it happened to her? I still make myself say vacation from time to time: never forget where you came from.

The point is, I got out of Berlin for one whole week and it was lovely. I went to my little, cheap, on the beach, pre-season Ibiza hideaway. I brought my own coffee because theirs isn't so good and I basically did nothing all week except bed to beach to bed again. A much needed respite away from event planning and cooking.

If I lived in Arizona I'd definitely get pulled over for proof of citizenship because I am now nice and brown. I guess I would be pulled over pre- tan as well, for that matter. I digress... anyway, I spent many hours in the sun catching up on some reading. There was the terrible book I bought at Tegel before boarding, the entire April issue of Vanity Fair, two of my favorite food mags and one of those miniature versions of Elle for good measure.

It's those two food magazines that I want to tell you about. They get delivered to me (a huge treat in itself) and when I'm busy they often are neglected, sometimes only a quick leaf through. BUT when I'm on... vacation... they are savored front to back.

La Cucina Italiana, a subscription that my Mom gives me yearly, keeps me connected to the real stuff. These recipes are authentic. The features about Italy are informative and capture that Italian magic. I believe the magazine got a makeover a couple of years ago and is really beautifully laid out with nice photography and without any pretension. I get a lot of inspiration from this magazine and so should you.

The other is Cook's Illustrated. I have to admit, I was slow on the uptake with this magazine, the majority of it is in black and white, for god's sake. Finally, by unseen forces that are working for the greatest good, I was given a subscription from a close friend's Mother. As a self taught cook, I cannot tell you how helpful it is. Everything You Wanted to Know About Cooking but Were Afraid to Ask... a better title in my opinion. In this May & June edition alone you get the low down on the three types of Miso, a trick for perfectly charred, seared tuna steaks,three ways to skin a clove of garlic, the recipe for the ultimate chocolate cupcake (and believe me, they wouldn't throw that term around loosely), the perfect boiled egg, how to "map" your broiler, a vinegar fly trap and a delicious sounding empanada recipe that is explained in so much detail, even an Arizona State Trooper couldn't get it wrong. (couldn't resist)


Me and my Mother,1971. Somewhere on the way to California.
Photo: Alberto Fracassa

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey! A recipe!




My first recipe for the blog... a magnanimous moment. You will find a few here and there but I am holding firm on this not becoming one of "those" recipe blogs. I hereby promise to only post the ones that I have no doubt will change your life.

Cream Drop Biscuits: so easy and crazy good. They can be savory or sweet- your every wish is their command. They are the biscuits I use for my Biscuits and Gravy on my brunch menu (picture in Brunch a la carte post) and I also use them for my strawberry shortcake dessert as well. They are heavenly dipped in greek yogurt and honey and try stirring in some cheddar and chives into the batter- kicks a cheese pretzel's ass . A dozen make a great gift if you are invited for breakfast somewhere, just make sure there's some good butter and raspberry jam around and you'll be a star.

Did I mention that they are really easy to make?

Cream Drop Biscuits

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups chilled heavy cream


Preheat oven to 400°F/220°C

Stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Add cream, then stir just until a dough forms.
Drop heaping 1/4 cups of batter* (for larger biscuits) about 1 inch apart on an ungreased large baking sheet. Bake in middle of oven until tops are pale golden and bottoms are golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

* Sometimes I like to make smaller biscuits so I use about 1 heaping table spoon. They cook faster so keep an eye!