Steal Like An Artist, (I stole that)

This morning I got an email from our Chef-de-Cuisine, Jeffrey Brana. Last night I had sent him a ‘sketch’ of a dish I conjured up. ‘A Mexican Reunion’ Crispy Plantain Crusted Chicken Cutlet Oozy Slow Poached Hen Egg Fatty Chorizo Crumble Sharp/Sweet Rouille-like sauce w Pimenton Jeffrey is a very thoughtful man…

Thanksgiving and the Bean Kit

It was a woman. She was the one who gave me the gift. She was not gentle. But she was giving. And so it is on Thanksgiving that I want to pay respects to Betty Howard. She lived in Key West and was the Head, (and only) Breakfast Cook at The Pier…

Capote

Last night I watched the award winning movie, “Capote” for a while, trying to rally to watch the football game. I’d seen it before but Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the diminutive author is addictive. I reminisced on how the man for whom the movie was centered around and I shared two…

Truck Stop Nirvana

The big rig was somewhere to the west of me lumbering through the distance, marking its effort with the calisthenic, rhythmic moans of its job to haul its freight to some appointed dock elsewhere in America. The pitch of its sound starting with the crunching, metal thudding wrench of the gear box…

Homecoming Part Two

The dawn broke not long after I woke at The Hampton Inn just north of Mundelein, Illinois, our hometown. I looked out over the cloudy vista of dampened fields outside the hotel window. We showered and headed out. The day had come for the re-dedication of Mundelein High. It was 50 years…

Our Home Town Celebration

We flew up to our old home town of Mundelein, Illinois yesterday for a weekend of family and friends. The place we went to high school at is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the school’s opening…NOT my 50th reunion…the school’s. So there will be celebrants coming from across decades to be here….

Norman’s Orlando

It has now been over 8 years ago that I was asked to create a second “NORMAN’S”. But I can instantly recall how it all began… Some of the senior management from The Ritz-Carlton Companies were having dinner in my Coral Gables restaurant one evening back then and a rather tall gentleman…

OUTWARD BOUND

Our home is a jumble of boxes and things that won’t or have not yet fit into them. The roots of life and everyday living are dangling sideways, slumped on couches, leaning toward windows as if looking for the light they had so carefully known prior to the decision to go back…

Father’s Day

Grampa Van Aken I have read stories of negligent fathers in the past and one again this morning. Its heart-wrenching. I’ve read about the love sons and daughters sought but did not find. I had known of the hurt of a father’s lack of…well let’s just call it constancy. My dad was…

Of Country Hams, Husk And Earl

When I was about 19 years old I started hitchhiking around America with a couple of buddies. It seems reckless to me now, but we were sheathed in the armor of youth and thusly protected. One of the routes I came to know was the one between my hometown in Northern Illinois…

Southland Cooking Report

We worked our asses off last night in South Carolina doing a “black tie dinner”. (See the previous posts on Kiawah). But we had a good time and made our food pretty darn close to the way I hoped it would be. The Ocean Room team led by Chef Nate Thurston did…

Celebrating Corn on Kiawah Island

The day has arrived…or actually the day and night. We are cooking on the Island known as Kiawah to raise money for cancer research at the Hollings Center of Charleston. It is one of the great things to be able to help in our way by cooking for appreciative folks who not…

Sauce Sketching

Part of the bounty from a recent trip up to Homestead was a large box of plum tomatoes. I went to work preserving them in a variety of ways. Since we have a new smoker I went in that direction with many of them. For the majority of the tomatoes I kept…

If You Want To Get To Heaven…

I arrived in Key West near Easter a long time ago. It was long before ‘Margaritaville’, (the song, the place, the conglomerate) and the year-round festivals that keep Duval Street packed with revelers. It might be hard to imagine for some what Key West was like back then. But if you go…

Easter Awaits Us Again

Falling in love with Key West was one of the most natural events of my life. I was freezing in the so called Spring of 1971 and I had arrived after hitchhiking from near the Wisconsin-Illinois border to a party my friends were having in Champaign, Illinois and then taking a ride…

Bollitos Go To Kiawah Island

I’m happy to be going to the beautiful Kiawah Resort about 30 mile south of Charleston to cook with the team there to raise money for the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina. Kiawah is located along 10 miles of pristine beach and their golf resort is rated…

 
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