Friday, October 5, 2012

Sunday Funday Tapas & Rosenthal Wines

On October 14th, 2012 from 3pm to 7pm Secret Table and Rosenthal Wines will host their second collaboration at the The Tasting Room on PCH in Malibu.  It's an afternoon of tapas and free flowing wines...

I'm so unbelievably psyched for this event because we're not just delivering great food and wine, we're including a musical component that's sure to bring down the house.   Anyone who knows me, knows I'm an amateur musicologist, a KCRW devotee and a true believer that music provides an evocative soundtrack for our lives.  There are always seminal albums (I still can't find a better word to describe a CD, a download, a playlist, etc...) that defined a certain period of time which, when heard again, takes us right back to that place.  It's uncanny.  Just like the aroma of baking pies takes me back to my grammies' kitchen instantly. 

So needless to say, I'm truly delighted to host an event that showcases a lineup of really talented performers with completely divergent musical styles.  

First on the list, and thanks so much to fellow chef, Amy Jurist, is Jimmy Lee.  Jimmy's a classical Spanish guitarist whose rich and beautiful acoustic set will set the stage for the Spanish cuisine and wonderful Rosenthal wine.  We may be in Malibu but Jimmy will help transport guests to the Costa del Sol.   Jimmy will be followed by the darling J. Hunter Ackerman and his new blues rock band, Hunter Ackerman and the Dirty Jacks.  Hunter and his band were recently at The House of Blues so we feel extremely fortunate to have them play at the beach and take us into the second hour of the event with a lively set.  Last on the lineup is a new singer brought to my attention by good friend and fellow event planner, Lisa Gild, she is Danni Rouge.  Combined with her soulful, urban, alternative hipster vibe, Dannie is the ultimate contemporary third act to an afternoon of live music. 

As many of you may have seen, our event was first run as an Urban Daddy Perks ticket (thanks to Caroline Morici and her colleagues) and then a second hit by Pure Wow (thanks to Dana Dickey and her colleagues). The press has been great and continues to grow our mailing list so The Secret Table reaches intrepid foodies across greater Los Angeles. 

As usual,  I wish I were a guest at my own party instead of rushing around in order to make sure everyone is well fed and with a full glass of wine in their hands.  And this time, dancing will be encouraged if the mood hits you.  Tickets are still available so email if you're interested in attending. 

Until Sunday...



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Better Blogger

As of today, I have to be a better blogger.  From hereonout, I'm going to write a weekly post even if the content is nothing more than to share how much I love the Kale Salad mix at Costco which you should all try at least once.  It's packed with seven super foods of which I can only remember six: kale, brussel sprouts, chicory, cabbage, roasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and a creamy poppy seed dressing.  Now that I have an every day client -- the extremely wonderful Penny & Bill -- it is a delicious component to my menu planning. 

So my pledge... in addition to being a chef/event planner & screenwriter is to access my inner blogger and continue to bring you stimulating information and updates from the entertaining front lines.   And our calendar is most def heating up...

But first a nod to our unbelievable success weekend before last at Saturday's Secret Table in the Malibu bluffs.  I have never been so tired but I've said that at least a hundred times before.  The dinner was hosted by new friends: Ricky and Lynda, a pair of deeply fun and spiritual people who are serious collectors of magical objet d'arts. The setting was sublime.  The temperature scorching.  The Rosenthal Wines divine.  And a hand painted sunset that left us all in awe of nature's theater.  Some pictures....

So happy to be able to share what a splendid experience this Table was for me and my guests.  We made wonderful new friends and hope to see many people at our next event.  Huge hugs to Amy and Louis from Rosenthal (I think all the ladies had a not-so secret crush on Louis -- the chef included) and my dear friends, Virginia and Jon, for supporting me like good  little soldiers never wincing when I barked orders and kept them working into the wee hours.   So very proud that The Secret Table continues to flourish and when you hear what's next on the agenda, you'll want to attend, too.  But that's a secret for now.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

East Coast/West Coast Birthdays

Over the last few years my birthdays took a backseat to a lot of unvoidable grief in my family's life so I decided this year to celebrate with gusto because I'm so sincerely grateful to be here.  As in here, on this planet.  Alive and well.  If not busy and stressed and trying to count my calories like the rest of the world.  So it is with pleasure I talk about a few foodie elements to both my birthday in New York City and my birthday in Malibu (honestly it doesn't get much better) that are truly worth mentioning.

First and foremost, my dear friend and partner in the business, Shannon surprised me with a bespoke apron as a birthday gift.  I haven't received a handmade stitch of clothing since I was a child so I nearly burst into tears when presented with my bright brown, red, and yellow, two fabric, overlay with a pocket, pleats and thick waistband apron. 

Needless to say, the ever thinking social marketing guru that she's become suggested we have our line of Secret Ingredients' aprons to sell at our next Secret Table.  I concur.  But someone else is going to have to make them as Shannon is will be too busy with all the hats she wears in the business.

Next up, I have to share the ridiculously delicious red wine and chocolate cake my dear friend and new business partner (but sssshhhhh, it's a secret for now), Tricia Davey, baked me for my birthday.  Schlepped it across town and more than likely on and off a subway before presenting it at our working lunch replete with French Candles whilst singing Happy Birthday in French!  We are both Europhiles... email for the complete recipe. 

My friends are positively genius are they not?  What made this cake so indescribably good was the sweet and savory combination.  In fact, I dubbed it the perfect adult alcoholic brownie as you could really taste the red wine embedded in the thick and rich chocolate mold.   Trix, who is always on the lookout for how to "lighten" things up topped with tart Greek yogurt which I love too as this adds a teeny component of nutrition while cutting back on calories and palate numbing sweetness.   I love ths cake and it will be up on our website soon available for all of our clients to sample.  My late father loved chocolate and red wine post a great dinner so this one's for you dad -- I still wish you were here to enjoy all the great food, great wine and beautiful people in my life.

And finally, for my West Coast birthday sur la plage I cooked!  My guests got  to sample an almost entirely vegetarian menu inspired by Mediterranean flavors and the fresh herbs of summer.  Anything I could cook with dill, Italian parsley, basil, and mint went into the menu planning.  And despite the oohs and aahs that all dishes elicited my fresh pea, mint, and goat cheese puree won the day as the official taste of summer.

There's alchemy in this combination and I'm here to tell you the sweetness of the peas combined with the unapologetic brightness of the mint, the droll creaminess of the goat cheese and tart but breezy taste of lemon juice and zest created an otherworldy spread.  I served on toast points but any thin crisp cracker will do.  Email me at for the complete recipe. 

For this party I was not responsible for my cake and dear friends Wendy and Virginia Plumb surprised me with my favorite Red Velvet with Cream Cheese frosting.  That's our official taster and she agreed it was the best cake ever!

So with love and gratitude I sign off from this two week celebration and hope to sharing lots more birthdays with everyone in the future.  



Monday, May 21, 2012

Secret Table May 12, 2012

On May 12, 2012 we held a "Chef's Night In" Secret Table at a loft-like home in Brentwood.   The menu was a simple South of France style dinner with a colorful table set in Mediterranean colors.

I was meant to join my guests for the duration of the evening but spent too much time in the kitchen orchestrating the dinner.   Sorry for that but still happy for the time I was able to spend one-on-one with my guests. 

We started with bubbles and a raspberry coulis that made a beatiful pink confection...

together with my new favorite cocktail cookies this time around Apricot/Tarragon and Chocolate/Cayenne... they are the perfect combination of sweet and savory with a delicate shortbread base.

We also served a whipped Feta spread that was combination of Feta/Cream Cheese/Cream, half a shallot and a clove of garlic.  The cuisinart did the rest!  I love Middle Eastern flatbreads toasted and cut into triangles for dipping.

Cesar Salads followed with Crispy Thyme Croutons and then we served my favorite pizza inspired by La Pizza in the Old Port in Cannes:  Caramelized onions, Nicoise olives and Gruyere cheese.  I waited years for that reveal and thanks to an article in The NY Times learned that it's all Gruyere baby and no Mozzarealla in the mix...

We next served our new favorite Merguez Sausage Couscous for the main course studded with dried cranberries and fennel.  Dessert was a slice of Lemon Ricotta Poundcake with more raspberries and whipped cream.  Our lovely host made espressons for our guests and my partner, Shannon and her divinely gorgeous husband, Jason, helped me out enormously with KP -- I promise to never do that to them again.  

Egads where was scullery for the night?   All in all it was such a swell night and I thank my guests enormously for their support of The Secret Table!   For a quick look at the night, follow this link:


Lisa & Company

Monday, May 14, 2012

Client Appreciation

Suffice it to say that my food business has exploded.   We have been busier than one-armed paper hangers (one of my dad's favorite and I'm sure politically incorrect analogies) so this blog is really dedicated to all my clients who make my life a revolving door of new faces and places (some of which are mind blowingly fabulous like this particular home in Newport). 

Work aside -- because we all know it's great to do what you love and make a living at the same time -- however, the real reward for a private chef/caterer is how sincerely happy people are with the food we serve, our professionalism and our presentation.  In other words, I feel loved.  And I believe my clients feel loved at the time they partake in eating what I have labored over for days -- investing time, creativity and care to make sure everything is as perfect as it can be.  Even when it's for a two-year old's special birthday party!

As a result of this huge upsurge in business our menus have been expanding as well:  New dishes we're extremely proud of are Chili Prawns -- a combination of jalapenos, lemons, prawns, plum sauce, sesame oil, and garlic chili sauce; Dorie Greenspan's psychotically divine cocktail cookies: Parmesan, almond and rosemary, tarragon and apricot and chocolate cayenne.   Melt in your mouth delicious. 
Empanadillas stuffed with spinach, roasted pine nuts and currants.  Wrapped in puff pastry they are a lunette of rich buttery flavors. 
Strawberry meringue pie and of course, my summery triple berry crisp. 
And due to a lack of fresh figs at the market, I stuffed beautiful plump apricots with honeyed goat cheese, wrapped them in prosciutto and roasted them at 400 degrees until they were the perfect sweet and savory kiss.

And last but not least what has become a new favorite dish on the menu adapted from a Padma Lakshmi recipe is my Merquez couscous studded with the eponymous spicy lamb sausage, fennel and dried cranberries.   A perfect one-dish meal that's been showing up on menu after menu.  Thank you Padma!

So we thank you, all our Secret Ingredient clients, for making our business such a huge success and such a massive pleasure serving you.  For recipes, please email me directly at  Otherwise this blog would have been a novella!
Bon Appetit,
Lisa and company

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Spring Communal Table

Dear Friends,

We want to hear from you!  In order to bring you the best communal dining experience possible we want to know what tickles your fancy, stimulates your palate, and piques your interest.  Our goal is to grow the table so many intrepid foodies can gather and meet one another over great meals and good times.   

A Spring Communal Table

If you would, email us at and let us know if you'd be interested in attending a dinner on the 21st or the 28th of April. If a ticket price over $100.00 is a deal breaker?  And should we offer a complete vegetarian menu in addition to our regular menu?  Does providing an open bar make the table that much more lively?  And since we asked, please feel free to email us any other suggestions you might have that would make your communal dining experience the be all, end all. 
Once we've collected your feedback, the next Secret Table will be underway and the invitation will follow shortly.  
A million thanks!
The Secret Table Team




Monday, March 5, 2012

Cate's First Cheesecake

One of my supreme joys is teaching kids how to cook especially when they show an interest at an early age.  One of my very best friends has two darling daughters: Cate and Paige.  Cate is 9 and Paige just turned 6.   When I arrived in NYC I received a special request from Cate to teach her how to make a cheesecake with double the crust and no blueberries.  I had on a few other occasions made cheesecake with fresh summer blueberries.  Her suggestion was a good one for this time of year.  And this is no ordinary kid. She has a sophisticated palate that rivals my own at her age.  She loves tuna tartare and when I was 9, I loved frogs' legs.  I introduced her to Humboldt Fog -- the ash rich, textured and creamy goat cheese from Cowgirl Creamery and it's now her favorite cheese.  Suffice it to say, after food camp this summer she might be showing me a thing or two in the kitchen. 

So I easily agreed to her request and we set out to make a cheesecake -- that together with a few happy accidents came up with what now believe is the best cheesecake I've ever made.   Thanks Cate!

You'll need:

9" springform pan
For the crust:
2 pkgs. graham crackers
1/2 C. butter melted

For the filling:
2 lbs. cream cheese
1 C. sugar
4 eggs
4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. sour cream
1/4 C. heavy cream
zest of 1 lemon

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 

While still in their package, hit graham crackers against the counter a few times to break up.  Place broken bits in the food processor.  Pulse until finely ground.  Melt butter and place in a bowl.  Add crumbs and turn until even mixed.  Pat gently and evenly in the bottom of the springform pan.  Place in the oven and let bake for ten minutes.

In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid Mixmaster (regular mixing bowl and hand mixer will work, too) add all the cream cheese.   Mix on low just to break it up.  Add sugar and blend on medium until mixture is smooth.  Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.  Once the eggs are fully incorporated add the vanilla -- this was Cate's addition since no recipe ever calls for this much vanilla and it's genius!  Then add the sour cream and heavy cream.  Mix well.   Now turn in the lemon zest and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula.  

Pour the mixture into the springform pan and bake for 1 hour.  Turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in the warm oven for another two hours.  Cake will cook perfectly in this manner.  Refrigerate immediately.  Should be ready to serve 2 hours later. 

This is a dense but creamy cheesecake -- a little bit New York but softer and more far more flavorful.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cooking Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving.

I arrived in New York the other night and per usual, I am ensconced in the home of one of my oldest (that always sounds wrong), closest, most wonderful and funniest friends... Being here is my home away from home and I'm always grateful that I have such a special place to reside in my most favorite city on earth.  And also because it allows me to cook for my lovely host and her family which is not only my sincere pleasure but they seem to sincerely enjoy the dishes I coax from the kitchen and place on the dining room table.

This trip occurred just days after the 10th anniversary of my friend's 40th birthday.  She had spent a week celebrating and dining in the best restaurants the city has to offer.   The night I arrived she returned from a $1,000.00 multi-course dinner at Colicchio.  I was very glad for her because I then informed her that our celebration dinner would nowhere near this indulgence and I hoped she was presently sated.  She said that  she was not only sated but nearly sick of all the fine dining and worried mostly if her pricey wardrobe was going still going to fit.  She then added, "all I want from you is that lentil beet salad thing you make and a quiet evening at home."  I promised to deliver the salad at home but quiet was out of the question: we are two of the loudest women I know and her children can attest to the fact that once we've had a few glasses of wine and start sharing our stories, ears have been covered.  Thank God it's New York City. 

So the salad... this was inspired by a meal  I had at my favorite Cafe Med in the Sunset Plaza area of Los Angeles.  I never got the recipe but I believe my version pays homage to this super healthy and hearty dish.

You'll need:

3 large beets roasted and cubed
6 oz. lentils cooked and rinsed
1/2 large onion diced
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4 carrots chopped
4 stalks of celery chopped
3 tbl. olive oil for sauteeing
4 tbl. olive oil for dressing
2 tb. balsamic vinegar
4 oz. goat cheese
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Makes six appetizer servings or 3 large salad servings. 

Preheat oven to 375degrees.  Cut tops and ends from beets.   Rinse under cold water and clean thoroughly.  Place in thick foil, sprinkle with olive oil, salt generously and seal foil tight around beets.  Roast for ninety minutes or until a knife pierces them easily.   Remove from the oven.  Allow to cool and then under running water remove the peels with your hands. They will slip away easily when fully cooked.  I love the vibrant pink color of the water swirling down the drain.   Nature's theater. 

In the meantime, add olive to a saute pan, turn heat on medium and toss in onions.  Season with salt and worcestershire.   Allow to barely caramelize.  Toss in celery and carrots. 

This combination is referred to as a mire poix although I like my carrots a little larger and more rustic for this dish than is considered traditional.  Cook until the vegetables are tender around 15 minutes and then turn the heat up so the carrots actually start to caramelize. Releases a deep rich flavor.    While you're sauteeing you can also cook the lentils.  Rinse them thoroughly.  Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water (an extra 3 inches over the lentils as they will absorb all the water when cooked).   Place a lid on the pot but don't seal it.  Cook for twenty minutes and drain in a colander when done.  Lentils should be al dente.  If you overcook they turn to mush and will ruin your salad. 

Now you're ready to assemble... cube the beats and turn all ingredients into a large salad bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  No need to emulsify prior.   Toss gently until flavored just as you like it.  Now crumble the goat cheese into the salad and give it a few additional gentle turns so as not to mash the cheese into the lovely salad.  You're ready to serve.

I added a plate of my ubiquitous crostini (toasted bread with olive oil and salt), a gorgeous round of St. Andre that was soooo perfectly ready to eat the interior was a buttery yellow  reminding us and often that we were eating PURE CREAM.  So much for the diet concerns.  A dish of freshly made fig compote (this was heaven) and we sat down to dinner with a bottle of Cupcake Chardonnay that I quite like. 

In keeping with my "open door policy" of cooking which underscores simplify and also because my schedule in the city isn't just about making delicious meals I bought dessert at a gourmet market that had me turning in circles ogling all the delicasies and sundries.  I chose bread pudding and double fudge brownies.  Poor friend.  The meal may not have cost $1,000 dollars but I guess the caloric intake was equally devastating.  

Happy Birthday darling friend... the meal was only topped by your storytelling which I'm still giggling about today. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Thursday Night Tacos

Everyone loves tacos; right?  So how about a healthy take on tacos that is so much more delicious than the typical ground beef and packaged seasoning mixture we've all made in a pinch.  My tacos are packed with spice, heat and loads of kale for texture and flavor that's extraordinary.

For my tacos you'll need:

1 lb. Ground Turkey
3 Tbl. Olive Oil
2 Onions Diced
3 Cloves Garlic Minced
15 oz. Tomato Puree
3 Tsp. Worcestershire
2 Tsp. Ground Cumin
2 Tsp. Ground Coriander
2 Tbl.  Garlic Chili Sauce
1 Tsp. Cayenne
1 Tbl.  Salt
4 C. Cut and Cleaned Kale

Saute onions in olive oil, salt and worcestershire sauce until almost caramelized.  Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes.  Turn in turkey and cook thoroughly.  Add spices and chili sauce.  Cook for a few minutes for spices to release their flavor.   Add tomatoes and stir to combine.  Kale is added last and continue to turn gently until fully incorporated.  Kale will need about five minutes to soften.    Now you're ready to assemble. 

But first a little appetizer... one of the easiest treats that makes people go ga ga and I mean lip smacking oh my god these are so good are crispy tortilla chips.   Buy white corn tortillas and quarter.  Fill a saucepan with a quarter inch of vegetable oil.   Heat until a drop of water sizzles in the pan.  Add a single layer of the tortilla chips.  They will take about 30 seconds to crisp on one side.  Flip.  When they are golden remove from the pan and let rest on a paper towel covered plate.  Sprinkle generously with salt immediately.  This is key!   Serve with some easy fresh guacamole that I prepare by first cutting the avocadoes into large chunks and toss into a bowl.  Add salt and a minced garlic clove for a single avocado.  Mash with the back of a fork.  Squeeze in fresh lemon juice to taste.   And that's it.  Many variations depending on how you like your guacamole but I prefer to keep it simple and all about the avocadoes.  

While you and your guests are munching on chips and dip heat the corn tortillas over an open flame on both sides until browned.   Sprinkle with a generous amount of grated cheddar cheese.  Place under a broiler until melted.   Spoon turkey mixture over.   I cut up fresh tomatoes and tossed with lettuce, lemon juice and salt.  I added this last and presented my tacos open faced with a side of black beans.   And yes, I use canned black beans because they are easy and even easier to doctor up:  I add a whole chipotle pepper (mashed) to the beans, some salt and cheddar cheese.  Heat and they are smokin' good. 

Apologies for the extra bits on the plate but we weren't dining formally last night and I wasn't even sure I was going to blog about this new recipe until we all took our first bite and said, "wow, these are divine."  And they were.  So with a little preparation in the pantry (spices on hand) and a few key ingredients you wouldn't normally think of with tacos (kale and ground turkey) you'll have a new spin on an old favorite. My Mexican Granny would be proud. 

Adios amigos!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Open Door Policy

Open Door Policy

For several months, my business partner Lisa van Eyssen and our wonderful videographer, Shannon Bae, have been shooting footage and assembling webisodes of me in action while also trying to conceptualize what sets me apart as a private chef in a very crowded category of very talented people. 
Recently, Lisa, while shooting a quick cooking demonstration that we'll be posting soon, came up with an idea that does DEFINE me... She called it my open door policy to cooking and entertaining.  I have always been a more the merrier type cook for the simple reason that I believe people are at their most convivial surrounded around a table eating great food and imbibing in good wine.  My reputation as the go-to-cook really flourished in college and until this day, I cook a minimum of three nights a week/end when I'm not cooking for a client/gig. 
Case in point,  a client who has become a good friend, flew in to town to be a good friend to yet another friend who had been hopitalized.  After a few grueling days of not knowing the fate of his friend's prognosis my only thought was: he could use a good home cooked meal and a bottle of wine.  It was 4:30 on Friday afternoon, I'd had my own complicated week and yes, it would have been much easier to meet him at a restaurant where we could have gone over the grisly details ad nauseum and been waited on.   Instead, my friend joined me at my home, where candles were lit and yet another rerun of "Wedding Crashers" aired (that movie cheers me up even better than an icy martini) so we could chill and eat and find the silver lining in the latest trip to the hospital.  Both of us have spent way too much time losing loved ones in the last few years so we know the drill very well.
My point in sharing all of this is that's it's so much more civilized and easier than one would think to adopt an open door policy.  The irony is that my front door  actually is wide open when waiting for guests.  I live in Pacific Palisades, one of the safest areas on the Westside on the ridge of a canyon so the only unannounced guest I could encounter would be a wayward deer, raccoon or mountain lion that have made their presence known. 
After confirming our date, I ran to the market and by 5:30 was in my kitchen ready to assemble:  a hummus and chips, an avocado and cherry tomato salad, pasta with crispy sage and browned butter sauce, steamed broccoli with garlic olive oil and lemon and for the main course roasted salmon with tarragon and lemon.  Sliced strawberries with balsamic vinegar and sugar spooned over Vanilla ice cream served as dessert.  I poured a gorgeous Sterling Cabernet as my friend doesn't drink white wine and the meal was ready to be served in under an hour. 
Having an open door policy does necessitate some short cuts.  Although I make the very best hummus, I buy Sabra when pushed for time.  Placed in a lovely bowl, fresh squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil makes it your own.  I serve with Eating Right Pita Chips.  Perfect.
This is one of my most favorite pasta dishes ever:  I melt an entire cube of butter and let it foam and brown over a medium heat.  I add an entire package of fresh sage that's been snipped to teeny bits.  The sage crackles and crsips immediately.  Prepare enough pasta for four people.  Toss the pasta directly into the butter when cooked turn on the heat, add generous amount of fresh pepper (no salt), parmesan and you're ready to serve.
A roasted salmon filet is easy and divine.  I set the oven at 400 degrees. Drizzle with a little olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Fresh tarragon coats the filet.  Lemon slices make it presentable.  In the oven for fifteen minutes and you have an elegant and delicious entree
It's rare that we don't start or end a meal with a salad.  I'm in love with avocadoes and  find them to be perfectly partnered with the sweet and tart cherry tomato.  I tossed in a few baby bells for color and add nothing more than salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic white in this instance so the color remains fresh and pretty. 
Dessert doesn't have to be fancy.  Every now and then I break down and buy Vanilla ice cream or gelato and top with fresh fruit.  Slice strawberries tossed with sugar and balsamic is heaven.  The tartness of the vinegar marries perfectly with the sweetness of the strawberries and sugar.  Allow to sit for an hour for flavors to release and blend.