Sunday, July 15, 2012

Foodie Adventures: Lunch & Learn with Beau and Chuck!

Chuck Hughes and Hoopfinity at Sanctuary's "Lunch & Learn"
I've been so blessed on this beautiful whirlwind of a foodie adventure, and time after time I'm pinching myself to make sure my dreams are in fact a reality.

My foodie friends (most of whom I've never met in person) and I are always chatting on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Real Women of Philadelphia, about which chefs we'd like to meet, which contests we'd love to win and what kind of food we LOVE to eat and prepare.  It wasn't too long ago that a discussion came up about Canadian superchef, Chuck Hughes.  About fifteen of us instantly stepped up and said that if there was a contest where meeting and/or cooking with him was the prize, we'd all be fighting tooth and nail to win it.  Well, Saturday, I won the prize and didn't even have to cook!

At about 3pm on Friday, I saw Chuck post a photo of himself at the Sanctuary Resort/Spa Pool, a gorgeous resort nestled into the side of Camelback Mountain, about 5 minutes away from my house.  Sanctuary is home to a restaurant named "Elements," one of Scottsdale finest restaurants, headed up by none other than the Food Network famed chef, Beau MacMillan.

"BeauMac" and Hoop at Lunch & Learn
I chose Elements for my birthday dinner back in January, and was amazed at the food and service.  "BeauMac" as he's called by industry friends wasn't there that night, but their entire staff waited on me like a goddess and treated me to a very extensive restaurant and kitchen tour.  The manager on duty that evening informed me of a summer series they do called "Lunch & Learn," where top-notch chefs are invited to the restaurant to hold luncheons and dinners for local patrons, share their recipes and "strut their stuff!"  I instantly put two and two together when I saw Chuck's photo, made a phone call, and I was in.  I was shaking like a school girl.  I wanted to call six or seven more times to confirm that I was actually in.

The two chefs had stolen my foodie heart on Food Network's, "The Next Iron Chef:  Super Chefs," especially Chef MacMillan.  It wasn't just because he was my new neighbor and I had already experienced the pride and appreciation he has for everything he does, but also because he was the cheerleader of the show.  He was always encouraging everyone to do their best on the show. He was the guy that the judges really didn't want to let go.  He was everyone's favorite guy.  As for Chuck, I already had a little crush on his school-boy looks, his humble and silly personality, and the fact that his food is nothing short of spectacular.  Needless to say, I didn't sleep much on Friday night.

The lunch venue consisted of 140 of Scottsdale's finest foodies.  I met Sous Chefs, Executive Chefs, reporters, photographers, caterers, fellow bloggers and lots of people who just LOVED to eat!  At $75 per person, Chuck had prepared a menu nothing short of Canadian excellence.  We would be treated to lunch, wine, recipes and stories.  I was about to experience my first Poutine, and I couldn't wait!

We were first introduced to a short film on Chuck that was very tastefully and well produced.  Many of the guests (including myself) didn't know that Chuck in his past has battled addiction, lived in a small apartment above what is now his VERY successful restaurant Garde Manger, and that he shared that small apartment with his two best friends that are now his business partners.

Chuck Hughes preparing his Tomato Avocado Salad

Chuck came out to thundering applause and was instantly his usual, witty and energetic self, making us laugh, showing us a few tricks and talents, and eventually...burning the croutons.  My appreciation for simple, fresh and beautiful tomatoes was renewed.  Tomatoes have always been one of Baby Bodhi's favorite foods, but Chuck made us a beautiful Tomato and Avocado Salad with Fried Cheese, Olive Oil and White Balsamic Vinegar.  It was paired with a delightful Beringer Knights Valley Blanc wine. I didn't see this recipe published on the Cooking Channel website, so I'm sharing it with you from the recipe booklet we received (hope that's okay, Chuck!):

Tomato and Avocado Salad with Fried Cheese,
Olive Oil and White Balsamic Vinegar

Tomato and Avocado Salad with Fried Cheese, Olive Oil and White Balsamic Vinegar

Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 5 minutes / Serves: 4

Tomato and Avocado Salad Ingredients:
  • 4 large tomatoes on the vine, cut into cubes
  • 2 avocados, cut in cubes
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded, cut in cubes
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 bunch chives, chopped
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Fried Cheddar Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. old cheddar in pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all salad ingredients.  Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Preheat oil in fryer to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, season flour with salt and pepper.  Whisk eggs in another bowl.
  3. Coat the pieces of cheddar with flour, removing the excess.  Dip cheddar into beaten eggs, and again into the flour.  Fry 2 minutes or until browned.  Place fried cheese on paper towels and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Garnish salad with steak spice croutons (see recipe below) and fried cheddar.
Steak Spice Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. coriander (cilantro)
  • 2 tbsp. black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. pink pepper
  • 1 tbsp. dried garlic
  • 1 tbsp. dried onion
  • 1 tsp. chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. whole mustard
  1. Crush with mortar.
Steak Spice Croutons Ingredients:
  • 4 slices thick bread cut into large cubes
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 tbsp. steak spice
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix all ingredients.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and into preheated oven until toasted.
Chuck's Notes: "We use 2-year aged cheddar from the Iles-aux-Cranes.  But any old Cheddar will do.  In season, we vary the tomatoes.  We use cherry tomatoes, yellow, red, etc."

Lobster Poutine

The laughs and tricks continued into the next course.  His Lobster Poutine wasn't the belle of the ball on Iron Chef America. In fact, the judges hated it, but it still seemed to be enough for him to defeat Bobby Flay at his own game.

I knew that Poutine was a famous Canadian "junk food" or "drunk food" as Chuck called it, but my tastebuds were prepared and I was deliciously and pleasantly surprised.  I wouldn't recommend making this dish for your new boyfriend's parents if they're coming over to meet you for the first time, but for a karaoke party or a small friendly movie marathon, it's sure to be a huge hit!

The wines alone at this event were enough to make anyone feel that they received their money's worth, so I can't forget to mention that this course's wonderful wine. It was a St. Clement Chardonnay Carneros, of which Gage won a bottle at the end of the event!  It didn't make it through the night.

Chuck has his "Awesome Poutine" recipe published on the Cooking Channel website, so for the sake of my typing fingers, I'll direct you there for the base of the recipe, and I'll share the INCREDIBLE Lobster base he used as the "gravy" for the fries.  This recipe will become a staple in my home and I can only wonder where it will end up in my own dishes!  If you're making this at home, just top the fries and sauce with some pieces of boiled lobster and garnish with chives.

Chuck's Awesome Poutine Recipe

Lobster Base

Prep Time: 15 minutes / Cook Time: 3 hours / Servings: 4 cups

  • 2 large lobsters, shells (1 1/2 lbs. each)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 garlic head, halved
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 tbsp. ketchup
  • 1 tbsp. peppercorns
  • 16 cups water
  • sea salt to taste
  1. In a saucepan on medium heat, heat the oil and sautee the onion, carrot, celery and garlic for 5 minutes, while stirring constantly.  Next, add the lobster shells, rosemary, thyme, peppercorns and ketchup and continue to cook for 10 minutes, while stirring continuously.  Add water and simmer for 2 hours.
  2. Strain and reduce the lobster base in half (around 4 cups) over a medium low heat.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Chucks Notes:  "The lobster base sauce will keep for a week in the refrigerator or up to three months in the freezer.  This lobster base is used to make sauce for lobster poutine."

Hoopfinity and Chuck Hughes hugging it out
over his mother's Maple Pecan Pie

So by now, I'm 4 glasses of wine deep at 2pm (I failed to mention the two amazing glasses of sweet, Segura Viudas Brut Reserve Sparkling Wine I chugged upon arrival to calm my teenage giddiness).  My stomach is full of fried cheese and lobster gravy and I couldn't be happier.  I'm thanking my hubby for tagging along with me and scratching our original plan of attending a yoga chakra meditation seminar (my guilt will someday catch up to me on that one), when he pointed over my right shoulder.  Behind me is a smiling 6 foot, forty-eight inch (he's REALLY tall) smiling teddy bear with a plate of his mother's Maple Pecan Pie in his hand.  Chuck was hand-delivering my dessert to me.  I had no words, only goofy hyena-type laughter and suddenly nervous, sweaty armpits!  I grasped enough sense to thank him and jump up to ask him for a hug and a photo.  He was gracious enough to do so, and posed it up with me and his big brother smile.

This recipe is on the Cooking Channel website, so I'll share the link with you below:

Maple Pecan Pie

Maple Pecan Pie

I can only say that, half drunk, stomach full, and ready for a nap, this stuff perked me right up and made me even happier than I was before.  The rich, sweetness of the pie filling perfectly balanced the strong-smelling Penfolds Club Reserve Tawny Australian Port they served with it.  Thank goodness they only served a couple of swigs, because I would have either been carried out on a stretcher, or dancing on the tables waving a napkin in the air.  Probably both, not necessarily in that order. Oh, and I almost forgot about the Caramel Addiction Brownie Bites they served us afterward!  What the heck?!  One bite?!  I want more !!!!  More please, MORE !!!!!

Chuck continued to reflect with us on his appreciation for all that he's experiencing, including his next television endeavors, and his past experiences.  Forgive my unsteady hand, but here's a short video of Chuck and Beau at work, sharing some of their journey, realizations, humility and love for what they do:

In closing, this was one of my best adventures yet.  My foodie life just keeps getting better and better.  Even though I didn't get to actually cook with Chuck and Beau, I'm so grateful for the fun, the photos, the food and the memories.

We were able to chat with Beau for a moment at the end of the day, and again, he made us feel like family.  I can't put into words the heart that this man possesses.  He is truly something very special and I will continue to support anything he represents.

I also grabbed Chuck as we were about to walk out the door.  I wanted to have him sign my menu, and as he took several minutes to draw an entire cartoon on my front cover, I realized that I had jumped in front of the other 139 people attending that day who were patiently waiting in line for photos, signatures and the like.  To all of you, I am so so very sorry!

If you're anywhere near Scottsdale, Lunch & Learn will continue at Sanctuary through the weekends this summer.  They've got an INCREDIBLE line up of mostly LOCAL superstars this year.  If you're interested in they're format, or attending one of these spectacular seminars, go to their website by clicking the link below.  I suggest you call them NOW, as most of them are probably already full.

To everyone involved in making this awesome event happen, THANKS SO MUCH from me, a nobody/blogger/foodie, who left feeling like a super exclusive celebrity!

Queen Creek Olive Mill Arizona
Fiji Water

1 comment:

  1. Heather! That looks like a blast:) The food and the chef look delicious! Love reading about your food adventures!