@victoriamargaux
 
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Ahi Tuna w/ wasabi
I love working for a catering company. Not only do I get to work with cool people, I get to eat for free -- A LOT.
Take for instance the event I worked on Wednesday. They ordered oodles of food and didn't even eat half of it. I took two heaping plates home. No, it wasn't all for me. I'm not that much of a fat ass. I always share with my roommates and the hungry boys that live downstairs :)
Here is what was on the menu:

Moroccan Lamb Loin with Blood Orange Syrup
I wish I had taken a picture. The lamb was cooked to perfection. Not too tough, it fell off the bone easily and was so tender I didn't even care about trying it with the sauce. (I'm all about sauces.)
Chipotle Tenderloin Skewers with Cilantro CreamThere was so much potential for this dish to be good. They used Filet Mignon for goodness sake. The meat didn't have any flavor, even with the Chipotle sauce on top. Tempura Shrimp Lollipops with Sweet Chile Sauce
These were absolutely delicious. They reminded me of the Sweet and Sour Chicken you can order from most Chinese restaurants, but better. The tempura had just the right amount of crunch and wasn't too greasy.
Blue Cheese and Pecan Encrusted Grapes
Okay, don't hate me, but I didn't try these. I don't like blue cheese and spring break is only a week away-- I didn't want the calories. I heard they were pretty good, but the blue cheese was kind of overpowering.
Herbed Flatbread with Balsamic Hummus and Roasted Vegetables
Yum, yum, yum. These were delicious. I absolutely love hummus. I tried them right as they were being plated and the warm roasted vegetables added a hearty flavor to the hummus. I enjoyed the contrasting textures of the hummus and veggies as well. After a while the flatbread got kind of soggy, but, hey, that happens.
Assorted Sushi and California Rolls
I'm proud to say we actually make pretty good sushi at Classic Fare Catering. Even though they were the most boring type of rolls possible, we spiced it up with some spicy mayo dipping sauce.
Chilled Crab Crostini with Cajun Remoulade
Eww. I should probably preface this by saying I don't really like crab much anyway, but this was just too fishy for me. I literally tried a bite while I was in the downstairs kitchen and had to hold it in my mouth all the way across the event to the other kitchen to spit it out.
Pan-Seared Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna with Soy Cilantro Dipping Sauce
I think I ate about a bazillion of these. The wasabi dip on top made the dish, hands down. The tuna was perfectly seared and the wasabi added just the right amount of kick
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Hummus is yummus!
 
 
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My roommate Dillon enjoying the picadillo!
At the beginning of every semester I bring back some fresh fish from home to share with my landlocked friends. This year, I decided to make some picadillo to go along with it. A traditional Cuban dish, picadillo can be made many different ways. I make mine fairly plain, but feel free to add whatever seasoning and spices you like. Here's my recipe so you can try it at home:

Ingredients:
3 lbs ground beef
diced tomatos, onions and peppers (you can get them frozen and already diced, just check your local grocery's freezer aisle)
8 oz can tomato sauce
8 oz can tomato paste
box of raisins
olives with pimento pits
seasonings of your choice

Saute the tomatos, onions and peppers at low heat. Once they're starting to de-thaw throw in the ground beef. Cook until the beef is mostly brown. Make sure to drain out the excess fat. If you don't the picadillo will be soggy and gross. Next mix in tomato sauce, paste, raisins and olives. Let simmer as long as you would like!
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Macadamia Mahi Mahi
Last Friday, after quite a hell-ish week, I thought I'd treat myself to some delicious tapas and girl time with one of my best girlfriends, Cassandra. Little did I know our relaxing evening would turn into such an adventure. I had visited O!O Tapas & Tinis once before to interview Chef Dale Bixby for an article I wrote on How to Cook Fish, so I figured finding the place again would be a piece of cake. Wrong.

Apparently, there are two SW 91st Street's in Gainesville, and Cassandra's iPhone likes to send us to the one out in Williston. We're literally driving down this dark, creepy road when we realize we are more likely to be in a horror movie than to find the restaurant. I call the restaurant and the hostess starts giving us landmarks we can't even find. Obviously we are in the wrong place, so we turn around and start heading toward Haile Plantation. Once we get to Haile Plantation, however, the iPhone still wants to send us back to the scary road 22 minutes away. Long story short, we drive around in circles some more and finally find the restaurant. Total travel time: an hour and fifteen minutes.

Once we arrive at the restaurant, the place is so bustling we have to sit at the bar to order our drinks and food. The clientele is a bit older, a bit more sophisticated and there is a live performer belting out "All That Jazz." The lighting is low, the mood is set and we find two seats at the large circle bar that takes up most of the room in the restaurant.

Martinis are $9, but the list is so long you're guaranteed to find something you like. If you're cheap, make sure to go on Tuesdays or Thursdays when the martinis are just $5.

At this point Cassandra and I are starving, so we order tapas, an appetizer and a full meal each. The first thing to arrive is the Bixbys Bread Basket ($5) which comes with select artisan breads, hummus, a cinnamon sugar dip and of course olive oil & aged balsamic. I'm in heaven. Bread fresh out the oven is my absolute favorite, especially if I can dip it in olive oil. They mixed cornbread in with the other artisan breads and I'm not sure I really cared for it.

Next to arrive was our tapas, Shrimp Stuffed Portobello Mushroom ($8). Normally when I think of stuffed mushrooms, I think of the actual mushroom caps stuffed with filling and flavor. This was completely different. Spread out on a bed of fresh greens was a shrimp and mushroom mix topped with melted cheese. The texture of the shrimp and mushroom worked well together, because it was all mixed together no one flavor was overpowering. I could have done without the cheese on top, but it did add a nice richness to the dish.

Finally came the Macademia Mahi Mahi ($16) with spinach risotto, julienne vegetables, and champagne butter sauce infused with pink peppercorns. The fish was coated and pan seared perfectly. It flaked away at the touch of my fork and melted in my mouth the second it touched my tongue. I would have been completely satisfied with just the fish itself. I think the risotto and vegetables actually took away from the dish. I know they are trying to sell an entire meal, but the sides seemed extremely forced.

All in all I would definitely venture to O!O again, but next time I would go on a less busy night of the week. Oh, and I will Mapquest the directions instead.
 
 
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My mother is hell bent on making me fat. This is the package I received from her today. Notice there aren't any Thin Mints or Samoas. She says they didn't have any when she bought them, but I think she just ate them herself.

I'm heading to dinner tonight with one of my best friend's Cassandra. We are trying out O!O Tapas & Tinis. Check back soon for the evening's play-by-play.
 
 
In honor of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday here is my favorite recipe for King Cake. For those of you that don't know, King Cake dates back to the 12th century in France and marks the beginning of carnival season.
The cake starts with a dough that bakes into a moist, sweet brioche and ends with you decorating your masterpiece with purple, yellow and green. (Mardi Gras colors of course!) You're supposed to put a little plastic baby inside, but if you don't I promise I won't tell.

To make the cake you'll need:
1/3 cup of warm water
3 eggs
yeast
praline sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 sticks of butter (room temp)
2 tbsp melted butter (to brush on top of the dough)

1. Place cake mix and yeast in a bowl. Use a dough hook or some type of dough attachment on your mixer.
2. Add 1/3 cup of WARM water and 1 1/2 sticks of room temp butter. Mix well.
3. Add 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks. Mix well. Knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides of teh bowl. Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl once and continue kneading.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and set bowl of dough in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Now comes the hard part, shaping the dough:
1. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead the dough (adding flour when necessary because it's sticky) until it is soft and smooth. Flour rolling pin and work the surface. Roll the dough into a 15" x 22" rectangle.
2. Brush the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle praline sugar over dough. If you want to add a filling you can now. Starting at the long end (the 22" end) roll the dough into a jellyroll shape. Pinch ends closed to seal.
3. Place on cookie sheet and bring two ends together to form an oval or circle.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes until doubled in size. (If you put your oven on its lowest setting for 3 minutes it works great.)

Now it's time to bake!
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned.
3. Let it cool.
4. DECORATE!!

I'm thinking of making one this weekend. Check back soon to hear about my cooking adventures, and see how I well I did (or didn't do)!
 
 
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The Monte Cristo Sandwich
For late night eats and breakfast all day long, Jeff's Deli on University Avenue is the place to go. The University location has only been open for a few months now, but it has a classic New York Deli feel. Sit in cherry red booths with gold embellishments, while you gaze at framed issues of The Gainesville Sun. Owner Billy Holdsworth is a University of Florida alum who grew up in Gainesville. One of Holdsworth's dreams was to own a restaurant in the middle of the Gator nation. Well, mission accomplished.

He chose breakfast foods he says because there just aren't enough of them. I tried their All-American, a heaping plate of sunny-side-up eggs, sausage, homefries and a biscuit. It's every type of breakfast food you could ever want combined in one-- and it's only $5.50. I'm not a huge fan of deli-style breakfasts, but I definitely think anything on their menu could cure any hangover, ever.

Speaking of large amounts of grease, Jeff's has an eating challenge for you. In classic Man v. Food style, come in and take on the 5 lb Monte Cristo. (The one pictured above is the regular version.) If you eat the entire thing, you receive a trophy, your $25 back and diarrhea. I tried the sandwich myself this afternoon, and though it was really freakin' huge, I'm not a fan. Turkey, ham, Swiss and honey mustard on Challah bread. But, it's not your regular 'ol Challah bread, it's French Toast style Challah bread. Initially, I liked the salty sweet combination, but after a while the sweetness of the bread was just way too much.

Maybe I should have tried their Philly Cheesesteak instead.

This review also appeared in INsite magazine. Check out
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The All-American breakfast
 
 
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Spring 2010 package from Aunt Kimmy :)
I just got a new care package from my Aunt Kimmy so I thought I would share. She is absolutely amazing :) I get these at the beginning of every semester, but I am still in awe every single time. If you are ever privileged enough to try her brownies, I warn you they are something serious. Made with lots of love and sugar, you are sure to go into a diabetacoma. Chocolate frosting on top is a also a complete necessity. This time she even included puppy chow, my absolute favorite homemade snack. It's just Chex Mix, chocolate, peanut butter and powdered sugar. Basically a heart attack in tupperware. Lets see how long all of these sweets stay in the apartment. By bet is three days.
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Fall 2009 care package :)
 
 
What is it with me and making horrendous cupcakes lately? Last night I tried out a strange concotion --- coconut cupcakes with strawberry icing. I know what you're thinking, why the hell would that taste good? Honestly, I'm not really sure. I guess I was trying to channel my inner Brecks.

What's Brecks you ask? Why only the best gourmet cookie shop ever! No, seriously. They are to die for. I'm not sure exactly when they opened up shop in Orlando, but their story is pretty amazing. The woman who owns the shop started making cookies for the nurses taking care of her sick daughter in the hospital. She visited so often that she started experimenting with crazy flavors to keep things interesting. Here is a list of some of my favorites:

Blueberry White Chocolate
Keylime White Chocolate
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
Hawaiian
Chocolate Covered Cherry

She also always has seasonal ones like Pecan Pie or Pumpkin. Each flavor melts in your mouth, and the cookies are always fresh. Want to make them at home? You can purchase just the dough and pop those suckers in the oven at your own convenience. My dad loves to send me a gift box at the start of every semester, and I always stop by the shop when I'm in Orlando.

Needless to say, after my second cupcake debacle I think I'm going to stick to the more traditional flavors and quit trying to mix and match. Especially when they turn out tasting like sunscreen :/
 

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