Welcome to the new and improved Carano's Cucina. I make a lot of kick ass food and go out to some amazing restaurants. Take a look around and make yourself at home :)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Hudson Tastes Good!

For the second year in a row, Nick and I decided to go to Taste of Hudson. We used to go to Taste of Cleveland, but it changed a lot over the years and basically turned into just another festival. They stopped having chef demos, which was our favorite part. We even saw Curtis Aikens there doing a demo one year. He was fantastic!

Taste of Hudson is fantastic. You have music, food, demos, food, vendors and even more food! Amazing restaurants set up booths for this two day event. Good luck finding a funnel cake. And the prices are great. Most things are not over $5.

We decided to hit as many of the demos as possible, but arriving around 1:15 pm on Sunday, the first one was already underway and all the tickets for the second one had been given out already. The ticket is free, you just need it to have a sample of the demo chefs creation. And believe me, you want a sample! So we had over an hour and a half to kill, walking around in the sun and waiting for the 3:00 pm demo so we decided to try something. Well I take that back, we decided we had to have the homemade potato chips from Hudson on the Green Restaurant. We had them last year and knew we had to have them again! Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of this wonderful creation so hopefully my description will suffice. They start out with crispy thin potatoes and top them with chopped tomatoes, scallions, bacon, Gorgonzola cheese and balsamic glaze. They are so incredibly savory and delicious. Nick and I don't even like Gorgonzola and we love them!

After enjoying our chips, it was finally time for our first demo with chef Frank Zifer of Virtues Restaurant. Although we've never eaten there, Nick and I were rather familiar with this restaurant. It's located inside Akron City hospital and Nick's mother was a patient there for quite some time last year. We walked past the restaurant almost every day when we were visiting her and always said, "we should eat there sometime."

Chef Zifer's demo started the day off right! He made penne pasta with grilled chicken, arugula, peppers, artichokes, mushrooms and tomatoes in a roma tomato cream sauce and topped with Romano cheese. It was simple, the ingredients were delicious and fresh (he couldn't find any good arugula so used spinach instead - and in the end he totally forgot to use it at all, proving that even the best of chefs can make those little mistakes). The recipe was very versatile. If you don't like artichokes, leave them out or use vegetables you do like. He sauteed the vegetables together in a pan with very little olive oil, added salt and pepper and a little stock then tossed in the already cooked penne and some of the sauce. When he served he put grilled chicken on top and a sprinkling of cheese. It was amazing!

Next up at 4:00 pm was Rick Carson of Vue. Vue is a in the First and Main area of Hudson, which is where this event took place.

His dish was wild mushroom crostini. Chef Carson loves his mushrooms. He spoke so passionately about them and his "crazy mushroom guy" in Oregon where he gets a lot of his mushrooms from. His enthusiasm was intoxicating! He used a generous mixture of many different mushrooms from cremini, to chanterelle, to morel, to maitake all sauteed together with a small amount of oil and then finished off with some spinach and some cream. Then he put that mixture over a crispy slice of crostini and topped it with manchego cheese. It was incredibly delicious.

Our 5:00 pm demo was with Don Bitter of the Old Whedon Grill. The restaurant is family owned and operated. That is something we love to hear. They also make most everything from scratch. Also something we love to hear!

The demo was for spinach and artichoke dip with tortilla chips. The recipe was simple and straight forward.. saute onions and garlic in butter until soft, add some flour to form a roux, stir in some half and half (you could use cream on the fat end or skim milk on the lower fat end), then sour cream, then frozen chopped spinach and chopped artichoke hearts. Stir in the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses at the end. The mixture cooks on the stove for about an hour, although I would probably put it in a baking dish and bake it instead.

Since it didn't have that time to cook, and really only cooked for all of 5 minutes or so, the taste wasn't really there. It just tasted like cream and spinach. It could also use some seasonings, which I don't recall him adding. The chips were very nice. We loved the mixture of the different types of corn and he did say that they fry them at the restaurant. Nice touch.

Our last demo of the day was 6:00 pm with Chef Roger Thomas of Piatto Novo. The restaurant is located in the Sheraton Hotel in Cuyahoga Falls.

Chef Thomas was making Chicken Involtini (with asparagus, Parmesan and lemon sauce). Involtini literally means a thin slice of meat with stuffing. I'd been looking forward to this one all day! He started out by showing us a pounded out chicken breast. It wasn't as flat as you want it for a cutlet, but still flattened out some. Then he put a chunk of Parmesan and several springs of blanched asparagus in the chicken and rolled it up, tying it together with kitchen twine. From there he put it in a saute pan with a little olive oil to brown, then added some white wine and chicken stock, salt and pepper. At the end of the cooking, he squeezed in some lemon juice and it was ready to serve.

I cannot even begin to describe how much flavor this little piece of chicken had. The cheese completely melts down into the meat and the asparagus was tender as the chicken! I love asparagus, but for me it's not really practical to buy this time of year. I would love to try this with maybe zucchini in the middle. But come spring and the abundance of asparagus, oh yes, I'll be trying it his way!

All the chefs were very willing to give out their recipes. They were all fun to watch but Chef Thomas, he was the rock star. Everyone was in awe of him and wanted to see him. He definitely had a bolder presence. Hmmm... maybe we'll see him someday on Iron Chef taking on Cleveland's rock star chef Michael Symon!

After the demos, we walked around some more and tried to figure out what we really wanted to eat. Nick decided on Otani's in Hudson. He had beef teriyaki, a spring roll and edamame. I decided on Luchita's and had a spinach and potato empanada and a taquito. Again, I somehow forgot to take pictures of the food we bought. But it was all delicious! We then bought some cupcakes from 3foodies and some baklava from I can't remember where. Both to take home because dessert had to be Cold Stone Creamery! I had Peanut Butter Cup Perfection and Nick had Apple Pie Ala Cold Stone. What a great topper to a great day!

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