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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Road to Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome: The Story Begins

Who knew that an email sitting in my inbox could be one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. The title of the email: “Casting Call for the Greatest Game Day Recipe”. I am a big fan of Johnsonville and like any fan, I subscribe to their newsletter to find out about new products that are coming out and recipes. My whole foodie career is the one spent behind the scenes – started by working in restaurants learning about food and cooking techniques, expanding my foodie knowledge with the written word to let the world know about new restaurants and food products, developing recipes for some of my favorite stores and products, and becoming a professional food judge to analyze food entries at food competitions across the country. I have competed in smaller recipe competitions in which your family, friends, and fans get to vote. It is taxing on everyone and the fun seems to end right when it starts. But there was something in this Johnsonville email that just made me say to myself, “Chelsea, you can do this!”

The specs were that your recipe had to have a Big Game taste and utilize Johnsonville sausage. It could be any recipe that I wanted it to be, but since there was a big graphic logo for “The Sausage Dome”, I figured it needed to be themed for a game day party. I took into consideration where you might make the recipe. If you are home, you have an oven, range, other cooking elements. If you are tailgating, you might have a grill and maybe a propane cooktop for making dishes like chili or soup. I wanted to make sure it was versatile and easy to make. And I also knew that the judges would be workers from Johnsonville and wanted to appease their palate. I only had 11 days until the submission deadline which was also right before the start of World Food Championships. I needed to get the recipe finalized and then shoot a short video introducing myself and my sausage dish. Since the hubby and I have been working on a YouTube channel for my OC Food Diva blog, he could edit down the introduction and cook to a minute-long snippet. It is almost like we trained for it! Depending on the day, I can get very nervous on camera, so it did take a while to get my intro out in one swoop. I uploaded my submission and flew to Orange Beach, AL for the World Food Championships the next morning.

On the last day of the World Food Championships, I finished up some writing assignments in the hotel and checked my email. I see an email titled, “Welcome to the Sausage Dome!” At first, I was a little nervous to open the email, but told myself, “It says “welcome” so it has to be good news.” And it was! I was picked as one of the competitors for Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome food competition reality series. I was bouncing around the room like a bunny rabbit. I needed to calm down since I still had to be professional for a media interview at a restaurant within the hour. After my World Food Championships trip, I would have a couple of weeks to unwind before flying out for the taping of Johnsonville’s The Sausage Dome.

On a cold December morning (at least for Southern California), I headed up to Los Angeles International Airport to catch a flight to Milwaukee, WI with a short stop in Dallas along the way. I arrived at General Mitchell International Airport in the late afternoon. As the plane glided its way to the terminal, snow was falling big time. It was my second time landing at an airport with snow but it still seemed magical to me! The terminal was warm so I didn’t think much about putting my jacket on. I got my luggage and proceeded outside to wait for my ride. OMG! I love it when it is cold, but it was freezing! Keep in mind, I live in Southern California and originally from Hawaii. I was literally freezing my òkole off!!! I am so glad that my mom nagged me about bringing Papa Dave’s heavy jacket. Mahalo, Mama! Along with it being my first time seeing a snow plow going through an airport, this was also my first time in Wisconsin!

We had a long car ride to Sheboygan, WI and got to know one of my competitors. His name is Mason Partak, a 13-year old cooking prodigy. He started baking with his mom when he was two years old. No stranger to reality food competitions, Mason is a Season 1 Food Network’s Chopped Junior Champion! I was excited to see what he was going to make for The Sausage Dome. But just meeting him indicated that there would be some fierce competition ahead. He was clearly a natural! Now, I could feel my nerves kick in. I was getting super nervous!!!

The competitors received amazing accommodations at the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center. I went up to the room to drop off my bags and it was time to for dinner! Stay tuned for more about the Blue Harbor Resort and the On The Rocks Bar & Grill.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ronin Sushi and Steak marks off an item off my foodie bucket list

On the last night of World Food Championships, I met up with Chef Chris Kelly, owner of Ronin Sushi and Steak and Driftwood Bar and Grille. Chef Chris also competed in the World Seafood Championships scoring 91.125 on his structured build and 85.5 on his signature dish resulting in a total score of 88.3125 placing him 26th. He had a great time competing and is “absolutely grateful of World Food Championships for bringing business to The Wharf, Orange Beach, and showcasing local chef talent”.

Ronin Sushi and Steak was a dream that Chef Chris had 10 years ago. The concept was to take sushi in a different direction and create a new way to make it. His dream became a reality in July 2016 with Ronin Sushi and Steak’s debut at The Wharf, right next to its sister restaurant, Driftwood Bar and Grille. As you peruse the menu, you’ll clearly see Japanese techniques at work but fusion is what is really happening at Ronin. You’ll see influences from Chinese, Latin, Thai, Hawaiian, and Southern cuisines.

An item that has long been on my foodie bucket list is lionfish (p`terois) which is native to the Indo-Pacific region. But since 2000, these beautiful but invasive fish have been wreaking havoc on the local marine life along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Due to their venomous spines, these fish are considered “trash fish”, but there is a new wave of chefs that have been able to transform this trash into a delectable dish. But even though an appetite for this fish exists, they can only be caught by spear fishing, which doesn’t even make a dent in their population. A single female lionfish can release up to 2 million eggs a year!

Okay, let me get off my soap box and tell you about my first taste of lionfish. Chef Chris makes a Lionfish Roll that is truly beautiful to behold. The lionfish sashimi on top is very delicate and translucent. It has a sweet flavor and silky texture. I have never had a piece of sashimi quite like this before! He uses purple Thai sticky rice and it adds a nutty flavor, very different from Calrose rice normally used in sushi. The roll also had pork belly inside which gave each bite just the right amount of salt and added a smoky flavor. Instead of seaweed, a yuzu wrap was used and added a citrus flavor without being overwhelming. I can wait to go back in November and have another one! Rating: 5/5

Next time you are at The Wharf, you need to try Ronin Sushi and Steak! If you’re not up for lionfish, there are many other great options to try!

Atmosphere: 5 out of 5 stars
Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Décor: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 5 out of 5 stars

For more information:
8651 Wharf Parkway Unit 116
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Seating: Interior

Ronin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Orange Beach Concierge is at your service in Orange Beach, Alabama

As a corporate event & meeting planner, I am always on the lookout for event spaces and services on my travels. While on the media circuit for the World Food Championships at The Wharf in Orange Beach, AL, I found one company in particular that would be great for my rolodex.

Tillie Pan’s love of hosting parties and event planning plus David Pan’s drive and desire to be the best at his culinary craft equals Orange Beach Concierge. Tillie came from the aesthetics and medical device sales and marketing world. When you are dealing with doctors, it takes talent, finesse, organization, and knowledge of your product inside and out to be a success. Her 8-year career in that field demonstrates her drive. Chef David graduated from Le Cordon Bleu Mendota Heights and worked his way from Washington on the Pacific Coast all the way to Alabama on the Gulf Coast. He knows his craft well utilizing French techniques and refreshes palates with the latest trends in the foodie world.

Orange Beach Concierge has been in business for three years and just found a space of their own a few months ago at The Wharf. They now have a space to meet clients, cook in their own kitchen space, and entertain. They offer a wide range of personalized services including catering, concierge, corporate retreats, event designing, personal chef, private dining, and staging services supporting individuals, businesses, vacationers, and property owners alike. This service will be great for the World Food Championships with so many corporate sponsors descending upon Orange Beach this November.

Here is a sample menu that you could have at your next event:

Bruschetta made with a balsamic reduction, tomatoes, basil, and garlic atop crostini. Fresh, juicy tomatoes burst with sweetness along with pungent garlic. The sweetness and acidity of the balsamic add another layer of flavor and fresh basil turns it up with herbaceous flair. Rating: 4.5/5

Brie and Marmalade Bites starts with a phyllo cup filled with orange marmalade, brie, and herbs. It is a light bite and would be great as a passed hors d’oeuvre for a wedding or corporate event. The creamy brie combined with the sweetness and citrus flavor of the marmalade pair perfectly together. Rating: 5/5

Caesar Salad is made with fresh romaine lettuce tossed with house-made Caesar dressing with anchovy. I love Caesar salad but it is very hard to find a place that makes it correctly. If you do not like anchovies, do not order a Caesar salad. It is just not a Caesar salad without it. Chef David makes a great Caesar salad dressing, not too thin and not too thick. The perfect viscosity to cling to the lettuce. I love that Chef David makes a crostini seasoned with butter, salt, and pepper instead of chunky, clunky croutons. It’s easier to eat and elevates the salad as well. Chef David, you need to bottle and sell that dressing! Rating: 5/5

Chicken Marsala is made with mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and parsley served over angel hair pasta. Chef David showed me how he gets the perfect gloss and sheen to his sauce by adding butter at the end and whisking it in sauce off heat. You could actually see the change in the sauce which was amazing!

The chicken gently bathes in the sauce and really infuses the flavors into the chicken. It is tender and unlike any chicken marsala I’ve ever had. But that sauce is like liquid gold. It clings to the angel hair pasta like silk sheets. You can’t help but lick the plate afterwards. I could see this on a fine dining establishment’s menu. It is so refined and delicious! Rating: 5/5

Chocolate Fondant (Americans refer to this as a chocolate lava cake or molten chocolate cake) is basically a bi-product of a flourless chocolate cake and a soufflé. Chef David served his with macerated strawberries and strawberry coulis. If you go to my Instagram, I have a video of the chocolate “lava” flowing from the cake. I have tried many of these in my lifetime, but I think this was the best. I don’t know if it was because I had right out of the oven but it was just amazing! The perfect ending to a perfect meal! Rating: 5/5

If you are a resident and/or planning a wedding or event in Orange Beach, contact Orange Beach Concierge and get ready for an amazing event!

Service: 5 out of 5 stars
Food: 4 out of 5 stars

For more information:
4790 Wharf Pkwy Ste F206
Orange Beach, AL 36561