Can’t you tell I’m UBER EXCITED. GIRL FOOLISH EXCITED! I wish all my weekends were as sweet as this past. It seems as though I’d have to move back to DC to enjoy these moments. So many last minute beautiful things occurred in the last few days. Not that great things don’t happen in Atlanta (like cooking for Outkast, or teaching cooking classes twice a month), but sometimes being surrounded my family and *ride or die* friends is priceless.
Take a few minutes to read and I promise you’ll be inspired to go out and do your thaannng!
So I didn’t make it a public announcement here that I was auditioning for Next Food Network Star, Season 5. I had to get my mind right and not be torn and tattered by all kinds of thoughts of the FN, from nay sayers and lovers.
I’m a lover, baby…
But for the few of you that knew and wished me well–THANKS A MIL!!! I felt your well wishes all weekend (Michelle of Bleeding Espresso, Lys at Cooking in Stilettos, Melissa at Alosha’s Kitchen, Don over at Mr. Orph’s Kitchen and all my Facebook friends, you’re so sweet and too generous!). I hustled a last minute flight to DC on Thursday and flew up. I could have done a 3 min vid and sent it in, but nah…I wanted to show my face. Friday morning was nothing like what I expected. Over 100 ppl showed up–not what the casting folks were expecting, either. All kinds of characters ya’ll! Oh my goodness. Chefs, writers, wine connoisseurs, chatter boxes, teachers, etc…Energy was cool and relaxed. I was 30th in line. Does that mean something? Earlier last year a little bird spoke to me and told me that this year was going to be my IT year! BIG things were going to happen. So I was feeling good. I sat for 2 hours before I got called in. 4 minutes later and I was invited to come back yesterday to do a 3 minute technique! Too bad we couldn’t do anything then ‘cuz I was ready to go with my *secret weapon* in one hand a lemon/vanilla flan in the other!
Okay so that was Friday. But on Saturday, as I’m trying to find energy to get up and go to church, my mother says: “Mijita, Paquito viene pa’lmolzar en una hora. Levantate y ponte a cocinar!” WHAT. Are you freakin’ serious!? Paquito D’Rivera was coming over for lunch in an hour and I had to cook for 8!
If you know me by now, you know I’m a musician, too. I sing and play the cello. So anything music floats my boat. And if you don’t know, Paquito D’Rivera is a 9-time Grammy winning International Latin Jazz Saxophonist. He and my father have been friends for 40 years and have in the last 4 years rekindled their childhood friendship. So when he’s in town, he always pays a visit, unannounced. I’m particularly excited b/c he’s a world class musician, I get to cook for him and more importantly he’s CUBAN!! When I first met him, we were both in Atlanta and he treated me as if I were the only person in the whole theatre.
And if you watch Food Network’s “Iron Chef”, you’ve seen him be a judge twice already (Morimoto v. Sanchez w/seabass and Cora vs. Falkner w/honey). I’m so relieved I wasn’t subject of his critical wrath as Sanchez or Morimto (can’t remember which one he slaughtered) was on national TV. That would NOT have been good for my stardom pitches!
So with no real time to plan, I jumped out of bed and did what I know best! I made a 6-course traditional Cuban meal and that lemon vanilla flan, just what he loves and seldom eats at home (how cool his wife’s name is Brenda!) The day was absolutely beautiful, so my mother quickly adorned our deck so we could break bread outside, against the perfect sun and light wind.
After I made black beans over rice, garlic infused tenderloin with a Savignon/Merlot and tomato sauce, fried plantains, boiled yuca with garlic mojo, and a gorgeous avocado salad, we sat down and blessed our meal. Over a wonderful wine Paquito brought, stories of life in Cuba, and talk about my new endeavors, we ate all that goodness. I loved it when he entered his quiet space as he savored the meat and yuca.
(Fresh out of the shower, enjoying an ‘al fresco’ lunch on my parents deck)
(PacMan and me going over cookbook proofs)
(a red-headed me with Pacquito)
(bro, dad, Paquito, mom, me, cuz, niece)
What is so incredibly telling about his last minute, unexpected visit, is that I had called him just 2 weeks ago to ask him for a huge favor on a project I’m working on, but had not heard back as he was in touring in Japan. When I told him, in confidence, he gladly offered to do what I solicited from him. This girl jumped and screamed THANK YOU!!!! Hug, hug, kiss, kiss. The lemon flan you see on the table in the pics, and a few shots of Cuban espresso finished off an exquisite lunch.
This is why good food is so important! People say yes when their stomach is about to pop with food stuff!
I ended my Saturday just so thankful for my life and all I do! Oh my gosh, I am so darn lucky sometimes, I swear! But let’s talk about how I didn’t sleep last night, praying all night, falling asleep in the middle of my prayers (I’m so sorry God), and coming up with all kinds of food stories I wanted to share, like how food is STILL rationed in Cuba with monthly allotments. I was so ready to get it over with. I went in with my mom in support of, a new flan that smelled and looked damn good and the *secret weapon* in tow! Went in, did my thing and walked out.
Get this though. Last night, as I’m watching the amazingly funny Tina Fey do a perfect mockery of Sarah Palin during the Veep debates, she said something that made my face light up like it hasn’t since I fell in love with a certain guy. Toward the end of the faux debate, *Sarah Palin* says she just loves to bull-fight and eat CUBAN FOOD! What!?!?! Did she just say she loves CUBAN FOOD! Are you serious! I don’t care if it’s a lie or not, but how random or NOT is it that of all foods in the world, she would say she loves CUBAN FOOD–the very food I’m highlighting and basing my own show I’m trying to convince FN they need! Did the writers just make that up? Or does SP really love Cuban food? I don’t care, really, I’m just geeked that it put my food on the map on that level (though not really the first time on TV). And if SP loves Cuban food, why can’t the rest of the world love it!?! OH My Precious God. Say what you want. Confirmation is what I heard.
**FOOD NETWORK! I’M READY FOR YOU GUYS!! YOU KNOW YOU WANT CUBAN FOOD IN YOUR PROGRAMMING! YOU HAVE MY NUMBER! CALL ME! (In Dave Chappelle voice).**
So tell me my faithful readers, was this weekend not awesome or what!?! Thank each of your for being so kind and sweet and always sharing your wonderful thoughts on my food and crazy life! I always want you around! Wish me great luck! I’ll keep you posted.
This is what I made for Paquito and the casting girls, who, off the record, were super cool. We had political and fashion talk–so girlie.
I love it.
LEMON VANILLA FLAN
- 3 eggs
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup 2% milk or water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. lemon extract
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 6 tbsp. sugar
If you have a traditional pan that does not have a lid, cover with aluminum foil. If using a more updated version, cover lid and shut tight. Add 2 cups of water to large saucepan and gently place flan pan into Maria bath. Bring to boil for 60-90 minutes or until fully cooked. If firm, bring heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Remove flan pan from Maria bath and discard excess water from saucepan.
Do not remove flan from pan. Refrigerate for 8-9 hours, (4-5 hours if you're in a hurry); or overnight for best taste. Remove from refrigeration 30-45 minutes before serving to loosen some. To serve, using a butter knife, loosen the sides of the flan all the way around. Take a large plate, place upside down on top of flan and flip! Be careful not to waste any of the caramel sauce. Serves 8-10. Enjoy thoroughly!
* if you want the pressure cooker version, please email me for instructions.