Sunday, November 8, 2009

I thought it would be fun to talk about a class I teach at the college. It's called "International Cuisine" and it is one of my most exciting classes.

Featured countries usually include Spain, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Thailand, Viet Nam, Turkey, Greece, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, The Caribbean, Peru, India, Morocco, Nigeria or Germany. I feel that the above countries offer interesting culinary aspects and educational value for anyone wanting to supplement their culinary knowledge.

I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring these countries and learning about their foods. The prepared items are specific to the country we are studying featuring indigenous ingredients and cooking styles that may be unfamiliar to cooks in the US. Everyone comes away with some new tidbit of information that can only widen one’s culinary abilities.

Recently, we studied Spain—here’s the inside scoop:
Two different classes prepared the following Spanish items: Paella, gazpacho, tortilla Espanola, almond and cinnamon chicken, fried shrimp and squid with Sauce Romesco, orange flans, Churros, roast pork, steamed mussels, chicken and chorizo, Pine nut and fresh herb stuffed squid with a tomato sauce and yellow rice pilaf, olive Tapas with crisp bread and grilled vegetables.

As a student in the class, the task includes planning the menu items; ordering the food products and preparing the dishes. This occurs within a few short hours.

It’s not always easy to create the perfect product…
We weren’t able to get true Seville Oranges for the Flan.
Our Chorizo Sausage was not of the greatest quality.
The rice we used for our Paella had to be Arborio rather than the traditional rice from Valencia
The Ham was not traditional Jambon Serrano
And we were unable to drink good Spanish Sherry and listen to flamenco music while cooking. Some of the finer aspects have to forego as we are still at a state funded school.

Other than the few issues above I believe we really enjoyed reading, studying, learning and cooking the foods of Spain.

Here are a few of the interesting facts we learned along the way:

The bottom of an authentic paella is slightly caramelized to extract all the flavor—this is called socarrat.

The word tapa literally means ‘cover or lid’. Tapas were created to satisfy a King’s ruling. The King demanded everyone have food while drinking. Tapas also helped to keep bugs out of the beverage.

Gazpacho soup comes from Andalusia—this is different from Mexico’s gazpacho. The Andalusian Gazpacho uses a pureed bread to add to the texture and for thickening.

Below are some photos of a few of our classes with the finished buffets. Enjoy!! And thanks for checking us out!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Fine Establishment

By: Chef Mark and Kerri Painter--Mark of Excellence

Last week it was my wife’s birthday. We cruised up to Denver and discovered a cool new venue. It’s called Nissi’s. It's in Lafayette, just outside of Boulder—here’s the link --

We danced all night to music by Chris Daniels and the Kings—these guys play blues, funk, rock and creole jazz with a full on horn section. Here's their link –
We think you should check these both out. Here’s why:

Nissi’s is cool!! Cool artwork, awesome food, and a gracious owner.

We walked in to a warm greeting by the hostess and were taken to our table that turned out to be right next to the dance floor across from the band. We found out later, the hostess was the owner, Teresa. The room was decorated nicely with large paintings and soft lighting. The building and atmosphere were upscale, maintained and pleasant. The wait staff was friendly, clean and uniform in their appearance. Nissi's ambiance is welcoming and creates a feeling of comfort for it's clientele.

Here are some of our observations about the food, wine & service:

We had several small dish menu items. We enjoyed the hummus, crab cakes, tenderloin and calamari. The dishes were nicely presented. We thought the crab cakes and sauce on the tenderloin were very well executed. I have to say, that after preparing crab cakes in several culinary competitions, I am a pretty good judge of a crab cake. That being said, the mashed potatoes on the tenderloin dish had a taste that spoke of too much time in the steam table. Fresh prep makes all the difference to a trained taste bud. Also, the hummus remained on the plate when all the accompaniments were gone—maybe they could add more items for dipping or decrease the hummus portion—preferably the former. All in all, we thought the food was worth the price and very tasty.

We had a wine flight, too. There were several flights to choose from. Ours featured wines from South America. There was a Carmenere from Chile, a Malbec from Argentina and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina. We asked our server for some information about the Carmenere. It turned out, he had traveled to South America with the owner’s son recently and could actually give us some information about the wine with confidence. The wine flight arrived on a wine glass tree where all three glasses hung. It was nice to be able to sample these types of wines side by side and not have to purchase an entire bottle or full glass to do so. We later selected a bottle of the Hahn Cabernet Sauvignon from the Central Region of California. It went nicely with our tenderloin. Their wine list was well rounded, not too extensive and fairly priced.

Our server was nice and informative. We had a couple of complications and he handled them fairly well.—my gin and tonic was “off”. We finally decided it must have been a gin and soda. He made a comment that sometimes the gun behind the bar is not always accurate, but ultimately brought back a new, properly made drink.

Glassware and other unneeded items remained on the table until we asked our waiter to take them. Since the table was small, and even if it wasn’t, any items not in use should be removed—especially at a place like Nissi’s. Overall, our service was good and we were happy.

We finished our night with a birthday dessert. The waiter brought a molten lava chocolate dish. In case you can’t tell, when you cut into it, the warm chocolate sauce flows out of the cake. Since my wife isn’t a chocolate fan, our server brought her a complimentary caramel apple dessert that was a la mode. These treats wrapped our evening in note of sweetness.

The music rocked. We danced all night. My wife’s brother, Chris, is the drummer for the band. Here’s his website: This band is fun to dance to and plays music for many tastes. Check ‘em out!!

Check back soon for new reviews on other fine establishments…

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

BoaVentura de Caires Winery

Here we are at the vineyard tasting room

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Best wine I've ever tasted.

I had the chance to visit some very nice wineries in Livermore, California last week. We picnicked at Wente Vineyards where we had a personal cave tour, sampled wines at the Steven Kent Winery, Murrieta's Well, Concannon Vineyards, BoaVentura, Rios-Lovell Estate and Retzlaff Vineyards specializing in organic wines. We also drank a wine from White Crane Winery and had Veuve Clicquot Champagne with our Egg Bake breakfast at the Baisey Estate. The highlight of wine on this trip was at a dinner table in the house of Larry and Lisa Green when we opened a bottle Larry had purchased at a boutique winery called BoaVentura. The wine was a 2004 Estate Bottled BoaVentura Cabernet Sauvignon - Bottle #320 of one thousand. This was the best wine I have ever tasted! It was so velvety and complex, resembling stewed red currants, chocolate and tobacco, a very smooth flavor that lingered for a perfect finish. I only wish I would have purchased more wine!

By: Mark S. Painter

Friday, September 4, 2009

Learned about huitlacoche (Corn Smut) today from my Chef friend, Ben. Also learned about his Pomegranate caviar.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Parrot with Horn and Food by Mark S. Painter 1988 Radisson Hotel Denver, CO

Sculpting a few dolphins at the El Paso Club in Colorado Springs 1999
Lobster Sesame Glazed Pacific Snapper
Lemongrass Infused Jasmine Rice and Broccolini
Black Currant Glazed Lamb Loin with Drunken Shallots, Yukon Gold Smashed Potatoes, Braised Spinach and Buttered Carrots
Mark S. Painter
Broadmoor 2004 ACF Hot Food Competition

Colorado Springs

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Venetian Grilled Lobster & Coppa Wrapped Asparagus, Wild Mushroom Risotto,
Savory Lemon Beurre Blanc
Mark S. Painter
2004 Lea & Perrins Competition

Mercedes Logo for Colorado Springs Mercedes Dealers
1998 Briarhurst Manor

Painter's Fighter Jets
Air Force Academy
Colorado Springs 2006
The Harp is my favorite sculpture to express artistry and excellence

2001 Custom Foods
Western Regional Winner