An Evening With Chef Curtis Stone

Last week started with a text from my girlfriend (AKA my foodie-adventure-BFF, Kristen) “What are you doing on Friday?” ending in a string of text messages that contained a photo invite to an evening with Chef Curtis Stone. YES PLEASE, I’m in. My other foodie BFF Michelle was also on the group message. We were all set, our Friday night would include the ever-so-dreamy Chef Curtis Stone for a meet and greet and demo in the Bosch test kitchen at our new Delta Shores, Sacramento RC Willey store.

Chef Curtis Stone at RC Willey Sacramento

Kristen arrived early to grab seats in the front row – woohoo, score! I’m going to owe her forever because this was hands down my favorite celebrity chef encounter and sitting in the front row had a lot to do with that. Her reward was getting an early glimpse of Curtis getting things ready, so jealous I missed that.

I’ve met Tyler Florence and Kristen and I together have met Chef Fabio Viviani, Chef Guy Fieri, Chef Giada De Laurentiis, Top Chef’s Ryan Scott (Season 4), Jamie Lauren (Season 5) and the Fabulous Beekman Boys – plus a handful of local Sacramento chefs.  My signed cookbooks are definitely my most cherished in my ridiculously growing collection/hobby. 

Speaking of cookbooks, how is it possible that I didn’t already own a Curtis Stone cookbook? And WHY did I not think of that until Kristen mentioned it the day before the event? It was too late for a last minute Amazon purchase to guarantee delivery, so off to Barnes & Noble I went. Kristen and Michelle needed them too, so of course the one I went to only had two copies of What’s For Dinner? – thankfully they called another store and I was able to grab a third copy.

Chef Curtis Stone - What's For Dinner Cookbook

We sat with our cookbooks in anticipation as we admired the beautiful Bosch test kitchen… while also noticing a stack of his newer cookbooks on a side table. My immediate thought, son of a #!%@*, then we found out that those weren’t for purchase, they were going to be raffled off. Have no fear, my cookbook errand running wasn’t in vain after all.

Chef Curtis Stone - Bosch Appliance Demo Kitchen, RC Willey Sacramento

Fox 40 interview with Chef Curtis Stone

Fox 40 grabbed him for a quick interview and then the meet and greet started.

Chef Curtis Stone and Foodiddy

He was chatty as he signed my cookbook – then he asked about the name Foo – I told him it was my food blog persona and he was stoked that I was a food blogger – my interpretation of the positive things he said to me. If he only knew how infrequently I blogged.  Ha-ha. 

Signed Cookbook

Once everyone went through the line, the demo  portion started. The crowd grew to standing room only. He introduced his assistant Vanessa Garcia, head pastry chef at Maude, the twenty-four seat restaurant he opened in Beverly Hills in February 2014. He talked about how they have spent the last three years creating monthly menus (ten course meals stemming from a single seasonal ingredient) and how that almost killed them… so the restaurant has recently shifted to focusing on a seasonal set menu (four menus per year, inspired by different wine regions). He shared how they travel to each region to experience the culture, history, food, and wine to help them create the perfect menu.

He started things off  by toasting some bread with a little olive oil, salt and pepper that would be the base to the Gambas al Ajillo – shrimp appetizer he was making. As he cooked, he explained the different features of the Bosch Flex Induction Cooktop, which included answering the question: Why use induction? His answer… it’s faster, it’s way more accurate, takes less energy (so costs less to operate) and once you turn it off, there’s no lingering radiant heat – so it doesn’t heat up your kitchen/house. He’s been using induction cooktops in his restaurants for years.

Chef Curtis Stone

Chef Curtis started with olive oil and butter in the pan and then added chopped shallots – the next steps were to add dry chili pepper flakes and smoked paprika.

This is where things got crazy. Once the chili pepper flakes and the smoked paprika hit the hot oil, he started to cough… choking on the heat from the spices. He joked about it, asking Vanessa where she got the stuff from. 

Everyone was laughing… then it hit us in the front row. We all started coughing. There was no hiding it. Then the row next to us got it – 15+ people all coughing simultaneously. The next words out of his mouth “Chef Curtis Stone comes to Sacramento for the first time and kills the entire front row – I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry…” everyone continued laughing, it was REALLY funny. Luckily they had passed out water, so we were all good within a minute or two of breathing it in. 

Next up, the large, raw shrimp (peeled, deveined, tails intact) were added to the pan followed by some more butter, sherry, lemon juice, prawns stock and parsley. People were invited up to taste the shrimp.  Kristen let me try a bite of hers, it was delicious.

This is Kristen’s photo of me me taking a photo of him passing around the finished plate. Food blogger in action. Thanks for the shrimp photos Kristen, mine turned out shitty because he moved at the last minute and I was all a flutter due to his close proximity. 

Chef Curtis also demonstrated the speed boost feature of the induction cooktop by searing some steaks. He got the pan super hot and used the side of his tongs to push the steaks down into the pan. After a few minutes he dropped the temp down – he was looking for a beautiful golden brown sear. He explained why he didn’t add any oil to the steaks or the pan. There is enough fat already around the edges and through the intermuscular fat, which melts, creating caramelization. The less you use fat as a cooking medium and more as flavor, the healthier it is.

One tip I learned was resting the steak midway through cooking. I always knew to rest the meat after it was cooked, had never seen it rested ½ way through the cooking process. When he finally cut into the steaks, there was virtually no blood on the cutting board since all the juices remained in the steak. I will definitely be trying that out with summer grilling.

He created a sauce for the steak using red wine and beef stock combined with the steak pan bits – reducing that down. He mentioned that you could also add butter to smooth it out or fresh herbs as a finisher.

The steak was plated on top of wild mushrooms that he cooked with olive oil, shallots, garlic and fresh sprigs of thyme.

He shared… button, portobellos, ceps or trompettes, the type of mushroom doesn’t really matter since they all cook in a similar way. He mentioned the importance of adding the garlic after the mushrooms had begun to sweat down a little – if you add it too soon, it will brown too quickly or burn.

I forgot to mention that there was a roast cooking in the oven when we arrived… he also demonstrated the steam/convection oven by roasting asparagus and potatoes – both cooked simply with olive oil, salt and pepper.

He plated everything and then invited people up to taste. I was able to get a slice of the roast, a piece of steak and a potato – they had run out of the little bamboo plates, so napkins it was. I split my haul with Kristen. Michelle and her daughter were able to grab samples as well.


The demo portion of the evening ended with chocolate filled cream puffs decked out with edible gold flakes.

We each got one and as I bit into it, the velvety/creamy chocolate and ganache melted in my mouth. Freaking delicious!

Dessert was followed up with a raffle drawing. We had all put our names in. They raffled off ten cookbooks to be signed by him right then and there… the Bosch mixer that he used during the demo, which he signed, and a brand new Bosch dishwasher with installation. Heck ya! I won his cookbook – Good Food, Good Life – I never win anything, so that was super exciting. He signed that one – Dear Kathleen 🙂 and we chatted a bit more.

I was super giddy all night. He was so personable and I loved how he interacted with the audience in such a friendly, relaxed way – and not many people can say that Chef Curtis Stone almost choked them out in a cooking demo. 

A fun evening with good people all around. It feels great to dust off the ol’ blog. The weather is getting nicer and I’m looking forward to more local events and creating and trying some new recipes. 





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The Art of Pizza Making at the Napoli Culinary Academy

Classes at the Napoli Culinary Academy popped up on Groupon over the summer. A girlfriend and I were having dinner and decided it would be fun to sign up for one. Classes fill up fast, the first “Art of Pizza Making” session with two seats available was four months out. Perfect, that worked with both of our schedules. Napoli also hosts a “Cooking with the Movies” series of classes where they teach students how to cook dishes inspired by favorite movies. Example: Gone With the Wind: Three Course Southern Class where students make Sweet Southern Cornbread, Chicken Brunswick Stew and Peach Cobbler. I’ve taken three other pizza cooking classes from chefs local to Sacramento and I was excited to take a fourth at a new place. They do offer the Art of Pizza Making paired with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, but we opted for the no movie class.

Fast forward to Friday, November 3 (the day we attended the Luke Bryan concert in the pouring rain) and being in the car when Michelle asked just after midnight – What time should I pick you up tonight for our class?

Me: Huh? Class?  What class?
Michelle: Um… our cooking class. Did you not put it on your calendar?
Me: Apparently not. 

How about 4:30 p.m.? Laughter ensues. 

We walked through the door and were immediately greeted by our instructor, Chef Hassi Sadri.

“The Napoli Culinary Academy was established in 1997 by Mr. Hassi Sadri. Mr. Sadri’s nationally recognized restaurant, Café Napoli appeared on the cover of Pizza Today Magazine naming the restaurant as one of the 100 most unique restaurants in the nation. This exposure and notoriety for Mr. Sadri in 1992 inspired him to open the Academy .”  – Napoli Culinary Academy Website

The interior was really cute. I kept comparing it to other cooking classes I had taken and I knew it would be a very different experience. The dim lighting, intimate setting and smaller instructor station intrigued me and also made me sad because I knew my photos would end up being dark/mediocre. 

We sat together at one of the side tables and looked through the drink menu. Our class fee included water, soda, beer or wine and tastes of all the food made that evening. 

We were given a dough and pizza sauce recipe to start things off. There were some introductions and then Chef Sadri demonstrated the art of preparing/throwing pizza dough. The dough recipe was similar to other recipes I’ve received or found in cookbooks and online. Bread flour, ice water, salt, butter, yeast. He stressed the importance of using a food scale, which inspired me to order a new one for myself. My trusty scale from my Weight Watcher days bit the dust a few months back.

Chef Sadri tried to catch people off guard by throwing the formed dough at students while he was talking to see if we had been listening when he explained the proper way to catch formed pizza dough using the back of your hands/wrists, not your fists or fingers and definitely not while wearing rings or other jewelry.  The first student did great. She nailed it with a perfect back of the hands/wrist catch. The second student stuck her entire finger through the dough and said it was because she got scared. He mocked her for a good 5 minutes after that, which I didn’t mind,  because this person was the same that probably asked “is this going to be on the final?” while attending school. Translation: she was annoying AF.

We learned about the importance of creating your own sauce and how all bottled, jarred or otherwise packaged pre-made “pizza sauces” are crap. Ha-ha, not going to lie, I’ve used Trader Joe’s and other brands many times. 

He first applied freshly chopped garlic to the raw pizza dough once formed on the  pizza pan/or board. He then used a sauce combination of (crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and optional crushed red pepper) directly on top of the garlic/raw dough. He used a ladle to spread sauce to the outer edges while leaving over an inch of space around the edges so the sauce/cheese lava flow wouldn’t jack up the pizza oven. I’m sure not his exact words, but pretty close. Chef Sadri had a lot to say about people that use too much sauce. He even sarcastically offered to bring students cups of sauce to drink so they wouldn’t flood their pizzas due to “their love of sauce.” Once the sauce was spread onto the dough, he sprinkled the pizza with more oregano, followed by a thin coating of Parmesan cheese. 

Then it was time for the toppings. The first pizza was a stuffed pizza. The toppings included sausage – a blend they order and actually sell at the cafe/academy, red and green onion, a three pepper (yellow, red, green) blend, mushrooms and lots of mozzarella cheese. He topped the dough with regular and black sesame seeds. The sausage was some of the best I’ve ever tasted on pizza.

Chef Sadri continued making pizzas for the class while demonstrating technique. The one above had lots of veggies, including broccoli. The white sauce was made with ricotta, heavy cream and garlic. I honestly can’t remember what else, but I know there was something. I’ll have to check with Michelle on that.

He used WAY more toppings than in my previous pizza classes. Those chefs all seemed to stress the importance of using very few toppings, while simultaneously dissing Americans for their love of piling them on. Chef Sadri did not shy away from toppings. He did talk about the importance of not piling them up in the center of the pizza. He used a few pieces of toppings for aesthetics, but explained that it allowed the middle of the pizza to cook more evenly and it was easier to cut and pull pieces apart without a lot of toppings falling off. 

It was really cool to watch him make the calzone. It confirmed that I’ve been doing it all wrong. He actually put the filling (in this case – ricotta, spinach, caramelized onion, mushroom, sausage and mozzarella) down the center of the circle of dough. After using egg wash around the edges, he brought BOTH sides up to pinch together. I always fold one side on top of the other and then pinch. Nope, this way was much smoother. He brought both ends together, creating space for the sauce which was something I’ve never done.

We didn’t get to taste the calzone since they turned it into the prize for the student that made the best pizza. We all washed our hands and then headed into the kitchen in our aprons to get to work. While there wasn’t anything for us to do prep wise (everything was already chopped, the sauce was prepared and the dough was portioned out into balls) we still had fun forming our dough on our pans and getting to choose our own toppings. I’m not going to brag – o.k., yes I am. Michelle and I definitely had the best pizzas of our group. They looked freakin’ amazing. It’s the first time I’ve been able to really get the dough thin enough and to the desired size without ripping it. I even managed to toss it in the air a few times staying very close to my hands, I wasn’t brave enough to toss it high over the table or floor. 

Now comes the lame part. The majority of the student pizzas went into the wood fired oven up front with Chef Sadri critiquing them as they went in and came out. There was only one sauce disaster that he sent back to do over.

Ours ended up in the kitchen oven, so yeah, they weren’t part of the contest. WTF? THEN, not only did we miss out on the contest and winning the calzone, they crammed our beautiful piping hot pizzas into styrofoam clam shell containers. 

Um, excuse me – why did we even bother shaping them into perfectly round pizzas? Michelle and I also think that something happened when they placed them in the back oven because there is no WAY our sauce was even close to the edges where it went over. I forgot to snap a photo of Michelle’s pizza, but it was fabulous too. 

Whatever, call us sore losers, fine. It was just a disappointing end to an otherwise very fun class. We were full from all of the pizza tasting throughout the class, so we didn’t even try our pizzas until the next day. I’m glad that I went all out with toppings (Pepperoni, sausage, olives, mushrooms, green and red onion and lots of mozzarella cheese) – making sure to not place toppings near the center of the pizza, just like we were taught in class. I learned some new tips and tricks and look forward to putting them into action during my next pizza making session.  I will definitely consider ordering sausage from Napoli, it was that good! They also sell the fresh mozzarella cheese by the pound and the dough too. 

The regular price for a class is $156 per person, but the Groupon deal was $21 per person plus a $6 gratuity charge,  so a great value for sure. I’ve got my eyes on an Egyptian, African or Persian class for round two. Thanks Michelle for scoring the Luke Bryan tickets and for signing us up for another fun food adventure, I really enjoyed myself.


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Dreaming Dog Brewery – Your New Best Friend

I was very excited to hear that Elk Grove was getting a new microbrewery and taproom with the added bonus that is was dog friendly. My friend Kristen knows the owners (David and Liz), so I followed the brewery’s progress online.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

Dreaming Dog Brewery’s grand opening celebration “Dogtoberfest!” was held on Saturday, October 7 and we jumped at the chance to check out the taproom, taste some beer with friends and surround ourselves with adorable dogs. I loved that all of the event vendors were dog related – Elk Grove Police K9 Association, City of Elk Grove Animal Services, DoggieStyle HotDogs, Dog Gone Purrfect Grooming, etc.

The brewery offers English and Belgian-style beers, games and entertainment, trivia nights, Monday Night Football viewing parties and karaoke/live music with more events showing up on their Facebook page weekly. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery

We arrived and were greeted with live German music from the Grand Isle Fire Brigade Street Band donning their Lederhosen and festive bavarian hats.

The beer line was out the door, so we decided to head there first. I was in dog heaven… they were everywhere. I chose to leave my two at home for my own sanity. They are adorable, but let’s just say they could use some training when it comes to crowds and other dogs.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

New shiny fermenters, tanks and brewing vessels that you could see through the glass windows off to the side of the entrance near the bar.

Beers on tap for the event were:

English Black Lab Porter
An English Style Dark Porter – A softer, sweeter, easier to drink dark beer
Tasters $2 and Pints $6

American Chesapeake Bay Retriever (Chessie) Pale Ale
A little malty and balanced with a smooth finish
Tasters $2 and Pints $6

Other beers they are now serving:

English Bulldog IPA
American Bulldog Double IPA

All dog names… love, love, love.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

The bar and taproom barn doors were recovered sugar pine from the Sonora area and really added to the industrial chic feel of the taproom. David explained that the vibe of the taproom was all Liz.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

I was the DD, so I opted for the taster size, which was a good thing because the one negative was the beer wasn’t cold. We later found out that it didn’t go into the chiller until the night before the event – that kind of stuff happens when things are crazy before a grand opening and I look forward to many future cold beers.

We got our beers and all of the tables were taken, but there was some space in one of their seating areas. Dreaming Dog Brewery – Your New Best Friend – in memory of their beloved German Shepherd Mason – their inspiration for the brewery. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery

How cool to just have a beer with your dog… she was a super sweet lab.

David (the owner) was happy to see Kristen and I was able to snap a quick photo. Kristen is the queen of photos at events, so a bunch of the photos from this post are hers… I’m seeing a photographer/second career in her future. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery

A taster of English Black Lab Porter.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

The place was packed and the line kept growing. A table opened up and we snagged it to share with a friend. The band made it’s way inside and the festivities really began. “Ein Prosit” with raised glasses everywhere. So fun!

Dreaming Dog Brewery

Congressman Ami Bera showed up and Kristen was able to get a photo for David and Liz with a photo bomb from their daughter Kate.

Elk Grove’s other breweries – Flatland Brewing Company and Tilted Mash Brewing showed up to support David and Dreaming Dog and Kristen got a great photo of that too – so cool!

The community really turned out to support the new brewery. We met so many friendly owners with their adorable dogs.

Dreaming Dog Brewery Dogtoberfest

I petted all of them as Kristen was capturing their cute little faces. My dogs stuck to me like glue when I got home. I actually had to take my shoes off so I could walk, lots of sniffin’ going on.

Dreaming Dog Brewery Dogtoberfest

One of these things is not like the others… too much cuteness for one post. If you are in the Elk Grove/Sacramento area and love bringing  your dog places or enjoy a good pint, you need to check the place out. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery
2501 West Taron Ct.
Elk Grove, California 95757
(916) 714-2735
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Thanks Kristen for another fun adventure.

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