Garlicky Grilled Eggplant & Tomato Canapé 

Well summer is ready to make an appearance and I want to share one of my favorite summertime recipes. 

  • 1 large eggplant 
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • 2 TBS fresh garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil chopped 
  • 2 large tomatoes cored and diced
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar 
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Preheat grill

Peel and cut the eggplant in 1/2″ thick  round slices. Place in bowl or plastic bag with 2 to 3 TBS of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix well to evenly coat the eggplant.  Grill the eggplant for about 3 minutes per side. Look for browning and  for the eggplant to soften. Remove from grill and allow to cool.

Chop the eggplant in bite size pieces and place in a large bowl along with the tomatoes, garlic, basil, balsamic vinegar, and remaining olive oil. Toss well and season with salt & pepper. For best results, allow to chill and meld overnight in the fridge. 

Serve on top of your favorite crusty bread and a little fresh mozzarella! 

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Best Pie In America 

Did you ever wonder where the best pie in America is? I’m sure you didn’t drop everything and go looking for it, but it’s out there. I mean really out there! What if I told you it’s located in the middle of the mountains of upstate New York. It’s in the heart of the high peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains. I’m talking about the Noon Mark Diner in Keene Valley NY.


This small but busy diner boasts of the best pies and they can back it up! I’ve known about the Noon Mark Diner for many years. I grew up in upstate New York and spent many of those years in the Adirondacks. I’ve even climbed most of the 46 largest peaks!

People coming through this small town of 207 full time residents are usually hikers, nature lovers, or vacationers on their way to Lake Placid located less than 20 miles away. Hikers in particular get hungry and cold. The Noon Mark Diner is like an oasis in the middle of these mountains. Like any diner, customers come in for a piece of pie and a hot cup of coffee. This is how they also found out that the Noon Mark Diner pies are on a whole different level of pies! The word got out and this little diner has never been the same.

The Noon Mark Diner is still a great old fashion diner, with a big pie making operation. Mail order keeps them busy along with the constant stream of walk-in customers.  

Last summer, my wife and I spent a few days in Lake Placid. On the way back, we stopped for lunch at the diner. I had a cup of soup and a BLT. I wanted a classic diner sandwich. The soup and BLT did not disappoint! Of course I had a piece of pie! They have so many choices but I went with the classic apple crumb. Sometimes the basic is the best. The crust was both flakey and tender. The crumb was a perfect crunch and sweet. The apple could have been picked off a tree in the back of the diner and baked right away. That’s how fresh it tasted.


I didn’t stop with just a piece of pie. I left Noon Mark Diner with five full pies of different flavors to bring home!  

Check out their website: NoonMarkDiner.com

S’mores Pie


So I have this awesome chocolate cream pie recipe. I have been making it for my family every Thanksgiving over the past several years. I decided now was the time to take it to another level. This is when I changed it to the S’mores Pie and I’m giving you the recipe!
I grew up in front of camp fires every summer. Of course we had marshmallows on a stick. My favorite thing to do was stick the marshmallow right into the flame and charring the shit out of it. I look at it as my beginning of entertaining with food!
With this recipe, I pay homage to all those summer nights.

S’mores Pie
• 2 cups of milk warmed
• 11.5 oz. package of Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate baking chips
• 4 egg yolks
• ½ cup of sugar
• ¼ tsp. salt
• 1/3 cup corn starch
• 1 tsp. vanilla extract
• 9” graham cracker crust (Keebler Ready Crust)
• 2 cups mini marshmallows
As you’re warming the milk in a medium sauce pan, melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Just put the chocolate in a small metal bowl and place over a small pot of boiling water. You want to use good chocolate. Chocolate is the leading man in this recipe. All those summer nights of making s’mores in front of the camp fire, I was eating the extra pieces of chocolate that were sitting on the picnic table.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they look a little pale. Not as pale as an open casket wake. When you pick up the whisk you should be able to write your name or favorite swear word with the mixture drizzling off.
Add the salt and the corn starch. Now add the warm milk. Please make sure it’s not too hot or cold. Bad things can happen! Place the entire mixture back into the sauce pan you used for the milk. Add your melted chocolate to the mixture.
Place over medium heat and stir. I mean stand there and only stir. Do not stop stirring; I don’t care if you have to go to the bathroom! And don’t stir too fast. A nice leisurely stir. It will take a little time. Cross your legs and stir! As the pudding cooks, it will come together and thicken. When it has become a boiling, molten, chocolate magma, take it off the heat. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the pudding into the crust. I’m a savory Chef so I don’t mind buying one of those Keebler Ready Crusts. The filling and topping are the stars in this story! Let’s face it we eat S’mores for the chocolate and marshmallow. We just use the graham cracker as a way to hold it and keep the gooey goodness together.
Add the marshmallows on top of the pudding. It takes about 2 cups of marshmallows. I love marshmallow, so feel free to add more then 2 cups. However, make sure each and every one is touching the chocolate.Leave on the counter to cool for about an hour before covering it with that plastic cover they give you with the ready crust. Put in the fridge and let it chill for at least 4 hours. If you make the pie in the morning it will be perfect by dinner.
Now take a blow torch or kitchen torch and brown the top of the marshmallows. If you want, burn a few. Now sit in front of the fire and enjoy!

Off Night

I had a very rare Saturday evening off.  So my wife, son and I took the opportunity to have dinner at Aquitaine at Legacy Place in Dedham MA. This is one of the three located in the Boston area.

The restaurant menu is my kind of “dinner out” menu. The food is French Bistro style. It’s the kind of food, where you want to order a bottle of wine for the table as soon as you sit, and we did. They gave us some warm bread to go with the wine. This immediately put me in a good mood.

For the first course, my son and I shared some Blue Point oysters. They were so fresh! This also made me happy! Nothing worse than having oysters that don’t taste like they were just plucked from the sea. My wife had the Tomato Fennel Bisque (not an oyster fan). What is the deal with calling any soup bisque? I thought only seafood based soup can be called a bisque? Were the tomatoes and fennel grown in the ocean?

I was glad that the wine and oysters put me in a good mood, because there were a few “off’s”. Our main course consisted of the Maple Brined Pork Tenderloin, Veal Schnitzel, and Crispy Brick Chicken.

I had the chicken. This would normally not be my first choice, but the name and the sides sounded great. Still not sure where the “brick” comes from? When I think “brick”, I think deboning a chicken, placing it flat on a grill, and placing a brick on top of it. This was a baked airline (statler) breast. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it! I especially liked the Pumpkin and Foie Gras Bread Pudding. The one “off” on this dish was the Rich Bourbon Chicken Jus. Not sure it was really there. If it was, it was less then a teaspoon and I could not taste it at all. That was disappointing because I love a good sauce. Chicken needs a sauce!

My wife had the pork tenderloin. She really enjoyed it! It was perfectly cooked. She had debated about getting the pumpkin ravioli but didn’t think it would go with her soup. She really wanted the soup!

My son had the veal schnitzel. I was thinking about ordering that too. When his dish arrived, I was really glad I hadn’t! The breading on the fried veal was really dark and the meat was tough. Not sure if the frying oil was old or it was cooked too long. My guess is a little of both. That was disappointing! A fried runny egg on top of the veal would have also made this dish better.

We all love bistro desserts so of course we each had to order one. We got the Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse, Crème Brûlée, and the Bread Pudding. The desserts were pretty good. My wife loved the bread pudding! She said it was the best she has had in a long time. I was really bummed about the chocolate mousse. While the flavor was good, it was not really cold or firm. They must have just made it that afternoon and it didn’t get a chance to sit and work its magic in the fridge. I wish I knew this in advance, I would have ordered something else. I really love chocolate mousse when it’s done correctly!

As with all cooking, it is the little things that make the difference. A little thing off here and off there can become memorable. You don’t want your customers to remember the “off”. Maybe they had a slightly off night? Oh well, I’m not giving up on Aquitaine. I do like their menu. Maybe I’ll try their flagship Boston location next time. That menu looks good too!

New England Food Show

So…I went to the New England Food Show again this year. I attend every year. As with all the other years, my biggest complaint is not enough food.The main reason I go is to see new and exciting food ideas and trends. I attend to get inspiration. I don’t go to stuff myself into a food coma. Samples are nice but I am looking to try something new to stir my taste buds. I’m a Chef; I don’t want to just sample ice cream and fried stuff. Get me excited!

The majority of the floor space is taken by kitchen equipment and services. I have no issue with these exhibitors being there. I’m sure many restaurant peeps are looking for these. However, the name of the show is the New England Food Show. Maybe they should change it to New England Restaurant Show? If you go to the car show, you want to see cool and new cars. If you go to the home show, you hope to see new stuff for your house. So why not new and exciting foods at the food show?

I did find a few new ideas. I’ve been looking for more gluten free options. Bob’s Red Mill was at the show. They gave me a sample of a new gluten free flour to try. If this works, I can make our own gluten free desserts. The produce company I use was also at the show. They have partnered with Moody’s of Waltham MA. Moody’s makes the best in-house charcuterie in MA! We offer charcuterie on the banquet menu and want to add it to the regular menu. Now I can get it delivered with my produce.

I was impressed with this year’s push on technology and social media. This is very crucial to marketing in the 21st Century.


The main stage was for speakers and cooking demos. I went on Sunday and Chef Geoffrey Zakarian was the keynote speaker. He was interesting to listen about cooking and he has real personality. This can’t be said about every Chef. The show has local Chef’s doing demos. Just because you make amazing food doesn’t mean you can entertain on the stage. Let’s face it, some Chef’s like to stay in the kitchen for a reason. To get on the stage, you need great personality. This needs to be equal with the food. It’s all about the total experience! I sent the food show a tweet offering to do a cooking demo next year. Anyone who knows me, knows I can put on a show!

The show moved to February this year and that’s the plan for next year. In previous years it was held in March and shared the convention center with the New England Seafood Show. That worked well for me because the seafood show had tons of seafood and ideas for seafood. This is why it’s called the New England Seafood Show.

You want more attendees? Bring more food to the food show. More attendees will bring more exhibitors. It will be a win-win!

The Burger 

Well, I’m back from my long sabbatical of blog writing. I’ve been busy with my Executive Chef position at Showcase Live. I was thinking about what would be a good return topic? I went with my favorite food subject; the burger.

The original hamburger was called the hamburger sandwich. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century when Americans went to work in the large factories and needed quick and easy food. No one is exactly sure who created it. Louis Lunch in New Haven CT has put in the claim as the first. I have been there and it’s a very small cool place. They cook their burgers vertically in the original cast iron grill and serve it between two pieces of toast. They only allow cheese, tomato, and onion on their sandwiches. No ketchup or mustard is allowed!

In the Boston area where I live, the best high-end burger is at Craigie On Main. This French inspired restaurant makes a VERY limited amount each day. When they are gone, that’s it! It’s a secret what goes into Chef Tony Maws burgers, but they are fucking awesome!

In the fast casual category, my favorite is Shake Shack. They make amazing burgers, crinkle fries, and shakes. Next on my list is Five Guys. The burgers are always juicy and you can get tons of condiments on them.

The West Coast has In-N-Out. They are what McDonalds and Burger King wish they could be. When I go out to visit my brother in L.A., I always drive thru In-N-Out for a Double-Double.

My least favorite is Smashburger. I have tried so hard to like them. We have one right around the corner from my house and my wife likes their burgers. They smash their meat onto the griddle, hence the name. This goes against everything I was taught about making a good burger. Smashing them makes the meat tough and they lose the juice. It also doesn’t help their cause when they screw up my order every single time I’ve been there. On the positive side, they have good chocolate shakes!

Of course making burgers at home is always a good choice. Make sure you use nothing higher than 80% lean. Use 75% lean if you can get it. If the ground beef is too lean, it will not be as juicy and will taste different. Fat has flavor! Don’t mess with it too much. Just form it into the desired size patty and leave it alone. Don’t mix seasoning into the meat. Put all the seasonings on the outside of the burger. Try not to mess with it during the cooking process. Flip it over only once. Don’t press down or smash it! Keep the burger simple. I like mine on grilled bread (not buns) with cheese, onion, and ketchup.

Have Lot’s of Leftover Halloween Candy? Make Cheesecake

LHC Cheesecake

Every year my wife and I argue about how much Halloween candy to buy. Our neighborhood feels like Halloween central. We literally get hundreds of kids! When she buys the candy, I claim she didn’t get enough. When I buy the candy she yells that I bought too much. She was right as usual!

So I’m looking at all this extra candy and thinking “what am I going to do? How about make a cheesecake”? So, trying not to go into a sugar coma, I proceeded into putting together this awesome, sweet dessert.

The crust was made from Kit Kat bars. The cheese filling mixed with ground Whoppers. I also inserted mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and MilkyWay Bars. The topping is a ganache made from Hershey Bars. This dessert is too good to keep to myself, so below please help yourself to my recipe.

LHC (Leftover Halloween Candy) Cheesecake

Pre-heat oven to 325°

Crust
About 2 cups of crushed Kit Kat bars (enough to fill the bottom of a 9” springform pan
1/3 cup melted butter

Mix the crushed Kit Kat’s with the butter and press into bottom of pan.

Filling
4 8oz packages of softened cream cheese
1 ½ cups of crushed to a powder Whooper’s malted milk balls
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
Other Halloween candy pieces of your choice

Beat the cream cheese, Whoppers powder, and vanilla extract. Mix in eggs one at a time until well blended.

Pour half the cheese filling over the crust and spread evenly. Add the other Halloween candy pieces to the first layer of filling. Pour the remaining half of filling and spread evenly.

Bake for about 1 hour or until center is set. Chill overnight in fridge.

Ganache Topping
½ cup of heavy cream
1 cup of Hershey bars broken in to pieces

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small sauce pot. Take pot off burner and add chocolate pieces. Wisk chocolate until melted and well blended with cream. Allow to cool.
Pour ganache over chilled cheesecake and spread evenly. Place cheesecake back in the fridge until ganache has fully cooled and set.

Enjoy!

Passion

When you love something enough to classify it as passion, then you want the whole world to know about it. With this in mind, I am using this post as a re-launch of the Mad Good Food blog.

Webster’s defines passion as “a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something”. The word passion also comes from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer.

I knew in high school that I had a passion for cooking. I did apply and was accepted to Johnson & Wales. Back in those days, Chefs were not “cool”. My parents rolled their eyes and said “you don’t want to be a cook when you grow up”. So I went with another passion and spent 25 years in the live entertainment business. During those 25 years my passion for cooking never left, it actually grew! To the point where it sent me to culinary school and a new career in culinary.

Working in the restaurant industry is a test of ones cooking passion every day. Ask any Chef! While the Chef may have the passion, it does not mean all his/her employees do. To most kitchen staff in the industry, it’s just a job. They come to work, do their labor, get paid, and go home.

Cooking for me is truly an art. Like an entertainer, I want people to try my food. I want them to love it. Knowing they enjoy my food is a rush to my brain and fuels the passion. Get paid for the passion and you got the perfect dish.

No matter what business you are currently in, it’s never too late to follow your passion. If your passion is what you do now, take it to the next level. Don’t let anyone stop you. If you have a passion you want to follow, do it! You want to love what you get paid for. Don’t make your career a “job”.

Lot’s of Casual “American” Cuisine Restaurants… Same Menu!

Is it just me or does it seem that all the casual, “American” cuisine, chain restaurants have the same boring menu?  They all have the same basic menu items.  Is it because no one has creativity or is it because we Americans have boring taste buds?

Last night I went to one of the typical casual cuisine chains.  I’m not going to reveal the name because it doesn’t matter.  It could have been any of them.  On their menu were all the typical items you would expect.

The appetizers had the usual shrimp cocktail, nachos, boneless Buffalo wings, and crab cakes.  I live in a seafood state so I was happy to see at least one local shell fish on the app menu. It was mussels.

Of course they had burgers!  I love burgers and I’m always searching for the best.  Have you ever noticed that every restaurant claims they have the best? How many times have you been disappointed? The burger menu read:  Classic cheeseburger, which was followed by the classic bacon burger, followed by the classic blue burger, and don’t forget the mushroom burger. Very original, don’t you think?

The main course entree’s included chicken piccata, grilled salmon, ribs, chicken fajitas, fish & chips, and roast chicken. Is this the only kind of food that the average American wants to eat? I spent 15 minutes staring at the menu trying to decide what to order. Nothing was getting me excited.  I decided to be like the rest of the clones and went with the ribs.  The menu claimed the ribs were a “full” rack.  So when the food arrived I expected something that looked like a plate Fred Flintstone would be waiting for.  You know it’s sad when the pile of fries takes up more plate real estate then the ribs.

The main reason I went to culinary school was to learn how to put my creative flow into food.  Anyone can make chicken marsala.  Where are new, exciting and soon to be American classics?  The foods these chains make today were recipes made by our grandparents in the 50’s.

Don’t get me wrong I love comfort foods and that is what these type of restaurants offer.  But do we have to settle for the same old, same old?

Food Trucks…Fad Or Here To Stay?

Recently, I went to a food truck show in Boston.  It took place at Suffolk Downs race track.  As a promotion, it worked!  I had never been to this race track and it was just the carrot to get me there.  I wasn’t the only one.  It seemed more people went for the food truck show then the horse racing.

What blew me away was how long people would wait in line for food from a truck vendor.  The most famous food truck at the event had to be Grilled Cheese Nation.  They have been featured on national TV.  The line for this one truck was at least one hour!  I am not kidding!  Once you place your order, your wait was another 15 minutes.  All for a grilled cheese! Was the sandwich good?  Yes it was.  Would I stand in line for an hour to eat one? No I wouldn’t.  My wife wanted this treat, so she waited and waited…. I was the smart one and tried other truck fare and still got to try her sandwich too.

One stand out truck food item for me was the bacon wrapped grilled meatloaf sandwich from Mobile Home.  While I was walking around, the buzz from other patrons was this sandwich.  I ran over to the truck and got in line.  My timing was perfect.  The word of mouth didn’t take long and a long line backed up behind me.  That sandwich was awesome! The perfect food item for Mad Good Food!

Besides being a foodie and wanting to try the food truck fare, I am also interested in owning a food truck.  My big question is fad or here to stay? If it’s a fad, am I too late to the game?  When I was in culinary school, I actually did my food management project on starting a food truck.  If you live in a big city, then you know that food trucks are growing like metal sidewalk weeds.  And they do business!

Here in Boston there is a food truck vendor called Clover.  I believe they are up to eight locations throughout the Boston area.  One location I experienced with them is at Dewey Square. They are parked next to the farmer’s market that I was helping with.  The daily wait to order food at this truck can reach 15 to 20 minutes with lines wrapping into the market.  This is not because of their ordering system, but the sheer volume. They specialize in veggie cuisine.  Who ever said people only want meat and junk food?

I would love to hear your thoughts on the food truck craze. I’m looking for both the pros and the cons.  If you own a food truck or a frequent customer, weigh in on the conversation.