Fresh Thoughts Blog


SOS Wild & Crazy Taco Night 2009

Posted by Chef Paul under: Special Events.

On Thursday, April 30th 2009 the Orange County organization Share Our Selves will have another Wild and Crazy Taco night. Two years ago we had Texas Longhorn Lengua Tacos, last year it was Pork Belly, and this year it will be Savoy Octopus Tacos w’ Organic Beet & Mustard Leaf Kimchi. My favorite taco at the little shack down the street is Al Pastor so maybe I will make that one next year.
I hope to see you there for Tacos, Tequila & Beer. Anyone interested in attending can find out more information at Wild & Crazy Taco Night

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Koreatown Eats

Posted by Chef Paul under: Dining.

Korean Tofu House CondimentsDriving to Los Angeles is never a sure thing. It could be 30 minutes or 2 hours. Today I got lucky and was driving into the heart of Korea town a full 40 minutes ahead of time. When I stopped, I was really just looking for a cup of hot tea from a little bakery. What I found instead was the BCD Tofu House. This place was a model of efficiency. I was seated in a mere 15 seconds, had ordered within a minute, and had food on the table within 2 minutes. Watching the table next to me I quickly figured out what to do with all the dishes that were headed my way. I ordered the Curry Tofu Soup that had beef in it. As plates hit the table I counted them…eight plates so far and I hadn’t even received the soup yet! I might as well just list them; a whole fried 6″ long fish, one raw egg, a scoop of potato salad, kimchi (cabbage), pickle spears on ice, a salad of iceberg lettuce-carrot julienne-and vinegar, another kimchi (smaller, I could not recognize but wouldn’t be surprised if it was octopus), and a very hot covered ceramic bowl of rice. When my soup arrived it was a boiling hot mixture of onion, carrot, tofu, peas, potato, beef shreds, and curry broth. I quickly added the raw egg, stirred it in. Meanwhile the server dished out some hot rice into a metal bowl for me and immediately added some water to the crock the rice had been in. I had already snacked on the fish and the salads but the rest was condiments for the soup and rice. When I ran low on rice, the server ceremonially scraped the bottom of the rice bowl and mixed it with the water previously added making a toasted rice porridge. This was new to me but upon tasting it I compared it to the toasted flavor of a puffed wheat cereal. All this with two glasses of Oolong tea and I was stuffed. I left 35 minutes after I had arrived with only $9.95 less in my wallet. Good Eats!

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“Now Children”…An Education in Wine

Posted by Chef Paul under: Information.

Wine Guru Robert Laurence Balzer, Paul & Dana BuchananA long time ago I got out of culinary school, then moved down to Long Beach and got a job at Chez Melange in Redondo Beach. Shortly after I was tagging along with my mother Joan to her wine class. I was pretty much poor as dirt so I bought my way into the classes with food like homemade brownies that I knew would go great with some of the red wines. Teaching the “Premium Wines of California” class every Monday evening was Robert Laurence Balzer. He brought in winemakers to teach us about each region and taste each varietal grown in California. I saw the young Bruno D’Alfonso from Sanford winery & Crazy but intelligent Randall Graham from Bonny Doon speak in depth about winemaking techniques, differences in grape varietals and more. In short time I became one of Roberts “Children”, as he referred to us in class. He became my wine guru taking me far beyond the cursory education in wine I had received thus far. Robert inspired me to learn more and to travel to the wine regions of California to see for myself where the grapes were grown and the wines were made. My then girlfriend, now wife, Dana joined me in signing up for many of Roberts future classes and together we took many a trip to wine country.

Tonight was Roberts final wine class held at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. He will be 96yrs old this June and I believe he has made a huge contribution to the California wine business. I know he has taught a great many of his Children about the world of wine and we are living richer lives because of the knowledge he has shared with us. No one can replace him and his accomplishments but I hope someone will follow in his footsteps and continue teaching about exciting and new wines of California.

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Down Time…

Posted by Chef Paul under: Information.

Habit forming…that is exactly what needs to be put in place, a new habit! Let’s call it a weekly reminder on the Palm Treo & laptop thaat won’t be told to delay 2hrs over and orer, just do it!

With the launch of the website this past Sunday I have a renewed interest in blogging. Time to keep up and let those who take time to visit see something new each week.

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S.O.S. Wild & Crazy Taco Night

Posted by Chef Paul under: Uncategorized.

Crazy Good Pork Belly TacosTaco Ingredients

Share our Selves held their 15th Annual Wild and Crazy Taco Night on Thursday, April 17th and we were lucky enough to participate for the second year in a row. This year we were in the VIP room along with Chef Pascal Olhats from Pascal’s in Newport Beach. About 20 chefs from the Orange County area come each year to support this worthwhile charity and create some crazy taco combinations. Some of the Chefs include Rich Mead, Carlito Jocson, Alan Greeley, Laurence Hutchenson, Louie Jocson, and Michael Kang. White Apron Meat company often donates product for the chefs to use. Last year we really enjoyed pairing the Beef Tongue (Lengua) with Orange Ancho Sauce and a Jicama slaw. This year we had our sites set on Pork Belly!!! After a two day dry rub of Corriander, Cumin, Mustard & Aleppo Pepper, we pan seared then braised the pork belly in Apple cider, chilies & sweet onion for three hours. The shredded meat was served on a 5 inch white corn tortilla with smoked Chili salsa, pickled red cabbage, Casero cheese, cilantro & chopped crispy pork cracklin’s. Some guests came back 5 times and many others claimed it the best taco of the event. The Primal Alchemy booth was manned by Dana Buchanan and Chefs Paul Buchanan & Matt Hummel. We can’t wait to see what crazy taco we can come up with for next year.

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The Little Owl in N.Y.C.

Posted by Chef Paul under: Information.

Walking up Bedford Streets there are few neon lights, the sidewalks are narrow and well worn. This is a neighborhood and each street is has a handful of business mostly catering to the locals. You won’t find many parking lots here, none in fact, just small places with good food where friends like to congregate. The Little Owl is a great find and we were lucky enough to find a table at 7:30 on a Friday evening. Chef Joey Campanaro has created a simple menu of 6 appetizers, 6 entrees, 3 sides & 6 desserts. Keeping it simple, fresh and delicious is key to the success of this restaurant. You are greeted at the door by a nice young man, there are two servers, one busboy & three cooks in the kitchen. There isn’t much room for more and they do a great job at making their diners feel at home. Starting with a nice glass of Frascati (Italian White wine) and the Soft Shell Crab appetizer was a good choice. On a bed of creamy risotto tinged green, there were heirloom tomatos, asparagus, & dandelion greens, with the crab fried crisp & cut in half with legs in the air. Another special appetizer was the crab & shrimp stuffed Calamari with Broccoli Rabe. The restaurant has no problem with guests bringing one bottle of wine with them so a 2002 Jodar Barbera was on the table. It was the perfect pairing to the fabulous entrees that followed the first course. A pork chop 2 ½ inches thick, juicy and tender on a bed of beans & greens was a burst of flavor in every bite. If you want beef, the N.Y. steak with pancetta & radicchio had an amazing rich red wine sauce that had a hint of blackberry. Now would have been a good time for a nap with all the wine gone…but a long walk home, a little cigar, dessert and nightcap at David Bouley’s Danube was the perfect finish to the evening.

The little owl, 90 Bedford Street, New York City, NY

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A Happy Farewell to Wonder Bread

Posted by Chef Paul under: Information.


Gone are the days of Wonder Bread in California. A staple in my home from the time I was very young until I was a teen. I toured one of the bakeries off the 5 Fwy. in Santa Ana when I was in grade school. As a child I made my first signature dish the “Buchanan Bologna Broil” in the early 70’s. It was one piece of Wonder white bread with Heinz or Hunt’s Tomato Catsup smeared all over it, a piece of Farmer John Bologna (we called Baloney), some Kraft Parmesan Cheese sprinkled on top and the whole thing placed under the broiler until the cheese melted and the grease pooled out of the boloney as it curled into a cup shape under the heat. We poured the grease out but we ate it nice and warm… and we were happy.

The other day I heard the Wonder Bread plants were closing in Southern California. Thank God, I thought…The last thing kids need today is more high glycemic value starches. Any highly refined white flour food product is not a part of a healthy diet for today’s kids and I am happy to see it go the way of the Pet Rock and other useless items.

I am a little biased since I teach 4th graders the benefits of the Farmers Market and the perils of high fructose corn syrup and sodas that are worse for you than colored sugar water. Sure I did it, I ate it, my mother didn’t know better, we had convenience foods and ate many a frozen dinner, along with Tang and Space Food Sticks.

Only in the last 10 years have we come to realize the importance of reading food labels and realizing actually what we were putting our bodies for sustenance.  Farmers markets have become all the rage and eating local is important, damn important. Local food shed is a concept of eating foods produced within 200 miles of the place you live. Low impact, whole grain, in season foods of choice…those are damn good for you and the environment.

We can’t do it everyday, all the time, but we can all make the effort…it is our choice. I love to buy my melons, multi-colored carrots, and heirloom potatoes from Alex Weiser at my local farmers market. Phillip from Ha’s apple farm has the best Fuji apples from Tehachapi along with pear and other such fruits in season. Roland Tamai has some of the best corn, Romano Beans, and Tomatoes. These are real people, real releationships, I can talk to them, I get to know them, and my soul is better for using their produce instead of the mass marketed, cold storage, mediocare products that come from the general market place.

Wonder Bread had left the building, the city, and hopefully the state. They can take Hostess and Twinkies, and Coconut covered Pink puffs of Marshmello fluff with them because now we know our bodies and our kids need more substantial things for good health. Don’t get me wrong…we can have an occasional ice cream, convenience food, or candy bar…but let’s make it more infrequent than the days of my childhood.

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A Taste of Summer

Posted by Chef Paul under: Photo Post.

Heirloom Tomatoes have been one of my passions for years now. Each year I grow about 25 different varieties to explore the flavors and see which one produces the best. This year at a local Long Beach tasting of many varieties, Rainbow was the winner! It is know by other names as well like Old German, Hillbilly, Marvel Striped & Pineapple. This Yellow Heirloom with red streaks running through it was the sweetest and had the best texture of all the entries. Each year there is a different winner in our competitions since the weather conditions, gardeners & ripening times all seem to change. Tomatoficianados would be quick to point out that all those different names are different varieties, they just look similar and genetically may taste quite different.

A good thing to remember is that tomatoes do not like the cold! Please keep the poor things out of the fridge unless they are already diced up for salsa or the like. Rarely will a Grocery store, specialty market or even restaurant have a great tasting Heirloom because the tomatoes have seen the inside of a refrigerator. The best tomatoes are from the farmers market or straight from the garden. There are many ways to prepare them but just sliced up on a platter with some nice salt is pretty tasty. I fix mine sprinkled with flaked pink salt from the Murry River in Australia, along with Villa Mandori Balsamic, some good EV Olive Oil, and some fresh ground white pepper. A nice loaf of bread and bottle of wine and you’ve got a party.

One restaurant that does an outstanding job with this summers best is Marche Moderne where my friend and fellow chef Florent Marneu is cooking up fantastic things. It is located in the old Troquet space in South Coast Plaza on the third floor near Nordstroms. Reservations are a little tough to get but well worth the effort.

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Kitchen Action…

Posted by Chef Paul under: Photo Post.

Kitchen action

The sound of teamwork…how can that be defined? A kitchen working with focus and passion towards a common goal excites me. I love being apart of the team executing a large event of platted dishes that are composed artfully. Such is the occasion above where my friend Chef John Sharpe and I were creating Native American inpired dishes of sustainable foods. Seeing the plates being wisked away in a blur after they are completed is very telling of the moment. A commoradorie forms when chefs join together to cook a meal and I believe in the efforts of planning, communicating, preparing and plating, we grow stronger!

Once a Californian, John is now the Chef/Owner of the Turquoise Room at the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona. He is a dear friend, mentor, and chef. No doubt you will hear more about him in future blogs because he does amazing things with Native American foods like Churro Lamb, Tepary Beans & Piki Bread.

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How can there be too much Foie Gras

Posted by Chef Paul under: Photo Post.

Pan Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Kumquat Mamalade

It all started with a sit down menu for 8 people here in Long Beach on a warm summer evening. 9 courses over several hours with my friend Chef Anita Bergmann helping me out. Prepping the day before, I had a few scraps after portioning the Hudson Valley Lobe of Foie Gras. Anita and I verified it was good enough to serve. The evening of the dinner party I had a few extra portions so I served the best looking ones to the guests.  Anita and I again struggled though tasting the delicious  seared Foie again because we didn’t want it to go to waste. The next day I cleaned up another lobe of Foie, this time to make a torchon. Chef John Johnston from Ritz Carlton had taught me a method of whole roasting, rapid cooling, forming into a cylinder several years ago but I wanted to try it like Thomas Keller did at the French Laundry. Cleaned, Formed, rolled in cheesecloth and poached. Now a few days later we had dinner at Marche Modern…Florent & Amilia Marneau’s new restaruant in South Coast Plaza. On the menu was both seared and cold preparations so we tasted them both. An excellent thick slice of Torchon on top of a sheet of carmelized Pineapple with good bread. My wife shared a few precious bites of the seared preparation with me. I got lost in the rest of the good food and found myself at home in Foie Gras Dreamland. Next day my Torchon had to be tasted…the best flavor was with a Vanilla Fig compote I had made last season. Next morning it was just a slice for breakfast on toasted Walnut Raisin Bread, in the afternoon a Beef Burger w’ Frome d’Ambert Blue Cheese, homegrown Heirloom Tomatoes, mustard, lettuce, and…you guessed it, a few little slices of the Torchon. The first trip to Marche Modern my friend Patrick could not make the dinner so we had to reschedule another dinner there just last night. This time I got the Seared Foie Gras, over a large Toasted Brioche Cube, served with Sylvie’s Huckleberries. Outstanding. Now my biggest problem…I still have one Torchon left in the fridge so I will have to have it with some egg dish for breakfast tomorrow. Ok, next week no more foie for awhile…but really,”How can there be too much Foie Gras”?

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