Chef Pierre’s Turn On the Hot! Seat


Pierre and Ryan–Friends in Food and Life

Yesterday was a special day for Pierre, his family, and for me.  From a earlier post [Chef Ryan on the Hot! Seat, June 30, 2012] you know our son Ryan has attended the Culinary School at Manchester Bidwell for the past year.  Over the past months, he has made a great friend named Pierre, also attending the school. 

In that earlier post, you also know that each student gets to have a day where they are the “Executive Chef” for the day.  In effect, they plan an entire meal, supervising its preparation and service.  When I attended Ryan’s day in the Hot! seat, I had a blast witnessing these young chef’s doing their very best to make their day a Hot! Day.  It was quite impressive. 

I’ve also enjoyed getting to know Pierre during his visits to our home with Ryan, and I was truly honored to be invited to partake of the meal he planned for his Challenge Day at the Institute.

Like the others, Pierre has been planning for this challenge for weeks. Prior to his assigned Challenge Day, he was responsible for selecting and creating the recipes for the multicourse menu he chose. He then collaborated with the professional staff chefs to order, purchase and cost out the ingredients for the menu items. He created a detailed workplan and timeline for the 14 or so student chefs that would be under his guidance for the day as they prepared, cooked, sauced and served the meal to about 20 or so people.  Yesterday, Pierre had to lead and guide the student chefs through the execution phase of the dinner and be ready to serve it at precisely 2:30 pm.

The most daunting element of the Challenge is that the students and professional staff rate the meal and his performance as the head chef for the day. There’s nothing more challenging than having to tell people what to do in a multi-tasking environment, and then have the workers who performed the tasks critique the outcomes.

Awesome Salad of Spinach, Balsamic and Strawberries

Yesterday, I arrived a little earlier than I had planned, and  had a chance to see Pierre in the last stages of executing his responsibilities.  He did not seem the least bit nervous or rattled. Pierre always seems to have this big ole’ smile that just beams ear-to-ear, and it was there in full bloom yesterday.  He appeared in-control and confident that the team of student chefs had performed admirably and expertly to create his menu exactly as he desired.

Pierre invited me to join his Dad, Mom, Grandfather and younger sister at the family table.  I was again delighted for this honor.  We had a wonderful time admiring Pierre’s performance and chatting while all the great stuff was happening around us.  His Grandfather, also named Pierre, has a smile like Pierre and he didn’t stop beaming the whole time.  He could not have been more proud of his grandson. 

My Favorite-Curried Cauliflower Soup

At one point, I caught Pierre’s Mom shedding a few tears.  That’s OK Mom–we understand the softer side of pride from our Mom’s–it’s what makes us Guys human beings.   Dads show pride in a different ways.  In this case, Pierre’s Dad totally consumed every morsel of food we were served.  There is no bigger compliment than that!  And his sister and I agreed the soup was the star of the meal, although it was all fantastic!!  A little later, Pierre’s girlfriend joined us, and I’m thinking she’s pretty happy to see she is dating a Hot! Guy.  Oh yeah!

Of course, I took pictures, knowing I’d blog this special event in Pierre’s road to graduation.  I even asked them to prepare another plate of salad because I had forgotten to take a picture in my haste to dig in when it got served.

Fish and Pork and Rice and Broccoli–Beautiful Plating

The plating was terrific, the food tasted fresh and healthy, and the menu items worked well together to create a great tasting dinner!! Dessert was even a flaming specialty to make sure we ended Pierre’s meal on a Hot! note.  Compliments were flowing freely among the student chefs and the professional staff chefs, because they were pleased with the outcome knowing they had each contributed much to the dinner.

Ryan and Pierre have come a long way since beginning Culinary School, and we couldn’t be more proud of what they have accomplished, and of the potential they both have as Chef’s in their newly found career.  Pretty cool (or should I say Hot!) to be a young person with a lifetime of mastering recipes, creating menus and learning cooking techniques before them.

Flaming Apples Foster for a Hot! Guy Finish

Get Flirting with Mussels


Mussels and barnacles in the intertidal near N...

I know, I know…not everyone loves mussels, but personally, I think they are one of the most romantic things to share with your main squeeze.  There is just something about these jewels of black shell filled with little morsels of tasty shellfish that makes flirting with you special lady so easy to accomplish.  Somehow, the act of using your hands to pick them out of a steaming bowl of the broth placed between you, plucking the meat out of the shell, and then dunking crusty bread or ‘frites’ when all the mussels are gone makes eating them an almost sensuous experience.  And of course the shared beer or wine makes it an even more romantic experience.

Almost every culture in the world has recognized mussels as an important part of their cuisine.


For example, in Belgium, the Netherlands and France, mussels are often served with french fries or bread.  In Belgium, mussels are sometimes served with fresh herbs and flavorful vegetables in a stock of butter and white wine.  Belgian beer is almost universally associated with them in most places around the world.  In the Netherlands, they are sometimes served fried in batter or breadcrumbs, particularly at take-out or at street vendor locations.  In France, you will find baked mussels along some of the beaches in the South of France.

In Italy, mussels are often mixed with other seafood, or eaten with pasta.  I have an awesome recipe for this in my collection.  I’ll share it sometime soon.

In Spain, they are consumed mostly steamed by boiling white wine, onions and herbs, and serving the broth with lemon. They can also be eaten as a sort of croquette using the mussel meat, shrimp and other fish in a béchamel sauce, then breaded and fried.

In Turkey, they are either covered with flour and fried or filled with rice and served cold,  usually with beer.

They are prepared in Ireland by boiling them in seasoned vinegar, serving the “bray” (broth) as an accompanying hot drink.

In Cantonese cuisine, mussels are cooked in a broth of garlic and fermented black beans.

In New Zealand, they are served in a chili or garlic-based vinaigrette, processed into fritters and fried, or used as the base for a chowder.

In India, mussels are popular in Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka-Bhatkal, and Goa. They are either prepared with drumsticks, breadfruit or other vegetables, or filled with rice and coconut paste with spices and served hot.

Mussels are just not that hard to prepare well.  Guys! You can do this!  If your lady likes them, and you serve them as an appetizer or as a main course with a fresh green salad, crusty bread, beer or wine or her favorite iced tea, you will have made her day, and I’m guessing yours too!

In Lou’s culture, we keep the recipe simple.  These little mollusks just don’t need a lot of help from heavy spicing or sauces.  And if this takes you more than 10 minutes to prepare and serve, you are over thinking the process or overcooking the mussels.  And if you’ve never had them before, try this recipe because I’m pretty certain they’ll become a mainstay of your eating-out or eating-home menus.

Mussels In White Wine

Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 18 min | Makes: 2 servings | Difficulty: Easy


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sweet onions, chopped

    Get Flirting With Mussels

  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh or 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1-1/2 cups white wine (prefer Pinot Grigio or Prosecco)
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 pounds live mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 5 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Crusty bread


1. In a sauce pan, heat the olive oil.

2. When the oil is hot, saute the celery, onions and garlic until translucent and tender.

3. Add the wine and bay leaves and bring to a boil.

4. Add the mussels.

5. Sprinkle the thyme, parsley, butter and several grinds of fresh black pepper on top of the mussels.

6. Cover and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.

7. Simmer the mussels for 5 to 8 minutes until the shells open and the mussels are done.

8. Discard any that do not open.

9. Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

10. Divide the mussels and broth between two bowls (or share them right out of the pot) and serve with crusty bread and a spoon to enjoy the broth.


A. Careful with the salt. It really doesn’t need a lot because the mussels tend to be salty.

B. If desired, add just a little cream at the end of cooking to offer another layer of taste.

C. I’ve also added a jigger of Anisette or Ouzo at the end.  Awesome!! For a change of pace.

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection

Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager


Cooked mussels DSC09244

Properly Cooked Mussels



Pizza Margherita–My Grandmothers Way

Italian Cuisine

Italian Cuisine (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I’m Italian.  My paternal grandparents emigrated from Bologna and Naples, Italy and my maternal grandparents arrived from small villages in Sicily.  Depending on whose home in which we were eating, there would be styles of cooking ranging from the lighter and sophisticated cooking from Northern Italy to the North African influenced Sicilian styles, and just about anything Italian in between.We only ate italian food–I didn’t even know there were other food cultures until I was in high school.  My two grandfathers owned an Italian Restaurant in the Italian neighborhood called Federal Hill in Providence, Rhode Island.  When we ‘went out’ for dinner, we went to the family restaurant and ate italian food.  The only difference was my grandfathers prepared the food instead of my grandmothers.   My friends were italian, and I ate italian at their houses when I visited.  My Uncle Mario married Aunt Bobbi.  She was Irish, and the first non-italian in the family–a very difficult position to hold.  She suggested we try irish stews, corned beef and cabbage and other non-italian dishes, but my grandmothers were in charge of the food.  They ate Italian.  Therefore, there was very little chance of anything irish, french, mexican or any other culture ever making it to the Sunday Supper table.  Besides, my Uncle Mario didn’t like anything that wasn’t italian either.  That’s just the way it was.

Federal Hill neighborhood gateway arch with

Federal Hill Neighborhood Gateway Arch with “la pigna” (pine cone, sometimes mistakenly called “pineapple”) sculpture over Atwells Avenue, Providence, Rhode Island

Everything was homemade, including the linguine, paparradella, or macherroni for every Sunday Supper.  We ate at one of my grandparents home every Sunday, and attendance was mandatory.  If you missed one of the Sunday Suppers, you better be in the hospital, in jail or dead, because…well just because!My two sets of grandparents were great friends, creating a wonderfully fun and safe environment to grow and learn about the food culture of our extended italian family.   And I was also the first grandson, a very privileged place in the family, except at meal times.  That’s because my grandmother’s routinely competed for the ‘favorite meatball’, or the ‘best pizza’, the lightest homemade gnocchi or the best sour cream coffee cake, my favorite childhood sweet.  And I found out early on that if I told one grandmother her meatball was the best ever, it wouldn’t be long before my other grandmother was making her best meatball recipe.   As you can imagine, I wasn’t leaving the table until I said IT was the best meatball ever.  So at the ripe young age of about 10, I learned how to become a politician–mainly from my mother who had learned over many years how to keep peace among the grandmothers.

What my mother taught me was how to be more attuned to the ingredients in the food my grandmothers prepared.  That would give me an edge on staying out of the ‘favorite’ battlefield.  I’d say, “Grandma, I love the lemon rind you put in your meatballs–makes them special and just great”.  To my other grandmother, I’d say, “Wow Grandma, those pine nuts in the meatballs are just a great idea–I love them!!  I told one grandmother her Neapolitan thin, crusty and simply dressed pizza margherita was “like nothing I had ever eaten before”.  I told the other grandmother that her Sicilian-style pizza, thick and covered with tomato sauce, anchovies, black olives and garlic was ‘like nothing I had ever eaten before”.  Clever huh?  I became quite adept at the politics of staying Number One Grandson for both grandmothers, and at the same time learned how to pick out every ingredient in their recipes.  A skill I still use today to duplicate dishes I’ve liked at restaurants or other people’s homes. 

Now that my grandmothers have passed into the Big Italian Kitchen in Sky–I am absolutely certain every street corner in Heaven has an Italian Restaurant run by all our italian grandmothers–I can admit that my one and only favorite pizza is my paternal grandmothers Pizza Margherita.  It is one of those simple pleasures in life that can and should appropriately be different every time it’s made, even though it only requires four ingredients:  extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil on a thin crust.  Somehow, with just these four ingredients, the taste is interestingly and subtly different each time I make it.  Sometimes the fresh tomatoes are slightly sweeter than the last time, or I use San Marzano tomatoes out of the can.  When I can get it, I use Buffalo mozzarella instead of the ‘regular’ mozzarella.  During the winter, the basil comes from the grocery store rather than from my garden.  But the beauty of this pizza is it’s sophisticated and simultaneously simple; it has many layers of taste from the nicely browned crust, the aromatics emanating from the baked olive oil and tomatoes, the cheese and the basil, all melted together, but individually tastable. 

My grandmother always made her own dough, and it was the best.  I’ve made my own in the past, but to tell the truth, it’s not something I like to do, and my shortcut works great every time!  I buy it from the local pizza shop that makes the best thin crust pizza in town.  Most of them will sell it to you for a reasonable price.  Try Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough–it is also very good.

Hot! Guys, I know this recipe looks daunting.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I’ve just put the steps in detailed explanations so you cannot screw it up–even if you try!!  Guys, pull out this recipe for your lovely lady some Friday night after work, have a glass of wine or a beer with some cheese and crackers while the dough is getting ready, throw together the Simple Salad (See Blog Recipe Index), and then throw a romantic chick-flick into the Blu-Ray while sharing your homemade at home Pizza Margherita and Salad.  I guarantee it–you have just earned some very serious WOW! Points.  And I’m betting she is going to ask for a repeat performance the next weekend.  Try it–you gonna like it!

Pizza Margherita–My Grandmother’s Way

Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 15 min | Servings: About 6 nice slices per pizza | Difficulty: Easy


  • 1 – 2 large fresh tomatoes or 1 cup San Marzano (canned) whole tomatoes, lightly crushed with your hands
  • 1 – 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped or chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (optional)
  • 1/2 pound buffalo or other fresh-style mozzarella, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • About 2 pounds pizza shop dough, or store-bought frozen pizza dough (thawed), or Basic Pizza Dough (below), rolled out for 2 (12-inch) pizzas (See Notes)

Basic Pizza Dough:

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 2-1/2 to 3 cups flour, plus more if necessary

    Traditional Neapolitan pizza.

    Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Margherita with Buffalo Mozzarella

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


For the Pizza:

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F and, if you have one, place a pizza stone (a good investment if you make this often enough) on the bottom rack of the oven. I’ve even used thin bricks I bought from the hardware store, washed them and placed them in an old cookie sheet to heat up in the oven. It works really well. Otherwise, you can bake the pizza in a dark cookie sheet.

2. If using shop bought or fresh store-bought dough, follow Steps 7, 8 and 9 in the below Basic Pizza Dough Recipe. If using frozen dough, follow the packaging directions.

3. Cut the dough in half, and use your fingers and the palm of your hand to gently stretch the dough on a floured surface. Don’t use a rolling-pin– it compacts the dough and squeezes all the valuable air bubbles out.

4. When the dough is about 12 inches round, its thin enough.  Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly round–rustic is preferred.

5. Carefully transfer the dough to the thoroughly cleaned BOTTOM of a cookie sheet or to a pizza paddle (peel).

6. Scatter the sliced tomatoes or place a light coating of the San Marzano tomatoes over the top. If using can tomatoes, be careful not to use too much of the juice on the pizza–it makes the dough mushy when cooking.

7. Drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.

8. Sprinkle sea or kosher salt and several grinds of fresh ground pepper over all.

9. Spread the basil over all.

10. If using, sprinkle the Parmesan-Reggiano cheese over the top.

11. Carefully place the mozzarella cheese over the top. Do not cover the whole pizza with cheese. The mozzarella is intended to be ‘islands’ of white in a sea of red tomatoes.

12. Transfer the pizza on the cookie sheet to the oven, or slide the pizza onto the hot stones in the oven.

13. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling, the edges are golden brown, and when you lift the bottom edge, there’s a slightly burnt appearance.

14. Remove pizza from oven by sliding it onto the pizza paddle or using tongs to ‘pull’ it back onto the back of the cookie sheet.  Let it sit for about 5 minutes while ou get a nice cold Peroni Beer, Coca-Cola or Italian red wine.

15. Slice and think about your grandmothers cooking when you were a kid– it was just like this pizza, but just a little different.

For the Dough:

1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, stir together the water, yeast and sugar; let sit until the mixture is foamy, which takes about 5 minutes.

2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the oil and salt into the yeast mixture and, using the paddle attachment, combine until mixture is smooth.

3. Switch to the dough hook.

4. With the machine running at low, add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time; make sure each addition of flour is incorporated before adding the next.

5. Once all the flour has been added, turn up the speed and let the machine knead the dough for about 3 minutes; it should be very smooth and perhaps a bit tacky.

6. Don’t be afraid to knead the dough an extra minute or two by hand if you wish; it won’t hurt the dough at all.

7. Rub the insides of a large mixing bowl with a little olive oil; remove dough from machine, form into a ball, and place into oiled bowl, turning dough over to make sure all sides are oiled.

8. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free area to rise; the dough should nearly double in size, which will take about 60 to 90 minutes.

9. I place a towel around the bowl, just to make sure no drafts get to the dough.


A. Go to the local pizza shops and find one that’ll sell you their pizza dough. You’ll find one or two. It’ll coast about $2 or $3 a pound, but it’s worth the money and little effort.

B. Some of the fresh store-bought pizza dough is really good–try Whole Foods or Trader Joes–you’ll not do better making it yourself.

C.  Of course, this is a basic pizza recipe as well.  Add some italian sausage or a few pieces of peperoni for a change of pace.  Try mushrooms or spinach with ricotta cheese instead of mozzarella.  Guys–this is all about what you and your special lady like.  Don’t be afraid, just try it!!

Source: Lou’s Hot! Guys Collection
Sent from Paprika Recipe Manager

English: Picture of an authentic Neapolitan Pi...

Another Nights Pizza Margherita with the same four ingredients, a different presentation, but the same great tastes.

Chef Ryan On the Hot! Seat


Ryan’s Menu For The Day

Today was a special day for my Kathy and me. Our son Ryan has attended the Culinary School at Manchester Bidwell for the past year, and today was his Chef of the Day Challenge. Yes, we have another budding chef in the family, but his skills are being formally trained while Kathy and I learned using the ‘hit and miss’ teaching curriculum–not a bad way to learn, but it takes a lifetime commitment and many, many humbling moments.

Student Chef Ryan With His Copyrighted Cheshire Smile

He’s been planning for this challenge for weeks. Prior to his assigned Challenge Day, he was responsible for selecting and creating the recipes for the multicourse menu he chose as presented in the header photo for this blog. He then collaborated with the professional staff chefs to order, purchase and cost out the ingredients for the menu items. He then had to create a detailed workplan and timeline for the 14 or so student chefs that would be under his guidance while they prepared, cooked, sauced and served the meal to about 20 or so people, including the student chefs and professional staff chefs. On the assigned day, he then had to lead and guide the student chefs through the execution phase of the dinner and be ready to serve it at precisely 2:30 pm.

Effectively, he played the role the head or executive chef would ordinarily play in a larger restaurant. In my mind, the most daunting element of the Challenge is that the students and professional staff rate the meal and his performance as the head chef for the day. There’s nothing more challenging than having to tell people what to do in a multi-tasking environment, and then have the workers who performed the tasks critique the outcomes.

I was involved early in the menu debate phase because he wanted to do something different, but not too outside the box or complex. He also had a budget to deal with, so legs of lamb, prime rib, filets and other expensive ingredients were off the table. He had to have a fish and meat course and enough prep and cooking elements to occupy the full complement of student chefs during the day. Since many of the menu items we cook around the house were familiar to him and us, he chose some family favorites, and added a few new ones to keep things interesting. Brave soul, that boy!!

He and Kathy then spoke almost everyday to discuss ingredients, quantities and the other ‘little’ things she does to make her recipes special. For example, she adds Chinese Five Spices to her fruit cobblers to give them a bright and unique layer of flavor. (Please note, this could be my last blog, because She’ll probably rip my fingers off for disclosing that little tidbit!)

The Plating and Tastes Were Terrific!

Professional Chef and Student Chefs

We were invited guests to the dinner, and I arrived just in time for plating and serving to begin. I have to say, Ryan seemed not the least bit nervous or rattled. He was smiling, and appeared confident that the team of student chefs had performed admirably and expertly to create his menu exactly as he desired.

The plating was terrific, the food tasted fresh and healthy, and the menu items worked well together to create a great tasting dinner!! Compliments were flowing freely among the student chefs and the professional staff chefs, because they were pleased with the outcome knowing they had each contributed much to the dinner.

He’s come a long way since he began this Culinary School, and we couldn’t be more proud of what he is accomplishing, and of the potential he has in his newly found career. I wish I could say he was a ‘chip off the ol’ block’ but the truth is he is creating his own chips for his future. Pretty cool (or should I say Hot!) to be a young person with a lifetime of mastering recipes, creating menus and learning cooking techniques before them.

If I had it to do over agian, I’d still have been a businessman, but I’d have spent more time following my passion for cooking–even if it was only an occassional international cooking school every now and again. There’s a lesson in there for all of us with primary careers and earning a living–save room in your life for the passions yet unchased–they’ll make your life richer and more fulfilling even if for just for moments of time during a lifetime.

Letters from Hot! Guys In the Trenches

Leave a comment

Well, it’s happening.  Some of my blog followers are sending me comments, ideas and photos of their cooking prowess.  I’m inspired by what I’ve heard and seen, and I know you will be too.  For those of you still contemplating that moment when inspiration meets physical action, I hope this blog will help make that connection a reality.

Mike D’s Salmon Over Mixed Greens and Balsamic Sauce

This weekend, Mike D sent me this photo.  He used the Salmon recipe I recently blogged (“Appreciating The Many Talents of Salmon”) and added sesame seeds to lightly cover the salmon before putting it in the oven before baking.  He also added fresh black pepper, a little cayenne and lime juice.  What a great idea!  He also added some balsamic vinigar and EVOO to the sauce.  As you can see Mike is not afraid to experiment and explore new flavors, and that makes him a Super Hot! Guy.  I’m sure that combination of spices and addition kicked my basic salmon recipe up at least one notch, if not two.  Way to go Mike! I’m going to try those additions next time I do salmon.   He also let me know he had always grilled his salmon in the past and was trying the baking method for the first time.  As you can see, he presented the salmon on a salad of mixed greens, pepper rings and fresh cheese slices.  Obviously, Mike took the basic recipe and added imagination and creativity for what looks like an amazing weekend dinner or lunch.  THAT is what this blog is all about!  While Mike was a little shy about me sharing the photo with you, but it looks perfect to me.  Wish I could have been there to share it with him.

On the same day, my friend Geoff sent me a text to let me know he had tried the same salmon recipe, but instead of baking it in the oven, he pan fried it in a cast iron skillet on the side of the outdoor grill.  Another great idea that keeps the kitchen cool while the Hot! Guy is working his magic on a perfect day for cooking outdoors.  He also told me his wife loved the salmon.  THAT too is what this blog is all about!

Trey’s Cherry Balsmic Marlin, Grilled Vegies and Bruschetta

Yesterday, I got this photo from Trey.  Cherry balsamic grilled Marlin, with grilled vegetables and bruschetta!!  Holy macheral (pun intended!), this Hot! Guy get’s it! The dish presentation alone is just spectacular, with bright and appealing colors and a variety of fresh foods superbly prepared.  I’m already begging him to send me the Marlin recipe, and when he does, (and he will!), I’ll pass it along to you.  In case you didn’t notice the East End Brewery Growler in the photo, I did.  Trey really knows how to heat things up!  He’s the real deal!  He didn’t tell me how his special lady reacted to his cooking prowess, but I know her, and I know she thinks he’s a great guy alreay, and with a dinner like that, she has to think he’s graduated to Hot!  Oh yeah!  That is what this blog is about!

Good work Hot! Guys Mike, Geoff and Trey.  You are inspiring others to give being Hot! a Shot!  Keep your ideas and photos coming, and I’ll keep sharing them!

When you other guys get the courage to send me ideas and photos, I’ll post them too.  And I’ll even post the recipes if you share them with me.


On the same day


The Top Secret Hottest! Date Ever!


Ok Hot Guys, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.   In today’s world of high technology gadgetry, romance is frequently  played out in sexting and steamy YouTube minutes.  And to keep things lively and interesting, by all means indulge in those pleasures every now and again.

But, here’s a Top Secret:  most women will never settle for that kind of romance for very long, and its less time than you think!  Yeah Guys, it’s called a ‘relationship’ for a reason.  And take my word for it, Advanced Stage Relationships (ASRs) are a nearly impossible quest using your IPhone or Blackberry. 

Here’ the thing.  ASRs are where you want to be.  When you have an ASR with your lady, you have graduated from the transactional one-date-at-a-time relationship to the rare but valuable position of “trusted” relationship.  Why is this trusted relationship valuable? You know…that’s the place where special perks lie dormant in your lady’s imagination until you have earned that ever so elusive place on her Hot! Guys list–and it’s a very short list indeed.

So you ask?  How do I earn an ASR with my lady?  Bad news, it’s Top Secret! More bad news!  Every lady seems to have a different lock and key to her secret.  The Solution: Hot! Guys need to search for the key by having frequent in-person contact with your lady.

Take hope though.  There are a couple of universal keys to look for.  For example, one thing I know for sure is that an ASR will only grow and develop when it’s not crumbling under the weight of boredom, neglect and the lack of imagination on your part.   Another thing I know is that INTIMACY  (Whoa! A Very Scary Word!) is one of the keys to acquiring the secret.  In fact, I’d go so far as to share that without multiple sessions of talking with her in soft tones in private conversation, the key will be forever in a secret hiding place.  And by ‘talking’ I really mean the Hot! Guy is listening more than talking.  Yeah!  This is really hard stuff!

Therefore, it’s important, really, really important, for you to create imaginative situations where conversation is a main event for the date.  So it’s time for us to venture into the simplest of all ‘cooking’, and turn it into one of the Top Secret Hottest! Date Ever!  You can do this!  I know you can!

It’s called a Picnic!  I don’t know a lady who doesn’t love a picnic, particularly if the Hot! Guy has handled all the preparations, chosen the perfect day, and selected an intimate spot in a park or near a water feature.  And if you make it a surprise, I guarantee you’ll be earning Bonus WOW! Points.

And Hot! Guys, this is a piece of cake.  Just remember the food is not the main event–this is all about getting closer to her heart and gaining some intimacy.  Stay focused on the end game!!

For the ‘cooking’, use your imagination to create a great Menu!!  Stay with me now–I know you’re getting confused but hang in there!!

Go to the local deli, Whole Foods or upscale grocery store and buy 2 or 3 small pieces of ‘romantic’ cheeses like a soft Brie, a piece of Jarlsberg, or a nice chunk of Parmesan-Reggiano.  Buy a few thin slices of really good Parma Prosciutto or Honey-Baked Ham.  On your way over to the produce section to get a mixed selection of berries, grapes or ripe peaches, find some Greek green or Italian black cured olives for the cart.  Next on the list is a fresh-baked French Baguette or loaf of Rustic Italian Bread.  Finally, if you don’t already have them at home (which all Hot! Guys should) buy some Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO), a high quality balsamic vinegar and the secret weapon for this picnic–honey.  Stop at the bakery section and look for something sweet you know she’ll love—brownies or chocolate chip cookies are always a hit!! One last thing–and most importantly–buy one YELLOW rose.  Yellow is the color for friendship– trust me –this will be an over the fence home run!

Listen up! Guys.  If your main squeeze is a vegan, not much of the above menu is going to  work.  PS-honey is not vegan.  No problem!  Most stores have a great selection of vegetarian and vegan offerings in their prepared food section.   If she has other food preferences–again  no problem.  Just buy some of her favorite foods, keep it simple and improvise.

On the way home, go to the wine store and pick up a couple bottles of Italian Prosecco.  Don’t worry, it’s not expensive.  It comes in bottles and pops the cork just like champagne.  It’s a sparkling white wine, easy to drink, not high in alcohol and shows you have Hot! Guy imagination and class.

Now go home, get out your cooler to keep the cold things cold and a picnic basket or canvas bag to carry some nice plates (no paper!!) some silverware, a good knife, cutting board and some nice (preferably cloth) napkins.  You’ll need three or four small saucers for the honey, balsamic and olive oil and olives. Come on Hot! Guy…Man up and Just Do It!! Don’t forget a couple of champagne flutes or wine glasses.  Then grab a nice blanket for you and your lady to share, and you are good to go!

Pick up your lady in a clean car or freshly washed bicycle and head out to the selected location to find that special spot.

I know you are proud of your preparations, but don’t pull everything out at once.  Pace yourself. You have all afternoon.

Start with some Prosecco.  Talk a little.  After awhile, pull out some of the cheese and fruit and put out the bread, and saucers of honey, balsamic and olive oil for dipping.  Cheese dipped in honey is an amazing taste, and strawberries dipped in balsamic vinegar is impossible to describe.  Talk (Listen) some more. OOPs, you just answered a call or checked your IPhone—lost some WOW! Points there.  Try a bit harder!!

Now’s the time to pull out the rose, and from your heart, tell her how special this day has been for you, and how much you cherish the friendship you have with her.  If you made it this far, you have put some serious WOW! Points in the bank!! with More yet to come. 

A little later add the meats and olives to the board.  Keep the Prosecco flowing, but only gently.  We are looking for ‘memorable moments’ here, and if she’s ‘tipsy’, she’ll forget about your Top Secret Hottest! Date Ever, and you won’t get the key to her Top Secret either.

Finally, when things are beginning to wind down, pull out the sweets you brought and finish off the last of the Prosecco.  By now the heart has been warmed up but it’s getting a little chilly out there.  If the blanket gets wrapped around the two of you, well…I’m thinking you can take it from here—you Hot! Guy you!!

Hot!! Guys and Seven Fishes!!


Last year, me and one of my neighbors, who is also Italian and a good friend, agreed to be auctioned off at a big Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Fundraiser in Pittsburgh.  We promised to prepare an authentic, multicourse Feast of the Seven Fishes Dinner for up to 10 people along with appropriately paired wines for each course.  The dinner would be served in both of our historic homes across the street from each another, and we would do all the cooking.  Both Bill and I have reputations for putting on one of the best Seven Fish Feasts every Christmas Eve, and we have been doing it in our respective homes for more than 35 years.  So we have the recipes, the experience, the know how, and the energy–no problem.

At the fundraising event that Sprng Saturday evening, the auction bidding for our Feast began and mounted a crescendo that near the end included two bidders that had ‘raised’ the price to nearly $15,000.  Bill and I are aghast with delight and apprehension while this is all going on!!  The auctioneer, a sly and experienced operator, saw an opportunity to double the benefit for the Foundation, and asked from the podium if we would be willing to do the Feast twice, assuming both bidders were willing to ‘win’ the bid at $15,000 each!!  We responded like anyone answering a quetion like that in front of 1000 people–Of Course We Would!!  The gavel came down–“sold to the winning bidders–thank you and good luck Lou and Bill!!”.  We couldn’t wait to cross the room from our respective dinner tables to give each other a high five!!  About an hour later when we were a bit more sober, we crossed the room again with a different question: “‘what the hell will we serve to someone who just paid $15,000 for a dinner for 10?!!”  The pressure was on.

Bill and I and our wives, who kicked in to help out in a very big way, spent weeks digging through and comparing recipes, talking, emailing, agonizing and finally settling on the menu which was served to the first winning bidder last summer.  (The second bidder will get their dinner this summer).  While this menu has many of the traditional items from the Christmas Eve Feast using recipes from both our family traditions, it has many other of our favorite house recipes we knew our guest would love.

It took us three days to shop for ingredients and wine, and the preparations and cooking began 4 days before the event.  Our wives were specatacularly tolerant of our anxiety and last minute crises, and they were incredible in the kitchen at their own recipe contributions.  After the evening was over, we heard many of our guests proclaiming Bill and I as the HOT!! Guys of the night.

Enjoy the Menu…and I’d love to hear your comments.

Summertime Festival of Seven Fishes

 Saturday, July 9, 2011

Gli Antipasti–A Taste of Christmas in July

Fritto Misto di Pesce—Flash Fried Calamari, Smelts, Shrimp served with lemon

Baccala Matecato—Freshened and Poached Salt Dried Cod Fish, dressed with parsley, garlic and EVOO

Cozze e Vongole Meuniere—Clams and Mussels steamed in shallots, butter and white wine

Acciughe e Cipoline–Carmelized Onions with olives and anchovies

Gazpacho Martini with choice of Poached Shrimp or Jumbo Lump Crabmeat

Moletto Vino Spumante Prosecco Treviso—Motta di Livenza, Itally

I Primi

Trenette con Aragoste—Handmade Trenette  Pasta with Fresh Mint and Basil Pesto, Arugula and Lobster Parmesan-Reggiano Alfredo Sauce

Bastianich Sauvignon “B”—2009—Fruill-Venizia, Italy

I Secondi

Swordfish alla Favarella presented with Green Olive, Rosemary Buerre Blanc

Fresh Salmon Filets grilled with garden herbs presented with Salsa Verde

Fagiolini al Pomodoro–Steamed Locally Grown Green Beans dressed with Tomato, Basil and Garlic

Cavolo Verde—Sauted Cabbage

MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay—2007—Sonoma Coast, CA

Castello Di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico—2005—Siena-Tuscany, Italy


Romaine Lettuce, Red Onions, Grapefruit Sections, Gala Apples with house made

Danish Bleu Balsamic Vinaigrette

Fresh Baked House Made Ciabatta

I Dolci

Zabaione con Limone–Lemon Tapioca Custard

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte—White Chocolate espresso with Hazelnut Praline

Crostata de Chocolate e Raspeberry—Fresh Raspberries, bittersweet chocolate and toasted almonds

Ricotta Aubilocche Torte—Ricotta Cheese and Apricots in pastry

IPSUS, Duca di Castelmonte, Passito di Pantalleria—2007—Trapani, Italy