And so it begins

 

On a vacation trip with the Hubbz¬†3-4 years ago, we found out about this little eatery in Bocas¬†del Toro, Panama, it is called Guari¬†Guari. We had a phenomenal 5 or 6 course¬†meal prepared by a husband and wife team and served al fresco, in an area that was not much more than their private patio. The ‘restaurant’ seats¬†10¬†people ¬†each night and, as long as you don’t have special dietary requirements, you’re dazzled by the chef’s whim and exquisite palate.

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I’ve longed dreamed of having a little place, maybe a B&B with a restaurant offering¬†limited seating and serving¬†dinners for our guests and maybe have a table or two open for locals. I have to admit that Guari¬†Guari¬†certainly stayed in the back of my mind until recently, when I began my Secreto¬†dinner series. You can come here to get a peek at what I’ve been doing over the past few months, together with a few shots–taken when I remembered to leave the kitchen and grab the dang camera! I will also offer recipes for some of the dishes I’m preparing, I mean, this is a food blog, after all!

My very first menu and the beginning of the Hubbz and my homegrown adventure.

Welcome Cocktail and Appetizer:  Cava cocktail and Pasteis de Pollo (Pastry empanadas filled with chicken  / Wine pairing: Spanish sparkling wine cocktail)

1st Course:¬†¬† Sancocho¬†Paname√Īo (A traditional Panamanian chicken soup with root vegetables and rice / Wine pairing: Kung Fu Girl Riesling)

2nd Course:   Filet of Grouper al Ajillo with Saffron-A-Roni and Chayote Gratin / Wine pairing: Felino Malbec

3rd Course:  Leg of Lamb in Star Anise Mole with a Potato and Leek Hash / Wine pairing: Chateux-Croix Mouton Bordeaux

Dessert:    Passion Fruit Napoleon (Phyllo sheets topped with a passion fruit curd and pistachio brittle) / Wine pairing: Urban Uco Torrontes

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For the Passion Fruit Napoleon, which was a major hit, I baked phyllo sheets brushed with butter and with a sprinkle of sugar until golden and assembled them with passion fruit curd and topped it with candied pistachios and strawberries. Simply delicious!

Cookingly yours,

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It’s not a secret, but it is Secreto

Amidst the what ifs, maybes and ultimately, not nows of my day job, I’ve found myself looking for an outlet, for a way to express my true self and take control of my future. I got back in the kitchen, inspired by the foods and spices I learned about through my travels and the Cooking Channel ūüôā I started remembering dreams I had, promises I’d made to myself and slowly a new picture dream is beginning to emerge.

This past April I hosted my first pop up event at home, I’m calling it Secreto Pop Up Dinners. Essentially, I’m opening my dining table to 10 diners and preparing Latin focused dishes that are paired with wines from South America, Spain or Portugal. If you remember my recipes, you know that I usually take classic recipes and tweak them by adding Latin ingredients. I’m doing the same for these dinners. The menus thus far have included things like Beef Wellington using chorizo and sofrito instead of the traditional mushroom filling, otoe raviolis, lamb in a creole sauce, and a passion fruit curd napoleon. That last one was a serious hit!

I’ve been gleeful¬†during and after the chaos of entertaining formal dinner parties and I’m slowly, though steadily, getting back on the horse. I promise to share the things I did, some of the foods I ate and the amazing places I saw, only this time I’ve also promised to be kinder to myself . What I will not offer us¬†this time around are empty promises. think of me as that great friend you hear from every so often, but can’t wait until your next catch up session. You know the one. No matter how much time or spaces elapses, you have the certainty that the wait will be well worth it.

Ready? Go to the next post!

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Guess who’s back?

One door closes...

One door closes…

It’s been 3 years since my last post. Life got hectic, nomadic and I just lost the joy that cooking and blogging brought to it because I always seemed to be chasing the clock. The pressure I put on myself made it feel like another job, it was¬†no longer¬†my time to¬†envision, create and be delighted by¬†the dance of spices and fire. As always, life is in constant flux and things have slowed down and¬†are different. Day job priorities have shifted, new¬†business decisions were made and with that I’ve refocused as well.

I might’ve¬†shared this before, but part of the reason things were so out of balance these past years, was a possible move to the South America region to ¬†grow the department I work in. That was certainly an exciting prospect, one that¬†required a lot of travel to set the groundwork. It was crazy, I tell you! I traveled over 60k miles in 2012 and 2013, which allowed me to see some beautiful places, meet amazing people and eat incredible food.¬† However, as it often happens, goals were reexamined, departments were restructured and new decisions were made. So no transfer for me, at least not as a result of my day job. It has taken time to get over that realization, to let go of those dreams and¬†plans for a life in a different locale.

As I mourned that loss, I found myself slowly getting back to that joyous space,¬†back to the solace¬†my tiny old kitchen so kindly offers me. Between the memories of my travels and my¬†continued obsession with food channels, programs and books, my cooking is much more inspired¬†and inventive. I remember everything I saw and ate and experienced in the past two years, so they weren’t a loss; instead, I’ve translated it all into the flavors that now come from my kitchen. A new dream is beginning to be dreamt and defined and it has something to do with a new way to share the joy of cooking and eating and visiting with people as obsessed with food as I am. Well, maybe not AS obsessed as I am, but still avidly curious.

Two different things will be happening here: I’ll post about the places, things and foods from my travels; so if you’ve always dreamed of visiting some of the countries in South America but haven’t made it yet, or if you moved away and are feeling nostalgic about home, or if you just love to hear stories and talk about food, then this is the blog for you. The other focus is molding an emerging dream, though I’m not sure what the final destination will be yet. A few months ago I began opening my doors to ten diners and serving them the dishes I create. I’m part of the underground, the pop up dinner circuit, I’m cheffing for strangers! At least, that’s the plan. I’m about to host the 5th of these dinners and¬†my friends keep signing up for them. I’m surrounded by an amazing¬†and supportive group of friends and I know that as these develop, more and more people will come into my circle and I’ll be able to share with them¬†the fascinating food from this continent.

As for you, unless you’re in Houston and can come to one of my dinners, I invite you to sit with me while I rediscover my old digital files, recollect life changing moments and tell you about the food. Oh, the food of South America and mine.

Cookingly yours, again,

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We’re moving on up…

Not to the East side, but to our own private Idaho. Ok, not there either. We’re moving to our own piece of the internet. Yes, we are! I’ve done all the packing, no worries. The movers have come by, loaded the boxes and unloaded at the new location. The walls are painted and the place is cozy, though I’m sure I’ll find new trinkets and improvements to make as we do our living there.

All that’s left, is to have a housewarming. That’s where you come in. Take note of the new address: chefITyourself.com. Make the necessary changes in your little black book, then just drop by and say HOLA!

Can’t wait to see you on the other side!

Cooking elsewhere,
Anamaris