Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chef Budi Kazali 's Ballard Inn Restaurant brings upscale dining to the Santa Ynez Valley


When driving north of Santa  Barbara into the beautiful wine county of the Santa Ynez valley , fine dining options can be rather challenging at times. There are many fine choices of quaint locally owned restaurants serving up nice dishes with sustainable ingredients. Over the many years we have traveled in the area we have never disappointed with any of our dining options. That being said, sometimes you are in the mood to enjoy a fine dining experience and in the past that could be a difficult thing to find amongst the rolling Hills of the Santa Ynez Valley .

We had the pleasure of meeting Chef Budi Kazali a few years ago when he was a featured Chef at the World of Pinot Noir. His very imaginative cuisine with Asian and French influences kept our palates waiting with anticipation for his next dish he would present of, course, paired with the area’s very fine Pinot Noirs.

Executive Chef Budi Kazali

 Before taking over the stoves at The Ballard Inn & Restaurant in 2004, Chef Kazali, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, worked in some of the best restaurants on the West and East Coasts. Early in his career he worked in San Francisco’s renowned La Folie and the boutique Campton Place hotel. After relocating to Boston, Chef Kazali helped to open the James Beard Award winning Blue Ginger with Chef Ming Tsai, where he gained expertise in melding the flavors of Eastern and Western cuisines.

After five years at Blue Ginger, Chef Kazali returned to San Francisco, and refined his proficiency with French cuisine and technique at the acclaimed Restaurant Gary Danko. At Ozumo, a lively and upscale Japanese restaurant, Chef Kazali returned to his appreciation and dedication to producing fine Asian cuisine.

Finally, with his own Ballard Inn & Restaurant, Chef Kazali brings his vast experience to light in his own innovative way, creating memorable and delicious dishes to please the most discriminating palates. We were so intrigued with his culinary artistry that we vowed to visit his restaurant the next time we were in the area.

We headed off highway 246 and drove through Los Olivos on our culinary mission. Pulling up to the Ballard Inn , it reminded us of a Grand Southern Plantation with is wraparound porch complete with rocking chairs and snow white columns. The Restaurant at the Ballard Inn is one of the most intimate and romantic dining destinations in the Santa Ynez Valley and has been voted as one of America’s Top Ten Most Romantic Inns. With only 12 tables, candle light, and a fireplace, we can see why it deserved such an honor. The atmosphere is elegant but comfortable all at the same time.

We entered the small dining room and were seated immediately by their very attentive hostess. Our server appeared quickly afterward and gave us their very extensive wine list that features many of the area’s finest wines and a nice selection of international wines as well. We settled on a nice Gewurztraminer from Alsace that we felt would pair with almost anything on the menu. Chef Budi greeted us table side and disappeared into his kitchen to begin paining a culinary masterpiece of colors and flavors before our eyes.

The Menu is small and simple that features Appetizers like Panko Crusted local Abalone with Truffled Ponzu , Red Roast Kurobuta Pork Belly with Napa Cabbage Fondue and Pan Seared Hudson Valley Foie Gras with & Pomegranate Reduction provide guests a nice way to start. Entrée’s you are sure to enjoy include Chive Crusted Scottish Salmon with Shitake & Miso-Dashi Broth and Grilled New York Strip Loin with Shitake & Leek Pad Thai and Peanut Sauce. No matter what you may choose, each of these dishes offers an insight to Chef Budi’s culinary genius.

After lovely Tuna Sashimi gift to wake up our palates we eagerly began.

“New Style” Hamachi Sashimi with Avocado & Soy-Yuzu Vinaigrette

Hamachi Sashimi with Avocado and Soy-Yuzu Vinaigrette

Chef Budi calls this dish “new style” and we can see why. The Hamachi Sashimi with Avocado explodes with layers of flavors with the Soy Yuzu Vinaigrette leading the way. This dish was deliciously fresh with the Hamachi not over powering the dish but in perfect harmony with the Vinaigrette and Avocado .

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Sweet Potato Purée & Balsamic Reduction

Pan Seared Duck Breast w Sweet Potato Puree & Balsamic Reduction

We had heard through the “grapevine “that the Pan Seared Duck Breast was a house specialty. So of course, we had to see what the excitement was all about and were very glad we did. It does not get any better than Seared Duck Breast and Sweet Potato. Chef Budi takes it one step further by adding a Balsamic Reduction and pureeing the potato for a dish that we will return for.

Seared AHI Tuna “ Special “
Seared AHI Tuna

Chef Budi offers nightly specials and the menu can change with some mouthwatering surprises. When we were told of the Seared AHI Tuna special, we just had to indulge. The AHI was seared to perfection served on a bed of greens that made very bite memorable.

Bread Pudding w Ginger
Bread Pudding with Ginger

We usually think of a bread pudding as being quite filling and expansive. At first, we were planning on passing the dessert but after a gentle nudging from our server we decided to see why see we so insistent. This was not your usually bread pudding. Flavors and aromas of ginger and fluffy light texture made this bread pudding a nice treat and fitting end to a lovely experience that did not leave us overly full by very satisfied.

Dining at the Ballard Inn was a delightful experience. Our servers were eager to help us relax and enjoy our evening dining experience. Chef Budi Kazali's award winning French Asian cuisine melds the flavors and techniques of eastern and western cuisines to create dishes that would impress even the most distinguished diners. On our next visit we plan to stay at the Ballard Inn and experience this very special venue over several days to enjoy great dishes and explore the Santa Ynez valley from an front row seat. For more information on the Ballard Inn please visit

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The 4th Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival brings Culinary Stars world wide to The Spanish Bay Inn April 28th - May 1st

Spanish Bay Inn , Pebble Beach

We have visited Pebble Beach on numerous occasions and agree that is is one of the most picturesque areas of the world.  This beautiful area has  much to offer  from great dining and a legendary golf course.  For the last thee years Pebble Beach as  become very well known in culinary and fine wine circles with  Pebble Beach Food and Wine . Now celebrating is fourth year,  Pebble Beach Food & Wine is the premier epicurean lifestyle event on the West Coast, bringing 6,000 national and international attendees to Del Monte Forest.

The event is hosted primarily at Spanish Bay, but  the  scope of the event encompasses every property in Pebble Beach and uses local and regional staff to create a  four-day event that matches 250 acclaimed wineries with 75 celebrity chefs, and includes wine and beverage tasting, cooking demonstrations, and some of the most exclusive, unique dining opportunities available in the world.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine as earned the  reputation for bringing out the Best and the Brightest talent in the world for the four day culinary  extravaganza. The line-up is always aWho's Who of the Culinary World and offers a cross-section of the legendary to the rising stars in the Culinary world..Michelin stars , James Beard award winners, Best New Chef award winners, Rising Stars, Mobil 5 Star award winners, can all be found showing off their skills during the  event. Over the years, the event has been graced by Jacques Pepin, Gerard Boyer, Alan Passard, Phillipe Legendre, Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Charlie Trotter, Eric Ripert, Ming Tsai, Tom Colicchio, Michael Symon, Wolfgang Puck to name just a few.
Elaine Harris , Cuisineist Editor-In-Chief

Pebble Beach Food & Wine is not just about its culinary stars but  has brought legendary wines and winemakers to the central coast as well. . They have a  tradition for seeking out the best representation of wines from every significant producer you can imagine. The seminars that are  offered range from the rarest of rarities to the fun and engaging. Everyone from the passionate connoisseur  to the beginner looking for some tips on choosing a good bottle of wine for dinner. The seminars are only a part of the winery presence, the wines being offered at the Opening Night and Grand Tastings are a nice representation of the best wines in the country and the world. There are the well known favorites and then hidden gems that are only available through mailing lists. From First-Growth Bordeaux, Grand Cru Burgundies, Super-Tuscans to Prestige Cuvee Champagnes - the world of wine has been brought back to this fabulous location year over year.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine provides a view , great dishes  , culinary stars and world class wines. Does it get any better than that ?  We think not ! see you there !

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Cuisineist Kitchen is hard at work shareing a Chicken Pot Pie recipe you can be proud of


By The Cuisineist's Kitchens

The Cuisineist Kitchens have been hard at work once again. This time a very old but trusted favorite , Chicken Pot Pie. We put our touch on this traditional dish.

This is for you cooks that like to make your own work of art from scratch . It takes time but it is well worth the wait and you will be proud of your creation. Nothing in this recipe comes from a can or is frozen except for the puff pasty. And if you so choose , make your own ! Enjoy this dish and please give us feed back on your creation of this old favorite . Now lets head into the kitchen and get started.

Yield 4 Servings
Cook Time 2 1/2 hours


Chicken Broth:

1 whole chicken, 3 pounds
1 gallon cool water
2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 Red onion, halved
1 Yukon Gold Potato Cubed

Pot Pie:

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 carrots, cut
1 Red Onion Diced
12 ,Green Beans cut
4 stalks of celery diced
2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg mixed with 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano


Put the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with 1 gallon of room temp water. Add the vegetables and herbs and bring the pot up to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim well; then simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. . We are cooking the chicken and creating the base sauce for the pot pie at the same time . Remove the chicken to a platter to cool. Continue to cook down the chicken broth for another 15 minutes to condense the flavor; you should have about 8 cups when you're finished. Using a colander, strain the chicken broth into another pot and discard the solids. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and discard the skin and bones.

Next , wipe out the stockpot and put it back on the stove top over medium heat. Melt the butter and then whisk in the flour to form a paste. This is a roux, which will act as a thickener. Slowly pour in 8 cups of the chicken broth, whisking the entire time . Whisk and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken the broth; it should look similar  to cream of chicken soup. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the shredded chicken, carrots, onions, celery and beans , Stir to combine and turn off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lay the thawed puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured, cool surface. Invert individual crocks ( or one large crock ) on the pastry sheet and, using a sharp knife, cut circles around the outside of the bowls, slightly larger than the bowl itself. Fill the crocks 3/4 of the way with the chicken mixture, making sure each serving has a nice amount of chicken, vegetables, and broth. Carefully cap each crock with a pastry circle, pressing the dough around the rim to form a seal.

Lightly beat the egg with 3 tablespoons of water to make an egg wash and brush some on the pastry. Sprinkle the pastry with the Parmigiano. Set the crocks on a cookie sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Serve and enjoy !

Monday, April 11, 2011

Seven Additional Award-Winning Chefs Join Lineup of "Toques Off to Paul Bocuse" at the MGM Grand May 7th 2011

Vegas Uncork’d is one of the premier culinary events in the country . One of this year’s highlights will be “Toques Off to Paul Bocuse,” a lavish , multi-course dinner to be held Saturday, May 7, at MGM Grand. Joining chefs, Alain Ducasse, Hubert Keller, Joël Robuchon and Julian Serrano, will be Jean-Philippe Maury, Michael Mina, Bradley Ogden, Roland Passot, André Renard, Jacques Torres and J. Joho, all of whom will prepare delectable courses for this unforgettable evening. Collectively, this group represents the brightest constellation of award-winning chefs gathered to prepare a formal meal.

In honor of Bocuse and his giving spirit, Southern Nevada charity partners have been named as beneficiaries of the evening: Keep Memory Alive (the non-profit organization that supports Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, founded by Larry Ruvo, senior managing director of Southern Wine & Spirits) and the Wirtz Beverage Group’s culinary programs and scholarships at the College of Southern Nevada.

“This unprecedented event makes an important statement about Las Vegas as a culinary destination and Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit’s appeal not only to food lovers, but to the world’s greatest chefs themselves,” said Adam Rapoport, editor-in-chief, Bon Appétit.

Uniting this stellar group of chefs is a shared admiration and appreciation for legendary chef Paul Bocuse. Creator of the Bocuse d’Or—the world’s most prestigious international culinary competition held annually in Lyon, France—Chef Bocuse has influenced generations of chefs around the world and multitudes of gastronomes they serve.

The evening’s program promises “Toques Off” guests a culinary experience set in surroundings reminiscent of Paul Bocuse’s landmark French restaurants. Upon arrival, guests will be greeted by an exceptional cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception featuring stations helmed personally by chefs J. Joho, Hubert Keller, Shawn McClain, Bradley Ogden and Julian Serrano. After the elegant beginning the the doors ballroom will open, where guests will experience a meticulously conceived and prepared, four-course dinner, prepared by an impressive array of superstar chef pairings. Chef’s already announced include Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon, who will prepare a cold appetizer, and Michael Mina and Roland Passot, who will present the entrée.

Created exclusively for the evening’s program, a retrospective of Paul Bocuse’s life and illustrious career will be complemented by in-person anecdotes shared by his colleagues and friends. Concluding the evening, an elaborate dessert reception by renowned pâtissiers Jean-Philippe Maury and André Renard, as well as chocolatier Jacques Torres, will delight guests, leaving them with sweet memories of an evening spent in the company of culinary royalty.

Rob O’Keefe, executive director, Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit, adds, “Only the most exciting culinary destination in the world would dream of pulling off a tribute of this scale. We’re honored to pay homage to this icon of international gastronomy and delighted to be able to do so here in Las Vegas.”

We have attended Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit almost since its inception. It is a unique, four-day culinary extravaganza that features 25 intimate luncheons, dinners, tastings and other immersive and entertaining culinary experiences.

 Year after year, Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit draws gourmands, luxury travelers and extraordinary chefs from around the globe to Las Vegas, all lured by the prospect of partaking in this epic foodie extravaganza. Its five partner resorts include Bellagio, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay and Wynn Encore; the event is made possible by its title sponsor, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, major sponsors Travelocity, Infiniti and other national brands.

 Among the famous names joining Bon Appétit magazine Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport at this year’s events are chefs Paul Bartolotta, Tom Colicchio, Alain Ducasse, Hubert Keller, Michael Mina, Rick Moonen, Bradley Ogden, Francois Payard, Joël Robuchon, Guy Savoy, Julian Serrano, Alex Stratta and many more. To purchase tickets, visit

If you can only attend one event a year , then this is the one not to miss ! Vegas Uncork’d 2011


Las Vegas’ world renowned restaurants are gearing up for the gourmet event of the year — the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair. On Thursday, May 26, many of the best will unite  once  again poolside at The Palazzo Resort  to give guests a taste of why Nevada’s restaurant industry shines worldwide. We have attended this event many times in the past and just like a fine wine, it gets better with each passing year.

This culinary extravagaza is Sponsored by Nevada Restaurant Association (NvRA) and hosted by The Palazzo  Resort . Guests will  sample  cuisine and cocktails from prestigious restaurants and beverage purveyors in a luxurious poolside setting at The Palazzo for an evening that shows off many of the culinary stars of Las Vegas.

For those who want to attend this event in a First Class fashion   you can  enjoy  luxurious amenities at The Palazzo by booking the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair package, which includes a spacious Luxury Suite at The Palazzo or The Venetian, two general admission tickets to the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair event, 2 for 1 well drinks at Salute Lounge, complimentary line pass/admission to LAVO nightclub and purchase one gondola ride ticket at full price and receive 50% off the second ticket.

“We are excited again this year to partner with NvRA and host the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair,” said Sebastien Silvestri, vice president of Food and Beverage for The Palazzo and The Venetian. “This is an amazing culinary event poolside at The Palazzo and we welcome everyone to experience the amenities at both properties.”

“Las Vegas is the culinary destination and we are pleased to showcase our great restaurants at the beautiful Palazzo again this year,” said NvRA President and CEO Katherine Jacobi. “The Pools at The Palazzo are the perfect backdrop for this exciting event.”

Past participants at the event have included Bradley Odgen, Wolfgang Puck’s CUT, Emeril's New Orleans Fish House, Restaurant Guy Savoy, Lagasse's Stadium, Nobu Las Vegas, Prime Steakhouse, Red Square, Table 10, Valentino and many other illustrious restaurants throughout Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas Epicurean Affair is open to the public and will be held Thursday, May 26, 2011 from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. at The Pools at The Palazzo. General admission tickets are $100 each. VIP tickets are $150 per person for early admission at 6:00 p.m. To complete the evening, private cabanas are also available. Proceeds from the event benefit NvRA’s educational and scholarship programs. Book the Las Vegas Epicurean Affair package online beginning April 18 at, or call suite reservations at 702.607.4100.  

See you there ! 

Bon Appetit  !