Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Campania Cafe & Trattoria - Davidson, North Carolina

I wanted to send a quick "shout out" to Nancy and Vince, the great husband/wife team at Campania Cafe & Trattoria in Davidson, North Carolina ( for letting us take over their restaurant for a series of cooking challenges in early 2014. Added to this generosity, they also made some absolutely delicious food for us. If you're in this great college town, it is a must stop. Among the many great dishes was a fabulous Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad) which was done really well. Here is my version:

Tuscan Tomato & Bread Salad (Panzanella)

Quantity Produced:  Serves 6

1/2 pound rustic coarse-textured stale bread
6 ripe medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 /2 cup extra virgin olive oil
12oz. Fresh Goat Cheese OR Shaved Reggiano Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation Procedure-

Preheat oven to 350˚. Slice the bread into 1-inch slices. Spritz with vinegar and toss with some olive oil. Season with coarse salt and fresh black pepper, bake for 15 to 20 minutes (until golden, but still slightly chewy).

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. Tear the basil and add to the vegetables. Add the bread and toss carefully.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the vegetables and bread, top with cheese (if using) and serve. Place on a platter and serve.

Serves 6

Working in Hill Country

We delivered an interactive culinary challenge in San Antonio recently for a great organization assisting our veterans in a multitude of ways. And while we always try to feed our Southwest BBQ-fix while in Texas, the most inspired food while in Hill Country was at a tiny taco spot only open for breakfast/lunch: TacoTaco ( Based on the varied Food Network/Food Magazine notoriety pasted to their walls, we are clearly not the first to acknowledge their taco mastery.

Dispatches from Nicaragua's Emerald Coast

Followed a fun event in Naples, Florida recently with a short (2+hours) flight to Managua, Nicaragua for a week of "Rum Research". The final destination was a 2-hour drive to the Pacific coast in an area known as San Juan del Sur and a new resort called Mukul ( It is owned by the Pellas family who founded and operate the Flor de Cana rum distillery. If you find yourself in Central America I highly recommend a visit!