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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania • Page 77

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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GOD G-9 PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 1994 FOOD NIBBLES She brings California cuisine here 'Hotheads' seek sauces with most fire power eggs, potatoes, beans, soups. When she and her husband traveled to the Caribbean, they'd bring back' bottles of the colorful sauces with crazy names to friends as gifts. But they were often greeted with blank stares. Tabasco in a bloody Mary was one thing, but these potions with the I-dare-you names ap-peared to be lethal. "I started to stage hot sauce parties for friends.

I'd put out a dozen bottles and a basket of saltines or Ritz crackers. Nothing fancy. There'd be a pitcher of micro-brewery beer on hand to use as mouth- wash. A gang of us would spend an; hour or so dousing sauce on crack! ers, comparing heat and flavor. There's no such thing as a wishyiU washy reaction.

Between the and the chilies, you never heard such howling and hooting and laughing. And guests would invent' their own names, usually having to. do with the supernatural. Religious Experience. The Devil Did It.

"For bigger groups who might be timid about the whole thing," she continues, "I'd make a buffet supper of fajitas with all the fixings arid set out a dozen bottles of sauce. My guests would experiment a little at a time. Shaking on sauce is a dra-matic gesture. The great the bungee jumping of cuisine-? Trainer Thompson refers to pep per sauces as cross-dressers. "They can be used as condiments salad dressings, pizza toppings, in sandwich spreads, barbecue sauces, marinades and dips," she says.

"I keep bottles right on the ti ble. And often as not, I use hot sauce instead of salt" Hotsaucery It's important to view pepper sauces as flavor enhancers, not just hot licks, as some folks call them. A good hot sauce is balanced and adds verve and vitality to a dish, not just heat. Think about it this way. Not every dish that contains salt is salty.

Not every dish that uv' eludes pepper is peppery. But if you try leaving them out, the dish is dullsville. Each hot pepper sauce has its own unique flavor, depending on its formulation. A well-balanced sauce begins with chilies for texture, color and flavor. When chilies are toasted, a subtle smokiness occurs.

Next, sweeteners such as honey and molasses are added because they act to delay the heat of chilies. Fruits such as mango and papaya often tone down the heat of Caribbean sauces laced with habanero chilies. Traditionally, a sauce's acidity comes from vinegar which gives it zip and helps to ex- SEE HOT, PAGE G-IO Let's eavesdrop on some conversation between "chili-heads" at the annual Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque. "Trade you Inner Beauty for Hell Fire and Damnation." "What'll you take for Religious "I have an extra Capital Punishment: It's legal in all 50 states." "Look in that truck. He's trading Voodoo Jerk Slather and Scorned These are hot pepper sauce buffs dealing and trading to add new samples to their collections.

Participants at the weekend-long food show are the core of a rapidly growing number of folks addicted to the incendiary pleasures of hot sauce. Among others who pack pepper sauce in their briefcases in case of an emergency bland-out are Hillary Rodham Clinton, Zubin Mehta and Bryant Giimbel. One of the leading hot sauce aficionados is a pretty, blond Bosto-nian named Jennifer Trainer Thompson. She's an avid hot sauce enthusiast with a collection that numbers more than 500 bottles. Her new book, "Hot Licks" (Chronicle Books) introduces the pleasures of hot pepper sauces.

"When you see all these people gasping and hiccuping with sweat pouring down their faces, you wonder, are we having fun yet? But a chili high is addicting," Trainer Thompson says. "I remember my first encounter with a Scotch bonnet pepper sauce, thought to be one of the hottest in the world. I doused a fritter with sauce and gulped it down. Tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought the top of my head would blow off. Once I got past the pain, the sauce tasted rather good.

I bit into another piece, and I felt this incredible rush of heat, tasted fruity flavors and, in a few moments, I felt a sense of well-being. I was hooked. It wasn't until years later that I learned that chilies cause the brain to release endorphins, a natural pain killer that stimulates the body and triggers a state of euphoria." Soon, Trainer Thompson was shaking hot sauce on everything: Kevin Schlosser SOME LIKE IT Sharon Baskin is a Pittsburgh native who wants to pass on what she learned in three years of studying San Francisco cuisine. Baskin grew up in Mt. Lebanon, earned a fine arts degree from Carnegie Mellon and taught at Upper St.

Clair High School for 10 years. While working for a non-profit organization, she immersed herself in California cuisine, including chefs classes at Tante Marie Cooking School and completing as many as 10 cooking classes a week at Draeger's Culinary Center with such luminaries as chefs Hubert Keller and Jill Branch and cookbook authors such as Alice Me-drich, Carol Field and Jim Dodge. Her class schedule: Low-fat and loving it July 1 1, 18 and 25 and Aug. $70 for series or $20 apiece. California cuisine July 5, 12, 19 and 26; $70 or $20 apiece.

Cooking for singles July 8, 15, 22, and 29; $90 or $25 apiece. Picnic barbecue 1 to 6 p.m. July 10; $30. California pastry 8-week series, including cobblers, crisps, pies, tarts, turnovers, napoleons, quick breads, creme brulee and cakes July 6, 13, 20 and 27, Aug. 3, 10, 17 and 24; $140 or $20 per class.

Most classes start at 6:30 p.m. at Baskin's Cranberry home. For details, call 772-4192. Bargain berries They're calling it Jam-Berrie' at Reilly's Summer Seat Farm. Starting today, the farm at 1120 Roosevelt Mount Nebo, will offer 2-for-l berry picking pick one 10-pound box and get the second free.

This special means berries are going for 36 cents a pound; regular price is 72 cents a pound. "We have a beautiful, bountiful crop of berries which are all ripening at the same time due to the hot weather and the heat has wilted the enthusiasm of all but the most dedicated U-pickers," according to Cherie Reilly, who owns the farm with husband Michael. "Those pickers who come are delighted with the size, taste and abundance of the berries." Reilly issues her plea to pickers with a hint of panic. "I don't know what I'd do with 10,000 jars of strawberry jam!" Reilly's is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

every day this week. (For other U-pick places, see page G-10.) Save the wine A bottle of white wine partially consumed and stored in the refrigerator starts losing flavor after a couple of days. In a week, most of the flavor is gone. The process is a little slower in red wines. Young red wines may even improve a little from being exposed to air in a half-full bottle for a day or two.

Older red wines deteriorate quickly; the delicate aromas and flavor of a half -full, 15-year-old cabernet or zinfandel may disappear after a night in the refrigerator. What's more, the color will become browner and a heavy sediment may form. That's the word from Walter Hampe, editor of the Sutter Home Newsletter. He also has an easy way to slow this process: Carefully pour the leftover wine into a smaller bottle so that the air space above the wine is minimal. Compiled by Karen Carlin, Suzanne Martinson and Woodene Merriman Oft fflf3GoGG 0 tfi Some like it raw NUTRITION There's no easy cure for gas problem By Barbara Deskins QUESTION: I suffer from gas every day.

What should I ANSWER: That gassy, bloated feeling may not come from something you ate. It may simply be air you swallowed with your food. Ill-fitting dentures, carbonated beverages, drinking through a straw and chewing gum can also contribute to swallowed air. On the other hand, certain foods do produce carbon dioxide, hydrogen, oxygen, methane and nitrogen in the intestine. Dried beans and peas, for example, contain complex sugars that bacteria feed on, producing excessive amounts of gas.

Draining and rinsing beans after they've soaked, then cooking them in fresh water washes away a good portion of the offending compounds. There is also an over-the-counter enzyme product called "Beano" that claims to help. Because there is such wide variation in foods that produce symptoms, offenders must usually be determined individually. You can test suspected foods by omitting them for a trial period and seeing if there is any improvement. People with lactose intolerance also suffer from intestinal gas, but lactase supplements usually ease the problem.

If you have a question on nutrition and diet write to registered dietitian Barbara Deskins, P.O. Box 4827, Ptttburgli, Pa. 15206. Please include your name and daytime phone number. Questions of general interest will be addressed in future columns.

Whatever the event, Great Gatherings is at your service By Suzanne Martinson Food Editor, Post-Gazette It was midnight. The party in the big tent next to The Andy Warhol Museum was winding down. The woman with the ankle-length red hair had gone, as had the Madonna wannabe with the spiraled cone bra-top. But a crowd had formed outside the party tent as they waited for their free look-see at the new museum. Great Gatherings was called on to form a human chain.

"There we were, 33 people holding hands to prevent 4,000 people from getting into the tent," says Tami McQuaid. No madcap mob rushed the bars on that Saturday night in May, but "it could have, I guess," says partner Sally Knapp Kocan. "Anything in the line of duty" might be the motto of Great Gatherings, the we-aim-to-serve party business that grew out of Kocan's waitress experiences in restaurants like Maggie Mae's and TGI Friday's along McKnight Road in Ross. "I quit college, and I had to support myself," she says of those years. Soon, customers were asking her to serve at their private parties.

The McQuaid-Kocan partnership began four and a naif years ago when the best friends, who had met at Windwood Racquet Club, Bradford Woods, recognized the need for professional servers for entertaining at home, business and community events. They called their business Great Gatherings and their contract employees "Great Gatherers." Working out of a computerized base of more than 200 names, they hire hairdressers, homemakers, grad students, even an IRS agent, for the part-time serving jobs. Certified chefs earn extra money by Gathering. Actors are also favored employees. "We'd like to say we've had Mel Gibson, but Kocan jokes.

Turnover is high and they are constantly interviewing prospective employees, "Appearance, unfortunately, is very important," says McQuaid. Their employees are not insured by the company, nor does Great Gatherings deduct income taxes from their paychecks. Joyce MendeisohnPost-Gazette Tami McQuaid, left, and Kathy Maytic, roll one of the extra tables out of the tent at the reception for The Andy Warhol Museum. At the end of the year, the partners send the government a 1099 Form that lists each individual's earnings, including their own. Great Gatherers don't cook except for occasionally manning the grill at outdoor picnics but they do the set-up, serving and clean-up for parties.

Jobs can be as small as a couple candlelight "Will you marry me?" dinner to as large as the Warhol gala which had 33 Gatherers. The Pittsburgh International Airport opening, where they provided 50 servers, thrust them into the limelight. Gatherers have served some famous folks. Although SEE GREAT, PAGE G-10 Carrots are the first choice of those who like to nibble raw vegetables. Celery is the No.

2 choice, broccoli third, then lettuce, cauliflower and tomatoes. Source: California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board. Post-Gazette.

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