Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"Entertaining with Kathi" Newspaper Food Column ~ September 13, 2007

“Yow-weeeeeeee,” the blood-curdling cry shot into the lavender sky like a firecracker.

“Bring me a fire extinguisher!” demanded the crooked-toothed ex basketball player with the southern drawl, his hands waving in wild pursuit as he tried to fan his flaming mouth.

But long before he uttered the last syllables, the explosive burst of heat surely vanished leaving a nice lingering taste on his palate. Mischievous crinkles returned to his face as the soothing serenade of Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune reasserted its beautiful, lyrical resonance in the serene seaside setting.

“What in the world did you put in that sauce? Gunpowder?” He asked with a look of toothsome puzzlement painted on his face.

“Pretty intense, huh?” I chuckled. “Nothing like spicing up a meal with a little Japanese horseradish.”

“Japanese horseradish? Where do you come up with these things, Kathi? Why can’t you just learn how to cook like a good lil’ southern gal? I was thinking we would have some chicken fried steak, fried okra and pressure cooker green beans with ham hocks tonight when you said you were cooking up a special dinner. But instead we are off on another one of your exotic culinary adventures. Do you suppose we could have a little red-eye gravy with this dim-sum?”

“Oh shut up and eat!” I said as I pushed a shrimp tempura into his bushy demarcated mouth.

“This is actually some good-tasting stuff. I like the green sauce, too. Never a dull moment around here,” he said.

He was right about that!

As we dined on crispy, succulent bites of seafood and vegetable tempura in a haiku-like garden setting of hibiscus and night-blooming jasmine, I told the GRITS-lovin’ man about the wonders of wasabi.


For an adventurous duo, a tempura party can be a gastronomic ticket for a delicious and unforgettable evening that bursts onto the taste buds in an exquisite cascade of flavors. The true secret to exceptional flavoring in an Oriental-themed meal is to cover each of the flavor bases. You need the sweet and spicy, the salty, the sour and the sublime, all balanced together in a beautifully brewed alchemy of taste.

Where to begin?

1. Set the stage. Japanese food is about creating an experience unlike any other. Think kimonos, paper lanterns, chopsticks, sleek callas, cherry blossoms or orchids. Color coordinate in plums, boysenberry, cherry, black and white. Pop it with a dab of green.

2. For food think tempura, sushi, sukiyaki or yakitori. Serve a light elegant soup in lotus bowls and delicate ginger-laced salads on black lacquered four-pointed plates.

3. Don’t forget warm floral-infused fingertip towels or scented finger bowls, eating on cushions and international music to cast a spell of serenity and elegance.

4. Oops! Don’t make my mistake! It is always smart to pre-warn your dinner companions about super hot flavors!

Wasabi is a delightful sauce for so many different foods, from the traditional Japanese dishes to trendy fusions that can bring together unlikely cultures in exciting and innovative ways.

Why not do a Wasabi Gulf Coast Shrimp Cocktail on a puddle of stone ground cheese grits and frizzled leaks?

My vision is to slow roast some good southern stone ground grits with chicken broth, Vidalia onions and garlic. Stir in a liberal dash of sweet butter, heavy cream, hand-shredded Vermont cheddar and chives.

Now here’s the fun part. Serve this dish in a martini glass! A mound of your steamy cheese grits, a dollop or drizzle of wasabi, some wild frizzled leeks, and the crunch of shrimp tempura and I believe you have a dish worthy of any GRITS-lovin’ guest anywhere.

Kathi Dameron cooks up delicious culinary collaborations, many with an international and fusion flavor, that marries her local and regional sun-kissed Florida cuisine with far-flung flavors from around the globe. She is a food / travel writer, food publicist, culinary arts professional, former caterer and CEO of Kathi Dameron & Associates. She is available on a contract basis to promote food, tourism and trade in America and beyond. Need a travel destination writer? Looking for innovative ways to foster world peace and cultural awareness? Looking for a dynamic synergistic link for your next trade mission... call Kathi Dameron and Associates (850) 422-3599.

This article was originally published on September 13, 2007 in the Northeast Chronicle, a community publication of the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper.

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