Sep 30, 2009

Fabulous Food Maven: Linda Carucci


Linda Carucci and I went to the CCA together. I graduated a few months before Linda but our paths crossed frequently. When Linda graduated, she was on the Dean's List. My diploma was Scotch taped together after the CCA finally decided to just let me out. They had had enough.

Several years after graduation, Linda became the Dean at the CCA. How did that smart girl go so wrong?

We have since reconnected and have stayed fast friends. We are usually roommates at the IACP or WCR conference every year.

The hotels change but never our curriculum. We don't get enough sleep from laughing, often drink too much wine and spend a lot of time talking faster than light! I'm a neat freak in a hotel room and Linda is messy so we make perfect partners. She totally forgives me when I try to straighten up her side (or drink the last glass of wine). Boundaries? I must remember to get some!

Linda's new position at the Art Institute was made for her. She's working like the devil in overdrive, but when we got to have lunch last week I kept thinking; have I ever seen her this happy or exhilarated?

In January 2010, Linda has invited Cindie and I to teach a food styling master technique class. It will be open to the public as well as the school's students.

Click here for more information. There will be a page about this San Francisco class up very soon!

About Linda Carucci

Since October 2007, Linda Carucci has been working as Chef Director at The Art Institute of California in San Francisco, helping to launch and direct the new International Culinary School. They will be offering two programs: Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management. They also plan to launch an Associate’s degree program in Wine, Spirits and Beverage Management.

Linda is on the board of the Asian Culinary Forum, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the exploration of Asian food ways. She is also the author of Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks, which has recently gone into its fourth printing.

Sep 28, 2009

The Mighty Bulldog Awards: Class of 1969



The feelings I had upon arriving at the reunion confused and overwhelmed me. How did I not know I would have so much fun? How could I have so underestimated my own emotions?

Looking across crowded rooms and seeing familiar faces made me feel connected to a time and place that now, truly, only exists in my memories. The memories that I can still remember, that is. 1969 was a long time ago.

The reunion party flew by and warmed me with happiness (I swear it was the memories, not the hot flashes or red wine). As I sat and looked out onto Sausalito Bay, I realized I was still Dede Vivaldo. Not Denise Vivaldo the jaded old crone from LA. I felt 40 years younger for those few hours and I became almost as sweet and nice as classmates said I was in my yearbook.

Well, let’s not get stupid.

I loved hearing stories from my old friends. Some conversations were long, some only a few minutes. Regrettably time ran out or we’d still be talking.

The reunion committee from SRHS class of 1969 deserve more thanks than any of us can offer. You hear about labors of love, but very seldom do I get to park my old ass squarely in the middle of one and simply enjoy it.

I decided since we can no longer be nominated by San Rafael High students for awards that I would bestow my own. If you disagree, you'd better have a damn good argument for your choice and be prepared to defend it! I probably won’t respond unless I know where you live (then I can ring your doorbell and leave an ignited bag of dog poop on your welcome mat).


The Mighty Bulldog Awards


Best Looking Woman at the Reunion

Patty Dahl

Pretty, sleek, natural and lovely. I so wanted to dislike her! Or at least try to. Or maybe scratch the door to her locker with my teasing comb. Does SRHS still have lockers?

Best Missed Opportunity (My Own)

Doug Milani

I’ve known Doug most of my life and consider him not only one of my oldest friends but also one of my best. He was never my romantic boyfriend. Obviously God was sparing him the pain. The last fifty years have proven that I’m hard on fathers, boyfriends, husbands, male chefs and producers. I’ve never been good around boys that I can make cry.

Best Map Maker and Impish Delight

Jean Edwards

Jean has only gotten cuter, smarter and better with age. And she has promised me a donkey ride, which is almost as good as a pony.

Best Reverend

Pamela Nelson

Pamela didn’t win because she’s the only Reverend in our class that I know about, Pamela won because she continues to be a gift from the universe to me. And when the supreme being designed the perfect messenger, he gave her angel’s hair and made her a fabulous cook. Anybody else? I didn’t think so.

Best Still Handsome

Mike Briones (Vic Goldberg and Barry Blue: you were both under consideration)

This is a tough category. I found out that men my age have it rough in Northern California. They can’t dye their hair, wear lip gloss or put on fake eyelashes without raising some eyebrows. I live 8 minutes from Hollywood and it’s a little different in my backyard. I share makeup with my boyfriends all the time. Mike doesn’t need anything but his smile, which is actually a reflection of his inner beauty. Yeah, you heard me, inner beauty. Fun, talented and gentle will always win out.

Best Kindest Person

Celeste Jessen

Nominated by Nancy Siegel. If anyone watched Celeste at the reunion, you already know why.

Best Old Friend That Made Me Cry

Theresa Moran

For reminding me that when you are born to be good and Irish, you can’t escape your destiny. And for forgiving me and liking me for all my mean, nasty and ugly parts, especially my tongue.

Best Little Bulldog Grandmother

Ginger Solmonson

If I don’t give her an award there will be hell to pay! Ginger is truly the bestest and most wonderful grandmother and Mother. She would have been nominated for Best Wife too, but I couldn’t round up that many ex-husbands in this short of time to get their quotes.

Best Jewelry

Me: Dede Vivaldo.

I only wore that big, old, shiny, flawless emerald ring (that cost a fortune) to make Ginger Solmonson jealous. Don’t worry; she saw it.

Best Graceful and Gracious Male

Roger Thomas

One of Coleman Elementary’s Original Four Cheaters. Impeccably dressed, glowing with grace and oh-so-polite. I forgot how nice a jacket and tie looks. Come on people! The ‘60s are over.

Best Second Wife

Gloria Hunt

Jack Hunt’s beautiful wife, Gloria,is really something special. How lucky they both are. I looked like her: never.

Best Ringmaster

Marj Spiliotis

Everybody at the reunion is grateful to her. Marj, you are amazing.

Best Reported Dead But Actually Alive

Dale Davis

Zombie? I think not!

Most Missed

Michael Vayssie, Conrad Imhaus and Kevin Overlid

Crap you guys, I thought we had more time.

“Please, pleaszzze, _______(insert one of the above names here) can I drive your car? I swear I won’t wreck it this time…”



Denise Vivaldo is a proud member of the San Rafael High School Class of 1969 and the author of the Entertaining Encyclopedia, Robert Rose Publishing.

Sep 22, 2009

Facebook and The Class of 1969


I had no intention of going to my 40th high school reunion. I got a postcard invitation months back and thought, I'm not sure I can even say the words “40th high school reunion” out loud, much less go to the thing.


I thought I had escaped my high school class. Then more invitations and information about the reunion started flowing via Facebook (my neglected little account where I became an expert at replying to friends on my status update). What did I know about Facebook? Nothing. I only remembered the name because it sounds like facelift! The whole Facebook concept sounded awful to me until one of my talented assistants started handling it. In fact, Blog Mistress Mandy said, “ I’ve synced your Twitter and Facebook accounts so now we Tweet, twitter and roll and they are all tied in together". Okay. I trust her. She’s snappy on a computer.


I almost love this whole social media thing. Almost.


The truth of the matter is that I am praying “Nude girl photographs” of me don’t surface from UC Santa Barbara during the summer of 1969 (I’ve noticed that people post everything on Facebook). The basis of my fear stems from the “love the one you’re with” party, which consisted of a whole lot of pot smoking, getting my best friend settled in to college life and copious talk about bank burnings. Who were those guys? No idea. I wasn’t even enrolled at UCB, and I’m sure that was a serious violation on it’s own. I can’t remember how we got naked so fast, must read that study on memory loss and long-term pot smoking, but to be honest that happened a lot that summer. Most of 1969, actually…up until Jimmy Carter? And obviously black lights and body painting are not nearly as much fun when dressed. For crying out loud, Bill Graham and Janis Joplin taught me that.


My girlfriend and I were testing our free birth control pills from the clinic and our new developing cultural power, and proving that Gloria Steinem had indeed set us free. Not to mention, the dudes were cute. I remember we met them in Isla Vista when we were thinking of trying to catch a ride to Woodstock.


Enter the reunion committee: they have their own Facebook page. Go old Bulldogs go. It turns out that they are some of the nicest people you’d ever want to re- meet. They all seem to remember me as “SO sweet and SO nice!” Really? Well, I was a contender for Macy’s Miss Teen High Board in San Rafael in 1968, but Celeste Jessen won. Macy’s gave me a job in the gift-wrap department instead of being a teen inspiration.


Maybe that was my turning point. I still give great bows. Just not that often.




I’m not sure what I’m wearing to the reunion but I do know a pearl choker will be involved. When the neck goes and it’s too hot for a turtleneck, simply wrap and tie the gobbler in pearls. My husband won’t be coming with me, which is fine because I’m much younger then he is and all that talk of me being a trophy wife gets old. My best girlfriends are coming to my hotel for a slumber party post reunion. Honestly, the only thing missing will be my mother’s stolen cigarettes and a bottle of Almaden.



Cindie's Hawaiian Birthday Party, starring Luau Peanut and Crazy Good Honey Ribs



When a woman reaches a certain age, it is best to draw attention to the face.




All food must pass me before it is considered "trash". Let's not waste, people.



Heavenly coconut cupcakes, obviously.






BBQ Spareribs, Hawaiian Style

Based on a recipe from The Spice Cookbook by Avanelle Day and Lillie Stuckey
(This was Cindie's mom's cookbook from 1964 which Cindie loved looking at. It had lots of illustrations and information about different spices and where they came from. It's the first cookbook she cooked out of by herself, when she was 10 years old)

1 1/2 cups honey, divided
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

5-6 pounds spareribs or baby back ribs

Place a cup of the honey, along with everything else except the ribs in a blender and blend until smooth.

Place ribs in a roasting pan or other large, deep dish and pour marinade over the top, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or as long as 24 hours. Turn ribs occasionally of uniform marinating.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Remove ribs from marinade and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Cook for 2 hours.

If serving right away, baste ribs with remaining honey, increase heat to 375 and cook for any additional 15 minutes.

If serving the next day, remove from oven and let cool for 30 then cover and refrigerate. When ready to serve, heat grill on medium. Baste ribs with remaining honey, and grill for 10 minute on each side or until lightly charred.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Sep 16, 2009

Shuck This: Denise Talks Oysters With The Saucy Sisters



Click here to learn how to pick, shuck and eat your oysters just like Pro Mother Shucker, Denise.

Sep 14, 2009

Blog Mistress Mandy Loves 360 Cookware by Americraft. Really and Truly.


Food Fanatics received these gorgeous (really gorgeous, Denise mentioned these would be killer for catering gigs because the pans are "buffet ready") 360 Cookware pans from Americraft and I immediately volunteered to test and learn about what they had to offer. Before I read any of the instructions or viewed the helpful video, I made an organic buffalo burger in their small skillet.

I noticed that the cheese melted completely on the burger in less than two minutes (normally I have to cover the pan). That's when the "360" made sense; obviously this pan is acting more like an oven than just a pan! Brilliant.



After dinner, I watched the video above and was blown away by the care and dedication Americraft has for their products. By investing in this cookware, I am buying 100% American made product that is also completely green, from start to finish.



Los Angeles chef, restaurant owner and friend, Akasha Richmond, is delightful in a video that accompanies the cookware, and she demonstrated a fish recipe that I had to try. Above is my mise en place: tilapia, salsa, baby spinach, black beans, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.



Before the magic began.



After! This was a huge hit and I will definitely be making it again. This was waterless, fat free cooking that was extremely flavorful. Who knew?



I added some fattening "veggie" Parmesan and corn chips for kicks. Next up; stove top cornbread. Thank you Americraft and Akasha!

Sep 8, 2009

Denise Talks Parties With The Saucy Sisters



Parties have come home again. Denise and the sisters gab about the new book, the state of entertaining and throwing a party when your husband goes to prison for a white collar crime.

Click here to listen in!

Sep 2, 2009

Special Announcment: 2nd Weekend Added For Styling and Photo Techniques for Food Writers and Bloggers!


Due to the enormous response for the Styling and Photo Techniques for Food Writers and Bloggers workshop with Matt Armendariz in Long Beach, we are offering a second chance at this class the following weekend.

New additional dates:November 14th and 15th, 2009.

Your registration form and course payment secure your place in class.

Our next classes and workshops will be held Winter 2010.

Hope to see you there!