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Posts Tagged ‘Lauretta Bonfiglio’

So - Who Is Spike Mendelsohn?

Written on September 9th, 2010 by one shout

No, this isn’t Spike Mendelsohn, this is the Big Boy that I grew up with, the place where the best burgers could be found in those days. I loved Big Boy hamburgers! Since then, about the only places you could find hamburgers were at chain restaurants, and they were hardly good enough to visit more than once or twice.

Recently, I’ve heard of folks making “really good hamburgers”, the ones with chopped onions and herbs mixed into them before they’re grilled, but I never thought of them as “gourmet”. Then, along came Spike Mendelshon, the “Burger Guru”, who is setting the culinary world on its heels. As a finalist on Top Chef and writer of the new “Good Stuff” cookbook, Spike has taken the burger to tremendous heights, even to the point of “gourmet”!

I first heard of Spike and his hamburgers from Chef-owner of Bistro Boquete, Lauretta Bonfiglio. Upon further investigation, I learned that Spike grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, my home town, and I just discovered that his parents own Pepin, a very popular restaurant I’ve visited many times! Little Spike must have been cooking in the kitchen at the time I was enjoying the fine cuisine at Pepin years ago.

The other day, Lauretta shared her copy of Spike’s book with me and I immediately wanted to learn some of Spike’s recipes. I wanted to duplicate them in my kitchen. Spike’s luscious burgers inspired Lauretta to present a cooking class for Boquete Gourmet, teaching some of the many tricks and secrets that are making hamburgers the newest, trendiest “gourmet” entree.

Below is the cover of Spike’s perfect, all-American cookbook for anyone who loves great casual comfort food like burgers, fries, and shakes, but wants to shake things up with a gourmet touch, like me. Spike opened his new restaurant in Washington D.C., “Good Stuff Eatery”, and it’s always full of customers who enjoy truly gourmet dining.

As you can see, Spike also makes fantastic milkshakes, sides and salads, some of which will be included in Lauretta’s menu for her “Gourmet Burgers & More” cooking class to be held on Friday, September 24, beginning at 5:00pm. The class will be held in my El Santuario, Boquete, Panama kitchen, where I’ve recently added a couple very unique kitchen appliances you’ll soon see.

The $25 fee includes the hands-on class, recipe book, full-course dinner including 3 entrees, Lauretta’s twist on one of Spike’s famous shakes, and a glass of wine. Make your reservations today at, as seats are limited.

You won’t want to miss learning how to make Spike’s “good stuff’ in your own Boquete kitchen.
Talk about inspired!

Pacific Rim Cuisine - Underground

Written on June 18th, 2010 by one shout

The second underground dinner was held in a pouring rainstorm, high on the side of a Volcano in Boquete, Panama. It was a thrilling event, filled with lots of laughter, great food and friendly people. The dinner was overbooked, but everyone seemed to find a seat and to enjoy the 5-course gourmet dinner presented by Bistro Boquete Chef Lauretta. Diners found it to be truly world-class.

Tables were set with tiny shirts, bright flowers and twinkling candles and the affair began with drying off umbrellas, uncorking wine and getting to know each other. Guests were very adventurous, coming to a dinner with an unknown menu at location only disclosed the day before the event. Their excitement was tempered by knowing the chef, renown for her expertise for preparing many world cuisines, and her desire to always bring forth the finest available in culinary circles.

This night was extraordinary, not only because of the lavish menu, but it rained and the dinner was held on an open patio, deep in one of the finest coffee plantations in Boquete, Panama. The atmosphere was cool and cozy with the fire roaring.

Lauretta presented her menu beautifully, serving course after course in perfect rhythm. This was her menu, including dishes from six countries around the culinary “Pacific Rim”.

Sushi California Rolls with Spicy Mayonnaise and Wasabi

Thai Coconut Ginger Chicken Soup with Fresh Mint

Chinese Noodle Salad
Sesame Peanut Dressing

Hawaiian Grilled Fish Filet with Asparagus
Basmati Rice

Korean Barbecue Pork Chops
Hot Pot Vegetables

Green Tea Mousse with Sake-marinated Dried Plums

Country cuisines represented from the Pacific Rim were Thailand, USA, Japan, China, Hawaii and Korea.

The Green Tea Mousse with Sake-marinated Dried Plums was a dish from Ming Tsai’s “Blue Ginger” cookbook, an example of “where east meets west”, as Ming says. Lauretta’s twist on Ming’s recipe used dried plums instead of dried cherries, as the original recipe prescribed. This photo shows Lauretta plating these luscious, rich, little desserts.

You can see how beautifully the patio at this famous coffee plantation was decorated, but you must have been there to truly appreciate the fine food, impeccable service and friendly atmosphere of this second-ever underground dinner in Boquete.

If you’d like to enjoy one of Lauretta’s extravagant, gourmet, 5-course dinners, please let me know and I’ll send you an invite soon.

Happy dining!

Boquete’s Sushi Madness

Written on March 8th, 2010 by 3 shouts

The nori was flying in my kitchen the last three days, as students patted sticky rice, sliced raw salmon and julienned perfect avocados. It was “Sushi Madness” time in Boquete, Panama, an unlikely place for sushi artists to gather.

Bistro Boquete’s Executive Chef, Lauretta Bonfiglio, has lots of experience in making fancy, one-of-a-kind sushi rolls and she shared her skills with 35 eager students ready to try their hand at it.

Most of the fresh ingredients came from local Boquete markets. Specialty items such as the nori seaweed, bamboo shoots and straw mushrooms were easily found in David at Casa Lisa’s Oriental Market, just past the old vegetable market in the David town center.

Each student was greeted with a taste of plum wine, a handmade sushi stand for presentation, rolling bamboo mat, chop sticks and a finger bowl of rice vinegar and water. A tiny dish of soy sauce, the essence of Japanese cuisine, pickled ginger root and miniature “volcano” of wasabi, Japanese horseradish, made each setting complete. The sticky rice was indeed sticky and ready to roll.

Sushi Rice

3 3/4 cups Japanese rice, such as Nishiki (or 5 rice maker cups)
3 3/4 cups water (or 5 rice maker cups)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, add rice and cover with lots of water. Stir rice in water with your hands, then pour off most of the water, and agitate 10 to 15 times by quickly moving your hand back and forth, swishing rice against side of bowl. Rinse the rice several more times, until the water that drains off of the rice is almost clear. Transfer the rice to a colander and let drain for 15 minutes, undisturbed. Transfer the rice to a rice cooker, add the water, cover, and cook as per manufacturer’s directions.

While the rice is cooking, bring rice vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When rice is done, transfer it to a large shallow glass dish (traditionally a wooden tub, called a hangiri), so it forms a mound in the center of the bowl. Using a diagonal slicing motion, gently cut into rice with a wooden paddle (called a kijakushi), and pour cooled vinegar mixture over top. “Cut” rice several times to evenly distribute vinegar mixture. Spread out rice in the shallow pan and allow to cool. Gently turn rice over from time to time with paddle so that it cools evenly. You might want to consider using a fan if time is of the essence. When rice has cooled to body temperature, it is ready to use for sushi rolls. Can you see my paddle standing up in our perfect sticky rice? Ready to roll!

Chef Lauretta demonstrated several sushi techniques, including a fresh salmon hand-formed nigiri sushi, a popular California roll and a cream cheese, wasabi and shrimp maki roll.

Then all at once, the “madness” began. Everyone carefully patted the flavored sushi rice on the crisp nori seaweed atop their bamboo mat and designed their rolls using a variety of color, texture and flavors. There were dozens of bowls of fresh ingredients from which to choose, including crab, shrimp, wafer-thin cucumber, spicy mayonnaise, toasted, white and black sesame seeds.

The creativity was infectious, as just the right combinations were rolled into perfect, gorgeous and delicious sushi, as you can see. A little saki helped to make the evening even more "authentic" Japanese. Thanks to David for hand-making a sushi stand for each student and to Lauretta for sharing the "essence of Japanese cuisine" with all of us.


Three “Sushi Madness” Cooking Classes

Written on February 11th, 2010 by 12 shouts

For several months, folks have been asking for a cooking class featuring Japanese Sushi, and here it is!   The Bistro Boquete’s Executive Chef, Lauretta Bonfiglio, will present three “Sushi Madness” cooking classes, as you’ve never seen sushi before. She has been making sushi for many years and she’s happy to share her expertise with us.

Because of overwhelming demand, there are now three dates for these hands-on classes, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, March 4, 5 & 6, all begin at 5:00pm.  They will be held in my kitchen in El Santuario, Boquete, Panama, overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Traditional Japanese cuisine is intriguing, appealing, healthy and easy to make, once you learn Lauretta’s techniques of preparation.  How to use a Bento Box will be demonstrated. This is an unusual method of presentation that is so popular in Japan.

As an extra attraction, you’ll learn to make Sukiyaki, a traditional dish in Japan that is made with bamboo sprouts, beef tenderloin and other oriental ingredients easily found in Boquete.

The Saki, Plum wine and Green tea will be flowing.  You’ll enjoy the ease of learning to make a beautiful dessert containing a most unusual ingredient.  Once you know how to make it, you’ll want to serve it to friends often.

This is a photo of Sushi stands awaiting their final finish.   Each student will receive a take-home hand-made sushi stand, bamboo sushi rolling mat, chopsticks and chopstick rest as part of the tuition fee of $35.

Please make your reservation now, as space is limited to 12 students in each class.  You may email me at or add a comment to this post.  Please indicate which class is best for you and include your phone number. I’ll send you an immediate response.

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