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Friday, August 12, 2005 

Happy Chef Blogging Friday!

Meet the Border Gals! Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, two too hot tamales!

The talents of Mary Sue Susan are in much demand, which keeps them busy, busy, busy.

They run their restaurant
Border Grill in Santa Monica, which is consistently ranked among L.A.'s top 40 restaurants by the L.A. Times and has also been named "One of the Best Restaurants in America," by Gourmet Magazine. Los Angeles Magazine called Border Grill, "arguably the most serious Mexican food in town." In 1996, it was awarded Restaurants & Institutions Magazine's prestigious IVY Award. There's also a new Border Grill in Vegas at the Mandalay.

They run another restaurant,
Ciudad. The new restaurant on the block in downtown Los Angeles, features the bold, seductive flavors and foods of the Latin world, from Havana to Rio and Buenos Aires, and across the Atlantic to Lisbon and Barcelona.

They have a booth at the
Santa Monica Farmers’ Market.

Their Border Girl products are available at
Whole Foods Markets.

They spice up Sunday mornings with Food Talk - Red Hot Tamale Talk, their weekly radio show. From 9 am to 11 am on KFI 640AM in Southern California.

They have an
online newsletter.

They have authored four cookbooks: Cooking With Too Hot Tamales, (William Morrow, 1997) offers all the recipe highlights, tricks, tips and photos from their TV show; Cantina, (Sunset, 1996) is part of a Sunset Books series entitled "Casual Cuisines of the World;" Mesa Mexicana (1994) is already in its second printing; and City Cuisine (1989) was nominated for best cookbook by Cooks Magazine.

Each began their cooking careers in high school (Mary Sue in Michigan, Susan in Ohio). Their paths first crossed in 1978 at Chicago's distinguished Le Perroquet, as the first women ever to work in the prestigious kitchen. Feniger went on to California to work with Wolfgang Puck at Ma Maison. They met again in France where Milliken worked at Restaurant d'Olympe in Paris, and Feniger at L'Oasis, a three star restaurant on the French Riviera. They knew even then they would work together some day.

Upon their reunion in Los Angeles in 1981, the two opened the tiny City Cafe on Melrose Avenue with only enough kitchen space for a hotplate. They quickly outgrew the little cafe. With the opening of spacious CITY restaurant (1985-1994), Milliken and Feniger changed the culinary landscape of Los Angeles forever. CITY's eclectic cuisine seasoned by their formal training and influenced by travels to Thailand, India, Mexico, and other exotic locales, delighted the palates of Los Angeles restaurant goers and food critics alike. This was followed by the opening of Border Grill, (the first location was on Melrose Avenue, 1985-1991, and the second and present location on 4th Street in Santa Monica, opened in 1990) which was named one of the forty best restaurants by the LA Times, and one of the best restaurants in America by Gourmet Magazine. Border Grill was honored with Restaurants & Institutions Magazine's prestigious IVY Award 1997.

Milliken and Feniger are active board members of many culinary associations, including a founding role in Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, which fosters the careers of women in restaurants, and Chef's Collaborative 2000, which advocates the use of sustainably grown products in the food service industry. They contribute real leadership and time to numerous charities, notably the Scleroderma Research Foundation, for which they have spearheaded a dinner/comedy event for the last nine years, repeatedly attracting comic legends like Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Milliken and Feniger's awards and honors are too numerable to list, but two in particular stand out in their trailblazing careers. In 1988, they were the first women ever to receive the California Restaurant Writer's prestigious "Chef of the Year" award. And in 1993, they were two of only sixteen Chefs, worldwide, to be invited to cook with the legendary
Julia Child in her PBS series "Home Cooking With Master Chefs."

Their days are spent reviewing menus, writing and testing recipes, researching and planning for their TV and radio shows, and managing a busy kitchen and administrative staff. But since Milliken and Feniger love best the interaction with their customers, they still take time to teach classes at their restaurant, and most nights find them visiting with patrons at the Border Grill.

and just in time for Sugar High Friday #11...featuring COFFEE.


Recipe from
Cooking with Too Hot Tamales,
by Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger (William Morrow, 1997)
Yield: 12 large or 20 small brownies

For cocktail parties, try cutting brownies into tiny bite-sized squares so everyone can leave the party happy, having had their sweet chocolate ending.

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 Tablespoons finely ground espresso beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Butter and flour a 9- x 12-inch baking pan and line with parchment paper. Combine the chocolate,butter, coffee, and salt in the top of a double boiler or bowl over simmering water. Cook until melted and smooth. Let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, and vanilla and whisk until smooth. Add the melted chocolate mixture and whisk until well combined. Fold in the flour until it just disappears. Gently fold in the pecans. Pour into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a rack 1 hour. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen and cut into squares. Lift out and transfer to serving dish or tin.

I used to watch them two on FoodTV when they had their show - love them!

Coffee Brownies sound great - printing the recipe now...

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