Friday, October 21, 2011

Youngest Master Chef Puts New Twist on Old Favorites

Trailblazer in the Kitchen - Whitney Miller

Greenville, SC - At the age of 22, she was the youngest chef to win the coveted, Master Chef title on Fox TV’s season one. The diminutive Southern girl might appear to be a soft touch at first glance but Whitney Miller is tougher than she looks. And, determined.

The cooking bug bit early. By age 12, the young chef from Poplarville, Mississippi had cooked through an entire French cookbook. She mastered eclairs, tarts and other culinary treats that most are terrified to try, let alone alter, which she did. Soon, she was cooking for school functions, and even catered her own graduation party.

At 19, she was asked to cater her first wedding reception. Instead of being terrified she jumped at the challenge. “You have to be a risk taker, you can’t be afraid,” said Miller. The no holds barred chef has a special love for recreating vegetables using nontraditional methods. Creamed collard greens, carrot soufflĂ©, cauliflower Mac’ n cheese are just some of her new twists on old favorites.

The wheels of destiny started turning during her senor year of college at Southern Mississippi when she saw auditions listed for Master Chef on a web site. With the clock ticking, Whitney went to work in the kitchen and turned out a roast celery root and cauliflower souffle topped by a roast with pan gravy and horseradish cream sauce. Within the month, a film crew was at her door. It was show time and Whitney proved fearless. With 50 other contestants she held her own in Los Angeles and endured the long days filled with auditions and cooking classes from 7 a.m. until often midnight. Until Master Chef, the young kitchen wizard had never fried an egg or cooked a breaded pork chop. She conquered both challenges.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Florida's Orange Vodka

by Doc Lawrence

LAKE ALFRED, FL-Many years ago, the University of Florida’s agricultural department developed a new white grape. It was named Blanc Du Bois in honor of Florida’s late 19th century wine pioneer Emile Dubois who produced heralded wines in his Tallahassee winery. Southern and elegant, the grape was created for vineyard cultivation to become very good wine, comparable to the vinifera of Europe and today is produced successfully in many states. Florida’s Lakeview Winery in Claremont, about 30 miles outside of Orlando, first produced it and wineries like acclaimed Ponchartrain in Louisiana have developed their own wines from it.

Since Florida produces wines, what about spirits? Good question with an interesting answer.

Florida is the now the home of the world’s first vodka you can almost squeeze, 4 Orange Vodka distilled exclusively from Florida-grown oranges. Crafted at Florida Distillers, the state’s first registered distillery, this orange-based vodka embodies the essence of the Sunshine state. Distilled from 100% oranges, 4 Orange is produced from four unique Florida orange varieties – Hamlin, Parson Brown, Temple and Valencia. One 750 ml bottle of this vodka contains approximately twenty Florida oranges. With its fresh citrus distillation base, 4 Orange took me on a “trip” to Florida’s grove stands. At 80-proof, it isn’t hot, and it has subtle hints of a sweet orange and tangy marmalade that I soon found to be a new experience in cocktails.

“The French have their grapes and fine wine, and now Florida has its first orange-distilled vodka,” said Chester Brandes, President of Imperial Brands Inc., the creator of 4 Orange Vodka. Brandes takes pride in this all-Florida spirit: “Each sip helps support Florida’s local economy and citrus growers.” The bottle design is elegantly tall and frosted, featuring a design depicting a Florida citrus grove and 4 oranges.

Each bottle is marked with an authentic “From Florida” logo that depicts the sun over land and water, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s imprimatur, authenticating that 4 Orange Vodka begins in Florida’s orange groves.


Because 4 Orange Vodka is the world's first vodka exclusively distilled from Florida oranges, it further establishes that the name Florida is actually a valuable brand. Distilled in Lake Alfred, Florida, it seems to owe its exceptional flavor and quality to ripe Florida oranges harvested from the rich and fertile Peace River basin located in the southwestern part of the Florida peninsula.

This vodka is created exclusively from four distinct varieties of Florida’s signature citrus: Hamlin oranges, Parson Brown oranges, Temple oranges and Valencia oranges. The Hamlin orange is sweet with little acidity and juice content is high. The Parson Brown orange is sweet, well flavored and juicy. The Temple orange has a uniquely spicy flavor. Typically, the Valencia orange has a very high juice content with outstanding color and good flavor. Valencia, a Florida staple, has a deep orange color. According to Bandes, these were selected for their unique flavor characteristics and pleasant citrus aroma.

Each bottle of 4 Orange Vodka contains the equivalent of 20 Florida oranges that are first processed into a citrus molasses, which is then used as the distillation base. 4 Orange Vodka is not orange flavored vodka; rather, it is an orange-based vodka that is distilled only from Florida oranges. Orange flavored vodkas are most commonly distilled from grain neutral spirits. 4 Orange is the only vodka product made from neutral 100% orange spirits.

4 Orange Vodka is now available throughout Florida and in other large markets like Atlanta and Nashville. The future? Think about how well Mexico’s Tequila distillers have marketed their wonderful spirits with the statement, “made from 100% pure blue agave.”

For thirsty Floridians who love to entertain, 4 Orange Vodka fits the growing trend of farm to table. It is totally local grown and produced.