OMAHA HOME AND GARDEN THIS WEEKEND

For all my fans in the frozen midwest, make your way to Omaha’s Qwest Center this week and win a trip to paradise.

I’ll be hosting a cooking event Thursday at the Qwest center’s Cox Communications stage at 7:30 with Chef Leo Fascianella from Patsa Amore.

We’ll be cooking and laughing up a storm, and qualifying one lucky audience member to win an all inclusive Mayan Rivieria 8 day vacation worth $10,000!

Come by my booth before the show and get your book signed. Everyone that comes by gets a raffle ticket for the 7:30p show. Bring the ticket, and at the end of our show, Chef will pick a winner. The winner will be invited back Friday night to win a great trip.

Friday @ 2:00pm I’ll be cooking with Speed Herrig of Cookie’s BBQ, and awarding another winning ticket

Then Friday @ 7:30p I’ll be doing my own Culinary Cooking show, during which the two previous raffle winners will be joined by one more raffle winner on stage for a COOK OFF. We’ll do up a recipe from my book, and the foodie who makes the tastiest version will win an 8 day/7 night all expenses paid SPA VACATION for 4 at HACIENDA TRES RIOS in Playa del Carmen, MX. Food, Drinks, taxes and gratuities are included along with two spa treatments.

The luxurious Hacienda Tres Rios by Yucatan Holidays:

http://www.yucatan-holidays.com/hotels/hacienda-tres-rios-riviera-maya.php

I’ll see you in OMAHA THIS WEEKEND!

South Beach Boogie

Just got back from a great week in Miami working with the good folks at US Food.

US Food is like the BASF of edibles. They don’t MAKE food, but they MAKE sure that the food you DO get – in restaurants, clubs and swanky eateries – is fresh, delicious and plentiful.  They have an army of foodie associates that canvass the country, making sure every restaurant gets their produce, meats, fish and whatnots, in time and ready to turn into delicious dinners for you and your peeps.

They’re throwing a big party for their Freakin’ Food Army, and I was down in South Beach, shooting fun videos for the show.

We drove all over the city, looking for quintessential “Miami” food. Obviously, there’s nothing typical about South Beach, but that just made the search that much more fun. After a long day of poking around, we finally found some entertainment – at Johnny Rockets!

Check out the guy on the left… he’s a bit out of synch.  But geez, he’s trying!

Can’t wait to get back to South Florida!

ADVENTURE TRAVEL SHOW – Live Chicago Appearance

It was FREEZING COLD, yet somehow slushy on Sunday as we made out way out to the Stevens Convention Center in Rosemont for the Chicago Travel and Adventure show. But luckily that didn’t stop my friends and fans from braving the muck to say hello and eat some Fiery Food.

COLD and NASTY is perfect weather for a TRAVEL SHOW.  Record crowds crushed into the huge Convention center in Rosemont over the weekend to shop for travel bargains, gadgets and once-in-a-lifetime experiences like African Safari’s and a chance to meet ME and watch my Fiery Food Challenge show.

There supposedly was a way to get your shoes shined, but unless this was an automatic stand, I missed the boat.

The cooking stage was set up next to my book booth and filled up early with hungry travelers.  The first recipe was Mexican Hot Chocolate… with real chocolate and chili powder. Next up, a chef from the Chicago Lyric Opera did a great curry cabbage dish from Africa, and the show ended with a first year Cordon Bleu student who was missing several ingredients for his recipe.  The kid needed oil to start his recipe, but forgot to bring it. But, instead of panicking, he improvised with coconut fat and kept going…his chicken dish turned out GREAT. And everyone at the Fiery Food stage got to taste all three and was provided with the recipe.

TRAVEL ON YOUR TONGUE!  The best way to really experience a city is through its food. Every page in my book is dripping with local flavor, and there’s simply no better way to ‘be there’ than to eat. You sit, you talk to strangers… eating is the essence of travel. Which is why you have to follow the TEN RULES in the book.

Speaking of the book, my apologies to the fans who came to my booth AFTER I sold out. I had no idea so many folks would be coming by and I didn’t bring enough. How was I supposed to know that the show would break all records and draw more people than ever before??  You can always email me and order a signed copy via PayPal (contactmark@markdecarlo.com) or get an unsigned copy in bookstores or online.

Because the show was in Chicago, a got the chance to see a lot of old friends who came by the booth. Chicago Radio Legend Steve Cochran stopped by and hung out for a while, holding down the fort – kinda – while I was on stage. I say kinda, because while he was sitting there alone, a few people came by and just stole my book.  They must have dazzled Steve with a shiny object that looked like a radio microphone.

Thanks to EVERYONE who came out to talk, read, eat or laugh.  I’ll see you the next time I come home. You can keep up with my travel schedule right here.

Caio!

I traveled to Mexico… and came back ALIVE!

There’s no shortage of stories about how dangerous Mexico has become. Cartel killings, kidnappings and other forms of anarchy are ripping the ENTIRE country apart.

Well… not all of it.

As part of my ongoing Book Tour for A FORK ON THE ROAD: 400 CITIES 1 STOMACH, I traveled to Playa del Carmen [40 minutes south of crazy Cancun] to host TASTE of PLAYA on Nov 21, a food festival celebrating Mayan and Mexican recipes and culture. Earlier in the week, I did a cooking demo and book signing at the luxurious Iberostar Gran Paraiso Resort.

http://www.iberostar.com/EN/Riviera-Maya-hotels/Iberostar-Grand-Hotel-Paraiso_3_117.html

The turnout was great, and the recipes for ceviche and guacamole I made with Chef Juan Carlos and Chef Olivia were ridiculously good. You can see that video in a previous post.

I’d been looking forward to the Mexican trip for a while, especially after a few “freezing” weeks here in Los Angeles where temperatures dipped into the 60’s!  By then I was ready for some sunshine and guacamole. But I wasn’t ready for the reaction from family and friends to my trip.

“You’ll be killed,” said my mother, acclaimed travel writer Angela Rocco DeCarlo. “They’ll kill you then kidnap you.”

Hyperbolic caution from my mom was not unexpected, but what did surprise were similar admonitions coming from friends and associates. Everyone believed I was crazy to head down into ‘the war zone’. I explained that I was going to the Mayan Riviera, but they didn’t understand.

True, border towns in Mexico are currently very dangerous, but Mexico is a HUGE country. Its important to understand that Juarez and Tijuana are a thousands of miles from the Yucatan. As Jordi Sole, Operations Manager of Iberostar Resorts in Mexico explained, “When a person gets shot in Detroit, the news does not scream, MURDER in AMERICA.” But because Mexico does most of its national tourism marketing as “Mexico” rather than as distinct tourist regions [West Coast, Central, Yucatan] most Americans don’t discriminate between Cancun and TJ and wrongly assume that the entire country is a no-fly zone. But the truth is, there is a world of difference. Which is one of the main reasons TASTE of PLAYA was born.

Michele Kinnon and a staff of local ex-Pats worked 12 months to stage ToP #2, filling Founders Square in downtown Playa del Carmen with food, music and happy people.

The event drew over 5,000 people, featured 40 restaurants and bars and several live cooking demos. In the days leading up to the Festival, our hosts squired us all over town, all night long, walking up and down 5th Avenue, visiting shops and restaurants and enduring the endless THUMPING of the house music in the club district.  Everyone we met was hospitable and nice. The food was excellent, and the locals could not be happier to have us around. Tourism is the main industry in this part of Mexico. Because of that, as well as the fact the President has a home in the area, the town prides itself on its safety. Police regularly cruise the streets and highways, making sure to be seen. They generally preside over a peaceful resort town. One Tourist note: JEEP DRIVERS BEWARE. Though the town is safe, its still Mexico, which means the odds of a tourist driving a Jeep being pulled over for… something are very high. When that happens – and it will – a civilized and respectful 20-30 Pesos should do the job.

I learned that trick, along with where to find the best margaritas downtown – Bad Boys, where JJ and his band of gringos rock the beach every Wednesday and Saturday night, from the locals.  By the time the Festival rolled around on Sunday, I felt like one myself.

My main duty as celeb host of the Festival was to sign books, raffle off a $8000 all inclusive week long resort stay from Yucatan Holidays, [http://www.yucatan-holidays.com/]  and host three cooking demos with local chefs, preparing regional dishes that took advantage of all the fresh, savory seafood available in this comfortable town off the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Playa del Carmen sits on the Caribbean coast, so most of their signature dishes are filled with fresh mariscos, and spiced with tangy lime juice, onions and peppers.

The first demo featured Chef Hector Escobedo from Riviera Maya Chef Association and his delicious ceviche. Using local fish and shrimp from the West Cost of Mexico, he whipped up three different takes on the Mexican seafood salad stalwart.

The stage was packed with foodies – and people taking a break from circling the well placed food tables – all watching Chef XXX turn lime juice fish, cilantro, tomatoes, onions and spices into three different light, zesty salads. All the chefs in the area seem to share a great sense of fun and frivolity, traits they happily shared with the throngs crowded around us on the stage.

Later, Chef John Gray from John Gray’s Place did up an incredible Lobster Guacamole… that he swears he just improvised the night before the festival. Regardless, after the reaction from the crowd, expect it to become a staple of his menu.

Chef Pablo Espinosa from The Little Mexican Cooking School in Porto Morelos put together a very fresh and flavorful Tuna salad, using a juicy mix of local fruits, avocado and perfectly seared tuna. The combination of the soft, sweet avocado and the buttery tuna and fruit was delicious in the warm, humid evening air.

To wrap up the night, Chef Pepe Barrientos from Wicki’s Restaurant and Beach Club made his seemingly famous Beef Tartare. It must have been famous, because at the end of the prep, all the other chefs from the event were circling the demo stage to grab a taste of the raw meat delight.

Chef Pepe has cooked all over the world, and was as hilarious as he is talented. Starting with a slab of USDA Choice filet migon, he chopped and diced and mixed in a dazzling array of flavors to end the Taste of Playa with a big BANG!

As the Nine O’Clock curtain fell, the revelers refused to leave. They milled around, spent their remaining tickets for desserts like cookies or chocolate infused with chili, and just hung out with their neighbors. The night was dark, the streets were full and and was right in my stomach.

Taste was a big, Latin Party… see for yourself!

http://www.youtube.com/v/uIT4S6D8Qks?hl=en&fs=1

Taste of Playa #3 is currently being planned for November 2011. You can keep up with the events in Playa del Carmen by tuning into their Facebook page here:

http://www.facebook.com/tasteofplaya

All photos in this post courtesy of Taste of Playa/ and photograper: Rafael Lizarraga

Food Fest on the Mexican Riviera

As part of what is now my WORLDwide book tour for A FORK ON THE ROAD: 400 CITIES, 1 STOMACH, I went down to Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan’s Mayan Riviera to host the Nov 21st Taste of Playa Food Festival, and do some book signings and cooking demos.  One of the places we visited prior to the big event on Sunday, was the Iberostar Gran Paraiso Resort, one of five luxury, all-inclusive resorts on the  seaside property.

The beachfront is gorgeous – white sand, palapas everywhere [the palm covered huts] and because it is an all-inclusive, drinks and food were flowing 24/7. Whenever I’m down in the Playa del Carmen zone, all I want to eat is seafood, and this trip was no exception.  Jordi Sole, the Operations Managers of all the Iberostar Resorts in Mexico was kind enough to arrange some cooking demos to compliment my poolside book signing.

Lots of people came out to meet and greet – many from Canada, plenty from the East Coast of the US. And everyone was HUNGRY. If you ever find yourself in the position of feeding 70 hungry seafood fans – and you happen to have a large, gas-fired paella pan in your backyard, this authentic recipe for Zarzuela is just what you need.

Check out my video of Chef Juan Carlos and Chef Olivia making a masterpiece HERE:  http://www.youtube.com/v/QuBZs3eaQPE?hl=en&fs=1

Chicago Fox

So good to be back in the Fox Chicago studios this morning.

Even when its 15 degrees under gloomy skies, the CIty of Chicago sparkles.  The Fox studios are in a great location, just south of the River on Michigan Ave. I was coming back to promote my book signing at the Adventure Travel Show this Sunday, 1/30,  from 11am-3pm at the Stevens Convention center near O’Hare. I’ll be signing books, and giving away great travel prizes.

http://www.adventureexpo.com/Default.aspx?id=a8383584-b8b3-4a9d-8be5-223cd2db9ab2

I was greeted at the security door by my old pal Jennifer Stuzik from STUDS days, and whisked into the green room. I’m not usually up at this hour, so it was fun to watch the show.  Hosts Corey McPherrin and Anna Davlantes were great, goofing around, then downshifting into anchor-mode to cover a news story about a car chase… in the middle of the night. I thought only LA dedicated copter-cam time to those chases.

Video shows the carjacked car careening off a school bus (empty) and smashing into a light pole.  The car shakes, but won’t restart, so the carjacker who’d bene evading the cops all night long, jumped out and started running away… on ice!  It was like a cartoon… his feet were scrambling, but he wasn’t going ANYWHERE. Finally, Chicago’s finest converge on the guy and ‘subdue’ him into a snow bank.  What an idiot! There’s no better way to piss off Chicago’s Finest than forcing them to skip their morning coffee and donuts to chase some thug in a 1978 Chevy Monza.  After the snow settled, it was my turn:

http://www.myfoxchicago.com/video/videoplayer.swf?dppversion=7875

Mark DeCarlo Taking on New Challenge: MyFoxCHICAGO.com

 

Usually these kind of interviews are very strange. I walk into the studio, sit down next to a total stranger, then the red lights go on and we pretend like we’ve been buddies forever. Joviality ensues, they plug my book, and I leave – feeling only a LITTLE dirty and post-prom-ish.  But Corey had actually read my bio, so we talked Chicago and Second City friends until the light went on.  For some reason, Anna didn’t say anything – they’d framed her out of the shot, but we yakked afterwards… when I found out they are both fans of Chicago radio personality Steve Cochran – who isn’t?

I was a regular on Steve’s WGN AM Radio show for 3 years until the Tribune Company ousted him in favor of a guy who can’t carry Steve’s spit bucket.  Steve’s now on in St.Louis KRTS evenings. He went to St. Louis to be closer to Ryan Theriot – though he insists they are ‘just friends.’

http://www.stevecochranshow.com

A great day to wake up early and get my Chi-Mojo workin’

TOMORROW – at 7:45 AM, I go back to the FIRST TV STUDIO I EVER ENTERED – 2501 W. Bradley Place, Chicago, Il the TV home of the hallowed, the incomparable… BOZO THE CLOWN

TUNE IN on the SuperStation WGN