Caffeine and Kilos

1464369134556Throughout my career I have met some incredible people.  I have had a lot of chances to help and work with some amazing individuals.  With my journey starting this blog I never thought that I would even be a writer or someone that people look to for advice in the field I am in.  Actually it has turned into something quite the opposite, I am writing not only for myself but for and amazing company.  Caffeine and Kilos has asked me to write for their blog once a month. In these articles I will be touching on foods in season and ways you can use them.  This is and honor, and as I post things on their blog I will post them here as well, either through a link or directly having the article here as well.

I would like to thank Charlie Zamora and the rest of the Caffeine and Kilos team for their support and taking the time to let someone like me influence people though my crazy fun life through food.

Check out the latest article here:

National Harbor Food and Wine Festival

I bought the tickets months ago for Veronica’s birthday.  Finally, the end of April was upon us and it was time to enjoy a day on the water in National Harbor for the Food and Wine Festival.  This was something that we had been looking forward to for some time.  After packing some snacks, Veronica and I started our trek to the Metro station.

We arrived at the King Street metro station with no issues and grabbed a taxi to head over to the festivities.  Purchasing VIP tickets and arriving early helped, as we did not have to wait in a single line for the first hour.  When we showed up we saw many white tents covering the lot near the water.  As we entered we discovered that the VIP section was located on the pier that stretched out over the water.  We knew this was going to be a great day.

When entering, the staff handed us our glasses and we headed to the first station.  Boordy Winery was our first stop.  We have enjoyed their wines before and were glad to see the variety they displayed for tasting.  As we tried their wines, we talked with them about their many festivals and concerts they plan over the summer.  This excited the two of us and we can’t wait to head up there over the summer.

I was amazed by the variety of libations that were at the festival to sample.  They had more than just wine, which was awesome!  They had Makers Mark, Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Bookers, Bakers, and an array of all their companies’ different bourbons.  I was in heaven and tried them all. They also had a great craft brewery section that highlighted summer ales. This was a fun area; we talked with the staff about the different hops used for the summer ales.

At this point, I had my eye on the Cigar booth.  We strolled over and I grabbed myself a nice A Fuente Anejo After my purchase, we decided to start tasting some wines, before I lit the cigar. IMG_3930 We started off with ones we knew to get the ball rolling.  After we had a few tastes, we branched off and tried things we had not tried before; a lot of varieties from Cabs to blends to different sparkling wines.  This soon led us to the VIP area which we had yet to experience.

Veronica and I walked to the pier.  Through the gates and immediately to the left was the Johnny Walker station.  This booth displayed all of their higher end Whiskeys.  It was awesome you could taste as much of the Blue label as you wanted. Right past them was the Silver Oak booth.  Veronica and I love Silver Oak wine and order a magnum bottle every year for the holidays.  It was a pleasant sight to see California wines.  We stayed at their booth for a while and spoke with many of the venders about the event and how great their wine is.

As we strolled down the pier, we noticed lots of free food to sample.  There were ribs, peri peri chicken wings, sliders, pulled pork, oysters being shucked as you ordered them, and some wonderful gazpacho with smoked sable fish.  This was amazing, and by this time we were starving.  We grabbed a glass of vino and walked as we sampled the tasty bites they offered.

After trying all the great food, we proceed to tasting more of the fine wines.  One new wine that Veronica and I were told about was the Sabastiani Winery, a wine that neither one of us had tried before.  They were superb. From their 2012 Sebastiani Cherryblock Cabernet Sauvignon to their 2012 Gravel Bed Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley to their 2012 Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon, Sanoma Country.  They had flavors of cherries, blackberries, hints of espresso, cassis, cigar box, and sandalwood.  Each wine was rated a 90 or higher.  These won numerous awards to include the California State Fair.

Once we were done tasting these incredible wines, we decided to relax and sit on the water to enjoy the scenery while I smoked my cigar.  This cigar was smooth, dark, and oddly enough complemented the Silver Oak I was drinking.  We sat for about an hour enjoying the sun and being on the water.  The champagne toast at 5:30pm came quick and we thanked everyone for a great day they provided us.  This was a day that was full of fun, new experiences, great scenery, great food and excellent wine.


Veronica and I are already planning on attending the event next year.  Until my next day off………

Bronze in Cincinnati

It’s April 15, 2016… I am packing a container full of kitchen equipment.  As I check my list off, I am double checking frantically to ensure I have everything I’ll need for my first mystery basket competition.  For months, I have been practicing and preparing, waiting for this moment to represent Chevy Chase Club and make my Chef proud.

This was the first time testing my skills in this category, F-4, which involves making a 4 course menu, 4 portions each, from a mystery basket that could have up to 17 ingredients.  Chef Scott and Charles have been testing my skills for the past few months, throwing curve balls, ensuring I would be prepared for anything thrown at me.

On the morning of the 16th, I woke up anxious and excited all at once, as I awaited Artis’ arrival, another cook at Chevy Chase.  He competed in a different category.  We soon got on the road to Cincinnati, a city neither one of us had ever been to.

As we drove down into the city, we were amazed by all the wall art on the sides of the old brownstone style buildings.  We finally arrived at our hotel and began to get settled.  When we drew the curtains back in our room, we had an incredible view of the Ohio River that splits Ohio and Kentucky.  Over the horizon to the left and right, were the Reds and Bengals stadiums.  We also could see this incredible bridge that stretched across the river connecting the two states.  It was a beautiful sight to see.


Before we turned in for the evening we needed to get some fava beans for Artis’ dish.  While out running around, we found a great burger place to indulge in, the Americano Burger Bar.

The 5am alarm came early and quick.  I bounced out of bed and started getting my mind wrapped around the challenge I was about to take on.  The months of practice were soon going to be a reality.  As we headed over to the school, I was re-playing, over and over, the steps I needed to follow to make the day a success.  I knew I wanted to go first, knowing this 4hr mystery basket would take all day.

After unpacking the car and finding out where the staging area was, it was 7:30am, time for the judges meeting.  In this meeting, we would have a chance to ask questions, find out our time slot, and as well get our apprentice.  I drew second.  Reality soon set in as I picked competitor number 1.  I quickly realized I needed to have myself ready in 20minutes, get mind straight and walk into the kitchen.

The next 4 hours flew by.  I walked into the kitchen with my apprentice, David, and started dissecting my basket.  In the basket I had: Arborio rice, honey, fingerling potatoes, Bibb lettuce, arugula, spinach, oranges, quince, oyster mushrooms, prosciutto, pig totters, tenderloin, whole snapper, tamarind paste, white anchovy, clams, shrimp, pine nuts, array of micro greens, and endive.  Let me tell you, this was a task in itself planning between the courses.  After setting up my station and organizing my ingredients, I started cooking away.

Knowing this was going to be a marathon, and not a sprint, I tried to pace myself for the next 3 1/2 hours.  I tried to plan my menu to have flavors that made sense, went together, and developed a nice composed dish.  Being this was my fist competition, I want to use all ingredients and finish on time.  As each hour passed, I became more nervous hoping I would please the judges and represent my Chef well.

The next 3 1/2 hours flew by and just before I started plating I felt so nervous.  I wasn’t sure that I used all ingredients.  I cleaned up the station, made it look orderly, and double checked everything.  At this point, I felt like a surgeon before an operation. I planned out my dishes to match the plates and started setting them out accordingly.  I dove in and started plating my 4 courses, pacing myself so I did not rush the judges.  The 40 minutes I had for plating passed with a blink of an eye. I was done.  I accomplished my goal of finishing on time, using all the ingredients.  The next step was judging and waiting 3 hours for my critique.

IMG_3900  IMG_3901

The next 3 hours felt like an eternity.  My critique was about to begin.  I walked in with my plates in hand.  As I sat there, and talked about each dish, I realized all the things that I could have done different.  We discussed each dish from my thoughts to theirs.  I sat there thinking this was going to be really rough, but instead it was very productive.  It was a conversation between people who loved food. The conversation was great, as it showed me how I could refine my dishes more for this category.  As the conversation ended, I was presented with a Bronze Medal.  Although it was not a gold or silver medal, I felt like I represented myself, my club and my chef well.  I was happy, and ready for the next competition.  I waited for the others to get their critique and we all received a Bonze.  Although we all wanted to do better, we all felt we did great.


This was a great experience and I learned a lot about myself.  I learned that no matter the challenge, I will give it my all.  This honestly has lit a fire inside me, not only to compete but to branch out and put myself out there on a platform.  I have always done this with sports growing up, but cooking I have not.   I look forward to the next competition as I continue to research locations.  Until the next time in competing.


A Few Days in Charlottesville, Va

The anticipation, the excitement, and the feeling of seeing a new place yet again.  I have never been to Charlottesville, VA before and why not now?  Having friends that live there make it that much better and now after my first experience there, I want to back.

This would be the first time seeing where our friend Lauren and her fiancé, Derek, live.  We chose this great weekend to go to take part in exploring the winery they are getting married at in June 2017 and to have a little fun as well.

The drive was easy and fairly quick, as I am finding out on the east coast as I travel more and more.  We got into town early on Saturday afternoon just in time to make lunch.  We were eager to take part in the Taste of Monticello Wine Trail so after eating, we headed out to the festival.

Pulling up on the auditorium I was amazed by the little town as it reminded me of a town in Oregon I visited as a kid.  This was a quaint close nit community that surrounded the University of Virginia and at first glance you would have no idea.  We embedded ourselves into the fun of the Festival. Knowing that Virginia had a lot of wine was one thing, but to see the amount that were located within 35 miles of this town was something else.  This was a festival with wine that would rival any other across the United States.


The wine was great too!!  I had varietals I had never had or heard of before and I loved them.  We took our time tasting away until we fell upon Jefferson Vineyards.  This was our favorite by far in the bunch.  They had a Viognier and a Petite Verdot that were sublime.  Once we found these gems we got a few bottles to have with our cheese, olives and salami.


This was when we decided to call it a day and head back to the house where we could enjoy dinner, bourbon and cigars. On our way back to the car we stopped at one of their favorite spots in town, The Whiskey Jar.  This place had the most amazing selections of Whiskey, Bourbon, and Scotch that I have ever seen.  We had a drink from their fine selection and headed back to the house. As the night grew later the views from their house became better and better as the sun set over the hills of Monticello.  We enjoyed our Virginia Distillery Highland Malt Whiskey that was finished in port casks, as we smoked CAO cigars on the patio.  This was another gem that Derek had found and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

On day #2 we started the day packing picnic snacks to take to the wineries. Our first stop was Keswick Vineyards. This is where Lauren and Derek are getting married, and we spent a lot of the day here enjoying the grounds and tasting the wine they had to offer.  This is a beautiful place tucked back beneath rolling hills and a variety of estates.

Our next stop was to the other side of Monticello.  This was Jefferson Vineyards, where we found an amazing view overlooking beautiful farmland.  We sat on Adirondack chairs and overlooked the land as we talked enjoying their very tasteful wines.


Unfortunately following our afternoon and a great few days we had to call it a trip an head beck to reality.  This was a trip to remember and an amazing experience.  I would recommend to anyone, if you have not been to Charlottesville, VA you need to go!


The Chicken Farmer

Have you ever thought about having Chickens?  I have multiple times and have always wondered what it would be like having them at my home.  These past few weekends my next door neighbor has come over and we have discussed partnering to raise a bunch of chickens.  Not knowing what goes into this venture, we have been doing some research.

Now lets start with I thought this would be a simple task and it would be simple to decide the course of passage, but I was clearly wrong.  Not in a bad way at all, but in the fact that there are so many ways you can implement chickens around the household.  Did we want a very crude or elaborate chicken coop? Did we want it on wheels to move around so the chickens would help with nurturing the lawn? What kind of chickens? How many, considering that this would be two families splitting the eggs.

Now looking into the types of chickens first we had to establish which ones would be great egg layers.  Second, from the mind of a chef, which ones are also good for meat?  Third where are we going to source our chickens from?

Looking at this list of questions we decided to look at number three being that it would take a few weeks before we could leave the chicken in the chicken coup.  After researching, my better half, Veronica, found a farm near where we live that hatch to order.  This was an awesome find, being that we could know the day they were hatched and that it was local.  The place we found is Southern States Turf , and they had the 4 breeds of chickens we wanted.


The breed I wanted the most was a Rhode Island Red, being they are great for eggs and eating.  They also had the Araucanas Chicken or people also call it the Easter Egg Chicken.  They are known for laying colored eggs.  Now how cool is that!  The other two that we wanted were dual purpose birds as well, both being good for meat and their eggs, the Speckled Sussex and Cuckoo Muran.  We also choose these breeds for their brown eggs they lay.


The next step was finding a chicken coop design we liked.  Through all the looking and pondering we are still deciding which one to go for.  We do know that we will have a stationary chicken coop that will attach to the neighbors yard.  Currently, I am waiting to meet with a young man, Jonathan, who builds them to match our house at a great price, comparable to me building it myself.  Once again, this is supporting another local business.

Throughout this process I am hoping to learn a lot and not loose any chickens to wildlife.  Our goal with this is to try and understand the process of chickens and how they help a farm on a small scale. I will be logging progress here on the blog for anyone who is wondering if this is difficult or curious about the process to raise chickens in the comfort of your own home. Now until the next day off ………..

BBQ & Smoken on the off days

There comes a time in every chefs life to start experimentation.  I have always loved BBQ, the smell, the caramelizing of the meat, the sauce and most of all the long slow cooking process it endures.  The only thing was I have never really dove into the actual process myself until recently.  I mean I have done it from time to time in places I have worked, but I never looked into the science of it.  The why? The How?

Over this past year I have been doing a lot of extensive research and inquiring through a buddy of mine, Beau, who I look up to in when it comes to BBQ.  Through my exploration I have come to notice that everyone has a different wood, rub, brine dry or wet and apparatus they like to use when it come to smoking.  Does that really matter? Or is it simply understanding the science behind the smoker, the meat and how the heat forces the meat to react?

Pondering all these questions I have found that every time I have ran an experiment something new happens.  From the heat to the rub to the type of smoker used, every combination fosters a different outcome.  I love this!  I have smoked baby back ribs, chicken, turkey, pork belly, pork butt, etc. you name it I have probably smoked it at least once.  Looking back on this last year where I have really been looking at BBQ like a science I have concluded that the more combinations the more fun you can have with BBQ.

In talking with my buddy, Beau, I have been trying to also incorporate Sous Vide and BBQ together.  Through trial and error I have found this can be done before and after any sort of meat is smoked.  This was something that I ran across on Chef Steps (with their smoker-less brisket) and wanted to push the envelope a little more.  Through this I found that moisture in the meat was retained causing a juicier meatier outcome.

Following this weekend, my next day off, I will have recipes and pictures of all my experiments that I have ran in the past year. This was so much fun for me as I filled many bellies and saw many smiles based on the outcome.

Getting Started

My name is Brandon Gross and I am a Chef who enjoys discovering new things through my craft.  Over the past years I have fallen back to how cooking used to be done.  I am a believer of finding the roots to where things come from.  My goal here on this blog is to discover, learn and create.  I am not a huge writer so bare with me through this journey, as I plan to Grow it. . . Cook it…Eat it…..