• Maria Valetta

    Fine Wine Representative for International Wine Brokers Inc., Certified Specialist of Wine, Wine Educator, Freelance Writer, and Former Host of The Philly Dish. Connoisseur of Food and Wine With a Passion for Travel and Culture!


  • A Taste of Topics


Philly’s Finest Female Chefs Are Dishing It Up So You Can Dig In!

This evening when I get dressed to head out for the night I’ll be wearing purple. Why? Because I will be judging the Dish It Up! Food Contest at The Moore College of Art. Purple represents the color for the non-profit Women Against Abuse (WAA), and this annual fundraiser raises money and awareness for this important program.

As one of the largest domestic violence programs in the country, WAA serves more than 10,000 individuals each year through emergency housing, legal services, hotline counseling, education and advocacy. WAA operates the only comprehensive program in Philadelphia whose sole purpose is to assist victims of domestic violence and their children.

Purple will be the fashionable color of the evening for both participants and patrons, but most importantly, the dishes that the contending chefs will prepare and plate! Expect purple potatoes, purple rice, purple cauliflower, and purple sauces, and of course purple drinks. It will be a fun even and I am excited to be a part of it once again. In past years I have covered it from a Press standpoint, but this year I will actually be judging along with 3 other professional palates: Drew Lazor Food Editor at Citypaper, Colin Flatt of Eater.com, and Chef Marcie Turney who was last years Purple Dish Award Winner!

The event starts tonight at 5:30pm Tickets are available AT THE DOOR so come out and join me! Expect top chef plates, crazy cocktails and live entertainment. NBC’s Bill Henley will Host and Announce the winner of this years PURPLE DISH AWARD by 8pm!

This year’s event has even expanded to include a fashionable aspect, with Jay McCarroll, fashion designer and winner of the inaugural season of Project Runway providing live coverage from the “purple carpet”. Expect Jay to be wearing his new purple shoes as he seeks out the best showcase of purple-wear for the Purple Style Contest.

Lastly, sweets will have their chance to shine as the three talented bakers compete for the Purple Cupcake Award. I’m expecting berry frosting for sure.

I’ll be judging according to taste, presentation and of course the creative use of the color purple! I hope I will see you there….in purple.😉


Ann Jamavan, Jasmine Rice







Effie Bouikidis, Effie’s Greek Restaurant






Angela Iovino, Michele Iovino and chef Rosalba Morici, Girasole

Francesca Kauffman and chef Franca DiRenzo, Tre Scalini





Victoria Tyson, Victoria’s Kitchen







Susan Schlisman, Devil’s Alley / Smokin’ Betty’s



Ali Waks, AHW Consulting

Chef at Delicatessen



Rachel Klein, Miss Rachel’s Pantry





Brooke Higgins, Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse







Bridget Foy, Bridget Foys






Meet the cupcake competitors

Kylie Tsai, Cups & Chairs Tea Cafe

Kristen Piano, Social Sweets






Cinda Blake, Lil Miss Cupkakes

From The Chef’s Kitchen to your Kitchen

  • Chef Scarduzio on set in The Chef’s Kitchen. Photo: M. Valetta
    Posted in the Weekly Press
    • Wed, Feb 01, 2012
    By Maria Valetta

    Food & Wine Connoisseur

    Want to impress your friends and family tonight with a professional chef quality dinner? Then let the show, The Chef’s Kitchen, be your “how-to” guide. Haven’t heard of it? Well you probably have flipped past it with the TV remote and didn’t even know it. But if you like to cook, and enjoy trying new recipes without the nonsense of reality chef drama, then you might want to replace your weekly Food Network fix with The Chef’s Kitchen.

    An independently sponsored show, it’s a guide to learning tips and techniques of the trade from the region’s best chefs. Chefs don’t often get the respect and attention they deserve when they are behind the scenes in the restaurant. They create flavorful dishes that are sent out and devoured in 20 minutes or less. This half hour show gives them the spotlight without having to compete against another chef. It is completely about them, their recipes and their craft.

    Missed something the chef threw into the pan? Don’t worry, all of the recipes are posted online making it easy to print and proceed to the kitchen. So where can you find this fabulous food show? Everywhere it seems: READ MORE HERE

Looking for the Best Chilean Wines???

Look for the 2010 Award Winning Vintage

An International panel of wine judges ranging from Brazil to Hong Kong, recently met in Santiago, Chile to swirl, sniff and sip the regions best wines. Both white and red, as well as rosé wines, were entered in different categories of the competition known as The 9th Annual Wines of Chile Awards.

Top of the crop?? Syrah. The grape seems to perform extremely well in the country’s Mediterranean climate. This is the third consecutive year that a Syrah varietal wine has taken top honors. The Best in Show distinction award proudly honored the Tamaya Winery located in Limarí Valley for their high performing Winemaker’s Selection 2010 Syrah. Which other types of wines got the judges attention? Riesling was a standout among the white category and Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, and even Carignan were among the noteworthy reds. Overall though, the Syrahs were the standouts! Here is a list of the winning wines (thanks to The Wine Hub) should you choose to seek out a bottle for your collection or consumption:

The Best in Category winners of this year’s Annual Wines of Chile Awards

Sparkling: Miguel Torres Santa Digna Estelado 2010

Sauvignon Blanc: Viña San Pedro Castillo de Molina Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Elquí Valley

Chardonnay: Tamaya Reserva Chardonnay 2010, Limarí Valley

Other Whites (1): Casa Marin Miramar Vineyard Riesling 2009, San Antonio Valley
Other Whites (2): Concha y Toro Terrunyo Riesling 2011, Casablanca Valley

Rosé: Viña Leyda Loica Vineyard Pinot Noir Rosé 2010, San Antonio Valley

Pinot Noir: Undurraga Terroir Hunter Leyda Pinot Noir 2010, San Antonio Valley

Syrah (1): Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Syrah 2009, Limarí Valley
Syrah (2): Mayu Reserva Syrah 2009, Elquí Valley
Syrah (3): Tamaya Winemaker’s Selection Syrah 2010, Limarí Valley

Carmenere: Casa Silva Doña Dominga Gran Reserva Andes Vineyard Carmenere 2010, Colchagua Valley

Cabernet Sauvignon: Hacienda Araucano Gran Araucano Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Colchagua Valley

Red Blend: Tamaya MCS Reserva 2010, Limarí Valley

Other Reds (1): Gillmore Hacedor de Mundos Cabernet Franc 2008, Maule Valley
Other Reds (2): Santa Ema Amplus Carignan 2009, Cachapoal Valley

Late Harveset: Cono Sur Cosecha Noble 2010, Bío Bío Valley

Best in Show: Tamaya Winemaker’s Selection Syrah 2010, Limarí Valley
Best Value White: Viña San Pedro Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Elquí Valley
Best Value Red: Porta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Aconcagua Valley

New Year’s Idea: Learn a New Skill

Why not give WIINEMAKING a shot?? You love wine, drink wine, buy wine, right? So why not make wine?? Sure your uncle Giuseppe probably could give you a lesson from his basement on how to use a plastic trashcan as a fermenting “tank”. And his

The Wine Room Cellar. Picture from The Wine Room Web Siteg

wine is probably passable…maybe even decent, but if you really want to get the ‘hands-on’ winemaker feel, using top-notch equipment in a true winemaking environment, then I suggest you check out the one of the Open House/Racking Events at The  Wine Room of Cherry Hill.

Here in a large open “cellar”, you have a chance to work with actual grapes, use professional winemaking equipment, and learn all the steps to create your own personalized wine. You can make a varietal wine, i.e. Sangiovese, the same grape used to make the famous Italian wine Chianti, or you could choose to try your hand at the art of blending and create a big, full-bodied, Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah blend. You’re the winemaker, so you get to decided.

Grapes are brought in from California in September/October, and from Chile in May.  Right now, the 2011 California Winemakers, having already crushed, pressed and barreled their wine, are moving on to the next step: Racking (the removal of sediment from the barrel).

This is also happens to be one of the “Wine Club” winemaking sessions, and you are invited! Racking events lend an opportunity to observe the actual racking process and of course visit (and taste) some wine. The Wine Room staff will be racking barrels continuously during the Open House/Racking Event.  Just pop-in during the listed time slots on any of the three dates listed below and check out whats brewing–er fermenting!

All wine lovers are welcome!  If you like what you see and want to get involved, grab a couple of friends and go in on a Chilean Winemaking Package: the 2012 Chilean Winemaking Season begins early May!

Reservations are not required to attend the end of January events, so stop in to see (and taste) what all the buzz is about! And as is the case for all open houses, an anti pasta table with bread, cheese and such, and of course many wines to sample will be stationed around the cellar! Sounds like a grape party to me!

1/26 Thursday – between 5 & 8pm
1/28 Saturday – between 4 & 7pm
1/29 Sunday – between 3 & 6pm

For more information about attending the Open Houses and/or Racking Events, visit www.TheWineRoom.com or call owners Kathy and Kenton at 856.424.9463 for any questions you may have. Cheers!

The Wine Room of Cherry Hill
1 Esterbrook Lane  Cherry Hill, NJ 08003-4001

(856) 424-9463

Thank you, and as always, please contact us with questions by responding to this email, or calling us at 856.424.9463.

We hope to see you at one of the Open House / Racking Events.


Explore Cuisines and Cultures From Around the World

This new Video Series I recently came across through a group I belong to on Linked In, reminds me of the local Philly video show ‘The Philly Dish’ that I used to host for Philly.com.  From the trailer shown here, it’s sure to be a fun and flavorful look into the kitchens and lifestyles of some of the world’s most highly acclaimed chefs.  And possibly a chance to learn a secret recipe or cooking technique too. The Muses Productions’ team really knows how to glam up the gourmet world!


Let me know if you have heard of the series, and give me your thoughts and feedback.


Cuisine Culture

Festive Epicurean Events

As Featured in the Weekly Press
• Tue, Dec 13, 2011

By Maria Valetta

Food and Wine Connoisseur

Tis the holiday season; a time for giving, a time for cheer;

a time for celebrations to bring in the New Year.

A dress for your daughter, new shoes for your son,

my goodness the shopping has only begun.

Now what to get Mom? And what to get Dad?

a gift card for dinner would make them glad!

The city is full of great food to explore;

it’s the perfect gift for family and more.

But don’t forget to be good to yourself,

don’t overdo it like a Santa’s elf.

Take an evening to enjoy and indulge,

in the events and festivities the city beholds.

Click HERE to see the list of exciting events happening in and around flavorful Philadelphia!


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