Who Is on the Range?

An introduction and welcome to the Chronicle's new food blog.

Years ago when I was making salads and desserts at a restaurant on Kerbey Lane, one of the chefs and I dropped by the restaurant on our mutual day off to pick up our paychecks. When the owner saw us sitting on the patio towards the end of lunch service, he ran outside in a panic shouting "Who is on the range, who is on the range?" Ever since then, that's the phrase I use to refer to the person in charge of the kitchen, or in this case, the Chronicle's new food blog. So - Virginia's on the range here. Most of the time, gathering information for and writing my column, reviewing restaurants, and organizing the Chronicle food section is more than enough work to keep me busy. Occasionally, I still get the urge to create restaurant desserts and a couple of days of baking usually scratches that itch. But when the press release about the Z'Tejas Chile Bash Dessert Recipe contest showed up in my email back in July, I just could not resist the challenge. I'm really not much of a chile-head and I only have two

chile desserts in my repertoire, the chipotle chile fudge I make during the holidays every year and a flourless chocolate torte inspired by author Sophie Coe's book on the history of chocolate. I checked to make sure the contest was open to professionals and set out to create a chile caramel sauce to complement the chile-spiked Aztec Torte. The test batch went to the office and their good feedback encouraged me to sumbit the recipe for Aztec Torte with Chile Caramel Sauce to the contest. My recipe was chosen as one of three finalists and we were all invited to prepare and serve out desserts at the annex building of Z'Tejas on West 6th. (Boy - if the walls in that old house could talk!) We used a chile pepper template to decorate the top of each slice with a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar and served room temperature slices of the torte on a warm pool of the chile sauce with a dollop of barely sweet whipped cream. I was very gratified when the panel of judges chose the Aztec Torte to appear on the Z'Tejas Chile Bash menu this September. During the Bash, the restaurant serves five new chile dishes and donates $1 from the sale of each dish to a designated charity or non-profit. This year, the non-profit is the Sustainable Food Center (www.sfc.org). The prize for winning the contest was a catered dinner for 10 people including dinner, cocktails, equipment, and service, prepared by Z'Tejas corporate chef Jack Gilmore - a $2,000 value. Seeing one of my desserts on a restaurant menu again was prize enough for me, so I re-gifted the prize to the Sustainable Food Center and they will use it as a silent auction item at an event later in the year. You still have until Sunday, September 21st to get into your favorite Z'Tejas Grill location and order a slice of Aztec Torte for a very good cause.

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Z'Tejas Chile Bash recipe contest

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