Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I mean, we all have parts of our jobs that we hate. At this point, I’ve got PR jobs I hate. Building media lists, cold calling and pitching journalists, going to event after event…the list does go on. But I can’t imagine ever hating any job in the kitchen.
The reason I ask? I saw this post from Slashfood a few days ago, and it caught my eye. I guess if I were working in a professional kitchen 40 hours a week (or more accurately 60 hours a week!), and all I did was peel potatoes, it would get old. Doing anything for that many hours would be hard.
But for now? I'm enjoying my time in both my home kitchen, as well as the professional kitchen. I’m grateful they let me come back to the restaurant kitchen week after week. You have cheese to grate? I’m your gal. Want me to peel potatoes? Sure thing. Right now? I’m just be excited to be in the kitchen—and being able to witness and watch everything happening around me.
What tasks from your job do you hate doing?
Monday, September 29, 2008
I don’t have dreams very often. But when I do (or at least when I remember them), they are so incredibly real—and I feel as if I’ve been transported to a completely different place.
A few days ago, I had one of those dreams. And it made me wish I was back in my dream and not in my apartment in San Francisco. I could very clearly see the dark wood of the bar…the familiar restaurant setting…the white coat and familiar face… I could even feel the tight embrace and myself grinning from ear to ear.
I woke up confused as to where I was, and then disappointed once I realized it was just a dream. But it was so vivid, so real. Sigh, so disappointing. Why can’t we make some dreams real? Why must we just live in this world of reality?
They look like a little like a zucchini—but thicker, and covered with fuzz. Fuzzy melon is actually a gourd, and closely related to the winter melon (which I also love!) The flesh is mildly flavored. You can purchase them in Asian markets. Here’s a photo of one:
I bought two melons this weekend, for only about $3, and made an amazing dish and yummy soup.
First, I made a soup. I’m not talking your typical cream based soup. And I’m not talking about a typically ‘American’ chicken noodle soup. I’m talking about Chinese soup! These types of soups are a normal part of a Chinese meal—and usually taken for granted and nothing special. Well, I have always loved Chinese soups. And ever since living on my own a few years ago, I’ve found it relaxing to make a big pot of soup. It’s something I find myself doing a lot of weekends now. Reminds me of home. Reminds me of my mom. So this pot of soup was made with chicken, carrots and one and half of my fuzzy melons. It cooked for hours, and when it was done? A light and sweet soup. Just like mom use to make.
I tried getting a picture of the soup on the stove--but it was too steamy!
My second dish? Another childhood favorite. It’s basically a sir fry of fuzzy melon, cut up into thin stripes, and cooked with cellophane noodles (sometimes known as Chinese vermicelli, bean threads or glass noodles.) They come in a dried format, and you soak them in hot water to soften them up. I let it sit for a little while, then drain the water and they’re ready to use. In order to give both the fuzzy melon and cellophane noodles some flavor, I cook it with chicken stock. I pour a little bit in, then let the stock cook out so that there’s no liquid. Then I add more stock again, and cook it, repeat.
It’s so absolutely delicious. Fall is upon us, and I just know that winter's around the corner...I’ll be making more and more of my favorite comfort foods. Stay tuned!
Sunday, September 28, 2008
We had a great meal: warm marinated olives, the insalata tricolore, and of course pizza. We had a hard time deciding, but ended up with the Salsiccia pizza—housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions and mozzarella. YUM.
JT and I had a great time chatting and catching up. But even more than that? Watching the line. We saw two gals behind the pantry line—one seemed to be having a little bit of a hard time. The other? Totally rockin it. I felt a little bad for Girl #1—she was trying hard, but seemed frazzled and it looked like she wasn’t having any fun (and yes, you are suppose to have fun in the kitchen!) I wonder, is that how I’d be in the kitchen? Totally stressed out and always just a step behind? Hmm.
Another guy from the pizza area came down to help out. Although not the most difficult station, it was a busy station. Not only were they doing the salads, they were responsible for the hot appetizers (meatballs, grilled peppers, and soup), as well as plating dessert! With all the kids in the dining room, there were tons of gelato orders going out!
From our seats, we could also easily see the pizza area. There were four guys working this area (until the one guy went to pantry), but what was funny was watching one of the guys, I think he was the executive sous. He seemed to be expediting on this particular evening, and he had so much energy! He was jumping up and down in excitement as he was yelling out to everyone. It totally brought a smile to my face. You could just tell how passionate he was about the food he was putting out. I have never seen anyone so excited to take something out of an oven before either. I loved it.
Craig Stoll was also there working the line—much more than he was working the room. His watchful eye saw it all and he made adjustments as the night went on.
At one point, I was taking out my wallet to pay, and pulled 'Devil in the Kitchen' out of my purse. We had been talking about it earlier in the night. Pizza chef in pantry looked up at that moment and smiled when he saw the book. "It's a good one! But the end gets boring. Marco just goes on to open more and more restaurants!" Funny. Craig Stoll was watching the dialogue, and looked to the chef "You read??" Perfectly hilarious.
It was a great night—with great conversation, yummy food, and lots of excitement in the restaurant. Even as we were sitting there, we saw a line starting to form outside. Goes to show, people are still willing to wait for good food. Congrats to the Delfina crew—looks like we have a success on our hands. I can’t wait to go back!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
"At one point, Chef Ian was walking with me, grabbed a round silver tin 'bucket', and he told me the name of it. He repeated it, looked me in the eye, and told me, "Now, next time I ask for this, you'll know what I want." Yay! He had said the magic words. NEXT TIME. I had to do everything I could to stop from smiling at the thought of a next time. With all of my energy focused on that, I managed to forget the name of the ‘bucket’. Damn it!"
So. Since then, I’ve been trying to find out the name of this tool! The other night, I was recapping some of my kitchen stories to a group of friends at dinner, and as I started telling this story, I realized, I was sitting next to a chef! He would know in a SECOND what I was talking about. I didn’t even finish telling my story, I turned to my other side, grabbed Chef John’s hand, interrupted his conversation, and told him I needed help. He gave me a strange look, I’m sure wondering what I could possibly need help with in the middle of our dinner, and I started telling him the story. Within seconds, he knew. He said “Oh, a bain marie.’ YES! That was it! A bain marie! That’s what Chef Ian had wanted.
For those of you that still don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a photo:
Thank god for industry friends that can help bail me out of these dilemmas. Ok Chef Ian. I’m ready. Bring it on!
Thursday, September 25, 2008
1. Almond milk
2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal, name)
3. Asian pear
4. Baby bok choy
6. Beef brisket
7. Beggar's Chicken
8. Bingtang hulu
9. Bitter melon
10. Bubble tea
11. Buddha's Delight
12. Cantonese roast duck
13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg
14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork)
15. Char kway teow
16. Chicken feet
17. Chinese sausage
18. Chow mein
19. Chrysanthemum tea
20. Claypot rice
22. Conpoy (dried scallops)
23. Crab rangoon
24. Dan Dan noodles
26. Dragon's Beard candy
27. Dried cuttlefish
28. Drunken chicken
29. Dry-fried green beans
30. Egg drop soup
31. Egg rolls
32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese
33. Fresh bamboo shoots
34. Fortune cookies
35. Fried milk
36. Fried rice
37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
38. General Tso's Chicken
39. Gobi Manchurian
40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
41. Grass jelly
42. Hainan chicken rice
43. Hand-pulled noodles
44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)
45. Haw flakes
46. Hibiscus tea
47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea
48. Hot and sour soup
49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger
50. Hot Pot
51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)
53. Kosher Chinese food
54. Kung Pao Chicken
55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua'r)
56. Lion's Head meatballs
57. Lomo Saltado
58. Longan fruit
60. Macaroni in soup with Spam
62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk
63. Mapo Tofu
64. Mock meat
65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety)
66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)
67. Pan-fried jiaozi
68. Peking duck
69. Pineapple bun
70. Prawn crackers
71. Pu'er tea
73. Red bean in dessert form
74. Red bayberry
75. Red cooked pork
76. Roast pigeon
77. Rose tea
79. Scallion pancake
80. Shaved ice dessert
81. Sesame chicken
82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
84. Silken tofu
85. Soy milk, freshly made
86. Steamed egg custard
87. Stinky tofu
88. Sugar cane juice
89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
91. Tea eggs
92. Tea-smoked duck
93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)
94. Twice-cooked pork
95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)
96. Wonton noodle soup
97. Wood ear
98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)
99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)
100.Yunnan goat cheese
I wonder, if I had to come up with my own list of 100 food items for the world to try, what would it be? Probably a mix-match of all of the lists that are out there! This has been fun--if anything, giving me a list of new foods to try!
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Well, Friday night, I smelled like kitchen. And I loved it.
It was Day 2 of my stage (if you can even call it that!) I got there and learned that Chef wasn't even there. He had gotten Lasik surgery the day before and was coming in later. So I was brought to go meet the new pastry chef, Ian. I was going to be working with him for the day.
I felt slightly more confident in Day 2, but still wondered if I'd hate it and regret ever wanting to do this. I think at first Chef Ian wasn't exactly sure why I was there or how he could put me to work. I got a few smiles from some of the people that had seen me last time, and still some strange looks from those that didn't know me. Jamie, one of the chefs that remembered me, saw me working in pastry and told me "You're going to the dark side!!" Wow, feel the love. I did get shouts of "You came back!", which was really nice and felt great.
I talked with Chef Ian for a little bit, and then launched right into sauce making!! This was both exciting and scary at the same time. I started with a classic caramel sauce and then moved onto a dairy-free caramel sauce. So fun! I've never made caramel. Chef Ian has years and years of experience, so although pastry is truly a science, he did some eye balling and non-measuring that made this novice a little nervous. There's something about having the security of a recipe, rather than relying on my own judgment. But there’s also something really cool about seeing how talented he was and how he could work without a recipe.
As I was mixing the sugar and water with a spatula, he stopped me. Told me that in order to really get it right, I had to mix with my hands. And he took the pot to the sink and dug his hands in there, adding a little bit more water as he went along until the consistency was just right. He told me to feel it. It was the consistency of sand, and just perfect. I learned that we had to wash the sides of the pot, to make sure there weren't any grains of sugar stuck on, and that once the pot hit the flame, you were not to stir it (despite me really wanting to!)
As the day went on, I saw how the mixture bubbled over when we added the cream mixture we had just heated, and I tasted the difference between the 'classic caramel' and the dairy free version (that we had made with pineapple juice!). I saw all spice in pre-ground up form, and learned to roast my whole spices before throwing them into the caramel sauce to steep.
There were some challenges in the day. I found myself still pretty lost moving around the kitchen. I had a hard time finding the spices (I hadn’t been to that storage area before), and felt like such a failure when I had to go back to my station telling them I couldn't find them. I was told to go into the walk-in and look for the creme fraiche, and again, had to go back asking for help. Turns out, it's kept on the TOP shelf. How was I suppose to see it, much less get to it? Well, Tasha, the gal in pastry that had helped teach me last week, who was no taller than 5 feet tall, showed me how. She literally scaled the shelves in that walk-in, like a little monkey, climbing so fast until her head was eye line with that top shelf. My hero.
Another time, I was asked to grab a pint of strawberries from the walk-in. I went in there and was determined to find them. I looked and I looked, climbing to see the tops. Nothing. After what seemed like forever, I came out. Defeated again. I was looking right into the pastry station. I declared, "I swear I looked everywhere and there aren't any strawberries in there!" They kind of giggled. "They aren't in there, they're in the other walk-in." Opps.
When I had to climb onto the work area to reach the molds for some strawberry shortcakes I was prepping, I found myself still a little shy of being able to reach. The other really nice gal on the pastry team, Katie, gave me a hint. "Use the tongs." Oh! Great idea! Until you miss one and it loudly clangs as it makes it's way down to the floor behind the shelving units. All eyes were on me. Opps again.
Once I had retrieved the molds, I was taught how to prepare them. The little shortbread cakes had been prepared and cut. I was to grab the ring mold, lay a shortcake circle in the middle and then to place cut strawberries around it-so that at the time of service, they just had to add a dollop of jam, placed another shortbread cake on top, removed the ring, and a circle of strawberries would be on display. Beautiful. But it was hard. There isn't that much room between the shortbread and the mold. And you kind of had to find the perfect size strawberry, so that it would fit, without being bruised and squished. I found myself hunched over- and trying my hardest to find the perfect strawberry each time. By the time I was done with the 15 shortcakes, my shoulders and back ached. I didn't know I had been so tense! But boy, when they were done, they sure looked beautiful. And I was so proud.
I was squeezing a lemon at one point, and that's when I realized I had a paper cut on my left hand. It was so painful!! I carefully picked out the seeds and rather than squeezing over my left hand to catch the seeds, I squeezed directly into the pot, avoiding my left hand completely. Much better.
Later, when I was asked to squeeze oranges, I did the same thing. Picked out all of the seeds I could see, and then began squeezing. Well, just as Chef Ian came over to check in on me, I managed to squeeze a seed right into the beautiful large pot of what would soon be a raspberry sorbet. Oh my god. I was mortified. Was I suppose to dig my hand in there to look for it? Did I have top strain the whole mixture looking for the seed? Was it ruined? He was really calm about it. But reminded me that's why you're suppose to squeeze into your other hand. Right. Forget the pain, catch the damn seeds! (Yes, I squeezed into my hand for the remaining 5 oranges, and despite the pain, no more seeds made it in. Deep apologies to whomever ends up getting the scope with the seed.)
But despite those missteps, there were some highlights too. I scoped out what felt like hundreds of cookies. (And learned the hard way that when you slide trays into the refrigerators, you've got to think about the height of your item. Let's just say there were some squished cookies!). I also separated 3 flats of eggs (108 in total!), and made my second batch of vanilla ice cream.
I was also asked to help prepare the Baked Alaska’s- using a circle cutter to cut out rounds of the cake that had been prepared. This wasn't too hard- and I even managed to do so with my circles super close to each other, therefore using as much of the cake as possible (got to save on food costs!) After, Chef Ian noticed some inconsistency with the heights of the rounds (not my fault!!), he asked me to use a knife (yes, his knife-which by the way, has the phrase "Don't touch my fucking knife" etched into it), to split the cakes that were too high. Essentially giving us two cakes. Gulp. This required some basic knife skills. Was I ready? Some how, I thought he had walked away. I bent over and began cutting my first round. Success! Phew! I smiled and as I looked up, saw that he had been watching me. He smiled, said "Good job" and turned away, leaving me to cut the other rounds.
At one point, Chef Ian was walking with me, grabbed a round silver tin 'bucket', and he told me the name of it. He repeated it, looked me in the eye, and told me, "Now, next time I ask for this, you'll know what I want." Yay! He had said the magic words. NEXT TIME. I had to do everything I could to stop from smiling at the thought of a next time. With all of my energy focused on that, I managed to forget the name of the ‘bucket’. Damn it!
I did feel like I was getting more comfortable with my new colleagues. Katie and I were the only ones in the pastry area at one point. And she asked me, “What do you do again? Accounting?” I laughed out loud. No offense to those accountants out there, but certainly not me! I quickly clarified—didn’t want anyone getting the wrong idea! And in the pastry area, they’ve got these huge rolls of plastic wrap. I noticed on one box, someone had drawn little faces and written the names of the chefs that worked in the pastry area. It looked like a new ‘blue’ face had recently been added—Chef Ian. It was silly and cute. And it made me laugh. Well, later in the day, I saw a small group crowded around the box laughing. I noticed MY FACE had been added. Nothing could have made me happier.
I wanted to stay all night. There were already diners in the restaurant, and I wondered which of them would order my beautiful desserts. (Ok, so not really mine...but now I really get that whole 'having pride in your work thing'.)
I was only there a little more than five hours, but five hours have never flown by so quickly, and I have never been so tired! I asked both Chef Ian and the Executive Chef if I could return and didn’t leave until they had both said yes. Now, my homework? Studying my measurement conversion charts.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The thing is, everyone brings their own tools. The pastry team gals had their own cutters, spatulas, whisks, etc. On the savory side? From a range of knives, to fish spatulas. Everyone has their own stash of utensils and tools. What's a non-chef, part-time (at best), person like me suppose to do in the kitchen?
This weekend, when I was recaping this to my friend JT (who is a culinary school graduate and much more of a pro than I am), she didn't look surprise at all. In fact, she was actually more surprised that the people in the kitchen lent me their knives to use. It became clear that if I was going to continue working in a restaurant kitchen, I was going to need a knife of my own. The one I'm currently using in my kitchen? Not the best. And I'd be embarrased to bring it in. I was going to need a real chef's knife.
Since we were already at the Ferry Building, we decided to hit Sur La Table. With a 15% off Industry Discount, some of the knives were actually a pretty reasonable deal. We headed to the knife counter where the nicest and most informative guy helped me through the process.
The knives ranged in weight, and the grips were different. And of course there's the question of blade size. Off the bat, I knew the 10 inch felt too big for me. Even if it is what you're suppose to use in a professional kitchen, I didn't care. I felt much more comfortable with the 8 inch. (I've got small hands, what can I say??)
The knife man told us it was definitely best to try all the different varieties. As he put it, your knife is like a magic wand. You don't choose the knife, the knife chooses you.
We tried a whole bunch of knives. From the Wusthofs to the Henkels, to the 'female preferred' Globals (because they're so light, apparently many female chefs prefer these). We even tried the Sur La Table Bob Kramer Shun exclusive. Now that is a knife.
After trying 'em all, I settled on the Shun 8 inch Chef’s Knife. It really is the most amazing knife. I found myself going back to it time and time again after trying each of the different knives. It was just the most comfortable. I'm so excited. And so proud. I've never loved a knife before, until now. My first real Chef's Knife. Now I just can't wait to use it!
On top of that? Well, there's work. Boring. And then making ice cream (there's a reason my Peanut Butter ice cream's getting better and better, and I still have to try the bourbon ice cream recipe!) What else? Spending some time cooking in a restaurant kitchen (which has been AWESOME, but also tiring! More on that soon.) And what else? This book:
My colleague Liz just came back from the Star Chefs conference in New York City. What did she bring back? This amazing DICTIONARY style book of chefs to know. There are hundreds of chefs in here, listed with not only their photo, biographical information, and restaurant information, but also with some fun questions that the chefs had to answer.
For example, "Kitchen Tools: the most indispensable kitchen tool?", "Interview Questions: Favorite question to ask a prospective employee", "Chef to cook for you-the chef you'd most like to cook for you, alive or dead", and "Culinary Travel: Where you'd most like to go for culinary travel".
Can you see from this photo just how thick the spine is? Yea, we're not messing around, this is a serious book--and a GREAT resource. So basically, I've been reading this, as if it was a real novel. Page by page, in order. A to Z. So far, I'm at L.
And what else is cool about this? After the chefs section, there are pages on International Chefs, Mixologists, and Sommeliers! I think it shows have far we've gotten...a whole section devoted to Mixologists? How cool is that?
Then, it goes onto recipes from these chefs, pretty pictures, and then a crazy Index section. Sorted by Chef Last Name, Chefs by State/City, Mixologists, Sommeliers, Pastry Chefs, Restaurants, and then even by answers to their questions. For example, under the Mentors/Protegees section, you can see that under Thomas Keller, 21 chefs are listed. 21 people that either listed him as a mentor, or was listed as one of his protegees. So cool.
I hope to write more in the next few weeks. There's so much to share!
Friday, September 19, 2008
On another note, I bought Marco Pierre White’s book “The Devil in the Kitchen” months and months ago, but up until now, it was sitting on top of a HUGE stack of books that I’ve been meaning to get to and was just collecting dust. I had promised myself I’d finish the other books I was reading FIRST, before starting yet another one (I am currently in the middle of “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry”, almost done with “Babes in Beijing”, almost done with “Women Who Eat’” and just finished “Turning the Tables”). But after reading about the Tony/Marco debate/discussion at the StarChef’s International Chef Congress, I had to pick up the book and start reading right away. And it is an amazing book. MPW is actually really reflective in his book, and a lot of the information about his childhood is fascinating. Add him to the top of the list of people I want to meet!
And you all already know my love for books and cookbooks. I was walking to my friend’s house for dinner the other night, and in a neighborhood that I’m not normally in, and walked by this store:
My dream! A place filled with book and bookshelves? I was running late, so didn’t duck in, but may try to next time.
Rather than what I’ve currently got. Just a small bookshelf with two rows of books on each shelf—and then stacks of cookbooks and travel guides on my coffee table (that’s essentially turned into a second bookshelf!) Nuts!
Part of one stack of cookbooks...
Other books in my stack to read you ask?
The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food
Julie and Julia: A Year of Cooking Dangerously
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Glass Castle
In My Mother's Kitchen
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper
Running with Scissors
A Pig in Provence
French Women Don't Get Fat
A Year in the World
And other books on my wish list?
Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes
Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip--Confessions of a Cynical Waiter
The River Cottage Meat Book
The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
Beyond Nose to Tail
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I remember the days of Thrifty ice cream. When my sister and I were young, this would be one of the biggest treats we could get. On a Saturday afternoon, we would all pile into the car, and drive to a nearby bookstore, where we’d spend time pouring into books. My mom would go to the Mystery section, Michelle and I would go to the Children’s books, and hmmm, I think Dad kind of wandered. If we were lucky that day, Michelle and I would each get to buy one book. So there was the “Baby Sitter’s Club” phase, when we’d want to get the newest book in the collection, and before then there were the Ramona days, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and before that the “All Of A Kind Family” books. God we loved our books. Our whole family does.
And then. As if the new book wasn’t a big enough treat? Next door was a Thrifty drug store. With an ice cream counter. And it was always such a great treat to get to go over and get a scope of ice cream. I remember always thinking as we were getting ready to leave the bookstore, was this going to be an ice cream day?? And when it was, you were always guaranteed a scope in that distinct Thrifty shape. With the two little holes up top. I don’t remember how much it was back then, but it was probably close to 50 cents or 75 cents for a single scope. And it was perfect.
Those afternoons will forever be in my memory. Just such a simple way for our family to spend time together. I will always remember my yummy Thrifty ice cream cones and what a treat they were for me.
Well, now I’ve got ice cream on my mind (again), and am excited to try a new BOURBON ICE CREAM recipe!! Thanks Thomas, I’ll let y’ll know how it turns out.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Coke or Pepsi?
Personally, I’m not a huge soda person, and am actually trying to cut it from my diet, but if I had to choose? Coke! Most definitely.
Thick crust or thin for your Pizza?
Actually, I think there’s a time and a place for both. But if I had to choose one? Thin.
Rare or Well Done for you steak?
Hot Dogs or Hamburgers?
Oh really? I’ve got to choose? There’s something about a hot dog at the ballpark…but I guess overall? Hamburger.
Ketchup or Mustard on your hot dog?
Gulp. Full disclosure? I like mayo on my hot dogs! With a touch of ketchup. YUM
Cake or Pie?
Again, time and place?? A Fourth of July picnic? Pie. After a day of berry picking? Pie! But in general? Cake. Ice cream cake, please.
Brownies with a fine, glossy crust, or soft cake brownies?
Fine glossy crust! For sure. We’re not eating brownie cake are we?
Nuts in the brownies?
I don’t think so.
Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream?
Vanilla. It’s so simple, clean and elegant. And perfect on it’s own and to accompany something else!
Blue cheese or ranch dressing with your Buffalo wings?
Well, I don’t love Buffalo wings. Probably because most people make them too spicy and hot for me (what can I say, when it comes to heat, I have a weak palate.) But if I have to choose? Ranch. And lots of celery sticks please.
Soup or Salad?
Probably salad. Only because I actually really like soup—and tend to be more picky about soups.
Butter on your Popcorn?
Only a little—and preferably it’s real butter.
Pork or Beef barbecue?
Really? You’re really asking? Sigh. Pork. Of course.
Coffee or tea?
Again, I like both! One cup of coffee in the morning, and then it’s all about tea. Black tea, red tea, green tea. I like it all.
Beer from a can or a bottle?
Bottle. Always bottle. Why would you ever drink beer from a can?
Oreos or Hydrox?
I’m an Oreo girl. Maybe it has a little to do with the fact that I like their commercials?
Little Debbie or Hostess?
Neither. We weren’t allowed to have these super sweet treats when I was young, and have never really developed a taste for them.
Bacon or Sausage?
Bacon! Come on people! (Ok, although I do love the ‘sausage’ patties that came with the McDonald’s Big Breakfast that my sister and I would share when we were kids on the occasional Saturday morning!)
Eggs Scrambled or Fried?
Fried—but only if the yolk is still runny.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
But when it comes to EATING dessert, ehh. I can take it or leave it. I always want to see the dessert menu, and if I’m dining with a group of friends, I love the idea of ordering a few for the table to share. Usually a few small bites is good enough for me. But still- I do love my desserts. And they have a special place in my heart.
Well, a few weeks ago, I saw this story “Desserts Will Always Have a Place at the Table”. Phew! Desserts are not going away, and if anything, people are only appreciating the art of pastry more and more. The article says it all, and lists many yummy places I must go and check out. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some photos of some of my favorite desserts—both professional and homemade!
All from Payard Las Vegas...
The Ritz Carlton Dining Room, San Francisco
And the best of all...the homemade ones!
A few nights ago I was at home and feeling in the mood for a movie. Odd. I decided to check out the free movies on OnDemand through my cable company. I settled on ‘Forget Paris’—mainly because I’m a pretty big Billy Crystal fan. And even though I knew very little about the movie, it sounded interesting. I found myself laughing, crying, and going through the emotional journey with the characters. I mean literally, in the midst of the tears, there’d be the perfect joke. It’s a brilliant movie. I found myself sympathizing with Mickey and Ellen—and feeling sad for them. Were they going to make it? (Yes! Call me naive if you want, but I really didn’t know if it would have a ‘happy ending’ or not!) What if they weren’t meant to be together? What if all they were meant to have was just one great week? Why must we “Forget Paris”? Why can’t that be the basis of a relationship? There was a reason they connected in the first place, right?
When it comes to relationships, I’ve long thought…it’s not just timing, it’s all about location. Time and time again, my experience has proven to me, location sure has a lot to do with it. Why is it that you can find someone that you connect with, share an amazing day, weekend, or week with and then it has to end because someone has to go home? I’ve been the one leaving, and the one being left. Neither is easy. It can feel as if you’ve meet your kindred spirit. Someone you really connect with. And it seems as if you’re throwing it all away because of location and timing. What keeps us from giving it a try? Like Mickey and Ellen?
Why not see if you really had something there? Is it that we’re not risk takers? Is it because it’s easier to think it was a fluke than something real? What if everything only seemed so perfect, but wasn’t. What if you were to look past the week, would the dream would crumble? As we saw the story unfold in ‘Forget Paris’, I began to wonder if Mickey and Ellen were meant for each other. I was routing for them, and wanted it to work out, but what if it didn’t. What if their time together was only meant to be for that short period of time, and in Paris?
Maybe there are people that are only meant to be in our lives for a short period of time. What if it’s about what you learned from that person and what you take away from the ‘relationship’? And although you’re not meant to be together, you’ll always have fond memories of that person…and that city…what if? Maybe they were just meant to bring life back into you after a difficult time. Or to make you realize your own true love and passion for something. Do we have to just buckle down and come to terms with the fact that that’s all it was? Sigh.
When it’s all said and done? I still go back and forth. Maybe it can work. Maybe both people just have to want to give it a try. I’m still jealous of Mickey and Ellen—and still holding out that timing and location will both be on my side one day.
Monday, September 8, 2008
I looked down to the pastry area and saw that there were a few more people that had come in by now. There were peaches all over the counter, and those corn waffles were done now and sitting on the counter cooling. I kind of wish I could have stayed down there. I wanted to see that peach dessert come together (served with a Prosecco sauce!) But it was time to move on and I couldn’t think about pastry anymore. And I was excited. Chef told me to follow him into the walk-in. He asked me to grab a bowl and started throwing things into it. I was still unsure what we were doing. Celery was going into it, and herbs—thyme, dill and parsley.
We headed out to the kitchen and he claimed a spot on the line. He told me they had gotten some fresh branzino in, and that was going to be the special for the night. They were going to be grilled and finished off in the oven, and we were preparing everything that went with it. It was going to be served with a romesco sauce, some fresh figs, some olives, chestnuts, fingerling potatoes and a celery salad with a lime vinaigrette. Mediterranean flavors for a Mediterranean fish.
I was to start by picking off the leaves off the top of the celery—just from the most inner leaves. I rinsed my herbs, and then set them aside to dry. Then I was to cut the olives. First cut off the ends on both sides, and then to remove the pit from the olive. I was left with two discs and then the middle part of the olive, with a hole down the center. One of the line cooks had come by to see what we were doing. He suggested using the cherry pitter for pitting the olives. He was adorable. Came back to check on me throughout the process, and kept wanting to know how the cherry pitter was working. Brilliantly!
When it came to washing the herbs, I wondered if I was suppose to rinse them? Soak them? Pat it dry at the end or let it air dry? Even the simplest thing, "wash the herbs", turned into something that made me think.
All the while, I was trying to keep my station clean, returning items back to the walk-in when I was done, taking items to dish (I just couldn’t get enough of the dish station!), and keeping everything together in small tins once they were all cut and prepared.
I found myself biting my lip throughout the day just to stop myself from smiling. I was already that awkward ‘new girl’ in the kitchen. I didn’t need to be the creepy smiling awkward ‘new girl’. Right?
The romesco sauce had been started before I got there, but as Chef was walking around and tending to a million other things, I was to keep my eye on it. I wasn’t sure what the consistency was really suppose to be, and I tried to move the sauce around so that it wasn’t sticking nor burning. But there was no spoon or spatula or anything. I was actually suppose to just be "flipping it". I of course, was too timid to do that, but it was clear my sliding it around wasn’t enough. One of the other chefs took pity on me I think, and each time he walked by, he would also come to the stove and give the sauce a good flip. Thank goodness for Seth’s help. The sauce didn’t burn and when Chef came back, he seemed happy with it. Phew!
Next step? Blend it. Chef put it all together in a blender and told me to head back to the prep area, look for a guy named Nacho working a blender, and ask him to blend this. I was off. Eyes wide open for a guy with a blender. I found him and asked him nicely to help me blend this for Chef. Damn him, he had all these questions. What consistency did I want it? Should he add some water to thin it out? Yikes. I didn’t ask. I didn’t even think to ask. Add water? Better not add a thing until I check with Chef. Good thing. I took it back to Chef, and he added a few other things (and yes, water did end up being one of the things!). A few more seconds on the blender, and we were good. The sauce ended up turning out beautifully! My first romesco! I’m going to give it a try at home.
During this time, I was watching everyone else hard at work. I asked a lot of questions. What are you making now? What are you doing? I saw family meal come together. The cook doing that? Super skilled and super quick with his knife. He was not someone I’d mess with.
Speaking of Family Meal Chef. One of my happiest moments in the kitchen? When he asked me to stir the cous cous he was making for family meal. Me? Stir the cous cous? Yes! Of course! Happy to help!
Another chef, Jamie (great name!), was grilling and cooking one of the branzino (that had been stuffed with all those herbs I had cleaned). We were going to plate it and bring it to line-up to talk about with all the servers. I was on Cloud Nine watching this dish get platted. All this had been envisioned by Chef, and now we were all seeing it come together. With all of the ingredients that I had prepared! It was the best feeling. I was so proud when we were talking about it at line-up. And mind you—I really didn’t do anything. First, it wasn’t my vision. And picking celery leaves off? Hardly counts as tough. And the fish? I didn’t even go near it. The closest I got was a quick lesson from Chef in how to pick it up—and where to grab it from. But nevertheless. I was like a proud parent. To me, it was as if the dish was my own. Excited when the servers asked questions about its preparation, and thrilled when they all tasted and the fish disappeared within seconds.
I sadly realized that soon enough, the dining room would be slammed. The line would be buzzing, tickets would be flying, and I’d be in the way. I was already feeling a little in the way. I was constantly moving to get out of the way of an oven door opening, or a hot stock pot en route to dish, or a hotel pan filled with something hot coming by, or someone needing to access the refrigerator under the counter I was standing in front of. I know this is all normal. The space is small. Everyone is always going to kind of be in someone’s way. And each time someone asked me to move, I apologized. Finally, one of the chefs told me (very nicely and almost laughing at me), “Don’t be sorry! You’re fine. Just move.” Got it. No need to say sorry each time I guess. Just seemed like the right thing to do.
Other mental notes I made? My lips were DRY! All the talking, all the biting on my lips from my nervousness, and of course, all the heat. I sure missed my trusty Chapstick.
And you know those slots on the left hand sleeve? They’re meant for pens. Why are they built into the chef’s jacket? Because EVERYONE is ALWAYS looking for pens in the kitchen. And silly me? I didn’t stick any in there when I was changing. Definitely something to remember for next time (hoping there will be a next time!) Each time everyone one shouted out asking for a pen, I kicked myself for not having one. It would have been such an easy way to contribute!
Oh. And you know the thing about towels being coveted. I get why. You always seen to be needing a towel. To grab a hot pan handle, to wipe your station clean, to clean a plate, to dry a bowl, something or another. There just didn’t seem to be enough! Next time? I’d tuck a few more into my apron. Just to be sure I had one. Always.
I said good-bye to everyone after line-up. I was sad to go. I wanted to see it all come together. I wanted to see the line really cranking. But there didn’t really seem to be a way to do that without getting in the way. It was best to leave. Everyone was really nice. Waving good-bye and smiling. Oh, and my favorite question from one of the cooks? “When are you coming back?”
I left feeling exhausted. I had been up early working in the office, and then went straight to the kitchen. I had been on my feet, and it was hot in the kitchen! I knew I smelled bad, and my feet were beginning to ache as I walked up a hill to my house. I haven’t been so tired, yet so happy and feeling so fulfilled in a really long time. It was all so worth it. I wondered how the night was going. I wondered if Chef was going to let me come back. I wondered how many covers they did that night, or how quickly the fish sold. Most importantly? I wonder who ordered the branzino that night and did they like it?
Sunday, September 7, 2008
To consider a career change? Did I make the wrong choice? Was I meant to do something else? Did I miss my calling or should I stop the dreaming and stick to what I know? We've all heard the saying "Don't quit your day job!"--was that meant for me?
I have a passion for food. Not only for eating, but for cooking too. I was lucky enough to spend a few hours in a restaurant kitchen, shadowing a chef and trying to help where I could. I had been looking forward to this day for weeks, ever since we set it up! I had no idea what to expect, and didn’t know if I’d love it or hate it. Would it be one of those things that I had been thinking about for so long, and had such high expectations for that I’d get there and be disappointed?
I arrived and ran into Chef as I was walking in. He led me to the staff changing area, and showed me where I could grab a uniform. Me. In a chef’s jacket and those dorky black and white checkered pants. I was already loving it. He had told me to meet him in the kitchen when I was ready, but when I got down there, he was no where to be seen. “Oh, he’s back with the butcher, you can find him there.” Gulp. The butcher? I was looking forward to spending time in the kitchen. Not butchering meat. If that was where we were starting, I didn’t think I’d make it very long.
Thank goodness he was just there finishing up. We headed back to the kitchen, and Chef told me he had some prep work and I was going to start off in pastry.
Ironic that I started off my ‘shift’ in pastry. The one part of the kitchen I’m probably most comfortable with. And what did I start making? Ice cream! YES! Can you believe it? The pastry chef was mid way through making Sherry Yard’s famous 50 Bean Vanilla Ice Cream, and my job? To crack 1250 grams worth of egg yolks. I have never seen so many egg yolks together. And I’ve never cracked so many in my life! And water for the chocolate sauce recipe? Measured in pounds! Never thought of water in terms of pounds! In a way, I was happy to start off my stint in the kitchen in pastry. I got into a bit of a groove and was starting to get a little more comfortable. I was also able to ask the pastry chef some of my random questions. For example:
Me: Why is it so quiet in the kitchen?
Pastry Chef: The prep guys are gone, and the cooks don’t get here until 3 pm. Enjoy the quiet! It’s going to be a lot different when everyone gets here.
Me: What else do you have to do today?
Pastry Chef: Here’s the list, we’ve got to finish the vanilla ice cream, make a batch of chocolate sauce, I need to make more corn waffles…
Me: What time did you get here? How long have you worked here? Where did you work before? (Yes, poor girl, I didn’t hold back on my questions!)
This very patient chef showed me where everything was—in the entire kitchen. Vats of flour and sugar. Tons of pots and pans. Dry goods storage. The walk in. The ice cream making room. (A WHOLE room dedicated to ice cream making!) And the dish station! Where you took everything when you were done with it to be washed and returned to it’s appropriate place. I felt like we were flying through utensils, and bowls. Each time we were done? Oh, just take it to dish. (I wish I had a dish station and more importantly, a dish washer at my house!)
As I was cracking away, I wondered “What happens if I get a piece of egg shell into the yolks?” And then I realized, I could single handedly ruin something today. A small eggshell would have been one thing (don’t worry, I didn’t get any in there!), but what about when we were tempering the eggs? What if I wasn’t whisking fast enough? What if we made scrambled eggs, and I ruined the cream that had been infusing overnight and wasted all of those ingredients? They’d be a day behind, not to mention their food costs for the day would be all screwed up. And my loyal readers know, scrambled eggs during the ice cream making process? That’s something I’ve actually done before!! And what about when I carried the cream over and had to poor it into the other container. What if I spilled it all? There was so much room for error, and so many opportunities to screw up.
Thankfully I finished my stint in pastry without screwing up. (I have never whisked harder in my life--and my arm felt it the next day!) And sure enough, as the clock got closer and closer to 3 pm, the kitchen became livelier and livelier. More and more people started trickling in. And giving me the odd look. I could see the questions in their eyes:
Who is this new person?
Is she here for good?
Wonder where she came from?
Is she looking for a job?
How good is she?
Will she get in the way tonight?
As I met the team one by one, I was quick to tell them, I am not permanent. I was not after a job. They had nothing to worry about.
Then I started getting different questions:
Are you a stage? (pronounced stahj, meaning serving a short, unpaid apprenticeship)
Where did you cook before?
What do you do?
Why would you want to be in a kitchen?
It was pretty funny telling them, I haven’t cooked in a professional kitchen before. The last kitchen I cooked in? My own! The one and only kitchen I’m familiar with! As for why did I want to be there? That was harder. I couldn’t really explain. I tried, but I think they all thought I was a little crazy. I had a job—in public relations. Why would I want to come in and cook? But there wasn’t time to dwell on it. We had work to do! I was to follow Chef now, and help him out. He hasn’t been clear on what I was doing yet, but he had come by to grab me and I had left my friends in pastry and moved onto savory.
Stay tuned for more from my experience.
to be continued…
There was a stage where bands were performing. We saw a great rock band--they were all teenagers, couldn't be more than 14. Adorable! We also saw a great hip hop crew from Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy. Amazing performances!
Michelle and I decided it was too hot and that we needed to get out of there. We hit the beach. What a perfect afternoon to spend out at Baker Beach. We weren't the only ones with that great idea. Although Baker Beach was crowded, we found a spot on the beach and laid out (oh yes, with some vino!) It was at least 10 degrees cooler out there, and oh so perfect!!
We had a wonderful evening chatting, drinking good wine, doing a beer taste test, and of course, eating good food. Rob made an amazing chicken (hopefully we'll have the recipe coming soon!), JT did the brussel sprouts (with bacon! A girl after my heart!), and there was an amazing mushroom risotto too. Oh, and did I mention a yummy salami and cheese plate? The pate was the best part of that plate!
Rob and the boys
As if that wasn't a busy enough day, my Sunday was just as busy! It was time for a ballgame!
It was a bit of a warm day, and while I enjoy a lot of sports, baseball isn't my favorite. (We didn't even know who the Giants were playing before we got there!) BUT. What I do like about games? The warm weather, the beer, and the chatting through the game!
We didn't stay long. It was too hot. We did stay long enough to see the Giants rally in the fourth inning (and they ended up winning!) And oh, did I mention? I had a show to get to!
I finished off the weekend with checking out Beach Blanket Babylon. Great show, great seeing friends Jason and Eric, and a funny way to end a fun weekend.
By the time I got home, I was exhausted (and badly needed a shower!) I settled in for a glass of wine and happened to catch the movie “Family Stone” on TV. This was a movie I had actually really wanted to see, but my friend Tarlan had once told me “Maybe you shouldn’t see that movie.” Now I know why. It’s a touching movie…and there are lots of story lines, but the one that spoke to me? The matriarch in the family was battling cancer. Let’s just saw the movie spoke to me in a lot of ways. About 10 min into the movie? The tears started.
After completely bawling through the entire movie, I was beginning to feel pretty sad. Rather than turning off the TV, and reading or doing something productive, I decided to turn the channel. Bad idea. It was the Stand Up to Cancer telethon. On every major channel. There was no way of getting away from it. As I saw the photos and heard the stories, the tears kept coming. How is it that we haven’t found a cure? What made us decide that it was more important to put a man on the moon than to cure cancer? Why do we spend money fighting wars a half a world away when there’s a battle right here in our own backyards? How is it that cancer has affected so many people and yet we’re only making slow process? How come we didn’t find a cure in time to help my mom?
Have you or a loved one been affected? What are you doing to cure cancer?
Saturday, September 6, 2008
The non-natives I know tend to just sorta come from all over the place. Washington, Illinois, New York, Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington DC, and Ohio.
It seems I know an unusually high number of people from Ohio. Seriously. Aside from native Californians, I know more people from Ohio that now live out here than from any other one state.
Is there something about California that drew these people here? Is California that great of a state? (Well, YES!) Or is Ohio just one of those places that people move away from? Are those Buckeyes just drawn to the sun of California? I say, come one, come all. All of my Buckeye friends are the greatest. Why not have more kind Ohioans out here??
What about you? Aside from natives where ever you may be, do you find that there's a high concentration of people from any other area or place?
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Well for one, the smell. I don't know if I really want all of my veggies and food remnants roting away in my kitchen. Eck. And is this container sealed? Will bugs and ants be attracted to it? The manufacturers say there isn't too much of an odor, but I still wonder.
Second, this handy contraption doesn't come cheap. It costs a hefty $229. Which for a one time investment, I guess isn't too expensive.
Ok, but despite that, I wonder: what would I do with all of this fertile soil? It would bring me back to wishing I had a garden to use it in! And if that was the case, that would mean I had outdoor space and my whole composting operation would live outdoors! Hmm.
Guess I'm not convinced. I live in an apartment building with 12 units, and I actually wish there was some type of combined building compost. There's even a small yard in the back, we could have a community garden! And use our compost! We could have gardening nights in the summer, and harvest our vegetables for a big dinner. Wouldn't that be great?
Maybe it sounds too hippy/commune/co-op like? But until I have my little house and garden, or the means (and time) to do garden by myself, it seems like it could be a good compromise for busy professions living in the city.
Call me idealistic, but it sounds kind of cool.
Monday, September 1, 2008
It all began on Friday. Kicking it off with the opening of the Marketplace. There were tons of stalls with local farmers selling fresh produce, there was the Victory Gardens, and then the 'Slow Food on the Go' area, where vendors were selling food to go. So much to take in! And on an oh-so-hot day too.
Thanks to my colleague Liz, she dragged our whole team out of the office for a lunch time trek to the Marketplace. There was so much to take in!
The Slow Food logo was everywhere
Ummm, an upside down school bus?
Oh, the White House Organic Farm Project!
People everywhere! Does no one have to work anymore??
Our PR team at the Victory Garden!
More cute squash
More from the garden
Yes, do you have to ask? It's Bi-Rite. We had some.
More Slow Food to Go
Pull up a bushel
Where was Armando?
I LOVED this! It was the 'roof' of the water station...all made from plastic bottles!
The sign cured meat is near by
Larry Bain's "Let's Be Frank" organic hot dogs were a huge hit!
Another mini garden project
Then on Friday night, we went to one of the many kick-off events. An open house at the Cheese School! What could be better than two good girlfriends, wine and cheese.
Lot's of cheese
This one was beautiful and yummy
Sunday my friend JT and I headed to Fort Mason and braced ourselves for the crowds at the Taste Pavilions. I was a little unsure how this was all going to be structured. I had heard there were different Pavilion areas: Bread, Olive Oil, Cheese, Fish, Honey & Preserves, Pickles & Chutney, Native Foods, Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, Ice Cream, Spirits, Wine, Beer, and oh yea. Most importantly? Charcuterie Pavilion.
Bread man welcoming you to the Bread Pavilion, check out the other image galleries, there was a cool bread turtle too!
Above the fish display? All these little hooks hanging down!
The ceiling of the Spirits Pavilion was beautiful!
Some may think it was too early for the Spirits Pavilion. But as we were told, go early, go before the lines. Lucky us. This was one of the best Bloody Mary's I've ever had!
The Cheese Board!
The red in the background? Milk crates! Love it!
The Beer Pavilion was where JT and I spent a lot of time. Check out the awesome bar. Different beer bottles were below the slate.
The Pickles & Chutney Pavilion looked awesome. The ceiling was made from the tops of mason jars
We didn't catch any demo's at the Green Kitchen, but it looked pretty cool. And what a great line up!
Pretty flowers to end our day!