Saturday, March 24, 2007

Restaurant Quote of the Weekend

"Mushroom Butter."

Said by The New Guy in response to the question, "What is that?"

There is a really stupid little skinny blond girl who thinks everyone likes her, when in fact, no one in the kitchen does. She is a server and between guests, it's said that she smokes pot on the loading dock. She comes into the back with her tight little pants and tries to get people to do things for her.

She's very annoying. She always comes up to us while we're making things and asks what it is. Or she'll say, "It smells so good in here, what are you making, Apple Crisp?"

When in fact, it's chocolate cake. Or something equally opposite in smell. She's a total ditz and it's all a show/drugs.

Today she came in the back while The New Guy was making Biscotti dough. She asked, "Oh, what's that-the mushroom butter?"

I groaned. Fire Crotch laughed...The New Guy was sad because he thought he made it wrong.

First of all-we don't sell Mushroom Butter-so why would she say "THE" mushroom butter.

So, after she left, we all laughed and told The New Guy about her and how she is...and when someone else came along and asked legitimately what he was making, he paused and said, "Mushroom Butter."

It was very funny. I love it when new people are on our side.

;)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cloud 9

**Scroll down to see pictures of the culinary competition**

I'm still spinning. It is still an amazing feeling to be #1.

We all worked so hard. We were cranky. We missed out on sleep for the last 3 weeks. We were not taught any of the curriculum. We all, at one point or another, cursed the competition.

But it was worth it.

I feel an overwhelming sense of adoration for my classmates now. We pushed through the pain and cheered each other on when we were at our lowest point and shared unabashed joy during our win. We will forever be bound by the knowledge that an un-assuming, small culinary school produced 4 award winning students.

As I'm sure you can imagine, it's a great feeling.

Randomivity about the competition:

1. There was a mullet sighting-a weird, black curly haired mullet on a woman! At first we thought she was married to a very yummy chef-one of the judges, actually, and I was completely dumbfounded as to why I am still single. Thankfully though, mullet lady turned out to be his sister. Thank God.

2. I've only kissed 5 boys in my life. #4 was at the competition last night. How weird is that?

3. I've seen a few people in my life that reminded me of a Mon Chi Chi doll, but last night there was a boy volunteer who WAS a Mon Chi Chi. All he had to do was place his lips in the "O" position and stick his thumb (or toe) in his mouth, and we could've auctioned off on E-Bay.

4. We "stole" wine. There was a wine tasting table right in front of us which taunted us all night. Being that we were competing for the school, we couldn't drink any. At the end, after our win, the table was abandoned leaving bottles of wine open. So we all went over and had us some wine. It was a nice toast to our success.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

We Are the Mushrooms

The day started with our chef breaking our sugar base in half.

I wasn't upset, mainly because I was angry with him, as was most of my class because he takes credit for all of our hard work.

"Let me think this out" he said. "Don't panic."

As I continued unwrapping our sugar leaves and fish, he began placing the seaweed on what was left of the base...



I decided that I would be in charge of placing the leaves, choosing which ones went on and where. And then began the build. You can actually see the toffee colored base broken in pieces at the bottom of the picture...In the end, my coral pieces (brown at the base of the display) covered the breakage beautifully and no one knew until the end that it had broken...except for the lady next to us-and she commended us for not freaking out and for how well we recovered. I have to say, that my chef did a wonderful job fixing it. And also, I think it came out better than it would have looked with the bulky base.These are our show piece petit fours-the ones that gave me such a hard time on Tuesday night. They are resting on rolled fondant with little pastillage waves covered in royal icing. I had to punch out 50 of these on Tuesday, enrobe them in white chocolate, smooth the side and enrobe them again. They were then spray painted and hand decorated by Pakiluver.
They were staggered in different heights on pastillage "waves". In the bottom right corner, you can see our tasting petit fours-we made 250 of them on Tuesday. They are chocolate devils food cake with raspberry preserves and almond marzipan and then covered in white chocolate. They are delicious...The best news?

We won the entire competition!

3 Awards, actually: 2nd place for Artistic Presentation, 2nd Place for Best Artist Theme (Lost 1st by .5 of a point) and 1ST PLACE FOR BEST OVERALL IN THE COMPETITION!!!!

We competed again all professional chefs with the exception of one student. Everyone was very impressed with us, and told us we should be proud of ourselves. We definitely are.

The only downfall? We don't get to keep the plaques. 8( Our chef will no doubt be taking them.



Overall, it was a lot of hard work and frustration, but I am proud to now be able to add "award winning" to my resume. Thanks for all of your support and well wishes over the last few weeks.

The Short Bus

He was one of those kids that with just one glance, you could tell that something was "not right" with him. His forehead was high and flat and when he talked to you, he never made eye contact. Instead, he focused just to the right of you, shifting his vantage point again if you tried to cross its path.

He liked things that "normal" high school students had long since given up: Ninja Turtles, GI Joe and Cartoons. And, while almost every one of us stiil watched cartoons in private, it was our unspoken denial of it that made us the "normal" ones and him the "slow" one.

George was a sweet kid who wore olive green MC Hammer pants almost every day. He had a HUGE NY Giants coat that almost never came off-even in the sweltering heat, and even on field day. The only time I really remember him not having it on was in gym class and during graduation, although it's quite likely that he somehow wore it under his gown.

Our class tolerated George because he was funny. Without regard for who was in the cool crowd and who was considered a loser, he'd sling insults to anyone who deserved them. He'd compliment you when he thought you looked pretty and tell your rival (without knowing it) that her ass looked fat in those jeans.

He always held doors for you, even if he'd just be slammed into the wall by an upperclassman. He always had a smile on his face and often laughed to himself, at jokes only he could hear.

George had an older sister, who's name escapes me. She was 3 grades ahead of me, and always sat in the very back of the bus. Though she was easily one of the prettiest girls in school, she almost never smiled. Her scowl kept people away and hardened her face when she heard people making fun of her brother.

She never stepped in-never stopped the perps. She just sat there, stone faced watching George receive his punishment as if she saw it as his right of passage.

We often wondered why she never said anything to stop people from making fun of her brother, and why she sat and watched as it happened. Once, I wondered what her breaking point would be-at what time would she finally step in to curb the beatings or stop the name calling.

If it ever happened, I never witnessed it.

I don't think George's sister was a bad person. I think that she was just a girl who'd grown up in a small town with a brother who was a target. Being labeled "George's sister" instead of being called by name or being known for her fierce slap shot in field hockey, she was forced to endure a childhood without her own identity.

And if I were her, I wouldn't have smiled at that either.

Lucky for her, she graduated the next year and left town. My hope for her is that she went to college and re-invented herself as the girl she always was, but couldn't show. I hope she found her smile and I hope she learned about herself.

And I hope that through this self discovery, George's sister learned to love him for who he was.

Thursday 13

Thirteen ThingsI Love About Spring
1. Tulips. Seeing their little green sprouts peeking out of the soft earth simply makes me smile. Seeing bright bunches of them being sold in the store makes me smile. Quite simply, I love tulips.
2. The smell of the air
3. The symbolism of it-starting fresh, new beginnings, re-birth
4. Easter. I love coloring eggs with my sisters and niece, antipasto and Italian food and the promise of a chocolate bunny.
5. Being able to wear skirts again
6. Bright, airy colors
7. Daylight Savings Time. Not that I love missing an hour of sleep, but I love that it stays light out longer.
8. Being able to use my grill again (without braving a blizzard)
9. No more shoveling
10. Dreaming of the beach
11. Hearing birds chirping, squirrels scurrying and bunnies in my yard
12. Taking walks
13. Budding trees and the promise of sunlight filtering through the leaves



Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fungus

As the story goes, there once was a Frenchman who married an American Chef and on his days off, he would hang around the restaurant. Normally, he'd wander around the kitchen soaking up all things American. But during the dinner rush, he's stand quietly in the corner listening to the radio until things settled down.

One evening the pastry chef noticed that said Frenchman was looking at the radio with a bewildered amusement, shaking his head in disbelief. Wondering why, the pastry chef asked what was the matter.

(Cue fake French accent)

"You silly Americanz-making a zong about ze mushROOMZ. You sing of such silly thingz."

Immediately, the entire kitchen erupted in laughter, clearly amused at the Frenchman's misunderstanding of the lyrics to Queen's, "We Are the Champions".

You see, in French the word for "mushroom" is Champignon. And to a Frenchman who understand little English-it's very close.

We are the mushrooms, they say....

*This story brought to you directly from French Regional Cuisine 101 and is sponsored by the letter "C".

**Competition tomorrow. THANK GOD! We were at school until after midnight last night. Ugh. I forgot my camera so no photo updates, but I'll take pics tomorrow. The petit fours look pretty good (like fish) and we'll assemble the sugar tomorrow...

Wordless Wednesday


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Toosdae ?'s

Well, my eye is feeling even better today-still a bit sensitive and also red, but BETTER. It's the steroids. They work wonders!

My eye could kick your ASS right now. ;)

Here are 3 reasons why you should answer these questions today:

1. My entire family went to the Magic Kingdom without me yesterday.
2. I had to eat rabbit last night at school (and all I could think about was Brownie and Baxter)
3. My eye could kick your ass right now. ;)

1. What would make you more nervous: When your doctor is so confident in their ability to cure you that they skim over your physical and don't ask you important questions OR if they are thorough but say that they have to consult with another doctor before diagnosing you because they are unsure of themselves?

2. You're so vain! What is the most vain thing you do on a regular basis?

3. News flash! Clothing as we know it is illegal and scarce. However, the government will allow you to use a non-traditional material to cloth yourself. What material do you choose and why? (Remember, it can't be cotton, silk, wool etc)

1. I think it makes me more nervous when a doctor doesn't take the time to examine me and simply rushes past issues. If a doctor isn't sure of something they usually at least have an idea and consulting another professional does not offend me at all. Now, if they called their un-employed buddy to chat about my condition...that would be another story.

2. I think the most vain thing I do daily is wear makeup. I wear a lot, but no one ever thinks I do because I put it on to look natural, but when I don't have it on, I feel a little vulnerable. Also, I check the mirror when I go to the bathroom.

3. I think I would go with burlap. Though it would be itchy, it would be durable and warm and it also breathes. And the color brown is in right now, so it would be fashionable.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Update

A few of you have emailed me separately asking how my eye is doing, and instead of sending a mass email, I thought I'd give you an update here.

My eye hurts. It looks better than it has in days, but you can still see the white ulcer in the green of my eye and it's still very red. I am still wicked sensitive to light-so much so that I've had to turn my computer monitor down to almost black. I wore sunglasses to my weekly staff meeting and drove to the doctor's office with one eye shut.

The doctor said that while it is progressing, I shouldn't be this sensitive to light still. He prescribed another drop-this one is a steroid-and tapered me down to 4 times a day on the other drops (instead of every hour) and once a night with ointment. If this eye isn't better soon, I'm ripping it out.

Funny thing was that he said, "Well, glasses look good on you, so, that's a positive, right?" And then, almost as if it were an afterthought he mumbled, "Sometimes they don't look so good."

I thought it was funny. He's quirky as it is, but I like him. Too bad my insurance doesn't cover his practice. I'd like to keep going to him.

Once back to work, I was once again amazed at the fact that I have the same "pee schedule" as the little Chinese man down the hall. Really-every time I go, he's walking to the men's room. I don't know if that makes me weird, or him, but either way, it's creepy.

What's creepier is that this time I was almost right behind him (he's short and has little legs while I'm tall with long legs) and as he walked into the men's room, he held the door and looked back-as if I was going in there!!

Weirdo.

So. Good news, hopefully my eye will be better by Thursday-b/c that's the day of the COMPETITION!!!!

*On another somewhat gross note-this new eye drop is really gross tasting and is making my tummy feel a little upset.

Guilt & Chocolate

In third grade a white girl with an Afro and a space between her teeth moved into my town. In fact, she moved just one block away from the school-and even more shocking-across the street from our teacher.

Her name was Amy. She did, indeed have a thick head of bushy curls, untamed by our standards. It made me like her instantly.

Her parents were free spirits, moving their family every few years, with hopes that one day, they'd move once again to the Virgin Islands. These were not native Islanders, rather, people like you and I who simply loved the Islands more than they loved the mainland. And they vowed to one day go back.

Amy's parents quickly became friends with mine and our worlds seemed to meld together into one big, extra extended weekend of fun. There were dinner parties and bon fires and endless summer nights swinging on their hammock watching fireflies, or playing horseshoes.

They had a player piano and a laundry shoot. I thought they were the most awesome people in the world.

The only downfall to being at Amy's house instead of my own was that her mom was a health food addict. In fact, she opened up a health food store in our town called "Nutricia's" and would often force feed us bulgar wheat muffins and unsweetened maple syrup. (The horrors!) For third graders, this was almost the worst torture you could have.

One humid summer day, Amy and I were left alone while her mother tended the store and her father...well, I have no idea what he was doing. I think he was a fisherman. So perhaps he was fishing. But we were alone, and being that breakfast was whole wheat pancakes with tofu sausage (I'm not kidding), we were hungry.

After playing in the yard and climbing the steep rocks the lined her property, Amy checked the mail. To our delight, there in the mailbox was a small box of Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies! Quickly, we hid our treasure, deciding on when would be the best time to devour them.

About an hour passed, and we decided to take a walk into town, eating the cookies on the way and discarding the evidence (the wrapper) in a public garbage can so that her mother would not find out.

Amy and I meandered through the quaint tree-lined streets, along the babbling creek and into our town, all the while savoring the moist and flavorful cookies that were sent to us by God. We finished the last bite and thought we were home free.

Until her mother's friend saw us walking and stopped the car to say hello.

Never did the friend mention our cookies, but her eyes lingered just long enough for us to know that she'd noticed, and no doubt wondered how we got hold of them.

With our fingers sticky with chocolate and guilt, we trudged the rest of the way into town and walked directly into Nutricia's. There, we point blank confessed, almost on the verge of tears, knowing that her mother would not only punish us for eating junk food, but also for stealing the cookies that were so clearly sent to her. We were thieves and gluttons, and we deserved to be punished.

Luckily, Amy's mother did not scold us, nor did she punish us later. She simply asked if we enjoyed the cookies, and told us to be more respectful of other people's mail. It was, we felt, another intervention by God.

Amy's family moved away the next year to live in the Virgin Islands, where it is said they owned a small island. I never saw her again after she moved, but years later, I thought about our day with the cookies and realized why her mother did not punish us for eating junk food.

It was because she ordered them in secret for herself. And she thought we had caught her.

It still truly amazes me that guilt can sometimes set you free.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

What's Cookin? Chicken w/ Dried Plums & Carrots

Don't be chased away from this recipe simply because it include dried plums. After cooking down in the wine and stock, they become soft, and flavorful, and add a creamy texture to the dish. Not only will this recipe fill your belly, it will fill your home with a deliciously robust smell of wine and garlic.


An instant favorite...

Chicken with Dried Plums & Carrots
Serves 4
8 Bone-in Chicken Thighs with skin on
Salt & Pepper TT
Flour, for dredging
2 T. Unsalted Butter
2 T. Olive Oil
4 Large peeled Garlic Cloves
4 Sliced Carrots
1 1/2 C. Cote-du-Rhone red wine
1 1/2 C. Chicken Stock
1 Sprig Rosemary
4 Sprigs Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
*
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Season chicken with salt & pepper and dredge in flour. Shake off excess.
2. In a large ovenproof skillet, melt butter and oil til hot. Add the chicken skin side down and cook over high heat, turning once until browned. (12-14 mins) Transfer chicken to a large plate and pour off all but 1 T. fat.
3. Add garlic, carrots and prunes to skillet and cook over low heat until soft. Add the wine and bring to a boil; reduce by 1/2. Add the stock, herbs and bay leaf; bring to a boil.
4. Return chicken to skillet skin side up. Transfer the skillet into the oven and braise for 45 minutes until meat is tender.
5. Remove chicken and hold in a warm area. Return the skillet to the stove and boil until the sauce is reduced, about 5 minutes. Discard the herbs before serving.
*
*Note: I mounted the sauce with butter to thicken it and to add richness before serving. Simply take a few cold pieces of butter and swirl them into the sauce while it's off the heat. Once melted, plate and serve!
*
Recipe: Food & Wine Magazine, April 2007

I'll Give U My Heart

I've talked to you a little about not having full closure with my ex-boyfriend, and how I feel that in certain instances in my life, it's holding me back.

When I first got him out of the house, I "took back" my computer room-a room I was never allowed in unless he was there. I painted it a bright color because I liked it, and also because I knew he would have never allowed me to pick it. I put up big tab top curtains with a white sheer underneath because it was a little over the top.

I displayed my books-the very books he told me never to buy again. I put of personal pictures and painted a picture myself-something I was never allowed to do when he lived here.

I also threw out most of the items that he owned and destroyed (yes, destroyed) pictures he painted. I kept only one painting because it was unfinished and was painted for me. My plan was to finish it myself, creating a new scene-one that I wanted instead of one he made for me.


I never did get around to that, and recently, it's been destroyed.

There were 2 items still in my home of his. The first was a television that was in my room. It didn't work well, but it had a VCR on it and when my niece comes over, she sometimes watches movies in my room and falls asleep while the rest of us are in the living room. I wanted to keep it for that reason, but now feel differently.

I took it down last week and am waiting to get rid of it. Instead, I will use the shelf for plants...which to me, represent new life.

The very last thing that I have that was truly his is this art: He gave it to me when we were dating, saying that he was giving me his heart but he may want it back someday. I kept it because I actually really like it. It's whimsical because it swings back and forth and neat because really, who's got a red metal heart?

It's time for it to go, but because I really like it, I'd like to change its meaning. And I'd like to pass it along to someone who would like it too. It's destiny shouldn't be a garbage dumb simply because some asshole once used it to manipulate someone looking for love.

So...perhaps no one likes it, but I'd like to give it to one of you, if you do. I love my readers and the support and smiles they send my way on a daily basis, and would love it if my heart had a place in your home.

If you like it, please leave me a message in comments. Perhaps we should place fake bids on it...just in case 2 people like it. So...

Leave me a message in comments telling me what you would bid on it if we were really bidding. You will actually pay nothing, but the highest fake bid will win. Your bid doesn't have to be money, it could be something you think I'd like, or something you wish to trade as well...

If I have comments by the end of today (let's say 10pm EST) I will pick the "winner."

My very last attempt at taking back something of mine that he took is to re-paint my bedroom. Now it's a very pale, almost gray color-one that he insisted on. I'm painting it today.

Come back later-I'll have another recipe too.

Please bid!!