Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekend Report (HI, I'M A PANCAKE. F@CK YOU!)

No school today, but woke up extra early to get ready for the 3am call the next day. Spent the morning making mise for a future meal. Made 6 servings of pizza dough to do a three-day cold rise in the fridge. To get rid of the chocolate from school lying around, cooked up a batch of soy-based daily ice cream, only this time using the good milk instead of soy milk, which was not on hand.

AM SNACK: 5:30am, small handful of chocolate pistoles, hunger 3/5

BREAKFAST: 7:30am, fruit smoothie, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
Base of whole milk and good yogurt, banana, handfuls of cherries, grapes and blueberries, ice. Forgot the wheat germ and honey. Surprisingly good. Want to get a food processor to purée the fruit properly, then incorporate.

LUNCH: 2pm, handful of baby carrots, shrimp stirfried with unsalted stringbeans and criminis with adame, 2 ears boiled corn with butter and salt, grape soda, 2.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
On assignment from Ilsa, I was to cook a vegetable with a seaweed product replacing salt. I picked up this dried black weed stuff from Whole Foods, which I needed to soak before throwing in the stir-fry. I used sesame oil for the strong nutty flavor, along with diced shallots. It did taste briefly undersalted, but once I got some of the weed in my mouth, it actually tasted pretty good, huh.

DINNER: 6pm, mushroom pate, mushroom spaetzle, chocolate caramel tarte with chocolate sorbet, 2 pieces bread and butter, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 3/5

Up at 3am with my friend E. Rode to the start at Penn Station. E needed cigarettes and caffeine, and did not want to wait on line for the free coffee. So we shuffled over to McDonald's in our bike gear and waited in line with all the drunk, crazy and flagrantly omnisexual customers -- the line at a midtown McDonald's at 4 in the morning is hardly typical.

I haven't eaten anything from McD's in quite a while. I ordered the pancakes and sausage, which came in an old-school styrofoam clamshell. The last time I had pancakes and sausage at McDonald's, it was really early in the morning, I was with my mom, and we were waiting with a bunch of women for a bus to take us to Washington DC to march for a woman's right to choice. In an early morning pinch, crap is ok. However, today these pancakes tasted artificially tender, like a soft side of rubber, and the flavor was really LOUD, like HI, I'M A PANCAKE. F@CK YOU! Like a cartoon drawing of a pancake, instead of the real thing.

As you can see by the list below, during the bike ride to Montauk, just kept on piling it in at the rest stops. Not without thought, but with a very specific goal of a) keeping my bloodsugar level and b) never getting hungry. One thing not listed was about 120oz of water, which was a constant through the ride, due to a hydration pack on my back -- they look geeky and but it keeps me level.

One thing I did NOT eat on this ride, which I usually do, is Gatorade. After Ilsa admonished me that this stuff is just liquid candy with salt, I played around with alternatives, but none were really effective other than....lots of water and the right amount of food.

One big mistake I made was over-indulging in the food at the end. E was pretty miserable and crying because she forgot to refill her water bottle 25 miles back, and maybe hit the ride a little bit too hard early on and didn't save any juice for the end. I was up and running about shoving down as much food as possible, and got down a big plate of pasta and, uh, four burgers. The burgers were in a braising liquid, and were nice and juicy. When we got back to the hotel, I did not move far from the toilet until the next morning. Lesson learned: when my body is compromised (by, say, a lack of sleep and riding 109 miles on a bicycle), do NOT eat chopped meat.

3:15am, banana, hunger 2/5

AM SNACK: 4:15am, 1 Boston creme donut, one piece of poundcake, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM SNACK: 4:45am, one half of a McDonalds pancake and sausage, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM SNACK: 6:30am, one chocolate donut, .33 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM SNACK: 8:30am, 2 pieces of olive focaccia, pbj on graham crackers, handful of chocolates, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

AM SNACK: 10:30am, 1 piece of focaccia, pbj on graham crackers, handful of chocolates, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 12:30pm, 2 large pieces of apple pie, whipped cream, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

LINNER: 2:30pm, 4 small juicy hamburgers, plate of pasta in meat sauce, 1 beer, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5

EVENING SNACK: 9pm, portion of french fries, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

Lazy day in Montauk. Went to a popular pancake house for breakfast, was surprised to find that the pancakes were strictly mediocre. In fact, all the food in Montauk kinda sucked. Rich people have low standards, as long as it's expensive.

8am, 2.5 pancakes with bacon and home fries, apple juice, 2.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 1pm, fried fish sandwich with fries, large icecream sunday, 2.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 6:30pm, slice of streetza, 1 bowl, hunger 4/5

DINNER: 7:30pm, half a rib plate, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grains and Rice (Sausage is a grain!)

Today's brief lecture was about rice, but Chef C's forte is not lecture, so no need to bitch about it here. Suffice to say, rice is the #1 staple crop that keeps mankind alive, and if we were studying how man eats and cooks and not from a very French angle, there would be a lot less meat and diary in our kitchen and a whole lot more rice.

Again, we divvied up the recipes. Speedy and Chef Jr took on the Farro & Sausage, 2nd Language Girl took on the Quinoa Salad, Round Head took on the Wheatberry Salad, and I assisted the last two by making the vinaigrettes for both then whipping up a dead simple rice pilaf. RH was unfocused and confused, not quite listening to me and attempting to duplicate others' agendas; I had to kind of snap at him a little, catch his eye, and repeat several things about his recipe, like, "RH, the wheatberries need to soak for an hour. Now." There is no point in doing mise THEN soaking for an hour -- of course something that needs to sit still for an hour can be set up first, but he just wasn't prepared with his recipes.

Pilaf is ridiculously simple. Sweat onion and garlic in fat in a sauce pan. Through in long grain rice to coat. Add a sachet (cheese cloth baggy) of aromatics and chicken stock, season, cover and simmer till dry. Despite scorching a little on the bottom and wasting some rice, it tasted light, bold and a much bigger cleaner taste than any pilaf mix my momma used to make me. Through on some chopped cilantro for a counter point, flavor-wise and visual. Yet another dish I would of taken huge pleasure in making for my mom.

I assisted CJ and Sp in the farro dish. Farro is a weird grain From Wikipedia:
Emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccon), also known as farro especially in Italy, is a low yielding, awned wheat. It was one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. It was widely cultivated in the ancient world, but is now a relict crop in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia.
Kinda looked like puffed wheat when cooked, but firmer. I slit open a bunch of Italian sausages and mashed the loose meat up to brown and caramelize. The final dish, chicken-stock based, had red beans that went nicely with the sausage chunks and matched nicely with the chunky firmness of the grain.

Last part of class was risotto. According to Chef C, risotto is one of the benchmarks of how well you can judge a cook -- if a cook can't do good risotto, cook ain't no good. Risotto is labor intensive and calls for judgement and feel. In a restaurant, a simple risotto will be made 90% of the way, then cooled on large sheet pans. When ordered, a serving is plopped into a pan with hot stock, then finished with whatever flavoring and garnishes the final recipe calls for.

Risotto starts similar to pilaf, but used short grain rice, which has a higher starch load. Sweat the onion (cut smaller than rice grains) in fat, coat the rice. Then you add white wine and reduce to dry. Add small amount of stock while stirring constantly, until it is 2/3 dry, then add another small amount of stock. For 1 cup of rice, we used four cups of stock, took me about 20 minutes to incorporate. Once as the right tenderness, finish -- I used grated parmesan, marscapone cheese, parsley and salt. It tasted quite rocking, and Chef C agreed.

I chatted a bit about risotto with Chef C, about how he does it at home, what pan he uses, etc. He said for the most rocking risotto (and he's made it at restaurants all over NYC, from Blue Hill to Per Se!) the best flavoring method is to add a purée at the stage where all the stock is incorporated, then garnish. I just made asparagus risotto the other day, adapted from a Batali recipe for squash risotto, but there was no call for a purée. If I had puréed the blanched asparagus then mixed it in, abd then garnished with small little slices and finished with the deep-fried tips, MAN, it would of been SO much better. Chef C said eh, Batali is not so much a chef as much as a star. I had to agree, as I suspect Chef C just greatly improved on Batali's cook book recipe.

Tomorrow there is no school, as our classroom is being used by an afternoon class who is taking the whole day to prepare for their graduation dinner, a grand buffet. On Monday starts a few day of method review, where we will be mixing up grilling, braising, roasting, frying and poaching.

Came back to school after hanging out with friends in Brooklyn for a 3 hour knife-skills seminar with a cute little old wizened chef instructor who I kind of wanted to put in my pocket and take home. Like many chefs, he started out trying to be all hard-ass and shouty, but once we got into it, he clearly loved teaching about how to handle a knife and more specifically, loved teaching. It was a pleasure to be in his presence for 3 hours and probably got the most out of this seminar than any other yet. Unfortunately, I think he ruined me for my fancy home knife set. I have a very pricey set of Globals that may have to go on E-bay (or be regifted!) when I get the set of categories he introduced me to.

AM SNACK: 5:15am, small handful of dark chocolate pistoles, hunger 2/5
Starting to adjust sleep schedule to wake up at 3am on Saturday. Really felt the need for a kick when I woke up.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, good granola with good milk, .5 bowl, hunger 4/5

AM TASTINGS: 10:30-11am, bowl of simple rice pilaf, small bowl of marscapone risotto, bite of farro & sausage, bite of wheatberry salad and quinoa salad, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
The rice pilaf was simple but between the sachet of aromatics and the chicken stock, was fabulously clean and simple and tasty.

PM SNACKS: 2:30-4pm, small bowl of farro & sausage, 5 whole wheat crackers with hummus and olives, black and white cookie, 1.5 bowls, hunger 4/5
Over at Corinna's house and a few of her friends, I brought over all my school products. We really enjoyed the farro & sausage, but how can you go wrong with lots of good stock and fresh Italian snausage?!

PM SNACK: 8pm, cheese and bread, peanuts, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5
At the knife workshop

DINNER: 9:30pm, 1 slice streetza, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5
I knew I'd be in danger of binging if I didn't eat anything. Stopped by the place on the corner of A and St. Marks, remembered the last time I ate pizza there was the night my mother died. A bit of a flashback. What I wrote a few years ago:
When she died I had to take her wheelchair home, so I left my bicycle locked up in front of the hospital. After midnight, with B sleeping, I got up and wandered out of the house in sweatpants, slippers, a sweater and keys - probably the first time I've neglected wallet and cellphone. I walked down Grand Street, abandoned and quiet. In an empty lot, a little stray kitten poked it's head out. I stopped, kneeled, and said to it, "If you come out and need me, I will name you Edna and take you home with me." It scurried away, and I scurried away, too. Walking up Avenue A, people were exiting bars, loudly enjoying their drink and each other.

Across from Tompkins Square, between 7th and 8th streets, a couch put out for the trash was on fire, belching oily smoke. I popped in to the pizza shop on the corner of St. Marks, then crossed to the park to watch the impromptu bonfire with my slice. A minute later, a city-services car pulls up, a man gets out and pops open the trunk. He takes out a small fire-extinguisher, and in seconds the fire disappears in a 'pffffft!' of puffy white mist. I kept walking. Close to 12th street, fire engines tear down A sirens-blazing. On 14th, it's abandoned again, until I get close to the hospital. Hospital staff coming and going, eating in the 24-hour restaurants. My bike is there. I consider riding around for a while, but the sweat pants and slippers aren't conducive, and the hot pizza starts to recede against the cold.
EVENING SNACK: 10pm, 3 spoonfuls of peanut butter, .25 bowl, hunger 4/5

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Legumes (Falafel Belly)

When I went to lock up my bike outside of school at 7:30am, I found that I had left my keys in my shorts at home. From front of building to home to actually in uniform in class was exactly 30 minutes (it usually takes me 25 one way). I was motivated because I had a quiz this morning, and didn't want to have to talk to administration about taking it later because I forgot my keys, durrr durrr durrrrr.

After the quiz, a short lecture was given about legumes and beans. Quinoa is a 'mother grain' that contains all 9 essential amino acids, which is kinda freaky, but good for people like the Hungry Vegan Society. Chef C freely admits he was a D student, and his lecture is straight out of the book when questioned about some of the details. Chef C is a really sweet guy, but he doesn't have Chef M's razor sharpness.

Today I was officially team leader, but I broke it down quick. Speedy got the baked beans and the lentils, 2nd Language Girl got the lima beans, Round Head got the cuban black beans, go. Me, I took the falafel and didn't pay one iota of attention to the other dishes, as they were all relatively similar soaking, simmering, seasoning, etc.

Now falafel I can vibe on. My mom called it Jewish soul food, and she even made it a few times herself from a really crappy mix -- making it from scratch would of been beyond the pale! "Why work so hard and spend so much time if it only takes 2 seconds to eat?," would of been her mindset. Hell, it's been my mindset until I woke up this past year or so.

First step, pulse onion and garlic to an even mince and remove from robo coup. Blend chickpeas into a rough paste. Add freshly ground cumin, salt, cayenne, minced cilantro, and minced parsley; blend it in to just mix; add back onion and garlic; mix; refrigerate one hour.

The recipe for sauce called for 16 oz of plain yogurt and 2 oz of tahini and 1 oz of lemon juice, but I quadrupled the tahini. The salad was optional and without recipe, so I made something momma would of loved: an Israeli salad with cubed cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, and a little white onion and seasoned with a dash of olive oil, a squirt of white wine vinegar, and a dash of salt. I cut some romaine into thin strips as a bed.

As the mix was coming together in the fridge, I tested one in some hot canola and shared it with Chef C. Color was a little dark, undersalted, but good consistency. So I salted the mix and popped it back in the fridge.

Got a hot plate out of the oven, set up the plate with wedges of bagged pita, a bed of lettuce in the middle with salad mounded on top, and spooned sauce around the sides. Then I place four falafel balls around the salad. Chef C dug it. I went around and tasted everyone's falafel and was surprised/pleased to find despite the fact we were all using the same recipe, the other groups' falafel were undercooked in the middle, burnt on the outside, under seasoned, etc etc. My experience with falafel over the years guided my hand.

Falafel was a food my mom could rally around, representing an international Jewish culture and memories of the time she spent in Israel in her 20s. My mother was the director of a Jewish community center deep in Brooklyn. Once a year, they would have a street fair in front of their building, with the block closed off to traffic. This street fair would happen on a Sunday, so mom would take me and my brother out there -- a rare occasion to see her in action. She'd introduce us to her coworkers, they'd all cluck, then I'd be given a few bucks and told to entertain myself until it was over. The city would provide a large truck that folded out into a stage, and some good and not-so-good local musicians and oldies would do their things.

Various crafts tables and food stands raised money for the Y and fostered community spirit. Most of it had a patina of shlockiness, except for the the falafel stand. I'd spend my money on the falafel. Deep-fried on the spot, with fresh spices, fresh pita, delicious tahina sauce, and cubed vegetables on top to make it look healthy. The best thing of all was that at the end of the day, all the left over falafel balls would go home with my mom and end up in our freezer. Crazy delicious, just eating the balls as snacks. Funny, during those early years, I didn't quite get that my mom was the big boss of a rather large organization, with lots of fiscal, managerial, and executive pressures on her every day. I did get that she got some amazing falafel in quantity to take home once a year, though.

I guess she made her rare attempt at cooking falafel because she knew I loved it, and bringing it home gave her some sort of satisfaction she wanted to repeat. But how she prepared it -- with a crappy mix that required her to add water and eggs -- it was a no-win situation. Still, for her to put on her ill-fitting chef's hat to cater to my bratty pre-teen tastes, that's a pretty cool mom right there. I guess that's why I told her that her falafel was great even though it tasted a bit like cardboard.

After class, went to God's Love to help pack desserts for 2 and half hours. Met the wife of the owner of Sullivan Street Bakery, really nice, she had chicken thighs to make her 1 year old this evening so I told her how to make a basic braise like we learned in class. She sounded like she was going to do it, too.

BREAKFAST: 6:45am, yogurt smoothie, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5
Threw a banana, 1 serving of good yogurt, a handful of grapes, a squirt of honey and enough good milk to cover the blender blades. Surprisingly good, though thicker than necessary and the friction of the blades made it cool, not cold -- ice will be the move next time, with more imaginative fruit....

AM TASTING: 11am, around 15-20 falafel balls, yogurt tahini sauce, Israeli salad, 2 bowls, hunger 4/5

PM SNACK: 2:30pm, piece of sheet cake, .33 bowl, hunger 3/5
At God's Love break room.

PM SNACK: 5:30pm, handful of dark chocolate pistoles, .25 bowl, hunger 3/5
Needed a kick of sugar to wake me up.

DINNER: 6:30pm, grilled shrimp with rice, guac and chips, water, 1.5 bowl, hunger 3/5
At an overpriced Mexican joint with B and Cousin Iddo.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cooked Vegetables (Chocolate is a vegetable/Beard Belly)

Today's class was all about cooking vegetables in French styles -- i.e., involving a lot of eggs and dairy. Chef C penalizes those who come early by having us set up the class room with mise stations, cutting boards, etc. rather than just let us relax and focus on the day ahead so when we hit, we hit hard. I know it's just a question of style, but I much preferred Chef M's. There is a quiz tomorrow; after a rather longish (45 min) lecture in which Chef C went off-topic several times, he gave us the 10 questions that will be on the quiz. I know it's supposed to be easy to make the customers happy, but as a student I feel a bit deprived of a real challenge.

Before actually getting to work, Chef C demo'd his own recipe that's replacing an official one -- though today is vegetables, he replaced the various cheese and veg soufflés with a sweet chocolate soufflé. I guess, nutritionally, in France chocolate is a vegetable? He also spent time showing us creme anglaise, which is basically hot melted ice cream made with half & half instead of cream.

And the team got to it. Sp, the official team leader, assigned recipes; I got glazed carrots, which took about 3 minutes to assemble the mise and 15 minutes to cook to shiny tender rightness. 2LG got the carrot timbales, which is basically flan in a cup. Chef Jr. took over the potato gratin, which was a relatively straight-ahead recipe involving soaking thin sliced potatoes in cream and milk, before smothering in Gruyère and baking in the oven. Potato purée was easy on the face of it, but involved a lot of vibing. Boil potato hunks till tender, then whip in a stand mixer till loose, pouring in a equal parts hot cream and liquid butter until the potatoes have the consistency of cake batter. Salt and you're done.

The timbales were a gross looking liquidy purée of carrots and and eggs, which poached in little molds in water in the oven, coming out custardy looking and thoroughly unappealing. Chef C made a big deal of how the soufflés had to be precisely measured out or they would not work. When our first batch of soufflés were panned before the oven, we were under by a few ounces and Chef C said no way, won't work, start over. I innocently said, yes Chef C, we're starting over right now, but can we throw these in the oven to see a soufflé not work? Right then he started back-pedalling, saying how he hopes it works and he'll be glad to admit it when he's wrong, blah blah blah. Indeed, they rose beautifully and fully, well-lubricated with sugar and butter in the cups so the walls were solid and attractive. I suspect we didn't whip our egg whites fully, but there was enough air in there to expand anyway.

Tomorrow, a day of legumes. We're making, among other things, falafel. I wish my mom was around, as she gave me a strong connection to these chickpea fritters. Perhaps a ramble about them (and by association, her) tomorrow, as how could making falafel from scratch not bring back all sorts of sense memories about momma?

Unsurprisingly, with the stomachful of super-rich, super-heavy French food in my belly at 8:30pm, I was up till around 2:30 digesting. I chatted with the dean of student affairs in class, he said he and his wife call this, "Beard Belly," in reference to the James Beard Awards, when you eat all sorts of refined foods in small portions but large quantities, things that normally would never be eaten together in the same meal. Felt tired but switched on today.

Took in a cooking demo with Bill Telepan after school, where he made three dishes that incorporated wild, undomesticated ingredients, in particular what he referred to as 'weeds'. And they indeed tasted like leafy, mildly bitter leaves that left a bad taste in my mouth. He seems like a cool guy, but really don't like this shtick. However, he cooked down some stinging nettles like it was spinach and mixed it with some delicious fresh egg noodle and sauteed porcini, and left a very weird numb after-taste on the back of my tongue. Not particularly tasty, but cool.

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, good yogurt with honey and nuts, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5

AM TASTINGS: 10:30-11am, gratin potatoes, chocolate souffle, pureed potatoes, a small number of glazed carrots, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5

The pureed potatoes were good but way too rich, the gratin potato's Gruyere was a killer flavor, the chocolate souffle was nicely fluffy.

PM TASTINGS: 1:30-2pm, small bite of weed salad with fig vinaigrette, small bite of weedy Fritatta with weedy steamed potatoes, small portion of fresh egg noodles with sauteed wild porcini and wild stinging nettles, .5 bowl, hunger 2/5
Not WEED weed, silly! Literally weeds! Purslane, lamb's quarter, watercress, etc.

LINNER: 5pm, falafel and hummus platter, 1.5 bowl, hunger 4/5
There was a green component to this dish, Ilsa, I swear.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Poaching (We're French, F#ck You!)

Today was the first day of Chef C, as Chef M had to attend to a personal matter for the next few weeks. In comparison to Chef M, my first impression is not favorable. Maybe he's a bit nervous about going into a class mid-way through, but he's not focused on the work at hand, he demonstrates his passion for cleanliness by going around sweeping and cleaning people's stations when he should be telling them to do it themselves and spending that energy teaching us, he gave out printed notes to accompany his lecture rather than make us take our own notes (which makes it harder to learn things), he had each group assign leaders rather than let them develop naturally....any way, I don't mean to be boring, but his style is definitely different than Chef M's. Hopefully after today, we'll all settle into a groove.

My group consisted of Chef Junior, Speedy, Round Head, and 2nd Language Girl. Speedy volunteered to be leader, and being that Chef C is an X factor, decided it would be better to lay back a little and see where the class going under his tutelage. One thing that annoyed me off the bat is that Chef C gave out a thick ream of copies of his own recipes, which diverge from the syllabus. That in itself was fine, but we were all geared up for different recipes on our cards and in our own personal organizational modes. During lecture, I found myself confused by the changes he was making, despite his repeating himself for clarity.

Once we started, Sp had me make the Court Bouillon for the Poached Salmon and the Poached Whole Lobster, which is basically water and wine in a big pot simmered with uncooked mirepoix, aromatics, and salt for 30 minutes. Then I took on the Mushrooms à la Greque and Cauliflower à la Greque, which involved wine and vinegar marinades that the veg was poached in; then the veg was removed, the sauce strained then reduced; then all cooled together with a bit of salt.

While I took care of that stuff, the others killed two lobsters by first jabbing a knife in their heads. One positive for Chef C is that he does not expect anyone who does not want to kill a lobster does not have to. On the other hand, I liked that Chef M was direct and hard-core about it, despite my own queasiness at the possibility.

The salmon tranches and lobster, which involved immersion blending of the sauce, reminded me a bit of the lobster bisque -- all were delicious. The whole fish, which was a branzino, looked unremarkable in its muddled pale blue wine butter sauce, and tasted pretty unremarkable, too.

Finally, after cleaning the room more thoroughly than we ever did with Chef M, it turns out we never got to knife skills. Chef C expects us to take home carrots to tourne. Between my volunteer shift this afternoon and working some graphics stuff from home tonight, that ain't gonna happen. My responsibility is to give my all in class and be prepared, it's Chef's responsibility to direct us to get done what is supposed to get done in our 4 hours.

I volunteered at an event at Rockefeller Center this evening for Citymeals-On-Wheels, featuring all sorts of crazed French chefs. I got to work with a famous French chef who spoke almost no English, Jacques Maximin (though his 2nd in command, Joaquin, was an Austrian who spoke both French and English). For the first part of the day I assisted assembling the Lobster Gratin -- a layer of pasta in a gratin dish, topped with a layer of poached chopped lobster, some parmesan, then a creamy lobster sauce poured over the top, which had whipped cream folded into it at the last minute. Quickly browned in a broiler, this was some decadent mac n' cheese.

Some fellow students and I were matched up with a small team of young French dudes who did the cooking while we assisted with lugging the whipped cream and the like. During service we ran the platters of hot gratin to Maximin's table, where the rich people grazed. Once it slowed, we were released to go eat...and eat I did. The food was much better than the James Beard Awards. There, the theme was 'artisenal' and unfussy and 'pure'. Here, the theme was, "We're French, F@ck You!" Heavy cream and red meat ruled the roost, with decadent dairy-intense pastries a close second.

Going from table to table gorging, it was odd to be handed a plate of foie gras by Laurent Tourondel himself, asked to borrow my pen by Jacques Torres, and have my classmate winked at by Daniel Boulud. Todd English and Tom Collicchio were at their restaurants' tables as well, talking to whomever walked by.

I have to say, it was a thrill working as a grunt for this Maximin fellow. He's no bigger than five feet, a big nose and droopy eyes, smoking Gitanes, looking a bit like Serge Gainsbourg. He had nothing to say to me other than, "Fast fast quick quick!" and literally body-checked me as a way to tell me to get a move on, despite me out weighing him by a solid 100 lbs. They need to make a Jacques Maximin doll that curses in French.

This morning, 224 again. I thought I ate a bit too much over the weekend, but I guess the bike riding helped. Then again, I do find it easier to stop eating when I think I've had enough, then sit for a few minutes to let my stomach tell my brain that yes, indeed I had enough. How'd that happen?!

BREAKFAST: 6:30am, good yogurt, honey, vanilla, raw cashews, .5 bowl, hunger 3/5
The fridge is empty and the cupboard bare. Going away for the weekend saw the milk turn and the salad go bad.

AM TASTINGS: 11am, poached salmon with a butter wine sauce, lobster with a cream sauce, a few pieces of poached mushroom, .75 bowl, hunger 4/5

LUNCH: 1pm, 1 beef taco and a Welch's grape soda, 1 bowl, hunger 3/5
Bought from a cart near Rock Center. Taco was surprisingly good and fresh. The soda was weird, hadn't had an industrial grape soda in a while. The biggest surprise was how almost painfully acidy it was, second was how flatly sweet the corn syrup made it, which I guess why they amp up the citric acid. The Boylans grape just rules over it, hand over fist.

DINNER: 8pm, assorted gourmet small plates, including (but not limited to): lobster gratin, veal pate, kobe beef over 24-hour tomato, mini crepe with foi gras and caviar, truffled lobster salad, peanut butter chocolate pie in a graham cracker crust, braised beef with wild leek potatoes, peanut butter mouse pie with a cappuccino cream, pickled duck tongue crostini (better than you'd think)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Weekend Report (North Forkin')

The weekend flew by like a blur, no time (or computer!) to record my every bite. B and I went to Shelter Island to get away from the NYC madness and quietly celebrate her birthday together. Breakfasts consisted of our Inn's continental spread -- I haven't eaten Kellogg's cereal in a long time, and my hippie all-whole grain all-organic versions actually do taste better.

Riding my road bike each morning made me hungry. We hit up a really pretentious, douchey restaurant on the water Saturday afternoon that made me glad I'm not wealthy -- too much money seems to go hand in hand with a lack of imagination in many things, including dining. Too much ice cream indulgence in the afternoon.

Easily, the highlight of the weekend, gastronomically and otherwise, was visiting B's friends in the North Fork, who happened to be staying at a family friend's home with 3 other un-ugly and single female friends (pictured here with B, blurred because I'm a crap photogr....they're anonymous!). This clutch of ladies spent the day collecting local ingredients, and made a mighty meal honoring B's birthday. First course were bubbly cocktails with bits of rhubarb and mint, and goat ricotta and rhubarb compote crostini (pictured above). The main course was a broiled blackfish fillet with walnut pesto, fresh micro green salad with cute little pea shoots and haricot verts. Dinner was topped off with this really decadent (and homemade) chocolate pie involving a caramel layer and fleur de del sprinkled on top. Spending the night with five purty ladies in a real-life raunchy version of Sex & the City didn't hurt, either.