Saturday, December 30, 2006

reason #35 to head west

Citizen Cake.

the restaurant just for pastry chefs...

from gourmet: [chef emily faulker] began as a complete novice in pastry, working her way up from Masa's and Elka's to Rubicon, where she drew raves from such deliriously witty finales as "A Chocolatework Orange," an asymmetrical meringue cake with chocolate ganache and bitter orange marmalade buttercream, inspired by a Richard Serra sculpture.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Obnoxious/Alice Waters 2 /chocolate and lemon

I'm having a Chez Panisse dinner party. I never thought I would become this person:

For everyone familiar with the cuisine of Alice Waters--and those of you who are not--I'm having my first-ever dinner party in my new house and I hope you all will come!

Menu to Include:
Endive Salad with Figs and Walnuts
Pollo al Mattone with Lemon and Garlic
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Spicy Broccoli Raab
Honey-Pistachio Brittle Ice Cream with Lavender Sauce

I will possibly obtain the chicken from Live Poultry Fresh Killed in Cambridge. If anyone is interested in checking out the place with me you are certainly welcome. If anyone wants to take me to the real Chez Panisse for dinner, you are also more than welcome to do so any time you would like.

And while we're here what is with the presence of lemon in chocolatey desserts. Maybe I should try it before I knock it.

From Spire's Valentine's 06 menu: Hot Chocolate Tart with Meyer Lemon Ice Cream and Espresso Sauce.

From Frisson's winter 06 menu, Hazelnut Chocolate Parfait with Cocoa Noir Cake, Meyer Lemon, Lavender Ice Milk.

Spire/Alice Waters

I think the trail at Spire went okay...we'll see. They had me make an almond cake, an anglaise, and a chocolate-guinness mousse. The pastry chef was this cool Irish woman and it was nice, because I was telling her how I wanted an environment where the communication was better/different and where I could learn and grow, and she said they really wanted people who would play around in their free if the place was quiet for the night, I could play with some new desserts. Pretty neat-though I think the prime duty of the job would be plating, with some low-key prep depending on how busy it was that day. In general though Spire is one of the 50 best hotel restaurants in the country and Nine Zero is a top boutique hotel in Boston so it'd probably be a step up from Sonsie in terms of quality and reputation. We'll see.

I'm making dessert with Julia tomorrow night. Profiteroles with Caramel ice cream and Chocolate Sauce, courtesy of Delphin, Alice Medrich and Claudia Fleming. Should be delicious.

Tonight I made really good rice with garlic, onions and carrots, and a touch of adobo. I also made chard with red pepper and lemon, courtesy of Alice Waters's Vegetable cookbook. It was really good and kind of brought back the Chez Panisse experience for me of making something simple taste so good. All I did was saute the chard in olive oil until it was tender, then add a crushed dried thai chili and some sea salt, then squirted it with a lemon wedge. I thought it might be too lemony or something but it was perfectly seasoned. In fact I might always make chard that way from now on. It made me feel like an actual chef, not just a patissier.

The chard was California grown and organic and one of the leaves was larger than my head. I saved the stems to make chard stem gratin as Alice suggests.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


So I think the new restaurant going up in Wellesley where the Figs used to be is a Michael Schlow thing. After all that talk about how it wasn't going to be. At any rate, he's opening up something in Swellesley. And my friend at Bread and Chocolate is leaving because the owner's gone all weird and uncommunicative on her. Dante's hiring (again), Jody Adams is hiring, and thank the lord that bizarro pastry chef at Beacon Hill Bistro is going because those bad-style fusion desserts did not mesh with their menu. They should send him over to Om, where someone if not Rachel Klein herself has Orientalized the dessert menu. I made Claudia Fleming's Coconut Sorbet and don't like the sweetness of it...too sweet, kind of toothachey. Maybe it'll be better with the roasted dates, but I can't afford to buy sherry right now.

How does one make cheffy friends, given that there were only six chances in culinary school adn I consider myself friends with all six of those people? The culinary world is so small and competitive, and the pastry world within that is its own tiny community, and so far the people I've worked for have all been men and all been reluctant to share knowledge...

every baker for herself? really...?

why i enjoy the ferry building

Aside from being a nice piece of architecture, and an old building made functionally and psycihcally new (kind of like the Dia: Beacon, only for foodies), I had a really geat breakfast there. My mom and I didn't even intend to go to the Ferry Building on our SF trip, thinking it too touristy, but then we found out about the Frog hollow store. The night before, we'd gone to the chez panisse cafe and had a Frog Hollow nectarine for dessert, and this was our last day in SF. Since there was no way we were going to get to the farm--and we called out friends, Frog Hollow relations, to make sure--we could at least buy some more produce at the Ferry Building, and get a good cup of coffee to boot. So we walked down Market past the bike messengers and enjoyed a beautiful morning, nosed around the fancy shops a bit...

I snagged some plums and mom got a peach, then we got some breakfast pastries and took them out to the patio where we sat in t-shirts in the sun, and I ate fruit crisp, ad we talked to some nice man about how hte produce was overpriced and all. He asked where else we were gonig and we told him the itinerary--Gualala, Mendocino, Healdsburg, and we chatted about wines and redwoods and were generally approved of by this man. Maybe it was the chez panisse experience, but I started feeling a sense of belonging, or of understanding (more accurately) this city that seemed to always resist me. We shopped the afternoon away in Pacific Heights, found a boutique chocolatier and a grey cashmere sweater, and in a bookstore in the Western Addition I bought my first food book, Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires. I got hooked on Ruth and her wigs while waiting for it to be time to meet my mom's cousin and her daughter across the street at some fancy Nob Hill hotel, and then they whisked away to Frisson and perfect roast chicken, and by the time we left SF in the morning, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge in fog, I was a different person, though I didn't know it at the time.

anyway, not only is Frog Hollow hiring right now, but Boulettes Larder is hiring a pastry chef as well, adn though I am no doubt both too poor to get out there and unqualified for the second position, I am jealous. To work in the Fery Building adn spend every afternoon in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, reminiscing about the Berkeley days and who I used to be...and to write...and to eat, and be in such bounty.

Well, with global warming and all perhaps New England will grow into a bounty of its garlic is coming up already, and it's supposed to be "overwintering". Al
Gore was right. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

the Baker's Dozen

While looking (online) through the Ferry Building Cookbook (or the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Cookbook as it is officially called) I found out about this. The Bakers' Dozen baking support group has branches in SF, NYC and...Utah. Maybe one day Boston will officially be happening enough for such things. Maybe I can start Bakers Dozen New England, or something...or I coudl just join BDE and hang out with Colette Peters and Nick Malgieri.

in the meantime it'll join the list of reasons to return to SF (guess I've finally been bitten), which include:

Chez Panisse
Cocolat/hands-on baking class with fucking Alice Medrich (if she still does them)
Scharfen Berger
Slanted Door
the Ferry building
Frog Hollow
Rued's tasting room
snooty Cyrus cocktails
the twins
Cafe Fiori
La Mediteranee bien sur
Anchor Steam
the Exploratorium roof cam, and
the Munucipal Pier, which feature in stories of mine...
the As new stadium
as always the best beach ever in Santa Cruz
as always my West Coast friends

Reasons to go to New York, onyl for a visit: Prune and Gramercy Tavern, going to eat at Babbo now that I've dreamt about it, snagging some Northern Spies at the Greenmarket, the planned CIA dinner excursion with Jes, oh yes, the Kiki Smith show.

Reasons to stay in Boston: I ridicuously have not gone to Sam Adams or Harpoon, I have not eaten all of Maura Kilpatrick's divine creations at Oleana, Oleana's informative open kitchen, I suppose I should check out Clio's Rick Billinger, then there's that chocolate brunch.

I've been avoiding my blog and I think it's because I've grown dissatisfied with my job. Slaving away for $11/hour is well and good when you are learning, but I'm not sure what else I will learn in my position. Sure, every time we do a menu change there are new treats to master--and maybe the fall menu was easy and the new menu will be more challenging--but I don't think the desserts are exceptional and when I ask a question about why we're doing something a certain way my boss gets very defensive, when all I'm asking for (and in a nice way) is information. Maybe my boss in intimidated by me...I think he wants to get into food writing and I'm a writer, I have my masters, I'm his age, and I'm a chef too. But I have an interview Thursday at the fancy, boutiquey, $15-an-hour-paying Spire restaurant in the nine zero hotel, so I feel a little better. Whether or not I'm interested in that position I think it's nice to see what other people are doing and get a reality check on how my job compares to others in the field. The pastry chef asked me if I knew how to make ice cream. Um, yes. And I hope that doesn't mean I'd primarily be spinning ice cream, but maybe it does, but for fifteen an hour I might be chill with that. I really would like to work for a woman.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

foie gras bans...

It was either the New Yorker or Food Arts that featured an article on the Chicago Foie Gras feast now that foie gras has been banned there. Since the article mentioned a similar ban in CA and I saw tons of foie gras when I was out there, I thought I'd check it out. Apparently foie gras in only produced in California and New York and both states' lesgislatures are considering banning the production of foie gras.

But what really peeved me was learning this, from here:

While the ducks may be happy, others at Hudson Valley Foie Gras are not. To further complicate this debate, the 80 or so feeders at the farm, all Mexican immigrants, complain that they are required to work 30 days in a row, because if they took a day off, the feeding process would be disrupted and the ducks would become stressed, ultimately impacting the quality and flavor of the foie gras. Izzy Yanay, Ginor’s partner at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, cites that producers in France, Hungary and Israel conducted experiments with backup feeders and concluded that they negatively affected the quantity and quality of the foie gras.[11]

For the love of za'atar

Leah and I rode our bikes today down Mt. Auburn Street out to the Watertown line, because we'd just for the first time in our lives tried za'atar--a Middle Eastern spice blend of a wild herb in the thyme family, with sesame seeds and other goodies--at the Ana Sortun cooking demo, and we were hooked. Sortun had talked about spice combinations and spice cravings--how when we say we want Indian food, what we really want is a spice combination.

And za'atar, she said, is going Doritos fast. She'd seen Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud with it, and za'atar has no obvious connection or place in French or Italian cooking, so if Batali and Boulud were doing it, she pressed us, we needed to go get ourselves some za'atar while we were still ahead of the bandwagon.

I'm not a fan of thyme, at least not in dessert and not when it's used overwhelmingly alone. So I wasn't too excited by za'atar's prospects.

But there we were, hunched on a stoop next to the post office, me with a bag of halwah, rose water, a giant baggie of za'atar, and za'atar bread, cramming the bread into our mouths with giant smiles and without talking.

If you ever go out here without me, she said. Just get me more...

We're eating at Oleana next week...which will be so much better now that we've seen chef Sortun in action and heard her talk about her cooking...kind of like a friend in the kitchen.

AND, she said, she's opening a bakery in the area next spring, so if I'm still cooking in Boston, I can hop on her bandwagon and bake mediterranean treats.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

It's only been since August...

...but I seem to be functioning on some higher plane of food. In August when my boss asked me for fall menu ideas I shrugged and said maybe something with crystallized ginger. Now I've got 5 or so ideas.

I started reading the December gourmet and when I came across the article about L'Orangerie in which the author mentioned taking a famous food critic from the Bay area down to LA to go to the restaurant, I knew the critic was Ruth Reichl and I knew who the author must be even before I turned the page to confirm. When I read the restaurant news, I'm starting to be able to do the xc who's who of big deal chefs. In May when I had trouble making dehydrated peppers in the microwave because they kept getting black lines, and I kept grumbling about how it was a stupid idea and why didn't we just cnady them in a sugar syrup, adn it was silly, and Roberta told me we were using Thomas Keller's recipe from French Laundry it meant nothing to me.

I've got vanilla cranberry clove jam cooling in the refrigerator, and yogurt draining for Claudia Fleming's yogurt sorbet, and I'm trying to figure out how to get the cheapest dried cherries in town to make double-chocolate cherry icebox cookies rolled in sanding sugar.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

winter menu musings

Tired from working all the time. Possible winter menu desserts to suggest for Sonsie:

Cinnamon creme brulee with warm gingerbread
Peanut butter banana split with sugar-caramelized bananas, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, peanut butter sauce, homemade marshmallows and chopped peanuts
malted vanilla shake with cookie plate
fudge-filled chocolate cupcake with coffee buttercream
espresso ice cream profiteroles with chocolate sauce
pear-quince crisp with cinnamon ice cream (maybe hazelnut)

big on coffee and ice cream, i am these days. a little too big on cinnamon-got to find other ideas...

I assume we all show our hand of influences. Maybe someday some skilled young girl will be able to look at my menu and say, hmm, french-trained, borrows from east coast grille and gramercy tavern. maybe they'll say, underneath the seriousness she's kinda fun. how do we telegraph our personanlities through menus? what does it mean that chef at osnsie doesn't like using new ingredients?

Half tempted to suggest a yuzu pot de creme, just to see if my boss asks what it is. of course, the real foodies are probably on to something else already.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

How to be a chef

This is a really great article by the chef of Prune in NYC. I'm planning on getting the book it's excerpted from.

Being a chef is much more dramatic than being a writer...but being both is better ;)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I've got an appointment next week to take some samples in to this awesome fresh pasta place in Davis Square, Dave's Fresh Pasta...I'm wicked nervous, especially cause the cranberry cheesecake bars I made stuck in the pan so I could barely scrape out the 12 I needed. So now I've got to make something to take him. Probably cranberry cheesecake, linzer cookies, maybe one more thing. Maybe not. Two samples are good enough, and a least for now.

My arm is really in pain from lifting hundreds of pounds of flour at work. I guess writing on the laptop all the time doesn't help since it's not supported...

I made the most amazing cranberry jam/compote to go with the cheesecake. But I think I'm going to need to put it IN the cheesecake bleeds a little. It's just cranberries, cloves, vanilla bean, sugar and water boiled way down. Divine. If that were the base for Sonsie's cranberry fool, I think we'd sell a few more than we do.

Monday, November 20, 2006

holiday baking

Today I made a 9x13 pan of cranberry cheesecake (which was ok, not very cranberry-ish and a sublime cranberry jam flavored with vanilla bean and cloves. The gam will top the cheesecake and elevate it to being a very good product rather than just a cheesecake. that strawberry cheesecake we made in school (and I made again, for class) was AMAZING and hopefully with the jam, this one'll be better. I also made 4 pumpkin pies. Tomorrow brings chocolate pecan pies and apple pies, and the neverending quest to find cake boxes somewhere in this town...

Friday, November 17, 2006

more gramercy goodness

It's fitting that one of the stories for my collection features yuzu in the context of an epiphany...

I took Claudia Fleming's book out of the library today...lost myself on the subway home dreaming about frozen orange mousse, black pepper ice cream, cherry napoleon...Yum. Fleming does some interesting things. I think my boss used some of her ideas for Sonsie's menu...she's got maple-baked apples with prune armagnac ice cream and almond cookies....which sounds kind of like almond-baked apples with prune armagnac ice cream and almond brittle (and shortbread cookies) to me! If so I'd like to test some of them out.

I really wish CSCA had liquer classes. Armagnac, Sauternes, Port....all we did was dump raspberry brandy and poire william into soaking syrups...which is more than we di at Sonsie, but still, there's a whole word of too-sweet liquors out there that I wont' drink but might cook with, so what's a girl to do??

almost done with this story...I know, this is a chef blog and not a writer blog, but the story's about chefs....

oh, I tried mahi mahi today and it tasted like butter!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

my pinafores

I took some choco-raspberry mousse petit fours to my corporater friend Leah today to give out to her coworkers, adn this is what she says.

>Awesome...your pinafores were a HUGE hit, and I made sure every person got a
>menu and a card. Someone even shouted across several rows of desks that it
>was INCREDIBLE, which created some buzz. People who didn't get one are
>already starting to ask when you're providing more.

Also, I think December's supper club pick is Oleana, the James Beard award-winning chef Ana Sortun's Cambridge resto. Apparently Oleana uses organically grown produce from Sortun's husband's farm...

The week before, Sortun's doing a cooking demo/cookbook signing at CSCA, my cooking school.

Also, in January, I should be eating at CIA. That's only six to eight years overdue but hey, they're still there. In Hyde Park on prime Hudson River real estate. And I so love the Hudson in January, when it's all ice floes and cold, beautiful, grayish-blue light. IF it's cold this january.

chez linz catering

I think I have my first catering client...thanksgiving pies, muhaha. I told her I could bake them--and asked for a clarification of what she wants, cause she wants everything (and who wouldn't, it's a good menu)...that said, i have about ten days (more or less) to finish my thesis...

my menu, so we see:
chez linz
dessert menu fall 2006
petit fours: $2.00/ea.
**all cakes can also be made in 8-in sizes**
chocolate pecan tartlets
mini tarts with a chocolate-tinged pecan pie filling

jasmine-lime curd crescent cakes
whipped-cream lightened lime curd, lime ladyfingers, fondant

seasonal mini cranberry cheesecake
gingersnap crust, jelled cranberry glaze

coco celebration
miniature pineapple-coconut cake, coconut buttercream, toasted coconut

chocolate raspberry mousse fingers
chocolate cake, raspberry preserves, chocolate mousse

individual fresh fruit tartlets
vanilla custard, seasonal fresh fruit

chez linz
dessert menu fall 2006
petit fours: $2.00/ea.
**all cakes can also be made in 8-in sizes**
chocolate pecan tartlets
mini tarts with a chocolate-tinged pecan pie filling

jasmine-lime curd crescent cakes
whipped-cream lightened lime curd, lime ladyfingers, fondant

seasonal mini cranberry cheesecake
gingersnap crust, jelled cranberry glaze

coco celebration
miniature pineapple-coconut cake, coconut buttercream, toasted coconut

chocolate raspberry mousse fingers
chocolate cake, raspberry preserves, chocolate mousse

individual fresh fruit tartlets
vanilla custard, seasonal fresh fruit

assorted cream puffs
flavored pastry cream filling, ganache/fondant/caramel glaze

pies: $14.00 9"/$4.50 individual
classic pumpkin pie

caramelized apple pie with streusel topping

chocolate pecan pie

spice-poached pear tart with almond cream

cookies: all cookies $10.00/dozen
linzer cookies
raspberry & apricot jam filling, dusted with confectioners’ sugar

orange-almond tuiles

best lemon bars

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Beacon Hill Bistro

Leah picked the Beacon Hill Bistro for our November dinner for one reason only: on the website, they advertise this Flight of Three Coffee Drinks with Homemade Chocolates--
Swiss Coffee, Irish Coffee, Keoki Coffee. And the rest of hte menu sounds lovely also--Chocolate Fondant with Cocoa Foam and Pistachio Ice Cream, Selection of Petits Fours with a Petit Crème Brulée, Rhubarb Clafouti with Macerated Strawberries and Milk Ice Cream...So we're very excited, and we get to the restaurant feeling both somewhat down. For starters, it's odd to be on Charles Street and be with a female friend and walk into a restaurant, grab a table for two and sit amongst the white-hairs and upstanding families. No doubt they thought we were out on a date or something--because usually young people don't go to nice restaurants except for on that reason. Feeling conspicuous I ordered some Russian River Pinot, consulted the menu and tried to relax. I wasn't in the mood for chicken, having had Sonsie fried chicken for lunch. But the tagliatelle sounded interesting--with pesto (I love anything pesto), cheese, walnuts and pomegranate. And Leah decided in a moment of bravery to get the rabbit braise with pumpkin gnocci. It was an old rabbit, I told her, since she was feeling weird about eating rabbits. The meat would be tough, otherwise they would not braise it. She put her animal-rights misgivings away and we dug into the bread basket. Not ten minutes later our food arrived in bowls and I found myself looking at a mound of pasta perched atop a pool of oil. Even if it was EVOO it didn't look all that appetizing.

We talked about drinking too much, trying to impress our coworkers and trying to fit into the adult lives it's about time we grew up into. Leah is 28 and I'm 26. I was sad that night about losing some friends a few months back and in general felt like I was and am a woman up for adventure with some meek companions around. The atmosphere of BHB was overwhelming and made us dissociate. We felt like we were sitting in a subway car and, since I'd been dreaing about Alaska that week, we talked about road trips, the great West Coast, and getting out of town for a while. I daydreamed about making my way to Napa for wine harvest, whenever that may be. I've started to feel like my friends elsewhere (which is to say NYC and SF) would be happier if I were there than here. And I'd mostly like to get a manuscript out. So Leah braved the rabbit--it feels like chicken, she said, but it doesn't taste that way--and wondered how else it might be served. Stuffed, poached, grilled? What would a presentation of rabbit look like? I chewed my tagliatelle adn crunched my way through the pomegranate seeds. The idea sounded interesting but was ill-executed and the pesto was not worthy of the name. Mostly it was overly-large green chucks as if torn by hand and drippy pools of oil. I guess I like my pesto on the garlicky side, but it did not have much taste despite the copious amount of black peper the waitress poured on. We discussed my chef/fishing story--which will be great when it is finished--and how to make it more gruesome. And then we were handed the dessert menu which featured the following unsightly combinations:

jasmine creme brulee
coconut mousse with passionfruit sorbet and lemongrass basil syrup
warm chocolate cake with baked apples and caramel ice cream

and other such bad-asian-fusion combinations. Since I'm working on the jasmine lime cakes we went with the brulee and ordered the coconut mousse also. There were other things on the menu--tarragon ice cream or some such savorry spice. The waitress brought the creme brulee, which had orange slices fanned atop the crust and which I moved aside lest they water it down. She forgot the coconut mousse having gone to look up the coffee flight which, in her year plus of working there, she'd never hear of. We poked our way through the gray, decent brulee and waited for the mousse. Even though it was comped we should have skipped it because, as I commented upon biting into something that tasted like whipped egg whites, it was the worst mousse ever! While it no doubt had coconut milk, the taste was dimly coconutty, like the aftertaste of an almond joy in your mouth five minutes later. The sorbet was fine--pretty good for a passionfruit sorbet, much better than the Emack and Bolio's version. The syrup, though intriguing, was dripped below the mousse and was a little too subtle to really enjoy. Perched atop the sorbet was the worst tuile ever--it tasted sticky yet stale and I flung it to the side of the plate in disgust without offering some to Leah. I took several bites, analyzing why precisely the mousse was awful. I'm not sure how it was constructed but I would have based it in a white chocolate or something, infused with coconut. It didn't taste creamy at all, only eggy--the same mouth feel as a souffle, and clearly not the same ingredients or preparation as the baked tower. New pastry chef, we found out. Upon taking a bathroom trip I saw five tables eating the chocolate apple caramel concontion which appears to be the only decent dessert they feature. It may be good but who wants to pair chocolate with apples? First it has to sound good.

Off we shuffled into the night, heading for more happening parts of town and trying to digest the dis-ease in our stomachs the expensive meal failed to wash away.

Next month, I'm deciding between Oleanna, Tangierino, and Hammersley's. Unless the menu at Eastern Standard changes to something I'll eat.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Molly O'Neill

So it seems that greatness attracts greatness...That said, will I be the next Ruth Reichl/Molly O'Neill, or the next Eileen Myles/Michelle Tea? Maybe both.

I'm reading Molly O'Neill's memoir Mostly True, which claims to be about food and baseball. I had the chance to hear O'Neill read a few years ago and it was surprisingly one of hte best readings I've been to. A food writer, I thought...Who wants to hear some food writer read? I hadn't known at the time that O'Neill had been food writer at the Times. The reading was at Vassar and unlike most readings it was packed, and it had a large audience of non-students. O'Neill read--and what she read I have memory of, hough I do remember being slowly charmed--and then she took questions. Most vividly I remember the sense of longing, and ownership, and community that writing about food created between O'Neill and the audience, many of whom had no doubt read her columns for years. Why did you leave, people begged. Tell us what really happened. We miss you. I have never felt a connection and a sense of community that strong at a reading. So it makes sense, now that I make my living in the kitchen, to return to O'Neill. Maybe I'll write her. I'll track down Molly O'Neill and I'll say, I saw you read. I'm a chef now. Who wants to be a writer. I could be the new you. Sure, I'll just add that to my list of goals. Network with Molly O'Neill.

But she writes, when speaking of pastry:

Bakers live in a world apart, a sweet and self-contained world that, due to the fine mist of flour and confectioners sugar in the air, tends to feel like the inside of a snow globe. Restaurant cooks work as a team, side by side, like cogs in a machine. Bakers tend to be solitary....I was also pleaed to be part of a lifestyle in which flour, sugar, and butter were primary food groups.

and then, two pages later:

Slouched in the club chair in the living room, I explained to him that I had ruined my life--I was writing Happy Birthday on carrot cakes instead of writing literature. What had I been thinking? The fans were never going to go wild for Pastry Girl!

Then she goes on to be a head chef, to serve dinner to Julia Child and Paul Bocuse, and to become a food writer...which is where I am.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Getting home from a ten hour shift at Sonsie, baking is the last thing I want to do! But tonight I sucked it up and made a flourless chocolate cake which is baking now, so that on Tuesday I can bust out a chocolate mousse and assemble some chocolate-raspberry petit fours to take around for sampling for my catering. Yum...Should be tasty. Now I can sort of relax, watch mindless television, try to get published and/or funded for fellowships, try to clean the house and to relax and to get to bed at a reasonable hour for the five a.m. shift tomorrow. It's been busy, but in a weird way. Lots of last-minute plating, etc.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

petit fours

I snuck some petit fours from tonight's function...there's was this awesome electric-blue one that was supposed to be chocolate mint, but the color was more lagoon--like. all glassy and crusted over sugar fondant. but it was in a little chocolate cup. then there were cookies, hazelnuts covered in white chocolate, lots of other things that looked good. it's funny, you can sort of tell--by which i mean I can tell--whether things are going to be as good as they look or not. there's something so mediocre about a lot of things...stupid little linzer cookies. i don't understand. it's not hard to make a good one (ok, maybe i've got more skills that the average cook, but hey, it REALLY ISN'T HARD. or maybe it is, i don't know.) i'm just sick of mediocre dessert. it makes me not even want to bother. i hate being nervous in bakeries, cafes, restaurants, not wanting to order certain things because i don't think they will be very good. i wonder if real chefs feel that way about eating. because i certainly did not become a pastry chef to ruin my favorite food group for myself.

yes, dessert is a food group in my book.

i did get to hand out business cards at the function to some of the temps i've worked with a lot. and to someone who knows a world cup pastry participant. i was like, PLEASE, hook me up with your friend. not cause i want to pull sugar or anything, but come on, world cup pastry? that's intense. maybe i can be like some super pastry correspondent to the new yorker or gourmet or something. writer to the foodie stars. except i don't write journalism...and i think there's something silly about competitive cooking...

autumn gardening /Sibling Rivalry

Today I dug up my rosemary and brought it in for the winter. I really hope it survives. I haven't had good luck with keeping it alive inide before. I guess Thurday ngiht I'll make a rosemary-roasted delicata squash and red onion risotto and at least give it a good send-off. I'm trying to use up the contents of my cupboard rather than buy new groveries, and I have an over-large amount of dried beans and grains of all kinds, and of coure, nothing to cook them with in the way of produce or meat. I also planted this blueberry bush that's been sitting on my porch all summer, next to the existing blueberry bush. Both the blueberry and Asian pear tree are budding already! That scares me.

Sibling Rivalry was amazing. It was fairly crowded, for a Wednesday night, but the service was prompt and very accomodating. I had my salad without cheese, mom had her squash ravioli without duck confit, and there were no sneers or anything. Wine was adequate-I did have a Russian River Chardonnay but the Gewurtztraminer was totally one dimensional. They rushed us to a booth, quickly, and gave us plenty of time to look over the menu.

The gimmick of Sibling Rivalry--and I think a gimmick works once, to get you in the door, but you need a reason after that to go back--is that it's run by two brothers and the menu is subdivided by their names. Chef David and Chef Bob each offer a take on the same ingredients (duck, arugula, tomatoes and mushrooms) and you can choose the presentation you want. I knew in advance I didn't want any of the main courses, which were all game-y and fish. Some of them sounded amazing, like the Duxbury Mussels with Spicy Thai Yellow Curry, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Sweet Potatoes, Coconut Milk, Peanuts, Ginger, Chilies and Cilantro BUT I'm not quite up to ordering seafood.
We all ended up ticking with the small plates, going with salads and apps. I got the Salad of Roasted Pear, with Gorgonzola, Crispy Leeks, Endive, Radicchio, Red Onion and Port Vinaigrette...and found the pear had not been roasted long enough and was altogether too crunchy still. It was an elegant pear half with the middle melon-balled out--plenty of pear--but please, prick them with a skewer or something. Otherwise the salas was lovely, with some nice walnuts thrown in there. I love nuts and fruit in salad. Then I had a nice homemade pasta dish: Hand-Rolled Papardelle with Artichokes, Dried Tomatoes, Toasted Garlic, Portobello Mushrooms, Buffala Mozzarella and Olive Oil. It was heavenly. Wide pasta ribbons about two inches, the vegetables were perfect--I even ate all my mushrooms! Very lovely for a cold autumn day. And the dessert menu--damn, the choices! We stuck with an autumn tasting of gingerbread, pecan "pie" and pumpkin creme brulee (which was served with miniscule cookies, very cute) and the Seven-Layer Mocha Cake Cappuccino Anglaise and Mocha Crunch. But there were so many more I wanted--next time. The Mocha Cake was all right. It came with these nice crispy-crunchy chocolate mendiants on top adn a flavorful cappucino anglaise, and the cake was very moist (I get nervous ordering cakes now for dessert). BUT the frosting wasn't flavored enough to stand up to the chocolate cake and chocolate sauce. Come on, people, don't be afraid of string coffee. The autumn tasting was somewhat disappointing. The brulee was watery, almost--maybe it was stirred and not baked? The consistency was off, I think...The pecan pie was a baklava-type creation with some inappropriate flavor in it, lemon or anise, I think. Not enjoyable. And the gingerbread was great. I'm not a big fan, btu it was with this stewed cranberry compote adn it was warm...mmh!

All in all a great night with lovely food. The pumpkin ravioli (with pancetta, but no duck confit) were good. Ann had the shrimp special and loved it. I'm definitely going back--for dessert as well as the main offerings.

Last note, this chocolate babka that was given to me by my old employers (by way of my mom) is so good!! I did not have high looked like brioche, which I don't love, but the bread wasn't so eggy and it was great even after two days of sitting in the fridge. I've got to find out where it came from.

Time for lunch at the Porter Exchange with Francine, then writing, then a catering shift with Gourmet at the JFK library. Should be good food, at least, whenever we do get to eat it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sibling Rivalry

I'm going to Sibling Rivalry tomorrow night! There are so many good looking desserts! I wonder how many I can convince Mom and Anne to get...

Also, I got the ingredients for my jasmime lime crescent cakes...when I'm not feeling so pathetically run down and sick I'll get around to making them. At least I'll do the lime curd today, probably.

Still reading Letters to a Young Chef. The tone is actually very annoying. But I know at least some of what he's saying is accurate. I'm eating Red Chileatole with Chicken, Mushrooms and Zucchini from Rick's decent. But a little one dimensional. I doubt the epazote would have much aided that...maybe I'll add some oregano next time. Or's where it would be useful to know how to flavor savory food. Not that I would have learned that in culinary school even if I did eat or cook the meat dishes.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

what Daniel Boulud says about taste

To Read: The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. The United States of Arugula, David Kamp. What I'm currently reading: Cool For You, Eileen Myles, Letters to a Young Chef, Daniel Boulud.

I started reading Letters... because Daniel is actually one of the few quite nice restaurants I've been to. My mom and I went several years ago on some trip to New York, and I had no concept of famous restaurants per se, nor do I remember what I ordered, although it's fair to assume we probably had creme brulee for dessert. So yes, I've been to Daniel, I only remember having to look pretty and knowing I was supposed to be impressed. Maybe I'll ask my mom if she remembers. Maybe it was Ruth Reichl's description of Daniel in Garlic and Sapphires, or maybe some desire to slight New York, but I picked up Letters in the first place because I was hoping for a good laugh.

While I've never read Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet I am of course aware that Boulud is stealing from his. I read Boulud's first sentence in the library, and he begins: "Writing these letters to you has inevitably made me think of myself when I started out in this business more than thirty years ago." It was self-aggrandizing enough for me to decide it was worth a read.

Then on p. 42--after I'm reading and fine with his style, not really relating to his odes to braising, but hey, I'm a patissier, I'm not supposed to--I get to this:

"One thing that influences taste but which has nothing to do with taste buds is texture. With many dishes, your mouth seeks out texture first before it 'decides' to experience taste. That is one of the fascinating things about taste: you prepare yourself mentally beforehand. Texture is a critical messenger in letting your tate know what is coming." (42)

And he's right, of course, if I stop to think about it. Why this interests me in particular is that I've over my entire life chosen to eat foods (or not) based primarily on texture and temperature. Nothing cold (except dessert), nothing slimy, nothing raw, nothing mushy. No egg yolks. No cereal with milk. No cheese, no tomatoes, no cold cuts, no mushrooms, no ketchup, no mayonnaise...It goes on and on, and dessert's pretty much the only food group I've never had these sorts of rules for. As I've gotten older they've bent. But I've never considered how (or if) the things I've chosen to put in my body allow for a certain sort of taste experience left out.

Maybe tomorrow, when I go out for Mexican with Drew at the deliciousRudy's right down the street from me, maybe I'll dip my taco or what not into the sour cream and see what it actually tastes like. Some combination of yogurt and creme fraiche likely, and I probably won't be too keen, but it is used a lot in baking and I do have no framework for tasting it. Not only it is mushy and cold, it's sour...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

the chocolate room at gramercy...

I was talking to Eric, one of the sous chefs this morning. We got into discussing work and all--he apparently is used to working seventy something hour a week, and only gets four hours of sleep, and by the way is only twenty years old and is a sous chef. He mentioned he was cooking in New York and so I asked his what that was like...

I imagine it's all postage-stamp-sized kitchens, dim fluorescent lighting, giant subway rat in the dry storage...basically, like Boston onyl tinier, dirtier, and darker. Though probably better paid. It was great, Eric said.

Then he told me about working at Gramercy Tavern. I've never eaten there but it's only two blocks away from the Barnes and Nobles I worked at in the I feel a certain claim to it.

The kitchen, Eric said, is about twice the size of the Sonsie dining room. And there's this giant wood-burning stove that takes six chefs to work. And they crank out 200 covers for lunch.

But here's what got me: they've got a room the size of my bedroom for tempering chocolate! I wanted to get all technical with him...marble slab or seeding method? Or do they have a tempering machine? A room the size of my bedroom. Just for tempering chocolate. I've got to see this. I've got to eat there. I don't want to be one of those hoity toity restaurant chefs but a chocolate room is just so decandent! Maybe I can call them up, finagle a reservation, beg to see the kitchen...hah right.

But between Jacques Torres and this, and my millions of New York friends, there's got to be an NYC trip planned one of these days. If I ever have another free weekend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

jasmine-lime crescent moons

Amy commented on my sample menu for baking that she thought it should be more exotic. So I've been thinking of moon-shaped ladyfinger cakes with whipped lime curd, covered in fondant...ideally the fondant would be light, vaguely translucent white and just drip down from the top off the edge of the cakes. since there's no liquid in ladyfigners I'm not sure if it would work to do a jasmine infusion somehow...or to just add some lime zest and put some tea in while I make the curd. last resort i'm thinking is a thin layer of white chocolate-jasmine ganache, with the lime curd overpowering any white chocolate taste.

I'm also thinking lime-grapefruit. or mexican chocolate ganache with hazelnut meringue discs. But I think the lime moons will be really cute. and I can always save the mexican chocolate for another menu.

Today I went to Flour Bakery to check it out. They had a lot of little things--the menu reminded me of hi rise, but with less bread--and so I got a piece of berry bread pudding that i'm saving for breakfast tomorrow. mmh, frozen berries cooked into mush. the piece was enormous (for only 2.95) and I am hoping I like it. I dunno, I really love the Figs' white chocolate challah bread pudding but I'm not that fond of sonsie's "award winning" chocolate bread pudding, or the chocolate bread pudding from Henrietta's Table. Probably, I just don't like chocolate bread pudding.

In good news, I got the chocolate pecan pie recipe from East Coast Grille. It was published in The Thrill of the Grill. Unsweetened chocolate, and only three hours. And the sugar is cooked with the corn syrup, so the filling is pretty much all liquid. I guess I'll see how that affects the texture.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Perhaps why I try eating fish after 7 years

In Kitchen Confidential (which I read, once, while in culinary school, and reread--vastly preferring it this time--after working in kitchens for a year), Anthony Bourdain writes:

"We went on. Calling for more, more, Phillipe telling the chef, in halting Japanese, that we were ready for anything he had--we wanted his choice, give us your best shot, motherfucker (though I'm sure he phrased it more elegantly). The other customers began to melt away, and our hosts, the chef joined by an assistant now, seemed impresed with our zeal, the blissed-out looks on our faces, our endless capacity for more, more, more....Our sakes were refilled, the chef openly smiling now. These crazy gaijin wanted it all, baby! The best course yet arrived: a quickly grilled, halved fish head. The chef watched us, curious, I imagined, to see how we'd deal with this new development.

It was unbelievable: every crevice, every scrap of this sweet, delicate dorade or Chilean pompano had responded differently to the heat of the grill. From the fully cooked remnant of body behind the head to the crispy skin and cartilage, the tender, translucently rare cheeks, it was a mosaic of distinct flavors and textures. And the eye! Oh yeah! We dug out the orbs, slurped down the gelatinous mater behind it, deep in the socket, we gnawed the eyeball down to a hard white core. When we were done with this collage of good stuff, when we'd fully picked over every tiny flake and scrap, there was nothing left but teeth and a few bones."

Sure, there's some amount of horror in reading this (fisheye? come on), but at the same time there's something beautiful about the analysis of taste, of eating. If I'm lucky I can do that with a dessert (more oftne than not)...but there's a lot more world out there I've never tasted and I think it's time for some slight reckoning.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lydia Shire was at East Coast Grille tonight! It was totally funny, because my mom spotted her and all I could think was, well how do you even know who she is? And of course my mom got all offended, and then asked the waitress if it was in fact her, and it was, and then we started speculating on Lydia Shire...She's more diminuitive in real life...

my mom actually dared me to go up to her and tell her I made the butterscoth sauce she'd just featured in the Boston Globe a few weeks back, but I was too nervous to do it plus I had food stains on my shirt from some sweet potato that went tumbling awry.

Also, I ate fish. For the first time in like 7 years, or so...really just a bite or two of swordfish. Enough to realize that it didn't taste overwhelmingly oceany, and enough to understand that it was chewy, dense, and slightly rubbery in the mouth. A whole world of flavors out there that I just don't know...

will I do it bite by bite? at what point will I stop or even really get started? (Not pickles, not tonight, but pickled carrots, which were unpleasant)...

pecan pie.

A while ago at East Coast Grille I had the good fortune of enjoying their chocolate pecan pie, a deceptively simple gooey, chocolately piece of straight-up pie. While the food at East Coast Grille is spiced up, seared, and fussed with as chefs are wont to do, all the desserts I've eaten there are straightforward classics. Banana split. Pecan pie. And since that visit I've been craving a chocoalte pecan pie of my own. My original impression was that they just made a pecan pie with a little cocoa powder in the mix. But when I decided to do some research on the topic, most of the recipes specified melted chocolate.

Wanting to keep it simple I followed a Tyler Florence recipe from the food network. I nixed Emeril's version cause it called for store-bought pie crust and chocolate chips, and I figured hell, bitch, if I'm making a pie I'm making some pate sucree...So I did, using the Joy of Cooking cause the batch size is much more manageable than Delphin's "3 lbs. of butter" version...

And then filled it with the Tyler Florence non-fussiness of chocolate, butter, pecans, corn syrup, etc. And having never made pecan pie before (too American for cheffy) I figured the nuts I put on the unbaked crust would rise up through the corn sryup before baking...why else would they be placed on the bottom yet always seen on top? Maybe not my brightest moment.

Here's the recipe for the filling:
4 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces, lightly toasted

For filling:
Stir chocolate and butter in heavy small saucepan over low heat until melted. Cool slightly.

Whisk brown sugar, eggs and salt in large bowl to blend. Whisk in corn syrup and chocolate mixture. Sprinkle pecans over unbaked crust. Pour filling over pecans. Bake until crust is golden and filling is puffed, about 55 minutes.

Cool pie completely on rack.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I ended up with a big fudgy gooey brownie type confection glommed onto some pie crust! It wasn't pecan pie with delicate chocolate whispers, it wasn't the sort of thing that confounds the mouth (pecan pie? or warm melty chocolate?). It was a glorified brownie with over-large nut slivers...So I'm going back to East Coast Grille tonight to at least sample the original version again and plot some more...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

& oh yeah, the sonsie scene

The interesting if somewhat inaccurate Boston magazine article on Sonsie

shadowy networking with the ladies

I went out to eat last night and had the best food I've had in two months! Really it made me feel like a fully realized human being to be able to appreciate food so much. But the brief thing to discuss--because I'll post my review of Om when I've got a little more brain cells working up there--is chef Rachel Klein was asking about me (this is memorable, you see, because I nurtured a brief but intense one night crush on her at Spinnazola).

Okay so she wasn't asking about me per se. She was only wanting to know who this individual was that was sitting at the bar asking her bartender detailed questions about the dessert menu. Find out who she is, Rachel said. I of course hinted that I was worknig at Sonsie fairly happily (the bartender also used to work for the lyons group which owns Sonsie) but *could* be tempted away (for mroe pay, etc.), and gave them my number. Apparently the old pastry chef there quit. And the replacement seems to give a fuck that she's working for a fusion restaurant and just wants to serve fucking cheesecake and creme brulee. Please. Just when french pastries are getting so popular in Asian least make a fusion-flavored creme brulee and not "tahitian vanilla bean" for fuck's sake...

I actually doubt Om will call, mostly because they're pretty flaky. I was supposed to interview with them before, but I had to reschedule and when I called to inform them of this found out they'd already hired someone else. They're pretty flaky but pretty big right now...So many choices. I float around the city wondering where I am supposed to be working, what I am supposed to be learning, whether I should bother working the restaurant scene at all?

Eastern Standard, Om, Dante...I've been "supposed to" work at a number of Boston's finer dining establishments...

and here I am set to get up at five to make the donuts for Sonsie...
which is sort of its own category of eating establishment.

the "bulletproof vest on the floor, in case they call a hit on me" establishment.

Meanwhile, how many crushes on semi-famous chefs do I need to have before I become solely the girl who crushes out on celebrity chefs? Rachel's sexuality notwithstanding I do sense a creepy pattern. Maybe it was just that combined with mildly cruhing on my friend's boss at harvest (who is a) not my type and b) straight)...but I'm pretty sure I can attribute that to the afterglow of my perfect tofu from Om.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bambara, Kendall Square (Galleria), Cambridge MA

I went to Bambara after a trip to the creey Bodies exhibit at the Science Museum...not the kind of thing you'd want to see and then do dinner, but we were actually starved. It's possible I was prejudiced against Bambara from the start cause I'd wanted to go to dante, but my mom's friend was set on in we walked, and we were ushered to the bar to grab some martinis while we waited for a table, which is when I found out they've got an open kitchen...very exciting.

I think it waqs my first open kitchen sort of watching the guys at Indian restaurants do the naan since becoming a chef myself...They were fast, clean, and then one of them stuck is hands on the grilling meat and flipped it over so another side could sear. Yikes. He was wearing gloves of some kind, so I inched closer and kept staring before deciding they were probably just standard latex gloves...adn if so why would they not melt?

We're seated and we order. i start munching focaccia and wheat from the bread basket--better than average breads, fairly dense with thick crusts. The focaccia was salty and oily, but in a good way...

We started with the roasted beet and hazelnut salad (with goat cheese, watercress, adn tangerine vinaigrette)...Quarter sized slices of red beet rested atop butter-yellow shapes, indistinct and slightly confusing. Not carrots, not seared tofu batons, not...well, not much is that color yellow. Golden beets? I offered. Taste confirmed they were. The salad was adequate--tangerines were not evident in the too-oily vinaigrette. The golden beets had minimal flavor and the red beets somewhat better. I guess it's difficult to have an okay beet salad when the last beet salad you've had was the one here, which was flavored much more to my liking and where the quality of the beets, greens, and dresing were overall better.

But then when the orders came, they mixed up my mother's meatloaf with a second order of halibut (which, she was informed, was good). Service was slow and generally confused-slash-indifferent. The mushroom tagliatele I got was plentiful, and plentifully creamy, but the mushroom flavor was lacking. I swallowed my way through half the mushrooms in the dish jut to get it to taste like something (hate the texture, like the flavor)...

Dessert was fairly sad. We asked for the profiteroles, but were told they ran out. We'd also ordered a pear-cranberry crisp which was large enough for 4 to share. The pears were unskinned, slightly hard, and not very flavorful...not sweet enough to balance the tartness of the cranberries. The streusel, the best part of the dish, disappeared within the first minute, leaving us with a bottomless ramekin of tart cranberries and forgettable pears.

Expensive and forgettable, overall, would apply to the gaudily decorated Bambara, whose charms of an open kitchen and a somewhat exciting martini list (I got to have a basil-cucumber Hendricks drink that tasted not a morsel like basil) don't make up for the wussy flavors, generally un-imaginative fare and lackluster service.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Improper Dining

When discussing Biba (where incidentally Chef Bill worked at one time), the Improper says:

"Whimsically written menu copy-" a mushroom masquerading as a steak, skate wing with a splah of elderberry wine , roasted pumpkin butter and charred chard ribs , spritz of ice wine vinegar on clams hearth-roasted over pine needles with foaming sauce of pine nut"--reflected [Lydia] Shire's focus on lusty, imaginative dishes resulting from research and hard work. "Far be it from me to chop up tuna tartare and put it on a chip; that's not working hard for your customers," she says.

While I can't even begin to imagine what those sorts of things must taste like (fine, I've had ice wine, chard, mushrooms, no to elderberries and skate), and how those flavors must combine, adn I muss confess to mising the foam trend entirely, there's something to be said for that philosophy. For putting more on a plate than a little banana-nutella sandwich sauteed, or a pastry-cream filled fresh fruit tart with glaze. For going that extra mile in ingredients or preparation or innovation. It reminds me somewhat of those weird petit fours we made for Spinazzola, the passionfruit jelly strawberry mousse cream cakes. Something a little different as Chef always said.

But what does it take to invent that newness? (or, why fennel pollen? why yuzu?) More later, when I'm not watching Fight Club and drinking the best pumpkin beer, Brooklyn Brewery's Post Road...

Spinazzola petit fours from January 2006, pastry school ladies and Delphin Gomes.

Homemade bread would have been good but ugh...

Got home from work today to find my plans abruptly of my friends had to work late and the other was too tired to go for the reading series at our school. So the whole evening stretched in front of me with nothing to do and since I hadn't eaten anything since 10:30 and it was now 6 dinner was forefront on my mind. Actually I wanted (and still want) an ice cream sundae but first things first...Nothing in the fridge. Just got paid but am putting the money aside for rent since I'll be short next check. Lots of rice and beans in the cubby, no produce, a wine crate of cookboks. Flipping through Chez Panise Vegetables--

and a side note on Chez mom keeps giving me Chez Panisse cookbooks for Christmas. I have "fruits", "vegetables", and "Chez Panisse Cooking" and out of the three of them have made a total of maybe three recipes in four years. Mostly because I don't eat meat and therefore don't have the sort of meat-and-potatoes-y meals that the vegetable side dishes should go with...and I don't exactly want to serve them with braised tofu. (Can you even braise tofu...? Or would it just fall apart)

I find Alice's recipe for Mediterranean Lentil Soup, which is basically lentil soup. And I do have carrots, garlic, onion and lentils, and it is somewhat cold outside and almost soup weather. So I go for it...but as my mom taught me I browned/burned my garlic in the gas flame. It's something she learned from Jordan and anyway I love that smoke garlic flavor.

Then I was thinking warm bread and butter...hell I can make warm bread. I do have yeast in the fridge and hi gluten flour and I was pretty sure I could cobble the ingredients together for something. And then have to let it rise and then shape it, rise again, bake it, and it's not difficult only I knew I would leave the kitchen out of sheer boredom and it'd overproof and it would be only ordinary bread and not divine because out of hunger adn not out of art, and I can just go to the foodmaster and buy ordinary bread.

But I still want divine bread. I do have a great recipe from Monte who bakes at Craigie Street Bistro, Tony Maws's fancy place in Cambridge where this waiter totally insutled me (this was before I became a chef) for Rosemary Raisin Bread...perhaps next week I shall make some with the rosemary from my garden, which I should bring in before the frost.

Alice's modified lentil soup is bubbling, and I'd like some red wine (but not my good Zin), but more than that I'd like company for dinner...Sigh.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

bread and chocolate

I went to visit my friends Joyce and Erica at the new bakery where they work in Newtonville, bread and chocolate. The space is so bright and design-y and cute! They sell sandwiches, pastries, cakes, and even dog treats for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

It was nice to see my friends. Even nicer to tell them I have a new job on swanky old Newbury Street. Messy little me with an intense job...

I took the mini chocolate mousse cake home with me. The ganache dripped lusciously down the side of the cake. The structure of the mousse was perfect. Not grainy at all, dense and rich and so creamy. Yum, mousse. With a tiny bit of genoise soaked in some sort of liquor-y syrup...what flavor, though, was hard to tell. Bailey's, maybe? Kahlua? The mousse should have been amped up with a little of the flavoring to make it more intense. That said, it's hard enough finding a good chocolate mousse that I'll settle for the smile that puts on my face.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Coco Celebration

My mother requested a birthday cake.

She LOVES, has always loved, coconut cake. A friend's boyfriend made her a fabulous coconut cake and, since then, nothing has come close to the memory of that square dance birthday party cake. Not even the cake that we made in culinary school.

I set out trying to make the cake part of the coconut cake a little more interesting by adding some diced pineapple and a shot of coconut rum. Halfway through the baking, when I opened the oven to rotate the cake pans, the fumes from the alcohol burning off made me gag. So beware.

I toasted some coconut flakes for the outside, then set to work pumping up the frosting, a standard-issue buttercream. Not the wussy American-style butercream some chefs (Nigella Lawson, ahem) use, but a bastardized version of French buttercream with eggs cooked lighlty over the stove. Having left my thermometer at home, I simply took them off when they were quite hot to the touch (the goal being to cook them sufficiently without curdling them, easiest achieved by aid of a thermometer and by cooking a sugar syrup which is then added to the eggs and letting your Kitchen Aid do all the work). My mother, who was helping me cook, watched in shock as I took out the pound of butter I'd had her cut into pieces and began adding this to the cooked eggs and sugar. "How much?" she asked.

"All of it." Piece by piece I added the butter and when she commented on the frosting's runny appearance, I told her it would change. By the time the whole pound was added, we had lovely white buttercream, to which I added a liberal couple shots of coconut rum and a half cup of cream of coconut. Perfection.

The guests were due in about an hour. She watched as I sliced the cake in half, trimmed it, slapped some frosting in between, stacked it, frosted the outside liberally, and covered the whole thing in toasted coconut.

The cake was a big success--I was the only one who couldn't finish my piece! We served the leftovers the next day for my culinary-school-graduation party and everyone concurred: yes,I'd made the right choice for a profession.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

East Coast Grille, Cambridge, MA

I first heard about East Coast Grille through its "arch-rival" in Carribbean cuisine, Green Street Grille. The two restaurants were having a jerk smackdown of some sort. Since I couldn't think of anything that could beat the sweet maduros of Green Street, I put East Coast Grille on my list.

A few months later I took a friend there as a thank-you present for dog-sitting. Inman Square was hopping with college kids on a Friday night, and the line at East Coast was out the door. We lucked into a couple of seats over by the raw bar, ordered some food, and were soon joined by a curious British traveler out to get some tips from the locals on Boston sightseeing. He bribed us with a round of drinks, dinner flew by, and we were cajoled by the bartender into ordering a grilled banana split sundae with mango ice cream made by local chain Christina's.

The sundae was simple. Grilled bananas--not to sweet, but also not too plentiful. Strawberry coulis, chopped pecans, and a giant mound of mango ice cream. It was tasty but incomplete, overdominated by the mango ice cream, with one giant scoop leeft long after we'd polished off the bananas, nuts and sauce.

I gave East Coast Grille a second chance a few weeks later and was not disappointed by the Chocolate Pecan Pie. The pie was gooey inside, with caramelized nuts on top. Every bite was like a classic Southern pecan pie had been drizzled with loads of melted chocolate. The flavors mingled seamlessly in my mouth, the perfect combination for a chocolate and nut lover, with a dash of whipped cream on the side for contrast.

Definitely pie worth going back for.