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 menu...at 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 instead...it 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 surface...like 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 hopes...it 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.