Monday, October 01, 2007

CUESA Sunday Supper: the pear tasting

I was in a room in the top of the Ferry Building last night and everybody else was there, too. Well, almost everybody. The first and last course were prepping in the same room and the main course chefs were somewhere else. Fifty plates per team. I had no idea what my new boss was doing, but I met her by the FH shop, and ran into my old boss on the way. She was dropping off cupcakes, and acted quite happy to see me, but she must have gotten her table partners to plate them up for her because she never returned.

How's Your New Job Going? my boss asked. Your Chef Is Kind Of A Minimalist.
Really? I wrinkled my nose, reflecting on it. I wouldn't have picked that word.
Upstairs, as we unpack the coolers and I see the extent of what we've got to plate, I laugh and say I Understand Why You Think She's A Minimalist. We served the following eight components:

Vanilla-Tokaji poached Warren pears with pear sorbet, plum-raspberry sauce, raspberries, gingersnap cookies, candied fruit (lemon and orange), FH figs and frozen muscat grapes. The figs and grapes were FH; the berries were Ella Bella.

We lent some figs to the Slow Club boys who were prepping a salad. I watched Mourad Lahlou slather cheese with tomato jam and Elizabeth Faulkner work the room. Dessert got pushed back. The CUESA volunteers and assorted chefs kept stopping by to pop frozen grapes into their mouths. They were so sensual and a blessing in that hot room. My boss got all tense. I started plating. I've done enough banquet FOH stuff that they don't really make me all that nervous...I was more nervous-excited to be elbow to elbow with all these wonderful chefs.

When my boss oohed over the Aziza plates and said how she wanted to go I told her she needed to. And Go Somewhere Else For Desserts, I said, after explaining the loveliness of the food.
You've Been To Aziza? How Have You Been To Aziza? she asked, slight frown.

When the apps went out, we reclaimed the table and got to work laying down plates, taking the grapes off the stems. Apparently my boss put the recipe in the Bay Guardian and she was telling me about her process. Very funny how they wanted that recipe because it was basically: 1. wash grapes, 2. freeze them. I said she should have lied about a fabulous technique. But they were good. Really good. Reminiscent of those Alfieri grapes I got for about a month, the ones that were my reason for living.

The plates went from crowded but orderly to fairly cluttered what with the addition of more sauce, more grapes. The dessert time got pushed back and then pushed up. Clusters of assistants trailed behind chefs quenelling frantically. I tossed grapes. We lured the Slow Club boys into helping us because when someone tells you you've got twenty minutes and they says you've got five, well, what do you do? Sauce, wipe, grapes.

Afterward when the chefs went out to greet the public, the CUESA volunteers, the expediting chef and I conducted a dessert tasting. Almost everyone turned to pears. Elizabeth Faulkner's were poached and then bruleed with a sexy sugar crust. There were some tasteless components and then a nice, surprisingly salty pistachio pesto. Someone else's pears were poached and set on insanely dry cake. It just exuded moisturelessness {yeah, not a word}. Downtown Bakery had poached them and set them in a lattice crust but there was something unsatisfying about the texture of the pear, and something salty and not sweet enough about the overall dish. The Ritz placed apple compote in tidy squares on cake, the covered the whole thing with a pink peppercorn meringue {they used a foam cannister and I missed it}, huckleberry compote and a dried apple chip. Gorgeous but the flavors didn't mesh. Rubicon had large quenelles of mousse? pudding? chocolatey goodness, with the smallest eights of pears poached in honey syrup and orange peel.

The cupcakery, plain old chocolate cupcakes with a mint leaf garnish. It made me sad and it surprised me--because my friend had been telling me they were going to do an apple cupcake and they'd been testing it all month--but not entirely. They talk a good game on using sustainable ingredients and locally sourced everything. It's what attracted me to the job. But in the end it's a decision between which is more expensive, or expedient, or whatever. They were supposed to make the apple, but they got the apples too late and it got lost in the shuffle or a normal day. The Sunday Supper was a celebration of harvests, food, farmers. We didn't just all do pear desserts because we love them. We did them in the spirit of the event. The chefs at the Supper didn't need the publicity. They're already the top game in this town. Will the cupcake shop move slowly toward seasonality and using farm-fresh goodies? I don't know. But it's time to let go of them. Good things this new job is taking all of my time.

Sometimes you put what you want out there in the universe and it comes back to you in all kinds of ways. Saturday night there were fresh doughnuts, warm and adorable and redolent of my doughnut plant love.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I wouldn't say your boss is a minimalist, but I'd say she's more intentional about what she puts on a plate than the maker of the dish that you described. Just a thought.
I'm very jealous...that sounds like it was a ton of fun.