Friday, December 26, 2008

one down one to go

one holiday down, one more to go. today was not that bad, at least for me. i was on the dessert station, so while i could get some huge batches of cafe items ready to go (and did), my main responsibility was to prep the station and plate desserts. I worked my ass of for two days straight to ensure I wouldn't be screwed this morning, so I had relatively little to do for service...bake some cakes and tart tatins, respin my sorbets, bake tuiles and other cookies, make a couple of easy sauces. The most popular item of the day, and I have no idea why...coconut sorbet. The meyer lemon was fairly popular, too, but most of my tickets included some kind of ice cream and usually it was that one.

we're running out of the major component of two desserts, so it's time to get creative about changing them...soon-ish.

i'm not working new year's eve or new year's day....luck of the schedule but i'll take it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


persimmon budino
chocolate torte
spiced espresso truffles
cocoa nib iced milk
brown butter-chestnut filling
chestnut crepe batter/make crepes
sage sable breton
huckleberry sauce
frozen white chocolate
chocolate sformato
migniardise: orange cardamom truffles, marmalade financier, orange-rosemary pdf, amaretto macarons, chocolate fleur de sel cookies

am bake off
vacherin almonds
coffee ice cream base
vacherin meringues
mango & coconut tapioca pudding
chocolate pot de creme
b/o anise biscotti

blossom bluff hachiya & fuyu persimmon
fhf quince
foraged huckleberries
pink lady apples
meyer lemons
buddha's hand
kishu tangerines
satsuma mandarins
navel oranges
first crop walnuts

Thursday, December 18, 2008

i've been hearing rumors

I came across some disturbing rumors that my old college is going to make significant cute to its creative writing department. My first reaction was to google it to see if there was any truth behind the rumors and it appears there is. like every other school, vassar is losing endowment money due to the economy. (i'm sure even harvard is having to cut back, but hey, i'd probably endorse that). My second reaction was to email an old favorite professor, now co-chair of the english department, to see if he could tell me a bit of what is going on. Most of all I'm shocked that the English Dept. did not notify least, I am pretty certain they did not, though I do sometimes miss an email.

Vassar is the place that formed me as a writer. Not the school where I received my masters. Not the countless days and hours writing in cafes or with fellow writers or alone at home. Sure, all of it helps. All of it forms the writer and all of it feeds the writer.

I chose to attend Vassar because I wanted to go to a school with a strong focus on English and writing. I was a high school geek. I worked on the lit mag. In college I built strong relationships with several faculty members, and I began to take my craft seriously. From there my life followed on its plan: spend a year or so working, go somewhere and get an MFA. That is what I did, and though there is nothing more invigorating than talking about writing in a room full of writers, it does not pay the bills or change the oil in the car, so I found myself having to get a career. Hence the cooking gig.

I'm researching the truth behind these rumors in the hopes I'll be proven wrong, but I doubt it. Times are tough everywhere. Academics is a luxury lifestyle, wherein each generation creates the next generation so the academy can be self sustaining. The trouble with writing, though, is that the classroom isn't our only classroom. Every face, every darkened door, every half-heard conversation is our classroom and in order to contribute to the growth of ourselves or of the next generation we have to go off alone and discover what we know, what we can say, and how we can share it.

I'll be blogging on here and at Fringe on what I discover.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

i heart david chang

scoping out places to go in new york, and i see chang now has a bakery in his momofuku empire. cakes, shakes, cookes, pretty normal things, but his list of ice cream toppings?

brown butter solids

he's also got a cookie called compost cookie and a pie called crack pie...

anyone out there been to his bakery?

also, aside from old favorites doughnut plant (which is so close to il laboratorio del gelato i might as well show my mom), dean and deluca, broadway panhandler, and birdbath, where to go?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

i have a reservation at per se for my trip to nyc in january! there is a slight chance my mom will say she's not paying THAT much money to eat lunch, and we won't go after all, but i hope not because she basically said if i could get us a resy, we could go.

they were actually the sweetest, nicest people to talk to on the phone. the reservationist i got was so happy i lived in sf, which led to to confess, "yeah i work in the industry, actually at {the restaurant} and all you guys have been coming in lately, jonathan was in a while back, hollingsworth was just in, etc, etc"

they asked up front about any dietary restrictions, etc. i said we might get the vegetables menu, because we're both picky about meat, and that was it. it's great that they ask. i don't think they ask at my restaurant. some people overprepare and tell the reservationist, but then we get lactose-intolerant vegetarians who claim to be vegan and then ask to have the chocolate dessert with ice cream (dairy + eggs).

the big question, though...what am i gonna wear?

UPDATE: the mom says yes. i'm going to per se! ::does little dance around kitchen while banging out another round of marshmallows::

Monday, December 01, 2008

walking sleep

so michael laiskonis just wrote

I've often said that the day you don't feel that pit in your stomach as you walk into work, that's the day to start looking for a new job.

and it seems that several of us are taking such stock lately.

where am i? what am i doing here? is this the right time? how exactly did i get here anyway? what can i do next? how could i have made this better? how can i make [this person] do [this necessary thing]? these are the questions that plague us while we dice, saute, roast, bake, hunt for the chinois.

is it best to cook wholly focused on that one thing. or five things, should you be capable of managing cookies and custards in the oven, a pot of dairy infusing and a caramel at the same time. {this of course implies that you have oven space and working burners for multiple projects, nevermind pots} when you are not focused you make mistakes. your pot of milk boils over and while cleaning up the spill you burn your tuiles in the oven. i find myself working with some people who can only do one thing at a time and it reminds me of when i used to work that way.

and i am so glad that i do not work that way any longer.
and i am so glad that i have the presence of mind to multitask and still hold it down (not only the what/where but the what/now).
and, yes, i still do stupid things but i admit them freely. today my pot of cream boiled over while I was organizing my jars for pot de cremes, and i was pissed that it boiled over, because i had been keeping my eye on it, but i had the presence of mind to taste the cream (was it scalded? did it taste burned in any way? no, so continue) and then measure it (7.5 cups is no longer 8 cups, so correct and proceed).

in a way i'm glad my cream boiled over a bit. i'm somehow in the position currently of trying to teach several people lots of things. it's challenging enough to be mindful of what their backgrounds all are and their skill sets, and then temper my tone or advice accordingly (like, please don't ruin that dessert for service, k thx). if i can see where i came from (yes and sometimes we need a reminder) then i can hopefully be compassionate with these people i am guiding.

because i want to be compassionate. underneath the crusty exterior. and it's hard when service is coming on or when someone commits to making a mistake and fesses up afterward (because there's that moment when you're looking your your mise, and you're thinking something isn't right, and you can decide to go ahead or you can decide to ask a question, and you don't wanna ask a question cause you made this yesterday and you've asked 20 questions today already, and so what are you sposed to do?).

it's hard when you want someone to tell you your impulse is right. it's hard when you have to tell someone their impulse is wrong, that you know they thought about it but they could have made a more informed choice. because you know they can't just think like you. because you know the reason they ask the 21st question is that they want to think like you. i've been the one so many times, saying but...but...but as if my logic, wrong though it be, is going to win me brownie points for having given a second's thought to the matter at hand.

i'm not saying i don't get it wrong any more. no, not at all. but i am glad to be where i am.