Sep 16, 2009

so i went to london last week, but my macbook is out of service (blue screen, not booting up) so i may have lost all of my photos from the trip, along with about 5 years worth of other photos because i am a moron and didn't back up my brand new 3 month old macbook because why would i need to?  macs are supposed to be awesome and trouble free and besides, it's brand new!  why worry!  because electronics hate me, that's why.  so i'm not going to write about london because i'm pissed that i can't access the awesome photos, well, at least a few awesome photos, and also because i didn't upload them to flickr monday or tuesday or yesterday when i had tons of free time.  so that's cool.  i'll just say one thing about the trip: eat at St. John.  i would move to london just to be able to eat there on a regular basis.  my meal there was the best meal i have ever eaten in my entire life.  and i have the photos to prove it.  oh wait, no i don't.  fuck.

so today i volunteered to help with a lunch for the Chefs Collaborative summit happening in chicago right now.  the lunch for about 180 chefs, food scientists, activists, writers and foodies was served at cafe brauer at the lincoln park zoo and let me just say, wow.  that is the most beautiful event space i have ever set foot in and i want to go there every day.  

ok, so the menu consisted of 12 courses by a lineup of some of the most amazing chefs in chicago right now with food from some of the greatest farms in the area.  the lineup: Mark Mendez (Carnivale), Brian Millman (Uncommon Ground), Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia), Liz Tokarczyk (Limelight), Bruce Sherman (North Pond), Sarah Stegner and George Bumbaris (Prarie Grass Cafe), Carrie Nahabedian (NAHA), Patrick Sheerin (Signature Room), Rick Bayless (Frontera, etc), Jason Hammel (Lula Cafe, Nightwood), Paul Kahan (Blackbird, Avec, Publican), and Mindy Segal (Hot Chocolate).  and they were all there.  in the kitchen.  making their dishes.  each chef brought their own team of cooks so i set up, served and cleared.  and ate.  and was amazed at the talent in that kitchen.  what an incredible experience to have the food of so many great chefs together on one plate.  i will never forget it.

my favorite dishes were by Carrie Nahabedian (white corn polenta with la quercia prosciutto, cavolo nero greens, zucchini, eggplant and mint), Andrew Zimmerman (sweet corn chaat salad with pickle strips, mustard and charcuterie that i think was a head cheese?) and Paul Kahan (grilled sirloin with marinated italian kale trio and grilled peaches).  Rick Bayless' dish was a delicious cochinita pibil with pickled onions, tortillas and the spiciest habanero salsa i have ever tasted.  all of the other dishes were delicious as well, and i am so so grateful to have been able to participate in such a groundbreaking event.  

and it helped me forget about my stupid brand new broken macbook for a few hours.

Sep 5, 2009

oh hi, 6 weeks are gone. and i am 3/4 done with school, 100% done with my part time job that i quit my full time job for, and about halfway closer to figuring out what i'm going to be doing in 2010. i'm working part part time for a shared use commercial kitchen, which is awesome because i get to meet a slew of entrepreneurial food business people, get to meet local celebrities (of bravo top chef fame) and occasionally cook in a kitchen that can handle catering gigs better than my own. it's good. and the extra time off is good too, to peruse the green city market, and the daley plaza market and sleep in a little and cook and experiment and hang out with other like minded people. i want to do this forever.

i've been working on a couple of catering gigs, small to large, low pressure to high, low pay to maybe thinking that i can make a living off of this thing. my good friend joel and i coordinated and pulled of an delicious feast for 60 people in michigan a few weeks back - we had an amazing opportunity to feed some wonderful (and wealthy) folks at their summer home just north of new buffalo. they put all of their faith in two culinary students with little catering experience, and we wowed them. it rained, was colder than we planned, there were a few last minute surprises and we forgot a laundry list of to dos, but we pulled it off. joel and i recruited 3 other classmates and my wonderfully supportive husband to help us out. i'm lucky to be surrounded by such talented and helpful people who let me freak out every so often and do what i ask them to better than i ever expect them to. judy, david and nick were awesome, every one of them with something unique to bring to the team, and throughout the planning joel and i realized we are a great team and can probably take this thing and run with it. and craig is the best errand runner and pee soaked napkin holder EVER! (i will tell you that story in person if you ask me...)

the menu included a flatbread with goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes, a quartet of salsas (pineapple, cherry basil, tomatillo and heirloom tomato pico de gallo), bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates, grilled flank steak with chimichurri sauce and horseradish whipped cream, grilled shrimp with adobo, a grilled summer vegetable salad, grilled potato wedges with truffle aioli, and grilled pineapple with lemon honey yogurt and chocolate chili mini cupcakes with cinnamon ganache for dessert. (the theme was summer grilling, as you may have noticed.) everything turned out so well, i couldn't have asked for a better first large scale catering gig. cash in wallet included.

my classes are over for this quarter, and i'm sad. this was probably my favorite quarter in culinary school so far, with more pressure and more reward than i have experienced cooking in my life. my catering class made me shaky and nauseous then elated and calm after pulling a meal together with no recipes and limited ingredients in 2 short hours. my nutritional cooking class taught me some of what i already knew - that healthy cooking can be approachable and delicious - but also introduced me to a slew of ingredients that i knew little or nothing about what to do with (amaranth, millet, wheat berries). and how to make tofu. and seitan. my beverage and dining room class taught me how to be a waiter. which i am now certified for. so there's that. but really, this quarter has been more about growth for me, giving me more confidence than i've ever had in my cooking abilities and making me realize that i really honestly am doing the right thing. i'm happy. really really happy.

i'm on break until the end of september, which is wonderful. hubb and i are taking a vacation (half of it is work for him) to london for a week. i'm really looking forward to two things: walking around by myself while craig is working in a town i have vague memories of from a visit 15 years ago, and this place. i will do a proper write up about the ox heart i plan to eat there. xoxo