Thursday, September 25, 2014

An Adverse Adventure

This past week my boyfriend and I traveled to New Orleans to explore the opportunities in our field. We have come to a point in our careers where we are looking to expand and explore and we are ready to make a move. We were interested in NOLA because it is on the rise and because the number of restaurants is greatly increasing there causing a demand for more restaurant workers.

So we booked the trip and set up stagiaires at restaurants we were interested in. A stagiaire is an interview in the restaurant world. But instead of dressing in heels and making sure your paperwork is in order you sharpen your knives and polish your clog. A stagiaire (stage) lasts the hours a regular shift would and so instead of cheering because your interview went close to an hour, you cheer when at 11pm you finally head home and take your socks off after nine hours of standing, and helping, and being judged, and running around for anyone and everyone. I think it's a pretty effective interview. Instead of dawning sweaty palms and trying to say you are good at certain things, you get to show those skills off. And you are not the only one being judged, you are judging the restaurant as well; the interview goes both ways. The restaurant gets to see if you will fit in with their team and you can also tell whether or not you like the style of the restaurant.

I set up three stages for the same restaurant group because I was very interested in the style of the food they created. We were both very interested in learning more about regional cuisine because we didn't know much about it. I especially thrive when I am learning something new.  To expand your repertoire by using a new technique each and every day, you can really see your own improvement.

The three separate restaurants were all very different, although they were very close together and operated under the same owner. The executive chefs of the restaurants each had a different style that made their spot unique. The only similarity between the restaurants were their favorite ingredients which included: chili infused vinegar, ahi limo peppers, and "wang" which is Korean red pepper powder.

The first place had such a tiny space and so many workers. Everything was crammed into any available space and it was very hectic. I was put on the oven station which was a high volume station but not very complex. We just had to throw pre made items in the oven and garnish on the way out to the dining room. We did upwards of three hundred covers but it just wasn't my thing. It was too unorganized, not clean enough, and not efficient enough. I was the only girl on the line. They definitely needed a woman's touch in that kitchen.

The next stop was a seafood restaurant. The team was so friendly and they reminded me of a crew of jolly pirates. Everyone was having so much fun at their job, it made me feel so warmly welcomed. I had to do a few knife work skills and then I was invited to the line to help out. I was happier with this stage because I was able to move amongst the stations and was not limited to one thing. I was just able to float around and check out everyone's daily duties. The other thing that I really enjoyed was the food. The Louisiana cultural food was prominent but it had a hint of mediterranean flavors. They completed about four hundred covers without skipping a beat. That crew worked so well together and it made me want to be apart of it.

The third interview I had was at the first established restaurant of the three. It was small but not as populated as the first. When I started on my first tasks, the whole kitchen was silent. The tone was so focused and almost scary silent. I was intimidated by this but as the preparation went on people became more friendly and talkative, but always about food. This was a good sign. Everything I tasted was delicious but real down to earth food. The dinner service went very well. This place did less covers but still it was very busy. The head chef had very high standards which was comforting and he tasted everything. It was really the first time since I have been in school that I saw someone taste everything. As the line cooks were making the same dishes over and over they continued to taste and make sure that everything was up to par. I really liked that about this kitchen.

It was quite an experience to view such an array of restaurants. I really enjoyed being a part of each team even if it was just for the night. I'm not sure where I would fit in. Although we had hoped that New Orleans would be the spot for us, it may not make the most sense financially. It's frustrating when people do not realize your worth. Paying for an education, and working your tail off to make money in order to make less money at another place is not how you want to spend your time. How do you advance in this career? It's so difficult. You don't get rewarded for wanting to learn or wanting to challenge yourself. Is it worth taking two steps backward in order to start moving forward? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Cross-Examination

What inspires you? What keeps you going? I have been thinking recently about why I love cooking, trying to decipher what it is that drives me. Food fuels people. Literally. People need to nourish themselves to survive, and so I romanticize it by making that food good. Might as well enjoy what you are eating if you have to eat, right? 

I have never been a huge sports fan. I enjoy the tradition of sports. I get into a neighborhood kickball game, I think it's fun to have a party for the Super Bowl, and it's entertaining to attend a baseball game with your family in the summer time and indulge in a hot dog or bag of cracker jacks. Do athlete's play sports because they want to encourage these traditions? Or do they enjoy the smiles of the fanatics who religiously watch "their" games? I can't say because I am not one of them. 
Each time you play a game, you improve. It's never the same game, but always similar. The same rules apply. 

Practice makes perfect, but I hear no one is perfect. When you go to yoga it is called a practice. This practice shouldn't be perfect. In fact, they encourage you to get a little sloppy; fall on the floor, push your limits. If you don't try, then you will never know what you can accomplish. If what you are practicing doesn't push your limits, then you need to change your practice.

Someone said to me the other day, that they are happier when put in an uncomfortable environment. Could this be true? Why would anyone be happier when uncomfortable? Uncomfortable shoes definitely don't make for a happy feet. I know from experience that an uncomfortable living situation does not provide happiness. So maybe uncomfortable has another meaning in this instance. Uncomfortable might mean stimulating. Uncomfortable keeps you on your toes (no foot pun intended). 

If you are in an unfamiliar place, all of your senses are stimulated. If you are practicing a new skill, all of your being is engaged. If in a new game, you need to be ready for anything to happen. And so, your brain is in motion; you are challenged. Challenge is what fuels me. Challenge keeps me going. Challenge in my education, in my relationship, in my career. 

A person's job is something they are good at. An athlete is good at the game, a cook makes good food, an accountant is great with numbers. If you are making money doing something you aren't good at, it would behoove you to change your career. It would be torturous of me to be an accountant because numbers make me miserable. You may be thinking, well you would be challenged as an accountant, isn't that what you want? Not exactly. I want to challenge the skills that I have, or that I have the potential to have. My math skills are lacking potential. 

In a world where new inventions are created daily to make life easier, why would anyone want to challenge themselves? What is the saying.."work smarter, not harder"? But don't employers value hard workers? This is all contradictory. 

The challenge is your decision. You can walk over the bridge, or brave the rocky gully. And I would say there is a time for both. Somedays I just want to walk over the bridge. But if I never tried hiking down the steep terrain only to scale the other side of the crevasse, I would not know if I could do it, or what I might find when I did. There is never a better time to challenge your self.  It's your job, no one else is going to do it for you. 

Selfishness is not something that people tend to value. But you aren't often rewarded for selflessness.  Sometimes you have to be selfish, because honestly no one is going to be selfish for you. You need to take care of you. It will take you farther than you think. 

Failure occurs. A lot of factors can cause you to fail. But one thing is clear. You will fail if you fail to try. 





Friday, June 6, 2014

Dinner at my Chef's Table

So luckily I didn't have to work on my birthday but unluckily my boyfriend Christopher did. Unfortunately the life of a chef is not just the 9-5 workday either so I couldn't meet him for dinner because he worked from 10am-11pm. Bummer. So I had kind of a self relaxation day. It was not much of a celebration in the common sense but a celebration of having to do nothing. I think as we grow older, birthdays become less and less important. People make such hype when you are a little whipper snapper but as you age it's just another year. Kind of a bitter sweet aging process. So my birthday was very low key, I received all of the important calls and remembered the young years of my special day. Chris made it home with a wonderful chocolate cake lit with candles and all. And I fell asleep bidding adieu to my 22nd birthday and welcoming my 23rd year.

The following day I had to work a long day with numerous tasks and no lunch break. It's very easy to overlook lunch when you have a list full of prep work that you have to make your way through in order to get home. While you are cooking hard and moving fast, time passes and you realize you haven't eaten anything in hours. Occupational hazard. So I arrived home after not consuming food all day and was met at the door by Christopher. He put a bandana over my eyes and led me to the bathroom. When I removed the blindfold, I saw a dress from my closet with shoes and a towel. I got in the shower and started to get ready, my mind racing as to what could be going on.

After I dolled myself up, I knocked on the bathroom door and was met by my handsome boyfriend in a chef's coat and apron. He led me into our kitchen where he had set up a white table clothed table equipped with cloth napkin and candles. The table was adjacent to our butcher's block where he had a number of prepped items lined up. After pushing in my chair he proceeded to ask if I wanted still or sparkling water setting the tone for the night. What followed was a wonderful 15 course tasting menu which was created with me in mind. It's very hard to put into words how wonderful the evening was. It was not only the nicest thing anyone has ever done with me but it was the best meal I have ever had ever. Chris had gone to the Goodwill and picked out a special unique plate for each course and he must have spent a fortune on all of the wonderful food that he needed in order to prepare the meal. He served me professionally; filling my water glass, offering wine pairings with my meal, changing my silverware between each course. It was phenomenal, unexpected, and the best birthday gift I have ever received. It's all about the experiences we go through not the material things we have or receive. I am such a lucky girl. I hope you enjoy the pictures!

"snacks" 
bruschetta quanciale 
sausage and mushroom stuffed calamari

proscuitto wrapped asparagus 
"amuse"
eggplant stuffed with soft boiled egg
"salad"
raw vegetable salad with arugula and chicory farro
"crudo" 
compachi dressed with lemon, olive oil, chive, and chive blossom
"pasta"
veal bolognese
"poultry"
le petite poussin with spring peas, roasted rosemary baby potatoes, chicken jus
"veal"
vitello tonatto: veal with tuna sauce and artichokes
"formaggio"
sottocenere tartufo and quadrille di bufala, quince paste, fresh black mission figs 
"berries and cream"
olive oil cake with macerated strawberries, mascarpone cream, dark chocolate balsamic reduction
"custard"
buttermilk creme brûlée with kumquat, blueberries cooked and raw
"mignardise"
espresso soaked biscotti and chocolate brownies
"last bite" 
pistachio cream topped with fresh apricot served on a handmade wooden spoon which was a gift from the kitchen for dining


 














Thursday, May 15, 2014

22 Things I've Learned before 22

My 22nd birthday is approaching and I am starting to feel that this last year been quite a learning experience. Last year at this time I was in my last week of college, and senioritis had hit pretty hard. Chris, my boyfriend, and I were rearing and ready to be out in the real world. And I have to say that the past year has really sobered us. Growing up isn't easy, and so here are 22 things worth sharing which I have learned before my 22nd Birthday.

1) Don't settle for a job. Of course you need to pay your bills, but don't belittle yourself by taking a job that is far below your talent level. If you don't practice to your skill level then you will not only feel under appreciated and under utilized but you will begin to lose those skills you worked so hard to gain.

2) Don't underestimate yourself. In particularly with money. Don't let someone tell you that you are worth X dollars an hour if it's way too low. It's not about having a hot head, but knowing what you are worth and not allowing others to discount your expertise.

3) Family is very important. Always make time for your family because when you need help, they are the people who are going to be there.

4) You need a hobby. Once you get out of school and there are no longer any requirements to further your mental capacity you need to have a hobby in order to do it on your own. I suggest books, although there is no deadline, it's good to engage your mind with a good book. Also you can learn a lot from books.

5) You will drift apart from  friends. When you go your separate ways life gets in the way. Sometimes the things that you had in common with those friends could be the class you were taking or the place you were living. Those things change, and people change too. The ones who matter will be there and stay there.

6) Nights out are over rated. Seriously. When you work super hard and so much, more often it's exciting to curl up in your pajamas on the couch rather than use your energy to dress up and go out. Not to mention it's expensive.

7) Sometimes you do deserve it. When you are on a budget, conserving money is very important. But every once in a while you need to tell yourself that you deserve it, whatever it is.

8) Where you live is very important, so make sure you are happy with it. If you are renting an apartment, you are paying money to live there and it is your home. Make sure you are comfortable with your living situation because the worst thing is not feeling safe or happy in a place you are paying for.

9) 8 hours of sleep is very important. Gone are the days of late nights and early class. Now are the days of early work and working late. In order to use your body to its full potential you really need to let it rest for at least 8 hours. For some of you this may sound crazy, but once you start getting a solid night's sleep, you will never go back. Make sleep a priority and you will thank yourself later.

10) Water is essential for your body to function. There are so many other drinks in this world but none are as good for you as water is. Water will flush anything out of your system, whether you are under the weather or have an infection, the more water you drink the faster you will feel better.  Water is good for your skin. It makes it clear and sometimes it even makes it glow if you are lucky. Water helps increase your energy level and also is a natural headache reliever. They say if you notice that you are thirsty you are already dehydrated. Water is very important, 64 ounces is the minimum amount of water you should consume every day. Try to keep track of how much water you drink daily, try and meet the requirement, you will be happy with the results.

11) Become aware of your budget. Keep track of your spendings and your income. Set some limits and then follow them. If you keep to your budget then you should have some extra to splurge-which is important. You need to have fun and spoil yourself sometimes (see #7). You also need to have a nest egg for emergencies. Don't cut the money too close, you never know what could go wrong.

12) Take care of your car. Your car is under appreciated. It takes you everywhere that you need to go and you only give it attention when it fails you. Check your fluids regularly. You will always be paying for things that have to do with your car. Everyone encounters car trouble, if they didn't then car repair shops wouldn't be in business.

13) Get fresh air when you can. When you can't you will complain so when you can, get all the fresh air that you can. Enjoy nature. When it's -20 degrees out you will be so unhappy that you are stuck inside, so put on a raincoat in the spring and the sunscreen in the summer and get in touch with your outdoorsy side. It's good for your health.

14) Bargain food shopping is a must.  There are so many places out there, it's a crime not to shop around. Sure you may want to get your meat at the best grocer in order to ensure freshness but Aldi's or Price Rite are a big benefit for pasta, canned items, bread, and cheese. If you have a farmer's market you should take advantage of it. Not only are the pricers great but you are supporting local farmers and the food is fresh.

15) Only buy clothes that are on sale. I can't even fathom people who buy clothes at full price. The best finds, the clothes you will wear most often, and those that you will be proud of are the best deals. That two dollar pair of pants that you wear twice a week, the dress you found at the Salvation Army that still had the tag on it, the sweater you splurged 12 bucks on at Marshall's and have had for four years. With so many options for resale stores or discount clothing, it can't hurt to look.

16) Breathe.  Life gets overwhelming often. Your brain can overload. The easiest way to remedy this is to focus on your breath. It really brings you back to Earth. Breathing is an involuntary action meaning that you do it without having to think about it. Your body knows what you need: to breathe. Sometimes making this involuntary action voluntary can really calm your whole self.

17) Plan things to look forward to on your calendar. Life gets busy and can also get rough. Plan mini-vacations or day trips in order to give yourself something to look forward to. These will not only make the tough times go faster but will give yourself a reward for being busy and getting through a hard week.

18) Keep up with your laundry. This may seem silly, but it will catch up with you. If you have access to a washer and dryer, do a load every other day so that on your day off you don't have to spend it doing all of the laundry in order to wear clean under ware the next day.

19) Connect with people who are at a similar stage in life as you are. If you have someone to talk to who knows what you are going through and who have similar misfortunes or triumphs as you do then you will be happy to share yours and hear theirs.

20) Come up with a positive out of a negative situation. This is a hard one. Sometimes I like to break this down into days and not label the day as negative but come up with something positive that happened every day. Some of these positives can be small accomplishments or things that made you happy. For instance one day I was so happy because I found the perfect dish soap that left my glasses sparkling. It may be a little triumph, but I allowed that positivity to bring my day to an end on a high note.

21) Be creative in the kitchen. Alright I know this may not be fair because I am a chef, but I know that it makes a huge difference. Try new recipes, experiment with your own recipes, enjoy new ingredients it really makes your life more interesting if you aren't going to have the same rotating schedule every week. That doesn't mean that you can't have pasta every week- but there are a million different ways to make a pasta dish- Macaroni and cheese, red sauce and meatballs, white wine and cheese sauce. One of my favorite ways to spice up pasta is to buy a different shaped noodle. I know it may sound bizarre but it can really change your dining experience. Whoever eats at your house will be happy if you spice it up, you can always fall back on the classics.

22) Be thankful for what you have. Too many times we complain about what we don't have, we need to be thankful for what we do. Sometimes it feels like the worst is happening to us, but it's very humming to realize that that is not true in the least. Your car broke down- there are people who don't have cars and walk 6 miles to work. You hate where you live- at least you have a roof over your head. You are sick with a 24 hour bug- at least you don't have cancer. There are so many things to be grateful for. Don't spend your life being ungrateful, before you know it, it will be over. Life's short, make it sweet.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Out Ramping Around








Today was beautiful. I thought a lot about what photo I should post because I really was just happy for the sunshine. I spent the day outside in a t-shirt. Way to go spring! I went to a nearby park in order to harvest ramps. Ramps are a wild onion that grow in sandy, shady areas on hillsides. Christopher and I went searching for ramps this past Sunday with little luck. We found one patch that had some baby ramps, but nothing to speak of. We probably harvested one portion on Sunday and split the portion between us for dinner. The only way I had, had ramps before was pickled. Not a big fan. Maybe a bad batch, maybe just because I am not a big fan on pickling. But after I consumed my half portion of sautéed ramps in butter, I was eager to venture out for more. So today I strapped on my boots, brought a digging spoon, and hiked into the forrest. I looked up to the top of the mountain and knew that's where I had to be, so I tiptoed on a balancing tree across a small river (or big stream), and made my way up the steep side of the mountain that unfortunately didn't have a path. After huffing and puffing my way to the top I sat on a stump and retrieved my water bottle. I surveyed the area and saw a small patch of green in the distance. I hauled my tired self up and slowly made my way toward the patch, hoping for the best. Hard work does pay off; I was rewarded. The small green patch I had seen from a distance turned out to be a big green patch of ramps! I started digging and filled one whole grocery bag with medium sized ramps. Satisfied, I figured I would just stroll through the woods enjoying the fresh air. I started down the other side of the mountain and realized that the big patch I had just foraged from was not big at all. The whole side of the mountain was covered in delicious ramps and I filled three whole bags. It made me so happy to be able to enjoy the fresh air while harvesting some nourishment. It reminded me of my childhood days when I spent many hours outside in the woods feeling one with nature. I was the only person out there. I took in the smells and the sounds. A scurry from a chipmunk, the buzz of a bee, the rustle of the trees. It was wonderful. 








Very often I get discouraged because of the way things often go wrong for me. Sometimes it seems that nothing will go right. It's almost as if I am expecting the car to break down after I find out I forgot my phone at home. It's not far off. After climbing up a steep slope today, I was rewarded with a valley of happiness. It really gives me hope. Maybe the slope I am climbing right now is just really steep, I can't wait to find out what's on the other side. 



Happy Day

I started this challenge called "100 Happy Days". The requirements are to photograph something that made you happy each day and send it to the people at 100happydays.com or tag them in your post via hashtag. It is supposed to help you recognize and be thankful for the things that make us happy on a daily basis. Acknowledging the causes of our happiness should in turn make us happier. I thought that I would use the daily challenge as inspiration for my blog, in order to expand on the photo postings. 

My first happy photo:



My boyfriend Christopher may have a cookbook obsession. I have just recently limited him to one cookbook per month. We don't spend a lot of money, but the majority of the money we do spend is on food, followed closely by cookbooks. I get on Christopher's case about the cookbooks very often. One day he will seek all of the cookbooks to buy me a diamond ring. Yeah Right. But I have to say that I am also a book lover. I have always been a reader and I have had shelves upon shelves filled with books since I was a child. More recently though, with the influence of culinary school and two years with my boyfriend, I am totally into cookbooks. We have a six shelf bookcase in our apartment which is solely for cookbooks. If you have any other books not related to cooking then you need to find room for them elsewhere. As I mentioned I give Chris a lot of grief for having so many cookbooks, but I am actually really proud of our combined collection. I say our collection because when I met Chris he had maybe 25 cookbooks and I probably had 20, and now we have over 200 cookbooks give or take a few. Our bookshelf is completely full, so every time a new book makes it way home we either have to take a less important book and move it to the small shelf that is not located in the living room or display it in a different manner. 

Chris is persistent on buying or making a new bookshelf, but I know that if I allow him to do that, then he will have a growing need to fill it right away. We recently moved, and let me tell you books are heavy! At least half of our boxes were filled with books and it took two people to carry each box. People think that having children forces them to settle down, well I think having too many books can really weigh you down. It's difficult and expensive to move with books! If we picked up and moved to Italy, we would have to store our cookbooks- how could we pick just one box to bring with us? How could we ensure that the books that are in storage will be safe/not deteriorate? What about the slip covers!? They might get damaged!  If you knew Chris, you would understand that I am completely making fun of him right now, but in all honesty I am thankful that I have a partner who shares a similar passion to me. We both enjoy food and reading, so there you go. I may find a new cookbook with a receipt hidden under his bed, but at least it's not a pack of cigarettes. We really do have quite the collection and it makes me really happy to be able to peruse through hundreds of cookbooks. I have only tried a few recipes out of the collection but what we really do is use them for inspiration. And we have to keep feeding that. My name is Tricia and I am addicted to cookbooks.  
I would say this is probably one of our best finds- Used Book Section of Barnes & Noble, signed, totaling $1.94


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fly me to Neverland

Growing up is hard
No one warns you about this 
Some days I want to grow up real fast
Be an adult
Independent
But what comes with that?
Stress
Anxiety
Today I want to fly off to Neverland
I want to be back at the pool, asking my mom for a dollar to get ice cream
Not a care in the world
Not worried about how to pay for your next meal
Or the bills you need to pay
Not praying your car doesn't break down
Or that you'll win the lottery
No work to keep you busy
Or gas tank to fill
Only worry in the world is homework and hygiene
Baseball in the backyard 
Grass in between your toes
No schedules to work around 
Or lists to make
I aspired to be the President of the United States
Now I aspire to be on time to work 
The tears sprouted from a booboo
Now they brim from stress
Attached at the hip with your best friend, then
Lucky if you see a friend every now and again
Then your favorite meal cost five bucks
Now pizza doesn't cut it 
No one let's you know it's going to be hard
There is no textbook to get you through this course
Trial and error is the way it goes 
When are we finished growing up?
Is anyone ever really grown up?
I'm going to write the textbook when I get there






Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Namaste

So everyone's life is stressful. I don't think anyone can judge anyone else's stress level because we are all different and we handle our daily stressors individually. Someone may look at me and say, wow she has it pretty good- loves her job, great boyfriend, seems like she's got her shit together. But what they may not know is that sometimes I really, really don't. And even when it seems that I do, my mind doubles back and finds something to be stressed about. No matter what your mind runs on about, how many things you need to accomplish today, or what you have on your plate tomorrow; you need to find your release. I have been searching for mine for a while and it was not until recently that I found it: yoga. 

If you haven't tried yoga you need to. I want to compare it to learning a new language or practicing a musical instrument. You have to devote your mind to the art of yoga because it is a new language. And while your mind is completely engaged in every way, you have no time or room to think about any outside stressor. It's the best thing that has happened to me in two years! 

My friend recommended this "new to yoga" class set. It was a set of three introductory classes for people who have never tried yoga before. And after tonight, the last night of my class set, I was definitely hooked. Yoga encourages you to connect your physicality with your mind. It relaxes your mind as well as stretching your body. The yoga studio is heated which I actually really enjoy, it keeps my body warm and comfortable. And the type of yoga that they practice at this yoga studio is vinyasa yoga which means that every pose flows together which is pretty neat. The repetition and familiarity with the same 'vinyasa' combined with the introduction of new poses and challenging stretches really just relaxes every part of me. The best way I can describe it is that my whole body breathes during yoga and isn't that what we all need? That deep sigh? 

I had never tried it before because I was worried about the instructor judging my inability and the other people in the class laughing at my lack of coordination. But in reality, it's such an individual sport. You can bring a friend if you are hesitant, but I really enjoyed not knowing anyone walking into the class because I was really able to focus on myself which is what I needed, instead of goofing off or bonding with another. Once you do one class, you will realize that it's not about everyone looking at each other and pointing, it's about you looking at yourself letting yourself go. Not everyone does the poses the same, and once you find what works best for you, it's okay if it doesn't look the same as the person next to you because their body is different than yours. 

I am really glad to have found yoga. I think that I needed not only a hobby, but an outlet to make myself relax and do a little self reflection. And hey it's exercise! All I am asking you do to is try it, men and women alike. If it's not for you then there is no harm other than a couple of bucks, but if you  find your center, you can thank me later. Namaste. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Better Brands Bogus

Yesterday Christopher and I jumped into spring; we sorted all of our clothes. We each decided to rid ourselves of 20% of our wardrobe. It took all day; basically a never ending fashion show of sorts. We were able to accomplish our goal. We found that Chris has accumulated enough button down shirts to send a whole baseball team to their first interviews, and I fortunately have a spring dress problem. (Fortunately because it's almost spring and I will just be able to wear a dress every day for two weeks without doing laundry.)

So after narrowing down our favorites, I separated the better brands from the donation clothes in order to sell some and take the others to the Goodwill. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of stores who will buy those random t-shirts with logos on them that aren't a brand name. We actually came up with two big bags of better brand name clothing in good condition. So this morning I hauled two oversized  reusable bags filled with men's & women's clothes and some accessories and took them out to Plato's Closet.

The last experience that I had there I wasn't too happy with. They rejected a lot of my clothes. But it was the first time that I had sold to them so this time I had the low-down. They took a lot of time to look over my clothes and I took this as a good sign. Meanwhile I scanned the numerous color coded aisles to see if anything was to my liking. I would say the store is pretty tweeny. It made me feel pretty old, it seems like such a long time ago that I had to have a Hollister labeled hoodie. But there are still some good finds that aren't branded with a name and are unique- they are just hidden amongst all of the other names.


When the girl called me up to the counter my bags looked the same as when I brought them in. I was really astonished because I did make sure to pick out all of the damaged clothes, and I only brought what I figured they would want. Turns out they could buy thirteen of my items and offered me $40 for them. I want to know the system. I know that they can sell them for half of the value of their original value and that I only receive 50% of the price they can sell it at. But I don't like the system. They show you the bucket of clothes that they decided to buy and ask you not to mix them up, so you can't really see if you are really getting a good price for the items you are selling. But they win either way, because you want those clothes gone. Your next stop is the Salvation Army to donate the remainder so you will take whatever they give you. It's unfortunate. They let me know that some of the clothes were out dated and they only buy clothes that are in fashion. Who decides what's in fashion? How do they train these trend seeking clothes pickers? It's a little insulting. I know they are the buyer and all but who is to say that someone won't come in to their store and find something they told me was out of fashion really cool? I remember when I first wore Culottes (the shorts that look like a skirt) in high school and no one knew what the heck they were. Now the racks are full of them. Doesn't someone have to bring in the style? Where do people bring those styles back from if they won't buy "unstylish clothes?"
Culottes

Goodwill that's where. I sold my things because money is tight and because every penny counts but does it feel good? No. It feels good to know that when I give my clothes to Goodwill, or Salvation Army, or VOA that someone is going to appreciate the clothes that I find are of value. Someone is going to be surfing through the clothes looking for a good find and they are going to be stoked that they found such a great shirt for such a thrifty price. Or even better, someone is going to be kept warm by my out of style jacket next winter that only cost them a few bucks. My best finds have come from the thrift stores, from the no name brands, from the underdogs. I appreciate appreciation versus rude money.  To hell with better brands!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Serious Suitor?

The word boyfriend is so pedestrian, juvenile almost. The response that comes from the word boyfriend is casual or insignificant. It doesn't matter what age you are, or how many years you have been dating, the word "boyfriend" needs to be edited. In the past, if you went on a date with someone that was different than going steady. So does that mean that we should revisit that phrase going steady?

When does a relationship become serious? When two people commit to one another, and that does not have a set time frame. It could be two years or two months. How can anyone besides the people in the relationship judge when a relationship counts? Some couples get married within a year of knowing each other, some couples never get married! Unfortunately, marriages do not always last forever, so maybe the sincerity of a relationship should not be judged by the ring on your finger.


All of us who are in a relationship look down now or then on a relationship that has been in existence less time than ours. Is that okay? Teens in high school are in relationships for the first time. People who have been through high school and have had that first relationship experience tell the youngsters that "there are many fish in the sea" because in their experience they did not marry their high school sweetheart. I am guilty of this. There are people out there who do spend the rest of their lives with a high school sweetheart, I want to know their outlook on those dating in high school now. What do they tell their teenage kids? "Hey I found your father in high school, it is possible that, Justin Bieber look a like, Nate will in fact be the one for you". It seems like this relationship race never ends.


I am legally an adult. I have passed some of the major milestones of adulthood: I can drive a car, I am able to vote for representatives of this country, I could enlist in the army if I wanted to, I have graduated college, I live on my own, I am eligible to drink alcohol, I am in a serious relationship. I am still considered a young adult. I can only guess that this is because adult is a span from age eighteen to sixty five, which means that you are considered a young adult until age forty-one and a half, at which point you pass into the old adult category until at age sixty five you graduate into senior citizenship. When I tell people I am serious about my relationship I receive mixed reviews. Some people are very supportive but the majority of people shrug off my sincerity with a "you're young" in sort of a 'we'll see' tone. It's very disheartening, like they are sure of failure. How can they be so sure if I am so sure of the opposite?



When a man gets down on one knee, does that mean that he is committed to his relationship? Again, unfortunately there are infidelities that happen even after this milestone of engagement. Those in the relationship know when they are committed to each other and I don't feel that it has to do with a diamond ring. When one in the relationship, pops the questions to the other- the element of surprise is in when the question was asked and all the excitement that follows it. Now I could be wrong, but I think that seldom does the surprise originate from the fact that the question is being asked.

 I believe that marriage is the legitimization of a relationship before God. I also know it is a legal recognition of a bond. But as priorly mentioned, both of these contracts have been broken before. And some aren't broken, but there are some marriages that are not happy ones. So why does our society continue to believe that they know when our relationships are genuine or not so much? Shouldn't they just stay out of it? It only takes two to tango.

Yesterday I came across a status of a young married woman who was fed up with everyone asking her when she was going to have a baby. She exclaimed that just because she was married did not mean that she wanted to jump right into the next step. I was perturbed. Even after we get married there are still people who are nagging us to further legitimize our relationships? "We're married! Isn't that good enough for now?!" What's the rush?

Don't get me wrong. I am very excited to get married. I often tease my boyfriend about when the time will come. A little pressure never hurt anyone. But I know his commitment level and he knows mine. Who gives anyone else the right to belittle my relationship just because we haven't proceeded from boyfriend/girlfriend to fiancé to husband and wife? Should we be introducing those special someones as boyfriend forever instead of just boyfriend? I don't think any of us should have to.


If you think you have car trouble...

I haven't written about my Volvo, Donna, in a while..luckily. But recent events have made it impossible to not mention her.

So Chris and I recently had the pleasure of visiting my uncle, aunt, and cousins in New Jersey. We drove the 5 hours down without a problem, just to visit for a short weekend. In the restaurant industry it is rare that you are given a Saturday off so we were excited to celebrate it with a road trip. I had not seen my aunt and uncle for a couple of years and it was great to catch up. My cousins Courtney and Ryan had come to visit us a couple of months ago but we always enjoy seeing them because they are only a few years older than us so we have a great friendship. I grew up visiting this side of the family at the Jersey shore and so reuniting brought back a lot of childhood memories. It was the first time that Chris got to meet my aunt and uncle, but it's always such a confirmation when family immediately treats your other half like they are already family.

The weekend went very well. A few hours before we left my cousin Ryan mentioned that his vehicle was probably going to die soon because his check engine light had been blinking. Stupid me, I said "It's blinking? That's never happened to me before.." Well sure enough halfway home, my check engine light started blinking. We made it back to my parents, and refilled the fluids, then trekked on back to Rochester. I called around and asked for the most trustworthy mechanic around- because we all know how difficult is to find a mechanic. After dropping my car off at a place outside of the city I got a call with the damage. The first number I got was $645. Weeeooo. That was to get my tie rods fixed, my radiator replaced, and my spark plug wires replaced. Right off the bat I let the mechanic know that the tie rods had been loose for a year and that had not stopped me from driving it. That brought the price down to $440. I then called my trusty hometown mechanic and he let me know that I should just get the spark plugs replaced and then bring it to him to have him check it out the leakage from the radiator. So finally I had the price of $241 which- compared to the first price was a relief.

Once I paid that debt, I tried out my new spark plug wires on the first beautiful day of the year! The Volvo was driving great until a lady pulled out of a driveway, apparently not seeing me and my passenger bumper hit her front fender. Really? REALLY? yeah really. So I spent a good part of the day on the phone with two insurance companies. But, the woman who failed to see me driving on the main road was obviously at fault and her insurance company set me up to have my car inspected and fixed on them, AND a rental car free of charge. So I guess my whole week would be filled with auto shops, but hey at least it wasn't going to cost me any money.

 Before I was to get my light fixed I had to get my radiator looked at by trustworthy Brad my hometown mechanic.  After dropping Donna off my dad shuttled me off to scope out the tire market. For the winter, I was lucky enough to have hefty snow tires but the regular tires were completely bald and so I thought I would get the tires on now that THE SNOW IS GONE. Apparently, there was NOTHING wrong with my radiator. Yeah, um sorry I can't just drop 200 bucks to replace a radiator that is not broken. Long story short, I drove away with four brand spankin new tires and I couldn't have felt better. Until today.

I took my car in for the insurance claim and to get it fixed. They traded in my good old 98 Volvo for a brand new Mini Cooper. I have not been a huge fan of this car until now but Christopher has tried to talk me into this car before. And now, I am thinking about it. Not only do I get to drive in an upgrade for the weekend FOR FREE, but the shop called me with a compromise. They offered to fix the broken headlight and give me a couple of hundred dollars versus fix the headlight and repaint the front fender as well as fix a few scrapes on the front of my car. So obviously I took the money. I guess there is often a silver lining, you just might have to go through a lot of trouble in order to get to it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Braving the Elements of Funky Foods

I thought I would write about a few situations in my food life where I had to set aside my instincts in order to indulge some culinary delicacies. As I have previously mentioned I am really interested in the art of butchery and this is where some of my icky sticky situations come in. Although I now enjoy  cutting protein, I didn't always. And although I would call myself pretty brave when it comes to trying new foods and working with interesting ingredients, there are plenty of times where I am skeptical. Hopefully these short memoirs will encourage you to stick your neck out in order to further your own culinary adventures.

Something's Fishy
I was immediately fond of cutting fish. It is very satisfying to fillet as close to the bones as possible and yield the most edible product out of a whole fish. The second culinary class I took at school was called Fish Fabrication. We started with a fish fresh from the port, most were already gutted, but primarily the fish looked like a fish- eyes, tongue, tail, scales, and all. The class was not only about taking the fish apart in order to extract the usable pieces, but also about identification and freshness checks. What color is the tongue? picking out the dorsal fin versus the pelvic and anal fins. Are the eyes big and round or kind of droopy? Fish should not smell fishy- fish should smell like the ocean. If it smells fishy it's probably not fresh. All of this knowledge was really neat and I was intrigued. I started filling my spare time by helping fabricate fish after class. What's neat about the CIA is that all of the food is eaten by students and faculty. The fish is cut by students first learning to cut fish and then sent to another classroom full of students who are learning to cook fish and then eaten by students who want fish for lunch. So they need all of the extra help that they can get in order to cut the fish that other classes have ordered. I really mastered the skill. Every day I would spend at least two extra hours cutting fish. So who else you ask was as invested in their education as I was that they were willing to stink up their chefs coat with a few extra hours of fish work? Enter Christopher Buzzelli (who now happens to be my boyfriend).

Some of the fish we received came iced down like this is boxes
And guess who taught the famous super chef Christopher Buzzelli the right way to cut fish- that's me (he may tell you differently). That was our first interaction. I guess he must have been impressed with me. "Girl, the way you scale that fish makes my heart skip a beat." Anyway the fish we fabricated side by side is Skate which is one of the gooiest kinds of fish. It is from the ray family and therefore emits uric acid through its skin. So when cutting it you may find your hands starting to sting. Skate also have thorn like catches on their skin that easily tear open your hands when trying to get to the flesh. But after braving through the thorn patches and wading through the stinging goop, you will find yourself with one beautiful wing of delicate skate meat. I am telling you not to be afraid. Do not fear any whole fish. If it's whole, it's fresh. Although you might be wary of fish in general you have no reason to be. If you are afraid to touch it don't let that make you afraid of eating it, but if you aren't afraid to eating it, you should not be afraid to touch it. Get out there and try something new, you may end up falling in love. 


Don't be a Chicken
Skip a year or so down the road and you will find me on the cusp of graduation. Ready to finish my culinary degree in a great new restaurant on campus; the Bocuse restaurant. Now old news, but then astonishing that modern food was playing such a big roll in the education of CIA students. Not me. I am not into that modern hullabaloo that so many people, including Christopher, love. So what roll would I fall into in this class? The butcher position. Rightfully so I guess. I had an interest a while back which I kind of forgot about and then all the sudden it fell right back into my lap. I didn't have to work with immersion circulators or foams of any kind, I would just fall back onto the classic fabricating techniques that I loved. 

But the one thing I was uncomfortable with was chicken. I had broken down a chicken before, but the memory had not made it into my muscles. And plus raw chicken is probably one of the ingredients I am least fond of. In my opinion chicken doesn't have a lot of flavor unless you brine it or soak it in buttermilk for five days and then fry it. But I just found myself very hesitant about breaking down the chicken. Raw chicken is a bacteria trap right? Well finally my day came and I had to break down 2 whole cases of chicken. 16 chickens per case. So I started with the first chicken, a little grossed out by the sagging skin and the slimy feel. But by the time I got to the 10th chicken, I had it down and after the 32nd chicken, I had rid myself of the grossed out feeling. Sometimes the only way to get over a fear is to face it head on and see what the outcome is. 
Meat Fabrication class making sausage 

Liver Lover
Foie Gras, not a big fan, not at all really. Not because of where it comes from- I am okay with liver- in fact I love a good chicken liver pate smeared over some warm crostini. But I guess the liver combined with the taste just isn't to my liking. I first faced foie gras in my second year at culinary school in a class called Garde Manger. In this class, you are taught primarily about cold food preparations. Pickles, sausages, salads, pates, crackers, and the like. I was given the great task of cleaning the foie gras. It's a lot of work. You have to pull out a million tiny veins tenderly out of the fragile, milky lobes of foie. It's really a pain in the neck. After cleaning the goose liver, we then packed it into a mold where it sat for a while until it had formed into a brick. Then we were expected to spread a slab of it on toast. Let me tell you what it tasted like- Gamey Crisco. As I mentioned- not a fan. Christopher had urged me to try warm foie gras instead of choking it down chilled. But I stood firm with my anti foie gras motion. That is until a few weeks ago when I ate it without knowing. 
Foie Gras Terrine 

Forcemeat made in Garde Manger 



















Very often people talk about the fifth flavor (after bitter, sweet, salty, sour): Umami. What is this mysterious oo-mommy? It's pretty much a synonym for savory. But how is something categorized as savory? My answer would be, not sweet, but that's not necessarily correct. It is most often found naturally in meats and vegetables but chefs have to find a way to put it into their dishes without always adding meat or vegetables- they have to find an alternative way to extract it. If you want something salty, you add salt. If something needs to be sweeter, add a form of sugar. Sour, well a lemon or lime. Bitter brings me to dark chocolate or beer. But savory? Many fermented products contain that flavor, as well as kombu (a form of dried seaweed), and MSG. As a side note- MSG is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. In fact, when used in moderation it can add just what any certain dish may need. But a lot of chefs go to great lengths to extract this umami from other ingredients or put two ingredients together in order to create umami, which is the real challenge. Where I most recently found umami was in foie gras. After popping some kernels over the stove, Christopher presented me with his latest popcorn flavor- in the mystery flavor wrapper. A taste I quite couldn't describe, and therefore it was Umami. Instead of tossing my popcorn in butter, Chris had added some softened foie gras and let me tell you, it was delicious. In order to taste new flavors, you have to be willing to try new things. If not all of you are lucky enough to have a trusty side kick who will force feed you the foods you refuse to eat, then I suggest you expand your horizons and do it on your own. I would, I just have inherited a real stubborn streak. 


Tongue Tied
Most recently I have had dealings with a very large beef tongue. The worst part about the tongue is that it looks like a tongue. It really is an oversized human tongue, and it feels like one too only a little bit tougher. I remembered all of those fairs that I traveled to where the calf's tongue felt so smooth sucking on my finger, well apparently not when they grow up. Tough and thick and incredibly textured. So the tongue came into our possession because Chris' parents were so generous as to give us a freezer full of meat to get us through the winter. And of course they figured if anyone knew what to do with a tongue it would be us. So here we are near the end of winter (hopefully) and our freezer has been picked through with only a few things remaining, one of those being the frightening tongue. So I found a recipe and I started the process- first brine the tongue for 5 days. Disgusted I cut the tongue out of the packaged and plopped it into the cooled brining liquid. After the brining period I had to remove the tongue and store it in a plastic bag. It had the feel of that scratchy cat tongue. Again- the only way to describe a tongue is that it looks and feels like a tongue, I know it's a poor description but it's all I've got.
The tongue after cooking and peeling off the outer layer

We found  quite a recipe for tongue sandwiches and while improvising a little here and there we started to cook the tongue in a water bath filled with fresh vegetables. You are able to tell when the tongue is cooked through when you can peel the outer layer off of the meat entirely. That was quite the challenge. It was a struggle of trying not to touch the tongue while attempting to peel the thick skin off at the same time. After braving the tongue debacle, we were able to make the sandwiches with some melted cheese and pickled banana peppers. It was good. I bet if we made it again it would be better the second time because we would know what we were doing, but it really wasn't bad. And although I had to swallow my tongue (so to speak), in order to eat the tongue meat without thinking of it as a tongue, I was really glad that I went out of my comfort zone in order to try something new. Try it, what's the worst that can happen- you don't like it and you never eat it again. But you never know unless you try.
Tongue Sandwiches

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Equinox Talks

I have officially decided that I cannot wait for spring. So I am bringing Spring in.

Today I started working on my bikini body. I know I know probably should've not packed on those winter warmth pounds at all, but I will not get back in a bikini until I feel fit. You will have to settle for the dreaded tankini... I went for a run. Wha whattt? Ok maybe a jog. I bundled up, hat, gloves, loads of layers and was off. You know that feeling in your lungs when the cold air just completely takes over. Yeah I got that. The way I see it, doing something is better than nothing. So I am on the right track.

I rid my drawers of bulky winter sweaters. I am going to wear spring clothes, maybe all Mother Nature needs is a little encouragement. She probably won't tell the difference between my sheet white legs and the slightly tanned stockings I wear under that skirt right?

I am currently obsessed with nail polish. Let me tell you as a chef, you can't wear nail polish. No one wants a bright red flake of polish in their mushroom risotto! So I have lived a life where my toes have been spoiled. Pedicures all around...you don't cook with your feet. So might as well take advantage of the days I am not spending in the kitchen by brushing my nails with spring pastel colors! First I tried 'mint sorbet' oolala then I moved onto 'lacey lilac' and today I am getting into some 'mellow yellow'. It brings a bit of spring which doesn't seem to be out there naturally today.

Here are some of the reasons that I can't wait for spring:
1. SUNLIGHT. Shoot I need some Vitamin D. I have become an early to bed girl for the winter months, but now there is reason to stay outdoors longer because of the light!2. Sun dresses. I have way more spring clothes than winter clothes.
3. COLOR. no, I can't say I get a lot of 'tanned' skin. I am talking about color in my wardrobe.
4. Freckles. Maybe I don't get that warm brown skin, but I am looking forward to some freckles peeking out.
5. Sun roof. 'Nuff said
6. Work! When May 1st hits, I will have a steady full time job like a normal person! And I can't tell you how ready I am to be working every single day! Let the busy season commence (I may regret this later)
7. Flower shoots. I just today saw a few green shoots breaking their way through the ice cold ground. I want to witness that change from brown to green!
8. The Public Market. If you haven't been informed- Rochester NY has a wonderful farmers market with WONDERFUL prices and farm fresh ingredients. I have spent too much time in the grocery store and I can't wait to shop outside again!
9. Farm Days! I am sick of root vegetables, bring on spring! The farm will not start until June, but spring means the vegetables have a chance to grow.
10. Yard sales. I mean come on.
11. Outdoor. Everyone needs a lot more fresh air then we get in the winter time. So I am psyched.
12. A change. Chris and I will be moving mid May, and I can't wait for a change. As much as we love our first place together. We are ready downsize and start a new adventure.
13. No more bulky coats! Goodness.
14. Food trucks.
15. Free concerts in the park. Sitting on the lawn. Enjoying the grass between your toes and the breeze in your hair.

Ok Spring, Here is your encouragement. Whenever you are ready.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fussing Over Food

Let's talk about foods you don't like.
For Me:
hot dogs 
olives
peanut butter
caesar salad
yellow mustard
anise
root beer
dr. pepper
fennel 
licorice
pimento cheese
sesame oil
pickles
tarragon 
anchovies 
beer
bonito 
American cheese singles
coconut 
foie gras 
frisee 
lavender 
lychee
malt balls
raw onions
pheasant 
sun dried tomatoes

A lot of items are grouped together, for instance if you don't enjoy licorice that includes anise, fennel, and tarragon. Why don't we like certain foods? And when is the appropriate time to try new things?

I stick to my list, but this doesn't mean that I don't eat a salad if it has frisee in it, in fact I recently had a pretty good salad with frisee in it. I also enjoy some things that include coconut I just don't like something that focuses on coconut- like coconut cream pie. Another example of a food on my list that  is an exception is foie gras. Probably 7/10 people would agree that they dislike foie. How many of those 10 people have tried foie gras more than five times? I will not order a menu selection focused on foie gras, but that doesn't mean that when Chris secretly puts some foie in with my popcorn that I refuse to eat it. I actually enjoy it. Some items I will only eat some ways: I don't like yellow mustard but especially when people put it on sandwiches! Yellow mustard is a condiment for hot dogs and hamburgers, not smeared on white bread to compliment a turkey sandwich. That's what dijon is for. I also enjoy olives when mixed in my salad. I will not eat the olives but I like the flavor that they add to the salad.

Your tastebuds are constantly changing. The life span of a taste bud is anywhere from one to two weeks before they are replaced with new buds. Hopefully this not only encourages you to test out new flavors but to inspire your children to as well. A lot of the reason we like certain foods and dislike others has to do with our surroundings. Our parents, friends, and those we admire play a role in the flavors we lean towards and away from. If a family member makes a face when eating a pickle, we might shy away from it because of the memory. If your mother brings you up on tuna noodle casserole you might enjoy it into your adult years because you ate it once a week. The opposite could be true as well. I don't favor cranberry juice because when I was small all I drank was cranberry juice, non stop.

I think that people get wrapped up in the foods that they don't like and they allow that to dictate what they try and more often what they don't. I will admit that my list is pretty long, and I am not proud of it. As a food lover, I am obligated and willing to try all new foods whenever they are presented to me. And most often I find that I can thankfully cross a dislike off of my list. Sure, there will be items that might be on my list forever, but that can be attributed to my profound stubbornness. The list of foods I like is a lot longer than the list of foods that I don't like, thankfully. Restaurants might be the best place to give your tastebuds a chance. Instead of asking for the chefs to omit a certain ingredient you disapprove of, trust them and you may be surprised!

A Glimpse of Spring

Spring is really trying hard. Today it's a wonderful 52 degrees: no need for a coat. It's incredible how much everyones mood changes just because of the sun's rays. When normally people are so cranky and inconsiderate, today at the gas station someone asked if I was the next car in line- they were able to do this because there window was down and so was mine!  At the grocery store, I took a pull through spot only to find another car waiting to go  into the spot from the other side. Instead of cursing me out, he waved me through and took a spot a little farther from the front entrance, probably because he didn't mind walking in the sunshine! The weather effects and affects people more than they realize.


Chris brought home these daffodils yesterday and they had not opened yet. The tag said to just add water and they will guarantee a smile and a hint of springtime.
 I seriously do not ever remember a winter this bad, but a few factors may attribute to this. I think in this day in age where 58% of people have a smart phone; people are more aware of the temperature than they have been in the past. People would complain about the cold, but unless they wanted to freeze their buns off to go and look at the thermometer outside, they just stuck with the word cold instead of subzero, freezing, or record low. When I was young, I would have to go outside in order to determine what would be appropriate to wear that day. Now, the first thing I do in the morning is look at the temperature. "Oh I guess today I will wear three layers" or "I hope my wool socks are clean" not very often do you hear, "Short sleeves!" What are short sleeves? I don't even remember.

My cousin parading her practically new snow suit. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder is really sad (but really, it's acronym is SAD). It has been estimated to affect about 10 million Americans and a mild case of seasonal depression is estimated to affect 10-20% of other Americans. This year, I don't know anyone who wasn't affected. Winter brought out the worst in people this year. I found myself hibernating some days, waiting for the sun to prevail with no such luck. I had no way to release my energy, and so like most children whose parents wouldn't let them face the frigid temperatures- I became antsy and found myself thinking way too much. I visited my aunt and cousins a week ago and she expressed her grief of the toll the weather has taken on herself and two young girls. "Why did we buy new snow suits, if they only had a chance to wear them twice!? The new boots we bought this year won't fit next season."  I am all for playing in the snow, but not when the temperatures are 5 degrees- real feel -11. It's actually insane. My landlord who lives upstairs has two dogs that drive me nuts! They are meant to roam and run around in the outdoors, not sound like they are coming through the ceiling. But they will freeze! One morning I had to call animal control because the dog next door had been barking for a solid hour in negative temperatures.



And we can't catch a break. Tomorrow there is a "SEVERE WEATHER ALERT: 100% chance of precipitation. Winter Storm Warning in effect tomorrow. Hazards- heavy snow and blowing snow. Storm total accumulations of 12 to 20 inches." Seriously?  Good thing I filled up my tan today in the sunshine versus tomorrow in a snow storm. I am sure that everyone is hoping that the temperature won't drop low enough to accumulate that much snow, but I wouldn't put it passed Mother Nature, she seems to be on quite the tirade this year. I guess we can just dream of summer. I hope this weather won't affect the vegetation too badly. I hate when the trees don't change colors in the fall because it gets too cold, too fast. But what about the vegetables? Will the spring growing season be prolonged?

Usually I am wearing dresses at this time of year, but alas my legs seem to have permanent goose bumps. I am ready to throw out all of my winter clothes and replace them with some lighter apparel, but I guess spring cleaning cannot commence until spring actually comes to stay.

Last year this time I was soaking up the sun.

Monday, March 10, 2014

FarmFresh

Recently Chris and I have been watching a documentary series on PBS called "A Chef's Life". This series is about a woman and her husband and how they open their own restaurant called 'Chef and the Farmer'. It's a really neat story of how just after opening their restaurant it burns to the ground and they need to start over. I can guess that it would be pretty tough, but it could also be quite a miracle. If you think about it, just after opening a restaurant there would be a long list of what went wrong. You could right what you didn't get the first time around. And it reinforce what you already had in place, overall creating a twice as strong restaurant.

Chef Vivian from 'Chef and the Farmer' on a corn excursion! 

We really enjoy the show, not only because it is a spouse team that is building their dream restaurant together but because each program they feature a different farm to table ingredient. Whether the focus be on tomatoes, oysters, corn, or pigs, the program takes us to the farm, we get to  meet the farmer and see the stages of growth. Then Chef Vivian shows how she processes the ingredients and then features them in their restaurant. 

These are heirloom tomatoes, grown from seeds that have been around for 100 years. There are so many varieties of heirloom tomatoes some of which may not look the most appealing but most often the ugly tomatoes are the best! Those that look overgrown or cracked are packed with flavor. Try new varieties of tomatoes and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Of course everyone has recognized that the farm to table movement is entirely in vogue, but I think the more chefs advocate for it, the faster it will trickle down to the general population, as it should. My newest favorite book is one that I bought for Christopher by John Besh- "My New Orleans". In the same manner, it dissects the local ingredients used in his restaurants. He not only emphasizes the difference in taste for example between Creole tomatoes and refrigerator tomatoes, but he attributes it to terroir. Terroir is the notion that a certain region, soil, and growing conditions are the reason a certain ingredient tastes the way it does. In Europe they have something that is called a Protected Designation of Origin which protects the products grown or produced in a certain area so that no other producer can claim that their product is of the same high quality as that of the Protected Designation of Origin. John Besh goes to great lengths explaining that some of the farmers who provide his vegetables should have these protection because that's how good they are. He also works with the local farmers so that they are producing primarily for the flavors he is looking to highlight.
John Besh dissects each ingredient and promotes buying not only locally and supporting New Orleans. He mentions that   sometimes the best product is right outside your back door! 

Chris and I decided to be part of a CSA this year. A CSA is a local farm that sells it's produce directly to members who buy a share of their product; it stands for Community Sharing Agriculture. Last year, I traveled to the farm with the caterer I work for in order to gather her share, and also take advantage of the U-pick program. The U-pick allows you to go into the fields yourself and harvest some of the excess vegetables that are not included in each weeks share. Chris and I really had fun when we visited the farm last year and so we decided to buy half a share for ourselves. Buying half of a share means that instead of going every week to pick up a basket of vegetables, we travel to the farm every other week to pick up our basket. It's not only farm fresh but more value for the price. Our half share will cost 340$ for 10 "baskets"of vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers...plus all you can pick! I encourage you to find a CSA near you. It's quite a great feeling to know that the food has only been touched by two or three hands before it meets your mouth. And with the U-pick section, maybe even one person- me pick! me wash! me cook! me eat!
 

These are both sample shares from our CSA! 















If chefs introduce us to these wonderful local flavors through the dishes they prepare in restaurants, maybe more people will support their local farms and make their own dinners with the freshest ingredients possible. Join the movement! Bring the farm to your table.

Here I am walking amongst the stalks of the CSA, picking the finest cobs!