Friday, February 22, 2013

valentine's day at the beard house

it has only taken a week but i think i may have finally caught my breath and gotten some sleep.  after a 17 hour bus ride up, two jam packed-action filled days and another 17 hour bus ride home, i can truly say i have had a real career moment!  at times, it was a little overwhelming-to just think about where i was and who else had been there.  at others, it was just plain fun; we were so well prepared that everything went off without a single hiccup.  however, since i was a little busy, i didn't take many photos-but i have a link to lots of them at the bottom of this post.  these are a few of the photos i took.

the front door to the house doesn't look like much, i expected something a little grander.  perhaps some stairs leading up to the door.  but in the end, this made loading in a whole lot easier.

 the kitchen, this is the backside of the pass.

 the view into the kitchen from the far side of the pass.

 the line.  it should really be called the tunnel-as short and thin as i am, i felt a little large in this space.

 red velvet cheesecake brownies.  as a parting gift for all of the guests, i baked up 4 pans (see them lined up on the pass in the photo above?).  need the recipe?  click here.

we were unbelievably lucky; our event was on 2/14 and there were not any events scheduled on the day before.  we were allowed to load in and prep the day before.  that meant we were not as rushed and had a little time to wander the area.  when we finished prepping on 2/13, a few of us hit the streets and headed to chelsea market on foot.

 like moths, we were drawn to the light...

i do not envy the person who had to attach all of those little lights.

we pigged out on gelato and sorbetto

 then we headed up to the high line for a nap.

 the old rail line that was converted into the high line park

 love the way the building is staddling the raised railway, as if it is stepping over it

 14th street-the meat packing district

 it always amazes me that the roads are still cobbled in some of the neighborhoods of manhattan.

the uneven sizes and angles of the glass on this building made wonderful reflections.  i could have spent hours photographing the building and the reflections.  we headed back to the house so that we could go to dinner as a group.

after a lovely dinner at mc cormick and schmicks, we walked to times square.  having grown up in new jersey and spending many, many days and nights as well as working in new york city, i must say that times square at night is always impressive.  a little overwhelming but always an adventure.

 and then it was time to head back to the hotel-we had a busy day in front of us...

to see tons more pictures of all the food and the beard house, follow this link.  and congratulations to tara(in the photo above)-she travelled with us and took all of the photos on the cafe's website.  didn't she do a great job?

Monday, February 18, 2013

macarons: how to relax and reload...

if you live in nashville, then you know where i have been.  last week, a few of my coworkers and i made a 17 hour bus trip to new york city to prepare a special valentine's day dinner at the james beard house.  don't worry, at some point this week, i will post pictures and links to all of the clips and coverage.  but after a three day whirlwind trip and another 17 hour bus ride home, i needed to recharge and reload.  and since more than a couple hours of sleep was not an option, i decided to do what comes naturally-bake cookies.

 in december, i participated in a book release event for the bouchon bakery book.  and on friday morning, in a half hungover-half adrenaline overloaded state, i went for a walk on the streets of new york city.  in my wanderings, i passed bouchon bakery and then later in the day, found myself on the bus watching my coworkers sample macarons from bouchon.  so many pretty colors and enticing flavors.  it dawned on me that i had never tried making that type of macaron.  i had to reconcile that...

 well it was close to valentine's day

 my technique needs work...

 i need to get some red color-fuschia didn't cut it, they look like i flavored them with pepto bismal...

all filled and ready for a close-up.  i plan to make these again.  this time, i used the recipe from the bouchon bakery book.  the recipe is out there on the internet but as a cookbook author, i suggest you buy the book or at least borrow it from a library or friend.  and if not, i found it on the making of a foodie blog, but beware, sebastien rouxel works his recipes in grams and ounce conversions are tricky so your best bet is to work from his recipe in the book using the gram amounts rather than the ounce conversions on the blog page i linked to.  good luck and may the force be with, i'm off to catch up on some sleep.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

sundried tomato focaccia

 when it comes to simple and easy bread, focaccia is the only one you need to make.  you can slice it into strips and serve it with a salad, cut squares and stuff them for sandwiches or you can simply eat pieces of it.  there isn't any intricate shaping or special pan required; just your finger tips will do.  the best part, the dough is so forgiving that mistakes are hard to see.  even better is the fact that you can add just about anything to the dough and still get a good result.

this weeks recipe from baking with julia is the focaccia featured on page 143 and is hosted by sharmini of wandering through.  be sure to visit her page to see the recipe or better yet, pick up a copy of baking with julia-it is worth every bit of space on the shelf.  to see what the other 100 or so bakers have come up with, visit the tuesdays with dorie page.

a few notes to share.  since there is just two of us in the house, i cut the recipe in half and made two small squares.  while the recipe called for a 24-36 hour rest in the fridge, my life could only accomodate about 16-18 hour period.  that is probably why i did not get all of the little bubbles on the surface.  maybe next time, or maybe not.  the bread was nice and light; the shorter resting did not seem to be a huge issue.  since i was pressed for time, i didn't bother with the fresh herbs and just sprinkled a little sea salt on top of each loaf.

 my sundried tomatoes came packed in olive oil.  to add even more flavor to the bread, i used some of that oil in the bread too.  it gave it a nice tomato orange shade.

the window pane test for gluten development.  if you can stretch it out to a transparent window without tearing, it is ready.

shaped and waiting to be baked

 after a light brush of olive oil, this loaf of bread is waiting its turn in the oven.
 fresh from the oven.  

be sure to check out the tuesdays with dorie page and bake along with us sometime!

Friday, February 1, 2013

that next big thing...

some people have jobs, some have careers.  some work because they have to and others work because they cannot imagine not working; it's more of a "calling" than a job.  for those of us who have careers and callings, we are lucky to also find ourselves in love with what we do.  our lives become punctuated by big moments and accomplishments that more often than not, include our professional occupations.

in the restaurant world, there are few things to dream of.  the work is hard, it is stressful and physically demanding.  most of us do not get many benefits and quite often the pay scale isn't very rewarding either-especially if you are a woman.  even so, we get up at odd hours and work our asses off even when we are sick or have cut/burned/bashed ourselves to a point that would make others cry and give up.  in the back of our minds, we dream of the day that...i know, it's no different than any other career path but in our profession, at least the food is good.

so where am i going with this?  after 30 years of busting my ass, after countless burns and bruises and cuts, after writing 2 books, and on and on i could go, i finally found myself facing what could be considered a dream come true.  a bonafide career defining moment.  an honor so great that it is one that i simply cannot put into words so that it sounds like anything less than bragging.  so instead, i bring you pictures.

it all starts with a simple sweet potato

 and potato chips

 onions tossed in seasoned flour by hand

crispy fried onions

 the start of a casserole

 tomme cheese made with milk from a cow named eileen
(honestly, i'm not making that up, her name really is eileen)

 carrots mashed by hand

 our own smoked pork loin

 chicken breaded and fried 

 freshly fried chicken made from our secret recipe

 squash ready for the casserole

 profiteroles awaiting their filling

bittersweet chocolate

 freshly shaved

can you feel the love?

as we worked in the kitchen, the tables were set.  it's almost showtime!  the tension builds and we are ready.  this is just a dress rehearsal, but we took it every bit as seriously as we will in two weeks.  we are headed to the big city, about 900 miles northeast of nashville.  yes, that big city, the big apple.  we're packing up our recipes and our knife kits and heading to manhattan.  we've been invited to throw a little dinner party for valentine's day.  you won't find us in a restaurant or hotel kitchen.  this isn't a pop-up dinner and there won't be any tents.  we will be taking over a house in the village-greenwich village to be exact.  and whose house is it, does it even matter?  yeah it does, it belonged to a man named james beard-ever heard of him?

and all tongue and cheek aside, none of the attitude or arrogance, i am honored to have this chance and even with all of the preparation we have done, a little nervous too.  the james beard foundation put a nice bit up about us on their website, and we have even more up on cafe website.  our local paper covered the rehearsal dinner and here is what they had to say about it.  wish us luck, and stay tuned for more photos.