12.22.2007

It's a Wrap!

How quickly time flies? Tonight marked our last night in Bleu at Western Culinary Institute, which also marks our last night at the school altogether. Many days it seemed like our time in our stark white coats and black and white checkered pants would never end, and now, it's seems like in just a blink, we're done. It was an unforgettable ride with everyone. Throughout the course of six months we saw some of our classmates leave, yet welcomed new bodies along the way. And I think it wasn't really until this past three weeks that we all realized how great of a class we had, how much we enjoyed working together and how much we'll miss each other.

We aren't completely done with our program, though. We have the next two weeks off to enjoy a much-needed holiday vacation. And in January, we'll all head out, individually, on our externships. The final step in earning our diplomas is to go out and work in the real world for six weeks. As my focus from the beginning has been writing, I'm excited to say that I'll be preparing to join The Oregonian's FOODday section and extern at the paper's test kitchen. A couple of weeks ago I was able to sit down with Linda Faus, FOODday test kitchen director and Martha Holmberg, editor of both FOODday as well as Portland's new food and drink magazine, MIX. As the externship is based in the kitchen, I'm hoping for an opportunity to write for either FOODday or MIX. We'll see. I will be involved in planning meetings for both publications, so it'll be right up my ally. I'm incredibly excited about the experience that lies ahead. And I'm happy to say some other students are heading on some exciting externships as well. Paley's Place, Bluehour, Bon Apetit catering and The Benson Hotel are just a few of the places around town who's kitchens will host some of my fellow classmates. I wish them the best of luck, although I know they will shine all on their own.
I've been so lucky to have such memorable nights with my class in the kitchen. And now I'm looking forward to taking my new knowledge on all things culinary to the next level. I'm sure my classmates are too. So to the Winter 2008 Diploma PM class, here's to you! I'll miss seeing your smiling, but tired faces in the kitchens each night. Do good. Let's all make each other proud. Go open your restaurants, write your cookbooks, start your catering businesses and most of all, make sure everyone you cook for tastes the best of what you have to offer.
Some pics from Restaurant Bleu...

Kitchen confidential? A peak at Joey, Jarod and Ryan prepping on the front line for the night's service.
Jarod standing proud as sous chef of the evening.


Mince it, Joey, mince it! Chop, chop!

Eric and Bryan hanging on for a torturous night working the salads in garde manger.


My first plate on the front line. Pan-seared cod with spinach risotto.
David working the whipped cream at the dessert line. I think he makes the best whipped cream ever. And no matter how big the batch, he always insists on doing it by hand, no electric mixer! That is the best way, I will agree.

Joey! What is that you're about to squirt down David K.'s neck?? I don't think that's proper plating!


McKinley sauteing up those clams and mussels for an appetizer order.

Are you getting ready to take a bite of the sweet mashed potatoes, Darrell? I think that's what Chef Luke wants to know, surveying in the background.



There you all are! Jarod, David, McKinley, Andrea and Darrell cooling off in the walk-in.

I got to work the desserts on the last night, and play with the plate design for the profiteroles. This was the final. Appetizing?


And the finale; literally. Oh how we will miss the dish pit. From day one in culinary school it was stressed that each student must do their own dishes (yeah, right). There were those of us who did, and those of us who NEVER did the dishes! Regardless, we could always count on a nice pile of dish pans, pots and bowls that were covered in evidence of the evening's recipes. And there is Ryan and Darrell; always troopers at the dish sink.

I hope you stay with me as I continue to explore and embark on adventures in the culinary world. After six months of school, I can honestly say though I've learned so much, I'm still a ways away from being an expert on anything. Here's to more exploring, learning and devouring more of what's out there!

Cheers,
JF

12.04.2007

A La Cuisine!

So tonight begins the true test, shall we say? Our last three weeks at the school, my 13 classmates and I will test what we've learned over the past six months in the school's open-to-the-public fine dining restaurant, Restaurant Bleu.

No instructors, no books of recipes to peak at, just us students, our knife rolls, and perfectly pressed whites.

The restaurant is open to the public Tuesday through Friday for 5-course lunch and dinner service. If you come in and try it, let me know what you think!

Cheers,
~JF

11.27.2007

Le View

Each day on my way to school I ride into the city on Portland's Max lightrail. I have five stops until mine on SW 10th and Yamhill. I hop off and make my way through the eager crowd of riders waiting to get on, take a right on 10th and head down one block to cross Morrison Street to get to the Galleria building. Since July I've had this habit of looking down Morrison where cars and the Max head west. I've always liked the view of the street that extends as far as my eye can see, dressed with rows of trees on each side. In the summertime, the street shined with the afternoon sun that shined on the city and the trees were dressed with bright green leaves and pink flowers. Now, all the trees have lost their leaves and are now dressed with white holiday lights that are lit even at 3:00pm. The sky that hovers of the street is now gray and the air is cold as I look down and see the tri-lit face of the train heading toward me as I step over the tracks for another fun-filled evening in the kitchens.


Tonight officially marked the last Monday night of class. We have this week left in our last class; Advanced Garde Manger. Known as the "cold" part of the kitchen, the garde manger is responsible for cold plates, soups, salads, appetizers and hors d'oeuvre. We enjoyed the Intro to Garde Manger weeks back prior to our adventures as ameteur bakers, and now we're back for the second round. In garde manger, there is so much emphasis put on the artful presentation of plates, the use of whites space on a dish, and the utilization of ingredients to add color and interest to bites of wonder. I've taken so many pictures over the past six months. Below is a snapshot of what I think are some of the best plates done my myself and my classmates. I will admit that I don't remember who's plates belong to whom, so there are not names listed next to all. Enjoy what many foodies refer to as "food porn"!



Ok, this one is mine from Intro to Garde Manger. Yes, I had way too much sauce, but I always liked my concept of my first attempt at a really "artsy" plate. I think these are towers of tuna with creme fraiche and carrot and spinach chiffonade on top. The smeared globs are suppose to be careful streeks of a balsamic vinaigrette reduction.

A much better use of the balsamic reduction. :) I think this is McKinley's.







Here's another one of mine. Yes, I like "towers". This one was a layer of sauteed mushrooms topped with a layer of poached pear, topped with a layer of sauteed red cabbage, topped with a layer of sliced purple grapes, creme fraiche and topped with spincach leaves. Again, another sauce attempt this time with a port gastrique. I liked the presentation, but let me tell you, if you bit into one of the three gastrique dots, your would lose a tooth. Gastrique should have the consistency of maple syrup. Mine hardened up like port Jolly Ranchers(R). The mushroom and red cabbage tower, though?...delish! Really, it was so refreshing with the pear slices and grapes. And the bright purple color of the cabbage rocked.

Eye catching display of smoked salmon atop creme fraiche. I think this is the "other" Jennifer's.

I will update this post with more pics tonight. It's actually Tuesday afternoon and I've got to head down to 10th and Yamhill. We ice carve tonight. All I can think of is loud chainsaws and being cold and wet all night, which the chef clearly warned us we would be. Ah well, everyday is about experiences, right? When the heck am I ever going to ice carve again? (NEVER, I tell you!)


A few more pics...




Potato pancakes with mozzarella, duck, and chopped tomatos and yellow peppers.



Ahhh...the class with Chef Tina. This was taken a few weeks back during International Cuisine.

A platter of hors d'oeurve.
Cheers,
JF

11.19.2007

Book Review: The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry

It is true, and one of the first things ingrained into the minds of culinary students is that your most important asset is your sharpened knives. They will alleviate any struggle of slicing up julienned carrots or paper-thin slices of smoked salmon, as well as offer a cleaner, speedier recovery to any accidental contact with one's hands. And in this case, author Kathleen Flinn refers to the title as one of many lessons learned during her whirlwind year fulfilling a lifelong dream: earning a diploma from the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France.

An executive at a well-known, Washington-based, high-technology company, Flinn's job was eliminated while she was working out of London. Her life in the rat race, as she knew it, was over; just like that. What to do? Immediately jump on the next high-pressure, 80-hour a week position that came along? No. Instead, Flinn took advice from her then boyfriend to happily take her severance, pack up, head to Paris and fulfill her life long dream of graduating from what many consider to be the world's most famous cooking school.
Nestled within the perfectly designed, 304-page hardcover, Flinn takes readers on a quick tour of her year tackling traditional French cuisine at the helm of demanding chefs who speak-and in most cases, scream-only French. The book reads quickly with each chapter equaling five-to-six pages in length with a recipe at the end of each one. Throughout her journey of making a supreme bechamel sauce to learning the art of slicing onions as gracefully as her French chefs, Flinn also shares her adventures in her personal life including the myriad guests who travel to France's adored city to spend time with Flinn and her boyfriend Mike in their nonstop, adventurous life in France that includes apartment hopping in a city they hardly know, as well as planning a wedding in two months time. The book is filled with heartache of Flinn's determination to please the impossible instructors at the school, but also love within the subject that seems to hold a more prominent spot in the book; her amazing relationship with Mike.
I will admit, being a culinary student in a Le Cordon Bleu school within the US, I really wanted more of the day in and day out of Flinn's experience at the school; the grueling curriculum, the increasingly challenging assignments as her experience grew, and maybe a little more of some of the relationships she developed with her perfection-obsessed instructors. At times I felt the chapters were too quick and that she could have gone in to a bit more detail.
Nevertheless, the book would prove to be a joy to read for anyone who enjoys those stories of people who ask, "What else can I do with my life?" Food, France, and a story of life and love; this book will touch the hearts of all who decide to join in her adventure.
~JF


10.31.2007

Making My Way Around the World

I've missed writing here, but a more intense school workload and, I will admit, a somewhat procrastinating mood has me backed up with loads to do. I keep thinking of things I want to share with you, but just can't seem to get myself to sit down at my laptop long enough. But quickly...

Last week I began my second-to-the-last class in culinary school: International Cuisine. How do you learn about all the world's cuisine in three weeks? You dive in to one country a day! And, remember that product ID test I had back in August where myself and each of my classmates had to memorize 80 different products? International Cuisine has upped the ante and in one week and two days we'll be tested on over 200 products from around the world. But it's all good so far and I just wish this class was extended to six weeks as opposed to three. Throughout the week we cooked our way through the Middle East, India, and Japan. I am familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine and enjoyed making familiar dishes such as hummus, baba ghanouj, lamb kabobs, fattoush, tzatziki, and Moroccan mint tea. India was an amazing journey through a new world of spices and Indian products like dal, garam masala, asafoetida, anardana, ajwain, black cumin, black cardamom, cassia (which is true cinnamon), fenugreek seeds and more. I was surprised, however, that although the dishes we created were good, for all the work that went into to toasted and grinding spices that would get incorporated into them the food wasn't that flavorful. I found myself adding my favorite seasoning--salt!--to many of the dishes. It's on my list to go out and explore some more Indian cuisine around town to see if that is truly the norm. Japan was fun. We rolled our own sushi and boy were they a sea of colorful spiral circles and squares full of fun goodies. We also made tempura shrimp and vegetables. So good and honestly so easy to make! This week we've already visited China and are now in a tour throughout Thailand. We'll finish up the week in Spain and Italy. The textbook we're reading for this course is very cool. It's titled The New American Chef: Cooking with the Best of Flavors and Techniques from Around the World. I highly recommend it for any cook interested in international cuisine. Each country has it's own chapter and the body of them are filled with a bit of history, culture, and tradition with the country's cuisine. The authors, Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page, also interviewed well-respected chefs for each specialized cuisine on their thoughts, experiences, and tips for each part of the world. And, of course, lots of recipes are included as well.

An exciting adventure I must announce is that I ate sushi for the first time last week! And this wasn't in class. Planned weeks prior, I contacted my good friend David who is an avid sushi goer. I informed him I was ready to get out there and give it a try. So on Tuesday we met at Masu on SW 13th and Burnside downtown. The entryway is a little tough to find as it's currently surrounded by construction, but that shouldn't keep anyone from making their way into the glass door and up a flight of black stairs into the red- and orange-lit dining area. This is my kind of venue. At 9:30pm it's a dark and trendy spot that plays host to late-night sushi, sashimi, and sake lovers of the city. David ordered a slew of items to try from the restaurants incredibly extensive list of options from specialty rolls, to sashimi, maki rolls, and nigiri, and, of course, some warm sake. It was all delicious. They all had so much flavor, but none fishy, which in my book is a good thing, and means the product they serve is exceptionally fresh. Light tuna and crab pieces mixed with soy sauce and wasabi were to die for. And it's so light and healthy. It's nice to have a late-night bite without having to plan the next day's workout before you pay your bill. Sushi, sashimi, raw fish. Seemingly frightening weeks ago. Now I get it. Let's have more.

I'll update with more adventures soon I promise...and pictures to boot!

Cheers,
~JF

10.15.2007

A follow-up: 23Hoyt

Ok, I'm not the only one to recently tout 23Hoyt. The restaurant just received an accolade for one of the Best New Restaurants in 2007 by Esquire. And, to celebrate its' one-year anniversary, they are hosting an open house/happy hour this Saturday, October 20th. I plan on going. Maybe I'll see you there! ~JF

Esquire names 23Hoyt one of America's Best New Restaurants

"23Hoyt shares a kind of neighborhood charm with a new breed of sophisticated corner bistros, like the Spotted Pig in New York and Herbsaint in New Orleans."
-John Mariani, Esquire



View our latest menus

23Hoyt Turns One! Saturday, October 20, 4-6 pm
To celebrate our one year anniversary and all the delights fall has to offer, we are having a happy hour open house. If you are in the neighborhood next Saturday, October 20, from 4 - 6 pm please stop by and sample items from our happy hour menu and our house specialty drinks.

23Hoyt Restaurant & Bar
529 NW Twenty-third at Hoyt
Portland, Oregon

For Reservations call 503 445 7400 or Reserve Online!
And, don't forget, 23Hoyt offers Free Valet!

Dining with Spirits in Portland

So I can finally say that I'm a published writer! The fall edition of the culinary school's Food Writers' Club newsletter is out this week. My story is one of two on the front cover. Yay! Below is a version of it (the one that was published was edited down slightly). It was a fun story to write.

Cheers,
JF

Dining with Spirits in Portland
As foodies and lovers of good eats, it’s probably a given that each and every one of us enjoys venturing out to experience the myriad of dining venues Portland has to offer. We get to take our pick of the new up and coming, trendy hotspots, as well as those that have stood the test of time to make their mark in the city’s culinary history. Although, culinary history isn’t all they’ve got. For as we immerse ourselves in the festive month of October, celebrating ghouls and goblins and all things spiritual and ghostly, we may want to think about the company we keep at some of our well-known meal destinations around town.

Jake’s Grill has been a favorite Portland dining spot since it opened on the first floor of The Governor Hotel in 1994. The restaurant and bar is known for its’ old-gentlemen’s-club-like atmosphere, with 15-ft. tall ceilings bordered in deep mahogany crown molding, and elk, deer and buffalo heads mounted behind the bar as if they are surveying the scene below. A slightly curved bar that looks as if it hasn’t been polished since 1920, framed photos of gentlemen in bowler hats and suits from the early 1900s and cigar-smoking patrons allows Jake’s to blend perfectly with the old-time feel and history of the building it’s situated in. But that’s not all Jake’s is known for. It’s been said that the building Jake’s sits in may very well be haunted. “Haunted?” you say. Yes, haunted.

A while back I was given a tip that the building had witnessed some unique occurrences, mainly on the second floor, where Jake’s manages countless catering events. I had stopped into Jake’s a few times to try and pry some information out of those who really know what’s going on; the bartenders and cocktail servers at the restaurant. I had little luck and received odd looks from the few I approached, signaling that they were completely unaware of any tidbit of information surrounding what I was looking for. After a series of attempts to find some information about ghostly happenings in the building online, I reverted back to the hotel, this time to its’ catering office. Bingo! Thanks to a fellow WCI student who works there, the woman at the desk said she was expecting me. As she tried to get a hold of a representative who could, hopefully, fill my curiosities of possible ghost sightings, a hotel employee came into the office and overheard the information I was on a mission to find out. Is it haunted, or not? “Oh definitely,” he said. His name was Jeff. Standing roughly 5’5” tall, he was an energetic guy who had worked at the hotel for 11 years. “Two years ago, a Night Porter was riding down one of the elevators. He turned and looked to see a woman standing behind him. He turned facing forward again, then turned back again and the lady was gone. The Night Porter ran screaming out of the elevator,” he continued on. “I haven’t seen anything myself, but I definitely feel it at night, when I’m walking the halls, I just feel that something, or someone, is there.” He ended with that and as I was jotting down a few notes on what he was saying he, himself, seemed to disappear in a flash. Moments later, two gentlemen—one in a full suit and the other in a shirt and tie, sans the jacket—came marching in. These two couldn’t be here for me, I thought, but they were. Michael Poe, general manager of Jake’s Grill and Jake’s Catering, and Bradley Jones, director of banquets were standing in front of me and immediately proceeded to give me their business cards. Oh wow, I thought, I’ve caused quite a stir at Jake’s. I’ve taken the GM and banquet director away from their busy day to talk ghosts and spirits? But on second thought, maybe this meant they had something to say.

The three of us headed into a medium-sized meeting room off the reception area of the office and sat down to discuss any rumors of any haunting. To my surprise, Michael immediately jumped in, having experienced some strange events first hand. A Jake’s employee since 2002, Michael remembered a few specific instances that happened during the hotel’s remodel in 2004. “I remember one early morning when I came in to unlock the doors in the lobby which led into the restaurant. As I was unlocking the doors, I felt a presence to my left and heard someone say my name in a loud whisper into my ear. I quickly turned and no one was around me,” he said, and continued on. “That happened to be on a Wednesday. Later that Friday, a construction worker was conducting plumbing work up on the second floor at around 6:00am. He said he saw a guy in a brown shirt and blue pants squatted down, working right next to him. The construction working just starred at the man, not blinking. Moments later, the man literally disappeared in what the construction man described as a cloud of dust,” he said. And lastly, “One evening the Vice President of Operations and I took the elevators down to the bottom floor. Just prior to the elevator doors opening, we both heard someone say a loud ‘hello’ directly on the other side of the doors. When the doors opened, there was no one around the place.”

Michael, Bradley and I finished our conversation and although Michael needed to leave, Bradley was nice enough to take me on a tour of the infamous second floor. The Governor was originally built in 1909, and at that time it was known as the Seward Hotel. In 1923, they added on a west wing that would be the official site of the Portland Elks Lodge. That space now makes up the multi-room maze of meeting rooms and the second floor. I could see why it would carry some spooky characteristics. Some of the rooms were so tiny and they are all interconnected with doors at the back of each room that led either to a storage alcove or to the next room. We walked through the former Vault, which still contains an old-fashioned vault door with a gigantic wheeled lock on it, that, according to Bradley, no one can seem to open. Next was the Fireside Room, which was the only space women were allowed into back in the day. I quickly noticed how strangely cold it was. Hm. Maybe this is the home base for all the spooky entities floating around the site. The Fireside Room led to the Boardroom and the Boardroom led to a majestic library and so on and so forth. Michael left me alone to wander through the rooms on my own. As I strolled through I noticed many of the rooms had spaces in the walls that were formerly doorways, but were now sealed shut. I wondered what had occupied the space behind them in their original state. Each room was very intriguing and had its own unique characteristics about it, but no unusual occurrences for me that afternoon. I hung out in the long, arched corridor outside of all of the rooms and wondered what happened at the hotel that would keep any spirits roaming around in the first place. That was one question I still have yet to get answered, and so, for now, it will remain a mystery to me and anyone else who may be curious.

Regardless of whether or not you believe in the ghosts and spirits, or in unexplained happenings at Jake’s Grill, the menu will always be all the reason you need to go. The restaurant is known for having the freshest seafood as well as a hard-to-beat $1.95 happy hour menu—and they have late-night happy hour for those of us in evening classes.

Interested in more culinary hotspots known to have a few ghosts in their closets? Check out these venues that are also said to have a place in Portland’s haunted scene:

Old Town Pizza, located at 226 NW Davis Street, is said to have a resident ghost, Nina, who is known to leave a smell of faint perfume as she roams the restaurant in a black dress and observes diners basking in their pizza.

Lotus Cardroom and Cafe, located at 923 SW 3rd Avenue, has had reports of something very “creepy” that lurks down in the basement. It’s said that many employees there refuse to even discuss it.

White Eagle Tavern, located across the river at 836 N. Russell Street, claims that one of the stairways that leads from the bar to the upstairs hotel is haunted as well as the kitchen area that stems off the office.

10.08.2007

Weight of Ingredient/Weight of Flour x 100 = Baker's %

As I am enrolled in WCI's Culinary Arts Diploma program, I've always thought of myself as a baker at heart. Cookies, muffins, cakes, and brownies have always come easy to me. In fact, as we quickly arrived into fall here in Oregon this past weekend, I was bombarded with the need to bake brownies, some apricot oat bran muffins, and French toast. I didn't get around to the French toast over the weekend, but the brownies and muffins were enough to make my condo feel warm and cozy and smelling delicious, and transform my sun-loving self into one that has accepted the fact that fall has arrived. There is something about baking. The products taste best when they're fresh and warm out of the oven, and the aroma of fresh baked goodies with added contents like nuts, fruits, and cinnamon just makes you want to curl up on a couch and savor them in front of a fire.

It is so fitting, then, that last Monday began the next round in the adventures of culinary school: Intro to Baking and Pastry. As the overall Culinary Diploma program is focused more on entree-type food, us culinarian students do have one stop into the world of baking and pastry making and this is it. For the next three weeks our Santoku knives, chef's knives, and pairing knives as well as saute pans will be traded in for pastry bags, plastic dough scrapers, Silpats, and industrial-sized dough mixers.

We hear if often in the hallways of the school that there are culinary students, and then there are baking students. One is either a baker or a cook, one cannot be both. I'm still not sure if I agree, but the past week was definitely a crash course in the baker's world with baker's percentages and formulas, units of measurement (both U.S. and metric), the differences between strong and weak flours, shortening, gluten development, fermentation, gelatinization, crust formation and browning, evaporation, moisture retainers, staling - you get the picture.

But before we dove into fun facts of the above, day one was an introduction to our new instructors for the course: Head Chef Krieg and Associate Chef Bonnelo (otherwise known as Chef Ben...or simply Ben!). With each new class and each team of chefs there is a get-a-feel-for-you stage that usually takes place within the first couple of hours of the first day of class. This was definitely a different feel. With Chef Krieg, I will keep it simple, he comes from a different breed. A bit of sarcasm coupled with a tone of voice that goes from a calm conversational speak to a loud yell within the same sentence had us sitting on our stools quiet, slowly looking around the room at each other, and unsure of what to expect next. Chef Ben seems to be the ying to Chef Krieg's yang. He's sort of has that grandfathery type of instinct that always seems to sense when you're having difficulty and constantly reminds you to not get discouraged.

After day one's lecture we were tasked with making pain au ordinaire, or ordinary bread, for producing baguettes. Everyday, the first job of each student is to produce an individual batch of dough for pain au ordinaire. We each create two baguettes each day and one can be taken home, the other is sold down in the cafe. And, at the end of first week, we would be tested, or judged, on our skills of producing perfect baguettes.

Throughout the week we dove right in, measuring, weighing (the most important part in baking!), kneading, pounding, waiting for the dough to rise, releasing gas, flattening, shaping and baking delicious varieties of baguettes, pain au levain (sourdough bread), pain au mie (wheat bread), and many more items that rose and browned and became crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. Thursday was pizza day and I will say it was some of the best pizza dough I've ever had. And Friday...OMG! The doughnuts, croissants, and other pastries were to die for. The cinnamon rolls glazed with a crispy outside were absolutely heavenly, and babas with a semi-sticky honey bread and cream filling were so sweet and delectable.

I think the feelings were mixed last week. Between feeling proud of ourselves at our first shots of transforming ourselves from sauteers to bakers, and constant reminders from the chef of how slow we were, how we didn't take notes well, and how we asked too many questions, I think by Friday we were at the point of being happy with our results, but not wanting to show it too much to the chef. Oh well, I guess we shouldn't get too proud of ourselves too early. We are just culinary students after all.

Forward march...here comes week two!

Cheers,
JF

9.16.2007

Restaurant Review: 23Hoyt

In a city that's said to be up and coming in its growth of super-plush condominiums, trendy city neighborhoods and an explosion of unique dining venues, Portland is, no doubt, a place with options. Will it be the latest hot spot in the lower NW Pearl District, a classic adventure to Portland's almost-forgotten SW downtown neighborhood, or a stop at the always-comforting upper NW area? For myself and two young mothers ready for a much-needed night out, NW 23rd was our venue of choice. The chosen spot for what we hoped would be mouthwatering cuisine? 23Hoyt.


Situated, as one might guess, on the corner of NW 23rd and Hoyt, 23Hoyt is the latest brain child of restaurateur Bruce Carey and adored Portland chef, Christopher Israel. These two have collaborated in past lives on such famed city meal destinations as the former Zefiro, and the still-hopping cocktail and pan-Asian cuisine destination, Saucebox. And, they've both done it again. The marriage of Carey's eye for elegant, trendy venues (which also includes the Pearl District's Bluehour) that boast a touch of glamour with Israel's diverse expertise in simple, but deliciously desirable European-inspired cuisine, 23Hoyt delivers another sweet surprise to Portland's growing culinary sophistication.


Arriving fifteen minutes early for our 8:15pm reservation, the girls and I were promptly taken to our four-person, dimly lit table against the window that looked out onto Hoyt. The dinning room sits under a 20-ft ceiling that adds to the glamorous combination of white table clothes dressed with lit tea light candles in glass votive holders and a grey color scheme. Two tall ficus trees to the left of the space add a lively element that isn't seen a lot around town. In the middle of the C-shaped room sits the lit-up bar filled with cocktail-thirsty patrons. Though the bar is located in the middle of the restaurant, it doesn't feel out of place or too crowded. I walked passed the it twice to visit the ladies room - up a small flight of steps and to the right - and I never felt like I was interrupting the sip of a perfect martini.


So we swooned and ooohhed and ahhhed at the menu and the three of us each decided on dish. We, first, decided we would start off our feastful evening with a bottle of the Montsant Falet Rose. Served chilled, the reddish-pink wine delivered a burst of fruit that was surprisingly refreshing to start off with. We proceeded with our ordering. I chose the Insalata Caprese and the girls each had a Caesar salad. The caprese was gorgeous with bright red and yellow tomatoes, rich slices of homemade mozzarella, basil and a perfect drizzling of olive oil. It's a shame that summer is coming to an end and ripe tomatoes are almost a faint memory. These were perfect; fresh, juicy, sweet and with each bite I envisioned a bright blue Greek sky and the turquoise water of the Mediterranean. There was not a drop left on my plate. The Caesars were served in a classic style with full, long romaine leaves, Caesar dressing and sprinkled with grated parmesan and croutons. I didn't taste it I will admit. I love Caesar salads, but wanted to revel in the flavors I had just devoured with my caprese.

If time allows, I always love to view the menu of a restaurant online first to get an idea of what I'll want before I go. I was so excited about this dinner menu that after looking at it for two days, I was still unsure what I would have until our server nodded to me, signaling my turn. With choices that ranged from Linguine with blue mussels, saffron cream, garden tomatoes and basil chiffonade; Grilled Alaskan Coho salmon wrapped in grape leaves and served with grilled eggplant and a Catalan sauce of raisins, tomatoes, lemon, olive oil and toasted pinenuts; and Grilled Cascade Natural flat iron steak served with horseradish cream, roasted red and chiogga beets, watercress and red potatoes, what does one choose? I picked something in between and one that our server highly recommended, the Oregon rabbit hindquarter braised with white wine, mustard, cremini mushrooms, bacon lardons and pearl onions with pappardelle and rabbit sausage. The girls, staying consistent in their ordering of the same item, both chose the Roasted Carlton Farms pork tenderloin with Italian prune plums, red wine sauce, Yukon gold potato puree and sauteed carrots. Yum.

As we awaited our main course and sat relaxed in good conversation, my eyes scanned the room to see who, exactly, is coming to 23Hoyt. The crowd was very mixed and ranged from the mid-aged professionals on a first date to the trendy, savvy and sophisticated elders still interested in what's new and hot around town. And, of course, there were the thirty-somethings sipping a cocktail, or two, and sharing their latest adventures from the week. It is a diverse mix that somehow complement each other and work well together to create a balanced, but interesting, scene.

After what seemed to be a slightly longer wait than expected, our food arrived. Sitting in the center of pearl onions and bacon slices, my rabbit hindquarter looked simple and clean. The pork tenderloin looked absolutely heavenly with slices situated atop the potato puree with red wine sauce decorating the plate on one side. A very lean meat that is easily overcooked, the Oregon rabbit was done just right with a lot of flavor and still a bit of juice. I will admit, though, after trying the pork tenderloin, I was totally jealous. It was tender, succulent and rich with the red wine sauce and I'd wished I had been the one to sign up for it. All's well that ends well, I suppose, and I did finish off my feast with the black plum puff pastry tartelette with plum ice cream. It's a delectable, rectangular-shaped pastry with slices of plum baked on top. A scoop of the light berry colored ice cream was so sweet and tangy and made me feel like a grown-up kid reveling in a grown up dessert.

Any cons? Not really, except our table was a bit loud due to the fact that we were situated close to the kitchen and, trust me, they were hopping!

I will be back, to experience more items off the savory list of appetizers and entrees, to sip another bottle from the restaurant's incredibly extensive list of wines from around the world and, of course, to bask in my own plate of roasted pork tenderloin.

http://www.23hoyt.com/

Go. And enjoy.

~JF

9.12.2007

For the Love of Portland Food & Drink

Finally, a magazine based solely on Portland food and drink; Mix has arrived! It was due out September 7th, but for some reason I had a hard time locating it among our vast array of bookstores and other magazine-filled shops until Monday at Rich's Cigar Store located on SW Alder downtown.

I quickly snuck into the well-known cigar shop before school and scanned the racks. There it was on the bookshelf directly to my left. An attractive magazine, it has a sophisticated design that's about one inch wider than your standard magazine and about an inch and a half taller. The cover has a very trendy matte finish to it and the pages inside follow suit.

I peeked at a few pages while in Garde Manger - my latest academic adventure that began this week in my world of culinary school - and from the fast look I couldn't wait to devour every page when I arrived home.

As I opened the first page I unfolded a four-page layout of the new Martha Stewart kitchen and home collection to be offered at Macy's. Wow. A four-page ad for Martha Stewart? No matter what you think of Martha's little detour to the pen a while back, come on. She's still Martha Stewart. And to have her face splashed on the inside cover of our new food & culture magazine means something, right? Well I think so!

I made six flips through advertisements of local and national beverage makers, furniture boutiques, local performing arts organizations and of course some local restaurant and grocery market retailers to find the Editor's page. The magazine is a publication of The Oregonian and is edited by FOODday Editor, Martha Holmberg who was formerly the editor of Fine Cooking magazine. A short, sweet and to-the-point note from the editor welcomed new readers to the new publication that plans to capture 'everything that makes life in Portland so deliriously tasty.'

Reading through the remainder of the contents I noticed the magazine has a the typical balance of any other food magazine: lots of advertisements, special features and topics and sections that will be mainstays, or 'in every issue' topics we can count on with each release. Coming from my current journey through culinary school, I really enjoyed the article by Grant Butler titled "The Next Wave." In it, Grant interviewed five well-known Portland chefs - or 'board of directors' as Butler refers to them - and asked them who they believe are the new up and coming chefs around town. The well-known interviewees included: Lauro Kitchen and Vindalho owner, David Machado; Higgins chef and owner, Greg Higgins; Nostrana co-owner, Cathy Whims; Vitaly Paley of Paley's Place; and former Zefiro creator who currently co-owns Saucebox and the new 23Hoyt, Christopher Israel. It was great to get insight from the respected Portland chefs and entreprenuers on who, out of all the places to enjoy great culinary adventures, is showcasing great stuff around the city.

But sorry, I won't spill the beans. If you'd like to see who the famed chefs picked, go treat yourself to a copy of Mix. I'm eager to see how it evolves. Many people say Portland is up and coming in the food and wine arena. Personally, I think it's already arrived, and now we've got something that will really showcase all the mouthwatering offerings in our unique city. I hope you pick up a copy soon. And when you do, let me know what you think!

Cheers,
JF

9.07.2007

The Fastest Three Weeks

I'm shocked at how quickly time is flying. Tomorrow is already our last day of Meat & Seafood Identification and Fabrication. I've grown from a timid squid dismantler to a cutting queen who can slice and dice up shoulder clod, tunnel bone a leg and thigh of a chicken, truss a pounded out piece of tenderloin, and grind and case my own sausage. I can't believe tomorrow is the final and I will admit I'm a bit nervous for it. We've covered so much. Maybe I'll have a culinaria dream tonight to help with reviewing it all.

Meat & Seafood final: what to know:
  • Know the process and definition of Inspection.
  • Know the definition of Quality Grade.
  • Know what Yield Grade is.
  • What is the name of the overfeeding process of ducks that is used to make Foie Gras?
  • Know rib separations for beef and lamb.
  • What primal are pork back ribs a fabrication of?
  • Know the different classifications of all birds (sex, size, age, etc.).
  • Be able to identify feathered game birds.
  • Know the different types of fish - round, flat, lean, fatty.
  • Know, in detail, the five different types of crab.
  • Know beef, lamb and pork charts that identify loins from chucks, foresaddles from hindsaddles, and everything in between.
  • Know the different types of grades in which meat can be purchased.
  • Identify all types of meat cuts.
  • What does the acronym NAMPS stand for?
  • Know meat grinder equipment parts.
  • Know the size and how many ounces you can get out of a hotel pan, a third pan, and a ninth pan.
  • Out of the 100 parts of seafood, meat and poultry we've viewed over the past week, 12 will be on the exam for you to identify.
  • And while you're at it, make sure you know every piece of equipment in the entire classroom.
  • And review all past quizzes and homework. Just about every question from those will be on the exam!

Thank God for Friday late-night happy hour!

Cheers, ~JF

9.06.2007

Dreaming in Culinaria

I go through spurts of restless sleep. I used to blame this on my former job in corporate high technology. That world ended seven months ago, so I can't very well use that excuse anymore. Today, I'm not sure what causes it. Maybe it's the combination of attending culinary school five nights a week and finding time to study late into the evening or during the day; working a 15 - 20 hour a week internship for a local editing firm; trying to dedicate time to grow Savor Communications; networking in the community with fellow freelance writers, chefs, foodies, and wine makers; researching articles for my school's quarterly newsletter to draft and submit my articles by this month's deadline; and still getting up the nerve to craft a perfect pitch to a local food magazine for a published article (no, I have not done that yet). When I look at the list it seems like a lot, though I'm not complaining. I really love everything I'm doing right now and only wish there were more than 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week to do it all. If I didn't need any sleep I would be in a constant flurry of reading, writing, eating, and savoring every moment of my day!

In a constant flurry. That's what if felt like. Last night's restless sleep was like any other. I never really slept, actually. I'd say I was 75% sleeping, 25% awake as I lay in my perfectly cozy, foam-topped mattress. As I partially drifted off I began to compile a list of foods that I wanted to make in my head. First there was the hummus (10 wonderful years dating a Lebanese man and I never learned how to make it; odd, huh?). What would I put in my hummus? Drained chickpeas, tahini, garlic? Olive oil, of course. As I began to think about the contents of the hummus in my head I began seeing myself in the kitchen putting it together. But no measuring spoons were aloud. No measuring cups or scales were there. It was all just me and the ingredients and my tasting spoon; getting it to the perfect consistency and flavor. I didn't stop at the hummus, I went on in a flurry creating random dishes that popped in my head, as well as some inspired by my past nine weeks of culinary school. I was dismantling whole chickens to make my own chicken stock for the most delicious chicken soup. I stacked homemade ciabatta with mozzarella, homemade salami and fresh basil from my garden for a classic Italian ciabatta sandwich. I was making Veloute sauce for a heavenly cream of mushroom soup, Hollandaise sauce for my eggs Benedict, and tomato sauce for my fresh, goat-cheese stuffed ravioli with pine nuts. I was pounding out my chicken breasts for a sausage, sun-dried tomato, spinach and feta-stuffed roulade. I marinaded thin strips of beef in a sauce of honey, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, minced ginger, chives and red pepper flakes for an Asian saute. And I just kept going. As each dish finished I moved on to the next, chopping and whisking and shredding and mincing and grating and slicing and dicing my way through what I've learned during my past weeks of culinary school and years of loving good food. I felt like the caricature of Michael Ruhlman on his blog; like a chemist in a lab, books flying and hands and feet in the air.

When I fully awoke my first thought was that I was dreaming in culinaria. Culinaria isn't actually a word, but if I could make it a word and create a definition that's what it would be. It would be a world where all culinary creativity unfolds, where all the best cooking techniques are on display, and where the tastes of the best ingredients meld together in dishes that are divine and savored by those who create them.

As I'm in my ninth week of culinary school, I've looked back lately and have wondered if I'm really getting it all. Am I retaining the endless list of French culinary terms? Can I make a Bechemal sauce without looking in my book? Can I clearly identify 80 herbs and spices, or specific cuts of meat? For me, my dream was sort of my answer. It's all in there. It's being retained and it is all in my head. Although at times it feels like it's all a jumbled mess, it is there, waiting to come out of my head, down through my hands and onto many plates for total enjoyment.

Cheers,
~JF

8.21.2007

I've never really liked seafood...

Maybe it was the smell of the fish hatchery at Newport Beach when I was a kid, or that dinner during my high school senior prom. We ate at a very well-known seafood restaurant down at the end of Portland's Waterfront. I ordered fettuccine with scallops. I'd never had scallops and figured just like any other white protein, it had to taste just like chicken, right? So I ordered it. And I sat next to my date in my fancy dress with my fancy hair and fancy make up and, gracefully, dug in to my fancy plate of fettuccine with scallops. I took my first bite and chewed on something that definitely did not have the texture of chicken and absolutely not anywhere near the flavor of it. It had a spongy feel to it. I then swallowed. What I felt was something slimy and slippery slide down my throat. It was unappetizing and not what I had in mind. I finished my pasta minus tiny bites of the scallops. And I'm pretty sure it was that moment that I decided I was not a sea-foodie.

With all that said, I have recently began to give seafood - okay, at least fish - a try. I will eat white fish and during Culinary Skills II last term we did make shrimp, cod and steamed salmon, all of which I truly enjoyed. Given this, I was ready to start my new class rotation today: Meat and Seafood Identification and Fabrication. In this course we'll be guided through the basics of product identification, ordering, receiving, storing and cutting. And tonight we wasted no time jumping right in. Funny, the majority of the course looks like it will be focused mainly on meat, but today we dove in to...seafood!

"When we go up into the kitchen, you'll notice that the scallops and the squid will be dead; the oysters, clams and mussels are alive so it will be a little more challenging to crack them open and dig out the meat," Chef Rolf.

After an hour and a half of lecture on shellfish we headed upstairs to room 503: Butchery and Charcuterie. The room was a bit smaller than the former kitchen we were in a couple of weeks ago, and instead of long, metal tables, we were welcomed by about six long, thick, wooden tables set around the room forming a big U-shape. The table positioned at the front of the room had a large mirror fashioned above it, allowing us students to watch wide-eyed as Chef Rolf grabbed a few of his first subjects for demonstration; oysters.

Chef quickly scrubbed the oyster shell clean in a small tub of water, took a wadded up paper towel in his hand and held down the left side of the shell. He then proceeded with placing an oyster knife at the right end of the shell, lightly wiggling it until he felt the shell pop. He moved his knife around the circumference of the shell to completely dislodge it from its other half. He then took a pairing knife and scooted it underneath the oyster, removing any connection of the meat to the shell, and flipped it over to present the mollusk's more attractive side. He went on to tend to the clams, scallops and mussels in a similar fashion. Then came something very unlike a clam or an oyster or anything that required cracking or popping open. The next victim was a squid. Even though squid have no hard outer shell, they are considered mollusks and so were on the list for today. Oh the look of it was just not good for my eyes to see. I don't get too queasy with live things that are to be eaten, but the squid was just too much. What is it about this specimen that gave man the idea that it would be great sauteed in a light butter sauce or breaded in flour, egg wash and panko and deep fried? Even the name makes my skin crawl a bit. Squid. It just sounds like something squishy. Squid. Squish. Squeamish. Moving on...
The six steps to cleaning and preparing squid:
a) Pull off the head. The interior organs will come out with it. (OMG!).
b) Pull off the skin. (Yah!)
c) Pull out the plastic-like quill from the body sac (There is a whole lot of "pulling" going on here!). Lay the body flat and scrape your knife across it, pushing out the innards. (Oh you are kidding).
d) Cut off the tentacles just above the eyes. Discard the head and organs. (My eyes are glazing over and I'm feeling faint).
e) Be sure to remove the hard beak, which is found at the center of the tentacle cluster. (To do this one must squeeze the tentacle cluster, the beak will then pop out. Fabulous.).
f) Leave the body sac whole for stuffing or cut into rings for frying or sauteing (Why??).

But watching Chef Rolf was not enough, of course. Now it was our turn.

"Everybody grab six oysters, six clams, 12 mussels, 12 scallops and three squid," he said.

Ok, oysters, clams, mussels, etc. fine. But THREE squid. Oh my goodness, I thought, how was I going to get through this one? I gathered all of my product into my metal bowl and headed over to the tub that contained the squid. Taking a quick breath I grabbed the first one, and I dropped it. I grabbed it again, and dropped it, again. The feel of the squid was so undesirable that I could barely stand to have it in my hands for more than two seconds. I mustered up enough strength to finally grab my three friends and we headed back to my spot on the chopping table, their eyes looking up at me. I popped open my oysters. I cut open my mussels. I separated my clams and took apart my scallops (quite messy, I might add). And the three squid were just staring at me. Well, I thought, I have to do this. I might as well get over it right here an now. With a few short breaths that resembled that of a woman giving birth, I took my first squid. I separated the skin and slid it off the body (Yah!). I grabbed the head and tugged on it until I saw the internal organs follow behind it (OMG!). I pulled out the plastic quill (Interesting. It looks like something you can really write with). I pushed out the remaining innards (Oh!). And finally, I cut below the eyes and pushed out the beak (Ew!). But I made it. And quite honestly, the next two were a breeze.

I never really liked seafood, but have recently been giving it a try. Today was the first day of meat and seafood identification and fabrication and for someone who is just now opening up to trying fish and seafood, tonight was like being in the express lane of getting into the middle of it all! I touched and got personal with more seafood this evening than in my entire lifetime. But when I say this I'm actually smiling. This is the part of culinary school that I love. It's so adventurous and I'm doing things that I never dreamed of doing.

Tomorrow night we're sure to be doing some more cutting, but will also be making crawfish etouffee, seafood pasta, crab cakes and fried calamari and oysters. And I'm going to try it all!

Cheers,
~JF

8.15.2007

Sustainability. What is it good for?

During the past few months I've heard the word used in various ways many times. Sustainable Agriculture, sustainable growth, sustainable practices. Sustainable development. Sustainability. Sustainable. I finally started to ask myself, what's all the hype around it, and what does it really mean anyway?

I decided to first browse through my favorite writing companion that keeps me company during long days in front of my laptop, the Oxford "Color" Dictionary Thesaurus, to see how the internationally famed university press described sustainable. Sustainable adj. (of development etc.) able to be continued without damage to the environment. Ok, so something that can live on in the world without hurting the environment. What else? Wikipedia cited a definition of sustainable development from the Brundtland Commision - led by the former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland - as a development that "meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." It also goes on to say that sustainability relates to the continuity of economic, social, institutional and environmental aspects of human society, as well as the non-human environment. One last note, Sustainability is one of the four Core Concepts behind the 2007 Universal Forum of Cultures. Very interesting. But enough with the formal definitions. Last week I was given a tip on an organization that has set off on a 38-day journey across the U.S. to promote sustainability throughout our many great communities.

The organization is Sustainable Table, a group that celebrates the sustainable food movement, educates consumers on food-related issues and works to build community through food. It's most recent mission? To embark on a U.S. road trip dubbed The Eat Well Guided Tour of America, which kicked off on August 2nd in West Hollywood, CA.

The tour consists of a few Sustainable Table staff members, a tour bus and a map that is taking them on an adventure through some of the best sustainable farms and restaurants that the U.S. has to offer. And, as duly noted from their website, to find the best pie ever!

I'm not sure what they've experienced in terms of great pie thus far on the tour, but I think it's safe to say that the ST team received a great breakfast and an interesting time at one of their stops along the way. I attended the breakfast at Bob's Red Mill last Friday. I arrived at the unmistakable Bob's Red Mill store in Milwaukie, entered the front door and was greeted by a cheery staff ready to guide me to the breakfast. I've seen Bob's Red Mill products all over my local grocery stores and am embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize the company was operated in my own backyard! Founded in 1972, BRM has been dedicated to manufacturing natural foods in a natural way. The family at BRM pride themselves on being proponents of including stone ground whole grain products into every meal of the day.

At breakfast I had the honor of sitting right next to Bob himself! And he really does look like the photo on his product's packaging. He also told a story of how the BRM plant in Redding, CA (where the original business began) suffered a fire in 1988. It was then that he had to make the decision to either rebuild or quit altogether. He decided to go on and partnered with Dennis Gilliam, who is still with him today. Bob and Dennis attended a food tradeshow in Anaheim, CA in 1989 with no sales person, not even a sales sheet and a booth that was stuck in the back hall of the convention center. BRM was one of five companies that offered a sustainable solution for customers. Other health companies at the tradeshow caught wind of that and the rest is history.

That Friday I got an amateur's introduction to sustainability through the mouths of northwest farmers, bakers and Bob himself. And on that day I saw, first-hand, how growers, farmers, food producers and retailers all work together in one region to produce good, natural food. And that day I learned the importance of practicing sustainability to continue the domino effect of keeping regional businesses moving, the freshest ingredients growing and the availability and delivery of the highest quality ingredients coming to local communities.
Ever since the breakfast I've paid more attention to products, restaurants and even wineries that claim to be sustainable. It's out there - it's everywhere! So the next time you're out and about, look for it. And know that sustainability is good for a lot!
Cheers,
~JF


8.05.2007

A little research

Have you ever wondered what is so intriguing about the creation of sauces like hollandaise, bearnaise or mayonnaise? Here's a little research...


Emulsions: The Mystery and Science Behind Getting it Right

Day four of Culinary Skills II was the big day of preparing Hollandaise. A rich, buttery sauce with a hint of lemon, hollandaise receives praise for its unforgettable flavor when it’s served warm over steamed asparagus, a pan-seared fish or a plate of eggs Benedict. Hollandaise also seems to cause faces to adopt a look of worry for those embarking on the adventure of preparing it. When day four had finally arrived, I was wondering what all the fuss was about. Why does the preparation of hollandaise get such a bad rap? What is it about the delicious and savory sauce that causes people to get psyched up to prepare it?

What I learned right away is that hollandaise is an egg-thickened sauce that’s contents work together by emulsion. An emulsion is a combination of two liquids that usually do not go together, such as oil and water. In the case of hollandaise, the two liquids are melted butter and water (this includes the water within the lemon juice in a classic hollandaise sauce). Ordinarily, if one puts melted butter and water together in the same container, the two ingredients will not blend. Instead, the oil ingredient forms tiny droplets which are surrounded by the water and can create a grainy looking sauce. In order for these two ingredients to combine successfully into a creamy, smooth sauce, a third ingredient is needed. This third ingredient is called an emulsifier and many foods can act as emulsifiers. Egg yolk is the most popular emulsifier, and egg whites, gelatin and even skim milk are also known to play this role. These foods are also referred to as chemical emulsifiers. Some powders, such as dry mustard and cayenne can also act as emulsifiers but aren’t as effective as chemical emulsifiers. Emulsifiers act as the glue that holds the oil and water together, forming a stable sauce. They contain molecules that can bond with both oil and water and act to coat the oil droplets to prevent them from forming a single, oil mass.

To make an emulsified sauce, like hollandaise, the oil product (in this case, butter) is added to a mixture of water and an emulsifier in a quick, whisking action. When the oil is added to the mixture it is broken up into tiny droplets, but immediately coated with by the emulsifier yielding a smooth, consistent product. Enter the trick with creating a successful emulsion for hollandaise: the temperature. Emulsion sauces all contain proteins. If the proteins become too hot, they will coagulate or change from a liquid into a semi-solid ingredient. In the case of hollandaise, the temperature must be watched closely. It must be hot enough to melt the butter, but not so hot that it coagulates the eggs, which can lead to the creation of scrambled eggs within the sauce; not exactly the desired outcome or a perfect hollandaise.

An alternative explanation of how the process of emulsion works is that the emulsifiers change the inward pull, or surface tension, of one of the liquids in the emulsion. The liquid loses its inward pull resulting in it becoming juicy, allowing it to run between the droplets of the other liquid, thus forming a smooth bond. An example of this is the process of making mayonnaise; another popular emulsion sauce. In the case of mayonnaise made with whole eggs, most of the liquid comes from the egg whites. The emulsifiers within the egg yolks dissolve in the egg whites and drastically lower its surface tension. Oil is added while the liquid ingredients are whisked together vigorously and the oil is broken into tiny droplets. The egg yolks coat the droplets and water with a very low surface tension allowing the water to flow easily between the oil droplets, paving the way to a good, smooth mayonnaise.

Additional, popular emulsion sauces include: béarnaise sauce, vinaigrettes, maltaise and mousseline (sauces spawned from hollandaise), Caesar dressing and emulsified French dressing.

At the end of day four of Culinary Skills II, my hollandaise was a success. I was even shown and experimented with how to break up the smooth emulsion of the sauce and bring it back together. As a recap of creating a successful emulsion sauce: a) start with a thick base, this will help make the sauce thicker; b) use a good emulsifier, emulsifiers coats the droplets of one of the liquids to prevent it from running together with the other liquids; c) whisk liquids rapidly as the oil or butter is added, this helps break up the liquid into tiny droplets that can be surrounded by the emulsifier; d) make sure there is enough liquid to surround the droplets, there must be enough or the droplets will be forced together and create one oil mass; e) keep an eye on the temperature, proteins need heat to unwind, but too much heat can cause them to coagulate and make scrambled eggs out of your hollandaise.


(Sources: Cookwise, The Hows & Whys of Successful Cooking with over 230 Great-Tasting Recipes by Shirley O. Corriher, Professional Cooking, Sixth Edition by Wayne Gisslen, On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of The Kitchen by Harold McGee.)

8.01.2007

Did You Know...?

That at sea level, water's maximum boiling temperature is 212 degrees F? And no matter how high the burner is turned up, the liquid temperature will not go any higher that 212 degrees at that altitude.

That meat is 75% water?

That there is a restaurant in Portland that serves a Kobe beef hamburger for $28? (I love real restaurant burgers and I must find it!)

That salt is arguably the most important seasoning for sauces? And that lemon juice is the second most important? And cayenne and white pepper come in third and forth.

That in English, Liaison means communication and cooperation, or a sexual relationship? But in French, Liaison means a thickening agent made mostly of eggs and cream?

That fiber cannot be digested?

That salt is one of the best things for you? (Ok, maybe it's not, but I honestly believe that if we all put are heads together and believe faithfully that it is good for us, it will be! Come on! Let's hear it for SALT!)

What else?

Cheers,
JF

7.28.2007

Sauciers!

"Sauces make the world go around," Chef D.J.

Learning at culinary school is a bit different than an average university. Aside from the fact that an everyday university does not teach classes in kitchens, instructors don't wear tall hats and an average homework assignment doesn't mean memorizing the difference between a white roux and a blond roux, culinary school curriculum moves much faster. We focus all of our minds, energy and sought-after talent on one course for five hours a day, five days a week, for three weeks. What this means is our focus on each subject is intense, there's absolutely no room to miss a beat, and we share the total joy of knowing that every three weeks will be finals week. The majority of us made it through the last round of finals week - which included two major written exams, a product I.D. test where we were expected to name 80 different herbs, spices, oils and vinegars from memory just by viewing them, a knife skills test on our precision with cutting potato pieces into perfect 3/4 inch cubes and carrots into perfect julienne slices, as well as a written paper accompanied by a presentation of our chosen topic to the class. Whew. It was a crazy week and for a moment I wasn't sure how it was all going to come together. But it did. And I remember thinking the next round would likely be more controlled as it was just one class (the first round was two). I was wrong.

Week four marked the beginning of Culinary Skills II. The follow-on to Skills I, Skills II teaches the basic cooking methods, stock making, mother sauces and secondary sauces. The worlds of protein, starch and vegetable cookery are also emphasized as well as continued conditioning on product identification skills and utilization. From the syllabus:


Upon completion of this course, the student should be able to:
  • Prepare a Classic White Stock (Fond Blanc)
  • Prepare a Brown Stock (Fond Brun)
  • Prepare a Vegetable Stock (Fond de Legumes)
  • Prepare a Fish Stock (Fond de Poisson)
  • Prepare a White, Blond and Brown Roux
  • Prepare the [five] Mother Sauces of Classical French Cuisine
  • Prepare Derivatives [Small] Sauces of Classical French Cuisine
  • Prepare Thin soup
  • Prepare Thick soups, creams and purees
  • Demonstrate how to control texture, flavor, color, and nutritional changes while preparing vegetables
  • Prepare vegetables cooked to their proper doneness
  • Describe the methods of handling dried legumes
  • Identify the major types of potatoes and their best uses
  • Identify the major types of rice
  • Prepare rice by the pilaf method
  • Prepare and cook dried pasta
  • Describe the various cooking methods associated with proteins
  • Prepare protein dishes using a variety of cooking methods and protein sources.

As Monday of this week was Chef's in-service day, we started out Skills II on Tuesday. No, this didn't mean that we would cut out a day's lesson just because of the short week. Instead, this meant we would have five lessons in four days. In looking at the syllabus's we were to learn and study 74 cooking terms, complete six recipe conversions and read 45 pages from our textbook, Professional Cooking. A large feat for one week, but we made it through and got our first taste (as a class) of working it in the heat of a culinary kitchen. Below are some photos from the week.

The French Chef! Chef Jacky demoing how to make the the perfect Hollandaise sauce. Just about everyone knows that Hollandaise can be tricky. It's a finicky sauce and one must be careful when preparing Hollandaise as it's incredibly easy to get the eggs to curdle if the heat is to high and it's common for the sauce to break if it's not watched closely. We all made it, though! Chef Jacky thought there would be tears on Hollandaise day, but we proved him wrong. I think he was a bit dissapointed.


Chef D.J. (our associated Chef) instructs students on obtaining perfectly caramelized onions for our French Onion Soup while others work feverishly over hot stoves in the background. And it was hot. That day was the first time of really feeling the heat. Like an orchestrated Broadway show, we all worked to create French Onion Soups, toasted baguettes, and Duxelles (minced button mushrooms and shallots sauteed in clarified butter).


That's me working like mad to get those darn onions to caramelize!












Chef Jacky's spicy shrimp and my spicy shrimp. Can you tell who's belongs to whom?
Spicy Shrimp:
3 Shrimp
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Thyme, dried
1/2 tsp Basil, dried
1/2 tsp Oregano, dried
2 oz. Onion, julienned
1 ea. Garlic Clove, minced
2 oz. Clarified Butter
Warm butter in saute pan. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp with paprika, cayenne, black pepper, thyme, basil, oregano, onion and garlic. Add to saute pan and cook until shrimp is done. Place on a serving plate and savor immediately.
Oh, and one more thing:
Under no circumstances. No matter what you do in life. Don't ever, ever, ever forget the five Mother Sauces: Espagnole, Tomato, Veloute, Bechamel and Hollandaise.

Cheers,
JF

7.22.2007

Vacation Over: A New Routine

It's Sunday evening and I'm taking a break from my new Sunday-night routine of ironing all five uniforms for the week. Ironing five sets of commis hats, cravats, chef's aprons, chef's jackets and chef's pants calls for a long session at the ironing board, but I've learned in just three weeks that it's worth it; to get it all done in one shot. Because when those weeks start, I've realized, they fly by in a whirlwind that is called the adventures of culinary school.

The first three weeks proved to be eye-opening. The hustle and bustle of getting my unemployed self back up and running and into a new routine was a wee bit challenging and, quite honestly, down right comical at times. As downtown parking can be an absolute shock to anyone's debit card, I've vowed to include a ride on Portland's MAX lightrail into my new daily school commute. Though catching the MAX would be an entirely new adventure for me, I decided why do a practice run? I've seen the MAX station in Beaverton, I've driven past it at least once. I've got it down. I'll give myself plenty of time to get there, board and be on my way to slicing and dicing and prepping for my future showdowns with Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentis and maybe even Chef Gordon Ramsay. I was wrong. While on my way to the easy-to-locate transit center, I received a phone call from a long lost colleague who is now based in Hawaii. I couldn't pass up this conversation and decided he would keep me company during my first day of commuting to school. I soon learned that the multitasking game of talking (with an ear piece!) while driving does have it's downside. I was so consumed by catching up with my dear friend that by the time I arrived at the "area" where I believed the transit center was located, I could not find the exact spot of where I would catch MAX. Fifteen minutes of driving and blabbing and I gave up. Bob, my friend on the other end of the phone, noticed my drive getting louder. "I just got on the freeway," I said. "While talking to you I couldn't figure out where to park and catch the MAX; I'm driving." I was then joined by chuckles from Bob on the other end of the phone. We decided to end our much overdue conversation and I continued my drive into the city.

I arrived into the city successfully, found a Smart Park and picked a prime space on level two. I grabbed my book bag and my perfectly ironed chefs ensemble - neatly covered in a dry cleaning bag - and was off down the steps, over the sidewalk, across the MAX lightrail tracks (how fitting) and into the Galleria building on SW 10th. I made it up to the 4th floor and entered the reception area of the school. It was a mad house. Students were everywhere asking where to go and some of the school's admissions reps were waiting in the lobby. I found Heidi, my admissions rep, gave a smile and asked if I should just come back down to the lobby after I changed. She nodded. I made it up to the 5th floor - the home of our kitchens and my locker for the next eight months - and grabbed my chef's shoes. I headed into the ladie's room for a quick change and was welcomed by a hoard of females with similar intentions. We were all so nervous. Why? The cravat. That darn cravat. Within our student manuals we received at orientation is a fool-proof instruction sheet on tying the cravat. With 18 steps included, tying the cravat can seem a bit intimidating. I appreciated the veteran students assisting us newbies with tying it. In all honesty, the thing can be tied in five steps - five and you're good to go. Bye bye, long brown curls and hello white, fitted-to-my-head toque. Bye Bye fitted, sleeveless tops, fitted capri's and new summer sandals and hello loose chef's jackets, MC Hammer black and white checkered pants and black, leather, steel-toed shoes. Vwala...it's the new me.

I hurried back to my locker to leave my book bag, grabbed the books I needed for Culinary Skills I and headed back down to the lobby. There I found...no one. It was completely empty. "Oh perfect," I thought. "Where in the world am I suppose to be?" Immediately sensing my panic, the receptionist returned and suggested I head back up to the 5th floor kitchens. Oh yes. I'm in culinary school after all. The kitchens may be a good place to start. I scurried back upstairs and was greeted by the school's president. (Side note: as Portland really is such a small city, it's not surprising to run into familiar faces who are connected to you in some way. The president of the culinary school went to high school with my brother.) Naturally, I wanted to come across as being totally organized and knowing all that is going on. (Second side note: I have a terrible game face and don't hide well on the outside what I'm feeling on the inside.) I think she sensed that I was a bit lost and pointed me in the right direction.

I made it into room 510 and found a spot in the last row of the lecture room adorned with rows of eight-foot steel tables. I'm usually not a fan of the back row. My lack of organization apparently caused me to be one of the last to arrived. Mental note: get to class at least 30 minutes early. In class we were greeted by Chef Stephanie and Chef Jacky, both of whom would be our leaders for the next three weeks. Beginning her culinary career at age eight, Chef Stephanie has worked her way through an interesting culinary career which included working with chefs such as Alton Brown, Caprial Pence and Nicole Aloni. She's also written six cookbooks. Chef Jacky was born in France and decided at the age of 14 that he wanted to be a chef. He was once the Personal Chef to the Commander and Chief of the French Armed Forces in Algeria and also worked as a Chef at the London Playboy Club in England. He was perfect. Standing no more than 5'3", he wore black, wire-rimmed glasses with lanyard and spoke in a very soft and incredibly thick French accent. I couldn't understand a word he was saying. That said, all I could do was smile at him and make another mental note to myself to absolutely get to class 30 minutes earlier to sit front and center for the days of lectures.

At the kick-off of the class we were also greeted by an ensemble of faculty from the school as a means of introduction with who was who, who was responsible for what and where we could locate anyone if we had any questions. I will say the school is pretty organized in that way. This was the third time I had seen these faces as I had attended a president's luncheon a month prior as well as orientation a few weeks before classes began. They definitely want you to know who's around and running the place.

At the end of the first day of Skills I, I did walk away with not only an overwhelming excitement for actually starting my program, but a few words from Chef Peter, Dean of the Culinary Arts and Patisserie and Baking programs at the school. Chef Peter made some comments that I jotted down for the day. I always appreciate words of wisdom or thoughts that stop and make you think. With a good luck to us all starting that day, Chef Peter parted with the following:

"Opportunity knocks. You just have to be willing to open the door sometimes." Chef Peter E.

And that's just a snippet of Day 1. 149 to go!

7.13.2007

My first scholarship win!

I arrived early to school today to meet the head of the school's Food Writers' Club to discuss my involvement in the club. I was absolutely ecstatic when she told me that I had won the school's "I Have a Dream" scholarship contest. This is the first scholarship I've ever won! I've pasted it below. Cheers, JF

My Culinary Dream
By JF

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was shopping at my local Whole Foods market and found my way over to its impressive selection of wines from around the world. As I do love good wine, being faced with a multitude of varieties is still a bit overwhelming to me. I am no expert on wine by any means, but am always looking to improve my education on the internationally adored drink at any chance I get. Much to my surprise and sheer delight I found the latest edition of Food & Wine’s Wine Buyer’s Guide. Upon arriving home, I quickly restocked my pantry and my refrigerator with the goodies I had purchased and made my way over to my living room sofa to be enlightened on the famed publication’s recommendations for selecting the best wine, as well as its top choices from around the globe. What I wasn’t expecting was to read something that would have an impact on my life from that moment on.

As I began to read the guide I was intrigued by the writing within the introduction. It was much more than just listings of countries, grape varieties and ratings. The person who wrote the introduction and compiled all of the information for this year’s guide, I thought, had to know what they were talking about. He, or she, had to be an expert in the field and be well educated on the information that got included into the guide. At that moment I stopped and thought about how much I enjoy not only wine, but also the world of food. A Journalism major, a lover of a good read and one who’s always had the desire to grow my skills as a writer, it was that moment that I realized that this is what I wanted to do. I would enroll at a culinary school in my area, go through the training that professional chefs go through and use my knowledge to explore the culinary world, and most importantly, write about it.

Exactly how many varieties of salt are there in the world? How does one know which variety to use for each dish? What is the difference between a $6.99 bottle of extra virgin olive oil from Italy and a $37.00 bottle, also from Italy? As my mind opened and my curiosities took hold, I knew I had found something special; a calling. I immediately ventured out to my neighborhood Powell’s bookstore and absolutely fell in love with my new favorite bookstore section; gastronomic literature. Reading excerpts from famed food writers such as: Anthony Bourdain, M.F.K. Fischer, Julia Child and Ruth Reichl had me completely hooked. A deep passion for food and a talent for communicating their passion with words on paper were apparent within their pieces of work. It’s the caliber of these writers, and more, that I look up to and hope to join the ranks of in the future.

Today, I’m embarking on my dream by first, enrolling into an accredited culinary diploma program; second, writing about the findings of my curiosities in the culinary world on a blog I recently created; and three, researching the market to pitch story ideas to local and national publications to, in hopes, become a published food writer. As I continue on this adventure it amazes me how extensive the world of food really is. In my quest to become a published food writer, I want to not only find answers to my own curiosities, but explore other topics that range from the importance of buying organic foods to the affects global warming could have on the quality of our food. Food is a commonality shared throughout the entire world. Everyday we might not go for a swim in a pool, or take a drive in a sports car, or a hike through Multnomah Falls, but everyday we eat. It is an act that is sometimes taken for granted. Through my writing I hope to bring curiosity and education about the culinary world to the masses in hopes to inspire everyone to savor every bite that’s taken.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...