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.


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.

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