Monday, December 28, 2009

Equipment corner

As promised, I will talk about this today:

What, exactly, am I looking at you ask? Well that is my global 8 inch chef's knife in its new sheath from sitting upon my tool kit for school. I finally received this thing after some serious waiting (the guy at culi-tool apparently forgot about the order, but did refund money because of the wait. He seems like a fantastic guy and honest to boot.) and am very happy with it so far. It seems like the perfect thing for culinary school, but I don't know if it is too geeky to actually wear your knife on your belt. I guess I will see if they all laugh at me or if they are all jealous. It seems like a handy thing to me, so maybe I don't really care what they think.

Well, the idea here is to talk a bit about essential equipment. This is going to be a bit of an overview as anything in depth would be far too lengthy to read. Perhaps later in the blog I will give my opinion on cookware, knives, and other sundries. For now, I was thinking of just a list of things you should have in your kitchen. As for us culinary students, our kits look something like this:

Well, I have to say, my case is fairly unique. Most culinary students carry around something that looks more like this:

Mine is literally just a tool briefcase I purchased at Home Depot with some customization. Eventually I plan to rivet some other modifications into the darn thing, but I need to get a rivet gun first and work out what exactly I want to do. Anyway, the carrying case is a bit beside the point. What tools it carries is more important. As I am in the Desserts and Breads program, my kit is going to be a bit different than the standard culinary student's kit, so don't take my word as law for anything. As for the home kitchen, here is what I think you should have:

1. First and foremost to me in any kitchen is your chef's knife. If you are going to invest your money anywhere, invest it here. I have two 8 inch chef's knives, one by Global and one by Shun. In the past I have also owned an 8 inch Henckels chef knife which I liked at the time. The chef's knife is the most versatile instrument in the kitchen to me. I use it every day. Well, I could talk forever about this, so look for future posts on the topic. For now, suffice it to say that this is the heart of your kitchen. Don't skimp.

The rest of these are in no particular order. I find them all important and somewhat essential.

  • Tongs - yes, it seems simplistic, but I love tongs. Screw the fancy wooden salad fork and spoon gift set, give me a pair of tongs in a salad bowl any day of the week. Screw the stupid pasta fork thingy, give me the tongs. Screw the carving fork, give me the tongs. Skimp away here, by the way. A pair of tongs is a pair of tongs. No need for anything fancy.
  • Bench scraper - I love this tool. Strangely enough, I use it the most for cleaning, but its great for scooping chopped veg, or for cutting dough into portions, or for chopping butter. Again, nothing fancy is needed here.
  • Frying pan - Ok, I will probably also spend another blog post on cookware some time in the future, but I consider the most important cookware in the kitchen to be the frying pan. I guess the saucepan is also fairly essential as they do entirely different things. I will talk more about non-stick and all that later. This is one of those things I wouldn't skimp on by the way. There is a huge difference between the cheap crap you can get at Target and the professional cookware you get from restaurant supply stores. Spend the money, it matters.
  • Kitchen scale - I know, I know, it seems like something you can do without. Trust me on this, especially if you plan to do even moderate baking. A scale is essential. Get one that can convert between metric and imperial. Get one that can tare (this means you can reset the weight to zero as to add-on more items to whatever is on the scale). I have an Oxo Good Grips scale with a pull out display. It is fast and accurate.
  • Half sheet pan - You need at least one. If you have an oven that can handle a full sheet pan, I hate you and you should should get full sheet pans and half sheet pans. A couple of things to go with this - a cooling rack and parchment and/or a silpat.
  • Paring knife - You can't do everything with a chef's knife. Some things require a smaller blade. Don't go crazy. Something simple with suffice.
  • Bread knife - the one serrated blade I recommend in the kitchen. Get one long enough to cut through a 12 inch round cake.
  • Carving knife - ok, the last knife I will recommend for now. I would suggest one fairly long for the larger cuts of meat. I also recommend a graton edge to help while carving. Again, I will discuss knives more in-depth later.
  • Wooden spoons - Super cheap and great for stirring or scraping fond from your frying pan. I usually go cheap, but since I have broken a rubber scraper and a wooden spoon this xmas while stirring fudge, I think I will spend the couple extra dollars for a the stronger spoons in the future.
  • Rubber scraper - speaking of which, get a rubber scraper. I like the clear silicon ones for no particular reason other than they do not melt as easily and the stains are not so apparent. I can also see more clearly when they weaken and need to be replaced. Again, I will be looking for sturdier handles after the fudge debacle this year.
  • Measuring spoons, cups, etc. - While I like the scale for most applications these days, I still require at least a teaspoon measure, a cup measure, and a tablespoon measure. I would go stainless steal with sturdy handles. I prefer the deeper spoons to the shallow ones. Longer handles can come in handy.
  • Thermometer - you need this. You do. Get one with a range big enough for candies and frying (think -40 degrees F to 500+ degrees F). I recommend digital and perhaps one that doubles as a timer. I have a Thermopen which I adore as well as 4 others.

The not so essentials, but stuff I still love:

  • prep bowls - I have a ton of bowls in the kitchen. I have glass/ceramic ones of various sizes that are ok in the microwave. I have stainless steel ones that I can use either directly over heat or as double boilers. I recommend all sizes from as small as 1/4 cup to as big as, I donno, 2 gallons?
  • mixer - expensive I know, but I love my Kitchen Aid. I would go 6 quart (the one with the bowl that can be lifted and lowered, vs the one with the tiltable head). Once again, I would say skip this one unless you are willing to spend the money for the Kitchen Aid or better.
  • food processor - while we are talking electronics, I love the food processor. I can chop most things on my own, but the food processor is definitely a plus when it comes to making mayo or dressings or purees.
  • cling wrap - I know, not good for the environment. If you are uber conscious of such things, by all means skip it, but I use this stuff all the time for food preservation, for splatter guards while tenderizing, and as an aid when shaping certain things like barrages and my home-made pop-tarts.

Ok, so really this list could go on forever, but these are what I can think of now. I am undoubtedly forgetting some essentials, but this is a good start. I would ask for recommendations, but as of now, this blog feels very much like me spouting off incoherent blather to a limitless void. I wonder, sometimes, how Molly and Julia ever actually became noticed within the vast ocean that is the blogosphere. Ah well, if nothing else, it acts as an interesting journal to which I can return when I am feeling nostalgic. And perhaps some day someone will find some use of this all. You never can tell...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Croissant Xmas

Once again I have been remiss in my duties as writer... I apologize for both of you who read this, if you still do. It is Christmas day. Uhg, I hate typing that. As many who know me can attest, I am an avowed atheist (not quite strong, but leaning that way at least. If you don't know what this means, you probably don't really care. If you do, feel free to google "strong atheist" and you can probably find an explanation.) and while I love the festive atmosphere and revelry of the holiday season, I disdain the dogmatic reverie into which so many fall on this, the day appointed to celebrate the birth of Christ, albeit most likely not the actual day upon which the event occur ed. Xmas, then, as I find the popular name so guiling. It is Xmas Day. I started the day with utter failure. Endeavoring to show off my newly honed skills to friends who so graciously invited me to xmas dinner, I turned the textbook to Croissants. No mere rolls would satisfy this time! I was giving them the full monty! Well, culinarily speaking that is.
Professional Baking by Wayne Gissling pg. 198:


Milk - 225g (I use metric, as I find it much easier for conversions. The editors apparently don't as I will get to later.)
Yeast, fresh - 15g (note..I don't have fresh yeast. What home baker does? I use instant dry, which has to be converted at 33% instant dry for 100% fresh. In other words, 5g)
Sugar - 15g
Salt - 8g
Butter, softened - 40g
Bread flour - 400g (closest I had was AP. I figured the high gluten flour I have would probably not go over well with croissants)
Butter - 225g (this is for the barrage, aka the big pat of butter you roll into the dough and then fold)

Mixing: Straight dough method.
Scald the milk (ok,first of all, for those who don't know, scalding is heating the milk to 180 degrees F. I did this but ended up burning some of the milk on the bottom of the pan which then sent chunks floating when I stirred. I strained these, but in retrospect, I probably should have just started with new milk. I have this thing about wasting food; I can't stand it. Anyway, I don't think this is the reason for my failure, we will turn to that in a minute. As a fun side note, the reason you scald milk in bread recipes is because it destroys an enzyme natural to milk that inhibits gluten formation. Yes, folks, he can be taught!), cool to lukewarm, and dissolve the yeast (I skipped this, as I was using instant yeast. The dissolving part that is, I still cooled it, which took forever). Add the remaining ingredients except the last quantity of butter. Mix into a smooth dough, but do not develop the gluten. Gluten development will take place during rolling-in procedure. (And here is my mistake. I took "do not develop the gluten" to mean mix the ingredients until just combined. As it turns out, the "smooth dough" they talk about is more like 10 minutes into the mixing. At least I know what happens when a croissant dough is undermixed. Failure...that's what happens. For those interested, it means that the dough is incredibly stiff and will not easily roll out, unless of course you are stubborn as hell like I am and do actually get 3 turns on it and a final roll. The dough layers will tear easily and the butter layers which are supposed to remain separated will combine into a sloppy mess which is incredibly difficult to shape and which yields an end product destined for the din heap.)

Fermentation: 1 - 1 1/2 hours @ 75 degrees F
Punch down, spread out on a flat pan, and rest in refrigerator or retarder 30 minutes.

Rolling in: Incorporate the last amount of butter and give 3 three-folds. Rest in retarder overnight.

See page 205 (there are pictures on this page which depict how to roll out and shape the croissants. Basically roll out to 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick, cut into triangles and roll into croissant shapes. There are some technical skills here which would be hard to describe. Suffice it to say, don't smoosh the centers while shaping.)
Proof at 75 degrees F and 65% humidity (I think I messed this up too, not that it much mattered after the original mistake. I put them in my bathroom with the shower running to create steam for the proofing but it was too warm with too much moisture. Butter melts at about 85 degrees, so too high a proofing temp can lead to premature butter seepage mixed with a gelatinous outer crust. That just sounds nasty..). Egg wash before baking.

Baking 400 degrees F (at least I got this part right...)


Well, at least I had the instinct to realize something was amiss with my croissants. Previous incarnations had never been as stiff as this dough was nor torn so readily. I punted just in case and baked up a batch of fairly simple hard crusted dinner rolls. This would have been much easier at 6am this morning after two hours of sleep if the editors had bothered to check the metric measurements for the recipe. The recipe called for 750g of water to 625g of flour. I should have realized the impossibility of this for a hard roll dough, but like I said, I was sleepy. Apparently the editors had failed to catch that the conversion of 13 oz of water is not actually 750g, but 368.5 g. That is not just a little mistake, that is monumental. Luckily the soup that I had mixed from the original recipe was easily fixed by doubling the dry ingredients. Unluckily the new sized dough was too big for my 5 quart mixer so I was forced to split the dough and develop the gluten for both separately. All turned out well, however, and the rolls were a smashing success. I am sure the roaches at the dumpster will be overjoyed at the failed croissants. You and me will meet again soon croissants.... and next time, I am kicking your ass!

Next time I will talk about tools and this little beauty:

Merry xmas all!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

There will be bread

Well, no UPS job. It seems I was not the first to call back and so missed out. The immediate feeling of relief I felt at the news tells me it is probably for the best. Back to the quest I guess.

The start of my breads rotation was not auspicious. Our first task was to feed the levain. What seemed simple enough turned into disaster. For those who are not quite up on the terminology, a levain is a natural yeast starter similar to a sourdough starter. Basically you follow a procedure to build your levain "mother" and if you feed her and keep her happy she can produce for you indefinitely. There are claims by some bake shops to have levains or sourdough starters that are decades old. Anywho, to feed the levain you basically take a piece of the "old levain" and add water and flour to it and either use the remainder for bread or if it has acidified (become too sour) you discard it. Well, I weighed out the portion for our new levain and discarded the remainder in the compost while my partner weighed out the water. I then set about oiling a fresh container for the levain while my partner mixed the new batch. Checking in on her, she expressed some consternation at the consistency of the levain and wondered why it seemed so wet. Perhaps, she mused, I had not weighed the flour correctly? At this point I expressed that I had not weighed any flour at all, eliciting a face of greatest fear from her. Apparently she had grabbed what she thought I had set out as our weighed flour and what, as it turned out, had been someone else's flour...mixed with whole wheat flour...and salt...and commercial yeast...
At this point, the full gravity of the situation came crashing in on us, and our chef instructor. We had ruined the levain in the bowl (commercial yeast, and salt, and probably whole wheat flour will do that). The remainder of the levain was in the compost. Well, cover you eyes here all you squeamish folks. We pulled the mother from the compost. Yes we did. Sorry, I know its gross, but it would have meant a week, at least, without product. The chef washed it off and thank goodness it was on the top of the pile and not completely smothered in who knows what.. There was thankfully enough to begin anew. The moral of the story:

1. Mis en place your own shit or at least check with any partner you are working with that all ingredients are correct.
2. Don't discard any levain before the new one is started. least there will be bread. Oh, and I got to stick my fingers into boiling sugar today. Flex!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Its been an interesting weekend. Got a call on Friday from the pastry chef at the catering company asking if I wanted to come in and work. 2,000 cookies, 20 something sheet pans of three types of cakes, a mishap with royal icing, development of the newly learned "catering wrap" skills, and seemingly endless snowball mini cupcakes later, I am still undeterred from my crazy crusade. That must say something. Did Don Quixote ever bake cakes?
Sur la Table work is still going well, albeit sparse, which may be a good thing. I can only handle so many hours of feeling like a used car salesman. Did you ever get annoyed with the overzealous sales guy who asks you if you are from out of town or what you plan to do with the rest of your day? Just so you know, we are trained to ask questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. Its not as easy as it looks, especially for someone who doesn't really enjoy the hounding clerk who seems overly friendly. That said, you would be amazed how some people do open up with the littlest of small talk.
UPS called and left a message on the cell phone. It seems they have a job they would like to offer me, for minimum wage. Only the promise of constant work and some good benefits (hello tuition reimbursement!) are keeping me interested. I draw the line if they ask me to forgo the catering work I already have lined up for this week. We will see...
I start my breads rotation tomorrow! My final first quarter rotation and what I have been anticipating the most. I can't wait to learn some forming techniques and I do hope to get my hands on the 10 foot long peel. The bread conveyor that looks like a mortuary gurney is also something I want to get my hands on. I can't wait!
My hopes to work at Dalancey were dashed today. It appears that Brad and Molly have hired their two pantry cooks. On the plus side, Molly apparently has extricated herself enough to return to the blog. Hurray for new posts! I may be a bit bitter, but really I hope they do well. There is something about Delancey that is an inspiration for me. Not that I want to own a restaurant, but something about just sticking your neck out for something you believe in and having the warm embracing response that they have received makes me think I, too, can reach for a dream and maybe, possibly, someday attain it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Its easy to let this go. I haven't posted in quite some time and I am feeling a might bit guilty. Been busy with school which is going swimmingly and with the search for a job which is more like getting a cramp after treading water for 24 straight hours in shark infested waters. I have worked a grand total of 4 hours in the past month, which is nice in that I am afforded plenty of time to do school work and even spend some time with the girl. It does not, however, help pay rent, or bills, or tuition.
I am trying to figure out whether it is more important to try to find work that may be advantageous to me upon successful completion of my program, or if I should just take any work that may come my way. I am leaning towards the latter, as I am anxious about the bank account going belly-up, but I am wondering if I owe myself something more worthwhile given that I gave up my last job for my current crazy quest.
I interviewed last night with UPS for a package handler position in their Seattle warehouse. This entails the constant unloading or loading of 2000 packages of various weights up to 70 lbs per hour onto trucks or conveyor belts or some other machinery. Apparently it is sufficiently backbreaking to warrant multiple warnings from the HR interviewer to the crowd of us as we toured the facilities, and as we discussed the benefits, and as we looked through the job responsibilities. Not a single one of us headed for the door when offered, however, despite said HR person's gracious promise to not be offended by such action. I have yet to hear from them.
On the brighter side, I am working every day next week, starting at City Catering on Saturday. Wonder of wonders, the pastry chef called me in and wants me to do....ok, I don't know yet, but its with the pastry chef! This is exactly what I am looking for. I get training AND they are paying me. Can't beat that with a stick. I am also working some "gigs" with City Catering next week I think for Bon Marche or Nordstroms or some large department store type Christmas extravaganza thing-a-ma-bob. That should be interesting.
I also continue my foray back into the world of sales at Sur la Table. Talk about being thrown into the fire. Picture a store packed from floor to (high) ceiling with a very diverse stock of every kitchen gadget and gizmo, high quality bake ware, cookware, cutlery, and coffee machinery imaginable and then fill these narrow aisles with a mixture of culinary professionals, tourists, and Bellevue house wives with lots of spare money and time and you have Sur la Table's flagship store. Then imagine trying to learn where all this stuff is, everything you can about all these bobbles and whiz bangs, and then trying to sell all of it to the maddening throng. Sound like a nightmare? Actually it is kinda fun. I do, after all, love all these doodads and know something about most of them. Luckily the shifts are short and there is a virtual army of us seasonal sales staff.
Well, Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I will take a break from school and job hunting and worrying for long enough to enjoy an evening with friends and stuffing myself full of turkey, mashed potatoes, bread, and whatever other assorted goodies we will all be bringing. Sarah is making her green bean casserole and her favorite chocolate pudding pie. I picked up some squash challah and some onion olive oil loaves from school and I am also trying my hand at from scratch pumpkin pie (I still have left over pumpkin! I can't get rid of it!). Off to see how the pie crusts are doing. Happy turkey day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Well, I am sitting down to some more pizza and beer. It seems to be a theme with me I think. Homemade pizza, this time onion, mushroom, and yellow pepper with roasted garlic. I also had some salt left over from the pumpkin seeds roasted a couple of days ago. Too much salt unfortunately... Yes, you can have too much salt.. The beer is fantastic though. Avery dugana IPA. Apparently a limited release. Fantastic! Very hoppy and a topless belly dancer on the label.
Classes are going well. We made some pain au lait today with pistachio and almond frangipane and bitter chocolate with salt and chopped pistachios as the topping. They sold out before I could try any. We also made some brioche a tet (brioche with a head). It's harder than it appears, but very tasty. We finished off the day with cinnamon sugar sweet buns with schmeer and pecans. Yes there is a recipe for schmeer. Basically butter, brown sugar, and honey. One of these days I will bring Sarah's camera to school and take some pictures of all this.
Apparently one of our chef's was once a semi-professional soccer player and is a huge fan of the French national team (he is French after all). I turned the corner to see the match between the Ireland and French national teams on the wall where normally we have our power point notes on glutanization and protein contents of flour projected. It made me smile. I love working in places that don't take themselves so seriously. Tomorrow pictures! I swear.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


From my journal yesterday:

11/16/2009 3:30pm Seattle, WA

A man collapsed on the street in front of me and proceeded to crawl across four lanes of downtown traffic on all fours, against the light. I am ashamed, firstly that my initial reaction was to scoff, and secondly that nobody even batted an eyelash, including the person who writes these words.
I hesitated, turning off my Ipod. "Do you need help?" I asked to the top of the man's head. He squinted up at me through the rain, his face a weather-beaten mess despite, I would guess, an age of less than fifty. He wore woollen socks pulled up to mid-calf over his pants, almost like an ancient mountaineer. Perhaps he was.
"Someone stole my wheelchair." he yelled over the din of the downtown city rain, while handing me his arm. "Someone stole my wheelchair over by Union last night." he repeated as I helped him into a hunched half-standing half-kneeling position.
"God." I whispered "I'm sorry. Can I..." I stopped, not knowing exactly what it was I could do for the man.
As if to ease my plight, he pointed to a nearby lamp-post and said "I just need something to lean on."
I led him to the lamp-post and let him go. I stood for a second and then I walked away. I had places to be. I never looked him in the eye.

On all fours humanity crosses a downtown city street
Cowering beneath the cold November rain as leaves and garbage run rivulets into swelling sewers.
Passing glances of mere curiosity or scoffing jeers of utter indifference as daily business must roll on.
Time seems to slow as humanity crawls towards oblivion.
But traffic is light.
With monstrous effort, he hauls himself to safety, leaning prostrate.
As the rain continues.
Falling on blind eyes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bread day afternoon

Sarah really wanted cardamom bread today. So I obliged. But I had to get the pumpkin that has been on our counter for about a month now out of the way. So we got pumpkin spice bread as a bonus. I am all breaded out..

Here is Sarah's recipe. I forgot to add the egg to the yeast mixture and had to start over again..blah. It is ridiculously tasty.

Pulla (Finnish Braided Sweet Bread aka. Cardamom Bread - Makes 1 loaf)


1/2 to 3/4 cup warm water

4 Tablespoons sugar

1 packet active dry yeast (about 1 Tablespoon) - I only have instant dry, so I used just under 1 Tablespoon

2 eggs

2 3/4 cup AP flour (AP = All Purpose btw)

1/4 cup cold butter - the original says butter or margarine..but margarine is the devil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

crushed sugar cubes, pearl sugar, and/or sliced almonds - couldn't find the pearl sugar, I used crystallized instead


  1. Combine 1/4 cup of the water, 1 Tablespoon of the sugar, and the yeast in a small bowl. Stir carefully to dissolve yeast and let stand until bubbly (about 5 minutes). Add 1 egg and stir until blended. - this is the part I missed the first time around.

  2. Measure flour, butter, remaining 3 Tablespoons of the sugar, salt, and cardamom into electric mixer bowl. Mix with electric mixer (with dough hook attachment) until mixed.

  3. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture, mix until blended.

  4. Turn on mixer and very slowly drizzle just enough remaining water into flour mixture so dough forms a ball that cleans the sides of the bowl. Mix until ball turns around bowl about 25 times. Turn off mixer and let dough stand 1 to 2 minutes.

  5. Turn on mixer and gradually drizzle in enough remaining water to make dough soft, smooth and satiny, but not sticky. Mix until dough turns around bowl about 15 times.

  6. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Shape into ball and place in lightly greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

  7. Punch down dough. Divide dough into 3 equal parts. Shape each part into 18 inch strand. -- I had to bench the dough to get it to cooperate enough to do this.. Braid strands together and place on greased cookie sheet. Tuck ends under and pinch to seal. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. -- I used my dishwasher as a proofing box 8^). See attached photo.

  8. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Beat remaining egg with fork. Brush egg over braid. Sprinkle with sugar and almonds.

  9. Bake until loaf is evenly brown, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pizza and Beer

I commented on Molly's blog on Orangette yesterday. Even that seems weird...should I be calling her Molly? I don't really know her...I feel like a stalker or something. I feel somehow special that I was invited to interview for a job that didn't and may never exist at Delancey. Like I was somehow invited into Brandon and Molly's special world, at least for half an hour. I still hold out hope that the job materializes, but I somehow know that if it was going to happen it would have happened by now. I don't know why I want to know them more. Is it because I feel I know her by reading her blog? Is it because he went to the same college I had attended, albeit years after I had graduated? Is it because I am in need of some sort of connection at the moment? I think the latter is probably the closest to the truth. Like some devout, only praying to the altar of the pizza gods. Seeing connections in everything and connecting that to something unexplainable.

Speaking of pizza, I tossed together a tasty pie this evening right before our trek out to Redmond for the Feral Cat Project "Pours for Purrs" benefit beer tasting and silent auction at Malt & Vine. Nothing too esoteric... Mushroom and Garlic (uber trendy Costco varietals). But I do like where my crust is going. I am actually applying what I am learning in school with improving results. I have always been a fan of high gluten flour (mine is humorously called "Power flour" which I buy in 50# bags from Cash and Carry much to my girlfriend's chagrin), and I am definitely a proponent of the autolyse, but I have new found respect for improved rounding and added benching. I don't proof, but I don't think you need to for pizza, at least that is what it says in my textbook. The results are nice but oh, how I dream of a wood fired oven...

So you thought I would mention the beer tasting and let it go at that did you? Well here you go:

  • Snoqualmie Wildcat IPA - My first of the night turned out to be my favorite. Nicely hoppy but not overpoweringly so. Some nice fruity hints. Very fresh.

  • Trade Route Ginger Pale Ale - Not bad. The ginger bite was a bit startling but mellowed as you went. Kind of a funky aftertaste but not altogether unpleasant.

  • Avery White Rascal Belgian White - I was not very into this one (Sarah outright hated it), but it was probably a good representative of a Belgian White if you like that kind of thing. I thought it tasted a bit like a not so clear least had Pils undertones anyway.

  • Midnight Sun Panty Peeler Tripel - Pretty good Tripel. Fairly balanced, which made me wonder about the "Panty Peeler" label.

  • Flying Dog Horndog Barleywine - This kind of kicked you in the face at first blush, but calmed down nicely and turned out fairly drinkable for a Barleywine. Not too sweet, which was nice.

                  • Moorhouse Black Cat Porter - My least favorite of the night. The description reads "Roasty, with a touch of dark fruity character". The roasty was more smokey to me and the fruity character was somewhat less than a touch. I could be biased tho, as porters have never been my thing. We baught a bottle though, as Sarah was in love with the label.

                  • Young's Double Chocolate Stout - I should probably mention at this point that we had very little of each of these beers..maybe 2 or 3 mouthfuls, not nearly enough to get me anywhere near soused. Anyway, the chocolate stout was indeed that, chocolaty, almost like drinking a chocolate milk. The only one of the evening that came in a can.

                  • Boulevard Nutcracker Winter Ale - Very pleasant winter ale, with a nice malty finish. Supposedly brewed with coriander and orange peel, but that is news to me. It could be my palate was a bit overwhelmed at this point in the evening however (if I even have a palate for this type of thing at all..).

                  We braught home some beers from our adventure as well....but more on that later...

                  Friday, November 13, 2009

                  Torte compreso?

                  I am wondering if a prerequisite to foodbloggery is the ability to ply myself with ridiculously expensive meals at "in" restaurants or troll Whole Foods for never before heard of luxuries to add into the pasta puttanesca or what-not I will spend a good 5 hours making. Don't get me wrong, there are few things I enjoy more than spending a day in the kitchen..well..a nice kitchen anyway. But where the heck do you people get your money and your time? Are you all just savvy shoppers? Do you get the ubar-foodblogger deal at the local trattoria? (my head is firmly set on the Italian references tonight..perhaps I need pasta for dinner?) And its not just the pocket book, er...wallet ... Aren't any of you metabolism impaired like me? I just spent nearly two years taking off the excess 100+ pounds I so effortlessly had accrued all the way through middle school, high school, college and beyond. Two months in pastry school and I am struggling to maintain (how many weight watchers points is a sausage Chausson anyway..never mind, I REALLY don't want to know). Thankfully the cost of the gym is included in the activity fees I had to pay this semester, although somehow actually going takes a back seat to studying for midterms and finding a job.

                  I guess I don't do too badly though. Last night I somehow transformed the questionable turkey slices in the meat drawer (I am not sick yet...), the pate brisee dough I made last week from the school recipe packet (1/2 recipe was enough for 3 large tarts...I guess next time 1/4 recipe?), some unpasteurized goats cheese from one of my girlfriend's classmates, and assorted vegetables into some semblance of a savory tart. It looked far better than it tasted, but how many can claim the ability to pull an impromptu French tart from cobbled together ingredients hiding in the depths of the icebox? In any case, I felt proud of myself. I am sure it was better than a frozen pizza at any rate. Well...maybe...

                  Thursday, November 12, 2009


                  I think I'm going crazy. Strangely enough, it seems I am the only one who thinks this is the case. But what else can you call throwing away a steady and not altogether awful income at a fairly untaxing job in the midst of the largest recession since the Great Depression? For what you ask? I am not quite sure how to answer that. To chase a dream sounds cheesy at best. To follow my bliss even worse.
                  Have you ever gotten to a point in your life where everything seems bland? Where conversations become an unending repetitive drone about inanities like television or fashion? I got to this point. I don't know when it happened exactly. I stopped trying. Always one to try to put myself into whichever story was being told at the moment .... "Oh, you were just in England? I was there in 96 when I spent a semester in London, blah, blah, blah", I started to hold back. I started to worry more about how peopled looked at me. Was I that guy? That annoying know-it-all who needs to be the center of attention? Perhaps I still am..I don't know.
                  But anyway...
                  I needed escape. As much from the drudgery of my job..was it really drudgery? Is any job not drudgery? Even Heff must sicken of the hedonism at some point right? Well, at least I thought I needed escape, true or not. So I formed a plan. Take something I am interested in.. say.. cooking, and learn something about it.. wait, not learn.. master. Does anyone master anything anymore? The plan... stop futzing with your life... and MASTER something Geoff. But what? Best to master something you are naturally good at, yes? Was I ever good at anything naturally? I pause here with an image of my mother thinking I am naturally good at everything. I love you mom..but really, I am not. There are a few things though, which I have to say I feel come naturally to me. Pulling rail (a theater term if I ever heard it). Balderdash - for some reason my BS meter is pretty good. Well, at least when its language I guess? I don't feel any predilection for poker anyway... and probably the talent that comes most naturally-Cooking (that's right, with a capitol C). I am sure there are others (or maybe not) but I can't seem to think of any more at the moment...oh, I guess cats tend to like me. Is that a talent? Anywho...
                  The Plan (now in caps as well - *shrug*) - Mastery. Well, my current talent for pulling rail had gotten me about as far as possible. Oh, I am sure I could have pulled rail at progressively larger houses with about as much success and equally as much reward. There comes a time though, when you look at your future and say "really? you want to be a master what now?". Not to mention the absolute knowledge that abuse to the body can only go so far. I had no plans to be Quasimodo regardless of how well he can ring a church bell. I think true masters of Balderdash are few and far between. And ubernerdy. I have no desire for a lifetime of NPR's "Says You". And I live with someone who puts my supposed cat mastery skills to shame. Well then, Cooking.
                  So what all does this have to do with me being crazy?
                  Well, my not so crazy plan was to go to school for cooking while doing my "mostly" evening job in the theatre. It would be great! I would learn a new craft. Perfect a new craft even. Start on the road to Mastery. All the while, working on my other fairly mundane mastery of the rail system in the theater. There was but one hitch... those who held the keys to the mundane mastery part of the equation. They didn't think so highly of my master plan. In fact. They kinda crumpled up the master plan for me and now I am left with a mass of jumbled plans. Somewhere in the mess tho, is the master plan. I am trying desperately to extricate it before the whole blob pulls the ship under water. How was that for mixed metaphor? Eat your heart out ... er... anyone know anyone famous for mixing metaphors?
                  So, I thought I would drag you all (well, probably just myself, as I am sure most blogs are just melodramatic self masturbatory overinflated diaries) with me while I embark upon the repairs to my Master Plan. Please excuse the horrific mispellings..wait....thank you spell check!