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!