October 31, 2005

it's been a while, sorry...

So, uh, hi. Yeah, I haven't posted for quite a long time. Nearly 3 weeks since I've made a proper post! And I'm sorry. We both know it only takes a minute to throw up a couple hundred words and boy-howdy, when I'm in the mood, you're lucky if you can get away with having to read only a couple hundred.

I had to wake up to deal with my chicken stock, and now it's dealt with. Strained and defatted and cooled...and now resting in the freezer. Just over a gallon of finished product, tho I started with nearly 12 quarts of water. The house smells like a really, REALLY good deli. So I'm not climbing back into bed, instead, I figured I should catch up on the blog.

October was a very twisted month. *sigh* Evidenced by the fact that I had TWO saturdays off. Dos, Due, Deux. Saturdays! OFF! I can still barely wrap my head around it.
Calm before the storm, you can be assured of that... I'm already booked for 2 weekends in november and three dates in december.
So, let me give you a play-by-play. (but, since this is a diary, it's more like giving ME a play-by-play and you can read it if you want, or click on the Next Blog button up on the right.)

So you read about the Chicago food orgy. The first night of three was at Topolobampo. It was very interesting, and we were very pleased with the menu in general. Kelly surprised me by ALSO going with the tasting menu, and surprised me again by going with the wine pairings as well. Without dissecting it course-by-course, I'll say that much of it was imaginitive for the fact that it's a restaurant on par with Border Grill here in Santa Monica. My favorite was the "roasted soup" topped with fried beet chiffonade, that had those lovely little smoked scallops in it. Many of the pairings were good, but a couple were just off. I paid close attention to the platings, and took photos of every course. Thing is, I haven't figured out how to get the pix off my new camera-phone yet... so that will have to wait. One of those pics shows Chef Rick Bayless sampling the tasting wines! hee hee. but it's not like he came over and did the celebrity chef thing. He snuck in and snuck back out. He dashed through the dining room and dashed back out in street clothes.
A funny realization: I asked for a menu at all three places, and the presentation of the menu was directly related to the finesse of the restaurant. Topolobampo gave me one folded up, in a business envelope. Initially it turned out to be the wrong one! I pointed it out, and they replaced it, but it was simply that lack of focus and attention that seemed to permeate the whole experience. They ignored the details.

Day 2 was at Alinea. To eat at Alinea is to experience a touch, a hint, a whisper of what it must be like at El Bulli. It was a great experience. The room was understated and sophisticated. The chairs were really comfy. And good thing: we were in them for nearly five hours! I was really nervous, and when I'm that freaked out I make jokes. I had the waiters stifling laughs, and even Kelly cracked up a couple of times. I didn't opt for pairings this time, because of the sheer cost of it, but even the slightest buzz would have detracted from the experience. Everything was weird and cool and fantastic. The service was on par with Charlie Trotters, but they were younger, hipper, and were far more personable. (Speaking of which: if I had a dime for every time we heard the name Charlie Trotter uttered in that place, I could have afforded the wine pairings... ) I think a good way to describe the vibe is that Trotters' servers were more like docents at a museum: a little too severe, and a little over the top in formality. Alinea's servers were more like guides at a zoo, and I swear that is a compliment: They were more lighthearted about the task, even seeming to enjoy themselves a bit, and that made for a more relaxed vibe. After all, who's got the better job, the guy who's supposed to watch that you don't stick your finger into the oils of a Seurat, or the guy who's in charge of minding the hands-on exhibit of crested basilisks? I pick the lizard guy.

Oh, yeah, the food! Alinea is everything I'd hoped it would be. We wound up with a really early reservation, which is fine, because we knew we were opting for the 25 course menu. OK, yes, it's really 25 courses, but most of them were single bites to be savored. Many times, we weren't even given a fork, things came to us on long sticks wrapped in a napkin, and we just took the morsel off of that. I didn't get the PBJ I'd read about, and that made me a bit sad, but there were some really interesting things. Again, I took photos of everything, and now I've just got to wait until I find time (HA!) to put them up somewhere. Let's see. My favorites were the Duck Skin, the Bison, the frozen mango with sesame oil and bonito flakes. OH god, and there was a pheasant dish that blew my mind. The presentations were spectacular, and most everything was delicious (yes some things were just wierd, like the apple and foie gras thing, it was something that really seemed as though someone was thinking, "hey, we've got this antenna thing that we used before, what are we going to stick on it this season?" Overall, though, a lovely experience, and if you've got 5 hours and a few hundred bucks to blow, you should totally go for it. I would love to go back there in the spring. In fact, it's so interesting and fascinating, I would totally consider doing a stage there... but if I thought about it, I would have to shut down the business for a few months. It's far more likely that I'd fly to Chicago simply to experience the spring menu. (yeah, because I'm made of money...) Oh, I forgot to mention: Kelly dropped that I'm a chef, and one of the host-guys offered us a "tour" of the kitchen. It looked more like a science lab than a kitchen. It was all open, nothing was higher than waist level away from the walls. Also, there was no walk-in. Everything was in refrigerated storage under the counters. Most of the cooking was done on induction. Then there was the freezer thingy that froze stuff solid in a matter of seconds. I want one of those! The Alinea menu was a version made especially for giving away. It presented unfolded, printed on cool translucent paper, and inserted in a black envelope. Each line has a circle icon next to it to indicate the size of the course. See? Attention. Down to the last detail.

OK, more later, I have to go cook for someone, and I scheduled an 11am start time, since it's halloween. I wanna get out of there and off the streets before dark!

Last thing I ate or drank: Please tell me I' m not the only one who picks at the bones from her chicken stock...

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October 23, 2005

When did Alton get all pissy?

Click here to read the pissy little rant by Alton Brown. Poor guy, he never meant to get famous...

October 13, 2005

Chicagoan Food Orgy

Tonight was #3 of 3 of the Chicago Mega Restaurant Food Orgy.

TRU was simply amazing. I have photos, I have notes. I have a vivid memory and a very willing accomplice to help me recall all the things we ate. All I'm going to say here is that if you are in Chicago and you pass up the opportunity to go to TRU, you are an idiot. I have a new bar by which I will set all future restaurant experiences. Thank you Chef Rick Tramanto and Chef Gale Gand. Thank you to all the amazing folks in the kitchen, and the host who gave me a tour of said kitchen. Thank you to Allison, my wonderful server, and all the servers who worked with her, and to Scott, the spectacular sommelier.

Last thing I ate or drank: a white chocolate truffle scented with Kaffir lime

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October 08, 2005

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October 06, 2005

"YUMMO" goes national

Rachael Ray is getting a new TV show that's NOT on food network.

How's she going to find the time to do yet another show?

Maybe everything on foodtv will just go to reruns...

Anyway, it's one of Oprah's projects. Oprah as Fairy Godmother? I guess I'd sign up for that!

God, and people say that *I* do too much. I don't have 3 tv shows, a magazine and a bunch of product endorsements...


(let's start referring to Kelly as Stedmond, shall we?) *grin*

October 05, 2005

How did my week get turned inside-out?

I worked on Monday, 6 hours post-event clean up (ugh!)
I worked yesterday, Personal Chef for the S.O. family
I worked today, Personal Chef for my favorite family
I will be working tomorrow, Personal Chef for the Kosher family
I will be working Friday, catering a fancy little cocktail party for 15

...but Saturday and Sunday, I have the day off?!

How the hell did that happen? I feel lost on a weekend day that I don't work. You know I'll just be wandering around, wondering to myself if I forgot that I promised to cater someone's party.

Last thing I ate or drank: glass after glass of refrigerator-cold water. Kelly made dinner, god bless him, but it was too salty!

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October 03, 2005

For lack of a proper post...

I've been communicating with a guy who has been trying to redesign his site. It's a little on the under-done side, if you know what I mean. He's said that he is "a one man show" and that he takes on so many tasks that at times he misses details. "Wearing every hat in this company has benefits but unfortunately I do miss details. ... Being the developer, president,
marketing director, mailroom guy, shipping room guy etc takes it's toll. While I try very hard to make everything great, at times I make mistakes and do not get things perfect.

I wanted to offer him some advice, so I wrote this e-mail to him.
Dude, we are on the same page. I do planning, shopping, preparation, cooking, service and clean-up for every event, plus inventory, accounting, marketing, advertising, recruiting and market research. Every bootstrapping entrepreneur does it... I'm guessing you're not independently wealthy either, so we can't just hire off the unpleasant or time-consuming tasks whenever they come up.

I, however, spent $70 out of my pocket today to hire a couple people to help me wash dishes from that 300-guest event Food TV filmed, that I volunteered to coordinate. I had a choice of doing it all myself, or hiring help. Since I'd volunteered 33 hours out of the past 72, I wasn't physically or mentally able to tackle a truckload (literally!) of dishes, but I needed them clean for my catering job tomorrow. Should I turn down $200+ of income to do dishes? No, not if I can spend less than half that to solve the problem. I paid two college girls $10/hr each, for 3.5 hrs, and everything is spotless, sorted, and re-loaded in the truck. It was a no-brainer decision, and I met two GREAT workers that I plan to add to my employee roster.

If you can't make money because your website is in a state that people don't want to put money into advertising or whatever... you're actually losing more money than you'd spend. It's a hard lesson to learn; don't learn it from experience, learn it from my advice instead, it's cheaper.

I know this is probably coming across as tough criticism, but please look at it instead as "tough love". It's the Vidal Sassoon principle: If you don't look good, I don't look good.... so it's in my interest to give you the kick in the butt you might need to make yourself look really good. You're so close!

Last thing I ate or drank: a "torta" which is translated on the package as an Aniseed Crispbread. it's a Spanish treat made of flour, sugar, olive oil and sugar. it's like a little crispy cookie, but the texture is more like a saltine cracker. Addictive!

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