February 22, 2005

Review: Sweet Lady Jane

Last night Kelly and I went out for a treat. We headed out of the house during one of the breaks in the rain to enjoy the sugary delights offered by Sweet Lady Jane.

First off, I didn't expect it to be so incredibly small. We arrived at around 5pm, and the place was packed. Every seat in the place was taken. The people lined up at the counter waiting to give their orders blocked the way of the servers trying to tend to the seated guests trying to enjoy their cake, tea and coffee. It was madness, IMHO, for 5pm on a Monday... but it was the Monday of a 3-day weekend, so that may have had something to do with it.

I had a slice of the Italian Rum wedding cake, and Kelly had the chocolate raspberry cake. Mine was very good, but Kelly's was simply fantastic. Mine was layers of white cake with not very much rum flavor to it, with two layers of white cream filling (thicker/firmer than pastry cream) and a center layer of a thick, dry-ish chocolate filling. The buttercream frosting was light and not greasy. I kept feeling it while I was tasting thinking, "How greasy is this? Is it greasy?" and my friends, I can tell you, that was not greasy frosting at all. It was nice, but I don't think I'd go for that cake again. Kelly and I traded plates halfway in (I'm glad he's okay with that!!) and I got to enjoy a few bites of his chocolate raspberry cake. He described it as being as rich as a chocolate truffle. Oh, and it was. My only comment was that I tasted some bitterness from the cocoa in the frosting that detracted from the overall flavor, but Kelly said he didn't mind. They were rich cakes, to be sure. They were rich for ME, so you'd have to know that Kelly was in for more than he could handle :-)

We enjoyed two slices of cake and two coffees served in individual French-press carafes, included a generous tip and still got out of there for $20 total.

Kelly and I both decided that $30 for a small cake and $60 for a large one was a relative bargain, and that I should add them to my list of reputable bakeries that I give to my clients. He understands how long it takes to prep, bake, cool, fill, frost and decorate a fancy cake... (if I bill at my hourly rate, for me to make one cake for one client costs way more than $60!)

We were then so filled up on sugar and fat and caffeine goodness that we weren't going to be hungry for hours, so we wandered around the Beverly Center until they closed. We spent a bit of time watching the puppies play in the petstore. I watched a teeny baby beagle puppy dreaming enthusiastically - he was twitching and blinking and carrying on - he was so cute!! I love my dog Render, but I would certainly enjoy a little beagle puppy to play with!

Finally we went home and I cooked up the food I'd bought for the "vegetarian alternative" that I didn't end up making for SS's dinner party: $30+ of super expensive, fancy, organic and otherwise "special" produce, including orange bell peppers, dragon beans, cocktail artichokes, baby red potatoes, organic zucchini, pattypan squash, individual cauliflower, and baby portobella mushrooms. It was overkill to put that much on a plate, but I would have restrained myself in the actual plating if it wasn't just us.

I'd bought all these special veggies just in case one of the guests (known to be a buddhist and a vegetarian) did show up after all... but he didn't... so since I didn't cook it, and I didn't serve it to the client, I would rather take it home and absorb the cost instead of leaving a bunch of strange ingredients behind.

If there is too much of something and it's something I can use, I'd rather absorb the cost ("buy it back") than leave mysterious things in the fridge/pantry. Leaving containers of prepared food is one thing. Leftovers are usually 90 seconds away from edible, after being microwaved. Leaving main ingredients behind is not good, because I don't want someone peering into their fridge, wondering what the thing is, and deciding whether they know how to cook it. Chances are that the thing would go bad, and then they're throwing away unused, and now rotten, food. I don't want to be associated with that!

Last thing I ate or drank: a latte: a small thing I do for myself that makes the biggest impact on my day.

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February 15, 2005

a shoutout to my peeps

egads, i am so not hip. that was what, 1987? oh well.

Much love to Jennifer for the nice words and the link. Proper. My other MassLive linker, Kate, hasn't updated from what links to my old blog, which I killed, but I'll link to her here anyway. 'cuz she's my peeps.

Last thing I ate or drank: a latte, and that's it. it's 2pm and I'm not hungry. I guess I'm nervous about tomorrow.

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February 14, 2005

Panera: come for the wireless...

...stay away from the food.

Since we did our valentine's thing yesterday, and I spent the day delivering my v-day presents to my clients, Kelly and I decided that we'd just get something light for dinner. It's actually conceivable that we were still full from last night! So we went to Panera. It was our second visit; the other time we went was to have lunch about a week ago.

The first time we went, I got soup and a sandwich. Kelly got just soup. They gave him the wrong soup. OK, oops, no problem, switch out the soup, we're fine. The soups tasted salty to me but Kelly said they were good.

Tonight, I ordered a greek salad, which was very overdressed. you could have wrung it out. There were a few bits of lettuce that were wilted into slime, but nothing horrible. Kelly orderd soup and sandwich. The soup was ok, but the sandwich...
...he ordered roast beef, on wheat, with no onion....but he GOT ham on rye WITH onion. and way too much mustard.

now, if there were ANY other customers in the place, then I could see that perhaps his order got confused with someone else's and he'd go up and tell; them and everyone would have a good laugh... but we were the only people at the counter!! And the receipt he was holding SAID roast beef, no onion. It was like someone said, "well, we got this sandwich here, already made, and this guy wants a sandwich, so let's just go with it. Maybe he won't notice. Weird.

Of course, Kelly being who he is, ate it anyway. It took every ounce of my concentration to stay in my seat and not go ranting to the manager. But that's me, being who I am.

So if you want to mooch free wireless and you haven't had lunch, and you're not too picky about what you eat, (even so far as to not even be so "picky" that what you GET is what you ORDERED!) then Panera is worth checking out. The food is nothing memorable, but the place is clean and the food's acceptable.

Since I am never one day never one day going to have my own place, I like to examine what's going on with a new restaurant, and keep checking them out as they work out the bugs. My favorite of those places is Amandine. I am fanatical about Amandine, for that reason. They started out with coffee and pastries. then added soup, and sandwiches, and quiche, and omelets... They keep doing it right, most of the time. They're tightly staffed and they're busy. And you know what else? you can actually taste the care put into the food. we always seem to get a table by the coffee condiments, and we overhear people say how pleased that they are that the place is taking off. (it's been there for 2 years) That place has got it going on. If they only had free wireless...but alas, they don't need a gimmick. Amandine: Come for the food, stay for the food, come back for the food!

Last thing I ate or drank: that salad, referred to above

update: LINKS

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February 13, 2005

Valentine's Eve Dinner at Josie

Tonight, my husband Kelly surpised me with reservations to Josie. We sat around the house all day just waiting to go eat, and finally I suggested we go to the nearby mall to see if I could find soup bowls that matched my Noritake set at Robinson May. We got all dressed up and went to the mall, no luck. That done, we still had time to kill so we went to the 99¢ store. Dressed to the nines, I might add, ha ha.

Finally it was time for our reservation, so we drove down Pico, and found a parking spot right across the street from the front door. We were seated within moments, and after we placed our order, the amuse bouche arrived: a sliver of a Mushroom and Gorgonzola Quiche. We each ordered an appetizer; mine was a warm vegetable salad of roasted beets, wedges of winter squashes, and pomegranate reduction, and his was a fig and goat cheese tart with toasted hazelnuts with port wine, in a crust I couldn't quite decipher. (I'm thinking it was made with cornmeal?) I'm so lucky that 1) Kelly's willing to share and 2) Kelly's not embarassed to pass his half-eaten plate over while I pass my half-eaten plate under.

For the entrée, Kelly ordered the venison, which came with deep fried rapini, wild rice, pecans and a red-wine-poached pear. The venison was positively divine. I'm fortunate that he gave me a bite before he took his own, because after he tasted how good it was, I don't think he'd have shared! The pecans weren't embellished as far as I could tell, but they were cooked through and not crisp/crunchy. The rapini was okay: it had the fried-food taste I associate with chinese food.

I ordered the Tagine made with Short Ribs. I love moroccan food. I just love the combination of sweet and savory flavors to be eaten together. I was fairly surprised, however, that it was actually served in a tagine, since it basically looked like a big yellow party hat on a plate. Kelly said it looked as if a snake was about to be charmed out of it. Basically the two couples next to us kept looking at it, wondering what I got! Once the server came out and took the lid off it, I'm sure the other couples could smell it too.... fragrant with spices and dried fruits, with cauliflower, cubes of squash, pearl Cous-Cous and resting on top of all that, beef short ribs, topped with some thick yogurt. YUM. Oh, and some flat crisp bread on the side, with some heavily spiced almond raita. The Cous-Cous and veggies were great, the meat was tender but a little gristly. ...and I nearly ate the whole thing. I had a glass of 2002 Tantara Pinot Noir, one of only three reds on the wine list available by the glass. It was very nice; remarkable enough for me to ask for the wine list to make sure I got the name right!

So, I've got just the teeniest bit of insight into this restaurant that the average gourmand would have, since I did a report on Josie LaBalch for culinary school. *grin* I also worked there for a couple of weeks before I, ahem, excused myself from the place for not knowing enough to be useful and taking up too much precious space in the kitchen. Frank, her husband and sommelier, is the person who interviewed and ultimately hired me two years ago... and who bid us goodnight as we left tonight.

This was the only the first time I have been a guest at this restaurant, but it will certainly not be the last! My clients can look forward to my ripping off edible manifestations of flattering Josie by imitating her work.

Last thing I ate or drank: We're both moaning about how stuffed we are.

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February 10, 2005

A Chef JoAnna "Sighting"!

Tuesday, as I was driving home, I had another Angelyne sighting. She's one of those people who's famous for nothing, but she's an L.A. Icon™ of the first degree. She's sitting there in her pink corvette, in the left-hand turn lane, headed towards Brentwood. It's one of those wonderful little things that remind you that you live in Los Angeles. click for pix

Yesterday, I was parked in a loading zone in front of Jerry's Deli in Westwood Village, waiting for a phonecall that would tell me if I had to drive to Northridge or not, and someone had a Chef JoAnna "sighting"! Ok, ha ha, not that I am, or will be, as famous as Angelyne, but it's kinda cool: two women were on their way to lunch, saw my truck and stopped and asked me for a card. We chatted for a bit; turns out they work in a doctor's office, and the doc is displeased with the Zone diet delivery company, and they thought I could help. I told them some of the menus I did recently, and one girl nudged the other and said, "Why aren't we having that for lunch?"

I'm just tickled, I had to share.

Most recent thing I ate or drank: latte, tartine de beurre

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February 09, 2005

practice makes perfect!

I'm constantly practicing what I'm about to feed to my clients. I've got three big caterings coming up. 6-course seated dinner for 8, five-course seated dinner for 25, and a cocktail party for 75. over the past week, kelly's been eating like a king, as I practice the things that I will be making for the parties. Flourless chocolate cake? Dessert the other night. Chicken Roulade Florentine? Yesterday's dinner. Home-made-from-scratch ravioli? that was tonight's dinner. I'm covered in flour and my hands are positively aching. But I'm tapping away at this machine and blogging anyway.

Tomorrow he's getting Suppli (which I've always called arancini) It's Italian street food, which I fondly recall eating at those spectacular Italian festivals when I was a kid in Chicago. It's breaded balls of risotto stuffed with mozzarella and deep fried. Yeah, you want some. Good thing he's not a low-carb freak and that I don't give a damn about carbs!

So what's left to practice for the upcoming weeks? Might as well make a cassata. It's the only other thing I haven't made in a while. Do I force cake upon my poor husband AGAIN this week? Hell yeah.

Last thing I ate or drank: after all that fancy-schmancy home made delicious food, I'm drinking "cappucino" made from a powdered mix. ha ha.

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February 08, 2005

Taking a moment to write about this blog.....

I haven't blogged for a while, I know.

I hate to say it but I've had better things to do! Not that I find the blog a waste of time, au contraire! it's that I haven't been able to fit in the quality time with my computer. Even now, I'm multitasking. I'm on hold with the computer place, I've got one of those blemish-yanking strips on my nose, whitestrips on my teeth, and I'm letting my toenail polish dry while I'm blogging. go me.

My computer's been dead. right now I'm tapping away at my husband's laptop, which actually belongs to my husband's company, technically, but that he has had exclusive use of, so he keeps it here at home so that he can check his work e-mail and stuff... except now I've commandeered it while my machine is in the shop.

I've been working more days than ever: actually, more days on than off! For a few weeks there, I was actually living the life that I had set as my goal: three personal chef clients and a party every weekend. Let me tell you, that's a lot of work. I love it, so it's okay, but I was really starting to feel burnout creeping in.

I spent the entire month of january doing recruiting because january is supposed to be dead for caterers. ha. I was still busy every weekend!

I was "Miss January" on the mactopia site, which is pretty f'ing cool. Click here to see Yours Truly featured as the computer-geek-slash-chef.

Also, early this month, I managed to incorporate my business for the low, low price of $800.

My website, despite all the critiques I get from my IRL geek friends and online acquaintences, is actually generating business! People google me. People click on my site. People hire me. It's awesome.

I'll try to be a better online friend. I got hell for deleting the old blog, because the people who read it couldn't continue reading it... but as I said for that one, and as I continue to say for this one, I'm writing it for me. it's a journal, not a newsletter, but if you find something interesting, enjoy. I welcome comments, but I'm no big supporter of free speech, so if I don't like it, I reserve the right to delete it.

Now, to go remove all the strips, tabs and beauty aids affixed to my body, so I can go get the computer that the tech-dude just told me is repaired and complete! Hurrah!

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