December 22, 2005

Kelly's Birthday Dinner

Today is my husband's birthday.

My poor, POOR husband, the subject of all my practice runs and experiments and cupboard-is-bare--so-what-do-I-make meals... (I'm sure those of you who don't live with chefs are all very sorry for him, right?)

Over this past week I have offered to make him the meal of his choice. His tastes are pretty simple. Which annoys me to no end. He's into eating big, hearty, bulky foods like chili, enchiladas, pot roast, pastas (not that you could tell, since he's a very slim guy, but he does eat a lot of food!) and he's not into delicate soufflés or fancy vegetables or fussy things. Here's someone who can have whatever he wants, expertly prepared, and he will choose to make himself a PBJ. GRRRRR!

So I badgered him into choosing something that would be delicious for him to eat and somewhat challenging for me to make, and here's what he(we) came up with:


Omelette of Tomatoes, Fresh Basil and Feta Cheese
Home-Style Potatoes cooked in duck fat
Multi-grain baguette, toasted and buttered
Espresso, and orange juice.


Chilean Sea Bass with Lemon Beurre Blanc
Brussles Sprouts with Smoked Pork Lardons
Ginger-Glazed Carrots
Tri-Color Fingerling Potatoes

... and for dessert, Devil's Food Cake with Kirsch-Macerated Dark Cherries and Crème Chantilly. Sort of a take-off on Black Forest Cake.

The veggies all came from the farmers market, so they were especially fresh and delicious. The curly-haired aussie potato guy is always friendly and polite, but he never remembers me. I don't know why it bothers me so much; I'm sure he sees several hundred faces a day... but I see him both at both Wednesday's, in Santa Monica, and Thursday's, in Westwood Village, and I always try to strike up a conversation, and he never seems to remember me.

Anyway, he has the best fingerlings, just a dash of salt and they're perfect. And the skins of the potatoes actually popped when we bit through them. The carrots came out just right, and the brussles sprouts did very nicely with the smoked pork.

And the sea bass! Just wonderful. Pan-seared in a cast iron skillet with some diced onion, sprinked with fresh herbs and a healthy splash of white wine, then put in a 400 degree oven until the thermometer registered 155. remove to a warmed plate and finish up the sauce: Add a bit of lemon juice, white wine vinegar and whole black peppercorns to the cooking liquid, reduce, add freshly torn basil, remove from the heat and start mounting the sauce. Moist, delicious, divine. Kelly cleared his plate!

I'm positively stuffed, so the cake will have to wait for a little while. In the meantime, we're going to watch a movie, and maybe have a bit of tea.

Last thing I ate or drank: above dinner! Yum!

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December 21, 2005

Amuse is gone!

I was leafing through last month's Los Angeles magazine, and saw a teensy little blurb in the restaurant section that Amuse is gone. over. fini. I couldn't believe it -- perhaps they meant another restaurant in Venice called Amuse Cafe? so I checked the website, which is still up and running (with no mention of the restaurant being closed), but the phone number is disconnected.

Wow. What happened?

Yikes, if it can happen to them, it can happen to anyone.

Brooke and Nick are good kids. I'm sure we'll see them doing something spectacular again soon. Hopefully, together.

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December 19, 2005

Haute Cuisine

Mr. Bix makes lunch

Last thing I ate or drank: I made fried chicken for dinner.

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December 18, 2005

Hey, baby, last night was fantastic!

I got there on time.
All my kitchen workers were on time.
All my servers & the bartender were on time
The food was out on time, and it was great.

We made food for over 100 people in a kitchen no bigger than the one in my little apartment. And there were three of us crammed in there!!

...with an antique stove combo...on which the burners wouldn't light without a lighter (I *so* take it for granted that mine lights automatically!) ...and on which the oven stopped working about an hour before the end of service.
These accursed antique ovens! Don't people realize that this is a Major Appliance, and that one that doesn't work is a Major Pain in the Ass to the chef when you hire her to cater your party?! And they're so small, I have to use these flimsy pans from Big Lots because none of my standard pans fit in them.
On the bright side, nothing broke, nothing ruined, nothing burned... well except for a couple mini pizzas that we tried to cook in the broiler after the oven stopped working. A valiant effort but a failure, in the end.

Anyway, everyone was great, everyone was in the groove, my workers didn't have to be told every silly little instruction, they actually Took Initiative and did what needed to be done. I am so so so so lucky to have found these wonderful people. Erin, George, Larri, Craig, and Jeannine. Plus, Harris from thursday night. Plus Carolyn from the night before that. (I can't tell you what sheer joy it is to look up from my work and see that the dishes are done.) AFAIK, none of them know about this blog, but if they did, I'd want them to know how proud I am of them all over this past week. If my company enjoys any degree of success, it's because of them.

Now, if I could just get my clients to pay their bills, so I can write out checks for my staff's tips!

Last thing I ate or drank: latte.

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December 16, 2005

Santa, changed my mind again.

Ok, $34,000 was kinda pricy for a big old fancy stove. I could replace my cherished old red Miata and still have enough left over to buy the first utilitarian and non-sexy stove I asked for. < whine > But it would have matched my big black fridge, Darth 'Rator. </ whine >

A blog I've started reading, Delicious Delicious, pointed out some
cute refrigerator magnets
that would tuck into my stocking quite nicely.

I really don't need anything else.

Last thing I ate or drank: Latte prepared on my crappy little stove, and home-made apricot scones, baked in the crappy little oven that came with my apartment - The one that won't fit a standard professional baking sheet, as it lacks a mere 2" of width. The one that has only four small burners. The one has been scrubbed so much that the enamel is worn off under the cast iron burner rings. at least it's gas...

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Really, can someone clue me in here?

These are the search stats for my site:
Why do you care if Sandra Lee is married, and WHY do you care if she's married to Bruce Karatz?!
Why do you care if Sandra Lee is married, and
WHY do you care if she's married to Bruce Karatz?!

Last thing I ate or drank: lemon gatorade

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December 15, 2005


n 1: extreme mental distress [syn: torment, torture] 2: extreme distress of body or mind v 1: suffer great pains or distress 2: cause emotional anguish or make miserable
Last night after 8pm, I got a call from tomorrow's client.

He's having a big formal seated dinner, 15 guests, 3 hot appetizers followed by 6 courses, with pairings of wines, as well. It's his executives-only holiday party, so kind of a big deal.

He has a lovely home, but the arrangement is such that he can't seat 15 people in the same room. We arranged to rent heaters, and have the seating outdoors. It's Los Angeles, right? (well, yes, but the night's still drop down into the low 50's)

Seems that the rental company, which was supposed to have arrived betwen 9am and 1pm, didn't, and actually showed up at 8pm. Without the full order. Especially of concern to my client was that there were no heaters. There was no tent. And there was no reason why.

I called the rental representative at the office, no answer
I called the rental representative on her business cellphone, no answer
I called the rental representative on her personal cellphone, no answer

I told Kelly what was up, and he said, "So, what are you going to do? You can't come up with heaters and tents between now and tomorrow afternoon? You'll make it work, somehow."

So I went to bed. With my clipboard on my lap.

When I woke up this morning, I checked everywhere for messages, and there were none. I called her cellphone again, no answer. I called the office at 9:30, got transferred to her, and let her have it: Why was I not contacted about the delays? Why was I not informed of the incomplete delivery? Why did I have to hear it from my client? Why did she not return my calls? Why bother to give me her personal cellphone if she wasn't going to answer it?

She 'reassured' me that everything had been handled with the client. what? I told her *I* am the client. She charged MY credit card. She had messages from ME. Turns out, the delivery guy told my client her phone number, and he had been calling her, too. (in his shoes, I'd have done the same, it would be my party, and I'd want to make sure that it all went smoothly)

But still, she never called me. I'm not sure she would have called me.

There is NO REASON my client should have to lift a finger for this party, even to use that finger to dial the phone. Hire me and I'll take care of it. That's my policy.

But when the people I rely on screw up, (oh, and don't get me started on the wine guy!) it reflects on me. I wouldn't be so mad if she'd just 'fessed up and told me "oops" because I could have smoothed things out with my client, given him a heads up.

Maybe not come off looking like I don't have MY act together, because the company I used doesn't have ITS act together.

So, we'll see how it goes. I may post their name here later, I have to see how I feel after tonight's event goes down.

Thank goodness I've got this blog for therapy!

Last thing I ate or drank: nothing yet, but the blood sugar's dropping quick!

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December 14, 2005

Two kids from Los Angeles: food blog: Cooking lessons for Wade

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Wade came over for a little cooking lesson. He wanted to make egg nog ice cream. I had a fleeting fantasy that we could put a rum ribbon in it. He was game, so we went for it.

Wade, bless his heart, has some food allergies, so we had some limitations. We couldn't use cow milk, butter, or cornstarch. So, how do you make a crème anglaise without milk and butter and cornstarch? well, you can use goat's milk, and you can use rice flour. Which we did. I did a quick-bang little experiment to see if I could get a custard-like consistency out of those ingredients, and it worked, so then, ever so slowly, I put Wade through the paces.

First we learned how to crack an egg. That took a few tries. :-D

Then we made the custard base, tempered it, brought it up to temperature and finished the custard.
Wade tempering the custard.  That sounds kinda dirty!
Meanwhile, I reduced a half of a cup of rum to a quarter cup. I made a gelatin base and tested the strength, and then we mixed the rum and the dissolved gelatin together and let it chill. We also cooled the ice cream mixture under running water, and finally it was cool enough to put in the fridge, after an addition of some ground nutmeg and a teeny splash of vanilla.

I tried to remember to make Wade keep tasting as we went along. One thing people may not realize is that, even though you may want an ice cream that is not going to be syrupy-sweet, it does have to be a bit sweeter before it's frozen because the sweetness will be masked by the coldness. I advised him that it could be a little sweeter, so we added a packet of Splenda (we were too lazy to invert some sugar, and we can't use corn syrup, and I didn't want to add lemon flavor, so the little yellow packet was a good compromise.)

We played with the computer and talked for a while, enjoying some vanilla tea and catching up (he's an MBA student and I'm deep in the weeds in catering for December, but it was nice to have to sit still and just relax with a friend, something neither of us get to do that often)

Then, we poured the mix in the ice cream machine, and went to chat some more. Another cup of tea. More good conversation. Hmmm. we should do this more often!

Finally, it was done. Hurray!
Wade with his finished egg nog ice cream
Sorry the photo is kinda blown out... but yes, that's really ice cream in there! Look at that face! Could he make that face without actually holding the delicious product of an entire afternoon's work in his hands? No, I think not.

I showed Wade how to layer in the ice cream with the jellied rum, but the gelatin was a little too firm. Next time, instead of using gelatin, I might try making a caramel out of brown sugar (or even demerara) and a little acid, then fortifying the flavor with some very reduced rum.

What do you say, Wade, will there be a next time?

Last thing I ate or drank: flourless chocolate cake. yeah, baby.

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December 13, 2005

Santa, you still listening?

Um, Santa?

You know that totally awesome stove & oven combo I sent you a couple of days ago?

Well, I'd like to retract that request.

No, no... wait. I have a replacement in mind.

Can I have this one instead?

It would be so nice to have this sexy black stove to contrast against my white chef's jacket.

Last thing I ate or drank: cri-cri peanuts and a ginger ale

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To foie or not to foie?

I have never liked foie gras... that is, until I had it at TRU, Rick Tramanto's Chicago restaurant. In fact, I didn't even like it the night before, at Alinea, when it was served there. I could certainly live without it, but the people who are militantly against it have come up with some kinky duck posters.

click to enlarge

In Belgium, an outdoor campaign is hoping to educate people about Foie Gras, that fancy sounding fatty liver dish. Apparently Foie Gras is made from the enlarged livers of geese and/or ducks who are force fed in captivity so that their livers dramatically expand. The campaign was supposed to run in 40 major Belgian railway stations but the railway company refused the posters because they are "too shocking" according to one news report.

(Via AdRants)

To be accurate, foie gras from fattened liver CAN be a natural thing: fowl preparing for migrations gorge themselves to get fat for the flight. It's one of those things that producers now exploit out of season, to the (alleged) detriment of the individual animal. For those who protest the practice as cruel, let's talk about your thanksgiving turkey, your christmas goose, the eggs you had for breakfast, or whatever animal you consumed for last night's dinner.

Last thing I ate or drank: coffee made in a French press. Just for the change of pace.

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December 11, 2005

Whoring for votes.

I was just checking my referrer stats (one of my favorite ways to find new blogs to read). Lo and behold, three people have nominated me for Accidental Hedonist's Best Food Blog in the "Chef" category.

Wow! With all the blogs out there, someone likes me? How cool!

It would be nice to win, (some of those prizes are really cool!) so I supposed that I'll keep you posted if I get contacted and I'm an actual contestant. I turn 35 in January, so it would be a nice feather in my cap to have something fun like this happen. It would be special to be recognized for entertaining people with the exploits of doing what I love.

So, here's my plug. I went through my stats to see which entries get lots of referrer hits (below). If you liked these, and you wanted to add a nomination for me in any (one or more) of the categories, it would be cool! Here are the categories that apply:

Hurry, nominations close on December 16th!

A few "blast from the past" entries on the ChefBlog:

ChefBlog: Things you do for friends

ChefBlog: How to be a good client.

ChefBlog: The Life of a Chef to the Stars.

ChefBlog: Recidivist Clients?

ChefBlog: Chef JoAnna's PSA on wedding budgets

ChefBlog: lots to tell, too much to do

Last thing I ate or drank: It's gatorate for breakfast day today! I'm so beaten from last night!

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December 08, 2005

Exaggerated Reality... but not by much!

*RING* Hi, yes, I know it's December 10th, but can you please cater my cocktail party for 175 people on December 17th?

There will be 24 vegetarians, 18 vegans, 14 people who are still on atkins, 10 people who only eat raw food, 8 who are averse to things grown in dirt, 4 who refuse to eat anything made by anyone who was not born on US soil, and one, the guest of honor, who will only eat fertilized sea bream eggs poached in imported spring water on organic wheat-free toast spread with butter made from the milk of a cougar and seasoned with Himalayan pink salt mined by a one-armed blue-eyed virgin sherpa.

By the way, I'm on a pretty tight budget. What's that going to cost, per person?

December 06, 2005

A little humor to relieve the holiday stress:

*RING* Hi, can you cater a party for tomorrow night? I want to throw a sushi party for 50 of my closest friends.

There might be one teensy little tiny little accomodation I'll have to ask you to make: my dad, who is rather elderly, is deathly allergic to fish, rice and seaweed. Can you still make sushi for him so that he won't feel left out?

Sorry, that was a silly question, it says right here on your website that you will "happily accomodate dietary restrictions", so it was foolish of me to ask you, I'm sure you have several alternative ways to make sushi that won't kill my already frail father.

After all, it would be a tragedy if he didn't live long enough to see his very first grandson. I'm pregnant, did I mention? Just 3 months along, but thank heavens, 4 years of fertility treatments finally took hold, and I want to celebrate with an intimate little sushi party...for 50 of my closest friends...Oh, and their spouses.

I'll also need you to provide an assortment sake, to go along with the sushi. Maybe you can make several courses and pair a sake to each course? Oh, and of course there has to be non-alcoholic sake available for all my friends who are in AA. Ha ha, just another little accomodation.

Oh, and I'm kind of on a budget, you know, with the baby coming along and all, we've really got to pinch our pennies. Do you think you can keep it under $400?

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