Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Kaiserchmarrn with warm blueberries

Home. Comfort. Delicious goodness.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Yes, my shining moment!

My favorite quote to date:

"You have no idea what you're doing, do you?"

A good question posed to me by my chef-de-cuisine last week when he caught me trying to "wing it" by putting together a sauce I had never made before. It was so beautiful in its truthfulness. Not just for that particular moment, but in general, for how it is for me every day. No, I don't know diddlysquat and I'm trying to figure it out, figure it out, figure it out. And sometimes I wonder if and how I ever will.

The funny thing is, when you're having a relatively good day, you forget just how little you know and a tiny little seed of hubris sneaks in. That's why, despite all the humility a kitchen dishes out in a single day, you always need that extra hard kick in the stomach once in a while to remind yourself how little you actually know and how much more there is to learn.

When approaching food, you need to do so with humility and respect. You're in the hands of what nature's doled out to you, and subject to the perfectly imperfect inconsistencies of how they interact with air, water and fire. And then there's the unstoppable element of time. So for each and every one of the cooks at BH, there's a challenge awaiting them every day - how to do things better, faster, even differently. Without humility, there would be no room for improvement or innovation.

So I welcome that swift kick to where it hurts. Bring it. After all, what fun would cooking be if we figured it all out after just a few tries?

Monday, November 24, 2008


You know you've been spending too much time in the kitchen when you find yourself calling out, "Corner!" on street corners and resisting the urge to yell out, "Behind you!" in crowded grocery stores.

Cooks are such freaks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Time is relative

After a month at the amuse station, a big change has come over me. I see time differently, and feel anything is possible in just a few hours if you really PUSH and focus. I get it now. It's a mind thing, and I'm tickled and in awe by it. Now, 24 hours in a day seems like so much time and in the end I can say life is so much fuller by it.

Well, I'm off to Germany today to be married, and when I return in early November, I hope to have some exposure to another station and a chance to work with the exceptionally talented pastry chef, Alex Grunert.

Auf wiedersehen!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


At 4:00 a.m. Left-over pizza. With O.J. (Why not have a little breakfast along the way?) Why does left-over pizza often taste better than the fresh ones? Maybe cause they're eaten when one is mad hungry.

The phrase of the day is: "Mental mise-en-place." The chef who's most like my mentor called it that when I explained the mind-set change I learned from him. Mental mise-en-place. Gotta love it.

One slice left, then good night.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Covered in meat juice due to a malfunctioning trash bag.
Hand jam.
Foot jam.

Some things:
• There's always a faster way of doing everything. I learned this today while weaving my potatoes. Aha! I had a breakthrough moment and it made me stupid happy.
• When you love the food, it loves you back.
• I'm actually starting to get what it means to "push."
• Must remember to think before I move. Sometimes my body wants to move somewhere before my brain tells it where to go.
• Must remember to stop talking to myself, outloud.
• Must remember to smile at least three times a day, even on crappy ones.
• Today we found out there'll be a new farm chore: The Cardboard Chipper. They'll begin recycling cardboard boxes in chippers, like the wood chipper in Fargo. Cool!
• Harold McGee is coming to spend some time with the kitchen staff. Super-cool!
• The chef de cuisine is back. Über-cool!
• Never gloat or become complacent cause that's when the shit hits the fan.
• My English is getting worse and my Spanish is improving.
• "Yes" to everything.
• International accents in the kitchen can lead to some seriously hilarious miscommunication.
• Got a taste of some beets with honey and apricot foam. YUM.
• The word that I hear floating around most during the day is "celtuse."
• On fence today: Cheddar and purpole cauliflower. Pretty.
• Love: Rainy days at the property.
• Love: 2:30 a.m. showers and ice baths for los manos pobres.
• Made it through prep and service almost alone.

There was more. What was it???
So sleepy...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

In the crapolas

In the shits.
Back pain.
Achy hands.

So why do I look forward to doing this another day???

I look at my daily prep list and it looks like mission impossible, but my garde manger supervisor insists I can do it all by myself if I really push it. I really believe I'm pushing it all the time, but the rate at which chefs move is on a whole different caliber. I just don't get it. Maybe tomorrow I will. Yes, tomorrow I will! I learned something new today - that while I tend to focus on only the task at hand and doing it well, the other chefs are planning their next move and going through the motions of that move in their heads. It's a weird balanace because last week I tried to multi-task and got scoled for not focusing. So I guess you must focus physicallly on the task at hand, but multi-task in your mind. Much more stressful. We'll see how it goes. Tomorrow's another day...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The rise and fall of pizza dough

This was partly M.'s inspiration and partly my failure to find ready-made pizza dough at Whole Foods, as M. suggested. I was in the mood for a pizza with mushrooms and caramelized onions, but the pizzerias in New Rochelle are quite disgusting to say the least. M. made a really beautiful pizza for her parents at her daughter's 4th with WF pizza dough and I thought I'd give it a try, too. But I had no luck in finding it. So I made the dough myself, which turned out to be o.k., but not great. Now I'm racking my brain trying to remember what my all-time favorite pizza crust was like, and what was so great about it.

As you can see in the pictures, the dough was definitely not rolled flat enough, and I ended up with a very puffy crust. Not my thing at all. And of course I had a brain fart while shopping - I was so focused on the secondary toppings and finding the dough that I forgot to buy tomato sauce and mozzarella. So it turned out to be a cross between a foccaccia and a pizza. But the toppings were quite tasty, and I'll be using the same combinations quite a bit in my future crust experiments.

On one side is Gruyère, caramelized onions, mushrooms, garlic and thyme. The other, Gruyère, caramelized onions, caramelized fennel, pancetta and thyme. Out of the oven, I topped the fennel side with a few arugula and frisée leaves. I only wish I had olives for some good ol' brininess. Yum yum.

As a side note: It's really nice to be writing and home-cooking again!

Cool beans

Some neat-looking beans we had to shell recently. They were so cute I had to bring them home.

Left: Can't remember the name
Center: Jacob's Cattle, an heirloom variety that originated in Germany
Right: Yin Yang, or Black Calypso, is a rare heirloom variety that pairs well with corn

Monday, September 22, 2008

A few of my favorite things

• Being greeted in the morning by chickens, cows, sheep and pigs
• Witnessing 2 pigs shamelessly making out in plain sight, in front of all the little kids
• Sending off newlyweds with a clanging of pots and pans
• Making a fresh batch of ricotta and butter every day
• Kneading and seasoning butter
• How ricotta becomes sweeter as you add the salt
• The characters I get to work with side-by-side, 14 hours a day
• The sweet-smelling air, especially in the crisp of autumn
• Thursday farm chores and the lectures from special guests in the afternoon
• Mondays and Tuesdays being "weekends"
• Speaking Spanish
• Speaking German
• That the chef de cuisine and dishwashers alike like to greet one another with a handshake
• Picking sage for the potato chips directly from the herb garden
• That arugula here tastes like arugula should
• Edible flowers
• Getting through a night of service smoothly with enough goodies for V.I.P.'s.
• Stone Barns honey, in honeycomb, served warm
• "Field gras"
• The composting bins
• The bins for the pigs
• The recycling bins
• Never having to throw away much, not even the frying oil which gets converted into bio-fuel
• Thick financier batter with plenty of ribbons
• Good olive oil that will give us a thick financier batter with plenty of ribbons
• Sharpies
• Serrated paring knives
• Mini-spatulas
• Large supply of bamboo skewers
• Large supply of quart containers
• Large supply of quart container lids
• Small sized chef's jackets with the right size pantalones
• Midnight chefs' meetings
• Stainless steal
• The sound of plates clanging side-by-side during buy-outs
• Face bacon
• Fried pig snout
• Blue Hill baloney
• Kale chips
• Arugula salt
• Maldon sea salt
• Orange thyme
• Pretty fences
• Squeegees
• Spoons, especially the little ones
• Heaps of kitchen towels
• Controlled chaos
• Uncontrived plating
• The chef de cuisine who never freaks out
• The sous chef who's cool as a cucumber
• That Chef sometimes gives me a wink
• Feeling like family
• Working with my hands
• Constantly moving