Sunday Night Dinner Party

6 Sep

Thanks Rach for letting me drop in again to talk about food, love, and life.  When we started this whole culinary school journey Rachel and I had a couple long discussions about what we both expected from this experience.  As many of our friends have known for many years, we both love to cook… for me it’s a way to drink beers and just forget about my day to day business activities.  I normally get a pretty good buzz going when I cook and my creative juices flow.. sometimes a great meal is put together, other times we end up going out for food.  Either way, the kitchen is my zen garden and I freestyle cook like no other.  For Rachel it was always a bit more serious.  She would think about her menu for a couple of days, read through her cookbooks, adjust depending on what ingredients are fresh at the market and present the food as a complete story… with an intro, body, and tasty ending.

So when Rach decided to go to FCI, it was not something done lightly.  This was a long drawn out process with multiple visits to the FCI in New York, tons of research about the culinary school experience she was looking for, and how it would fit into our lives.  We had several aborted starts and stops along the way with work, Sprout, and other distractions along the way.  It was not until the acquisition of Sprout was well underway, did we finally bite the bullet, drop a deposit down at FCI and thus started the Saltyapron adventure.  For those of you who know Rachel, if she’s going to do something it is going to be done as perfectly as she can do it.  The first two months of school were not what she planned… the Sprout acquisition took much longer than expected and between school during the day and reviewing legal docs at night, it was a frustrating time not being able to jump in with both feet.

I digress… back to my discussion about expectations.  When school started, we talked and tried to figure out what Rachel was really expecting from FCI.  Was she going to work for a world class chef?  Was she going to open her own food truck?  Restaurant?  Catering?   I broke it down quite simply.  There were no expectations.  At the end of the program, if she wanted to become a professional salsa dancer and never step into a commercial kitchen again, that was fine with me.  The only expectation is to have a great time in the program, have fun, refine skills in the kitchen, and figure out if this is what she wants to do as a career.

So where does this guest post take us.. it was a long set up say that this weekend I finally saw Rachel take what she’s learning at FCI and transform it into a fun dinner party.  No expectations, but damn… great food.  I have always known that Rachel loves cooking food and feeding people.  But this weekend, I saw her transform from a recreational cook into the beginnings of a professional chef.  It’s probably hard to realize how much you are learning when you spend everyday in the kitchen, but for those of us who get to watch and taste the food being cooked, it’s pretty obvious.

Our Sunday dinner started not on Sunday, but on Friday.  Rachel landed from SF and was already talking about a couple ideas she had for dinner.  It was going to be a fresh fish (Halibut?) with a pan asian flair.  She was tired of cooking French food (opps.. can I say that on her blog?) and wanted something different.  Like all great chefs, she brought back fresh Tomatoes from our Mariquita Farms CSA box along with a couple avocados.  Ok.. a bit random to be carrying fresh produce with you, but maybe that’s what FCI grads do.  Who knows.  Anyways, by Sat afternoon her well planned menu completely changed.  She could not find the fish she was looking for, but did find fresh corn.  Corn?  Great chefs should cook with ingredients that are available locally.  So the menu was that.. what she found at the market.

We started with a cold soup duo.  Roasted corn with smoked trout paired with an avocado taster.  Perfect for opening up our pallet.  The next course was a beet salad with friend goat cheese that Shannon made.  Then we dove into lamb chops that were paired with a lovely fig sauce.  From what I can remember the figs were soaked in a port, shallot, coffee, thyme, vegetable stock concoction that was cooked down into a lovely sauce.  Then to finish up the meal we had a homemade lemon tart that was a chance for Rachel to practice for one of her tests this week.  The meal was paired with a couple bottles of Pinots and a French table wine.

The best part was watching Rachel’s complete mastery of Shannon’s kitchen.  Never was there a hesitation as she cooked, drank wine and talked to everyone.  I’m dreaming of the day I get to sit in Chez Hampig at the chef’s table and watch her direct her team.  That’s gonna be awesome!  As long as I get a key to the wine cellar 😉

Here are some pics I shot of pre dinner cooking.  Hope they make your mouth water as much as writing this blog post has made mine.  Thanks for reading!

– Click on each pic to see a full size version.  These are the pre cooking shots of the fig sauce, making the lemon tart, cooking the lamb, and final products the soup duo, beet salad, and of course sunset at Shannon and Fred’s house.


3 Responses to “Sunday Night Dinner Party”

  1. Bee Leng Chua September 6, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

    Dear Carnet and Rachel,
    Such a journey of love, support for each other and a shared love for great food. I have enjoyed the experience vicariously from the blogs and definitely learning. Rachel is an attorney after all, someone who wants to dig down into the details and master them, yet creative, great at caring and feeding people, work with others on a shared assignment. Tom Byers spoke about the “T” person – someone with the depth of knowledge and technical skills (Vertical bar), yet have the breadth of creativity, team work, and leadership (Horizontal bar).
    You are inspiring me to blog.
    Thanks so much,
    Bee Leng

  2. Shannon September 8, 2011 at 1:59 am #

    Methinks that ’tis an intriguing way that Rach is holding her wine glass…. :o)

  3. Sim Thadani February 3, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    ooh, who did the placecards? very pretty! i know i’m late to the party but i gotta say the food looks fantastic. will keep on reading!!

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