Archive | December, 2011

Day 120: All ends well!

20 Dec

This is our class and our judges after we got the news. We all passed! Of course, Mark and I pulled #1 (we plated simultaneously and first), and we pulled the harder combination: fresh pasta with fennel cream and roasted mushrooms, and a rack of lamb dish with braised artichokes, polenta with goat cheese, a lamb reduction and pickled maitake mushrooms.  But, in a weird way it was fun, albeit a bit stressful.

I just picked up my mom from the airport. I ordered Thai food in from Les Ros, and I’m going to crawl into bed by 9:00. The only thing better would be if Carnet was here to join. Tomorrow….

Speaking of, graduation is tomorrow at 4:00. I’m excited. And sad. I don’t want it to end. But, I’m also ready for my next adventure.

Stay tuned for more saltyapron, hopefully from the road in Spain!

Day 119 – Last day prior to the final, some fun with the boys, and a new knife!

17 Dec

I love my new Kikuichi slicer! It was a present from Bobbie and Mark. Ahhhh, so nice of them. But, you’re not suppose to gift knives because it severs the bond between the knife and the knife owner. So, I had to give them each $1 in exchange for my Christmas gift. The knife is so sleek and beautiful!

So, last night instead of playing with my knife all night, I decided we should go try a new BBQ place in the Mission – Southpaw BBQ. As Mark said, “no bueno”. It was terrible. Super dry ribs, mediocre-at-best pulled pork, lots of sauces none of which were spectacular, and Bobbie didn’t like our server as she didn’t know anything about Bourbon. The restaurant was packed with hipsters who apparently know nothing about BBQ or Bourbon according to my Kentucky friend. And, they didn’t have Woodford Reserve. So, that was a bust. But, I still have a beautiful knife!

Hopefully, today we’ll find some much tastier morsels in Napa/Calistoga/St. Helena. We’re going wine tasting and then lounging at my favorite place to stay. It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday in Norcal and my life is amazing. I’m blessed.

Update to my last blog: The bread “stuffing” balls that Chef Udo made are called Knodel. There’s suppose to be an umlaut above the “o”. Thanks for the correction, Chef Udo!

Monday is reckoning day. Hopefully, our relaxing weekend will translate into a not-as-stressful-as-I-think Monday!

Day 118: Goulash, “stuffing” dumplings, and Perfect Edge Cutlery

16 Dec

I have to say my favorite things about this last week of culinary school have been the “off” menu items Chefs Udo and Jae have taught us/made for us.  Today, Chef Udo made some nice and spicy goulash and some sort of dumpling made of bread (forgot the German name) that resembled stuffing mix when being made.  That was our class lunch and it was delicious!

I also really enjoyed our speakers today at the school holiday party.  The theme was sustainability.  The first speaker was one of the principles at Fogline Farm (, an organic farm in Soquel, near Santa Cruz.  I appreciate all the thought that the 3 young men who started the company have put into raising their meats and fruits and vegetables.  Caleb at Fogline showed us so many pictures of their cute baby pigs.  I want one, but then I’d just have to butcher it and that might be hard for me after viewing it as a pet.  The second speaker was from Royal Hawaiian Seafood and she spoke about overfishing and ocean pollution, the dire statistics that go along with those, and the pros and cons of aquaculture.  Very informative, and the tasty treats along with the sparkling wine were terrific!

Then, it was off to Perfect Edge Cutlery in San Mateo to do some knife shopping.  Chef Peter introduced our class to the store and I think just about every one of us has visited it.  It’s like Disney Land for chefs.  I had a great time learning about all the different types and brands of knives they carry and how to determine which types (namely German v. Japanese) are right for me.  I picked up a German paring knife and a Japanese Chef’s knife, as well as a ceramic “steel”.  Now, I just have to be less of a klutz and make sure I don’t drop the ceramic steel.  Can’t wait to try them out tomorrow!

Off to bed for me.  Tomorrow is the last class before Monday’s final.  I’m both sad that it will end so soon, and I’m ready for my next adventure!

Day 117: 3 days and counting for Team Moustache

15 Dec

It was another pasta day for me, and a very successful one. I really like that dish and it’s pretty simple once you get comfortable making fresh pasta.  I have to say that Chef Udo’s method of rolling out pasta works for me and I’ll follow that far into the future.  Using semolina to dust the pasta dough each time prior to putting it through the rolling machine is the key.

We had a chance to work with Chef Jae again today.  We made some hazelnut shortbread-type cookies and then we decided to use some as moustaches.  Above is our class. I think Tomas looks the best in his moustache.

And, Chef Udo and Chef Jae.

All in all a fun day!

Day 116: One last practice on fish, making a ladyfinger cake, and learning we have 8 potential dishes on the final

14 Dec

Today was a good day of cooking!  Although I don’t like monkfish, I hope one of the dishes I pull for the final is the monkfish. It’s super easy to prep and it’s hard to overcook that fish, as it’s not one you want to undercook.  The chances are 1 in 4, since we learned today that in fact there will be 8 dishes in the hat, grouped in 2’s.  That’s different that what we were all expecting.

We were led to believe there would be 4 dishes total, and only 2 combos (which would have been nice and easy, like the mid-term).  I think the powers that be are experimenting on our class again. It’s either that or the instructors are not all on the same page. Either way, they’re giving us different messages or they’re still deciding.  Kind of frustrating as some of us had built in practice time at home for a couple of the dishes we’re weaker  or slower on, but now that the number of potential dishes has doubled, practicing far more than anticipated a few days before the final is not practical.  I’m busy over the next few days, so I’ll only get time to practice one or two as I had planned, but I know others who now feel the need to practice more. But, I refuse to be phased.  It’s no different than the “real world” when you are led to believe one thing and then you quickly have to adapt when it turns out to be different than originally presented.  Adaptation is going to be my middle name.

On a more fun note, we had the pleasure of Chef Jae in our class today.  He’s a pastry chef and instructor.  Since I had some time today after I finished prep, Chef Udo suggested that Bobby and I make a cake with Chef Jae’s guidance.  So, we made a ladyfinger layered cake.  Chef Jae says there’s no name for it, but the layers were made of ladyfinger dough brushed with raspberry liqueur and in between we piped mouselline (a combination of pastry cream and butter – LOTS of butter) and whipped cream.  Then, we topped it with fresh blueberries and a little raspberry liqueur + fresh raspberry “dots” in the center of the blueberries.  The cake is pictured at top.

Here are a few more action shots, in sequence (including Chef Jae in action).  I did all of the piping, with the exception of the first layer, as Chef Jae had to show me how.  I also make the ladyfinger “dough”, which is turned upside down in the pictures to soak in the liqueur. Bobby did the mousseline and Rachelle did the blueberry with raspberry dots. I have to say I love Chef Jae. He is sooo nice, and has a nice, easy teaching style.  Plus, he’s just a darling person.

Off to Range for dinner with FK.  Hope my new fillings (as of this afternoon ) on my chipped teeth hold up, as this restaurant is all meat!

Day 115: 4 days left of school!

13 Dec

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
– often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

And, I don’t mean leave a trail of food on the floor, as I was doing today.  Still working on flipping ingredients inside the large sautee pan.  I’m excellent at flipping things out of it. Need to work more on my wrist muscles.

I like this quote, as I’m often torn as to what path I should take or even if I should take a path already laid and, instead, make a new one. Carnet is great at blazing new trails.  And, I’m really good at making sure there is still a trail to follow. Translation: often times, my role is behind the scenes making sure things are all “in order”.  But, I don’t want to do that. I want to make a mess, and then be able to clean it up. I want to experiment and invent (or re-invent). I want to believe I can do something that I’m pretty sure is crazy (for me). But, I’m nervous to do it.  Whether I can muster enough gumption to do it remains to be seen in the next 3-5 years.

But, in the short term, I have to concentrate on getting a panel of Bay Area chefs to like my final plates I present next Monday. Feeling good about my crispy skin on the Arctic Char.  Still feeling awful about the gross chickpea cake.  No problem on the grilled and braised radicchio. No problem on the romesco-ish sauce.  So, if one of the dishes I pull to make for the final is the Char, I will be happy.  It’s also a fast prep compared to some of the other dishes.

The final countdown: Tomorrow – monkfish, Wednesday – pasta, Thursday – calamari, Friday – don’t know, Monday – final exam!

Tonight’s dinner: garlic sausage from Marin Sun Farms (pasture-raised animals/meats) with horseradish mustard and red grapes, with a bottle of Moretti beer to wash it all down 🙂

Days 112, 113 and 114: Jaegerschnitzel, spaetzle, and the restaurant heats up

11 Dec

I’m bummed I didn’t take pictures, as the process of making spaetzle was really cool, if not a bit difficult for a first-timer.  Chef Udo said he would help us make a couple of German dishes for our class family meal on Wednesday.  So, he had Tomas make jaegerschnitzel and the dough for the spaetzle. Then a few of us took turns cutting the dough into the boiling water.  I think if you look up most spaetzle recipes, they will call for pushing the dough through a colander, but according to Udo that is the Swiss way, not the German way.  We used a pizza board and a cake spatula to work tiny bits of dough off the large dough ball and into the boiling water.  I have to say my arm got a work out!

Mark was sick on Thursday and Friday, so I got an extra day on saucier, which meant I made the lamb dish 2 days in a row.  On day 2, I was much faster at both prep and getting the plates out during lunch service.  So, although everyone knows repetition is the key to getting faster at things, repetition 2 days in a row was key for me – instead of waiting for another 8 days to practice lamb again (our rotation is we do 1 dish every 9 days, which equates to us practicing the dishes only 2 days each prior to the final).  Since the lamb is 99% likely to be the saucier dish on the practical exam, I am super glad I had another day of practicing all the components.  I’m feeling much more positive and relaxed about it all. And, it was more fun in the kitchen last week as we had a few days of larger numbers of patrons in the restaurant, which meant we didn’t have a lot of time to stand around and be bored before firing our dishes.

It has been a very relaxing weekend.  Igor and I ate and drank wine together on Friday night, then yesterday I spent some time working on plans for Spain and putting down a schedule to brush up on my Spanish.  I’m a bit nervous about going and just knocking on doors, as the economy in Spain isn’t exactly wonderful right now.   So far, no connections have panned out, but I’m still hopeful.  I’m hoping a smile and my energetic personality will help 😉  Only half kidding.

Tonight, I’m off to Charlie Hunter at The Independent.  I haven’t seen him in a long time, so I’m looking forward to hearing some of his new tunes!  Hoping some of those stick in my head for tomorrow’s class, as I’m usually singing some bad 80’s tune I heard on the radio on my commute down to school.

Day 111: Banana tart (round 2) and sushi with friends

7 Dec

Today, was the last day on patissier prior to the final exam.  I was on banana tart.  I am getting much faster at both making pastry shells and rolling them out, although I don’t think I’ve yet dialed in on the perfect pastry crust. Hopefully, one day I’ll get there!  Don’t have much to add about school today, other than I busted out the components of the banana tart pretty quickly and without issue.  So, hopefully, if that is one of the dishes I pull for the final, it will go smoothly then, as well.

Tonight, I went to sushi at Kiji ( with friends – thanks, Chris, for the introduction to a new sushi restaurant!  Sashimi always makes me happy (and it’s not just because I usually have sake with it).  There’s something so simple and elegant about a very fresh, raw piece of fish cut perfectly. Yet, in that simplicity is greatness.  Kiji did a mean poke, with a little kick of spice to it.  They also had some interesting rolls. But, I think my favorites were the hirami carpaccio and the fresh scallop.

So much more fun eating coming up!  This Friday, Mark and I are going to a bbq and bourbon place that opened up in the Mission, recently.  Then, the following weekend my “two little brothers” (Mark and Bobbie) and I are going to Calistoga and Napa to do some x-mas shopping for Bobbie’s parents – yes, wine.  Not sure what evening restaurants we’ll check out but I know on Sunday morning I’m having SolBar’s house cured smoked salmon – it is the best I have ever tasted, anywhere.  I am so in love with that salmon that every time I’ve had breakfast there, that’s what I get.  Carnet threw a birthday weekend extravaganza for me – I mean a birthday bash to put to shame all other bashes – at Solage 2 years ago, and each morning we ate at SolBar I had that salmon.  It almost brings tears to my eyes at how good it is.  Now, if the chef or pastry chef could do something about that awful bagel they make and serve with it, it might be the perfect dish.  Then, graduation night, it’s off to Sons & Daughters. I haven’t been, so I’m excited to try.  Hopefully, Carnet will be able to stay awake for an 8:45 p.m. reservation after he flies from Tokyo to San Francisco that day to arrive just in time for graduation.

Then, home for Christmas on which we usually have prime rib and ham.  I know Busaba will want me to cook after this past 6 months of learning new techniques, but anyone is hard pressed to dry age and cook a prime rib better than my husband. So, I think I’ll stay out of his domaine and come up with some complimentary sides and dessert.

Off to bed with visions of….dancing in my head.

Day 110: 2 weeks left of school and the importance of breakfast

6 Dec

I’m back on desserts for 2 days. Everything went just fine with my dessert today, save my ice cream wasn’t quite as frozen as I would have liked it to be for service.  That’s not what irritated me.  I’m not going to rant on why I’m irritated as I already “caused a commotion” (as my grandmother used to accuse me of) at school by asking why we couldn’t practice 2 different dishes simultaneously and then did a smallish rant in response to the answers that were insufficient in my opinion.  Instead, I’m going to rant about breakfast.   Yeah, breakfast! Chef Peter, Bobbie, and all the rest of you no breakfast eaters, eat it … everyday!  And, make it a healthy one. Coffee by itself does not count.

I used to be a coffee and bagel or no breakfast eater because I was too busy and I always used the excuse that I just wasn’t that hungry when I first got up.  But, when I started FCI, Carnet reasoned that if I didn’t eat before I left for school, I was going to tank and not have a chance to eat prior to lunch.  He was right.  So, his promise to me was that he’d make me a healthy breakfast every day when he was home.  He has done a fantastic job.

But, when he’s not home, I still make a healthy breakfast because it only takes 15 minutes.  Here’s how it goes….I wake up and spend 5 minutes in the shower thinking about what I can make for breakfast in under 15 minutes to ensure that I get out the door within 40 minutes of my alarm going off (often hitting the snooze button once).  Obviously, putting the coffee on takes 5 minutes.  Smoothie with yogurt and protein powder (not the gross sugary kind) – 5 minutes.   Eggs, bacon, spinach or some other greens, and tomatoes – 10-15 minutes.  I don’t ever just do a smoothie, as it’s not enough and there’s too high of a sugar ratio to protein, so I make hard boiled eggs the night before or a few days before and pair 2 of those with the smoothie.    I don’t generally do carbs in the form of bread, as I’ve learned that the wheat carbs tend to give me a high that then drops to a low. So, it’s mostly about the proteins with the vegetable and fruits (obviously fruits have carbs, as well, so that’s why I always mix the protein with it).

15 minutes max and I can have what is a complete breakfast for me.  It’s not hard at all.  Just do it.  You’ll feel better and you’ll have more energy further into the morning.

At top is one of my recent school day breakfasts.  2 eggs, scrambled; 1 roma tomato; handful of sauteed spinach; 2 slices of lamb bacon (much leaner than pork bacon) and a large piece of lettuce for extra vegies. The pickled onions were a 15 minute quick pickle the night before.  A 15 minute breakfast. Done. You’ll feel fabulous.

On another note, here’s dinner from last night (the “fridge pizza” – prosciutto, gorgonzola, pears, tomatoes, romano cheese):


And, slices with salad on top:


Off to a bread making class this evening at La Victoria Bakery in the Mission. Hope it’s good!

December 4 Sunday thoughts

4 Dec

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I think those three things, and creating/doing them with family and friends, are really what I live for.  Carnet and I fell in love over good food, music, and laughter.  And, without really much discussion, we both strive to bring those into our house, or wherever we are, every day.  I don’t know how many concerts we’ve been to (this year being the bummer exception of a year due his crazy traveling schedule) but we always “rock out”, as I like to say.  My favorite venue?  The Fox Theatre in Oakland. It’s gorgeous and there’s not a bad seat in the house.  My other favorite venue is our living room, in the morning when he puts on one of my favorite songs to wake up and dance to, or late night after a few glasses of wine.

I have to thank both my mom and my dad for my love of good food, laughter, and music.  Even though times were lean when I was growing up until my teens, my mom always made food special. And, we always laughed around the dinner table.  My dad who was a huge prankster, so that always brought more laughter into my life (as well as few tears when he dressed up in scary costumes and jumped on my bed).  The piano in my house was a great thing. My mom played beautifully. And, when the piano bench wasn’t being used for sitting on, she, my sister and I would take turns jumping up on the  bench with an air microphone and lip sync to whatever record was playing (yes, we had records!).   Ahhh, love those days.  I wished I would have kept playing the piano, as now I’m just a hack.   Apparently, I was thanked for my talents and then released by my piano teacher at age 10 or 11 (?) after I composed a piece of all sharps and played it at a concert.  My bad.  Then to seal my fate, my sister had to go and compose something beautifully sweet, which was so unlike her.  My husband bought me a great electric keyboard for Christmas several years back to encourage my to get back into playing and I have yet to play a piece for him because I think I’m really bad. I still like those sharps.  One day I’ll take some more lessons!

Tonight’s dinner:  Salad pizza! I have to use up a bunch of greens and random small bits of things in the fridge.  I think it will be prosciutto, gorgonzola, pears, grated romano and some greens dressed with balsamic.  That just screams for a glass of 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, but this kid is not yet healed, so I’m staying away from my favorite libation in favor of the ever healing – water.   Nonetheless, there will be laughter in my house, as our friend Chris is coming to stay this week (he’s from Canada, so he’s already funny); there will be good food; and I’m sure there will be music.