Planning a New Year’s Dinner

via food52–When it comes to silky-smooth squares of chocolate ganache, these Japanese truffles are the ideal. Dusted with a blizzard of cocoa powder, they’re minimalist & bold, and contributor @jun.and.tonic hasn’t had a better truffle to date.

I wrote about last year’s New Year’s Eve tasting menu banquet, In A World Of Food Life And Tasting Meals, and after a conversation recently with Coffeeman, I started thinking about how I would plan a tasting menu, with the little I know. Okay, I know more than I think I do, but well, sometimes I don’t feel like I know a lot. However, there is a passenger driver to my cooking life, and thank gosh he is still there driving and directing along, as I try to not feel overwhelmed.

Being first and foremost a lover of all things sweet, I am right there on desserts.  I’m sort of working backwards, and creating as I write. What can I say, I gravitate towards the sweeter things in life.I was immediately drawn to these truffles when I popped across them via Food 52 on Instagram. I would make these, serve three on a plate and they would be topped with a crushed honeycomb candy dust, a red chili dust, and lastly, cocoa powder.  I am a sucker for chocolate. I will always want to end a meal with a nice piece of chocolate.

via inagarten
Sparkling Grapefruit Granita with rosé Champagne! recipe available on barefootcontessa.com!

An interlude between courses would be a lovely grapefruit granita with a sparkling rose, served in a coupe glass. Or as Ina Garten does it. I mean, the woman has gorgeous class.  And on that note, what about a gorgeous champagne, ivory, and gold color scheme for a New Years? Maybe a bit of silver glitter as well!

The main course would be monk fish. Known as the “poor man’s lobster”, I was able to enjoy it this late spring when I was off to a cabaret play. I fell in love with it’s meaty sweetness and just oh so good. Do I know how to cook monk fish? No. But that’s besides the point. I’m just creating here. Work with me here, people!  Served with an elegant creamy risotto .

Caramelized shallots, for that crispy, caramel y goodness.Something green…. um, well, I might have to come back to that. I’m seriously not sure what vegetable I would put with it. I love kale, but I love it just sautéd with butter, garlic and a little lemon. I mean, that isn’t fancy. I was thinking beets, but, maybe only a beet puree that you set something on…. Eh, I’ll come back to it.

Second course…. Salad. Easy. Radicchio, Belgian endive, sliced red onion, preferably Bermuda red onions (nearly impossible to find these days), sliced orange, black olives and this coriander vinaigrette that comes from a recipe  my mother has had for years. It is spectacular.

Like this, but a bit of green and black. Don’t forget the olives!

Layer the radicchio, endive, orange, onion and three black olives in a layered strip. Not much, just simple and mouthwatering. It marries, my mother’s recipe, with a Ina Garten one. And oh so pretty with the bright magenta and minty lime leaves, orange and black. Trust me. Gorgeous and fresh.

The amuse bouche, or appetizer round always gets me. Maybe a nice mushroom pate… Personally, I would do like a mini charcutarie board. A couple slices of mixed cheese, a crumble of Stilton, a little bit of pomegranate seeds, or maybe slices of fuyu persimmon. Toasted almonds. A couple slices of homemade crackers. Simple, but something to wet the palate. I love cheese boards. I think they are rustic and elegant at the same time. I get stuck on them on Instagram. So much fun.

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

Anyways, I doubt I’ll get the luxury or stress of planning a meal like this, but wouldn’t it be fun? I love thinking of food items and menus. I have been doing it for years with character scenes in books. What would Mia and Rafe have for tea? (He’s Scottish or Irish)  Would Luke and Regina have a fancy meal brought to his office at the hotel he owns? and what would it be?  I float around food. I wrote about food in books with woman in the post titled, And The Meal Was. . .  See, I still think food!

Anyways, there’s the start to an elegant new years meal. What do you think? Anything you would add, or take away? I’d love thoughts. Who knows, somewhere down the line I might find myself planning something like this.

Cheerio!

Kate

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When Control Does Not Abound

This, this right here above is the only controlled part of my life. And that was taken yesterday. Today, it’s not. Chaos, overwhelming everything, threatening storms are in the air. August is always an unstable month. The hot weather threatens to overload us, yet the nights are cool, and the winds begin. Storms may float in, wildfires start. Unsettled moments. It’s all very nerve wracking.

I feel out of sorts these days. The transition of a new boss is taking it’s toll on my mental and physical being. I’m tired already to begin with, but learning a new person’s flow, it can be exhausting. Especially, if at times, you don’t agree.

“Keep your head up, stay strong, keep working hard.” — Coffeeman

I’m losing Coffeeman. I might sound quite cavalier at times about it. I’m not. Far from it. I can’t go one moment talking or thinking about it that it doesn’t make me want to cry. I never, never thought that I would be this affected by it. I’m trying to suck down as much time with him I can get my hands on. Which currently is about 10 minutes when I get into work before he’s leaving. I actually got a whole half hour last week on one day. I don’t want him to go. I really don’t want him to go.  And this not wanting him to go has started making me rethink things and changes, and changes I might or could make in my life. It’s nothing even definite, but it’s realizing that when things change, sometimes you have to as well.

“When it comes to things you can’t control, keep your head down.” —Coffeeman

I’m not ready for the summer to end. That’s not even fair to ask, but I feel like it just started. I’m not ready for fall. I am enjoying this interim period of late summer, not fall, when the berries are ripening, or are loaded ripe, and everything is just slowly creeping it’s way to fall.  It’s rather lovely. They sky and light, clouds, moon, stars. It’s all so rather pretty.

There are a lot of changes that are going to happen this fall. I know it. Some good, like next week I take my driver’s written test. I have never driven, had a license… But life changes, and I have to move with the times. It’s been a 20 year journey in the making, this driving thing. I’m slightly apprehensive about the test. I’m excited about the driving.

I’m gonna repeat it because this is kind of where the post all started in my head. I’m gonna miss Coffeeman so much. I wish I could pause time. Pause this moment right now where I have one of the best coworkers of my life. Sure, I liked him as my boss, but meeting up with him each work day and going over the mise en place is the highlight of my day. It is the very best part of my work day. And I can’t control a single other thing right now.

“If it’s not affecting you, don’t get involved.” — Coffeeman

So, uncontrolled me, overwhelmed, transitioning, and trying to not get involved with anything that doesn’t affect me. Yeah, this is gonna be a hard fall.

Kate

Life’s Little Shifts That Equal a Whole Lotta Change

Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

Have I mentioned that life is forever changing? I think I might have mentioned it a time or two. These last two weeks have done it quite well. Two of my favorite people have either left, or are leaving my work place. Sassy Girl is off on a new venture… she’s just down the street, building up her arm muscles and upper body, a la me, with baking. I told her the other day her arms are gonna be so buff. It was sad to lose her, though we didn’t have much time to grieve because there she was filling in, two days after her last day. Well, at least she’s not far away. Making cookies… I already love her even more.

Then the same week I found out Coffeeman was moving on to a new venture. That one was harder to process. Because, see, Coffeeman, for all his faults, (yes, he has them, we all have faults) took us from the horrors of a megalomaniac type boss, or set of bosses, and shaped us all into a more well rounded team. Sure, there are still pits in the mirror and a few chunks that need some filing out, but we are at least capable of running a restaurant when he’s not around. He hasn’t left yet, per se, though I know he has in his mind. I’ve missed him for months, and months. I’ve known this was coming, for months, and months. I’ve missed the original Coffeeman of last year. He was instrumental in getting me out of my shell, and while I’m still not there to where I want to be, I’m much better. Much, much better. I will miss his bizarre jokes I never get, his music and movie references, his hugs when I’m breaking, and his well, Coffeemaness. I can’t explain it.

How I feel about Coffeeman isn’t something I can explain. The thought of him being gone makes me want to cry my heart out. As it was, I was ‘fine’ for a day or two, then just broke down at work after a stressful evening and a blood sugar issue. The next day was Sassy Girl’s last day and one of my lovely servers and I were just not ok. We were bawling our hearts out. Ok, maybe more me, but I just was not processing it too well. It was sudden in a sense, and a crazy week, and boom, just stress. And I can’t explain my attachment to Coffeeman other than he came when my world was crashing and fixed a hella lot. That right there will create a connection that is unexplainable. Same as Lucifer came right when the first Chef was killing me. Lucifer wasn’t good for me, but he got me through the mess, even though he created a mess Coffeeman had to fix. Weird, right? I guess it is just all on coping mechanisms.

Jersey Boy is our new chef, and GM. So far, so good. I’m excited. It’s been good getting to know him and work with him this past week. It is a delight that he likes working pizza and likes to bake. And he’s tall. (John Wayne was tall…) <— While You Were Sleeping movie quote reference. Bare with me. I’m dubbing him Jersey Boy only because my first thought when I saw his face was he was from Jersey, which is so far off the mark it’s hilarious. But when a name gets in my head, boom, it’s stuck there. So if anyone ever tells him this, I’m looking at you Miss Holly…. please explain it’s because I envisioned a jersey accent. And please don’t tell him this, Miss Holly.

I’m writing more these days, in my head and on paper. I’ve started using Google Docs a lot because I can read things while at work. I also like One Note, though it’s harder for me to use or get comfortable with. I’m not sure why. It’s easier to pull up on my phone, but on my computer it stutters along.

Summer is in the height of heat. Right now it’s in the upper 80s and I’m inside on my “Sunday” not doing the laundry I should be doing. I have a stack of dishes too. I should get on that. I’m in a Gatsby, oracle cards, nature poetry and sultry nights frame of mind. I want to watch classic films. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is calling me. I have a Cary Grant film on my dvr that I shall get to later, but well, that’s my weekly update.

I wanted to start typing up poetry from two years ago that didn’t turn into anything but is filing up my last journal, but when I started reading it, it was just too jumbled. Now I don’t know what to do with it. Does anyone else have moments where they want to share things like that but they don’t know how to work it? Do you have any suggestions?

While I’m rambling on, I just want to give a shout out toNathan at The Myth of Prometheus which has been an amazing blog to follow. I’m so impressed with his writing and ideas. I can honestly say I would like to meet him in person.  His writing has inspired me to want to post more poetry as well, though, like I said in the above paragraph, I haven’t. I need to. I think it’s also because of him I’m dabbling in more flash fiction. I forgot how much I liked it.

So, there we have it.

Kate

Just A Day, Just An Ordinary Day… Not – Flash Fiction

“Joe, make it a double…”
Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

I’m taking a bit of flash fiction from earlier in the year and reworking it. So if you all read this one before, well I’ve changed it some.  I have this idea of the gal, G, or Gigi, or something… is a sous chef or working her way up to that, and another sous chef comes in, they meet, fall in love, bla bla bla, but  haven’t put the pieces together. I like that my world gives me inspiration. I love that the guys I work with are like brothers. Idiots, complete and total kids, I could smack all of them half the time. I write down the random conversations I’ve had with them, or points of interest because kitchen talk is not like any talk I’ve had anywhere else. I joke with the people in back that the reason we are in the back is because we couldn’t be out front. It’s funny and hard and I’m glad I can write about it. This was once based on other things but I’ve realized that I have this guy in my head for a Chef that’s like Jon Favreau from the film Chef, only thinner. Someone that’s like this giant teddy bear of a guy. I kind of want to work for him.  He seems like he would be passionate and fun. Gads, I’ve been in this world too long….*smacks forehead*

 

He wore a brimmed fisherman’s knit cap, dark and dingy hoodie, converse tennis shoes, thick frame Elvis Costello glasses, anyone could have taken him as a hipster or college student, but for the gray invading the scruffy week’s stubble and curls in the dark hair at the base of his neck. Writer, she mused. Had to be with the pen and spread paper. Or maybe one of those cool professors. She was scribbling the description down in her ever present notebook. Filled with a weird curio of curiosities from random bits of poetry, recipes, lines from a movie, song lyrics, and random ass fiction, it was a writers delight and a view of who she was as a person. Dangerous in the wrong hands.

“Or maybe he’s just doing the crossword puzzle,” Micha said over her shoulder nearly making her shriek at his stealthiness. He had slipped up behind her and glanced at her notes before his devilishly deep, rich voice crawled up her spine. 

She sighed as he came around into her line of sight and she tried to calm her racing heart that had decided to go galloping around in her chest. The damn man loved to scare her. And he was good at it.  Like a brother, he teased her mercilessly and was too good at it. Thankfully she could smack him when he was close. Unfortunately he walked by and went up to the counter to order his drink and was too far out of reach. She debated tossing her scone at him, but the blueberry delight was too delicious and she didn’t want to share.

Micha was the perfect boss. Fun to be around, a bit of a dreamer, talented, creative, pragmatic, a wild pain in the ass. Okay, maybe that last one wasn’t so great.  He was this perfect combination of soft planes and hard edges. The glasses softened his face, when he deemed to wear them. Today he was. Rimmed rectangle lenses and tapered navy blue temples. Spiked hair today. He must have been playing in gel, she noted as he slung off his leather jacket and ordered a double espresso latte.

“He’s doing the crossword,” Micha smirked as he sat down across from her with his first of many coffees of the day.

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Smartass.”

“Better than a dumbass,” they both finished together, and while he chuckled, she rolled her eyes.

“So, plans today?”

“You know. Just an ordinary day. Scrub out the walk-in and organize the freezers.”

She groaned.

“What? You knew it was coming.”

“That is not ordinary!” she wailed. “I seriously do not have enough caffeine in my system for this.” She raised her hand to signal the young guy at the counter. ‘Joe, better make me another. It’s gonna be a long day.” She flipped the page in her notebook and started making lists.

“We could just wing it,” he supplied casually.

She arched her left brow at him and tilted her head down looking over the rim of her glasses.

“You are way too chipper about this. What should I be afraid of?” her voice was filled suspicion.

“The produce order comes in at noon and the beef order at 3, and I kind of want this all done before then…”

“Oh god. And?”

“Emily and I have reservations, so I will be gone by 5…..”

“I hate you.”

“I know. Want to get started?” He grinned.

She could smack him….

So, enjoy. This was a fun bit to write and fits into a cooking novel I am plotting.

Kate

The Scales Tilt

Photo by Leio McLaren (@leiomclaren) on Unsplash

“Hey Chef, can I talk to you before you go?”

The question is posed after another long Saturday with the exhaustion of Thursday and Friday getting to me. I can see he’s dreading the ‘Talk’ that I have coming, because I have had serious talks at the end of his shift, not always good.

“How do you balance home life and chef/restaurant life? Like how do you get your family to understand the lack of balance?”  The question gets a chuckle, rueful at best from Coffeeman as he flips a milk crate over and sits down on our back dock and I plop myself on the stairs. I’m way past tired, ready to cry, per usual, and that’s not having been working over 40 hours; I still have another two to three before I hit that mark. It’s just the overwhelming feeling of all my focus on work. Picking up after people, stressing over prep not getting done, sugar lows that make me hurl dough at a table and stomp off nearly ready to melt into a puddle of tears and snarling. I could be a puddle of vampire teeth. I know, weird analogy. But I’m a weepy, bitey puddle.

I never balance things well. Relationships, work, poetry, writing. I go all in. I thrust myself into the fray and sink my heels in; grasp with sharp talons. Moderation isn’t my best suit. I have a lot of flaws. I cultivate bad habits…. Okay, not totally, but I’m far from the person I present myself at work. I think everyone there thinks I am a certain way, and I’m betting they wouldn’t quite recognize me on my off days or at home or when I’m in a comfortable setting. I’m me at work, but not. Which is why I cultivate the name ‘K’ at work (psst. people, it’s not Kay. It’s just the letter…. lol) K is a focused individual, a little messy, but put together, dedicated to the point of ocd-ness, passionate about her work, what her guests think, what her coworkers think, etc. It can be exhausting. I’m nice to a fault. I’m not as assertive as I need to be, yet. Much more passive.

But at home I am cluttered, distracted, emotional, snarky, tired, always tired, prone to starting too many projects and not finishing them, a reader, a dreamer, a writer. Writer me is rarely visiting work, and when she does, it’s while making a pizza on a slow day when the clouds are forming to the south and I stare out at the fields, meadows, and mountains, writing about Wilson Tennu, or what he should be writing about…

I guess in that way I’m balanced. A balanced wreck, but balanced nonetheless.

“Twenty plus years in the industry, and I still haven’t got it all balanced,” says Coffeeman.

“How do you unwind? I find myself getting off at 11 and awake till three in the morning,” I say.

“I still do that.” His replies help (and don’t help) because I don’t feel like I’m the only one dealing with it. I know he gets it. He has it seven days a week with ordering or being at the restaurant, family life, a wife, kids, a long commute. I have at least the two days off, which he says to be thankful of.

“Don’t drive past this place, (course you get your mail at the post office behind…), don’t think about work. Don’t plan recipes or menus or specials. Do it at the last minute. Do it on the fly. Don’t talk about work. Let it go for the two full days you are off and the morning before you come to work.”

It’s all easier said than done. Coffeeman… I failed this week, as I sat there discussing work and thinking about hand pies and do we have puff pastry in the freezers still? Do I want to run a special this week?

It’s currently Tuesday evening, my Sunday night, and yeah, I’m thinking about work. It’s one of those bad habits.  But I don’t feel as stressed other than I wish I would have had more time to watch a few things filling up the dvr. I wish I could sleep more. I feel like I don’t get enough sleep. This balance thing is hard.

But again, balance isn’t my strong suit. Nor is patience. I want it to happen now. Drama queen that I am.

I like to think that maybe the scales are shifting a bit though. I took a long walk and hike yesterday by water, which I love. Saw plants and wildlife and just got away from the house. And not just to town, or to the city. Just away from the generals of life. It was nice. Summer is rapidly progressing and I feel like it’s going to be all over before it even began!

I found myself feeling kind of weird about how much of a struggle last summer was, but right now it feels very far away. Some things are not far away, having animosity towards people still, months from when it happened, but it seems ages ago. This year is a struggle as well, but in a different way. Other problems creep in, others fade. I’m still too emotional about things. I don’t think that will ever change, but each day might bring something new and a new perspective.

Coffeeman left me with a hug of serious proportions. The kind that says, “I get you” which I needed because I was so tired and need to find balance. “Just be thankful you don’t have kids,” he says on a final note. And to that, I am fortunate. My immediate family wears me out. I’d hate to think of kids in the picture. And that’s the rueful me talking there.

Kate

Back to Basics

Everyone always goes back to the basics. The tried and true. The first. Working with pizza, having grown up on “American’ pizza, it’s hard sometimes to remember that not all pizza is the same. I work with Neapolitan pizzas. Thin crust, hardly any ingredients. Or at least that is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to not want to fall back on old habits when they are familiar. New tricks aren’t as easy to master as old habits. I’m sure that would make a great Zen proverb.

Asparagus bacon stromboli

So my new challenge to myself, my craft, my pastries, my life, and my restaurant, is to… go back to basics. I am researching classic Neapolitan pizzas. I had an IG picture one of my strombolis ‘liked’ by a pizza place in Philly, of all places, and a now I’m paying attention to the finer details. Fewer ingredients, hardly any sauce, thin it down, bake it fast… taste the dough. “It’s all about the dough.” So says Coffeeman. I wish someone would have told me that from the beginning. No one has explained that Neapolitan is more about tasting the dough. So now I’m forcing myself to light, light, light on ingredients. And I want to try three ingredient pizzas. White sauce, spinach, mushroom. Bacon and spinach. Asparagus and feta, or ricotta.

I played with a new Margherita the other night, where the sauce was not all over the pizza. Just dotted on, along with the cheese. No pesto, just basil. It was divine. Fresh. Alive.

Basics are good. Simple is better. Right now the simple life is taking over. Okay, right this minute it is the ‘not doing anything’ life, but whatever. It’s my Saturday, sue me, I’m tired.

With desserts, I want to try my hand at some simplistic things that are high in flavor. Partly after Mr. B was on my case, the restaurant’s case, etc., about needing a thin cookie with the pots de creme. Whatevs, dad, but he does have a point. I don’t always have the luxury to create, all the time, but Coffeeman gives me lots of leeway. I am thankful for that.

I need simple in my life. (‘I need corny in my life,’ says Iris — The Holiday) I am trying to step back from irritations at work. The boys being brats, grumpy moods, the monthly PMS of every single female in that place (including me) and trying to let it slide off my back. One of the servers tells me frequently, “Miss K, you have to let it go.” I don’t let go, I grab hold and then it eats away at me.

We have three new people in the kitchen, so I am having to relearn new moods and new people. Miss Luna replaced Twin Bear. She is good. But she isn’t Bear. I miss Bear a lot. At one time we were at odds about everything. She drove me nuts. I thought she was going to make me rip my hair out in insanity. Then I just kind of fell in love with her as a person. She’s off learning new things. I’m happy for her, but I miss our jokes. No one quite gets my statement, “I love the game of everyone standing in the pass!” Bear would. By the way, there were a lot of people in the pass the other day. I had to just walk through the bar, much to Fancy Pants perpetual annoyance. (not really, but really. He’s such a drama queen. I think it’s why we work so well together. We both excel in drama queenness.)

Not getting so involved with people’s drama frees up my life and simples things down.
I’m working to scale down my life. The clutter and things I don’t use are getting to me. Like a lot. I want a room that doesn’t look like I’m there much. Or maybe clutter and stuff free. I wish I didn’t collect books like a fiend, but well, I have issues.
Let’s all pair it down and get back to basics. The basics of living and being. (maybe living in the country lends a way for this to happen.

Kate

His Girl Friday. . . in the making?

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

I was flipping through a bit of poetry from last September the other day where I was musing on being “His Girl Friday” and how I desired the aspect to be like this indispensable semi-second in command person.

“His girl Friday, and all the days of the week
or was her name Friday?
Just to be someone’s second hand
to know the ticks and turns that make him run
pour the black coffee, hand him a cup as he
starts his day, that being the hello as he
breezes by, satchel of tools ready to get down
to brass tacks and sifting through lists…

It’s a fanciful thought, to some degree, but I was projecting what I wanted without a clearly formed thought. It applies to wanting to be almost sous chef, but not quite. Partly because right now with my current workload, trying to get back into the kitchen when I am busy three-quarters of the time not in the kitchen, makes it rather hard to be in the actual kitchen managing things.

But future thoughts are nice. Right now, I am one of the most consistent, most reliable persons in the kitchen, and I would like to have more responsibility for running the kitchen. I would have liked more support for this back several months ago when I was at odds with some kitchen staff at the time but was passed over for someone else. For the first week or two it didn’t bother me, but now… and not horribly long after, it did. I would like to move up to directing traffic. And it’s not just for ego. I like being someone’s helping hand. I think it’s in me naturally after helping my father for years be the go-getter.

I’ve moved on far from being a prep chef these days. I am the head pastry chef and head pizza person. A position I would have laughed at, had you told me last year at this exact same time, that I would be there. I never thought I would. I love it. I love the responsibility despite the stress and tiredness from it. I’m also the lead closer. Okay, so the head line chef closes his line….only, …. while I close down everything else. I am literally the last person out of the kitchen. Sometimes I am the last person out of the restaurant. Who would have thought?

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash (I just liked the image)

I strive to get as much done as I possibly can, though I tend to leave ‘snail trails’ around the kitchen. A sticky thermometer, spatula, some random knife or spoon. I have a hard time working clean, but I’m challenging myself to get better. I stress out Chef’s OCD moments when there is a lot of clutter floating throughout the kitchen because too many projects have gotten started. I am notorious for feeling like there is too much to get done and I won’t get it all done soIstartitallatonceandleaveamess! Whew, what a mouthful.

I think it’s interesting that I flipped through my notebook and landed on this poem again after months of hiding away. I fall on a lot of other little poetry, but this one struck me as something I’m still dreaming of happening.

“Do you trust me?” asks Aladdin, holding out his hand?  Well, in a sense, I’m asking that question to God, the universe, my boss. Do you trust me to take on more?

I don’t want to give up my pastries and pizzas. I would like a tad more time to the pastry, but that’s okay. I love working with the dough for the pizza. I’d get more done if my opening guy was on the ball… He’s not. Le sigh.

All of this too has led me to writing more about work again, in the poetry aspects. I think I mentioned that last blog post around. The working with dough. I have dabbled in little bits of irritation poems and things about work that annoy me, but at the same time, they put a perspective spin on what I am doing. I had a lightbulb moment the other day and it helped me figure out a few things about people and situations.

Maybe the dream is still a bit too undeveloped and still budding in reality at this point in life. Who knows. But I go into work each week trying to be a better person, concentrate more on the tasks at hand, not letting work drama get to me, and just striving to be the best goddamn pastry and pizza chef I can be. Oh, and Chef, whenever you want to teach me a new thing, give it to me. I like to know these things. (Like how to steam clams. Boom, got that down now. And making a sabayon…I think I’m going to lose my right arm to whisking)

“And he winds down as Friday finishes all the
checks and balances, twitching the office space
back to rights,to rights, surfaces clutter free,
questions answered, lights going off as he sips
his sparkling drink, the suit gone
and Friday kills the lights, till she puts
on her Monday’s wear. . . ”

Kate

The Sweeter Things In Life

Life sometimes is funny. Okay, that’s nothing new there. No wise bits of wisdom in this little post. Just life.  Like when you have two customers, regulars apparently, who ask if the reason there have been no new dessert specials was due to the pastry chef is now doing pizzas all the time.

That was an incredibly sweet part in my life recently. In all honesty, being sick four times since a week before Christmas put a serious damper on baking, thoughts of baking, and just getting through the day, never mind the week. I have to say that I love dabbling in all parts of the cooking industry. “Hey Chef, show me how to finish this dish so I don’t have to come get you next time there is only one of us in house.” This after it was literally only Chef and I in the kitchen one afternoon.  Do you know how irritating it is to have yourself on one dish, he’s on another and he can’t be found because he was off hunting down someone or something else?  I am not blaming Chef. Just the simple fact that he can take over for me up on the pizza, but I can’t take over for him. (sadly, the line still alludes me in comfort zone. I don’t like to be back there unless I have to…. Okay, that’s not quite true. I would love to learn aspects of it, or three quarters of it, but my heart isn’t in that area, at least, yet.)

But I digressed greatly there. What I was going to say was, while I like all parts of the cooking industry, the pastry and pizza end of things are more my forte. I’ve even had a few people I work with say I have a touch that others do not. It’s always lovely to have someone ooh and ahh over a dessert. Or pizza.

This last week I finally did run a dessert special. I call it a Chocolate Om cake because it had a little of our chocolate Zen liqueur in it. For a little om in life, you have to have a bit of zen….   No one quite got the juste of this turn of phrase, but I rolled with it anyhow. Who cares. I enjoyed this uber rich mocha chocolate cake, four layers, mind you, a rich cocoa frosting and three, yes three, toasted marshmallows on top. You think, marshmallows, how can that be special?  Well, I made them in house, that’s how!  Ooey gooey delishiousness (yes I know that’s not spelled right). I sold out the first cake in a day and a half. I feel I would have sold out on the other cake as well had it not been for the snowstorm that dropped 8 inches of snow and cancelled all of our weekend reservations. Drat!

See, Om and Zen go together, and think about a chocolate cake. You can zen your way through eating it and end up in an om state…. Just sayin’.

But I have ideas in my head a bit more now that I am feeling better.  Chef is working on his new menu for the spring. He has no desserts on it. I must see if I can brain storm with him. I even had my dishwasher ask me if now that I have made a dessert special if I am going to dabble in others. He mentioned coconut cream pie.  Pies are not my forte, but I might have to think about it. Coconut is a thing I love… mmmm, I’m thinking tropical items. The cold is getting to me.

I love the scenery. The peach snow when the street lights just come on at night. The cold, icy glow of snow and ice at night. The way it felt like a snowglobe moment the other afternoon looking out the windows as the snow fell. It’s all beautiful. but I could really go for somewhere tropical right now. Maybe I can play around with a tropical-esque dessert. Something with pineapple… oh that’s right, Astro D mentioned individual pineapple upside down cakes. Yum. Dollop of whipped cream.

Kate

 

Stains, Spots, And Smelly Clothes

Photo by Dmitry Arslanov on Unsplash

The cooking industry is murder on your laundry. I am sure that there are a lot of other industries that would be in that category as well, but what with spots, stains, sweat, and who knows what else, professional kitchens are a source of constant obnoxious laundry.

Take for instance this weekend when I accidentally had my gel pen leaking a bright blue spot through my apron onto my nice white chef’s jacket. I stared down at the spot remembering the ‘lovely’ accident of the sharpie mark on my sleeves one day when I didn’t click it closed. That spot is still there, albeit brown now instead of black due to several laundry tricks that never worked.  I was panicking a bit because a blue stain on white seemed impossible.

I have so far, found a trick by accident that works. So people who want to get stains out, get your pens ready and bookmark this post.

Lots of places said rubbing alcohol and vinegar rotated with table salt got the stains out. For me it was Simple Green worked into the stain and agitated out. I used diluted first to start rinsing it, but then full strength and scrubbed the fabric with itself until the stain was itty bitty. I will launder it as usual and expect it will come out.

For standard laundering of my regular whites, which are white, mind you, is Tide with Bleach. All of my jackets are from Happy Chef, so are that 30/60 cotton poly blend that you are not supposed to bleach. But Tide with Bleach is great because it doesn’t bleach but gets the grease and stains out. Odor too.  My aprons and jackets frequently smell of old flour and oil and fry oil smells. If you do a regular load of laundry with warm water (warm is a must, cold will not work) and if you can soak the load for a half hour in the soapy water then rinse twice, you will have sparkling clean shirts. I use it for my semi faded aprons as well since it breaks down the oils so well.

For spot treatment on every stain no matter what I use Dawn Dishwashing detergent. I like the ultra or concentrated ones as they work the best. Toothbrush, scrub it in, let it sit for a couple hours or days and bada boom, out comes the stain.

If the stain doesn’t work, consider trying hydrogen peroxide with the dawn. If it’s a colored item, rinse it out once the stain starts to fade otherwise you will have the color fade out because of the peroxide.  A trick for berry stains that has worked wonders, is to first treat the stain with the dawn. It will turn every berry stain into a blueish stain, then use the hydrogen peroxide to slowly erase the blue stain. Rinse.  Every single time it works.

Irish Spring original scent bar soap is excellent for getting out blood as well as sweat stains. Sweat smell too. I have always had a problem with body odor and washing with Irish Spring keeps it at bay, will break down the aluminum zirconium in most deodorant antiperspirants ,  and also helps break apart sweat smells. I have used Irish Spring for years, but I definitely have to use it now that I have switched from a natural deodorant to antiperspirant.

For oil stains, if it is fresh oil, sop it up with talcum powder. Not stuff with cornstarch in it, but actual talc. Raid your grandma’s powder tin, so long as you can handle the strong scent.  Use a small spoon or popsicle stick and apply a little mound over the oil spot. (I have never tried it on anything larger than a dime or quarter size)  Let it sit. For a while. Like an hour or two. Brush off with a toothbrush and repeat if the talc is oily and clumpy or the spot is still there. Repeat as many times as it takes to magically disappear the oil. Launder as usual, or use Dawn then launder. It’s seriously amazing. I have saved so many things from oil spots with this trick.

Definitely if you have a stain that you can’t seem to get out, do not throw it in the dryer or use heat. It always sets stains or oil marks. This is actually why my  chef’s jackets are never in the dryer these days. I never want to set a lot a stain, and sometimes I never know if I have gotten all of the stains. So best be safe instead of sorry and trying desperately to get stains out.

My mother is expert at getting stains out, more so than I am. I am notorious for cooking at home without an apron on. I splatter so many things. I am queen of that. And my dad is notorious for spilling on white t-shirts and brand new clean things, whatever they might be. So yeah, lots of years of stains. She probably has more tricks that even I don’t know, but these work like charms for me. So, if you work in a funky stain inducing industry, these might help.

On a side note about cleaning things, I have found that the kitchen is murder on my skin, producing a lot of blackhead and blemishes. A lot, and I wear a concealer that has sunblock in it, so it clogs the pores a lot. After I wash my face with hot water and a washrag at night, I clean my skin with rubbing alcohol. I have found it keeps the bulk of the blackheads at bay. I still get plenty, but it cuts down the bulk. And if my skin gets too dry, then I use Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner in the morning and I am good to go.

It’s the little things in life that make it easier. So any laundering or beauty care ideas for the cooking industry? Send them my way.  And hopefully these help anyone else.

Kate

In A World Of Food Life And Tasting Meals

New Year’s Eve brought me to another banquet, though this was more of a very nice tasting menu. I have done several party type meals with this restaurant, and all usually involved yelling, crying, and broken glass. From someone, though I was usually the one crying. Yeah, so when I knew this was coming up, I was excited albeit, a bit aprehensive. I don’t do well under mad pressure. Meaning mad as in crazy and mad as in pissed off.

This was the farthest thing from that. This was amazing. This was exciting. This was a step towards a brighter future and opportunities that I have only had a glimmer of seeing with online postings from chefs. This was new. Apropos since it was leading into the new year.

The menu was in my opinion, ambitious. I can’t say what Coffeeman thought, though he did say something in regards to New Year’s meals and whatnot.

I was in charge of the desserts. Ta da! Of course I was, though due to a very busy week I was never able to actually make the triple flavored mousses that filled the cannoli shells. I was semi bummed about that, but since my cranberry sauce was used for the appetizer, I can’t complain. Chef could easily make it his way. But he has kept it with my recipe. Thank you. I am honored. It’s pretty cool to say that your lemon bars and cranberry sauce are that; yours. (on a side note, right before calling in sick, I made bourbon caramel sauce and a beer cheese sauce that were perfect in my opinion. Ok, I couldn’t taste them, but everyone else said they tasted good…. I think I am starting to get the hang of this cooking thing where I don’t jump at my shadow and I just make)

The New Year’s Bash went off as a hit, which included a round of applause from a very nice group of people. Several Instagram worthy shots and a closer connection with some of my coworkers. I went home on a high that lasted all that night until the next day when gosh darn it, I felt a virus hit at the tail end of getting rid of another one. Thank goodness it came on a slow week.

Below are some lovely shots of some of the items we served for the meal. And head over to my Instagram account if you want to keep updated on other food related items, or dachshund love.  Kate’s IG  https://www.instagram.com/katielynbranson/

Anyways, Coffeeman has no clue how much I actually wanted to cry because it was so amazing. The last banquet/dinner I had to do involved 60 cakes in 3 hours with no prep and a boss that I am possitive to this day, wanted to break me. He didn’t. He didn’t win. I succeeded and goshdarnnit! I will keep succeeding. Like all things in life, you have to fight for what you want, even when sometimes you don’t know what it is you want. You just keep fighting. And good things will happen.  Well, this is a very good thing.

Two posts in one day. Wow, well, being sick leads to ideas. I have been writing some fiction but I have lost a little zing of that since the last fiasco, which is a bit depressing. I have too much inspiration in my daily life and I want to write about it, but now I sit there wondering where or when I should share it. Le sigh. Such is life.

But this might all be the cold/flu talking and being tired and loss of perspective. Let me just go back to hela good banquet.

Kate