Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Central Intelligence Agency

No, the other CIA. Alison joined me for a visit to Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for their admissions open house. Awesome facility.
Here's a pastry chef demonstrating how to stretch peanut brittle after it is poured out onto an oiled marble surface:

We tried the duck procuitto with melon and figs at their innovation center, The Greystone Grill:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Skool

Since I have not been impressed with the level of education I've been receiving at the Art Institute of Washington, I have been exploring other options. Today was round one of culinary school visits in San Francisco. First stop was California Culinary Academy (part of the Le Cordon Bleu family) and the second stop was Ai of San Fran. Tomorrow, I'm going to the CIA at Greystone. It's been a rather exhausting process thus far.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Citizen Cake

We headed towards Citizen Cake for dessert. The chef was a contestant on Top Chef Masters recently. We walked in 30 min before closing and all the cooks in the kitchen were peering out, muttering curses under their breath as we were seated. Alison and I both ordered the chocolate cake which was served with Fleur de Sel (?), caramel, chili pepper flakes and a quenelle (oval shaped scoop) of vanilla ice cream. The cook went a little heavy handed with the salt and chili pepper which in turn overpowered the chocolate flavor of cake. Rick’s mint chocolate ice cream sandwich was equally disappointing. Nakul’s rose and pistachio creme brule was delicious according to him. I won’t be reminiscing about the awesomeness of this place anytime soon.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The End of the Beginning

I finished my first quarter as a culinary student. w00t. I have to say that I have acquired a significant amount of knowledge over the course of a couple months. From YouTube to my awesome classmates and teachers to my co-workers and boss(es). Thanks guys, you have made my brief transition to the culinary arts world so much fun and educational. :) I still have a long ways to go (namely consistency and speed), but I am getting there. I also hope my readers (if I have any) have been able to learn along with me in my journey to becoming a Certified Research Chef.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Belated B-Day Dinner

I went with some people to The Overwood in Alexandria to celebrate my birthday. There are several dishes there that are cooked over wood (hey! get the name?). The spinach dip is to DIE for, the ratio of spinach to cheese were perfect, the dip was a little under seasoned, which was complemented by the over salted chips. The sauce made the fried green tomatoes. I ordered a steak salad and Auds ordered the veggie lasagna both were cooked over wood, both were delicious! Shante loved her ribs. Al and Andrew ordered seafood, which was a bad choice. The scallops were not seared properly and the mussels had no flavor. The ambiance was okay, not a lot of people were out for a rainy Saturday night. The desserts were sub par, skip dessert and hit up Buzz Bakery if you’re in the area instead.
Here’s my steak salad topped with crunchy potato bits.
Here’s the gang with the food.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I stopped by Maiwand Kabob for a snack today after I reached my tolerance for shopping (which I clocked in at 1 hour). I ordered the special of the day, lamb curry. I think they forgot about my order because I sat there waiting for a good 15 min before I said something. Then within 3 min, I had my meal in a take away container. It was worth the wait. OMG, the lamb was so tender it just fell apart when I forked it and the flavor was wonderful, the rice granules were perfectly tender, too. I halfway suspect they put MSG in there because it was so savory! In a nutshell, service sucked, but the food was worth it.

Tragic News

It’s official, after a month, Chef Michael is no longer with us. We’re all waiting in eager anticipation of who will be the next Executive Sous Chef. This position is similar to the Defense of the Dark Arts teaching position at Hogwarts. There is a very high turn over rate.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Spoon Full of Sugar

helps the medicine go down. Koren's friend gave him these awesome measuring spoons!

T-B: A pinch of joy, A dash of tenderness, A spoonful of affection, A heap of love

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Now I'm REALLY a Cook

That's right, I have a small callous developing on my index finger from my knife work. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My b-day

I traveled to C-ville for dinner with my mom. She baked a pumpkin chiffon cake and some pumpkin brioche. Both were moist and dense.

Monday, September 21, 2009

I <3 Caribou Coffee

Two chains that I love and adore are Cosi and Caribou Coffee. I stopped into Caribou after work today to grab a bottle of water. On my way to the cashier, I noticed they have their fall drinks available! So, I tried a small wild caramel apple cooler. Refreshing and caramelly. I can't wait to try the wild pumpkin cooler.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prep This!

Today was my first day doing prep cook stuff because Bin left us for bigger and better things. It was another educational experience at work. If I learned anything from working in manufacturing, it is to always ask questions. Boy did I have a slew-o-questions. I learned that if you are blanching two types of greens, you should blanch them separately. Beef should be solidly frozen when you slice it using a slicer. Herb oil mixtures should mix until the herbs steam. Don't be greedy and try to shove everything you have into a mixer otherwise the motor may be burned out...oh geez and the list goes on!

Did that make sense? Only to me!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bittersweet Experience

I went to Old Town Alexandria today for a stroll. As I was wandering the streets, I found a menu littered on the ground. It was a bakery menu that had...CUPCAKES and it was on my way back to the car. I reached Bittersweet Bakery and almost walked past it because the shop front was so nondescript (or I am blind). I picked up a mini chocolate cupcake and Zico (an aseptically packaged carton of coconut water). The cupcake was ehh...very non memorable, I wouldn't purchase it again. I was hesitant about the coconut water because I had memories of being in Thailand as a child and forced to drink from a straw that was stabbed into a coconut. It was very pleasantly sweet (no sugar added, I might uhh add) and the flavor of the coconut was not overpowering.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Mashed Potatoes

Koren and I worked on mashed potatoes today the end product was pretty okay. We whipped the potatoes using a Kitchen Aid and may have over-whipped the potatoes from the beginning and then proceeded to add too much cream and butter. The potatoes resembled icing more than anything else. We fixed the texture issue by adding cheese and putting it under the broiler to give it some body.

Ray's Hellburger

After taking our ServSafe exam today we headed up the hills of Arlington to Ray's Hellburgers. It is a very nondescript storefront and the interior was just as unassuming. I ordered the burger medium topped with bone marrow (what?!) and it was delicious, but on par with an above average burger. Marta ordered a bleu cheese peppercorn burger cooked the way they recommend (rare) and it was a melt in your mouth, drippy, gooey, fantastical mess. WOW! I can see where they get their reputation.

CASH ONLY for those that want to dine at the same establishment as Prez Obama.

This was my bone marrow burger, complete with watermelon side:

Preparing for the HEAT!

Not me of course. Tyler was hand picked by Chef Scholle to compete in an official competition. Here's Scholle teaching Tyler how to execute his vision (Tyler's):He wanted to use salsify as his starch, which apparently oxidizes very quickly and oozes white goo. Scholle suggested mandolining the root and sauteing it.
Here's the finished dish. It was clean and fresh tasting. Yum!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two Tartars

Banquets came upstairs this evening and I got to watch them make quenelles out of fish tartar again. They take sushi grade fish and put it through a grinder, add some chilies, oil, salt and pepper and you have salmon tartar.
Above tuna tartar was served on a Chinese soup spoon with wasabi and below the salmon tartar was on bread with pesto:

Bloody Good Burger

White Al dropped a burger on the grill today and yes, I ate a medium rare burger. E. coli hazards and all. Yum.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Secrets of the Saute

Chef Michael went through a tutorial of how to saute vegetables with me today. The secret is using a paper towel to blot the grease and moisture before plating the vegetable. Then it is not swimming in a pool of liquids.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Top Burger

Went with Rick to check out Top Chef contestant, Spike's burger joint in DC, The Good Stuff Eatery. Yup, that's a giant cowbell dangling from the ceiling.

I ordered the Sunny, which was breakfast on a burger. The fried egg and bacon made the burger a little too greasy to be perfection. The tiny cut fries were very yummy and well seasoned. Finally, the black and white milkshake. The consistency was perfect, very smooth and creamy. Next time I am definitely going to try the toasted marshmallow shake.

L-R Hand cut fries, 5 napkin burger, and hand spun black and white shake


Rick and I drove to Baltimore today and somehow ended up near Charm City Cakes, where they film Ace of Cakes! The windows are covered up with black plastic, very shrouded in mystery. We sat around in the car in the rain watching the place, hoping something would happen. Just when my patience had gotten thin, someone emerged from the building with a HUGE cake (half the size of my body) that was covered in a garbage bag for protection from the rain. Cool.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Many Shades of Beer

After class we were invited to try beer that was brewed by another class. It tasted decent for beer. They had quite the collection of different beers. Chef Name Unknown explained that the varying spectrum of beer colors was due to how long the barley had been heated. The principle of coloration was similar to caramelization of roux (flour + fat).

I also learned how to "sample" spirits. Because of the obscenely high alcohol content in spirits, you don't really take sips or shots, otherwise by the time you were finished sampling, you would be wasted. The proper way is to take a coffee stirrer straw, dispense a drop into your palm and rub your two hands together and take a big ole whiff. I would imagine it is very similar to smelling perfume.

How much more French can you get

than French toast? I talked Stephanie into making French toast nibblers. How cute are these?

I also made shrimp toast with Koren, which is simply cut up shrimp coated in an egg mixture with herbs (chives, shallots, and garlic), black pepper, and salt pressed into bread, coated again in the batter and fried.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

La Creperie!

I made crepes in class today. Croutons may be a labor of love, but crepes are a labor of selfless, caring, delicate love. It is all about the crepe. Ragazzo made some whipped butter (I mean, over whipped cream) and I bruinoised (cutting into teeny tiny cubes) some strawberries.

After letting the batter rest in the refrigerator for an hour we were ready to rock! Tip: use a non-stick pan and non-stick spray. They were delicious!!!

Here's the not-so-sexy picture of the amazing melt-in-your mouth crepes!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Coronary Croutons

"Croutons are a labor of love," White Al. I made croutons again today. What he didn't mention is that there is an obscene amount of oil and butter that go into the creation of croutons. I made a quart of croutons today and this squeeze bottle was full when I started and that was a full stick of butter before I started. Ack!

Here are the croutons absorbing all that oily goodness:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

What I believe in.

I don't think I am always the best at everything, but I do have principles. Recently since I have joined the ranks of the restaurants and calvary of cooks, I have allowed some of my principles to slip. I am going back to the basics and standing up for what I believe in and not fear any repercussions for doing what I think is the right thing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Meating a Vegetarian's Demands

We're a bar that's part of a steakhouse. So, we had a vegetarian come in today and order a Malaysian tofu. WTF is a Malaysian tofu?
Pan seared Tofu and sauteed asparagus with basil oil, Malaysian sauce with asparagus tempura. Chef Michael defined for us that, "the dish has to satisfy, that means making the vegetarian feel full," to be successful.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Volcano Sushi?

Not to be outdone by Taco Bell's Volcano Taco, Sushi-Go-Round has the Volcano Sushi. Crunchy surimi bits intertwined with red roe atop a deep fried piece of sushi.

Ding ding. I think the Volcano Taco wins this round.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

10 lbs later!

I went to Hello Cupcake! and Buzz Bakery today and tried out their cupcakes. I was rather disappointed in Hello Cupcake. The cake wasn't very tasty, a bit dry and not very flavorful. The icing was not special. Here's their root beer cupcake. Cute straw!

Buzz Bakery was AWESOME! I ate their amazing Buzz Bumble Bee cupcake. The flavor of the cake was intense and there was a chocolate flavored syrup that was injected into the cupcake. It is by far my favorite cupcake that I have had since I've been back to the DC area. I also LOVE their decor. It's so cute and inviting. Definitely a spot I would recommend.

The Washingtonian has posted a video on how to make the cupcakes here. They also have the recipe, which I've posted below:

Buzz Bakery’s Bumble Bee Cupcakes

Makes 26 cupcakes.

Vanilla Chiffon Cake
10 ounces butter
2½ cups granulated sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1¼ cups sour cream
11¼ ounces cake flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients and set aside. Combine butter and sugar in a the bowl of a mixer and beat until softened and creamed (about 15 minutes). Slowly add the eggs and vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate thoroughly. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Mix batter until it is combined. Divide evenly into a lined cupcake pan.

American Buttercream Frosting
1 pound softened butter
2 pounds sifted powdered sugar
5 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a mixer and beat for approximately 15 minutes on high speed. Scrape down sides of the bowl and incorporate. Slowly add milk and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.

Chocolate Sauce
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
9 ounces heavy cream
5¼ ounces cocoa powder

Bring sugar, water, and cream to a boil. Turn off heat and add sifted cocoa powder. Strain and chill.

When the cupcakes are finished baking and cool, use a paring knife to hollow out the center of the cupcake. Keep the top piece. Fill the center of the cupcake with chocolate sauce and replace the “lid.” Frost with buttercream.

Eastern Market

Rick and I went to a farmer's market tucked behind Capitol Hill today before he made an appearance in our class. Eastern Market is one of the oldest markets in DC. It was a really nice market, the fruit looked gorgeous and mouthwatering. There was a stand that sold the most delicious looking hummus. There was also an extensive arts and crafts section as well as a flea market section. Here's a picture of a "lemonade stand" right outside the market:

Rick attended class and helped me make Clams Casino. It was the first time I worked with clams and getting them open. They're different from oysters in that they should be opened from the front end rather than the hinge point. After the clams were cooked, Chef Lipford said that I should have also loosened the meat from the bottom of the shell so that it would slide right out.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Final Destination

Cafe Atlantico was the last restaurant I went to for restaurant week. They actually extended their restaurant week menu an extra week. Rick and I sampled the dishes listed below. They actually served the braised beef with mashed potatoes. It was an excellent meal, I really enjoyed all the flavors. Unfortunately, after dinner before we left, I started to feel nauseous and the rest of my night did not go as well as the beginning. Of course you know food is good when it tastes good coming back up as it did going down (eww!). I didn't take any pictures, but I assure you the dishes were beautifully put together.


Heirloom Tomato Salad - watermelon, Cotija cheese, sherry dressing
Dominican Conch Fritters - jicama-avocado raviolis, passion fruit oil

Braised Beef Short Ribs
grilled eggplant, squash
Salmon, Veracruz Style
tomatoes, olives, onions, and capers
fresh lime and avocado


Warm Chocolate Cake
warm chocolate cake, banana
Passion fruit Sorbet

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Awful Falafal

I went to Georgetown Cupcakes (again!) and grabbed a falafal sandwich with Megan across the street at Quick Pita. The falafal was dry and there was so much sauce that it was dripping out of the foil. Ehh...will not be returning for the falafal.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What can 50 cents buy in the DC area?

Audrey and I went to a Neisha, a Thai restaurant in Tysons Corner today and it was yummy! I ordered the red curry beef (my normal Thai fare). It arrived on a huge plate, with the ingredients plated in a starfish pattern swimming in the delicious red curry sauce. Aside from the chunks of pineapple that I wasn't a fan of, it was pretty good spooned atop rice. Ah yes, the was the tiniest ice cream scoop of rice I ever did see and was engulfed immediately. So, this is what 50 cents will buy you in the DC metro: