Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesdays Top Ten- Summer Reading Inventory

 Please share with some of your favorites too that I could add to my list!  I would really love to hear them- even if they are not food related.  Here is what I have lined up so far for my summer reading.

Sustenance and Desire
A food lovers anthology of sensuality and humor.
-Various Writers and Artists

This is the book I am starting my summer with and I am really enjoying its unique qualities.  It is a collection of poems, short stories and paintings ALL in adoration of food.  Featuring writers like MFK Fisher, Barbara Kingsolver, and Emily Dickinson to name a few.

The Flavor Bible
"The essential guide to culinary creativity"
Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg

At the end of every semester I have a standing date with Horizon Bookstore in downtown Traverse City to buy a new book.  This semester I was introduced to these authors when we had to read "New American Chef"in World Cuisine by the same authors.  Great book too and I plan to go back and read the chapters that we weren't required to read in class.  I have started the first chapter of this book and it was hard to put down.  I have a feeling this will be in my bag of tricks for the rest of my career.

Ryan M. from school also told me about another book by them called "Culinary Artistry" - I just got a call that they have it on hold for me at the store as of yesterday- I can't wait!!!

Food Rules
An Eater's Manual
Michael Pollen

This is a quick read and it is one that will really make you think about your food choices.  I have already read it but I plan to return to it often when I want to motivate my thinking and need a topic to write about.

Dinner Diaries
"Raising Whole Wheat Kids in a White Bread World"
Betsy Block

I think this one will be a fun read- I picked it up a month or so ago and can't wait to dive into her story.

The Tipping Point
"How little things can make a big difference"

I have already read the first few chapters and will return to it once I finish Sustenance.  A friend from school actually suggested I read this after I had already bought it so I must have been meant to read it.

I found the next two cookbooks at a Consignment shop "Zany" for half of what I would have paid at the store- They are beautiful and the recipes within are very adventurous.  Since the magazine went out of publication a last  Fall I think these books will become a popular keepsake.
Gourmet Cookbooks
The World at your Table

The Best of Gourmet- 65 years

The Five People you Meet in Heaven
Mitch Albom

I read "Tuesdays with Morrie" earlier this year and loved it so I figured this might be an interesting pick too.  Not so much a foodie book but it is on the list this summer.

Summer Magazines

Maybe I will actually be able to get caught up on all of my publications that come to me by mail.    There are a lot of them!

Omnivore's Dilemma
Michael Pollen

I do like his writing.  Ever since I read "In Defense of Food" a few years ago- by whole life has changed.  It is nice to see this community I live in, and the world start to take a closer look at our food sources and the industry and government that are trying to control them all.  I have read about 75% of this book and need to finish it.  Have you figured out yet that I usually have 4-5 books being read at a time depending on my mood or whatever one I happen to pick up at the time.  Its the way I have always read and it works for me.

A Homemade Life
Molly Wisenburg
This book came to me last weekend when Tod and I went out for  a date night and decided to stop at the bookstore to browse books and get some coffee.  I just picked it up out of the food/cookbook section and it seemed to fit.  Its all about a food blogger- possibly like ME!  I am really excited to read this one!

A Few More that I haven't picked up yet, but they will hopefully be added to my library this summer:

Devil in the Kitchen- Marco Pierre White
Small Wonder- Essays - Barbara Kingsolver
Food Matters- Mark Bittman
Julie and Julia- Julie Powell
The Splendid Table- Lynn Rosetto Kasper
Becoming a Chef- Andrew Dornenburg
500 things to eat before it is too Late- Jane and Michael Stern
How to Pick a Peach- Russ Parsons
 Garlic and Sapphires ( stories of a food critic)
 The Making of a Chef( behind the scenes at CIA)
 The Art of Eating by MFK Fisher

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mark of a Real Chef

This is no joke.......

In all seriousness I have been attacked by an inanimate object that has most likely scarred me for life.  The attack was startling and gruesome and overall I am just glad that I was able to get it to stop bleeding.  Actually I am fine, but I was pretty irritated with the fact that I got bitten by the saran wrap cutter.  I guess I will just add it to the rest of my kitchen battle wounds.

"You are a chef, aren't you?"  

I have had this question laid upon me quite a few times in the past year.  At first this used to surprise me because the people who are asking this question initially have no idea that is exactly what I am.  When people make this distinction it usually requires that I am wearing a short sleeved shirt.  Apparently anybody who is familiar with the kitchen trade is also familiar with the fact that you can "Sherlock Holmes" a distinctive physical clue for recognizing if someone is a chef.  

Just look at our arms!

All these burn wounds from hot sheet pans, searing stove top misfortune, blistering oven mishaps, and accidental damages from my own chef's knife add up to an interesting new way for the world to identify me.  My arms are marked with blemishes of all sizes, shapes and even colors depending on what degree of burn or depth of incision I have applied unintentionally.  Personally I don't mind that my arms are no longer available for QVC Bracelet Jewelry Hour.  Instead of tattoos, I have the shadows of injuries.  It makes me feel tough! :)

The safer alternative- a slider!

Purposefully I hope that I can lower or diminish the number of casualties to myself.  Between learning my new home kitchen, the school kitchens, and my work kitchens I should be able to maneuver a little bit safer over the next year.  My fingerprints conversely are gone for good.  The necessity of handling all things sizzling and scorching hot has eliminated that form of ID.  I think I have accepted it.  The experience I get every single day working in the kitchen, doing what I love, makes it all worth it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tuesdays Top Ten- Reasons why this past month has been amazing!!!

My mind was overflowing these past few weeks with so many things I wanted to preserve on paper or with a keyboard.  Random quotes and thoughts scratched on numerous pieces of papers, inside notebook covers and on the back of receipts in hopes that I would find them later to puzzle piece into my written stories and daily narratives.  So many conflicts of responsibility and priority became the reasoning for why I have not been able to compose my stories these past few weeks that I thought it would be interesting to look back and use my Top Ten to discover and recap why.

1. Black Star Farms- HERE I COME!!!  Or maybe not?  When I first went out to interview with the owner and his two chefs- the interview in my opinion went beautifully all the way until they asked me to leave the room so they could make a final decision about hiring me.  When they called me back, one of the chefs looked me straight in the eye and said "I am really sorry but I don't think we will be able to hire you."  WHAT!! Must have been the expression in my face for I did not say a word....  

APRIL FOOLS!!!!  Oh my goodness did they get me good and we all laughed as the paperwork was handed to me and I was informed that I would be their newest employee with the ability to accomplish my culinary internship also.  This place is like a dream come true for me and I am so excited to become a part of their "Agricultural Destination."  I have a feeling once I get settled in that this place will be an amazing foundation for making my mark on this world.

2.  Chef Steph  I have now officially started my new job at Black Star Farms and it really is perhaps one of the most amazing places on earth.  The place, the people, the philosophies, THE FOOD!!  I am already learning so much and the thing that amazes me most is how much I am enjoying it.  Even when challenged or working in a time crunch I feel like this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  The people I work with are really great too.  Most of them have worked there for quite a while and they all seem very happy to be apart of the team.  I am starting to find my own place in the team and learning the routines that are constant.  The summer busy season is on the threshold and I can't wait to be apart of it all.  I feel like this opportunity is a dream come true.

3.  Stellar View Farm~ We are finally starting to make some progress around here- Or should I say~ Tod is taking care of most of the "Honey Do List" that he ordered up from me a few weeks ago.  Power washed decks, Rock gardens, Vegetable garden plots being formed, Moving loads of Manure, wood chips and rocks, plus cleaning the garage out too!  Things are starting to shape up around here and I love how we are making this place our home.

 4.  Taking some time for friends and family~  This includes Dinners Downtown, Bowling with my buddies, Mothers day activities, Girls night dinner, Grill outs, Bon fires and picnics- Oh gee look how almost all these events have food involved!!  I can't think of any better way to enjoy delicious food than with our wonderful 
friends and family.  Cheers!  I can't wait to see what the summer will bring!

5.  Finals Week at School and Year ONE is Complete
This is a story all its own which I will be writing about very soon!  Stay Tuned!


6.  Nose to Tail Dinner -Final Dinner
I had the privilege to help the graduating culinary class with their final dinner as a Front of the House volunteer.  I was completely impressed with how they organized their menu and the overall dinner.  What a cool concept- Each course had an element of the Pig incorporated into it.  The specific pig was a Mangalitsa Pig that is a wooly variety.  The class had visited a farm in Marion Michigan to see the pigs back in the Fall.  Being apart of the final dinner was a great opportunity for me to see what some of the expectations are for a Final Class dinner.  It was kind of like research for when I will be expected to the same thing one year from right now.  I already have so many ideas and I can't wait to work with all my classmates to deliver a comparable performance- these chefs from Spring '10 set the bar for sure!

NMC Extended Education

7.I'm one of the newest Sous Chef volunteers for NMC Extended Ed Cooking classes- So far I have only done one class and it was with The Owners of The Cooks House, "Cooking without a Recipe".  but it was a wonderful experience.  I am looking forward to classes with a focus on Indian Breads, Chocolate, and many more.  This is another great opportunity for me to experience teaching styles while working side by side with the chefs as the volunteer helper.  

8. Lacing up my running shoes for a summer full of races
I have been running my heart out this spring- took a few weeks off- but the most recent run that i accomplished was one of my fastest times, so I think that I am going to be in pretty good shape.  

9. Saying goodbye is bittersweet -well kind of 
I have been closing down my cleaning business all except for a few places that are on-call and one office.  This is going to give me more time to devote to my career in culinary and my farm.  In some ways it is bittersweet to think that it is over but in all honesty I have been looking forward to taking the next step towards my goals for awhile.  This business has been good to me and my family and the experience is something that i am confident has helped build the skills I will need to be successful in the future.

10.  Mostly Food Themed Summer Reading list has begun- Any suggestions of a great read I should add?  Please share!  I have a list going but I am always looking for a good book!

I will share my current reading list on Next weeks Tuesday's Top Ten!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Month of Monday's- A Pictorial Tour of the Last Month

I've been gone for awhile
 Though I still have a smile :)

The past month has been a transitional period for me with final exams, starting a new job and closing my cleaning business of 8 years.  
I have so many stories to catch up and tell
I can't wait to share with you all the exciting things I have been up to.

Here is a small pictorial preview of the past month- stories to follow I promise!
Three weeks ago- this was my last day of class with my baking friends!  

The very next day I was Off to start my new job at Black Star Farms- This is the view from my kitchen window!!

One of the first things I made on the first day of work was this chocolate covered strawberry plate- 7 strawberries to symbolize 7 years of marriage for one of our Inn couples that were arriving that night.  It was an easy little project to start.

4 days after the last day of classes I was the coordinator of the Staff Appreciation Brunch at my kids school- Westwoods- From what I was told it was one of the nicest presentations ever.  Thanks to a lot of help from many Westwoods families it came together very nicely.

On the menu was assorted Quiches, Baked goodies, Granola, Fresh Fruit and Yogurt parfait bar and a beverage bar too!  Too bad I couldn't make Mimosas for those teachers :)

One week later after my first week at Black Star Farms I got to cook breakfast for the Inn.  The chef was there to help me out of course.  I made Crustless Quiches with a spicy tomato sauce on top of wilted greens with shallots. (Ray's recipe)  Everyone said it was great!  The guests all clapped for me when the Inn keeper told them that it was my first breakfast.

After my first breakfast I went over to the Oleson Center at NMC and helped Sous Chef the class "Cooking without a recipe" with Eric Patterson and Jennifer Blakeslee.  This is a beef tenderloin dish the class came up with.

The following day I made my Thai Corn Cakes over Black Stars own pork sausage topped with a poached egg, Leelanau Cheese company cheese sauce and a frizzed peppers garnish- Roasted Fingerling potatoes fan the outside.  One of the guests came up to me afterwards and asked if I had "made everything by hand".  It was sweet!

Immediately following my second breakfast at Black Star I drove out to Glen Arbor where my friend Kristin and I had planned a special dinner for our girlfriends.  We put together an amazing menu- Kristin did a great job researching the recipes and shared the kitchen for the night.  It was a wonderful evening and all the food preparation turned out very delicious.  

I made Coconut Macaroons dipped in Ganache paired with Fresh Raspberry Sorbet for dessert that evening.  The raspberries were from last summer's picking at Grandma's house!

As if the weekend wasn't eventful enough- the next day I went back to Black Star Farms to work in the Hearth and Vine cafe where I learned to make Brick Oven Pizzas!!!!  Later in the evening I stayed on to shadow with Chef Paul and and see how an entire meal can be prepared with the use of the brick oven.  Paul was like a one man band- super impressive- 4 different entrees served Rack of Lamb, Cedar Plank Whitefish, Beef Tenderloin and Rabbit, Roasted Asparagus, Polenta cakes too.  Every guest was thrilled with their meal!

Some baked goods I prepared for a breakfast meeting and for the Inn guests too!  Morning glory muffins and Walnut crusted Banana Bread.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Evening Hospitality!!

Oriental Spiced Tuna Tar Tar Cucumber cups for evening hospitality in the Inn that I created- (don't mind the saran wrap)

Fruit trio Lollipops- Not plated yet but a fun idea. :)

Grilled Flat Bread Pizzas at Home!!

First campfire of the year on the Farm!!

NMC Barbeque with my Mom and family too.

I have not slowed down yet...  So far I love the pace and can't wait to see what is in store for the upcoming summer- Stories are on their way :)