Thursday, June 25, 2009

Adventures in Dining Part 2

part 1 is back here

Despite my fears of being Gordon Ramsey-ed I returned to the domain of A Razor a Shiny Knife the next afternoon to assist with dinner prep -- this time without G who (wisely, perhaps) choose to spend his Saturday at his job where they pay him in money rather than at an empty condo in Williamsburg where compensation is offered in the form of eye rolls and deep sighs of disapproval. Oh, and really yummy food.

When I arrived at 3:45pm lunch service was still in full swing. I felt lucky to secure a job drying dishes which I was 75% sure I could execute well enough to at least fly below the radar of our host. Dish drying proved to be a wonderful job because in addition to avoiding commentary on my screw ups it also afforded me the opportunity to make a good buddy in my dish drying companion, Paul. Even better lunch was still being served and occasionally someone would come by with an extra plate of food for us to nosh on (oh crispy fried soft shell crabs and raw asparagus salad with poached egg how I have loved you).

After a few hours on dish duty I started to feel the rhythm of the kitchen and, perhaps because I paid my newbie dues with the dish rag, the rest of the kitchen staff/paying guests suddenly seemed nicer. Eventually I grew brave enough to venture back onto the line to tackle the peaches destined for dessert. When G arrived at 6:30 (in theory only 30mins from the sweet reward of our yummy 8 course meal) he was put to work chopping strawberries. I was also put on marshmallow making duty which ended in marshmallow syrup which we tried in vain to turn into frozen marshmallow candy. Somehow despite the obvious failure of this dish I manage to escape any chef wrath. I was feeling much more like part of a team.

We sat down late for dinner at 8:45 (posted dinner time was 7pm) and because of a somewhat OCD need to pull off this whole affair in exactly 24 hours we were asked to forgive the rushed serving of the courses. I appreciate a good attempt at doing the crazy obsessive thing just for its own crazy obsessive sake (see: my color coded closet, my rearranging of card piles every 3 minutes when playing Settlers of Catan, and my entire life) but even I felt a little peeved that the foodies who lunch got to lounge around for hours while I was being asked to scarf my tasty morsels at a starved puppy pace.

The food however, could not be argued with. It was well worth being chastised for my subpar vacuuming skills, worth drying a mountain of dishes and even worth being rushed through. Below, a play by play of exactly why I will not have lost any weight this week despite running probably like 8 miles (note: a lot. do not argue. I am the next Flo Jo, I pretty much just need to work on the nails).

First the amuse -- a rye bread flavored pana cotta with salmon roe and pickled mustard seeds.

The host expressed some concern that this might be a failed attempt at deliciousnesss but it was surprisingly successful -- creamy, salty, a little crunch on the end. And on top of that look how pretty it is!

Foie gras mouse featured a cucumber coulis and strawberries ala Mr. G

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Just look at the sweet slicing on those babies! I think i might be the only foodie who can't quite get behind the foie gras love. I mean it's good, rich, creamy, fatty but I often find it just a little too overwhelming and... (dare I say it?) somehow still bland. This dish was no real exception though the the strawberries and cucumber did admirably balance out the richness and make foie gras feel much more summery than I would have thought possible.

Fresh pasta with lobster and meyer lemon.

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Certainly the most simple of the dishes on offer but the combo of the lemon peel and lobster was really great. Shellfish + lemon is obviously no great culinary leap but I was still shocked and just how great these ingredients complimented each other.

Short ribs with morel mushroom and garlic scapes

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I got 4 curly little garlic scapes in my recent CSA delivery and this dish certainly inspired me to experiment with them -- the delicate flavor avoided overpowering the meat and mushroom with garlic and made this dish (which might have seemed a little boring) exciting and beautiful.

Chawan Mushi with bacon broth.

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This was the one menu item that I had to Google but Wikipedia's description of "egg custard" did nothing to prepare me for the awesomeness of pork belly+eggs+cream -- SO GOOD! As the person who declared the death of bacon months ago I would like to use this b
roth as evidence of how bacon should be used -- it was flavorful, smokey and meaty and DELICATE. The dish didn't come out and whomp you over the head all "LOOK! BACON IS HERE! EVERYONE LOVES BACON!!!" but instead stood in the corner waiting for the ladies to come to him, and come I did. (Dirty.).

Whipped truffle potatoes with smoked egg yolk.

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This was divine though G made a good point that it was mostly just because everything tastes great with truffle oil. It is probably true that if the potatoes had been sawdust and the egg yolk a yellow bouncy ball I still would have swooned.

Flourless chocolate cake with cherries.

This was the only course that left me shrugging my solders. I'm not a fan of flourless chocolate cake -- in fact, I basically think it's the bacon of the pastry world and is only served by lazy chef's looking to appeal to the most base palettes. Everyone loves chocolate, the richer the better, right? No need to try harder. This cake was really no better or worse then your average fudgey fair. That said, in the words of Bill Cosby, "Dad is great! Give us the chocolate cake!" I shrugged my solders at an empty plate.

Compressed peaches with cocoa butter enrobed peach pudding.

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While I want to say that this was the best thing ever since I contributed heavily to its production I cannot. It was fine. I suspect that like every contestant on Top Chef (and myself it would seem) the powers that be at A Razor a Shiny Knife could due with some lessons in pastry arts. I'd like to see one of their next events focused entirely on kicking some dessert ass.

I'm full again just writing that. Full and wishing I had a little bowl of pork pudding to slurp on.

I'd also like to say that in addition to the amazing food the dinner companionship was top notch -- I sat across from a hilarious navy dude who offered to give G and I a tour of his sub next time we're visiting G's parents in Groton CT and next to my friend from the night before who, like me and G, was well rested and ready to eat. I also sat across from a vegetarian who I was alternately amused by (seriously, why would you come to this?) and pitied (did your friend not tell you that this meal would totally have a lot of meat?). When one of the pro chefs (a man from Columbia) found out about the veggie in our midst he came by to inquire about her dietary limitations in an effort to accommodate, "You are a vegetarian?" "yeah, I eat fish though, and veggies." "What about beef?" Awesome.

You can view a time lapse video of the entire event here-- some highlight include "wow, Brianna you look kind of fat in the dress," "Geoff get your hands out of your pockets!" and "I want to put that in my mouth over and over again forever."

1 comment:

Bill Purdy said...

You want scapes? I've got about 20 in my garden right now, remnants of last year's failed experiment with hardneck garlic that was left behind (softneck was a total success). Nice work, as usual.