Monday, November 28, 2005

Holiday Eats

As we all know, it's the middle of the season of holiday dinners. Thanksgiving has passed with 2 dinners on my part. Christmas parties, friendly dinners, company parties are soon to come with one last blow out on New Years Eve.

As my cooking career began and the restaurants filled up for the holidays, my desire to bake christmas cookies, make 3 different nut brittles for gifts, bake the desserts on thanksgiving, and do things like hollow out grapes and stuff them with goat cheese for holiday parties dwindled. Dwindled? Well, left me completely.

But I do love to read about it still. I have poured over the Martha Stewart holiday cookie magazine dreaming of the cookies I'd make if I had time (or a kitchen at home!), and drooled over holiday dinner plans in cooking magazines.

My favorite is The Blasphemist's Christmas printed in New York Magazine. Wylie Dufrane's meal plan gives the same twisted whimsy to christmas dinner as Tim Burton gave to the holiday in "A nightmare before Christmas". I loved his interpretation of the classic Lamb and mint jelly in which he crusts the lamb rack in crushed candy canes.

In the same magazine is featured The Perfectionists Thanksgiving by Thomas Keller. Good old Tom pulled the legs off the turkey and filled them with Foie Gras. And a traditionalists thanksgiving dinner by Dan Barber of Blue Hill. And to round the season out is the Hedonists Brunch for new years day.

I'll be teaching another class this december. This time the theme is miniature desserts for your holiday parties. The description of me is still uncomfortably flattering, but at least I am not described as a "dessert diva".

I may not have time to fill my friends and family with holiday sweets, but I do have a restaurant menu to play with!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Death by 25

A morbid title, I know. Dramatic, who me?? And since I have (barely) passed the age by 25 you can rest at ease. The title plays on a previous post I wrote called "Death by Fat Duck" which toyed with the sheer exhaustion I felt after my 5th week of the rigorous schedule.

This time the cause of death is a promotion called "25 for 25." The exhaustion comes after 3 weeks of trying to keep up with 70 dessert orders a night.

After working through the first week of the promotion I arrived to work from weekend and realized that everything from the dessert menu was gone. EVERYTHING!!! There was hardly a scrap of dough, a lick of ice cream base, a crumb of cookie to start with. When I saw Amy I exclaimed, "They've eaten me out of house and home!!"

I began my day by writing the prep list, which was cause for laughter as it contained every step of every dessert on my menu. I titled it, "How to make everything from nothing.... in 6 hours."

Then the frenzy began.

It was all I could do to get things ready for service. At one point James encouraged diners to have the lemon tart thinking it would give me the most relief. He laughed when he saw me look at the ticket and run. I returned with the components to begin filling lemon tarts to order.

The rest of the week was spent sacrificing days off, prepping like mad, and finally giving in to the overwhelming insanity that is 25 for 25. Since then I haven't had time to blink, let alone blog, or develop new menu items properly. The bright side of this story (aside from it's time limit) is the refinement that can come with this kind of repetition.

December will bring the usual holiday rush to the restaurant, but will be nothing short of relief after this November.