Archive for February, 2010

Sunday Supper: Alissa

February 23rd, 2010

Well, my Sunday Supper went off without a hitch. I was much more prepared than I anticipated (though part of that might have been that not many people came). The weather was bad, and business was slower than usual.  RUSSELL brought his camera though and took some really nice pictures (He took all of these except the one below).  I WANT one of those cameras.


photo by Helen Castillo

I did have two very important guests…my parents! This photo was taken by my classmate, HELEN, who sat with my parents at dinner and was apparently very charming. You can read all about her experience on her BLOG.

My parents have been a bit skeptical about raw food. So I was really looking at this dinner as an opportunity to bridge the gap. After all, food brings families together. My mother really appreciates traditional Japanese cuisine. Though for the most part, she hates Asian fusion or any kind of bastardization of what she considers ‘real’ Japanese food.  My father has not liked much of anything I’ve made so far.  So, I would have considered getting him to eat anything a success.

gyozaThe first course was gyoza. Traditionally, this is served as a fried or steamed dumpling filled with pork, cabbage, and garlic. The raw version featured applewood smoked tofu, cabbage, green onion, and bean sprouts. To my surprise, my mom LIKED them! My dad was a little reluctant. But once he saw that everyone else was eating them, he went for it. I was really surprised that they liked them! The flavor profile on this dish was probably the least traditional of the three.

The main course featured this green spider roll. The roll was filled with asparagus, avocado, red pepper, sprouts, cucumber, and a ‘tempura battered’ eggplant. It came with an arugula salad garnished with shiso, hijiki, crispy fennel, sprouts, and a sweet miso dressing. I thought I was really pushing boundaries with a sweet arugula salad but NO! When I saw that my dad cleaned his plate, my face started turning red! I was so excited.

The dessert was a ‘zen trio’. It featured a green tea mochi ice cream bite, bubble tea pudding with chia seeds, and a raspberry wasabi truffle. I made white chocolate garnishes with candied ginger and sesame seed accents that spelled my name in Japanese (or so I thought). This was especially for my mom. She was SO HAPPY when I brought it out to her (even though I spelled my name wrong – DOH!!). My parents enjoyed it so much that they even called an hour after they left to let me know how much they like it again. It was truly a wonderful success (for me). My dad said that this meal was much better than the LAST ONE they tried. To which I replied, ‘I guess I must have learned something then.’

The rest of the night went pretty well, I think. There weren’t a lot of orders, but I noticed that everyone who did order the feature cleaned all three plates. One table told their server to send me a message…’Domo Arigato’! So overall, I think it went well. I was happy with it, and I learned a lot from the process. HOORAY!


Menu Planning

February 20th, 2010

matthew and russell
This week has been BUSY. We started a new project with MATTHEW. But since he’s been out of town, RUSSELL has been meeting with us too. Basically, we were each assigned a menu item from the spring menu to develop. I was assigned the green spider roll which was kind of cosmic given that this week is also my SUNDAY SUPPER, and I had planned on doing a Japanese themed menu (my mom is coming and I’m trying to impress her).

arisa garnish
This was the garnish for the dessert dish. It’s white chocolate with candied ginger and sesame seeds. It says ‘Alissa’ in Japanese (It’s the only thing I can remember how to write). Russell gave me a hard time about it. He said that on his next dessert, he’s going to write Russell on the plate in English. Har Har. 🙂

filling chocs
The dessert plate also features these little chocolates. They’re raspberry wasabi flavored. Matthew said, ‘They’re really weird, but I can’t stop eating them.’ I’m really racking up the bonus points with my instructors this week. Maybe I should have figured out how to write ‘weird’ in Japanese instead. 🙂

If you’re in Oklahoma City, you should come to my Sunday Supper tomorrow. Here is a sneak preview. Russell took some really nice pictures of the practice meal I made for the class on Friday. He also gave the class a little demo on taking good food photos. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the pics he took. This is my appetizer. It’s gyoza featuring SMOKED TOFU.

This is the green spider roll (my spring menu assignment). It features tempura battered eggplant and asparagus.

The dessert is a trio featuring a green tea mochi bite, bubble tea pudding, and a raspberry wasabi truffle. Wish me luck! I’ve been working way too hard on it. Kind of bordering on obsessive. EVERYONE kept telling me to go home today, but there’s always one more thing. I’ll let you know how it goes…


The Smoking Gun

February 16th, 2010

smoking gun
While we’re on the topic of FANCY GADGETS, I should tell you about the Smoking Gun. I love the smoking gun. It’s basically a way to infuse foods with smoke flavor without heating them. Plus, it has a catchy name which is handy for one-liners (always a plus in the restaurant business where one-liners are a social currency of sorts).

Today, my mission (yes, I chose to accept it) was to smoke these tofu bits.

how it works
Basically, it works kind of like a HOOKAH (more social currency). You have some little wood chips in the gun which are burned, and the smoke travels through the rubber tube to some apparatus which contains your unsmoked material. Like so.

smokingOnce a good amount of smoke is transferred to your container, it’s sealed off (an airtight container is nice for this) until the smoke settles. The amount of time varies depending on how smokey you want the flavor to be.  Since this was my first time doing this, I arbitrarily chose ten minutes as a good time frame.  The flavor that resulted was pretty strong.  Almost too strong.  I think that tofu (being a fairly permeable material) is pretty accepting of the influence.

The chips are placed here. (Needless to say, somebody was racking up currency today. I wouldn’t want to implicate anyone. But it was not me, of course).

The flavor is determined by the type of wood the chips are made of. Today, I tried four flavors: cherrywood, mesquite, applewood, and hickory. I liked Applewood the best. And so did our new instructor. Did I mention that we have a new instructor here?

russell and ladan
RUSSELL JAMES is in the house! He just started Monday. We have some ANARCHY FROM THE UK.

punk rock russellIronically, I accidentally took this picture of Russell in front of a tray of wheatgrass. Pretty punk rock. He looks almost like Sid Vicious there. In a further show of synchronicity, I found a MUG SHOT of Sid on the SMOKING GUN web page. He’s like Sid Vicious in BIZARRO WORLD. Instead of heroine, he does wheatgrass. Did I mention that Russell was going to be a record producer before he discovered raw food? He’s been filling me in about the UK music scene.

Speaking of, I got some REALLY BAD NEWS today…ABBEY ROAD IS CLOSING!!! I am so depressed. I wanted to get my record mastered there. It was a secret dream. I’ve been working on this record for at least ten years. And the reason it’s taking so long is because I want to do it right. I want it to be recorded ALL ANALOG. The number of places that can accomodate that shrinks daily. But ABBEY ROAD! They’ve been doing it forever. They know what they’re doing, and they have a lot of people working there that have been there a LONG TIME. This is tragic! It’s not just in the food industry where people are cutting corners. This whole world needs a change of priorities.


Classmate Highlights

February 15th, 2010

bento box
The lovely HELEN made this delightful bento box for me last week. You can read a DESCRIPTION of the items on her page. But I can tell you that I ate every last morsel of it. The miso broth was perfect. Though I think the hijiki might have been my favorite. I’ve got to figure out how she makes that.

cinn roll
While Helen was busy on the Asian station, Hillary was working on her shop project. This is where one has two weeks to develop a product for the shop. Hillary’s was a raw cinnamon roll.

Here she is showing off her boxed product. Hooray!

sonjaI didn’t notice until I got home that in the background of one of my shots of Hillary’s presentation was THIS loveliness. That would be SONJA hamming it up for the camera. Sonja and I are in the Academy this week (as opposed to on the line). Every week our rotations change. Some weeks, we work on the line preparing dishes for the restaurant. Some weeks, we have special projects that we work on in the classroom. This week, Sonja is doing her shop project, and I am on Sunday Supper! Wish me luck…


The AntiGriddle

February 13th, 2010

One of the cool perks of culinary school is that we get to experiment with state of the art equipment. Presenting…the AntiGriddle. It actually looks a lot like lab equipment (did I mention that I used to be a SCIENTIST?).

pouringIt’s a lot like a griddle. But instead of searing things, it freezes them on contact. The surface of the antigriddle is cooled to -30 degrees F (sounds like Minnesota). You can pour liquids onto the griddle and they’ll solidify. Here we are doing an experiment with some maple syrup. You can freeze sauces into little garnishes that will literally melt in your mouth. You can also create crazy designs. It allows you to easily manipulate the transition of a medium from liquid to solid.

For example, you could make a spiral out of chocolate ganache.

Or an instant pudding pop.

A little tahini disc with pistachio crumbles.

choc curry
My favorite was the chocolate disc with curried cashew pieces. YUM!


Rawkstar Dinner featuring Mayor Mick Cornett

February 12th, 2010

dara and the mayor
Last night, the restaurant hosted another Rawkstar Dinner. This time, the featured guest was Oklahoma City’s Mayor, MICK CORNETT (shown here with the lovely Dara Prentice, owner of 105 DEGREES). Mayor Cornett recently returned from a trip to the White House. He was invited to the State of the Union address as a GUEST OF THE FIRST LADY. Mrs. Obama wanted to highlight the work he’s done to FIGHT OBESITY. For those of you who don’t know, Oklahoma City consistently RANKS in the top tier of America’s Fattest cities. As a result, Mayor Cornett decided to put Oklahoma City ON A DIET.

kale chips
In Mayor Cornett’s honor, the inspiration for this dinner was to make healthy versions of Oklahoma’s unhealthy favorites.

kale chips
To that end, the first course was BBQ kale chips served family style…

cowboy caviar
…with a little cowboy caviar on the side.

Next, we served chili…

…with a side of jalepeno cornbread.

c fried mush
The main course, was a ‘chicken fried’ mushroom with braised greens and ‘mashed potatoes’.

For dessert, we had pecan pies with vanilla ice cream.

And last but not least, a piece of hazelnut fudge.

The dinner went off without a hitch. Lots of interested guests stayed afterwards to talk to MK about living cuisine, AND there was definitely a buzz in the air! Yesterday, Forbes magazine picked 105 DEGREES as one of AMERICA’S BEST NEW RESTAURANTS!! How cool is that?


Sunday Supper: Ladan

February 10th, 2010

This week’s Sunday Supper was presented by our instructor, Ladan Raissi. The first course was an organic carrot soup with a sprouted lentil cracker. Delicious! The flavors were so refined. I think as a beginning chef, the tendency is to knock people out with flavor and flash. But an accomplished chef let’s the food speak for itself.

This is what the food was saying on Sunday night.

The second course was completely inspirational. It was a brazil nut and sprouted wheatberry risotto. WOW. My boyfriend (who was visiting) was completely blown away. It was technically amazing! I have no idea how she did it, but a person would have had to make a LOT of risotto in their time to accomplish this.

poached pear
The final course was a poached pear with a hazelnut marscapone. Delightful. Not too sweet. But mystifying. Kinda makes you wonder what possibilities lie ahead after years and years of practice…


Chef's Table

February 7th, 2010

yes chef
Last week, I completed my rotation at the chef’s table. The timing couldn’t have been more impeccable as I had just the week before obsessively watched an entire season of HELL’S KITCHEN with GORDON RAMSAY. Here I am with my clipboard getting ready to knock some chef’s in line.

On Hell’s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay runs a tight ship, and he commands respect. All the aspiring chef’s address him in military fashion answering all his inquiries with an enthusiastic, ‘YES, CHEF!’ Well, truth be told, I didn’t lay down the law quite so forcefully. Though I was successful in getting HELEN to respond to me with a ‘Yes, Chef.’ Admittedly, it was less enthusiastic and more giggly. But hey. Everyone’s got to start somewhere, right? Here is Helen dropping off some marvelous tuber rolls at the pass (this is where dishes pass hands from the kitchen to the wait staff).

whatever chef
Nina was on the Latin station this week. She wasn’t quite as enthusiastic with the ‘YES, CHEF.’ Well, actually, I don’t think she was into it at all. She kind of looks like she’s thinking to herself, ‘WHATEVER. I just make nachos.’

She DOES make a mean plate of nachos though. So I let it slide…

This is SONJA, and she’s all business. Not really. But the ITALIAN STATION will drive anyone to that. It’s definitely the busiest station in the house. No time for Gordon Ramsay role playing here. 🙂

Don’t worry though. She always makes time for the food. Look at this perfect plate of canneloni that Sonja put up to the pass.

The pass is also the unofficial headquarters of the paparazzi.

This has got to be the most well documented pass in the blogosphere.

anjela cakeLast Friday ended with a fun surprise. Anjela had secretly made a cake for Helen’s birthday. She told everyone that it was a special so that Helen wouldn’t get suspicious. Then, unbeknownst to Helen, we gathered everyone in the restaurant and started singing ‘Happy Birthday.’





HELEN was so surprised! I think it really made her day.

helen's cake
And mine too. The cake was really yummy!


This Week's Specials

February 3rd, 2010

palm trees
This week is so full of special things that it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps, I will be narcissistic and start with myself. Today was special for me because I ran a special! It was dubbed the HERBES DE PROVENCE roll. I actually just learned what that was yesterday. So, don’t be fooled by my fancy culinary terminology. I hadn’t intended to make anything like that at all.

mac cheese
But I had spent all this time last week making the perfect wheel of macadamia nut cheese, and it didn’t really go with what I had intended initially.

Meanwhile, we got kicked out of the kitchen temporarily as the news van was back this morning.

megan and lauren
This time, they were filming live segments on RAW CHOCOLATE with Megan and Lauren.

jugglin j
While we were waiting, J did a demo on how to juggle meyer lemons.

plate of trees
J also came up with this plating concept which I liked. I learned today that when you plate olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette like this it’s called a ‘broken vinaigrette’.

inside roll
Anyway, here are the goods. It was basically a cucumber roll stuffed with basil, swiss chard, macadamia cheese, rosemary, chives, marjoram, spiced fennel, and a little grapefruit. Not as pretty as my LAST SPECIAL, but I think it was tastier. One table requested that I come talk to them! And MK even asked for one!

tree plate
I like how they came out looking kind of tree-like. I was getting a lot of forest/jungle references. 🙂

flower special
That in itself would have been special enough, but look at this AMAZING dessert my classmate ANJELA came up with!! She made the flower out of coconut butter and bee pollen. The cake is a mango/avocado theme with a cheesecake filling.
This is what it looked like on the inside. Beautiful! And it was delicious. Anjela is continually astounding us with her creativity.

Bruce Edwards
Last but not least, we had a special visitor this week. Bruce Edwards of URBAN HARVEST. Essentially, they are a division of the Oklahoma Food Bank. They actually grow food for clients in need AND teach people about self-sufficiency/growing their own food. INCREDIBLE!! I am so impressed that there is an organization like this here. I hope I can do some volunteering there before I leave…


Sunday Supper: Tyler

February 1st, 2010

So for those who have been following the SUNDAY SUPPER SERIES, this week’s menu featured Tyler Spear.

Tyler isn’t actually an academy student. He’s one of the sous chefs here on staff. I was really impressed with Tyler’s presentation. I didn’t realize he was such an artist. He definitely raised the bar on us this week. His plates were so elegant.

beet rav
His first dish was a winter salad served with warm macadamia cheese and THIS beautiful work of art. It’s a coconut wrap accented with beet juice. Such a bold statement for a little piece of wrap. I love it!

main course
This was the main course…a wild mushroom and tomato terrine with a butternut squash croquette.

mush thing
I love the lines he made with the sauces. Beautiful.

This blew me away. It’s basically just dried vegetables: zucchini, shallot, tomato. AMAZING!

creme brulee
Dessert was a cappuccino creme brulee with vanilla froth and a maple cacao crisp.
And no. I didn’t save any for you. Sorry. I just couldn’t help myself. But for those who are interested, I’m starting a Tyler Spear fan club. And NO. He’s NOT related to Brittney. Tyler is a REAL artist. 🙂