13 September 2009

U.S. Cellular Field, Mies, Koolhaas, Jam, and More Plated Desserts

The three-day weekend couldn't have agreed with me more. One might think four baseball games in four days would wear me out on America's pasttime... but no. In fact, a week later, sitting four games up on the Wild Card and having watched a few football games, I'm even more excited for the upcoming MLB playoffs. I don't have the highest hopes for my team, but who knows - it wouldn't be the first time they've pulled a surprising move or two.

U.S. Cellular Field, from a structural and aesthetic standpoint, is utilitarian at best. It looks like it was built during a war (Dad: "Well, it was... the Gulf War!"), or was at least built for use as a military base. It's grey, and the most colorful adornments are those silly lollipops atop the Jumbotron. However, the concourses are wide, the sightlines are good, and the food is great. Polish sausages with grilled onions, churros, and good beer were abundant.

Just across the highway from the ballpark is the Illinois Institute of Technology. After one of the afternoon games I took the chance to explore a couple of buildings on the campus: S.R. Crown Hall, which houses the College of Architecture, and the McCormick Tribune Campus Center. Crown Hall was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (actually, the general campus plan was designed by Mies), and is seen by many as his masterpiece and the epitome of Modernist architecture. It is a National Historic Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1956 and (finally) renovated in 2005. The Campus Center was designed by Rem Koolhaas, and opened in 2003. The most defining characteristic of this building is the stainless steel tube through which the green line L train passes. The structure of the tube is completely separate from the structure of the building, so as to avoid reverberations from the trains. While interesting and original, students' reactions to the Center are mixed: though it houses several necessary components of student life, it's loud and difficult to maneuver.

Week two of plated desserts also included jam-making, which was both delicious and a lot to tack onto an already short week. My partner, Carolynn, and I made apricot jam with toasted almonds as well as cherry jam. After some trading, I came home with both of those in addition to strawberry and blueberry jam.

After a tough first week with Chef En-Ming, she actually gave me a positive verbal evaluation on Friday, which was a relief to me. These review scores make up a decent chunk of our grade, and I think everyone in my class was curious to see how she would rate our individual efforts. She was very constructive in her criticism, giving us all tips we can actually carry with us through the remainder of the program.

As for desserts, this week we made:

Almond Scented Milk Flan with Berry Water and Fresh Berries
This is called flan for its shape, but is really more similar to a panna cotta in texture. Berry water is a weird way of saying juice from the macerated berries.

Pear Financier with Hazelnut Ice Cream
The poached pears are what stand out here; they make the almond and hazelnut cake taste great.

Cappuccino Creme Brulee with Pistachio and Hazelnut Biscotti
This is topped with chocolate cream and milk foam. The aluminum cup sort of kills the appearance, but would resemble a cup of coffee if served in a mug.

Red Rhubarb Soup with Strawberry Sorbet and Banana Crisp
This is my favorite dessert from the entire course. Who would've thought frozen rhubarb could be so delicious? The leftover poached rhubarb and broth did not last long. In fact, it didn't even last the day.

Chocolate-Tea Cremeux
This is basically a trifle consisting of layers of chocolate cream (cremeux), chocolate streusel, lemon cream, and citrus gelee. It is topped with earl grey ice cream. Strangely, I have no pictures of it.

Crepes Suzette
Crepes cooked with oranges and orange juice; no pictures of this either. Last day indifference, I guess!

Coming up this week: Sugar candies and confectionaries with Chef John, i.e. gummies, lollipops, marshmallows, nougat, pralines, caramels, etc.


  1. Very impressive. Not only the fact that you are a baseball junkie (which I am very pround of!)but your knowledge of architecture and now food!

  2. Another mouth-watering entry. Thank you.
    More flan, more vanilla...
    more cowbell.