30 December 2009

Graduation and NYC

It's about time I posted some graduation pictures...

The morning began with a ceremony of sorts at the Union League Club of Chicago. Our chefs, selected classmates, and a couple of guest speakers addressed us, and we received our certificates. Afterward, everyone headed down Jackson Street to our school, where our guests were invited to sample treats from every course of our studies. The buffet was truly spectacular, and everyone was impressed.

I spent the remainder of the weekend in Chicago with my mom and dad before heading to New York on Monday morning. I spent eight days there, trailing in restaurants and partaking in good NYC stuff. After landing in Chicago yesterday morning, the tentative plan is to head back to KC this weekend to get all of my things under one roof again, then pick and choose what I need to take to NYC with me. It's not official yet when I'll be heading back that direction, but I hope it's soon.

12 December 2009

Exam IV Recap, Future Plans

Well, that's it. With the exception of preparing our graduation buffet, we're finished. I've been feeling very uneasy about reaching this point, but late this week I finally began to hear back from some NYC restaurants I have contacted with regard to available pastry cook positions. After taking the largest sigh of relief of all time, I now feel better about school coming to an end, and am planning a trip to NYC to do some trailing.

For our fourth and final exam, we were required to present the following to Chef Laura:

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Cake (chocolate biscuit, hazelnut dacquoise, chocolate mousse, hazelnut mousse, chocolate mirror glaze)

  • Pithivier (puff pastry, almond cream filling)

  • Buttercream cake (chocolate biscuit layered with buttercream, with piping)

  • Gum Paste Flower Bouquet (two roses, two carnations, one set of leaves)

04 December 2009

Hot Dogs and Fries at Hot Doug's

"There are no two finer words in the English language than 'encased meats,' my friend."

The above quote is written in large typeface along the south wall of Hot Doug's. I can't remember who said it, but that's irrelevant; the quoted is indeed correct.

My friend, Michael, and I made a long-awaited pilgrimage to Hot Doug's after class today. There is always a line out the door, no matter what time of day. We waited patiently on the first truly cold Chicago afternoon, and our patience was handsomely rewarded.

One must visit Hot Doug's on a Friday or Saturday in order to indulge in a delicious basket of duck fat-rendered fries. Honestly, what meal wouldn't they complement? Our strategy was to order three hot dogs (along with the fries), and split each one in half. We decided on and devoured the following:

The Marty Allen (formerly The Don Rickles): a thuringer sausage made with Hello der beef, pork, and garlic

Special: a ribeye steak sausage with chimichurri, crispy fried onions, and Oregon smoked blue cheese

Today's Celebrity Sausage, the Joe Fortunato: a cognac-infused lamb and pork sausage with spinach raita and port wine chicken mousse

This was my first Chicago hot dog experience with the exception of basics at Wrigley and U.S. Cellular Fields, and, to be honest, it'll probably remain the only one. An exceptional lunch.

Wedding Cakes

Happy Friday, all. Today marked the last day of class before our final (not comprehensive) exam and graduation weeks. Unlike many students, I didn't enter school thinking I'd come out a cake decorator... and it's safe to say I'm still a member of that camp. To be sure, it's amazing to look at a three-tiered cake covered in fondant and gum paste flowers and think, Wow, I can't believe I made this; however, I'll take a crazy restaurant chef as a boss any day over a crazy bride.

We made three cakes this week: a two-tiered buttercream cake; a three-tiered (Styrofoam) fondant cake; and a croquembouche, which is a traditional French wedding cake. A tremendous amount of patience and detail were required, in that it took entire class periods to individually build each cake.

The buttercream cake is exactly that: covered and piped with buttercream. The cake itself is a traditional French "biscuit."

The fondant-covered cake has flowers made from gum paste as well as beads and patterns constructed with a 50/50 mix of fondant and gum paste.

The croquembouche is essentially a pyramid of cream puffs that have been dipped in cooking sugar (with half being dipped again in sucre grain). It is built using more cooked sugar to glue the puffs together. The topper is made with even more cooked sugar, and the base is nougatine that has been piped with royal icing. PS - The cake in the picture is Chef Laura's... not mine. :)