Archive for the ‘Master Chef’ Category

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June 15, 2014: “Green Brain” Sushi

June 15, 2014

%22Green Brain%22 SushiTwo weeks ago I helped Yoshio cook for his daughter’s wedding. Yoshio had a tough job as he had all the responsibilities of a father of the bride plus he was also food designer and had to make sure his creations were made to his specification…all this for close to 100 people! It was also a tough job for the wedding couple, Katrina and Jonah, also to whittle down Yoshio’s immense list of food options to what they wanted. They did a fantastic job choosing dishes that were personal, as well as visually pleasing and delicious!

My job was to help organize the food and do as much prep work as possible. The true star of the food crew, ‘tho was Baba Takashi. A friend of the family, Baba was imported from Japan by Yoshio as a sushi chef for the reception. Yoshio had ordered all the sushi supplies, including the fresh fish, which arrived on ice just before Baba himself arrived from Japan.

Baba and I worked together for almost eight hours, the day before the reception. I can’t tell you how hard it was to work with a master sushi chef in the room! All I wanted to do was to watch every move he made, and it was only my dedication to Yoshio, the wedded couple, and to my obligations, that kept me from doing just that! The great part of working with a sushi-master (and a kind and generous one at that) was being offered a few of his creations as the evening progressed. Every once in a while, Baba would come over with one of his unique (vegetarian) sushi variations. Not only was each piece visually stunning, but absolutely delicious!

One of my favorites of Baba’s sushi I nicknamed “Green Brain” sushi.This was thinly sliced avocado wrapped around sushi rice. Simplicity itself…right?

Not so simple when I tried to make it for myself. Remember what I said about wanting to watch Baba? Well, I never got to see how he created “Green Brain” sushi. It took me several trials to get the thickness of the avocado right. Then, when I formed it, it was a decent effort, but not even in the ballpark of correct.

I got to catch up with Yoshio this weekend. We were so busy working the weekend of the wedding, we never got to visit. Between sips of a very good bourbon, delicious cheeses and  frites  truffe (truffled french fries…made the correct way by Yoshio) he was able tweak what I had done wrong and to shorten the road to my making Baba’s sushi better. My second effort came closer to what I wanted….not perfect, mind you, but better…thanks to Yoshio’s input.

The day of the reception, I was very busy, but I occasionally caught glimpses of Baba’s work: Every one of his creations a masterpiece! The queue of guests waiting to partake of his sushi was wrapped all around the yard! At one point, just about every guest was chanting his name! If any sushi chef ever came close to rock-star status, it was Baba!

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I only wish I was able to flatter Baba more. I only hope that sometime in the future I can get the chance to see Baba (my new rock-star friend) in action again!

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April 13, 2014: “Babette’s Feast”

April 13, 2014

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“Babette’s Feast” (1987) was one of the first ever DVDs I acquired for my movie collection. This film has a unique combination of being an “indie-foreign-foodie” category. It is based on a Isak Dinesen (the nom de plume of Karen Blixen, of “Out Of Africa” fame) short story. I’ve never seen a film that more perfectly communicates how excellent food effects humans: the artistry required to do it well, the generosity of making it, and how food not only satisfies and pleases, but may change one’s very outlook and attitude for life itself.

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The story takes place in Denmark, the Jutland coast, 1871. Two sisters, Martine and Philippa, are aging spinsters in a remote Lutheran village. The sisters spend most of their time (and money) doing good works for members of their dwindling and aging congregation of their father (now deceased) who was once minister.

Flashback to 40 years before. Martine and Philippa are young and beautiful, their father alive, and adamant about staving off all male attention to his daughters. The minister easily squashes the amorous advances from the young men in his congregation, but challenges arise from the outside world. The first is a young  ne’er-do-well lieutenant, banished to the Jutland coast to get his act together. Once Lieutenant Lorens Löwenhielm claps his eyes on Martine, he decides that she is the focus for a new life, one free from his child-like behavior with this beautiful angel by his side. By subtle means, the minister manages to unsettle the  lieutenant to the point that he sees Martine as a lost cause and then throws himself into a military career, giving up on true love…forever.

The second challenge takes the form of famed French opera star, Achille Papin, who craving solitude and silence, is visiting the Jutland coast. The silence only succeeds to point out to Papin that he is at to the end of his career. He happens to hear Philippa sing, and imagines tutoring not only a gifted protegé, but perhaps a lover as well. At a voice lesson the two practice Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which ‘tho classical to modern times, has enough “joie de vivre” to seems like porn to 19thC. Lutherans. Again with subtle pressure from the father, he compels Philippa to ask to stop voice lessons with Papin. […and the relish in which the minister does so…condemming as he has, both daughters to a lonely spinsterhood, far from their true capabilities and destinies, makes this viewer hate him not just a little.]

Back to 1871, on a stormy night, the sisters receive a visitor: a woman escaping the ravages of the French Revolution. She carries a letter from none other than Achille Papin, begging the sisters to take this woman into their service. He explains that General Gallifet has executed her husband and son, and that she herself has narrowly escaped with her life, but has lost everything. She is Babette Hersant, who Papin writes, “knows how to cook.”

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For 14 years, Babette is a servant to the two sisters. In that time, her Danish improves to the point that she has confidence to “tame” not only local merchants but also the constantly bickering congregation. Then, comes a communication from France informing Babette that she has won the annual lottery she has entered since her departure, to the sum of 10,000 francs! Babette asks the sisters to allow her to make a French meal for the 100th anniversary of the minister’s birth. As Babette has never asked for anything before, the sisters agree, but as materials start to arrive, they have second thoughts: live quails; a green turtle, WINE…what will all this do to the congregation?!!! Martine has a dream that the congregation ends up dead…or worse…dead drunk, because of the meal! Martine expresses her doubts to the congregation and they, comparing Babette’s meal to a “witches Sabbat” assure her that they will ignore the food as “no importance.”

A surprise, last-minute guest of the meal is non other than (now) General Löwenhielm, who acts as a kind of interpreter of how precious the meal truly is, to not only the congregation….but to the film viewer. His discoveries, observations, and amazements are lost on the other diners as they reply to his sophisticated exclamations with comments about the weather.

Babette’s Feast:
Green Turtle Soup (wine-Amontillado) [Green Turtle Soup served with turtle eggs]
Blinis Demidoff (wine-Veuve Clicquot 1860 Champangne) [a kind of pancake covered topped with sour cream, caviar and shallots]
Cailles en Sarcrphage (wine-Clos de Vouget 1845) [Babette’s’ own creation: a quail, stuffed with pate and truffle, baked in a puff pastry]
Salad of Belgian Endive with vinaigrette
Rum Cake with Candied Fruit, Cheese, and Fresh Fruit, for dessert
Coffee and Port

During the course of this meal, it is revealed that Babette was head-chef  at Paris’s famed “Cafe Anglais” and was most esteemed by the very General Gallifet who condemned her. Even more, Gallifet was quoted to say of Babette:

“This chef had the ability to transform a dinner into a kind of love affair, that made no distinction between the bodily appetite and the spiritual.”

One thing is clear: the special meal opens the hearts of the congregation to the point that past animosities are understood, forgiven, and forgotten, as…

“Mercy and truth have met together. Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.”

[The true generosity of Babette is only revealed in the last frames of the film. “Babette’s Feast” touches on the ability of the artist to change the perception of the world by giving of their best, the importance of service and to return one’s debt to benefactors. Oddly, there is also a harmonious meld of extreme religious belief with the sensual appetite in “Babette’s Feast.”

I recently posted a Tweet stating that if asked what I believe in, I would say, “A good sandwich.” I didn’t mean to appear casual or as caustic by this. I simply do not know what power(s) govern my life or the lives of others. What I cannot deny is that…once and a while…the sporadic generosity of the creator/universe/powers-that-be, present itself in a way to what both believers and the unbelievers may not contest,

Babette's feast

“Never would you give a stone, to the child who begs for bread.”]

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December 08, 2013: Sushi Class and Flamenco

December 8, 2013

Yoshio Teaches Sushi LCHCEarly this week, it was my honor and pleasure to once again don the uniform of a “Okonomy” sous-chef. “Okonomy” is Master Chef Yoshio Saito’s catering restaurant and is what this blog is named after. This week, it was to assist Chef Saito in teaching a sushi class at the Lowell Community Health Center in an effort to promote healthier options for diet. There were two classes scheduled with an expected 60 people per class, so we had our work cut out for us!

There is a saying in the East: “Give a man a fish, and he will stave off hunger for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will stave off hunger for a lifetime.” My experience with Yoshio and Okonomy, up to now, has been more of “giving of a fish” (literally and figuratively) to patrons. This time, it was a “teaching to fish” kind of affair. Okonomy was to provide all the materials ready to make temaki roll. This is sushi in a cone wrap of nori (seaweed sheets.) Yoshio would teach history, techniques and procedure to allow the health center administrators to learn the hows and whys of making sushi and then (best of all) teach them to make their own delicious combinations!

Considerable preparation was needed to buy, cut, package, and store all the separate elements of the temaki roll Yoshio was teaching. Those items were:

Nori Wraps             Toasted Sesame Seeds               Trefoil (or Beefsteak) leaves
Cucumber               Brown & White Sushi Rice         Shoyu (soy sauce)
Natto (fermented soybean)      Pickled Ginger         Daikon (Japanese Radish)
Fried Tofu Sheets          Scallions              Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish)
Imitation Crab             Avocado

Yoshios Sushi Rice

Brown Sushi Rice from Rice Cooker Photo: Y. Saito

Most troublesome to Chef Saito was the huge quantity of rice (we ended up with close to eighty pounds, between the white and brown) and most important, to keep such a huge quantity consistently warm until serving. Yoshio came up with  very clever technique of putting the rice batches in huge sealed bags and keeping them in a large thermos with hot water bottles. Yoshio flavored the rice with his special mixture of seasoning, stirring each batch under a fan to cool the rice to the proper temperature.

Chef Saito also made his home-made wasabi, which is much more hot (as well as more flavorful) than store-bought brands. [I observed more than one patron with watery eyes after applying just a tad too much!] Yoshio tempered such heat in the temaki rolls with the cool, bright, and tangy trefoil leaves, as well as the slightly sweet daikon and pickled ginger. He rounded out his temaki with the nutty toasted sesame seeds and salty shoyu.

The most delicious cucumber soup ever!

The most delicious cucumber soup ever! Photo: Y. Saito

Cooking with Yoshio is always such a positive experience in so many ways: not only is the work a lot of fun, but I learn so much every time just by being around a master and asking questions (which Yoshio is always pleased to answer.) It certainly helps to work for a master chef around break time. For dinner, he took the leavings from the cucumbers I was working on and whipped up a wonderful cucumber soup on the fly! He combined the cucumber with stock and milk and topped it of with white truffle oil, finely chopped trefoil, and crumbled feta cheese. I can honestly say it was one of the most spectacular soups I’ve ever had!

During an earlier break, Yoshio played a flamenco piece on his guitar (something I didn’t know he was training for) to perfection, but I was curious, “Why flamenco?” Actually, this style of playing from Southern Spain has more schools in Japan than Spain! It seems the flamenco style is hard on guitars and that guitar makers consider a flamenco guitar as “disposable!” After prepping was all done, Yoshio treated me to my favorite bourbon as we watched “Toast” which I was happy to find that Yoshio and his wife Dorcas liked as well as I.

Temaki by Mark; Photo: M.Raymond

Temaki by Mark; Photo: M.Raymond

As not as many people showed up as expected to both classes, Yoshio sent me home with a few leftovers. As I had lost a day at work, I thought it only fair to share the sushi fixings with those at work. The guys at work were making perfect tamaki rolls by their third go-around and we enjoyed a varied, healthy, tasty lunch, while taking pride in developing our make-it-yourself  skills!

Preparing Sushi; Photo: M.Raymond

Preparing Sushi; Photo: M.Raymond

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August 26, 2013: Irish-American Cuisine at Showa

August 27, 2013

Showa 08.26.13Today was the third presentation of Irish-American food for Japanese students at the Showa Institute of Boston. Yoshio and I created a range of foods that show the assortment of influences on Irish-American cuisine.

I made a translation problem for Yoshio by spontaneously using the word “goofy” to describe St. Patrick’s Day celebration by Americans, compared to the Irish tradition of climbing Crough Patrick…barefoot, to honor the saint.

As in previous years, Yoshio made his wonderful Corned Beef and Cabbage. This year he omitted any additional salt and just let the corned beef  season the stew of potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and onions. Tasting the veggies and broth, this was just perfect!

I made Irish Soda Bread and substituted craisins for the normal raisins for the New England touch. I also made Coddling Cream with Gala apples stewed in port. My Colcannon (mashed potatoes, leeks, and kale) was a little less smooth this year as my big mixer was broken, and was too tough for my hand mixer.

Some students surprised me by actually liking the taste of buttermilk that I usually have leftover from the soda bread recipe.

Our original recipes can be found here.

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December 05, 2012: “Jiro…” Revisited

December 5, 2012

jiro-banner_typeBack in April, I mentioned a movie that had just come out that I thought readers should be aware of: “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” Going to movies (and other luxuries) have not been part of my life plan for a while now, due to a very limited budget, but I was very much wanting to see this. Luckily for me, the best little library in the world, the Hudson Public Library, generously lobbed a lazy pop-fly to my part of the field, and “Jiro…” landed right in my glove!

I want to re-emphasize a thought I had when I first heard of “Jiro…” I thought it would be a great date for people to see the movie and go out for sushi after. Having seen the film, I can tell you that if you at all open to sushi, you will not be able to see the film without craving sushi…so fair warning. I was immune, as a vegetarian the only pieces that are made in the film I would be able to eat are the tamago (egg) and gourd ones. I would normally prefer other veggie sushi varieties, so I was free to scrutinize the techniques of not only the film, but the food artists portrayed in the film.

Jiro Ono is rare is in many ways, but the most unusual (at least to the Western mind) is his complete and utter devotion to the one craft of making the best sushi in the world. To all accounts (having  been awarded three Michelin stars…the highest honor afforded any chef) he has already achieved that goal, but having perfecting his craft for almost 80 years, Jiro is far from done. As the title suggests, sushi-making invades Jiro’s dreams at night, informing his artist’s mind on ideas that could improve, still, his craft.

Jiro has had a fairly tough life. He was practically on his own at age seven, when he started his apprenticeship in sushi-making. It takes ten years to be labeled as a bona-fide shokunin (sushi master.) That’s essentially a doctorate of sushi! Eventually, Jiro purchased his own sushi restaurant, the same one he has today, that is located in a Tokyo subway station and has only ten seats for diners! Needless to say, his restaurant is sometimes booked months in advance from people from all over the globe, some who travel all the way to Japan just for Jiro’s sushi!

“The reward is the craft,” says Jiro. Clearly, this kind of dedication is not solely about money. It is this very human quest to be the best at what you do, with absolutely no compromises, that I found the most inspirational about Jiro’s story. I’ve known individuals who have a great deal of this desire, and I certainly have it in myself, but I know of no one who has literally dedicated their entire life to one goal (‘tho Yoshio comes very, very close, but he is 20 years younger than Jiro.)

I was surprised that Jiro was not the only master portrayed in the film. It also looks into the lives of his two sons, both, in their own ways following in their father’s footsteps and the film addresses how being the son of a master affects them. The film also interviews a fish-master and a rice-master and all three masters point out the balance of fish and rice qualities that are needed to achieve unami or “perfect experience” when sushi is prepared just right.

I learned a number of things about sushi preparation that I didn’t know: that rice must be body temperature; that the fatty tuna the West values so much are considered “too strong” for the Japanese palate; that the quality and temperature of the rice cannot be understated, as rice is the foundation for sushi. At the beginning of the film, I noticed that the chefs were painting a liquid on the sushi and I was very curious to what it might be. At first, I thought it was a glaze of sorts, but later it was explained that the chefs apply the correct amount of shoyu to each piece of sushi, not allowing the diners to smother shoyu on pieces like they do in the West!

Jiro’s tenets of every great chef are worth noting:
1. They must take their work seriously.
2. They must consistently perform at their highest level.
3. They must aspire to improve their skill.
4. Cleanliness is tantamount.
5. They must have both impatience and stubbornness at having their own way.
6. Passion for their craft is essential.

The film-making of “Jiro…” is interesting as well. Director David Gelb was allowed much more access to not only locations, but also ideas, by virtue of  his foreigner status. He was also given the Japanese politeness of “extras” not staring at the camera. His ability to get such good photography in really tight places was very impressive. If you are interested in Japanese culture and an East-meets-West comparison, it is well worth seeing the film a second time with the director’s commentary.

Although there are many good quotes from all the masters portrayed in “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” the one that sticks with me, and that I think defines every artist’s pain is from the fish-master,

“Just when you think you know it all, you realize that you are just fooling yourself…then you get depressed.”

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June 04, 2012: Sandwiches of the Freakishy-Strong

June 4, 2012

When I go on about my older sisters I know I will be thought of as ascending towards hyperbole. When I start to describe them in terms of powerful weather systems or compare them to a Nordic mythological figure, you will just have to forgive me. True, I wax poetical sometimes, and I will confess to a great affection towards these wonderful women. “But how” you may ask, “…can a man have such intense affection and extreme awe (sometimes in the very same moment) for a sibling?” And you would be right to question me, but take a couple of things in consideration:  I have lived with these women through my formative years. Also, I hear  a lot of people complain about their families. They say you cannot choose your family, you just have to adapt to the one you have. I, outside all my other troubles, am lucky in one respect…that if I could choose my family, I would choose exactly the one that I have.

The Eye of the Hurricane

Being bigger, older, and thus, more worldly, my sisters had the right of seniority, when I was young. True to their kind natures, they rarely chose to enforce this, but the threat was inherent. Although all unique individuals, my sisters had a strain of traits that they all had in common. On the exterior they are all gorgeous, outgoing, willful, courageous, athletic, and hardy.  On the interior: intelligent, creative, caring, talented, loving, funny, nurturing and sympathetic. You know how tornadoes and hurricanes have that dramatic exterior surrounding the still eye in the center? That’s a pretty good visual metaphor for the Vedder-women. An awesome force of nature. Put yourself in their path and they will change your life forever.

Suitors

I was always amazed (and truthfully, sometimes a little bit repelled) by the men that would attempt to court my sisters during their teen-age years. I’m not talking about the fine men they eventually ended up with, but the lunkheads that vied for their affections with no sincere intentions. Certainly I could understand the attraction to any of my sisters. What man wouldn’t want an intelligent, beautiful and talented woman at their side? My feelings aside of the unworthiness of these handsome, philandering-wanna-be’s, these silly simpletons, these lazy Lotharios, it was more that I just couldn’t  believe that they knew what they were getting themselves into! “Look,” I wanted to warn them (wanted to, but never did) “If you need that kind of excitement in your life, you’re better off just purchasing a bear! When things die down, you can collect your remaining limbs and sell the damn animal to a circus!” Of course, I never told them this. Not for any love lost on the suitors (they had the shelf life of bread left out on the porch on a rainy day, anyway.) No, I never said anything because any one of my sisters would have flattened me for sticking my nose in where it didn’t belong!

The Goose and the Gander

One of the things my parents did quite well when we were all growing up, was that they put no division of labor between the kids. Sure, I griped about it, but I was expected to dust and wash dishes as well as any outside chores. Conversely, my sisters were expected to shovel and mow the lawn. I think this removal of any sex-bias towards work made my sisters hardy and showed them that physically, they were just as capable as any boy. For, me, I know that I never shirk any chores of a household nature, and this helped open up the world of culinary arts to me.

As they have grown older, my sisters became tame enough to become wonderful mothers to a slew of amazing children (nieces and nephews that have become more family I would choose!) But a banked fire can still emit an intense…and lasting heat. Another quality the sisters share is that most of them are excellent chefs whose skill exceeds my own. When I tell my friends this, they are amazed. I tell them that it is only that I may have had more time to excel in the culinary arts as I have never been a parent.

Valkyrie

My version of Joanne’s sandwich: fresh basil; grilled red pepper; portobello mushroom roasted with garlic; mayo and provolone on a wheat ciabatta bread, then grilled.

My eldest sister Joanne is one with a myriad of conflicting traits: on the outside she is this gorgeous blond-haired, blue-eyed, slim, yet compact beauty. Her’s is the image of the Valkyrie that the Vikings gleefully leapt into battle, in order to end up at her side. Stern but charming, forceful yet kind, stubborn ‘tho nurturing, capable of cleaning out the gunk of a broken garbage disposal or create stunning artwork, her extremes of capabilities and personality traits complement one another to make a balanced and strong woman. When I used to visit or babysit, she would make me the most fantastic sandwiches. A while ago, I was visiting and she made me this sandwich to fit my vegetarian diet. As she was making it for me, she got into a loving tussle with her delightful daughter, Bryna. True to Bryna’s funny and wry humor she shouts at her mom,”You are so freakishly strong!” Never hearing this particular phrase before (at least when referred to one of my sisters) I ask Bryna what she meant. Bryna goes on to say that Joanne is preternaturally hardy and could beat me in an arm-wrestling match, if I was dumb enough to take her on. Never one to back down from a challenge, I took that bet! After all, I had lifted weights every other day since I was sixteen, so I figured this would be pretty easy. At first grip from Joanne, I knew I was in trouble. Gone, was that funny and cheery hostess that artfully made that delicious sandwich a moment ago. I had locked hands with steely eyed Brunhilde!

Yeah…you might want to skip the fisticuffs and just buy her a beer!

I honestly can’t remember who won that match. I, who usually remember such incidents with crystal accuracy, figure the male ego has that perfect defense mechanism that clouds memory from humiliating defeats. As for Joanne, she won’t tell…she’s too much a lady.

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February 16, 2012: The War of the Roses

February 16, 2012

I have been a Titanic buff since I first saw “A Night to Remember” back when I was a kid. With that film, I fell in love with the Edwardian Era, probably reinforced by going through my Grandmother’s photos of when she was young. The elegance of dress and hairstyles, the manners, the innocence (if you will…it was before both world wars) and especially the food stuck a nerve that reverberates throughout my life. My friend Lisa tells me that her young (5 y.o.) son, Harry has suddenly turned into a Titanic buff, so now I know I’m in good company! Being a chef, when I learned that there was a book on menus from the Great Liner existed, I just HAD to get it! I was not disappointed. Rick Archbold and Dana McCauley’s book “Last Dinner on the Titanic” is not only my most favorite cookbook, it is one of my favorite reads of all time! It is rich with not only carefully reconstructed dishes from the last night of the Titanic, but it is also full of history of people and events of the cruise. It has photos from the era, good art and illustrations. It also has recommendations for how to do a Titanic-themed dinner: how to place the table, what music to play, suggestions of dress, mood, conversation and more! I’ve done about six meals using this book as a guide and I hope to have many more to come!

Oh. Every once in a while talking about Titanic Dinners, I get a reaction from someone as if I was somehow celebrating the death of the 1523 souls lost the early morning of April 15, 1912. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is with the utmost respect that I put on these meals. It is the celebration of the life of these people that is the focus of the meal…and boy, did they know how to live!

The Dinner Itself

Want to see a Titanic Dinner? Just drift over to the margin on the right and click on “A Titanic Theme Dinner.” Thanks to my friend Teja, we have clips from a dinner we did a couple of years ago for a group of friends. The dishes are mainly Escoffier, which seems to be French code for “the best food imaginable!” The dishes are quite fancy, requiring much preparation, but if you love to cook (and eat) you will love every minute. You will need help, ‘tho. Not only with prepping, cooking and execution but also with the serving and most important….the planning. My friends Carolyn, Barb and Susan were the “planners” for this meal. Serving for these meals is traditionally “à la Russe” which means that every dish is served separately (usually by servers.) Also, if you are doing First Class Menu (there are also Second Class and Steerage menus) you have a choice between menus from the First Class Dining Salon and the “À La Carte” restaurant and each of those have options at each course! I usually go over options with the people who are planning and the best answer usually is a “mix and match” between the two restaurants. Dressing up is fun, but you have to feel out your group and see what they think. My opinion: this level of food quality deserves for people to dress up! Find what is right for your group, and feel free to mix it up. The Edwardians won’t mind! Planning and execution of the meal is a bit like a wedding: give yourself a load of time, plan well, do everything you can, and on the day…let go and have fun!

The War of the Roses

My family heard about this dinner for my friends and decided they would like one as well! We were able to couple this with a Titanic Exhibition that was going on that week in Rochester, NY. My lovely family was all game and made it one of the best Titanic Dinners ever! I served:

  • Lobster Thermidor in a bed of Duchess Potatoes
  • Calvados-Glazed Roast Duckling
  • Home-made Applesauce
  • Quenelle of Carrot
  • Minted Green Pea Timbales
  • Flowerets of French Cucumber
  • Punch Romaine
  • Asparagus Salad with Champagne-Saffron Vinaigrette
  • Oranges en Surprise (a kind of Baked Alaska of orange sherbet served in an orange skin, topped with almond meringue and baked…yum!)

A little bit about my family: my sisters (all five) are bright, beautiful, talented, and scamps all! Most of them are accomplished chefs, so I had my work cut out for me! Sisters Joanne and Kathy each came dressed as “Rose” from the movie. Each applied their own style of dress and both were stunning, but “Who was the better Rose?” became the topic of conversation, which the family duly dubbed “The War of the Roses!”

Oh…and wise was the man who didn’t enlist in THAT war!!!

Minted Green Pea Timbales...just plain screwy or chromosomes skipping around?

I was doing pretty well with the meal preparations, but cramming too much Punch Romaine into the blender, I managed to spray it all over Joanne’s bar!!! [I cleaned it up and confessed my error. Joanne (always the gracious host) told me it was no problem and she later cleaned up the mess the right way!] So, a little on edge, I deliver the Punch to the table to find everyone a tad too quiet, with subtle smirks (always a bad sign!) Knowing, from experience, that it is pointless to drag these things out I say “OK. What’s UP?!” It is then I notice that there is a huge pile of the Minted Green Pea Timbales on my nephew’s plate! Knowing this tactic from years of abuse (oh, yes my beloved sisters…we will present THOSE stories someday!!!) I ask, “What the HELL is wrong with the timbales?” To which they reply, “We all hate it.” “OMIGOD”, I think, “I did something wrong!” So, I taste one and it was exactly correct!!!

Edwardians Like Mush

OK granted. Minted Green Pea Timbales are a tad on the odd side. Edwardians, true-blue meat-and-potatoes people, tended to over-process their vegetables. The timbales are a mixture of blanched and cooled green peas, mixed with fresh mint, salt and pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, cream, and a bit of egg white. This is put through a food processor, then into cupcake molds and they are all baked/steamed. You finish with a dab of sour cream and a fresh mint leaf. I made the timbales for the Titanic Dinner for my friends and everyone loved it! I mean, I had parents asking for the recipe after, saying they had finally found a dish they thought their kids would eat! Now, most people say kind things after a meal. Me…I would’ve complimented the éclairs and home-made ice cream, for that meal. So, what I’m saying is that with all the great food at the dinner for my friends, the unsolicited vote of “best dish” that night was the timbales!

“Odd Man Out” or The Skipped Chromosome

So…cooking is nothing without knowledge, so I ask my family “OK, EVERYONE hated the timbales?” Turns out, opinions varied. Some of my brothers in law hate veggies so much, that given the choice between asparagus and a Red Sox win, they would hem and haw. Some liked the timbales. Some deferred comment. Really, it was my sisters who really didn’t like the timbales! “Wow. I thought. At least one of us fell far from the tree, and I guess that someone is ME!” Some tastes are a very particular thing: I myself cannot stand the taste of cilantro. I choose to not eat certain foods, but I like most food. For years I thought my one food hatred to be just one of those odd anomalies. Then I found a group of cilantro-haters on-line. To them, cilantro tastes like soap! “YES!” I thought, “That’s EXACTLY right!” The group explained that there is a fairly rare gene combination that makes cilantro taste like a subtle poison to some people.

So, beloved sisters. We have to agree to disagree. I promise: no more green pea timbales. You: no cilantro for me. Personally, I’m glad I fell on that side of the tree. Mmmm…where’s the sour cream?

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