Thursday, June 24, 2010

Girls Just Wanna Have Fu--uun!

Is it a girl thing? I’m having a great day. I’m feeling loved and supported by “my girls”, the fabulous 50-something women who’ve individually and independently re-invented themselves by starting their own businesses or jumping into new careers. For these women, it’s a case of ‘where do I go from here?’ Having raised their now-almost-adult-kids, they’re rightfully looking for fulfillment elsewhere.

I jokingly referred to my son, Adam’s volleyball team dinners that I catered recently, saying I should’ve charged a fee for my labor and not just the cost of the food. Going into that process was calculated on my part, not only because I truly am always looking for reasons to cook for people, but I also hoped it would afford me an opportunity to ‘get the word out’ on the launching of my new endeavor, No Reservations, home-cooked meals delivered to your door. And I am happy I did so; it was fun for me and it also let people know I’ll soon be open for business.

I’ve received much support from my girlfriends, and as a result, I feel like I’m jumping WITH a safety net. And that is priceless.

Not only have I received invaluable advice from my girlfriends, but despite what pop culture talking heads claim, we are not all competitive and trying to scratch each other’s eyes out. In fact, I have experienced just the opposite; we all want each other to succeed. It’s almost as if ‘your success is my success’, and it’s a wonderful feeling. Corny though it sounds, we ARE a “Sisterhood”.

Today my dearest friend, a fairly new real estate agent, invited me to cater the Brokers’ Open she was holding on a new, exclusive listing. I did so happily, hoping I would meet the standard she was holding out for this particular high-end property. Upon delivering the food to the property, I was delighted to find her teenaged daughter there as well. Together, the three of us had a ball laying out the food, congratulating each other on our new endeavors, and wishing each other ultimate success.

Here is a pic Emma, our youngest addition to the Gal Club captured on her phone/cam:

The event was a big success, both in terms of broker turn-out and interest in my food. We were all delighted for one another and vowed to continue our partnership to success. No matter what others tell you, good women friends are your very best resource. So relax and enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Where's the Beef?

A few years ago a recipe in the New York Times’ Dining section caught my eye. The recipe was for George W. Bush’s fillet of beef with three-peppercorn sauce, 2001, and if memory serves me correctly, the beef was prepared for either President Bush’s Inaugural Dinner or perhaps a State Dinner at the White House. The recipe is adapted from Walter Scheib, a former White House chef.

I clipped the recipe and promptly put it aside wondering ‘Can a lifelong, liberal Democrat recreate a dish designed to please the palate of a controversial Republican President and still look herself in the eye?’This may sound absurd but I am as passionate about my politics as I am about my food, so I put the clipping aside and tried to ignore it…until now.

I have to admit, it looked like a tasty dish. I guess that’s why I’ve kept it in my testing file for nine years.

I’d invited some friends for dinner. One couple is devotedly carnivorous; we’ve been close friends for decades and nine times out of ten, a good cut of beef is our meal of choice. The other couple is a cardiologist who enjoys a juicy steak, and his wife—a self-professed very picky eater. I’ve learned through trial and error that the one safe protein to serve her is a fillet of beef. This was the group I would serve this very special meal.

We would begin the evening with a Chilled Avocado Soup with Spicy Breadcrumb Topping, served in the tinted crystal stemware we purchased at the Murano glass factory in Venice, Italy.

Our friends were supplying the fixings for an antipasto platter to be enjoyed with a glass or two of wine. The beef, our entrée, would be accompanied by individual tomato gratins and roasted fingerling potatoes with lots of garlic and fresh rosemary from my garden. For dessert, Maple Layer Cake with sinfully rich Maple Syrup Frosting.

Normally when a recipe instructs me to braise a mix of chopped vegetables and herbs that serve as the foundation for a stock or sauce, and then to strain the solids from the liquid, I overlook it, leaving them in, thereby enhancing the richness and texture of the sauce. (And really, why waste perfectly tender and savory ingredients?) However, upon removal from the oven and allowing ten minutes or so for the meat to rest, this beef looked deeply flavorful and perfectly roasted. Wanting to keep the elegant appearance of the plattered, sliced meat, I opted to strain the sauce. The result was a delightfully tender fillet with a depth of flavor, heightened I believe, by the inclusion of a splash of balsamic vinegar, not often enjoyed outside a fine dining establishment. As my friend the cardiologist declared “This is the best piece of beef I’ve ever had!”

learned: There WAS something good—no great--that came from that administration! Don’t let your politics persuade your palate. Bon appétit!

(To view this recipe, copy and paste this link),0,3819595.story

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Brother, Can you spare a dime?

I may be in the minority during these post-Deepwater Horizon days, but I still hold out hope that great achievements lie ahead for the current occupants of the White House. Faced with the utter devastation of one of our nation’s most vital ecosystems, the President is making his third trip to the area today to stay informed and see firsthand what is being done to prevent further damage and preserve whatever wildlife remains.

I read an account today of a flotilla of Louisiana chefs on a mission to assess the condition of the oyster beds they lease in the Gulf to supply their kitchens with the native bounty necessary to keep their restaurants afloat, you should pardon the pun. Needless to say, the outlook is grim. In fact, in recent weeks, many of them have ordered seafood from coastal areas to the north and east, the state of Maryland among them.

But people with a passion have a determination to succeed despite desperate conditions, and this is good news for residents of the Gulf Area and the tourists who visit there. This brings me to reveal to you the marvel I feel for those who succeed where others might fail.

I am reminded of a visit we had to the White House kitchen in 2008, while taking our son, Zack on a college tour in Washington. We were fortunate to have a private WH tour and saw many remarkable things, but what stood out the most in my mind, was the impossibly small and almost antiquated facility in which truly talented chefs create gourmet meals that impress and delight a wealth of important foreign dignitaries.

I have been known to singlehandedly produce multi-course meals for up to sixty people in my relatively small, but well-appointed and functional kitchen. I have had professional chefs prepare meals in my kitchen who are surprised to find that I have a much-needed tool or appliance on hand that they’d accidentally left behind in their own kitchens. But until you see the limited space in which our White House culinary staff operates, you cannot truly appreciate the wonder that is the banquet they turn out. Here is a picture of me with one of these magicians.

Did I mention that the kitchen is three floors below the state dining room and the only way to get the food up to our President and his few hundred guests is by dumb waiter?? Have you ever seen a dumb waiter? Remember the scene in “Home Alone 3” when the actress who plays ‘Alice’ climbs into a dumb waiter and has to curl up in a ball to fit inside? You get the idea. With all the attention the First Lady has focused on educating the public about acquiring a healthy diet and promoting the benefits of organic, sustainable foods, couldn’t we begin by providing the Leader of the Free World with a new kitchen? I say we start a campaign to raise funds for a remodel. Perhaps a nationwide school bake sale…

Next up, ‘Can a lifelong, liberal Democrat do justice to an Inaugural Dinner recipe for a Republican President?’