Monday, April 30, 2007

Cooking with The Ghet

Saturday night was my initiation with The Ghetto Gourmet. You may have heard of these renegade foodies. In the past few months they've been featured everywhere from Bon Appetit to Gaper's Block. The folks at The Ghet host underground dinner parties, complete with local musicians. Guests purchase tickets in advance for a preset menu at a secret location that is disclosed just prior to the event. It's a food rave, if you will.

The space for Saturday night's event was a community center on the south side. The walls were covered in original paintings and artwork, and the ceiling was draped in organza of various colors. Members of the center pitched in to serve the guests, bus tables, do dishes, and hula hoop. No joke.

Cooking with Chef Efrain was a blast, and much more laid back than I expected. We hosted somewhere between 30 and 40 guests. It was great to do things that I don't get to do at my job - savory items, plating, etc. And when it came time to make the rosemary caramel sauce for dessert, you know I was all over it. This was the menu:

Forbidden Empanadas
Ground Pork, Granny Smith Apples and Dried Cherries.
W/ Truffled Onion Jelly

312 Beer Cheese Soup w/ Brie, Soyrizo, and Manchego

Marinated Flank Steak w/ 2 Sauces
Fresh Tomato w/ Hawaiian Black Sea Salt
Roasted Yellow Bell Pepper and Sweet Onion
Crispy Lentil Cakes w/ Parsley
Avocado Macadamia Muffins w/ Herbed butter

Almond and Hazelnut Tart w/ Poached Apples and Rosemary Carame

Everything was fantastic, but the soup really stood out. It was chock full of cheese and veg, such a nice, hearty option. Efrain's a talented guy.

If you're in the Chicago area and are interested in coming to dinner, The Ghet is hosting two more dinners this weekend. I'll be cooking with them again on Saturday night. They also host events in San Fran, LA, and New York City. Get more info at

(food)Rave On!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

There was an incident.

Yesterday began with me dropping an entire tray of 3" continental fruit tarts on the floor as soon as I had finished them. I'm chalking it up to being awake at 2:00 a.m. that morning. In total, 35 went down with a sploosh. Time consuming little things...3" pie shell gets reinforced inside with white chocolate, then filled with custard, then covered with a halved strawberry, kiwi slices, and mandarin orange segments, then glazed with apricot to hold it all together. Somehow I got lucky and it all landed on a rubber slipmat, which made clean up a breeze.

It took right around an hour to repair the damages with a new tray.

Today, I think, will be better.

Monday, April 23, 2007


It occurs to me, on a regular basis, that I am very lucky to have a job in a field that I love. It's not that I love my actual job, but I like it more than enough to say that it's never boring, tedious, or dreaded. Every time I talk to someone who hates their job, who loathes the coming of Monday morning and a new week, I feel very fortunate to have found work that brings me great pleasure. Of course, I made great changes in my life to go down this path, but there's nothing I regret. Even when the hours are long and the product is less than exciting, I am so very happy with my career, and it's all on the up and up.

Tomorrow is a new week.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Warm Weather Drinking

Oh my, drink this outside.

Prom Dress
3/4 to 1 teaspoon Angosture bitters
1 cube sugar
5 ounces chilled sparkling wine
Twist of lemon peel

Happy weekending!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nightmares Realized

I was ripped back into reality yesterday after returning to work from a lovely weekend.

First on the list was a wedding cake order where I have to create something like this.

Shoot me in the head. So you get the full effect, this thing has two staircases complete with figurines to represent the wedding party, and a working fountain. In the case of this particular photo, the fountain just happens to look like it's regurgitating blood. Doesn't bode well for the upcoming marital years. There's no place for a cake this gaudy in my repertoire.

Then, around 10:00, a perky senior from New Trier High School came bouncing into the kitchen and announced that she'd be shadowing me for the NEXT FOUR WEEKS. For the record, I have no problem having observers, passing on my (very limited) knowledge base, etc. I'm more than happy to do it. However, I had no idea this girl was showing up. I was completely unprepared. Apparently the owners forgot to tell me that they had spoken to her several weeks before and arranged this with her school. Now I need to "entertain" nearly every day for the next month, which includes curbing my foul mouth and trying extremely hard to follow sanitation laws to the letter. It's a bit unnerving to have to put that much effort into work, when most of the work I do is so repetitive that it's brainless.

Fucking blood fountains...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Plan B

This could possibly be the worst name for a restaurant, ever.

Plan B. As if to insinuate, from the very beginning, that your establishment is the second choice. In my head, it goes something like this:

Scene: Any decent restaurant other than Plan B in the Wicker Park neighborhood at 8:00 on a Saturday night.

Diner 1: This decent restaurant is crowded tonight! Imagine that...a restaurant that is full during prime dinner hours on a Saturday! The hostess says that it will be a 2-hour wait. Do you want to ride it out? We can enjoy libations from the bar area and be completely wasted by the time we are actually seated. What do you think?

Diner 2: Let's go to Plan B.

End Scene. Ugh.

It's opening in the old Kudos space at 1635 N. Milwaukee some time later this month.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Wheels of Steel

A lot of my friends rock out on Technics, but this is my turntable of choice...

Finally used it last night, after it sat around all shiny and new for 4 weeks. Diana's birthday cake is the first to muck it up.

(You have no idea how long I've been waiting to make that joke, by the way.)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I'm having one of those weeks where everything happens all at once. Everyone needs a phone call returned right away. All the projects have deadlines on the same day. Some of it's good, some of it's bad. All of it is stressful. It's only Wednesday, which is really my Tuesday, and it's looking to be a very.long.week.

Think I'll just make grilled cheese, go meet Col for a drink, and get over it, at least for the rest of the night.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Cornmeal Biscuits with Cheddar and Green Onions

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated yellow extra-sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup (packed) chopped green onions
1 large egg
3/4 cup (about) buttermilk

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk (for glaze)

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 425°F.

Blend flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add chilled butter cubes; work in with hands until mixture has a sandy consistency. Add cheese. Whisk 1 egg in glass measuring cup. Add enough buttermilk to egg to measure 1 cup; stir in green onions. Make well in center of dry ingredients. Pour buttermilk mixture into well; mix just until evenly moistened.

Turn dough out onto generously floured surface. Knead gently just until dough holds together, about 10 turns. Pat out on generously floured surface to 3/4-inch-thick round. Using 3-inch round cutter, cut out biscuits. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Gather dough scraps; pat out to 3/4-inch thickness and cut out additional biscuits. Brush biscuits with egg glaze.

Bake biscuits until golden, tester inserted into center comes out clean, and biscuits feel firm, about 18 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Happy Easter. Super happy that there are no more lamb cakes for another year...

Friday, April 6, 2007


Get ready for it...this will blow you away!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Edible Books at Columbia College

Here's photos from the 8th Annule Edible Books event that I participated in last Sunday. Each entry was an edible form of a book. It was held, of course, in the library at Columbia College. I didn't know it was a competition until I got there. I won "Most Tasteful," but was the only professional in the bunch, so I'll just leave it at that.

Was fun. Thanks to those who came!
  My entry was a replication of two pages from Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. Text says, "And the boy loved the tree..."
Cake, deconstructed:
Snickerdoodle cake
Cinnamon French Buttercream
Rolled Fondant Icing with Buttercream Decoration
  The Swiss Cheese Family Robinson. Get it???
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This one had something to do with Scrabble.
Peter Panini

I don't remember what book this was originated from, but oh man...that's good use of Pockey!

In my opinion, the most beautiful entry. It was made from dried bananas and very firm layers of green tea gelatin.

The Whale Rider. That's blue jello granules on the outside.
The Pillow Book, made out of marshmallows.

The Wizard of Olives.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Free Knife Sharpening

Free knife sharpening at Sur La Table this month. I've taken mine there before, and they do a good job. They don't grind them down too much.

I cannot wait until Easter is over. Invasion of the lamb cakes!