25 March 2007

One of those days

Some days, you’re better off not going into the kitchen. Chefette had one of those days on Friday.
  • I burned my biscotti.
  • I dropped an entire container of freshly made porcini mushroom soup on the floor of the kitchen during service.
  • I sent out a chicken liver salad without one of the key ingredients specified on the menu (black grapes).
  • I mixed up the orders for Table 4 and Table 9.
  • I cut my left index finger while making the staff meal.

Not exactly my best ever day at the restaurant!

Thankfully, I’m off to Paris next weekend, when my parents will be visiting. Very glad to see that my father, on the packed tour itinerary he sent me, has allotted time to eat ice cream at Berthillon (the famous Paris ice cream parlour, known in the Chefette household as “the Mother Ship”). Now that’s what I call having one’s priorities in order!

19 March 2007

Last night's dinner

Sometimes, at the end of a long weekend in the restaurant, the last thing you want to do is cook at home. I remember Anthony Bourdain once writing that at times all he has energy for when he gets home from service is wolfing down a couple of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

So when Chefette got home from Mother’s Day lunch service yesterday (after serving 46 covers for Saturday dinner and finishing at 1am), needless to say there wasn’t a whole lot of zip left in the tank.

Thankfully, there were steaks in the house. Organic Herefordshire beef rump steaks. Mmmm. I served them with sautéed chestnut mushrooms, and some bubble & squeak made with leftover potatoes and Savoy cabbage. Total preparation time, under 20 minutes.

Anyway, they looked so lovely sizzling away on the ridged griddle plate I had to take a picture.

09 March 2007

Starting to share the news

Just back from service. Time enough for a mini-blog.

I texted C that I would be in a bit early for service tonight, for us to have a chat. So I told her about the Husband's international job offer, and let her know that I probably won't be able to work for too much longer. Needless to say, we both got a wee bit misty-eyed and had a hug. But she was genuinely pleased for the Husband's good fortune. And she also said she was glad that at least I won't be leaving her to go to another restaurant. People, I am surely going to miss that kind-hearted lady!!

To top it off, she's let me put my top 2 requests for dishes on the menu for tomorrow. One will be a chicken liver bruschetta, finished with Marsala wine and porcini mushrooms. The other will be an antipasto of grilled vegetables with buffalo mozzarella and fresh pesto. Cross your fingers that they'll sell well.

The only other thing on my mind is a bit of advice to all cooks out there. Also a hard-earned reminder to self. Never, Ever, Ever (!) touch your eyes after you've been working with hot chillies during service. Even if you've washed your hands multiple times. 'Coz that hot chilli oil gets everywhere, and it doesn't take much to induce a painful burning sensation. (Gentleman, I understand from anecdotes told to me during chef school, that this advice applies doubly to boys visiting the urinals after service ...)

04 March 2007

Sunday lunch

London in at the end of wintertime is dire. It's miserably cold, grey, wet and rainy. But right now, Chefette is too well fed and watered to care. She has just got back from a memorable Sunday lunch at Pont de La Tour (the Bar & Grill side, not the Restaurant side), where she indulged in a lusciously dressed langoustine cocktail, followed by chargrilled calf's liver with bacon, mashed potato and caramelized pearl onions. The Husband had a crab mayonnaise followed by a medium rare sirloin steak with deeply golden chips and bearnaise sauce. We shared a bottle of 2005 Marsannay (well rounded, and full of ripe red fruits), plus I had a 2003 Californian ice wine for dessert (the 2004 Bonny Doon California Vin Glacier -- quite lusciously sweet, with vanilla and honey notes). The husbanded opted for a slice of the classic lemon tart. How spoiled we are to have this place within 15 minutes' walk from the flat!

The coolest thing of all was the feeling that I got when I looked over their dessert menu, to see they were serving rhubarb jelly. As it happens, I recently made rhubarb jellies at the restaurant, and C (the head chef) put them on the menu. Let me tell you, it felt tres chic to see that a top London bistro also has your dish on its menu! At one point, I got a glimpse of their version coming out of the kitchen. Their jelly looked quite similar, but mine was more lavishly decorated. I garnished my jellies with some of the rhubarb compote taken from the base mixture (flavoured with cinnamon, sugar and blood orange), as well as a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, and a dollop of thick cream.

As it happens, we were celebrating a couple of special recent events. First, is the Husband's acceptance of a New Job Overseas (of which readers of Chefette will hear more when it's publicly announced). Second, is that Chefette has just finished taking her Advanced Certificate course at the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. The course was very intensive (Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm each day), with tastings and lectures, followed by 3-4 hours of reading and note-taking at home every night. Nevertheless, it was fun to be back in the classroom for a week, tasting wine with other students/teachers. All in all, we tasted around 90 wines over 5 days. Everything from Gran Reserva Rioja to Margaret River unoaked Chardonnay to dry Oloroso sherry. We finished with a 2 1/2 hour exam.

The first part of the exam was a blind tasting. We had to check off the different characteristics that a particular wine displayed from a master list (intensity, fruit characteristics, acids, tannins, body, etc.). Then we had to guess the type of wine, the price per bottle, and the quality level. Then came a multiple choice section of 50 questions, followed by 4 short essay questions on wines, spirits, vinification and viticulture. It wasn't easy, folks. Keep your fingers crossed that Chefette passed.