Culinary Sense

Adventures with Food and Life

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

My first real special!

Hey Peeps!

When it’s slow at the restaurant, like in the last few days, people like me (i.e. interns) get to do stuff! And so it happened that I got to make my first real special appetizer! But first: the evolution of the amuse bouche on Tuesday.

I started out planning my amuse bouche, thinking I would use some deep fried capers and hummus. I looked at some of my mise en place, and added some shredded carrots and piquante peppers. I came up with this. On one side, there is a hummus quenelle with deep fried capers, on top of smoked paprika. On the other side, separated by balsamic syrup, there is a small “salad” of shredded carrots, julienne Peppadews with one micro basil.

There is too much going on here!!!

I kept adding things, like toasted  sesame seeds, smoked paprika, and balsamic syrup. Once I showed it to Chef, he said I was all over the Mediterranean. He told me to take away at least three things.

One option.

Here’s one option I thought about. I took the hummus, paprika, and capers and put it onto a plate, but I didn’t really like it.

The winning option.

I decided on using the other half of my original idea: carrot and Peppadew (sweet piquante peppers) with balsamic syrup, and toasted sesame seeds. A winning combination! And it meets the Chef’s preference that the amouse bouche be vegan. We didn’t end up sending any out, but I thought it was success nonetheless.

Moving on: every night, we have an appetizer and and entree special. Here are Monday’s specials.

Mussels and fettucini.

House-made fettucini with red pepper coulis sauce, and mussels (this is the appetizer).

Bacon-wrapped chicken.

Potatoes duchesse.

The starch of the day was potatoes duchesse. This is basically mashed potatoes with chives, piped into these forms, and then baked.

Plating the entree.

The entree special plated up.

The vegetable of the day was roasted cauliflower. Here you see the bacon-wrapped, blue cheese stuffed chicken with the cauliflower and the potatoes.

On Tuesday, we had pork schnitzel with honey-orange-vanilla roasted root vegetables and bread pudding (not visible in this photo).

Tuesday entree special.

The vegetables were too sweet to my taste, but the schnitzel was great!

And finally, I had time to make the appetizer special: chilled beet soup with honey-herb chevre. Beet soup is also known as borscht.  We didn’t actually sell any, but I thought it was a success!

Chilled red beet soup.


~ Carolynn



Trip to Burlington

Hey folks!

On my day off this week, I decided to head out to Burlington, VT. It’s Vermont’s largest city, and a pretty cool place.

It happens to be the place where Lake Champlain Chocolates are made. I went to the factory to get a tour.

Surprisingly small, simple sign outside the factory.

Inside the factory and factory store, there are of course chocolates for sale. Here is a wall full of chocolates that couldn’t be sold for cosmetic reasons.

Shelves full of rejected chocolate!

And of course, lots of chocolates for sale!

Truffles upon truffles!

The factory store is basically one large room attached to the actual factory. There is a small cafe in the back, and a large window that gives a look into the factory itself.

The factory.

Along the wall of the store, and in the “tour” area, there are a set of tablets that depict how the cocoa bean grows, is harvested and processed, and becomes chocolate. Basically, there are three tiers in the chocolate industry: the first tier are the growers, the second tier the processors, and the third tier are the chocolatiers.

In the first tier, the cocoa beans are grown. Cocoa trees grow in tropical climates, i.e. NOT Europe or North America!!! 😦

Pods on a cocoa tree can vary in color.

Here is a photo of a cocoa tree. The pods contain the cocoa beans. Apparently, the color of the pods does not determine ripeness; rather, ripeness is determined by touch and smell. The pods are about as big as a football.

Cocoa beans from inside the pod.

When opened, the pod reveals the cocoa beans, which are covered in pulp. The fresh cocoa beans are more fruity than chocolately. Once harvested, the beans are fermented for about two weeks underneath banana tree leaves, and dried. Then, they are ready to go to market.

In the second tier, a processor buys sacks of cocoa beans on the international market. The chocolate from Lake Champlain Chocolates comes from Barre-Callebaut, a Belgian company. They crush the beans to get the nibs inside, and then roast these to get the cocoa flavor. The nibs are then ground into a cocoa liquor (which has nothing to do with alcohol). The liquor is then further processed into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

The different kinds of chocolate explained.

From left to right: dark, milk, and white chocolate.

The cocoa butter and cocoa powder are the two main components of chocolate. To get dark chocolate, you mix powder, butter, and sugar together. To get milk chocolate, you mix butter, powder, sugar, and milk. And to get white chocolate, you mix just the cocoa butter with milk and sugar. Because white chocolate doesn’t have any cocoa powder in it, some people do not consider it true chocolate.

Tempering chocolate means to heat the chocolate (either solid or liquid) to a certain temperature, and then to let it cool again. The tempering of chocolate allows the sugar crystals to realign in a certain way to make the chocolate glossy and firm.

Lake Champlain Chocolates (third tier) gets the chocolate from Barre-Callebaut in 50 lb boxes. The boxes contain chocolate pistoles, which are sort of like chocolate chips.

Box of pistoles.

This is what the box might look like, except larger.

Chocolate pistoles.

The pistoles come in white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate, all with varying degrees of cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

The chocolatier takes the pistoles and melts them down, holds the molten chocolate at a certain temperature, and then forms it into truffles, chocolate bars, or whatever! More info also in this article: How Chocolate Works.

That day at the factory, they were making solid dark chocolate bunnies (for Easter) and “Kiss Me” frogs for Valentine’s Day (with all three types of chocolate).

"Kiss me" frogs for Valentine's Day. Hand-painted.

Sorry the image is blurry, but I did have to shot through the factory window. The body of the frog is made separately from the feet (it is later “glued” on with chocolate). First, the dark chocolate face and arms are painted into the forms, then milk chocolate is filled in. Then, the form is swirled around to coat the entirety of it (the frog is hollow). Then, the body is glued onto the feet (which are painted onto white chocolate) with more chocolate!

People making chocolate bunnies.

Solid chocolate bunnies for Easter.

And that concludes the tour of the factory. (By the way, my explanation of how cocoa is grown and how chocolate is made is VERY general. We all know there is a lot more to it, including the politics of it!)

After my visit at Lake Champlain Chocolates, I decided to stay in Burlington for lunch. First, I stopped by a bagel store called Myer’s Bagel Bakery, which makes bagels in the Montreal style (versus NY style). They are slightly sweet because they’re boiled in honey water. At first I thought I wouldn’t like them, but it turns out I do. They’re chewy, which I like. Plus, I eat them with a lot of cream cheese.

I continued on to Leunig’s Bistro, which is on the famous pedestrian area on Church Street. It’s a cute small place, and serves French-style bistro food. I had putine, which is a Canadian dish consisting of French fries, gravy, and cheese. It was sooo good. I could only eat half of it.

Putine at Leunig's.

Overall, a pretty good day off.

The ride home: a view of the mountains from the highway.

~ Carolynn

Gratuitous Food Photos

Amuse bouche.

Hey Folks!

I’ve collected more photos from work. Above, you will see (although it’s pretty blurry) my photo of the amuse bouche I came up with the other night. It’s prosciutto rolled around blue cheese, with honey dabble and micro greens.

Duck confit tart.

This is the duck confit tart we make. “Confit” basically means something is cooked in a viscous liquid, which can be either fat or syrup. In this case, it’s duck confit, which means it’s duck meat cooked in duck fat. This is a traditional French cooking method, and chefs REALLY like using duck fat in their dishes. The components of this appetizer are: tart shell, duck confit salad (duck confit, shallots, thyme), micro greens, raspberry gelee, roasted hazelnuts, and truffle vinaigrette. Truffle oil is another very popular ingredient in fine dining. I don’t quite understand why yet, because it smells awful. And it doesn’t taste much better. But perhaps I will learn.

Pork osso buco.

Okay, this is not quite the osso buco part. This is pork shank, cut horizontally to make the osso buco. It’s seared, then roasted in its own juices, and usually reduced to the point of deliciousness. These are the pork “shanks” on the roasting pan.

Baked chicken skin.

Sometimes there are strange leftovers in the kitchen, such as chicken skin. A co-worker decided to roast the chicken skin and make a chicken skin salad sandwich as a lunch special. Yum! (Although we all thought the skins looked like squirrel skins, which made them significantly less appealing.)

Grilling bread.

Grilled bread.

Really, I could eat my weight in any of the bread items we have on the menu, whether it be this grilled bread (olive oil, salt, pepper, and grilled), caesar salad crostini (garlic, butter, herbs, cheese on focaccia), or pita chips (pita, roasted garlic oil, salt, herbs).

Mozzarella and oven roasted tomato salad, with basil pesto and balsamic syrup.

This is our mozzarella salad, although I think it’s a sandwich! It’s fresh mozzarella, oven roasted tomato (with herbs), piece of grilled bread, basil pesto, and balsamic syrup (which is really just balsamic vinegar reduced to syrup).

"Panache" salad.

The panache salad: mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, shredded carrots, shaved onions, and balsamic cider vinaigrette.

Roasted vegetable sandwich.

Roasted vegetables include: eggplant, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, garlic. Two different spreads on the focaccia: artichoke spread and acorn squash puree.

Lobster roll with lemon remoulade and celeriac slaw.

Maine lobster salad rolls!!!!

Caesar salad.

Caesar salad with aforementioned crostini.

Trout with arugula-cheese filling and tomato-brothy sauce, topped with fried arugula for crunch.

Special entree from weeks ago, so I’ve forgotten some of the ingredients.

Pasta with oyster mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and some kind of lovely green topping.

Special appetizer. I love it when we make pasta!!!

Hummus with feta-roasted garlic topping, along with marinated artichokes, peppadew, and olives.

The hummus is quite good!
And now for some of our desserts!

Cheddar apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

Baileys creme brulee with citrus sables cookie.

Flourless chocolate cake with berry coulis.

Cranberry bread pudding with creme anglaise, spiced apple compote, and maple walnut ice cream.


Dessert Trio: cheddar-apple pie with vanilla ice cream, mini chocolate cake and berry coulis, and mini Baileys creme brulee with citrus sables cookies.


You’re welcome for the gratuitous food photos. I claim no responsibility for your hunger!

~ Carolynn

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