valentine’s day at the beard house

it has only taken a week but i think i may have finally caught my breath and gotten some sleep.  after a 17 hour bus ride up, two jam packed-action filled days and another 17 hour bus ride home, i can truly say i have had a real career moment!  at times, it was a little overwhelming-to just think about where i was and who else had been there.  at others, it was just plain fun; we were so well prepared that everything went off without a single hiccup.  however, since i was a little busy, i didn’t take many photos-but i have a link to lots of them at the bottom of this post.  these are a few of the photos i took.

the front door to the house doesn’t look like much, i expected something a little grander.  perhaps some stairs leading up to the door.  but in the end, this made loading in a whole lot easier.

 the kitchen, this is the backside of the pass.
 the view into the kitchen from the far side of the pass.

 the line.  it should really be called the tunnel-as short and thin as i am, i felt a little large in this space.

 red velvet cheesecake brownies.  as a parting gift for all of the guests, i baked up 4 pans (see them lined up on the pass in the photo above?).  need the recipe?  click here.

we were unbelievably lucky; our event was on 2/14 and there were not any events scheduled on the day before.  we were allowed to load in and prep the day before.  that meant we were not as rushed and had a little time to wander the area.  when we finished prepping on 2/13, a few of us hit the streets and headed to chelsea market on foot.

 like moths, we were drawn to the light…

i do not envy the person who had to attach all of those little lights.
we pigged out on gelato and sorbetto

 then we headed up to the high line for a nap.

 the old rail line that was converted into the high line park
 love the way the building is staddling the raised railway, as if it is stepping over it
 14th street-the meat packing district

 it always amazes me that the roads are still cobbled in some of the neighborhoods of manhattan.

the uneven sizes and angles of the glass on this building made wonderful reflections.  i could have spent hours photographing the building and the reflections.  we headed back to the house so that we could go to dinner as a group.

after a lovely dinner at mc cormick and schmicks, we walked to times square.  having grown up in new jersey and spending many, many days and nights as well as working in new york city, i must say that times square at night is always impressive.  a little overwhelming but always an adventure.

 and then it was time to head back to the hotel-we had a busy day in front of us…

to see tons more pictures of all the food and the beard house, follow this link.  and congratulations to tara(in the photo above)-she travelled with us and took all of the photos on the cafe’s website.  didn’t she do a great job?

macarons: how to relax and reload…

if you live in nashville, then you know where i have been.  last week, a few of my coworkers and i made a 17 hour bus trip to new york city to prepare a special valentine’s day dinner at the james beard house.  don’t worry, at some point this week, i will post pictures and links to all of the clips and coverage.  but after a three day whirlwind trip and another 17 hour bus ride home, i needed to recharge and reload.  and since more than a couple hours of sleep was not an option, i decided to do what comes naturally-bake cookies.

 in december, i participated in a book release event for the bouchon bakery book.  and on friday morning, in a half hungover-half adrenaline overloaded state, i went for a walk on the streets of new york city.  in my wanderings, i passed bouchon bakery and then later in the day, found myself on the bus watching my coworkers sample macarons from bouchon.  so many pretty colors and enticing flavors.  it dawned on me that i had never tried making that type of macaron.  i had to reconcile that…

 well it was close to valentine’s day
 my technique needs work…

 i need to get some red color-fuschia didn’t cut it, they look like i flavored them with pepto bismal…

all filled and ready for a close-up.  i plan to make these again.  this time, i used the recipe from the bouchon bakery book.  the recipe is out there on the internet but as a cookbook author, i suggest you buy the book or at least borrow it from a library or friend.  and if not, i found it on the making of a foodie blog, but beware, sebastien rouxel works his recipes in grams and ounce conversions are tricky so your best bet is to work from his recipe in the book using the gram amounts rather than the ounce conversions on the blog page i linked to.  good luck and may the force be with you…now, i’m off to catch up on some sleep.

that next big thing…

some people have jobs, some have careers.  some work because they have to and others work because they cannot imagine not working; it’s more of a “calling” than a job.  for those of us who have careers and callings, we are lucky to also find ourselves in love with what we do.  our lives become punctuated by big moments and accomplishments that more often than not, include our professional occupations.

in the restaurant world, there are few things to dream of.  the work is hard, it is stressful and physically demanding.  most of us do not get many benefits and quite often the pay scale isn’t very rewarding either-especially if you are a woman.  even so, we get up at odd hours and work our asses off even when we are sick or have cut/burned/bashed ourselves to a point that would make others cry and give up.  in the back of our minds, we dream of the day that…i know, it’s no different than any other career path but in our profession, at least the food is good.

so where am i going with this?  after 30 years of busting my ass, after countless burns and bruises and cuts, after writing 2 books, and on and on i could go, i finally found myself facing what could be considered a dream come true.  a bonafide career defining moment.  an honor so great that it is one that i simply cannot put into words so that it sounds like anything less than bragging.  so instead, i bring you pictures.

it all starts with a simple sweet potato
 and potato chips
 onions tossed in seasoned flour by hand

crispy fried onions
 the start of a casserole
 tomme cheese made with milk from a cow named eileen
(honestly, i’m not making that up, her name really is eileen)

 carrots mashed by hand
 our own smoked pork loin
 chicken breaded and fried 
 freshly fried chicken made from our secret recipe
 squash ready for the casserole

 profiteroles awaiting their filling
bittersweet chocolate
 freshly shaved

can you feel the love?

as we worked in the kitchen, the tables were set.  it’s almost showtime!  the tension builds and we are ready.  this is just a dress rehearsal, but we took it every bit as seriously as we will in two weeks.  we are headed to the big city, about 900 miles northeast of nashville.  yes, that big city, the big apple.  we’re packing up our recipes and our knife kits and heading to manhattan.  we’ve been invited to throw a little dinner party for valentine’s day.  you won’t find us in a restaurant or hotel kitchen.  this isn’t a pop-up dinner and there won’t be any tents.  we will be taking over a house in the village-greenwich village to be exact.  and whose house is it, does it even matter?  yeah it does, it belonged to a man named james beard-ever heard of him?

and all tongue and cheek aside, none of the attitude or arrogance, i am honored to have this chance and even with all of the preparation we have done, a little nervous too.  the james beard foundation put a nice bit up about us on their website, and we have even more up on cafe website.  our local paper covered the rehearsal dinner and here is what they had to say about it.  wish us luck, and stay tuned for more photos.

a trip to times square with undercover steve

after i was finished with all the media training, i had a chance to hang with my dopey brother-he likes to be called that; he says it’s a term of endearment…i like to indulge him in this fantasy and willingly comply with his request.  we were undecided of what we would do for the day and basically chose not to do anything but just hang out together, walking, talking and taking in the scenery.  first on the agenda, lunch.  after wandering around and passing up the shake shack-wow what a line…we settled in to a table for two indoors at the 5 napkin burger in lovely and scenic hell’s kitchen.

my dopey brother who was preparing to part ways with the stache.  it was a last meal of sorts and a 5 napkin burger and all of its 10oz of glory was a perfect send off.

 my dopey brother doing his best jason lee impersonation

 i really liked the way the restaurant was decorated.  the meat hooks were the perfect touch…

 loved the scales too

 ultimately, the thought of trying to eat a 10oz burger was too much for me, i ordered the veggie burger.  it appeared to be a home made pattie with beets which gave it a nice pink hue.  it was tasty but also quite large and i ended up eating just the patty and the fries.

 undercover steve enjoyed his burger too-his was beef and it looked tasty.  i should have asked about a kids menu

 the stashe loved the burger-here he is feeding it
after eating way more than was needed, we headed back out to wander the streets aimlessly
 loved this view-i could see all the way up to the chrysler building

 and of course, no trip to nyc is complete with out a wander through times square

 i really love the new lane closures to accommodate pedestrians and provide seating.  we parked ourselves on a bench and talked.  i thought that we might run out of things to say but we never did.  we talked about my book and his radio show, family, friends and so much more.

and no trip to times square is complete with out a sighting of the naked cowboy.  really???  get over yourself and put on some pants.  and on that note, we headed to penn station so i could catch my train to phili for the last leg of my trip-qvc training.

sorry to say but that is all i’ve got-no time for sight seeing.  now, i’m home and back to work and that means there is pie-stay tuned for that.

my trip to the big city

last monday, i grabbed my overstuffed carry-on bag and headed to the airport with jesse for a few days of media training in new york city and philadelphia.  first on the agenda was to check in to the flatotel for our stay in manhattan.  with that out of the way, we quickly headed out in search of lunch-trickier than it sounds but only because there were simply too many choices!

bricklane curry house

we chose the brick lane curry house and were quickly seated.  as we perused the menu, i took a few photos.

 the place isn’t much bigger than the photo suggests-maybe 8-10 tables and at the time, we were the only two people in the place.

 love the use of colanders as a light fixture!

 we ordered prawns tikka masala for me and prawns goan for jesse.  it was all accompanied by curried vegetables, dal, rice and naan.  all of it was incredibly tasty.

 nothing says i enjoyed lunch more than an empty plate
at this point, we headed out into the rain and began our first adventure-the acquisition of an umbrella for jesse…this was followed by a stop in the moma shop and a stop at the hotel for rain jackets which we both thought to bring.  after a stop in a bead shop and for a drink (well we were off the clock so why not…) we headed to our final destination-eataly and it was only 30 blocks away…
the first thing i will say about eataly-overwhelming.  too much going on in one place to take it in in an hour.  too many people trying to do the same thing as you and also finding themselves overwhelmed-lots of stopped traffic in other words.  the second thing, with all of the potential this place has to wow you, it’s a bit disappointing that you aren’t.  most of what i saw was familiar to me and nothing seemed truly unique.  as jesse stated, i can eat proscuitto anywhere-proscuitto is proscuitto.  nothing reached out and grabbed me and yelled at me to try it.  we did indulge in gelato and i can only ask that they give a little more for the price.  even so, i really enjoyed the coconut gelato and the fig sorbetto that jesse had was equally wonderful.  with that said, here are some photos from our trip into eataly.
the first thing you encounter upon entering eataly is a beautiful display of fresh produce

 mushrooms-they always catch my attention

 jesse and his $17 glass of red wine-the moral of the photo, never ask the person selling the wine to pour you a glass of their favorite wine…

after departing eataly, we headed uptown where we made stops in magnolia bakery and hill country  chicken.  both stops were to feed our eyes!  we watched the baker in the window of magnolia bakery assemble an icebox cake and we drooled over the pies at hill country chicken.   we headed back to our hotel and got ready to head out for dinner.

maison on broadway

we sat outside and indulged ourselves in mussels and salads and then called it a night, at least i did.  it was off to bed for me and i slept like a rock!  but wait, there’s more to the story!  look for it tomorrow-my adventures with undercover steve…