Thursday, August 20, 2009

Confessions of a Stagiere -- Week Seventeen

I can explain my procrastination this week. My parents were in Vancouver visiting. After a few days of parental catharsis they're now gone and I'm free to blog once more.

Either I've really earned some trust in the kitchen or the garde manger is giving me new stuff to do just to see what I'll say about it. Just kidding. Sort of. Lots of new dishes at the restaurant means lots of new tasks for me.

I have a new favourite task: making grapefruit juice. I don't have to make beet juice anymore (victory dance) because the hamachi dish has been changed to a beautiful grapefruit salt cured hamachi with grapefruit gelee, tofu puree and other delicious things. Yeah. That'll do as a description.

We can't put the grapefruit through the juicer because it makes it cloudy. So I just cut them in half and squeeze them as hard as I can over a chinois. I believe the garde manger's exact words were "use your superhuman strength to squeeze them". My reply was, "have you met me?"

Lack of superhuman strength aside, it's actually fun to squeeze the bejeezus out of grapefruits. Very theraputic. It also makes your hands feel awesome, really smooth. And they smell nice afterwards.

The tomato gelee and mascarpone roll component of the amuse bouche has been changed. Now we made a mascarpone that's set with gelatin, pour it into our eyeplates and once they're set we top them with chopped up tomato gelee.

Because the amuse bouche is so much easier to plate, I get to do more in the way of plating with the cold starters. It feels like a promotion. I take my victories wherever I can get them.

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to bring my parents to the restaurant. They'd be hearing about it all this time and they had never been to a fine dining restaurant. I was so excited to bring them there and it pretty much lived up to everything I could've thought of. The chef came out to say hello and he took one look at my mom and said "wow, you guys look exactly the same". My mother and I DO look very similar. It made me laugh because I've often thought about the fact that the older I get the more I look like her.

They certainly got a full experience. A couple of the owners -- David and Manjy Sidoo -- were sitting with a party at the table next to us. It was my parents' second trip to Vancouver and they were getting to experience quite the West Coast life.

I had a fabulous meal of the aforesaid hamachi (which I was forbidden from trying the week before because I was coming in for this meal), scallops with corn succotash (I had been dying to try this, it was fabulous), the new duck dish with daikon and cherries, the beef dish (one of my favourites that I'd never eaten in its entirety until then), finished off with cheese and a new dessert: tiramisu sundae. I think we all got sundaes because Fernando wanted "the thing you pour chocolate onto and it melts", by which he meant the sundae. My dad was full so I actually ate his too.

Part of the mignardise was a tiny carrot cake with a tiny marzipan carrots. My mom was fascinated by it. She couldn't stop talking about how small it was. Even the next day I kept hearing about it. She'll never forget that detail. So this meal definetely qualifies as one that's unforgettable. Thanks to everybody in the kitchen and the front of house for making them feel so at home and taken care of.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Confessions of a Stagiere: Week Sixteen

I've been really terrible at getting these up on time lately. My apologies.

So I didn't go last Friday because I was busy moving into my new home. Woot! Now everything's moved in and almost everything's been unpacked and put away. I can finally concentrate on food.

I did a lot of rejoicing the week before when I found out the amuse bouche had been changed. Not because I didn't like it, but because the new one is 150% easier to plate.

Old amuse: heat up pea puree (which almost always exploded on you if you heated it just a LITTLE too much), heat smoked sablefish under salamander, get heated soup (which turned brown all the time because of the chlorophyll), yell for the bacon foam, coordinate that all together and out it goes. It's not the most difficult thing in the world but could be trying.

New amuse: plate tomato gelee and mascarpone roll ahead of time. Pull out of lowboy when needed. Place heirloom tomato pieces at bottom of cup, pour cold soup into it. Fill puff pastry piece with tomato jam. Done.

This will have changed significantly by the time I head back this Friday. It's a work in progress. But I love the soup. It's a really simple tomato consomme: tomato, basil, cucumber and celery put through a food processor and left to hang over a bowl overnight in a cheesecloth. It's simple and refreshing. The small pieces of tomato inside look like little jewels. Sometimes they float and sometimes they don't. The sous chef figures it has something to do with the size of the pieces. I personally love the way it looks when it floats. With the drops of basil oil dripped into it it is a visual sensation.

There were an inordinate number of people complimenting the dishes this week. Perhaps it's because there are a number of new dishes on the menu, including this absolutely mouthwatering corn and scallop dish I have yet to try. Usually people just send their compliments in with their server or occasionally come into the kitchen to say hello.

This week two guests came in that I will never forget. They were an older couple from Austin, Texas. I only know this because that's what they said. I can't quite describe how they looked, only that they were very American looking (perfectly coiffed hair, artifically whitened teeth). They said it was a "life changing meal".

The woman says, "We're from Austin Texas, where the streets are paved with guacamole".

I don't know what it was, the accent, what she said and the whole American-ness of it, but I could barely hold in the laughter after she said that.

I suppose she was trying to illustrate that there isn't a lot of fine dining in Austin. But it was hilarious to me because only Americans say things like that. This is why we have a saying in (Canadian) radio: Americans on the radio are gold. Because they'll say anything. Love them. They scooted out of the kitchen, saying they would "tell everyone" about this. God, I hope they send more Texans out this way. And if I ever go to Austin I'm bringing along a big bag of nacho chips to sop up all that guacamole.