Tuesday, November 16, 2010

CIA, Day 2

I just completed Day 3, but between classes, dinner and bedtime, I've barely had any free time. And the few stretches I've had have been spent paying back some of my butter consumption on the treadmill at the hotel. As I was joking when they took our class picture yesterday, they must take the picture earlier in the week so we can all fit in the same shot.

48 crazy hours ago (that would be Monday night), was our first dinner at one of the 3 CIA restaurants we'll be visiting this week - Caterina de'Medici. I originally wrote up a nice description of our entrance through the wines we drank, but with all I have to get through, I've decided to condense it:

Glass 1: Nebbiolo d'Alba "Sontuoso" Valdinera. It was a tasty, classic Nebbiolo - dry and structured, with a nice bit of black cherry and some earth.

From there, we moved on to the wines they had pre-selected for our dinner - Feudi di San Gregoria Falanghina from Campania and Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture "Il Viola" from Basilicata.

Glass 2: Falanghina is a lovely Italian white varietal that you see more and more in good Italian places. This Falanghina had notes of green apple and citrus and was enjoyed by all.

Glass 3: Aglianico - yum. Though it was more fruit forward than the Nebbiolo, it complemented it nicely as it had similar dark cherry notes. Paired very well with the mushroom sauce that seemed to be used in both the pasta dish our table shared and the trout dish I ordered. Odd they used the same sauce in two completely different dishes, but it worked. Shoulder shrug.

Glass 4: Moscato D'Asti - OF COURSE! At the end of the meal, I had to introduce our table to one of my personal favorites and a consistent crowd pleaser - Moscato D'Asti. By this time we'd began calling ourselves "Table Debacle" as we were the most raucous group amongst our classmates, as well as in the restaurant so everyone was up for something fizzy and tasty.

Suffice it to say I slept very well on Monday night.

Day 2: We split into the teams we'll be working with for the rest of the week. I'm on a team with my friend, Wendy, Laura K. (a.k.a. LK, Laura #1, LauRock, Lola, Lo) and John. The focus of day 2 was frying and sauteeing and after some time discussing the assigned menu, we went about preparing our various components. We also convinced the instructor to let us deep fry our main entree - fried chicken (as opposed to pan frying as the assignment called for).

I also worked on a bacon topped salad and learned an important lesson about cooking in a convection oven. The air moves fast and the suction is great and once the fat gets cooked down, bacon becomes really light and can easily get sucked up in the fan of a convection oven. Despite this very funny looking lesson, I salvaged the bacon which turned out to be perfectly crispy. Of course the dressing was way too liquid-y which brings me to another lesson of the day - when making a dressing that includes a solid, start with the solid (in this case mayonnaise) and THEN add the liquid (in this case buttermilk). It helps control for soupiness.

The real crowning achievement, though, was deep frying some chicken with my new foodie friend who also enjoys some sick kitchen humor, Laura K. Actually, it wasn't so much an achievement as a ton of fun. I gotta get me one of those! Of course even I'm dubious of arming myself with something that involves a few gallons of hot oil.

For those who know Wendy and are wondering, her mac and cheese with the bechamel was AWESOME. The instructor had all of these notes but it might have been helpful had he given us the tip about adding nutmeg to the bechamel BEFORE we cooked it. Oh well, now we know. Though we still don't know why Connecticut is the nutmeg state, but I digress.

After lunch we started planning today's menu. I ended up with ice cream. due to today's meandering lecture which took an extra 2 HOURS, I was not able to freeze the ice cream in time. So I ended up helping some other classmates out and making the whipped cream for the fruit crisp. The upside is that we already have tomorrow's dessery - vanilla bean ice cream with a hint of English lavendar. Boo yah. Hopefully I'll have time to spin out the ice cream while my fish poaches....we shall see.

Oh, and today was wine class. Was a good refresher, but nothing new. Then again, when the wine was delivered late and the instructor got behind opening the wine, I jumped up and started corking bottles with own wine key. It was a truly proud moment for me.
Until the next 5 minutes breather,


Alli M.
p.s. American Bounty was o.k., not great. Their wine list is shockingly bad - limited and completely overpriced. Our featured wines at last night's dinner - Columbia Crest Merlot, Bonterra Chardonnay. Seriously?!? We're talking $8 bottles you can find at any generic wine store across the country! And American Bounty charges $28 per bottle for them. For shame.


elliej said...

Sounds absolutely fabulous -- My mouth is watering, and I'm craving something "fruit forward." Keep enjoying this wonderful week.

Wendy said...

Good luck with the final competition!

me said...

Why am I not surprised that you were at "the most raucuous group" for dinner? [I'm reading fun!] Glad it's a great time!