A Week at the Culinary
Institute of America (continued) - Conclusion, Hyde Park, NY,
tasted on December 19-22, 2005 Well, our week at Culinary
Institute of America Bootcamp for food enthusiasts (food nerds) is
officially over. We;ve had posts
introducing the week, as
well as discussing the
facilities, student life,
we made, and eating at the restaurants on
campus. Here are the photo albums from the week:
I tried to describe our week really honestly and in a
balanced fashion. There were definitely ups and downs. Aside from the
restaurant though most of the inconsistencies stemmed from the
issue of what level of expertise we had going into the class, and what
our expectations were of the class.
Participants in the class ranged from a relative novice
who had an interest in cooking in their own kitchen and trying recipes
from magazines, to some folks who really enjoyed cooking and made a
habit of taking on more adventurous projects like difficult baking or
barbecuing, all the way to us who have made a habit not only of trying
difficult cooking projects, but were mostly there to understand more
about how the food we've eaten across the planet is prepared and what..
A Week at the Culinary
Institute of America (continued) - The Restaurants, Hyde Park, NY,
tasted on December 19-22, 2005 We've spent several posts
describing every detail of the week spent at C.I.A. Bootcamp. One of
the perks of bootcamp is eating at the on-campus restaurants each
night for dinner. These are typically hard-to-get reservations and
the students at bootcamp are escorted to the front of the line.
Given that creating people who can earn a living in professional
food service environments is the goal of the school, the restaurants
should be examples of some of the best cooking that the school can
produce. While the students are serving food every day from kitchens
throughout the school, these are the only ones serving paying
customers from outside the surrounding area. On the other hand, the
restaurants are staffed primarily by students who rotate through
(working as waiters too) every few weeks. So consistency is bound to
be a challenge.
There are several restaurants at the Hyde Park campus that are open
to the public. They are: St. Andrew's Cafe, Ristorante Caterina De
Medici, Escoffier Restaurant, American Bounty Restaurant, and the
Apple Pie Bakery and Cafe. Our dinners were planned each night for
A Week at the Culinary
Institute of America (continued) - Finished Dishes, Hyde Park, NY,
tasted on December 19-22, 2005 In the
last post we covered
the actual cooking of the food. At the ends of day two and four we
gathered all our creations and laid them out
on a table in the hallway outside our kitchen - cruise ship
buffet style minus the ice sculptures.
And as much as we learned during the hands on portions of the class, the
time in the kitchen was at its most useful in giving a sense of what
it's really like to work with professional equipment, in a true
commercial kitchen. And frankly the experience is exciting and fun.
Unfortunately the food we made, well, to be honest, for the most
part wasn't that good. I'm sure that part of it was our lack of
skill. But part of it is also about, as discussed earlier, scale. We
were cooking lots of dishes for lots of eaters (us mainly). In fact
we ended up wasting a lot of food which was kind of a bummer even
after all the hungry people sampled our cooking. There were a few
dishes that came out decently, but in terms of quality of flavor,
texture, and temperature at the time the food was served our dishes
were American hotel buffet quality... and not some of the better
This fact didn't take away from my satisfaction with the educational
experience. In fact it made me appreciate even more how hard it is
not just to make food for lots of people with high expectations in a
timely fashion, nonetheless make that food really high quality. It's
unbelievably difficult. And while learning the key lessons of how to
cook at scale don't guarantee you'll make great food at scale, you
can't get to great food and commercial success without...
A Week at the Culinary
Institute of America (continued) - Cooking, Hyde Park, NY,
tasted on December 19-22, 2005 We're finally back in the
swing of things here at tastingmenu, and it's time to pick up where
we left off recounting our week taking a class at the Culinary
Institute of America (the C.I.A.). We've covered a variety of topics
already including: the
facilities, student life,
and the lectures. Enough
beating around the bush, it's time to get to some cooking, and in
fact that's today's topic. Cooking in our spacious classroom
kitchen. Actually, cooking was what we spent most of our time
doing during the week (with eating a close second) so it's time we
got to it.
After lecture each morning we hit the kitchen. Our class was
organized into 3-4 person teams. Each team had a series of dishes to
prepare. We prepared the first round of dishes over days one and
two, and the second round during days three and four. Some dishes or
elements of dishes could be prepared a day in advance so it worked
out. And this is a fine thing whether cooking for a couple of
people, or cooking at a slightly larger scale (a dozen or two) like
In fact, scale is really the operative word when it comes to all the
cooking we did. When it comes to food, scale is the enemy of great.
A great dish is a living thing. Chemical reactions are happening
especially when it comes to hot dishes. And each dish, each
ingredient (even ice) has a window in which it's at its peak. Making
a great dish is all about...
2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards,
March 14, 2006 The Food Festival ended last Friday and
before moving on to our regularly scheduled programming I wanted to
just say a few words of thanks and review to everyone who made it
This was our second time putting on the event. Forty-seven of the
best food bloggers on the net participated this year (that's
seventeen more than last year). Together these blogs reach hundreds
of thousands (if not millions) of readers every month. Some of them
have large readerships, some have small devoted ones, but most
importantly they each have someone at the helm who is passionate
about what they write about. Today's commercial mainstream media is
often carefully crafted and tuned to wring the maximum economic
value out of the content. That also means that it often injects the
minimum editorial value. This is not to say that making money is bad
or that all mainstream media is crap. But there's no doubt that when
one of these bloggers wants to write about something they care about
there's no budget for the number of words, or the number of pictures
they can share to express their thoughts. And the fact that all
these folks volunteered to choose one special experience or item
from their previous twelve months' food adventures and recognize it
in detail with text and photographs is pretty cool.
I've been reading many of these blogs for years, and some of them
were brand new to me, having found them while looking for great
blogs to participate. I bet if you browse them you will discover as
many gems in the blogs themselves as you did among the foods and
experiences they recognized.
Next post, we're back to our series on our week at the Culinary
Institute of America.
The Best Peanut Brittle I've
2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Day Five,
March 10, 2006 Today is the final day of the awards. All
the participating bloggers have done a great job. Make sure to go
back and read through the dozens of posts across
day four, and now
So without further ado, it's time for tastingmenu to
issue it's award. I have to admit that I have been debating for the last
month which award to give out. Amazingly I was first encountered the
recipient of my award today! Neat. This morning I happened to be
wandering around the Granville Public Market in Vancouver, British
Columbia. And wandering by a tray of Peanut Brittle samples. Peanut
brittle is constantly teasing me. I love peanuts and the wide variety of
peanut-related products that I find across the planet. But peanut
brittle has always tantalized me with its sweet peanuty crispiness.
Unfortunately it's usually too hard, too sweet, and gets too caught in
so with these little pieces. Big chunks of peanut, sweet crystalline
texture, this brittle was delicious. Rather than being overly heavy, it
was light and airy. Crunchy and crispy rather than sticky and dense.
Honestly this is the best peanut brittle I've ever eaten. The sweet
buttery flavor had an incredibly long finish.
Make sure to visit Olde World Fudge at the Granville
Public Market, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Their phone number is
2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Days
Three and Four,
March 9, 2006 The last two days have been pretty exciting
around here. Almost fifty of the top food bloggers on the planet
have gathered to share some of their favorite culinary experiences
of the past year. Peruse the awards and you will immediately get a
sense of the vast amount of creativity and passion that has come
together to make this year's awards (the second in our brief
history) a success.
Day three featured chocolate,
coffee, a gorgeous looking cake without almost anything you'd
expect, the first of our New Orleans related awards, and much more.
Day four was also strong, two
kinds of charcuterie, ice cream, a bowl of soup from Germany, and a
moving award for a husband and wife team from New Orleans.
Tomorrow is the final day for this year's awards. Hopefully I'll
have my very own award ready in time. See you tomorrow. There will
be lots of great new awards given out.
2006 TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Day Two,
March 7, 2006 Things have started off with a bang.
was filled with very cool awards.
Day Two has even more. There's
fish sauce, ice cream, smoked fish, Vietnamese subs, and even a
hamburger that doesn't exist anymore. Check them out.
It's funny, but I really do love these awards. There are many
reasons. First, they're given out by food bloggers. I've said this
many times, but I think there's something unique about the food
bloggers versus the mainstream food press. Mostly that the bloggers
are doing it out of love (and some sick obsession ; ) where the
mainstream folks can't help but be sucked into the economics of
their publications. This is not to say all bloggers are great and
all mainstream food journalists suck. That said, I feel pretty proud
that we have an amazing selection of folks giving out awards this
The other thing I really like about it is that there's no voting.
Each blogger gives out an award to the recipient of their choice in
a category that comes from their own imagination. The awards are
deeply personal and meaningful and yet there's no "competition"
where several nominees lose. Not to be overly idealistic, but it
just feels nice.
Anyway, check out Day Two, and all the great websites that have
posted their awards. I'll be busy working on mine which is scheduled
to post this Friday, Day Five of the awards.
TasteEverything Independent Food Festival and Awards - Day One,
March 6, 2006 We still have way more to cover in terms of
our week at the C.I.A. but duty calls. One year ago we had our first
ever tasteEverything event - the 2005 Independent Food Festival &
Awards. Thirty bloggers gave awards to some of their favorite food
experiences of the year. This year we have even more. So many in
fact that the awards are being given out over a five day period.
Check out Day One of the
awards. Today's awards hand crafted soy sauce from Malaysia, all the
way to an independent coffee shop in New York. Keep checking back
each day for more awards until the big conclusion this Friday.