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Personal chef serving healthy, sustainably sourced meals in wine country.
HAWK-EYES ON AD HOC
The final stretch of culinary school has felt like sprinting a mile. They’ve kept us on our toes with the design and execution of our own prix fixe menus for the restaurant and exit practical exam preparations on top of our typical school work load. Add after school jobs, the time consuming task of future job hunting, and holiday preparations to the list and you get a full schedule that leaves precious little time for blogging. I will circle round eventually to fill you in on the going-ons of the final months of culinary school but to tide you over until I can get to it, I’m posting the review of Ad Hoc I wrote for our front of house class in the restaurant. 
"Ad hoc is Latin for “concerned with one specific purpose.” In Northern Californian the phrase roughly translates to mean “the casual dining venture of renowned chef Thomas Keller serving a varying four-course family-style fixed menu in a relaxed homelike setting.” Diverging from the refined extravagance driving all things French Laundry, accessibility is the name of the game at Ad Hoc as evidenced by the restaurant’s rustic fare, casually sophisticated atmosphere and accomodating hospitality style. 
With the assured hand of a fine-dining veteran, Keller maintains conceptual consistency throughout the dining experience. The website is simple and easily navigable. Blissfully devoid of music, the homepage features the nightly menu (posted each afternoon) in typewriter-esque typeface, a clean baby blue and white color scheme, limited picture content, and user-friendly tabs clearly marking the different categories of information. 
The reservations page provides the restaurant’s hours, address, and phone number as well as a link to opentable.com – a suitable means of acquiring a table for the evening, but real T.K. magic is reserved for those patient enough to call in and wait-out an automated answering message. Eventually with a live person on the other end of the line, topnotch training converges with inherent generosity to create a rare commitment to hospitality. No gluten? Not a problem. No dairy? No sweat. Change the time from 5:30PM to 9PM? You got it.  
This simplicity with a smile approach continues into the dining room where mirrored tables await the prompt delivery of their diners from the hostess who ushers guests through the open, softly lit space. The décor is homey but in a vanilla Pottery Barn way that, frankly, lacks luster relying heavily on scenes of downtown Yountville seen through large, paned windows for visual interest. Though perhaps the restaurant’s bland atmosphere is a conscious continuation of the prosaic ambience of it’s touristy hometown.
The limited wine list, presumably selected with the evening’s fried chicken menu in mind, offers reasonably priced options by both the glass and the bottle. The food is proficient – we had an excellent steak salad with soshito peppers – but frequently seems to have simple confused with simplistic. Vegetable sides, though plentiful, feel like an after thought and while the kitchen does an admirable job accommodating dietary issues, most dishes require a qualifier to feel satisfying: “these Brussels sprouts are nice – for gluten, dairy-free.” And it cannot go unmentioned that my chicken thigh arrived at the table underdone to the point of bloody while my co-diner’s barley casserole was dried-out to inedibility. 
The concept of Ad Hoc is appealing. Who doesn’t want to experience a home-cooked meal by the Executive Chef of the French Laundry?  Sadly, the commitment to this vision feels insincere: the well-trained staff moves through the appropriate motions but the uninspired food betrays the absence of the celebrity chef behind the name. Our meal at Ad Hoc hardly qualified as bad but it certainly didn’t delight or amaze either and with a $96.00/person bill, delight ought to be a given. T.K, I expected more. “

HAWK-EYES ON AD HOC

The final stretch of culinary school has felt like sprinting a mile. They’ve kept us on our toes with the design and execution of our own prix fixe menus for the restaurant and exit practical exam preparations on top of our typical school work load. Add after school jobs, the time consuming task of future job hunting, and holiday preparations to the list and you get a full schedule that leaves precious little time for blogging. I will circle round eventually to fill you in on the going-ons of the final months of culinary school but to tide you over until I can get to it, I’m posting the review of Ad Hoc I wrote for our front of house class in the restaurant. 

"Ad hoc is Latin for “concerned with one specific purpose.” In Northern Californian the phrase roughly translates to mean “the casual dining venture of renowned chef Thomas Keller serving a varying four-course family-style fixed menu in a relaxed homelike setting.” Diverging from the refined extravagance driving all things French Laundry, accessibility is the name of the game at Ad Hoc as evidenced by the restaurant’s rustic fare, casually sophisticated atmosphere and accomodating hospitality style.

With the assured hand of a fine-dining veteran, Keller maintains conceptual consistency throughout the dining experience. The website is simple and easily navigable. Blissfully devoid of music, the homepage features the nightly menu (posted each afternoon) in typewriter-esque typeface, a clean baby blue and white color scheme, limited picture content, and user-friendly tabs clearly marking the different categories of information.

The reservations page provides the restaurant’s hours, address, and phone number as well as a link to opentable.com – a suitable means of acquiring a table for the evening, but real T.K. magic is reserved for those patient enough to call in and wait-out an automated answering message. Eventually with a live person on the other end of the line, topnotch training converges with inherent generosity to create a rare commitment to hospitality. No gluten? Not a problem. No dairy? No sweat. Change the time from 5:30PM to 9PM? You got it.  

This simplicity with a smile approach continues into the dining room where mirrored tables await the prompt delivery of their diners from the hostess who ushers guests through the open, softly lit space. The décor is homey but in a vanilla Pottery Barn way that, frankly, lacks luster relying heavily on scenes of downtown Yountville seen through large, paned windows for visual interest. Though perhaps the restaurant’s bland atmosphere is a conscious continuation of the prosaic ambience of it’s touristy hometown.

The limited wine list, presumably selected with the evening’s fried chicken menu in mind, offers reasonably priced options by both the glass and the bottle. The food is proficient – we had an excellent steak salad with soshito peppers – but frequently seems to have simple confused with simplistic. Vegetable sides, though plentiful, feel like an after thought and while the kitchen does an admirable job accommodating dietary issues, most dishes require a qualifier to feel satisfying: “these Brussels sprouts are nice – for gluten, dairy-free.” And it cannot go unmentioned that my chicken thigh arrived at the table underdone to the point of bloody while my co-diner’s barley casserole was dried-out to inedibility. 

The concept of Ad Hoc is appealing. Who doesn’t want to experience a home-cooked meal by the Executive Chef of the French Laundry?  Sadly, the commitment to this vision feels insincere: the well-trained staff moves through the appropriate motions but the uninspired food betrays the absence of the celebrity chef behind the name. Our meal at Ad Hoc hardly qualified as bad but it certainly didn’t delight or amaze either and with a $96.00/person bill, delight ought to be a given. T.K, I expected more. “

THE WINE SPECTATOR GREYSTONE BRIGADE 
The kitchen of the on-campus restaurant where we will finish up our culinary school career utilizes the traditional brigade system as conceived by Escoffier. Unlike a modern kitchen in which each line cook is responsible for the a la minute* preparation and plating of all the components for each dish coming off his station, in the Brigade system each station specializes in a different fundamental component (protein, veg, starch, sauce etc) then passes their contribution to the expeditor, or expo, who plates the food as a cohesive dish. At school the break down is between proteins, which are cooked by the rotisseur, or roti, and starches/veg, which are cooked by the entremetier, or entremet. This means that when an order comes in for the restaurant’s strip steak dish, for example, the expo calls out the order and roti immediately throws a steak into screaming hot pan. A few minutes later entremet starts the corn, mushrooms, and romano beans to accompany the steak. When the vegetables are cooked, he passes them to expo where they go onto a plate followed by the finished steak which arrives from roti shortly there after. The expo then sauces the steak, garnishes the dish with watercress and places the dish onto the pass for pick up by front of house. 
Our twelve weeks in the restaurant are divided into four, three week units alternating front of house and back of house work. In back of house we cycle around the different stations of the kitchen spending two days training with a professional line cook at each. The specialization inherent to the brigade system allows us to focus on the few cooking techniques utilized by each station practicing them over and over through out service. This, combined with the patient guidance of the restaurant staff, delivers the invaluable opportunity to fill in any gaps and polish up our culinary education before heading out into the industry. 
*A la minute - describes preparations that occur during service after an order is fired.  THE WINE SPECTATOR GREYSTONE BRIGADE 
The kitchen of the on-campus restaurant where we will finish up our culinary school career utilizes the traditional brigade system as conceived by Escoffier. Unlike a modern kitchen in which each line cook is responsible for the a la minute* preparation and plating of all the components for each dish coming off his station, in the Brigade system each station specializes in a different fundamental component (protein, veg, starch, sauce etc) then passes their contribution to the expeditor, or expo, who plates the food as a cohesive dish. At school the break down is between proteins, which are cooked by the rotisseur, or roti, and starches/veg, which are cooked by the entremetier, or entremet. This means that when an order comes in for the restaurant’s strip steak dish, for example, the expo calls out the order and roti immediately throws a steak into screaming hot pan. A few minutes later entremet starts the corn, mushrooms, and romano beans to accompany the steak. When the vegetables are cooked, he passes them to expo where they go onto a plate followed by the finished steak which arrives from roti shortly there after. The expo then sauces the steak, garnishes the dish with watercress and places the dish onto the pass for pick up by front of house. 
Our twelve weeks in the restaurant are divided into four, three week units alternating front of house and back of house work. In back of house we cycle around the different stations of the kitchen spending two days training with a professional line cook at each. The specialization inherent to the brigade system allows us to focus on the few cooking techniques utilized by each station practicing them over and over through out service. This, combined with the patient guidance of the restaurant staff, delivers the invaluable opportunity to fill in any gaps and polish up our culinary education before heading out into the industry. 
*A la minute - describes preparations that occur during service after an order is fired. 

THE WINE SPECTATOR GREYSTONE BRIGADE 

The kitchen of the on-campus restaurant where we will finish up our culinary school career utilizes the traditional brigade system as conceived by Escoffier. Unlike a modern kitchen in which each line cook is responsible for the a la minute* preparation and plating of all the components for each dish coming off his station, in the Brigade system each station specializes in a different fundamental component (protein, veg, starch, sauce etc) then passes their contribution to the expeditor, or expo, who plates the food as a cohesive dish. At school the break down is between proteins, which are cooked by the rotisseur, or roti, and starches/veg, which are cooked by the entremetier, or entremet. This means that when an order comes in for the restaurant’s strip steak dish, for example, the expo calls out the order and roti immediately throws a steak into screaming hot pan. A few minutes later entremet starts the corn, mushrooms, and romano beans to accompany the steak. When the vegetables are cooked, he passes them to expo where they go onto a plate followed by the finished steak which arrives from roti shortly there after. The expo then sauces the steak, garnishes the dish with watercress and places the dish onto the pass for pick up by front of house. 

Our twelve weeks in the restaurant are divided into four, three week units alternating front of house and back of house work. In back of house we cycle around the different stations of the kitchen spending two days training with a professional line cook at each. The specialization inherent to the brigade system allows us to focus on the few cooking techniques utilized by each station practicing them over and over through out service. This, combined with the patient guidance of the restaurant staff, delivers the invaluable opportunity to fill in any gaps and polish up our culinary education before heading out into the industry. 

*A la minute - describes preparations that occur during service after an order is fired. 

CONGRATULATIONS to all the AOS 17 & 18 lovelies who graduated today! You will be missed. School simply won’t be the same without your swagger. 

*This Greystone ritual captured by the smartphone savvy of Courtney Guerra. 

Pictured: The latest batch of CIA alumni on the stairs, their school exalting their achievement from the surrounding balustrade.

In two months we’ll be the grads on the stairs… Eek! 

Prep Duty (Taken with Instagram at Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant)

Prep Duty (Taken with Instagram at Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant)

Last class of culinary school —> 12 weeks in the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. This is me bangin out bouillabaisse on roti (i.e. the grill/sauté station.)
(Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Last class of culinary school —> 12 weeks in the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant. This is me bangin out bouillabaisse on roti (i.e. the grill/sauté station.)

(Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Whole Roasted Branzino from Banquets & Catering Class Last Week (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Whole Roasted Branzino from Banquets & Catering Class Last Week (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Happy Hour a la CIA (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Happy Hour a la CIA (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Pork loin plating diagram for Banquets & Catering class (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Pork loin plating diagram for Banquets & Catering class (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

SoRiceCream
We’ve spent the past few days of Baking & Pastry class whipping up creams and custards and churning ice cream! According to Harold McGee, there are two main styles of icecream: Philadelphia and French. Made primarily from cream, milk, and sugar at a general ratio of 4:2:1, the eggless Philadelphia method relies on high levels fat and sugar to ensure a smooth frozen texture — often with a little help from a starch thickener. The French approach, on the other hand, involves the preparation of creme anglais, a cooked custard sauce consisting of milk/cream, egg yolks, and sugar, at a ratio of 4 qt dairy:12 yolks:1 c sugar. In this case, the emulsifying power of gently cooked egg yolks enables the desired creamy frozen texture.
(NB: Italians use a French-like custard based method to make gelato.)
——————————————————————————————————
PHILLY-STYLE: STRAWBERRY BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM
The strawberry ice cream I made to glam-up my dark chocolate souffles, falls under the Philly category of frosty treats, utilizing the thickening power of cornstarch as textural insurance. The pure, buttery flavor of the eggless cream base allowed the delicate flavors of the meyer lemon, honey, roasted strawberries, and buttermilk to shine.
INGREDIENTS
2 pts strawberries, hulled, ½” slices, divided
1/3 c sugar
1 meyer lemon juice, zested, juiced
1 ½ c, plus 2 T, whole milk,
2 T corn starch
4 T cream cheese, softened
1/8 t sea salt
1 1/4 c heavy cream
2/3 c sugar
2 T honey
1/4 c buttermilk
1 c strawberries, brunoises
1 c simple syrup à ½ c sugar dissolved into ½ c water
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Combine 1 ½ pts of the sliced strawberries with 1/3 c sugar in an 8″ square baking dish and roast in oven until softened, about 8 mins.
Strain juice from strawberries into small sauce pan. Simmer over med heat until reduced by half.
In a blender puree roasted berries with juice reduction, reserved sliced berries, lemon juice and zest. Set sauce aside.
Combine 1 ½ c milk, cream, sugar, and honey in a large saucepan. Boil over med-high heat for 4 mins.
Meanwhile, whisk together 2 T of milk with cornstarch in a small bowl to make a slurry.
Remove boiled cream mixture from heat. Whisk slurry into cream. Return to med-high heat and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add ½ c of the strawberry sauce and buttermilk and blend well. Refrigerate uncovered, over an ice bath until completely chilled.
Meanwhile, bring simple syrup to boil. Remove from heat and add brunoised strawberries. Set aside.
Process chilled ice cream base in an ice cream maker until thick and creamy.
When ice cream is frozen, strain brunoised strawberries from simple syrup and fold into fresh ice cream.
Pack into a storage container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
Serve ice cream drizzled with reserved strawberry sauce. 

SoRiceCream

We’ve spent the past few days of Baking & Pastry class whipping up creams and custards and churning ice cream! According to Harold McGee, there are two main styles of icecream: Philadelphia and French. Made primarily from cream, milk, and sugar at a general ratio of 4:2:1, the eggless Philadelphia method relies on high levels fat and sugar to ensure a smooth frozen texture — often with a little help from a starch thickener. The French approach, on the other hand, involves the preparation of creme anglais, a cooked custard sauce consisting of milk/cream, egg yolks, and sugar, at a ratio of 4 qt dairy:12 yolks:1 c sugar. In this case, the emulsifying power of gently cooked egg yolks enables the desired creamy frozen texture.

(NB: Italians use a French-like custard based method to make gelato.)

——————————————————————————————————

PHILLY-STYLE: STRAWBERRY BUTTERMILK ICE CREAM

The strawberry ice cream I made to glam-up my dark chocolate souffles, falls under the Philly category of frosty treats, utilizing the thickening power of cornstarch as textural insurance. The pure, buttery flavor of the eggless cream base allowed the delicate flavors of the meyer lemon, honey, roasted strawberries, and buttermilk to shine.

INGREDIENTS

2 pts strawberries, hulled, ½” slices, divided

1/3 c sugar

1 meyer lemon juice, zested, juiced

1 ½ c, plus 2 T, whole milk,

2 T corn starch

4 T cream cheese, softened

1/8 t sea salt

1 1/4 c heavy cream

2/3 c sugar

2 T honey

1/4 c buttermilk

1 c strawberries, brunoises

1 c simple syrup à ½ c sugar dissolved into ½ c water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Combine 1 ½ pts of the sliced strawberries with 1/3 c sugar in an 8″ square baking dish and roast in oven until softened, about 8 mins.
  3. Strain juice from strawberries into small sauce pan. Simmer over med heat until reduced by half.
  4. In a blender puree roasted berries with juice reduction, reserved sliced berries, lemon juice and zest. Set sauce aside.
  5. Combine 1 ½ c milk, cream, sugar, and honey in a large saucepan. Boil over med-high heat for 4 mins.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 T of milk with cornstarch in a small bowl to make a slurry.
  7. Remove boiled cream mixture from heat. Whisk slurry into cream. Return to med-high heat and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  8. Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Add ½ c of the strawberry sauce and buttermilk and blend well. Refrigerate uncovered, over an ice bath until completely chilled.
  9. Meanwhile, bring simple syrup to boil. Remove from heat and add brunoised strawberries. Set aside.
  10. Process chilled ice cream base in an ice cream maker until thick and creamy.
  11. When ice cream is frozen, strain brunoised strawberries from simple syrup and fold into fresh ice cream.
  12. Pack into a storage container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
  13. Serve ice cream drizzled with reserved strawberry sauce. 
Source: channelingcontessa.com
FRENCH STYLE: CINNAMON BROWN SUGAR ICE CREAM
In creating my second flavor of ice cream, I took my cue from the Froggies — the unctuous, eggy flavor of custard complemented the peppy spice of Mexican cinnamon and caramel undertones of brown sugar magnifiquement.
— 

INGREDIENTS

½ qt milk

½ qt heavy cream

4 oz light brown sugar

1 vanilla bean

1 canela cinnamon stick, broken into large shards

12 egg yolks

4 oz sugar

DIRECTIONS:

Combine cream, milk, 4 oz of brown sugar, vanilla bean and cinnamon stick in heat resistant bowl over double boiler. Simmer for 10 mins. 

Strain cinnamon shards and vanilla bean from cream mixture

Split vanilla bean lengthwise and remove seeds. Add seeds to cream mixture.

Combine egg yolks with 4 oz of brown sugar. Temper with 1/3rd hot cream mixture to create a liaison.

Stir liaison into remaining cream mixture. Return to double boiler over med heat.

Stirring constantly, cook custard slowly, to 180 F or to nappé (the point at which a sauce is thick enough to hold the shape of a finger-drawn trail on the back of a spoon coated with the sauce.)  

Remove custard from heat immediately and strain through a chinois into a bowl over an ice bath.

Refrigerate until completely chilled. Process in an ice cream maker until thick and creamy.

Pack ice cream into a storage container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

                                                                                                                                                               

***I served mine sundae-style scooped into mason jars brimming with fresh peaches, bourbon butterscotch sauce, and spiced pecans that were gobbled up in so little time I missed the photo opp. 

Coconut Cream Puff Swans and Chocolate Eclairs - Gluten Free! (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

Coconut Cream Puff Swans and Chocolate Eclairs - Gluten Free! (Taken with Instagram at Culinary Institute of America at Greystone)

PIPING HOMEWORK
I have enviously watched the Baking & Pastry students toting their piping boards to and from school since my Skills 1 days of knife cut trays, stocks, and mother sauces. Now that our class has progressed all the way to B&P Fundamentals, I finally get to take a crack at the buttercream borders and chocolate inscriptions I’ve admired for so many months… And can see why B&P students are assigned piping hw for class upon class on end. Its no piece of cake. 

PIPING HOMEWORK

I have enviously watched the Baking & Pastry students toting their piping boards to and from school since my Skills 1 days of knife cut trays, stocks, and mother sauces. Now that our class has progressed all the way to B&P Fundamentals, I finally get to take a crack at the buttercream borders and chocolate inscriptions I’ve admired for so many months… And can see why B&P students are assigned piping hw for class upon class on end. Its no piece of cake.