The Baking Gene

A long time ago, in a bakery far, far away…………………………………..

Not quite that epic, but baking is something I remember my family doing for countless years. I’m not talking casually, every so often kind of thing. I’m talking weekly endeavors of baking dozens of multiple types of treats or cakes for birthday, some form of “shower”, the breaking ground of a new building, congratulatory or for a number of any holidays. My family even made our 4 tier wedding cake. And every Christmas, there is a confectionery undertaking which I often imagined put Keebler Elves to shame. (If my memory serves me, over 3,700 cookies/bars/toffee/fudge were made this past year.) Many Kitchen Aid stand mixers have been repaired, rebuilt, or sometimes sacrificed to the Gods of Pastry. What never failed is that every time, the cookies were chewy, the cake was moist and the frosting was sweet, but not too sweet. In a word: perfect. Time after time, after time, after time. And once someone had tasted anything they had baked, there was the inevitable request to duplicate a recipe that had been dubbed “The Stuff We Had in the Pantry”. It’s an art that I can’t help but admire. My family, selflessly, makes baked goods every week for their respective employer. And yes, I said good(S). Plural. Not just a dozen chocolate chip cookies. I’m talking different bars, multiple dozens of multiple different cookies, fudge…just so many things. And when I was managing our boys’ tennis team in high school, my family would load me up with baked goods as a reward to the team after the match. My family’s dedication to providing these young men with a treat earned me the superlative our senior year of “Most Likely to Appear on the Food Network”. One specific baked item made such an impact on my coach, that when my younger step-sister mentioned she had him as a teacher, I showed up one day with 2 bags of his favorite oatmeal-fudge bar and she got some extra credit. Sending him the recipe got her a bit more.

The reason I mention this is I will be baking this weekend: willfully at the request of someone. I’ve found myself falling into the same path of having what my husband has deemed “the touch” when it comes to baking. I’ve sent him to work with many extra baked goods and he always came home telling me “I said I don’t know how, her family just does it.” Truly, I don’t know what it is! Maybe we don’t over-think it, maybe it’s part of what I’m destined to do. What always baffled me was my family never did it professionally! Ever! They are beyond gifted with creativity and they obviously do something right to have people request them to make their birthday, shower and wedding cakes. Let’s be honest, a bakery doesn’t sound like the most stable or necessarily fruitful business endeavor. But we have a Dutch bakery nearby that does AMAZING business. And there are these “designer cake or cupcake” places opening up EVERYWHERE, boasting exotic flavors and such. (QUICK DEPARTURE: I have a fundamental issue paying $10 for a damn cupcake. I don’t care if it is passion fruit & mango cake with lemon meringue frosting. ITS A FUCKING CUPCAKE. Now, layer cakes, I believe those are worth the money most of the time. Beyond the obvious requirement of baking to get to the cake point, the fillings and frosting must be prepared {any bakery worth its name will make these from scratch} and then the cake has to be put together and decorated. A cupcake is a compact, portable bite with a smear of frosting. Layer-cake=Mercedes C class, Cupcake=Miata.) The other item to consider is baking is more of a hobby for them. And would one get burned out if they had to perform their hobby every damn day? Well, it’s not a hobby at that point. It’s income, the sole function of paying their bills. I don’t know the answer, because I won;t bring it up to them anymore. My brother and I have tried. Let me offer you some perspective on where he and I are coming from: lets say that we don’t bake at home from scratch (cake flour, baking powder, cream of tartar) and we use prepared cake mixes. I purchased 2 boxes today for .94 each. (I do not have room in my kitchen for AP flour, cake flour, wheat flour, bread flour….). I need water (faucet) eggs (.98 for 6) and vegetable oil ($2 for a small bottle). I’m barely at $5 and I will have 2 dozen cupcakes. As for frosting, a quart of milk, some powdered sugar and whipping cream. See where I’m going with this? Even if I sold these for $2 each, the profit margin is huge!!! Which got me thinking….

Sure, it could be cool and fun! And based on my research, aside from grocery stores, there aren’t many “bakeries” around. But I should probably just get through baking tomorrow first. I’m excited to try to make a truly white-white cake. Egg yolks turn the color enough to piss me off, so we’ll see what I can do with that. No to mention my adaptation of many recipes I’ve seen using “meat candy” as a garnish. At least I know my husband and I will eat yellow butter cupcakes with maple cream frosting and sprinkles of bacon.

I never mind baking for anyone (until they become entitled and feel they deserve baked good because of who that are. There have been many times I’ve said “no” because of someone’s bad attitude. A specific example, is when I would deliver baked goods to certain people, I would deliver them in sturdy, zip top bags. They were baked fresh, so why not enjoy them fresh for a while. I would go by days later to notice half the bag consumed, and sitting there wide open, going stale. My family busted their ass, sent you these cookies and you let them go stale? Fine…if you don’t care enough to close a zipper bag, I guess you just don’t deserve free cookies. The next time by I got asked where their cookies were. Nailed em: they apparently thought they deserved them. The baked goods were a labor of love. Since you didn’t appreciate what you were getting, you don’t get anymore. I probably took it personally, but that was my family doing all the work. Of course I took it personally!), but baking for my family scares/motivates me. They do this weekly! I just hope I can make something enjoyable, and possibly something a little different. That is, if we don’t eat the all the bacon before it becomes sprinkles.


The Beauty of Hash

I woke up yesterday in a particularly foul mood. No reason that I can discern, other than I had watched the morning news before I fell back asleep. Unfortunately, my impromptu morning doze didn’t help my mood, as I had forgotten to thaw some protein for our dinner. Well, hell. Knowing just how effective our freezer is, I set out some bone-in chicken breasts in hope that perhaps my sink is in a parallel universe, therefore the laws of water convection are somehow accelerated and would thaw my chicken just in time. No dice. Besides my obvious foul mood (no pun intended), I knew I just didn’t want to cook dinner.

So, how blasphemous of me!! “You don’t want to cook?! But you want to be a chef! That must mean you always want to cook.” Not exactly. I’ve recently discovered there are many facets to my culinary self. The one who want to cook to for the sake of creativity, the one who cooks for necessity, the one who found an amazing new recipe, the one who wants to tweak and recipe, and the one who would rather not set foot in a kitchen today, thank you. I feel there is a massive difference when you are cooking for your career. You are serving it to the masses (hopefully…instead of your wait-staff) and it is your income. That doesn’t make cooking for nutrition (sometimes) any less important. But let’s be honest, cooking 7 days a week gets old around day 4. I don’t have the restaurant budget to make things like venison ragu or prime rib that I want to make. I’m learning how to make everyday cuts and try to make it something 1)edible-most important 2)tasty-still important 3)memorable-hopefully for the right reasons. Recent sample: sweet tea ribs. I found this recipe in my Food Network magazine and thought it fit some of my recipe criteria: new, creative, different & innovative. And having made them, I already have ideas for the next go round. Learning to cook with less than stellar cuts of meat is a bitch of a learning curve, but I hope to find that in the end I have a higher appreciation for the proteins I long to cook. Plus, I’d rather fuck up a tri-tip than an Elk loin. And someday, god willing, I’ll prepare fresh(out of the water) seafood! (There is truly no such thing as “fresh seafood” in Colorado. Seriously….it does not exist.)

We used to cook because…because that’s just what you do. It wasn’t fun and hardly ever tasted great. I’ve learned that cooking, just like to pretty much everything else, turns out better with training, knowledge and some care. The last part: care, is what scares me on a daily basis. There are some days I truly just don’t care. I feel exhausted, indifferent and just don’t care. That sounds terrible! How can I not care? I’m hoping it’s because I want something more than what I have developed in my self-taught “culinary arsenal”. And honestly, we all need a break sometime. A chance to not be in the kitchen all afternoon in pursuit of the perfect roast, and rather watch the inconsistencies of the footage talking place in Colorado Springs on Dog the Bounty Hunter-all the while pointing out landmarks and how shameless the self-promotion is. A catharsis, a break…I just needed a break.

I am unemployed and looking for employment on a daily basis. I had never been laid off before and that was a crushing blow, especially after being hired 3 weeks earlier. The one thing that got me out of the tunnel-vision of finding employment and wallowing in self-pity was cooking. It was something I could do for my husband; a means of showing him  I may not be able to find work, but I’ll take good care of him. It replaced my self-worth, because I was contributing to our household with something. My husband has been amazing about it, never making me feel awful about not being able to find a job and supporting the days I have a melt-down (usually related to a certain Aunt Flo coming for a visit), by cooking. It has been funny as well, because he asked me not to cook so often because now he misses cooking! Oops. I have been known to be overzealous, full of zeal…vehement. Thank god he’s here to step in and tell me to have a glass of wine.

So, I have some semi-thawed chicken breast in the sink and am thinking how to propose an evening of leftovers (aka help me eat this to make cleaning the fridge easier) or making our own personal meals.  I took a seat to read my latest Food Network Magazine and see if something, anything would jump out at me. (TANGENT: I am a huge fan of Food Network and the magazine. I limit my programming to shows that teach the how and why more than just combining ingredients the host selects. I don’t learn how to cook that way, I learn how to make a dish. Not much of that translates to technique for me. Good Eats has to be the best program for learning the how, and why and has provided many “OH!” moments for me. Not only does he provide the recipe, he provides the chemistry behind every ingredient and what it contributes to the overall success of the recipe. What that has provided me are the tools to understand the difference between baking soda and baking powder, when you melt butter and when you don’t and how I can apply those concepts to other recipes. As for the magazine, I enjoy the massive amount of recipes! Other cooking magazines seem to have more advertisements than legitimate culinary direction, which is not worth it to me. Also, every Food Network mag has this awesome little booklet in every issue that I love. They take something basic: cookie dough, mashed potatoes or this month:eggs, and they give you 50 different ways to prepare them! Which bring me nicely out of my tangent to a gorgeous segway! {I feel the need to thank fivehundy & anitamartini for teaching me the art of the segway and tangent.}) As I’m reading my magazine, I notice the booklet “50 Egg Dishes”. After a mental inventory of the fridge, I feel confident that I can proceed with an egg dish. One thing I have learned is to keep eggs and bacon/sausage in the fridge for days that breakfast sounds good for dinner. (And now for a RECIPE DIGRESSION: the best breakfast recipe I fell upon while watching Man V Food was bacon waffles. Cook your bacon so it still has some toothiness/not too crispy and drain on paper towels. Prepare your waffle batter and heat and grease your waffle iron. As a point of experience/education, set your waffle iron to its highest setting. You’ll get a crispy outside, fluffy inside and the waffles come off the iron much easier and usually intact. I have what is called a restaurant-quality Belgian waffle maker which flips over after I pour the batter and close it. It makes amazing waffles, but isn’t necessary for this. Pour your batter and add a few strips of your cooked bacon. I usually snip my bacon in half and put one half in every quarter of the waffle. Close, let cook, remove and enjoy!) I have eggs and begin reading some recipe options. Scotch eggs: no, Nest Egg: not enough eggs, Fried Eggs: boring…Hash-Brown Eggs-PERFECT! A hash! Why did this not occur to me earlier!? A hash is so simple, uses fresh and leftover ingredients and takes one pan. One of the pitfalls of trying to learn culinary arts is I have the tendency to look “upwards”, as it were, towards the better, more complex things I want to cook. I often forget the simple and very satisfying dishes like a hash. The beauty of a hash, is it can be anything you want it to be. Hash-a dish of diced or chopped meat and often vegetables, as of leftover corned beef or veal and potatoes, sautéed in a frying pan. Brilliant. Now the spark of creation has been relit.

I shred a russet potato and soak them in some water to remove the extra starch. I look into my crisper drawer to find a bell pepper and Pasilla pepper. After chopping half an onion, and both peppers I can start to put everything together. I drain  the potatoes and fry them in my cast iron skillet (I do them first to get them crispy), add the rest of the vegetable until it starts to smell wonderful. All the while, I’m cooking some bacon in the oven. (Yes, the oven. I use a deep pan so I can cook more bacon at one time, it stays flat and it’s easier to pour the bacon grease into a jar for later use.) Once I’m happy with my stove-top hash, I make 3 small indentations in the potato-veg mix and crack 1 egg in each indentation. I then cover it with some shredded cheddar cheese and place it in the oven. Now, my mistake was putting cheese over the eggs. The melting cheese on top of the eggs made it visually difficult to determine the done-ness of the eggs. Mental note for next time. I pulled it from the oven, drizzled some green chili sauce and served it with bacon…and I called it dinner. It had protein (eggs & bacon), vegetables (bell & Pasilla peppers) and starch (potato). I had wished the yolks would be a little more runny, to get that great sauce-like component, but otherwise it was good.

After finishing dinner, I couldn’t help but feel a little lackadaisical with my efforts. Then again, it didn’t cost mt anything extra at the store or Chinese take-out and it was an idea that I now have for my arsenal for when the bitchy-monster wakes me up again. I was reminded that cooking isn’t that hard with the right motivation, a simple recipe doesn’t mean it will necessarily have a simple taste, and the sense of accomplishment is always something that goes great with a full “breadbasket”…or “hash-basket”, so to speak.

Beginning the Quest for Epicurean Greatness- Allison Wonderland, Sushi that left a bad taste & NY Pizza surviving on Sinatra

First, I’ve been considering a blog for quite some time. I fancy myself as a creative individual, which lends itself very nicely to my frequent insomnia. So, I figure a blog is going to provide many services, including a creative outlet, a buffer to prevent me from driving my family insane with thought, a reflective record of my “epicuriquest” and therapy (all at little to no cost). Secondly, I would like to say a nice big “F U” to the individuals on this blog site who have domain  names that they aren’t using. Not cool….but I do like what I eventually came up with.

I’m still not certain what I want to do with my culinary and sommelier degrees (when I get them) because there are so many ways to go! One thing I have become fairly good at (according to myself, of course) is being able to analyze and dissect restaurant food. I always thought being a restaurant critic would be interesting, and I was hoping that getting my culinary degrees would give me more credibility. It is a very intense relationship between chef and critic…

So, with that in mind, I feel it necessary to write about a particularly disappointing restaurant/customer service experience we had last week. Let’s be honest, Colorado Springs is nowhere near a gourmand destination, as most of the restaurants are huge nation-wide chains that focus more on price & quantity. I know my limits. We have had a few “diamonds in the rough”…but so many of them fall by the wayside or fall into the same “mass” standards as the huge chains. This is a story of one such restaurant:

On a Friday evening, I will always make reservations for dinner out. It’s just something I deem necessary. Since most restaurants are now not taking reservations on their busiest evenings (Friday & Saturday, respectively), I try to make them for a restaurant that I am aware still takes them. We made the decision to see Alice in Wonderland (not Allison Wonderland…moron at the theater), and since my husband was home early we established our game plan. First: matinée! The last time we tried to go to Hollywood Theater on a Friday evening, we were there with about 87,000 high schoolers. Shrieking, macho, obnoxious high schoolers. I could barely stand most of the people I went to high school with at that age, so my threshold has diminished significantly by now. (A thought of Darwinist homicide crossed my mind, and how to justify it.) If we hit a matinée, we can avoid all that crap and save some $. Second, make a reservation for our favorite sushi joint nearby and have some good sushi. (Let’s be honest, there is no such thing as great sushi in Colorado. It just doesn’t happen. And no, Rocky Mountain Oysters are NOT seafood.) Seeing as it was the premier of the movie, we got our tickets online to ensure (to an obvious limited degree) we would have seats. (To go on a tangent, I am not a fan of viewing movies in theaters. In the past 4 years, I have been maybe 4 times. That is a function of my historically bad experiences: first time seeing 300, I was incessantly kicked in the back of the head. Once I snagged the offending appendage, I applied enough pressure to let them know they would not have the luxury of feeling that same pressure if the kicking did not cease. Another visit, a couple next to us spoke the entire time and as the movie got louder, so did they. When I had someone with “power” tell them to please be quiet, they did so. However, after the movie they began to heckle me and my husband. Once we got tot he parking lot, it got worse. We turned around to confront them and they were 30 years our senior.  Despite the harassment, I was not about to go to jail for “geriatric assault”. Because of those experiences, I prefer to sit certain places. Let’s go back from that tangent.) I will spare the details of the drive, as it is unnecessary. With our printed tickets in hand, we get our drink and ask the young man if our printed tickets will suffice for entry. I’m given a not so reassuring “ummm…sure”, and we go towards our movie. Upon approaching the ticket podium, we present the printed tickets and are immediately met with a “oh, you have to have those printed out front.” I don’t expect everyone to know how all the jobs are done at the theater (I’ve learned not not expect terribly much from most), so we exit the complex to their box office out front. A young lady doing everything but her job, finally notices our presence and asks how she can help us. We present her with the paper to which she responds “oh, you can just take that to the ticket podium…”. Now this begins to irritate me. Someone must know how to get me into a theater. It’s not like they are on hold…these are paid tickets. I tell her nicely we were just told the opposite and all we want are our tickets. We finally get to head inside and wait in line for the theater to be ready. However, part of our plan may be backfiring. Many adults with gaggles of tweens (or younger) begin showing up. (I now loathe Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber even more.) It is funny to watch each person approach the ticket podium with the exact same response: show ticket, “we’re not seating yet”, they look at the line and become irritated at their current place in it. One youngster even attempted the pity look on the first few of us…no sale. We finally got our seats and begin watching the previews. The first few are in standard 2D, and nothing special by my account. However, there was one cartoon that looked like what an absinthe & acid fueled bender must look like. My husband made the comment “what the hell happened to Looney Tunes?”, which solicited a laugh from anyone over 25. NOW ITS TIME TO PUT ON YOUR 3D GLASSES  Here come the “woah”s and “ooh”s. the next 7 previews were 3D. Seriously? We live 3D folks, but any movie coming out next year will be 3D. Personally, I didn’t feel 3D did Alice in Wonderland any justice. But I did enjoy the story. But who cares about a movie review…we’re hungry!

I made the reservation anticipating some lag time for who knows what seems to always happen to us. Now let me give you the history of this sushi restaurant. For so many years, Jun Japanese restaurant held the “best sushi” restaurant, according to so many local publications. We would drive across town to enjoy their sushi whenever the craving hit. And they did not disappoint. A new sushi restaurant, Kura, opened near where we were living and curiosity led us there. Initially, it had a gorgeous interior, wonderful menu and great service.  However, part of that service may have been due to the lack of clientèle. We were so impressed, not only did we recommend Kura to friends and family, but we took them there too. I even developed friendships with the wait staff that banked with me at a previous employer. We frequented the restaurant enough to be “known”. Now I never thought we had any relationship parallel to something seen in The Sopranos where we expect a table at our arrival, regardless of how busy they may be. The last few visits were bringing to light what I feared may eventually happen. Upon our arrival about 10 minutes early, we were greeted and I made sure to mention our reservation. We were seated at a table with a reserved placard (we had a reservation…) with one dinner menu, one sushi menu and no pen. While we waited for our server to introduce themself or for water or something, I began looking around. They were busy…which is a universal good sign. But then I noticed it wasn’t a “buzzing with activity” kind of busy…it was a “desperate to catch up” kind of busy. I also noticed 2 things that were a tell tale sign that they were en route to the restaurant equivalent of an iceberg to the Titanic: 1)a net of blinking Christmas style lights hanging from the ceiling near a window, probably about 1 foot from the top. Why? Seriously, why? 2) A flat screen TV broadcasting ESPN. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve never thought to myself “hey, lets go to the sushi bar and watch the Red Sox game!” Sorry, but no. This was a sign of nondescript desperation. By now, it’s been about 5 minutes and no one has made contact with us. No “hello” or “I’ll be right with you”. at 10 minutes, a young man approaches us and tells us “this table is for a reservation and I need you to move.” Well, I explain to the young man “we have a reservation.” He seems pretty new to the restaurant, and then entire restaurant career field, so he returns to the entrance to seek direction from the manager. I was not trying to be snarky, but I had a reservation. What’s the difference? He returns to explain that it was reserved for a party of 4 and needs us to move to a 2-top. So, we grab our menus and move to the table behind us. He leaves without so much as an offer for water or a pen. We’ve been here 15 minutes now, and I’m getting more frustrated. We have people milling around the tables around us, and not a single acknowledgement of our existence. (Before anyone comes down on me, I have worked for restaurants as a hostess and waitress before. I try to take my previous experiences and not only be a good customer, but teach those around me who have not had said professional experience to be a good customer. Yes, I said good customer. While they may be there to “serve” you your food/drink, you can have a huge impact on your own experience. If you have seen “Waiting”, I consider that an exaggeration, but it’s not that far off. I encourage anyone who has or even has not worked in a restaurant to read “Waiter Rant”…lots of good info in there.) So, it has been 15 minutes without anyone even bringing us water or a pen. I realize its a Friday night and the truth of the matter is you will experience your worst food/service on a Friday or Saturday night. They are the highest volume nights and they will use that to get the highest turnover, which means the food is not of highest quality and servers are pushed to turn tables over. I’m not stating its going to be awful, but it certainly will not be the best. And that is what were were in the middle of. We hit the 20 minute mark and that was enough. My husband had put his napkin on the table and was getting up when the same young man who moved us came and asked us is we wanted something to drink. Now, was it his fault we hadn’t gotten service? Partially. Was I going to make a scene and be nasty to him No. It’s never justified. My husband very tactfully explained “we have been sitting here for 20 minutes, no one offered us water or even acknowledged us. We will be leaving, but thank you.” Without knowing how to proceed, this young man returned to the entrance to dictate to his manager what was going on. We did not say anything to anyone, we just got up and left. What struck me as odd is we got out the front door, past the manager without any contact. I didn’t realize it was that bad. As we walked into the parking lot, we heard a the voice of a lady asking “excuse me! excuse me!”. I knew what she wanted. This was her chance to change our outlook on our experience. So far, we were on strike 2 with them for the evening, let’s see what she would pitch. “Come inside and I’ll pay for your dinner.” STRIKE 3. Why do I say no to a free sushi dinner? Well, first of all, I didn’t have 3 hours to spend at a restaurant for the sake of a free dinner. There wasn’t any value she was providing me. So, I get a free sushi dinner, to not return again? It doesn’t solve the problem. We told the young man the problem. Secondly, we felt slightly insulted. Are we the sole reason they had the business? Of course not, but we certainly made a dent. We would have friends and family (and even customers at the bank) come back to us and say “thank you for recommending Kura, it was great!” It felt nice to share something we thought was “special” with people, and being previously employed in sales, we both appreciate the value of a personal referral. We felt like we had ultimately contributed to the awful experience we just had. We politely declined, and left.

Now, I’ll tell you what I thought she should have done. 1)Don’t let us pass the “threshold” of the front door. If we’re physically out, we’re already in the car mentally. Had she spoken to us in the entryway, we may have stayed. At the table, much better odds we’ll stay. Nip the dragging service in the bud, personally. 2)Don’t offer to just pay for our dinner. First of all, that is such a HUGE financial liability. At a sushi restaurant no less! You are going to screw over your servers tips, your bottom line and odds are we won’t be back. You haven’t given us any reason to return. 3)Give us something to make us return. A gift card, something we have to come back to use. Odds are, we’ll spend in excess of the gift card, and even if we don’t…we came back.

We got to our car and sat there in disbelief. That had never happened. Some of these people knew who we were and that we’d been going there since they opened. It’s not their fault…but this restaurant may not be much longer. I’d call Gordon Ramsay for Kitchen Nightmares but I don’t think he goes any further than the east or west coast. So, here we are, on a Friday night with no reservations and no food. Some light must have gone off in my husband’s head (most likely the “fuck it, I just want food” light) and we proceeded to our next destination. A “New York Style” pizza place. Oh boy…

Apparently, Borriello Bros is a well known pizza chain, brand new to Colorado Springs. I can’t comment on NY style pizza, because I’ve never had it. What I do know is the only things New York about this restaurant were the Yankee Stadium photos. They had Sinatra photos all over the walls and playing his music on the stereo, which was a huge disconnect for  me: Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. Moving on to the menu. I cannot wait for the trend of “Italian” (term used VERY loosely) restaurants to let go of their desperate and white-knuckle grip of anything Godfather/Goodfellas/Sporanos in relation to their menu. With Borriello Bros menu sporting sandwich names like the “Grandma Marie”, “The Godfather” and “Uncle Sonny” in lieu of “chicken parmigiana”, I just can’t take this seriously. My husband made a comment that he would respect the menu more if they wouldn’t take themself so seriously and take a cue from “Analyze This” by naming sandwiches “Benny the Groin, Sammy the Schnazz, Elmer the Fudd, Tubby the Tuba, and once as Miss Phyllis Levine.” (Per Billy Crystal). The other beef I am currently having with so-called “Italian” restaurants is when they take a ravioli, fold it a different way and call it something completely different. Olive Garden, you’re on notice. But, I digress. We ordered what is called a Sicilian Pizza and it was decent. Not sure if its truly Sicilian, but it was food. I then took notice of the dessert menu. A NY style restaurant hocking NY style cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. Ummmmm, no. Cheesecake is not that hard to make, not to mention I know of a cheesecake bakery out of NY that even ships, called Juniors. Having had the opportunity to taste their cheesecake, I find it delightful. Expensive, but tasty. Then again, how hard is it to bake a cheesecake. However, the pizza does not re-heat well.

There is a hard truth I’m learning in my desire to become a chef/sommelier: I’ve learned to cook food that I like better than what I can get at a restaurant. I’m trying to find a voice as either a critic, chef, both…who knows. It has been interesting to observe the restaurant world in a different light and I hope that maybe I can provide some perceptive to myself and others. Unfortunately, considering the lack of dining options here, I hope to write more about my at home culinary adventures/disasters. This will not be a recount of the famed Julie & Julia (despite the impact it has had on my life), but it will be a reflective collection of random thoughts, ideas, tangents and perhaps a few epiphanies. So begins my “epicuri-quest”…couldn’t get any cheesier. Mmmm…extra sharp cheddar sounds great.