The Secret Motivation to Spring Cleaning

Spring better be here…because yesterday I got really sick of looking at my winter coats and boots and brought every single one of them up to our storage unit. Our storage unit is only one floor above us but I really do not want to go up there to drag those babies out again. It’s time for leaving the house jacket-free and flip flops, don’t you think?
I usually spend my only day off cleaning the condo, grocery shopping and doing laundry. This Monday I knew that I had to do some spring cleaning, but when you only have one day off a week, who really wants to spend the day cleaning the floor of your pantry, behind the couch and your cabinets? I know that was the last thing that I wanted to do. Somehow I found the motivation and gave myself a little incentive for completing the job.
I promised myself a little shopping trip afterwards.
Now, technically the actual shopping trip I made was to KMart to pick up a new trash can. That’s not exactly what I call a fun afternoon of shopping, but that will come. I told myself that if I cleaned out my closet to a nearly bare state, I could go buy myself a few pieces of clothing to replace the old ones. That’s a fair trade right? I ended up donating three bags worth of clothes. I will admit that it kind of sucked to “throw out”, or rather give away, some perfectly good clothes, but the fact is, I didn’t wear them. And I gave away a few winter jackets so I can buy a new one next year…
So if you are ever feeling like cleaning is the absolute last thing that you want to do, promise yourself a shopping trip. It works.
Alternatively, I did not promise myself any more cookbooks if I cleaned out my cookbook cabinet. This is out of control…and this isn’t even all of them. I do use them, which is a good thing, but I thing I need a break from purchasing any new ones in the near future.
Reddick wasn’t too pleased with my cleaning day. He laid around giving me this look all day. Eventually we were done and headed off to the dog park…not before doing my first Insanity workout though. I’ll share more on that later!

Cherry Blossoms and Dress Hunting

It’s been a great week. My sister was in town for the past seven days and even though we both had to work our butts off all week we still managed to sneak in some fun. Friday night I picked her up from the metro and we headed over to White Flint Mall to begin our bridesmaid dress hunt. We needed some fuel so we stopped at the Cheesecake Factory for some drinks and food. Sorry, I haven’t taken pictures while eating out in awhile, and don’t really plan to again any time soon…but we’ve all been to the Cheesecake Factory. The food looked awesome and tasted awesome. Now that I work in a restaurant, I honestly don’t know how they manage to work a menu that large. It’s still baffling me.
Anyways, after dinner and sweet-talking the waiter (he was African and I was totally looking for travel tips for our potential honeymoon) we headed out to the ghost mall that we call White Flint. There were maybe five people walking around and two of them were reading books by the elevator. I do love DC, but the shopping is sort of awful around here. We headed to Lord and Taylor, Ann Taylor and William Sonoma. William Sonoma does not have bridesmaid dresses, but they do have a sharpening stone that I desperately need. We didn’t find anything that we liked and left empty handed. No progress, but we weren’t that discouraged.
On Saturday we decided to take Reddick down to the Tidal Basin to walk around and look at the Cherry Blossoms. (Should they be capitalized?! I vote yes. They are cool and important.) Of course, I knew the city would be a mess with the marathon and spring break crowds, but we drove down and managed to find a parking spot in about fifteen minutes. It was such a beautiful day and everyone was out to enjoy it.
After that we headed to a St. Patty’s Day BBQ but headed home early because I had to work at 7am. Luckily I was able to get out early and enjoy brunch at Founding Farmers with my sister and a friend. Then we headed to a much better mall, Montgomery Mall. At least we knew we would have some luck with Nordstrom…and we did! We found four dresses are are right along the lines of the colors that I want. We are definitely making progress and I hope to get some dresses ordered soon to send out to my bridesmaids.
Did everyone have a good St. Patrick’s Day? I hope so! I know my mom did…it was her birthday! Happy Belated Birthday to my mom from all of us in DC!

Phase Two Memories: Market Basket

One thing that is hard to work on in culinary school is creativity. We are there to learn classic techniques and recipes and not really how to expand with our own culinary creations. Once we got into Phase Two there was a little room to work with our creativity, but with kind guidelines and restrictions, of course.
Every Friday we participated in Market Basket. Our teams would be given three ingredients, one for each course, and one day to create three dishes. Some of the ingredients included pears, salmon, monkfish, chocolate and mushrooms. The ingredients were usually something that we had worked with during the week so that we were somewhat familiar with it. While we were free to do whatever we wanted, we were highly encouraged to only attempt things that we have done before. The most successful dishes were often the ones that took a new spin on a classic French technique.
Thursday afternoons we were given the ingredients and free reign of the commissary. We had time to brainstorm with our team and order any items that we might need. As soon as it turned 8am on Friday morning we could get to work. We would have four hours to see if the recipes work, attempt plating and get ready for service.
Once the time came for service we would go back into the classroom where our judges were waiting: Chef Francois, Chef Patrice and a guest “celebrity” judge. This was the most nerve-wracking and exciting part. We had some really great judges come in for this exercise including L’Academie Alums and a chef from the White House. The teams were selected to go in random order. The first and second courses were served first and then we took a break before dessert. While each judge tasted the dishes we would wait patiently (and usually with sweaty palms and fast beating heart) for the judges reactions. Sometimes they were good…sometimes they were not so good. The most memorable reactions had to have been when food was spit out, food couldn’t even get on to the fork and food couldn’t be eaten because it was too hot. The last one actually was a very good thing.
This was a really great exercise to prepare us for the honesty that is the kitchen. It also let someone else (professionals) taste our food and get a sense of where our seasoning levels were at. In school, seasoning is everything. We’re taught to heavily season our food. This was something I’m still not adjusted to, but have gotten much better at. It’s amazing to see one dish and have three different reactions: perfectly seasoned, not enough and too much.
Here are some pictures from the first Market Basket using our secret ingredients chocolate…
There was never really a “winner” but the judges were invited to tell us their favorite dishes. I kind of like hearing brutal honesty, even if it sucks sometimes, so this helped me develop a thicker skin when it comes to someone criticizing my food. I remember in Phase One thinking that I was going to be a nervous wreck over Market Baskets, but at the end, I think it’s one of the things I am going to miss the most from Phase Two.

Taste of DC

Better late than never, right?
Taste of DC was a few weeks ago and I went down with a few of my friends from culinary school. The day was beautiful, the drinks were refreshing, the company was amazing and the food was pretty decent. I say this because I went focused on the food but nothing really stood out for me. I think I went in thinking that I might find some potential externship sites, but there were really no restaurants of that caliber. (And that is totally fine!) The food that was presented was pretty good, but I also think the event was a little expensive. However, considering that DC is a tourist city and it was on Columbus Day, it made sense. You can’t blame them there because we were all suckered into the $30 tickets.
My favorite food was the Vegan Nachos from Bread and Brew. I will tell you that these were the best nachos I’ve ever had in my life. They were served on a little eco-friendly frisbee and I devoured every last bit. I’ll leave you with some pictures from the event. Did anyone else go? What did you think?

Stowe, Vermont

My sister lives in one of the cutest little towns in Vermont. Vermont is lots of skinny roads, rolling creeks, farms, ski centers, cheese and maple syrup. It’s a place you must visit sometime in your lifetime. Growing up in Lake Placid, you would think that it was a lot like Vermont, but Lake Placid is a giant tourist trap (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). Over here, it’s a little quieter, and sometimes that’s all you need.
My sister had to work most of the day on Friday, but once she got home she wanted to show me a few Stowe staples. First we went up to a little farmers market at one of the resorts.
There wasn’t much fruit, but there was plenty of samosas.
Shannon was dying to take me to the Cabot store. Free cheese? Yes please!
Shannon was dying to take me to the Cabot store. Free cheese? Yes please!
I found a Maple Seltzer drink here. It was pretty awesome, very light with a slight after taste of maple. It was a much healthier decision than those delicious little maple candies.
Then we headed to a little store that makes and sells cider and cider donuts. Their kitchen was beautiful!
They even had some souvenirs for Reddick!
After that we met up with her boyfriend and headed up to the Von Trapp Resort. Clearly, it’s gorgeous up there.
We had a little snack while waited for my aunt to drive over from Lake Placid. It was a great way to start my little vacation!

Awesome Weekend

Hi friends!

I know, I’ve been MIA again…it’s a sad trend. I’m sorry.
This weekend was so crazy I honestly didn’t get on a computer until today. I’m going to work on a bunch of posts for you guys, including Asian Day at school, a recipe and an instructional post.
This weekend was the third weekend in a row I got to hang out with my sister! It was so much fun.
Friday started out by going down to Chinatown to go to Sushi-Go-Round.
I’ve been here a few times before and I think the concept is pretty brilliant. It’s a bar that has a rotating belt of sushi in the middle going round and round until you choose what you want and you pick it up off the belt. Each plate is colored so that you know how much it is. At the end of your meal, your waitress simply picks up your stack of plates and adds it all up. Simple sushi. I love it.
OH! I didn’t tell you…my cousin, Austin, was here because he just graduated from high school! My sister and I gave him a weekend in DC and tickets to OAR for his graduation present. Congrats!!
Sadly, he didn’t try any sushi…
 Next, we walked around DC like we always seem to do when my sister is around.
Once we got tired of walking around, it was time for a cold drink…
Every Friday there is a free jazz concert in the Sculpture Garden, appropriately named Jazz in the Garden. The place gets packed and there is never any room left around the little pond, let alone on the grass.
The weather was great. The company was better. It was an amazing afternoon.
Afterwards, we headed to Rosa Mexicano where my camera and I were just not getting along. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Sangria pitchers we drank at the garden. But I ended up having ice cream for dinner (again, nothing to do with the drinks beforehand) and it was fantastic. Right now, they have an incredible Ice Cream Menu. I had the Sweet Avocado, Mexican Corn Truffle and Toasted Marshmallow. I could not even pick a favorite. They were all incredible in their own way. The avocado had a little bit of bitterness that was needed to distract you from the fact you were eating avocado ice cream. The corn truffle tasted like a fancy cookies and cream and the toasted marshmallow…well, you can imagine how good that one was.
It looks like they are having an ice cream cooking demo THIS SATURDAY! I think you should check it out.
Anyways, after I had ice cream for dinner we went home to rest up for the next day.
OAR!!!
Do you like our OAR-inspired jello shots? If you need jello shot advice, consult my sister. They were amazing.
OAR holds a very special place in my heart. I’ve been listening to them for about ten years now, and we’re really lucky to catch them live in the DC area because they are from Rockville! Saturday’s show was their last stop on the summer tour, so it was full of really old songs and some really great new songs, too.
A concert isn’t a concert without a good tailgate, and unfortunately, I only have a few pictures (none of which are food). I honestly can say that I can’t blame the drinks for this one. I blame Mr. Weatherman.
An hour or so into the tailgate, we found ourselves building this…
And then we saw this…
So, it poured. We got wet. We still had fun.
I had an amazing weekend with some of my favorite people and am in a slight depression because they are gone…
Come back!!

This little piggy went to…

L’Academie.

We met another pig today. This one was way younger smaller. Sorry vegans/vegetarians.

P.S. That’s Chef Brian. He graduated from L’Academie and has been teaching there for three years. He’s a pretty great teacher, but one thing that I really like about him is that he is also a great writer. He writes for Bethesda Magazine and other DC publications, so look him up if you’re into food writing!

Good Morning from Lake Anna

Not too bad, right?

Someone is making himself right at home.

We rented a house in Lake Anna to celebrate one of our friend’s birthdays. So far lots of eating and drinking has been going on…not so much swimming. Apparently there’s a nuclear plant around that makes half of the water as hot as a hot tub. It’s pretty weird/gross/wrong on so many levels.
If we come back with green hair, an extra toe or so and Reddick turns into a cat. Blame it on the water.
Have a great weekend!

Kitchen Tour

I finally started taking pictures! Without going too crazy (and looking like a complete creeper…remember, I’m also trying to make friends here) I snagged some pictures of our kitchens today.
Like I told you before, we start our mornings in lecture. We do this in the James Beard Classroom.

Every morning, recipes are written out for us to copy into our notebooks.

The rest of the day is spent in the Paladin Room.

Maybe next time I’ll remember to snag some pictures with all of us in action. Don’t you wish you had this kind of kitchen at home?! I’m seriously in heaven all day long…even if it’s 110 degree heaven.