This week was a bit different the previous three. On Monday, we were not even in the kitchen, as we took a field trip to several different bakeries. We sat through two hours of management lectures on Tuesday and Wednesday, which only left enough time for either more lecture or a bit of piping practice. We finally returned to our normal schedule on Thursday, with a brief lecture, chef demo and then the remaining three hours were for completing recipes.
The main focus of our field trip was to a dessert bar in the East Village, Chikalicious. The outside was unassuming and stark, with only a tiny sign on the door denoting the name. The inside was small, intimate and we were warmly greeted by the chef behind the "dessert bar". We all poured over the tiny menus, composed of both signature items and daily specials. I decided on the warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream and red wine sauce. I was most intrigued by the ice cream.
As part of our prix fix menu, we also received an amuse before our chosen entree and petit fours afterwards. The amuse arrived in tiny oval cups: a yogurt panna cotta swimming in a cold carrot and ginger soup. The flavor was light, refreshing and a perfect pallete cleanser before our main course. It was not technically an amuse, because it took about three spoonfuls to finish.
As the chefs were plating all of our desserts in front of us, our mouths were watering as we bombarded them both with questions on the industry and their experiences. We were not their typical customers but they answered all of our questions patiently and thoroughly. The kitchen was clean and organized; both chefs were very efficient.
My entree finally arrived - and I say finally only because I was ready to leap over the counter to grab my plate, that's how good it looked. I started with the pink peppercorn ice cream. Hmmm - spicy ice cream? It was interesting, something new and unique. The spoonful on the plate was just enough, this was not the type of ice cream you would want to eat straight from the container with an oversized spoon. The tart was small, with a molten lava center. Delicious and well executed, it added a traditional contrast to the ice cream. I did not think the sauce added much to the taste of either the tart or ice cream, but it did make for a lovely presentation.
After our desserts were finished, we were presented with petit fours - coconut marshmallows, strawberry pate de fruit and Kahlua-white chocolate truffles. Even though I am not usually a fan of coconut, I enjoyed the marshmallows. The pate de fruit was delicious. This was one of the first recipes we made in class and I had not particularly cared for it - the sweetness was a bit overwhelming. But these tiny versions had a thicker texture and were less sweet. And the truffles? They didn't even stand a chance!
All of us shared our desserts so we could try many of the offerings on the menu. Some I was impressed with, others I was not. I was pleasantly surprised how portion size can really affect the customers experience. The portions were small here, but I really appreciated that quality. It not only allowed me to try and enjoy other desserts, but it was refreshing to finish dessert and not feel "stuffed".
The management lectures were informative, but quite boring after sitting all day at work. The lecture on flour was equally as tedious. But Friday we started working with sugar, making chocolate fudge, Italian meringue buttercream and lemonade. My partner this week was the know-it-all in the class. Surprisingly, we worked quite well together, although I'm still happy it was a lighter week in terms of workload.
Friday evening, I began my 6-week Wine Essentials course, which was offered as a "complementary "addition to our program. I was excited to take the course, as I have enjoyed my fair-share of red wine, but really had no idea why I liked certain tastes over others. The first class mainly focused on white wines, which I never liked, with the exception of Champagne. I did find one style of white that I really enjoyed, Riesling, probably because it was light and sweet. Our instructor suggested spicy foods as a perfect complement.
Last night, I was back at school, volunteering for a recreational savory pastry class with 12 teenagers. It was a long four hours - the AC was broken, I did not know too much about the recipes and some of the other volunteers were a bit difficult to get along with. I forgot how awkward teenagers are! Some of them were quite obviously forced to be there and were not happy about it. Some of them wanted to know everything and everything about what they were doing. Either way, I really enjoyed watching
After the class, I treated myself to take-out from my favorite Thai restaurant - I could think of no better reward for a a successful 10K and night of volunteering . I had picked up a bottle of Riesling earlier in the day and, after two glasses, I can confirm it goes with with spicy food!