Wednesday, December 22, 2010

How to Avoid Packing on those Extra Holiday Pounds

I love pigging out on the holidays. It just feels so right. And you really should treat yourself. Eating is probably what I enjoy most about the holiday season (I really wish people ate stuffing year round) and if you're reading my blog, it's probably what you most enjoy as well. Friends and family are great too, but really, who needs them when you got your best friend food dressed up nicely in front of you at the holiday table.

Of course hanging out with your best buddy can have negative consequences. Especially during holiday time, he's always there, looking up at you from the holiday table, begging you to pig out. And so I've devised an exercise plan that tempers the negative effects of big-time holiday grubbin.

It's called the pasta plan. All you have to do is make large quantities of pasta and knead for 30 minutes a day if your just starting out, or 45 minutes for advanced gym, I mean "kitchen rats." I recently put my grandma on the plan and she's gone from flab to fab in JUST TWO WEEKS! Ya see, the workout really tones the arms, so if you're feelin a little flabby back there, but really want to wear that sleeveless for New Year's, START NOW!

My plan will cut through those Christmas cake calories from like cutlery in the kitchen. E-mail me now and receive fresh pasta dough delivered to your door. This workout is guaranteed to work almost as well as the shake weight. So if you try the program, send me some before and after pictures to put up on the site.

But seriously, I'm not tryna get sued here. Talk to you doctor before engaging in any serious workout plan like this.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fortuitous Meeting at Lacroix

I couldn't do any work last Friday. I sat in school, my mind a stone wall to any information coming my way. I thought about why I might get in, or might not get in 1000 times. I listed all the pros--I work at a nice restaurant, I get good grades, I'm really into business--and cons--I'm not that strong in math, I don't have many school-related extra-curriculars--then back to pros and back to cons again. I thought about getting in and what I would do. Jump up and down? Run around the block? Or would acceptance not elicit that much emotion. I couldn't tell. Then I thought about getting rejected. Would I cry? Would I lock myself in my room for the week? Would I hit the cheesecake? Or would I brush it off? I had no idea.

The day dragged by thusly, me envisioning both circumstances, accepted or rejected, embraced or eschewed. I knew that I would be able to check exactly at 3 pm--that's what the website said--and so I rushed home after school. I got there at 2:58 and stayed in my car. A slow, sad song came on the radio. Was it an omen? 2:59. I was going to stay in here and check. I didn't wanna look in front of my mom and grandparents. My heart starts beating out of control. I begin to type in my user name and password. My hands are shaking. It's difficult. 3:00. I log in. Congratulations! You have been accepted to the class of 2015.

I ran out. I screamed. The neighborhood knows I'm into college because of that scream. I started running. I told my mom. Then I ran back outside, unaware of the freezing cold. I was yelling again now. A lady walking her dog was staring at me. "I just got into college, sorry."

And so two days later I went into Lacroix working front of the house. I went behind the host stand and took a look at the reservations. Miller, Condron, Gutman, pause. The first name was Amy, party of two. Amy Gutman.

"Is that Amy Gutman, as in the president of UPenn?" I asked the manager. "Yes I just made the reservation a minute ago." I couldn't believe it. What a coincidence. The day dragged on, like the day at school before I discovered my acceptance. And then at one o clock, she came in. I sat her at table 9 in the back by the window, and following right behind me was the manager. I gave her her menu, but before I could say another word the manager was at the table.

"Good afternoon Ms. Gutman this is Nicholas, he just got into UPenn two days ago. He's been with us for four years. He's a hard worker and we're very proud of him."

Wow. Haha. That was more than I could've asked for. I work with good people.

"Nice to meet you, you must be very special, we had more early decision applicants than ever before. Where do you live?"


"Great. I'll see you around campus."

What a treat. Really. That was great. Later I was making coffee, and she called to me.

"Nick (yes she remembered my name) I have someone I'd like you to meet"

And she introduced me to Eduardo Glant the dean of engineering. I told him that I was actually admitted to Wharton but that I knew some people admitted to the engineering school.

"Well we like you anyway" he said jokingly.

Gutman was so pleasant. She wasn't the least bit condescending. She acted like just an average human being. She didn't need to display her power.

I went home amazed at the fortuitous meeting. It was a very special weekend.

Monday, December 13, 2010


I thought once I got into college all my work would disappear, but sadly, that's not the case. I'll be back with more soon. I promise.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Senior Quote (Vote on the Right before Friday)

So I'm feeling slightly like a bum. I don't have any new posts for now, because I will be busy as ever this week and next. I've got a lot of schoolwork, and I've got two major dinner parties coming up that I will be cooking for. But on the brighter side, I should have some good material coming out pretty soon. I'm supposed to find out whether I'm into Wharton on the 15th of December and I'll post that whenever I find out, even if it's a no. I also have a post to write about the results of a taste test using different fats to make pie crust (yea I'm dumb, I should've posted that before Thanksgiving, but it will be out before Christmas). Also, my birthday is December 9th, so hopefully I'll be eatin good for that.

At the present, my senior quote for my yearbook is due Friday and I'm still pretty indecisive. I have decided that it will relate to food, and I think I've found a few good candidates. Lemme know which you think I should use (you can vote on the right).

Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it. 

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch.

I've been on a diet for two weeks and all I've lost is two weeks.

"With humans it's abortion, but with chickens it's an omelet."

A gourmet is just a glutton with brains.

Cheese is milk's leap toward immortality.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Turkey Day to all of you readers out there.

Now I'm going to see how much stuffing I can possibly stuff in my belly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Job

I've got a new job. For four years, I've been apprenticing as a cook at the restaurant Lacroix at the Rittenhouse. I go in on the weekends--originally it was saturdays, now it's Sundays--and cook. For the last two and a half, I've spent eight hours there each weekend. Four whole years. I've been doing it since I was 13.

And so a few weeks ago, I was approached by the manager of the restaurant. He asked if I wanted to learn something new. He said I could trail him. I would be trailing the manager. I would be a mini manager. Hell yes. Hell yes. I love cooking in the back, but I have been there for four years, and I don't wanna hone one side of the knife and leave the other one dull.

I wanna be well rounded. I want to understand different aspects of the restaurant. I want to learn the restaurant. Not just the cooking. I want to own the restaurant: the concept of a restaurant. And I think this experience is just another step on that path.

So this week, I'll show up to Lacroix in a dark suit, white shirt, and conservative tie. And I'll be starting anew. Looking in from the other side. Broadening my perspective.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dinner in New York

Since I did pretty well on my first quarter grades, and to give me a little reward and perhaps relieve me of some of the stresses of the college process, my old man said he would take me to dinner in New York. Where should I go?

Do you have any recommendations? What restaurant would you like to read about here? I've got a few on my mind, Eleven Madison Park, Jean Georges, Del Posto (I've already taken myself to Per Se, Daniel, and Le Bernardin), but if there's something I'm missing, let me know. Don't worry about price. I'll pay for myself with catering money if it's expensive (which the restaurants I mentioned are). I'm pretty excited. I haven't been out for a real nice dinner in a while and I feel like those posts tend to be pretty exciting (read that Per Se link if you haven't already, it's my best post).

So let me know! Thanks

Thursday, November 11, 2010

So I applied...

So I applied early decision to Wharton, the business school at Penn and now I'm just waiting for judgment day. This punishment, this wait, is cruel and unusual. I actually heard the Supreme Court is actually looking at the constitutionality of this torture right now. The duration is what kills me. Every day I go over in my head, why I might get in or why I might not.

And others contribute to the torture. Just last week I was at my friend's house. Her dad, who went to Wharton told me about some kid who was the Valedictorian of my high school, who had perfect SAT's, but didn't get in. I know this kid who was a senior last year, who was rejected by Wharton, but accepted to Princeton.

So I'm a little anxious right now. I know there are other places I'd be happy to go, but Penn seems too perfect. One of the essays penn requires you to complete asks "Why Penn?" I nailed that essay, and it came so naturally for me to describe why I belong at Penn. It wasn't contrived. Writing that same essay about anywhere else won't be easy to do.

So with this anxiety, I think I'm developing more of an appetite. I want more rich comfort foods. I'm dreaming in burgers and pancakes. In math class I see fried chicken falling from the heavens onto pillows of waffles and then it rains maple syrup.

But if I'm gonna indulge in comfort foods, I want it to count. See, my philosophy on food is that when playing the eating game, and you're on the lower end of the nutritional spectrum,  the match up between nutritional value and taste must be zero sum. If I'm consuming empty calories, they better taste really good.

 (If I'm gonna eat junk, gimme the good stuff, not crappy doughtnuts like these)

So What's your favorite comfort food and how do I make it or where do I get it? I'm 5'10 150 now, we'll see how that changes by judgment day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Afterschool Snack

Scrambled eggs, pork, chorizo

Monday, November 1, 2010

2010 Hierarchy of Halloween Candy

As compared to the 2009 version. Read the list like u read a book, Reese's is 1st, Baby Ruth is 5th etc. The mysterious 3rd candy is Hershey's Cookies and Cream, which you really need to try if you haven't already.

So what do you think? Which list do you agree with more?

Pumpkin Doughnuts

Yea these were pretty bad. They had nothing more than a tiny hint of pumpkin flavor that is only noticeable every four or five bites. They smelled nothing like pumpkin either. The only thing reminiscent of pumpkin was the bright orange interior. Overall, they just tasted like plain doughnuts--a big letdown when you've purchased the doughnuts for the pumpkin flavor.

On the brighter side, I did just discover a particularly pleasant pumpkin product from Trader Joe's. Their pumpkin ice cream is really delicious. It's relatively soft even when completely frozen and has great mouthfeel and, I'm proud to proclaim, powerful pumpkin flavor. I'm slowly but surely getting my pumpkin fix.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's in here

Anyone wanna venture a guess as to what's in here?

And ya can't just say doughnuts smarties, I need some specificity.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Pop Tarts

 I was surprised and impressed by how many people guessed correctly from my last post. Kudos!

I've noted on this blog before that I'm a huge fan of anything pumpkin. Pie, soup, muffin, lattes, scones, whoopie pies, even the little pumpkin candy corn that have no pumpkin flavor in them. You name it, I love it.

And so as I was perusing the aisles of Genuardi's the other day, my pumpkin radar started going nuts as I passed the snack aisle. I doubled back and sure enough, there they were: shining like the holy grail of autumn: the pumpkin pie pop tarts. I beamed like a kid on Halloween then flew home like a witch on a broomstick to try em out.

It occurred to me on my way home that they probably were not going to taste anything like pumpkin. They would probably taste like cinnamon and sugar and nothing else. I began to doubt whether they even contained pumpkin.

So I popped em into the toaster and tried them out. They were fine. Just average. Not very good if you're a sucker for pumpkin flavor like me, but I mean, it's a pop tart how bad can it be. Compared to other pop tarts, like the brown-sugar cinnamon flavor and strawberry though, it just can't compare. So if you're going for it because it's a pop tart, you might as well get a better flavor, and if you're going for it because of the pumpkin, you're better off sticking with the muffins.

If you got a great pumpkin recipe. Send that thang over. I'm trying to get my full pumpkin fix before the season's over.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What is this?

Can you guess what this is just by looking at the ingredients?

Prob not. But there's one word hidden in there that  could clue you in.

Answer coming tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Cheesecake is the best. That's my thesis and body and conclusion. Cause that's all there is to say. That's all that should be said. At least that's what I thought until today.

Everytime I take a bite into any cheesecake I leverage my expectations tenfold. I have such high hopes for the pleasure I will receive when the cream cheese, the crust, cream topping hits my taste buds. But sometimes my expectations aren't justified. Sometimes cheesecake is like a tech stock of the 90's. And this particular cheesecake that I ate today was the I kept artificially increasing the value in my head until I actually tried the cake and completely burst my bubble.

Ya see, because cheesecake such potential for success in my mind, my expectations are naturally elevated, and are therefore much more prone to a crash.

So I got this cheesecake from this place in Philly that dubs itself "Best Cheesecake in Philly." It was the worst cheesecake I've had anywhere near Philly. I was so frustrated because I had expected the greatness that's usually a tag-team with cheesecake. The denseness. The richness. The feeling of ultimate indulgence. The knowledge that you are committing sin, and the decision to resign yourself to gluttony.

That was vacant from each of these three pieces of cheesecake--they were light and fluffy and puffy and airy--and I walked away a discouraged and pessimistic man.

Bananas Foster, Peanut Butter, and Pumpkin Cheesecake

Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween Costume

Anyone interested in some Kudos? I'm giving out Kudos points to whoever gives me the best idea for a food-related Halloween Costume.

So if you're low on your Kudos points and looking to re-up, leave me an idea in the comments and I will kindly bestow them upon you. It's almost like being knighted ;)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cooking Bacon

Frying bacon in the frying pan is a pain in the ass. I remember when I thought that was the only way to do it. It was so hard to get it nice and crispy. It demanded constant attention, and despite my constant care, it would curl up around the edges in defiance of my pampering.

There finally came a time when I realized like any parent must, that bacon in the frying pan is like that preteen who really just wants you to leave it alone. It will be happiest when it's left to do its own thing. It will also be on its best behavior when you do decide to check up on it. Ya see, bacon is just a free spirit that can't stand being controlled. Just let it breathe, let it live a little, and it will pay you dividends.

To truly unleash the free spirit of bacon, lay it on a rack over a foil-covered baking sheet, the place it in the oven.

Then preheat the oven to 350.

When the oven reaches 350 check on your bacon, depending on how fast your oven preheats, you may need another 15 or so minutes (mine needs about 10 extra minutes but my oven is real slow)

Your bacon should be flat and crisp and perfect. Now take away its freedom and DEVOUR IT.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Departure Part 2

I'll miss him because he's the who made cooking cool for me. The spiked hair. The take-no-bs attitude. The tough guy demeanor and appearance. He's shaped my idea of a chef. When I'm trying to decide on, or make a judgement about another chef, I compare them to Jason. He's the reference point, the standard to measure up to.

And he is Lacroix to me. He represents Lacroix and he is what Lacroix represents. It's hard for me to imagine the two entities separately. They're inextricably linked. I feel like he has tamed Lacroix, but at the same time Lacroix has tamed him. It has matured him: ingrained in him a certain responsibility that only being the head chef of a four star restaurant at 25 can. But he gives back to Lacroix what he takes from it. He has given it structure and security. Maybe I'm not the best judge, but when Jason is at Lacroix, I always feel that everything is under control: that nothing will happen to the restaurant. Mistakes will be made but they will be worked out.

In the darkest days of the recession, however misguided, I was never worried. He was at the helm. He's had it under control. Maybe it's a false sense of security, maybe not, but the aura he emits is infinitely valuable in a work environment.

And as valuable as his aura is the sense of importance he gives to his profession. He gives cooking significance. In his kitchen, it isn't a job for slackers, or people who aren't striving for success, or people who thought they'd try cooking cause they thought they wouldn't have to think. It's legitimate, and serious and professional. But he doesn't take it too seriously. There is work time and play time: stress time and chill time.

These qualities combine to make him a leader. A great leader. A born leader. That's how I'd describe him if I only had a few words. That's what I'll miss.

After reading this through I almost feel like I've just written an obituary. Haha. It's kinda weird that I can't get my mind around the fact that he'll still be around here and there. And I'm talking as if Lacroix is going down too. It's not. Accomplished chefs are taking over. I have nothing to worry about. But I still wonder if I'll work for him again. I'll surely be eating his food again.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Departure Part 1

Jason's is leaving Lacroix.

Jason is the head chef at Lacroix at the Rittenhouse Hotel, the restaurant where I work. He has been for a while. He was a sous chef when I started there, (four years ago last week), and as people dropped out--as chefs left to move on to their own things--he remained and moved up. You must understand that since I come in for only 8 hours once a week, change is magnified for me. He has been the only constant at Lacroix. All else is variable. I can't believe he's going.

I remember the first day I started at Lacroix. I had no idea what I was doing. I was shy, helpless. He shook my hand, "You're coming in because want to be a chef? That's awesome." Two weeks later, I saw the other side of the coin. I had been leaving my cutting board out and not cleaning it up when I left the kitchen, simply because I was 13 and completely naive of how the restaurant functioned. He came up to me, "How bout you clean up your cutting board this week. I've been doing it for you every week"--that's the censored version.

Haha! What a slap in the face. I remember another time. I had to mix proportions of 2 expensive chemicals for some gel. I measured the 47 grams of agar and 36 grams of some other chemical, then gave it to him. A bomb exploded in the kitchen.  I had missed the decimal points in between the 4 and  7 and  the 3 and  6.

Another time, a girl I was really into showed up at the restaurant for lunch with her mom. He sent them out a few extra dishes on the house, and when she came back into the kitchen, he told her that I had cooked everything, though of course I hadn't.

He's volatile like that. He's made me cry, laugh and everything in between. But this hardly relates to why I'll miss him...

To Be Continued later this week

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Making massive amounts of pulled pork for a barbeque while trying to finish history essay/call grandpa cause it's his birthday/ e-mail grandma back/ read a few english articles.

Catch ya soon.

P.S. I've changed up the brine on my Ultimate Pulled Pork. I'm brining the pork in apple cider, liquid smoke, and a few other funky things now. I'm excited to see how it will turn out. I'll let yall know.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Homemade Cottage Cheese

If you thought it requires any special equipment, it doesn't. If you thought it requires any special skill, it doesn't. Making cottage cheese is easy. Too easy. Chefs will always tell you that processes that you would never try at home are actually easy. Like pasta. I tell everyone that homemade pasta is the easiest thing to make. But you really don't know easy until you meet that girl from school, I mean, until you make cottage cheese.

 Bacteria is just so goddamn generous sometimes. Really. Whenever you wanna make cottage cheese, it will shoulder the workload without desire for repayment. And they work frikin fast--my cheese was done in 30 minutes--and don't complain. Such simple creatures are so superior to humans in some ways. Anyway, all the process really entails is heating milk, adding acid, letting cool, straining. Really. I made a mistake however. You are apparently supposed to use skim milk because the curds are more prone to separate. After you make the cheese, then you add heavy cream or half and half to adjust the fat content. I used 1% and my yield seemed small--I got a little over a cup of cheese using a 1/2 gallon of milk--but I wouldn't really know since I've never made it before.
 The product was fresh and clean and refreshing. You ever find that grocery store versions have off tastes?  The homemade version was like a nice ricotta--creamy and light, not thick and gloppy. I'm going to do it again. It's too easy not to.

1) 1/2  gallon skim milk
2) 3 oz lemon juice, white vinegar, or any other type of acid (I used lemon juice and got a nice clean, light lemon flavor)
3) Cheesecloth
4) Thermometer
5) Heavy Cream or Half and Half to adjust consistency

1) Bring Milk to 120 degrees then turn off heat.
2) Add Lemon juice then cover the pan and wait 30 minutes.
--after 30 minutes the milk will have separated into curds and whey. It will look kinda green and gross on top. Don't fret. This is natural.
3) Pour mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth and drain for five minutes
4) Take the sides of the cheesecloth and squeeze the excess liquid out. Run the cheese under water kneading as you go.
5) Drain the excess water and put cheese in a bowl. Add heavy cream and salt and mix until you reach the desired texture and fat content.
6) Enjoy!

Cottage Cheese

So I made it! It's good. It's fresh. It worked pretty well actually. Now I'm off to work at Lacroix but when I'm back I'll upload the pics and detail the process.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Improve Chicken Breasts by Factor of 5!!!

What's an extremely easy way to substantially improve chicken breasts? 7% salt, 5% sugar. It's simple. Simple math. Get a scale if you don't have one. And try it. Now.

I'm talking about a brine. I feel kinda bad that I haven't discussed this too much; that I haven't yet given the brine the blog space it truly deserves. True, I've mentioned it, but I've never really delved into its mystic powers. But don't get too excited. This post isn't for that. Someday in the near future I will write a comprehensive post about brining in general, my favorite brines, and my favorite foods to apply the brine to. But today's just a lil post on chicken and how to elevate their status in your home kitchen.

Brining is osmosis and diffusion at the same time. I think. Everyone else, as in food scientists who I probably shouldn't be contradicting, just mentions osmosis, but after water leaves the low concentration of water in the meats cells, and flows into the high concentration in the brine, salt, diffuses into the meat, dissolving some of the meat's fibers thus creating more space for water which flows back into the meat,  making it juicier.

But why not bring some more flavor to the party? Bring sugar! He's oh so sweet. And if you want to make it a real banger, why not add some thyme, and lemon and peppercorns (if the water is infused with flavor as it enters the meat, it will bring that with it into the meat), and maybe instead of sugar bring honey--better flavor. Steep everything together (I squirt some lemon juice in and then just throw in the segment that I squeezed in), let cool (or use 1/2 of the weight of the water as ice and cool it down real fast after it has steeped) then put your breasts in for an hour or two. Now that's a party I wanna be invited to ;)

If you're in a rush, just use cool water and dissolve sugar and salt into it. Also 7% means 70 grams of salt for every 1000 grams of water. You can use ml to measure water but grams is more precise. Your chicken will be noticeably moister than if you hadn't used a brine.

Ok, that's all for today.  I'm off to make my cottage cheese.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cottage Cheese

Puke and peaches? my friend asked me today at lunchtime while pointing at my lunch. I tried to think of something clever to say back at him about his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Nothing came to me, but my mouth kept moving, so I simply said "peanut butter and jelly?" Nice comeback Nick.

I use to hate cottege cheese also. My mom would get it when I was younger in tubs pre-mixed with pineapple. It was nasty. Or it looked nasty. I never ate it myself. The texture was enough. Thick, heavy curds in pale swamp combined to form bleached mud. Gross.

My friend had been talking about my peaches and cottage cheese that I had brought for lunch. I saw where he was coming from--an observer might lose his appetite if he stared at it long enough--but to me it was bliss. Peaches and cream. Sweet and salt. I don't know how I got into it. One day I just tried it. And loved it.

But I don't think every type is worth eating. Eating Lucerne, for instance, is like eating glue; I have absolutely no desire to eat it. Friendship cottage cheese on the other hand, is delicious. I can't stop eating it. Tell your friends. Tell your colleagues. It is the best. Add some berries, or peaches, or pineapple, and there's nothing better. Really nothing. I eat 1%. Unlike after eating Fage, I'm completely satisfied with the lower fat version, I have no desire for full fat. It's that good.

I guess however, it's time for me to stop being lazy and make my own. And make it better (anyone notice I love starting sentences with and? It's like HAHA I'm not in English and I'm free to do what I want). After browsing a few recipes, I see it's incredibly easy. I think I'm going to use this recipe with 1% milk and maybe I'll try using lemon juice instead of acid. I guess the real trick to making this cheese well is using good milk. I don't drink milk myself so I don't know squat. Anyone have any favorite milk brands or maybe a favorite cottage cheese recipe?

My results will be posted by Saturday at the latest.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

College essays

Remember that I mentioned that I was getting to work on my college essays last week? Well they're done ( there's 2) and I need help deciding which essay to use for the common application. E-mail me if you're interested in participating in this poll. Of course I'll have to make sure you aren't trying to steal it or publish it somewhere else, but come on would you really do that anyway?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

College Essay

It's that time of year again. I have a four day weekend (Rosh Hoshana) starting Thursday, and I'm really trying to get my college essay done.

If anyone has any ideas for a good essay topic, I'd love you forever if you e-mailed me left it in the comments :) I'll contact you (if you leave your e-mail) if I decide to use your idea.


Ocean City NJ Boardwalk Fudge

So I'm ending the summer with a post I should've used to begin the summer. It's funny. I'm telling you all where to go to get the best boardwalk fudge when you're not going to get any fudge for another nine months. And why aren't I making my own? The post is a big mess-up in a few respects.

But then again, now that the summer has come to a close and you have (hopefully) been eating astounding amounts of fudge for the past three months, this may be the perfect time for a post like this. Now is when you will be best suited to discuss, dispute and deliberate over my decisions.

Anyone ever been to Ocean City? It's great. I've gone there all throughout my childhood and it has hardly changed--it has the same boring rides, mediocre beaches, and awful food as always, but it's all so endearing. And by awful food, I meant awful real-food--don't try to have a nice sit-down dinner-- but the junk food there is great. Ice cream, funnel cake, fudge, fried oreos, it's all there. 

When I went down with my family, we would always go to the same hotel. It was right off of the boardwalk, and right as you walked on the boardwalk from the hotel was a place called Steele's Fudge. I've always been loyal to Steele's. It was the place we always went to and I had always loved it. We never really tried anything else. It was just the best.

Last weekend I was walking along the Ocean City boardwalk with a few friends. We were talking about food--that's all I talk about--and fudge came up in the conversation. They mentioned that they wanted to go to Fudge Kitchen because that was the best. I disagreed. I claimed that Steele's was better. But then I thought about it, and realized I had nothing to compare it to. I didn't really know if Steele's was the best, I had allowed a bunch of factors other than taste to enter the equation...

So we set up (my mom really set it up) a blind taste test. My mom bought chocolate fudge from six different places on the boardwalk and we brought over the neighbors, who tasted the fudge. The test was completely blind. The fudge was the only isolated variable. They had to be silent when they were eating so as not to alert the other tasters of something. They were not shown the preferences of other tasters (I didn't participate because I don't love chocolate fudge. It's good, but it's good just because it's straight sugar. I try to avoid such things if the reason that I like them is only because they are straight sugar and instead indulge in things whose taste I find appealing in addition to their sweetness.)

The six companies are as pictured. Which is your favorite?

The winner was Shrivers. Overwelmingly. Out of six testers, 5 picked Shrivers as their favorite. Steele's did really poorly, though in my defense, I only eat their vanilla fudge. We used chocolate because chocolate is the classic and we thought it would best exemplify the shops' skills. Next summer I will have to do the same test with vanilla. And I'll do it at the beginning next year ;)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The best decision I made all summer was to work for myself. To cater events, to cook private dinner parties, to not get a conventional summer job. Not only have I made more than I have any other summer, I've enjoyed my summer much more. I've had much more free time. While my friends slaved away working every day for summer camps, I stayed in my house, plotting spreadsheets to determine food costs and profits and cooking. This isn't as true for catering larger events, but I still can't believe I get payed for cooking private dinner parties. It's always so much fun and generally relaxed, and I get to cook and interact with the customers and such. Catering is a little different. Those events are fun, but by nature (large amount of people) are more stressful.

But really this job is great. I run it like a business. I'm always on the lookout for potential clients. I've started to make comprehensive spreadsheets that detail each dinner (how much did I profit, did my projected profits meet my actual profit aka did I meet my budget, how much did I spend for each dish, where can I cut costs in the future, what were the guests' comments, what will I change next time). I have control. I have the power to run this into the ground or to build it up. You don't get that from a job at the ice cream shop.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Webchat with me!

Tune in here tomorrow, Tuesday August 17 at 12 and ask me anything about anything (but mostly cooking) on an online web chat hosted by WHYY!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What am I doing?

Oh yea, that's right, I'm doing me.

Props to anyone understood that pop culture reference. I thought that some of you might be curious about what's going on with me. What's the next step?

Well I don't know what I'll get. I do know what I want, but I'm not sure what will come out of it. I want to go to Wharton (the business school at the university of Pennsylvania) damnit. That's where I will go. That's where I must go. I love business. I love management. I love running shit. I love that whole deal. I want to have experience in business so that I can open my own restaurant. I feel that a lot of restaurants fail because chefs know how to cook and nothing more. They lack acute accounting skills. I want to run a tight ship. I want to know my finances. That knowledge will make me comfortable cooking. I will be on top of things. I hope.

I love Wharton. I love the curriculum. I love Philadelphia. I love the campus. I love the thought that I could be going to one of the best undergrad business programs in the country. But what if I don't get in? See, basically I'm doing exactly what they tell you not to do in regards to college hunting. I'm putting all my eggs in one basket. I really want Wharton and if I plan to purchase a punching pag perchance I don't get in. But if I don't get in, I don't get in. I have to make due. I'm stubborn though, and pathetic sometimes. I think a lot of things aren't worth doing if I don't have the potential to be the best. That's why I quit basketball. That's why I cried when I lost a spelling B in second grade. I'm a baby. But if it's not Wharton, it'll be Lehigh business, or  Michigan business, or Virginia business, or Penn State business. And I'll mope for a little while, but then I'll be fine. And I'll move on. And I'll still run a tight ship when I own a restaurant.

But if anyone knows the admissions officer at Penn, put in a good word for me wont you ;)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Food Shows Today

Is it just me, or is food in pop culture getting kind of boring? It feels like it's all the same. It isn't evolving. It isn't expanding even as the public grows accustomed to what's on television. I used to really enjoy watching Barefoot Contessa and Everyday Italian and others (actually now that I think about it I do still enjoy watching Everyday Italian, but not for the food) but now they're just boring.

I mean every show is kinda the same. Giada boils pasta then tosses it with pesto then makes some wonderful biscotti, "which means twice baked in Italian," Paula Dean makes "good ol southern fried chicken" for dinner and butter for dessert.  It's funny how well I can sum up their shows with two dishes. After watching these shows for years they're getting kinda dull. They seldom offer information to help me elevate my cooking and I don't really learn anything new by watching them.

This isn't true for everybody I'm sure and I would think that, for instance, my mom disagrees. She probably learns a lot from each episode of Rachel Ray or Everyday Italian. A lot of people do. A lot of people are fascinated by what the hosts do on these shows, and I argue that that is because the viewers have little background in technique. They understand how to read recipes, but don't comprehend processes.

And who can blame anyone for that? Food culture these days is based around recipes. On every food show, a recipe is offered, hardly does a show zero in on a technique that will alllow you to create a recipe over and over again with different ingredients. Why would they? Then you wouldn't need to watch their show.

You should buy Ruhlman's Ratio and learn the basic methods that govern the creation of everyday dishes. Then, every new show may be entertaining, but it certainly won't be revolutionary and over time, the individual shows will begin to blend together as you realize that all the mainstream food shows use a series of basic techniques with different ingredients and some flourishes added on.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Where the bleep have I been seriously? I've been absent, my writing vacant. I'm that goddamned sketchy friend who never returns calls, who just kinda goes away and leaves you behind. You can love me (doubtful) or hate me (probable) but either way, I'm back, and we can have fun once again. Let's talk food.

So where have I been? Reading Atonement. Getting an Ipad. Reading the WSJ every morning on my ipad. Cooking dinners for clients. Last Thursday I did a wine gala for 200. I rented wine glasses, picked up Pellagrino, hired servers (my buddies), purchased serving trays and napkins, and made quarter-sized blinis with smoked salmon and creme fraiche to be passed around. And I got paid for it. Sure as hell beats working at an ice cream shop. I took a class on small business and entrepreneurship at Penn. I went to a seminar on the restaurant business hosted by the Philadelphia Business Journal. It featured Jen Carrol, Rob Wasserman (owner of Rouge), Michael Solomonov (chef/owner of Zahav) and Ellen Yin (part-owner of Fork and Fork etc.). Yea. It sucked. Other than the first 30 minutes of kind of a cocktail-hour type setting in which I was able to talk to Ellen Yin about Fork (I worked there for a period) and I met Rob Wasserman who invited me to stage at Rouge, it was awful and uninformative. It was poorly put together. A few general questions were asked by a moderator and the chefs talked about the industry as it is currently, and all I really got out of it was that these restaurants are in better shape than last year. No shit right?

But back to the Gala. Yea that was great. That was jolly fun. I got to exercise genuine authority over a bunch of friends, what could be better right? Haha. It was great, yet terribly nerve racking in the days and hours leading up to the event. I had never done anything like that and it was really good for me to get out of my comfort zone. Before, all I had ever really done for clients was cook. I focused on what I knew. With this event I almost had to act as an event planner. I bought a BJ's membership (Alice Waters is surely plotting to kill me in my sleep) so that I could buy Pellagrino in bulk for cheap. I went to Party Land and got napkins. I went to some restaurant supply store in the city and picked up serving trays with lots of traction so that the wine wouldn't spill when passed (yes the wine was to be passed, that freaked me out when i found out), and I picked up pizza trays at the same store on which to serve the blinis. And that's only the half of it.

(haha there I am strutting down the aisle)
As the event approached, I ran situations over and over in my mind. What was I missing? The day before the event one of the four people I had hired texted me saying "How badly do you need me tomorrow?" I frikin freaked out. She couldn't be seriously cancelling on me now. Hahahaha wow I thought, so this is what it's like at Lacroix, or any restaurant for that matter, when a server decides they don't want to show up when they're scheduled. Luckily she didn't need to to "be with her boyfriend who was in from Boston" I made sure of that. The next day however, she asked me if he could come too. I was pissed off, but she said he would work for free. I made sure that he wouldn't be a distraction and let him on. That turned out to be a great decision.

The day of, almost everything went smoothly--thankfully and surprisingly. I made blinis until 3 then I showed up at the gala. I chilled the wine and Pellagrino with the help of my servers, then began to set up the blinis. I made my servers practice carrying the wine glasses before the event began--I was still quite nervous that one of them would drop a glass--not at all because of their imcompetence.

So the event began, and ran smoothly throughout. I hardly remember the middle of the event. It was a blur. Nothing of great significance occurred. It was smooth. Without blemish. At the end the bosses were happy but not overly so. It was a job well done, and that was what they had expected, and was all that they would tolerate. I felt like an adult. I shook his hand and acted as if this was the norm. As if this job was effortless. My expressionless face concealed the work and worry I had put in. And that was how it should be. They shouldn't know of anything more than work aptly completed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lunch for myself

Pulled then seared pork shoulder, avocado, roasted potatoes tossed with romesco and pecorino.

Lunches for sis keep on coming

This here is pulled then seared pork shoulder, mozzarella, tomato, and avocado on toasted spinach focaccia.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nother Lunch for Sis

Toasted pulled pork sandwich with American cheese (I had no other cheese in my house). Funny thing is, I always wish that I had made myself the sandwich after I make it for her.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lunch for Sis

Bacon, egg, and mozarella cheese toasted to perfection and served with a few slices of grilled eggplant. Lunch for my sister, for a small fee of course.
But I don't feel bad. She works five days a week, raking in tons of dough, well I cater an event once every few weeks. This is just how I get by!

Losing a Client

I lost a client dammit. I lost him. He's gone. He's not coming back. I lost money too, but that's not as important. I lost a relationship, a trust, potential for future business. I let someone down. Dammit.

My "job" this summer is catering dinner parties and events. It's mine. It's my own thing. I work for myself. I answer only to me. And I like that. It's great. I work my own hours and am only bossed around by myself. I'm no one else's slave (if you live in the Philly area and wanna hire me shoot me an email).

So I had this one party for about 20 people planned for mid-July and I had been talking with the host about the food, service, etc. via email. After corresponding as such for a week or so, he asked me to stop by sometime at his house which was right down the street. I told him that I could stop by that night around 7.

I shouldn't have said that. I was cooking and eating with the family then. It crossed my mind to cancel the appointment, but I was under the impression that it was an informal kind of "stop by if you can" type thing. It wasn't. I emailed him later, apologizing and asking if the next night would be ok. But he had already made up his mind. I had lost the job.

Darned customer service. It's infinitely important. Our negotiations were going great until then. But he was right. I easily could've cancelled. And I should've. But this was a valuable business lesson and one that I won't easily forget.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Extra crispy strips?

Everybody's seen that commercial right? I mean the one for KFC where there's a crowded bus and some old guy is talking really loudly on the phone and the girl is getting really bothered by it so the guy next to her gives her some extra-crispy strips and the crunch of the strips is loud enough to block out the noise of the old guy talking on the phone?

Yea well that commercial makes those strips look pretty darn good and I'm the type of guy whose always down for some finger licking fried chicken so I decided to see if the crunch on KFC's strips was really loud enough to block out some extraneous noise in the background. More importantly, I had to see if the strips were any good.

So I went for a run beforehand so that I wouldn't feel bloated and guilty afterwards, then stopped into my good old local KFC. I picked up the strips, a biscuit and some mashed potatoes (note to self: the roasted potatoes are definitely better than mashed)then got back in my car. I turned on some awful techno, then bit into a strip, hoping that the crunch would dominate the music. It didn't. I took another bite. Same result. I turned on some rap metal and blasted it out the speakers to vent my rage. It wasn't just that the strips weren't "extra crispy" it's that they were hardly crispy at all. TGI frickin Fridays serves crispier strips!

That's not to say they weren't good however--I actually finished them on the ride home before I could get a photograph-- but they definitely did not live up to expectations. I actually stopped at Popeye's on the way home to satisfy my craving for crispy. Popeye's, now that's some good chicken...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010