Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Catering, cocktail, and a castle. Oh my!

It's very springtime in Paris right now--Tulips everywhere, and wisteria too!  

This is what people do here on very nice days--they sit out in the sun in very pretty places, like the Luxembourg Gardens.

Annegret and I got this tasty little treat for our time under the sun in the gardens


This week we had 2 catering classes.  And it was great because we got to work with meats, fish, and vegetables, which is a fun change from pastry exclusivity.  Here are some peppers I got to roast!

We also made a giant pot of cassoulet, which is a famous dish from the south of France.

But mostly, we worked on making about 15-20 different types of little appetizers (and about 60-80 servings of each).

Ratatouille with sesame rouget and guacamole
 Ok, this was so cool.  One group made a ton of little balls out of butter and froze them.  Then they were covered in batter, frozen again, and then fried.  During the frying, they are picked so that the butter oozes out and you're just left with a little crunchy ball that you can fill!  Cool, right?  Our catering chef invented this recipe--he's great and he's trying for the MOF this year.  Best of luck to him.

the little fry balls on a skewer with herbed salmon and daikon radish
 They are filled with a goat cheese/horseradish cream and topped with caviar!

 We were making all these little appetizers for a cocktail party at the school so that we could meet all of the former students of the program who are either now in their internships, or are still here working in Paris.

It was really great and I met lots of new people.  We were very proud of ourselves for making all of the treats!


Stefanie, Shu Shu, Chef Averty, me, Johnny
Friday was huge.  First, we got an entire lesson on macarons by well-renound expert, Olivier Menard.  Secondly, it was filmed for a huge French TV station.  And finally, I was one of the 3 interviewed!  What a cool experience.

I was absolutely full of adrenaline afterwards, and we all decided to go out for a little drink.  I think it's the first time our entire class (minus one) has been out all together!

Vady, Shu Shu, Ji Sook, me, Stefanie
It's our spring break now, so Saturday, I was content with doing absolutely nothing at all.  So that night I had a huge second wind and decided to go out.  Ben and I went to see Aurelie's boyfriend play at a bar.  He's in a band.  I had a corona and it reminded me of Texas.

Afterwards, the males of the group wanted to watch the rest of the soccer game that they were missing, so we went to this little Spanish bar.  And it really is tiny, and it was completely packed, but that didn't stop them from having 2 guitarists at all times (on a rotation, I guess) AND a flamenco dancer.

Sunday I went to Fontainebleau.  It is a massive chateau.  It's about 40 minutes by train (after the metro-ride to the train station) south of Paris.

On our way from the train station to the chateau, Annegret and I spied a tempting little outdoor market.

This is Annegret and me trying on hats that we will wear to the horse-races one day (since there is a horse-racing track very near my apartment).

Here is the lovely Fontainebleau.  It really is huge; I kept thinking about the movie Rose Red, where the house keeps building itself...

We stopped and had a picnic (equipped with cider, fresh cheeses, bread, and fruits from the market) on this little green area.

And then we ventured into the castle.

Napoleon's chess table

Beautiful bedroom

gorgeous fireplace

detailing above a doorway


Wisteria, seen on our walk home
Very lovely weekend.  My mother is coming to see me tomorrow--I can't wait!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A beautiful Saturday afternoon

I had such a lovely experience while eating grapes this morning.  The sun was streaming into my apartment like buttercream colored fingers onto the white walls.  As I bit into the first black grape, I was overcome with delight because it was so refreshing and sweet and crisp, and I noticed little seeds in the other half.  I don't remember the last time I ate a grape with seeds in it because it seems like all we have in the US are the small little seedless grapes.  But I just sat for about 20 minutes enjoying each grape one at a time, some grapes had only one seed, while others had 3 or 4.  Each was set apart in its individuality.  And it was just really an unexpected joy that each grape was so different because in the US all the grapes are pretty much the same.  GMOs aren't allowed in France, and that was very apparent to me this morning.

My neighbors invited me over for coffee this afternoon.  They have SUCH a lovely apartment--it doesn't feel like an apartment at all.  It's huge, and there are lots and lots of windows with balconies full of plants, so it's very bright inside.  There were lots of instruments around decorating the house, and it really reminded me of home.  We sat outside on one of the balconies and had coffee with some of the macarons that I had brought over (that I had made in class).  And it was so bright and pretty, and at one point, we all had to stop talking because the cherry blossom petals (on a tree about 50-60 feet tall) started blowing around in the breeze--there was hardly a space on the horizon that didn't have petals in it.  It was so pretty.  Anyway, they are such a nice family.  Husband and wife with 3 kids, two girls 13 and 15 and a 19 year old son.  The 15 year old girl plays cello, and she is very friendly.  I think we may try to learn some duets for piano and cello.  Annick, the wife, is a piano teacher for little children, and it was really great because I got to learn some basic music vocabulary in French, and taught her the same in English.  After coffee, I got to play on the grand piano!  Not a baby grand like ours at home in Texas, but a huge, old, beautiful piano.  I don't remember the last time I played on a piano of this size.  After finishing my Grieg sonata, I was almost shaking because it was such a rush!  It is exhilarating to play such a powerful piece on such a magnificent instrument.  They told me I can return and play whenever I like.  And before leaving, she photocopied some music for me to take and is letting me borrow a book of Debussy preludes, and a CD to help me choose a piece because they thought it was such a shame that I've never played Debussy (and I have to agree)!  I'm so happy to have such friendly neighbors, and another opportunity to practice my French.

Last weekend I went to Biarritz, which is a town in the southwest of France, very close to the Spanish border, on the coast of the Atlantic.  It was so beautiful.  We took the night train and arrived at 6:30am, before the little hostel was open, so we sat on the beach with our luggage and watched the sun rise while eating the little petits fours (cookies) that I had made in class that week.

Watching the sun rise on the beach

Little box of petits fours--a lovely breakfast

This is one of the coconut pyramids that Marina made in class

It's just SO picturesque!

This is one of the coolest houses I have ever seen--it's just built right on a cliff that drops off into the ocean.  And it's HUGE!  It's a private residence, and I've decided that I will buy it one day when I'm a super successful pastry chef :)

Anyway, it's been a great week.  Next week will be very rigorous in school.  On Friday, a French television station will be filming our class for a documentary they are making about macarons.  As a result, we are getting special private lessons from a relatively famous pastry chef and macaron expert, Olivier Ménard.  I can't wait!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Breads, Market, and Cookies

We finally had more bakery classes this week!  We made baguettes, rye loaves, croissants, and pain au chocolate (and several other sweet breads)!  It was SO much fun.  I absolutely love making bread, it's one of my favorite things to do.  Here are some pictures of boulangerie class.

Learning how to roll baguette dough

Rye loaves before their journey to the oven

This is what happens if you don't add steam when baking a baguette--it's really ugly and small and has a bad texture

MMMMM rye bread in the sunshine!!

Transferring raw baguettes to be baked

Our baguettes!!

My croissants and pain au chocolat!

We also took a field trip to Rungis.  It's one of the largest markets in the world.  I mean it's HUGE, it's like a city almost, with their own police department and everything.  You can even buy trucks there.  We visited the fish department, the triperie (animal parts), the meat department, the poultry and game department, the cheese/dairy department, the vegetable/fruit department, and the flower department!


The most awesome fish ever


Scary fish

Maybe I should put a warning--the next several pictures may be a little gross for some people, but I was fascinated and really enjoyed the triperie and meat department!

They leave the claws on--it's so cool!
I learned that chicken companies have started to add carotene dye to the chicken so it looks more yellow.  That way, their consumers will think that the chicken had been raised naturally and fed on corn.
Chickens with heads!

Look how giant they are!!


T-bone steak!  (entrecote in French)

Giant wheels of Gruyere

Chevre with herbs

Morel mushrooms

I kept walking around and asking the vendors questions, all the while practicing my French.  And I came across this--a bushel of potatoes that had soil in it still.  So I asked the vendor why, was it just to keep the potatoes fresh?  No.  They add the soil to display the terroir.  I had learned about the concept of terroir previously in my wine class, it's the Earth that the plant grows in, from a certain region, climate, etc.  And displaying the terroir like this shows the potential buyer what the potatoes have been growing in.  I thought that was such an interesting concept.

I also asked one of the flower vendors about their eucalyptus, and I learned that there are 4 different kinds and that it's grown in Italy and France.  I would love to accidentally discover a field of eucalyptus--it must smell so amazing!

 This week in class, we made 27 kinds of petits fours.  It was a lot of fun making these little cookies.