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NYC A Culinary Hub

Posted by Suchagoodcook on December 26, 2008 at 2:32 PM Comments comments ()

I spent this past weekend in NYC with my family. New York City during the holidays is so much fun. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, looking at all of the Christmas windows along Fifth Avenue and seeing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. This is one way to experience NYC during the holidays. An alternative way and the one I prefer however, is more in the culinary vein. Yes there is the trip to Canal Street for watches, purses and Pashminas but the best part of New York any time of the year is the food. NYC is the home to some 20,000 restaurants. If only you could try them all.


As we headed into the city on Friday we had to make a pit stop at the Korean bakery, Cafe Savoy in Tenafly, NJ for pork buns, scallion and bacon buns and bite size chicken pies. Not a traditional breakfast for sure but so good. With our hunger satisfied we headed into the city. Our mission for this trip was Pashmina shopping for the holidays. On Canal Street in the Pashmina Mall you can choose from thousands of beautiful Pashminas. Parking in the city is an acquired skill. That’s why it’s best to go with locals who know the ins and outs of the NYC parking game. As we drove around looking for an off street spot we made a quick stop at the Doughnut Plant. A must see when in NYC. Not the average donut shop. The retail space is only 200 square feet. It is tiny. The donuts however are not. They are big on flavor and frankly the best donuts I have ever had. My favorites are the Tres Leches and the Crème Brulee. Oh so yummy. After a couple of hours navigating our way down Canal St. we headed back to the car for home.


 With the dinner hour approaching we headed to Rosa Mexicano at Riverside Square in Hackensack , NJ. Rosa Mexicano delivers authentic Mexican cooking in an accessible, stylishly festive atmosphere. Their signature dish is Guacamole en Molcajete. It is made tableside and served with housemade chips and warm corn tortillas. The food was great but my favorite was the guacamole.

On Sunday we visited our favorite Dim Sum place and enjoyed a variety of Dim Sum before heading back upstate. Culinary all the way.

What is Boot Camp?

Posted by Suchagoodcook on November 30, 2008 at 8:32 PM Comments comments ()

Culinary Boot Camp: Basic training.  What exactly does that mean?  When you join the Military, boot camp and basic training have a very definitive meaning.  It?s hard work with intensive skills training over the course of 6 weeks, sometimes eight.  In fact it's so intense that if you do a google search for military boot camps you'll find many sites on how to survive basic training boot camp.   So what is boot camp in the culinary world?  It is five-days of intensive hands-on skill development with a Master Chef instructor.  The brochure says, boot camp participants learn the how-to's and the why's of cooking.  You also dine in all of the CIA's public restaurants.  These are the restaurants that the public waits months to get a reservation because they book months in advance. 


So why a culinary boot camp?  For me it was the chance to step out of my everyday role of wife, mother and career professional to experience a sample of CIA curriculum that produces professional chefs.  So, off I went to the Hudson Valley specifically to the Hyde Park, New York campus of the Culinary Institute of America for my weeklong boot camp.



Day 1 starts at 6:00 AM for orientation.  I have to say that I was a bit nervous wondering if the other attendees would be good cooks like myself or would I find myself with culinary greats. After all I really just started cooking with passion.  What if everyone else was a great cook? Would I embarrass myself? To my relief we were all looking for the same thing from the course, to enhance our skills and have some fun.  There were nine of us, 7 men and 2 women, which according to our Chef this same ratio mirrors the student body.  The culinary program is mostly men and the pastry program tends to skew female.   We all met in the J. Willard Marriott Continuing Education Center, which also houses the Shunsuke Takaki School of Baking and Pastry.  We were met by a Continuing Education staff member that gave each of us a CIA athletic bag, which contained two chef?s uniforms, a 1200 page textbook and our nametags, which differentiated us from the degree students.  After some basic instructions and a brief tour we were taken to breakfast before class started at 7:00 AM.  It became obvious pretty quickly that students at the CIA eat really well.   Since it is a hands on teaching program every culinary class results in feeding people.  There isn?t a central cafeteria but several teaching kitchens that feed the student body based on the skills and menu plan being taught in that particular kitchen.  So in the breakfast kitchen you would find the basics such as pancakes, French toast or a cheese omelet.  But then there were items like eggs benedict, lobster crepes or poached eggs on grits with shrimp.  


Class started everyday at 7:00.  On day 1 we met the chef who navigated our journey through the week. Our Chef was Hinnerk von Bargen.  He was raised in Germany where he received his Chef credentials but has traveled and cooked all over the world.  He is an awesome Chef but a great teacher as well. 




The first 2 hours of the day were spent in the classroom learning various techniques that we would apply once we went into the kitchen.   Once in the kitchen, the Chef would demonstrate a technique and then we would break into our teams to prepare our menu.  We worked in teams of three.  Each team would prepare a full menu with a protein, starch and vegetable, service for six. Each team would produce a show plate and then a family style plate and this becomes lunch for the class. 



 Bear in mind there were three teams so there were three full menus to choose from for lunch.  Of course you want to sample them all.  After the first day my motto became a taste of everything.  Attending a CIA boot camp is not the time for dieting but at the same time eating more than a taste left you stuffed and uncomfortable for the second half of the day. So a taste it was.




After lunch we would return to the kitchen where Chef would review our show plates and give his assessment of the food.  Then, back to the classroom for follow up instruction and a team meeting to determine who was doing what for the next day's production.   Instruction for the day ended between 3:00 and 3:30 then you were on your own time.  The course syllabus calls this Rest and Relaxation/Prepare for Dinner.  I would usually stay on campus and explore the other buildings such as the Conrad N. Hilton Library, the Craig Claiborne Bookstore or the Apple Pie Bakery Café. 


Every night we dined in one of the 4 on campus restaurants.  The restaurants are run by the students in both the back of the house (kitchen) and the front of the house (service).  When the students reach the restaurants they have 3 weeks left of their curriculum and are very experienced in all aspects of the culinary world. Most of the students I talked to were ready to step into the real world of culinary wonders to a job where they would finally start their career as a professional chef.


The restaurants were excellent.  As a part of boot camp you eat your dinners in each of the campus restaurants.  The first night our class dined in the Ristorante Caterina de Medici showcasing the authentic culinary traditions of the various regions of Italy.  The menu of the award-winning Caterina features the seasonal ingredients and indigenous flavor combinations of this cuisine.  On our second night we dined at the American Bounty.  The wealth and diversity of America?s cultural heritage is brought to life by the imaginative cuisine of this award-winning restaurant.  The menu features regional specialties prepared with ingredients harvested from the riches of the Hudson River Valley.  By the third night we were all looking for a lighter meal, which we found at St. Andrew's Café. The menu offers fun and flavorful contemporary fare in a casual, family-friendly setting.  The a la carte menu includes salads, sandwiches, wood-fired pizza and main entrees emphasizing fresh seasonal ingredients. Our final dinner together as a class was in the elegant Escoffier Restaurant.  Here French recipes are prepared true to the principles of legendary chef Auguste Escoffier, but with a contemporary touch.  The a la carte menu represents the culinary traditions of the regions of France, all served with a beautiful and authentic presentation.  



So far I talked all about the culinary side of the CIA but they do feature a Baking and Pastry boot camp that is a must for my next boot camp experience.   Every morning on my way to class from breakfast I would stop to look through the window of the pastry kitchens.   I came to the conclusion that baking was my first love and I need to learn how to roll fondant and make my own puff pastry.    As the culinary students pass through the restaurants the pastry students make the pastries and breads and run the Apple Pie bakery café. The Zagat Survey says, The Apple Pie Bakery Café has the best pastries this side of the Seine.  I have never been on the other side of the Seine but I have to say the pastries and breads are amazing.  I would know this because one day after class a few of my classmates and I did our own survey and sampled several of the specialty pastries. Oh so yummy!  I did notice the next day at breakfast that anything that does not sell in the café from the day before is out for breakfast the following morning.   For a pastry junkie, as I am, this was pure heaven. 


Back to the Boot Camp.  I have talked about the cooking side of the experience but there is a whole other aspect that happens in boot camp and that is team building. I had two teammates Bruce and Rick.  They were friends that drove in from Massachusetts and great cooks.  They lived blocks away and never knew each other until they met at a Tasters Guild event.  In addition to enjoying to cook they also have an appreciation for wine.  I had a great time with them and it made the experience much more fun.  They both had a great sense of humor and were there for the same reason as I was.  There was no pretense just good people.  According to both they were the cooks in their families.  Both their wives came down on Friday to join us for the final lunch. 


In the end, we all agreed that the entire experience was so much more than we had expected.  The few brief descriptive sentences in the course brochure barely does it justice.  The one-on-one instruction with a Master Chef, the professional kitchen, amazing food and the friendships that we developed along the way will stay with me always or at least until my next Boot Camp experience At the Culinary Institute of Arts.




Food, food and more food

Posted by Suchagoodcook on November 11, 2008 at 10:40 PM Comments comments ()


I can't even begin to describe what an incredible experience I am having at the basic skills boot camp.  I was hoping to do a daily blog but bleagers; you will have to wait until I get home for a full account of the week.  I am just too tired and too busy to find time to check email or hit my blog.  What I can tell you is that I have never seen college students eat as well as they do here at the CIA.   Everything is a teaching experience and so all the food is made by students.   It's exceptional.  So hold on folks I'll give a detailed summary when I return and as I have time I will try to sneak in a few "bites" of information just to wet your appetite.

The Adventure Begins

Posted by Suchagoodcook on November 9, 2008 at 2:16 PM Comments comments ()

 It's Sunday November 9th and I am in Poughkeepsie, NY getting settled in for Boot Camp Week.  I have just toured the Culinary Institute of Arts campus in Hyde Park.  It is stunning.  It has a European feel, old brick buildings with ivy crawling up the sides forming a blanket of green. The campus was an old Jesuit Monastery. There are courtyards and garden paths that lead you from one building to another.  Most of the gardens grow herbs or vegetables but you would never know it because they are so artfully designed that you must look close to realize it.  The weather is beautiful.  The sun is bright and there is a crispness in the air for a perfect fall day on the Hudson River.

However, it's Sunday and the campus is closed on Sunday's.   So more about the school tomorrow as the Basic Skills Boot Camp week at the CIA begins. 


Back At It

Posted by Suchagoodcook on October 29, 2008 at 8:29 PM Comments comments ()

Well here is what happened. I looked up and it was the end of October.  Halloween is this week and the holidays are right around the corner. Where did the time go? Well, for me, I finally launched a very big project I have been working on and suddenly I feel like I have my old self-back. I now have the time to get back on track with and back in the kitchen where I feel at home. 


To celebrate the end of my long project I have treated myself to a week of Boot Camp at the CIA (The Culinary Institute of American) in Hyde Park, New York.  I leave the week after next and can't wait.  The boot camp is 5-days of intensive basic skills training.  I have to say that after reading the materials they send you, I'm a bit nervous.  The day starts at 7:00 AM and concludes at 9:00 PM and the in between time sounds rather intense.   As nervous as I am, I think the whole week will be a fabulous experience.  The knowledge I'll gain, the people I'll meet and hanging out at the CIA for a week isn't too shabby either.  All in all, I can't wait.


I'm also working on some new recipes for the holidays that I hope to post soon.  I'm working on a caramel apple tart right now that I promise will impress all your friends.


So I'm back to enjoy the world of Such A Good Cook.

Reunion Fun

Posted by Suchagoodcook on August 3, 2008 at 8:58 PM Comments comments ()

Reunions....generally speaking can be a lot of fun.  Last year I celebrated with the class of 1977 at my 30-year Groves High School reunion.  Where does the time go?  This weekend my husband celebrated a reunion with the 1981,1983 residential advisory staffs of Lawrenson Hall at Syracuse University.  Basically all the RA's got together to remember the past.   There was lots of eating and drinking including a happy hour in our home.  This actually worked out well for me because I'm taping a show on Tuesday and it gave me a chance to go through a couple of new recipes.   Of course pesto pinwheels were on the menu always easy and delicious.   A new favorite is infused grape tomatoes and mozzarella balls served in martini glasses, great presentation!  Also served peppadew peppers stuffed with mascarpone cheese. The sweet of the cheese and the bite of the peppadew makes a great combination.  Of course there was lots of bread, olive oil and herbs for dipping, wine and my new favorite, BL Lime beer.   The new recipes went over well, and everyone had a great time including me who knew absolutely no one there other than my husband but once again, food always brings people together and conversation flowed easily by all.




Summer in the City

Posted by Suchagoodcook on August 3, 2008 at 8:20 PM Comments comments ()

Well I have been somewhat out of site for a few weeks.   Have loads to share.  Two weeks ago we took a quick trip to Upper Saddle River, N.J. to visit family for Uncle Jerry�s 80th birthday and shopping on Canal Street in NYC.  The trip was all about food.  I had some amazing meals.  One thing about NYC, food is plentiful, diverse and a totally different experience wherever you go.  We spent Friday in the city on Canal Street shopping for purses and pagmina�s.  It was a classic summer day in the city 90 degrees, hot and humid.   After a very successful shopping trip we headed off for dinner to the Ocean Grill restaurant.  We ordered sushi and sashimi, soft shell crabs and spring rolls.  I washed it all down with a Mango Blossom Cocktail that was very well made. The sushi was amazing. We picked all of the restaurant�s house specialties including BBQ eel and spicy tuna.  This was some of the finest sushi I have ever had.  The fish was so fresh it just about melted in your mouth.


On Saturday before we headed to Uncle Jerry�s we stopped for dim sum at dim sum DYNASTY.  I can only say that I have never had finer dim sum, ever! To begin with, talk about fast food, the dim sum is continually prepared and served ala cart throughout the restaurant.  The waiter pulls up tableside with the cart and you simply make your selection.  This is always very dangerous in my mind because everything looks good and smells wonderful that you always over eat and we did.   We started with Pork and Shrimp Dumplings, Snow Pea Leaf Dumplings, Crabmeat Money Bags, Seafood Shu Mai, Steamed Sticky Rice in Lotus Wrap and Crispy Duck.  The cart made several trips to our table.  The food was so good it could become a monthly trip to N.J. just for dim sum.   Although I did find a dim sum restaurant in Rochester, NY, which is much closer and worth a trip to see if it can live up to the reputation of dim sum DYNASTY.





Independence Day

Posted by Suchagoodcook on July 9, 2008 at 8:06 PM Comments comments ()
 Another wonderful 4th of July!  This holiday is usually spent at the Christopher�s lake house on Skaneateles Lake.  The view from the back deck is stunning and at sunset, I'm reminded of sunsets on Key West.    Much of the day is spent catching up with friends that I only get a chance to see at this party.  The menu is a tradition, with steamed clams and drawn butter around mid afternoon and filets for dinner that are always cooked to perfection with all the flavor of a 4 star steakhouse.   The dinner is accented with Liz�s special potatoes, which are so good just writing about them makes me wish I had a bowl right now to sit and enjoy.  Everyone brings a dish to pass which I love, because you always end up getting a chance to try something new.  I have posted a crumb cake recipe that I tried this year.  The recipe came to me from a co-worker but I changed it up a bit adding a layer of Ann�s Strawberry Jam.   So Yummy! 


The perfect day with great food and friends.  Now that�s Independence.

The Farmers Market

Posted by Suchagoodcook on June 28, 2008 at 9:53 PM Comments comments ()

Here in CNY we are very fortunate to have access to several farmers markets.  Today I visited the Regional Market. I was on a mission to find a Kong Coleus and my friend Philippa was looking for impatiens, Coleus and Million Bells, yellow ones.  I did not find a Kong Coleus but did pick up some soft-shell crab, home made crab and shrimp ravioli, locally picked strawberries, rhubarb and a loaf of kalamata olive bread.  Oh and a couple of Elephant Ear plants.  Quite the success even without the Kong.


 The soft-shell crab gave me the idea to try something new, Spider Roll.  What�s a Spider Roll?  It is a Nori roll with soft-shell crab and avocado.  I have been practicing my Sushi skills with the basic California Roll and Ebi.  Ebi is shrimp Sushi.  I cheat with these and buy the shrimp prepared from the Asian grocery store.  But the rolls I have been making from scratch.  I�m getting better and felt it was time to try something that was a bit more challenging.   I made a tempura batter for the crab and a spicy mayonnaise to drizzle on top.  It took longer to make than I thought but came out great.  For a first try I was very pleased.  When I make this again I will make some changes to the batter, the tempura wasn�t thick enough.   It passed the test of my 15-year-old son who has acquired quite the taste for Sushi.  The perfect ending to the perfect morning at the Regional Market.



A blank canvas is always better with color

Posted by Suchagoodcook on June 20, 2008 at 8:26 AM Comments comments ()

Well, I finally saw the Wedding Shower episode, as many of you did. Thank you for watching and the honest reviews. This is my 5th show and the first with the brand, Such A Good Cook. With each show I have learned something new. So, what did I learn this time? Makeup, Makeup, Makeup. Or, as my very good friend Howard said, "Honey you�re great but you looked like crap." Now that�s a friend and I agree I need to make sure I leave time before taping to get into "hair and makeup." This is not as glamorous as it sounds. There isn�t a stylist on hand who is wiping your brow or touching up your makeup when you cut to break. It�s just me. I am the sous-chef (I do all the prep work) and the stylist both for the food and myself. On this particular episode I worked way too hard before the show on prep work and left no time to "primp" before taping.  A mistake I won't make again. I am now much more comfortable with the demonstration piece, conversing and interacting with the host, but now I need to make sure that I pull it all together and learn the visual piece of the camera. Working in front of the camera versus behind the scenes is a very new experience for me.

So, as a blank canvas can become a beautiful painting with some color and expertise, I too will master the art of cooking, speaking and looking good in front of the camera.