Showing Off Our New City

A few weekends ago Andy and I hosted two of our friends that came to visit us from Pittsburgh.  We were excited to share our new city with old friends and planned plenty of events to keep us busy for the 5 days we had together.  During the first two days I had school so Andy took them to some of our favorite and most popular bay area spots, including Stinson Beach, Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Lombard Street.

On Saturday we made plans to cheer on the Cal Football team at their first home opener.

California Memorial Stadium has housed the bears football team since 1922, with the exception of the last two years while it underwent earthquake retrofitting and renovation.  We were lucky enough to snag tickets to the first game back in the stadium. Continue reading

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Lots of Tarts

With summer break and two-three week courses (principles of design and culinary), it had been nearly 9 weeks since we had classes in the bakeshop. I was very eager to get back to my love of pastry and baking with our new course, basic and classical cakes.  This class is designed to cover many classic preparations, from tarts to opera cake to pithiviers.  Some cakes I knew well and others were entirely new to me.  Below is the Gâteau St. Honoré, a cake that I had learned about in first semester but had never made before.

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Wine Country with the Family

The celebratory weekend continued with spending Saturday in wine country. Andy and I stopped by one of our favorite local bakeries, La Farine, for some breakfast pastries to take on the drive up to St. Helena.

My parents and I have already done a tour at CIA Greystone, but we opted for another tour so that the rest of my family could see the school and learn about the history.

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Celebrating Uncle Ben’s 90th at Wayfare Tavern

For months I looked forward to the last weekend in August when my whole family would be in the Bay Area.  My brother traveled back from Europe, my parents came up from San Diego, and my great-uncle flew in from Boston to all be together on his 90th birthday. As we’ve grown older and started our own families, we all see each other less often than we would like.

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The Day I Became a “Real” Chef

The teaching kitchen was swarming with people as we started our third week of classes.  Every kitchen suite was filled with CIA students or guest chefs that were participating in a Kikkoman sponsored event on campus.  The energy was palpable, as the guest chefs worked quickly to prepare intriguing dishes and all of students did our best to impress our guests.

I worked efficiently and confidently that morning, that was until I lit my frying pan on fire.  I was simply moving around small pieces of beef, but a flash of oil caught on the gas burner and before I knew it huge flames shot up.  It was as if I flambeed chunks of beef.  My instructor appeared quickly and helped quell the flames, and somewhat sarcastically said, “hey, you’re a real chef now”.  Slightly embarrassed, I did my best to laugh it off and ignore the frightened and shocked face I made. We joked around that I gave the guest chefs a nice show and proved that we did real cooking here at the school.  Thankfully even with my rookie mistake, the beef had a nice sear and was suitable to use for my stew.

Day 10

Most of the tenth day of the class was spent working on knife cuts as our beef stew simmered away.  We used demi glace as the base of the stew to develop deep and hearty flavors.  The vegetables were prepared separately by cutting battonets (1/4” x 1/4” x 2”), blanching them, and finishing them with butter and parsley.  Preparing the vegetables separately brings a nice burst of color to the dish and makes a more appealing bowl of stew.

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Grilling and Sautéing Away

I’m back! I’ve been slow posting as I recently hosted friends and family that were visiting the Bay Area for the last two weekends, but I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things!  I left off with my first week of culinary classes, which focused primarily on learning the foundations of hot side cooking.  Week two expanded on the basics but posed more exciting skills to learn, like vegetable cookery, grilling, and sautéing.

Day 5

On day 5 we cooked two types of soup, marking the first day that we prepared something that we actually could eat for lunch!  In addition to making puree of lentil soup and cream of tomato soup, we continued to master a few types of sauces.  There are five traditional French sauces, called the grand sauces or mother sauces, from which a plethora of other sauces can be prepared.  These five can be remembered with the acronym BETHV, for béchamel, espagnole, tomato, hollandaise, and velouté.  We started with preparing espagnole, tomato, and velouté.

We used the velouté to thicken our cream based soups, and saved the tomato sauce and espagnole sauce for preparations later in the week.

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From Baking to Cooking


After the conclusion of art class, my classmates and I embarked on our cooking journey.  Our newest course is titled “Cafe and Savory Foods Production” and is a course designed to teach students in the baking program the basics of how to cook.

At school the bakers are often teased (in a mostly endearing way) because we spend our “cushy” days in the quiet bakeshop while we measure, mix, whip, and knead.  It’s quite a contrast to the daily adventures of the culinary students who sweat it out over hot stoves and quickly maneuver their knives with ease and confidence.

Of course I was a bit nervous to be over in the hot side kitchen.  Besides being slightly out of my normal element, we were scheduled to do a crash course in classical cooking techniques that allotted just three short weeks to master stocks, broths, sauces, soups, vegetable cookery, grilling, sautéing, roasting, stewing, poaching, and frying.

As I near the end of the course, I’m happy to say that I (and my classmates) survived and even did pretty well!  In the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, I wasn’t able to snap as many photos as I would have liked, so the recaps will be more brief than usual.

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8 August Favorites

1.  Cinnamon Roll Pancakes.  These were all popping up all over Pinterest, so I finally gave them a try!  They are a delicious fusion of my favorite breakfast items.  I’m sure I’ll be making these often on weekends!

2. San Francisco Magazine.  This was an impulse buy from Costco that totally delivered! It highlighted interesting trends and restaurants in the bay area and made my “must try” restaurant list grow significantly.

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A Circus for the Baby

One of the biggest reasons I was excited to move to the Bay Area was to be in closer proximity to my family. My sister lives in San Francisco,  I have an Aunt and Uncle in Marin, and the flight from SFO to see my parents in San Diego is much shorter than traveling from Pittsburgh.

Back in February my sister shared the news that she was pregnant, and then in March we got the news that my brother would be moving from Boston to Palo Alto.  As our family gets bigger, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect for my two siblings and I to finally live in the same metro area, let alone same coast.  Its been over 12 years since we all lived near each other!

It’s been great to see my sister so often as she goes through her first pregnancy! This past weekend I hosted her baby shower, and had a lovely time spending the afternoon with family and Margot’s closest friends.  Since Margot chose not to find out the gender, we opted for a circus themed baby shower.

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Blue Ombre Cake

Over the weekend, Andy commissioned me to make a cake to celebrate the birth of a coworker’s son.  He gave me no constraints and no specific criteria, so I had the free reign to decide the design.  I’ve been loving ombre lately, and when I saw this blue ombre cake I knew I had to recreate it!

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