In case you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of the culinary boot camp series, here is a summary:
- Complain about too much focus on presentation and not enough on the taste
- Complain about lack of seasonal ingredients
- Complain about the program being too basic
- Complain about having to cook fried chicken and turkey breast
But there were lots of wonderful parts to this program too. I was just saving all the good stuff for the end.
Wine tasting class:
The wine tasting class was similar to others that I’ve taken. We got to taste 6 wines and talk about their smell, taste, acid, sweetness, body, and tannin (the last one only for reds). Here are some tips that I’ve learned:
- A good analogy to “body” for a wine is “skim milk vs. cream.” Skim milk being low body and cream being high body.
- Vineyards in cool places produce light bodied wines and in hot places produce high bodied wines.
- You can tell how acidic a wine is based on how wet you feel under your tongue. For white wines acidity is really easy to tell, but for reds, it’s sometimes masked by tannin, so this tip comes in handy.
- Covering a glass with your hand when you swirl the wine can intensify aroma.
- Wine should always be at least as sweet as the food and at least as acidy as the food.
- Good soil does not produce good vines. In fact, the worse the conditions, the better the wine. Many great vineyards have very rocky soil, which makes vine roots grow deeper to find water. This makes them pass through more types of soil and absorb all kind of minerals that give the wine its complexity. In the vineyards that don’t have the benefit of terrible soil, vines have to be stressed in other ways, like planted extremely close to each other. I tell you, being a vine is a hard job.
The food and wine pairing class was even more interesting. The wine classes I’ve taken before only talked about food and wine pairing, but haven’t actually demonstrated it. Most of this talk seemed like black magic and it was always hard to figure out how to translate it to practice. After some experimentation, Jason and I learned that Rieslings go with pretty much everything and everything else is a gamble. So we drink a lot of Rieslings. The food and wine pairing class did not produce any surprises and the big take away was “Drink Rieslings with your food.” But now I actually understand why. We were given different foods that represent the basic tastes:
- Wedge of Lemon for sour
- Chocolate for bittersweet
- Grape for fruity
- Prosciutto for meaty and salty
- Goat cheese for creamy
- Blue cheese for bold and fatty
Here are some other food/wine pairing tips that I’ve learned:
- The wine should be at least as sweet as the food
- The wine should be at least as acidic as the food
- Cheese and wine pairing is overrated. It’s tricky to match wine with cheeses and contrary to common belief, sweet white wines, not reds, go best with cheeses.
- Hard cheeses (gouda, manchego, parmesan, etc.) are easy going and pair well with most wines
- Goat cheese need young acidic wines
- Soft cheeses like brie and camembert are best eaten alone
After spending afternoons eating and drinking in our wine tasting classes, we had a few hours to shower, change, and get ready to eat and drink s.
The campus restaurants, ran by students, were outstanding. From food to service to décor, they were some of the best meals I've had in US at that price range. During the last 12 weeks of the 2 year culinary arts degree, the students get to work in each of the 4 restaurants for 3 weeks in each. As they rotate through the restaurants, they take turns at different cooking stations (garde mange, grilling, sautéing, etc) and even learn how to perform the front of the house duties of greeting guests, waiting on tables, and bartending.
The first night we ate in Caterina de’ Medici (Italian), second night in St. Andrew’s café (Casual American and Fusion), third night in Escoffier (French), and last night in American Bounty (American).
St. Andrew’s café was the least formal restaurant, and in my opinion offered the best food, though I might have just gotten lucky with my dishes. I started with a mushroom and asparagus risotto with truffle oil – perfectly al dente and with beautiful mushroom flavor. The main dish left me absolutely speechless. It was melt in the mouth “Korean style” braised short-ribs. I don’t know how “Korean” this dish was, though there was soy sauce and ginger present in the sauce, but it was the most luscious texture of short-ribs I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve had my share. The tasting of desserts included a white chocolate cheesecake, a dark chocolate pudding cake, a rhubarb-strawberry crisp, and two sorbets (coconut and strawberry). They were all pretty good, but the coconut sorbet was a stand out.
Caterina and Escoffier were my next favorite. Seafood salad with parsley water and lemon oil, and zucchini-ricotta ravioli in parmesan broth were outstanding at Caterina, and Foie Gras Roulade Brulée with Pineapple Marmalade at Escoffier was to die for. The other dishes were good too, but I wouldn’t crave to have them again. The only restaurant that I didn't like was American Bounty. Both the service and the food were lackluster. This could be due to the fact that it was the first day after rotation and the students were still getting used to the new restaurant, or maybe we were just tired of eating out.
I only remembered by the third day to takes pictures of the dishes – silly me. So here are some from Escoffier.
Asparagus soup with scallops
Duck breast with sweet potatoes and pineapple
That's all my ramblings about the culinary boot camp. Next week back to normal blogging -- yay :)