Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Random thoughts during a busy day

I have to admit, I have been exhausted lately. Life – work and school, mostly – has been so busy that I barely have time to breathe these days, never mind do some extracurricular blogging. But, today I have managed to carve a few minutes out of my hectic day to write a quick note.
I have to admit that my cooking has largely consisted of bowls of oatmeal and microwave baked potatoes lately. However, I have managed to sneak in a few actual meals – the other night, I made a mustard “fried” chicken (read: breaded and baked), roasted fingerling potatoes, and a Brussels sprouts gratin. While everything was pretty good, the sprouts were awesome. I am not always a Brussels sprouts fan – unlike other veggies, such as broccoli, I don’t like the way they steam in the microwave (my usual go-to form of veggies). Take them and add butter and gruyere cheese, on the other hand, and they are freakin’ awesome! Here’s a link to the website I got the recipe from (foodnetwork.com, of course): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/brussels-sprout-gratin-recipe/index.html.
In other news, I signed up from a cooking class series at a local grocer that sounded really promising – five weekly classes all about classic Italian cooking – I was especially excited to learn how to make fresh pasta, something I have never attempted before. Unfortunately, after the first class, I was really disappointed – it was all demonstration, and no hands-on cooking! I could watch the Food Network at home in my pjs, and not have to pay anything extra for it. As I mentioned, I was pretty upset. I was really looking forward to a break from the stress of work and school (it had been a particularly crappy week), as well as learning a new skill. All is not lost, though. After hearing how upset I was, my dad went online and found a class for us to take together when I go home for Christmas. As I discussed in a previous post, cooking and food is one of the passions that my dad and I share, so taking a class together should be really fun. There is a small grocery chain in Texas called Central Market, and let me tell you, it is amazing. If you like cooking, or just simply like eating, then this store is like Disneyworld. In a lot of ways, it is similar to Whole Foods – lots of organic, natural options. The produce department practically takes up half the store, and it beautiful. The meats, the wines, the cheeses, the bakery – all are impressive. You can walk into Central Market hungry, sample your way through the store, and leave fully satisfied. I go in there to find one ingredient that isn’t available at the local Kroger, and walk out with $100 worth of completely random groceries – and love every minute of it. Central Market is not a grocery store, it’s a destination. The reason I mention all this is because Central Market is hosting the class that Dad and I are taking. It’s titled “A Night in Paris,” and features dishes such as duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes (yes, you read that correctly), and vanilla soufflé. Read the full description here: http://www.cookingschoolsofamerica.com/centralmarketplano/index.php?flag_menu_index=reservation_php#606. It sounds fantastic, and I am really excited about it – and very touched that my dad made the effort to find this for us to do together (and paid for it)! We are going to start the day with some light shopping (as if there was such a thing) at Northpark, an amazing mall in Dallas, and finish with an evening at Central market. This is basically my version of heaven.
Finally, a quick restaurant review. A couple weeks ago, Danielle and I had dinner at the Daily Planet, a Burlington institution. The décor and atmosphere were very cool – hip and cozy at the same time. That is kind of were my interest in the place ends. I should preface this by saying that that particular day was kind of a nightmare – super busy at work, and to top it off, I got in a minor fender bender on the way to the restaurant. So my mood was not at its brightest, and that may have had some influence on my experience. However, either way, I was not thrilled. I order the soup of the day, which was a potato leek. Although it had some good flavors, and the presentation was very pretty (dots of oil and cream on top of a velvety soup), it was cold by the time it made its way to my place. Then I had the duck prosciutto. I had never seen such a thing on a menu before, so I questioned the waitress. She explained it as basically the same of regular prosciutto, but coming from a duck instead (like I couldn’t deduce that on my own). Then she made a major faux pas – she told me that prosciutto usually comes from a cow! I was unimpressed. Now, don’t get me wrong – the waitress was very nice, so points for that…but uninformed. Danielle ordered a cheese board, which has become something of a tradition with us. That was very good, and the waitress did make a great suggestion on which cheeses to select. The Farmhouse Tap and Grill still reigns supreme for cheeseboards in my book, but mostly because of that amazing apple butter. Danielle also had a chicken Cesar salad that she was happy with, although they forgot the croutons and had to bring her a new plate. Maybe you can see why I wasn’t overly impressed?

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