Thursday, October 29, 2009

Big Weekend Ahead

So the next 5 days I will be super busy. But good busy!! On Monday night I will be one of the participating cooks in CJA's  Girls n Gourmet and Tuesday the Soup of the Month Club begins.  For the event on Monday thee theme is "around the world" I will be representing France. I will be teaching a group of women how to make Soup aux Pistou.  I'm not an expert on French cooking, but I do feel that this recipe falls into my culinary point of view nicely. It is a easy and delicious soup that really fits into my comfort food style with a twist.

I am so excited for this event but also a little nervous. This is such a huge opportunity for me and my company. Basically it will give me the an opportunity to show off my food directly to my target audience. I have been practicing the recipe and my teaching points all week and feel confident that I can pull it off, but I'm sure I will have jitters on the day of. To add a little more pressure did I mention that my mother and grandmother will be at the events, also all of my moms best friends. Hopefully having friends and family there supporting me will give me the extra boost to be amazing.

While preparing for this event I am also getting ready for the first delivery of the soup of the month club on Tuesday. The first month's turn out was really good. I am super excited for this new chapter in my business. It will give me a little more stability in sales which will be welcomed with open arms. I'm hoping with each month and the weather getting colder and colder, more and more people will sign up.

I feel like my business is finally moving forward, being the only employee I am feel like I can take some of the credit. So this pessimist is going to pat herself on the back and say good job, keep up the good work!

I'll let you all know how the event goes on Monday, so stay tuned.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wedding Photographer Problems Part 1,2 &3

For those of you don't know part 1 & 2, I will quickly recap. When I got engaged the wedding planning began immediately. High on my list of priorities was photography. After meeting with several photographers and loving there work, I decided to go with a long time photographer of the families. This photographer has done everything from my brothers Bar Mitzvah, my sweet 16, both my parents 2nd marriages and the list goes on. I chose him because of the experience he already had with my family. He knows how we work and already knew everyones names! When I met with him we agreed on a price that included 2 photographers for the day of and also included a traditional wedding album.

Part 1-The Wedding day
The photographer took terrible to mediocre pictures of my husband, there was literally only 3 printable shots to choose from for the album! There was only 1 good picture of my inlaws, but tons to choose from my 2 sets of parents. I didn't even get a picture with my mom and dad (my parents are divorced, amicably) I only have pictures with all the step parents in the pictures which is fine, but it would have been nice to have just my mom and dad with me. In the majority of the shots my brother is standing 2 feet away from everyone else. Aren't professional photographers supposed to tell people where to stand and also to SMILE!!!There was no 2nd photographer, only his assistant who basically just held his extra camera the whole day!

Part 2-It took Forever!
After my wedding on August 31st, I received my proofs in the form of a low resolution cd in mid november. I didn't mind waiting because I assume the pictures would be edited and that was worth the wait. Except they weren't edited and I received them in mid November. It took me until March 1st to select the pictures for my album. Being super organized a created a spreadsheet with the photo #, and what finish I would like them in  (black and white, sepia etc) and how I would like the picture cropped or edited. We went through the entire layout and my part was done.
Nothing was sent to me until the beginning of June. They cropped off peoples heads and arms. I had to got through each page again and send it back only to have them sent back to me with new problems. Very frustrating. From June-August my photographer didn`t answer me at all. Finally all was finalized the first week of September.

Part 3-Printing
The album was finalized on Sept.6, it was supposed to take 2-3 weeks. After emailing to get a status update and receiving no response, I phone the photographer who told me that he was super busy with very important famous clients. Great so I am a nothing and not a priority. Last week over 6 weeks after sending the album in I received an email informing me that I had an outstanding balance for printing the album. I can`t believe after over a year he is going to throw a surprise charge at me! What an ass. He claims an album was never included in his original quote. I disagree. Either way lets say the price didn`t include an album, wouldn`t you give the client an estimated price after the layout was all done and editing was complete before sending it to the printer?
Well there was no discussion of price at all, I assumed it was included. Now he sends me an email saying my album is ready and I owe him $2500!!!!!

Not happening he can keep the album! I am not paying another cent towards this terrible experience. I am so angry that now I have negative feelings toward my wedding pictures.

Stay Tuned..we are supposed to talk tomorrow!

Garde Manger

So me, my husband & 2 of my girlfriends went to Garde-Manger for dinner last night. The build up to this tiny bistro style restaurant was pretty big since I made the reservations 3 weeks so we could get in! We strolled in at 9:30 and the restaurant was 3/4 full. Seated right away luckily next to one of the chalkboards with the menu written on it, otherwise the waitress would have had to dictate the whole menu. The menu was small about 6-8 appetizers and 6-8 mains. My girlfriends who usually love ordering multiple appetizers to share were having trouble finding more than 2 that they liked. I given my allergy to Gluten had trouble finding 1 I could eat other than a green salad.
In the end my girlfriends decided not to share and that they weren't that hungry. They ordered an avocado, tomato, cucumber salad with fried Cheddar cheese balls to start and then they both had the salmon tartar as their main (appetizer portion) My husband started with the pork belly and clams, followed by the halibut with pierogies. I (big eyes!) had 2 main courses cause I couldn't find anything that I liked on the appetizer menu. I started with the Scallops and Crab Salad, followed by Risotto with rock shrimp and a lobster broth.

Before I tell you about the food let me tell you about the atmosphere. It is on Saint Francois-Xavier in Old Montreal so the parking is a real bitch.  The entire restaurant must seat about 25-30 people max. They have only 2 seatings 7:30 & 9:30 which I guess explains the wait to get a reservation. It is very dimly lit with a huge gothic or medieval type chandelier. (which my girlfriend would like in her bedroom!) There is a small bar, which I think you can eat at (I am assuming walk ins get that option) There is somewhat of an open kitchen, in the sense that we can see the chefs but not what they are cooking. It was very loud and only got louder as the night went on. 80's music was blaring from the speakers, much to our delight and a lot of chair dancing did occur! Basically if the food was bad the atmosphere of being a fun place would have saved it, however that was not the case.

The first courses arrived. My husband said his pork belly and clams were delicious, although deep fried pork belly can't be gross! The avocado salad was so good it was passed around the table, there is something to be said for fresh ripe ingredients, properly seasoned and tossed in a complementary vinaigrette, oh and the fried cheese balls didn't hurt either! My scallops and crab salad was delicious. The scallops were cooked perfectly and I was so happy to see crisp pieces of lardon to eat with them. The surprise on the plate was the crab salad. It was presented in a baked potato skin bowl, the crab was light and refreshing. Despite that it was a main course portion I finished it all.

There was quite a long delay between our 1st and 2nd course but I was happy so I could make room for my 2nd main course! The music was good and the people watching was fun! The mains arrived at which point my girlfriends were already full, but still said that the tartar was different and yummy. The salmon was mixed with some traditional and some non traditional ingredients, shallots, capers, green beans etc.
My husband said his halibut was very good but the pierogies were a bit of a disappointment, not as fresh and homemade as he thought. My risotto was great, good consistency, depth of flavour. My only criticism is that there were too many rock shrimp in it. But it was still delicious enough to finish!

We stayed for a few drinks after dinner, at which point the music was at full blast and the restaurant how now officially turned into a bar complete with a door man. All kinds of interesting people walked in. ( I have never seen shorts so short!) All in all the evening was very enjoyable and we all agreed that we would go back, the only thing that sucks is that we have to plan at least 3 weeks in advance to make a reservation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hockey Season begins!

Another Hockey season begins! Go Habs Go! Or at least that is the way most of the fans felt last Thursday before our first home game. The atmosphere was wonderful. I was so excited! Being an avid Habs fan since I was born, I look forward to each new hockey season beginning. This year is also the celebration of the Canadiens 100th year anniversary. The evening began with the lights in the bell center going off, with only the jumbo tron lit up stating that 769 people have played for the habs in the last 100 years. Then the screen went off, and all of the names of the players began scrolling up and down the ice in alphabetical order. It was a pretty cool thing to see, it really puts into perspective how many people and families were involved in the Canadiens organization.

The team skated out all together to avoid the awkward we don't have a captain moment. I thought this was smart, I don't think the team needs to name a captain right away nor should they. The Habs this year is made up of so many new faces. The team dynamic is still developing, so to name a captain could be detrimental to the team. They should let one emerge or let them all fight to be the leader of this great dynasty. 

As I said I am a huge Habs fan, but I am not unrealistic in my perception of the team and where they are going. The team is going to have some growing pains. So many of our key players are new, and montreal being the #1 high expectation city, needs to allow these players to live up to their potential and give them time to do that. We are a city that demands instant gratification, and isn't afraid to share our dissapointment with anyone who will listen.

Some of the fans understand that to build a stanley cup winning team takes time, others don't. They are the ones that call all the talk radio and also make up most of the press! Listen people we are 2 weeks into the season, relax enjoy the show, don't take every move, hit, shot, penalty etc so seriously!! I am a passionate fan but also a logical one, I don't set unrealistic expectations for the team, so I am not constantly dissapointed.

I am not going to start predicting who will make it into the playoffs and who won't, it's october we are 6 months away from the end of the regular season anything can happen. So relax people, enjoy the game of hockey and let nature take its course. We can start going crazy in January but until then just deal with it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Cooking with Beets, the super food!

So when I was younger I hated beets I thought they were yucky and tasted like dirt! Now I have a more refined palette and I can appreciate there earthy flavour. Also beets are very good for you. They are rich in folate, a nutrient important for cell growth. Beets can also help  keep your brain healthy, a lack of folate has been known to have a higher risk of dementia, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition.

The first time I looked at a roasted beet recipe I thought "forget it" this is way to complicated and time consuming, but I have now realized they are just as simple as making mashed potatoes they just take a bit more time...(and most of that time they are in the oven, so you are free to do other things!)

Here is the way I prepare beets:

Preheat your oven to 425

Cut the hairy tips off the ends of the beets, then I place them in a single layer on aluminum foil, make sure the foil is long enough so you can fold it over to make a pouch.

Fold the aluminum foil over to cover the beets and crimp or fold each side in until the beets are tightly wrapped. Place your pouch on a baking sheet (in case the pouch leaks) and place in the center of your oven for 45mins-1 hour depending on how large the beets are. Flip the pouch over half way through the cooking process just to make sure you don't get any burnt parts.

You will be able to smell the roasted beets and that will give you a good hint on when they are done. If you are not sure, you can take the pouch out, open it and poke a beet with a knife, if it is tender then it is ready if not, then just wrap the beets up again and roast for a little longer.

When you remove them from the oven let them stay wrapped in the pouch for 15 minutes or so, this will allow the beets to steam a bit which will make them easier to peel. After that open the foil to allow the beets to cool.

Once they are cool, put on your plastic gloves (to avoid staining your hands, although if your not making a ton of beets you should be ok if you wash your hands immediately)

Hold the beet in one hand and rub the skin off with your other hand, the skin should slip right off, sometimes the skin gets a bit stuck and you can peel or cut it off with a small knife.

At this point your beets are ready for their next use...salad...purée etc.

A roasted beet has such a different taste from the beets I remember. The simple process which only takes about 15 minutes of active cooking time, makes all the difference in flavour. (inactive is when it is in the oven)

My favorite way to eat roasted beets is with goat cheese and arugula. The picture shown is my attempt at a fancy beet salad! Actually it looks fancy but is easy to all you need is a cylinder mold then you just layer and voila!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Summer is over

So summer has officially ended for me. I have a small 10 x 8 fruit & vegetable garden in my backyard. This year we planted cherry & grape tomatoes, lemon boy tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, eggplant, boston/bibb lettuce, romaine, green beans, snap peas, garlic, onions and every herb you can think of! Then there are the perennials blueberries, raspberries, italian parsley, chives, sage & jerusalem artichokes.

Today we harvested the last of our onions, potatoes, & raspberries. The soil has been turned and the composting has begun. This is a sad time because I won't be able to walk into my backyard and harvest dinner. I barely had to go to the market for veggies or herbs this summer, it was so satisfying that I was growing my own meals.

However now that we are entering into the fall the real cooking begins. Summer meals are all about simple preparations, showing off the freshness of each ingredient. Autumn and Winter are when you turn to food for comfort from the stress of work or the chilly weather. Cooking in the colder seasons takes more creativity and is more of a challenge. I am a huge believer in one pot meals, not just to have less dishes to wash but because you can create something with such complex flavour yet it is so simple to prepare.

I am a little behind in creating the fall menu for my catering company so in the next few weeks I will be going to the markets to see what produce is still available and testing out new recipes and revamping old ones. I will share any "wows" or just tips to cooking for the fall with you.

Concierge to All

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Welcome to my life!

Wow my first blog posting, where do I begin! I guess I can give you a little history of where I am in my life right now. I married last year to my boyfriend of 9 years. Before we got married I had quit my job to pursue a field that I would enjoy more but also a job that would fit into my life plan. So in November of last year I created my catering company Family Flavours. Basically I cook fresh meals from scratch for individuals and families and deliver them to their houses. Occasionally I do onsite cooking but very rarely. I work from home (fits into my life plan) so essentially I have very flexible hours, as long as I get the job done it doesn't matter what hour of the day I do it.

I would like this blog to talk about any and all issues that come up in my life whether it be personal or professional. I will share recipes, restaurant suggestions/reviews, life experiences, info on celiac disease and of course my concierge services! I encourage you to suggest topics or pose questions that you think I may be able to answer and I will do my best to answer everything. I should warn everyone now that when it comes to my life experiences my initial reactions are negative and cynical, but with some retrospect I am able to give it a more positive spin. HOWEVER, when it comes to other peoples problems I have been told that I give excellent well rounded advice. I just wish I could give it to myself and then follow it!

I hope that you find my point of view interesting, informative and helpful. If nothing else this blog will prevent a lot of my road rage, because I will vent with my words not my car horn!

Hope you keep reading

Concierge to All