Monday, March 12, 2012

The First Week

I've started my second week at the internship and frankly I'm almost too tired to post a blog update. There's all this new stuff to absorb that can be a bit overwhelming but also exciting. Little things like getting to work now take a lot of focus (and time). I rely heavily on my trusty iPhone to navigate me in and out of Boston's many squares. So far it has been a lot of fun and a lot of food.

Aside from all the tastings at work, there's Bert and Linc, my host family, who are hellbent on fattening me up for summer bathing suit season. They're very worried I could go hungry and serve me fabulous home-cooked meals nearly every night--plus wine. I am spoiled. Then there are the bakeries always just a jaunt away. My second day here I went a little out of my way to pick up some desserts at this local grocer called Butcher Boy. Their display case was impressive, featuring mousse pastries and sponge cakes. I got a flourless chocolate cake that was decorated with gold leaf, tiramisu and the best, a double-layer sponge with mascarpone lemon filling. It was so light (tasting only).

I also had to stop by the Clear Flour Bakery, which is on the other side of Brookline from the ATK office and has a line out the door pretty much every day. My instructor back home told me it was a must see. I even tried to volunteer there, but they don't take any. And yesterday, on an exploration through the North End, Boston's Italian neighborhood, which is still very Italian, I stopped with Craig and David at Modern Pastry for a chocolate cream filled cannoli. It's a good thing I do quite a bit of walking ...

Friday, March 2, 2012

Here's to Winter

Reporting here from a village outside Boston, Mass., and my has it been a whirlwind of a winter. In brief summation, my grandma's health went downhill very quickly after Thanksgiving and she passed away near the New Year, and I was pushed in a class beyond what I thought I could handle. I almost gave up and walked out a couple times, which is not something I've ever considered before (except when completing long runs on my college lacrosse team).

In the end I think I'm glad I learned the lessons and I feel very capable of handling whatever is thrown at me in my career because nothing could be worse than that class. And it's not that the class was bad because on the last day, when I was busy screwing up Italian buttercream, I had an epiphany: I realized that I am confident enough in my intellect to not be phased by a mere mistake. Mistakes happen and people get angry over spilled milk all the time, but that mistake says nothing about me as a person. No, that's not true. That and all the many other errors I made and will make in the kitchen say a lot of about me: That I am a person not afraid of screwing up, which is exactly the kind of person I want to be. I think that's what my instructor wanted me to take out of the class. I doubt she achieves that very often, but I think she would be proud. And even if she isn't, I am.

That doesn't get me to Boston. Knowing that plating desserts is probably not my forte, the world can be thankful that I scored an internship at America's Test Kitchen, which is based in Brookline, Mass. That's right folks, THE America's Test Kitchen, the one that publishes Cook's Illustrated and has a PBS show featuring a man with a bow tie. I start Monday.

I have many many feelings on the subject (I proudly embrace my emotions thank you): nervousness, excitement, nastalgia. I left Omaha in a hurry with a large and bouncing potluck and a week of intimate dinners to force my friends to remember me by. I hope they think of me whenever they eat something tasty! (A lofty goal.) I finally made my way back to my home kitchen where I squeezed fresh blood oranges for a gin cocktail and wrapped prosciutto around dried figs and parmesan cheese for an hors d'oeuvre. No one saw when I ate the imperfect pieces of fig in the middle of production or scolded me when I picked the few seeds out of the juice instead of straining them. I played the music loudly and sampled the cocktail well before anyone arrived--just to make sure it was OK. It more than satisfied.

Here's to many more potlucks and intimate dinners in my future.

Blood Orange Gin Cocktails: adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yields One Cocktail
2 ounces gin
2 ounces blood orange juice
2 teaspoons simple syrup
2 ounces club soda or tonic water

To make the simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve sugar. Let cool. Combine the gin, juice and simple syrup. Pour over ice and top with club soda.