Thursday, June 16, 2011

I have a good excuse, and I don’t just mean The Inn at Little Washington

It’s been a busy spring organizing my wedding and getting married at The Inn at Little Washington, one of my favorite places in the world : ) Please enjoy what a beautiful part of Virginia it is in, the simple elegance of the ballroom in which George Washington once danced, and if only I could share the food with you… I will get to the menu which included a few things I’ve made many times before, like the white truffle popcorn we’re enjoying below – read on for the recipe. When I was with another caterer we handled a 9 course plated dinner for 500 including world famous chefs, food critics and Washington elites at the Mellon building on Constitution Ave. [Photography by John Kirchner]


To prepare Chef Patrick O’Connell invited a couple of us to spend the day in his exquisite kitchen cooking so we could master some of his recipes to be produced on a large scale. It was a wonderful day of cooking, followed with a change out of the dalmation chefs’ pants and into dining attire when Chef produced the entire meal for us that we would be recreating for his big event. It was such a joy and after telling my sweetheart about it, we both wanted to go there for our wedding. See my stunning little daisy cake?! As I walked through the ballroom to ‘go down the aisle’ the pastry chef who made this to match my description was taking pictures with his phone. I was so thrilled that he was happy with it!


There were ten of us all together, gathered in the field behind the ballroom which sits across the street from the Inn, and at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. We had a brief ceremony and then canapes, including parmesan crisps, dime biscuits with Virginia ham, and white truffle popcorn with a stunning sparkling rose on the back patio.


The Menu

Spring Pea Soup with local Spearmint (we made this for Chef with regular mint and he sent some of the spearmint from the farm next door and it came out perfectly)

Lobster Salad with braised celery hearts that were amazing

Seared Scallop and Ham ‘Sandwiches’ with Mascarpone Grits – the executive chef came up with this after I requested it – both my father and husband went to college in Tennessee and luuuv grits

Beef Shortrib on Creamy Polenta

Wedding Cake and Friandise – oh, and there was a mind-altering wine pairing with each course


White Truffle Popcorn

Take the best parmesan you can find and grate it, then run it through a food processor until it’s as fine as you can get it.

Use an air popper to pop your popcorn while melting a good butter like Kerrygold or Plugra. As soon as the popcorn is popped toss gently with the butter and a touch of white truffle oil, Balleine sea salt, touch of freshly cracked pepper and some of the parmesan. Toss and lightly add the elements until you get the right balance and until you feel that you’ve gotten as much into the popcorn as you can without making it heavy.

Put your popcorn into a bowl or popcorn container and shave white truffle on top. If you are doing this for a special guest, take the tossed popcorn to the table, place it in front of your guest of honor and ceremoniously shave the truffle on top, the way Chef did for me my night at the Inn after cooking!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

ginger green (mar)teani

Grand Marnier, we love you. Period and respectfully. But allow me to introduce Domaine de Canton French Ginger liqueur. It’s sweet and smooth, elegant in it’s fancy and frosty French bottle, gingery, and oh so refined. Did I mention smooth?

It’s new(ish – lost pix from trying to post before losing my camera) and fab.u.lous cold, room, or warm on it’s own. I am a long-time tea drinker and, like everyone else on earth, I also wish that martinis could be healthy. So, ok, no scientific epiphany or public health breakthrough here, but that notion led me to decaf green iced tea + vodka + domaine de canton ginger, and it least yielded something delicious. Puuurrfect date drink gentlemen ; )

3 oz. decaf green tea, chilled (steep 1 qt water with 5 tea bags and 1 nub peeled ginger if you have it around)
1 jigger vodka
ginger liqueur to taste

enjoy… what are your twists? Also try a splash of the ginger in a flute of dry sparkling wine. My snowbird in-laws are returning from Florida soon, and if they bring me oranges I will be trying orange and ginger crepes, or something to go on top of vanilla ice cream. Lots of options!



Ginger Green Tea Martini

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 1 minute


5 green tea bags
1 quart water
2 cups vodka
1 cup Domaine de Canton Ginger liquer


- boil water and steep tea bags
- cool and refrigerate tea
- combine tea with vodka and liquer

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

bacon droppings

ok, I know how unpopular this opinion might be, but can we stop with the chocolate-suffocated bacon yet? It’s not a cupcake, it’s not that new, it’s not that good, and by the way, fyi… we can’t refrigerate the bacon after we make it.

I get it. I love swishing my bacon and sausage in the maple syrup from my pancakes. For as long as I can remember my mother will often forgo the eggs or pancakes so that she can toast an english muffin and top it with peanut butter and a few select strips of crispy bacon. And it is good. But the way these bacon choco-turds have taken over the catering community.. seriously, this is our version of Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus?

Just when I have left a catering company where we’ve been making various versions of this besmirched pork belly for 2 years, I find a new set of fevery sales people, deperate for me to add this to add it to the hors d’oeuvre offering. Aside from my own personal irritation with this trend, and our executive chef’s loathing of it, there are also the production details to consider.

The bacon has to be uber-crispy before it is dunked into any of these sugar laden substances because they tend to make it very soggy. And if you have ever made bacon and refrigerated your leftovers, you know that refrigerated bacon is a lifeless, limp and chewy version of its former grandeur and that the only way to restore it is to reheat it. Not so with chocolate of course. You can’t reheat the chocolate, so our only option to maintaining any ‘crispiness’ in this laden carnivore confection is to leave it out at room temperarture. Not that I am a fan of a lot of our food-handling restrictions either, but I like the option of refrigerating proteins.

I, sadly, am not Grant Achatz, and so in my career can not avoid dealing with these trends in some pedestrian way. Somehow I have to deliver on this. So I’m trying to get chef and sales on the same page with some kind of chocolate whoopie pie with bacon, pepita brittle with bacon bits, chocolate shortbread with bacon and maple foam… something with carob? mole pork belly sliders? who knows, but that’s my job and I enjoy it, but all the while I’ll be enjoying my bacon on toast with lettuce, tomato, and a nice schmear of mayo thank you very much.

Monday, March 21, 2011

new COOKOPEDIA obsession


If you have ever considered adding on to your home in order to accommodate your cookbooks, or ever been the type to read Harold McGee’s ‘On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,’ then you probably already know about this recent release: ‘Modernist Cuisine!’
It is a 5 volume pet project of Nathan Myhrvold. Who is that? Former Microsoft CTO with the obsession, time and money for a publishing effort this crazy.
It covers virtually every cooking method and technique used in today’s restaurant, which means it covers all of ‘that molecular gastronomy stuff’ we’ve been watching emerge over the last decades and its companion, dramaqueen photography; but there is also a return to the exploration and science of the old-world techniques as well. It is back-ordered, so I haven’t had the chance to see it or form any opinions on it. Nevertheless, I write excitedly today because the powers-that-be at my new catering company approved my request to order a copy of this at the low low price of $461.62 on Amazon, and now wait like a kid writing to Santa… or, well fine. a food geek writing to Amazon.
Fellow food geeks, check out Michael Ruhlman’s review for the New York times:

Friday, March 11, 2011

by reservation only


When, not if I return to Anegada I will remember clearly how I sat on that glorious dining beach with the emptiest stomach after smelling the island charcoal burn for hours. No matter which of the few small restaurants in which you’d like to dine, the proprietors expect to get your full dinner order along with your reservation. Don’t plan on placing an order once you get to the restaurant. You need to either visit in advance or get copies of menus on your boat so you can radio in your order. The tiniest of hassles for the flavors here. Sublime and intangible. Issues and hassles… and then you are licking your fingers, staring off in a dream state wondering what just happened to your food.
Our dinner the first night here began this way, with wood collected from island interior, kindled by pine needles swept up off the beach where they cooked. The wind moves through the shore trees in a way that they are called ‘whistling pines.’ The sounds, smells and watching the ritual of getting ready for dinner service remind me of being a child and feeling the pulse of a family holiday come together.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

If found, return to Anegada


This was my first year to visit the eastern most BVI of Anegada. If it’s possible for tranquility to be startling, that is what happened as we approached this island. We had spent the previous couple of nights watching the Superbowl on an inflatable big screen on the beach and enjoying a pirate ‘Happy AAAaar’ show which were fun and crazy, and then we sailed over to Anegada, the only island in the BVI that you need some navigation because it lies far enough out that you can’t simply sight-nav, or in other words, just say ‘hey, I see Jost van Dyke over there. Point the boat that way.’
There is another critical detail. Anegada is a coral reef island, so there is some reef dodging to do with your 50 foot sailboat as you pick your way in to hopefully find a mooring ball. After a beautiful reaching sail from Virgin Gorda both of those things proved to be challenging. Aside from one of our shipmates losing our positioning on the radar while under way, it turns out the radar would have guided us directly into some of the reef if we hadn’t picked up the marks. And then the only available mooring ball was reserved.
We learned this from a guy who zipped up in a dinghy and claimed it was his uncles ball and after some time came back to say he’d negotiated something on our behalf and that we could stay there and invited us to dine at his restaurant that sat on the beach on the boat’s port side. This was his, and for the night our dining room after it was set for dinner service. It was welcome serenity after the parties and navigating in.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

bird by bird

Dear fair friends and family to whom I return from a real galley out on a 50 foot sailboat visiting the British Virgin Islands, sorry for the delay and thank you for sticking by me!


‘Sometimes I go about pitying myself. And all the while I am being carried on great winds across the sky.’ – Lakota Sioux 

I am using a pic from last year and licking the wound of having lost our camera at the end of the trip with all of my would-be blog pictures by reading the brilliant Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. It is a book on writing and she has motivated to get back onto my blog even though all of my planned entries have been foiled. She does it by writing in a way that makes me cry and laugh a lot. Sometimes at the same time… for which I am grateful, and bitter. If you are not interested in writing, I suggest you read all of her other books.
Anyway, she says that virtually every first draft is a shitty first draft and that you must just write it. So thanks to you, my few who are with me on the early, shitty first draft days of this blog. I shall be releasing Galley Wench 2.0 soon I promise. Watch for an announcement on CNN and Fox News.
In the meantime, I was on a big sailboat on the ocean for 10 days and we had big air and a big time, and on to the next adventures.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

sel gris


This one is a must. This sticky, coarse salt is perfect for finishing things like buttered crusty bread, or a piece of salmon or beef as it comes off of the grill. Used sparingly it just makes the salmon taste more like salmon or the buttered bread ‘pop.’ And on the back of a boat, with a little sea salt in your hair and eyelashes and a little of this on the grilled seafood, you can feel the salt running through your blood. Follow with a sip of sparkling wine. Rinse. Repeat.
The others that made the cut are the rosemary salt (the one with the green lid) and kosher salt. All packed up in ‘crab cups’ – those small plastic containers you get at a deli – so I thow it in a duffle and onto a plane. Two weeks from now I will be peeling off layers in the St. Thomas airport waiting for it to reappear, and ready to swim off some of the trauma of the past year, and return to my new home Galley Wench 2.0

Thursday, January 20, 2011

sea salt at sea


After a crazy busy season and sad news about losing my job at the end of this month, I am trying to rally and get some enthusiasm for packing up a pantry for our upcoming sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands. We will be flying to St. Thomas on February 2nd and chartering a Beneteau 49 directly fom there for 10 days.
There will be 8 of us aboard so it will be full to the beam, and that means there is plenty of provisioning to do. When we get in on the 2nd a couple of us will go almost directly to the grocery, but there are some staples I bring from home, including storage containers, knives, a microplane, sponges and other kitchen necessities you take for granted until you’re in a galley cooking for 8 with a dull paring knife and one towel that’s doubling as everyone’s hand towel and beer cap-prying towel. yuck!
I started the other day with salt. As ungreen and silly as it seems to bring sea salt from France to a sea on the other side of the world, it’s what I do, and I’m ever so happy to have it with me. These are not all of the salts I have at home, and I can’t bring all shown on the trip, but these were the ones under consideration.

Friday, December 3, 2010

it takes a hemorrhage


What busy-season ailment is much, much better than putting your finger back together with 3-fold towels and duct tape at the beginning of dinner service? As my luck would have it, an eye hemorrhage!
Last night I wound up working at the Chamber of Commerce doing a plated dinner for 28, rather than moving feasts for the Booz Allen 4500 person gala out at the Udvar Hazy Air and Space Museum because Chef took pity on my compromised vision, the result of some crazy bleeding and unexplained irritation that popped up on Monday morning… possibly after moving liquor boxes around doing inventory says the eye doc.

The Chamber dinner put me much closer to home, and with an earlier end time. It was a great relief to drive before complete and total exhaustion set in, and to do it in 20 minutes, rather than an hour and 20.
This is the 1st course from dinner last night. Seared scallops with baby beets and compressed melon. The various pretty petals are marigold leaves, burgundy amaranth, pea shoots, mache, frisee, and the plate is finished with beet paint and basil powder. I am an old fogey who has not yet learned how to make these powders, but plan on getting a chemistry set soon and sharing my learnings. I just need to find a little time in my own kitchen : )