Friday, September 23, 2005

Friendship

I really don't understand some things. Food, you can pour your heart and soul into; and any person even the most uneducated can see this and most often will appreciate it. But a friendship, you can try and try to develop, with no success. Best friends become old friends become new friends become best friends. What the fuck is the point of working at something that's going to fade away on you?

I suppose the point is the thought of someday you'll find someone, a best friend. I'm not talking about love and relationships, lifetime eternal happiness, that's a whole different game and a whole different story. Friends and lovers are different entities, and sometimes you need a friend. But this cycle of aging and regrowing weighs a bit heavily on me. I guess the best thing to do is to live in the 'now', and live with the fact that someone you thought would always help you hold the bridge is sometimes replaced; hopefully by someone that will stay with you. I appreciate what I have now, more than I can explain, but years waiting to reap what I sow is leaving me with a basket of fruit I had not intended. Perhaps, it is better this way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A Long Time Coming

Well it has been an interesting week. Instead of the common start from the beginning, I'll start from the end and work my way backwards. Last night I was an attendee at the very first annual Montana Chef's Association banquet. The event was overall a good one; it certainly carried tones of 'this is the first meeting of this type for this organization,' but I think that the group pulled it off well enough.

I myself am not what you would call a master networker; I get a little jittery in new places with new people and I'm sure that is reflected in my social skills. Thankfully, they provided a little pony keg of a nice local Bayern Amber that, on my empty stomach, was able to calm me down. A little.

Much of the meeting was focused on getting local culinarians actually involved in the local branch of the American Culinary Federation. This is the meat (pardon the pun) I have been looking for; and I must say I really like the idea of a unified voice able to represent topics such as sustainable agriculture. I am hoping to be able to get involved, even though I have yet to even be approved to become a student. If you are indeed involved in La Culinaria, I would encourage you to go to the main ACF website and look into joining your local chapter. In a business that is based on passion, I would hope that people would be interested enough in the trade to actually try to contribute to the cause that is food.

Friday night was the local Maverick's brewfest: a throng of brewers gathered selling goods to hundreds of thirsty visitors, with all proceeds going to youth athletics. The first thing that struck me as odd was the fact that the city is using beer to raise money for kids athletics...but to each his own. Nonetheless I payed my admission fee and recieved five golden tickets to any brew of my choice. I found Kettlehouse and Bayern to have my two favorite experimentals; but for the life of me I can't remember the name of them (perhaps that is a sign???).

Nonetheless with campus so busy and with my trying to get my life in order to start school in the summer, things have been to busy for me to cook much worth writing about. Someday soon.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Beauty of IT

Perhaps the most difficult part of the Information Technology field, and quite possibly the reason why I have such a hard time, is that there are so many negatives to the job. For the most part, it's a thankless profession. A 8 am - 4 am day, spent recovering a failed email server, is expected and seemingly unnapreciated. Whenever anything goes wrong it is the fault of the tech team. This particular attitude is widespread; it is the same thing as going to the mechanic and yelling at him/her because your car broke (and often times, neglect to tell him that you have been jumping over small houses with it). As an industry in general, IT is looked upon by businesses in a negative light. To be honest, I can understand why people think this way; I mean so much of technology is just a money sink: server upgrades, maintenance, new software every year, licensing issues, etc. The returns are usually intangible, or at least they are in the eyes of most people, so again I state I can see why people think this way; but that doesn't make it right. I believe the most difficult part of IT, though, is the fact that it is so ungratifying. I attain no personal sense of achievement knowing that I did a damn fine job programming Company XY's web application. They don't care either, they had to pay a lot of money, and it better work.

This is perhaps, why a slow Sunday of braising short ribs and making soup, in combination with watching football and the US Open (I really wanted Aggasi to win) is the best cure for an upcoming Monday. Everything worked out pretty well. The meat was a little fatty, and I love fatty beef so if you hear it coming from me well...it had to be pretty far from lean. It was also the first time I have attempted to make French Onion Soup the right way. The first batch I grated the cheese, and didn't fill the bowls enough...so I didn't achieve that most excellent topping of melted overflowing molten goodness. Lucky for me, I have some leftovers with which I will attempt to perfect my good intentions.

I really try to work professionally, even in my own kitchen, which means that you work clean and organized. Sometimes, I think it gets away from me a little bit. Here is a shot of my little workspace in my apartment, as I wait for some potatoes to start boiling.



I put in an RSVP for an upcoming even for a Montana Chef's Association event. It turns out that the deadline was Friday, and I neglected to RSVP until Sunday, so hopefully I'm not to late.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

To Market We Go

Over the past six years, I have learned ways to manage my culinary sanity; or shall I say keep it. Missoula is not the type of place where one can walk down to a local market, and order say a pound of skate fish for the evening. Too all those with an accessible fishmonger, know I am jealous. One would think the fact that I live in Montana would allow a large access to various beef products - but no. I am lucky to find short ribs, even at a butcher! Believe me, I tried. But sometimes I get lucky. One of the aforementioned culinary anchors is the local farmers market, which generally runs from late June to late October. Up until this year there has only been local produce, but now there are a few vendors of (what I hope to be) good quality organic meats. I found a vendor with grass fed beef short ribs, and I immediately bought them. I paid way too much for them, I mean twenty five dollars for short ribs...Often a cheaper cut of meat (and I suppose next to his other offerings it still was cheaper). Nonetheless, I know have some good short ribs I can use. I am quite excited about this, because braising is my one of my favorite ways to eat - and short ribs were created to be braised.



About the produce - when you walk to the farmers market, the first table you see will have the exact same produce as every other table; so if one is in a hurry it will only take you five seconds to see if they have anything of interest. There are a few exceptions I should mention; occasionally there will be a lone morel vendor, or a late batch of huckleberries, but for the most part it's pretty similar. I was lucky enough today to score some really good looking Walla Walla onions. These will make some excellent French onion soup Les Halles tomorrow night. I even found imported Gruyere cheese, at ten dollars a pound. It is a price I'm willing to pay for something so good though.



Another one of my favorite culinary stops is a place called The Good Food Store. (Note: at the time of this post, there actually is a goodfoodstore.com, but it appears to be a blank page...) While not everything here floats my boat, I can find consumables that normally I cannot - and I think would be difficult to find in many cities much larger than Missoula. Today, my most interesting find was this peculiar purple bell pepper. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it as of yet...

And finally, what better way to spend a Saturday then making stock. I've been saving up beef bones for a while, and have them roasting in my oven as I write this. My house smells quite nice, and tomorrow I will have an excellent base to surround my French onion soup, as well as a tasty liquid for the short ribs.

Getting Somewear Part 2

It's five a.m. here; I've been up since three. I really can't stop wondering what's going to happen, the way things are all going to play out. Last night we went to dinner at a place called Scotty's Table, the food was good as always. They operate under the classification of 'American Bistro', and that is just my style. I really want to be an influence in this American food revolution that we are experiencing. The thought and definition of actual 'American Cuisine', a term that would have been, in fact was, laughed at a mere 15 years ago, is slowly developing. And it is a beautiful thing.

I believe the reason that Seattle sounds so good to me, is because I think it's a place that can really foster a good, American restaurant. The choices of ingredients are superb, I love seafood (ironic living in Montana, I know), and what better place to get seafood than Seattle? The city is very diverse, with different cultures combining into a melting pot of that substance which defines America. In my visits to Seattle, I always feel a little less edge than my visits to the east; the place just seems a little nicer, a little cleaner, and a little more relaxed. Overall, Seattle is a hip city. There is a good music scene, good jobs, nice suburbs, and a crowd that really seems to like to eat - and most important eat well.

These reasons are, perhaps, why I was so set on going to the Seattle Art Institute without even ever setting foot on the actual campus. Silly, I know, but for some reason I am drawn to it. Imagine my surprise, then, when the first thing the director of the Culinary Program, in sleepy little Missoula, told me that he had taught at the Art Institute for 6 years. He had, in fact, helped to define much of the curriculum back when the program started. Furthermore, he himself is a Certified Executive Chef, which is a definitive mark of a long-time professional. Finally, he actually graduated from the Culinary Institute of America; in case you don't know this is the end-all-be-all of culinary programs in the United States.

He further explained to me that this school (under his direction) attained a 5 year seal of approval from the American Culinary Federation. Supposedly, a school can get 1,2,3,5, and 7 year seals. There are only two schools in the nation with seven year, so the fact that this little school has a five year is truly a big deal.

So, in the back of a little trailer, by a loading dock, at a once second-rate culinary program, I had just learned that it was entirely possible to receive an education in a field I want to go in. The most important fact being that the education I can receive there is, as far as credentials go, nearly if not as good an education as I would receive in Washington.

This is earth shattering news to me, and I think may be the reason why my sleeping pattern has been so random over the past few days. I looked into the program when I started college. I saw what it was, and I did not want anything to do with it. I suppose good things come to those who wait (I hate clich├ęs), or at least better things. Needless to say, I filled out an application on the spot, with a borrowed pen, anxious to get started down what I hope is the right track.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Finally Starting to Feel Like I'm Getting Somewhere...

Well, it's been almost 6 years since I started college. It's going on two years since I've finished college. It seems as if an eternity has passed since I have been in a career I know I can't stay in. Thursday, though, provided me with a splinter of light that I just last week I was sure had faded away completely. For as long as I can even remember, I have wanted to be a professional chef, working in a professional kitchen, preferably my own. I feel that, for most of us, the best way to get started in the field is with a top notch education. So, with unbridled youth and determination I maintained a goal of attending the Seattle Art Institute; a well regarded school of (go figure) the arts.

Life, as it is prone to do, has since taken shape in forms which I had not envisioned. For the past few years each day I seemed to feel a piece of my dream slipping away, piece by piece, until recently I found myself just a step above 'giving up'. I think, at this time, it is a good thing I really, really dislike most of my job; if I had a sliver of motivation to even think about doing this for the rest of my life, I am all but certain I would have decided to. But, thanks to a couple bad days, and a lot of thinking, I decided to check in to the local school. Now, to try and help you dear reader, get into my mindset before the meeting:

AiS website O of M CoT Website

In my head, I was comparing the diversity and choices of Seattle, with its Pike Place Market, to Missoula, with the most diversity probably stemming from the local Wal Mart. Encarta lists Greater Seattle of having a population just over 3.6 million, while a Google-cached fairus.org site lists Missoula at having a little over 60,000 in 2003. I guess the only thing that kept me going, as I mentioned before, was the thought of me fixing people's keyboards for eternity, and trouble shooting the God-awful program known as Corel Word Perfect.

So, out of fear more than anything else, I scheduled a meeting with the local college director of the Culinary Program. To further fuel my concerns, his instructions were "I am in the trailer behind the school, closest to the loading dock." As I walked up to the beaten white 'office', I saw a note saying "I'm in the store room." As I approached the kitchen, I was beckoned inside; my fate stood there, looking over the morning mail and sipping a cup of Starbucks coffee. Before I had time to even look around, we went to his office to talk about the program, and my life slowly began to turn in a direction that I hope is the one I've been waiting for.

More soon...