Wednesday, January 03, 2007

2006 - My Year in Food

I ran the hospitality suite for a science fiction convention called ConFusion. About 700 people attend the convention, and the hospitality suite runs continuously for most of 3 days. How much food do 700 people eat? Check out my shopping list. I'll be doing it again this year.

In February, I took cooking common meal for my cohousing community to the next level, by collaborating with a foodie friend (plus 2 assistant cooks) to make a plated meal for 63 people. The main dish was seared duck breast served on grilled polenta, with a wild mushroom ragu, port wine reduction, and truffle oil. Considerably more elaborate than my usual common meal offerings (tagged here as cooking for a crowd). Read about the rest of the menu and how we pulled it off for less than $6/person!

March wasn't a very exciting food month, apparently. But I did make an excellent brown butter almond cake.

In April, my wine club celebrated its 1 year anniversary by having an elaborate multi-course dinner with paired wines. I was the main menu planner, but had an army of sous chefs who helped pull it all off. I also attended a chocolate making class at Zingerman's, which I mention because of what it means for May...

In May, I took my newly learned truffle making skills and turned them into a little microenterprise, making five flavors of truffles and selling them to friends and neighbors for Mother's Day. This was a huge success, and led to me offering several other sales through the year. See the flavors here, and sign up for my mailing list if you'd like to get an email announcement of the next sale (coming up for Valentine's Day).

In June, I attended a great wine dinner at Zingerman's Roadhouse, featuring wines from Quady Winery/Vya Vermouth. The wines are more what you'd think of as dessert wines rather than table wines, but they were paired beautifully with a five course meal. And Andy Quady regaled us with hysterical stories about the early days of the California wine industry.

Starting in July, I was blessed with the opportunity to shop at not one, not two, but THREE farmer's markets every week. All that seasonal cooking and eating got me thinking about restaurant menus, and I explored the connections between menu change frequency and restaurant quality.

In August, I hosted the third eGullet Heartland Gathering. Foodies from all over the Midwest (and a few from beyond) gathered to eat, drink, and make merry. Friday we toured the Longone Culinary Archive, had a great dinner at Bella Ciao thanks to eGullet member/ Bella Ciao chef Josh Taylor, and followed it up with a just-before-closing trip to Zingerman's Deli that saw us all going home with tons of free day-old bagels and baguettes. Saturday we shopped for dinner at the Farmer's Market. Before we started cooking, Ric Jewell (my favorite sommelier, formerly of Tribute and Zingerman's Roadhouse - I can't wait to see where he ends up next!) led us through an amazing tasting of 21 wines in an hour and a half. How we managed to cook an 8-plus course dinner after that is beyond me, but we did.

Oh, and I can't let August slip by without mentioning that I started writing this foodblog. My first post was titled Butter is Exactly What Steak Needs.

In September, I started getting serious about this foodblog thing. I wrote the first 3 parts of my buying cookware series that month. Part 4 has been on my to-do list ever since. I also experimented with making vegan truffles, and got my first taste of the famed Iberico, aka pata negra.

Vacation! I spent 4 nights and 5 days happily eating my way through Chicago, with meals at Hannah's Bretzel, Sticky Rice, "Little" Three Happiness, Alinea, Hot Doug's, Schwa, Nuevo Leon, Hot Chocolate, and Prairie Grass Cafe.

I spent November on the road for work, traveling to a different place every week. In Colorado, I toured a meatpacking house, and found it a fascinating experience. In Minneapolis, I spent most of three days eating mediocre hotel food, but did manage to have a couple of nice dinners with friends and ride a roller coaster at the mall of America. Los Angeles was okay, but certainly not all it could have been, foodwise. And in El Paso, I had amazing chile rellenos at a car wash.

One more trip for work, this time to the fertile agricultural region outside of Miami. My tour of the Fruit and Spice Park, visit to Robert is Here, and subsequent tropical fruit tasting definitely stand out as some of the highest points of my entire year.

I hope you all had a tasty 2006, and I wish an even tastier 2007 for all of us!


Kim said...

Love the photos. They really add zip to the post.

You had a great year!!

The Parson's Wife said...

Fun Posst! I am asking to "pick your brain" Our Youth Group at church is hosting a Valentine's Dinner for 50. Could you give me tips on how to present a Molten Lava Cake, could I pre-bake in muffin tins, freeze, removed from tins, and then re-heat on sheet tray before plating? ANY tips would be great! BTW also took a peek at your commercial site, exciting! Blessings, Shawn <>< (The Parson's Wife)

Tammy Coxen said...

I'm not an expert on Molten Lava Cake. But after doing some googling, I don't think you'd get good results with precooking and then reheating. I think the molten centers wouldn't stay molten.

But it looks like you could fill the muffin pans in advance and freeze them in place, then bake just before serving.

What's your chief concern? Oven space at the last minute to get them all prepared? Not having time on the day of the cooking? You could certainly make the batter and everything early that day and just refrigerate the cakes until you're ready to bake (I saw references of up to 6 hours being fine). Then it's only about 10 minutes in the oven.

Hope that helps!

The Parson's Wife said...

Hey, Thanks for the quick reply, I was concerned about the ovens going during the meal time, but am now thinking that pre-prep in the muffin tins, and chill-baking will work, I will do a run-though this week to test. (I also would have the added benifit of the aroma!) I have heard of pre-baking and then microwaving for 15-20 seconds, I just don't want to keep placing plates into the micro for 30 minutes. I have never tried freezing a cake batter before baking...another option. Okay of to the lab, thanks again! Oh, BTW I am in the U.P. of MI! Blessings, Shawn <><