Posted tagged ‘Food’

Review: Well Done Cooking Classes in Houston

February 1, 2010

For those of you in Houston that have aspirations for food beyond just constantly eating it, I have the most wonderful recommendation for you guys. Megan and I had the pleasure of trying our very first cooking class last Friday and I have to admit I left very impressed and surprised at what a good time it was.

 
What I Thought It Would Be Like
 

Prior to our “Dinner in Tuscany” class at Well Done Cooking  last week, I had no idea what to expect. I’m no stranger to restaurant life having spent time waiting tables and bartending for several years while slacking my way through college. I’ve even read Anthony Bourdain’s famed book, “Kitchen Confidential,” and admit that I have a perhaps disillusioned idea of believing I know what it’s like working in a busy kitchen. I even experiment in my own semi-regularly, looking up recipes and recreating my own versions to varying degrees of success. But I still had no idea what to expect going to an actual-hands on class for the first time!

My vague interpretation of what this experience would be like hovered between two ends of the spectrum.

On one-hand, I thought of Megan. After all, the main reason I ordered these classes was as a birthday present since she’d always wanted to try one of these. And hence, if she was happy, I would be too. For this, I imagined that would include some hands-on transfer of knowledge on cooking and then eating the fruits of our labor. The end.

On the other hand, I feared this experience would be like losing my Y-chromosome as I withered away in a corner, drinking my way to oblivion. Maybe watching a cross between something like this clip from “Julie & Julia” live and my college accounting classes. Very boring, no fun at all.

 
What It’s Actually Like
 

After stopping by our local liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine (they encourage that), we arrived at Well Done Cooking at the same time as a few other couples. The class only had 10 people total so it had a very intimate feel. It was actually very easy to socialize the entire time without losing any of what was being taught or said.

We picked the ‘Dinner in Tuscany’ class which meant we would be cooking the following:

Appetizer: Seasonal Minestrone Soup and Crusty Bread

Entrée: Roast Pork with Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Brown Butter, and Herbs

Dessert: Classic Espresso Drenched Tiramisu

Chef Celeste and Kathryn were knowledgeable and informative on the why’s and how’s of making everything on our menu. The class was very hands-on and every participant was a part of everything that was being prepared. My favorite part was rolling the Gnocchi. I truly did not know that making pasta was that easy. Nor did I know that Tiramisu was actually made with Lady Fingers. I think I could recreate that as well. And I’ve already got the Roast Pork marinated for this evening so I did in fact learn a lot that I took away from the class.

I even learned some interesting tidbits about my kitchen and Houston in general. For example, did you know that most microwaves, post -1993, take stainless steel containers with no problem? I didn’t either and have yet to try it but that was neat to find out. Also, we talked about the merits of buying fresh, local ingredients and where to get them. I never thought to buy spices in the shops around Little India (Hillcroft/59) but apparently, that’s an excellent area to get every spice short of saffron/vanilla bean  at a reasonable price. Phoenicia Deli on Westheimer apparently is too. And if you want to try some great tiramisu, try Lemon Tree, a small Peruvian restaurant in the Memorial area.

In short, the experience we had at the cooking class was very, very enjoyable.  We learned how to cook some neat dishes and had some good conversation with some interesting people. We even left a little tipsy from our bottle of wine and our bellies fully satisfied with some great food that we cooked for ourselves. Overall, a great date night for us but I’d highly recommend this to anyone who’s even remotely interested in learning more about cooking. Good times!

 
About Well Done Cooking
 

Located just off US59 & Weslayan in the Highland Village area of Houston, Well Done Cooking has served to provide Houston residents with culinary classes since June of last year. Well Done Cooking, offers classes on all types of cuisines, all of which are listed on their online schedule. They offer public and private classes and class sizes are kept small and intimate by design, which makes booking ahead a necessity since classes fill up pretty fast.

The purveyor of Well Done Cooking, Chef Celeste Terrell, a native of Louisiana, graduated from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts in Massachusetts in 2004. Upon graduation, she worked for “Sel de la Terre,” a French Provisional restaurant in Boston prior to travelling abroad and living/cooking in France for a year. It was then that she decided to go share her talents and teach others how to cook in Boston. Now, four years later, Chef Terrell continues to pursue the fruits of her passion with Well Done Cooking here in Houston, TX. Celeste is ServSafe certified, a member of Les Amis d’Escoffier Society of New England and the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

Chef Celeste and Well Done Cooking were recently selected to host a class for the TLC series, “The Little Couple” this past November. Here’s the clip from television that was on air recently.

Book Review – Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential

November 20, 2009

If you’re heard the name Anthony Bourdain only ecently, chances are that you know him from his popular show on the Travel Channel, No Reservations, where he travels the world seeking to sample local cuisine and culture. As a fan of No Reservations, I’ve come to see ‘Tony’ as one of the rare unpretentious, down-to-earth type of people that would be fun to kick around with. An excellent character as a travel show host and television personality… But would you believe it… I didn’t even know this man was a true-to-life chef and author.

As luck has it, I recently discovered that Tony Bourdain is quite the accomplished writer. And thus, I recently picked up and finished his first book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Bourdain’s personal memoir which was released in 2000 and continues to be on the New York Times Bestseller List.

In Kitchen Confidential, Tony Bourdain takes readers through a behind-the-scenes look at the restaurant business from the perspective of someone on the inside – and subsequently sharing the entirety of his professional journey from bottom-of-the-totem-pole dishwasher to executive Chef along the way. As you would probably guess  from watching Tony on television, Kitchen Confidential  is as engaging, witty, and undeniably entertaining as you think it’s be.

While foodies may shudder at his description of restaurant life, it is admirable that Tony does not pull any punches in his portrayal of life in commercial kitchens and the “wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths” who make their living serving up your fine dining.  From the intricacies of restaurant lingo to what it’s like for a line cook during a Friday night rush, Kitchen Confidential truly is a graphic account of the intricacies that make up the restaurant trade.

Having worked in the restaurant trade all the way through college,  I would highly recommend this book as a must-read  to everyone who has ever worked in the restaurant business or anyone else curious about what is behind that stuff you’re ordering.

And in case you still won’t pick up the book, here are some of Kitchen Confidential’s  tips for diners.

  • Never order fish on a Monday.
  • The best nights for dining out are Tuesday through Thursday.
  • Avoid ordering beef well-done.
  • Be wary of Sunday brunches.

Happy eating guys.

Movie Review – Food Inc.

August 21, 2009

We went to Houston’s Angelika Theater to watch Food Inc. this past week. The movie/expose by fimmaker Robert Kenner gives a look into America’s agricultural business and how the industry has evolved within oh-say, the last sixty years or so.

Here is the synopsis from the official website:

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms’ Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Now before I give you my honest review of the issues within the movie, I think its important to tell you what type of person I am, so you can see the foundation of my opinions.

  1. foodincI am the most cynical person I know.  As an example, when it comes to politics, I’ve smiled and listened to both extremes of the left-wing and the right-wing on issues. And oftentimes, I think both sides are full-of-you-know-what spouting off uneducated none-sense and propaganda. I’ve seen too many people incoherently babbling on issues that they don’t even have full knowledge of recently.
  2. In going with the above theme, I believe it to be important for individuals to educate themselves on all sides of an issue in order to form their own opinion. Doing so will help you avoid coming off like an uneducated dolt aka one of them ‘sheeple.’ Understand that others will always try to influence you. From individuals and organizations to politicians and activists, everyone will have an argument to back their side. Take an objective look at the whole picture before you figure out where to plant your feet. And for God’s sake, when somebody tries to influence your thoughts and beliefs, check their premise before believing them.
  3. As soon as you have your facts straight and have planted your feet fully on issues, I think its okay to be an advocate – so long as you do it respectfully and avoid coming coming off like an idiot trying to push your beliefs on people. Challenge others to awareness and not opinion. Let them figure out issues for themselves through objectivity rooted in factual knowledge. That’s the respectful way to affect change.

 My Opinions on the movie, Food Inc.

 Variety’s review is correct in stating that this movie “does for the supermarket what “Jaws” did for the beach — marches straight into the dark side of cutthroat agri-business, corporatized meat and the greedy manipulation of both genetics and the law.”

With that fact in mind, I’ve gotten the following feedback all too often when talking about Food Inc. this week, “I’m scared to watch this movie.” or “Don’t do it, you won’t want to eat for a week.”

 Well duh you idiots, that’s what the movie is intended to do. But why in the world would you want to avoid something you could possibly learn from? I’m not saying believe everything you hear because I certainly do not. What I am saying is that maybe by watching films like Food Inc. and other like it, you may raise your own awareness of problems in the world you didn’t even know existed. I know that’s unfathomable for a lot of people. Most of us don’t want to be bothered. And films like this one delve in issues on a much-higher level than our usual ‘things that go boom’ and ‘girls like Sarah Jean Underwood’ that we like to be entertained by. I’m cool with that. I love those types of films too. But for real, it’s okay sometimes to walk out of the theater not jumping up and down about the bad-ass explosion sometimes. What a startling concept huh? To actually walk out of the theater with your head down because you learned something that jarred your consciousness… LOL.

Like I said, Food Inc. deals with complex issues. If you haven’t watched it yet, ask yourself how much you know about how our agricultural systems work. Probably not much. Films like this are good at showing you that. Honestly, walking in to the movie, I was thinking it would be nothing but a collection of propaganda and ‘facts’ bordering on bullshit. I was expecting another Da Vini Code but what this ended up being was my Zeitgeist about chicken. Except the facts were a lot newer and certainly a lot more irrefutable. I’m sure there is a lot more behind the food issue and the agricultural industry that I need to learn before I go off advocating anything other than awareness.

But here are just a few facts I got from the movie that warranted some thought.

  • It’s insane that four multi-national corps. (Perdue, Tyson, etc.) control most of the the food chain from planting to our stomach. The choices we see on the aisles are all coming from the same sources.
  • It’s sick how they grow beef, chicken, and pork. They’re truly not growing animals naturally, but rather growing meat for consumption. It’s not natural.
  • I never know large the corn industry was and how our government subsidizes it. From ethanol to food to beauty products, damn near everything we have contains corn.
  • Genetic-manipulation and patenting of said genetic advances have created monopolies of monstrous proportions. Scary sh*t. It’s Orwellian for sure.
  • There is much more to the agricultural business than I ever thought there was and it’s a lot to digest, no pun intended.

Reviews from other Sources about Food Inc.

Entertainment Weekly, LA Times, Salon.Com, Village Voice, and Rolling Stone gave highly favorable reviews. Rotten Tomatoes  gave the film a 97% rating.

Comments about Food Inc. that made me laugh

“It’s an “Inconvenient Truth” for food, minus the droning Al Gore and a handful of PowerPoint slides.”
 
“Smart, gripping, and untainted by the influence of Michael Moore.”

“A brutally disturbing, fundamentally important new documentary.”

“Consider food your guilty pleasure? Well, “Food, Inc,” shows it’s a killer. You need to see this film.”

Food Inc. Trailer

Fat Sandwiches: The Sandwich World’s Prized Secret

August 16, 2008

Quite possibly the most glutinous thing on the planet, New Jersey’s Fat Sandwiches may just be the most uniquely satisfying thing ever. It’s been named Maxim’s number one sandwich in the country and has also been featured in USA Today. And while they’ve been around in New Brunswick and Rutger’s University since 1997, I haven’t been able to find this thing anywhere else in the world.

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Fat Darell (source: fatdarrell.com)

These sandwiches can include gyro meat, steak, chicken tenders, french fries, bacon, cheese sticks, jalapenos, and much more. …all on ONE delicious roll. Separately, these appetizers would cost you $20 or so. But on a fat sandwich, it’s only $4.75.

Now THAT is a drunken feast if I ever heard of one.