Changes. Risks. Funemployment?

Technically this week is spring break with spring term starting on  Tuesday. However, after much debating and personal reevaluation about my culinary school experience, I came to the difficult decision of not continuing into my spring semester. I certainly do not regret my previous two semesters in culinary school. I have developed a foundation of basic skills but would rather pursue a job or internship aligning with my career goals.

But there wasn’t a job/internship lined up yet.There were few evening spent skimming through criaglist listings looking for what was available.  A part of me thought I was not qualified with enough experience to pursue a restaurant job. There were many discussions with two of my closest classmates about the pros and cons of withdrawing — I was nearly finished with the program but I would have to shell out a couple more thousand dollars to paid for the internship component. My culinary development benefited from learning the techniques and culinary vocabulary, utilizing new products, collaborating with my teammates to produce creative, delicious dishes, and listening to the suggestions and advice of my instructors. The most negative aspect of my experience was  dealing with the immaturity and unpreparedness of a majority of my classmates. It got pretty old listening to my instructors spending a part of the lecture scolding my classmates for not completing their work. The discussion during lecture and production was not intellectually stimulating, many of them seemed unsure about why they were in culinary school, and most days felt like everyone was just “working” to cook, eat, clean, and leave for their afternoon naps. Of course, not everyone was like this, but when you are with the same group for an entire semester, frustration grows.

It will be bittersweet not starting class again on Tuesday, to my surprise though I already have a non-compensated apprenticeship with a local vegetarian restaurant lined-up and will be starting a kitchen job at another vegan/vegetarian/raw food restaurant next week! I thought I would be in a funemployment state for at least a few weeks but I think taking the risk to put myself out there by contacting the restaurant and soundly articulating my culinary/career goals during my interviews reaped quick, positive responses.  I can’t wait to begin this new aspect of my culinary experience.

-A

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Vegan Sweet Potato Cake

Here’s a story to enjoy on this rainy, chilly March morning.

Once upon a time, a culinary student was left with one lone sweet potato to work with. Should she  dare do any with the usual preps  roasted fries, casserole, or soup? — though, all favorite options. Instead the lone sweet potato was gently grated and  lovingly incorporated into a fall blend spiced batter.  Then the magical blend rose in a bundt cake pan…

1. In one bowl, combine

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp ground clove

1/4 tsp nutmeg

2. In another bowl, combine

3/4 c vegetable oil

1 c Almond Milk

1/2 c dark brown sugar

1/2 c granulated sugar

2 tbs lemon juice

1/2 tbs vanilla

3. Whisk the wet ingredients together, then pour into the dry ingredients bowl.

Incorporating the grated sweet potato with all its micronutritional goodness too!

Incorporating the grated sweet potato with all its micronutritional goodness too!

4. Once the batter is smooth, fold in 3 cups (about 1 medium) grated sweet potato. *optional add-ins: Raisins and nuts

5. Pour in a greased desired baking pan

6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the center of the cake/cupcakes comes out clean with a pick tester.

Freshly removed from the oven

Freshly removed from the oven

7. Enjoy warm out of the oven (highly suggested) or cool and frost with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting topped with candied pecans — possibilities are endless!

But what was the climax? What was the conflict?

She almost forgot to check on the cake after deciding that it needed a few more minutes…rushed to the oven, on speedy..but not running feet, the chef saved cake  from an almost burnt ending and the baking and pastry students that afternoon enjoyed tasty fresh cake instead of buttery cookies.

Vegan Sweet Potato Cake -- no icing needed

Vegan Sweet Potato Cake — no icing needed

The end.

-A

Almost Vegan Dark Chocolate Almond Tart

Last Wednesday, my instructor brought in silken and firm tofu for the class to experiment with. She recommended that we try out another chef’s Almond Chocolate Tart Recipe. My culinary experience with tofu preparation is for savory dishes like curries, vegetarian kebobs, and in stir fries, so this method of sweet preparation was intriguing.  It was only almost vegan because we didn’t have any carob chips, so I had to use dark-chocolate chips that most likely contained some sort of milk product. Though I trusted that the recipe would produce a good dessert, I was still a bit hesitant in putting the tart together and on top of that, I felt a little sense of pressure to do it right because for my many of my classmates, this would be their first experience with eating anything tofu.  I want to really perfect the process and change people’s minds about “weird” foods and healthy substitutions.

Almond Oat Crust

Almond Oat Crust

For the crust, in a food processor or blender, pulse together,

1 cup toasted sliced almonds (toast in a pan for about 5 minutes)

*reserve about 1 tbs of the almonds for garnish

1.5 cup Oats or whatever granola you have around

1 tbs Vegan Butter (Earthbalance)

1 tbs Maple Syrup

2 tbs Apple Juice

1/4 tsp Almond Extract

Process until a sticky mixture forms, then press crust dough into a 9-in spring form pan coated with pan release. Press into an even layer with slightly higher edges

Par-bake the crust at 350F for about 10 minutes, just till slightly brown (this is an optional step, but I liked the extra toasted flavor and it will help the crust hold together better)

For the filling, melt 3 cups chocolate/carob chip over a double boiler

mmm...Chocolate is always a good sign

mmm…Chocolate is always a good sign

In a blender, blend until smooth

3.5 cups Silken Tofu (about 1.5 of that store brought containers)

8 tbs Maple syrup

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Almond Extract

Tofu, Maple Syrup, and extracts...doesn't look tasty yet.

Tofu, Maple Syrup, and extracts…doesn’t look tasty yet.

Once those ingredients are combined, slowly pour the melted chocolate into the blender, you may have to stop in between and stir up the mixture yourself — it starts to thicken very quickly

After incorporating the chocolate

After incorporating the chocolate

Reserve 1 cup of the fully incorporated filing. Pour the rest of the mixture in the crust (I actually ended up with more filling than needed).

Smooth out the top, cover, and chill for two hours.

For decorating, take the reserved filling and scoop into a pastry bag with a star tip. Pipe decorations abound the top edge of the tart.

Garnish with whatever your heart desires — I used toasted coconuts. You can go with the reserved sliced almonds, fruits, chocolate chips, etc.

The finished Almost Vegan Tofu Chocolate Tart with Almond Oat Crust

The finished Almost Vegan Tofu Chocolate Tart with Almond Oat Crust

Chill for another 30 minutes to firm up the piping work.

Enjoy!

Other changes you can make to pump up the creatively of this treat is utilizing other extracts/flavorings like orange or raspberry. With the leftover filling, I allowed it to chill over night, scooped them into 1 tbsp balls, and rolled them into an espresso powder/cocoa powder mix – – Tofu Chocolate Truffles were born.

-A

Delicious & Nutritious Life According to my iPhone

Nutrition class. Finally. I have been looking forward to this particular course since I enrolled into culinary school and it has not ceased to challenge and excite! I have the same instructor from Traditional Euro Cuisine lab, she is by far one of my favorite instructors because not only does she offers relevant information and shares personal culinary experiences and tips, she is very open to suggestions and to allowing us to concoct and experiment with different recipe modifications.   Morning lectures center on the role macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats, and proteins — play in our dishes and how they impact our bodies. This course is not about eliminating butter, heavy cream, cheese, and bacon but about expanding food knowledge beyond the French cooking style and challenging oneself to try new flavors and products. As a vegetarian, my food knowledge has definitely increased over the past years because I have had to research and test out different plant products that would replace the nutrients I would source from animal products.  Believe it or not, there are still many products I’m just starting to learn how use and eat like bulgar, hominy, vegetables of all sorts, wheatberry, even that young jackfruit I experimented with a few weeks ago.

Simple ways to make dishes healthier:

1. Replace white, refined wheat products with whole wheat/grain products

2. Depending on the role of your sweetener — replace white sugar with honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, or splenda.

3. Steam or poach instead of boiling vegetables — the longer plant products sit in water the more the good nutrients (water-soluble vitamins/minerals) leach out.

4. Steam or poach chicken and fish — you can use the en papillote method of enclosing your desired product with parchment paper and then bake, the entrapped steam will cook your food…and your guest will be very impressed with the “complex” looking presentation.

5. Incorporate more fiber (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) into your dishes — bulks up the dish, increases a “fullness” feel without increase of calories, and supports a healthy digestive system.

6. Use low-fat products: lean cuts of meat, egg substitutes, 1% or non-fat milk, low fat sour cream, low fat yogurt, cooking spray, etc.

7. Use more spices instead of salt to pump up flavor!

The most important tip to keep in mind when deciding to modify a recipe is understanding the role a certain ingredient plays in the production and taste of the final product. For example, if you replaced all the sugar for a cookie with splenda, the result would be a sad lump of sweeten flour. That’s because sugar crystals’ structure cuts into the fat component (butter) of the cookie causing the dough to spread out as it bakes. Splenda is just a sweetener, it’s structure does not enable it to do the same.

and now…culinary life according to my iPhone

Tunisian Brown Rice Pilaf Brown rice sauteed with onions, almonds,  orange juice soaked raisins, then finished in the oven with hot vegetable stock

Tunisian Brown Rice Pilaf
Brown rice sauteed with onions, almonds, orange juice soaked raisins, then finished in the oven with hot vegetable stock

Hummus Fatoosh Salad with Grilled Pita Bread Triangles Fresh garlic chickpea hummus topped with Mediterranean tomato & cucumber salad

Hummus Fatoosh Salad with Grilled Pita Bread Triangles
Fresh garlic chickpea hummus topped with Mediterranean tomato & cucumber salad

Black Bean Hummus with Roasted Peppers Salsa served with Baked Tortilla chips

Black Bean Hummus with Roasted Peppers Salsa served with Baked Tortilla chips

Roasted Honey Glazed Sweet Potato  finished with grated Parmesan Cheese

Roasted Honey Glazed Sweet Potato finished with grated Parmesan Cheese

Korean Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps with Kim Chee Slaw

Korean Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps with Kim Chee Slaw

Quick Kim Chee Slaw -- Cabbage, grated carrots, and green scallions tossed with a ginger, garlic, sesame seed oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and crush red pepper flake marinade

Quick Kim Chee Slaw –– Cabbage, grated carrots, and green scallions tossed with a ginger, garlic, sesame seed oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and crush red pepper flake marinade

One Bowl....

One Bowl….

BROWNIES -- replaced half the sugar with agave syrup and maple syrup, replaced half the all purpose flour with wheat flour

BROWNIES — replaced half the sugar with agave syrup and maple syrup, replaced half the all purpose flour with wheat flour

Even the Baking & Pastry Majors that ate lunch with us that day were impressed by the brownies…score!

Shrimp Summer Rolls -- rice noodles, shrimp, mint leaves, basil leaves, grated carrots, and romaine lettuce wrapped in a rice paper wrapper

Shrimp Summer Rolls — rice noodles, shrimp, mint leaves, basil leaves, grated carrots, and romaine lettuce wrapped in a rice paper wrapper

Vegetarian Sushi -- avocado, cucumber, carrots, sushi rice, and seaweed paper

Vegetarian Sushi — avocado, cucumber, carrots, sushi rice, and seaweed paper

Tamarind Marinaded Grilled Tofu

Tamarind Marinaded Grilled Tofu

And a clue to my next post’s topic of interest…

An Almost Vegan Tofu Chocolate Tart with Almond Oat Crust

An Almost Vegan Tofu Chocolate Tart with Almond Oat Crust

I think I’ve managed to change some of my classmates’ mind about tofu…of course when you blend it with chocolate who could resist?

-A

Restaurant Reviews: KrazyFish & Luna’s Living Kitchen

My goal since moving to Charlotte this year is trying the plethora of local restaurants in town, avoiding national franchises and experiencing what local chefs are pumping out of their Queen City kitchens. Very rarely have any of the places I have been fail to please. Krazyfish and Luna’s Living Kitchen are two places I recently visited this past week and I can’t wait to return very soon!

My friends and I ventured to Krazyfish out on Central Ave after class last Tuesday, our classes were canceled for the afternoon because of the looming snow clouds predicted to unleash their wintry mix in the late afternoon. The menu offers a fusion of Hispanic/Mexican flair with Asian and Indian flavors and hints of Southern comfort food. Talk about creativity! Their specials menu that day featured a spicy edamame appetizer, BBQ calamari, and a $1 mystery beer…hmm. It took me a while to decide between getting a Roti or tacos. The roti meal is a like aburrito, you choose a protein (bulgogi beef, cuban chicken, southern fried fish, spicy potato cake, lemongrass tofu, etc.) and sauce (Jamican curry, Indian Curry, Thai Red Curry, Habanero Apple Butter, Creole, or Lemongrass Curry)—don’t all of them sound enticing? The roti is then stuffed with rice and their “Krazy filler.” If you have a big appetite — this meal is for you! And its under 10 bucks!

From their even more extensive taco list, I decided on the Lemongrass Tofu with house slaw topped with blueberry tamarind chutney and served in fried floured tortillas. For my side, my friend highly recommended their Jalapeno Cheddar Cheese Grits Souffle. I’m not a grits fan but this souffle may have converted me. I also got their house salad — mixed greens topped with pickles, pickled beets, sprouts, and black-eye peas dressed with a mixed berry dressing — it hit all the right flavor notes!

Krazy decorations & Krazy good food!

Krazy decorations & Krazy good food!

Go here to check out more of their creative offerings: http://www.krazyfish.com/

Luna’s Living Kitchen is renown for its organic, plant-based, mostly raw cuisine. They also have a line of pressed juices and smoothies. I ventured there Saturday evening for dinner. The cafe is tucked away in the Atherton Mills Shopping Center right next to the market and behind Icehouse bar. My friend and I split their delicious sunflower hummus trio — lemon-parsley, sweet curry, and roasted chipotle (my favorite!) — served with vegan cranberry walnut crostinis and sliced cucumbers and carrots.

Tri-Color Hummus

Tri-Color Hummus

For my entree, I settled on the Lunasagna. I never had raw food –that is  nothing is cooked — in a entree meal form except for maybe salads without some sort of cooked protein. This dish consisted of thin layers of zucchini noodles filled with a sun-dried tomato sauce and covered with a cashew-butter basil sauce giving the consistency of a creamy ricotta cheese topping.  The dish was accompanied with a house salad of local greens. I was quite satisfied with my meal and just wished I had some room to try their desserts. They do have some cooked entrees, so if you aren’t that adventurous yet, you can try their different vegan burgers.

Lunasagna

Lunasagna

Here’s the link to this nutritious and delicious place: http://www.lunaslivingkitchen.com/

-A

Jackfruit Tacos

Last Friday night,  a few classmates and I celebrated the end of the week with a taco night and a few drinks. We have been curious throughout our beverage course about how some of the “drinks” we have been mixing tasted like, so why not combine that venture with tacos!

I originally planned on putting together typical vegetable tacos with marinated mushrooms or tofu but I was reminded of a jackfruit taco I had during a summer trip in Philly. I had to attempt to make a homemade version too.

Jackfruit is a commonly seen southeast Asian fruit found in a large green spiky shell. For the taco, I used young, unripen jackfruit but the ripen, sweetened version is a delicious snack.

RIpen, Sweet Jackfruit

Ripen, Sweet Jackfruit

Green Jackfruit

Young, Green Jackfruit

1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit, then allow to soak for 30 minutes in water

Marinade: 1 TBS molasses, 2 tsp cumin, pinch of red pepper flakes, & 1 cup vegetable broth

Marinade: 1 TBS molasses, 2 tsp cumin, pinch of red pepper flakes, & 1 cup vegetable broth

2. Drain the soaked jackfruit, and then marinate.

Sauteed 1/2 red onions with 4 cloves garlic, then caramelized with 1 TBS tomato paste

Sauteed 1/2 red onions with 4 cloves garlic, then caramelized with 1 TBS tomato paste

After sauteing, I added the marinated jackfruit mixture into the pan, then allowed to simmer for about 30 minutes. I did adjust the seasonings and ended up adding about 1/2 cup of water and a bit more tomato paste.

Using a fork, I separated the jackfruit, so it looked like a shredded chicken

Using a fork, I separated the jackfruit, so it looked like a shredded chicken

We had a can of black beans in the pantry, why not toss some of that in too?

Flour tortilla, chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and my Jackfruit + black bean filling

Flour tortilla, chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and my Jackfruit + black bean filling

The feast included fresh salsa and two other types of fillings. One was a bulgogi marinated beef, a type of Korean BBQ and a coffee-rub pork – seared then finished in the oven.

Did I mention we also had sweet plantains? They were delicious as a side dish but I also experimented with this:

Sweet Plantain Quesadilla

Sweet Plantain Quesadilla

Cheers to more fun, creative culinary nights!

-A

Stir. Shake. Pour. Sip. Repeat.

Everyday in class we learn new mixed drink making techniques, after about 30 minutes of practice we then play a team planko challenge. Our instructor plays loud music (mock bar scene) and then shouts out one of the listed drinks. We, in teams of two, must make it correctly and as quickly as possible. Depending on the day, we have two or three chances to mess up.  Talk about getting my competitive side rolling at 9am.

In the “well” shelf of the bar, that is the bottom shelf near the sink where the bartender can quick grab the house spirit, we have vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, rum, triple sec, dry vermouth, and sweet vermouth. No, they aren’t filled with the real spirit. The clear spirits bottles are filled with water while spirits with color such as the whiskey are combinations of water with a few drops of food coloring. But we do use real cranberry juice, sour mix, orange juice, garnishes, and liquids from the drink gun (water, sprite, and coke).

Various bar glassware and shakers

Various bar glassware and shakers
From left to right (back row of glassware) : Rocks glass, shot glass, C.Collins glass, Cocktail glass, hardball glass, T. Collins glass, and pint glass

Garnishes -- olives, lemons, limes, oranges, flag, and cherries

Garnishes — olives, lemons, limes, oranges, flag, and cherries

Below I’ve given an overview of some of the drinks/techniques we have been learning.

Stirred Drinks: Pour spirits into pint glass with ice, stir with long metal spoon, pour into chilled cocktail glass.

Martini -- 1.5 oz Gin & .75 oz dry vermouth with olive garnish

Martini — 1.5 oz Gin & .75 oz dry vermouth with olive garnish

A Smokey Martini is your basic martini finished with a Scotch float.

Cosmopolitan -- 1.5  oz Vodka and 0.75 oz triple sec with splash of cranberry juice, lime wedge garnish

Cosmopolitan — 1.5 oz Vodka and 0.75 oz triple sec with splash of cranberry juice, lime wedge garnish

ShakersThese drinks are make in the C. Collins, T.Collins, or pint glass, shaken with ice, and some are finished with a carbonated drink float.

Whiskey Sour -- 1.5 oz Whiskey filled with sour mix in a Collins glass, shaken, garnish with a cherry

Whiskey Sour — 1.5 oz Whiskey filled with sour mix in a Collins glass, shaken, garnish with a cherry

Sour Mix: 50% simple syrup, 25% Lemon juice, 25% Lime Juice, we use a concentrated pre-mix, but during the summer month when citrus fruits are more readily available, our instructor recommends making it yourself.

Tom Collins - 1.5 oz gin filled with sour, shaken, finished with a 7-up float and garnished with a flag

Tom Collins – 1.5 oz gin filled with sour mix, shaken, finished with a 7-up float and garnished with a flag

There’s also Ivan Collins and Peppi Collins, both made the same way as Tom Collins but with Vodka and Tequila, respectively.

Shooters – These drinks are shaken in the pint glass then poured into shot glasses.

White Spider — 1 oz. Gin, 1/2 oz. Triple Sec, and 1 oz. sour mix

Gimlet — 1 1/2 oz Gin, 3/4 oz. lime juice

Ice Down Pour – These drinks are quite simple — pour over ice and serve.

Black Russian — 1 1/2 oz. Vodka and 3/4 oz. Kaluha

Tequila Sunrise — 1 1/2 oz. Tequila, Fill with Orange Juice, with a Grenadine float, garnish with an orange

Typically, if I were to get a spirits drink, I tend to stick to  gin and tonics with a healthy squeeze of lime juice or bourbon and ginger ale. Those sweet cocktails are too much for me. What’s your poison?

Tomorrow, Day 8, we are doing “Around the World Challenge” where we each take a turn making a drink under the total time of 16 minutes, there are 17 of us in class…yikes. If a person messes up, they receive a planko chip and must restart the drink. Each chip is a 15 sec deduction. Only the person directly stationed next to you may assist in clarifying the technique and confirming which ingredients go into the drink. What’s the prize? 5 extra points added to our final grades. Fingers crossed that they everyone studied their recipe list!

-A

Basic Spirits & Liqueur 101

This is a quick overview of the differences between the various spirits and liqueur options those you of age will come across at your local ABC store or next gathering with friends at the bar.

Spirits: Distilled lquidis that must contain at least 35% alcohol

Liqueur: Spirits with at least 2.5% sugar content like Kaluha, Baliley’s Irish Cream, Limoncello, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, etc.

Neutral Grain Spirit: clear, colorless, flavorless high-ethanol content liquid distilled from cereal grains. This is your vodka, Everclear, etc.

Gin: A neutral grain spirit that is redistilled after being flavored with juniper berries giving it a botanical essence. Most popular style of the London dry gin flavored with juniper berries and citrus botanicals like lemon and bitter orange peel.

Whisky: Where do I begin with whisky? There are several styles depending on location produced, type of grain utilized, ingredients, and preparation/aging methods. Generally, all whiskys are distilled from fermented grain mash and aged in oak barrels giving whiskys their caramel hue.

Scotch — must be distilled in Scotland, aged for at least 3 years + 1 day in oak casks, and the grains have been smoked with peat moss. Single malt is the more expensive style, the distillate originates from a single distillery while blended whiskies are, as you might infer, are mixtures from different distilleries.

Bourbon —  made form at least 51% corn, aged in new charred oak for 2  years, produced in the U.S.

Tennessee Sippin Whisky — filtered through maple charcoal

Sour Mash Whisky — distilled from previously fermented mash

Tequila: Distilled from Blue Agave plant in the Tequila, Mexico, the multiple types depend on the aging time

Rum: Distilled from sugarcane by-products — molasses and sugarcane juice, the clear distillate is then aged in oak barrels, there are 3 types – light, dark, and overproof.

Hope this clarifies any curiosities you have had about spirits and liqueurs!

-A

Queen’s Feast — Restaurant Week in Charlotte

Charlotte’s Restaurant Week is an exciting perk for a culinary student with a limited budget residing in the hotbed of rising high-quality restaurant establishments. A few friends and I, after about an hour of debating over restaurant choices,  settled on Mimosa Grill. I had heard good things about their Sunday brunch from a few of my instructors and one of my friends said he enjoyed his last experience there too. Their restaurant week menu did not offer a vegetarian option, so I decided to call to inquiry about  accommodations. The hostess cheerfully expressed that the kitchen would be more than happy to meet such accommodations, so I was sold and made reservations.

Our dinner was last Sunday, after being seated and putting in our drink orders, I again confirmed with  server that it would not be a big deal to make a vegetarian dish, she highly recommended that I let the  kitchen surprise me. Well surprise me they did.

With a huge disappointment.

Dinner started with a beet salad mix with thinly shaved beets, goat cheese, oranges fennel, and citrus rosemary vinaigrette. It wasn’t horrible, the vinaigrette was refreshing and fennel was a different greens to try.

"MG" Beet Salad

“MG” Beet Salad

My entree was a poor concoction of pasta and vegetables swimming in olive oil and black pepper. I could even say pasta dishes I’ve had at Olive Green have been better. I first settled for it but after finishing dinner with a practically inedible pecan pie, I did not think the price I paid was worth the  whole meal.

I did not make a huge issue out of it with the server. I tried to reconcile that maybe the kitchen was too busy to make a special vegetarian dish, but I guess the dessert (my favorite part of any meal) broke the camel’s back. I’ll certainly be more cautious about choosing my restaurant week experience and allowing a chef to experiment on my pricey meal.

A caveat though–the rest of my dinner party members enjoyed their meals but not overly impressed. For appetizers they tried the lobster mac & cheese, stuffed Georgia hushpuppies, and the beef carpaccio. Chosen entrees included the 24-hour “Painted Hills” short ribs served with a farro risotto, Rock House Farm Artisan Pork — a grilled pork loin with sausage mac & cheese and homemade Arkansas Black applesauce, and The Duck Plate, which though my friend said was tasty, it was a chewing marathon because it was cooked med-rare and had lots on fat on it.  And boy do I regret not getting the S’mores Bread Pudding for dessert instead.  Overall, it was still a fun night reflecting upon our culinary courses and learning hilariously quirky things about each other.

-A

Bartender in the Making

Last Wednesday, I started Principles of Beverage Service, I did not have any negative or positive expectations of the course, I honestly did not have any idea what sort of course work and discussions this class would involve. I heard from several students who had already taken the course that I would learn some bartending techniques and participate in a guided tasting of wines and beers… well those activities certainly do not fill up nine days of class.

This course combines several elements related to bar management — SerSafe Alcohol education, product identification, mixology, tastings, and my favorite aspect — case study discussions based on real scenarios that our instructor personally experienced or has read/heard about throughout his extensive career in the hospitality management.  Our first discussion debated the Darm Shop Liabilities Law, that is whether or not a bar/restaurant/alcohol retail establishment can be held responsible for wrongful damages cause to a 3rd party by a patron of the establishment. In other words, if an intoxicated patron leaves my bar and decides to drive home, but on the way home hits another car and hurts that 3rd party driver, that victim can and most probably will, file a civil suit against my establishment. This brings up the issue of where responsibility is drawn. Clearly, I cannot control the personal choices of that patron to drive home but I must prove that I exercised reasonable care in preventing the patron from leaving in an intoxication state. Some of those actions include training the serving and bartending staff to recognize signs of intoxication, keeping count of the patron’s drinks, offer a cab or to call for someone to pick the patron up, and most importantly recording in an incident report the attempts to prevent the patron from leaving without reliable transportation home.

Today, we had another interesting conversation about “Ladies Night” promotion utilized by bars and restaurants to increase their patronage. The issue posed was whether or not these promotions were gender discriminatory. Until today, it had not dawn on me that, well technically on legality terms yes, it is discriminatory. But the issue is fairly minute based on  what our current culture deems is socially acceptable. It serves to benefit both the establishment’s sales and the patrons — ladies get discounts and gentlemen will most likely be in the outnumbered company of ladies. Of course, that’s is not sound reason. During discussion, I raised the point that no business establishment today would ever have a race-specific promotional…so is gender any different? My curiosity about this issue sparked some research — some states such as California, Maryland, and Pennsylvania recognize this promotion as unlawful gender discrimination while other states who have seen the suits do not. Some creative way establishments have circumvent this civil issue is having promotions like “Lipstick Night” and “High-Heel Night.”  What are your thoughts?

In my next post, I’ll share the mix drinks and techniques I have been learning from behind the bar!

-A

P.S. My biggest pet peeve is drunk driving. It’s illegal. It’s irresponsible. It’s dangerous for you and those in your community. I don’t care if you”sobered” up for the past few hours. Call someone, they will come get you at 4am.