Trying to make a come-back

So as you all know, the past year and a half have provided huge changes for me and my life. I have done a lot and changed a lot. There are still things that remain the same, I still cook and love to work with food. I will be back on here as much as I can I want to keep all my past readers to enjoy food and ask questions again. And I would love to get some new followers and get questions from some new friends. So stay tuned for more I just wanted something simple to start back up.

I look forward to writing more in the coming days.
Stay hungry
Friedan

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Published in: on June 27, 2012 at 4:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Out to eat

Well as everyone knows, it is tough to go out to eat in this economy.  So of course we try to take advantage of good deals and such.  We went out to eat on Thursday because of the Taste of Hartford 2011 ($20.11 for three courses), I was given the choice between DISH, and Peppercorns.  Having been to both I chose Peppercorns because I had a great meal there once before and the time we went to DISH it was sub-par.  But Peppercorns was booked and we couldn’t get in.  So we inevitably went to DISH.

Going in I was having lowered expectations.  Despite the less-than-good service in the beginning of our meal, our third guest arrived and we began to order.  At this point I let my appetite get the best of me and ordered off the ‘Taste’ menu and started off the normal dinner menu, and of course this led to better service.  We started with the ‘DISH Bread’  and the  Roasted Marrow Bones.  Both great, the bread was toasted with garlic oil and Boursin cheese.  The Marrow bones, were slightly undercooked, the came with Foie Gras Mousse,  Shallot marmalade, and garlicky herb toasted bread points.  But having been cooked a little under, we all experienced some slight stomach discomfort the next day, which was too bad, but it was still delicious.

Moving on to the actual ‘Taste’ menu, for a first course, I decided on the Veal and Ricotta meatballs, while Sarah, and my sister, went for the Salad.  I would have gotten the salad, but the in-house menu, differed, from the online menu, but oh well.  They both enjoyed the salads being a light Meyer lemon vinaigrette with the Asparagus, greens, and Hard cooked egg.  The meatballs had great flavor, and the sauce was surprisingly light and sweet, but besides tasting good, the meatballs were over mixed.  They had a slightly grainy texture with too smooth of a finish, meatballs shouldn’t be an emulsified meat.  Meatballs are supposed to be a lightly ground and softly packed, flavored meat.  It is very common to see over-mixed meatballs in restaurants.

The entrees I was glad that we all ordered something different.  And I ordered the gnocchi, which came as a big surprise to Sarah.  I have never ordered Gnocchi out, I can’t respect over production of such a delicately complicated,  but easily prepared dish.  But I decided to give it a try.  The gnocchi was a  semolina base, and tossed with cauliflower cream, market vegetables, and shaved Benton’s bacon.  The gnocchi had a great flavor, particularly because I love cauliflower, but it was a little stickier than I expected, although it was light and still had a good enough texture.  Sarah ordered the Grilled Creekstone Farms Hangar Steak, with Maytag Blue cheese potato flan (she hates traditional flan, so this was a big step for her too), and crispy parsnips.  This was a good plate, everything complimented well but she had a hard time eating the flan.  Amber got the Grilled Heritage Pork Tenderloin (I would have gotten this but last time I was at dish I ordered pork and it was way over-cooked),  it came with Anson Mills antebellum grits, and a black pepper gravy, this was a little heavy, but the small portion made up for it.  The pork was cooked to about medium, even though she asked for medium rare, but at least that’s better than well-done.

The desserts were, as always with dish more entertaining than anything else.  Although this time, the dessert I ordered was quite original and it made up for flavor in its fun, I guess that is the best word for it.  I ordered the Cereal Milk Panna Cotta, this was the best part of the dessert.  It was a creamy and flavorful Panna cotta that was subtle in other flavors like vanilla, and sugar, there was also not too much gelatin in it so it still melted in my mouth. It came with a splash of milk, and dehydrated strawberries and corn flakes it was more fun to eat than it was flavorful, the Panna cotta was great but the corn flakes were, well corn flakes, and the strawberries were a bit tart for me, but I did like it and I shook the pastry chefs hand, and said it was fun and creative.  The chocolate mousse that the two ladies ordered looked cool, it was just a deconstructed chocolate mousse pie, and it tasted great, but nothing was too extravagant about it.  Overall we had a fairly decent meal, in fact it was good enough to make up for what was lacking the previous trip to DISH.  I would suggest going there now, yes it is a bit pricey but its good food, and anywhere in Hartford is going to be pretty pricey.

Thanks for reading and keep cooking

Brendan

Thanks to everyone

I just wanted to say a big thanks to Amanda Ciccatelli, she posted the article about me and it has shown me in such a positive light.  I loved the article, and I look forward to hearing from people about it.  Thank you to Sarah, for your positive commentary, and great thoughts about my growing business.  I plan to cook more and share these thoughts with you, I was just very excited to share this article with all of you.  I am also going out to dinner tonight and I will try to get some pictures and then i will write about the time I had.  I will be honest, and I am excited about doing a food review, I feel like it has been forever.  So look forward to that sometime soon.  Thank you all for your continued support and I will write again soon.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

Some New Stuff

So as you all know I love to experiment, and I love to play with my food.  For my Facebook friends this may clarify, and to people who don’t know me on their I have been up to some fun stuff.  So this is a quick update/recap, of what I’ve been up to.  Breakfast is a hard thing to come up with specials, so here are some of those specials (if you have any suggestions for specials, I would love that) and some other things I have been up to.

mmmm good

Well at work I have been working on creating a new and very fun menu. So to start I decided to make some kimchi to pair with some new dishes.  For those who don’t know kimchi is a Korean-style fermented, spicy cabbage.  It may sound odd, but i have almost everyone at work try it and even the least adventurous eaters have enjoyed it.  The owner also brought some down to YUME, which is a Japanese restaurant.  All the employees are Chinese, but still they tried the kimchi and raved about it, one server even came up to me and asked for the recipe.  This was such a great moment for me, I know they weren’t Korean but damn it felt good.

Better than it sounds

Next up was the Chicken-Fried Eggs, I had a little experiment with some very lightly poached eggs in which I breaded and gently fried them.  They were nice and crisp on the outside and soft and runny on the inside, I even went ahead and topped them with a sausage gravy, perfect for those Sundays with a terrible hangover.  Sadly I only sold one the day I made them and it was to Sarah.  But she liked it nonetheless.  It was fun to make this dish but it was extremely time-consuming, I have to work something better out with this one

I wanted to make this short, so I will quickly tell you about the last few pics then I want to talk about something else.  I’m happy to say I have a sale from my Christmas presents, granted it is to my brother but it is still a sale, he wanted to purchase some of my beef jerky, and hopefully i may have another sale on some homemade sausage/soppressata.  The first picture is the Beef jerky, I have three varieties drying now; teriyaki, peppered, and hot and spicy.  The next is another special I ran, I called it Eggs Atlantic, it was sautéed Atlantic rock shrimp with roasted red peppers,tossed in a very acidic Hollandaise, over poached eggs on top of a grilled English muffin.  The third is a chili I made way to much of (its in the freezer, and it’s coming to whichever Superbowl party I’m invited to), it consists of Bacon, braised veal breast, lamb, venison, beef, and pork, it was phenomenal.  And, yes, before you ask there are beans in it.  I know, those of you who know me know that’s against what I believe in chili.  Anyway here are those pics.

Animal Kingdom Chili

Beef Jerkys

Shrimp Benny

Anyway, some other stuff coming up and some happenings, look for an article about me and my business (Chapman Hospitality) on the Farmington Patch, the internet ‘newspaper’.  I am also nominated on the Hartford Advocates website, for Best local chef, I know i probably wont win but you never know, so vote.  It isn’t hard to vote, and to make it easier for you, in a bunch of categories, vote for Caffeine’s Cafe, especially in Best breakfast, and best place to buy coffee/tea, you should know where we are applicable.   And in other news I had an interview today, big time stuff, it’s for a part-time gig for now, but I would love to get it, and wish me luck more information on that in the future. Anyway, thanks for you support, and I will try to write more often.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

A New Year

I guess we can all hope for big change in this new year.  I know I am already looking to change a lot of things, some big some small, but hopefully you will all hear about these things.  But just as a quick re-cap,I was making Christmas presents this year.  Granted I saved a ton of money I still feel like I could have done so much more for many of you.  But this isn’t a gripe session it’s to tell you about how excited I am to have don’t what I did and rediscover a passion I almost forgot.  Yes, cured meats, I don’t know why some cooks find this to be such an intriguing part of the culinary world but we do.  To take a piece of meat, play with is for a few days, then hang it for a few weeks or more and find that the flavors have changed so drastically is just an amazing thing.

So to go back let me give a listing of the things I attempted to produce for people this past holiday season.  First off I wanted to make Almond Butter, so I decided to make both almond and peanut butters.  They both turned out alright but almond butter is very complicated to get as smooth as the stuff in stores. But I did end up getting it to a good enough consistency.  I also made a Jalapeno “Jelly”.  The Jelly, even though I actually followed a recipe,  never set up properly and was more of a sweet/ hot jalapeno sauce.  It tasted great, but was very hot and kinda thin, but whatever, it is what it is.  Next was the Beef Jerky, this was mainly made for my brother, I know he loves beef jerky, so I decided to take on the task, and it came out fairly amazing, I was especially proud of this.  I also made a classic restaurant-themed food item, Duck prosciutto,  This was cured duck breast that is hung to dry, it did dry a little too long but the flavor were outstanding.  So I was happy but I know now I need to keep a more watchful eye especially with the smaller breasts.  And finally the piece-De-resistance, my homemade soppressata,   Granted it wasn’t the best but it tasted damn good, I was very proud of this.

At one point during the drying process I did get scared.  The way I originally hung them was, that they were all touching, this was a big, ‘no-no’.  I separated them two weeks in and 3-4 of the links had a moisture caused mold on them, but I wasn’t too worried,  I continued to let  them dry.  The mold did not continue to spread over the next few days so i was able to save at least 16 or so links had these spoiled.  I eventually took them done, and removed most of the casings and gave them a quick rinse/ wash.  I cut into one, it was delicious, then I decided to cut into one of the links that originally had mold, and found it was incredible.  Something about that mold pulled moisture and  added a more earthy and intense flavor.  So in closing it turned out I was very proud of how my product turned out.  I am looking forward to experimenting more and more with curing meats and trying new things.  I guess other than the usual things that we strive for in the New years, this year I would like to have more and more experiments.  I would love these experiments to succeed but if they don’t I’m OK with that, I will learn from it.  So I guess you could say,  my biggest New Years Resolution is to learn more and more,  and share it with all of you.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to a very progressive year, Thank you for all your support, and positive thoughts.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on January 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm  Comments (1)  

Here we go again…

So it’s that time of year, that’s an original start, huh? Struggling financially doesn’t help me feel good about this time of year.  Being a person with a big heart, I love to give gifts, but how can I do this if I’m in a bit of a struggle.  I know it is embarrassing to admit financial woes but I feel in this economy if you don’t admit it, you are worse-off than you lead people to think. Anyway, I’ve been trying very hard to make all my gifts from scratch, so anyone who may be receiving gifts from me please be aware they will most likely be homemade.   Anyway, it seems as though this time of year also brings up the issue with me and my position in the food world.  Yes, I love food, but sometimes the strain of the industry on my life, and any small amount of free time begins to wear me down.  I love working with food but as of lately I am feeling very beaten down.

There are some particular reasons behind this that I wont get into now, but I do know I wont leave this industry yet.  I do have an idea and I want to strive towards making that idea a real dream and eventually make that happen.  I am working my ass off, and it feels like I am getting nowhere, it’s very discouraging.  I know it takes a lot to run a restaurant, or any food-service establishment, I want to put in that work, but it just doesn’t feel worth it anymore.   I do really miss working with great ingredients and working with people who know good food, I think having dabbled in that recently has really brought that to light.  I have been cooking more at home and enjoying what I do here, so I feel like for the time that helps satisfy my urges for something amazing.  But from here we will see where I stand and what to do with my life.  I don’t really know why I am writing this all here, but I am.  Anyway, I guess my biggest thing is that I just really want to have my own place, and I want to serve what is rightfully my own ideas and creations.  Being 23 in a huge world of cooking doesn’t help.  Being young people think inexperienced, irresponsible and just wants to go and party, or whatever.

I know damn well I have so much to learn, and I love learning about food and the business.  But for a very long time I haven’t been pushed with my cooking.  I am set to do that on my own time. I have no food-mentor (formerly Mike and Jeff, with whom I worked closely and learned so much, I cant thank you two enough), I am only 23 and there is always something to learn about cooking.  I would love to have someone push me for my potential.  I know I have to work hard to get to a certain point, and Right now I am learning more business aspect of running a restaurant, it’s a lot of work, but I know it will stick with me.  I love cooking and cooking is my life, so there is no doubt that I do love my life, but there is always this faint notion that I chose the wrong path, and I begin to get depressed.  I know like usual I will get through it, and I will have fun in whatever kitchen I happen to end up in. Anyway thanks for reading, if you got this far.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Copper Beech Experience

So as many of you know, I was working fine dining for years. Experimenting with new, exciting ingredients all the time.  And more recently I have changed things up, I have been working in a small breakfast/lunch restaurant.  Granted we do dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, it is not where my passion truly lies.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I am happy (for the most part) with my place.  With the economy and this industry it is hard to find a restaurant with the style and people I enjoy working with.  As of now I enjoy my present co-workers and that is the biggest reason of working where I am, well that and the increased responsibility.  I like being in control, and I love being creative.  So when I was asked to stage at the Copper Beach Inn; Brasserie Pip, I jumped at that.  I was able to work with one of my former co-workers and friend, Jesse, and after that whole evening it felt so good to work with great ingredients, among such bright, ambitious culinary minds. I was impressed by the ingredients and being around the great people, and the kitchen itself.

Here’s how my evening went.  I drove a little over an hour to get to the small restaurant(which is also a bed and breakfast). I felt fine because after all it was just another kitchen.  But as I walked up to the door I saw a large display case of the awards and recognition the restaurant received.  Somehow this was the only thing that startled me a little.  well at that I walked in, and I was handed a white coat (neglecting to have one not entirely needing one for the past year), and put to work.  I just did grunt work, breaking down wild mushrooms, vacuum-sealing product, mixing and grinding meats.  Things like that, but after a few short hours of working, they insisted I sit at the bar for a drink and a meal.  They decided to feed me a seven course tasting menu.  I know a lot of people think wow, 7 (or multiple in general) courses is too much.  These people are wrong,  if you go to a great restaurant, like this, it is perfectly portioned and should be just filling enough.

They started me out with the Amuse-bouche, which is a traditional in any fine dining establishment.  This was a tiny cheddar Gougere with pickled shallot, simple, small, and just enough to start-up my palate.  Then next came a simple yet elegant salad of Beets, baby salt roasted beets, roasted beets and house-made goats milk ricotta and a delicious nutty tuille.  This was perfect because before working in nicer restaurants, I hated beets, but with proper preparations they can be a wonderful taste of what the earth has to offer.

The next course was a plate of seared scallops with cauliflower. This may sound simple but searing a scallop is an art, many cooks might disagree and say it’s so simple, but these were perfect.  Hot crisp sear with a warm inside, so tender, sweet, and still tasting slightly of the ocean.  The cauliflower was prepared as a puree, bread pudding, and if a remember properly a little roasted as well.  There was also nice little sauce over the top.  This was a pleasing dish.

This was the Sea Bass Amandine, to be honest, this was my least admirable of the courses, but was still very good.  The only reason I wasn’t as fond of this as the others was almonds.  The fish was perfect, the squash both puree and roasted was delightful, the sauce of what seemed to be curried pine nuts and the like, piqued a great interest, but I have always despised almonds.  Yet to their credit I did eat them all , they were the best almonds I’ve ever had.  I just don’t like almonds, but I thought I would give them a try.  I guess every cook has the one thing he just cannot stand.

Okay, this was outstanding, the sweetbreads.  Those of you who don’t know what sweetbreads are, don’t look it up just eat them.  Slow cooked sweetbreads, with chestnut veloute,  parsnips and green apple.  The sweetbreads had a crunchy outside, and a soft melt-in-your-mouth inside, and just exudes flavors.  The compliment of the sweet-tangy apples with the mild peppery parsnips was great, and went exceedingly well with the chestnut veloute.  Overall a great dish.

This dish was, the always crowd-pleasing, pork belly, it tasted unbelievable.  The belly fell apart, as it should, and just released amazing flavors, of the spices, and light smoky flavor, it was a great piece of pork.  I loved this dish especially because I love pork.  it came with endive, a little greens, and mushroom.  Drizzled with a little acidic vinaigrette, it was a transcendent plate.

This was my favorite dish, this was the squab.  I love the dark game birds and squab is one of my most appreciated.  This was cooked perfectly, of-course, and came with a small piece of seared Foix Gras.  It was also served with an amazingly delightful sweet potato hash, I have never been fond of sweet potatoes until then.  I loved this squab dish, I was glad it finished off the savory showcase they had to display.

This tiny piece of cake was served with Panna cotta and a small ball of poached pear.  There was a light caramel sauce on the plate and it was all very enjoyable.  I like a moist cake and this was moist enough for me, I do tend to be picky about cake so this one passed the test.

The final plate was the chocolate mousse, with house-made Dulce de leche ice cream.  there was a crumb layer that was very good and had a hint of peanut butter.  I feel you can never go wrong with peanut butter and chocolate it is just a sinful combination.

So over all as you can tell I had an amazing time, and a great new fire in my belly for the culinary arts, to see what we as cooks and chefs are capable of makes me feel like I can get back into experimenting and having fun.  Thank you at Copper Beech, and thank you Jesse and Tyler for the opportunity, I look forward to seeing you again.  Thank you for reading and I expect to be having fun in the kitchen again.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Trying hard…

I know it’s not easy, but I have been trying for years to shed some weight.  This is very tough being a cook, and loving food as much as I do.  About 3 weeks ago, I attempted to begin an exercise and new diet.  I actually lost quite a few pounds but it has been tough to maintain this being as active as I am. So I am writing this before I go for a run and hopefully it will inspire me to make a delicious dinner and continue being healthy.  One of my biggest things that I have found definitely hinders my enthusiasm for running is, by far, drinking.  I cannot continue to drink like I am 21 anymore.  I don’t feel I have a drinking problem, I just like to have a social drink here or there.  And as many people know drinking is huge in the cooking community.  I am not saying I swear off drinking altogether, but I definitely need to cut down.  I was fine for two weeks, I was losing weight and eating healthy, but then I had a burger and a beer because i had been doing well.  Then it was hard to exercise and that led to not eating as healthy.  I wasn’t eating crap though.  So here I am letting it out and getting out, I need to lose weight.  I love to eat, and I love experimenting with food, so hopefully this will broaden my horizon for trying new methods, and all sorts of things.

This was better than it looks

Last week, I maintained eating well, but was limited on exercise.  As a farewell dinner for my friend Nick, I made a wonderful dinner.  This dinner was my version of fusion cooking.  It was very Asian influenced, but much different cooking applications. My dinner consisted of no added salt, or fat.  I did use soy sauce which does have high sodium but i also use reduced sodium soy.  It was basically a Sesame-Pan-Roasted Chicken Breast with Soy glaze, Braised Bok Choy and spinach, and Miso Mashed cauliflower.  It was very healthy but tasted amazing. There is definitely more of that to come. I will let you know what we did for dinner and how my healthy new lifestyle is working out.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on October 25, 2010 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Surf and Turf Sucks

Okay, you go out to eat, and you see “Surf and Turf” on the menu, Do you order it? Some say ‘yes’ others say ‘no’.  But no matter where you go it’s always the same options, Steak, and some type of seafood, mainly shrimp, scallops, lobster, etc.  Well out of all of those, I feel like lobster is the best pairing, because everyone loves lobster and its easy to pair with almost anything.  Any way, Monday after my birthday i wanted to treat myself to something, and experiment at the same time.  Sarah and I would have Surf and Turf two days in a row.

DAY 1-  I made a Traditional surf and turf, using a small piece of tenderloin. I broke down the lobsters and poached them lightly so as not to cook the meat fully.  I took the shells and carcasses and crushed them into a strainer and rinsed them of impurities and then put them into a pot and brought it to a simmer and let that go for a while till it was nicely rich in lobster flavor.  That lobster stock was to be used for day two.  I made the meal with a warm orzo salad and seared Brussels Sprouts, which I love.  I rendered out the fat from two strips of bacon and then turned up the heat and placed the Brussels Sprouts in the pan cut side down and browned them up. Then I moved them to the outer rim of the pan and used the leftover grease to sear the steak.  As you can see I served it with the claw, knuckle, and tail, of the lobster.  So we each had a 3 oz. steam and a half a Lobster.  This was a nice little treat. But I was really looking forward to my experiment. And to start I had to start this on day 1.  I rubbed a bunch of pork belly with salt, pepper and brown sugar and let it sit in a container over-night in the refrigerator.

DAY 2-  Now the picture is a little dark but I will explain.  If I have ever talked to you personally about food, this has come up at one point or another.  And I finally did it.  It may need a little tweaking, but it did turn out to be pretty damn good.  Here is the explanation, I will work towards the piece-de-resistance.  I made roasted garlic mashed potatoes, with a “shit-load” of garlic, and i made the mistake of not roasting it quite enough.  The mashed potatoes haunted us for a while if you know what I mean.  I also made a cool broccoli salad that was delightful.  Now the best part,  I took my stock and got it heated(next time I will add tomato broth or something like that).  I seared my pork belly on all sides except the skin, and I added the strong lobster stock.  I put it into the oven at 350, and left it covered for about 2 hours, then removed the cover for 30 minutes and then turned off the heat.  I then seared the skin till it was crisp.  This was something amazing.  It was a pork belly that melted in my mouth and was so full of different flavor.  It was something else.  Lobster flavored pork belly, with a lobster/pork sauce.  Again served with lobster claw, knuckle and tail.  This was a new approach to the traditional Surf and Turf.  I’m sure this has been done before, but I couldn’t help but think I may have done something new and creative.    Thank you for reading, and I look forward to doing more in the future.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on October 1, 2010 at 7:44 pm  Comments (3)  

Another Quick Week

I wanted to post this before I forgot, in case I didn’t say it already, I had to work on my birthday.  I know some of you are like me and say ‘big deal’.  I am not one to blow up my birthday, if people do that’s OK, but to me it’s cool just to relax and go through the day.  So anyway, when I was at work, we finally got our normal Sunday push after church let out.  I stood over the hot flat-top as I have for many Sundays now.  I realized as I was pushing out orders as fast as I could, I was truly enjoying what I am doing.  I was cooking, I was singing to my music and really moving as fast as I could, keeping up and pushing the orders out.  And yes to those who know me well, I was dancing too.  I was having a blast.  Then when I was stuck mopping the floors at 3:30pm (I got there at 5:45am) I thought, “This is pretty shitty…”

The past few months, I have taken over the hot-line on the weekends, for breakfast anyway.  I will try my best to keep up with orders while I have my two cooks both prepping and finishing plates.  The finishing plates sounds easy but for some reason I cannot do it.  That’s getting the toast order, plating the home-fries and double checking the plate to make sure its right and everything is there, all done in a timely fashion.  I never thought I would be stuck working at a breakfast restaurant, I have my background in a much different culinary situation.  I am making the best of this, and I am slowly gaining speed with the owner and trying to take the reins so he can stop stressing and just trust me with the food.  I do know what I’m doing in a kitchen and now I have a great kitchen staff.  We just need to tighten up the front of the house and get a little order out there.  I re-did the menus this weekend.  I changed our dinner menu to include more fall/winter items, and i changed our lunch menu to make it easier.  The way I have been presented with the menu was that all it is doing is causing problems, it’s confusing and complicated.  It is simpler and easier to work with, and the customers love it.  Oh yeah, it’s more cost-effective too.  I thought that would make the owner a little happier, but it seems to have stressed him out even more.  Any way I just needed to get that out, I feel like over the summer this has become my kitchen and when he is there I am not trusted with the food.  Wish me luck and I hope we have a great weekend.

Keep Cooking

Brendan

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm  Comments (1)