Thursday, May 27, 2010

Updates on Serving

Serving is not so bad. I served Chef Lauer today, who is the head of the culinary program. It's a good thing he already likes me or I would have been really stressed out about it.

I still can't wait to get to the back of the house and then out of here! I just need to find a place to do my internship.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Serving Even More Children

Yesterday was a good day for serving. I was the front server, and I only had three tables total. One was a couple that was slightly grumpy but overall fine, one was three nice older ladies, and the last was four executives from my school.

Today we were closed to the public again so we could serve another 100 kids. In a way it's nicer not to have to take orders or be so formal, but it's still 100 freakin' kids!

Friday is a very nice feeling right now.

Happy NASCAR Day!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First Day of Serving

Well, I served my first fine dining table today. I was supposed to be a "back server" which just means busser, but we got slammed at lunch. What do they expect when they only serve lunch for an hour and a half? So I ended up waiting on one table myself and bussing for three.

Three total grumps sat at my table. There I was trying to show my friendly, happy, great server side, and all they would do was grunt their orders to me. It wasn't horrible, but everyone else had nice people at their tables who kept telling them how good everything was and what a good job they were doing. Since we don't get to keep tips, praise is all we can get from these people, and I didn't even get that.

Otherwise, the day went fine. I was nervous for no good reason; I learned the computer system, didn't mess up any orders, didn't spill or break anything. Now the only thing I'm really dreading is having someone order a whole bottle of wine, since we have to do the fancy opening at the table, the whole fine dining blah.

I never thought I would miss working at a diner. When I was 21 I worked at a probably now defunct place called the Fireside Grill, and I was the only front of house person. I got to wear whatever I wanted and serve however I wanted. We had an old school register, donuts and coffee in the morning, and a fridge full of beer. My customers were a bunch of working men- guys from places like Interstate Batteries, because the diner was in an industrial part of town. I didn't have to put anything on a tray (today I had to deliver a salt shaker on a tray!) or serve the women first, or put the plate down a certain way. My boss there was a jerk, but that was the only bad thing about that job.

At least my boss at Cafe Bleu isn't a jerk.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Children... Lots of Children

Today wasn't as bad as it could have been, but it was a little ridiculous. Who gets the idea to bring 110 six year olds to a nice restaurant?

We served them pasta with red sauce. I'm sure there were at least some of them wondering what kind of fancy French school would serve something like that. At least the mothers must have been thinking it. They liked it, and they liked their fruit cups. The dessert, chocolate mousse, either went untouched or was completely finished.

Serving a bunch of kids was weird, but it was definitely lower pressure than what I'm expecting tomorrow. At least the kids were drinking out of plastic cups; the glasses are the hardest thing to balance on a tray, as I found out today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

First Day of Restaurant

I'm out of this building in six weeks (unless I decide to stay for my internship)!

I am working front of house in the restaurant for the next three weeks, then back of house for the three after that. My posts will probably be a bit more random while I'm in front of house, since I won't have actual cooking to talk about. I might post about what I cook at home, or keep doing restaurant reviews. That's been fun, and I still owe a post about 777, so look for that this week.

Today in the restaurant, we polished silverware and set tables. Tomorrow we are serving a group of 110 first graders. Joy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Restaurant Reviews: Firefly

Ah, Firefly. Where do I even begin?

Right. I begin with sangria, like I always do. Happy hour gets you half off sangria plus a free tapas. A pitcher during regular hours will be around $18 and should get two people through dinner at around three glasses each. They offer red, white, and sparkling sangria. I can't say I've tried any other than the red; why mess with perfection?

A free bread basket is always good, especially when it comes with the amazing herb butter they make in-house. Olives are served on the side.

The menu isn't huge but seems daunting. You absolutely have to read the titles and the descriptions of each dish. Does "Stuffed dates" sound appealing? Maybe it does, but the additional "bacon wrapped, smoked almond, red wine reduction, blue cheese" can't hurt.

Assuming you're a party of two, and you've waded through the menu, order at least three things per person. Of course, at happy hour for a snack, one item is perfect, but I'm talking dinner here. Some dishes that my other half and I never fail to order: Stuffed Dates (sometimes one order for each of us; an order gets you five), Chicken and Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms, Manchego Mac n Cheese, Mushroom Tart, and Petite Filet. Some that are not always necessary but we love them: Patatas Bravas, Albondigas, Crispy Duck Rolls, and Steak and Mushroom Skewers. We probably end up with ten different dishes every time we go there.

I would like to make it through the entire menu, but my go-to plates are so delicious that I'm only able to try one or two new things every time! Last time I did get the Crispy Duck Rolls for the first time, and I will definitely be getting them again. I haven't tried any of their five entrees, but I'm intrigued by the Paella and will try it soon.

This is another do-not-skip-dessert place. There are very few places where I must have dessert; this is one of them. At least every second time I eat at Firefly, I order the Chocolate-Cherry Bread Pudding. Actually, desire would be a more appropriate word. I desire this dessert. Bread pudding is my favorite dessert, and this is one of the best I've ever had.

Firefly has two locations. One is downtown in the Plaza hotel, with a gorgeous view of Fremont street from a big glass dome where most of the seating is. The other is on Paradise, near the Hard Rock, convenient for visitors from the Strip, with excellent ambiance and an outdoor patio. The food is excellent and the menu is the same at both locations.

Parking is easy and free. Reservations are a good idea; they can be made via OpenTable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Restaurant Reviews: Nobu

After eating at Sen of Japan, where the Chef trained under Chef Nobu, I was excited to try the original Chef's recipes.

It was Mothers' Day, so I had reservations well in advance. I recommend reservations for any day of the week.

Of course they had a wine list, but I went for beer as I am known to. They have a Nobu Ale, which the waiter told me was actually made in Japan. It was a nice, almost amber ale type beer, slightly malty, not too hoppy. I could tell that it would go with anything we ordered.

I think I ordered for everyone! I had to get the hamachi nigiri, because that's basically my indicator of the quality and freshness of the fish, and it's my favorite at sushi places. The actual sushi comes last at Nobu. First we had tempura: avocado, sweet potato, Japanese eggplant, and lotus root. They were all great; I had never had lotus root tempura before, and the only place I'd had avocado tempura was at Sen.

We ordered the two dishes from Nobu that I made in my Contemporary Cuisine class: the hamachi sashimi and the glazed cod. Both were fantastic. My hamachi in school was probably as good as the one at Nobu, but of course they cooked the glazed cod much better. The hamachi is marinated in yuzu juice and served with a little garlic and jalapeno, just perfect. The cod is glazed with a sweet soy and grilled to just barely done.

For my entree, I ordered the scallops in the spicy garlic sauce. They were wonderful, but I'm sure I'm biased, since I turn into a puddle of happiness when it comes to scallops. They were diver scallops and there were probably ten on the plate! Nobu does not skimp on portions.

The sushi, which came last, was on par with the quality I expected from such a place. Hamachi was delicious.

Overall, Nobu was nice. We ended up at around $70 a person (estimate- I didn't see the check), with three of us drinking, two desserts, and a lot of food.

Parking is easy normally, but a concert at The Joint could make parking difficult, so check the schedule before you reserve. Dress is anywhere from t-shirts and jeans to black tie.

The wait staff is a bit overbearing, removing plates to give new ones after every dish is served, and there seemed to be far too many of them to attend to a table of four people.

Overall, it was good. I doubt I'll go there again for a while, though.

Next up: Firefly and 777.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Restaurant Reviews: Lotus of Siam

Lotus of Siam

On Saturday, Devin and I took my parents to Lotus of Siam. We have been in a bowling league with most of the waitstaff for about a year now, and we've been meaning to go there. When an article about this year's James Beard award floated my way, I noticed that among the nominees, which included the Chefs from Joel Robuchon and Rick Moonen, was the Chef from Lotus of Siam. That sealed the deal; we had to go there as soon as possible.

The restaurant is easy to drive right by; there's a sign on what looks like a warehouse on Sahara, just east of the Strip. Never fear; the entrance is on the other side, and the ambiance is nice. We didn't have reservations but got in at 7PM on a Saturday night with no problem. The crowd started showing up at 8, so I would recommend reservations for a later meal.

The wine list is huge, but since I didn't know what I was planning on eating, I just ordered a beer. They have both Singha and Chang beer from Thailand. The menu is similarly huge, probably ten pages of dishes conveniently numbered so you don't have to fumble through pronunciations if you aren't used to ordering Thai food.

I started with the Tom Yum Kai soup, which is my favorite thing to eat at Thai restaurants. I asked for it hot-spicy. Heed my warning: If you're at all nervous about your heat threshold, go for medium-spicy. I love really spicy food, so I thought the soup was great. I also ordered the Spicy Catfish. It was thin filets of fish battered and fried, with a delicious sauce, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I even had leftovers since we ordered so many other dishes.

Other things ordered were the stuffed chicken wings appetizer, the chicken satay with peanut sauce, and the jackfruit dish, which was, I believe, mashed jackfruit, pork, and herbs in a spicy sauce. That one was delicious, as was everything else. My Dad ordered a salmon dish, which he said was really great. I believe it because there was absolutely nothing left on his plate when he was done, and the man knows his salmon. Devin ordered the Pad Thai, which was probably the best I've ever had. The noodles were very thin compared to the rice stick noodles that are usually used for Pad Thai, and it was also hot enough to excite my spice-seeking palate, even when ordered at medium-spicy.

Then came dessert. One of my favorite things in the world is sticky rice with mango, so we ordered that. They put a dessert platter together for us that included the rice, mango, some coconut ice cream, and some fried bananas. They do their fried bananas in phyllo dough, which is something I'd never seen before, and I loved it. Do not skip dessert, even if it means taking some of your main course home like we did.

The service was excellent, and I'm not just saying that because our waiter was one of our bowling buddies. They were attentive, and when we asked to take about five different things home, they took the plates away and boxed everything separately for us. Most impressive and refreshing: My Dad asked the waiter what he should order from two choices, and the waiter honestly told him which dish he liked better (the salmon), instead of pulling the, "Well, they're both good..." junk that waitstaff usually gives you when you ask for a recommendation.

I thought the price was incredible considering how much food we had. Including food, drinks, dessert, and two hours of just fun eating, we walked out at less than $40 a person. Parking is convenient, abundant, and free.

I can see why people call this place the best Thai restaurant in America. It's the best one that I've been to. I have absolutely nothing negative to say about this restaurant.

*Look for upcoming reviews of Nobu, Firefly, and 777. I figure Lotus deserves its own entry.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Free Day

Today was a free-for-all. I made my grandma's rice and meat, which was so good that Chef stole some to take home. I guess he likes my food.

Then I made some sushi rolls, which is always a good time.

One more day until my four day weekend! I need to figure out where to take my parents for dinner tonight; it's their last night in town. I'm thinking Fleur de Lys or maybe The Mix. We did Firefly last night, Nobu the night before, and Lotus of Siam on Saturday. I'll review them all here tomorrow.

Monday, May 10, 2010


The national dish of Brazil is called feijoada. It's a beans and rice dish, served with all kinds of garnishes.

First, we sauteed onions and garlic, what else would come first? Then we added the beans and chicken stock and cooked them until tender. Ham hocks came next, and when they got tender we took them out and pulled the meat from the bones. We cooked some chicken on the side and cut up some already-cooked chorizo sausage. It was really good served with rice. The garnishes were greens sauteed in garlic, an onion and cilantro relish, and salsa.

Tomorrow is free day, basically. We're making sushi again, because Taylor really wanted to, and I'm making my Grandma's rice and meat.

The block is almost done!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lebanese Girl For the Win

I was going to call this post "Middle Eastern Day," but I already have a post titled that.

We got to class and tried the previous class's hummus. It was not good. I'm glad I was already in charge of the baba ghannouj, because I wasn't about to risk that being as bad as the hummus. Chef started telling us about the recipe, and he mentioned all the usual suspects: chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and olive oil. Then he said something about Tabasco and my mouth dropped open. He went on to mention cumin and coriander, and said that the most important ingredient is water! Then my head exploded.

After I cleaned up the mess, I got to making my baba ghannouj. I used the food processor for eggplant, tahini, garlic, drained yogurt, and onion. You could taste that the eggplant was cooked on the grill, which is the entire goal of the dish. It was awesome, and I caught Chef packing some to take home with him.

Taylor and I were plotting to make my hummus recipe instead of Chef's, but Chef caught him and started adding water, Tabasco, cumin, coriander, essentially ruining the hummus. Luckily, there were some chickpeas left after some other kids made falafel, so I made my hummus. Like I said, it's chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and olive oil if needed. Then it gets topped with a drizzle of olive oil and some cayenne. That's it. It got eaten way faster than Chef's did, and even Chef said it was good when he tried it. Everyone who did a side by side taste test said mine was better. I'm sure I looked very smug in class today.

We also made some chicken marinated in yogurt and then grilled on a flat top, which is the dish I used to eat at Lebanese restaurants as a kid, back when I was a picky eater. Of course, we made flatbread as well, three batches this time because we love our bread.

Three more days of class!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Miso Soup, Chicken Satay, and Red Chicken

Today we made a bunch of really delicious food.

Yesterday the class marinated strips of chicken breast, and today we stuck them on skewers and made chicken satay with peanut sauce. It was probably the best chicken satay I've ever had; most places don't marinate it first so it usually isn't as tender as it was today. The peanut sauce was good enough to eat with a spoon. Not that I did that or anything (I totally did).

We made the red chicken with the thighs and legs from the satay chickens. It's a braised chicken dish cooked in a Chinese sand pot, with all the usual suspects for Chinese food, plus dark soy sauce. The chicken ends up bright red and really tender.

I was bugging Chef all day to show me the miso soup; since I had a pretty good idea of how to make it I just wanted to get started. The broth used is Nori Kombu, a seaweed, broth, and the whole thing takes about four steps. Heat the broth, add some dried nori which will bloom in it, dissolve the dashi with some hot broth, add it to the pot, and then add tofu. Done. Miso soup is my favorite, so I'm glad I can make it at home now.

Chef made this really crazy fried fish. He basically filleted a fish on both sides, leaving the head and tail attached, scored the fish, stuffed the tail through the head so the tail came out of the mouth, and battered and fried it. He made an Asian sauce with black soybeans and ground pork to serve with it. It was really freaky looking but pretty delicious.

Tomorrow is Middle Eastern day, so I'm in charge, or so Chef says. He told me to start on the eggplant for the baba ghannouj first thing, and then tried to tell me I was doing it wrong. I don't think so. I split the eggplants, brushed them with olive oil, salted them, and grilled them. Then I scooped out the insides so we have them ready for the dish tomorrow. He wanted me to "fire-roast" the eggplants; I think he wanted to use the skin! No thanks, dude. We'll see who knows more about baba ghannouj tomorrow, when mine is the best he's ever tried.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cinco de Mayo Day

Arriba and stuff.

Today we made our carnitas. We deep fried the marinated pork (healthy, right?) and then braised it in some chicken stock with onions and garlic. Yum. We made tortillas and tortilla chips. Corrinne and I made the guacamole again, because we're so good at it. Chef made us Mexican rice because whoever tried to make it burned the first batch.

Then I went and took my TAM card class. If you're not from Nevada, you don't have to worry about it, but here we have to have a TAM card for just about every job. It's short for Techniques of Alcohol Management, and it's nothing I didn't learn to pass my ServSafe exam, but hey, come Monday I'll have the card.

I am excited to make miso soup tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Potato Day

I honestly don't remember what the first thing we made was called. It was similar to a frittata, but Chef called it something else. It was delicious, just eggs, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Most of us ate it with hot sauce.

We made vichysoisse, which is a cold potato leek soup. It's better hot, so when I have my leftovers I won't be calling it vichysoisse.

Then we made potato pancakes by grating potatoes, adding in some flour, egg yolk, and seasoning, and pan-frying them.

But the best part was the smashed potatoes. Not mashed, smashed. We boiled some waxy potatoes until they were done, and smashed them into a patty with a frying pan. That was really fun to do. Then we pan-fried them and served them with sour cream and bacon bits. It was like ordering potato skins at a restaurant, except you get the whole potato. Chef said one of his old restaurants served their filet mignon on top of one of those, and it was always a huge hit. I can see why.

We also started our carnitas for Cinco de Mayo tomorrow!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Clam Chowder

Today I made clam chowder. I made it too thin but it tasted good so I ate it anyway. We also made some yucca chips in the fryer, which were good.

Then we were supposed to make some boiled potato dish with a yellow bell pepper sauce and hard-boiled eggs, so I cut out early, since that sounded and looked gross ("Peruvian" my foot), plus I had grocery shopping and studying to do. Of course I'm sitting here typing this instead of studying, but I got my shopping done before the post-3pm rush at the store!

I am looking forward to Wednesday; Chef asked what we want to make for Cinco de Mayo. I said I wanted carnitas so hopefully that's what we'll make.

I can't believe we're in week 5 already! Projects and finals are happening pretty soon. The test I have tomorrow that I need to study for is 10% of my final grade in my politics class, so I need to get on that.