Ahhh, Internet access again!

We’ve been in hiding for a few weeks…In some pretty remote areas which don’t have cell or internet access.  How fun!  We spent some time in Spearfish, South Dakota then to Lewistown, Montana where Chef Marcus did 3 demos at the local high school for the culinary students there, then to a remote place called Durkee, Oregon.  I will post on each of these wonderful places individually.  We are currently in Baker City, OR on the old Oregon Trail.  We travel tomorrow and hope the computer works…

Published in: on September 30, 2007 at 6:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Camping at 11,000 feet

After 2 days of nursing headaches, walking slowly, and drinking loads of water while adjusting to the lack of O2 at 11,000 feet, we were finally up to some hiking and exploring of the enormous mountains which surrounded us at our dry campsite up above Leadville, CO at the LDMA property. We ran the metal detector, and found an old axe head, iron nails and scrap metal from the mines, and lots of silver ore (so we think) inside the rocks. There are old and new mine shafts and holes dug every 50 feet or so, where iron, silver, and gold have been found. One such hole had the vegetation around it pushed inward, making it apparent something quite large had recently climbed in and made it home for the day. Upon further inspection, we discovered very large cat prints, and cat scat near the opening. Only the day before, we had a gentleman in his pick-up stop to warn us he’d just seen a mountain lion in the valley just below us. Pretty neat! After reaching our summit at 12,000 feet, (and I say Our summit, because the mountains just kept going UP, and our stomachs were calling us back to camp), we began our decent and it began to SNOW! What fun to be out in the mountains in September and have the sun beaming down one minute and the next being pelted with wind gusts carrying snow flakes! It didn’t last long enough, and we all wished for the new weather to continue. Alas, the sun came back. We dug for gold some, but didn’t come across any. It is difficult to find especially without water. I found a bit while we were at the ranch in northern Colorado while trying to fish with Chase. The water was a bit too cloudy for the trout, but not for the gold. After leaving Leadville, we stopped at a creek along highway 70 towards Denver and panned for a few hours. Each pan had some color, and as we were leaving, Marcus pointed out that I, too, had gotten some color (my back was burned from leaning over the river).

We spent the next evening in Cheyenne, WY at the A B Campground, then headed north into Spearfish, SD.

Published in: on September 14, 2007 at 3:32 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Home Ranch

Nestled amongst the aspen trees deep in the northern Colorado Rockies, lives a very real dream vacation of many. The Home Ranch. It’s a luxury dude ranch, somewhat of an oxymoron, I suppose, but after our two day stay, we are familiar with why this is an elite Relais & Châteaux property. Guests are pampered with amazing cuisine, friendly, helpful and experienced staff, and private cabins with plush pillows, a comfortable porch and a hot tub. This is the luxury side. The dude ranch side, the Home side, guests are aware of after they meet the owners, Steve and Ann, and get to know the employees. It feels like one big extended family at the Home Ranch, and is apparent why so many of their guests come back year after year. Meals take place around two long tables in the main dining room, where fun conversations with new friends occur. Chef Clyde Nelson has been the executive chef here for 19 years, and currently has two NECI students on their internships, Chris Locard, and JD. There have been many NECI interns in the kitchen over the past 16 years, each bringing with them a “passion and knowledge” for food, according to Chef Clyde. General manager Johnny Fisher states that he’s been in the business for over 30 years and can say that“(New England Culinary Institute) produces some of the best students”. We had a very special meal prepared for us in honor of Chef Marcus’ arrival. Chef Clyde introduced Chef Marcus and told of our travel adventures and culinary goals. (We were told later by Ann, the owner, that this is the first time Chef has ever spoken at dinner) Both Chris and JD then presented dinner to the 19 guests, with 4 courses they themselves had created and prepared. Dinner was complete with a banana’s foster show in the dining room…Everything was amazing. Fly-fishing, horseback riding, cow wrangling, and exquisite cuisine…what more is there to the perfect vacation? It was an honor to have experienced the Home Ranch, and we take with us lasting memories. Thank you. www.homeranch.com

Published in: on September 13, 2007 at 3:05 am  Comments (1)  

We will Remember…Matt Nurmi 12/24/83-9/11/06  a fellow NECI graduate, and friend. May we all “Strive for Nurmage”.

Published in: on September 11, 2007 at 1:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Wooden Windmill, Fremont, Nebraska

For over four years now, Kelly Goudy, friend and manager at Butler’s restaurant at the Inn at Essex, has been raving about her family’s Wooden Windmill in Fremont, NE. “If you ever make it out that way, you have to stop in and visit. Just take a right off of interstate 80, then take route77 until you see the big wooden windmill on your left. “ Well, we finally made it out. The directions may have been that simple, but I fell asleep just before we were supposed to turn and got us a tad mixed up. What can you expect? It is vacation, after all. (This is my excuse for today, as I’ve also mixed up East & West once. Okay, or twice or so…) But, back to the smoking Wooden Windmill. Kelly’s mother, Michelle, and her husband, Kent Hulett were our gracious hosts for our stay in Fremont. Kent, along with his brother Kevin, own and run this successful smoke-house. In true restaurant form, the moment we arrived, Kent had to excuse himself and ran off to open the Wooden Windmill because his opening staff member did not show. Many of us know this situation all too well. You may have the best, most reliable staff out there, but it’s still the service industry, and, inevitably, someone doesn’t show at the worst opportune time. So, this said, we understood, and offered to go in and help. Michelle had made a huge spread of roast pork with Jamaican jerk sauce (home made, of course), tomato mozzarella salad with fresh basil out of her back deck garden, sliced cucumbers and onion in vinegar, salad, potatoes, iced tea…It was out of this world. I couldn’t get enough of the jerk and added it to my salad, also. We sat out on their very peaceful back deck amongst the zillions of butterflies and relaxed and digested a bit before going into town to visit the Wooden Windmill. After a bit of exploring the area and seeing the Platte River, we decided we were up to the challenge of another meal (our other only a few hours behind us). The Wooden Windmill lived up to Kelly’s years of tasteful description. We ate smoked short ribs, smoked pork ribs, smoked chicken, smoked pulled pork, corn muffins, baked beans, coleslaw, and even an enormous (not smoked) burrito. It was all to die for. The smoke flavor in everything was all the way through, but not over powering. Just right. It was evident that someone very skilled had taken pride in this food. To complement the smoke, Kent also has his signature bbq and hot sauces “Baby Huey”. My favorite is the sweet hot, Marcus’ is the original. With full bellies, we retired for the evening in the camper out in front of Kent & Michelle’s home and rested up for the following busy day.

Knock knock…room service…was the wake up call. Coffee (yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!) delivered right to our door! For once, I almost didn’t argue getting out of bed! What wonderful hosts! They more than spoiled us. Chef Marcus & Kent met up with Kevin, Kent’s brother, at the Wooden Windmill and fired up the large black rotating smoker. Once the fire was just right, they smoked pulled pork and bologna. This took about four hours (something that in competition, which the Wooden Windmill does occasionally, would take as long as 8 hours). After an interview with the Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremonttribune.com/articles/2007/09/05/news/local/doc46decf12ad972961881534.txt , and lots of sampling of their hard work, Kent & Chef Marcus headed over to the local tech school where Marcus spoke to 20 students in the culinary program about New England Culinary. All in all it was a very successful and fun day. We greatly thank Kelly, and Kent & Michelle for a wonderful visit to Nebraska. Such connections as this is what makes for a wonderful adventure!

Published in: on September 9, 2007 at 7:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Court Avenue Brewery, Des Moines, Iowa

While in Des Moines, Chef Marcus was also invited to visit the Court Avenue Restaurant & Brewing Co. with Chef Neil Stone. He took me into his large walk-in with huge portions of prepped food. There was a 5 gallon tub of potato salad, made fresh yesterday afternoon and will be gone by the end of service that night. They have a very busy restaurant with a large line (where food is prepared and given to servers) to accommodate fast service. There is also an onsite brewery with a variety of homemade beers. While touring and taking pictures, Marcus was able to sample 3 of their brews. All very delicious. No wonder it’s a successful operation. www.courtavebrew.com

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Azalea & Zen, Des Moines, Iowa

Another great Des Moines stage took place at Azalea www.azaleadsm.com with Sous Chef Sean Wilson, Essex ‘07. Sean and his co-sous chef run two restaurants out of one kitchen. Zen, the sushi bar and lounge sits on the corner of Walnut and 4th Street and serves an average of 150 covers a night. Directly across the hall is Zen’s sister, the very elegant Azalea. Beautiful high ceilings with open exposed beams, both of raw concrete and wooden logs, balanced by black velvet curtains hung from the ceiling and dark suede and leather upholstery, with large mirrors and solid oak accents everywhere. Chef Marcus spent Friday evening with Chef Sean. He orders from some 37 purveyors alone. Plus spends time at the Asian and farmer’s markets purchasing ingredients he never thought he’d use. He calls up the Hawaiian fish market and orders his sushi grade yellow fin to be delivered the next day. It’s quite and operation. Chase and I were given the grand tour while the farmer’s market was taking place, and Chase washed our dishes in the Azalea dish machine. We reminded him that every great chef starts at the dish sink. Saturday night, the three of us had a wonderful meal at Azalea. The menu is American eclectic with an Asian flare, if I had to pin it down. There’s tuna tartar, gently seared raw tuna with capers, red onion, and hard boiled egg…It was sushi and Russian caviar blend, and wonderful. There’s a wood fired oven in the open kitchen which makes a variety of wood fired pizzas, and quail with corn bread stuffing. There’s a delicately flavored potato ravioli with pesto and sweet corn broth, so mild we could taste each ingredient perfectly. The fried calamari was perfectly cooked, The best he’d ever had, Chef Marcus said. Tempura batter wrapped around tender calamari with a pepper aioli dipping sauce. The goat cheese on the arrugala greens with prunes was the perfect balance of spice and sweet. Braised beef short ribs, spicy Kim chi, and white rice made for a wonderful entrée, and I enjoyed my sea bass in fish sauce. Des Moines is ready for great food, and Azalea and Zen are doing their part to provide it. Thank you, Tripp, for a memorable time.

Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm  Comments (2)  

“Cuisine at Home” Magazine

Cuisine at home is no ordinary magazine. It’s every at-home culinarian’s dream…an at home recipe bible, if you will. Cuisine at home is loaded with delicious menus, meticulously thought out directions, beautiful photos of the recipe process step by step, and mouthwatering pictures of the finished product. Better yet, it has none of the advertisements you see in most magazines. Each issue is dedicated to a different theme, some with all soups (at least 50 full color recipes), or 60-minute weeknight ideas. It’s like having a new fun cookbook delivered to your home 6 times a year, and a reference guide you’ll proudly display and use frequently. Even a professional chef will find inspiration in these books. Chef Marcus was honored to be at August Home Publishing in Des Moines, Iowa on Friday, the home of Cuisine at home. There are quite a few NECI graduates on the staff including Lisa Grasso, Essex ‘04, MJ (Mary Jane), Montpelier ‘06, and our host for the day Haley Wilson, Essex ‘07 who are all chefs working in the magazine’s test kitchens. Development of this 100 page treasure is a 6 month process involving recipe ideas, testing, editing and photographing. There are editors, test kitchen associates (like Haley), food stylists, artists and photographers all working together to prepare Cuisine at home. While we often think of high stress jobs associated with being a chef, with long unorthodox hours, the magazine aspect of the trade is quite the opposite. Yes, Haley and the others donned the traditional chef’s jacket (though I’m not sure it wasn’t because Chef Marcus was visiting), and yes, they prepare food, but that’s where much of the similarity ends. They shop at the local grocery store, not a purveyor, and buy product available to the every day consumer. They test and prepare, and test again each recipe, following each and every step as it is written each and every time (to ensure those at home can create an exact duplicate without having a culinary background). They get to eat the final products, where usually chefs only get to watch it being eaten. They go into work at 8am and leave at 5pm and have Saturdays and Sundays off. (Not in at noon, out at midnight, Never a weekend off!) And, this is my favorite, they get to wear flip flops to work. (You never get to wear open toed shoes in the restaurant!) Behind all this eating and having fun, though, is a very real, very serious job that the staff at August Home Publishers takes to heart. Take a look at this magazine at www.cuisineathome.com and the next time you pick up a magazine, think of how much work went in to bringing it to your home. Chef Marcus was thrilled to see this side of the culinary field (and also a bit jealous of the hours and low stress, I think). Thank you, John Meyer (senior editor), and all of you at Cuisine at home for a wonderful stage and tour. We’ll be looking forward to the next issue!

Published in: on September 2, 2007 at 10:34 pm  Comments (2)  

Des Moines, Iowa’s Downtown Farmer’s Market

The Des Moines, Iowa Downtown Farmer’s Market is like none other. It transforms some 7 city blocks each Saturday from 7am to noon into a full street fair with farmers and their produce representing 39 different Iowa counties. Scattered in between the rows of heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and herbs, are baked goods of every size and shape, handmade crafts, wine makers, musicians and food booths. We had the “Something Italian“ tent set up right next to us. They were selling frittatas and breakfast pizza (nix the sauce sub scrambled eggs…yummy) …what a wonderful and delicious excuse to eat pizza in the morning! “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” is the premise behind the market, and everybody’s buying. An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 walkers browse, purchase, and eat at the market each weekend. This Saturday, Chef Marcus, along with NECI alumni Haley and Sean Wilson, set up a New England Culinary Institute booth and spoke to more than 700 market goers. It was a hot, sunny day and attendance seemed good. Chefs began their day shopping at the market and picking up fresh local fruits and vegetables to create dishes and show off their skills. Since the crepes and pasta dishes went off so well at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, we decided to stay with the same theme and made peach, melon, raspberry, and mint crepes topped with crème anglaise. They were fabulous. This was followed up by fresh Heirloom tomato sauce with sautéed red onions, bell peppers, and garlic and chiffonade basil. Another big hit. We served just under 400 samples. Much of the produce we used today came from the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign coordinator, Matt Russell. Check out more at http://www.foodroutes.org/bl-pfi.jsp. While out looking for fun produce and a morning’s cup of joe, I came upon a massage therapist, Kenny, who was massaging at his booth for $1 a minute. I found a $5 and sat down in the therapy chair. Ahhhh. I’m liking this farmer’s market gig! Seriously, though, I think we connected with quite a few interested in NECI and hopefully some prospective students. Please check out the Downtown Farmer’s Market at www.desmoinesfarmersmarket.com or better yet, come visit! We thank the farmer’s market for a wonderful morning, and all of Des Moines for being such a warm audience. We’re dining at Azalea this evening at 7 and have invited along many we met today.

Published in: on September 1, 2007 at 11:06 pm  Comments (1)