Friday, June 18, 2010

Julian KC

My friend Laurie and I went to Julian for dinner last Sunday.  I'd heard great things about this place from one of my classmates, Thuan, who actually works there. We were a taken aback and frustrated when we first arrived. Both of us had looked over their menu beforehand and pretty much knew what our menu selections would be. However, on Sundays they do things a little differently.

On Sundays the Chefs at Julian prepare a 4 course themed tasting menu. The cost is significantly more than what I was planning to spend, but Laurie and I both threw care to the wind and decided to stay and enjoy the menu. The theme... pork.  At this very point in time, I was thankful that it wasn't shellfish or something because I would have had to leave.

For starters, we were served a lovely heirloom pork, beet, and greens salad. The beets were purchased that morning from the farmers market down the road. They were amazing! The pork was heavenly!

The second course was braised pork belly with an agave glaze, roasted red pepper coulis, and jalepeno cornbread.  I have to say, my grandma would have been proud of that cornbread. It was delish.
No, it wasn't gluten free... this was one of those days where I'm very thankful that I can tolerate it in small amounts.

For our third course - braised pork cheeks, yucca nocchi, and braised chard.
I could not begin to fathom how they'd work the theme into the dessert... but, they did. Bacon brittle on top of a bacon bread pudding. The bacon brittle is something I'm going to attempt to make myself. I think my husband and his coworkers would flip for it!!
So, would I go back to Julian?  You betcha!!  I look forward to visiting on another Sunday, in the future!!  Their chefs are very skilled at what they do. Their passion for the ingredients was evident in every bite in every course. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

My First Meal

I grew up in a very small town in Western, NY. I lived a very short distance from my grandparents, I was very lucky. My grandma was a Chef in a small hotel and she loved to be in the kitchen. Her cooking was phenomenal.

She brought me into the kitchen at a very young age. I can't remember exactly how young I was, but I was little. One of my favorite meals, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner was French toast. To this day, I love it!!

I have so many wonderful memories of my grandparents. I remember going to "the farm" with my grandpa, on Fridays after work, to buy glass bottled milk. He'd always buy me an ice cream treat and say, "Don't tell Nanny."  If a stop at the farm wasn't in order, we'd stop at the small store near their home for whatever necessities Nanny had put on the list. Pop would buy me a can of Dr. Pepper and some Suzi Q's. Oh, how I loved those things.

One weekend my grandma decided that I could help her, rather than just watch. She asked me what I wanted for dinner... naturally, I wanted French toast. She walked to the fridge, pulled the eggs and set them on the counter. I remember her turning around and saying, "Well, you'll need this too" as she pulled my step stool/chair up to the counter. She handed me a whisk and an egg. My first couple eggs were a bust.... the bowl was full of shells. My Nan didn't complain, she simply fished the shells out, handed me another egg, and said, "try again."

I wish I had my grandma's patience. I become very impatient with my own children in the kitchen. I'm getting better, but it's a work in progress. I think it's because when Nan & I were cooking, it was just the two of us. When I'm cooking, I have three little ones under my feet. The oldest of my three could care less, in most cases... but every now and then he really wants to help. The other two simply get in my way when they try to help. Most of the time, I'm simply in a hurry because we've got to get to dance, or football practice, a doctor appointment, open house.... whatever.  Though, now it's summer.... I can take the time to stop and teach the kids to smell the roses.... or, properly crack and scramble an egg, or whatever.

Once I had those eggs in the bowl, I started to whisk away. I remember my Nanny adding a touch of vanilla extract to my eggs and thinking that was really weird. I remember she poured in a splash of orange juice as well. I was learning her secrets. She wasn't telling me that they were secrets, but they were because no one knew what made her french toast SOOO special.

It was a meal I'll never forgot. My Pop was SO proud of me. He said it was the best meal he'd ever eaten. (He said that ever time I cooked!)  I also made the best cookies, the best cupcakes... everything I made was perfection. Oh my goodness.... I miss my grandparents something awful.

My grandma inspired my love of cooking. My daughter inspired me to make a career out of it. When she was diagnosed with Celiac, 4 years ago, I had to learn to cook (and to love to cook) all over again.  I have yet to teach her how to make french toast because she's always reacted to eggs, until recently. A few weeks ago she had a small bite of a scrambled egg. Two weeks ago, she ate an entire egg.  Soon, perhaps... I'll be able to take her into MY kitchen, with some wonderful gluten free bread, a bunch of eggs, some vanilla, and orange juice....and teach her my grandmas secrets.  =)

Many thanks to Shauna - the Gluten Free Girl - for inspiring me to write this blog post. =)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Macaroni & Cheese, the Gluten Free Vegan Way!

I did it! I did it!
I successfully made an uber tasty gluten free vegan macaroni & cheese. I'm so happy with the way this turned out. My 8 year old daughter, who is Celiac and allergic to dairy, said, "OH mommy, this is great!" That's testimony enough for me!  Here's the recipe:

Beanie's Mac & VCheese
  • 3 cups Tinkyada Rice Pasta Shells (dry) 
VCheese Sauce
Prepare the pasta according to package directions, drain, and set aside.
In a heavy saucepan heat rice milk and butter, with salt & pepper together. After butter has melted add the cheddar shreds and whisk well.

Pour prepared pasta into saucepan with cheese sauce, mix well.... and enjoy!!

I know this seems like a super easy thing, but until I was introduced to the Daiya Vegan cheese, my daughter would not eat *anything* like this. All the other cheeses have tasted too much like plastic, haven't melted well, turned to rubber after melting, etc. This one WORKS folks.... it really does!!!

My little Bean is ONE happy camper right now!!

Chefs Association Meeting

Last night I had the privilege of attending my first meeting of the American Culinary Federation-Kansas City Chefs Association. It was an Iron-Chef themed meeting where 5 area chefs prepared dinners from a mystery market basket and we were able to vote on our favorite.  I knew three of the 5 competing chefs - one of them is one of my instructors. Chef Jerry Marcellus is one of my favorite instructors and his offering of braised beef with an orange glaze was so incredibly yummy, he had my vote at first bite!  Others competing were Chef Matt Chatfield from the Culinary Center and Chef Peter (who's last name escapes me) who had been a guest chef in my American Regional class.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the host for the evening, Chef Russ Muhlburger, asked for Chefs to volunteer to compete next year. Yvette and I inquired about the possibility of a student team and he seemed genuinely interested. He also made mention of the fact that he'd been considering throwing together a fund-raising competition for a worthy charity. I tossed Jennifer Smith's name out there (Jennifer is from Autism Speaks) and I was quickly reminded just how many connections she and and I have as Chef Russ smiled and said, "Of course, I know Jennifer." I told him our idea of the culinary competition as a fund-raising mechanism and he was really quite jazzed about the idea.  So, we now have Chef Russ as well as Chef Renee Kelly on board! 

Back to the meeting... it was announced that ACFKC night at the Royals would be June 28th. I'm buying tickets so that the kids can experience a "tailgate" with some of the top culinary names in Kansas City. This is incredibly exciting to me... I don't think they get it. =)