Category Archives: My Life

What Comes Next…

Well a lot has happened since my last posting. I graduated school and had to bid adieu to my beloved Paris. Then I came home to the Bay Area for the holidays and was lucky enough to obtain an externship at Frances in San Francisco. For those of you who have been living under that proverbial rock, Frances is one of the most popular new restaurants in San Francisco. It has been open for barely over a year, but has already received a Michelin star and has been named one of the top new restaurants in the country by numerous publications. Yes, I know, quite impressive accolades and they chose me to be their extern. Though to be frank, being an extern is really a nice way of saying free labor; but as they say, you gotta start somewhere and that somewhere usually means the bottom.

I peeled, chopped, diced, sorted, carried, cleaned, and did whatever was on my daily to do list. It was by no means glamorous, but it was real. And it was nice knowing that no matter how mundane a task seemed, at the end of the day the ingredients would be brought together (by someone closer to the top of the kitchen food chain) with other ingredients to make a dish that a diner would eat and it would make them truly happy. The simplicity of that chain was remarkably satisfying. In my corporate job, I knew that I was good at my job, and I knew that in some very small way I was contributing to my company’s success, but I cannot say whether I ever felt true satisfaction. Wow, just writing that is fairly shocking, but it’s true. And I can say with complete confidence that I was not making people “happy” on a daily basis; certainly not the kind of unadulterated happiness that comes from food.

Being such a foodie city it takes something particularly special to make it to the top of the San Francisco restaurant scene. I do not know if I can pin point exactly what makes Frances so special; but as Elgin, the Sous Chef I assisted, would say, the food has soul; and in my opinion not just a dash of soul, but gallons of soul. I think that soul starts with the ridiculously beautiful produce. Every day countless local purveyors would drop off their goodies. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays the mushroom guy, with the accent that somehow swayed between Irish and Australian, would deliver pounds of wild mushrooms that had been foraged from Northern California. I discovered how intoxicating the odor of fresh maitake mushrooms could be and the meditating calm that comes from trimming and cleaning mushrooms for two hours.

I learned a tremendous amount in the Frances kitchen and truly enjoyed the experience; however, spending time in a restaurant kitchen reinforced my original desire to find a role outside of a restaurant kitchen that combines my passion for food, my love of writing, and also the intellectual challenges I enjoyed in my corporate job. Yes, I know that sounds like lofty requirements, but I’m willing to be flexible in the meantime, I just want to have an ideal in mind for the end of the road. I realize the road to a dream job is not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge. Which brings me to my first or many challenges: moving to New York City.

This past Friday, March 4th, marked my three week anniversary of being in NYC and drum roll please…I am still job-less and apartment-less. Though no pity party needed here, my glass remains half-full. (By apartment-less, I mean, not paying rent and living in my own apartment not home-less. You can stop picturing me living on a bench in Central Park, surrounded by my huge duffel bags of clothes, shoes and cooking utensils. I have been fortunate enough to stay with my boyfriend and his very kind roommate, until I can stand on my own two feet. Which for the sake of all of our relationships/friendships will be sooner than later, because even a baking-and-cleaning-free-loader is a free-loader at the end of the day).  So to end this post, I raise that metaphoric half-full glass in a toast to myself, here’s to another week of countless cover letters and applications, maybe the fourth week’s a charm.

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My First Nigerian Independence Day

One of the things that has surprised me most about my experience at LCB is the exposure to other cultures. I moved to France fully expecting to be immersed in French culture, but I never even stopped to think about how all the unique cultures of my fellow students would also shape my experience. One of my friends, Gbube (pronounced, boo-bay, silent G), is from Nigeria and a few weeks ago, Nigeria celebrated 50 years of independence and I had the pleasure of joining in on the festivities.

Being that the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday (it combines all the best things in life: BBQing, fireworks and beer) I was pretty stoked to help another country celebrate. Nigerian Independence day marked my third independence day celebration of the year, the first two being 1)Fourth of July (yes I still celebrated while I was here, you can take the girl out of the USA but you can’t take the red, white and blue out of the girl), and 2)Bastille Day.

Since the majority of guests were culinary students the party was really all about the food and Gbube did not disappoint. He promised heat and boy was there heat, but I loved every burning moment of it. The French do not appreciate or enjoy spicy food, so anytime I can get a little spice I am a happy girl.

Before dinner, while Gbube was finishing up the main dishes, we snacked on yam fries and some gizzards that had been sautéed with what I think were scotch bonnet peppers. Then came the buffet of traditional Nigerian food.

Stewed Goat: I know I will have consistent cravings for this goat throughout my life. I can’t recall if I had ever tasted goat before this day, so I don’t have anything to compare it to, but this particular preparation was OH SO GOOD. I know it’s quite American of me to compare the taste of all meats to either chicken or beef, but the goat itself did honestly taste a whole lot like braised beef short ribs with a slight lamb aftertaste. For the overall flavor of the dish, it’s hard to explain a unique ethnic dish, if you’ve never tasted that type of cuisine, but for my palate, it reminded me a lot of Jamaican food, though with more dimension to the spicyness. The heat was the same level, but there were other spices too that backed up the heat.

To make it, if I remember the process correctly, Gbube started by sweating onions and a mix of hot peppers, including habaneros, then he added the lamb with some tomatoes and spices (I know he said oregano but can’t remember the others), next he added a lot of chicken stock and stewed the whole mix for a few hours until the meat was fall-off-the-bone/could-eat with-a-spoon-tender. Then came am ingenious step that I will definitely be stealing: he decanted the excess goat-infused liquid to cook the other dishes. Isn’t that such a great idea? Instead of wasting all of that lovely cooked-for-hours flavor, he spread the love.

Jollof Rice: And this is where a good portion of the love jus went. I have to admit that the texture of the rice was too al dente for my taste, but the flavor was spot on. You would think that it would taste just like the stewed goat, but somehow the flavors morphed when cooked with the rice. The result was similar to really good “spanish” rice, but with more depth of flavor due to the hint of goaty meatiness.

Dodo (plantains): J’adore plantains. Ever since a family trip to Costa Rica when we were served plantains morning, noon and night, I have been a plantain lover. These were just as a plantain should be…simple. Plantain + hot oil = GOOD.

Stewed chicken: In addition to the goat, Gbube also stewed chicken thighs which were tasty, but not as unique as the goat meat.

Efo-Riro: (unfortunately I didn’t take a picture) This is what Nigerians call a vegetable “sauce,” but I would describe it as a vegetable stew. It was finely chopped greens, stewed with a type of smoked meat. I’m not a fan of stewed greens, so this wasn’t for me, but I did enjoy the iyan (pounded yam, pictured above) that accompanied it. Traditionally Nigerian food is eaten with one’s hands and you use iyan as a utensil of sorts. I’ve always had a bad habit of eating with my hands anyways, so I loved having an open invitation to dive right in. The iyan really didn’t taste like much, but the texture was chewy and dense, almost elastic.

All in all, it was a great day and I really loved learning more about Gbube’s food culture. And I now realize that it was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity. A few of Gbube’s Nigerian friends were at the party and they informed me that even if I visited Nigeria, I most likely wouldn’t be able to try such authentic food, as this type of food can only be found in someone’s home and is not sold at restaurants. What a lucky girl I am!

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My Meatballs Could Be a Winner

On a whim last week I decided to finally enter a recipe in one of my favorite site’s weekly competitions and lo and behold, I was selected as one of the two finalists! I found food52 a few months ago and it has fast become one of the sites that I read on a daily basis. They have great innovative recipes and interesting food related articles and snippets.

The contest was “Your Best Meatballs” and the recipe I entered was Kefta Style Meatballs with Grilled Grapes and Yogurt Sauce. I know at first it can sound a bit odd, but it’s one of my favorite things to make and the leftovers are great for pita sandwiches the next day or even for breakfast with eggs. Check it out and even vote for it too if you like, but I’m fairly sure regardless that food52 could soon become regular part of your online browsing. Now I have to get back to studying, I have my Intermediate cuisine practical exam tomorrow and patisserie on Monday…I can’t believe that I am already 2/3 the way done with LCB!

(UPDATE: Unfortunately, I did not win the contest, but as the losers always say, it was an honor just to be nominated.)

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Paris Pinch-Myself-Moment: Number 4,862

Pinch-myself-moments seem to be a normal occurrence in my Parisian life. You know what I am talking about; those moments that you can’t believe are real, when you want to pinch yourself to see if you’ll wake up, because it’s so great that you feel as though you might be dreaming. (Oh and after seeing Inception, I’m thinking that it’s quite possible that the entire last five months might be one very long dream created by a very clever architect, but I suppose my neurosis surrounding that film is a whole other story.) Pinch-myself-moments happen to me when I’m least expecting it. I’ll be walking down the street and look up and spy the Eiffel Tower playing peek-a-boo between two buildings; I’ll be sitting in a café with some friends drinking numerous bottles of rosé because that’s what people do in Paris on a Sunday; or I’ll be in a practical class at school whipping what feels like my one hundredth bowl of egg whites (by hand) and I’ll stop for just a second in amazement and bask in the reality of my life.

About thirty minutes ago I had another one of those moments and I thought I’d share it with you, like the aforementioned examples of pinch-myself-moments, it wasn’t all that spectacular, but it was another reminder of how truly fortunate I am to be here in Paris. I was riding my bike home on one of my normal routes, when I happened to look up at a certain moment and see a beautiful angle of Saint-Sulpice Church backed by a lovely lavender Parisian sky, then I looked down to my bike basket filled with the wine, chunk of Roquefort cheese, pinot noir confiture, white peaches, and freshly baked walnut bread that I had just bought at Le Bon Marché and poof, just like that, a pinch-myself-moment. I warned you that it wasn’t spectacular, but it was just enough to remind me not to take it all for granted. Remind me that I need to enjoy the rainy days, just as much as the sunny days, because it’s on those rainy days that you get lovely lavender skies.

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Wow Foods: Category 2

Thankfully there is only one thing in this category:

Category 2: “Wow, that is the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten.”

Andouillette: During my Basic section of cuisine we had a market tour with one of our chefs. The chef was given $100 by the school and with a group of 10 we went to an open air market for some shopping and then returned to school to feast on our findings. Our group purchased a variety of normal market offerings: cheeses, charcuterie, fruit, breads; but we also purchased a few things that I hadn’t tried before: goose eggs, boudin noir (blood sausage), and andouillette (chitterling sausage). The goose egg was huge and greasy. The boudin noir, despite my timidity to taste it, was actually pretty tasty and not nearly as mineraley as I feared. The andouillette on the other hand was horrendous. In case you couldn’t tell from the translation, chitterling sausage, it’s made from pig’s colon. The taste is difficult to explain, but I’ll try. First of all the smell alone is nauseating, but I’ve come to learn that smell should not always be a deterrent as some very pungent smelling things have a much more appetizing taste (many soft cheeses for example). Andouillette is not such a thing. It has a very musty/old-dirty-sock smell and the taste, oh the taste is much, much more intense. I mean, I suppose it tastes how one might imagine colon to taste. It’s like that tent in your garage that has dust and dirt so deeply embedded into the fibers that no matter how much wash it and scrub it, it will always be somewhat dirty and dusty because the continuous exposure has made the dust and dirt one with the fabric. I think colon is like that. You can wash it, and soak it and even use chemicals, but it must be almost impossible to get rid of all traces of the “substances” that were being passed through it while it was in use. Not surprisingly, it’s considered an acquired taste, but you still find it on a fair number of menus in Paris. The other day I heard an American order it and somehow I could just tell that he did not know what he was getting into. I had a strong impulse to jump up and warn him, but lucky for me, the waitress saved me the embarrassment, because she must have had the same sixth sense as me. In a very un-French way (the French do not believe in getting involved in other people’s business), she asked him if he had ever had andouillette before. He must have realized from the tone of her voice that it was probably not the same as the spicy Cajun andouille sausage we have in the states and sensibly switched his order. I am all for trying new things and as a rule, I strongly encourage it…but regarding andouillette don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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My Hidden Kitchen Experience


It was amazing! Well I suppose when you have a 10-course-expertly-prepared meal with wine pairings at a beautiful apartment in Paris with 16 interesting strangers, it can’t exactly be anything but amazing. I really didn’t know what to expect going in but overall, it was way more professional and elegant than I imagined. Upon entering the apartment I was greeted by a black-apron-clad-Laura (one half of the Laura and Braden duo that IS Hidden Kitchen) with the most delicious lychee champagne cocktail. No really…it was the MOST delicious champagne cocktail I have ever had…and I have managed to fit an awful lot of champagne cocktails into my 26 years. I really wish I could remember what was in it, obviously champagne and a lychee and I know she said some type of vodka, but there was another sweet flavor too that I can’t quite put my finger on. I think I may have to email her for the recipe. Okay, I’m stopping the champagne cocktail tangent.

Champagne glass in hand, I mingled with the other diners in the foyer as we waited for everyone to arrive. There was a couple from DC visiting Paris for a long weekend, their first trip away from their two young children; two very stylish older women from Chicago, who were getting ready to depart for Namibia for an air safari; a middle-aged brother and sister, he a caterer in Napa and she from Southern California; a young student up from Milan where he is studying, who was supposed to be joined by his parents but they were detained by the pesky volcano; and last but certainly not least, there were the lively and lovely ladies that I was blessed to sit amongst, a group of women from Texas on an antique/flea market shopping trip organized by the Red Shed gals.

Now to the most important part of the evening…THE FOOD. Unfortunately, I realized half way through the meal that my flash was off, so I apologize for the dark pictures. As you all know, I love talking about food, but I think it would take a novella to write about each of the dishes, so I will primarily let the menu and pictures do the talking from here on out and only interject when I think absolutely necessary.

The Amuse

(chilled watercress soup, black pepper cracker and I’m sorry, I can’t remember what was on top, but I do remember that it was tasty)

Spring Vegetables, Poached Quail Egg and Green Goddess Dressing

2008 Domaine de Villargeau, Coteaux de Giennois


House-Made Tagliatelle with Radish Leaf Pesto, Asparagus and Ricotta Salata

2007 Château Pierre-Bise, Anjou “Le Haut de la Garde”

(the pasta was perfectly al dente and the ricotta salata added a wonderful salty balance to the freshness of the spring flavors)

Sautéed Salmon with Hibiscus Bay Leaf Sauce and Fingerling Potatoes

2008 Domain de Tremblay, Quincy

Mint Julep Palate Cleanser

(the picture isn’t clear, but it’s bourbon jell-o topped with a canelle of lime sorbet…a dressed-up/grown-up jell-o shot, the recipe is on their website, it makes me want to throw a Kentucky Derby party simply so I could serve these )

Chicken Liver Ravioli with Braised Artichoke and Preserved Lemon Couli

2008 Domaine de la Cotelleraie, La Croisée, Saint-Nicolas-de-Bourgueil

Flank Steak with Grilled Polenta, Avocado and Roasted Cherry Tomato

2008 Clos de l’Anhel, Corbieres, Les Terrasettes

(I didn’t think anyone could beat my mom’s polenta but this was pretty close, oh and the teeny-tiny dollop of blue cheese really rounded it all out, further proof that the smallest additions can make a huge difference)

White Bean, Dill and Beet Salad

(My favorite dish of the night…I know it sounds crazy considering all the amazing other dishes, but this was spectacular. It’s one of those dishes that makes me think of Willy Wonka, because I imagine if Willy Wonka was going to cook white beans they would taste just like this. They look like normal white beans, but taste so much more intense, like the flavor of 10 white beans injected into the shell of just 1)

Strawberry Tarragon Sorbet with Puff Pastry, Shiso Cream and Rhubarb Sauce

2008 Château Pierre-Bise, Cabernet D’Anjou

(I love strawberries and I love tarragon, so I could have eaten a tub of this sorbet, it really makes me wish my ice cream maker was in Paris instead of in a box in my parents attic. And after all the puff pastry I’ve been making in school, I was impressed by Laura’s homemade puff pastry, an admiral task considering you can get good quality stuff in the stores, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything less given all the other wonderful components of the meal)

Coffee and Doughnuts

(I think the bottom one was chocolate and almond, and the top one was rosewater with pistachio sugar)


At the end of the meal, after all their slaving away in the kitchen, Laura and Braden came out and joined us. We learned that they have been doing this for the last three years. It started off as a once a month dinner party for them to meet new people in Paris after they moved here post-college and has taken off to something bigger than they both ever imagined. They now host dinners 6 times a month and are already booked through September. The success really couldn’t have happen to two kinder, more deserving people. They are definitely inspirations for me that you can do something you love and actually make a living at it. Oh and to top it all off…they invited me to their annual black-tie birthday soirée for their Boston Terrier, Tati! Yeah, it’s a tough life.

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Christmas in April

Yep, it may as well be Christmas, because I just found out that I’ve been granted a seat at Hidden Kitchen for this Sunday night.  I’ve been on the waiting list since I arrived in Paris and luckily, I got that spot on the waiting list before the New York Times article came out a few weeks ago. HK is currently booked through September and I can’t imagine how long the waiting list is now. So hopefully you can understand my joy at being one of the chosen people for the weekend. I will definitely be writing a follow-up post about the experience, so make sure to tune in next week.

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