Monthly Archives: November 2009

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Sunday morning chocolate

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I arrived in San Diego at 7am on Sunday for the Christening of my 2 nieces.  I was, once again, made a Godmother.  As promised, I brought my sisters chocolates.  The plate, above, is a plate that my sister, Michelle’s, son made for his dad’s birthday.  Michelle asked me to platter a sampler of chocolates, then to plate flan…this was all at 7-8am.  The family had a SWEET breakfast.

Before the Christening, I hung out with Riva’s kids.IMG_1303IMG_1306IMG_1313

IMG_1315At the church, we spotted a maple tree, and of course we played with the leaves.  Then they spotted my mom, their grandmother, ran to greet her and we all went into the church to start the Christening, where I became Godmother to Lauren.

IMG_1367IMG_1317After church, we went to Hunan Chinese Restaurant.  As you know, I don’t most Chinese restaurants –  I’m a picky Chinese food eater… I am grateful that I was able to eat big meal, compliments of my 2 sisters with the babies, but it was pretty salty and starchy…the dishes I enjoyed most was the bird’s nest noodle basket and their spicy beef.  I always enjoy a kick of spice.

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Another thing I enjoyed very much was the cake.  Michelle hired a friend to make the cake – it was semi-homemade, but still, it tasted quite good!

I wish I was able to stay in San Diego longer than 10 hours, but I had to make my way back Los Angeles for school.  I ended the day with a 1.5-hour long drive back to Los Angeles and was happy to come home to my favorite Sunday night show, Madme.  I woke up at 4:20 to start another day at school.  I started a new class, Advanced Garde Manger.

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Soi 7

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Last Saturday I went to my friend, David’s, new restaurant, Soi 7, in Downtown Los Angeles.  Already knowing the cuisine would be top notch Thai food, my first thoughts as I walked through the door were, “Wow – well done!”.

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I was very impressed with the quality of materials used, from the marble-topped tables and bar countertops, deep tones of the walls that looked neverending, the chocolate-colored shelves that were floor to ceiling, tea cases in the tea room, the plates, napkins, everything.  Having known David for 7 years, I know his family gets a case shipped in from Thailand every month for their first restaurant, Green Papaya.  It was not a surprise to learn that everything was imported from Thailand, from the walls, light fixtures, even some of the cooks.  It was a 2-year project, they were “nervous as hell” to open but they should be proud.

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I arrived at 6:30pm and was one of the first patrons to arrive at the restaurant.  Not long after our arrival, the restaurant was bustling and everyone had a look of satisfaction and joy on their faces as they enjoyed the ambiance and the food.  Impressive were the extensive sake, sochu and tea lists.  We started with a sake that our server recommended, a bottle water imported from Europe.  IMG_1276

The modern Thai menu held up to the elegance, beauty, and quality of the restaurant’s aethetics.  We ordered the following…

Tom Yum Goong

Tom Yum Goong

Peyman loved the Tom Yum Goong soup.  It was a perfect balance of spicy and sour.  Since I’m allergic to shrimp, I watched Peyman slurp and heared his, “MMm”s and “oh yeah”s.  Sounds that indicated he was loving his meal.

Green Papaya Salad

Green Papaya Salad

Second, that came out was the green papaya salad…there’s another name for it – just can’t remember. It was so delicious. My mouth is watering as I write this…  The texture of green papaya is much more firm than a cucumber and the flavor was delicious.  I could taste fish sauce, maybe some citrus, and not sure what else.  It was just fantastic.

Spicy Hot Wings

Spicy Hot Wings

The spicy hot wings surprised me on the menu.  I was so happy the server recommended these.  They were cooked perfectly, had lots of meat on them.  The flavor was wonderful.

Beef Satay and Peanut Sauce

Beef Satay and Peanut Sauce

This is by far the best beef satay I’ve ever had.  It was sweet, garlicy, and so finger lickin’ good.  I’m craving some right now.

Yellow Curry with Chicken

Yellow Curry with Chicken

The yellow curry with chicken and vegetables was creamy and delicious.

We were stuffed, so we skipped the coconut and mango dessert.

I must say, Soi 7 is my favorite Thai restaurant in Southern California and I will be back again soon!

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Choco… Choco.. Chocolate.

Sacher Cake

Sacher Cake

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Today was my final day in Advanced Baking.  My departure from this class has been bittersweet.  Although I was ill throughout most of the class, my passion, hard work, dedication, and focus helped me to learn a great deal and to perform on top of my game.  At the end of class today, my chef instructor announced that I received the highest grade in her class.  Of course, I was very proud of my achievement and called my mom to tell her the good news!  I will miss my chef instructor, Chef Lomeli – she is awesome!  And I will miss creating pretty confections.  But really, I’m excited to start cooking real food again!

As a huge lover of chocolate, I didn’t think it was possible, but I experienced a chocolate overload in this class.  Days ago, I already grew tired of it so I gave my cakes away to my sister, Riva, who then had friends come over to share the chocolate goodness.  One of my favorite things to do is to put smiles on peoples’ faces.  This weekend, 2 of my newest nieces will be Christened in San Diego, and I’m going to be a Godmother for the 2nd time.  I packaged and stored my chocolates properly so that I can take them with me.  I hope they don’t melt because I’m sure my sisters will appreciate and enjoy them!  They were surprised to hear that I made chocolate candy in Baking class.  I, too, was surprised and was happy to have learned so much about what I had been curious about when at a bakery or restaurant.

I always wondered how bakers made such beautiful, seamless chocolate coatings on cakes, and yesterday I learned just how it was done.   The next time I coat a cake, I need to watch my temperature because I experienced blooming on my Sacher cake, which means I overheated my chocolate and now have grayish-white streaks.  Grayish -white streaks indicate improper tempering or storage.  Below is the Sacher cake, pronounced “soccer”.  It was pretty, but I didn’t care for the taste.  The cake has almond flour, sugar, cocoa powder…and I can’t remember the rest.  Then, I saturated the dry cake with a brandy simple syrup.  I filled the cake with apricot preserves, which I am not accustomed to.  If the cake had been a regular chocolate cake, I may have liked it.  The Sacher cake was too dense and not as sweet and rich as I like my chocolate cake to be.  I don’t see myself ever making the Sacher cake again, only using the technique to pour the chocolate glaze over a different cake and filling.  I now know how the people at the Ding Dong cake company coat their mini cakes.

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Another cake I made this week was the Gateau L’Opera cake.  Still, after considering all the cakes we made in Baking, I must say I loved the Chocolate Mousse Cake the best.  If I eat chocolate cake, I like it very decadent.  My last year living in Santa Cruz, I lived in a house with such good energy.  I actually lived with a couple and their 2 year old son, Matt, Miranda and Aedan.  I refer to them as my “hippie housemates”.  They belonged to an organic farm coop so every week, we’d get a crate full of organic crop.  This family taught me how to eat healthy, simply, and deliciously.  The matriarch of the family, Miranda taught birthing classes and living in the moment… she also spoke to me about living in the moment, without a television.  And not only did she teach me how to roast chicken and vegetables, she also taught me what chocolate cake should taste like.  She made the best chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted.  I believe she was given the recipe from her grandmother.  The cake is so good that she had a bakery use the recipe to bake their wedding cake.  Miranda liked me so much that she shared with me the secret recipe.  If I ever have a bakery or restaurant, I would sell this cake.  It is incredibly delicious!  I call it Miranda’s Grandma’s Chocolate Cake.

So back to what I learned in class.  Gateau L’Opera cake was a delight for my sis, Riva, and her friends, although they like Miranda’s Grandma’s Chocolate Cake better.  Riva remembers having L’Opera cake at bakeries and of the ones she’s tried, she said she likes mine best.  She thinks that bakers at the local bakeries may have attended the same culinary school, used the same recipe, and mine just turned out better.  I think she may be right.  Although the cake is beautiful, I can’t imagine myself making it for a living.  This cake was so time consuming and tedious.  I always say I’m not a perfectionist but my classmates tell me I am.  I think I am just anal and there’s a difference. The passive stress that resulted from making this cake killed me, but finally when all was said and done, I was so proud and loved it.  If Riva or any of my other loved ones wanted me to make this for a special occasion, I would.  I just can’t see myself working at a bakery, making these….

Gateau L'Opera cake, after thrashing around in my car... took the pic at Riva's house

Gateau L'Opera cake, after thrashing around in my car... took the pic at Riva's house

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Oh love, sweet love...

Oh love, sweet love...

We had to decorate the plate with a music theme.  I thought there was too much dead space

We had to decorate the plate with a music theme. I thought there was too much dead space

So I added lyrics from "The Sound of Music"... my chef instructor didn't get it... but it was old fashioned, like the something-phone that I drew....

So I added lyrics from "The Sound of Music"... my chef instructor didn't get it... but it was old fashioned, like the something-phone that I drew....

Like I’ve said before, I can’t draw but I can model clay, decorate a room or put things together and complete a look well…

IMG_1256In class, we spent a day making sweets for those with dietary restrictions.  This low fat chocolate tartlett was a team effort.  All I did was combine the crumbs and raspberry jam.  While I made our team’s low fat Creme Anglaise, Viviana made the tart shell and the chocolate custard.  I feel like Viviana made this alone.  Thanks, Viviana!

We served the low fat Creme Anglaise with a low fat, low sugar, Apple Spice Cake.   It was beautiful with a rich color and bouncy texture, but tasted low fat and low in sugar… I’m taking the bread down to San Diego too.  Oops, forgot to take a picture :P

IMG_1260Chef Lomeli felt that we were a special class and wanted to remember us by having our pictures taken.  I threw my camera over to the picture-taker.  I’m at the bottom left.

Practice Run - made this flan at home

Practice Run - made this flan at home

I made this flan for my final.. the caramel had a better color than the practice flan

I made this flan for my final.. the caramel had a better color than the practice flan

The humidity in the classroom caused my caramel garnishes to melt… I like my practice garnish much better, but the caramel color and shape of the flan was much more rich today.  I have about 10 flans in my fridge right now that I want to throw away if no one claims them by tomorrow.  Contact me if you want flan.  I’ll see what I can do.  By the way, it isn’t as good as my Auntie Delia’s Leche Flan.  She makes the best… but she also uses evaporated milk… it is incredibly rich and dreamy!

My truffle and cookie platter... my pride and joy

My truffle and cookie platter... my pride and joy

I made dark chocolate truffles with orange liqueur and orange zest, thank you Lalo for the Triple Sec and orange… I also made milk chocolate hazelnut truffles with a soothing orange sunset design… And in the middle are my sable’ cookies that turned out much better than two weeks ago.

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IMG_1270Since I am done with Advanced Baking – hallelujah!  I don’t have to work with chocolate anymore and I don’t have to worry about my calorie intake as much!  I swear I gain more weight in baking classes because of all the sugar that turns into fat because I don’t exercise!

I’m supposed to move this month  (across the street).. where I will take advantage of the nice gym with very good equipment.  I plan on hopping on the elliptical machine and treadmill so that I can slowly get back to my pre-culinary school weight.

Well, I hope you enjoy your weekend.  Till my next entry.  Happy eating!

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Halloween 2009 and candy-making!

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I love Fall, especially watching the leaves turn in my sister’s neighborhood.  I know, we live in Southern California and palm fronds don’t turn color, but where my sister lives there are tall deciduous maple trees.  Whenever around them, I take a moment to appreciate their splendor.  Not only do I enjoy watching the seasons change, I like feeling and breathing in the cooler air, and most of all, Halloween…it brings on so much excitement and anticipation!

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If my college buddies lived in the area and vice versa, I’m sure I would’ve gone to an exciting Halloween event.  Since they live in Northern California now, I spent the holiday with my family and Peyman.  At one point, three out of six of my sisters and I lived in Los Angeles.  Now it’s just Riva and me, and her growing family.  She now has 3 kids.  We are super close and I treat all 3 of them as if they were my own, the older two being twins.  Since the twins’ premature stages in life, I’ve always been there to help care for them.  Since there is a certain survival rate for premature babies, I made myself available to help Riva and Scott with their babies so they could survive and flourish.  They have survived and are growing so fast and so smart.  This year, like every year, we went to the shops at the Hollywood Riviera in Redondo Beach to trick or treat, then we trick or treated around their neighborhood and they passed out candy at home to other children.  It was fun.  I finished my night at home watching a movie with Peyman, while chomping on Halloween candy.  I can feel the candy (mostly chocolate) taking a toll on me.  I can see it on my face and feel it when I step into my pants.  As of tomorrow, I need to go on a very lowfat diet for about 2 weeks.

It’s going to be tough since I made a ton of chocolate in class today!!!

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Going into class today, I thought I’d have a lot of fun making chocolate confections.  I did have a lot of fun, but at the same time, it was a huge challenge.  In order for one to be a good chocolatier, one must be a good planner, a multi-tasker, and the temperature in the room should be controlled.

I tortured myself again by getting only 4 hours of sleep last night.  My eyes felt heavy throughout the day, but I was determined to get my chocolate truffles perfectly round and my other chocolates to look sexy and gorgeous.  I think I could have done better if I had a bit more time and if the weather and temperature in class worked with me.  To start, my chocolate fillings were not cooperating.  I tried cutting my milk chocolate squares but they kept cracking on me- they were too cold while other students’ were the perfect temperature.  My dark chocolate truffle was sensitive to my touch, as they kept melting in my hand.  I had to work hard and in the cold walk-in refrigerator to roll them up into perfect balls.  That set me back all day.  To catch up, I didn’t clean as much as I should’ve so my station looked like a gloppy mess.  I had chocolate all over me!

Although I was a mess and I had a rough start, I was pleased with the end result.

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I also learned something about myself.  I work best with things that are not so temperamental, be it a person or chocolate.  Although I love the taste and texture and all the benefits I get from chocolate, I don’t like working with it all on it’s own.  Chocolate is so sensitive – there’s such a slim window of time that you can dip your chocolate.  If you go outside the window, you get what is called “bloomed” chocolate, where you see white streaks…and those streaks are a real pain in the ass.

I appreciate that I learned how to make chocolate, but I don’t see myself making chocolates for a living…I don’t have the patience or right body temperature for chocolate-making.  The only types of chocolates I could see myself making in the future are caramel marshmallow chocolates.  There’s a chocolate store in Beverly Hills, I forgot what it’s called… it’s on Canon and Little Santa Monica Blvd, next to Il Tremezzio…. they have the best caramel marshmallow chocolate candies…I love, love, love them.  For an extra special occasion, I’d put in the effort to make those.  Also, one day soon I’d like to try to make rose truffles, with white chocolate… my favorite.  I wonder if I can make them better than they do in Santa Cruz, at Chocolate. I’m sure I can make them more appealing to the eye, but I’m not sure if I can flavor them as dreamy as they do.  I’d like to try!

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Oh yeah, we made marshmallows too.  This one is a peppermint marshmallow.

Oh yeah, we made marshmallows too. This one is a peppermint marshmallow. Almost looks like a smurf...

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