My Life. My Fruit Tarts.


Fruit Tart I made in class

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I just spent an hour briskly walking along Torrance and Redondo Beach.  It felt good being out on such a gorgeous day, breathing in fresh ocean air, and feeling the sunlight on my skin, not bothered by passersby.  During my moments of peace, I thought about my life and how I want to live, this day forward.  I’ve always believed that Love is for Life and that good, positive relationships are necessary to live a happy life.  

Since my last entry, much has happened in my life.  I now work a regular schedule at Tavern, in pastry – working during the day on weekdays and working the line (plating dessert) on weekends; I have been star struck at work many times, at the restaurant, and especially catering an Oscar party at the CAA president’s house; I have a much more modest yet powerful car; and I recently relocated near the ocean – for how long, I’m not sure.  

Ever since I relocated, I’ve been trying to figure myself out.  I want to love who I am more and live a happy and balanced life, so I can affect those around me more positively.  Today, on my walk, I was thinking about what makes me happy.  I’m most happy when I do things I enjoy most.  I was thinking, if I could have, on occasion, my alone time to reflect and enjoy beautiful scenery, be surrounded by and/or in touch with those I love most in the world, cook and eat deliciously, work where I work today, write, stay physically active and fit, and make money at the same time, I would be a very happy person.  Today, I have most of these things except for the money part.   

Going into culinary school, I didn’t realize how much money I’d actually make starting off in the industry.  My ultimate goal in the industry has been to open up my own shop, hopefully franchise it so I can eventually sell it.  Some of my family members would be my partners/investors in the business.  They’ve been watching me struggle financially, but they understand that working at the Tavern is a sacrifice I’m making for our future business – it truly is a great training ground.  I’m working with and learning from the best and that’s what makes me happy about staying there.  I am not going to start a business without the necessary skill and expertise.  In February, Suzanne Goin asked me to stay at least a year, if given a position to work for one of her restaurants.  I gave her my word and I don’t regret it.  I’m reaping the benefits –  I learned a ton from the Lucques staff in catering and in the savory side and I learn new things everyday at Tavern in pastry.  

The only thing is, I had been relying on others to help me keep afloat, financially, and it’s taken its toll on my relationships.  I need to be self-sufficient again.  I need to make this work, stay with this job and be financially independent.  I’ve been looking for a second job, waitressing at a restaurant or a bar, but I don’t really want to do that type of work – I’m afraid it will tire me out…plus, the last time I waitressed, in 2002, I got hit on by men all the time- I don’t need that right now.  Ok, maybe I’m just making excuses.  

Ideally, I’d want to have the morning shift at Tavern so I can do more Lucques Catering gigs, which happen on weekends in the evening.  That would help me out a lot, since catering jobs pay much more and I could probably sell real estate (build capital) with such a schedule.  Since the early morning shift is not available at this time, I need to do something today.  But I want to do something I love and enjoy.

Breanne, our pastry chef, once asked me, “what do you like making most in pastry?..at home?”.  I told her I love making tarts, not just any kind of tarts, fruit tarts.  I think they are delightful, delicious, and fun to make – plus, my oldest sister told me those were the best fruit tarts she’s ever had.  I believe her because she’s had a lot of experience eating pastries.  But seriously, I have been told that I make a good fruit tart by those with the most discriminating taste. 

If anything, one thing I have mastered is the mini fruit tart (which we served at my sister, Riva’s, Baby Shower tea party).  Now, I am working on mastering the regular-sized fruit tart.  I’m just about there.

During college, my best friend, Susan, introduced me to the best fruit tart ever.  From Santa Cruz, she’d drive to a farm in Watsonville, where she’d pick up this masterpiece.  I think I have the crust and filling down… I just need the ollalie (sp?) berries.  I’m making a fruit tart this week for Susan and hopefully we’ll recreate what we loved best about the fruit tart we had up north.

So, where am I going with all this fruit tart talk?  I have decided to specialize in fruit tarts in the Los Angeles area.  Maybe I’ll get somewhere with this, maybe Wholefoods will pick up my fruit tart line.  Maybe I’ll make tarts other than fruit tarts.  But for now, as a side gig, I want to make fruit tarts, large and small.  If interested, and if you’re in the Los Angeles area, I’m taking fruit tart orders today.  Mini, bulk, 6-inch, 9-inch, 12-inch mixed fruit tarts.  Please order 48 hours in advance.  Email me if interested for pricing and delivery.

I’m going to get ready for another night at work.  I’ll keep you updated with my fruit tart business and other food news.  

I hope you enjoy your day!  Bon Appetite!

 

 

The slice I had this morning

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Where am I now?

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As you know, in mid-February I wasn’t sure where I was going to be in the restaurant – in the savory or sweet area.  I staged/trailed in pastry and liked it a lot- so much that immediately after I finished my externship at Lucques, I began an internship at Tavern in pastry.  Thankfully, I loved it and sometime between then and now, maybe the first of March, I was hired full-time to work in pastry at Tavern!….Yaahooo!

Since I’ve been at Tavern, I’ve been fortunate and very happy to experience things that I know a lot of people, right out of culinary school, don’t get the opportunity to experience.  During the first days of my internship, I was deeply entrenched with cupcake-making…making 1,400 cupcakes, to be exact.

Our very talented pastry chef, Breanne, was invited to compete in the annual Nestle Cupcake Challenge, where she was to produce 1,400 mini cupcakes.  Happily, she asked me to assist and join her and Sarah (another pastry gal) at the event.  We helped Breanne bake off 1,400 cupcakes, transport them, decorate, and plate them at the event.

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Essentially, we were at Cupcake Palooza – a cupcake fanatic convention, where cupcake fiends vote for the best cupcakes in 4 or so different categories.  We were rookies to the competition so didn’t know we should have made a huge sign that said, “vote for cupcake #37”.

Scours of people were picking up cupcakes, left and right, with tupperware and cake boxes to fill.  While Breanne introduced herself and the cupcakes to the crowd of judges, Sarah decorated and I re-plated the cupcake stands.  I think it went on for 4 hours or so, but it didn’t seem that long… I guess I was having too much fun.IMG_2894

The flavors that were entered into the contest were 1) Tahitian Vanilla cupcake and 2) Chocolate with Salted Caramel.

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The Tahitian vanilla cupcake was jam-packed with an intense vanilla cake flavor.  Piped inside and on top was a scrumptious vanilla-flavored cream…I believe it was a bavarian whipped cream, and boy was it good!

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This picture didn’t capture how beautiful these were.  In person, these pieces of heaven were like pieces of jewelry.  Not only did they look fabulous, they tasted incredible.  Piped inside the rich chocolate cake was salted caramel and piped on top was salted caramel buttercream, garnished with gold leaf and a mini macaroon cap.  I took this picture late in the afternoon, when the lighting took a toll on the buttercream.  Wish you could have been there to taste and see…and vote!

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Sadly, the cupcakes did not win the competition.  I’m sure it’s because people didn’t know what number our cupcakes were when they voted.  As I walked around, checking out the competition, a bunch of cupcake junkies told me they really loved the Tahitian vanilla.  I was sure it would win.  To our dismay, our neighboring table, with a framed number, was a winner…they won with an inventive banana nut cake with carmelized banana on top.  It was good.. but so sweet and so close to being a bread, not cake.  Ok, I’m a little bitter about this defeat…but for good reason.

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After bartering our cupcakes with the other contestants’ cupcakes and tasting them, I still think Breanne’s cupcakes were the best in taste and in presentation.  Although the cupcakes didn’t win, it was fun and an experience I will never forget…and, there’s always next year!

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In my eyes, we were winners… so cheers to that!

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Since the competition, at Tavern, I’ve learned so much in production.  Having been there for a little over a month, all the pages in my notebook are just about full.  In the pastry department (is department the right word?), there is so much to produce, having a Larder with already-made goods in a deli case and on cake stands.  Also, Tavern is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (not to mention, on most holidays).  In addition, we make pastries for the Malibu Hotel.  Everyday I learn something new and to me, that’s exciting and what I enjoy most about working at the restaurant.  So far I’ve made different ice creams, sorbets, pies, cookies, cake batters, sauces, built and dipped in chocolate a bunch of sweets, and the list goes on…

Once officially hired on as an employee, I started plating.  In addition to production, I now plate desserts and cheese plates.  I like plating desserts more than plating cheese and charcuterie because I don’t know too much about cheese and charcuterie, I’m not too fond of some of the sticky, stinky cheeses (yet), and there are many components to a certain plate that I try my best to make look nice.  Of all the things I do in pastry, I love production.  It is, in some way, very therapeutic and rewarding to see the end result.

Another cool thing about work, I find it exciting and fun to watch our pastry chefs experiment with new recipes and to create seasonal items.  It keeps things interesting and so much fun.  Like this week, Breanne made these awesome Easter marshmallow peeps.  For St. Patrick’s Day, they made a decadent chocolate Guinness cake with a chocolate stout glaze…so good!  There were a few other new items that I don’t know the names of yet.  Check out Breanne’s blog for unique and exciting creations she brings to Tavern, http://bitesofsugar.blogspot.com/.

So, this is where I’ve been… at Tavern, http://www.tavernla.com/.  I look forward to getting accustomed to plating dinner desserts on the busiest days of the week and getting better at multi-tasking.  I’m happy to be working with great people and for a solid family of restaurants.  Through this family, I’m also able to cater with Lucques Catering. This month I had such an incredible time catering an Oscar party and catering a Madmen-themed party, seeing so many celebrities up close.  I think I may discuss these events in my next post.

For now, it’s time to say good night, sweet dreams, bon appetite and I’ll talk to you later…

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My Restaurants of Choice

When I was introduced to the Zagat guide in 1999, I didn’t want to waste my time or deprive my taste buds.  In doing so, I visited several restaurants ranked 24 and above in food, according to the Zagat – now that was living!  Today my favorite restaurants include Lucques, Izayoi, Loteria Grill, Crustacean, and Water Grill in Los Angeles.  For 5 years of my life, I lived in Santa Cruz. My favorite spots in Santa Cruz are Star Bene, Cafe Brasil, and Pink Godzilla.  Why are these my favorite restaurants?

My most memorable lunch took place at Lucques.  I actually ordered a brunch item, eggs benedict.  I remember taking my first bite, which almost brought me to tears and gave me goose bumps.  This eggs benedict was like no other.  The poached egg, canadian bacon, bread and hollandaise sauce were so light and perfectly balanced.  It sat on a bed of greens that were magical. I remember asking myself, “how did they do this? what were these leaves tossed in? I want to know what’s in this dressing!”.  As a self-claimed eggs benedict connoisseur, I named Lucques’ eggs benedict the world’s best eggs benedict.  It brought on pleasure that I’d never experienced before…in food.  Sadly, Lucques no longer serves this. However, everything on their menu is excellent.  I’ve loved  just about everything I’ve tasted there, especially their soups and desserts.

Izayoi is the Japanese spot where my boyfriend and I have dinner religiously every week.  We start with their green salad, my favorite! It’s packed with beautiful color and texture from an assortment of greens and thinly sliced onion.  There’s also a nice crunch from what I believe is thin strips of fried daikon.  The salad dressing is wonderful with a special miso flavor- I could easily eat this everyday!  Izayoi has a unique menu.  They have your traditional raw fish varieties as well as small plates that have an authentic feel and taste.  Some are very inventive, like the toro katsu.  While the food has an authentic feel, the restaurant is contemporary in style.  If you’re ever in the Downtown LA area, give this place a try.  I love this place.

Loteria Grill at the Grove’s farmer’s market is really special.  Whenever I’m at the Grove around lunch or dinnertime, I walk over to Loteria Grill and order the same thing over and over, chicken enchiladas de mole.  It is so good!  It’s served with black beans and their signature green rice.  The rice has an usual yet nice flavor.  It’s fragrant, almost minty or cilatro-y flavor – not sure what it is, but I like it.  It’s delicious.  I always pour salsa into my rice since I like a lot of heat, but without the salsa it’s still delicious.  Growing up in Chula Vista (it’s about a 5 minute freeway drive from the San Diego/Mexican border), I was always a fan of mole.  Mole’s flavor is almost chocolate-like and I’m a chocolate-lover.  I love mole’s sweetness and richness.  When you take a bite into Loteria Grill’s chicken enchilada smothered in mole sauce and add a little rice and beans to your bite, it’s like dynamite..an explosion of some of the most sophisticated flavors I’ve had in Mexican cuisine.

Crustacean is a restaurant everyone should try at least once in their life.  This is a great place to have a birthday, anniversary, or any special occasion dinner.  My recommendation is to have a glass of your favorite white wine with an order of the restaurant’s famous roasted crab – cracked whole dungeness crab with a secret garlic sauce. And don’t forget the garlic noodles!  Crustacean’s garlic seasoned crab is the best crab I’ve had.  The first time I tried it, I couldn’t stop talking about it!

Water Grill is another restaurant that is perfect for a special occasion.  My boyfriend brought me to Water Grill 2 years ago for my birthday and the staff made my day extra special.  Upon being seated, on the table was an envelope with my name handwritten on it.  It was a birthday card from the restaurant.  Also, the menu had my name printed at the top of it.  I loved the personalized touches.  They have a wonderful wine list.  To start we had mouthwatering oysters served with several dipping sauces, the champagne sauce (my favorite) is so divine.  Their seafood is fresh and delicious.  I had the scallops and they were rich and succulent, dripping with flavor.  The dessert paired with a recommended dessert wine made the experience even more memorable.

Pink Godzilla in Santa Cruz is so much fun.  They have a creative sushi menu.  My favorite roll is the Jimmy roll.  It has tuna, avocado, cucumber, macadamia nuts, and sesame seeds.  As you can imagine, it’s packed with a great crunch from the cucumber, macadamia nuts, and sesame seeds, and it’s delightfully fresh with the avocado and cucumber in the mix.  It’s refreshing and satisfying.  Their other rolls are great too.

Star Bene is a very intimate and authentic Italian restaurant in Santa Cruz.  They have the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted.  The texture is perfect- they almost melt in your mouth.  If you’re ever in Santa Cruz, I recommend trying their gnocchi.  The gorgonzola sauce is really good with pancetta and peas.

Cafe Brasil in Santa Cruz is a nice breakfast and lunch spot.   In college, there was great energy in this cute, bright and cozy restaurant.  Cafe Brasil serves up delicious food, some of it is vegetarian too.  My favorite lunch was the Grilled Chicken Breast A Francesa.  The grilled chicken breast is served with sauteed onions, green peas, ham, and amazing french fries.  Rice, farofa, and salad is served alongside.  If you’re ever in Santa Cruz, I recommend breakfast or lunch at Cafe Brasil.

One more place in Santa Cruz that’s worth mentioning… Chocolate.  It’s a cafe where they serve food and sell chocolates.  I love their rose truffles.  They are so light with a touch of rose water… so nice.  When in Santa Cruz, I try to pick one or two up.  I actually have more recommendations, but I’ll put that list together some other day!..like Marianne’s Ice Cream‘s pumpkin ice cream… ok, I’ll save this for later.

Restaurants I still want to try are Mozza in Los Angeles and French Laundry in Yountville.

I came close to dining at French Laundry last year.  My boyfriend, Peyman, surprised me with a trip to Napa Valley for my birthday.  He knew I always wanted to go to French Laundry but he didn’t know we needed to make reservations a few months in advance.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to taste their famous, full-of-emotion creations.  However, we were able to delight ourselves with fantastic wines in the surrounding area, Napa Valley.  Luckily, one of my best friends works at a vineyard and was able to give us a nice tour while comping a lot of our tastings! (thanks, Rosy!)  We loved wines at Darioush and Caymus vineyards most!  I love full-bodied wines like Shiraz and Zinfandel and I enjoyed everything I tasted at those two wineries…even the Merlot (at Darioush)!

In Napa, we stayed at the Cottages of Napa Valley, which I highly recommend.  When we arrived, there was a little bucket of gourmet snacks, a bottle of wine, and other special touches.  I loved waking up and having a basket on the porch filled with fresh pastries from Bouchon Bakery, fresh fruit, orange juice, and a newspaper.  What a special place!

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This entry is pretty long so I will end it here.  I hope you were able to learn a little about me and what I consider to be delicious.

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