Thursday, November 13, 2008

impromptu lunch- updated

I am looking for suggestions for today's lunch. A coworker is taking couple of us out and I can't decide. My only requests are it be a locally, independently owned restaurant, reasonably priced, >$10/lunch and has good parking because she hates parallel parking. Imagine all those wonderful places she hasn’t tried because they had parallel parking.

Something along the lines of courtyard on the main; I've already been to courtyard so I want to try something else.


We ended up at Washington Platform on Elm Street. I didn't know they served lunch or else I would have tried them a lot sooner. The coworker that drove recommended it. While it has a relaxed, bar feel to it, the service and food is anything but that. I ordered a mandarin chicken salad, the other individuals chose Elm Street Club and Court Street Club with fries. The presentation of my salad was of a Chef's salad with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers on one side, olives on the other and the chicken salad piled high on top of lettuce. The chicken salad was crunchy, sweet and meaty all at once; it was really good, different but good. The twist on theirs was the finely chopped walnuts and small diced mandarins. I expected a mixed salad with slices of mandarin oranges but this was much better. Our server was fantastic- she refilled our waters on que and was very friendly. I tried a fry and didn't care for them because they had a bad after taste, somewhat like the fries from a fast food joint. However the coworker that ordered them liked and raved about them. They also enjoyed their clubs. Washington Platform wasn't on my radar for lunch but now that I know they have good service and great food, I'll stop by for a quick meal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Brunch for the Ladies

I hosted a brunch for a group of my friends catered by me. It was my first time "catering" and hopefully one of many learning experiences for the future in food business. I have few ideas on how I want to serve food and in what capacity. One of which includes catering private parties of 4- 12 people. Another is opening a food truck, one woman show, serving slow food fast. That sounds contradictory but its roots are vaguely based on the slow food movement. My take on it includes creating food from locally and seasonally grown ingredients and serving the breakfast and lunch crowd that have limited time. Personal chef for few families is another concept that has crossed my mind. As you can see I have not honed down the concept of my dream business, yet.

For brunch everyone choose from baked eggs and frittata. With that they were served fresh fruit, farm raised pork bacon or sausage and homemade bread. Most chose baked eggs and one picked frittata. I think they all secretly wanted both. I used Mark Bittman’s recipe and video as a guide.

Baked Eggs with Ham, Swiss Chard and Tomatoes

8 tomato slices
Smoked boneless ham steaks, cubed
swiss chard leaves torn from the stalks
8 eggs
salt & pepper
8 ramekins

Lightly brown the cubed ham in a non stick skillet on medium heat; stir occasionally so the ham doesn’t brown too much on one side. Allow time to cool.

The recipe (actually all baked eggs recipes) calls for basic ramekins for baking. And instead, I used small bowls for a fancier presentation. a bad mistake.

In each individual ramekin, layer with a slice of tomato, freshly cracked black pepper, few (be generous) pieces of ham and couple swiss chard leaves. Salt isn’t necessary because ham is salty and will flavor the veggies. Crack two eggs per serving and finish with salt and pepper. The recipe says to bake it for 15 minutes in the oven. I baked mine for 20 minutes. When I served the eggs, couple people said the eggs were still runny, possibly raw. Initially when everyone sat down to eat, they had homemade bread and butter, fruits, bacon and sausage in front of them. When the eggs went back in the oven for 20 more minutes people continued to munch on the pork products and homemade bread and butter. As a general rule of human behavior, I learned if you sit people down to eat, they will be hungry.

The friends thought eggs tasted great even after 40 minutes of baking. I personally think they were overdone; a few looked like they were scrambled while others’ looked like they were hard boiled eggs with a dry yolk. I was disappointed in the outcome and the time disparity.

We speculated that it could be an array of things. Instead of using fancy curved bowls, I ought to stick to ramekins. Because the ramekins are flatter, the eggs would cook evenly. Another mistake was using uncooked swiss chard which released its water while baking and required a longer baking time as opposed to cooked or sautéed. I did not butter the bowls and that’s an important step I must remember. Although it didn’t affect the overall outcome, the butter will definitely keep the eggs from sticking.

The homemade bread and butter got a lot of action while the eggs were in the oven. Liz offered to bring fruit for the brunch, and she also came with homemade, oh so damn good, butter. Read all about it here. Thanks Liz. And the homemade bread was a no knead bread recipe that was easy and delicious, if I must say so myself. If I say it’s easy, it’s easy. I am not a baker by any means but this tasted fantastic for someone that hates measuring.

This catered brunch was a test for me to prepare food successfully and on time. I am mostly satisfied with the outcome. The baked eggs were a learning opportunity, while the frittata was a hit –recipe to follow. It reinforced my passion for food and the potential for future endeavors. More importantly, I appreciate my friends that volunteered to be guinea pigs for the experiment and being kind enough to give high marks on the baked eggs even with the mishaps. I hope you continue to sign up for future experiments!

For the blog readers, I want to hear from you- have you successfully made baked eggs? Any tips or suggestions?