Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Pleasant Day in the Neighborhood

Sundays are the best days here at the Culinary Institute of America. Usually this place is a behive of activity on Mondays through Saturdays, most every week throughout the year.Today is rather relaxed because people are heading home at the end of the four day Thanksgiving feast.Where I am in the Atrium,stays open until 6PM which is in the main part of the building.The restaurant stays open until 9PM on weeknights and 10PM on weekends. The food is fabulous and the atmosphere is exquisite. I am feeling much chipper about my job today than yesterday for some reason.My whole attitude and outlook has changed.I am intuitively knowing how to handle situations which used to baffle me.Is this an extravagant promise? I think not. This attitude adjustment is being fulfilled rather quickly, because I am working at it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Long Hike

Yesterday, I went for a hike with the Sanchez brothers and their friend to the top of Mt. St. Helena. They were very proud of thier accomplishment as this video will attest. We packed our lunches and set off from Robert Louis Stevenson State Park on a four mile trek to the top of the mountain. The boys were enthusiastic but began to gripe after an hour that they were hungry. Sebastian Sanchez and I ran ahead of the two others and hid behind a rock as the boys began calling out for us. We then jumped out and scared them with a loud growl. This was the first stop along the way.

After a lunch of bologna sandwiches and a peanut butter power bar, we continued on to the top. A lot of rocks were hurled down the hillsides and we kept our eyes out for good hiking sticks. Eventually we were above the timber line and they could see the whole town of Calistoga for the first time. Alejandro remarked how small the cars were, as if we were viewing the town from an airplane. Two and a half hours after we started out, we finally made it to the top.

The hike back down was fun as we invented a guessing game about different categories like Action heros, songs, rocks, vegetables, etc. just to pass the time. Around 4 PM the sun was beginning to go down and we still had about an hour of daylight left before getting back to the car.

When we arrived back in Calistoga, eveyone was dog tired but happy that we had undertaken this challenge.

Serving and being served

Today is Thanksgiving and I will be attending dinner at my nephew Edward's house in Napa. I suspect that relatives and friends of Edward and Antonella will all be there. It is common for me to dread these family events, until I get myself through the door. After that, I am fine. Some years ago, I attended Thanksgiving dinner at my sister Martha's house in San Francisco. I was in charge of making the garlic mash potatoes ( I read recently that this particular culinary assignment was given to Lindsay Lohan by her family their Thanksgiving dinner... a token gesture a best). I can hear them whispering to each other in the kitchen, " Well, it would be hard for her to mess that up. Anyway, garlic mash potatoes have become my forte.´

The dish came out pretty well, actually. Martha liked them, as did my sister Ellen who was visiting from Australia. This made me feel pretty good because I had been experimenting with dill pickle juice as a way of bumping up the flavor. All in all, I was proud of my meager accomplishment. Preparing and hosting an ENTIRE EVENT is quite another matter. I have only hosted one of these types of gatherings as an adult.

While working at Indian Springs Spa, I was able to secure a few cottages at a special rate. Family members from the Midwest and points north arrived to enjoy the weekend in Calistoga. I had to work and at the same time was trying to organize a picnic at one of the local wineries .Hosting a family gathering and enjoying what you have organized is not the same thing. Needless to say, one of my nephews ended up getting lost and the picnic had to be moved to another location because the reservation for the space was going to be scrapped if not everyone arrived on time. It all worked out however, and we had ended up having the picnic at a local park.

This reorganization happened because my sister Martha took charge and updated the plans. This is typical. I'm not saying that I won't ever host a family event like this again... but the likelihood is pretty strong that I won't. Thankfully, my family members have learned to be flexible. Besides, there are others who do a much better job of pulling it off.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Worlds of Flavor Conference.

This video was shot as I perused the building during my break. It looks like a lot of activity was going on in the Ventura Center so I just focused the camera on what I thought looked interesting.John from Illy coffee was preparing an espresso for me as of everyone was buzzing with excitement over what Chef Bobby Chinn would be preparing and what trends from his French/Vietnamese palate would ensue.A lot of creative energy in the building was pushing things forward.Admittedly, I am not much of a videographer. All I know is to move the camera slowly and try not to be too jerky. The results are spontaneous and unplanned and it looks like it. I should prepare more ( like remembering to compress the videos before I upload them ).Another video will follow, so stay tuned !

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Worlds of Flavor 09'

Today is the final day of our annual three day "Worlds of Flavor Conference." This week, this month, and past year just flew by. Like last year, we invited some really amazing chefs as presenters. One fellow I knew very little about was Bobby Chinn, who's Vietnamese/French Cuisine background provided the WOW factor that was second to none. We had iron Chefs' Marimoto (who, by the way will be opening a restaurant in Napa ) Cat Cora, Seamus Mullen and Tex-Mex impresario, Rick Bayless. Moroccan Chef Mourad Lahlou and Violet Oon were up there presenting their latest creations.The theme was "Street Food and World Comfort Food" of Asia, Latin America and the Mediterranean. Last night, the marketplace on the second level of the building was filled with people enjoying everything from Squid, Pork rolls, Baklava, Peanut Satay, Lobster tail, Sliced Avocados with anchovies on a crostini, and the list goes on. I couldn't sleep much last night after trying to digest all that strange and glorious food. Now, you may ask, does a smiling seal have anything to do with this blog post?

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Chef Andrew's latest venture

I have created this logo following the directions given by Chef Andrew Wild and his supportive wife, Brenda. This image, I hope will bring much success to his catering business and his brand. Now that he is a proud poppa with a brand new son, I am certain that it is all systems go at this point. Perhaps one day, young Porter will be another talented chef in his own right... one never knows! Anyway, If you like this logo I am certain that you will enjoy the whole package that Andrew brings to the Culinary business.I wish him much success and prosperity.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

My Blue-Haired Grandniece

Here I thought that it was only old ladys who had blue hair.This is Cooper,who is my niece Marian's child. (who coincidentally looks a lot like her mother did when she was her age).She posted this pic on Facebook, and now little Cooper is a star on the internet.

This Halloween was uneventful for me. I drove home from work at 6 PM only to find throngs of kids roaming the main drag in Calistoga after the costume parade. The thing I found so perplexing was why the kids were then loaded onto these large buses to be transported three blocks to the fairgrounds !! I can understand the idea of having a safe Halloween party in one location, but these "helicopter" parents and the school board need to cut the kids some slack.I mean, it used to be that Halloween was the one night that kids get to assert a little independence and throw a water balloon or two. Hey, what six-grader doesn't want to "TP" old man Baxter's house just for giggles? I can just see the mothers after the kids get home from their neighborhood rounds,rifling through their goodies to make sure no one tossed a tampered candy bar in their bag.It was kind of sad for me because I only had the next door neighbor kid drop by, and the lucky bastard got all the whole bowl of goodies !