Monday, April 27, 2009

cost breakdown in plain english

It's the labor, that's why. Someone mixed this dough, laminated this dough, cut this dough in to individual pieces with a very large knife and then rolled each individual piece in to a rope, and coiled each rope into that lovely danish you're admiring. By hand. Over and over again.

That's why your perfect Saturday breakfast costs what it does.

In case you were wondering.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

sustenance without food

I admit it, I can be single minded. I can bore my coworkers with the history of rhubarb, cure my sweetheart's insomnia with possible dinner menus and even make myself crazy thinking about food.

It's easy to get caught up. There are so many tools available to connect us with other cooks the world over, even with the odd hours we keep, and hash out recipes for the perfect lemon tart. At any given moment, there is someone ready to discuss whether that amuse bouche really did set the tone for the meal or the tragedy of an unappreciated dessert item. Scientific evaluations on the roasting of potatoes and snarky gossip. Thoughtful poetry on a chef's inspirations and useful hints on a home garden. And I am so so tempted, if not to chime in, then to at least observe the diatribes. Information junkie that I am, I want to sample it all. I have to force myself to walk away.

The world does not exist solely within the rim of a plate.

In fact, some of the best parts don't involve plates at all. And maybe, if I'm really lucky, they can serve to inspire anyway. The cooks I most admire talk about sculpture and nature, science, architecture, literature, politics, art, philosophy and make hardcore use of their free time. Sure, they can talk food at length but that conversation is layered with everything else they know. More importantly, they bring everything else into their food, enriching it in a way that can't be taught. There is value not only in devoted study but in the exploration of other disciplines.

I guess even cooks need hobbies.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A question of Raspberries

Rhubarb has taken over my world, pies, turnovers and cases in the walk-in. The danish doesn't even have apples on it anymore and I thought that would be one of the holdouts. Yeah, sure there is a rhubarb apple pie, but seasons don't change overnight. Lemon curd still lingers. We're all looking ahead to strawberries. And savory is in on it too with rapini that makes me flat out hungry every time it is prepped.

But we also have a cake with raspberry buttercream. Now, it's raspberries that we got fresh and froze ourselves back in warmer times, but still, the berry bushes are spindly, mostly leafless and invisible. Even the plum tree in my back yard is barely past budding. So is this ok? A slippery slope? Where do you need to cross the seasonality line? When is chocolate's season, really?

Regardless, it is a damn good cake. And that's a slippery slope too. Someday I'm going to be the one deciding where the line is. What happens when it is a bad year for raspberries? Does an item like this, one of our cake staples, fall off the menu? Or do you devote what supply you have to just this item and change out something else? This is what I am learning about now. Good lessons.