Petite Abeille

Sunday Night, January 31st–So I thought that we would try out a place recommended by a former teaching colleague of mine. I went online of course, while at school to check it out.

I was afraid that the place would look like the picture. The small pic I saw made it appear like I was walking into a plain, tall walled kitchen in someones farm-house, simple but modern farmhouse. So I was vacillating between there and the Tribeca Grill. I finally met up with my other half and we proceeded to go. So after I got yelled and the silent but abrupt treatment we made our way to Petite Abielle. On the way I remembered that I had made a reservation at the Tribeca Grill (the snooty guy was like, well we are somewhat booked, blah, blah) so I made a reservation. Being one of etiquette I wanted to call to cancel but then I quickly changed my mind as it was about that time I would have sat down to eat there, and I was pulling up to Petite Abielle (PA) and realized I did not called ahead either. So I called and as we passed the front door I told them I would be there in about 10 minutes (more like 3).

They had heavy curtains as you entered–dark magician like ones. You felt like you were entering Cirque Du Soleil. I think it may have been to kill the draft. New York has been frigid some days. So it is a long sort of place with booths on both sides down the middle and on the street facing wall, double tables. We sat in the back and we could view the kitchen if we liked but the divider was high enough. To the back of us was the gelato stand. Why did I have to see that! I immediately started planning my strategy for eating.

The waiter had a thick accent, almost like he had a moth full of thick peanut butter. His words came out sounding fancy but you could barely understand what he was saying–we did fortunately as we are super patient. He spoke so softly yet you could see he was struggling to speak. I could hear the music over him-cool eighties classics.

We began with some beer. Mine was slightly sweetened, like a stout. For an appetizer we had three cheese croquettes, with a side of mixed greens. YUMMY in our tummies. For dinner I ordered the chicken stew (Vol Au Vent) with tiny what we think was onions and fries. The chx stew has a top like a well done chix pot pie, but in a square, which was cool. That was about as fancy as it got. The stew was okay. On a scale from 1-10, it was a 5. It was just average. The sauce was semi-thick but no real strong flavor. It was not even creamy tasting-like a buttery milk taste :). (whatever that is) So my other half was struggling with his NY Strip Steak and fries, w/a side order of Ratatouille. The steak was particularly trying.

I had stopped eating about 1/2 way through, or maybe 3/5 of the way. I wanted dessert. I had seen two chicks with a waffle. My waffle dream is a crispy golden waffle with some flavoring, topped with fudge, strawberries, chopped pecans or walnuts and a scoop of frozen yogurt-whatever is available some times. Well that was not on the menu so I was kind of disappointed. So we took our food to go and I ordered Tart Tatin–a warm caramelized apple tart. Actually it tasted like a super light pastry, with chunky apple sauce on top. I was not sure what the caramelized part was about–still waiting to experience it. It was warm and we had a scoop of pistachio gelato. It was good. It was not super sweet. I would say on a scale of 1-10, I give it about a 5.7 almost 6. I think it was the softness, like a dainty woman that I will remember.

So we had left overs on Monday. Some people I know abhor left overs. (so they say) They feel that the food is not good or the same. !!Spoken like a true first world-er.!! So actually, when food is eaten the second time around (some), the seasons and juices have had a chance to sink in and really flavor the food. If you agree with me let me know. I mean the same applies when people marinate overnight, right. Share your comments below. I check daily.

As for the strip steak–the second day goodness did not exist. I had a piece and felt like I was eating raw tasting food, though it was fully cooked. (that could be it too, but that is one of the reasons I don’t eat steak) We scarfed the rest of the food with some coleslaw made from cabbage in class and some tartar sauce from home. We also ate the veggies we cooked in class.

The PA I went to was on 20th street. Maybe the other one on West Broadway may be better.

If you go, let me know so I can go try. Also if you know of any other Belgian places, let us all know.

Cheers and enjoy life!

Day 3 Cooking Class

It has been a tiring last few days as you can see also busy. I am posting at this late hour after finishing a paper on black pepper. BTW we have guest over so I had to take a while out to be social.

So today we learned about culinary math. I was a little behind and when he called on me, I fumbled but that will not happen again. Balancing time is essential. We spent much of the morning going over how to calculate food that could be reused–the scraps that one would tend to throw away. It is a money maker, rather than the steak or rack of lamb. You can turn steak scraps into about 3 other dishes. We also learned how to scale recipes–so lets say you have a recipe for 24 servings but you need for 30 people, there is a formula for that. I want to ask him if the same applies for halving a recipe, especially if the recipe calls for 1 egg. Would you seriously put half an egg–I guess you could but I want to make sure that a certain amount of egg is not needed for the process. I have never seen a recipe for 1.5 or 2.5 eggs.

In the evening we cut more potatoes, carrots, onions and the newbie, shallots. We also cut broccoli and string beans. Then we cut cabbage and salted it. We shall see the results tomorrow. In the end we started using the stove. YAY COOKING. [side bar–in the morning we came in and it was fairly breezy. I was glad I wore a shirt underneath my jacket. It was not cold but it was a constant breeze that was cool. My pores were raised slightly. When we came back from lunch, all the burners were on. I mean all. We have about 24. Yeah–ALL 24 and water was boiling. It boiled for about 2 hours.–Warm-ness had returned to the kitchen] We made mash potatoes, the high class way. It took an hour. Who thinks up these things? We boiled tons of butter and cream. We also boiled vegetables the “proper” way and later served that and out potatoes to the chef.

We got an excellent on the potatoes. We even got to take home tubs of our food. YAY my money is going to good use.

I am tired and must be awake for class. I did not have time to scan the readings–I guess that is what early morning jam sessions are for.

Cheers and if you have any questions on these high class processes, let me know.

early morning ramblings

Last night I made potato balls. On the way home I was thinking about what I would be making for dinner. This is what I came up with.

1 giant potato
1 quarter of an onion diced as small as you can
1 teaspoon of olive oil (based on size of potato mixture as you don’t really want wet potatoes)
1 teaspoon of basil, or dill
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup of bread crumbs
(all of this is not to the T as this was an on the fly dish-you may alter to suit)

boil potato, cool and cut into cubes, (medium) 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch (smaller will need less crushing)
crush with your knuckles (you can put plastic wrap over your hand formed into a fist)
do not mash, if you must- do so only 1/4 of the way, then 3/4 crush with hands
add oil, pepper, salt and basil into bowl with the cubes and hand MIX
heat oven to about 300
form into balls
dip into beaten egg, and then dip into bread crumbs
for thicker and crisper crumbs, add walnut or pecans crushed
raise heat to 400
let balls cook till they brown

optional–put cheese in the middle of potato

Cooked in Oven


Well so much for productive Mondays. I had a plan but that went out the door. My brain was fatigued from non stop action. I hope to get into a rhythm soon.

My only culinary thing today was walking through the Grand Central Market looking for fresh bread. I went to the supermarket close to me as well and the bread appeared to say 2.38 and when I got up to the counter it was 3.59. I told them to take it back. It was like the milk issue a while ago. I wanted fancy milk but went to the corner store to get it. 5 dollars for a quart. Money must be growing on trees.


Day 2 of Culinary Class

Well after staying up till 1am trying to finish various readings, I jumped out of bed at 6:45am and caught the 7:33am. I was so college minded, I threw on a sweat suit from my high school. I at least covered it with a pea coat. ūüôā
I arrived to the train station to find my class mate on the same train. So I kind of have an unofficial train buddy.

So since I did not have breakfast but rather a mish mosh of snacks in my bag, I bought an almond croissant. Yummy. I had part of it as class filled up and then at our mid morning break.

We had a visit from the career services peeps to start class. She was a little weird at first and was right up there with Suzy smiley. She wanted participation like a baby needs milk. After her 1.5 hour spiel we started with cutting. Cutting, after all, most of us are always shopping veggies. Yeah until you enter the Chef. So I cut onions, carrots and celery for something called mirepoix.

Mirepoix is a simple combination of onion, carrot and celery used in nearly every traditional French stew and many other dishes.

Boy did we make some. If you finished early you could make some extra carrots.
Next we peeled potatoes and went through a process to get medium diced potatoes. Easy right!! Well I got maybe 15 pieces out of two potatoes and some people got less. You cut and cut until you get an almost perfect square. I was a little disturbed today because it was not a “save” day. — The days of your unused pieces being usable pieces, for whatever. With all the hunger and problems in Haiti, I was like, did I just throw away 3/4 of a potato. (just my commentary) We used the carrots though. The chef collected them. We then spent about 30 minutes viewing, smelling and tasting herbs. I took a piece of all, put in my notebook and hoped to remember them all later by smell. Well after all the crap we ate later, that did not happen. I did however make a nice fridge hanging. I lined plastic with all the herbs and plastic sealed them–first class souvenir.

We broke for lunch. At lunch we (students) scrambled to look for information for our paper. After chatting with some other students in other classes, they could not believe that we had a writing assignment. Of course at this time the library does not check out books. You can only photocopy or do your work right there. Photocopy not working–have to wait till weekday staff can change the toner. (okay) It also closes at 6pm. Perfect for full timers and those that have class till 5pm. We get an hour on Saturday and Sunday.

We then cut potatoes, garlic, parsley and cilantro. That was a fun. You know when you see the chefs cutting with this wrist action that looks so cool, we were able to do that. We cut the leaves down to almost the stuff you buy in the jar.

All the while, people kept coming in and bringing the chef little treats, yeah, cinnamon buns, (what!!) something with a sauce and a burger. HELLO-as Brandy says, What about Us? After that I noticed some more pastries on the top shelf. So anyway, then we moved on to learning about cheese. At about 3pm we started to taste cheese. This would have been a lactose intolerant person’s nightmare. My favorites were: the Explorateur, a soft ripened cheese from Expernay Province in Champagne, France; Manchego Cheese, a semi hard ripened cheese (from sheep’s milk) from Spain, and of course the old favorite, a hard grating cheese, Parmaggiano de Reggio Emilia, from Reggio, Italy. Some of the others smelled of oldness and the outside rind was unbearable. (Rind–the covering on cheese which is sometimes edible) At this time, we were smelling something amazing next door. It was a nice warm smell, like the kind you have in a nice fireplace lit and warmed log cabin or G MAs house.

After all that cheese I craved a soda. Anything sweet and obscure was needed to take away the aftertaste. I scarfed down half a granola bar.

Personalities of the day: this Asia guy who kept saying that all of the cheeses could be rated against Mozzarella. He is also not a habitual note taker so far. The Chef also gets a shout out. He really likes cheese. I saw him down some cheese bombs–Mozzarella made from water buffalo milk. I was heaving as it was nice a wet. I am glad his stomach could handle it.

Next week, who knows what will come next.

Cheers and Enjoy life.

Day 1 at Culinary School

Wow, what a long day I had.  It seems that this will be the norm as I have about 44 more days like this.

So lets start with the specs of my class-top floor kitchen.  My class has 4 girls and 10 boys.  A healthy mix of backgrounds and only a small amount have culinary experience.  That is good as there  will be very little stars in the beginning.

So I had an enjoyable welcome.  My locker was already being used and I could not open my lock, for ridiculous reasons I will not discuss.  So I trudged up and down the steps and in the elevator to get that sorted out. I finally made it to class, on time of course.  We did about two hours of admins things.  We went through out text books and got a set of knives.

We get the rundown on policy and grounds for dismissal and all that fun stuff.¬† The attendance policy is particularly interesting to my class as we meet 2 classes per day on the weekend.¬† So if you are absent it counts as 2 absences.¬† Crazy.¬† They actually let you miss up to 10 .¬† That is nuts as I thin if you miss 10, which is 5 class days, you obviously don’t want to be there.

We learned the proper way to put a knife in a protector as the other way assures a self stabbing in the wrist or slicing of fingers.

By this time I am kind of needing to walk around.  We got a class break.

So later we watched a video on Food Safety and Sanitation.¬† I was in and out of a comma during this and to my happy luck, the video stuck so the teacher went through his notes and taught that way.¬† Learning about food temperatures and storage was interesting.¬† (what it¬† is for freezing, how much for a special meat, what temp food will spoil and gain bacteria) A tip–just defrost in your fridge.¬† We habitually leave food out overnight¬† and then either cook it in the morning or that night.¬† Well at a certain temperature (room temperature is part of that range) food invites little friends to hang out.¬† The middle of the food is still frozen but the outside has already defrosted and so is ripe to attract little friends.

We watched a piece by Anthony Bourdain on El Bulli restaurant in Spain.  It would be cool to visit but at this time my pallet is still amateur and I have resisted certain tastes so it would be uncomfortable for me.  I was awake for this portion, so was everyone else.  By this time the sun had been beaming for about 2 hours, so this would have normally been the perfect nap time, if not for the interesting nature of the video.  That was a good hour.

Next we talked about Dairy.  We saw the range, skim to heavy cream, and learned the uses and why we use certain ones.  We learned about some of the things you do with milk and why butter is better, especially European butter.

Tomorrow we are to learn how to set a table for cooking and basic knife skills.¬† We will also taste cheese–for all you lactaids out there, this would railroad your bum.

I am exhausted but ready for tomorrow.  I will hit the white tarmac by 11:30 I hope.  I have homework to do and forget tidying my house.  That kind of thing is now a Mon-Thurs activity.

P.S. Oh, did I mention the textbooks. I have a bunch and I have 7 handouts (the start of my own mill).  It is suggested we make ourselves familiar because it will help with the processes in class. I even have an assignment to write about spices.

Cheers and Enjoy Life!

First day of culinary class is upon me!

I would like to say that I am shaking in my bones, but I am just keeping an open mind about what I will find and experience.  Some serious learning is about to begin.  A little sacrifice (weekends) will go a long way.  I hope to be cooking wonderful meals, and throwing dinner parties in well thought out residences, for those who appreciate having their pallets and eyes excited.

I have my trusty mate to support me and my two long time friends to push me along.  All want and can see success.   We all always wanted to grow old doing what we wanted and being successful at the same time.  We are European at heart and want to be able to live an d enjoy life now, not when we retire.  There is nothing like doing the same thing forever in the same way, with the same people, at the same desk, on the same side of  the street, waiting for that day to break free.

What do the “rents” think.¬† One is pleased, one is supportive with reservations.¬† It is like the doctor syndrome–parents want their kids to grow up and¬† be what they want them to be.¬† The goal then is to amaze the “rents’ with your skills.

Welcome to freedom.¬† I can cook, and play in the kitchen all I want.¬† I can bake when I want and as often as I want.¬† I can see the looks on people’s faces when a delicious flavor hits their tongues.

Day 1