Monday, 31 March 2014

Another Ambitious Menu: Cooking Lamb for 40+

Greetings, "Learning through Food" readers! I feel an apology is in order (if not for you, at least for me), regarding my recent pause on keeping up with this blog. The semester is quickly winding down here on campus, meaning my available free time to write is becoming much more limited by the day. This said, it's events such as the one I'm about to share with you that help me get centered, to take a break from the academics and take on an intellectual experience of a different sort. The challenge--had I chosen to accept it--was not to recreate as close as possible the first initiatory banquet menu (1906) of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (1,2). Rather, it was to do so with a low-cost budget for an unspecified number of guests (though we were aiming for somewhere in the 40-person range), bearing in mind lack of on-site kitchen facilities and the main protein being lamb. Thankfully, I received the call about two weeks in advance and the dinner itself would take place during spring break. And so, challenge accepted. On the menu of which I was responsible: 1st course: selected cheese and crackers; 2nd course: creamy tomato soup, with salted wafers; 3rd course: shrimp salad on endive lettuce and broiled lamb chops, with wild apple jelly, green peas, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls; 4th course: chocolate cake with dark chocolate ganache; and 5th course: Neapolitan ice cream with lady fingers.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Epic Food Day #2: Pittsburgh (part 2)

Last month, one of my foodie friends and food anthropology colleagues, Lisa, informed me of an event that I just could not see myself passing up. For this March 1st event (opened to the public, though in large part a gathering of chefs and folks linked in some way to the food service sector), the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Culinary Federation would be holding its annual award dinner at the prestiguous (and exclusive) Duquesne Club, from which many chefs have excelled in their craft [e.g., 1 and 2]. The menu (upon which at first glance I'm sure I started to drool over) looked incredibly impressive, and Lisa assured me it would be absolutely amazing. With the reservations made shortly thereafter, and following a fun-filled foodie first part of the day with Brianne, here's my recap of what I can safely say is my second favourite meal ever (following this one, of course).

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Epic Food Day #1: Pittsburgh (part 1)

By the end of our visit to the Strip District, John was just as cheerful as when we first met him earlier that day.
Have you ever been witness to a day when you knew it was going to be wonderfully amazing, enjoyable, and beyond any sensible reconstruction of words that just wouldn't seem to do justice to your experiences? Perhaps the term you might anticipate using at some point is "epic." I suppose from my lens epic-ness is an all-too-familiar concept applicable in my world of food, but without a doubt my trip with Brianne last weekend was nothing less than that. For reasons that will be much clearer in part 2 of this epic food day post, Brianne and I made our way over to Pittsburgh (hopefully the first of many more sites in the future), a drive that only took us about three hours to complete. She had never been, and I had visited just once prior (somehow over three years ago); still there was an interesting familiarity in the air, as if nothing has since changed. As we eventually learned from John (pictured above, making sure to have worn his "funny hat" [his words, not mine]) at the end of our trip throughout the Strip District, the main focus of this post, quite a bit has changed in terms of developing this part of the city. What has remained consistent in the past 35 years or so is the downtown foodie destination that is "The Strip," a historic conglomeration of retail produce and ethnic food stores, restaurants and coffee shops. Without a doubt, our time ahead was not to be merely epic, which in itself crams too many words and emotions into four little letters. To quote John, who has worked at the Pittsburgh Public Parking site (21st and Smallman St) for the past 35 years or so, the first half of our day in Pittsburgh was everything he'd hoped it would be for us, summarised in five (okay, technically six) letters: "a blast!"