Thursday, October 30, 2008


I didn't realize until just now that my post had way too many pictures on it, which caused annoyingly long load time of the page. My apologies; I deleted several pics so if the captions don't make sense, that's why.

Tonight we are going to a restaurant called Silver Pond for some (according to chef) legit Chinese cuisine. I'm excited but I'm also still broke, so I'm expecting a bittersweet experience.

I've decided on a menu for my Foundations class final exam. Here's what I'll be making:

Soup course: Zuppa Pavese (Pavia Soup) - this is a fairly simple soup but has a great presentation quality and will be really tasty. You toast bread in a pan with some butter then put it in an empty bowl. Crack an egg on top of the piece of bread then fill the bowl with boiling hot chicken broth, poaching the egg. Top it with some extra pepper, grated Parmesan and minced herbs on top and that's it.

Second course (appetizer/salad/amuse bouche/whatever): Antipasto platter - I'm going to make some Prosciutto and Provolone cheese crostinis and serve them with three toppings: artichoke heart bruschetta, kalamata olive tapenade and three pepper tapenade.

Third course (entree): Pork Tenderloin alla Napoli with Broccolini and Penne.

I'm feeling pretty confident and excited about this. I making some things that are very different from what the other students are making so we'll see how it goes but like I said, I'm excited.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sushi Den Photo Gallery

Not the Sushi Den... Ya Hala!! Y'all heard?


Self-gratifying place setting

Japanese Eggplant (after being mauled)

Udon Noodle Soup w/ Duck

Top to bottom: Spicy Tuna and Salmon, Spider (softshell crab) roll, and Shrimp Tempura

Firecracker Roll (tuna with cream cheese and jalapeno, what's up with that plating?)

A sampler: tuna, salmon, yellowtail, crab, octopus, shrimp, and scallop

Eel (one of my favorites)

Group photo (missing Rachelle). Left to right: Jose, Keith "Old School", Matt Jr, Matt Sr, me, and Chef Victor Matthews (Kelsey didn't make it on the field trip)

Big Eye Tuna (wrapped around avocado)

Shrimp, Scallop, and Octopus Ceviche

Duck Breast

On the left: Spider Roll, on the right: some specialty fish. I forget the name but it's a white fish and is one of the specialty items they have overnighted from Japan. The owners pick up the fish at the airport in the morning to serve that night = hardcore.

Tiramisu. This warrants some explanation. Apparently, one of the owner's wives has been trained in French pastry. The menu is an interesting collaboration of real deal sushi and European sweets.

Had to get teh Mochi Ice Cream for Matt Jr (we all shared, though)

The owner's had to open a restaurant that basically serves as "overflow" for Sushi Den. This is a partial shot of the bar at Izakaya Den.

The entrace (from the side, within)

A sweeter sake, kept chilled on ice. I've only had hot sake before but, according to the bartender, that's really just done with cheap or low-quality sake, to hide the impurities or inferior flavor. I'm quite an ignoramus when it comes to sake.
An awesome tapas plate. From left: duck crostini, seared scallops with white truffle mashed potatoes, and kobe beef tenderloin with watermelon mint and edamame. Delicious.

Front of the house.

Sushi bar + chefs.

Friendly and knowledgable bartender.

My dog, Dakota, burried with pillows.

I have to keep my shoes someplace up high or this happens.
So, the Sushi Den. Anybody who travels anywhere remotely close to Denver needs to visit this restaurant. You don't have to like sushi to love this place, but if you do, you will swear by it. Everything tasted amazing. I was a little confused by some of the plating but I think it was just due to how busy this place was. The Sushi Den seats roughly 250 people and on the Thursday night when we went the place was absolutely packed. When table cleared up it would be re-seated immediately. This continued until we left to check out Izakaya Den at about 9pm.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Culinary Feat

A new height in the culinary world has been reached. Follow the link for recipe and more info:

Bacon Wrapped Hot Digs in Maple Bar Donut Buns

I think you're gauranteed a heart attack with every three bites.

Soup on a cold night

Potato Leek Soup (served cold = vichysoisse)

White Bean and Ham (we used more bacon than ham)

Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Touilles and Savory Whipped Cream

And then this was just a random amuse bouche type plate. From the top going clockwise: olive tapenade, fire roasted pepper tapenade on a waffle cut potato chip (I forget the French name for this), more olive tapenade on a chip, stuffed mushroom (these were AWESOME), fire roasted pepper tapenade by itself, and a sort of chicken salad mixture thing on a chip, with fried leek strings and savory whipped cream in the middle.
Last night was such a perfect night for this. Winter has just started to hit and it was below 40 outside, so it was nice to warm up with so many wonderful soups. We also made a butternut squash soup but my camera died and I didn't get any pics of it. I plan on spending some time this weekend seeing what soups I can whip up at home with stuff we already have. We're pretty broke right now so I'm going to have to get creative over the next few weeks. And, to add insult to injury, we have a field trip tonight in my World Cuisine class to a really nice sushi-ya up in Denver. Chef said $30-$50 minimum but that you could easily spend $100/person if you get drinks and really heat well. I plan on drinking water and watching other people eat... maybe someone will feel sorry for me and share. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


There's a pretty interesting Alice Waters post followed by an extremely heady conversation in the comments, if you dare...

Sushi Snow Angels

>>My brother posted my niece and nephews prayers from the other night. It's just too good not to post here also (this is the Angels part of the title):

“Thank you for Jesus and God and Mama and Daddy and me and Cosette. Thank you for Jesus and Little K on the tv at church. Let Cosette and me and mama and daddy have no bad dreams. Dear Jesus’ name. Amen” -Connor (4)

“Jesus loves me so….Bible tells me so….Jesus loves me so….Amen.” -Cosette (2)

>>Last night we had a guest instructor schooling us on some Japanese food. We made miso soup, soba noodles, fried tofu, vegetable and shrimp tempura, and (oh yes) sushi. Okay, so I loooove sushi and had never made it before last night. It was awesome. I realised how easy it is to throw sushi together, but I also realise now how difficult it would be to truly master. Not so much for flavor but sushi is all about presentation. Perfect cuts, perfect arrangement, perfect rolling (or nigiri-squeezing), etc. I wish I would have had a nicer plate, something square and dark colored maybe, but at least I have pictures this time!

Not bad for my first time, eh? It all tastes wonderful, my favorite was the spicy tuna handroll. I think I've got the bug... I could totally see myself a few months from now with all my own stuff at home to make sushi, and with the new Asian market that just opened down the street that sells everything I would need (including sashimi grade tuna-maguro), it would be all too easy.

In case you're interested, here's what on the plate: the roll is a California Roll (sushi rice, sesame seeds, crab, avocado, cucumber, tobiko [fish eggs], and nori [seaweed]), shrimp nigiri (the butterflied shrimp has a dab of wasabi on the underside to help it stick to the little palm of rice that was squeezed, which is what nigiri means), tuna nigiri (or nigiri maguro), and the yellow one is nigiri tamago (tamago is egg, it's kind of like an omelet but the eggs have a little salt and sugar in the mixture and is cooked in a square pan in thin layers of egg that you keep folding over - this was really cool and I think it's a great example of how the Japanese take something simple like scrambled eggs and cook them and present them in a way that is far superior and beautiful), and lastly, the spicy tuna hand roll (my favorite) which was tuna mixed with rooster sauce (I don't know the name, but it's that chili sauce with the picture of a rooster on the bottle), a little mayo, and green onions; also in the roll is the sushi rice, avocado, and a leafy green called shiso (similar in flavor to basil, actually).

>>Okay, now for the "Snow" part of the title... yep, winter is here. Last night we had our first snow. It's very pretty, just a light blanket of snow over everything. It didn't affect the roads at all, which is good because I really, really need to go get some new tires...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Playing with Curry

Last night we moved to Thailand in our studies of curry and then had some fun in the kitchen experimenting with different curry pastes. I made a potatoe curry with green curry paste, some dried Japanese hot peppers, and a good splash of coconut milk. I also made a chicken curry with the prik khing curry paste. They were both pretty freaking good, but honestly, I don't have much basis for comparison; the chef seemed to like both of my dishes. An ENORMOUS new asian market opened up down the road and it has all kinds of crazy stuff, including these little cans of curry paste, which are a couple of bucks each. My wife sure paid the price of me eating a bunch of curry last night... hehe.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tired concept

Okay, I've been using the same plating concept for a while now and I need to stop. I just wanted to play with some of the colors and textures a bit but I also want to stretch my imagination a bit and see what else I can come up with.

I also finally got a braised pork that I'm actually happy with. I want to work on the seasonings/flavorings some, with the desired end result of Carnitas like I used to get back at Super Mex in Cali. There just isn't any good, hardcore Mexican food here in Colorado Springs. At least not that I have had yet.

If this bowl equals one serving then I'd say I have about 30 servings or so more, yielding from the pork shoulder that cost me less than $11.00.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Pizza n' Steak

This is the chicken garlic parmesan pizza I made two nights ago

Same pizza but covered with mozzarella

The pizzas were really freaking good, and I'm getting a little faster and better at making my own doughs.

Last night was NY strip, sauteed and basted with rosemary garlic butter. It's sitting on top of a carrot mash and tomato mushroom gratin. The steak was great and the veg was tasty, but looked a little like baby puke. I like the tomato gratin but I'm thinking I should concasse the tomatoes first, there was way too much liquid.

My beautiful wife, Nikki came home last weekend with a 1.75 liter jug of Jameson's. I loved her and despised her in the same moment because I knew what this would do to me, especially being that I have the week off from school. I make a point not to get sloppily drunk anymore, but it's been six days since she brought the jug home and it's over half gone...

Trouble in a bottle.

On top of that, she'll be up in the mountains this weekend on a retreat. I plan on doing a lot of reading and cooking, but it's just not as fun (or maybe purposeful) without her around. I've always said that I started cooking because I love to eat, and boy do I. But really, I'm not sure how true that actually is. When I'm home alone I'll just do whatever is quick and easy. I get excited about cooking when I'm cooking for others. There's no better feeling to me than to see someone else bite into something that I made, roll their eyes back in their head, and groan about how good it is. Nikki does this pretty much every time I cook. I think it's more out of love and support than anything else, and she's fairly easy to please when it comes to food. It may not be the most advantageous critique in terms of helping me develope as a cook, but it sure is edifying.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Saturday was an eventful day for me. We didn't have class on Monday due to the Tulsa trip, so we had our mid-term practical on Saturday morning. All I could think about on Friday was the practical: what I would make, how I would make it, what order I would get my mise en place in line, etc. I was so focused on being ready for the test that I totally neglected the fact that this was my Saturday to work! The practical went from 8am to about 1pm and as usual I showed up early. About 10 minutes after 8 I got a call on my cell. I recognized that the number was from work and immediately realized my error. Luckily, when I answered it was my buddy at work. I thought "well at least it's him and he'll be cool about it." I sheepishly explained the situation, told him how sorry I was to leave him flying solo on a Saturday, and said that I would be there as fast as humanly possible once the test was finished. There was no way I was going to leave my practical, school is a much higher priority for me. I called him back later to give him an update on what time I'd be done and to see how he was doing. He said it was totally dead and it was no big deal that I wasn't there, which I was thankful for. He also told me that he was sorry but he had to call the boss on me. Okay... I know it was totally my bad. I know I screwed up and left him hanging and it was completely on me. But call the boss?? If the tables were turned I wouldn't have even considered calling anyone. It would have sucked, sure, but I would have covered for him. Oh well. I can't really be upset about it because again, it was my bad. I just figured we were buddies and that he would've helped me out. Today (Monday) is supposed to be my comp day for Saturday but since the boss new I was 5 hours late I came in today to make up the time. He hasn't said anything about it yet so I don't know how much trouble I'm really in, if any. It's not like I really care. Even if they fired me I'd be more grateful than upset. But they wouldn't do that. At worst I'll probably get a written warning or something like that. I've never had issues before.

Oh well, on to what really matters: the practical. Here's what I made for my entree.

We had to make two courses, a salad course and an entree. I was originally assigned chicken for my protein and saute for my method but when I got to school the chef decided too many people had chicken and he wanted more variety so he switched me to beef and told me I could cook it however I wanted. For a split second I was thrown off because I had really prepared myself to saute chicken, but really there's nothing I enjoy more than grilling some steak. So I grabbed a NY strip, threw it in some herb oil to marinate and then got to work on the salad and prepping the rest of the entree. For the salad (sorry, forgot to take pics) I used spring mix greens, cantaloupe, crisp raw onion, and a Thai vinaigrette, which turned out pretty nice, I thought. I garnished it with some minced lemon zest, parsley, cilantro, and red pepper. For the entree I made a pumpkin coulis (basically a puree), fried potatoes, and wilted spinach. The garnish was just scallions and bell pepper for color. Here's what I thought could've been better - the pumpkin coulis had a touch too much salt; the potatoes could've been a little crisper; and I felt like I used too much shallot with the wilted spinach. Here's what the chef though:

ACE!! Yep: 100%. He gave me a 10 out of 10 on everything. It's kind of funny how critical you can be of yourself and your own handiwork but then turn around and get a critique like that from a professional. Obviously, it made me feel great and the whole work issue just didn't matter to me anymore. It was a nice way to finish off before the fall break. Now I have a week and a half of no school to relax, read, cook at home, or whatever. My wife will be happy since I'll be cooking for her and I also plan on finishing The Physiology of Taste and writing a report on it (chef said he'll give extra credit and it's a phenomenal book anyway).