Sunday, February 27, 2011

popcorn at the movies!

tonight's oscars have me all kinds of excited. following the trend from my posts from grammy week, this week i'm going to post award nominee and winner inspired...everything! food and drink, munch and meal, past and we go!

while the awards are going on though, what i'm thinking about is movie food. popcorn tends to make me sick, so i'm always looking for something else to nosh on during the flicks. i haven't quite hit my stride yet, having been unable to find one go-to snack since noticing that popcorn is relatively unkind to me, but i'm always eager to hear about and try other movie munchies. tonight's telecast for example, is accompanied by junior mints and twizzlers, two of my favorite movie stars-yum!

cheers to the academy, and break a leg to those nominated!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

how is it already tuesday?

somehow time jumped from friday to tuesday, and i think that the mental gap is due to the much needed downtime i took advantage of thanks to the long weekend (thank you president's day). instead of gushing about being able to relax and having an entertaining and delicious meal sunday night (i don't think i've laughed harder in the company of people who were not my immediate family) though, i should get back to work, and study things that make my stomach turn. tomorrow is our servsafe food handler's certification exam, and i'd like to only have to take it once, and not have to worry about it for five years.

but for me, today is not just the day before my exam. it's also the day that kings of pastry comes out on dvd!

i remember seeing trailers of this oddly dispersed over the summer, so i was surprised to find out that the movie actually was released in 2009. it follows sixteen chefs competing in the food division of france's meilleurs ouvriers de france (MOF), a three day battle to wear THE collar-which, according to a clip in the trailer, if worn by someone who did not win the honor, can merit jail time.

hopefully, before the next long weekend (late april, egads!) i'll be able to sit down and indulge in watching some of the finest craftsmen in the pastry field at work. until then, i'll just keep salivating at the trailer.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

time to catch my breath!

well this has been quite a busy week!

the rest of life has sort of taken over, and between class, job interviews, new job training and the like, i've barely had a moment to think! it's times like this that i could go for some banana pancakes. or rather "banana pancakes."

for those who know me, or if you read my silly explanation of this blog's name, the idea that i would actually be interested in banana ANYthing is something of a joke. i have famously refused anything ranging from delectable desserts to simple smoothies that have only the slightest hint of a banana present because i knew i'd be able to taste it. and if you're going in for a kiss, think twice if you've eaten a banana--so why on earth would i willingly ask for banana pancakes? with the help of jack johnson of course, i can tackle even my severe distaste for the odd fruit.

listening to the song brings a smile not only to my face, but every last inch of me. it's like the best parts of playing hooky and eating dessert first, folded into hugs and spontaneous dance parties, all of which is wrapped up in an easy breezy heart-song.

enjoy the weekend mes chers, and smile on.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

music in the air, and food on my mind!

food and love go hand in hand, and while i wasn't necessarily going to highlight another romantic song this week, it's sort of hard not to!

tonight's musical munchie is brought to you by everything wonderfully indulgent about food and love--that's amore of course!

there's something about this simple chanson that feels like home. like pull up a chair and eat whatever mom put in front of you because she knows you haven't taken good enough care of yourself. like even though you know that dad is going to tell that one story again, you're going to let loose a full-bellied laugh just like the first time you heard it, because it'll never get old. like you should just do it already and dive into what you love, because you only have one life so make the most of it. like let that smile shine from ear to ear because that's when you're the most beautiful.

whenever i have food on my mind and especially when i hear this song, i think of the following quotation:
cooking is like love. it should be entered into with abandon, or not at all. 
-harriet van horne

carpe diem mes amours, and may life's plate be overflowing with delicious treats, for both heart and stomach alike.

Monday, February 14, 2011

be our guest and the flames of love!

before tonight's class, i had planned on writing a sweet little homage to one of my favorite songs from my favorite disney movie: "be our guest" from beauty and the beast. it's a wonderfully exciting number that fills me with childlike glee every time i hear it (but honestly, what classic disney song doesn't?).

and then there was class.

it was oddly appropriate that on a day so incredibly inspired by anything but burning love that we learned how to flambé in class. now that was thrilling to the nth degree.

seeing the pan of apple slices burst into flame just inches from me, and knowing that it was both on purpose AND my own doing was absolutely electrifying. it was also slightly conflicting, because it's a technique i'd like to practice, but when on earth will i trust myself to do so? not outside of class, at least not for some time, that's for sure.

and so, mesdames et messieurs, i give you "be our guest", a song that inspires me to create food that is both delicious and exciting enough to incite song and dance from even the cutlery, or at least a smile or two.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

roll out the red carpet, get your knife and fork ready!

ladies and gents, it's awards season!

in honor of tonight's grammy awards ceremony, this week i'm going to spotlight a few of my favorite foodie songs. i'm going to start things off with a song near and dear to my heart, and one that you may not be familiar with: "strawberry" by paul baribeau.

to say that this is a love song would be like saying poetry is nice. but you don't have to be an oxford scholar to know that "nice" just doesn't cut it when talking about poetry, and you don't have to be a romantic to appreciate what baribeau is trying to say with "strawberry."

speaking of poetry, this song actually reminds me of one of shakespeare's sonnets (bear with me, this won't be as boring as your high school english class may have been.). in the sonnet "my mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun," shakespeare takes a number of classical romantic references and says no, my mistress is nothing like any of these things, but that doesn't make me love her any less*. in "strawberry", baribeau takes a (slightly) similar stance, turning the compliments "cute," "pretty," and "funny" and turning them inside out, trying to find a way to better express his affection and appreciation to his listener.

but what does the innate weakness of verbal expression have to do with food?

think of your favorite dish, and try to recreate the entire dining experience for someone who wasn't there. you can't! i mean, surely a number of things can be recounted and understood, but there are moments and flavors and discoveries in just one bite, let alone an entire meal, that completely escape the tongue in conversation.

to say that you are cute, would be like saying that a strawberry is sweet. 
because a strawberry has secret flavors that are sharp, and tart, and red, and deep.

how beautiful is that? the way that baribeau describes what a strawberry is says relatively nothing about the fruit, but it still captures an important something of what a strawberry tastes like. it's almost a verbal interpretation of one of my favorite scenes from ratatouille: remy's food visualization (also featuring, oddly enough, a strawberry!)

and so, without further ado (because this seems to be a post about how words just aren't quite enough), i present to you "strawberry":

*this is an incredibly reduced analysis of the sonnet, but then again, this is not a post about shakespeare, english poetry, or anything of the sort.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

be mine, valentine!

valentine's day came early for me this year, in the form of a heart shaped box of macarons from the macaron cafe. and let me just say:


instead of gushing about a holiday (made up or not) that only a relative few actually enjoy, allow me to indulge in describing my new-found, head-over-heels, love-at-first-bite affair with you.

i am over the moon about these macarons.

if you have yet to hear of or experience the joy that is a macaron from the macaron cafe, at least start the visual feast by looking at their gallery. there they have beautifully crisp photos of each of their various macarons, ranging from apricot to pineapple, rhubarb to violette.

the first time i visited the cozy café, i was shocked to see the variety of the macarons that they actually had available. yes, the gallery is impressive, but i had assumed that there wouldn't be nearly as many available in real life. i had such a hard time narrowing it down to only three, but to have purchased more would have been gluttonous (and i'd like to pretend that i can eat sweet food in moderation).

at the very first bite, i knew that these petite confections were flying to the top of the list of things i must make myself. a while ago, i had purchased the book i love macarons on a whim, and now i am so happy that i did--i am only a few steps away from creating sweet macaron love, and when i get the opportunity to do so, i'll document the experience to share.

they only last a few bites at most, but each nibble is so delicately delicious that the brevity of the experience is made up for with flavor, which lingers sweetly on the palate. the texture is hard to describe, it's somewhere between cake and cookie, which is owed to the very specific nature of their preparation. for example, when mixing the meringue and the flour, once the flour is completely incorporated, one must scoop the batter a specific way (macaronnage) about fifteen times. if less than ten, the macarons won't shine, if more than twenty, they'll appear greasy (ogita 26). how particular! and yet, totally worth the effort.

so far i have tried fourteen of the morsels of heaven, and haven't found one i don't like. i can't wait until i'll have tried them all, but i want to pace myself. all in the name of moderation, right?

if you're looking to share something sweet with someone sweet, or just want to bring a smile to yourself, you know where to look.

(note: i am not affiliated with the macaron cafe, in any way, shape or form, beyond being an appreciative customer.)

Ogita, Hisako. I [love] Macarons. San Francisco: Chronicle, 2009. Print.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

yum, foodborne illness.

tonight we had our first sanitation lecture. similar to a sudden boycott of all things aquatic due to watching titanic before going on a cruise, tonight's lecture made me never want to eat food again. thankfully enough, i a) enjoy food too much to do that and b) am learning about how to safely handle food to avoid the whole foodborne illness issue to begin with.

instead of launching into a delightful discussion of which illnesses we talked about, and how they get to contaminating your food, let's talk food consciousness in general!

do you know where your food comes from? and i mean, beyond which store you drove to in order to buy it? do you really know where it's processed and handled, packed and shipped from? how about where it started its journey?

i'll admit that tonight's lecture was an eye-opener, and that i don't have nearly as many answers as i'd like. but i'm getting a grasp on the questions, which is a start.

it's about time that we realize that the ground chuck nicely perched among all of the other plastic wrapped meat products actually was at one time a living, breathing animal, and depending on how that animal was treated, the sanitarily packaged product on the shelves may or may not be worth that first bite.

on another note, without hopping on the soap box too much now, i think it's far healthier to work with what's available and in season instead of hunting down that specialty item just because the name sounds exotic. i know what i'm saying isn't revolutionary, and it is easier to get sucked into the excitement of what you're eating instead of thinking about how it got there.

and with that small outburst, it's bedtime. here's to informed and healthy eating mes amis.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

my first star sighting, it's a sign!

today on a walk in the meatpacking district, feeling totally glamorous after a wonderful (and free!) haircut at the bumble&bumble salon, who should i cross paths with but stephen. no, not that steven. we're talking -ph, not -v: this one!

for those who are unaware of who stephen is, and why on earth it would be a sign that he was my first star sighting here in new york, allow me to explain.

in 2006, bravo tv started a little competition. twelve contestants, twenty one days. eleven hopefuls and only one star would rise to the top. this mes amis, was top chef season one. among those first contestants was stephen aspirino. he made it a good portion of the way through the entire series, ending up getting eliminated in the eighth of twelve episodes.

without going back and watching the entire first season of top chef again, i don't really remember much of stephen's performance that time around. it is of note though, that this would not be the last time we would see stephen in the top chef kitchens. he came back for a charity episode before season three, and was a contestant in a holiday episode. more relevantly, he was a top chef all star.

i have nothing to say of his performance on the show itself, because it serves no purpose to gush, guffaw, or gossip about his cooking. it's a difficult task to rise to, and i don't envy his position, returning to such a cutthroat competition after not being directly in the kitchen for so long.

and with all of this in mind, here i am, wandering the streets of new york, feeling wonderful and i almost walk directly into stephen. stephen, who is a successful, and well-known chef. stephen, who knows what's what in a kitchen. stephen, who is, for what it's worth, an all star. i had been writing a text message and had i not looked up right when i did, would have completely missed him.

no, i didn't stop him. (we were walking in different directions). no, i didn't get to talk to him. (he was talking with two other people, about something that seemed relatively important). i did get to make eye contact (so yes, it was him!) and beamed for the rest of my walk to union square.

i feel accomplished.

Friday, February 4, 2011

when i was younger, i thought the first day of school was the second new year.

it's here. what i've been waiting five years for. the make or break, do or die, fight or flight critical moment.

ok, perhaps it's not that serious, but it is FINALLY here. or was, a few hours ago.

at the orientation on wednesday, we were briefed (VERY briefly i might add) on what to expect, what to bring, how to study, and most importantly, what on earth we'd be doing in class today. we were sent off with a duffel bag filled with uniforms, a gigantic binder of recipes and other information, the visual food lover's guide, and homework. yes, i had homework for the first time in just under a year. and i was excited for it.

one of the "appealing factors" of this program is that right from day one, we're already baking-getting a full, hands-on immersion into the pastry playland that is our program. and right from day one, that is exactly what we did. or at least, what we set out to do.

we had a few lectures on kitchen policies, safety, where to find different tools, and took a tour of the entire building--which is something that we did when we came to visit, but now that it actually meant something to us, our chef instructors felt it would be beneficial to offer the reminder. all i remember of the tour from october was that there were so many winding floors and too many people whose names i forgot, and it was all so exciting i hardly could remember where the closest bathroom was (around the corner) let alone where any of the different kitchens were. luckily, this time around, i managed to not only retain the information, but recalled bits and pieces from that hazy tour that made sense in hindsight.

and finally after all of that talking and listening and walking and other such busy work, we got to business.

the first thing that we did was go through our pastry tools, which include not only whisks and piping tips and offset spatulas, but a wonderful knife set, and more. the first thing i thought of when i opened up my pastry bag was that from today forward, someone could actually tell me to pack my knives and go, and it would mean something. it was one of those "you're thinking too far ahead but it's too exciting to stop" moments. (side note: top chef: just desserts IS casting now...)

once all of that fun was through, we set up our mise en place for our apple compote, which would be going into our tarte aux pommes (apple tart)--the very first thing we'd ever bake. i managed to be the champ of the classroom to get a cut BEFORE we even started doing anything. i think i got a papercut during the lecture and only noticed when we went to wash our hands. other students managed to give themselves a few small nicks here and there, as we were using vegetable peelers, 8" chef's knives, and paring knives--all of which were brand new and therefore very, very sharp. not to be outdone, i managed to give myself two other cuts, one from the chef's knife on the inside of my left index finger (not sure how that happened, i was never running the knife over my open palm...) and one just underneath the fingernail on my right ring finger. luckily enough none of those injuries hurt more than my ego, and the band-aids and finger cots did the trick so i could keep working. i am also happy to note that even with all of my injury induced pauses, i was able to finish everything on time, unlike a few other students who did not have the stop-and-start halted process i did.

and now, after all of that excitement, it is time for bed. i find it amusing that friday night is now going to mean a good night's sleep after class, instead of the first night of the weekend to enjoy myself. while walking back to the subway stop, i only realized that it was a friday night in the city because of all of the people going out. while it looked like they were about to have a wonderful time, i simply changed how i was carrying my duffel bag and tool kit, and i didn't regret a second of it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

at least the customer service rep was nice.

well that was anti-climactic.

in preparation for the time spent here in the city before class started, i thought that i would be nice to myself and order a few books with which i'd pass my time. most of them arrived just fine and i've already gobbled them up because that's what i do--when i'm in the city that never sleeps and somewhere, might i add, that i've wanted to live for ages, instead of taking advantage of this beautiful, lively place, i hole up with a book. actually, many books. i've worked my way through a good chunk of salinger and vonnegut, and am about to dive into some lovely french lit. i digress.

this last book that i ordered, it was going to be sort of an exception to my rule. the other books had been strictly joy reading material, things i had wanted to read but never had the time to do so before. this last book was going to be both joy reading and reading with a purpose. what multi-tasking book was this?

101 things i learned in culinary school.

now i can hear you thinking, why were you getting a book about culinary school when you are actually going to culinary school...days from now? allow me to clarify. i am going to pastry school. to be a pâtissière. a pâtissière of awesome. i've found that when i outrightly say that i am going to pastry school though, that people get this image of easy bake ovens and frilly cupcakes, and...that is not what i am going to be studying. so i cheat a little. i say that i'm concentrating on baking and pastry arts (which is completely true) at culinary school. there's something about those words "culinary school" that seem to satisfy people's natural penchant to be overly concerned about people's life plans*, because quite frankly, everyone needs to eat.

so now that that record is straight, where was i? ah yes. the book. i bought 101 things i learned in culinary school because there are things that culinary students will learn that i'll never come across, which is fine, because i can't see myself incorporating a medium-rare beef patty into a dessert for example (watch, that's what i'll be famous for in ten years), but i still would like to know how to prepare a medium-rare beef patty. as much as other people need to eat, i sure as heck do too, and a lot of this whole culinary adventure is not just going to be about dessert.

i ordered this book on january seventeenth, after already having arrived here, because i found it marked down from 15$ to 5$ and figured that finding such a steal was clearly a sign that not only did i want the book, i was meant to have it. i ordered it priority shipping and it was sent out on the eighteenth. and so my countdown began: only six to eleven days before i would get my book, just in time for me to devour its tips and then head off to school.

fast forward to yesterday, and i realize, hey, tomorrow is february and i've been waiting and waiting for this book to arrive....where is it! needless to say, the countdown came and went, and i was just trying to be nice and think to myself, well, maybe they meant business days, and not just calendar days, maybe that was the confusion. (it wasn't.) or perhaps i didn't actually order it priority! (i did.) finally, after some prodding, i stepped up and e-mailed the customer service rep who had actually just e-mailed me to see if i would fill out a customer satisfaction survey about my order.

     dear [company's customer service],

            while i'd love to fill out your survey, i haven't received my order yet! help?


i then found the customer service phone number (which oddly enough wasn't listed on their site) and called them, but of course, after hours. since i didn't want to leave a message (because i effectively already had with the e-mail) i figured i would wait to hear from them today, and if not, i'd call again.

the response was kind enough, but not exactly what i was looking for.

     dear bellenanasansbanane,

            i am very sorry to hear your order has not arrived. the seller confirmed shipment on january eighteenth. at this point i'm afraid we have to consider it lost in the mail. i have issued you a full refund on the order. [...].

            [customer service rep]

if the order somehow shows up, i'm going to let them know so that i can be un-refunded, and just so that they know the package did finally make it here. i have a feeling that something is up with the mail system that my apartment-mates have worked out, even though i have checked the mailbox and the box of mail in the apartment every day. it's a bit strange though, i've never had a package get lost in the mail, and i've sent and received things from overseas! ah well. i haven't quite given up hope, but at the same time, with work and school kicking into gear, this may get pushed to the back burner (ha! i am so funny).

i'm hoping to save up on these half-accomplished "it was meant to be!" moments so i can cash in on something big. like a kitchen aid mixer. or a totally-romantic-movie-moment-come-to-life.

on second thought, definitely the mixer.

*before deciding to go to into the culinary field, before deciding to uproot my entire life and live a little dangerously, before signing off on any of this, i cannot begin to tell you how often the "what are you going to do (for the rest of your life)?" conversation came up. and i don't need to tell you, since i'm sure that at least once in your life, this has happened to you as well. to be honest, my life plan, my five year plan, my five MONTH plan affects no one else but me (and perhaps a few near and dear to me). initially i was open to the gaping mouthed looks of horror ("THAT's what you're going to throw your life away on?!") but that's just leaving myself vulnerable to other's own fears of unrealized goals, not mine. so yes, i fudge it a little to avoid those types of conversations, but that's not to say i completely avoid the subject. if you're open to discussion, i am too. just don't foist your fears on me, i have enough of my own.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

a note about the name

belle nana sans banane. no, it's not english, and no, it doesn't make sense. so...what is it?

(une) belle nana sans banane literally means a crumpet without bananas. i don't think i've ever necessarily heard of anyone eating crumpets with or without bananas, and if you are in either camp of frequent crumpet-eaters, i applaud you. all of this being said, why on earth did i decide to title this blog this way?

to a small group of people, i'm known as crumpet, which is one of the sweetest nicknames i've had in my brief history. and the banana part? i just don't like them.

not a monumental explanation, but at least it's an answer. and for those who are curious enough to care, it's pronounced: "bel-nah-nah-sohn-bah-nahn" or (for the IPA friendly among you) : /belnanasãbanan/. it has a lovely way of rolling off the tongue, n'est-ce pas?


hello and welcome to belle nana sans banane!

as it says in the about me section, i'm about to begin a new chapter, something that has been (officially) five years in the making, and what better way to capture all of the excitement of that journey than with fork&knife, and of course, a computer&internet connection!

over the course of the next few months and beyond, you will accompany me to class, to the library, to the kitchen (of course!) and more. this whole process is more than just what i'll be picking up in the classroom, because i'm searching for a deeper understanding of the culinary world, not just some practical know-how.