Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Let's Take it Back: Best of 2010

With Christmas break quickly coming to an end, I find myself anxiously anticipating the beginning of the end; my final semester of culinary school.  I realize that we are already 11 days into 2011, so I'm about 2 weeks behind with my 'best of' list.  For some reason I find myself trying to silently tip-toe into the new year.  In sixteen short weeks I will be expected to enter the real world, find a job, support myself, and leave my childhood behind.  No wonder my brain is racing at full speed.  So instead of dreading the future, I'm going to take some time to reflect on the past year of my life to help quiet my mind.  Here are my best moments of 2010...

1. Best Day of School -- Taster's Guild Spring 2010

Team Cajun & Creole
Welcome to Louisana-- Team Cajun & Creole. 
Taster Guild is an event put on by the culinary program at NMC every spring.  All of the World Cuisine classes were split up into groups and given a country.  It was our responsibility to come up with a menu that represented our country and design a table to serve our food.  My group drew Cajun & Creole cuisine and decided to go crazy with Mardi Gras decorations.  Looking back, I think we might have gone a little overboard, but we took 3rd place out of all the groups, so we must have done something right!  Congrats again to my best culinary buddies, Steph and Ray, for taking first place! :)

Our Menu - Crabmeat Cheesecake, Fried Green Tomatoes, Frog Legs, Etoufee, and Cajun Pralines

My favorite decoration -  King Cake
2. Best Dessert -- Vanilla Quark Panna Cotta with Star Anise Cranberry Compote and Spiced Pecan Brittle

The first time I ever tasted panna cotta was in New York City in the summer of 2009.  Ever since then I have been head over heels in love.  If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, it would be definitely be panna cotta.  When I came across this recipe last spring, I decided to make it for my birthday instead of a cake.  The quark cheese gave it a wonderful salty, tangy flavor to contrast with the sweetness of the vanilla and richness of the heavy cream. Yummm, I will keep this recipe with me for many years to come!

3. Best Dinner Out -- Mother's Day at Plato's in Aspen, Colorado

Potato Crusted Mahi Mahi with Pickled Beets, Crispy Chickpeas, and Lemon Vinaigrette

 I did my internship in Aspen, Colorado this past summer.  My mom drove out there with me and then flew back home to Michigan.  While she was there, we went out to dinner at Plato's Restaurant, which was part of the resort where I would be working for Mother's Day.  The dining room has an entire wall of windows, showing of the spectacular view.  The city of Aspen is perfectly placed in the middle of the mountains.  The mahi mahi dish we had for dinner was one of the best things I ate all summer.  It was definitely a day I will never forget.

View from dining room at Plato's

Best part of the meal! :)

4. Best Wine -- Brunello Di Montalcino

I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Food & Wine Classic while I was in Aspen.  This is the best wine I have ever tasted in my life.  I would drink it every single day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner if  I could!  Not joking...

5. Best Co-workers -- Steph and Street John

Cheers!  A celebratory glass of wine after a long day.

Black Star Farms is one of the top wineries in the state of Michigan and I had the amazing opportunity of helping out with big dinners held at the Inn this fall.  My classmate, Steph, was kind and thoughtful enough to think of me for the job.  Steph and my boss, John, are two of the hardest workers I have ever met.  They take turns getting to work at 5 o'clock in the morning and sometimes stay until 11 o'clock at  night.  No matter how many times the dishwasher stopped working, they always found a way to keep smiling.  Their passion for cooking and incredible work ethics inspired me everytime I went to work.  I cannot find the words to express my level of graditude and appreciation to these two people.  There is no doubt in my mind that they both have very bright futures ahead of them!

Peach & Prosciutto Mixed Greens with Basil and Honey Chive Blossom Viniagrette.  Beautiful!

6. Best Cookbook -- Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home

An autographed copy by Thomas Keller himself.  The perfect birthday present.
7.  Best Blackbox and Final -- Garde Manger Fall 2010

This fall in Garde Manger my partner, Ray, and I drew salmon as our protein for our final.  To be perfectly honest, I was quite nervous about Ray going overboard.  Ray started thinking about this project weeks in advance and as the days got closer to our final, the more nervous I became.  Being a vegetarian in garde manger was hard enough, but having to keep up with Ray was a little stressful at times.  But we ended up making better food than I ever dreamed possible.  Thank you Ray for always pushing me to worker harder than I thought possible.  You have taught me so many brilliant tricks along the way.  Dude..... :)

Smoked Salmon "BLT"
Salmon Terrine Platter

8. Best Learning Experience -- HUMC Christmas Dinner

Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to do a four course plated dinner for 100 people.  I had no idea the amount of work I would have to put into this dinner.  Luckily, I had family members who were willing to help out.  I wouldn't have been able to do it without them.  We somehow managed to pull the dinner off without any major problems.  Trying to decide how much food to buy to serve 100 without having running out, but also not having too many left overs was definitely a challenge. 

Karla, Joe, and Tommy -- My Sous Chefs
9. Best Dinner of the Year -- Del Posto, New York City

I'm not really sure how to begin talking about this dinner; it was that good.  It is very possible that I will never have a dining experience like this again in my life. 

Jake & I all dressed up for a surprise dinner at Del Posto in NYC
Del Posto is one of the top restaurants in New York City.  Joe Bastianich, Lidia Bastianich and Mario Batali came together to create an out of this world menu.  We decided to go all out and order the seven course grand tasting.  We also ordered a bottle of wine; presented to us by a certified sommelier.  I was in heaven.  It was difficult to stop myself from literally licking each plate clean.  Needless to say, I was miserably full afterwards, but it was worth every single bite.  Thank you Jake for the dinner of a lifetime.

10. Best Food Event of the Year (and my entire life) -- Food & Wine Classic 2010

While I was interning in Aspen, I applied to be a volunteer at the world famous Food & Wine Classic.  Locals sign up to volunteer as early as January for this summertime event, so I didn't think I had a very good chance of being chosen.  Two days before the event, I recieved a phone calling from the director of the volunteers explaining to me that there had been a last minute drop out and there was an opening to work the wine semminars.  I had to pinch myself; was this really happening?! 

I immediately called my mom and told her the good news.  I was so pumped that I could hardly breath and started crying with excitement.  I would be pouring (and drinking!) some of the best wines in the world.  I was going to the same event as Giada De Laurentis, Bobby Flay, Thomas Keller, Mario Batalli, I could go on forever... This was a foodie's dream come true.
Thomas Keller and Me :)

Giada!  And yes... she is even more beautiful in person.

 The Food and Wine Classic was an experience that I will never, ever forget.  It changed my life and I can only hope to attend the event again someday!

After reflecting on the past year, it is more clear to me than ever that I am headed in the right direction.  Two years ago, before my culinary journey began, I never imagined this is where I would be.  I have met some fabulous people and been inspired to continue to chase that dream.  My mind has finally stopped racing and I'm done worrying about the future.  Whatever is supposed to happen will work out perfectly.  My goal for 2011 is to simply live in the present moment and take nothing for granted.  Happy 2011!!


  1. I'm thinking you have a pretty good "best of" list going. Am looking forward to reading more in the future....and I too am sure that you are headed in the right direction...following your passion. I am soooo happy for you....and proud of you.

  2. All I can do is Smile!!! I am smiling so big that my cheeks hurt! I love you Miss Kelsi and I am so excited to tackle this last 16 weeks with you! Lets make it the best ever! We have so many exciting things waiting for us to learn and explore! xoxo

  3. My favorite is your outlook and goals for 2011. That is huge! I pray that your 2011 "best of" list is filled with even better more satisfying and memorable experiences that you will remember for all time. This blog is a great start!