Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Toy Story

Without a doubt, my favorite movie of the year was Toy Story 3. It was a perfect way to end the trilogy, and pretty much signified the end of my "childhood" if that's what you call it. I saw it at midnight, the day of it's release, with all of my friends. And the next morning, around 8, I packed up my dad's car and moved to Madison.

I think everyone has their own "Woody". The toy in the movie. Not the dirty kind.

Think of something that you've owned for all of your life. It might be a toy, it might be a book, it might be a pet, or even a blanket or something like that. For me, it's Pig. Pig is a ratty old stuffed pig that I've had pretty much since the day I was born. He was the subject of countless "Show and tells" in pre-school and kindergarten. He is responsible for hours of daily entertainment when I was a kid. He is probably the reason for my irrational obsession with all things pork. And he is tucked underneath my arm right now as I'm typing.

It's funny how cyclical life is. For a while, the awkward years, you try so hard to break free of your own personality and be something different, something cool. For about five years, between the ages of ten and fifteen, I was the weirdest little shit on the face of the earth. I had the spikey hair, I wore the baggy shorts, I listened to the backstreet boys, and I even played football. Looking back, these are all things I probably should never have done. But if you were to look at me now, and look at me when I was five, you'd see pretty much an Identical match.

When I was back home for the week or so between Madison and CIA, I noticed a portrait on the wall that I;d never really taken any notice of before. It was a drawing of me and my sister, done by a family friend. We were little. Anna was probably six or seven and I was probably three or four. But I look the same. I've got the same fat head, the same haircut, relatively similar wardrobe, and I'm holding Pig, just as I am now.

I was obsessed with trains when I was a kid, and now one of my favorite things to do is ride the Subways in New York City. Or when I'm on the train from Poughkeepsie from Grand Central, I sit with my nose pressed against the glass looking over the Hudson. Just like I would do when I was in the car as a little kid. Every morning as a kid I would pee in my babysitter's front lawn... Things don't ever really change.

I am writing this today, because I just took Pig into my menu development class, a sort of "Show and Tell". People joked about it, as I sat there with a Pig on my desk. They teased me, but I just sat there and took it. I then stood in front of the class, presented my restaurant concept, described my obsession for pork, (that's where Pig came in), then went through my pig-centric menu. People teased me at first, but then they saw there was quite a bit of validity for Pig being up there with me, tucked under my arm. The class voted my menu, and my restaurant concept, as the best one, so now my work is going on showcase in the McCann center. And It's all because of Pig.

Here's my menu, in picture, but due to the shittiness of the camera on my phone, I also have the text copied underneath.


Blood “cake”, buttermilk biscuit, fried egg, cholula butter

Roast shank bone marrow, grilled bread, parsley and caper salad

Smoked-spiced jowl, pickled shallots, whole-grain mustard, rye

Small Plates
Crispy ear, iceberg wedge, lardons, smoked chanterelles, buttermilk bleu cheese emulsion

Spiced heart and kidney turnover, spicy ketchup

Braised-flash fried pigs’ tails, whole-grain mustard aioli

Soft-scrambled egg, pickled pig’s feet, chive, parmesan-brioche croutons, summer truffle

Main Courses
braised tongue, lard-fried fingerlings, confit shallot, cheese curd, foie gras pork jus, summer truffle

Braised cheek-potato-pleasant ridge reserve filled pierogies, caramelized onion, black garlic, house kielbasa

Potato gnocchi, sautéed liver, heirloom tomato ragout, garlic, capers, yellow-foot chanterelles, double cream

Crispy boneless trotter, sage pork stuffing, potato puree, foie gras cognac jus, chanterelles

Bacon fat confit-sautéed sweetbread, anchovies, orange-braised Belgian endive, truffled pork jus, summer truffle


Thick-cut house bacon, heirloom tomato, iceberg, brioche, aioli

House-cured coppa, burrata, olive oil, warm ciabatta

House-cured lardo, egg yolk, French bread, sea salt

Small Plates
Braised pork shoulder, wild rice, whole-grain mustard

Crispy confit shank, Tabasco, buttermilk bleu cheese emulsion,
tournée celery

Smoked, boneless spare rib, uni-creamed Indiana sweet corn, lardons, chive, crème fraiche

Smoked-cured ham, red and yellow watermelon, pickled red onion, Capri farm goat cheese, balsamic reduction

Main Courses
Pan-roasted-bone-in loin chop, Indiana sweet corn and jalapeno pancake, haricots verts, Black cherry and ghost chili sauce

Roasted, pancetta-cured belly, black mission figs, pistachios,
ciabatta panzanella, charred cherry tomatoes, grilled radicchio

Spit-roasted, lemon-sage-rosemary rubbed porchetta, confit onions, dripping-sizzled potatoes

Hay-roasted ham, rutabaga and turnip hash, cider reduction

Roasted-garlic pork sausage, bacon and trotter braised navy beans, Swiss chard


Cayenne spiced- crispy skin, maple Ice cream

Sour cream and jalapeno shortcake, grilled pineapple, carnitas

Rum-caramel simmered belly, poached banana ice cream

Apples, fennel sausage, hook’s 10-year cheddar crumble

Lard-fried beignets, maple sugar, bacon-scotch coffee semi-fredo

Who knows... maybe ten or fifteen years down the road you may stumble across a place called Tongue and Cheek. If you do... walk inside. You might just see the pig that started it all, painted on the wall.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Second Hand Fat

I have become a living legend of sorts. Tales of my epic journeys have been spread across campus, the country, and even the world (according to the stats page on my blog dashboard I have regular readers in Brazil, the UK, Ukraine, Russia, and Japan. Folks from all over have been contacting me... asking if they can be apart of my escapades. They want to experience hedonism at its most extreme. They want to see if they have what it takes. They want to sit in my aura and immerse themselves in the energy that radiates off of me. The energy I call Second Hand Fat.

In the way that those who take in second hand smoke from tobacco smokers are more likely to suffer the symptoms of a smoker, people who are in my presence are more likely to become morbidly obese. My constant weekend dining activities have been balanced by my nightly basketball games, and the fact that I usually sleep through lunch and only eat dinner on week days. But right now, as I sit in my bed, I am still amazed that I have survived this weekend. I may need a gastric bypass sometime soon. Or at least some insulin and a prescription for lipitor.

My victim for this week was Zach Schneiderman, a young man whose stomach rivals mine. He performed quite admirably... and has lived to see another day. But had it not been for his laziness I'm not sure either of us would have survived. We had planned on leaving by 9 and being in the city by noon. But because Zach had been up til 4 AM the previous morning, he decided to sleep through my seven wakeup calls. I'll have you know that I was in bed at 3 30 AM... but had no problem waking up at the agreed upon time of 8 30. So when I finally broke into Zach's dorm room and woke him up at 1... we were considerably behind schedule. Stops were cancelled, and whole meals were cut out of the fatinerary... (the eating agenda).

We made the 1 40 train, and were in the city by 3 30. And were forced to make a detour at a small park on E Houston Street while on our way to Kats' deli. We had stumbled upon a park... and at this park there were dozens of young people, predominately Asian college students, running with broomsticks between their legs around a basketball court turned Quidditch pitch. Their color coordinated outfits with matching capes were too much to pass up. Picture a bunch of awkward, uncoordinated kids running around trying to play a sport that is made ridiculously difficult by the fact that there are five foot poles sitting between their legs. And the "Golden Snitch" snitch was some weirdo running around in gold spandex. After our detour, we had made it to Katz' Deli by 4 30. Katz' deli is the site of the fake orgasm scene in "When Harry Met Sally", and a huge tourist destination. Despite coming at the between meals hour of 4 30, it was packed. A man hand carved our pastrami sandwiches on rye with mustard. And as he did, he slid trimmings from the still steaming cut of beef onto a small plate on top of the counter... inviting us to take a taste and see what we were in store for. It was so bomb. I washed my huge feat of sandwich architecture down with a "Dr.Brown's Root Beer," because Zach, who is Jewish, said that it was a jew soda, and the only acceptable accmpaniment for such a sandwich. It was ridiculously amazing.

The Sandwich

Our next stop was "Eataly". An Italian Market designed and owned by Mario Batali, Eatlay offers everything from fresh produce, to cheese and salumi, to wine and pizza. It was a beautiful building and the most stunning aspect of the market was the salumi and cheese counter. They had over a hundred cheeses, and over thirty varieties of Italian cured meats. The first ones that I laid my eyes on I had to have. I ordered a half pound of Mangalitsa Lardo (pork fat from a heritage breed of pork, cured in salt and herbs, and aged), a quarter pound of pancetta, a quarter pound of spicy coppa, and a quarter pound of speck (a smoked, spiced prosciutto). Then, the couple next to me had apparently asked for a taste of a certain cheese. The woman at the counter accidentally handed me a sample as well, thinking I was with them. I immediately knew the cheese. It was the cheese that I had been instructed to order on my first cheese plate on my first visit to L'Etoile. It was the cheese that I had eaten on countless croque madames at Graze. It was the cheese that I sold exponentially more of on Garde Manger, because I included it on every single "Chef's choice" order for cheese plates. It was my favorite cheese in the world, and the best cheese in America according to the American Cheese Society. It was Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Zach looked at my face and I smiled as I let it melt in my mouth. My face turned bright red and I got giddy. I immediately glanced down at the case and saw that white paper wrapped wheel of cheese with the golden label that I had grown to know so well and love so much. It honestly made my day. I didn't buy any, though, because I had already spent too much. But for sure, the next time I go to the city, I will be returning back to campus with a ten pound wheel of it. I turned to the couple and told them, "You have to buy this cheese, it's my favorite cheese in the world and it's the best cheese in America!" They did. You're welcome Uplands Cheese Company, I'll be expecting my commission check next week.

The magnificent Salumi Case at "Eataly"

But Zach and I were in a pickle. We had just bought forty bucks worth of extremely temperature sensitive meat, and were at least seven hours away from arriving back at school. We walked down the street, and I saw it like the North Star. The skyscrapers seemed to slide to the side, and I immediately was struck with joy. I would know that sign anywhere, along with the long strands of christmas lights. We had been lead by the gods to one of my personal Mecca's... Shake Shack. Zach, of course, had never been, so we stood in line in the cold (which was good for us because it temporarily solved our pork refrigeration issues). We ordered a burger each, and I got a root beer float while Zach got a shake. We sat in the cold, enjoying our Shake Shack goodies for a while, and eventually moved on to find a shop that Zach wanted to find.

Zach and I had previously decided that we were going to skip our other scheduled stops: the Spotted Pig, and Artichoke Pizza, due to time constraints and belly limitations. But as we were searching for Zach's store, I glanced at a street sign. 14th Street and 2nd Avenue... something clicked. My Pudgy senses began to tingle. I glanced to the right, and to the left, and I barked at Zach... "We're here." I took two steps forward and immediately Zach smiled and said, "Oh dear God." We had stumbled across Artichoke Pizza, the destination we had jointly decided against visiting. Zach looked dead set against it, but I was Jonesing. We compromised. We decided to split a slice. It was just as good as last time.

We decided to solve our meat temp problems, we would go to a walgreens and buy a bunch of cold packs from the pharmacy section. You know the kind where you shake them up, break the inner pouch and the thing turns ice cold for about two hours. The things that are extremely poisonous and instructed us to not ingest on the front of the box. But we wrapped two in plastic and stuck them in the Eataly Bag to last us through our final stop. We saved another two for the train ride home.

Then, the time had come. It was my chance to visit one of the places I want to work most. We had booked an 11 30 PM reservation at DBGB, a hip French Brasserie owned by Daniel Boulud. We arrived for our reservation an hour early, the restaurant was packed, but they gave us a table within fifteen minutes of our arrival. Zach ordered Head Cheese, and I ordered the Iceberg Wedge salad. Both items were incredible. But the Iceberg salad with bleu cheese, bacon, and tomatoes was just damn delicious. Then, for main courses, I ordered a crispy pig's foot and a side of Toulouse sausage ( a sausage stuffed with pork, duck, duck gizzards, and garlic.) Zach ordered crispy tripe and blood sausage. My pig's foot was perfect. It was a boneless pig's foot, rolled into a torpedo shape and slowly cooked until it was incredibly tender. Then it was breaded and deep fried. This is the kind of thing I just can't get enough of.

We left, and made the 12 40 train. A bunch of drunk college girls were screaming about birds shitting on them, and playing extremely crude (yet slightly hilarious) games of "would you rather" and keeping us awake due to their sheer volume. They were screaming and laughing and crying all at the same time... for an hour straight. Then when they finally got off the train, Zach moved to the row where they had been sitting and fell asleep... I, being the greedy sneaky fat man I am... silently cracked open the speck form the Salumi Bag, and began slowly enjoying slice after slice of salty, peppery, smoky, melt-in-your-mouth pork. As we arrived at the station around 3 15 AM, I walked over to Zach, and waved a piece of speck in front of his face until he woke up. We got back to campus by 3 45, and immediately went to bed.

This morning we woke up, around 9, and immediately went to Connecticut. Zach's dad owns an awesome little bakery in Ridgefield CT, a small town about an hour away from the CIA. We had one thing on our mind... free, fresh, awesome bread to take back to enjoy with our salumi. As soon as we got back, I met up with Taylor, my buddy from Texas who drove me to Adams, a gourmet market near school. We were going to cook a bunch of stuff just for shits and giggles. We bought chicken wings, duck legs, pork shoulder, and pork osso bucco along with your traditional ingredients for a tomato sauce, (crushed tomatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, carrots, chicken stock, and chile flakes.

We had two dishes on the agenda. First, we were going to make a dish we had seen on the internet. Michael Voltaggio, top chef winner, has a dish where he lops the ends of chicken wings and braises them in cream and chicken stock for a few hours, lets them cool, then slides the bones out of the tender wings. Then they are dredged in wondra flour and pan fried. They turned out great. They were so good, so tender, so crispy, and so freakin cool. Our main project however, was "sketty bonognaise". We took the duck legs, peeled the skin off them, rendered the skin, and boned out the legs. Then we also rendered out our pancetta from NYC, then used both fats to sear off the osso bucco, duck, and cubed pork shoulder. We deglazed the pans and in one big dutch oven, braised the meats with tomatoes, red wine, garlic, onion, carrot, and thyme.

While both pots simmered away on the stove, I got out the lardo, and the fresh ciabatta bread from Zach's dad's bakery. I shaved the lardo paper thin and melted it on top of the pieces of ciabatta. It was ridicuous. After I had done that, I literally sat by the bubbling bolognaise sauce and dipped hunks of baguette in it. I must have eaten half of that baguette on my own. After about four hours on the stove, the bolognese was ready. We served 8 people, and it was a hit. So rich, so meaty, so flavorful. Definitely one for me to hold onto.

My Lardo, and my Knife.

It was my last trip to the city until after christmas though, which makes me sad. But I know when I get back, I'll go apeshit.

And after this trip to the city, more so than any other, I actually felt really comfortable with the idea of living in the city, I understand the geography of the city now. I know the main streets. I know the subways. And I was able to single handedly navigate my way around the city usung only the subway map on the back cover of my Michelin guide.

It's looking brighter and brighter every day.

And in my restaurant/menu development project is in its finishing stages. The final menu is due Thursday. I'm already done though, so I should be able to have the final details of "Tongue and Cheek: A holistic Approach to Pork" up relatively soon.

This weekend I'll be clowning it up in Connecticut with my second favorite dog in the world, Torey. Also, I'll be attempting to recreate dishes my aunt and uncle had at Roy Yamaguchi's restaurant in Florida.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

I Heart New York... Part Deux

So, for some freakish reason all of my pictures came back to my phone today. Not quite sure how it happened.. but I turned on my phone and all my music and photos magically reappeared. Strange, I know.

But I have some pretty sweet pictures I took while on my latest escapade in the Big Apple... so I figured I'd post them.

This is the first thing I saw when I got off the subway at Canal and Baxter... the window of my pork bun spot.

Pork Bun Before...

And After...

The Pho at Pho Grand... in all its' beefy, tripey, and tendony goodness.

When you eat as much as I did... as often as I did... gastrointestinal malfunctions were a commonality... alas, here I am in the bathroom at Milk Bar on twelfth.

This was the artichoke pizza at Artichoke... bomb diggity. Possibly the greatest pizza I've ever had.

The folks at Yakitori Totto had the foresight to put a can of febreez in the men's room. It was certainly a necessity.

This is Alex... with Donald Glover aka the rapper Childish Gambino aka Troy from NBC's Community aka the black dude from all the Derrick Comedy videos... "Your word... is N*****F*****."

Finally... The amazing view from Nicola's apartment on Times Square. Absolutely Ridiculous.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Heart New York

Its one in the morning. I'm sitting on a train on my way back to poughkeepsie. And Alex, my roommate from last year is snoring with his head in my lap. The little guy just couldn't keep up. All I can think of right now is what I'm going to do on my next visit. Today, was one of the best.

Tragically, for some reason, all of the pictures I took in the city today are no longer on my phone. Why? I couldn't tell you. I'm kind of pissed.

My day started at eleven when I woke up. I showered, woke up Alex, the only person I could get to go to the city with me. We set out to catch the 2 40 train, were in the city by 4.

I forgot the little things that I missed about the city. I missed subway music. But sure enough the first subwat we took there was a fat guy with an accordian bellowing Christmas music. Our first stop was the adidas store. Alex is a bit of a nerd and had to buy the some new special edition adidas star wars apparel. It was sold out... Then I took the reigns and it became a trip worthy of the title fat ass adventure. We made our customary stop at the same little chinese shop for pork buns. Its at the corner of Canal and Baxter in Chinatown. Whole sides of roast pork and whole roast ducks hang in the window. The Pork buns themselves, doughy baked yeast rolls with a honey glaze, filled with roast pork in a sweet sauce. They are possibly my favorite thing in the whole world. Without a doubt, they are one of my favorite things on the face of the Earth.

At six o'clock we walked into "pho grand". Its a chef hangout with pho, a vietnamese beef noodle soup that I love with all my heart. We both ordered large bowls of pho with beef round, brisket, tripe (stomach), and soft tendon. It was glorious. I sat there, tchopstix in one hand, chinese soup spooon in the other, grinning as I alternated between beefy noodle slurps, and sips of spicy anise tinged broth. The contrast of the hot busy room, the cold weather outside. My lips stung as I slurped the steaming hot noodles, but I kept eating. My mouth went numb because of the spice, the anise, and a touch of sezchuan peppercorn. When we left, I was so happy that I literally couldn't help but cross one of the busiest streets in New York, buddy the elf style. I hopped with two feet across a busy intersection making surte to only step on the white lines.

Our next stop was milk bar. A hip dessert spot with four daily soft serve flavors and a bunch of other goodies. We bought a sampler of the fous ice creams: donut, red velvet cake, horchata, and cereal milk. For the cereal milk they soak frosted flakes in milk, strain them off, and then use the milk for soft serve. It literally tastes like you're slurping the milk after you eat a bowl of cereal. Greatest ice cream in the world. We also had a piece of "crack pie". A gooey butter pie with a toasted oat crust.... To die for.

Our next stop was "artichoke". There I had the single greatest slice of pizza I've ever had in my life. It was a small shack. There were no seats (just like at all the places I love) and Alex and I split a slice of artichoke pizza. It was a hot slice of pizza, with a cream suace base, smothered with cheese and artichoke hearts. To die for. The single greatest vegetarian thing I've ever had in my life.

Our next and final stop, the whole goal of our journey. Yakitori totto. A little joint just south of central park. For those of you not in the know, yakitori is a japanese dining style in which skewers of protien, predominately chicken, are grilled over coals and served hot to diners. I had been craving yakitori ever since ed the fish cook at L'Etoile told me about his trip to San Francisco. You order by the partn and each skewer is about three bucks. Alex and I each had a japanese beer, and we ordered several skewers. I ordered a skewer of chicken skin, one of chicken necks, one chicken heart, one berkshire pork neck, one berkshire pork belly with ponzu and scallions, and to finish it off, one more skewer of crispy chicken skin for dessert.

My friend Mary's older sister Nicola just got a job working for Coach, the handbag company, in New York. She just moved in two days ago, so we stopped by her place to say hello. Turns out she lives in Times Square... Literally, IN times Square. Her building is right next to M&M world. We went up to her apartment, which has a full wall sized window looking over Times Square. Its a crazy apartment, and we stayed there until like 11 30: then it was time to leave to catch our train to Poughkeepsie.

And as I sat on the train, it hit me. If everything goes according to plan, this whole city, in eight month's time, will become my personal playground. Whenever I'm not working, or sleeping, I'll be out, taking in the sights and shoving everything edible into my face. The thought is so thrilling, that I am seriously considering dropping all my plans for every weekend I'll be at school, and going to the city, to just soak it up.

Visit... if you wish... you'll eat better than you ever have in you ever have in your entire life... trust me. You won't regret a second of it either. I promise

Until then... Keep it real.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Chicken Soup for the Cook's Soul

I've had quite a bit of down time in between classes. Daytime TV sucks, video games get old, I've seen every movie I own fifty times, and Hyde Park is about exciting as an old boot. Did I mention that my computer is in for repairs at the Apple Store? I've been running through my personal library for the past few days. I've also been expanding it.I forgot how much I love all of my books.

There's Marco Pierre White's "White Heat", a book from the original culinary rockstar, filled with incredible pictures and stories and anecdotes from possibly the most badass chef of all time. There's the Alinea cookbook. Alinea is a restaurant in Chicago, that literally blows my mind. I don't understand the food there at all. AT ALL, but the pictures of the plates they have put out take my breath away. There's Medium Raw, by one of my personal idols, Tony Bourdain. I could literally read the chapter about the Ortolan over and over. I read my favorite excerpts from Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud over and over. And finally, after I had gone through all of these, I came across possibly the book that means the most to me. "Last Suppers".

Let me start off by explaining something that non cooks really don't understand. When I tell people about myself, the first thing they ask me, which pisses me off to no end, is "What's your favorite thing to cook?" or "What's your favorite food?". I smile, through gritted teeth, and act like I'm racking my brain for a definite answer, flicking through mental images of everything I've ever cooked or eaten in my life. While actually, cursing that person inside my own head for asking me a question to which they do not want to know the answer. I love to cook... I don't love to cook steaks, pork chops, pasta, or pancakes in particular. I love the act of cooking, the feel of a hot burner radiating against my fore arms, gently flipping a piece of fish, the sound of deglazing a pan.I love it all. But I do have tendencies, and a personal philosophy in regards to food. I hold food sacred, a life giving deity that should be respected. But if I had to tell everyone that asked me the question something along those lines, I'd come off looking like somewhat of an ass, Wouldn't I? So I smile and respond... with whatever the last memorable thing I ate or cooked.

Having said that, cooks play a game,all around the world. A game where we ask each other about what our death row meal would be. Not what your favorite food is, but if you could eat one last bite, before you die, what tastes and textures would you want on your palate for the rest of eternity. And for cooks especially, food holds a special place in our heart. for myself and cooks everywhere, nothing has the power to invoke memories of people, places, and times in my life like food can.

Which brings me back to "Last Supper". The author asked fifty famous chefs what their death row meals would be, where it would take place, the music that would play, what they would drink, and who they would spend their last meal with. It's a very emotional book. But it is astonishing how similar everyone's meal is. Don't get me wrong, there are a few guys who want 12 course tasting menus, extravagant meals with thousands of people. But what struck me most was the simplicity of the majority of the answers. Jamie Oliver would have pasta all'arabiatta (spicy pasta), on the couch with his wife while watching "Some garbage on the television". Eric Ripert, the Chef of the greatest seafood restaurant in the country, maybe the world, would eat country bread, grilled with olive oil, and shaved truffles, under a tree in a field somewhere. Tony Bourdain would have roasted bone marrow on toast. This book has made me realize that the food we eat, however good it may be, is only as good as the company and the setting with which we enjoy it. Some of my favorite foods, the ones I hold most dear to my heart, I enjoy not only because they are delicious, but because in them, I relive some of the fondest memories I have with the people I shared these meals with.

For example, My jamaican patty obsession is partially fueled by the association I hold between the patties and my soccer buddies. We would go there after summer workouts, cram 8 people in a four seater booth, and enjoy our patties. Pork buns remind me of my first trip with my cook friends to NYC. We went for dim sum, and at the end, we all ordered barbecue pork buns. We loved them so much that we went back for seconds, and now every time we go we buy a few dozen to freeze back at school. My infatuation with bacon is without a doubt associated to breakfasts my Grandma would cook me before school when I was little. I would literally wake up to the smell of bacon and the sound of eggs frying in a skillet. Natures greatest alarm clock. Every food I have ever eaten is associated with a certain memory, some greater than others, but I hold each extremely close to me heart. When I'm old and senile, I know that, while I won't be able to remember my own name, when I take a bite of a hot pretzel with mustard and widmer's cheese spread, I'll picture a much younger me, sitting at the bar at Graze, drinking a beer and getting nasty notes on the back of my order ticket from Nate, the sous chef.

My death row meal, would be a symposium of my greatest food memories. A greatest hits album of sorts, comprised of my most memorable dining experiences, each with the people I enjoyed them with. I would have bacon and eggs with my grandparents. I would have Broad Ripple Bagel Deli with my sister. I would have patties of Jamaica with all of my soccer teammates. I would have Pork Buns with my friends in New York. I would have rotisserie chicken with my Dad. Homemade chex mix with my mom. I'd have Lobster Mac n Cheese with my Aunt and Uncle in Connecticut. I'd have Noodles and Co with Mary. I'd have 96th Street Steak Burger with Ryan. I'd have Pizza King with the Harrisons. I'd have Mug and Bun with all my boys on the West Side. And I'd have Saigon Noodle with the entire staff from L'Etoile and Graze. I'd have tacos al pastor with the kitchen crew at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. But to finish it all off... I'd probably just wander around New york City... and eat whatever I wanted. But I'd be by myself. I like being alone... with only the food in front of me as company... that's how it'd have to end.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving... And the Mystery of the Ghost Shitter

Wednesday classes came and went, and before I knew it it was Thanksgiving. Thursday morning, Jon, our friend Valerie and I set off for Jersey. We were starving, and the only place open by school was McDonalds. So, as much as it sucks to say, I had a McRib on Thanksgiving...

The whole trip down to Jersey, I sat in the back of Val's car and played pokemon on my gameboy. Occasionally stopping to crack my knuckles and laugh as Jon yelled "LEAF!" at the top of his lungs every time a leaf floated towards the car, just to freak Val out.
Last Thanksgiving, my friend Cooper was the guest at the Petela house, and I was instructed that I had to go to Wawa (a tristate gas-station/convenience store/sandwich shop0 and get a Turkey Gobbler: a sub with hot turkey, gravey, stuffing, and cranberries.So yes, I actually ate turkey on Thanksgiving... even though it was from a gas station, it was delicious. I got one for the trip home when we left too.

When we arrived, we were greeted by Jon's fat black lab named Coal. We waited for Jon's Grandma to get back to the house, then we set off for the Montego Bay Motel. Let me clarify, Wildwood, NJ, the town where Jon lives, is a bustling resort and beach vacation destination in the summer... but in November, it is DEAD. Most of Jon's neighbors were gone, because those houses were only their summer homes. A family friend of Jon's, however, manages a local Motel, fully furnished with an Indoor waterpark. The motel gives this guy an apartment in the Motel so he can remain on premises at all times. We went there for what was left of their Thanksgiving birds. Jon's grandparents and the three of us were there for about an hour when Jon's whole family arrived. We left for Jon's house, only to return to the motel about an hour later to Swim in the pool, and to play a little late night game of paintball on the beach and under the boardwalk.

We came back to the Petela household, went to bed. We woke up to go pick up a few last minute items, and the pig for dinner. When we got the pig back, we opened up the cardboard box it was in and realized that the damn thing was frozen solid. It was 10 AM and dinner was at 7. Jon called, pissed as hell, and negotiated a pretty sweet deal. We went back to the meat market, returned the pig, got about sixty pounds of pork shoulder, and a full refund. We paid zero dollars for 60 pounds of pork. My kind of thanksgiving.

We came back, and Val, being the worthless baker she is, was just getting up. Jon started a fire out back and got the pork on his hand made barbecue pit while I trussed, seasoned, oiled, and saged our turkey. Jon and I were cooking on and off all day. We assembled both proteins, a cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, apple sauce, potato salad, Italian sausage stuffing, a gravy, and pierogies with kielbasa. And had plenty of time to spare. Not to mention, we had smiles on our faces the whole time. We had no desserts, however, and when we asked master baker Valerie to bake one pie, and to assemble a boxed cake with store bought icing for Jon's little cousin's birthday, you would have thought we had asked her to donate her kidney. She was so dramatic about baking one pecan pie. I am not sure she had ever made one before... I could have made it, because I had made a corn syrup pie filling on extern when in the bakery, but I decided that she had to pull her own weight. She even had a helper, Jon's 17 year old sister, but it was still like pulling teeth. The pie came out well, but there was only one pie, for 30 plus guests. But despite the fact that she had enough crust and filling to make two more, she decided that it wasnt worth the effort.

This whole ordeal simply justified my belief that bakers and pastry chefs, especially ones from the CIA, will hold you ransom, simply because they know that you don't want to put forth the time and effort that is necessary to do their job, however simple and mindless it may be. Valerie, if you're reading this, your pie sucked too.

Dinner was a success, afterwards, we went bowling, then around 2 the next day, Saturday, we left for New York again. I wanted to go the city on Saturday afternoon, but Valerie was up all night chasing boys so she couldn't be bothered to wake up before noon. Killing my plans to eat my heart's content in NYC. Thanks again VAL. If you can't tell... I'm Bitter.

Saturday night, another uneventful night in Hyde Park. Sunday, I don't want to talk about Sunday. All I can say is that until Joseph Addia is healthy, or at least Mike Hart, and Gary Brackett too, this Colts team wont be doing anything too special. Peyton needs a supporting cast, at least ten other players on the field. At times this season it has seemed like Peyton has three linemen and two receivers on the field... period.

I have actually been interested in the Pacers this year too. I like what this teem has been doing. It seems like we have gotten rid of the riff raff, and with Collison at point, Danny Granger playing as hot as ever, and Roy Hibbert finally living up to his potential, this young team could be in for a hell of a run. It'll be nice to have a sports team to follow come February.

Monday morning I woke up, went to the bathroom, and there was a fat turd in the toilet. It wasn't mine, I assumed that Jon had taken a dump in the middle of the night and not flushed in order to not wake me up. But it was HUGE. I got back from class and told Jon... "Nice floater Jon." He was confused. He hadnt pooped. I hadn't pooped. We had no idea who it was.

Later that day, before I went to the gym to go play pick up basketball (a nightly activity now) Alex, my former roommate who lives a floor above me walked into my room and asked if I liked the present. Apparently he is poop shy around his new roommates, and noticed that our door was unlocked on his way to his 7 AM class. He has been pooping exclusively in our room for the last three weeks.

Now its time for class updates. Monday in nutrition I drew an awesome turkey using my hand as an outline. My friend Eli said it was so good its going on his fridge.

Costing... I worked on my menu development project.

Law... only two more classes til I ace the final and say peace out to the class.

Intro to management. The teacher... she still is trying to guilt me into giving the school more of my money. I still hate her. I still learn nothing in the class. Nothing new.

Menu development. I am working on a concept for a restaurant. I came up with a pork centric restaurant located in the empty shop underneath my sister's apartment in Chicago. It's called "Tongue and Cheek" and specializes in utilizing the whole hog in its tasting menu. Each dish uses pork, and every part of the pig is utilized inat least one dish. there are 4 courses, five options per course... and yes... pork desserts. i have the menu basically finished. I'll post it later when i am officially done and it looks nice.

Tomorrow is another day. This weekend I am going to try to make it to the city, and my good friend Cooper is coming back to school.

Should be fun.

Potential investors... please stay tuned for details on Tongue and Cheek. I am falling in love with this restaurant concept and may have to actually pursue it at some point in the future. Who knows.

Until next time,


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Man... The CIA

I just need to blow off some steam… the CIA is starting to get to me.

My first week back at the CIA is complete. The homework is starting back up and I’m slowly gearing back into school mode. It is nice not having to be in class until 11 30 every day, but the classes that I am taking right now are killing me inside.

Nutrition… where I learned a few days ago that the balanced diet should be high in green vegetables, low in dairy, sodium, high fat proteins, and sugar. All I eat is pork, cheese, salt, and all I drink is Coke and the occasional cranberry juice in the dining halls. For obvious reasons this teacher and I do not get along. And she tries to tell me that 1 tablespoon of salt is enough to season 10 damn pork chops. I tablespoon of salt might be enough for one pork chop. MIGHT.

Restaurant Law, slightly informative. But really irrelevant. The material does not relate to Restaurants at all. And the teacher clearly has more interest in being a stand up comedian than teaching law… which I’m actually okay with.

Cost control and Food Purchasing… lets just say that its so amazingly informative, that at one point in class today I looked over at my friend Eli’s notebook, and he had filled two entire pages with the words “I like boobs.” And he will most likely walk away from the class with an A or a B.

Menu development is actually an awesome class. We get to conceptualize menus and restaurants and just talk about food in general. The main project for this class is designing a restaurant, and a menu for that restaurant. We have to come up with our own concept: anything goes. I am doing an offal themed snout to tail menu restaurant. There will be lots of charcuterie, lots of pork, lots of beer. I have to put a pig’s trotter on the menu… I have to.

Last and most certainly least, we have intro to management. I could wipe my own butt with the pages from that textbook and acquire more information than I do from this teacher. She spends an hour of every class telling all of the students why we have to stay for the bachelor program, (which I decided against while in Madison.) And she spends the next hour of every class trying to make us her best friend. She makes us take pop quizzes what are not for a grade. So, while I was in class on Saturday night at 8 30 and she handed me a quiz that isn’t for a grade… of course, I fill in random bubbles, turn in the quiz thirty seconds later, and wash my hands of that God forsaken class.

I am amazed at how much the focus of the teachers and staff has changed from before my externship. Before everyone was focused on teaching us as much as possible so that we didn’t make fools of ourselves on extern. But now that were back… they won’t stop until they have each of us in their pockets for another two years and another 70000 dollars.

And most of the students here don’t see through the insanity of it all. They probably aren’t paying for their own school, and have parents who can comfortably afford it. They probably don’t really like cooking, because the past month that I haven’t been in a professional kitchen… I’ve been going through withdrawal. The thought of spending two more years in strictly academic classes… when all I want to do is cook… is maddening. One student actually stated this as a reason for staying, “It’s two more years when we don’t have to be working.” I don’t know about this kid, but I’ve set some pretty lofty goals. I honestly am pissed at myself that I didn’t start sooner. I only have fifteen years or so of high intensity cooking in me, and so much to accomplish. While my classmates will be studying up on how to write payroll checks, I’ll be working in kitchens across the country, possibly the world, paying off loans half the size of those my classmates will be paying.

I also forgot how fucking arrogant a lot of CIA students are. These people think they are the salt of the earth. It makes me sick. So many attitudes… so many egos. You can look at people and see them thinking, “I go to the best culinary school in the world.” If there was one thing I learned in Madison, it was how to act in a kitchen. I remember when Nate, the Graze sous chef came in for the first time at the old site to do menu testing for Graze. No one knew who he was and he was looking for something to do. He came to me, the lowest person in the kitchen, and asked what he could do to help. I told him he could pick pea tendrils for me. He did it, no questions asked. Later that day, I found out that he would basically be one of my bosses. I was astonished that he had the humility to pick my freakin pea tendrils when he could have just walked away. That’s the mentality I want to have whenever I step foot in a kitchen. No name on my jacket. No cocky, I run this place, attitude.
I’ll try to be one of the good CIA grads who take their education for what it is… not a golden ticket to the Michelin Guide.

CIA… stop trying to sway me. I’m gone in June. No way… that’s what I say.

In other news, Jon and I bought a pig for Thanksgiving. It’s a 30-40 pounder. We’ve also got a turkey.

I’ll be posting tons of pictures and such from my Jersey Shore Thanksgiving.

Take it easy, pray I don’t go off on a faculty member or two.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Class

I believe that the last time I wrote was after my final dinner at L'Etoile. That following evening I had an awesome farewell get together with all the cooks at L'Etoile and Graze. It was cut somewhat short by a certain Mr. Jameson, but it was great to get to spend a final evening with all the people who made my experience in Madison so great. I have a feeling that I'll see most, if not all of them at some time in the future. Even if I never return to L'Etoile as a cook, I know for sure I'll be back to visit. And I'm sure I'll cross paths with the cooks who are all sure to move on to bigger and better things sometime soon.

My trip back home was hung over. But I made it back. And Mia, my dog was extremely happy to see me.

I got to see my aunt, go to the Colts Monday Night game, and purchased some new clothes, because i lost a considerable amount of weight in Madison and most of my clothes no longer fit.

I also killed a mouse at 2 am at my cousin's house. It took me two hours to hunt down the little fucker then I beat it to death with a bbq fork then threw the fork like a javelin and speared it right in the gut. The primal adrenaline rushing through my system prompted me to stand, puff out my chest, throw my arms up in the air, let out a victory cry followed by yelling at the top of my lungs, "You're my bitch mouse! You're my mother fucking bitch!"

My time in Indy came and went extremely fast, before I knew it I was packing up my life's possessions yet again, and Mia was pissed. She always knows when I'm leaving, and she gets pouty.

Saturday morning came, and I said goodbye to Mia and my Dad, and flew off to La Guardia with my Mom. We took a cab to the city and got Shake Shack, I forgot how much I love that place. The shack stack, a burger topped with a cheese stuffed, deep fried portabello mushroom cap, on a soft potato bun, was exquisite. I was amazed that the line was only 20 people long and the weather was perfect. I've waited for an hour and a half at this place before, and the fact that i waited for five on a perfect Saturday.

The Shack Stack in all its glory.

We got up to poughkeepsie, bought all the stuff I'll need for school, went to dinner at Tacicina, a little taco joint with really al pastor and beef tongue tacos. The next morning came and it was time to move in to my new dorm room at school. Jon, my roommate, was already there when we got there. I said goodbye to my mom and immediately set out to find all my other friends. Then, the moment came that I had been waiting for for six months. Kennedy Fried Chicken in Poughkeesie. We loaded up my friends car, one in the bed of his subaru outback station wagon just for good measure and for old time's sake, and set out for the deep ghetto of poughkeepsie.

For those of you who are not aware, Kennedy Fried Chicken is a little, no seater walk up window with the most heavenly fried chicken, and the most obnoxious change heckling crackheads. I am always terrified to walk in the door, because I am never quite sure if the car will be there when I walk back out with my chicken, but God Damn it is it worth it, and the pure fright adds to the euphoric experience that is Kennedy Fried Chicken.

We pulled up, and shuffled out of the car. We let Jon out of the trunk and walked inside. I immediately made jokes about ordering a party box, 21 pieces of chicken with 5 sides. I was almost slightly serious though. I walked out with a Jumbo box, however. Five pieces of chicken, collard greens, mac n cheese. Usually I have a rule about waiting to eat it until after I get back to school, because the tantalizing smell of the grease and chicken skin makes it that much better when you finally take that first bite, but this time, I had finished two pieces of chicken before Zach unlocked the car.

Its amazing how much I missed everyone here. Today, Alex my former roommate was sitting in my room and we were talking, when he revealed his plans for the greatest TV food personality in the history of mankind. Robochef would be his name.
Heres the story behind Robochef, is that he lost his hand tragically while pulling a poor helpless kitten out of a deep fryer, saving its life, but costing him his hand. He then has a prosthetic attachment placed on his hand that allows him to basically act as a human kitchen aid/ Inspector Gadget.

Classes this saturday too, to make up for the day we have off for Thanksgiving. So my first weekend back at school will consist of one Sunday. I want to go to the city but we'll see how much work I have.

It's amazing how the faces have changed in my own group over the last six months. Just about everyone lost a ton of weight, or gained a ton. The beards were there on move in day, myself included, but were gone by the start of orientation on Monday. I was amazed to hear that Peter LaPalm, one of my friends, and my group leader wasn't coming back, because he is currently the sous chef at Bouley. One of the best restaurants in the country. I may have to stop in soon and try and get a meal. He'd take care of me, I was pretty much his right hand man in classes, and lost the group leader race to him by one measley vote.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and because of my class schedule (I have one that gets out at 8 pm on Wednesday night) I can't make it home for thanksgiving. I am instead going to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with a few friends, and Jon, my roommate's family. We're having Thanksgiving on Friday though, because of time constraints and travel. Jon, as you may well remember, was an intern at, and is continuing to work at Blue Hill, THE farm to table restaurant in the country. On our way down, were going to try and stop by the farm at the restaurant and kill a turkey to take home for dinner. Should be pretty awesome.

In case I don't write before then, Happy Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Tuesday, my last day at L'Etoile, was bittersweet. I woke up at 4 30 like I always do, and rode to work in the rain. I didn't mind though. They day went on like normal. I said goodbye to Nate, the Graze sous chef, around 10 or so. The cooks came in, and I stayed for about a half hour after they got there. I was looking for excuses to stay around longer than I had to, just because I really wasn't ready to walk out of that kitchen for good. But the time came, I shook everyone's hands. Thanked everyone, and hung the thank you letter that I wrote to the staff on the pass. On the way out I got some phone numbers, got some hugs, and Scott and I even had a little mini photoshoot, because he wanted a picture of me walking down the hall for the last time, looking back over my shoulder.

I got home, laid on my bed, watched some 30 rock, and eventually, it was time to go back for dinner. I had made a reservation for myself and Mary to go to dinner at L'Etoile to celebrate my last night. I showed up, and was greeted by the FOH staff. They set one menu down on the table, and it was Mary's menu. They told me I didn't get a menu because I should have it memorized, which I did. I had already picked out what I was going to order that morning. I glanced at Mary's menu, and realized at the top, it read in big bold print, "Best of Luck Mike. We'll Miss You!" Moments later, a server came to the table and handed me a menu. It was signed by the whole staff with personal notes from every member of the staff. I immediately read the first note, it read...

"Thanks for all your hard work. Keep your great attitude and you'll get anywhere you want to go. If you ever need anything, including a job, let me know."

-Tory Miller.

I was overwhelmed. Then the food came and it got even better. I ordered the soup, and the hash, and the scallops. The soup was a tuscan bread soup. Its sarvecchio cheese broth with chunks of bread, pork meatballs, and iceberd lettuce. It was really good. I always snack on the meatballs when the Hot Side guy makes them, so I really wanted this dish. Mary ordered the radish salad, and they brought out the head cheese as an extra course. Then they brought out the midcourses. The hash, was the dish I was most excited for. It is a yukon potato and celery root hash with confit chicken gizzards and a smoked shallot puree, toped with a sunny side up duck egg and spicy hollandaise. It was so good I can't believe it. I'm still having dreams about it.

Then, Ed hooked us up. Before out entrees they brought out two pork chops. They gave us extra entrees, and it was the other dish on the menu that I really wanted to try. The pork dish is an awesome berkshire pork chop, pan roasted to a perfect medium, served with a hash of delacata squash, cabbage, and cranberries. and the sauce is a foie gras cognac jus. Awesome. Just awesome. By this time in the evening I was on the verge of drunk. They brought us wine pairings with each course, and, since Mary had practice at 6 am this morning, and since she drove me, I drank her wine too. I couldn't let it go to waste.

The final course, was sublime. I ordered the scallops. Theyre Beatifully seared and served with ham, brussel sprouts, sweet potato puree, and sauce choron. I had never had a scallop with a sear as great as that. It was incredible. Absolutely incredible. For dessert, we had extra courses too. I ordered the chololate pate, Mary ordered the apple grunt with gingerbread crumbles. Both were great, and they also brought out the pumpkin mousse with zabaglione, and two cupcakes.

The bill came. I looked at it, and we had gotten 295 dollars worth of food, and wine. The total on the bill, "$00.00". It was my first comped meal ever, and it was incredible. I was almost angry that they did it. They had done so much for me already, it was too much.

Mary and I went back in the kitchen, thanked everyone, and I said goodbye to the FOH staff. I was told that my thank you letter made some of the servers cry. We left, Mary dropped me off at home, and just like that one of the best days of my life was over. I never really realized that I meant as much as I did to all the people here. I just figured I was the intern. But they're going to miss me. A lot.

Today I'm going back to thank Tory for everything, to get a few things finished up in the office, and to say one last goodbye to the bakers. Then after dinner service I've been instructed to be at Graze, for one last night with the cooks. I can't wait.

Thursday I return home, and on Saturday I will be at Kuntz stadium, cheering on my old high school soccer team, the guys who I coached last year, as they compete in the state championship. Who knows, maybe they'll let me on the bench if I wear my "Coach Kolodjez" jacket. Yea, I'd been a member of the program for 5 years and they still spelled my last name wrong.

Well, time to tie off some loose ends in Madison.

It's been real L'Etoile, thanks for the memories.

Mikey, Former Intern.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hey Wayne, I bet there are prostitutes in MADRID!

Its strange to think that four and a half months have come and nearly gone. This time next week I will be packing up my things, saying goodbye to everyone at L'Etoile, and preparing for the trip back to Indiana. It's been a great four months. I've enjoyed every minute of it. And its just gonna suck to have to say goodbye. But thanks to the modern world of facebook, I should be able to keep in touch with just about everyone here.

Everytime I walk through the Graze kitchen, Nate the sous chef, one of the coolest people I've met here, makes fake sobbing noises. I really think that people are going to miss me here. I like to think that I brighten things up a little, for just about everyone here. I really try to do everything I can to help people here. Like yesterday, I noticed we were out of Cholula on Garmo, so after work, I went home and brought back my last two bottles of cholula. As Tory saw me come in the kitchen double fisting cholula bottles he laughed and said, "You beautiful bastard!" On saturday I stayed late to help Graze who were short staffed, I braised short ribs and set up the smoker outside so we could smoke some pork shoulders.

I don't dislike baking. I really don't. The days are just so slow, and there's literally no sense of urgency. I miss being over on my station, shitting myself because I don't know if I'm going to make it. I miss being harassed by my bosses. I miss working with my garde mo partners, busting shit out during service, and I'm not going to be able to do any of it again at L'Etoile. I'm doomed to the bakery. DOOMED.

Having said that, the Lady Bakers are awesome. They are all super nice and really funny, and they seem to like having me. They like having a boy to make carry shit and do all the non baker work that they need done like thinly slicing a big case of mushrooms, or caramelizing onions and sauteeing sausage. The bakers go to dinner about once a month. A few times a year they come to L'Etoile, and on Thursday night theyre going to Graze for dinner, and they want me to come. They're great, but I miss working with the L'Etoile cooks. The lady bakers don't talk about football, and I had a lot to brag about, considering the bears AND packers both lost.

Today, the bakers were there late enough that we overlapped by a few minutes with the L'Etoile cooks coming in. Just as we were cleaning up, Ed came in. I hadn't seen him or any of the cooks in about a week and he yelled "MIKEY!" came up and gave me a hug and slapped my ass. This was unusual from Ed who whenever I greet him at the beginning of a shift I usually get a hostile,"Whats up fucker?" or something along those lines.

Today was a terrible day for me. I got off work, and came home. I checked my computer only to find that Sir Alex Ferguson had announced that Wayne Rooney no longer wished to play with Manchester United. He has had a falling out with the manager, and has made it clear that he will not sign a new contract. It makes me cringe. I can't even look at him, I even benched him today when I played Fifa.

Wayne single handedly kept Manchester United afloat last year, and less than four months ago had declared his love for his club and said that he wanted to stay for life. Then the world cup came around and all of England began to hate him. Except for Manchester. THe media came crashing down even harder on him because several prostitutes had come forward saying that Wayne was a regular customer. His marriage was in shambles, and the entire country, and most of the world had labeled him a scum bag and a hack. Except for Manchester. He has played like absolute shit this season, his only goal came in a 3 goal victory over Newcastle I believe, and he hasn't started in a few weeks. He had a small injury, but now he's refusing to sign a contract. And he refuses to accept that its HIS fault that his life sucks, not manchester. We've been the only ones fighting in his corner, and he wants to dessert. I'm pissed, and I'm ashamed that I ever thought wayne rooney was more than a premadonna overpaid superstar. I should have known, though. At 18 he left the club he had loved as a boy to play for Man united, Everton. He hates Everton to this day and it is shocking to me, because they were the club who helped form him. He kissed his Manchester United badge when he scored goals against Everton. So quick to reassign his loyalties, and for no apparent reasons.

I'll miss him, but I don't want him any more. Let him go to spain, and soak it up with Ronaldo in the land of no defense. It's time for the young boys to have a chance. The young Italian Federico Macheda, who I've actually had a conversation with, has been promising to produce for two years, and hes still only 19. Danny Welbeck has impressed on loan, as had Mame Birame Diouf. Both are strong, energetic strikers and will be chomping at the bit to fill the void left by wayne. Not to mention Tom Cleverley, the twenty year old who I see as a valid replacement for BOTH Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes.

I've put rooney up for sale on Fifa... its official, hes no longer welcome.

Tune in next week to hear me reminisce on my full time at L'Etoile. And to read about my excitement for all the new places im going to try in New York.



Saturday, October 16, 2010

Letters to a Young Chef

While I was at school, I had some preconceived notions about bakers. The bakers and the culinary students at CIA have a heated rivalry. Bakers are known as dough hoes or sugar sluts by the culinary students, and the culinary students are known as a group of rowdy drunks who aren't fit to function in society. The bakers might be right, but as I baked bread every day this week, I came to a few conclusions. While the art of baking is by no means easy, and the production load of the lady bakers at L'Etoile is no joke, working in a bakery is without a doubt much more physically, technically, and psychologically easier than working a restaurant line. Yea sure you work early, but every day this week I was out by noon this week. For the first time since I arrived in Madison, I actually had a social life on days when I worked. You, as a baker, have an extremely flexible deadline for your goods. You never have to rush to push food out. You never have your boss screaming at you because you have plates due up in fifteen seconds. And, while baking requires techniques such as rolling dough, all the hard work can easily be done by a machine. You set timers, set it on speed 2, and walk away.

Let's just put it this way, at no point this week did I wake up in a cold sweat thinking about how I had to bake a few more brioche buns the next day because I left a half sheet tray of them uncovered overnight on the speed rack. I didn't like it.

My time at L'Etoile is coming to an end. I don't want to spend a whole lot more time with the lady bakers. I want to be on the line, busting my ass, alongside the guys who I've worked beside for the past four months.

Having said that, I've never really baked bread before this week and it is interesting, I just can't see myself doing it for a long time.

This week, Starting on Wednesday, I woke up at 4 every morning to be in the bakery by 4 30. I, being the resilient bastard I am, made a point of not changing my sleep schedule too drastically. So that meant on a nightly basis, I would go to sleep just before 1, wake up three hours later, get off work at 12 or so, and take a brief nap before continuing my day.

On Friday, I got off work and was able to go see Mary play against Indiana, with the rest of the Ording family. I got an hour and a half nap in before I had to be at the game at 7. The game lasted until 9 or so, then we all went to dinner. I made it to bed by 1. Saturdays, due to the farmers market, when we sell pastries on the street, the bakers have to be in by 3 30. So I woke up at 3. I got off at 11 30, after braising 40 pounds of short ribs and smoking 30 pounds of pork shouder for Graze on top of my baking duties. I met with the Ordings immediately who were at the farmers market. We had brunch at Graze, and I returned home to sleep.

With basically one work week left at L'Etoile, I've been reflecting on my time here and doing A LOT of thinking about the future. I bought a few books on Amazon with a gift card I had received for my birthday. First, I bought the New York Michelin Guide, a book filled with the top restaurants in New York. Then I bought "Letters to a Young Chef". A book written by one of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the world, Daniel Boulud. In the book, he gives advice to people like me. He tells us his story, what he would do differently now, and he gives young American cooks the best advice imaginable in how to make it in this world. Even in the first chapter I had the chills. Because, without knowing it until now, I've been the posterchild for Daniel Boulud's road map to success.

His first piece of advice that caught my eye, was to get your foot in the door with a good chef, not a great one necessarily, but someone who can teach you great things, and provide connections when you feel you're ready for something new. That is undoubtably what I did at L'Etoile. Tory is a great cook, and a great chef, but the ceiling is only so high at L'Etoile, there is only so much I can do here. But he, and even Chef Chris at Graze have amazing connections in New York and I think they'd be more than happy to give me a nod, and a point in the right direction. Even cooks that I work with like Bryan Weinstein and Ed Lee could be huge for me in the future. I have no doubt in my mind that both will move on to accomplish great things. Both are extremely passionate, very skilled, and have an unparalleled desire to learn.

That brings me to my next connection to the book. Boulud argues that in a kitchen of the caliber that I am working in, you will learn more from the cooks you work with, than possibly even the chef. I agree without a doubt. I had the opportunity to work alongside Weinstein for over a month on Garde Manger before he was promoted to Meat Cook. The guy is more passionate about cooking than anyone I've ever met in my life. Pete, Ryan, and Ed all took me under their wing,

Most of you know that I see my near future in New York. I want to take advantage of the incredible opportunities that I will have at my fingertips, but the prospect of spending a life time in NYC is a little daunting. But Boulud has reassured me that there is a way to be successful outside of New York. And he hit close to home on this one. He talks about how he has known countless cooks of incredible quality, who worked in New York, but were tired of the city and left. And were successful. He says something along these lines: Today, you do not have to be in New York to be a great chef. Chefs from New York have become very successful, leaving New york and going to places like Cincinnati and Louisville or Madison, Wisconsin.

I knew he was talking about Tory. The man who took me in, and gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

It's funny. In the past few weeks, even before I bought this book, I have singled out Boulud as the one man that I have to work for. He talks about this importance for young cooks to stage, or work for free in kitchens, just to prove yourself and act as a sponge. I now know what I have to do. When I get to school, I will show up damn near every Saturday morning at the back door of Bar Boulud and DBGB, two of Boulud's restaurants that specialize in charcuterie. I will ask to work for free. If they let me, I'll probably do things like plucking game birds, torching fur off of boar' heads, stripping meat for headcheese etc. But it will honestly be an honor to work in that kitchen, and I think that I can prove myself worthy of even a part time job when I graduate.

Another key step in Boulud's roadmap to success is to travel. I really didn't think this was possible until I thought about it. Should I get in at a Boulud restaurant, I would have a door to France. Boulud himself was born in France and trained in Lyon. But his restaurants, specifically the two that I am targeting, have a partnership with Guilles Verot, the most famous Charcutiere in France. If I could prove myself worthy, maybe I could get a nod and be sent to Paris to train under the masters at Guilles' Verot, I would be on cloud nine.

This last reference I will make, was the coolest for me. He reflects on his experiences as a young cook and his relationship with other cooks. "Once the marketing was done, I would sit down at one of the local bouchons and have a bowl of tripe with them. They would open a bottle of Beaujolais (but I stuck with lemonade) The stories, the pungent rough language, the camaraderie made me feel on top of the world. Of course, they would rag me pretty hard in the way that old pros like to tease a young kid. But I ate it up. I was just so happy to be in their company." I still have to go back to Saigon Noodle before I leave. The Pho with tripe and tendon is just what I need right now.

I have one week left. I have to make it my best week yet. Less than one month from now I'll be back in New York. I cannot wait. But I'm going to savor my last few moments in Madison.

Go Colts! and GO Irish! My high school soccer team knocked off our top rival, Carmel today. I coached these guys last year, and had the pleasure along playing alongside them for a few years. I just hope they make it to state, which is two weeks away. Because if they do, Coach Kolo will be back on the sidelines one last time.

Take it easy,


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Move On

I'm entering the final phase of my time at L'Etoile in Madison. It's kind of bittersweet. Two weeks from today I will say goodbye to my friends and coworkers, and I'll head home. Yesterday, I was informed of a change in plans. Starting tomorrow, Wednesday, I'll be working with the bakers. I'm kind of sad because I don't believe that I'll be doing any more actual line cooking at L'Etoile any more. But I really am anxious to learn how to bake bread, and the pastries that we serve at Graze. It should be pretty awesome, despite the fact that I will have to be up at 4 30 every morning to start baking.

This weekend was incredible. Absolutely exhausting, but incredible. I got off work at 10 on Saturday night because we had a stage and Pete said I had worked too much this week. I got home at 10 30, played a few games of fifa and laid down to go to bed. The second my head hit my pillow i heard a familiar ringing sound coming from my computer. It was my friend Jon from school calling me on skype. I HAD to answer, because Jon is my dude. We talked about food, work, and other stuff. I love hearing Jon talk about his externship. He is working at arguably one of the most ground breaking restaurants in the world. Blue Hill at Stone Barns in NY is a fine dining restaurant that operates on a massive piece of land, and is unique in that the restaurant grows most of the food it uses. It's farm raises livestock and produce that directly come to the kitchen. Its an unbelievable place, and in January, for Jon's birthday, he is bringing me along with some of our other friends to Blue Hill to eat. We'll get the VIP treatment. I'm beyond pumped.

By the time I said goodbye, it was 1 30, and my alarm was set for three. I decided that 2 hours of sleep wasn't worth it, so I continued to play fifa until four, when my cab came to take me to the airport. I can't sleep on airplanes, so the twenty minutes of shuteye that I got on my flight from Madison to Chicago was considered a victory. But the trip from Chicago to Indy was pretty restless. I sat with my nose against the window for the whole thirty minute flight.

I was amazed at what I could recognize of my city from up in the sky. I immediately recognized the Northwest corner of I-465 between Michigan Rd and 86th st. We flew directly over Eagle Creek Reservoir, which was upsetting, because I could have jumped from the plane and been home in less than five minutes. But no, we continued south to the airport. I did see Lucas Oil, and the roof was closed due to the 85 plus degree heat.

My dad was waiting for me at the airport, but the best part of my trip was waiting for me at the top of the stairs when I got home.

Let me explain the relationship between me and one of my oldest friends.

About nine years ago, in December, my sister and I heard a knock at the door. We opened it to find a shivering, whining cardboard box. We pulled the box inside and opened it. My parents looked on with wide grins. I immediately reached in the box and pulled out a tiny black puppy with a floppy ear and a pink belly. She was still shaking, so I hugged her, and held her up to my face. I looked her in the eye and as I did, a tiny, black spotted tongue poked out and tapped me on the nose. I'll never forget that puppy breath.

For the past nine years, everyday when I came home, Whether she was in the driveway, or at the top of the stairs, Mia was waiting for me. If she was in the house, she would sit at the top of the stairs. I would kneel down to pet her, and as I did, she would leap up, put her pays on my shoulders, and lick my face a few times. Only after she had done so would I be allowed to enter the house. If she was in the yard, she would stand in the middle of the driveway as I pulled in, and after I stopped and rolled down my window, she would prance over to the driver's side, and put her paws up on my door. I would stick my face out, allowing her to sniff me, and lick my face some more, then I would continue into the garage.

We go get fast food together on a regular basis. She celebrates with me when Manchester United score. We're a team.

I'm her boy and she's my dog. And I have missed the crap out of her. I often sit in Madison and wonder if she really misses me, or even notices how long I've been gone. And I was reassured on Sunday, as I opened the door and walked up the steps. She was there, waiting for me. Not like she normally was. This time, she practically attacked me. She made noises I've never heard her make before. And for what seemed like a few whole minutes, she clawed on my shoulders, licked the crap out of my face and neck, and even bit my ear a few times. She had missed me. My sister was clearly jealous that her reception the day earlier had been nothing like it.

The colts game was exciting, but it made me realize how much most colts fans suck. I was rowdy and obnoxious, and behind the team like never before, but most people seemed annoyed by the fact that on a second and eight, I was standing up, screaming for the defense. There was a butt ugly chief's fan two rows in front of us, and on the colts' first drive, when they were stopped on 3rd and goal, she began to do what I assume was a dance, but actually looked like she was having a seizure. I screamed, "Sit The Hell Down!" She immediately turned around and looked at the guy three seats to my left. She asked if it was him, and he laughed and said no. He looked at me and winked. This guy and I go way back.

First of all, the amount of elderly women at Colts' games is sickening. I am not trying to be mean, but seriously, the last team an NFL fan base needs is a bunch of Grandma's sitting in the stands wondering why that handsome young man in the striped shirt keeps waving his arms around and throwing streamers all over the field. The people that surrounded me at this game, barring the one guy three seats away, and my sister, were all retarded. They didn't want to stand and cheer, they didn't want to yell obsenities. They just wanted to file out of the stands whenever there was a TV timeout to go change their adult diapers.

If Lucas Oil Stadium was filled with people like myself, I have no doubt in my mind that we would be Super Bowl champs for the next three years. I lost my voice after ten plays. Ten Pays, but did I stop? No.

You don't really appreciate what you have until it is taken from you. And I hate to say it, but maybe in order to weed out these annoying Colts fans, we need to lose a few more games. The true fans will come out of the woodwork and step in for the wall sitters who just don't want to go see a team that isn't putting up 45 points a game.

Then, we'll have a respectable fanbase, and a team that is much more excited to play at home.

I drove back with my dad on Monday morning. We had lunch at my favorite Italian Beef stand on the square, then I went to work and he headed back to Indy. I got off work around seven, and sat at the bar at Graze with Ed. We talked about our plans for the future, and both of us may very well end up in New York next year.

Talking to Ed made me realize that I really am ready to move on from Madison. L'Etoile was and still is a great place for me. I learned so much here and met so many awesome people, but the food world is huge, and it really would be a waste of opportunity to return here. There is so much to see and cook and taste, and I have to move on. Especially when line cooking isn't my ideal future. I have to be in New York, or Europe if I am going to learn what I want to. I can learn how to make whatever charcuterie items are on the menu at L'Etoile, but at place like Bar Bouloud or DBGB, i would be learning the trade from masters, and I would be focused on just what I love, meat.

I watched an episode of No Reservations today, the one where he goes to Praque. Prague, for those of you who do not know, is the beer capitol of the world. And the Czech's eat more pork than any civilization in the world. I think one of these days I might have to visit prague, and try and learn a little bit about two of my favorite things in life... beer and pork. Until then, I'll keep on drinking my Miller High Lifes and munching on bacon, life sucks don't it.

Tune in next week as I bitch about how much I hate measuring, and as I patiently await my return to the big apple.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

No Place Like Home

Happy hump day. Its gonna be a long three more days, but I can make it. I worked a day shift today, then back on Cold side tomorrow. Friday and Saturday, I am working garde mo middle. Which basically means I help prep for anyone in the weeds and during service I jump between hot and cold side, plating both hot and cold apps. This station has been in place for quite some time, but for the past few weeks, we haven't had anyone to work it, because Aaron, the third garde mo cook, was at a bachelor party then getting married. So, the pressure is off of me, I just have to bust ass and listen to whatever anyone says, something I'm getting good at.

Sunday Morning, around four, I start my journey home. I fly to Chicago at 6, then I'll be in Indianapolis at 10. It'll be the first time I've set foot in my hometown in about four and a half months. And at 12 O'clock sharp, I'll stroll into Lucas oil stadium. It's been a year since I've sat in her seats, basked in the sunshine with the roof open, and seen my boys take the field. From the looks of it, it could be a half strength colts team that takes the field, but hey, with number 18 at the helm, I have few worries.

The colts are undefeated at home. The mighty undefeated chiefs are coming in off of a bye week and will be well rested, but this colts team will be out to prove to its home fans that there is no slump this year. Our back ups will be raring to go, jacked up by the opportunity to prove themselves on the big stage. And Peyton, in his relentless pursuit of perfection, will have fine tuned the offense to ensure that the Indianapolis colts stay on the trail of a tenth straight playoff berth.

When I got home this evening, I turned on my computer, and eventually went to to check my fantasy team. An ad came up in one of the windows. As I watched it, I smiled. A tear rolled down my face and it really hit me. I'm going home.

Without a doubt, one of the best feelings in the world is the journey to the game. Back when I lived at home, it went something like this. Put yourself in my shoes. Sunday morning, wake up, shower, put on your jersey. It's 11 30, and the game starts at one. Your sister is still in the bathroom straightening her hair at 11 45. You're losing patience by the second. You grab the keys. You tell her to hurry up. You sit in the car for a few minutes and she comes out. You turn on the colts pregame show as you pull out of the driveway. Bob Lamey. Gotta love him. You get on the interstate. You turn off Bob Lamey and switch it to rap. Your sister starts laughing maniacally and saying stuff like "OH MY FUCKING GOD!" You remain calm. Then, as you make the curve around downtown, you see it. You see the roof of Lucas Oil Stadium sliding open. You see the house that Peyton built. And it hits you. You're going going to see the greatest athlete of an era. You grew up watching this team struggle. You watched the 36-0 losses. And now they're on top. And you witnessed every step along the way. First hand.

Then you move to New York and don't get game coverage on the local CBS network. The team you love seems so far away. You can't handle that any more. Your other teams across a fucking ocean for Christ's sake. You listen to your team's games on the internet. You can't watch. You can only imagine the ball being fired across the field to an open receiver. You can only imagine Freeney spinning inside the lineman and catching the quarterback off guard. You're miserable. But your team is thriving. You're team is in the Super Bowl, and you're helpless to see them fall to a Saints team that frankly wasn't that good. They had balls and capitalized on colts mistakes. You're crushed.

Then, A year after moving to New York and four months after moving to wisconsin, you get off work from a busy dinner service at a fine dining restaurant after Midnight on Saturday. You go home, and pack. You don't sleep. How could you? You're done packing and it's two. You make a sandwich, and you call a cab. You go to the airport, and your flight leaves at 6. You stop in chicago, you're obviously wearing your Dallas Clark jersey, and still bragging about 07 when the colts beat the bears to anyone who comments on your choice of attire.

Then, while asleep on the plane, you jump out of your seat, the stewardess has just called for tray tables up, you're starting your descent. Your nose is glued to the window, Then, you break through a layer of clouds, and you see your city. You see the Speedway, and you see the highways. You're looking for it. You know you'll have to see it. And you can't help but get the chills, when you do. Its a beautiful October Sunday and the roof at Lucas Oil Stadium is open. It's gone as fast as it arrived, but you'll be reunited shortly. Touchdown. You drive home from the airport. You lay down for a power nap. You wake up, it's 11 45 and your sister is still straightening her hair. But you know what, you're fine with it this time, because you realize it's all part of the experience.

Did I mention there's a puppy waiting for you?

Hell, should just follow me on Saturday/Sunday. I'd make a hell of a lot better commercial than some drunk Sconnies (Wisconsinites) in a bus and a few geriatric Patriot fans on a boat somewhere.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ups and Downs

Until approximately 6 PM today, this was one of the best weekends I can remember. Friday, My 20th birthday, was just a normal Friday. We served 130 people and everything ran smoothly. After service I slipped it out to somebody that I only had two hours left of my birthday. Everyone in the kitchen came up to me and said stuff along the lines of, "Mikey why the hell didn't you tell us it was you're birthday?" I told everyone that I wanted to focus on busting out service and not get distracted. So after work a few of the cooks bought me a beer and I sat at Graze until around 1 30 just hanging out. I went home and slept until the next day.

Friday I had new dishes too. The galantine was switched to a pork pate wrapped in bacon with brioche toast and a warm salad of heirloom beans and a maple sherry vinaigrette. It is awesome. And the other dish is a fines herb crepe filled with duck confit rillette served over a warm parsnip puree with a salad of watercress and drizzled with a concord grape gastrique. This dish is straight up BOMB.

On Saturday, I was in the weeds even before I got to work. I had burned through almost ALL of my prep on Friday night so I had to basically reprep all six of my dishes from scratch. Tory asked me to help him do some prep for his trip to New York, and I couldn;t say no. I was doing my damn best, but it was too much. But I, being the intern trying to prove myself worthy of a spot on the line, tried to be a hero and finish all my prep by myself. And I almost succeeded. Almost. Aside from Ed cleaning crab for me and a prep cook cleaning the beats I roasted, I completely reprepped my station. I cleaned and roasted 60 orders of delacata squash. I roasted parsnips and made a puree. I roasted beets. I julienned 4 quarts of radish and kohlrabi. I sliced 40 orders of beef carpaccio. I made 80 crepes and filled them with duck rillette. I smoked crab. I made 1 pint of chimmichurri. The Chimmichurri involves me hand chopping 6 types of herbs. I fried fingerling crisps. I portioned cheese. I cleaned and cooked and pickled mushrooms. I smoked crab. I cleaned watercress. I blanched heirloom beans. I toasted brioche. And i did all of this in four hours and skipped staff meal to get it all done. The whole first turn was absloutely crazy. The first turn was an hour and a half long, and we did 75 guests. Ed helped me get through the first turn and helped me and my partner on hot side, Mike, bust out plates and get everything out on time. The whole second turn, however, I controlled my line and didn't have any help from Ed. Mike helped me when Iw as in the weeds and I helped Mike when he was in the weeds. Tory, when the last plates were going out, yelled out, "Well done apps, good shit boys!" It was the first real time Tory had ever congratulated me. It felt good.

Then after work, I finished up cleaning. I noticed Nisse and Scott, the pastry cooks, working on chocolate curls. It never crossed my mind that chocolate curls aren't even on the dessert menu. I got off work, my parents were coming to pick me up, but I had to hang out with the cooks for a little bit. I sat at the bar and was having a few beers, most of them purchased by other employees as birthday gifts, and while Ed and I were having a serious discussion about how I can improve on my station, and I felt a tug on my shoulder and a hald Dragging me from the bar. There were Scott and Nisse, the pastry cooks, with a cake and candles. Graze was still full of customers, but the whole bar, which was half full of Graze and Letoile employees erupted in a round of Happy Birthday. We cut the cake, and I ate my piece, chugged another few complimentary beers, said my goodbyes, for my parents were waiting out front of Graze to pick me up. I hadn't eaten all day, and I was slightly intoxicated, (not sure they knew but now they do!) so they wisked me off to get pizza and took me back to my apartment so I could sleep.

Morning came and they came to pick me up. We hit up the grocery store and they hooked me up with enough food to last through my final month in madison. My gifts came, I was given two bags of frozen patties from Patties of Jamaica! THANK GOD! I had two for dinner tonight. I got a Manchester United Away jersey with Nani's name and number on the back. I got a new colts t-shirt and a colts rubix cube.

We had lunch, watched football then they left. I endured the colts game, and I'm still pissed about it. The one sour note on otherwise a great weekend. I found a feature on this blog and found out that my blog has been visited 1100 times. 34 of those times have been from Denmark. Not sure how that worked out. I had no idea that it was on such a big scale. Im global bitches! This prompted me to sign up for a program that allows google ad's to be published on my blog... and I get cash money for each viewer. So on that note... KEEP ON READING!!!


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Time Flies

I'm currently sitting on my couch, watching Arrested Development on my roommate's netflix account, eating luke warm chinese food and savoring the hell out of my last few hours as a teenager. Its strange to think that I'm practically twenty. But when I put my life on a time line, it kind of makes sense. Twenty years ago tomorrow I was born. Fifteen years ago I started kindergarten. Twelve years ago I first put on a pair of goalie gloves. Ten years ago I got my Nintendo 64 and my Fifa love affair commenced. Seven years ago I first truly experienced the sensation that is Peyton Manning, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay. Five years ago I first set foot in the halls of Cathedral High School. Three years ago I had the game of my life, my moment in the spotlight. A year and a half ago I survived multiple attempted homicides by those damn mexican bartenders in Cancun. And three and a half months ago I came to a little restaurant in Wisconsin and my life was never the same. \

Send all gifts to:
1314 E Spaight Street
Madison, WI

Make sure to write, "Dan, keep your dirty hippy hands off of your roommate's shit" on any box or envelope you send.

I'll tell you what I'm not gonna miss about Madison, and it's Dan blabbering on and on about how I can't play too rowdy with Grizzman (the dog) because he'll scratch the floor or rip up one of his toys. That poor dog is locked in a cage all day while Dan is out doing hippy shit and I'm sorry if I just wanna help the dog release a little pent up energy.

Grizzman, I realized, is exactly like Dug from UP! They are one and the same. Grizzman is a good dog. He's funny, partially retarded, but at the same time he's pretty smart. And he likes me WAY more than Dan and it pisses Dan off. I don't care if you've had a dog for 10 years. You treat him like your prisoner, God forbid he walk into a room by himself or not roll over when you tell him to. Of course he likes the big smelly kid who acts like a dog more. I give him attention when he wants it, I let him wander around the apartment. I throw the ball when he brings it to me as opposed to saying "No Grizzman". I'm not surprised that the poor dog is always waiting at the top of the stairs come 12 30 when I make my way home. I just feel bad for the poor dog when I move out.

This reminds me, Dan left his ID out on the coffee table the other day. I was not aware but he is 31. He's 31 years old and he does nothing with his life. He has no job. He has no desire for a job. Where he gets his money is beyond me. I always just kind of assumed that he had just graduated school, but no... hes been done with school for ten years almost. Still no job. He's in West Virginia right now, paddling on some river with a bunch of his unemployed hippie friends. If I hadn't paid the security deposit myself I would totally take a massive dump right on the middle of the living room carpet the day I move out. But then either I'd never see my 550 bucks again or he'd blame it on Grizz and lock him in his cage for a week cuz he's a douche.

Yes, I am aware that I didn't write a blog on Sunday, because I was recovering. Last Friday and Saturday were absolute insanity. Friday We did 90 regular guests plus a party of thirty and a party of 16. Saturday we did 140 and a party of 30. Then after we broke down I was too jacked up on adrenaline to go home, so I sat at Graze with Chef Tory, and a few of the cooks until three in the morning. We talked football, we talked food, and we just basked in the glory of the fact that we had survived the night. Which was saying something, because at more than one moment during the night I thought my station was going to spontaneously combust... that kind of night.

I woke up at 9 on Saturday. Early I know, but I had a busy day ahead of me. I went to the Avenue Bar for breakfast. I went to the fieldhouse to see Mary play against Penn State. I got to play one of my favorite games ever with Nicola, Mary's sister. Its called "that's your (significant other)". My sister and I play it all the time. Here are the rules. You go back and forth, finding the ugliest person of the opposite sex and say, "Look... that's your girlfriend/boyfriend." Nicola won... Let's just say that the garbage woman dressed in some sort of African tribal gown with what looked like a bird's nest on her head and I are dating.

I had lunch with the whole Ording family, and watched the colts game. It was really nice. I watched football and passed out around 11 o'clock. Out of sheer exhaustion. On Monday I worked a day shift, fully prepared prepared for the biggest day of the year. I watched Monday night football at Graze and immediately after the game, I biked over to gamestop on State Street. Because at 12:01 Fifa 11 went on sale. I had preordered a copy, but HAD to be the first person in Wisconsin to get the game. I waited at the store for 1 hour and 45 minutes. In popped a five hour energy and sprinted home on my bike. I played until 4 in the morning then woke up at 10 and played for another hour before I had to go to work.

This weekend, my parents are coming to the Mad City to celebrate my birthday with me. I haven't the slightest idea where I want to go or what I want to do but hey... I'll come up with something. It'll be nice to be able to break my Sunday routine. It was really getting old.

Next weekend I fly home at 5 AM on Sunday, after getting off work at 12 30 PM on Saturday. I get to see the Colts play the Chiefs at Lucas Oil. The only game I can possibly see at Lucas Oil this year. I'm beyond excited. I however, am not excited about having to work on Monday after pulling virtually an all nighter on Saturday Night/ Sunday Morning and driving to Madison at the crack of dawn. Getting out of the car and working a 12 hr prep shift.

I've got a month left in Madison. Four weeks of cold side Garde Mo left. Then I go home for a few weeks. Theres a little dog waiting at the stairs for me. When the car pulls in, and that tail starts wagging, I don't think I'll miss L'Etoile TOO much. A few short weeks and I'll be back in the Big Apple. and 6 months later, I'll be done with school. For good. Who knows where I'll be ten years from now, heck I don't even know where I'll be one year from now. (Actually I have kind of an idea, but it's not PG). But I do know that I'm ready to get the next twenty years under way. If they're anything like the last twenty I think I'll be okay.

I'm not superstitious, but the fortune in my crappy chinese food said, "A sweet surprise awaits you." Let's hope the Chinese aren't fucking with me.