Today was one of those days where everything just seemed to click. And when at the beginning of the week I was stressed and unsure of what to do, a weekend with family and a conversation with one of the people I look up to most in the world made me realize what is important to me, and what I need to do to get where I want to go.
My Dad and sister flew out from the midwest on Friday night and took the train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie. I met them there and took them to lunch at Rossi's deli. We all enjoyed massive sandwiches. Then we went back to campus, and I showed everyone around. We took a tour of the building and the kitchens. They got to meet my boss in the CE department. My sister had never set foot on the CIA campus, and my dad had never really experienced it on this kind of a scale. I'm glad they got to see a bit of what I go through on a daily basis, and meet a few of my friends. I took advantage of my Dad's willingness to take me shopping, and picked up some new clothes, along with Chef Kowalski's Charcuterie book.
Sunday came and we went to NYC to hang out before my family had to jumo on a plane and head back home. We got pork buns in Chinatown. My dad is a sucker for dim sum and I couldn't let him leave NY without trying some baked pork buns. He loved them, I loved them. We went to Central Park (I'd never been before) and basked in the sunshine. I used leftover porkbun to bait sparrows into attacking Anna. She has a weird bird phobia I'm sure is induced by the Alfred Hitchcock movie. Then came the special meal.
We got a late lunch at Bar Boulud. A mecca for charcuterie lovers such as myself, Bar Boulud has been on my go to list for months and until now, I had never made it. The charcuterie platter was a great way to start. It satisfied my need for pork, aspic, and old school french delicacies. There was a classic pate grandmere with pork and chicken liver. The creamy slightly livery spread was just what I expected. The next was a terrine of braised beef cheeks packed in aspic. So much gelatin, it was a beautiful terrine. The rabbit terrine stole the show. It was pulled rabbed layered with celery and carrots, (almost an "ode to bugs bunny" in a way) and packed in a crystal clear aspic. A beautiful saucisson sec was also on the platter, along with several slices of sweet, slightly smokey parisian ham.
I was slightly worried Anna would embarrass me. Her slight aversion to pork products in general makes me really question her realtion to me. She was set on a croque madame, a cheesy ham sandwich topped with a fried egg. Either she was going to do the unthinkable and ask for the sandwich without ham, or she was going to pick the ham off at the table, severing the sandwich's integrity entirely. But, to my amazement and hers, she ordered the sandwich with the ham, and ate damn near every bite, saying that she even liked the ham. She said that the sandwich was part of her dream meal, and that she would crave one every time she was hung over. Its shit like this that gets me. I love introducing people to new things, putting things people wouldn't normally eat and saying "trust me".
A few times in my life, not many, I have ordered something, expecting something great, and when it arrived and I took a bite it blew anything I had expected out of the water. Such was the Boudin Blanc at Bar Boulud. I ordered it expecting a solid, fatty, juicy pork sausage over simple, buttery mashed potatoes. Even when the dish was placed in front of me, A shallow bowl with a perfectly formed white sausage, lightly browned on one side, served on the most decadent, truffly potatoes with chives, and a pork jus, I expected something completely different. I put my knife to the sausage, expecting to need to use some force to break through the casing. To my surprise, my knife immediately slid through the entire sausage with ease. There was no casing, but the sausage was perfectly formed, and the meat was incredibly light. I took a first bite, the light, smooth, creamy pork sausage was like nothing I'd ever had. I took another bite and let the creamy forcemeat dissolve all over my palate, while the truffle in the potato brought such a deep earthiness. The perfect bite. I laughed for about a minute, with my mouth full. There was such incredible skill behind this sausage, absolute genius. To get the sausage to have that texture, to achieve that perfect shape, and to somehow manage to either produce it without a casing, to remove it without damaging the integrity of the sausage took a magnificently skilled, and wonderfully creative person... I thought as I laughed and smiled, "I want to be this good." I want to be able to make meat magical.
I said goodbye and headed back to Poughkeepsie. Later this evening I was contacted via facebook from one of the cooks at L'Etoile. My friend Ed. We started to catch up, and I found out that he'd been promoted to sous chef. We talked about future plans and such, and he offered up a HUGE bit of advice, an option I'd never thought of before, but it's right under my nose. I might be considering a butcher training program in the Hudson Valley at a Nationally renowned butcher shop nearby. An apprenticeship of sorts. It would be an incredible chance to learn and would open tons of doors.
I'm going to try and reciprocate and pull some CIA strings for Ed, maybe help repay all the hours he spent pulling me out of the weeds.