I just said the other day, “Jesus, hasn’t Mariah Carey been pregnant for almost two years now?” I wondered if she were giving birth to a pair of hippos or maybe elephants with that gestation period. A couple of days later it was announced that she had delivered twins. What is even more wacky is what she and her husband named the kids. Her daughter is named Monroe, in honor of Marilyn Monroe, who inspired her (go figure) and her son is named Moroccan Scott. WTF and why you ask. I kid you not….he was named after the Moroccan-inspired decor of the top tier of Carey’s New York City apartment. Kookoo! Way to go Mo! Another wacky name just recently announced was the daughter to rocker Bryan Adams, Mirabella Bunny Adams. She’s just a step away from 1. Mirabella Eveready Bunny 2. Mirabella Playboy Bunny 3. Mirabella Chocolate Bunny.
As our semester comes to a close, the only things we have left to do would be our finals. This past week consisted of one day of service and our Student Day, the day that all adults (except me) show up briefly to make sure we are all doing okay, then they sit, have lunch (and in this case wine) and critique, critique, critique. I don’t have the results yet, however, preliminary estimates say the we were at a B. Not only are we responsible for the service for the day, but we have to clean the kitchen that we have used all semester. I think it’s a conspiracy to have cheap labor (free) do the end of semester clean up. Yeah, I can read though it!
My neurotic ways made it difficult to pass the pot station without picking one up and scrubbing off all the carbon on the sides from hours of simmering on our gas stoves. I did commit to taking on that chore and started with it a few days early. I’m glad I did because it was a beast to do. Some pots were hopeless but most became shiny bright and almost new again. It was then that I had an idea. If I were to ever be an instructor, I would assign a pot to every student on the first day of class. They would all get to scrub the pot and would have to monitor the pot during the course of the semester. I think it would teach a good lesson that keeping your equipment clean is a good thing and if you continually do a maintenance check, it won’t build up at the end. Good habits should be instilled early.
Here are a few random shots from our last day of service.
As a celebration for the semester of serving and cooking in The Class Act. All of the tips that we accumulated went into a pot to pay for our dinner and gratuity. It was finally time for us to enjoy ourselves. We were taken to The Banyan Tree Restaurant, located at the Ritz-Carlton in Kapalua. I find it ironic that we went there on the same day that the Ritz-Carlton had sold that day in a foreclosure auction at the Wailuku Courthouse. There were approximately $250 million in loans against the property. The winning bidder was a current lienholder and snapped it up for a cool $75 million. There will be no change in management and it should be business as usual. That just goes to show that there are many things that go on in life that we are not even aware of. The new chef de cuisine is Jojo Vasquez who pushes the envelope on molecular gastronomy. We were looking forward to seeing what kind of menu he designed for us.
As the evening was a student function, we were told that there would be no alcohol served, so armed with my sippy cup full of chardonnay, I headed out to Kapalua. What a trek that was. I swear I drive more on Maui than I did in Los Angeles. I met up with Kaycee and she followed me and my sippy cup in. I understand why Kapalua is a draw to the tourist. It feels like a different micro climate from Kaanapali or Lahaina but dang, I’d hate to drive there every day. I digress….Everyone was decked out in their Sunday best…well almost everyone. I almost pooped my pants when our dearly beloved Chef Kyle poked his newly bleached blond head out of nowhere. Talk about a statement. I considered wearing a leotard, tights and leg warmers as a statement, myself. I wonder who would have won.
The dinner begins….with me being a cranky reviewer. First, I must say that the students of Class Act really stepped up when they were in the service module of the class. I noticed things that we didn’t do quite as good but what I noticed were a lot of things that we did way better…and The Banyan Tree is a fine dining establishment. Most of the students have never had any service background before this class and after 8 weeks, everyone was dishing out a 5 course meal with some special table side service. My biggest issue with the night was that our server never once mentioned what we were having. The restaurant is heavy on the molecular gastronomy so there were spheres, dusts and other items that may not be familiar to the normal diner. In one instance, a course that started out rather bland was saved at the last minute by me mixing everything up. We, at the Class Act, were encouraged to explain what the course was and if the chef had a suggested way of eating the course. It empowers the diner and doesn’t make them feel like the joke is on them when they have no idea what is in front of them. I also have to admit that we were a large party of 3 large tables so things could get a bit hairy, however, our table lagged by at least 5 minutes of getting served each of the courses. But my ultimate pet peeve was the sweating water glasses on the table runner. The “pee” stains was so distracting to me. Maybe a coaster or something. If you are high end, attention to detail is a must. Done venting so on with the food.
Our bread was served with olive oil for dipping and Dukkah. It tasted so familiar to me and I finally realized that Chef Dean had made some for us a few weeks before. If you’ve never had Dukkah, please try it. It’s a crumbly mixture of toasted nuts, corriander, fennel & cumin seeds, black peppercorns and a few other spices, all ground up. The taste is earthy and unmistakably middle eastern. Really good. Thumbs up.
This is where the teasing began. We had water and soft drinks, the chefs and instructors had wine. Mind you, I’m older than most of the chefs and instructors…except maybe for Schulte. I should have got up and got a shot at the bar.
Course One – Ahi – prosciutto, crispy insalata caprese, minus 8 gastrique, basil powder. Course One & Two would have been a better experience if the servers explained what the powder was, what a gastrique was and maybe how the dish is best eaten. The caprese turned out to be a breaded and fried treat of mushroom, basil, mozzarella cheese and maybe eggplant. I’ve been searching online as to what a “minus 8 gastrique” is. A gastrique is a light caramelization of sugar to which some vinegar is added. Now just gotta figure out what the minus 8 part is. The basil powder melted in your mouth. I tried the individual components separately but it was best eaten with everything mixed.
Course Two – Molokai Shrimp A La Plancha – avocado mousseline, gazpacho pearls, 10 year aged balsamic. This course could have been a home run if the server told us what was in the dish. You don’t get served 10 year old balsamic vinegar very often. I liked how the chef removed the heads from the bodies of the shrimp, cooked it, then reassembled. I though I’d be wrestling to get the heads off the shrimp but it slipped off easily. A mousseline is any sauce to which either whipped cream or beaten egg whites have been added just prior to serving. It gives the sauce a light, airy consistency. Eaten individually, the gazpacho pearls (spheres) were okay but when I bathed the shrimp with both sauces then used the sauce to pick up the pearls, it was only then that it made sense.
Course Three – Duck Breast – seared foie gras, kumquat sangria. I would probably say that this was my least favorite course. I had never tried foie gras and was anxiously excited. The verdict…liver is liver is liver. Not impressed. I felt that the duck skin wasn’t crispy enough so the fat layer under the skin wasn’t rendered enough to make it pleasant to eat. I also though the duck was a little overcooked. There was nothing sangria about the kumquats. I love kumquat, don’t get me wrong, but it was more of a jam or a marmelade than sangria.
Course Four – Beef Tenderloin – haricort vert, pomme puree, sauce perigueux. This was my favorite course. Perfectly cooked and the most tender cut of beef I’ve had in a long time. The pomme puree, aka mashed potatoes, were silky smooth and I didn’t mind the beans. I have always wanted to meet a truffle face to face. I’m still looking forward to the day. This is where I’m going for extra credit…Perigueux sauce started out as one of the five mother sauces, the espagnole. It then became a demi glace which was slightly reduced then madera wine was added to become a madeira sauce. Then truffles were added to finally become the perigueux sauce. The sauce is named after the city in the Perigord region of France, know for it’s truffles. That would have been good information to have while eating. I could have been transported.
Course Five – Chocolate Decadence – shooting basil star fruit, kinako ice cream. I’m not a chocoholic so the “decadence” was okay. The sweetened basil sauce was amazing, however, my shooting starfruit seem a day away from being bad. Kinako is roasted soybean flour so we had a soy ice cream, not extraordinary, but I loved the texture. As I recall there was some kinako crumbles around it.
By the end of the evening, food kept coming out tasting style. This was a seafood sausage with pickled scallions, roe and pumpernickel crumbles. The pickling brine was reduced to a syrup and made for an interesting pattern of dots.
The evening finally came to a close. We all got back into our cars and headed home. Next stop is finals week, then the duck gets a couple of weeks off before Beginning Baking. I’m so excited to start the baking portion of the program. I think I need a weekend on Oahu, don’t you think?