Tag pie

Marketing Intern Turned Guest Participates at Corporate Cooking Competition

Whisk and ChocolatePart of my internship this summer involves experiencing the many different kinds of team building activities we provide. Last week’s adventure was a Sumptuous Small Plates Challenges, our classic cocktail-style event with a competitive twist. Parties That Cook really knows how to stage successful and entertaining corporate events, so I was excited for this particular event. Taking on the role of a guest, I was assigned to help with the Boston Cream Trifle with Strawberries. YUM.

When the guests strolled in, we promptly started pouring wine, sodas, and large glasses of water. It was a sweltering day, and these guest chefs needed to stay hydrated. We were at the Montclair Women’s Club near Stanford, and since we had over fifty guests, I really appreciated the shear amount of space!

Fifty people produce a lot of body heat, so we threw open the doors and windows and settled down to listen to Chef Heather present the preliminary demonstration and safety tips. She was full of witty one-liners like “Hot behind!” or “Hot item coming through!” These are two of our signature signals for moving hot objects. (In case you missed it: The first is a compliment, and the second compliments yourself.) Our guests found the demo very amusing and was visibly excited to get to work.

As my dessert team assembled around our cooking station, we surveyed the recipe. There were three parts to cover: cake, ganache, and custard. This wasn’t going to be easy, but having tasted other PTC recipes, I knew it’d be well worth the effort. We divided ourselves into three mini teams before heading off for the all-important hand washing.

Back at the station, a few of the guys began cracking the 24 eggs going into the cake, and it became apparent that a few people on my team had never baked before. Not a problem! Between the four of them, they figured out how to separate the yolks from the whites, all the while jokingly rating each other and rearranging their assembly line for efficiency. This was teamwork at its finest: Figure out what each person’s strength is, and use it to get the best results. Seeing that they had everything under control, I turned my attention to the custard.

Pies!Now, I love making pie. Last summer was essentially the “Summer of Pie” in my house. My parents gracefully put up with an endless troupe of teenagers coming through to eat the 3-4 pies I’d baked that week. Remembering that even I had quite a bit of difficulty with my first couple of attempts at custard, I was prepared for this group to run into the same issue: namely, getting the custard to thicken properly.

With measured ingredients in hand, we began to heat the cream and sugar as other teammates separated yolks from whites. We tempered the eggs, adding a bit of the cream before stirring it all back into the the cream mixture. This was all very new for my team, and I was excited to be part of it.

Of course, the ovens were being hogged by another group, so I ran off to the kitchen for some space and temperature negotiating. After a few minutes, we realized we’d forgotten to add the cornstarch. For those of you that don’t know, cornstarch is a thickening agent. We consulted Heather, and she said the eggs had done all the thickening on their own. First time, and this group was already having more success than I had! Hooray!!!

Chocolate and StrawberriesAside from the cake baking s-l-o-w-l-y, everything went off without a hitch. We began assembling our dish in itty-bitty dessert cups with tiny tasting spoons you’d find at ice creameries. The presentation was cute, but we were rushing to get our dish onto the judging table before the clock ran out! Though we submitted our main platter to the judges in the nick of time, we were still assembling as teams began sampling the other dishes. The pressure was on!

And that’s when something really amazing happened. Folks from other teams came over and joined our assembly line until every last cup had been filled. This group of amazing people wouldn’t let anyone in their company fall behind.

I enjoy serving at Parties That Cook events, but I really loved being a participant. It was fun and exciting to watch people who had never baked, used an oven, cracked an egg, etc. be so willing to immerse themselves in the process. We laughed, worked together to fix mistakes, and even had a fun slam dunking egg shells into the trash. Cooking brings out a special joy, and this girl enjoyed every second of it.

Top Food Trends for 2011: Parties That Cook’s Forecast

Thank you, 2010. It’s been great. You allowed the cupcake to rein king, the experimentation of flavor through artisan ice cream, and the sustainability/farm-to-table movement to go mainstream. Sadly, the time for you to step down is fast approaching. We must prepare for the upcoming year, and examine some of the buzzed about predicted trends for 2011.

1.    Hot dogs. These puppies have become quite controversial recently. Arguments break out in the streets DAILY as to whether or not hot dogs have already passed their prime. With so many gourmet hot dog suppliers out there, dogs seem poised to continue their rise in 2011.

2.    Pies! Pies of all sizes are set to replace the cupcake next year. While some people will certainly hold on to cupcakes for dear life, most will make the switch as pies become very easily attained. Look out as pies are no longer solely associated with sweet flavors, but savory, meaty flavors as well. That’s amore!

3.    Affordable eats. The economy is wreaking havoc on trends, as it should. People will want to eat smart, and that could mean higher quality at lower cost. More casual spots are taking precious Michelin stars these days. This might also be related to the anticipated restaurant trend of limited menus like that seen at The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen.

4.    Mom and Pop Restaurants. If you can, now is the time to take advantage of the economy and buy some real estate. Moms and Pops are opening small, self-financed shops EVERYWHERE.

5.    Butchery. This trend sprouted in 2010, but 2011 should be butchery’s time to shine. Yes, we already have established, celebrity butchers. However, the sheer number of butchers should rise as more chefs want to be more “hands on” and minimize waste! All this prompted a Chef’s plea for butchery classes. Could this trend cause a shift in the norm for people to eat rare cuts of meat and meat on the bone instead of having everything boneless and skinless? Don’t worry, BACON will always be popular.

6.    Filipino food. We are all familiar with Asian food –or at least Chinese and Japanese (and, if we’re lucky, Vietnamese and Thai food) –but what about those other cuisines just on the cusp of mainstream popularity? Some people have faith that Korean food will make it big in 2011, but I happen to be rooting for Filipino food. Filipino food traditionally incorporates all parts of the animal, which fits perfectly with 2011’s butchery trend! Also, most Filipino restaurants are small, mom and pop restaurants –another predicted trend for 2011!

7.    Artisan tofu, hummus and yogurt. We’ve already seen the artisan ice cream and frozen yogurt explosions, now it’s time for experimentation with these other fine foods. Also slipping into the list are gourmet popsicles. Chefs may go a little crazy with the flavors, but bring it on!

8.    Vegetables. As people become more health conscious in general, we should see more veggies on menus and in dishes. Raw, cooked or fried (well they started out healthy!), keep an eye out for vegetables invading your plate.

9.    Soft serve ice cream in restaurants. McDonald’s is not the only restaurant taking advantage of the public’s demand for this creamy dessert. Hot new restaurants like San Francisco’s Zero Zero have shown us why soft serve deserves a permanent spot on the dessert menu.

10.    Pop-up restaurants and swapping kitchens. The New York Times explained it best, “By taking advantage of underused kitchens, pop-ups allow young chefs, many with experience in San Francisco’s most highly regarded restaurants, to experiment without the risk of bankruptcy.” I welcome this trend, predicted to continue in 2011, and hope to experience new takes on dishes from a guest chef soon.