Saturday, January 2, 2016

Small World

We are closed for the first week of January. Everyone seems to be planning a trip except me. I  am going to binge on some television and then try and read all of the cookbooks I've acquired over the past 12 months. The goal is one idea from each book.

My happy place

New year, new menu. If you missed the Sticky Toffee Pudding...sorry. It may rear its ugly head again before the winter is up.

I want to use the ice cream machine more this year.

Ice cream and Sorbet options?

I seriously cannot wrap my head around this Gray Kunz in Saratoga thing. A fun connection - one of the chefs who I trained under, En Ming Hsu, worked for him at Lespinasse. She is one of the most intimidatingly knowledgable chefs I have ever met. She also studied Studio Art at Skidmore.

Another funny connection I made while living in Chicago. I was volunteering at a Pastry Competition - when I noticed that one of the Chef Judges named Jessica Vollkommer. My curiosity got the better of me and I asked if she was related to Frank Vollkommer - she said 'He is my ex husband.' I awkwardly mentioned where I was from and that I had been to the shop a few times and then disappeared into the shadows.

When I worked at Prime at Saratoga National, the Chef I was working for was Vivian Brammer. Before Vivian was the Pastry Chef at Saratoga National - she worked for Jessica Vollkommer when she was the Pastry Chef there.

Jessica Vollkommer also did the pastries at Dale Miller Restaurant. I worked for Dale Miller when he was the Executive Chef at Sperry's.

Probably my closest friend from Chicago - originally from Pittsburgh - was familiar with the Albany area because her grandfather went to Skidmore and her grandmother went to Union (I may be remembering this backwards) - and this is when they met each other.

One of the Chefs I staged with at Frontera/Topolobampo knew a kid I went to high school with, and had visited his family home in Latham.

I was at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on the first big road trip I went on. We we're waiting for a shuttle to take us down the rim (this is the primary way to view the park at this point - you cannot drive your vehicle on the road past the village). I was reading some sign or pamphlet that talked about the volume of visitors that visit here every year and it translated to something like 15k people a day (according to what I remember form a decade or so ago) - and literally as I read this a woman approached me and asked if the shirt I was wearing (Boght Hills) was the Boght Hills in Latham NY? - I told her yes. It turns out she and her husband were both from Menands. They also knew my (ex) girl friends parents pretty well.

On that same road trip, we stopped in Dublin TX to tour a Dr. Pepper bottling plant that still used sugar in their recipe. This was before soda companies realized people wanted this and began selling 'flashback' sodas. We were heading towards Austin from Dublin and when we were en route we passed through another town called Hico, TX (population 1,347). I noticed quite a few faded advertising murals, which I enjoyed photographing at the time. We pulled the car over and started to walk around a bit to take some photographs. As we were walking we noticed a man sitting on a bench with a couple dogs. Naturally we stopped to pet the dogs and we wound up talking. It turns out he was traveling the country with another couple in two airstreams. He asked where we were staying that night and offered to let us pitch out tents where they were camping for the night - which we did. We all had dinner together that night and stayed up listening to their travel stories. I remember this night vividly nearly ten years later and it remains one of my happiest travel memories - where everything in the universe lines up perfectly for you to experience something wonderful. Before we parted the next day they told us to check out Coopers BBQ in Llano on our way to Austin, TX - which we did. It was our first Texas BBQ experience - and was transformative. I have been back to Coopers several times since.

The first day at school in Chicago we were doing a group introduction - each person in the school got up, said their name, where they are from,  occupation, something about themselves. The school was relatively competitive and only accepted 74 students. As we made our way through the group - one woman got up and said she was from Hico, TX. A few days later we were broken up into four groups of 16 students each - who we would be grouped with for the remainder of our time there. We wound up being placed in the same group and became friends. When I told her that I had been to Hico before she was just as shocked as I was to find someone else who had even heard of it. After we graduated and left Chicago - I was in Texas for an ACF conference and afterwords I visited her in Hico. She showed me the chocolate company she worked for (Wiseman House Chocolates), which was very nice - and then we drove to Llano for some BBQ at Coopers.

When we were in Yellowstone on our most recent road trip, we met a couple at the campsite across the way from us. They owned a bakery/cafe/candy shop in a resort town in Northern Washington. We talked shop for a while and shared some beers they had picked up in Montana a few days earlier. They were on a very similar route as us (Glacier>Various MT Towns>Yellowstone>Teton) but just a few days behind us. When we started talking about chocolate - it came up that because of production restraints, they purchased their chocolates from another company. I asked from who? - to which they answered Wiseman House Chocolates.

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