Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vito's Cafe

Tonight, I was in Highland Heights, KY, visiting my sister and brother-in-law. Molly, my sister, is performing in an opera scenes performance tomorrow, and so tonight, she and her husband took my mother and me to a very nice Italian restaurant for dinner. The appetizer, and I use the term loosely, was their infamous Wheel of Parmesean. Fettuccini, tossed in butter and cream, turned into a bowl made of a giant wheel of cheese! I had to force myself to slow down or I would've eaten it all in about 5 seconds! It was rich and buttery and just so good! It was prepared tableside by the owner of the restaurant, too. I spoke to him briefly, and dropped off a resume. He was a very gracious host, his food philosophy seemed to be on par with my own. Food is an art form, , one of the most savorable incarnations I can think of. For my main course, since I simply couldn't resist the temptation once presented to me, I had osso bucco. Tender, velvetty veal shanks in a smooth moat of herbed polenta. I've had polenta before that isn't very flavorful, not exactly bland, but still nothing to sing about. This, on every level, was a meal to sing about! As I scooped out the marrow from the bones with the tiny fork they provided, my sister asked "So, is it good?" I replied with a sultry sigh, "I think I need a cigarette." It was a mouthful of creamy, meaty goodness that simply cannot be adequately described in words.

In accompaniment to our lovely meal, the wait staff and some invited guests would come to the center of the dining room and sing. We were treated to musical theater staples (my guilty pleasures included delighting in selections from West Side Story and Man of La Mancha) and opera. Molly performed an aria from Rigoletto called "Caro Nome". It was so delightful, I could see her light up from the inside, she truly sparkled in her true medium. She sings the way I cook, the way I write, as though the act in itsself is its own reward.

Tonight we celebrated my birthday and graduation, as well as my sister's upcoming performance, so we made such a wonderful night of it. This was such a lovely dining experience on all fronts, it will be one I will remember for years to come.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm not dead!

Okay, I know I've been off the blog scene for over a month, I can't believe how the time has just flown by. My internship is almost over! I've really enjoyed it, but I've been kind of homesick for school and my class. That includes teachers, too, Chef! It's a difficult transition, I'm not quite a student anymore, and I'm not technically in the real workforce yet, I'm kind of in-between. That's always a rather iffy place to be in life. I had a mild bout of depression during this period, just feeling lost and confused and wondering what's going to happen next. Plus, right after I was getting used to my classmates and everyone at Indian Hills I had to move! Moving in general always gets me down, but I came back from it. I wasn't sleeping well, I had no appetite, I went a month without even feeling up to writing. It's helped to call my friends and hear about their internships, looking forward to graduation and our trip to France. I've been feeling better lately, sleeping and eating normally again, and I was actually singing in the car again on the way to my job interview. It took a while to get out of that "bad patch", but I'm feeling normal (save the jokes, I can hear them from all the way over here!)

I've really enjoyed certain aspects of my internship, others could have been better. The owner of La Dolce Vita, Jim McCaffrey, is totally awesome. He's passionate about food, good service, keeping up with what the people want, all that fun stuff. His enthusiasm bouys me up when things aren't going so well. His son, Conor, is a decent guy, but impatient. Rather than have me do something and learn, he'd rather just do it himself because it's faster. I've been told not to take his attitude personally, he's just a tricky person to work with sometimes. Another cook, Mike, can be the same way sometimes. I was assigned to work with him on grill and saute my first week there. He was a bit more open teacher, he wasn't in such a rush, but he can be a real downer. He comes off as someone who's been broken on the wheel of life far too soon, very downtrodden. He hardly ever even speaks above a low mutter. There's another cook we all call Chile, probably because he's Mexican, who makes up for the other two guys. He's always a good guy to work with, we exchange barbs with each other, and there's mutual respect between us. He keeps things from getting too boring anyway. Then there's Fawn, the owner's stepdaughter, we work together a lot on the pizza assembly line. It can get really hectic when the tickets come flying in, but we get them all out in about a minute! My first night on that line, I balked a little at the sudden rush, but my old training from working as a fitting room girl at Kohls came to my rescue and I thought "It's just another Z-rack to blitz, we can do this" and we did, no sweat.

One really fun thing I get to do on Thursday mornings is bake bread with Jim. That's a riot, let me tell you! We're both such bread geeks it's not even funny. To date we've done baguettes, French rolls, ciabatta, and focaccia. This has all just started while I've been there. We'd talked a few times before I came on that he was toying with the idea of doing bread, and so I helped get that going! A few businesses in town have even gotten accounts with him to sell his bread to them! And he's the one asking me questions! It's weird to be teaching an adult how to do something, but I guess shouldn't think of myself as a kid anymore, since I'm almost 30. I love the smell of yeast, I could get high off of it, especially in a large-scale operation like what we're doing at work! I think Jim does, too, it's nice having someone around who gets the same pleasures from things that I do. We're both like a couple of kids: "Is the oven temperature right yet? Has the dough risen enough? How about now??" This week, Jim's gone, so I'll be baking with Fawn for my last baking day. She came along last week to watch and help out and get a feel for what we get up to when it's just the bread geeks running the kitchen. She didn't get scared away, I'll take that as a good thing!

Today I had a job interview at a nice restaurant up in Rochester, MN. The chef who interviewed struck me as a good guy to work for; although he stressed that there weren't any entry-level positions open, he encouraged me to look at some of the hotels in town and told me he'd keep my resume on file in case something appropriate opens up. I wore my dress uniform, I always like an occasion to whip that out. I think I look good in it, and I feel very professional. I've mailed out a few resumes to other businesses that have been advertising for help, so hopefully I'll hear back from someone who will hire me.

Next week is graduation, and a little over a week after that is our class trip to France! I've been getting French lessons on my iPod, so hopefully I'll learn enough basic phrases to get by. It's not only respectful and polite to do when visiting another country, it's fun! I like drawing the similarities between French and Spanish (I took four years of Spanish in high school, this is helping to bring some of it back), and just the fun of learning a new language is rewarding. In my family, I come from a long line of language-buffs. My grandpa was a cryptographer in WW2, so my code writing/breaking skills have some basis in heredity. He was primarily stationed in India. You know who else was with Intelligence, based in India during the war? Julia Child! I doubt the two ever crossed paths though, he was in Delhi and she was elsewhere, so not good chances. Still kind of cool though.

Okay, it's past midnight, so I'd better sign off and get some sleep. I'm back in action though, and it's good to be back!