New year, a new resolution – 2009 finds me making a career change. After nearly two decades of toiling away in one form of journalism or another, I’m now embarking on a new pursuit – gainful employment in the field of culinary arts. Since moving around and motherhood have curtailed my plans for a formal culinary education, I’ve decided to wing it and trust the training I’ve had thus far (combined with a passion for all things food) will carry me through.
A little about me – I’m a 38-year-old, sane (I think) wife and mother living in Indianapolis. Married to a wonderful Irishman for three years (Patrick the Paddy), I have an adorable stepson named Isaac and Michael, my gorgeous baby boy. Patrick works in auto racing and likes to move around. A lot. We have lived in Indiana and Sonoma CA, survived a 12,000-mile road trip together across the U.S. and Canada, completed a six-week trial cohabitation in Germany, made several journeys to visit my in-laws in Ireland (the site of one of our two weddings), and taken short trips to England, Wales and Scotland. Whew. It makes me tired just writing all that.
But back to the food… I love to cook, I love to eat, and I love to write about it. Outside my passion for writing, the only other thing I could see myself pursuing careerwise is something related to cooking. With the current state of print media, my freelance writing clients are dropping like flies, so here I am. Ready to get this cooking party started. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty good at it. My catering business cards are in the works and my first recipe sampling/networking party is in two weeks, at which time I will attempt to harangue my friends into hiring me for business lunches and bridal showers. In the meantime, I will amuse myself by chronicling my thoughts on a variety of food-related issues as I wait for those lucrative cookbook contracts and/or television deals to start rolling in.
So, let’s get started. The other day, hubby and I had brunch at one of my favorite Indianapolis eateries – Zest! Exciting Food Creations. Four words. Crème brulee French toast.
Now, let me preface my review by saying that I’m a sugar-in-the-morning kind of gal. Muffins, donuts, pancakes — bring it on, and Zest’s French toast is an ideal way to get my sugar buzz up and running for the day.
Zest snuggles into an unassuming little strip mall just off the Monon Trail on 54th Street. We ambled in around 11:30 a.m., baby in tow, just in time to beat the post-church crowd. Each table is covered with sheets of white butcher paper and holds a small glass cup of crayons, allowing hungry patrons and their kids to a chance show off artistic skills while waiting for their food. A charming touch.
I’m in the middle of sketching what I consider to be a rather disarming self-portrait when it arrives, looking and smelling absolutely decadent. I give Patrick’s quite respectable breakfast panini a courtesy glance and a “hm, that looks good,” but really, all I want to do is get a bite of that steaming French toast into my mouth as quickly as possible.
This isn’t like any griddle-cooked French toast I’ve ever had before, rather, it’s two slabs of pillowy, custardy bread pudding-like confection. A shatteringly thin glaze of burnt sugar gives the whole thing a crunchy crust to offset the creamy mouth-feel of the dish. A couple slices of thick bacon come alongside and, as if any more sugar is needed here, a small cup of maple syrup to really gild the lily.
Patrick’s fork sneaks its way toward my plate to see what all the fuss is about. Then again. I swipe a bite of his eggs to get even, but he’s too busy savoring my food to notice. (When we were dating, Patrick insisted on making me order for him in restaurants because he said whatever I got usually turned out to be better than what he’d chosen on his own.)
Patrick always eats faster than I do, then freely helps himself to whatever’s left on my plate, whether I’m finished or not. He polishes off his sandwich, then reaches over and cuts off a large wedge of my remaining French toast for himself. I give him a dirty look as I proceed to polish off every remaining crumb. He looks at me with a somewhat sheepish expression.
“I didn’t think you were going to be able to eat that much,” he says.
It’s not so much that I’m that hungry, it’s just that it’s that good. Try it and see for yourself.
The evening marked an experiment in bread making. Pizza dough, more specifically. There are several food items I would like to perfect my skills in making, bread being one of them. I kneaded out a batch of dough by hand (no bullshit bread-o-matic machines in my house, thank you very much!), let it rise in a bowl on the warm stove, then punched it down and rolled it out. There’s something wonderful about the sight and smell of rising bread dough. It’s reaffirmation that things are naturally working the way they are supposed to and all is right with the world.
The pizza turned out well, in spite of me rolling out the crust a little bit too thin, which turned it soggy under the weight of the sauce and other schwack. (Next time, I’ll precook the crust a little before adding the toppings.) I attempted to recreate the pizza salamis we enjoyed while living in Germany… thin-crusted pies with a scant coating of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, crispy salami slices broiled on top and torn fresh basil. Although my version didn’t quite look like what we got abroad, it still tasted pretty darn good.
Happy 2009! Cheer and bon appetit!