Sunday, October 7, 2007

Weddings and other tedious tasks.....

Had a wedding to go to yesterday. Hopefully, the last one for awhile. Or at least the last one we can't get out of by just sending a card and a check to the new couple.

It was actually a nice wedding and a good time, despite my hubby driving us to the wrong church first (he swears his brother told him it was that church "just down the block" from his bro's house.... not the *correct* church just down the block from his brother's house....). Ceremony was brief, which was nice, and then it was heading home, outta the 80 degree temps (ten kindsa wrong for October in Chicago) for a couple hours until the reception.

Reception was nice, booze was flowing, all the food was good, no major incident to be reported.

Food-wise, it was one of the better weddings I've been to. Nice munchies during cocktail hour - shrimp, chicken on a stick, beef on a stick, mushrooms in phyllo, lamb chops. The dinner was a roasted red pepper and tomato bisque, salad involved baby spinach, candied pecans, dried cranberries and goat cheese. I'm just not a goat cheese person. To me, it tastes like a goat smells. And it's just not appealing. But I was able to eat around the goat cheese and enjoyed it. The main food was a chicken breast in a tomato/artichoke sauce, a filet, mashed potatoes and veg. Very tasty. Desert was the wedding cake and caramel gelato.

Funny moments.... we all had a glass of champagne at the table, garnished with a strawberry. None of us were really interested in the strawberry. Those all made it over to my nephew's plate... who devoured 10 strawberries before dinner even began (he's 5). And then, when they gave him fruit instead of the soup, told the waitress he wanted the soup instead. Too cute. He is a bit of a mini-foodie in his own way.... last Christmas his number one gift was an E-Z bake oven, just because the kid has *always* been a big eater and after some cooking classes he took with mom, he's figured out that food tends to get in his tummy faster when he's involved in making it.

Today was playing hooky from a birthday party (the kid of my cousin and the hubby's college roommate... in one of the oddest relationships in history, they managed to meet each other with no help from me or the hubby). Since temps reached an unseasonal 90 degrees, I was kinda glad we skipped it.

Instead, I had the fun of hitting the grocery stores and then doing general household cleanup. Did manage to get a couple of much-needed tasks done, including some closet organization and magazine sorting (which to keep, which to bring to work to see if others want).

Dinner was just hamburgers. Planned to do them on the grill, but forgot I was out of propane, so they went under the broiler. Good as always.

And please... people.... step away from the lean ground beef when making burgers. Please. I know the higher fat ground beef has been branded as evil, but there is a time and a place to use it. And burgers is it. Especially a cooking method that lets the fat cook off and drip away. That's how you get a nice, juicy burger that isn't dried out and tasteless. I think it was an Alton Brown speech... with lower fat meats, the fat all drops away while the burger is still cooking, and after that point, water is the next thing that evaporates from the burger and you get left with hockey pucks. It is true. Ask my friend Kim (wink). I've turned her to the dark side.

Also finished up reading The Reach of a Chef this weekend. I've enjoyed all of Ruhlman's "... of a Chef" books, but I donno, this one still leaves me a little unsettled.

The idea of "outposts" of a famous place is not new to me, and not a concept I object to. In Chicago, we're very familiar with them. There are the original locations of spots like Pizzaria Uno, Lou Malnati's, Portillos, hell, even the Billy Goat Tavern (Cheezbouger! Cheezbouger! No fries! Chips!) has multiple locations. One of my Chicago favorites (reminder - I'm cheap!) is Heaven on Seven, which has several locations. I don't have a problem with it, and I'm very used to eating at a place that has the recipes and standards or the original.

My problem is with the Vegas Bouchon. For those that do not follow the mundane details of my life on every message board I've ever posted on (good God... um... I hope no one does... I had to deal with 'net stalkers in the early 90s and it was not fun. Like, 3am phone calls of how someone was plotting my brutal death not good) where was I???? Oh yeah. Vegas Bouchon.

I'd read so many great things about it, heard such rave reviews, I had to go. Absolutely had to go.

Early March this year, we were headed to Vegas and on the morning of arrival (we usually catch an early early flight out), the hubby was renting the Shelby Mustang and planning to go visit a vendor he works with. I was fine with that, it gave me time to go enjoy a nice breakfast by myself at Bouchon.

Service was fantastic. The staff had no problem with "travelin' clothes" me and I got top-notch service. But my meal... the pomme frites were fantastic, my cheese danish was outstanding and near orgasmic..... but the eggs. Scrambled eggs. I love some nice, soft, slightly wet (start the "baw-chicka-baw-baw" music....) scrambled eggs (aw damn. Kill the "baw-chicka-baw-baw" music. Sorry folks). Lovely, fluffy, wonderful scrambled eggs. And I know... they're not hard to do. It takes maybe two minutes more than crappy scrambled eggs. And properly cooked eggs is the sign of any good cook, IMHO.

And my eggs were bad. Horrible. Bad. Like a buffet. Or a Dennys. Totally overcooked and disappointing. I should have sent them back, but I was surprised that at a place of this pedigree and caliber, that they'd even let them go out. And my half-cooked half-uncooked bacon. It was sad. And I really had to wonder about a place that was supposed to have such high standards would send it out even on a weekday breakfast service.

I donno. Maybe the new era of cross-country chef-branded places is different than the cross-county places I knew growing up. It's a bigger map... and I do believe some things get lost. Things get sloppy. Even if it's a disrespect or misunderstanding of the patrons of your place. On a smaller scale, in a single metro area.... if one location is doing a crappy job, people will stop going there, and go to one that does a good job. On a bigger scale.... a place like Vegas... unless there is constant control, it can be easy to start to let things slide... "oh heck... it's a breakfast service in Vegas, these people think crepes are something hard and inventive".

I donno. It's a lot of my inner debate on if I'd ever want to try Bouchon in Vegas again. Or if I just wanna do a quiche outta the cookbook and declare myself better than the staff there on my experience, and call it a day.

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