Saturday, November 26, 2011

Is it a dream, or a nightmare?

Lake Chocolate
 All summer and through the fall, our mantra at work has been, "Just make it through October."  October has always been our busiest month at the farm.  No one is allowed to ask for time off, and whining is definitely frowned upon.  In the bake shop, we've been four people short for most of the summer and early fall, and spent most of this fall training new people.  We've started having trouble remembering our staff's names, simply because we've gone through so many!
  But we made it through October, and it hasn't slowed down.  Sure, there was that one day with 29 guests, but they let in "outside diners," folks who don't stay at the hotel--usually employees--come in and eat without giving us notice.
  We're really happy the sales team is so good that we have secure employment in these troubled times, don't get me wrong! We're very thankful for our fabulous jobs.  We're just tired!  We want vacation!  We just want to stop working so darn much!
Bonbons, bonbons everywhere!

Well, it's starting to happen.  We have one more new team member starting Monday.  We are finally going to be fully staffed, though that actually means more staff than we've ever had in the bake shop.  Yesterday, I actually had two people doing what is usually my job!  I had time to spend all day in the chocolate room, something I desperately needed to do.  And Krissy was able to just make bread, something she hasn't been able to do in a long time.  This morning, she and I will have time to sit and schedule and plan for the next week.  Occupancy is low, but at the end of this next week, something very exciting happens.  Francois Payard, a very famous pastry chef, is leading the cooking school, and I'm going to be his personal assistant!  Woooohooo!  I'm terrified/delighted!
  So, I need to prepare now, by making enough turndown chocolates for the next week and a half.  No one else on my team knows how to make them, and I simply haven't had the time to teach them.  Our new team member learned to make chocolates in Switzerland, and I'm so looking forward to her help, but she has a lot to learn first about us and the farm before I can lock her in the chocolate room!  Just kidding, Liz!  I'll let you out for bathroom breaks!  
  Yesterday, I filled the tempering machine to the brim and let her rip!  I made four flavors of chocolate bonbons:  Kahlua, red wine, caramel apple and rosemary-lemon.  Today, I'm going to temper some milk chocolate and make Bailey's, peanut butter and marshmallow.  And if I have time, I'm going to temper some white chocolate and try to duplicate that amazing texture in the peppermint Hershey's kisses.  How do they keep the candy cane bits crunchy in the warm chocolate?  I will attempt to find out!
  But all night long, I dreamt of the chocolate room.  It was a disaster when I finished all those chocolates, and dark chocolate does not clean up easily.  The machine was the worst; much hot water and dish soap was used, and many, many towels.  So I relived that mess most of the night!  Dream in chocolate?  Oh, yes.  Yes, I do, and it's not quite as pleasant as one might think.  Milk and white chocolate are so much easier to clean up after.  They're just not quite as delicious!
  But now, it's out of the jammies and into my work clothes.  Everyone have a wonderful T-Day weekend!  Stay out of traffic jams and fights over big screen t.v.s!  Hug your family members and enjoy this beautiful late-fall weather!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ladies, Hang on to Your Men!

Especially around the holidays.  It took two men to load this tree into my car, so why did I think I'd be able to get it from the car, through the back yard and into the front room by myself?  Because.  It's what I do.  When I want something done, I do it, or it doesn't get done.  So, when I hear my friends complain about their husbands, I listen, but all the while, I'm thinking:  Hang on to him.  He can carry stuff, open stuff, undo stuff you can't undo.  My friends know my horrendously bad taste in men, and I don't deny there are many, many reasons I'm single.  And most of the time, I prefer it that way.  My cats don't cheat or lie.  Neither does Bella.  And I'm grateful for that.  I just wish they could do a little heavy lifting once in a while.
  But the tree made the trip across the yard and through the house with very little damage to the floors or my back.  I will hang the lights on the porch this afternoon, haul the decorations up the basement stairs and light the tree tonight.  Thanksgiving is tomorrow for Mom and me, and I will have a merry holiday.  But who's going to get this tree out in January?  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

This is a Day Off?

It all began early this morning.  Weftie was snug as a ... cat in a rug while I made coffee.  A couple of cups later, everyone fed their kibble, I took off on errands.

 I found a composter at Home Depot called the eComposter.  Makes it sound as if it should work on line, doesn't it?  But it's just a big, cheap plastic box with a couple of doors, one for in and one for out.  I put it together and lined it with old newspaper.  The ugly frost-bitten garden needs to be chopped up and put in it next.

But first, I wanted to plant the tulips, daffodils and grape hyacinths I bought earlier this fall.  I dug up the strip between the sidewalk and the street, planted them all, then laid mulch on top.  This time, I remembered to lay a stepping stone from the street to the sidewalk, so guests won't have to walk through the flowers.  The recycling bin will sit on it overnight, since tomorrow is recycling day.  And the leaves will be vacuumed up any day now, according to the news.
  The postal carrier brought my mail to me as I raked the mulch, and now it's time for a cup of tea and my mail.
And maybe a little nap...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bella visits Dr. Joe for her allergies.
   My adoring fans, both of them, have asked me why I haven't written in so long, and I will tell you that it's quite simple.  It's just about all I can do to write my weekly installment for Loomy Tunes!  I've even missed a few of them this summer and fall.  But here it is November, the month we kept promising ourselves when we would take vacation and just breathe.  Vacation is not yet on the horizon, but I do feel a little opening up of space and a little tension has left my shoulders.
  Just yesterday, I realized that I finally have--or will soon have-- enough staff to take the time to do nicer desserts.  Saturday morning, I opened an email that said a guest told a hostess that the desserts had not been "up to Blackberry standards."  It was eight hours before I could determine the cause of the unhappiness, and spent that time beating myself up internally.  Turns out it was frozen apples in the center of their fried pies, and if I was hard on myself, it was nothing compared to poor Jessica, who spent the following 24 hours agonizing over what I would do to her as a consequence.  I simply told her that it was a mistake to learn from and go forward.  There are far too many things she does well to let this one stumble make her fall down.
  But I've also made myself a promise to bring the level of my desserts up another notch.  Witness the sweets assortment I made for a group last night:
They could be so much better, so much more refined.  I've been following David Lebovitz's blog, Life in Paris at, and have been so inspired by his photos and travels and writing.  He has a new app, even, for the pastry shops in Paris.  Every pastry in each row in Paris pastry shops are symmetrical, perfect and beautiful. That's what I want for my desserts.  I want guests' jaws to drop.  I want my desserts to be the best ____________ they've ever seen or tasted.
  A new p.m. pastry cook starts Thursday, and another starts the Monday after Thanksgiving, one who has experience in chocolate making, which will help me enormously.  I always mean to take photos of my chocolate work, but always have finger encased in chocolate when the urge strikes!  Not something I want to inflict on my iphone!  But I will be more vigilant, bring my camera to work more often and keep you updated on my journey!