Thursday, June 9, 2011

Glassware and Restaurant Education

I have a new job! Again!

I understand the basics of working in a kitchen, a wine store, a cheese shop and a grocery store. Now I need to understand a restaurant.

I can't disclose the location, but I can tell you its a great place to eat, and so far it's also a great place to learn.

The teach a LOT and they test too. I have a test on glassware today and in order to help me remember my stuff, I'm going to share what I have learned with you!

Check out our selection of glasses:

That is 10 different types of glassware and 2 types of pitchers. The Pitcher on the right is for water, and the one on the left is for coffee. We also have super fancy Gran Cru Burgundy Stemware, the cup is about the size of a grapefruit and it has a tulip shape rim. It's too expensive to touch for just educational purposes so its not pictured.

Clearly we have a fancy wine list to go along with all of this gorgeous glassware. The catch is that its 100% Italian wine, with the exception of Champagne which is from Champagne, France. So all of the glassware is named with respect to the Italian wines that are served. However the basic tenants of wine color and body are what dictates which glass we use, so this info should be helpful or interesting for anyone who is trying to become a big ole' wine snob :) (no judgement, clearly I'm trying to become one myself).

So I'm going to tell you what I know about the uses for each glass from right to left, because that is how I learned it. Also, when you proceed through your meal with wine pairings the glass corresponding to your first course will be at the right side of your plate, in front of your knife and spoon, and you will proceed inwards, so your 2nd glass will be placed to the left of the 1st and the 3rd glass basically in the center of your plate.

This gets sort of complicated because with pairings, the glass position proceeds in the reverse direction of normal dining. Traditionally, you would have a water glass in front of your knife and spoon, a white wine glass to the right, and a red wine glass to the right of the white.

If you are having cocktails, you would have a water glass, and then your cocktail glass to the right. Wine would be placed to the left of the water glass.

Have I lost you yet? Maybe this photo will help, if not, its pretty and shiny so just look at it and move on.

The pen is a knife (no, seriously, it's a pen knife. okay not really, but just pretend it's a knife). The glass in front of it is a general wine glass, just for holding a place. The one to the right is water, and the last is a cocktail glass.

I suppose the purpose of all this hullabaloo is so waitstaff can guess which empty glass should be refilled with which beverage.

Or maybe its so you can dine in the dark and still know which drink you are imbibing. We all hate it when we expect water and get sprite.

Here we go, beginning at the right hand side...


#1 Water glass for sparkling, and flat water, beer and non-alcoholic beverages including juice, soda, and milk

#2 Highball glass (we use this ONLY for our signature cocktail, but most bartenders know which cocktails are supposed to be served in these)

#3 Rocks glass for all cocktails

#4 Champagne flute for Champagne and Champagne like sparkling beverages

#5 Martini glass for Lambrusco and Prosecco and Sweet Sparkling, and at a regular restaurant, martini

#6 Brunello and fuller bodied reds such as Chianti and Bordeaux. I remember that Brunello is the tall glass because 'tall' and 'brunello' both have two 'l's.

#7 Sangiovese and other light, bright reds like Dolcetto, Barbera, Freisa, and Lagrein, and fresh, crisp dry whites. Mostly Northern Italian wines.

#8 Nebbiolo and other romatic reds such as Pinot Noir, and Nerello Mascalese (obscure red wine grape). Also full bodied whites.  I can tell this glass is nebbiolo because I associate it with the word fog which is "nebbia" in Italian. Since a fog is big and fat and spread out, I know that the nebbiolo glass is the biggest and fattest of the three wine glasses.

#9 Tulip for grappa digestivos, amaro and other non-sparkling sweet wines

#10 Snifter for cordials and Sambuca (sometimes beer is served in a snifter, just not where I work)

Thats about it for now. I'm sure I will learn much greater detail as I continue working at my new job. Be prepared to learn more than you EVER wanted to know about wine, and italian dining.

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Monday, June 6, 2011

Peas, Please - Pasta alla Carbonara alla Primivera

I am confident that there is no better way to spend a warm, breezy Saturday morning than trolling the farmers market, tasting goodies and planning a meal.

I woke up in the District of Columbia. It was sunny and inviting outside my hotel room windows. I put on a sun dress and went over to the 14th and Ust Farmers Market, bright and earlyish, at 9:15am.

There were apples as always, and colorful bouquets of lazy spring flowers.

Photo by Chris Rausch 

Photo by Chris Rausch

The fresh English Peas conjured up images of my version of Pasta Carbonara. True, authentic Carbonara doesn't have any peas in it, but its a rich dish, so I use the peas to brighten it up and add a bit of crunch.

Photo by Robin R.

My real spark of ignition came when we checked out North Mountain Pastures farm, located in Newport, Pennsylvania. They raise cows, turkey, lamb, sheep, pig, and chicken for slaughter and offer cured meats and cheese, and even wool from their own animals. They had samples of their homemade prosciutto out for tasting and a display of other cured meats I had never heard of. I picked up a package of the Tesa, an italian bacon come pastrami, cured with red wine, and organic herbs and spices including garlic, allspice, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg. I asked the proprietor how she prefers to enjoy such a wonderful product and without hesitation she replied "Pasta Carbonara". Obviously it was fate.

When we got home I got to work in the kitchen browning all the beautiful strips of pork. I flash blanched the peas, grated some fresh parmigiano reggiano, fresh cracked black pepper, a couple of farm fresh eggs, and stirred it in a tizzy. All the while pretending to be Nigella Lawson.

Photo by Robin R.

2 Fresh Eggs
1/2 cup finely grated fresh parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup loosely packed cooked and crumbled tesa, or bacon 
1/4 cup fresh blanched peas
1/2 tbsp Fresh cracked pepper
salt to taste

This is one of my favorite recipes because you only need 1 pot and 1 pan. I start by getting my bacon cooked and onto towels to drain. Then I get my pasta water going and as soon as it's ready I throw in my peas, pull them and dunk them in ice water in your sink and let them sit on the side. Get your pasta in the water and grate your cheese. Then stir the cheese into the whisked eggs, add pepper, and salt as desired. When the pasta is ready I pull it directly from the water and stir it into the eggs as fast as possible. This prevents the eggs from curdling. Throw in the peas and bacon and serve.  

Photo by Robin R.

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