Day 4: Camaraderie

Homemade Lemon-Ricotta Tortellini... and having a little fun with Photoshop.

Homemade Lemon-Ricotta Tortellini… and having a little fun with Photoshop.

Last night’s entry was delayed by the surprise arrival of my best friend C. Yup – Honey Bunny coordinated an impromptu visit by my bff who had driven 6 hours down the California coastline to arrive just after I had gotten home and showered. It was like clockwork. Considering that we had not lived in the same time zone since high school (until he recently relocated to norcal), it’s always exciting to see him. The three of us hung out for a nightcap and toasted to a good day had by all.

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Today started off interestingly in that I was largely on my own for the first 15 minutes or so (I usually come in at 10:45, well ahead of my scheduled time, but still – the previous weeks, many of the guys had been there around the same time if not earlier). I made myself useful scrubbing the station and folding towels. Lots of towels.

Again, I was told it had been a busy week, so we were in for a long day of prep ahead. I knew what that meant — more petite herb salad. Five quarts to be exact, plus two additional quarts of frisée. For normal people who don’t think in quarts and pints, just know that this is a pretty daunting amount of herbs and greens. It took me the better part of the morning to finally complete, but I can tell that I’m working faster and more efficiently than when I first started. I’ve gotten also pretty darn good at eyeballing quantities, if I do say so myself. ;)

In case anyone was wondering, this is frisée:

Frisée (source: WiseGeek)

Frisée (source: WiseGeek)

Frisée and I have developed a better relationship over these past four weeks. And that seemed to be the theme for today (developing relationships, that is).

After I finally pulsed the last batch of herb salad through the salad spinner (super high-tech, I know), I was ready to move on to a “cool” project. Today, my station lead was teaching me the ins and outs of romesco — a nut and red pepper based sauce from Spain. For this, we needed to borrow a burner on the hot line. And hot is definitely an understatement. I don’t know if I can physically handle working on the hot line — the smoldering heat reminded me of standing in the middle of Death Valley foolishly searching for a geocache one summer with Honey Bunny.

But I digress. First, we roasted an assortment of nuts in olive oil. The hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts released their natural oils as they toasted and made the whole mixture incredibly fragrant. We strained those out, fried off some shallots and garlic, and finally, toasted some cubes of brioche in the nutty-shalloty-garlicky oil to soak up the goodness and brown the edges. I wanted to eat those crunchy cubes right then and there. Those ingredients joined some roasted bell peppers, sun dried tomatoes, and tomato paste in the Vitamix and whizzed up into a thick, hearty sauce. The last step was the fun part — scraping it over a large sifter so that the mesh breaks up the chunks, leaving us with a smooth, luscious romesco.

My next assignment offered me redemption from the failed tuna tartare torchons from last week. I was given a refresher and supervised for a few more attempts before I was left to my own devices in the walk-in. It was a bit discouraging at first; they were either too long or too short for the pan I was storing them in. Until finally, it was like I had reached an “aha!” moment and my finished product fit snugly. It was absolutely perfect, as were the subsequent ones I made. I was so freaking proud of myself. I excitedly showed anyone who would listen, as they came into the walk-in to find me working in there. I was met with high fives, smiles, and the occasional “Do you need a sweater…?”

Just like on my first day, my station lead had me select a dish on the menu to take responsibility for during dinner service. I knew which one I wanted — the tuna tartare. Sadly, it was only ordered once during the entire evening (though you can bet I jumped for joy when the ticket came in!). Instead, I pitched in where I could, plating the peach salad, arugula salad, and the new kale salad. The latter was pretty fun. After observing one, I made a few subsequent orders from start to finish. I welcomed the opportunity to practice my “swooshing,” piping, and garnishing skills, and I think they turned out pretty nice!

According to the guys, dinner service was a bit slow during some points. I, of course, never notice because it always seems crazy-busy to me. But tonight, because of the lulls between tickets, the guys included me in their conversations and banter, and we even had fun cracking some jokes about the (new) charcuterie guy and his love of watermelon and orange soda. Sure, they are probably still being nice because I’m a) the stage, b) a girl, or c) both, but today I really felt like a welcomed part of the team. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

After cleaning up and winding down from service, a few of us hung out in the alley just chatting. And this time, as I got up to leave, they simply turned to me and said “See you next week!” No question about it. :) Another successful day and another affirmation that working with food makes me truly happy.

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