Per Se & The Market Basket Challenge

Today was another one of our big days. This morning we all geared up in our professional attire and recieved an in-depth tour of Thomas Keller’s New York restaurant, Per Se. We were all quite excited to visit a restaurant of such a high caliber. The manager and a couple of other upper-level staff members split us into two groups to give us the tour. First we all sat in the main dining room, which faced an enormous, almost wall-sized window facing Central Park at tree level. An abundance of bright natural light filled the room. The round tables were all large enough to seat four people whether they had four chairs or not. The furniture varied between couches, loveseats, and chairs. The wall decor was simple, but with two gigantic flower arrangements on either side of the room containing lilies, and the floor was a patterned carpeting. The colors were whites, neutrals, and soft browns. It was all very spacious, well-lit, and elegant. The tour of the kitchen was probably the most impressive- it was larger than the dining areas. It was pristine, with a definite sense of flow. The ticket orders would move from one station onto the next around the room, and there was a seperate kitchen for the private dining room alone. Everything was meticulously well laid out and planned. They even had specific rooms for baking and for chocolate. They also prided themselves in a very customized experience for their diners, as well as the fact that fresh ingredients were arriving every day. Of course, such service, quality, and ambiance doesn’t come cheap: just one of their chef’s tasting prix fixe menus starts at $295 per person. After our tour and questions, we each recieved a gift bag that comes standard to their clients containing three Maste Chocolate-filled shortbread cookies in an imprinted tin. They were deliciously soft with a fudgy, semi-sweet filling in between. Before and after our tour I also stopped by the Bouchon Bakery Café in the building, where I bought a Funfetti and Pistachio macaron. The Funfetti tasted reminiscent of yellow cake with sandwiched vanilla icing in between with sprinkles on top. The Pistachio had a delicate flavor, and in the finishing of the taste you could truly detect some real ground pistachios inside. Delicious.

After our Per Se tour, we went over to the Institute of Culinary Education for our market basket challenge. In the challenge, we formed into groups of four, and had three hours to prepare a protein, a starch, and a vegetable with the available ingredients on a table. We were offered chicken breasts or flank steak, and some basic vegetables that were available to choose from. In my group we had Marco, the definite baker out of the culinary students. We chose flank steak, and he decided to make his own puff pastry from memory. Wow. It’s all he worked on during the class, but the result was amazingly impressive. I was more of the leader of the group, and tended to assign more tasks. I headed up the meat. I made up a marinade with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, whole white peppercorns, some chile paste, and thyme. It was really nice. I grilled it on a grill pan for the browning and crosshatching, and then we finished it off in the oven. We also made a sauce that started with a mirepoix (carrots, onions, celery) and then we added shallots, cognac, red wine, veal stock, and thyme. In the end it turned out terrifically. For our starch we made some pureéd potatoes with gruyere and garlic melted in. The gruyere was delicious, but the resulting texture bothered me quite a bit, sort of thin and rubbery. For our vegetable we blanched green beans, sauteéd onions and scallions in butter, and sauteéd the green beans in with some lemon juice. They were terrific. We decided to make some elegant sliders with our puff pasty and steak, so we split the baked rounds of pastry in half, spread on some thyme herb butter that we made, and topped with a couple of thin slices of steak. People could also add the sauce. They were amazing. They steak was delicous on its own, but in the roll it may have been too chewy. It was still an awesome result though. Everybody tried some of everybody else’s dishes, and it was all quite good. For dessert one of the ICE chefs made us a cake that was also very fluffy and sweet.

Tonight we had our final TA meeting about our restaurant simulation- a three hour one. Tomorrow is the big day, and I know we’re all pretty nervous. Wish us luck!



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