This past Friday, I did my second Friday Night Dinner shift at the Natural Gourmet Institute. It was a lot more mellow than the last one I did, which was quite an experience (you can read about it HERE). On Thursday, I cleaned and prepped what seemed like an endless supply of mushrooms. We had portobellos, chanterelles, oyster, and cremini mushrooms. All of them were beautiful specimens. The oyster mushrooms were so huge, they were twice the size of my hand (see photos). By the time I was done cleaning and slicing, my fingernails were brown. Four days later, I’m still trying to get the brown out.
The kitchen was kind of chaotic and I think the students whose FND it was found themselves a little overwhelmed, which I can see happening. It is a dizzying situation when you’re trying to get everything prepared at the same time and get everything plated and ready to hit the pass in a smooth progression. In a really small kitchen, there are about 15 students, the teacher, 2 dishwashers, and, during service, servers coming in and out. It’s hot, it’s crowded, and it’s crazy.
I think the class did a great job with their menu, though. It was completely vegan (as all FND menus are) and the food was delicious and filling, which proves that a meatless meal can be quite satisfying. This was the menu:
September 2 , 2011
~ Appetizer – 1st Course ~
Grilled Corn Chowder with Red Bell Pepper and Parsley Oil
~ Entree – 2nd Course ~
Sunset Pave with Heirloom Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce and Raw Kale Salad
~ Dessert – 3rd Course ~
Poached Peaches with Lavender Syrup and Lemon Almond Cake
Served with Blackberry Vanilla Milkshake and Almond Tuile
And portion of the proceeds from that dinner is going to be donated to The Cornucopia Institute: The Cornucopia Institute engages in educational activities supporting the ecological principles and economic wisdom underlying sustainable and organic agriculture
As I said in my previous post, there’s an adrenaline rush to the whole Friday Night Dinner thing. When it’s time for service, you have an assembly line of students to plate the different courses and you have to keep things moving to get the dishes out in a consistent stream. It’s a bad thing to have some people served while others are waiting for longer than a minute or so. You’re there on the line doing your thing and you’re focused on your task and on making that plate beautiful and appetizing. And when it’s done and the guests have enjoyed their meal and expressed their pleasure, there’s a great satisfaction and sense of accomplishment for you.
The FND dates for my class have been set. The class was split into two groups and both groups will do their dinners in December. We’re testing our first dish—the entrée—on Wednesday night. I’ll keep you posted on the progress.