Archive for July, 2011

July 26, 2011

Phin & Phebe’s: an Ice Cream Company to Lookout For!

by Jen Wanous

On this historic day of same-sex marriage in New York state, I would like to give a shout out to a local gay ice cream company!  Last night, I met with Crista Freeman, co-owner of Phin & Phebe.  Crista and her partner, Jess, started their ice cream company on a whim with late night ice cream cravings and creative ideas for fun flavors.  They started selling their pints in local markets, packing their car with dry ice and would sell out every time.  They since have decided to ramp up their production when Whole Foods came knocking on their door.

Take a look at their Kickstarter video, it’s really cool.

I picked Crista’s brain on the ins and outs of starting up your own company. She had so many great tips to share; like don’t start an ice cream biz because it’s a logistical wormhole to figure out storage and transport!  She suggested sticking to baked goods.  She also had some good leads for food scientists, lawyers, how to prepare your taxes and city permitting.

I feel like I’ve just landed on the tip of the iceberg in terms of starting to make my way in the artisanal food business.  There are so many bases to cover, but companies like Phin & Phebe make it seem possible.

*Side note #1 – In honor of the gay festivities, I would like to offer my services for catering and event planning.  Let me know if you know of anyone who is tying the knot!

*Side note # 2–  My finger is healing well.  Thanks for all your support!  I am halfway through my internship at ABC Kitchen.

July 18, 2011

A Day In The Life of a Culinary School Intern

by Jen Wanous

Chef Ross asked me to drop the mirepoix I was working on to grab crates filled with mushrooms.  Like any good intern, I quickly assisted him.  Eagerly, I watched as he fanned through cap and stem, showing me exactly how he wanted each of the three different types of mushrooms cut.  I took my knife in hand with confidence, knowing that the pizza guy upstairs was ten minutes into service and needed these mushrooms ASAP.  The mushrooms were big, ranging from the size of my fist to my forearm.  I had never seen mushrooms like these before; exotic fungi that were clean, white and utterly sponge-like.

I was moving along swiftly, thinking how uniform the slices were looking. I was going pretty fast and then–slip–the knife carved out a nice little portion of fingertip.  The shock was immediate and a loud gasp escaped my lips.  Damn it.  With many coworkers looking on, I went over to the hand washing station, all set to announce that it was fine, no big deal…but shit…half of my fingernail was gone and the blood was steadily dripping.  I wrapped a paper towel around my finger, held it tight above my head and then the tears came.  I didn’t want to be a big wimp, but crying is such a rarity for me and I wanted to be present enough to just feel the shock and pain in the moment.

When the chef came over to assess the situation, I tried my darndest to pull it together.  He quickly put on latex gloves and administered first aide.  He took on a doctor’s technical skill but still kept the bedside manor of a chef, saying sternly, “That’s why it’s always safety first.”

I was thoroughly embarrassed. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to find a small crawl space under which I could nurse my mangled finger and my wilted pride.  A ray of understanding and support came from my fellow NGI student, Marta, who is also interning there with me. When my ears were swooshing and I didn’t know what to do next, she helped me cover the basics like getting a ride home and getting my stuff.

The Chef told me that I should probably go to the hospital to have it checked out.  Ugh.  I gathered my things, feeling like I was asked to pack my knives and leave a la ‘Top Chef.’ With five Band-Aids affixed to my middle finger I gathered my things and said, “Thanks Chef, I’ll see you tomorrow.”


ABC Kitchen is where I am doing my internship for culinary school.  The James Beard Foundation recently named it Best New Restaurant in the Country.

Oh and my finger will be fine.  I just have to walk around with it gimpy and gauze-wrapped for five days!

July 11, 2011

Favorite Five Ingredients for a Birthday Dinner (psst: a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake recipe is here!)

by Jen Wanous

Pick your favorite five ingredients.  I know, it’s like choosing between children.  Don’t worry, the artichoke won’t be offended if you don’t pick him and garlic is always a given.  To make things even more interesting, your “ingredient” can be a dish too, like: “my grandmother’s ricotta and spinach stuffed ravioli”.  Is the cream rising to the top?  I’m sure there are some standouts.

Now, imagine a creatively constructed three-course meal of all five of your favorites integrated in a unique way.  This meal was the gift I gave to my girlfriend, Annie, on her birthday.  Anyone that knows her knows that she has a particular pallet.  She has a strong aversion to anything small and round or explosive/oozy.  Peas, uncut cherry tomatoes and over easy eggs would not make her top five.  What did make her top five were tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, shrimp and chocolate.

These five were pretty easy to work with.  I took care of the first three right off the bat with a crostini.  On a sliced French baguette, I had the season’s first heirloom tomatoes, fresh water soaked mozzarella, Thai basil sprigs and a generous drizzle of a balsamic reduction.  I knew that steak should have made her list, but shrimp had the trump card of cocktail sauce.  For the entrée, I decided to bring on the surf n’ turf with a grilled skewer of lemongrass-jalapeño marinated steak AND shrimp.  Since we are in the middle of a New York summer, I kept things cool.  The grilled protein was propped on a dressed salad of quinoa and micro greens, topped with pickled red onions.

Dessert was the real winner, where the fave ingredient of chocolate took center stage.  I went all out and made a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake.  The kind you dream about as a kid being that it is the impossibly perfect combo of creamy, cold and cake.  And chocolate, of course!  And peanut butter!? YES!  It’s one of those amazing moments when I realized that I am a grown up and I am completely in charge of my destiny.  I can create anything I want, even a chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake for my girlfriend.

I tried to get Annie to agree to a vegan version so I could eat freely too, (me being my lactard self), but she insisted it wouldn’t be the same with soy.  For the birthday girl, I bit the lactose bullet and used full-on heavy cream to make the peanut butter ice cream.  The ice cream was sandwiched between two moist espresso-laced chocolate cake layers.  Just to take things completely over the top, I covered the entire cake in a triple thick layer of chocolate fudge ganache and topped it with crunchy Reese’s Pieces. My roommate supplied full strips of Lactaid for the other lactards in the room.  (Thanks, I’ll take two…ahh…make that three.)  I was proud of the giant chocolate gift I gave her.  The smile on her face, with the birthday candles lighting her beautiful blue eyes, made the dinner so very worthwhile.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake

Chocolate Cake

What you’ll need:  two 9-inch cake pans and a mixer.

2 cups cake flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ¾ sugar

½ cup butter, softened

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup milk

½ cup hot water + 1 heaping tablespoon instant espresso crystals (or ½ cup espresso)

4 large eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350, butter and flour cake pans.  Through a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and sugar.

2.  Add the butter and with a mixer, beat on low for one minute.  Add the oil and keep mixing for 30 more seconds.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the vanilla, milk and espresso.  Add this mixture to the large bowl and mix for one more minute on low.

4.  Add the eggs one at a time beating on medium-high speed between each egg.  Batter will be thin.

5.  Split the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

This makes a rich and peanutbutter-y ice cream that yields about 2 quarts.  Oh and, you need an ice cream maker for this, obvi.

1 ¾ cups whole milk

1 ¼ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups creamy peanut butter

¾ cup sugar

1tablespoon vanilla extract

1.  In a saucepan whisk together all ingredients except the vanilla.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth and thick.  About one minute after you see little bubbles on the surface.

2.  Cool to room temperature. Stir in the vanilla.  Freeze in your ice cream maker, per instructions.

Chocolate Ganache

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

¾ cup heavy cream

1.  Create a double broiler using a medium saucepan and a large metal bowl.  Fill the saucepan half full with water, bring to a simmer.  Combine the chocolate and cream in the bowl and place on top of the simmering water.

2.  Be careful not to let the bowl touch the water.  Wisk continuously, just until the chips melt.  Remove the bowl from the saucepan.

The method to the madness: 

You’ll need a 9-inch spring form pan.

  1. Clear out a space in your freezer for the cake.
  2. Make the cake first.  Let it cool completely.
  3. Make the ice cream mixture, let it cool.
  4. Torte the cakes by cutting off the rounded top to make it flat.
  5. Put the ice cream mixture in the machine.
  6. Place one layer of the cake in the bottom of the spring form pan.  Cover with the ice cream (now gelato textured).  Use a spatula to pat it down evenly.  Place the top cake layer on top of the ice cream.
  7. Place in freezer to set, at least 8 hours.
  8. Make the Ganache.  Pour generously on top of the cake, making voluptuous ripples.
  9. Place back in freezer to set, at least 30 minutes.
  10.  Line plate with Resee’s Pieces.  Your ice cream cake is ready to be served!
July 4, 2011

Follow Your Bliss, or Something Like That

by Jen Wanous

With school wrapping up this week, there has been much to reflect on.  Six months ago, I left my life as I knew it to start anew and follow my passion for cooking. Perhaps I read one too many ‘O’ articles or maybe it was the sign in front of my bed that says, “follow your bliss”, but I sautéed boldly into the future with a large loan and a full-time job in event management now behind me.

The school has kept me intrigued by teaching me new cooking techniques as well as about food and its connection to healing.  From seaweed to pasta and bread to sauces, we covered a lot of ground in this intensive program.  The people I met at the school, from Jeri at the front desk, to all the teachers and my fellow students, everyone’s care and passion was clear.  I am leaving culinary school now with much satisfaction, many new friends and an eagerness for the future.

My experience has really lit a fire (or burner) under my ass. Now, of course, it’s time to take what I’ve learned and apply it to a real world career. Off into the sunset I will sail, a fierce chef with a clear vision and the degree to back it up. My plans to confidently dive into the post-culinary school waters are solidifying as you read this. Get ready, world!

J/K. I have no clue what lies ahead. I have the knowledge and the passion but the concrete applications are still proving to be allusive. Private cheffing? Catering? Starting my own business? If so, what kind of business? I know these are questions that face all recent graduates and it would be very easy to fold under the weight of the various options. Luckily folding ain’t my bag and never has been. So it’s off to meet the next challenge head on. In one hand I will have my newly acquired and sharpened knife kit to take care of all the practical matters of slicing and dicing. In the other hand I will have my well-worn tool kit filled with my old reliables – optimism and determination – to get me the rest of the way.  Stay tuned!

Photo courtesy of Arielle Nugent.