Monthly Archives: March 2012

So Far, in California…

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apple crustatta at Brannon'a Grill, Calistoga, CA

San Francisco chewed up our GPS navigation and spit it out, laughing. Why so possessive, San Fran? We’ll be back in a couple of days. We barely made it out of there.

For our first stop we  tasted and purchased some very agreeable wines from the Benziger Winery in Sonoma. Then we made our way to Calistoga where we did some.browsing in the local art, craft and olive oil stores before we checked in at our Bed & Breakfast, the Chateau de Vie. They have their own wine, which is delightful, but even without that, it is handsdown the nicest place I’ve ever stayed. Top notch, people. So far, worth every penny. Our host, Philip, went out of his way to take such good care of us, bringing us a delicious fruit and cheese tray that paired excellently with the wine to tide us over until our dinner reservation layer. The main house and the vineyard-adjacent carriage house (which we are in) are stylish, comfortable and immaculate.

We topped off our day with dinner at Brannon’s Grill where I had Rabbit Ragu on fresh pasta and Mr. W. had sole. The food was very good and the service was amazing, which was all dandy until our waitress brought out the apple crustatta pictured above that absolutely eclipsed everything else.  Even though we were full, we ate every crumb as though we hadn’t eaten a thing all day. At one point I was just muttering, “so good,” over and over with a tear in my eye. I feel so large right now, I don’t even have words to describe it. A good first day.

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Confessions of a Wine Newb Headed for Napa

It isn’t that I am new to wine. I have enjoyed reds and whites for years, and certainly did my turn with blush wines in college. I believe my taste in wine has evolved from “easy-drinking” to a…more sophisticated range of flavors and tannins? I am sort of grasping here.  My knowledge and vocabulary haven’t gotten the kind of workout my taste buds have, so they have fallen behind. I like wine, okay? Without a label, I can’t tell a Malbec from a Merlot, and the names of wines I learn while drinking them spill out of my head like water (not wine, wine would leave a stain, and these names do not leave a TRACE.) If I want to tell my husband which wine I liked that we tried, I’ll use landmarks, such as “You know the one; we had it last week with roasted pork, and I finished it off while you were talking to your dad on the phone. It was red.”  My husband, an informed and inquisitive cork dork, can usually figure it out. His brother, a true wine snob, just shakes his head at me. The highest praise I have gotten from HIM (following a five minute tutorial on the flavor profile of one particular wine) was a perplexed, “Well, I’ll give you credit; you stick to your guns. You don’t say you taste chocolate overtones, just because everyone else does.”

I admit I don’t know if I have all the requisite tools to become a connoisseur, but I have a taste for wine, a plane ticket, and some expendable income dedicated to winery visits, and that is a good start for an enjoyable trip to wine country. Mr. Wordtabulous and I will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary (17 months late) in California. And who knows, maybe while there the switch will flip on and I’ll come back with the lightbulbs in my mental wine vault glowing brightly (but not warmly—mustn’t heat the wine.) We’ll be in Calistoga for a few days, any recommendations for a must-see winery?

Excuse My Mouth

I have a habit that mortifies Mr. Wordtabulous. I fully admit to it and can only hope he is wrong about how  noticeable and offensive it is to others. Because I can’t help it. And I am not alone. Maybe you, too, share this annoying and socially repulsive aberration: Sympathetic Elocution. In other words, the involuntary mimicking of someone’s accent, verbal rhythms, and intonation when one is in conversation. I do it all the time. I spent most of my life until my mid-twenties in rural South Dakota and Minnesota, where we have our own small variations, including cowboy twang and Norwegian lilt, but there isn’t a lot to try on in terms of exotic audibles. I wasn’t really aware of doing it until my husband pointed it out in a taxi from the airport to our hotel in Rome on our first international trip. I was answering a question our cabdriver asked, and was trying to keep it simple, since he was speaking somewhat broken English with a considerable accent. I know he probably understood a lot more English than he was comfortable speaking but I was trying to be considerate.  “Why are you talking like that?” hissed Mr. W in my ear. “Like what?” I asked. “You sound like you’re making fun of the way he talks,” he returned, actually turning a little pink with embarrassment. I was astounded. I wasn’t doing the thing where I was over-enunciating, or using volume to make up for shared language, but there I was anyway, an ugly American. I became  self-conscious, but still got caught doing it.

In Mexico, in Germany and Austria (where at least I had some language skills) and at home, where I had friendships with people from Rwanda and Sudan, my husband continued to shake his head when listening to me deep in stilted conversation and using words that sounded perfect spilling off others’ lips but clearly sounded odd on mine, at least to him. Not long ago, after spending some hours with a woman about half my age, I heard it myself: a slightly nasal drawl with a questioning lift at the end of sentences where none was needed. I had picked up a hint of Kim Kardashian via  my younger friend. I vowed to be more disciplined.  I would not be seduced into affecting other people’s speech patterns, consciously or unconsciously, regardless of how interesting or beautiful or at least different I found them. I am myself, after all, why wouldn’t that be enough?

I was at work recently, listening to a colleague finish up a call to Tennessee.  She hung up the phone and exclaimed, “Southern people’s accents are so addicting! I was talking to that man, and I kept catching myself starting to talk like him.” I was delighted. “You TOO?” Sympatico. What a relief. Ignominy loves company. But seriously, is the crime an innocent verbal quirk, or the embarrassment it causes myself and others? Because I am not so embarrassed…until the day I get caught on tape, then I will wither with humiliation. Actually, just imagining that gives me the armpit prickles of  mortification. (That’s NOT just me; I know at least one other person, not related to me, who gets those.)

I do it here, too. I can’t blog after reading anyone else’s work or I’ll sound more like them than myself. If I try to write after reading Lucy’s Football, for example, I am all CAPS and attempted hysterical, confrontational, witty zigs and zags and cascading asides. When the wuc  posted (and her thing is more dark poetry and rated M for mature smackdown satirical descriptions of her life,) my comments would come out like this (in response to a bad relationship twist and it’s purported cause of her lack of mojo,) “I am frequently reminded that the seismic shifts of life that leave us unbalanced is material. I also believe that mojo is like a slow-motion heartbeat, expanding toward the brilliant, then contracting like a fist, only to unfold again. The dog days are over, wuc…” And I kind of love that, but while it’s me, it is more like me on my third tequila shot at 1:00 in the afternoon, not me everyday. And after reading Hot Off The Wire, my prose gets tighter and with a particular highly focused energy that is hard to describe but easy to identify. I can always tell when I have Kelly in my head.

Overall, I tend to think of it as an emulation, sort of an “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” I enjoy the people I speak with, whose verbal vibes I inadvertently copy. I HOPE I wouldn’t slip into a writing style I didn’t love. So, if you and I ever get to chatting in the verbal or written sense, and you hear me starting to sound a little more like you, please, please don’t be offended. I would never make fun of you. (For sure not to your face, because that is rude.) I just dig you, and am feeling the connection. I promise to respect our differences and keep it real.

Working Girl: The Wisest Teachers I Ever Worked With

The job I held the longest in college was working for a company that  taught living and employment skills to developmentally disabled adults. I worked overnight and weekend shifts in the supervised living apartments for fifteen months. Clients who lived there were termed “high functioning”: people who had the potential of someday living independently. I believe there were seven two-bedroom apartments in addition to the office and a laundry room. It was a great job, involving a lot of hours, not bad pay, and very interesting clients and staff to work with. I was toying with a major in Psychology at the time, and this seemed a decent way to get some firsthand knowledge of the interesting and sometimes tragic things that can cause problems in the human brain, and how those problems manifest.

One of my first duties on a weekend shift was to take some clients to the grocery store with another staff person. My task was to help them make sure they got everything on their list, and that they paid for it as budgeted. Some clients had written lists, others had pictures. The other staff person took three people, and I took three and since it was pretty tightly organized, it went smoothly. We got the looks, though. In the aisles, as shoppers were picking out their Dinty Moore stew and their macaroni and cheese, they watched us doing the same thing, a college girl and three middle-aged people with obvious disabilities, moving as a closely knit unit through the store. A woman in her forties stopped me and said, “I just think it is wonderful what you are doing; I know I couldn’t do it.”  “Uh, thanks,” I stammered. What I was doing wasn’t that difficult, actually, although three grocery lists were a little more than I was used to managing, but I understood what she was saying. And it bothered me. I felt she was making a bigger deal of it than it was, to justify why she preferred not to deal with people who are different. We were just folks getting groceries, for Pete’s sake. We weren’t leaking contagion, or howling epithets at passersby, we were just checking to see if our cash on hand would allow us to spring for a can of spaghetti WITH meatballs. And feeling pretty pleased with ourselves at the checkout, when all the purchases were successfully paid for with the money in the envelopes, and all the prized food was ready to go back to the apartment. Mission accomplished.

But back at the ranch, as I was fond of saying, my inexperience created a difficulty. Karen (not her real name, no real names here today) a woman with Down’s Syndrome and on a diet to avoid additional weight gain, had unpacked her food and put away her pudding cups in the cupboard. My understanding was that she had to keep her pudding cups in the office, because of her tendency toward pudding frenzy (a phenomena I am personally familiar with.) My insistence on taking the pudding with me to the office had her in furious tears, and I felt awful. They were hers, she insisted, and she could TOO keep them! But rules are rules and I was the authority and she sorrowfully watched me confiscate the beloved snack. I felt like a monster, but wanted to help her keep to her program. When I got the office, Bill, the program manager, informed me that Karen had just moved to a new level of her program and COULD have the pudding cups in her kitchen as a reward for keeping her weight down and showing self-discipline. A fact that she was well aware of. “Oh, good Lord, I have to go apologize,” I said, turning around immediately. The joy in Karen’s eyes when I handed her the pudding with a sincere apology had a lot less to do with the fact she’d gotten her food back than it did with the relief we both felt that I was no longer a jack-booted thug, but a friendly helper and all was right with the world! We celebrated our reconciliation with a good laugh. “You’re all right!” Karen exclaimed happily, telling her roommate Sheryl, who had cerebral palsy, “I like her!” Karen pretty much liked everybody, but I have rarely felt so happy to get a thumbs up. Sheryl laughed with us, just glowing with happiness that everyone was getting along, her wiry arms clapping her hands together with difficulty, forcing each word through uncooperatively locked muscles in her throat and jaw.

The night shift was full of silence. The hours were something like 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and in that time the lone staffperson was expected to stay awake, do some quiet cleaning, medication counting and set-up, and regular rounds to make sure all was well. Some of our residents had seizure disorders of one kind or another, and one in particular, Mark, had to be monitored. Mark was a strapping man, who had a relatively minor cognitive delay and some speech difficulty. He had a job, and didn’t really have any need for programs to help him learn independent living skills. He would probably have had an apartment  and a car, or better yet, a motorcycle, which he would have loved, except for a catastrophic case of epilepsy. When he was having a a grand mal seizure, which he did at least once a week, his whole body went rigid and spasmed as if he was being electrocuted. As a witness, I felt helpless, and as the person seizing, Mark felt even worse. After an episode he almost always glared at anyone standing by and staggered off to the bathroom in humiliation, having to change his clothes after losing control of his bladder and nearly everything else. He hated the seizures. Every night, after he fell asleep, when we checked in on him on rounds, we had to move the radio he listened to away from the side of his bed, so he wouldn’t land on it if he fell out of bed. One night I happened to hear him thumping against the wall in seizure mode, and ran into his room to watch in horror as his body, stiff as a board, heaved up onto his right side and he tipped over, off the twin bed, landing flat on his face on the floor, catching his broad shoulder on the radio, which I had left two inches too close. The next day an angry purple bruise in the shape of a right angle commemorated the incident. He held no hard feelings, he said, but as always, he didn’t want to talk about it.

Mark’s roommate for part of the time I worked there was Philip. Philip had lived a long, relatively normal life, but was succumbing to a form of dementia that was eroding his ability to reliably take care of himself. He was a small, sweet man, fond of talking to himself as though he were making commentary to a beloved, quiet spouse always nearby. He referred to a lot of things as she: “Yep, she’s a nice day out there,” or “Yep, she’s a red car, there on the road.” One Saturday I was in their apartment, performing a routine annual maintenance task: pulling the electric range out from the wall and cleaning behind it. In order to do this, I had to remove the drawer underneath the oven, lie on the kitchen floor in the narrow galley kitchen, and unplug the appliance so it could be moved. Philip was in the living room while I worked. I grasped the thick plug and tried to pull it from the outlet, but it was really tight and only pulled out a hair, so I wiggled as close as I could and tried to get a better grip. As I pulled, my finger slipped and touched the prong. 220 volts of electricity coursed through my body, and I don’t remember a thing about it. When I came to, the oven plug was lying on the floor next to the outlet. I was still on the kitchen floor, but my back was now pressed against the refrigerator across the galley from where I had been. I could hear Philip in the next room saying, “Yep, she’s a yellin’ in there,” so I guess I must have given out a squawk of some kind. I slowly got to my feet and staggered off to the office, exhausted and headachey, but glad I didn’t have to change my pants. I decided to leave the rest of the oven work for the next shift.

Sarah had a particularly sad situation. She had lived a fully independent life, until she had accidentally fallen asleep in a running car, or at least that was the official story. Carbon monoxide poisoning had destroyed her short term memory. She read books, and did crossword puzzles and was very productive at the Work Skills Center, where she and other clients worked simple jobs under supervision and earned small paychecks. Sarah couldn’t remember what day it was, or if she had gone to the park that day or had dinner yet. It made her nervous. She kept a calendar and checked off daily events so she could keep track of her life, but it wasn’t enough. “Well, isn’t that a stupid thing!” she said often, perhaps fifteen-twenty times a day, either with a look of amused “Am I right?” in regards to the hat and mittens that turned up in the office where she left them instead of in her closet where she expected; or in anxiety because feeling lost all the time was getting her down, and there was no soup in the cupboard and soup was what was on her menu, and it was ALL stupid, the menu, the missing soup, and the uncertainty of whether the soup was missing because perhaps she ate it an hour before and forgot to check it off; or in full-on tears, defeated yet again by the checkbook register she was re-learning to use. Every day she practiced the same steps, trying to do the task without relying on written instructions. If she could, it meant the repetition was helping her shift the skill into her long-term memory. Some days it seemed that the only thing she remembered about the task was the incessant frustration. She remembered some things about her previous life, I was told, but she never talked about it. She smiled often and kept going, but I thought her life must be a form of hell.

We kept track of the clients’ money, medications, and progress towards their goals. We took them shopping and on recreational outings to the movies, or the pool. They checked in with us in the office if they wanted to go for a walk, or visit a friend in one of the other facilities in town, or most exciting, go out with a friend or family member who came to spend some time with them. We tried to keep them safe. One Sunday afternoon a couple of the women came into the office with a young man. “This is my friend, Joe,” one of the women told me, smiling. “He came to visit. We are going to get ice cream, okay?” This was unusual. Most visits, which were sadly rare, were set in advance. “How do you know each other?” I asked. “He is from my home town,” she answered. “Sorry, I didn’t know I needed to call ahead,” the guy said. The other woman with them over-enthusiastically affirmed they were old friends, but I couldn’t tell if her dramatic assurances were anything more than her usual over-the-top exuberance.  I couldn’t tell if the twist in my gut was a red flag or just nervousness from an unexpected change to the schedule. The young man was a little skeezy, but no worse than some of my own friends. It seemed cruel to deny the outing just because it wasn’t pre-arranged. I let her go. Of course, the guy turned out to be a perv she had met just that day and he had sex with her. She came home with ice cream and the intrigue of having gone on a “date;” she had been exploited, but was otherwise relatively unharmed. I was sick with regret. I got very, very drunk with the result that I do not drink whiskey to this day. The perv was prosecuted and I testified at the grand jury trial. I missed a hiking trip on Spring Break my junior year because the full jury trial was scheduled for then, but at the last minute the perv plead guilty and I didn’t have to testify after all.

That was a tough one. I still have a hard time letting go of the guilt, and it colored the rest of my experience there. I was also worn down to the bone from staying up all throughout the overnight shifts and attending classes during the day, and trying to get my studying done and sleep in between. There were some great memories though, like the Thanksgiving I spent with the residents who didn’t have anywhere to go, where we cooked the whole feast and I actually remembered how my mom made turkey gravy and it turned out. Everyone was so happy about it. Everyone there was usually pretty happy, and it changed the way I saw life. You could argue that they were happy because they didn’t have the capacity to grasp everything wrong with their life and their world. I had a psychology professor who once compared mentally handicapped people to animals. I confronted him after class and burst into tears (because confrontation rattles me,) to both our embarrassment. I’d argue that most of us lack the sense to let go of the BS that makes life so grim, so that we can embrace the minor wins in life that make it rewarding beyond all measure. Soup in the cupboard? Amazing! A friendly word from someone? A miracle! The utter BS that trips us up? It happens; move on, pal and open up for that next amazing, miraculous moment. Anybody can see that this is a good approach, but it takes a person with a special kind of wisdom to live it.

Related Post: Working Girl: The Summer of No Sleep

Related Post: Working Girl: Laura Ingalls Wilder

Home & Garden Show Wrap Up

Okay, all you fabulous Minneapolis Home & Garden Show fans (and especially you wordtabulous followers, God love you all!) we have photos and most of the recipes up.

For photos, check the McFarland Cahill Communications facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/McFarland-Cahill-Communications. I took some of the photos, but obviously not the ones I am IN, and there are a couple of those, which is very exciting.

For recipes, check the Minnepolis Home and Garden Show website: http://www.homeandgardenshow.com/MHGS/AtTheShow/96.aspx which will take you to the celebrity guests page. Scroll down to get to the Kitchen Stage celebrities. As of the time of this post, the Roasted Corn and Orzo salad presented by Belinda and Bobby is not on their website and I am so sorry for that. I would be sorrier if this website wasn’t getting so many hits from people searching Google desperately for the recipe. Big numbers on Wortabulous! Thank you salad-loving, google-searching KARE 11 fans! I am sure they will have that recipe up shortly. There are a few other recipes missing, but most of them are there and are FANTASTIC.

The Show was a lot of fun, and I can’t tell you how great it was sharing the experience with you. The clean up is done, the thank-you notes are in the mail, the notes are getting archived for next year and this is a wrap. Thanks for visiting, and be sure to check back. My life isn’t all celebrities and fancy food, but new adventures await, and I would love to have you along!

Home & Garden Show: The Longest Day

The fourth day of the Home & Garden Show dawned with appalling promptness. I’d woken twice in the night thinking of things done and not done, that maybe caused problems for others or potentially myself. I was sure I’d left four packages of frozen strawberries out by accident, so I stopped at the store yet again to replace them on my way to the Show. After five miles, I realized with horror that I’d forgotten to buy a cup of coffee. The Dunn Bros. in the convention center is, I believe, as far from the Kitchen Stage as it is possible to get, and there is never time. I sucked it up.

Our first guest on the stage was Chef Todd. He arrived early with a group of at least six assistants and Miss Chiquita, who wore a blue dress with ruffly skirt and a fruit basket hat. She was the spitting image of the banana icon. I gave the friendly chef a quick kitchen orientation, offered whatever help he needed and got out of the way. Not all the assistants had immediate jobs to do, so one offered to get coffee for us. I raised my hand, not believing my luck. With too many bodies onstage, I set about prepping the ingredients for the next few demos, and figure out the brand new Kitchen Aid food processor loaned to us by Macy’s that I had just washed. It was super fancy.Chef Todd happened to come offstage as I was puzzling over how to lock the bowl on the base and the lid on the bowl. He offered to look at it and had it together in seconds. Unfortunately, when his demo started, everything was ready but the microphone, so Chef Todd muscled it through without electronic assistance for about twenty stress-filled minutes until Aaron arrived and set everything right. Chef Todd made a seared pork shoulder on greens that was delicious. I had to return backstage, so I missed whatever he made that involved a thick chocolate sauce and bananas, but the remnants looked decadent.

Before Chef Todd was done, Pat Evans from KARE 11 arrived and was as nice as can be. We chatted a bit until it was time for me to rush as many of the dirty pans through the sudsy water as possible and shunt the rest offstage until the next cleaning opportunity. Diana Pierce arrived to join Pat for their demonstration of Baked Brie with Apricot Jam and Almonds, and Hummus (two different food demos, they were not served together.) The audience was delighted, as they usually are with our local TV celebrities and I got my few minutes onstage, helping locate extraneous items and releasing the lid on the food processor, which closed really tightly.

Chef Joan Ida returned for the next demo with a new assistant, representing the restaurant Scusi this time. I was sent away for a break at this time, with Bruce and Dan taking over for the next three presentations: Joan, Marjorie Johnson (author of Blue Ribbon Baking) and Todd Walker, with Chef Jordan. I got to wander the show with Mr. Wordtabulous for a few hours. I could barely stand to be away, although the gardens and the Idea House were beautiful and there was a dizzying array of things being promoted, demonstrated and sold all around. When my feet started to ache, we made our way back to the stage, where Marjorie Johnson was presenting her Ginger Snap cookies. Marjorie is famous for her baking, but beloved for her personality. At ninety years old and no taller than five feet, she entertains her audience with a running commentary as she dazzles in her red skirt suit and shiny red pumps. Maggie said she had trouble keeping up with Marjorie as they were having a look around the show prior to her appearance.

Todd Walker, with Fox 9 news, claimed he wasn’t a cook but did some humorous color commentary and assisted Chef Jordan Hamilton from Heidi’s. Chef Hamilton demonstrated a homemade Bison Jerky and made Kale & Adzuki beans and Toasted Millet Cakes. I missed the samples because by then, I was getting reoriented backstage. The thing about being four days into the event was that my memory was getting blurry and I was finding myself searching every cupboard for the item I needed and constantly having to refer to my notes to remember who was on next. It is kind of like my computer running on a full hard drive. I needed to defrag, but there was no opportunity.

Chef Todd was back up for round two and I did have a little time to consolidate and organize, and while he was on I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Sarah Master from the restaurant Porter & Frye at Hotel Ivy. She was a little apprehensive about her first time doing a Kitchen Stage demo and seemed to appreciate my offer to mike up and assist her. Once we got Chef Todd’s stage cleared, (he took a moment to admire Sarah’s cowhide kitchen clogs) we and one other person from the restaurant (possibly the restaurant manager? I didn’t get her details) presented her Fried Oysters with oven roasted Asparagus, Hollandaise and Prosciutto. Sarah got her friend busy whisking the egg yolks over a steaming pot of clarified butter while she demonstrated how to shuck an oyster, and the finer points of breading an oyster (shake off excess flour so it doesn’t get gummy, add a dusting of corn meal before frying, preferably in an electric fryer.) When her friend’s arm grew numb, I took over. As Sarah pointed out, restaurant cooking isn’t for wimps. Our samples with oysters were snapped up and then we served asparagus with sauce and prosciutto until that was gone. I asked Sarah to tell us about her non-cooking activities, and she told us that she plays goalie for a Turkish women’s hockey team, travelling globally for six weeks a year. Stunning.

The Porter & Frye hour was followed by Eileen McHale, who has partnered with Dole to demonstrate her Yonanas machine, which processes frozen fruit and other ingredients to a soft-serve consistency, making a sweet delicious and healthy treat. So healthy, it was recommended last year as one of Dr. Oz’s top gifts. The audience was voracious, and even though Eileen had six machines going, one after the other to produce different varieties of desserts, I could barely get the samples out fast enough. Happily, Eileen had a group of friends helping so clean up went fast, and we were ready in no time for the next presentation.

Stephanie March from Mpls St.Paul Magazine arrived first, and soon Stephanie Hansen from my Talk 107 appeared. I was delighted to be able to find just about everything they needed, except we found that all our large bowls were being used to store food for Sunday in the refrigerator. (Note to self: next year use large ziploc bags for storage! Save room, and keep bowls available!) I enjoyed their presentation of Gnocchi with Arugula Pesto and Chicken (am I the only one who didn’t know Gnocchi were made with potatoes?) These women are so smart and confident and had the kind of camaraderie onstage that was more about long friendship than show biz. They offered lots of insights into their philosophy of eating, cooking and feeding kids, as well as the recipe that was a fantastically rustic comfort food.

Next, Eileen from Dole reprised her Yonanas performance and, possibly because I knew it was the last demo of the day, or possibly because my feet were enraged that they had been stood upon all day long, I really started to drag. After several rounds through the audience with trays, I grabbed the next trays of samples, turned and looked at the audience and said, “I have one tray of Peanut Butter Cup, and one tray of Tiramisu (non-alcoholic.) Is there any way I could persuade you folks to come up here for a sample?” “Well, there’s an idea!” Eileen encouraged us, and I will give the audience credit, the walk up to the stage didn’t discourage them in the slightest. They loved the samples and most of them seemed surprised to hear that the Yonanas machine was only $49.99, and available at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond, and disappointed to hear that it wasn’t for sale at the show. So I think Eileen will do pretty well.

The last two demonstrations of the day were cancelled, to the disappointment of the audience, and final clean up took awhile, but felt pretty good because I did it in my sock feet. It had been a twelve and a half hour day, but I didn’t rush because I had been told that two of my colleagues were taking over the Stage Sunday, and I was getting the day off. It was a bittersweet moment. I had told quite a few people, including all of you, that I’d be there all week and I am such a child that I hate missing anything, but I was also so pooped I was afraid I might doze off at a stoplight on the way home. The idea of fully relaxing was delightful, while the thought of relinquishing my responsibility troubled me. That is always a good sign that for me, it is time to let go. I left the Kitchen Stage in the good hands of Maggie and Amanda, and departed with thrilling memories and the hope that maybe next year, with my list of “Things We Have Learned” I might get another chance to do it again. Recipes and pictures will be online soon, and I will be providing links. Thanks for reading!

Related Posts: And the Food Rolls On: Home & Garden Show Day 3

Related Posts: Home & Garden Show Day 2

 

And the Food Rolls On: Home & Garden Show, Day 3

Well, the chocolate cremeaux hit the fan today, people, and I was in the thick of it. And things had been going so well.

We started out with normal setup and a SPECTACULAR food delivery before our chefs arrived. To explain, Maggie and I ordered food for our local celebrity chefs based on the recipes they gave us. It involved careful reading and much anxious consideration of what would be needed, what could go wrong. You don’t want to be onstage and find out, for instance, that someone meant sour cream instead of cream, or wanted 2 lbs of powdered sugar instead of  1/2 cup  of powdered sugar. So we are very careful about what we order. But, in addition to our celebrity chefs (local TV, radio and print media personalities) our stage also features restaurant chefs who bring their own ingredients (because they are promoting their own business,) and nationallly known chefs brought in by the Home & Garden Show and Cub Foods. We (McFarland Cahill Communications) ordered Yigit’s ingredients, but the Cub Foods chefs ordered their own ingredients which arrived today. SO MUCH FOOD!!!  I was scared by the size of the cuts of meat and the sheer volume of cream and garlic paste, not to mention the sesame oil and soy sauce. And then, there was the issue of food storage. I had to totally rearrange my refrigerator to accommodate the meat and cream and as much of the lettuces as I could. Then it was time for our first guest chef to arrive. And she didn’t. Poor Elizabeth Ries from KSTP TV had trouble clearing security and finding parking. I would love to be a fly on the wall because everyone seems to be having security issues but I can’t figure out where and with whom. I had to race (consider this a jog or a trot) to Bay E to let Elizabeth in a back door.

Elizabeth is both beautiful and nice, and was making dips for the audience who had assembled to offer their reverence. I partnered up with her onstage. One of the dips was a Taco Dip recipe that one of her viewers had given her and one was a Spinach Artichoke Dip that was a specialty of her own. I realized just before she arrived that her ingredient list called for 1/2 cup of cream, but the directions specified sour cream. No sour cream in the fridge. We made do by adding a little cream to the cream cheese to loosen it up and it pretty much worked. Unfortunately, in the strain of her rushed arrival, neither of us was thinking clearly and we overlooked the need to do the baked dip first so it would be ready when the cold dip was finished. We ran out of time. About halfway through I was admiring her super cute knit dress over leggings and realized with horror that, once again, I had forgotten to offer the guest an apron. Also, I didn’t offer her water until she was done, so she basically talked for an hour with a dry throat. Was she crabby? No. She couldn’t have been sweeter or more gracious. But our next chef, who arrived early, found a crazed and loopy support person (that would be me) and a stage not ready for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, Elizabeth was able to finish her presentation on her own and with the support staff that KSTP sent, and I was able to start the cleanup and prep process for our next demo. I missed the dips but I heard they were amazing, especially the half-baked Spinach Artichoke.

Our next guest was WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro and his beloved mom, Rosalie, also known as Mama V. They didn’t need me onstage as they are a team unto themselves which was great because THEN!!! A guy shows up with a new refrigerator load of lettuces and fruits. “These lettuces will be ruined if you can’t refrigerate them in the next few minutes,” he told me, as I was trying to set up for Frank and Mama V. “Okay,” I replied. “If we need to put the lettuces in, I am going to have to take out the meat.”

“You can’t take out the meat,” he said.

“All right. Well, if I can’t take out the meat, then I will have to take out the cream.”

“You can’t take out the cream,” he said.

“Well, then you see my problem,” I said. I couldn’t make the refrigerator bigger for him, no matter how much he wanted me to. Maggie and Ashley resolved the issue by helping him reach the woman who could open the doors of the convention center kitchen, but he wasn’t satisfied. What got back to us was his complaints that we allowed his perishable produce to rot on the floor for three hours when what happened was that everything was taken to refrigeration exactly at the moment that he raced off to his next important appointment, within an hour of his arrival. I even allowed him into my carefully arranged refrigerator, which he totally repacked, leaving me clueless and grasping for the eight remaining presentations. I believe he expected thanks for handling the situation, so, thanks, buddy. He was also indignant that we didn’t have unlimited enormous frying pans, although I invited him to go with me to the Royal Prestige cookware vendor, who was providing all our pans, and who pledged to give us what he could, within his capacity. Not good enough. He couldn’t believe we didn’t have two panini presses on hand. “We were promised a fully stocked gourmet kitchen!” he complained. “Macy’s gave us all the appliances we asked for, that we were informed we would need,” I told him. “Fine. Go buy two,” he told his associate, whose sigh expressed that he had twelve other things he needed to do before buying small appliances, but fine, okay, whatever.

Meanwhile, there was a ton of weirdness onstage with the microphones. There was feedback and screeching and Aaron, who is normally right there whenever we need him was taking care of issues on the other side of the convention center. Later, when he got back, we found that Frank’s microphone had slipped down the front of his shirt into his pants, causing feedback issues. It must be that Caveman Diet that Frank has had so much success with, causing extra looseness in his clothing. Seriously, he looks great! So, that funness behind us, I hear Mama V say, “Well, I don’t see the regular sugar.” Shit!!!! I realized I hadn’t set out the staples, only the special ingredients, because of the interruptions. Friends, at this point I took off at a sprint between the stage and the audience, booking it to the ingredient area at stage right. As I ran, Frank announced, “Ladies and gentlemen! This is Lynnette, our Kitchen Stage assistant!” Could I have run around the back? Probably. It didn’t occur to me. The full audience applauded and I smiled and waved, disappearing and then emerging with the sugar, followed by the flour, and later the salt, and still later additional bowls. Oh, and the powdered sugar? I had set out 1/2 cup and Mama V needed 2 lbs. I gave her the bag and prayed there would be enough left for the 2:00 chef. Frank was covered with flour and cocoa powder when they finished the presentation of gorgeous Iced Fudge Nut Brownies because I didn’t offer either of them an apron. Yes. I was a total moron, and did Frank and Rosalie tsk and shake their heads? No. They shook my hand and thanked me for all my help so graciously I wanted to cry. Meanwhile, Lee Dean, who writes for the Taste section of the Star Tribune had arrived, with all the supplies, ingredients and utensils needed for her demonstration of Strawberry Tartlets.

Lee Dean was an unknown quantity to me, and unfortunately, I was unable to conceal that from her. I used to read the taste section of the Star Tribune all the time but we haven’t taken the newspaper for years. I long for the days when I could sit and savor even the weekly paper, but it doesn’t happen. I was stressed and distracted from the earlier debacles, but Lee Dean was so smart and friendly, even as I was falling all over myself trying to help her feel as comfortable as I had wanted to make my earlier guests, and only FOUR people showed up to hear her wonderful presentation, although enough people showed up at sample time to eat her entire prepared cache of tartlets. Which were AWESOME. She has had a cookbook published, too, and the one comment I heard on that? “Not enough pictures, hahaha.” Vultures. Hey, all you foodies out there. Buy her cookbook, because from her demonstration, she is AMAZING FOOD SMART. I am totally getting it. We can share what we love about it. Let me know, we can start a facebook fan club or something. She was a trooper.

Lee finished up and I was completing the cleanup when Rena Sarigianopoulos from KARE 11 arrived. She is the package, people. She invited me to mike up and join her onstage, (I believe she is a risk-taker,) and I had so much fun with her. A ton of people gathered to see her, and a little girl strolling by with her parents squealed, “Rena!!!” upon seeing her–I am not kidding, so cute! And she is adorable and approachable and made Buckeyes, and when she was done, she helped me do dishes and we talked about her involvement with a charity for Rheumatoid Arthritis and coincidentally I had, just the day before, sponsored my neighbor Cameron for her walk for that charity (Go Cameron!) And the Buckeyes were peanut butter deliciousness wrapped in a loving chocolate hug.

Then I had an hour break and I was able to go to the bathroom for the first time in three days. Almost. How is it that I don’t notice I need to pee or eat or drink when I am working? Am I broken? I don’t know.

Then, my new best friend, Dave Dahl, meteorologist from KSTP showed up. I fell in love with Dave the day before when I met him and he expressed concern about getting in through the convention center’s back door because of the rumoured security issues. I gave him my cell # so he could call me if he had trouble, and he had problems saving it. He must have said, “I am an idiot,” seven times, which clearly he is not and so now I love him. He is just as charming in person as you’d suspect, and taller than I expected. Anyway, he showed up with no security problems, and asked me to join him onstage, and as you now know, I am a modest but willing sidekick (meaning I didn’t actually leap across the stage yelling “Yay!!”, but acquiesced with composure.) We started making his “Buffalo Chicken (or Shrimp) Flatbread” when my phone went off. Maggie wanted me to go halfway across the convention center to let in our guest scheduled for the next hour, who reportedly was having trouble getting through security. Could I bring a ticket or a pass or something to back entrance C West? Folks, I had no tickets or passes. I shut off my mike, abandoned Dave, grabbed a list of scheduled guests and raced (this was a full-on sprint through the crowds, in my Cub emblazoned apron and 2 1/2 inch heeled clogs) to the security desk at C West. No guest in sight. I left the list and sprinted back to the stage, to the confusion of several exhibitors and visitors. I reappeared back onstage, and evidently was unable to hide my labored breathing or beet-red face, as the audience was much amused. Dave, I and his KSTP support staff finished the demo, with few other difficulties, and again, Dave was super kind and gracious. But Dave! Wear a helmet when you ride your Harley! We love you and want you to live a long and healthy life! And you make me feel like a wimp, wearing a helmet on my bicycle! Also, I loved the fiery sauce and creamy melted blue cheese that enveloped the chicken and celery on the flatbread. And the shrimp option for Lent? Genius.

The 6:00 chefs from The Lowry restaurant showed up before the 5:00 celebrity chefs, Beth Dooley and Bill Coy, who are food and wine writers for Mpls St. Paul magazine, but everyone got there, including Bruce and Dan, the duo who take over when it is time for me to go. Also, at that time, Eileen from Dole showed up and I had three things going on. I was debriefing with one of my bosses, Maureen; I needed to get a plate for the Lowry chefs, who had forgotten one for their demo; and I needed to see about getting shelves installed in our freezer for Eileen/Dole. This involved some more running around so I missed the Beth and Bill demo of Cheese and Chocolate Fondues, but when I returned to the stage, Bill was just finishing offering samples of two wines I can’t remember, a red and a white. I may have walked away from someone in mid-sentence to go get a sample. I don’t remember anything but thinking, “That. Want some.” And even though I hadn’t done anything more than help procure a few ingredients, Beth and Bill treated me as if I had been some huge supportive presence during their presentation. They were (I don’t think it was an act) excited to hear about Mr. Wordtabulous’ and my upcoming trip to wine country and San Francisco. Bill gave me his card so we could correspond about destinations. I want to hang out with them, although I am clearly too immature to do so. They would never run, waving, in front of an audience in a near panic, grinning manically. I am pretty sure.

As I left, Joan, the executive chef from The Lowry, was preparing to begin her demonstration of steak and oysters. Bruce and Dan, having set the stage, leisurely took their spots in the audience, prepared to relax and eat amazing food before the next demonstration by Mollie and Missy, from The Vikings Cheerleaders, which would be followed by another presentation from Beth Dooley, this time with Hilary, a Naked Grape Winemaker. I kind of love Bruce and Dan, but I can’t help wondering if they are possibly getting something over on me with this deal. I did tell them that in return for my taking the whole of Saturday evening I expected them to donate to my Tour de Cure ride, and they agreed, albeit with confusion. I have that effect on people.

Lordy, this is a long post. It was a long day. If you hung in there with me to the end, I love you! Tomorrow is a long one. I won’t get home until 11:00 or so. I know it will be an almost unbearable hardship, but you may have to wait to see how it goes until I have time to report back on Sunday. I am sorry. I, myself, am curious about what tomorrow will bring. How in the world will Chef Todd use his enormous cuts of meat and his perishable lettuces? How will Eileen from Chiquita manage with her frozen and fresh fruits? Will anyone come to yell at me to no avail? These questions and more will be answered…but not today.

You have two days left to come find me at the 2012 Minneapolis Home & Garden kitchen stage! Mention Wordtabulous and I will ditch my celebrity chef and give you a hug!

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