I’m done with culinary school. I’ve taken my last final, deep cleaned the baking and pastry kitchen, gathered all the signatures necessary for my graduation, and worn my school-issued chef pants, jacket, hat and apron for the last time. My actual graduation ceremony isn’t until June, but I’ve completed all of my classes so I’m considering my culinary school journey finished, even if I don’t have the expensive piece of paper yet. I’ve taken a long, winding road to get to where I am today. Nothing has been easy and half the time I haven’t even known what I’ve wanted to do. I’m still figuring things out, but I have a much clearer picture than I ever have before. I was a week away from my 23rd birthday when I started culinary school. My friends and family had always suggested culinary, even when I was studying exercise and sports science. I’d always argued that I’m “not cut-throat enough for culinary school” and kind of brushed it off. I’ve been baking ever since I can remember. I have vivid memories of a friend and I making cookies in the kitchen, eating most of the dough with a spoon before it even made it to the oven. When my friends and I started our Friday Night Dinners 4 1/2 years ago, I was making dessert 99% of the time. When I started culinary school a year and a half ago, I didn’t know what to expect. I was thrown into two accelerated classes, getting through a nutrition class and an intro to culinary lecture class in 5 short weeks. There were 15 people in my cohort when I started and I’m the only one from that group finishing the program I enrolled in. Over the last year and a half I’ve learned a lot, improved both my cooking and baking skills significantly, met some great people, and got to work with and learn from some great Portland chefs (including a James Beard award winner). I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone, redefined a new comfort zone, made boxes out of chocolate and baskets out of bread. Tackled cuisines of the world, costed out recipes, and made plans for a restaurant that was so much work, I’m rethinking every thought I’ve had to open my own place. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents. They were the ones who pushed me to get information and tour the school to see if it was something I was interested in. I’m the luckiest girl in the world to call them my parents. Thanks to Taylor for coming with me on the tour, watching my face light up as I heard all about it and your cheerleading. Thanks to Dustin for giving the best tour possible, answering all of our questions and helping me through the application process. To Mary, Annie and the rest of our crew scattered around the West (best) coast, thanks for your support, sweet words, and encouragement. To anyone I’ve ever made eat one of my random creations — THANK YOU! I’m so happy to have been able to share this journey with you and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I’ll be posting new recipes more regularly and I’m so excited for everything coming up :)
You might remember in my last post that I’m collaborating with OpenTable during Portland Dining Month. This year there are over 100 restaurants in the Portland area participating, bringing you a three-course meal for $29.
My friend and I decided to check out Coppia, an Italian restaurant located in the Pearl District. Neither of us had been there before and we were super impressed.
Each restaurant has a specific menu that correlates with Portland Dining Month. Coppia offered two courses for each course, so we ordered one of each (6 total) and split them. We were also offered a complimentary glass of Prosecco, which was lovely.
Complimentary glass of Prosecco
Insalta — lettuce, hazelnuts, blood orange and gorgonzola crumbles
Artichoke flan with shaved fennel, chervil and caprino goats cheese
Handmade gnocchi with pistachio-arugula pesto, garlic chips and Bra duro cheese
Lamb and pork meatballs with aged fontina polenta, pickled mustard seeds and pearl onions
Blood orange tart with a brown butter pastry and blood orange curd
Vanilla bean panna cotta with olive oil and raspberries
The food was delicious. Each course was presented beautifully and each bite was full of flavour.
First Course: The salad was simple but so flavourful, anything with hazelnuts involved is good with me. I’m not a big artichoke fan, but oh my goodness was that tasty. They used just the right amount of fennel so as to not overwhelm the dish with a licorice taste.
Second Course: When these plates came to the table, Taylor and I were so excited. I don’t think I’ve ever seen gnocchi presented as beautifully as this was. The gnocchi was light and fluffy and the pistachio-arugula pesto was to die for. And those garlic chips on top? Yum. Now about those meatballs. Whoa. They were amazing and the polenta was so cheesy and creamy. Each bite was perfect.
Third Course: Dessert time! I’m a baker that doesn’t really like dessert. Crazy, I know. These desserts might have changed that though. The blood orange tart with brown butter pastry was amazing. You could taste the nuttiness of the brown butter and blood orange might just have become my new favourite citrus. The panna cotta was fantastic. So smooth and flavourful. Don’t be weirded out by olive oil in your dessert — it pairs with it perfectly and the raspberries provide a nice burst of colour to the plate and slight tartness to the taste.
I would totally recommend everyone in Portland or visiting Portland check out Coppia. It’s a good place to go for a glass of wine, would be great for date night, or just a nice, relaxed place to hang out with friends.
Apparently there’s a shortage of thin mints this year. Fortunately, those of us in the Pacific Northwest aren’t being affected by this shortage (I guess we don’t like thin mints as much as the rest of the country), but just in case you’re in need of some and don’t have a way to get them, I have a recipe for you!
I love Girl Scout cookie season. I was never a Girl Scout, but I love the idea of girls getting out there and working on their business skills. It doesn’t hurt that they look really stinkin’ adorable in their outfits.
This year, a girl in my neighbourhood came to my door with the Girl Scout cookie order form, a hot pink bike and a big smile on her face. I couldn’t say no. Thin Mints are my favourite — mint and chocolate is the ultimate combination. But what are you supposed to do when you’ve inevitably eaten all of your Thin Mints and its no longer cookie-selling season?
Make your own!
These are really easy to make and are sure to satisfy any Thin Mint craving you might have, no matter what time of year it is.
Before I get to the recipe, I have something very exciting to share with you all! I’m going to be collaborating with OpenTable to do reviews of some restaurants during Portland Dining Month!
During the month of March, some restaurants in Portland are serving 3 course meals for $29. Does it get any better than that? I don’t think so. I’m excited to get out there and check out what these wonderful chefs have to offer. Now I just have to decide where to go…
Makes about 90 cookies
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. peppermint extract
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
- Cream together the butter and sugar. Add egg and peppermint extract and beat well.
- Combine dry ingredients; add to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until smooth.
- Roll dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 375°F.
- Roll out dough to 1/4″ thick. Cut out cookies and place on parchment or silicone lined baking sheets. Bake for 7-9 minutes. Let cool.
- While cooling, melt the chocolate and add peppermint extract. Once cookies have cooled and chocolate has melted, dip cookies in the chocolate. Shake off any excess chocolate before placing on parchment. Place in fridge/freezer to set.