Tin Can Package Design

Just a sneak peak of my tin can design for my Honey Truffle Snack. A classic spin on a new product. Thanks Gustav!

Honey Truffle Yum!

Honey Truffle Yum!

Photo Shoot Outcome Packaging Picks

And here is a sneak peak of the photo shoot. Although the photos are unprocessed the outcome was good and a few of the photos shown will appear on the packaging.

Bacon Caramel Cachaca

Bacon Caramel Cachaca

 

 

 

Spicy Chipotle Cheddar

Spicy Chipotle Cheddar

Ginger Snap

Ginger Snap

Vanilla Bean Caramel

Vanilla Bean Caramel

Lights Camera Action

So at 8:00 am early on a Saturday morning and I found myself on the upper west side searching for fresh vanilla so that I can take it back to the lab (my kitchen) and make a few flavors of my signature popcorn. What made this day so special was that I had a food photo shoot scheduled later that day and I was so groggy that I resembled a walking dead zombie. I think I spilled my coffee  on someone.

Just to give you  some back story. For a few months I collaborated with my designer and package manufacturer about photo’s of my snack flavors
I stumbled across Cayla and I found that she was a great match for my photos. Her work is phenomenal and she has a great work ethic and she was nice enough to work her photography magic on my snacks.

Cayla working her magic

Cayla working her magic

Her work has been used in numerous magazines, for restaurants, advertisements and the environment.

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To add to the pressure, I had to create four fresh popcorn flavors before the shoot. My photographer Caylen was lovely because she didn’t mind me blasting Hip Hop, Jazz and alternative while she worked. I was trying to wake myself up.
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You can visit her at caylazahoran.com

Dinner Party

So I had another dinner party and the turnout was bigger than expected. I was asked by Daniel to host a Harlem Meetup dinner event and I suggested my place to give a more intimate feel. Daniel has played a pivotal role in Harlem meetups for a while. And  if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be able to pull this dinner off. He was patient and he also introduced me to some very good people. Since no cooking assistant was available (everyone bailed on me) the work was double but miraculously my guest pitched in and helped which saved the day. My guess Sandra (from France) came in and helped me run the kitchen. If it wasn’t for her the whole dinner would have taken forever. She single-handedly ran a good part of the kitchen. Maybe this is a French thing?  She really knew her way around the kitchen and I was grateful for her help. Overall I served 14 people. The dinner started at 5pm and people started leaving at 10:30pm. I’d like to thank everyone who attended. It was a long great night!

Menu:

Pandora Trifecta (with Crab/shrimp baked mac & cheese)

Aged Vinaigrette Salad

Focaccia Sandwich with Honey, fresh thyme herbs and chipotle aoli

Cocktail: Pilsen Sour

Fresh Squeeze Organic lemons, Cognac, Organic Egg whites, Agave Nectar Served shaken with ice until frothy. Topped with Boston Bittahs

 

cocktail1

Pilsen Sour

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Without the bitters added

Boston Bittahs

Since I had to serve 14 people I made a dash to one of my favorite dish stores and I found that perfect one serving oven proof dish that withstood withstand high temperatures. I figured I could place the bowl directly in the broiler without worrying about breaking the dish. The bowl also had nice rustic look to it which accompanied the look of my furniture.

dishes

Uggh, I needed a place to sit my coffee. The bowls are inside the wooden box.

dish-shop

One of my favorite dish stores

 

Since artichokes were not in season I had to think of an alternative dish for my guest. Thank God for the Pasticceria Rocco’s bakery in the West village. They must have thought I was crazy when I ran in there and asked for them to bake me a sheet of Foccacia (on the same day). Somehow they were able to make it work. Since I would be making sandwiches out of the bread I had to allow for more prep time in order to allow the bread rise. So this version of foccacia is a bit thicker than what they usually make. Pasticceria Rocco has been Family Owned and Operated since 1974

Patricia - Head baker at Rocco Bakery

Patricia – Head baker at Rocco Bakery

Harlem Eat Up!

I’ve been a bit busy so I haven’t been able to post for a few weeks but I got a chance to volunteer at the Harlem Eat Up Festival. Basically the festival gives people a chance to see and taste all Harlem has to offer from the artists of the kitchen, the canvas, the stage and the streets. In the process I got a chance to meet some very cool people. It was very hot out that day so it was hard to keep cool. One sweet thing is that I got a chance to meet Chef Marcus Samuelsson who was  very cool.

 

volunteers

Chef Volunteers

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Chef Marcus Samuelsson and I. And Yes, I cropped my picture out because I was making the stupidest Face!

Chef Marcus Samuelsson and I. And Yes, I cropped my picture out because I was making the stupidest Face!

Making business Cards at the last minute

Ok, so I was called in as a culinary volunteer at the last minute for the Harlem EatUp! festival and then I realized that I was out of business cards so I had to make a batch at the last minute. The cards came out pretty good and although I’m extremely tired (because I’ve been running around and prepping all day), I’m geeked to participate in the festival!

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Not to Shabby.

The delights of working for free

There is a little known fact that only a few of my friends know. I staged at a few restaurants. Staging (according to Wikipedia) is an unpaid internship when a cook or chef works briefly, for free, in another chef’s kitchen to learn and be exposed to new techniques and cuisines. In other words, you get to be a someone’s dish bitch and or food prep servant prisoner without getting paid for it. And don’t you dare try to cook anything. That’s the Chef’s job. Now take your lowly ass to the back and start chopping onions. Your Welcome! Most conversations between the Dish bitch and the chef (or anyone with more seniority than you. Which is pretty much everyone in the damn restaurant) goes like this.

Chef: Dish Bitch, I need you to chop that garlic faster.

Me: Yes Chef

Chef: Dish Bitch, I need you to cut up 5 cases of Artichokes.

Me: Ok

Guy who speaks another language but I know he’s talking to me: Salope je n’aime pas qu’on me tutoie!

Me: Will do!

It’s boot camp for the the kitchen. A swift smack in the face from reality reminding novices and the semi experience that working in a real kitchen is nothing like being on an episode of Chopped.

But staging at a restaurant is well worth it because you get to learn so much. All you have to do is look around and submit yourself with the understanding that you don’t know everything. And teamwork takes on a whole new meaning when working in a cramped space. It toughens you up. If you last a bit, you become more aware. I was fortunate to Stage at a few places while holding my day job. Which is still nothing like doing it daily. I know this because I don’t think ever worked harder other than when I “brilliantly” decided to open up a cafe from the ground up.  A few of my weekends staging consisted of working 11 hour days on weekdays and working from 5pm until close which was tough, but still a drop in the bucket compared to the hours that line cooks and chefs have to endure. I only lasted a bit but I got to work at some great restaurants. One of them was Blackbird. An award Michelin star winning restaurant.  The staff was actually pretty nice to me. But there was no room for error. Trust me when I say the staff there is serious about food. They are not about to let anyone mess up  the order of things just because that someone watched to many episodes of Top Chef. Working at Blackbird actually made me want to eat there more. And the perk that comes with staging is the way it can humble a person.

original_Blackbird_ExteriorThe Blackbird staff are masters at what they do.

Just check out the presentation below

A salad of endives with crispy potatoes, basil, dijon, pancetta and poached egg

MG_08412With knife and fork, the server d chops the salad, blending the perfectly poached egg with the endives and pancetta, creating a silky dressing and reducing the charming potato basket to crisp crouton-like chards.

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Uh Oh It’s coming. This May. Another Secret Dining experience

Ladies and Gentlemen. I am almost done with my Menu for my upcoming. Brunch/dinner. Madagascar vanilla bean french toast Monte Cristo, Smoked cheese grits with crispy prawns? Maybe.

All I can say is that this dinning experience will have more drinks and food!

Cocktail_updateAnd yes, I will be basing the theme off of the above chart which is a great piece of American history. Other than the fact I superimposed the Red Pandora logo in the middle of the chart for fun. An engineer for the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service Region 8 created a detailed chart in 1974, essentially making the government’s first and only cocktail cookbook.

The drawing, believed to be made by civil engineer Cleve Ketcham, found by the National Archives rolled up in a tube with 20 maps and drawings and intricately shows how to make whiskey sours, martinis, Manhattans and more.

So of course I would like to deconstruct the classics while keeping some classics in tact. This dinner with be all about the cocktails

Test Drive Supper Club

So I had a sample dinner supper club test and the turnout was great. The mood was very comfortable and the conversation was good. Cocktails ranged from Blood Orange juice Mimosa’s to Whiskey. Thanks to everyone who came and blessed the place with their presence. Definitely a good mix of people

tableSo lets get into the food

blueberry crepe

Blueberry stuffed Crepe pancakes with Madagascar Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise sauce

bruschetta-eggs

Jimmy’s vinaigrette – Crispy Bruschetta topped with a tomatoes, onion and dill with aged balsamic vinegar Covered with eggs and Gouda cheese. Topped with a bit of Fleur de Sel salt

Yeah someone started eating off the plate before I took a picture which was a true compliment.

A dish that always satisfies

Sometimes before I make a meal I have no idea of what I plan on making. This happens a lot. In order to remedy this, I usually go to one of my favorite meat markets, spice shops, cheese shops or produce bodegas. Last week I decided to visit Murray’s cheese shop to get a few ideas. Murray’s has a large assortment of cheeses and most of the cheese workers there  know there stuff. Think of it as a cheese Library. I love the energy there but it can get crowded so it’s not for the faint of heart.

cheese

After finding my smoked Gouda cheese at Murray’s. I had an epiphany! Yes! I’ll make garlic Asparagus, tomatoes and whole wheat pasta tossed in a fresh Pesto sauce sprinkled with smoked Gouda and topped with an over medium egg (not shown). Ok, I don’t know how the hell I came up with this, it just came to me. That and the fact that similar dishes like the one I concocted have been made in Italy for years. Honestly, if I would have spent time trying to take a picture of  the egg on top of my pasta dish, the egg would have continued to cook over the hot pasta, thus ruining a perfect over medium egg. And I could not let that happen. It’s a sin. When you break into the yolk with your fork and the very warm yolk oozes over the pasta, cheese and asparagus. Biting into it is ridiculously pleasurable.

whole wheat spaghetti

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