Sunday, February 15

Cooking Class for SCU Alumni at ICC - Campbell

From Zhenya's phone
An unexpectedly enjoyable evening happened last week that warrants this quick post. My SCU MBA alumni friends and I signed up for a cooking class at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, hosted specifically for recent SCU MBA alumni. It was $40 for 6 courses which turned out to be 8 courses served buffet style and an open bar for 3 hours. What a great deal! As always, any experience I have with the ICC is delicious, professional, and fun. I don't think they host these classes regularly and this was a special deal for SCU alumni. If they host classes in the future, I'll be sure to let my followers know.

From Rupa's phone
We were broken into teams and each team cooked one dish. The chefs prepped all the ingredients in the right quantities for us and left direction sheets at each station. Then the chef walked around to each station explaining the directions and monitoring throughout. This was our team and we cooked the eggplant parmesan. Alvin in red helped us out while also helping his own team cook the chicken fricassee.

This is the menu we cooked.
Country Style Salad
Rice Pilaf

Haricot Verts
Chicken Fricassee with Tarragon Wine Sauce
Baked Salmon in a Citrus Beurre Blanc

Eggplant Parmesan
Mousse au Chocolate

Strawberry Shortcake

My plate with a  generous helping of everything.

The salad was good. It had bits of real bacon in it and light vinaigrette dressing.

Rice Pilaf was cooked perfectly and buttery.

Haricot Vert green beans are my favorites. They're so simple and delicious yet so fancy because of the name. The team who did these green beans with shallots made them just the way I like it - tender with a slight crunch.

The Chicken Fricassee (free-cah-say) doesn't look like much because the mushroom and sauce are on top of the chicken pieces in the picture but trust me, it was so good. 

The Baked Salmon with Citrus Beurre Blanc was my favorite dish of the night. Salmon was moist and juicy in just the right portion sizes. But that sauce though, the balance of citrus and butter, yum.

I can't hate on the eggplant parm because my team made this and I think we did a good job. However, this was my first time making eggplant parmesan and I finally know all the fatty greasy steps it takes to dress up what should be a healthy vegetable. It's salted, rinsed, battered with flour, then egg drenched, then panko and parmesan crusted, then fried, then topped with marinara and mozzarella, and finally baked. I feel like the end result adds so many extra calories. 

The strawberry shortcakes were just ok. The cakes were a little dry and flavorless. Same with the whipped cream and well strawberries just taste like they usually do.

The chocolate mousse however was to die for! I'm not a fan of chocolate, which means when it's done well and wins me over, it must be really good. Appearance wise, some of them may be topped with more cream or chocolate shavings than others but the cold mousse filling underneath is sweet, and creamy, and more cocoa-tasting than it is chocolatey. Great job to the dessert team!

Tuesday, February 10

Whole Body by Whole Foods - Make Up Break Up

It's that time again for Whole Foods' personal care department, Whole Body, to launch their spring sales season. Last year, it kicked off with the 10 Days of Beauty preview event at the Whole Body store in Campbell. This year's event is the Make Up Break Up - inspiring everyone to break up with their old, expired, or toxic conventional products and refresh their collection with plant based products from Whole Body.

Just like last year, stylists were on hand to glam up lucious locks with soft wavy curls. My friend (this is not her in the picture) got a beautiful beachy wavy look.

The food spread provided by Whole Foods' catering team was amazing as usual. Each appetizer contained at least one ingredient that was supposed to be good for your body. The vegan sushi rolls with forbidden rice, mango, and veggies was particularly tasty. There were several different types of crostini with toppings like rainbow chard and goat cheese, or tomatoes and burrata, or smoked salmon. Did you know you can have Whole Foods cater your events with a similar spread? I'm now totally considering it.

Not pictured: My friend got a full face of makeup done with Mineral Fusion's natural make up. I also got my nails painted with Zoya brand polish which I can attest that they're lasting long with no chipping.

But onwards to the free goody bags. Isn't that what everyone loves? Whole Body gave me so many samples last year that I gave a few away and I'm still using some to this day. 
Particular favorites from last year.

Bach's Rescue Remedy all natural sleep aid spray made of plant extracts. Whenever I had a hard time sleeping, I would spritz the middle of my tongue with the sleep aid and it provided at least another 4 hours of good rest. It was just enough to help me rest but without feeling groggy or "drugged" up. This helped a lot in recovering from jet lag after last year's Asia trip. This was my favorite product and I highly recommend it because it's made of plant extracts and not chemicals. It's only good if you have a mild or temporary problem falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night, such as with jet lag, but not if you have a serious insomnia issue. Much more effective to use in helping you fall asleep rather than to stay asleep. Ask for it at your local Whole Body store.

Weleda Skin Food cream is a must have. I keep the tube from last year at my desk. Dries quickly and works effectively.

Giovanni's 2Chic Ultra Sleek shampoo is great! A little expensive in retail pricing but as a grown woman, I think I can treat myself to more than Costco sized Pantene Pro-V. You agree?

Dr. Haushka Soothing Cleansing Milk cleanser/makeup remover. I gave this one to my friend who seems to like it.
This year's products:

Wooh another sample of Giovanni's 2Chic hair and body products. Can't wait to try.

Juice Beauty lip gloss. I don't use lip gloss so I'll see if this one wins me over.

Mineral Fusion make up, nail polish, primer, and lotions.

Country Life Collagen and skin pills.

Whole Body is having a couple promotions coming up, here they are:
Now through Feb 24: BOGO on lotions and shower gels by Anadalou Naturals
Feb 11-15: 25% off all makeup
March 18-24: Beauty week all week
March 20-22: 25% off all face care products
March 21: limited edition and limited number of "Beauty Bags" on sale for $18, containing $60 worth of products

Whole Body website

Tuesday, February 3

Orchard City Kitchen - Campbell

Orchard City Kitchen has been a little known venture, a long time in the making. Watch this Kickstarter campaign video they launched in October for funding.

When Chef Jeffrey Stout was the chef at Alexander's Steakhouse Silicon Valley (Cupertino) during it's Michelin Star earning years, I had the pleasure of enjoying his dinner menu. It's refreshing to see him step out of Alexander's increasingly "chain-like" identity and open a more casual restaurant. As an avid fan of the Campbell's Farmers Market, I would be delighted if many of the restaurant's ingredients indeed came from the market as mentioned in the Kickstarter video.

OCK is best categorized under the New American - small plates category. There is the occasional Asian influenced item and of course small plates is a Spanish tapas influence, but for the most part OCK serves fresh California fare.

($13) Mussels with pepperoni, rouille, and fennel

The mussels tasted really fresh in this dish. I'm used to buying frozen mussels at home which are chewy and shrink up when you cook them. These mussels were really tender. I don't remember much about the broth.

($10) Mac and cheese with barbecued brisket and beecher's cheddar

I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of brisket on this mac and cheese. The mac was good as is but really nothing too great until you add on spoons of the delicious barbecued brisket. I only wish there were more brisket.

($16) OCK Burger with bearnaise sauce, muenster cheese, grilled onions, and shichimi fries

A solid burger, smallish in size if you're a guy but good size for a female. The fries with Japanese shichimi pepper sprinkles were super good. All around, the burger was a good choice.

($11) Korean fried chicken with shishito peppers, and gochujang 

This was an exciting dish to have here - an American take on a Korean classic. Gochujang is red so I don't see where it is in the dish. Did it taste authentic? Not really - these were tasty chicken wings and shishito peppers regardless.

($16) Duck Meatballs with piperado, farmer's cheese

I enjoyed this dish alot. It's basically 3 meatballs in lots of sauce which is always good. The sauce would be good to dip bread in if they had given us more. The meatballs don't even taste like duck but they were good nonetheless.

($11) grilled prawns with croutons and chili butter lime
These prawns were generally large and buttery as advertised. I just wish there were more than just 3 prawns in there. The sauce was good.

($9) Hearts of palm salad with avocado, nashi pear, apple, mint, celery, buttermilk

I was the one who chose this salad and I'm disappointed by it. The heart of palm really sold me but I didn't expect gigantic slivers like this. Heart of palm tastes better when you get the tip of the young shoots. These are large slivers of the less tender base of the palm. The nashi pears didn't have much sweetness to it, actually nothing had any taste to it. Just an overpriced salad made of shavings.

($12) Little Gem Lettuce salad with smoked black cod, pear, cucumber, miso, buttermilk and green beans

The dressing on this salad was also a little ho-hum in flavor. Buttermilky but with no seasoning. All the ingredients were fresh but plain.

($7) Shaved brussel sprout salad with roasted lemon dressing, reggiano cheese, and almond slivers

In the South Bay, the restaurant which made this dish popular was Oak and Rye in Los Gatos. In the past year, I've attempted to recreate such a simple treat at home. It's just shaved raw brussels sprouts dressed in olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice, then topped with shavings of a hard cheese as desired. It's easier said than done well. There's something with the thinness of the shavings, the quality of the cheese, and the ratio of lemon juice in the dressing that makes Oak and Rye's salad so good. Yet, I am amazed by this dish again when I find that OCK does it better, in my opinion of course. Their sprouts shavings aren't as thin but the dressing has a sweet acidity which I prefer, probably from roasting the lemon. This dish at both restaurants is still a great dish!

Some items were hit or miss, which is expected of a tapas style meal. The prices are also expensive per plate and quantity given but that's also typical of tapas. It's best to come with more people so you can share and taste many things. My biggest gripe is that portions are more easily split into thirds rather than into fourths. Doesn't it make more sense that people dine in even numbers? We found ourselves playing the polite "fight" for the last bites game with each other. Other than that, service was great from booking the reservation on the phone, to having the waiter open my special non-alcoholic cider bottle for free, and throughout the dining experience. I definitely recommend making OCK your medium-fancy dinner place. Maybe not an anniversary or job promotion celebration place, but a good place for birthdays and girls nights.

OCK on Yelp

Thursday, December 18

Ron Ben-Israel Teaches Sugar Paste Flowers Course at the ICC

Photo Credit: RBI Cakes
Ron Ben-Israel of RBI Cakes makes cakes decorated with world re-known life like sugar paste flowers. His work has been featured in Sex and the City 2, Modern Bride magazine, The Knot and countless others publications. Personally I stumbled upon his work while browsing for inspiration for my wedding and instantly lusted over his luxurious cakes (samples pictured above).

Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
The International Culinary Center in Campbell hosted a three day sugar paste flowers course taught by Ron. For a fee of $1600, students received three full days of lessons using specialized cutters and supplies, as well as lunch and refreshments served. The course is taught at the NYC branch of ICC as well.

This sugar paste course is just one of the many offerings of the school's pastry program. If you are interested wedding cakes or other pastry elements like chocolate, petit fours, cakes, breads, etc, you can visit the pastry arts course site to get more information.

Photo Credit: Rachel T of ICC
Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
After sitting in on part of the first day of class, I found Ron to be a charming and personable teacher as well as through and detailed. His students come from a variety of backgrounds and locations to spend 3 days under his tutelage. 

Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
The stamens and pistils take the longest to dry so the students started them first on day 1. Most items take as long as 24 hours to dry and it takes 3 days to make all the decorative elements to go on the cake. Everything is edible except for the wires used to hold the flowers.

Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
All items were made of a special sugar paste mixture which looks like fondant but is thinner and more pliable. Here are some tulip petals drying in special molds. The sugar paste color is purposefully lighter and will be brightened at the end with a colored powder spray.

Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
The cutter pictured on the right of the student is specially designed for RBI Cakes to make the sweetpea shape and cannot be purchased in stores.

Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
Some very complicated sweetpeas being fringed and folded. 

Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
Photo Credit: San Jose Food Blog
Photo Credit: Rachel T of ICC
Photo Credit: Rachel T of ICC
Anemone flower in the works.

Photo Credit: Rachel T of ICC
On the last day, Ron demonstrates the final assembly on a fake cake topper. The flowers are painted with a sugar powder to bring out the vibrancy and add realistic details. When seeing how beautiful the student's final results were, I think the class is entirely worth it. It was probably as fun and useful for the students to participate in as it was for me to watch.

Photo Credit: ICC
More information on ICC's pastry courses can be found in this link

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