It’s Day 11 and you still can’t cook damn vegetables…

I want to preface this review by saying I have a lot of respect for the chefs at the CIA.  I understand that most of them strive to do their best and that they make a valiant effort to pay attention to detail in the kitchen.  The students also deserve credit.  They (AM Classes), wake up at ungodly hours to work for nearly full work days on food that hundreds of kids will taste.  They are also at school to learn.  I am sure that one thing will be missed from time to time.  That being said, I had the most “delightful” pleasure of eating at Modern Banquet’s day 11, yesterday and wanted to give you some insight on what I crunched on.

First course was a basic garden salad.  The salad greens were clean, which shockingly is something that students neglect to take care of.  The portion size and presentation were above average and the dressing taste quite good.  Upon finer examination of my rabbit food I noticed that the precision knife cuts that were placed on top were atrocious.  These cuts looked like a first term fundies student had been given an old rusty butter knife and then asked to cut brunoise ( what is normally 1/8 x 1/8 x 1/8 inch cubes) to whatever dimensions they deemed fit.  It was also garnished with julienne that, while appropriate in width and height, looked like uneven strands of grain that might be used to draw straws.

Soup course was quite a disappointment as well.  I do not enjoy anything more than eating tepid soup.  Of course I am not being serious.  My chowder was lukewarm at best.  And while it had quite a decent flavor and consistency the fish, cod I presume, was chewy and tough.  I wasn’t the only person who thought this either.  Two other diners at my table made a comment at how poor the soup was.

Entree course was decent.  It was buffet style so of course I did not expect the food to be screaming hot.  It was a nice temperature and I applaud the students for that.  We were given the choice of two different proteins.  Either beef pot roast or roasted turkey.  The flavor on both of these items was superb.  The turkey had a crunchy briny exterior that left me longing for more.  The bird itself was cooked to perfection, white, juicy and tender.  In fact I was quite impressed by the doneness of the bird because this is more often than not the low point of most CIA dishes.  The pot roast also had a fabulous flavor.  A combination of subtle red wine undertones paired with a strong meaty blast from the demi glace, that I imagine was used to make the braising liquid, gave the meat an excellent flavor.  The only real complaint I had, aside from the lack of sauce, was the tenderness of the meat.  After braising a pot roast for at least 3 hours I would have liked it to be more tender.  As I said, it tasted phenomenal but it was slightly tough.  Now the vegetables, the damn vegetables.  I actually, while writing, just spoke to a student who was looking over my shoulder at this review.  She agreed with my statement that vegetable cookery is by far one of the easiest competencies to learn at this school.  Simple, blanch the item, put it in your mouth and if it is crunchy, throw it back in the water.  We learn this early on and I would think that it would become embedded in each future chef’s mind.  I guess being in the weeds causes short term memory loss.  Along with the protein, we were given three vegetable options.  The first was brussel sprouts.  My sprouts were similar to eating lukewarm stones.  Enough crunch to put good dill pickles to shame.  The best part was, the procedure for cooking them looked right. The bottom was scored and the outside leaves were removed.  They were even consistently sized.  For some reason, whoever was on vegetable station either neglected to taste the item or just didn’t care. My next item was a root vegetable mix.  We did this vegetable side with our braised beef lesson in fundamentals and I liked it so much that I suffered through nearly 2 hours of precision knife cuts during Thanksgiving and Christmas to make it again.  When we made it in class it was roasted the vegetables so the sugars caramelized and it gave it a better overall flavor and color.  The monstrosity that was placed on my plate was far from that.  Wet, bland root vegetables cut in various sizes.  It was obvious that someone got overly ambitious and wanted to cut small dice for this medley.  They must have run out of time because thrown into this dish were battonettes of miscellaneous lengths.  On top getting served what looked like a grab bag to lego pieces, upon taking my first bite I was greeted by that all to familiar crunch.  This time even more so, I might as well have been eating the legos themselves.  Lastly the butternut squash, the saving grace for veg station.  I thought it was perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked and hot.  My dining partner thought otherwise but I figured he had gotten a rough patch.

Last course, which for me was only tea, was also quite a disappointment.  I have had this happen to me before so I wasn’t to surprised, especially with the outcome of the meal.  I let me tea steep for about 2 minutes and after what seemed like an eternity decided to pour some.  I noticed that the water stayed the same color as when I first got it and that there was no real noticeable aroma.   My first sip was similar to drinking the water out of the pot sink.  Same temperature and same flavor. Now the flavor of the tea is usually good, I think the fact that I was only drinking bath temperature water could have altered the flavor.  I kid you not when I say I take showers in water hotter than the swill I was served.

Now some perspective:  I obviously wrote this with as much flair as I could muster.  While the facts are accurate my opinions may be somewhat off base.  I mean this is how I really felt about the meal but the students don’t deserve this harsh a review.  We all make mistakes and as I said we are all here to learn.  Time is all was needed to make that meal better.

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