Saturday, August 1, 2015

It's Business Time: Cadence Chocolates

After many years of claiming I never wanted to own my own business, I've started one. I kept avoiding it because all the racket that comes with a business - managing people, paperwork, marketing, storefronts, etc. - seemed like a horrible bunch of stuff that would take me farther away from the craft of it.

I have loved chocolates for quite some time. It has been a part of my side work since I started in restaurants and have always wished for more of that and less of the rest. After careful consideration, lots of question asking and answers gotten from people who have started their own chocolate businesses, and many test batches amongst friends and friends of friends, I have taken the plunge.

It's a lot less intimidating when people tell you they're doing it all by the seat of their pants. It makes you feel like you can do it, too, and all that hemming and hawing and planning and contemplating won't get you anywhere if you never take action.

So here it is, my chocolate company in San Francisco, CA. I wanted to take my chocolate skills out of fine dining restaurants and provide people with the beautiful treats without the three-hour meal. Cadence Chocolates will be available for your whatever you're celebrating. Weddings, new funding at your startup, quinciƱeras, birthday dinner parties, come at me.  I can make (most of) them vegan, too.  Take a look at the site and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What I Do On My Days Off

I do have hobbies. They just happen to look like work.
Octopus cakes for my high school friend's baby shower.

Like Sand Through the Hour Glass

Well, it has certainly been a while. I do apologize for leaving you, though I have to admit, there were more pressing matters. Here's a glimpse at a few things that I have had a hand in the past three years here in San Francisco. It doesn't capture it all or very well, for that matter, but it is a sliver. In current news, I have been working with the wonderful people at Crumb and I am ramping up my own little chocolate business, Cadence Chocolates. You can see more about that here.
Valentine's Day at my best friend's place: Black sesame and negroni bonbons -- 2015
 Stone fruit tart at home, because I love my roommates -- 2012
 Coal toasted meringue with lime marshmallow sorbet hiding underneath, from way back in the day at Coi with pastry chef Matt Tinder -- 2012
 Brown sugar caraway pop tarts at Plum, when I had some time and freedom to experiment -- 2013
 Peanut nutterfingers with black sesame, wrapped in nori at Commis, with pastry chef Joshua Meisman -- 2013
 My turn at Sunday dish at Commis, which found its way onto the menu: Pecan sorbet, lavender shortbread, fresh apricot -- 2014
 Chocolate bars for guests to take home on their anniversaries -- 2014
Another turn at Sunday dish at Commis, which occasionally made it out to VIPs: Chocolate sorbet, Turkish tea cremeux, hazelnut cake -- 2014

Monday, June 24, 2013

What Dance Recitals Must Feel Like for Proud Parents

Pluot walnut tart, yogurt parfait, prune red wine puree, fresh pluot, coriander berries. Photo credit: Baby J.

Oh, you dear sweet folks that are reading this... I know it's been a very long time, but like many folks with (likely) better maintained scribblings, I blame life. My move to San Francisco was not without its speed bumps, but it was also filled with things like the incredible joy of finally finding the people that make your home (thanks, Craigslist), knocking out five interviews and getting job offers from the places you care to work, and petting every dog regardless of what the attached human might be doing. Anyway, I just want to say thanks for giving a rip. You're wonderful and appreciated.

I've been working day time pastry prep at a nice casual (some people I love call it bourgeois) restaurant in Oakland for the last six months and it hasn't been inspiring. Long story short, the hours are better, but this is not my pastry chef's home base within the restaurant group, so it leaves me to my own devices as far as personal development.

Fear not, for I have found my silver lining: summer wine dinners. We're hosting different vintners or wineries once a month and I've been given free reign to play. Our first one just passed and in the words of Willow Smith: "never been the one to toot my own horn," but! Our vintner didn't send over a dessert wine, so I could do just about anything I wanted as long as it tasted good and decided to do a plum tart. I wanted a cold, creamy texture with it, but didn't want an ice cream, blah blah blah... I could tell you all about how the gears of my mind went tumbling with ideas, but I think the photo above is much more eloquent. Beep beep.

Plating up my dessert. The puree in that piping bag is not true to color in this photo. Weird. Photo credit: Baby J.

When you do day time pastry prep, you don't stay for dinner service, which means you typically pass whatever you've made on to someone else to plate up for patrons. The desserts at this restaurant are designed to be easy to execute and on normal days, it doesn't really bother me to place them in the hands of others. However, this dessert was my baby. So, I came in on my day off to plate up every single dessert for our big event.

It was weird being there at night, working within sneezing distance of diners, all very curious about what your doing and if that's what's coming to them next. Open kitchens have their advantages and not so great bits, too, but all of my experience had been in full view of customers before I moved back to the States, so once things got rolling, I felt just fine.

Folks told me all sorts of nice things about the dish and wouldn't you know it, that made me feel mighty good. The vintner even came up and complimented us on the (nearly last minute) syrah pairing. One of my old coworkers from our restaurant across the Bay was at the dinner and told me it was very grown up and the best dessert he's had in a while.

Enough horn tooting. For me, it was a great feeling to show folks that I know what I'm doing and that I can rise to the occasion. Doing day time pastry prep has felt a bit like hibernation; a long sleep in which I didn't have much of a choice.

This whole summer wine dinner series has really helped me shake the dust off and wake up. One thing that I didn't really appreciate much until now was the freedom I've had for the last few months to put desserts on the bar side of our establishment. The bar food is more casual than our restaurant side, so I can do things like this:

Brown sugar caraway pop tarts. They're off the menu now because it was a whole lot more work than I could grant to the price point and popularity of it. For what it's worth, I paired it with vanilla milk.

That brown sugar caraway pop tart was magic, but it wasn't selling (come on people!), so it was quietly taken off the menu. But! My chef had been asking about panna cotta for weeks before the wine dinner and finally ordered little cups for it, so I had to kinda actually do it. After a little hemming and hawing (have you witnessed the horror of a "panna cotta" Google image search, because I have and it hurts), it clicked: Thai tea panna cotta.

I ran spoon fulls of my test batch straight into the mouths of cooks with busy hands and was met with groans of taste bud delight. After a quick little consult (read: taste test standing in the bar) with our bar manager, he suggested pairing it with Mekhong, and so came a thin layer of alcoholic jelly on top.

Thai tea panna cotta with Mekhong jelly, to be served with wee little micro mint leaves.

Anywho, this post is getting long and it's certainly past my bed time, so I'll leave you with that tasty thought. Thanks again for reading and I hope to share some more yums soon.

x Melissa

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Leaving the Island and Capturing Memories

I'm trading the safety and ease of this island nation for a return to the west coast (which is the best coast, ahem). The move is happening in T-minus two and a half months and I am putting my brand new sort of okay camera to use. Here are some of the things I've been seeing lately in my work life:

Mise en place for a spice cake test.

An old edition one of our newer lunch desserts topped with a potent and delicious coffee ice cream.

What came out of our pastry team think machine when I put a couple ideas in. If you've never worked on a dish before, you'd be surprised at how much flavors, textures, and even the base idea can evolve.  This tumbled out of a craving for spicy mango and horchata.

I'm going to miss my pastry team here incredibly. I can't be thankful enough for the experiences I've had and the things I've learned with them.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Did Someone Say Baguette?

My very first epi.

I never knew what an epi was, let alone what one looked like, until I browsed the pages of the book Modern Cafe. The simple snips of scissors can transform a typical long and slender baguette into a beautiful wheat stalk shaped loaf known as an epi. Thank you, Francisco Migoya.

This was much more beautiful in person.

I did my best not to tamper with the dough much after the initial mixing-kneading process, taking care not to add too much flour or handle it rougher than necessary. I certainly wanted those air pockets and I'll be the first to admit that I've definitely beaten the best out of a dough.

Hole-riddled insides.

I have to say I'm pretty proud of this bread.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lookit What I Made: Brioche

I made brioche when I had an early off night and a late morning start back to back. Idle hands...

I have a follow up post to a previously failed cake coming up soon. Round two: K.O. In a good way.

Sorry for the brevity; perhaps it's best to give you shorter posts more often than longer posts that are even fewer and farther between. What do y'all think?

Off to maybe sleep now.

X Melissa