Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Secrets Revealed: Cooking with Essential Oils

Sometime ago I was approached by a couple of hungry entrepreneurs who asked if I would test out their new product line: essential cooking oils by Quintessenzia . I was to use them in my kitchen and give them feedback on all thoughts and outcomes of my tinkering.

I was curious and so I started to add a drop here, a few drops there to the dishes I was preparing . They were a peculiar bunch, these strange oils- too much, too many, had my
taste buds completely confused BUT just the right amount: absolutely amazing. It took time to get to know them, just like any worthwhile relationship, I guess.

This is where I find it hard to express through words just how essential oils effect food. I've been told that I sound like a new age weirdo when I free associate on what they do to the sense of taste. Sorry but it's true, cooking with these oils is like cooking in the fourth dimension. They ever so subtly (or not) elevate the flavor of a dish in such a way that seems to elevate the entire eating experience on a whole. See? I'm doing it again...

The funny thing is, once you get acquainted with these oils, they are so easy to use. They have saved the
blah sauce, the so-so salad dressing, the neither here nor there soup- many, many times in my kitchen and all in a matter of moments.

You have to try them yourself. There is really no other way to communicate how great they are in words so I'll stop attempting to.

Here are a couple ways to check them out:

For the next two Little Dish evenings at Feast (Friday, March 19
th and Friday the 26th) I will feature at least one essential oil in all little dishes on the menu.


I will be teaching the cooking course "Cooking with Essential Oils - Elevating Food with Aroma" at the one and only
Goldhahn and Sampson in Prenzlauerberg. Goldhahn and Sampson is, by far, the best food and condiment store/cookbook store/fine wines and spirits store/cooking school- in all of Berlin. Come and actually cook with these oils, with me, up close and personal!
Sign up now and get a free tasting menu at one of the special Essential Oil Little Dish evenings. That's right, free!


The company that produces these oils is
Quintessenzia. They have searched the world over to find thee best organic producers of these oils and then bring them back here, to Berlin, where they are mixed together with an organic soy oil and then finally bottled.

To buy online and for more info:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Do we pursue our dreams or do they pursue us?

For me, it's a nagging thing- a thought, an idea, an image, a reference- it keeps reappearing until I act. This is how the interior of Feast came to be or I guess, how Feast came to be at all. It may seem cliche to be inspired by a classical artist and if so, then please call me cliche because I swear the ghost of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio took hold of my aesthetic.

It first started from a book given to me by a dear friend which had Caravaggio's "Boy with a Basket of Fruit" on the cover. It's lusciousness, it's vibrant bursts of color mixed with dark shadows, it's not so subtle mingling of sex and food- it captured my attention and held it. I kept "running into it" and everytime I did, I had to study it in great depth. Not knowing much about Caravaggio, I read about his life and all of it's controversy. From what I gather, he was a difficult man, to say the least. The only things truly known about Caravaggio are from public records and quite frankly, his rap sheet. He liked picking fights and this fact got him into considerable trouble. It was recorded that he started a brawl at a local Roman tavern over some artichokes... my kinda man.

I then followed this little obsession to the 1986 movie "Caravaggio" by Dereck Jarman staring, among others, a stunning young Tilda Swinton. Jarman's sets were gorgeous, often mixing the odd contemporary prop in with early 1600 AD period props, making me do double takes throughout the film. The walls looked like they had been steeped in many humid Roman summer evenings. I wanted my walls to look like that. And I also wanted heavy wooden tables and benches, just like the ones Caravaggio must have sat at when he sent the artichokes flying.

I found a local artist here in Berlin who knew a technique for the walls and she taught me the basics (which came in handy because she quit the project before completion). I finished them myself with, as they say, blood, sweat and tears. I also found a few angels who crafted the tables by hand.

During the renovations of Feast, I made a pilgrimage to the Galleria Borghese in Rome where a number of Caravaggio's works are housed. For a person who normally gets extremely sleepy twenty minutes inside the doors of a museum, the Borghese Gallery is completely digestible as it is no bigger than a large villa. Also, the pieces inside seem to be a concentrated collection of all things unbelievably beautiful. Anyway, I found my way to where the Caravaggios were and there it was... the Boy with a Basket of Fruit. As I stood two feet away from it, close enough to see the delicate brush strokes that Caravaggio himself had made, feelings of complete gratefulness and awe came over me. I was grateful to have been inspired by this image to begin to realize my dream and I was in total awe of it's own exceptional and utter beauty. My eyes filled with tears to the last possible point before running over and at the same time I was smiling the biggest smile ever, maybe I was even making some funny sounds, I'm not sure. People passing must have thought I was a total loon but I didn't care.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hope for the Baking Impaired

Last weekend Feast acted as host to a small club gathering. Since it was held in the early afternoon, they requested some sort of cake and coffee to be available. Ok. Not a problem. Actually, a short time ago this would have been a problem. Yes, I can cook but baking, baking with all of it's exact measurements...

The only new years resolution I ever kept was in 2009 when I decided to do away with this fear. Ever since, I've been doing more and more baking for Feast and my catering jobs, instead of hiring my trusted friend and serious baker, Fenella. (although, Fenella is still the master of the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie) Granted, I don't attempt anything too difficult, not yet anyway, but that's alright with me. Sometimes it's enough to take a little nibble out of your fears.