Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

February 23, 2013

DeSano's Pizza Class

DeSano's Pizza Class

00 flour
 I took another USN Evening Class at one of my favorite new pizza places in town - DeSano's Pizza Bakery.  I don't make pizza at home because making dough takes too long, it really needs to sit over night, and I usually am not thinking a day ahead of time for making dinner.  Also, buying pre-made dough out of the blue can is just gross, the pre-made disks hanging in a plastic bag are just as gross, and it is just easy to go out for pizza and leave the dough making to the professionals.

my dough ball
I took this class to see if I can make pizza at home, and this class just proves that if I want pizza, I just need to go out for pizza to a place like DeSano's.  The time it takes to make the dough and let it rise correctly, and then amassing the ingredients, takes more time and money than it does to go to DeSano's and order a pizza.  Also, I can't get my electric oven hot enough to bake the dough right. At DeSano's it only takes about 90 seconds to bake a pizza in the super hot wood burning oven.

wood burning pizza oven
DeSano's are pros at making pizza.  They have a set menu with various flavor profiles,  They do not let customers deviate from the set menu.  The toppings at DeSano's are not your typical pizza parlor toppings, they are specifically chosen for their distinct flavor and texture that are combined specifically with other premium ingredients to make a "wow" experience for pizza.  After taking the pizza class, I am totally on board with DeSano's about not deviating from the flavor profiles listed on the menu.  I just cannot make a combination better than they can.  I also like the quality, taste and texture of DeSano's pizza toppings.  They do not skimp on the quality.  There are 2 ways to ruin a pizza, and it is making a bad dough and using bad toppings.  DeSano's dough is great, and toppings are great.

pizza spatula
While at the class, we learned a lot about dough, yeast, flour, warm water, kneading, proofing, handling, stretching, baking, turning, doming and eating the dough.  We got to take some dough home to make our own pizza.  The problem with making pizza at home is that I don't have DeSano's toppings at hand.

our pizza
When we got home, we tried to make pizza.  It wasn't nearly as good as DeSano's, it was twice as expensive because of the cost of ingredients, it is way wasteful because we have leftover ingredients that I don't know what to do with them, but it was a good homemade pizza.  We went to Trader Joes and Harris Teeter for the toppings.  At TJ, I got jarred pizza sauce, a trio of sliced Italian style salami, shredded mozzarella, and ricotta totaling about $25.  The Man went to Harris Teeter and got peppadews in a jar $9.  I already had an onion at home $1.  Olive oil $1 (because I use an organic single grower CA olive oil and it is really good).  So toppings for $36 is not a cheap pizza, rather it costs us twice as much to make the pizza at home as it does going to DeSano's for pizza.

The verdict of homemade pizza, expensive, but the TJ and Harris Teeter toppings were pretty good.  I would like to use fresh mozzarella from Lazzaroli's next time ($16, which would make the total be $52 for a homemade pizza), but we can only get the mozzarella on Saturdays, and the pizza making was on a Wednesday so we had to stick with shredded mozzarella in a bag.  Eh, time, effort and money, it is actually cheaper and less wasteful to go to DeSano's.

February 16, 2013

F Scott's Cooking Class

USN = University School of Nashville is a private school that used to be a demonstration school for Peabody, a teaching college.  USN strives for diversity amongst its student body with students from a wide area around Middle TN, a wide range of socio-economic levels, and a range of race and ethnicity.  USN conducts fund over the 100+ year history, and one of the scholarship fundraiser is offering evening classes during the spring semester to the Middle TN general public.  Class range from exercise, photography, philosophy, computers, cooking, and more.  I take advantage of cooking classes every year.  The tuition for these classes are 100% given to scholarships.  Yes, everyone volunteers to make these classes happen.  It is really quite amazing for the quality of these classes.

One class I ALWAYS take is one sponsored by F. Scott's one of the best restaurants in Nashville.  Chef Kevin Ramquist strives to use local ingredients in everything he cooks at F Scotts.  He never takes short cuts.  Chef Kevin is the master of slow food.  Every time I take a cooking class from Chef Kevin, I just learn a ton.  On this evening, we made carrot polenta topped with braised pork and arugula salad with crispy chickpeas.

Everything was was delicious, but requires 2 days to make this meal. I will just mention some cooking techniques here that will for ever change my meals flavor profiles for ever.
1.  When making a stock, don't add salt to start, only add salt at the end product.  The flavors boil down, so you won't know about the salt level until the end.  If you add salt too early, and then boil down, you will have an end product that is too salty.
2.  Roast the bones before boiling the bones to make a stock, and use the same bones as the meat you are serving.  For chicken, use chicken bones; for pork, pork bones, etc.  Roast the bones until they are brown with brown bits.  Put all the roasted bones and brown bits into the stock pot.
3.  Brown the veggies before putting them into the stock.  Deglaze the veggies and put all the veggies and deglaze in the stock pot.
4.  Chef Kevin does not use celery for stock.  Celery does not brown or caramelize, so you can't get a richness out of celery like you can with carrots, leeks, and onions.
5.  Get a juicer.  Fresh veggie or fruit juice is great for cooking.  He juiced a couple carrots and used the juice to cook the polenta.  3 parts veggie juice to 1 part polenta, and finish with a dash of cream to make the perfect creamy polenta.  These were the best polentas I have ever had.

So we dined on this fabulous meal.  We just loved it!  We licked the plates, pots and bowls clean.

I look forward to next year!  Thanks USN Evening Classes, F Scott's and Chef Kevin! xoxo!

February 10, 2013

Remembering Doc

Some of Doc's Favorites (photo from my iPhone*)
When people die, the surviving relatives and friends usually gather around food and drink to remember the one who left us.  This is what my family did when my cousin "Doc" died.  Doc liked Chinese food, similar Chinese food that I like, the food our mothers and grandmothers made for us.  There was one restaurant in Houston that was his favorite Chinese restaurant.  The Hong Kong has some food that is similar to our family favorites, so The Hong Kong is also one of my favorite restaurants in Houston too.

Doc's wife, believe me, is one of the most kind and gentle women on this Earth.  Even with all the sadness, Doc's wife arranged for a dinner for close friends and relatives on the evening of the funeral.  The dinner was at The Hong Kong and it was a multi-course dinner of Doc's favorites.  On the menu was low and slow poached chicken like a confit but in broth, Peking duck in steamed bun, peking duck and clear bean thread noodle soup, Hong Kong style roasted pork, crispy seafood noodles, gai lan Chinese broccoli in oyster sauce, fermented black bean pork ribs, whole steamed fish in cilantro and soy sauce, and salted egg yolk and scallion Dungeness crab with rice.  My other cousin also got braised duck feet in soy sauce 5-spice and small red beans.  I have never had duck feet, but my other cousin's mom (who also passed away a few years ago) would make duck feet like this for my cousin whenever he wanted them.  The flavor and texture is so homey for him, and this was a day when he needed comfort food to remember our cousin Doc.  At this dinner, with a seat empty for Doc, we did have a great time sharing stories, talking about our family's Chinese food traditions, and talking about each of Doc's favorite dishes we were so lucky to be able taste.

As I sit here again, I am reminded about what a friend said to me a few years ago:  You will never regret visiting too much.  At that time, I felt like I  lacked time off from work, and felt a bit cash poor and it takes time and money to travel.  I had been meaning to go to Houston and other family centers for more than a year, but the time and money situations never seemed right.  I cannot change the past.  I can only live now and plan the future.  I hope to feel cash rich, and take time to visit loved ones and close friends this year and years to come.

* Photo from iPhone:  So, I want to mention this photo collage is from my iPhone.  I took photos with my iPhone and then I used a free app Collage to crop the photos and put them into a collage page.  While I was on the plane, I was reviewing my photos of family and food, and I edited this picture while thinking of Doc.  Thinking of family, friends and food, with the help of my photos and Collage was a really nice way to spend my fly time.