Friday, April 27, 2012

Time is fleet of foot and steady of course

It has been way too long since I updated my forays into cooking. My stumbling block started as an "after event review" that I just couldn't get right in my head or in words. I really had wanted to talk about the feast I had been prepping for but tripped over words. So now, I am just jumping in.

Accademia Della Danza: food review.

There was plenty as usual. The reviews, If someone had something bad to say about it they didn't tell me (and I wish they would). The person who matters most though was very pleased, and that is ME! I am extremely happy with everything from taste to execution! It was a wonderful job and I in no way did it alone! I had my share of help, Lady Petronilla of London, Lady Mechthild Quarttermart, Lord Erich Olavsson Haane, Lord Silvein Morgan, Lady Alyna Morgan and Lord Edward de Cantia who was the hall steward and arranger of servers. I could not have done this without all of them.

I have no better way to do this then just publish the "post mortem" I sent to my Laurel (Countess Judith if people don't know and wonder). So here it is for your ponderance. If you were at the event and would like to provide me feedback I would be ever so appreciative.

1.) What went well? What will you do the same next time? Consider logistics, staffing, purchasing, pre-shopping, etc.


            All in all I think things went well again. A much bigger success this time. All courses got cooked and served. Food was warm and on time. The biggest things that went "wrong" were very minor and or out of any one person's control.

            Next time I will make my lists and do what I can to make a similar timeline that allows for a slow and steady work pace with time for breaks.

            Purchasing, there are a few things that I can do here differently but all in all I will do it about the same way. I love my lists!

            Kitchen staff was Awesome if erratic. Petronilla was there from start to finish and a Huge help! Also the surprise of Erich made life easier. Alyna and Silvein were very helpful especially at serving time. It takes 4 people to serve (which is what I thought it would) 2 to dress and load the elevator 1 for dishes and 1 to take things out of the oven and prep the next items. The erratic ones were Silvein and Alyna who both suffered from health troubles early in the day. Even without them in the kitchen as a constant we did very well and were very successful. I would use the same crew again.

2.) What were the major crises that arose? How did you handle them? How would you handle them differently next time? Consider logistics, staffing, purchasing, pre-shopping, etc.

I cannot think of a single "major" crisis . There were a few mini crisis's but nothing tragic.

The list includes:

            Discovering too late that the cream I bought didn't make it to the cooler and therefore the site.

            Discovering too late that I miss counted eggs and was 8 short (I was able to make up the difference in the dish with egg whites.

            No Turkeys, while this one was ultimately settled it was scary to be needing to re evaluate an entire course!

            My serving bowls went missing. While not a tragedy it is unsettling to have happen. Thankfully they were just out my sight and hubby found them. It would have been no big loss and we would have managed just fine without them. Petronilla had brought her supply as well and so we had plenty to go around.

            Illness, while I was not struck the same way other people were I did have a few moments on Friday where I thought I might have issues, and there was one moment on Saturday where the smell of the eggs drove me out of the kitchen. Friday I was able to take a nap and Saturday had plenty of time for us to work steadily but not hurriedly.

            The "one" person. Sigh, in my mind this is my biggest failure, especially as she came from the US. I worked hard with lists and the advanced notice of the dietary restriction. I just didn't realize how pervasive milk was in my menu and it really wasn't milk it was BUTTER that was the problem but as it is a milk allergy and not intolerance this created in my mind problems. Though she assured me everything was fine I still feel like a jerk and that I failed.

3.) Of the aspects that went wrong, which were the result of planning issues, which were the result of site issues, and which were the result of staffing issues? (i.e. what lead to the "failure")?

            The cream is a "planning failure" despite my lists It seems I am either destined or determined to leave at least 1 thing behind!

            The egg miscount, just that. A miscalculation despite counting and counting and counting. I used paper, my head and a calculator so I am just not sure here.

            Turkeys, this one did solve itself. I was able to call around and find that my area had none but Alyna was able to check and found them for me. Had they not been found I would have looked through the recipes for one that would have been an acceptable substitute. I had a small bit of panic but no major meltdown or anything about it.

            The serving bowls, this one makes me laugh, while I was upset I was not stressed as I knew that Petronilla had quite a few bowls and that if need be we could wash between removes.

            Illness, this one is out of anyone's control. It happens. Had I gone down to the dreaded yuck Petronilla knew all the dishes that were being cooked, there was a clear timeline posted and all my notes available to her to complete the job.

            The "one", planning and paying closer attention. I looked at my ingredients dozens of times but didn't look at my most base ingredients, there was butter in my pie crusts, I cook things in butter, butter is everywhere! lol. ok not so funny but a little funny. When it comes to allergies and dietary restrictions I need to pay closer attention to the little things.


4.) In terms of the dishes themselves, how satisfied were you with their result? What would you do differently for them?

            I was very satisfied with the results of all the dishes! They were great, I have had only one person say anything "bad" about them and that was that they weren't sure about the chickpeas but that they usually aren't their thing anyway. I am still getting comments and praise about the food and it is Wednesday!

            Though I did have 2 interesting experiences, After last year no one said anything bad to me about the food including person "A" who this year said to me they were unsure if they wanted to have feast because of last years. Sigh, this is a person I know and would have expected to say something if they thought it was "that bad" they told me this as a reference though to praise the job I have done this year. The second was again people who were there last year and had said again that the food from last year was good but I had outdone myself and they were looking forward to next year to see what I do.

5.) Did the food meet your goals? If not all of them, which ones were achieved, and which were not?

                The food more than met my goals. The only thing I was unhappy with was that the chickpeas stuck  in the beginning but I was able to get them unstuck and keep them from sticking further.

                Because of my miscount on eggs the pumpkin ended up with more white than it should have had changing it a little but not allot. I was still very happy with the results.

                The Turkeys were a HUGE hit, more so than I expected actually and even with sending them whole to the table for "presentation" and ease on us, they were well received.

                The Kohlrabi seems to have been viewed with some skepticism but not allot was returned to the kitchen out of 8 bowls I had 2 bowls left over and I think 1 of those was from high table where there were only 3 adults eating. This would have been a very expensive dish If I hadn't had the pine nuts left from something else.

                I heard great things about the eggs which is what I was hoping for. They were not your standard stuffed eggs and I think people liked that. I did hear some about the raisins in them nothing terribly negative, the person I overheard admitted they don't care for raisins to begin with.  I do not think the count was too off but could have been adjusted down slightly.

                The rouladen, what can I say about  meat stuffed with meat.  The flavor is very close to last years but the experience of them is different, only 1 person said they liked last year's better with the hardboiled egg yolks. Thorvaldr noted that they should be served with a sauce, then I pointed out they were in a bowl of it. lol, forgot to ask what he thought of them after that.

The broccoli had no leftovers and that says something. More than one person remarked that the texture had been perfectly preserved. I think this is the dish that made me proudest. I was so scared of over or under cooking it as both are easily done.

Portions were very under control  though the rouladen could have been cut in half. I would not have been comfortable cooking less of anything but the chickpeas maybe the kohlrabi.

This year I worked to improved communication, I sent Edward a copy of the time plan as it would apply to him in advance so he had a to look it over and see if there were any problems with it from his point of view.

I also had a plan this year to give him. I posted it outside the kitchen for anyone to look at as well as a copy of the menu.

I knew the menu very,  very well . It was easier for me to keep track this year of what was done and what needed doing by using a folder that had my recipes in it as well as the time schedule. When someone asked what to do next if I did not immediately know I had something to reference and it helps allot. I also tried to stay on one task at a time as well as keep others on one task at a time.

Going in Thursday helped, not with the cooking as much as I was able to take the time to set things up and organize, I got some foods done as well but having the time to unpack and sort things really helped. It meant more time for me to work on the food. I could get up early Friday and start immediately. Without that there would have been more of a time crunch and the nap I needed to take would not have been possible. Potentially leaving me much worse off.

I had a clock! It was one of the important things for me. Last year I had a hard time with time and knowing what time it was. With a clock I was more able to keep focused. Knowing what time it was an how much time I had helped immensely!

We had less garbage! I have no clue really how that happened. Though it was in my mind it was not my top concern.  There is only 1 thing I processed at home and that was the pumpkin.  Everything else was processed on site.