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Sunday, May 2, 2010

What a day

Finally crawled out of bed, although I feel like I could use another hour or two before I'm totally caught up. It was a long day yesterday.
Started with the Big Run Half, which is recapped here. After coming home, blogging (used to be, how I've changed!), shower and change, H-woman and I went off to our culinary adventure at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology).
The Social Club where I work arranged this, and this was the third session (first one was Mexican and the second Asian). After meeting at the Highwood Restaurant (where the Culinary Arts program works out of) we met up with Chef Darryl (??), where he walked us through basic safety and sanitary standards for the kitchen. Reviewing the menu, we discussed all the recipes. On tap was:
Spanikopita with Tzatziki sauce.
Calamari with Spicy Tomato sauce.
Classic Greek salad.
Marinated Roast Rack of Lamb.
Crab-stuffed Potatoes.
Roast Vegetables.
We broke into groups, with each group being responsible for one or two of the menu items, although we were free (and encouraged) to wander around and help out the other groups. The kitchen itself was huge, and I'm already spending my dream lottery winnings on so much of the equipment I saw in there!!! My group got the Baklava, which wasn't as difficult as you would like. Phyllo pastry (already made, and available in the freezer section of your local store), mixed nuts (walnuts, roasted almonds), brown sugar and cinnamon (which the Chef had already prepared for us), and the honey syrup (honey, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice) which he called Friendship Syrup, as he's always replenishing it for the next corporate group that comes never is used completely. Here's my group using a wee bit of buttah on our baklava (okay, we went through 2 pounds!! I think all told, we probably had a good 5-6 pounds of buttah in everything, by the time it was all said and done!) - we did traditional diamond layers, and a rolled version.

It was really fun wandering through a professional kitchen (we all got to keep the chef's hats) and we had our aprons with our "dry" and "wet" clothes hanging off the sides. Taught us knife techniques and other fun tidbits, but H-woman and I are known for showing no fear in the kitchen, so we were both right at home! I even had to explain to someone why the melted butter looked "funky" - she thought it had curdled and gone bad. Explained the milk solids, clarifying it, etc. She was ready to throw out an entire pot of buttah!!! Of course, this is the same person that was ready to boil the spinach for the spanikopitas...thank goodness Chef tackled her before the bag went into the pot!
We wandered around, helping out here and there, drying calamari, tasting (he encouraged constant tasting), watching the lamb racks being grilled (OMG, they looked so good!)...Chef taught us to feel the meat to test for doneness - he doesn't trust thermometers - it was all so interesting.
Makes me ponder my life decisions...I believe in fate, and that things happen for a reason. If I didn't work at the bank to the point of mental breakdown, would I have ever ended up where I did and meet the friends I have?! Who knows...back in high school, I was originally planning on being a psychiatrist, until my first Physics class!!! Then I knew I would never make it into, let alone, through med school, and then that idea faded. I took a year off after graduating, and ended up at Mount Royal College (now University) in the Public Relations program. However, I graduated in '84 (yes, I am THAT old!) right when the oil world imploded, and every Calgarian was out of work. I still worked for the bank part-time, so never did find a job in PR, or left the bank for that matter until '97. Took a complete mental breakdown for me to figure out that I really, really, really hated banking!!! Brief foray into a small company for a couple of years, which was a blessing because 18 (holy crap!) years with the bank taught me NOTHING, until my latest company, where I have been for 10 glorious years now. Yes, I am THAT with it.
Anyway, had I known SAIT and the Culinary program existed (I was a south Calgary girl, and SAIT was in the north end of the city, which I had no real knowledge of...weird, I know) I would have chosen that path, I think. I do love to create in the kitchen, and I think I would have done well. Oh's a hobby I adore and will continue to enjoy for many years to come. Back to our regularly scheduled programming...
After getting everything prepped and ready, Chef coordinated the appetizers being done, and sent us all back out to our tables, which the lamb rested and the rest of the entree was cooking.
We started with the Spanikopita (rolled a few of these bad boys myself) with the Tzatziki and a beet Tzatziki (the pink one). The Calamari was tossed with flavoured flour (oregano, paprika, S&P) and deep fried, and served with a lovely spicy tomato sauce (which was blitzed with a massive, hard-core immersion blender...I sooooo need one of those!!). Sorry...I was so hungry I started to eat before I remembered to take a picture!

Greek Salad...I brought home leftovers!

The sauces...tomato in the far metal bowl, beet tzatziki off to the right.

While we all enjoyed our appies, Chef and his team pulled out the potatoes, roasted veggies and lamb, which he then carved for us, while we lined up, buffet style.
OMG...that was the BEST.LAMB.EVER!!!!!!! And I'm not the biggest fan...I don't go out of my way to buy it, although every now and then I get a hankering. The veg were roasted perfectly, and again tossed with various spices - some were just roasted, while the zucchini, eggplant and red peppers were grilled first. Yummo!!! The potato was really rich, and while I didn't get a strong crab flavour from mine, it was still really good. I don't really associate crab with Greek food, but this has so much potential to be changed up.
The lamb was grilled first to sear the outside, and therefore seal in the juices. Then it was roasted in a hot oven for 25 minutes, before sitting to rest. Served medium was perfect!!!

We were all stuffed to the gills, and you can tell because I totally forgot to take a picture of the Baklava!!! To was TO.DIE.FOR...
With the food coma starting, I dropped H-woman off at her man's place, and whipped home to change (again!) for Wissam's SFM Spa grand opening. I arrived to a formal "purple" carpet entrance, doormen in bowler hats, ladies in grand french lace & hoop dresses, ballet dancers in the corners, gorgeous butterflies (not real) hanging everywhere, fod, drink and everyone dressed to the nines...oops, guess I didn't see that part of the invite! Felt a tad under dressed, but no one else seemed to care. He did such a brilliant job on the really is beautiful. Complete with a private Man's Section, with barber chairs, for those too shy to sit in a fru-fu salon. If you live in Calgary, and are looking for a stylist, mine is one of the best. Has won many awards to prove it! What I really like is that he has partnered with the Calgary Women's Emergency Shelter and Kid's up Front to form the Butterfly Project (hence the butterflies hanging everywhere). That was also the focus of last night's shindig, to indtroduce the project to his clients (did I mention, based on the outfits, that were was a lot of money wandering through the salon last night?!).
I had a quick drink (all non-alcoholic, as he is a very devout Muslim), passed on the food (still sooooo full, but it looked lovely) visited with those I knew and was home just after 9. I was falling asleep on my feet! Good thing the salon is a block from my home!
Okay...must finish my coffee and plan the day.
Sorry for the long post, but so much to say!

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