Ever wonder what’s cooking at ICE? Five-Course Friday gives you a snapshot of what we are whipping up weekly. Whether you pop in to a recreational class, catch a professional demo or watch the transformation from student to chef, there is something scrumptious happening daily.

Bread baked by Sim Cass, one of the founding bakers of Balthazar

Delicious Focaccia baked in the same bread class as above

Bolognese from Culinary Arts students

Panna Cotta from California Wine Country recreational cooking class

Cake Pops to celebrate graduating Pastry Arts class

Have a delicious weekend!

Whew. ServSafe is now under my belt. My Culinary Management class took the exam early this month and we just got our scores back a few days ago. I’m happy to report that I passed. The refresher course has actually come at an ideal time as I just started a new job at Smith Canteen. My first few days involved trying to figure out how to arrange storage so that we were in compliance with health codes.

In the past weeks, Steve taught us about the restaurant experience for guests and opportunities for us to be great. He included ideas like having the chef visit all of the tables in the restaurant. He said that many people find being able to chat with the chef and be able to convey all of their ideas and concerns directly to the person in charge of the food is a great touch. However, he warned that the chef shouldn’t stand and hover creepily over diners without saying anything, because that becomes a negative experience. Last year, at Le Bernardin, I saw Eric Ripert glide out of the kitchen and come and visit one of the tables. Even though he didn’t visit my table, I remember how the entire dining room atmosphere changed and how thrilled I was to see that he was in the kitchen. More…

In my youth, when life was without obligations, like kids and a mortgage, I would find myself in Paris with nothing but a pocketful of francs and the desire to try every pastry shop I passed. Those were glorious days, with every morning spent searching for the perfect pain au chocolat, each afternoon sitting in the parlor at Ladurée and the evenings devoted to the shops of Hermé and Hévin. I ate my way through Paris and try as I might to enjoy the elegant, intricate creations that each shop presented, I found myself drawn back to the classic French patisserie. The simple elegance of the perfect brioche, millefeuille or Paris-Brest. I didn’t need those chocolate and sugar garnishes, the layers of pâte de fruit and mousse au chocolat. Just give me simple but perfect, and I am happy. Of course I had my favorites and one little guy stood out among the rest. The religieuse, a double decker of pâte à choux, (cream puff dough), filled with crème patissiere (custard), dipped in fondant and piped with buttercream, all in a single flavor, traditionally chocolate or coffee although violet, rose and pistachio are excellent as well. It’s named after its shape, which is said to resemble a nun’s habit. For me, it was like finding a little piece of god.

It’s been many years since I have had the pleasure of enjoying one as they seem to be elusive here in the Big Apple. Now suddenly, out of the blue, they seem to be everywhere. My husband surprised me for our wedding anniversary and we had an elegant if somewhat strange dinner at La Grenouille. The room itself was timeless — I could have been anywhere in Paris, with the gilded ceilings and the gorgeous flowers. The food was classic French, heavy cream sauces and the lesser-known body parts. Truth be told, I could have done without the stuffy service and the waitstaff who kept trying to duck under our table, between our legs to plug in the table lamps that constantly unplugged themselves. (Unbelievably, this was true and it was happening not just at our table but all around us.) But dessert was a lovely surprise, a delicious chocolate soufflé and a near perfect coffee religieuse. I say near perfect because, as a purist, I was disappointed by the vanilla buttercream used to garnish it. I felt it should have been coffee. Still, it was great and we fought over the last bites. More…