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eG Foodblog: Eden - Italian Renaissance Banquet in Seattle


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What an interesting blog! Eden, is food historian your main career? If so, could you say a little more about it? For example, are you employed academically, do you publish articles, etc.

I'm retired, but it's theoretically my main endeavor (life seems to throw a lot of piddling little things in the way of my study/research time: the laundry often seems more urgent, the ferrets know they're more important, cooking dinner for 150 people...)

I've had a few articles published. My main project at the moment ins translating a 14th century italian recipe collection that I hope to turn into a book when I wrap it up. (Base translation is all done, and now I'm just trying to find time with a friend who's more of a calligraphy expert to review the manuscript. She however has a day job...) and of course I have several other projects waiting in the wings soon as I finish that one, because there are allthese cool things I'm interested in if I could just find the time for them!

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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I suspect you've been on a schedule all week, but when does your kitchen schedule start tomorrow?  Does the feast start in the early evening?

The site lets us in at 10AM so thats when we theoretically strt, but I have one last grocery stop to make in the AM on the way there so I'll be starting earlier.

The banquet starts at 5pm and runs till about 8:30 or 9. (and we have to be offsite at 11pm so we're going to have to hustle to get all those dishes washed & get out of there on time!)

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Tonight we prepped a simple syrup in which to dip grapes so we can make forsted/sugared grapes (they will be SO pretty), mixed cinnamon-sugar for the lombard rice, and made dough for over 60 pie crusts

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That's my friend James making the dough. He is the king of pie crust, and high volume cooking in general.

Here's Bill kindly doing the last of the artichokes so I don't have to face them :wub:

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(Did I mention that I never want to cook another artichoke again ever? :biggrin: )

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Lunch at Rovers:

This was a very nice lunch, though not as outstanding as our previous experience there, and there were some logistics issues I was not thrilled by.

Because we were large group they required an automatic gratuity (which I have some sympathy with although it frustrates me, but they actually charged us tax on top of the gratuity! Who does that???) More frustrating was that we were required to only have the set menu lunch (big mistake we would have spent SO much more money if we'd been left to our own devices!) And they only told me about this a month after I made the reservation :angry: (there were 10 of us originally, but two of our group dropped out because of that) I did have them make an exception for one friend who has some health issues, which was a good thing because it turned out that I couldn't eat the appetizer & just asked him to order me a "spare" :biggrin:

but on to the food, which was all happy and relaxed.

Apparently it's OK to order the foie on top of your set menu so we got a plate to share around: Salt Crusted Hudson Velley Foie Gras with King Boletus and Klipsun verjus this was of course fabulous (made a few new foie converts) and after the foie was gone we fought over the stray mushrooms.

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The official appetizer was Dungeness crab cake with shaved fennel and a chive creme

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Apparently it was good enough that one friend ate two, hers and mine :biggrin:

I'm allergic to seafood so I got chanterells on celeriac puree instead gallery_28660_3710_2843.jpg

Simple and very tasty, I shared with no-one!

meanwhile my friend working from the regular menu had Chilled heirloom tomato soup with herbed goat cheese caille and Sweet Pepper oil

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For entrees we had two choices:

Troll King Salmon with Turnip, zucchini and smoked bacon. I heard mixed opinons on the bacon with the salmon and Bill said overall it was very nice, but just didn't make him leap out of his chair...

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And for me, Muscovy dusk creast with baby carrot, wild mushroom and a moroccan olive sauce. This was really good, but not what we expected from the description. the "morrocan olive sauce" was incredibly light, a few olives in a stock reduction sauce? and barely spiced - it really brought out the flavor of the duck, but just wasn't what I'd expected form the description.

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My on-menu friend had venison with beet and turnip purees

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dessert was a plum and brown butter tartlet with a caramel sauce. The plating on this was just beautiful!

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and from the official menu a black and green tea sorbet

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We finished with an array of cheeses (also OK to order in addition to the set menu)

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I don't remember exactly, but they were a very nice little crottin, a fromage du bois (triple creme, runny and outstanding ), a nice roquefort, a stinky rind washed Italian cheese that scared some folks :laugh: , and a firm spanish cheese that I hadn't heard of before.

All in all a really lovely break in an all too hectic week.

Time for me to get some rest before the big day!

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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Good luck tonight. Don't let the vapors mount to your head :laugh:

Oil and potatoes both grow underground so french fries may have eventually invented themselves had they not been invented -- J. Esther
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:biggrin: Great to see you blogging this week, Eden!  I knew you were into historic cooking/recipes, but this feast seems amazing!

I grew up with the eggs too.  We called them "egg in a hole," and always dunked the circle into the egg.  :wub:

Cheers,

Wow there are a TON of names for these I hadn't come across before, ("toad in a hole" I knew) I particularly like Kouign's "goldmine sandwiches", and shellfishfiend's "nest eggs" are very cute.

I agree that it's nice if you can toast up the center to dip in your yolk, but I always end up eating it while I'm waiting for the rest to finish cooking :laugh:

For my family, toad in the hole was sausages cooking in Yorkshire Puddings, and eaten on Christmas eve.

Very much enjoying this blog- my love of food history started upon reading Margaret Visser's Much Depends on Dinner. Also have Seven Centuries of English Cooking. When I took Non Dramatic Seventeenth C. Lit at school we finished the term with a seventeenth century dinner.

Edited by annanstee (log)

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

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Good luck tonight.  Don't let the vapors mount to your head :laugh:
:laugh::laugh::laugh: I have had a good half bootle of wine to finish off my evening so the vapors are definately mounted to my head, but that's probably because I didn't eat any of the olives :raz:
For my family, toad in the hole was sausages cooking in Yorkshire Puddings, and eaten on Christmas eve.
Yes! that's what I think toad in the hole is supposed to be too! (Except not just for christmas)

I have promised Bill I will come right to bed so for tonight I will just say that things went very well over all, and "i'm not dead yet!" :biggrin:

I will provide much info & many pictures in the morning (make that later this morning)

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Ok I have to start by saying I work with the most amazing group of cooks ever!

Between loading the equipment to cooking all day, cleaning & packing up and then unloading again folks were working form 9am to about midnight. There were about 25 people through the kitchen over the course of the day not counting all the fabulous dishwarers who came to help out. And despite some serious craziness at time, and a few major ingredient traumas the food they turned out was fabulous!

What surprising is how much of the day the kitchen looked really calm

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This is team pie crust, turning out the first 40 pie crusts all at once because the gourd tarts and the cheesecake baoth had to get cooked early:

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and here's the gourd tarts being filled

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(Don't worry we're hard core about handwashing or using gloves!)

while many of us were busy cooking a small specialty team were working on preparing the garnishes

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The beef was stewed in what felt like a million crockpots, though probably only 10. gallery_28660_3710_160257.jpg

this created one of our first problems: a couple of the crock pots were just not heating significantly, and we were worried about getting the beef done at all since the whole kitchen schedule was predicated on not needing stove or oven space to cook this dish. Fortunatley a couple "spares" arrived just in the nick of time and the very nice lady who runs the hall found us another crockpot up in their storage room.

Here's the pesto being mixed up for the pasta:

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Team pasta was really worried that they'd oversalted the dish, because the parmiggiano was so salty, plus I made them uber-salt the pasta itself, but we still had one diner say it needed more salt :blink:

Edited by Eden (log)

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We were serving 19 odd tables of diners, and as you can imagine it takes a lot of space to deck out 19 plates worth of food.

Here's our main decking area, with a couple sets of plates ready to be filled

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depending on the dish we would either bring a big pot of food out to the area & lay it out on the plates, garnish & serve, or we might deck it up in the kitchen & then send it out here to be served.

here are a bunch of the gourd tarts & the cheesecakes in one of the back rooms waiting their turn to be garnished & sent out.

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The gourd tarts had to be popped out of their tins because those had to be used again to make the pizzas. We have most of our equipment in sets of 20, which just covers a banquet of this size or a little larger, but if we need the same piece more than once we need to get it turned around & washed fairly quickly.

We have a fairly strict rule that except for the Head Table where the "royalty" sit, tables must be composed of eight people. that way we know we're sending the right amount of food to each table. The number eight was decided long before my time because "one pie serves eight people" and that way we could just send an entire pie to a table & not have to think about them further. (there are a LOT of pies/tarts/etc in medieval cooking...)

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We have a fairly strict rule that except for the Head Table where the "royalty" sit, tables must be composed of eight people.  that way we know we're sending the right amount of food to each table.  The number eight was decided long before my time because "one pie serves eight people" and that way we could just send an entire pie to a table & not have to think about them further.  (there are a LOT of pies/tarts/etc in medieval cooking...)

Wow, this is all just amazing. Those tarts look great.

Who is the royalty, by the way? (You can answer this later - I know you are trying to get your account written up!)

Danielle Altshuler Wiley

a.k.a. Foodmomiac

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So here's the first course all cooked & ready to be served:

the finished gourd tarts with the fresh fruit

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Hre's one we dressed up a little more specially to go to the Head Table. (the symbol of the local group is a tree)

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Here are the pickled peaches. As I expected they were not beloved by all, but folks thought they were interesting & it broadened their horizons a little... Platina says peaches stimulate the appetite, so folks must not have eaten enough of them because there was SO much food left over at the end.

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I wish this photo had come out better - the little cups of butter were SO lovely, not merely garished with flowers but they also used a lemon zester to give the butter an interesting texture.

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olives (gotta keep away those vapors!)

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the gingered pine nuts were very popular!

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Wow, this is all just amazing. Those tarts look great.

Who is the royalty, by the way? (You can answer this later - I know you are trying to get your account written up!)

the royalty in this case were a "Baron & Baroness" who are the nominal heads of the local group (King County) there were also a guest Baron & Baroness from another group. They had a handful of retainers sitting up there with them as well.

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oh and the local baroness carved the tree and all the little leaves for the gourd tart. Of course we had to set up a special table for her to work at, out of the kitchen so she didn't get her fancy dress mucked up around all the food, but she's not just decorative :laugh:

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Second course

roast chicken With the chicken we discovered that one of our two commercial ovens was running about 200 degrees f too cool :shock: , and had to really crank it to get enough heat. Plus of course it just takes a LOT of oven space to fit 150 chicken thighs. We filled all four ovens to capacity with these little guys.

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Here are the green & garlic sauces with a bunch of servers waiting to take them out into the hall. (Sorry no pics of the Orange sauce)

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The pasta was a little problem also, the people in charge of serving had a weird system they were trying to use, that didn't work well with how we've normally arranged getting the food out to the hall once it's ready, so everyone had to stand around bickering for a little bit here, while the pasta was getting cold. :angry: it's still fine lukewarm, just moves more into the pasta salad arena, but I was not happy about it. Our group has a reputation of getting "hot food out hot & on time", that I feel was compromised a little here.

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Fasoli, a dish that while not lovely I really wanted to serve because it tastes really good, and legumes are a big part of medieval/renaissance italian cuisine.

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Third course (last one for the 15th century)

the candied fennel confits and the fruit/cheese/quince paste plate in the back corner

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Here's the cheesecake all gussied up

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And here's the servers lined up again to fetch the cheesecakes

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The servers were just volunteers from each table. We'd had a plan originally to have a dedicated serving crew but the coordinator didn't pull it off...

This course was followed by a short break so people could get up & stretch their legs. there was some dancing, a little music etc.

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No rest in the kitchen during that pause I must add.

Now on to the 16th century and the fourth course. Some of the diners were already begging for mercy because they'd eaten too much (wimps!) and from here we start to really get a lot of food back uneaten. :sad:

the frosted grapes

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people loved these little grape sugar bombs, personally I can only eat one and then I'm flying...

For the cauliflower salad, I picked up a coupld or purple caulies at the farmers market & we mixed those in so thid dish maw to some dgree self garnishing, but then of course they had to garnish it too.

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No picture of the carot salad OR the Lombard rice (I think Bill got drafted to help with something) too bad the rice was beautiful to look upon, with a georgeous golden crust, and even richer than usual because the main cook on that dish accidentally used about twice the amount of egg yolks he was supposed to (thus shorting another dish, of which more later) Rave reviews and Bill was very sad not to have snagged any leftovers, but I've promised to make him some later.

The vegetarian rice took a little while to heat up but was quite good. Nothing like almost as much cheese as rice to make your starch tastier!

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This was made friday night and put into a vaccuum sealed bag, so we didn't need to waste any real stove space or kitchen time on for it on saturday. (One of our members who couldn't make it to the event cooked it up and sent it along as her contribution for the day)

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Fifth course

Our "steward" the guy who coordinates the transition of food from the kitchen out to the hall rushed this one a little. The beef & the artichokes went out almost as soon as the 4th course was done being delivered sort of blurring between them, and the onions (which were taking a little longer to fry) came out a good 10 minutes behind the rest of the course. These are the little things you have to let go...

This was probably the favorite dish of the night. It's hearty beef for the "meat and potatoes" crowd, but still really complex with all the fruits and spices for folks who are looking for more interesting foods.

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the sole purpose of the bread rolls was to sop up extra beef sauce because otherwise people would have licked off their plates :biggrin:

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the artichokes were also quite popular, people were snacking on the extras for the rest of the night.

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and the fried onions were worth the wait. We had some swapping around of serving dishes so they ended up gong out on a plate that was WAY too pale to show them off though...

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edited to add that the vegetarians did not get short shift here either, these lentils are going into my regular repertoire...

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Edited by Eden (log)

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the sixth and final course:

Just to show you how much of a difference Team Garnish can make, here's the bowl of melons on the way from plain to really lovely

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the jordan almonds look like some feng shui-oid bowl of river rocks :laugh:

The little bowl that's different in the back is pieces of candied cinnamon that went to the Baroness because she hates nuts.

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And finally, the "Pizza" - This was like the cursed dish. First the crust got made in the wrong shape, so one of our crew had to sit there rolling out a million 1" wide strips of dough to reline the cake pans correctly. Then the filling got started late, whereupon we discvoered that all the egg yolks had been used up by the rice team and we were low on eggs. We faked it by using whole eggs. Next we realized that yours truly had candied all the pine-nuts so there were no pine nuts for the dish. Creative solution: we used the leftover candied pine nuts and adjusted the sugar & spices a little. We also figured out later that we completely forgot to add the saba. :wacko: but it tasted good & no-one in the hall knew we were tearig our hair out, so all's well...

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notice the little sugar fleur de lis being used for garnish. No, the knight didn't make it :sad:, but overall things went really well. The food was very good (expecially that 5th course) it looked just lovely and people had a good time in & out of the kitchen.

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Since some of you probably want to see what it looked like outside the kitchen, here are a couple shots.

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I'm standing in the center of this one in a blue & white dress, talking to folks during a break. (Oh yes, the pizza was so far behind that we had them do a second little pause before we brought out the final course.)

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and here I am in the kitchen being camera shy, but wearing my favorite apron. :biggrin:

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Oh, here's the pile of leftover food being bagged up

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And here's a miniscule percetage of the heaps and heaps of dishes that were washed.

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because we had the wunder-washers working for us all through the meal, as well as afterwards we were actually packed up & out of the hall within an hour and a half after the meal finished!

When we were all finished at the site I was a bum and did not go help with the unloading of the equipment, but went to a friends house to unwind instead - I needed it...

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now that's my idea of leftovers! :biggrin:

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Really impressive! I wish I would have gotten to taste the dishes, they of course look like things I am quite accustomed to eating, but I am sure I would have enjoyed experiencing some new (or I guess old) flavor combinations.

What was your favorite dish?

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Really impressive!  I wish I would have gotten to taste the dishes, they of course look like things I am quite accustomed to eating, but I am sure I would have enjoyed experiencing some new (or I guess old) flavor combinations.

What was your favorite dish?

Hard to say, I love the pasta for historical reasons, I love the cauliflower because it's the second form of caulies I've ever come across that I actually liked, and I love the artichokes for their delectable yumminess :biggrin:

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Yeah it kinda was... Now I have to make sure that the girl who's thinking aobut doing next year's banquet doesn't think that she has to do something this insane too - we normally only do 3-4 courses at these things, I just went a little overboard :biggrin:

So I just totalled up all my receipts

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our food costs came to about $7.33 per person, which breaks down further to $1.20 per course.

Oh here's our kitchen schedule up on the wall, along with a couple of recipes, for folks to track what needs doing when...

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Here's the missing orange-sauce photo

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and this is what it looked like outside my house this afternoon/evening. A lovely cool seattle day :wub:

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If I wasn't still dog tired, we'd have been out walking and enjoying the weather. As it is, I'm curled up inside with a cup of cocoa - almost as good...

Edited by Eden (log)

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