I have mentioned before working at The Restaurant back in the mid-90’s when I was working my way through college.
The Restaurant itself was more of a cafe/bakery than restaurant proper. It wasn’t really a sit-down restaurant. More of a stand in line, give your order at the counter, receive a number, go find a table, your food would be brought out to you shortly kinda place. We opened first thing in the morning and served pastries and baked goods and espresso products and we had hot breakfast options (mostly of the “put some fresh cooked eggs on one of the baked goods/pastries” variety) and shut down the kitchen between 9 and 11 to prepare for lunch when we’d serve hot and cold sandwiches (made on the store’s own baguette!) and soups and salads and, of course, pastries and baked goods. We’d lock the front doors at around 6ish (though people were there working through the night to make the baked goods and pastries for tomorrow). And then it’d start all over again.
Well, the story behind The Restaurant was that the owners met while working together at Epcot. He was in charge of the French Pavilion’s main courses, she was in charge of the French Pavilion’s pastries. They fell in love and realized, hey, they’d make one heck of a killer team. They came out to Colorado after a country-wide road trip that discovered that Colorado Springs was the place most in need of such a restaurant that would respond the best to it.
And it was from those beautiful people that I learned a lot about Cooking For Real. The Boss’s Husband was a student of Paul Bocuse (yes, THAT Paul Bocuse) and the secrets that I learned from them about cooking are, more or less, things that most anybody familiar with Cooking For Real could tell you. Heck, I won’t even bother giving you the short list when Pixar already hit most of the high notes:
The only thing that I can really add to that is that The Boss’s Husband taught me was that you should ALWAYS use the freshest and best quality ingredients. Like, ALWAYS.
And so, with that in mind, I took the attitude for how if I’m baking a cheesecake and I’m wandering through the grocery store and I’m looking at the Kroger Brand Cream Cheese and seeing that 24 ounces is three dollars and 24 ounces of Philadelphia Cream Cheese is $6.50, I get eight ounces of each, take them home, and then cook with both of them and figure out which one is the best quality before picking which one to use. Not the best value: the best quality. If I make some bagels, make some mini-cheesecakes, and I see that the Kroger Brand is 90% as good for, look at that, less than half the price, then I’m going to be buying the Philadelphia Cream Cheese to make my cheesecake.
Of course, both might be as good as each other and, in that case, get the Kroger Brand because, jeez, we’re not crazy. We’re just trying to make the best quality cheesecake we can possibly make.
After we make the best one, the PERFECT one, the one that we might wish to take to the State Fair to see how it stacks up? Okay, at that point we’re good with a cheesecake that is 90% as good for half the price of perfect.
And it’s with that in mind that I had been toiling over my cheesecakes before bringing them to friends to taste-test for me (given that I’m not really a fan of cheesecake). Which brings me to how, when at Costco the other day, I had been walking to purchase some meat for my dang low-carb diet when I walked past a guy handing out samples of a figgy goat cheese. I took the sample and felt my third eye open and my mind expand a little bit as it melted on my tongue. Seriously, it was the best culinary experience I’ve had so far this year. As I came down from the endorphin high of enjoying the cheese, the voice in the back of my head told me:
“You should make a cheesecake with THAT.”
As such, this weekend, I will be making a Figgy Goat Cheesecake.
So… what’s on your docket?
(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)