Assignment #5: Eat Design

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We were given the choice of doing a savory dish or a sweet one. We ended up with the savory option.

Right away we started brainstorming creative ideas for a good experience. We thought right away about doing a "savory dessert." We had the idea of making a doughnut and stuffing it with various things and then have some sort of guessing game go along with that. There was also to be a carnival theme with that. However, we learned in class that there would be multiple other "savory desserts," so we decided to rethink our original plan.

We had thought about perhaps putting bacon in our doughnuts and since we weren't going to do that anymore, we decided to keep the bacon concept. We then started to brainstorm all of the things that went well with bacon.

We landed on the idea of B.L.Ts. How could we innovate BLTs and create a fun and interesting user experience. What if... we made a tomato soup and layered it with the ingredients of BLT?

We set out to do just that.
Starting with this recipe:
1 can, whole tomatoes
1/2 small onion
1/2 cucumber
1 tsp salt
1 tbls white wine vinegar
1 tbls olive oil
1 jalapeno
1 clove of garlic

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We put all of these things together and incorporated them with an immersion blender.
Now, whether or not to leave it as a cold soup or heat it up?
So, we tried both!

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It turned out that the heated version had a much different flavor profile of the cold soup. When the judges tasted the cold soup, some found it to be too oniony and garlicy. Also we tried bread on this version and that ended up getting too soggy.

Because we chose to do a cold soup, we thought that the experience portion would have to do with something cold. We landed on the concept of "Ice Fishing." This lead us to think of ways to make it like a cold experience. We brought some ice fishing poles, a white table cloth, some animated fish, and buckets with ice for the soup to rest on.

For the final presentation/ event, we tweaked the recipe slightly.
We doubled it and added about a cup of mayonnaise to the soup for extra creaminess and salt flavoring. The soup was prepped and chilled in the class the day of.
In order to eliminate some of the onion and garlic flavors, we decided to saute these ingredients with the jalapeno in an effort to mute the flavors a bit... it worked!

When we arrived for the night, the first thing was to get the bacon frying!

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The next step was to get our buckets of ice ready for the "plating." Assembly included our round tumblers, the soup, bacon bits, crouton bits, and shredded lettuce.

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Next, time for table set up!

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And here's a close up of that cute little shark...

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And here is a close up shot of our final product:

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Assignment #4: Creating a wooden utensil or vessel

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I'd like to start with saying that it has been a very long time since I have stepped foot in a wood shop. Even then, the purpose was to create a wooden car in the sixth grade. While I was familiar with some of the equipment, I still had no idea where to begin for this project.

I started with sketching and brainstorming. What in the world could I possibly think of... and which of those might be made practical enough to make.

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I then tried to narrow some of them down. Which were my favorite ideas?

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And then simply narrowing it down to just one:

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The next question: what kind of wood should I use? I ventured to the local wood store and picked out some oak. Relatively inexpensive, good for utensils, and sturdy enough to last.

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The first step in the process was to draw on the wood what I envisioned to come out of it.

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Second, start sawing away!

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Third, sanding. Lots and lots of sanding.

The end result is the "2-in-1 Stir and Serve."
While the design is a play on the two classic utensils, its work is primarily to stir things, and even serve them up if needed. This way, there is only clean up for one instead of multiple.

Taking a spiced honey cake and trying to make it look pretty while incorporating several elements of design is no small feat; especially for someone who is new to these concepts entirely and is studying something unrelated. However, this turned out to be one of the more engaging, fun assignments yet.

The beginning was rough. I have the cake, now what? The first thing I tried was making a "flower." I then took some white chocolate syrup and drizzled it over the top and attempted at making a stem for that flower.

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This is when I really had my first lesson on the whole "thicker sauces are better sauces" concept. The cake ended up just soaking in the white chocolate and the stem turned into something that was more like a blob. As far as the flower, it just didn't do anything for me as far as visuals, and I couldn't imagine building off of it any more.
I did want to use the small center cake round, however. So I started to try out different sauce patterns on the plate that I had purchased for this assignment. While it is just a simple, white square, it had the potential to properly showcase the cake round. A circular plate would create a lack of balance and would be odd to look at.

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But before I got to work on refining that of my circle cake, I decided to experiment with some squares. What could I do with one square?

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How about two or three?

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The next step was to think of different colors and flavors that would play well with my cake. I had some raspberries on hand, so I decided to try using those. I acquired a raspberry sauce and started to pipe away. I also found some apple butter that I knew would play into both the flavor and color of the cake.

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I started to think of how I was going to dress up the cake. Like in the last picture, the plain circle wasn't doing it for me. So I thought, how can I make the apple butter work without putting it on the plate? I used the same concept of layer as I had with the squares, and I put some in the middle and on top. Still blah, I stuck a raspberry on top. My conclusion was that there was too much red from the raspberry and sauce. What could I use that would contrast. I thought of using something green. I found that it is hard to find things that are green that aren't some form of lettuce. I found some pistachio gelato that I was thinking would be good for varying temperatures and textures. However, it just wasn't bright enough. And then I saw it; a lime. With both shades of green, I knew this would go excellent with the raspberry.

I should mention that I got the idea of dusting the final product with something and powdered sugar was a bit been there, done that. I found some lime flavored white chocolate, which I knew would be PERFECT in addition to the lime on top. I used the smaller side of a cheese grater to accomplish the little shavings.

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I still liked the idea of having ice cream somewhere in there. I bought some caramel ice cream, hoping that would do the trick. Where would I put it though? Perhaps in the middle to make an ice cream sandwich? No, it would melt and look gross. I decided to try it on top, removing the raspberry and preserving the lime. The raspberry fell to the plate, and I thought: "that would be an excellent spot to start some dots of sauce! I planned on leaving the apple butter in the middle, but I still thought it needed more. Chef Diane Yang from La Belle Vie taught me of a cool technique in class that I wanted to try. Upon freezing raspberries, I would crush them up, and the small pockets of the berry would still be intact. I then sprinkled them into the apple butter for a pop of color inside the layer cake.

Final Critique

I started off by making my circles. I put the apple butter in the middle and sprinkled my raspberry bits around the edges for show. I put it in the middle of the plate like practiced, but then I decided to shove it to a corner to create space for my dots. Whole raspberry in place, I used a squirt bottle to make larger dots on down to the tiniest one possible.

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I did not want to put the ice cream on top until it was my turn in fear of it melting. I used a wet tablespoon and scooped some out, stuck my lime wedge in it, and dusted it with my lime white chocolate shavings. Ready to present!

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[With a main focus on honey spice cake, I layered it with apple butter and raspberry bits then topped it with caramel ice cream, lime white chocolate shavings, and a fresh lime wedge for added color contrast against the raspberry on the plate.]


Assignment #2: Amuse Bouche, feat. Butternut Squash

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Brainstorming and Testing
To get started, I wanted to brainstorm all of the different seasonal fruits and vegetables that I had to pick from, so I went to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture's website. There I found a list of all the fall grown items:

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Since there were so many to choose from, I wanted to narrow it down to a few options and make some flavor maps from there. I picked 5:
-pumpkin
-apple
-kale
-squash
-cantaloupe

I made a flavor map of pumpkin:

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While doing the flavor mapping, I was trying to think of dairy options that I could stick in the sodium alginate solution and make a gel. I had some pumpkin puree and some cream cheese, so I experimented with that.

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I mixed the puree in with the cream cheese and added some sugar because of the bitterness of the pumpkin. I was careful not to add too much as I didn't want to mask the calcium in the cream cheese too much to the point where it wouldn't gel. Upon tasting, I discovered that it didn't quite have the rich pumpkin flavor I wanted, however, it gelled nicely in the alginate (The orangish blob).

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With that, I also tried gelling some apple crisp yogurt (The white circles). This had a really great fall flavor that I thought I might be able to use.

I made a flavor map for cantaloupe and apples:

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I then decided to make an apple "salsa." This wouldn't have any tomatoes, however. I started with some chili powder for spice. I then chopped up a few mini snickers bars and added those. I also added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and bacon! To make the mixture a little more liquidy and thicker, I added a small amount of apple sauce and apple cider.

As far as the kale goes, I can make a mean kale chip. On top of that I added some feta and lime juice. While I liked this idea, I didn't continue much further with it.

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For the squash, I knew that it could be paired with a lot of the same things that the pumpkin could. I tried roasting some with cinnamon and butter. I also tried steam baking with water. This worked well, but the squash got kind of stringy. I wanted to try and make it a little moister that would make it better for me to mash.

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This is the point where I wasn't sure what to do next. I ventured to the restaurant Tilia for the out-of-class experience, and hoped for some inspiration. While all of the dishes were amazing, among my favorites was their take on "bacon and eggs."

I started thinking of pairing my squash mixture. The sweetness of the squash would pair great with the saltiness of the bacon. I then thought of gelling some plain vanilla yogurt. When I put them together, it lacked luster. I needed something that offered more of a kick. Then I tried sour cream. The mashed squash was yellow and tasted similar to mashed potatoes. This would work well with the sour cream, and be perfect for the yolk.
I didn't want to leave the bacon plain. I played around with mixing some caramel and honey together. I then drizzled this on the bacon, and it tasted amazing. I have come to my final project at last.

The Final Crit
The first step in preparation for the final critique was baking the squash. This needed to cook for 40-60 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

I then prepared the bacon by frying it in a skillet.

I started to make my caramel honey mixture with caramel bits, a dab of honey, and a little bit of water.

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This was microwaved and then drizzled on to the crispy bacon.
When all of that was done, I grabbed some sodium alginate, and took some small drops of sour cream to it for the "egg white."

When the squash was done, I scooped it from the outside and put it into a bowl. I then mashed it up with butter and salt. I used this as a "glue" base for the bacon to sit on so it didn't slide off the spoon. On top of the bacon went the sour cream gels and a smidgeon of squash on top for the yolk.

In the end this dish was a mix of salty, savory, and sweet with textures ranging from creamy, gooey, crispy, and jelly.

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Assignment #1

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With the options of two main ingredients: Rice V. Orzo; my inner Iron Chef is starting to burst out. I want to make my decision right away as to have plenty of time to brainstorm ideas. I thought of things for both ingredients, but I am sure I want to go in one direction over the other.

My pick: rice.

For orzo however, I did think of doing something like mac and cheese or a twist on pasta salad. I tried some other ideas out, and even purchased some orzo and cooked it. I knew I still had something better in mind for the rice.

Next up, I did some "flavor bouncing" for all of the things that go well with rice, and everything that is made with rice. At this point, everything that I have already thought of is some sort of savory dish. I want to challenge that I go with something sweet. One of my favorite things in the world is chocolate, so I figured I would try and pay some homage to that. Plus, I think it will be interesting... which can be good.

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In order to incorporate the chocolate, I will have to make the rice creamy. So, I will try cooking the rice in... cream! Shortly after I sought out doing this, it failed miserably. The cream separated and the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan and slightly burned. I didn't even want to take a picture of this horrendous sight.

I also wanted to play around with some coconut milk that I had. I tried adding that to a bit of honey and somehow mixing that in with the rice. However, upon the taste test, I made the conclusion that it was too sweet. Especially going into a dish that was as sweet as it will be.

For the chocolate component, I was thinking of doing a ganache. So far, I will have chocolate rice. But first, I need to master the creamy rice! For this, I will try cooking the rice in half and half. It has a lower fat content, but still has that creamy consistency.

This turned out soooo much better. I made some ganache with chocolate and warm cream and stirred that into the creamy rice. I served it on a plate with some walnuts for salt and crunch on top, and a mint leave from my very own plant. However, it still seems to be missing something, not to mention it doesn't exactly look delectable.

Back to the drawing board. What does it need? For some much needed help, I ran to my pantry. There I found my powdered sugar!


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This got me thinking even further. What is the sole purpose of that being in my pantry? Puppy chow! What do we make puppy chow with? RICE Chex! I grabbed my peanut butter. I took a tablespoon of peanut butter to try, and added a little splash of cream, and sent it into the microwave. I then incorporated that into my chocolate rice. Yummy!

At this point, I will just play around with the measurements of each ingredient to prepare for the main event. I also played around with idea on how to plate and form the pb-choco-rice. I tried rolling them into balls, like truffles, lots of small sqaures... which just looked like a lot of clutter.

One last dress rehearsal the night before...


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Here I discovered that the chocolate peanut butter rice mixture still wasn't all that great looking, even with the powdered sugar sprinkled on top. I tried rolling some leftover rice in it, and it looked better and took on more of the "puppy chow" look.


The day of the critique in class, I discovered a pomegranate in my fridge and thought that it would be a nice touch of not only color, but some tartness as well.
I formed the rice, which was sticky from the peanut butter into a square, much like puppy chow. Then coated it in powdered sugar, and put it on a plate with the same shape around it. I then sprinkled it with more powdered sugar, added some walnuts in the middle along with a sprig of mint, and pomegranate seeds, with some extra in the corner of the plate for some added color and design.

As far as taste goes, it wasn't my best trial. It could have used a bit more peanut butter and chocolate, but I was being super cautious as to not completely cover up the main ingredient.

Caught up in the heat of the moment, I totally forgot to take a picture of my final presentation, but I know there is a picture of it out there somewhere.

Thanks for reading!