Wine Palette

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I have never been in a product design course nor have I been challenged by a wood working project so I was very worried when this project when first given to us. I knew I wanted to create something that was simple yet practical. We first did a brain storming session in groups and came up with about 50 different ideas of innovative kitchen utensils. From there I chose a few of my favorite to prototype and think about further. We came up with a lot of serving utensils - things that were used not just in the cooking process but helped with eating. I thought a lot about my family traditions and began to list different ways to create a wooden spaghetti/noodle server that would not break up the noodles. Although I loved the concept I was worried the final result would not match up to the idea behind the tool. I began to tap together different utensils in my home to create initial prototypes for this idea. Thinking about spaghetti (yes we eat spaghetti at thanksgiving... we're italian...) made me think about all of the wine my family drinks as well. I began to think about the dryer turned bar top at my grandmas house and house typically when you go to get a drink for yourself, you offer to grab a few for others. The only problem is, you only have two hands and up to about 6 drinks you need to deliver to others. I would say about 80% of the drink requests are wine and that is when I came up with a wine serving tray that would be the solution to this problem! Working with different shapes; modern squares, geometric triangles and different fun curves i realized my designs started to look similar to painter's palette. And that breathed life into my final design. I wanted the shape to feel organic, hand made and unique so although each insert is similar they each hold a different shape/length. I didn't want the piece to look to cookie-cutter and perfect. The only problem I ran into while wood working was when I was about 90% done with the product and I dropped it on the floor. Luckily, I was able to save it by glueing it together. I didn't think about how the stain would affect this and when I took it home Sunday night to stain everything looked great. THe next morning I noticed the stain did not take to the crack/glued area and left a funny mark that in my opinion added to the raw, organic feel of the piece. I wanted to do a dark stain that (on oak) reminded my of an italian wine barrel.


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Dessert First

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From the beginning of this project I wanted to challenge myself in a way I hadn't before. So, I set myself out on a mission to find the perfect dish that broke the common 'dessert plate' that you normally see. I wanted to be challenged by the potential negative space and angles of the dish. I decided to go with a bowl with fun angles and edges. I went through many trials of combining the right textures, colors and proportions that would work with this unique plate. In the end I decided to poach plums in a wine & cinnamon broth that would create a soup-like dish and add a bright red color. The peel/edges of the plum created a circular movement around the dish that I presented in a pedal-like symmetrical pattern around the base of the cake. I went with a circular cut cake to mock the main shape of the dish and wanted to present the other pieces in a asymetrical, off-centered way. I also wanted to repeat circular shapes while contrasting them with lines and webbings. I decided to do circular balls of mascarpone, a honey roasted cranberry, and a mango puree. next to that I placed a candied ginger slice to break up the circles and gave the dish height with a webbed dark chocolate piece. If I were to do this dish again I would try to give it even more height.

Flava flav

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The first thing I wanted to do when given this project was really challenge myself. I wanted to try to use a seasonal vegetable that I wasn't comfortable using and had a challenging flavor to pair with. I started the process by listing some common seasonal vegetables and thinking of what first comes to mind when thinking of a flavor to pair them with. I wanted to do this to eliminate the typical pairings and starts the creative thinking process.

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From there began flavor mapping for a few chosen seasonal ingredients and come up wit a few "starter" ideas for preparations and presentations.

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After flavor mapping I decided to hit the Seward Coop and see what was in for seasonal ingredients and get inspired by the fun produce they had in. Below is a photo of some of the ingredients I got to play with. I then made a list of possible mix and match ingredients to try that night.

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That night I tried to combine as many flavors as possible and take a few risks with my cooking. I tried everything from pureeing the raspberries with ginger and lime to sauteeing the brussel sprouts with grapefruit.

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In the end I decided to make 5 final amuse bouche's to then chose one to take into further exploration and implementation. I decided to take the brussel sprouts further and experiment with the way I cooked them. I tried boiling them, baking them and frying/sauteeing them. My favorite was when I baked them in a balsamic and maple syrup mixture for about 30 minutes. This gave them a nice crunch and a strong savory-sweet balance in the flavor. I thought of the idea of turning the ginger orange puree into a ravioli filling and testing mixing different dairy products such as butter, greek yogurt and ricotta. I liked the consistency the greek yogurt gave with out taking away from the original flavors. I also decided to thicken the mixture with carrot.

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These three were the second stage of my processing and I had a few ideas for what I wanted to try in my final dish. I knew it was risky but had tested some of my additional flavors in my first trial one. In my final dish I decided to add gelatin to the orange ginger to make it a ravioli. I set it in square ice cub trays for something different. I also decided the dish needed some kind of sauce so sage, lime and jalepeno were my ingredients of choice. I really like how this refreshing, zesty sauce paired with the sweetness of the ravioli and the savory of the brussel sprouts.

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Rice or Orzo? That is the question.

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To be completely honest, when given the challenge of creating a dish out of orzo or rice I wasn't entirely excited. Why? Well because I have never been fond of either product and have very little experience cooking with both. So in this challenge I decided to experiment with both before making a final decision and along the way use other new ingredients and spices to expand my own palette and cooking style. If there is one thing I do love cooking with it is fresh, seasonal ingredients. So in the spirit of late summer and early fall I found myself obsessed beets and savory flavors such as truffle and gorgonzola.

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research.jpg In my first round of exploration I decided to create a dish with flavors I was comfortable with in hopes to eliminate the ones I did not like in round two and exchange them with ingredients that I was not as familiar with.

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I decided pumpkin sees would be another great addition to my seasonal theme and would give the dish an extra crunch on top.

whitetruffle.jpg I paired ahi tuna with my gorgonzola orzo simply because I felt I needed a protein. Although I loved the tuna, I did not find it to compliment the orzo. The orzo, although exploding with truffle and gorgonzola flavors, seems to be a little extreme to my taste buds. And even more importantly, I wasn't able to present the orzo in a new, interesting way like I had originally planned. The beets were delicious, simple but sweet, and complimented the gorgonzola flavors so well. I knew from here I would need to think of a creative way to later present the beets on my dish.

newingredients.jpg After a lot of brainstorming and a great discussion with Steven Brown of Tilia about what I wanted out of my dish I was able to come up with three new ingredients I have never worked with before. The first decision I made was to switch from orzo to rice. I got the chance to test cook small grain rice and fell in love with the stickiness of the rice. The way the rice could patty together so easily reminded me of crab cakes, which inspired a new idea.

beets.jpg I am all about color combination in a dish. I believe that every dish should have a little bit of green and Steve pointed out that green onion is a great pair to gorgonzola. He was definitely right. I knew I wanted to present my dish on a simple white plate which made the white of the rice difficult for me to work with. My solution? Using a spice that would not only add flavor but change the color of the rice to something bold that would pair nicely with the red/purple of the beets. Saffron, which I have never even heard of prior to researching for this specific dish, seemed to be the best solution to my problem paired with a nice white wine. Lastly, I dug up a few beets fresh from my moms Wisconsin garden (I had purchased them from the grocery store in the previous dish) and it was amazing how much sweeter they tasted!

finaldish.jpg In presenting my dish I knew I wanted the rice to mimic the form of a crab cake with a twist on the normal 'crab cake' finishes. I decided to shred the beets into a slaw and used the gorgonzola & balsamic reduction as finishing flavors to compliment both the saffron and beets.

I loved the way my last dish turned out and although I decided not to include a protein, I felt it was even more satisfying than my exploration with tuna. For my final dish I am toying of the idea of adding pear to the beet slaw and/or pulling in the pumpkin seed for that final crunch again. I hope to play more with the size of the slaw and portion of rice to create the perfect rice dish!

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