Category Archives: Ad Hoc

Blast from the past…

I like to cook, I like (to put it mildly) my kids, a little while ago I got it in my head that it would be fun to try to get my kids more interested in cooking at experiment with video a bit.  To that end I made a few “cooking shows” with my kids.  One of them was from the Ad Hoc cookbook so even though it is pretty embarrassing in retrospect (I’m not supposed to be in front of the camera!) I thought it was apropos to this week’s events.  Regrettably this was the first one I shot so it is the roughest in a number of ways but the only thing better than an Ad Hoc chocolate chip cookie is an Ad Hoc chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.

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Day Three

The next day I felt a lot more comfortable walking into the kitchen.  It was as though I had found my sea legs.  In the Bouchon kitchen chefs drink out of “deli containers” which are those round plastic containers that you get your potato salad in (if you don’t make it at home at least).  I grabbed a “half deli” and put some coffee in and was ready for the day.  My big task of the morning was turning a large quantity of foie gras into potted foie gras.  The “foie” was still warming up a bit though so Chef M gave me a different chore to bide my time with.  I broke down two huge containers (literally hundreds) of radishes into greens and the separate radishes.  The greens were bound for quiches and the radishes for a variety of things on the menu.  Then it was over to the “foie” which had to be forced through a mesh before being all mixed together and piped into the “pots.”  This seems like something that shouldn’t be that hard but I have to say I worked up a bit of a sweat working away.  In the middle of this I saw one of the chefs working with the kit I had made the night before for the “gnocchi.”  Somehow this made me quite happy.  I couldn’t resist shouting over that it looked like an amazing kit had been put together for him to which he smiled and agreed.  After piping the “foie” into the jars they have to be tapped to get any bubbles out and then they are set into the walk in to firm up.  Next I peeled fresh chick peas (never even seen these before!) and my final task was peeling pearl onions which, I have to say, is not very easy.  With that, my time in the main kitchen came to an end and I was off to bakery.

Chef J was busy helping with the baguettes when I got to the bakery.  Large pieces of dough are fed into this rather forboding machine and the baguettes come out the bottom.  These need to be gently lifted, stretched just the right amount and placed into a couche just the right way.  Let me tell you, they make it look easy but it sure isn’t easy the first time you do it.  When all the baguettes were proofing in their couches we started making a giant batch of strawberry rhubarb preserves.  First was had to slice up the rhubarb so we went about cutting it up and dropping it into a large bin.  I hadn’t cut too many things so far so I set about the task with a bit of zeal.  This of course was a bad idea because before long I had managed to cut myself.  The good news is my fingers had been curled under the right way so it could have been much, much worse.  The bad news was it sidelined me and embarrassed me a good bit.  But soon things were back under control and we were making short work of the job.  Interestingly enough Chef J recommends mixing the strawberry, rhubarb, and sugar together the day before and letting it sit.  She believes she gets a better result and who am I to disagree.  We loaded the Hobart up and stirred things up a bit and then with some mechanical aids I got the result sealed up in a container and in the walk in.  Next up was some chocolate pudding that she needed for a s’more pudding she was making.  Then it was on to a passion fruit curd.  It was interesting to measure out sugar in kilograms and crack 50 eggs into a huge metal bowl.  I mixed it all together and we put it over a simmering pot of water.  She then decided to tell me that it had to be whisked for 20 minutes.  Hah!  I whisked and whisked away for around 15 minutes.  I thought I was doing a nice job of things keeping it moving at a reasonable clip.  She said she would give me a spell and started whisking like mad.  She looked over at me and with a bit of a smile told me, “you whisk like a girl.”  I laughed heartily but did insist on taking the whisk back and improving my pace ;).  This went through a chinois in which was placed gelatin sheets and the whole hot brew went over a “small” quantity of butter.  Then a small outboard motor was brought out to mix it together.  Chef J even let me try it.  This was then placed in the walk in to cool off a bit.  Throughout the afternoon Chef J and I talked about all sorts of things since it was mostly just the two of us working together.  She turns out to be a natural teacher and just dropped so many tips that I was struggling to write them all down.  Did you know that you can remove the bubbles on the top of your chocolate pudding with a quick pass of the blow torch?!?  She was also incredibly open in sharing recipes I just need to divide by 100 or so and see what I can do with my home equipment.

Chef J had a two items she was experimenting with for Ad Hoc’s brunch.  We packed things up and walked down the street to deliver them.  In the two days I’d been wearing the chef white’s I hadn’t felt very conspicuous but I have to say walking down the main drag of Yountville in white draws more than a few looks!  We walked in the back door of Ad Hoc (their ovens are outside!) and into the kitchen.  Ad Hoc has what I will call an “intimate” kitchen, in other words tiny!  It is just one big open rectangle with not a lot of room and it was HOT.  We walked over to Chef C and shared the experiments with him.  He found some things promising and made a few comments.  Chef J made sure he knew that I was actually coming to dinner at Ad Hoc later that night and sure enough I could see my name in what I now knew to be the “special” column ;).  With that we headed back up to Bouchon and I was done with work.  Chef J gave me a bunch of nice treats including a Passion Fruit pudding and I said as many thank yous as I could because I had had a great time in the pastry kitchen.

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Day Three Dinner: Ad Hoc

Early in the week my handler asked if I’d like to go to Ad Hoc on Thursday.  Would I ever!  Ad Hoc has been a favorite ever since Emily and I first sampled the Monday fried chicken.  Needless to say I have the cookbook and have cooked a good bit from it.  One of my old cooking cronies was actually in town and my handler had graciously extended the reservation for the two of us.

We decided to settle in at the bar since there was room.  I actually love to sit at the bar in restaurants since I find it is always a bit more entertaining.  My friend Peter and I caught up on things and we ordered some sparkling wine to start the meal.  Chef C pulled out some of the stops for us as we were quickly served a small cup of pea soup with creme fraiche.  Then they brought us a wonderful salad with fresh apple and radishes.  It was time to order something a little darker for the upcoming courses so I talked to Naveed (sp?) behind the bar.  He eventually recommended a Napa Pinot.  I was a bit incredulous since it seems like Napa is too hot for Pinot but I had to admit it was pretty darn good.  He even gave me a sample of their Chardonnay to have with another extra course, arctic char.  Wow, delicious (on both counts).  Then it was on to the main course, the skirt steak and we had opted to get some bone marrow as well.  This was an incredibly rich and wonderful dish.  The steak was just perfect and the marrow was kind of like the best butter in the world.  They were actually recommending a beer to pair with the cheese course.  I explained to Naveed and Katie that many enthusiastic beer drinkers had attempted to convert me but that I simply don’t like the taste.  Katie only took this as a challenge and made me a shandy which turned out to taste a lot like a grownup creamsicle.  In other words, yum!  My adivce: if you ever go to Ad Hoc (which you should!) never doubt Katie or Naveed.  The final course was an ethereal cake which tasted like a cross between a pound cake and angel food cake with a crisp sugar top.  This was served with two different sorbets and together they were just off the hook.  Wow, what an enjoyable meal with a friend I hadn’t seen and the Ad Hoc staff who are just first rate.

I decided to be a bit un-Joshlike and asked to say thanks to the Chef.  They agreed and Peter and I shyly walked in to gush at our meal.  I think I saw a slight twinkle of his eye when I correctly guessed the pepper that had be in the arctic char sauce but maybe I was just hoping :).

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