Saturday, March 29, 2008

Plating and Prepping in Ferndale

As the new year approached our family drove up north (WAY up north) to Ferndale, CA for a visit with our long time friends the Ruedlingers. Joe and Karla moved to Ferndale to start a new life for themselves just a year and a half ago. They truly embraced the Victorian atmosphere of the town by purchasing their own 100 year old home and doing a beautiful and true to the era remodel bringing the house back to it's original splendor.
But a house remodel was just the beginning of their new life. Karla's true passion is baking and after completing a professional course over at the CIA Greystone in Napa, she was ready to make her name in the pastry business.
The have leased a very quaint Victorian building with a great location on the main road into the small town. They gave the restaurant a beautiful face lift with a lot of hard work, paint, plaster, furniture and a state-0f-the art kitchen.
La Petite Maison has been open since last summer and has received lots of great press and attention. Karla's cakes have become THE cake to have for any function, be it a birthday, anniversary or wedding. She uses only quality ingredients and doesn't skimp on any of the good stuff!
Petite Maison has become more than a bakery, it's a cafe as well. They put their heart and soul into the foods they make and you can tell... soups, salads, pizzas and bistro fare are all above and beyond the pale food choices available in that small town.
Our visit to Ferndale was designed for us to finally see the restaurant first hand, but also for me to be able to play in their kitchen. You see, I have a secret desire to slave away in a professional kitchen and this was my chance to do so... at least for a few days. I was very lucky that my husband was willing to entertain our boys while Karla and I played in the kitchen.
On my first night in the kitchen, Karla had me plating food. I have to tell you, I didn't think this was a good thing for me to do... I'm not an artist, I'm a cook. But Karla showed me her tricks for dotting the sauce across her plates and fluffing salads so they stood up beautiful and fluffy. I actually had a great time and learned a few things.
On New Year's Eve they had quite a few reservations for dinner and we had a lot of prep work to be done before service could start for the night. Joe rattled off the soups we'd need to make, garlic and tomatoes to be roasted, a beef stew special, a caramelized onion sauce and any other mise en place necessary for the pizzas and salads on the menu. It took a little while and a good show of my speed in the kitchen before Joe felt comfortable enough to escape with my husband and the boys for a beach adventure on The Lost Coast. Whew! Now I could relax and cook, pretending it was MY kitchen. Karla and I had great time, working hard and gossiping about family and friends at the same time. I watched her knead her magic into loaves of bread, dinner rolls, a few cakes and pizza dough. The woman is one wicked baker!
As dinner service approached we all braced for the busy evening. Once again I was on the plating station and also stepped in to open wine bottles as necessary... their daughter Paige (the front of the house diva) has a hard time with the corkscrew and I could wow her easily with my quick cork removal skills!
The only trouble I got into during my work that week was when I got carried away and started calling out orders as they came in on tiny little note paper, hand written by Paige. I so much wanted that high energy feeling of working the pass, being the controller, watching the magic of pulling a meal together in minutes... I overstepped my bounds. Besides, the place is quite petite and the guests could hear my loud voice calling out the orders over the quaint French music, ruining the ambiance. Ooops.
Thanks Joe, Thanks Karla, I had a blast!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Cooking with Joe and Karla

Here I am with Joe and Karla Ruedlinger in the kitchen of La Petite Maison in Ferndale, CA
Posted by Picasa