Yesterday, I did something very different and very exciting. Exciting for me, anyway.
It involved an uber-fancy, free five-course lunch at The HCAT Institute at Anne Arundel Community College, “Maryland’s premier choice for hospitality and culinary education.”
One of the chefs preparing the meal was my son, Eric, who is about to graduate from the fully accredited HCAT Institute.
Eric and Me
Eric, who just turned 24 on October 1, is the youngest of our three children. Growing up, all of our kids presented different parenting challenges. I often tell people I survived raising three teenagers. Parenting is hard work!
Eric was the least-motivated of all of our kids. He’s very smart, but was a terrible student. He wasn’t exactly ambitious professionally for a long time either.
But, finally, that proverbial light bulb went off and he enrolled in a hotel/restaurant management and culinary arts program at the local community college. He’d always enjoyed cooking so his then-fiancee (now wife) Kelsey encouraged him to make it his profession.
He’s done well. Last I heard, his GPA was in the mid-threes. And, most important, he LOVES it.
Eric is just about finished his final semester. One of the things the school does at the end of a particular class, which I forget the name of, is have the students prepare a lunch for family and friends. The students are segregated into groups (they get to choose their own teams) and are tasked with creating a menu and then preparing the meal.
They didn’t choose the recipes, they developed the recipes. And they made all of the food completely from scratch.
Take a peek at the menu (click on image for a larger view). The meal wasn’t in an actual restaurant, it was in a classroom turned banquet room at The HCAT Institute.
Eric was responsible for the bread basket and one of the third course options. The bread basket, pictured below, included Focaccia and Lavash (a super-thin cracker-bread).
Eric’s Lavash was seasoned with some sort of cheese and herbs. He told me the Lavash details, but I didn’t write that down. Sorry, son!
Focaccia and Lavash Bread
He also had to make some Brioche. More on that later. Rather than skip right to Eric’s “meal” offering, I’m going to show you images of the other meal elements. The students did a fabulous job.
According to Wikipedia, an amuse-bouche is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre.
This one was described on the menu as…
Cranberry Marmalade and Goat Cheese Mousse on a Cheddar Cracker Spiced with Old Bay
Amuse-bouche is a French term, which can be literally translated as mouth amuser. It’s different from an appetizer in that patrons don’t order an amuse-bouche from a menu, it is served at no cost and is prepared according to the chef’s selection and specifications. Typically served with a complementary wine, the amuse-bouche is served both to prepare the guest for the meal and to offer a glimpse into the chef’s approach to the art of cuisine.
The Cranberry Marmalade was a nice complement to the goat cheese mousse, but I’m not sure the Old Bay added to the flavor. It was still lovely.
I forgot to mention that I was seated with Eric’s wife, Kelsey, his mother-in-law, Jane, and his biological father, Ron. Hubby couldn’t get away from work for the entire day.
There were two offerings for the first course, but we all chose the same dish, a salad.
First Course Salad
The menu described the salad as…
A Salad of Mixed Greens, Pears, Apples, Red Onions, and a Pear Vinaigrette. Accompanied with a Bit of Chicken Liver Pate on a Crouton.
The salad was delicious. Jane and Kelsey pronounced the chicken liver pate tasty, but I have NEVER liked the flavor of chicken liver. I tried two of the three pate-topped croutons, but it wasn’t my thing.
There were two second course offerings, too.
Option 1: Pan-seared Scallop
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Option 2: Roulade of Rabbit
I was the only one to choose the rabbit since I typically prefer my scallops well-done to eliminate the metallic taste that you can get when the middle isn’t fully cooked.
I did get to taste the scallop, and it was delicious (no metallic taste). But I LOVED my rabbit roulade, which was described as…
A Roulade of Rabbit Served wirh Parsnip Gnocchi, Braised Red Cabbage, and Apple Chutney
It was truly delicious.
The third course offerings were…
Option 1: Open-faced Bison Sandwich
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Option 2: Seared Duck Breast
Three of us chose the bison, which was Eric’s creation, and one of us chose the duck. Kelsey said she felt like such a traitor for choosing the duck, but Eric had previously served the bison at home as a test run, so she decided to sample the duck.
Not only did Eric have to develop the recipe, he had to prepare his dish yesterday, and was also responsible for the final plating.
Doesn’t it look beautiful? That’s my boy!
I always used to stress presentation to him, especially with salads. Not that I EVER made anything that looked that fancy, but I do enjoy making attractive salads. Food just seems to taste better when it is presented with care.
I didn’t taste the duck, but can say that the bison was fabulous. It was also my favorite dish of the day. And I’m not just saying that because Eric made it. Here are the details for the bison…
Open-faced Bison Sandwich. Served Medium-rare with Grilled Brioche, Fresh Baby Arugula and a Horseradish Napa Slaw, Topped with Shaved Onion.
All of the elements of the dish complemented each other perfectly. There was just a hint of horseradish in the slaw, which was good, because that’s one thing that can easily be overwhelming. As a whole, the slaw was perfect with the bison. And I usually avoid red meat that isn’t well-done. The brioche had a very delicate flavor, too.
Dessert consisted of this selection of House Made Chocolate Truffles.
Chocolate Truffles for Dessert
Clockwise from left were Hazlenut, Coconut, and Cappucino Truffles.
They were all delicious, but the coconut was my favorite .
As we were leaving, I snagged a few shots of the classroom kitchen with my phone.
Eric looks so at-home in the kitchen. He has truly found his calling. How awesome is that?
And, having seen him in action in my own kitchen, I know he has a bright culinary future. I won’t be at all surprised if he ends up teaching one day.
He and Kelsey dream of one day opening a bed-and-breakfast. Maybe it will be a learning bed-and-breakfast where guests go not just to vacation, but to learn how to cook certain foods at the same time.
I can’t wait to see where his talents take him.
Shannon, our eldest daughter who just happens to be a foodie-type, would have really enjoyed yesterday’s luncheon. But San Diego is a bit far away…
So… are you impressed?
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