Saturday, March 29, 2008

Back in Seattle/ Day two of school

Somehow I've found myself back in Seattle, but now that I'm in school proper, it's just for the weekend this time. It's been a super long and crazy week, which included, aside from starting school: happily hosting my friends from Brooklyn while they played a show in Portland; playing a song in their show on my violin which I literally haven't touched in ages; having a blast and deciding to play with them again for their show in Seattle tonight (which went great!); going to dinner at Vindalho with the lovely folks from and meeting a bunch of fellow Portland foodies; getting dental work; seeing Bonnie at a show at North Bar while she was in town from Tokyo; and various and sundry things I'm forgetting at this late hour.

With all this nuttiness, I'm happy to report that school today was a blast by all standards and measures. We worked on knife skills with the chef's knives from our fancy new Mercer kits, and I discovered that I'm much more comfortable with a 10-inch blade than I thought I would be. I've always employed 8-inch chef's knives (or my mom's 7-inch Global Santoku, droooool...), starting from my very first Sabatier starter set to the Wustof Classic chef's knife that I have now. The Mercer 10-inch, however, is very well balanced and feels swift in my hand. It also helps that I'm surrounded by professionals who care as well as state of the art equipment; lends to a sense of confidence about professionalism that is hard to muster in one's home kitchen by yourself.

We had lecture in the morning, and then finally got to "play" with our knives after an incredible chickpea curry lunch. We practiced slicing potatoes Batonnet-style (a wider Julienne, basically) and got some schooling on proper honing and knife care, as well as general knife etiquette in the kitchen. On the surface it sounds like minutiae, but these details are so important when it comes to safety and speed. Even remarking on details like keeping our work stations clean help tremendously with efficiency, and only after watching our awesome instructor give a knife demo did I truly begin to gain respect for all those tiny details.

Afterwards we practiced turning panko breading in standard sauté pans, which was a fun mess--panko all over the floor. As a result of this practice, I'm now certain I need to get back to the gym. My hands were literally shaking after 15 minutes of gentle tossing. Getting back into shape is essential; even being on my feet in those clogs is kicking my ass.

Gotta say though, it's been a fantastic week and I haven't felt this focused in a long, long time. Bed for now, more tomorrow...


Norm Schoen said...

I happened across your blog. I am looking at getting a chef's knife kit. Would you recommend the Mercer knives you got in class?
What is in the kit?


ingrid said...

Hi Norm! I really like the Mercer kit we have (10-inch chef's knife, 8-inch chef's, 10-inch slicer, serrated/bread, paring, boning, fillet, diamond honing steel, zester and peeler), and from what I understand it's a pretty great bang for your buck. I've been using mostly the 10-inch chef's knife, and I find it does everything I need it to. Plus it's been banged around a bit and seems quite sturdy, yet not industrially heavy. I haven't had to hone it once in six days of use (the steel that comes with the kit is actually a bit of a stone as well and takes off a tiny bit of metal when you use it), but I also take care to wash my knives carefully of the starch and acids that can eat away at the blade and dry it immediately after washing. Though you probably already know that ;).

However, if you're looking for something more lightweight, you might want to look at Japanese knives. My brother recently got a MAC 6.5-inch chef's knife that he *loves* and was only 50 bucks, and which he bought online. It's a sharp sumabitch (cut myself twice on it, though not badly), but it's truly impressive. I'd say the MAC is up there in cutting quality with Global, but without the steel handle.

Alternately, if you're looking for even heavier, I love my 8-inch Wusthof Classic, which was a Christmas gift to myself several years ago. You might even like the Wusthofs better than I do because I'm a total weakling when it comes to upper body strength, and those babies are solid.

The short answer is I would recommend the Mercer kit. The guys in my class seem to work well with them too. I could write a novel about knives, so I'll stop here. Hope this helps!