Inspired by Grandma

Chef Reylon Agustin, executive sous-chef at the Rosewood Hotel’s Madera Restaurant – visited Juana Briones Elementary school today. He shared a recipe that he learned from his grandmother when he was a child – a simple home-made apple sauce. Starting from several apple varieties (namely the tart Belle de Boskoop and the sweet Hudson golden gem), chef Reylon steamed the apples in a small amount of water and blenagustin-gem-appleded them with absolutely nothing else added! The kids smelled several spices that can be added to enhance the flavor – such as cinnamon, allspice, clove and star anise, but the plain natural apple sauce was a big hit on its own, warm directly from the blender.

Magical Spices and Food

lavender-coucous-saladChef Ellie Lavender wowed the students at Palo Verde Elementary School with her workshop on vegetarian Mediterranean foods. The children journeyed to Morocco with Chef Ellie, explored this land of magical spices and food, and then feasted on a Vegan Moroccan Couscous Salad with Lavender Tahini Dressing. To read more about the workshop, see more pictures, and get the recipe for yourself  – visit Chef Ellie’s Blog.

A Culinary Journey Through France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Tunisia

Castilleja School’s AP French students were treated to a special visit from talented Bay Area Chef Guillemette, owner of  the mobile French pastry school L’Ecole Gourmande. Chef Guillemette began with a tasting of several homemade cookies to see if students could guess the secret spices in each. guillemette-workshop-1-1She shared a bit of her own journey, having grown up in France, the Netherlands, Italy, and Tunisia. Students had a chance to ask her about her experiences and favorite French pastries, and were able to make several cultural comparisons between attitudes towards food in France and the United States. The class ended with a hands-on cooking lesson to learn how to make crème Chantilly. The students were absolutely delighted by Chef Guillemette’s visit. One remarked on her way out that she couldn’t wait to get home to make her own crème Chantilly! Special thanks to Rebecca Scholl, organizer extraordinaire of Tasting Week in the Bay Area. It brings incredible richness to our cultural understanding of other cultures.

Kicking Off Tasting Week 2016 With a Salad Dressing Competition

chef-christy-salad-dressing-competition-1To kick off Tasting Week 2016, we welcomed Chef Christy from Sur La Table to Juana Briones Elementary school. After introducing the kids to several new fruits and vegetables such as quince, rhubarb, radicchio, and jicama, she explained the process in creating the “umami” or “savory” taste. Umami is created when you break down amino acids into glutamate on your tongue – for instance when you brown meat, dry fish to make fish sauce, transform soy into soy sauce, or age parmesan cheese. The secret umami ingredient that chefs will never admit to using but that they use all the time? Garlic powder!

Then chef Christy set up two competing teams to make salad dressing. In any dressing you will need an oil, an acid, an emulsifier and flavoring. The first dressing was Asian, with grapeseed oil, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil and soy sauce. The second one was European with olive oil, chocolate balsamic vinegar, mustard, and…garlic powder. The kids loved them both!

Exploring Food with Your Five Senses

Tasting Week is expanding its volunteer workshops on the 5 Senses to third and second grades in many Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos schools this year.Five Senses - Carla cropped At Juana Briones Elementary school in Palo Alto, two groups of volunteers (Lea Bowmer, Carolyn Cooper, Carla Matlin and Dena McLerran) constructed a multi-colored and multi-flavored salad in the classroom. After a brief meditation on food, the students explored how sound, smell, sight, texture and flavors all contribute to the tasting experience. They ended the workshop with a tasting of ingredients representing all five tastes: pickles (sour), arugula (bitter), apples (sweet), salt (salty), and mushrooms (umami). Once the salad was all dressed and mixed together, the students enjoyed their own plate and came back for more!

Pears that Taste like Apple Pie

Tom Culbertson is a very unique Tasting Week chef.  He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena with a Baking and Pastry Certificate.  Tom CulbertsonHe had many jobs in food: Cheese monger at Dean and Deluca, Pastry Cook, and even Pastry Chef.  After following his passion for food – he developed a new passion for education, and is now a fourth grade teacher at Juana Briones Elementary school in Palo Alto! This made him the perfect choice for this week’s workshop at his own school. He changed his teacher clothes for an apron and prepared the most delicious pears dipped in a syrup composed Poached Pearsof star anis, cinnamon and cloves. The multipurpose room smelled so good! The kids said they could not believe that pears could take so much like apple pie.

Remind Your Parents About Salad

Chef Brendy DemoChef Brendy Monsada from Left Bank Menlo Park and his pastry chef Carlos visited Walter Hays Elementary school in Palo Alto today. In front of the astonished eyes of two classes of second grade, chef Brendy made a salad dressing with Dijon mustard, honey, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and a touch of lemon zest – taking care to balance all the flavors. He composed a seasonal salad with endives, spinach, apples, and mixed berries – then added four different kinds of cheeses: parmesan, blue cheese, cheddar and emmenthal! Many students tasted endives and blue cheese for the first time! As a special treat, chef Carlos brought palmiers made with puff pastry and butter. There was not a crumb left. Chef Brendy has been a supporter of Tasting Week for the past five years and a wonderful member of our community. Thanks chef Brendy!

Secret Ingredients

Kindergartners at Laurel Elementary school in Menlo Park received a special visit from Tasting Week volunteer Judith Vacchino. They discovered 5 special ingredients that add flavor to many dishes: cinnamon, lemon, verbena, basil and orange blossom water. Judith's DemoThe kids had to guess which one of the five special dishes prepared by Judith contained which secret ingredient – pesto pasta, apple sauce, cake, tea and persimmons.  Our favorite quotes today were “it’s a stick!” (referring to the cinnamon) and “where do you put lemons? On lemon trees”. The smell of the orange blossom water was too strong for many kids, but they appreciated it a lot more when it was added to a persimmon. The hero of the day was definitely the lemon cake!

Shake, Shake, Shake… Shake it into Butter

Butter Demo at Castro croppedGoogle chefs Kimberly Tran and Tatiana Contreras led an engaging and interactive demo with the children at Castro Elementary School in Mountain View. Each child was given a small, closed container of whole milk. The kids got to jump up and down, and dance around the room; basically shaking their milk container into butter. There were lots of oohs and ahhs as the children observed their milk transform into cream, and then into butter.

Butter Demo CloseUp croppedBut the best part came at the end of the workshop when the kids tasted the whipped cream with an apple crisp, and enjoyed the butter with fresh bread. Almost everyone asked for seconds. It was a great time for the kids, teachers, and the chefs.

As Chef Kimberly watched the children enjoy the fruits of their shakin’ she commented that it was this same experience, as a child, that led her to become a chef!

Learn more about the science behind making butter.

The Physical Properties of Food

Chef Bastide Demo croppedChef David Bastide from Left Bank San Jose paid a visit to Mistral Elementary school in Mountain View today. He immediately engaged the kids in a science experiment with eggs. Place a hard-boiled egg on top of a bottle and heat the bottom of the bottle – guess what happens? What is the best way to tell if an egg is hard-boiled without peeling it? Hint: it involves spinning and momentum.

Since the fall season is upon us, chef Bastide also prepared two delicious dishes from scratch: butternut squash soup with pomegranate whipped cream and sautéed squash and pomegranates. Who would have imagined that the kids would line up for seconds?