the beginning of the end

It feels like just yesterday I was studying for our Intermediate final exams in the dead heat of summer and after just a few short days of break, I blinked and while the world around me seemingly took a huge leap forward, I lagged behind.  Our last and final term started on the first of September, and already, I could feel the air suddenly turn from hot and muggy to cool and crisp.  Gone are the days of Ben, Deborah, and Leeane, our beloved translators from Basic and Intermediate…by now, you’d think we now know enough French to get by on our own *gulp.  I could hear Norah Jones’ song playing in my head as I walked back home the first day… “summer days are gone too soon, you shoot the moon, and miss completely… now the fall is here again, you can’t begin to give in…”  Of course I can’t give in now… I’m on the homestretch of this culinary, whirlwind of a venture here in Paris =P

Thinking back a few months ago, the transition from Basic to Intermediate Level Cuisine was quite pleasant and non-intimidating… very gradual and slow paced.  But, I have to admit, the rise to Superior Level Cuisine was quite a leap!  It was as if for the past few months we’ve been living in the past, learning classical French cuisine with outdated recipes, and now we’ve finally arrived at present-day with new menus and modern dishes with flavors influenced from around the world… cauliflower and shrimp tabouleh with cilantro and mint, white fish with a Tandoori & satay spice rub, banana sorbet with a hibiscus & rum sauce, strawberry and rosemary kebobs with a rhubarb sorbet, chilled tomato & strawberry gazpacho, and probably one of my favorite dessert dishes so far… saffron and gingerbread ice cream with almond cream-filled dates wrapped in phyllo dough shaped like bonbons!  If the names alone weren’t enough to whet your appetite, then perhaps the added visual affects will get your tummy rumbling =P

In keeping up with the theme of everything new and exotic, Chef prepared an entree course with frog legs, which was the first time many of us had ever tasted frog… to me, it has the same texture as chicken but tastes a bit swamp-y.  I had frog legs only once before in my life… ten years ago at my sister’s wedding reception.  They were deep-fried and resembled drummettes, which is why I didnt’ question my aunt when she told me it was chicken.  Of course it wasn’t until after I ate it that she told me what it really was… I knew it tasted kinda fishy =P  Naturally, I didnt’ really care for these sauteed frog legs either, but the garlic puree served alongside it was simply delightful… very light and mild and slightly sweet… just perfect ;)

Before the first week was over, guest Chef Miguel Quezada from Mexico prepared a special demonstration for us, showcasing his take on Mexican-French fusion cuisine… I know, I had my doubts also =P  He prepared four dishes, out of which only one and half worked for me… the duck al pastor tacos and the avocado ice cream.  The ice cream was unfortunately paired with a mole tart, which flavor-wise made no sense to me… the mole filling was very off-putting and the texture was a bit too much like goo ><  I would have been perfectly happy with just the ice cream =)  The duck tacos served as an amuse bouche and it was indeed a ‘mouth pleaser’ =P  Just one little bite packed a ton of flavor and spice!  One of the Mexicans girls in class told me these tacos are traditionally made with pork and sold by street vendors… I suppose the duck was brought in to French-ify the dish =P It was definitely a good call ;)

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