Tag: ice

Slicing and dicing at the ICE

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 | All Things, Classes

Two Christmases ago, I received a gift certificate to the Institute of Culinary Education in Chelsea, but it was not until this week that I finally was able to make use of it. Although I’d decided almost immediately on the particular class I wanted to take from among the 1700 Recreational Division offerings, the small class sizes made finding an open evening session that fit into my schedule a bit of a challenge. But at last, here I was.

ICE sign

As I waited for the session to begin, I checked out the Institute’s glass case exhibit of antique kitchen implements. The cookbooks and coffee mill I recognized, but a few of the other items…?

ICE display

Description of Knife Skills I:

Knowing how to use knives skillfully is critical for cooks, yet many people have never mastered proper technique. Similarly, good knives form the foundation of a well-equipped kitchen, yet even some accomplished home cooks don’t know how to select and care for them. In Knife Skills 1, you’ll use Wüsthof-Trident knives to slice, dice, and chop in the safest and most efficient manner. You’ll also learn the proper way to sharpen your knives.

Living on my own, I do a fair amount of cooking at home — which is perhaps not evident from this blog — so naturally, I’m no stranger to using knives in the kitchen. At least I was probably in a better position than one of my fellow students — dragged to tonight’s class by his girlfriend — who when quizzed about his home kitchen knife collection, sheepishly admitted, “I have a butter knife.” Up until now, I’d managed to get the necessary jobs done without causing any serious injury to myself or to others, but I’d always had the nagging suspicion that there were ways I could improve my technique.

Tonight’s class was led by chef-instructor Norman Weinstein, who has been teaching essential techniques for more than two decades. In addition to the four knife skills classes at ICE (from “Basics” to “Decorative Garnishes”), Weinstein leads two Chinese cooking classes (Sichuan and Cantonese). His book on Mastering Knife Skills is due out in March 2008.

Our group of 12 was made up of 6 men and 6 women tonight, which the instructor observed “almost never happens.” (It seems that these classes are overwhelmingly populated by females, so for any eligible bachelors who may be reading this, infer from that what you will.) After donning our white ICE aprons and name tags, we were set up at individual workstations laid out with a gleaming selection of Classic Wüsthof knives: chef’s knives, a utility knife and a paring knife.

The three hours we spent watching and learning to use the knives were an epiphany. According to Weinstein, the biggest mistakes people tend to make when using knives are using the wrong type of knife for the task, and handling the knife incorrectly. (Apparently, I’ve been guilty of both.) And where previously I’ve been hesitant to invest in any knife larger than 8 inches — small girl hands! — the 10 inch chef’s knife was a revelation. Weinstein put us through the paces halving a bagel, slicing up celery and carrots, then dicing potatoes and onions, mincing shallots and garlic, chopping herbs, and finally peeling. (Check out the tomato skin rose garnish — fancy!) Different techniques all, requiring different motions with the blade, which were not immediately obvious without specific instruction. But what an improvement!

ICE class

Also covered: knife sharpening (which is best left to the professionals) and blade honing with a misnomered “sharpening steel.” Check out Alton Brown’s “Good Eats” segment on sharpening vs. honing, which covers a lot of the same points.

Chefs can be rabidly devoted to their knives — this Times piece by the brothers Lee also happens to includes a photo of my instructor — and depending on whom you ask, it’s not necessary to invest in a pricey set of kitchen knives. But boy, are they nice to have around.

After a while, I could really appreciate the heft, balance and weight of the Wüsthof knives, and the easy rhythms of steady cutting action that, when mastered, became almost meditative. The biggest challenge was unlearning old (bad) habits, so admittedly, it was slow going at first, but after a while, the techniques began to gel. So while I still don’t know how to wield a knife like Hung, winner of Top Chef Season 3, I feel I’m on my way, slowly, surely, to getting all the pieces the same size. And isn’t that really the most important thing?

On the way out, lured by the warm, delicious smells, I peeked in on the baking class still in progress across the hall. The one downside to the knife skills class: no treats to take home afterwards… unless you count the errant flecks of shallot I found in my hair later that night.

ICE class

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Ice, ice baby

Thursday, November 8th, 2007 | All Things, Arts

On the way to my party at The Sea Grill, I peeked in on the skaters at the Rockefeller Center rink. Autumn in New York was finally settling in, making it much more appropriate weather for skating than the last time I was here. Reminds me that I really want to try to get to The Pond at Bryant Park this year.

Rockefeller Center ice rink

It’s not every day that one comes across a giant blue diamond on the street. Specifically, it was Jeff Koons’ eight by seven foot sculpture, “Blue Diamond” (2005) sitting outside of Christie’s Auction house. Part of the artist’s famed “Celebration” series, which he began in 1994, the blue “diamond” is in fact made of polished steel and chromium, and is one of a series of five; Koons’ red, pink and green diamonds are in private hands, while a yellow version is currently in production. The eye-catching sculpture was displayed in advance of Christie’s Post-War And Contemporary Art auction on November 13 where it was sold to Gagosian Gallery for $11.8 million. Despite more than doubling Koons’ previous sale record of $5.6 million, the amount still came in somewhat under pre-sale expectations, which had ranged from $12 million to $20 million. (To put this in perspective, last month an actual flawless 6.04 carat blue diamond became the most expensive gemstone in the world [per carat] when it was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong for $8.3 million.)

The next day, the “Blue Diamond”‘s record was obliterated by the sale of Koons’ stainless steel “Hanging Heart (Magenta/Gold)” for $23,561,000, including commission, at Christie’s uptown archrival, Sotheby’s.

It’s been a good season for Koons; his big silver “Rabbit” balloon debuted at this year’s Thanksgiving Day parade a couple of weeks later. He still has nothing on Damien Hirst, though, who in August 2007 sold his much publicized/mocked diamond-encrusted platinum skull for $100 million to an investment group (which included himself).

Blue Diamond

How appropriate that Andy Warhol’s iconic portrait of Elizabeth Taylor–a woman renowned for her love of fine gems, among them the 33.19 carat Krupp Diamond and the 69.42 carat Taylor-Burton Diamond–would overlook Koons’ giant jewel.

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