Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tunisia: George Sebastian Villa

One of the first "tours" we went on in Tunisia was a "self-made" tour. We were determined to find the Sebastian House, knowing it was near or in Hammamet. After a taxi ride, a detour into the souk at Hammamet, a long walk and another taxi ride, we finally find ourselves at the George Sebastian Villa.

To give you a little history lesson, George Sebastian was a Romanian architect who traveled to Tunisia in the early 1900s. Sebastian liked Tunisia so much, he decided to build a home there in the 1920s. As you will see from the pictures, the architecture is just amazing. Open air areas throughout the house and large sprawling rooms. It was a great place for entertaining, they even had a "group bath" that could fit several people in it!

Not only was the Sebastian Villa a perfect venue for entertaining, there is quite a history inside those walls. Right before the Germans lost Africa in WWII, Erwin Romell made the Sebastian Villa his headquarters. Romell was the head of the German/African Core. In 1943 the Sebastian Villa was made headquarters again by Field Marshall Montgomery, the commanding officer of the British Army. This was right before the invasion of Sicily by the England and the US, and with Sicily being about 95 miles from the northernmost point of Tunisia, the location makes sense.

After the war, Winston Churchill, made the Sebastian Villa his home to write his memoirs. Many other dignitaries used the villa as there getaway throughout the years. The villa really is truly rich in history so you can see why we (especially BF) wanted to visit the home. My main attraction, of course, was the architecture.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poof! I'm busy!

I find it pretty funny that only 6 short months ago I was itching for things to do. I was bored, I felt like I was getting nowhere, then "POOF!", epiphany beholds and now I am enthralled with so many things! I just love it! I love being busy, I love my jobs, I love my classes, and I love the fact that all these things are contributing to me living my dream.

I haven't been working on my DB10 project, and I am kind of bummed about it. I want to be able to continue working that project and all the other projects that suddenly appeared from no where. Why is it that when we have nothing to do, there is nothing to do. But when you have things going on, all kinds of things to do crop up? Anyway, I still keep it in place on my monthly goal list because I really don't want to forget about it altogether. Like this blog, it just isn't going anywhere. It's there waiting for me when I am ready.

What I have been doing is working on my restaurant project. It is a TON of work, but FUN work. We have our menu almost in place and we are now working on standardized recipes and cost cards. This part of the project is probably one of the most tedious of tasks. We have to make all our recipes into 10 servings as a standard and break things down to the oz. The cost cards break everything down by cost on invoice to cost per recipe item, it's pretty darn cool if you ask me. You can easily figure out the cost per plate of a dish and use that information to set your prices or to see how profitable a menu item actually is. I will say this: NOT DOING COST CARDS or MENU ANALYSIS are the main reasons restaurants fail. Without a doubt.

This is where having a BBA comes in handy. I have more business training than many, if not all, of my classmates. I've worked for family biz, helped run several other businesses, and I know how to figure out why companies are not profitable. Hmmm...maybe this can be a consulting side gig...

Ok, let's keep me focused!! My PC Director has set me up with an accountability partner and I am SO excited about it! I am really trying to make the most of my business, and I know it will help the both of us be successful! We are both participating in a program called Step Up Your Business that is full of trainings and exercises to help you increase your show bookings and grow your team. I have really enjoyed it so far and I am really excited to start implementing some great new things into my shows!

Off to dive into cost cards while I listen to my dog bark at a western flick the BF is watching on TV. Apparently he has a knack to pick out the bad guys...or maybe it's just the horses.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lost in.....Lost

While my BF is lost in the TV show, Lost, I really can't talk to him. He gets all zombie like and his eyes glaze over when I try to engage in conversation. I never followed the show, but it seems interesting enough. But I have to pretend I am not interested just to be funny.

I digress. I really want to talk about tonight, so lend me your ear for a minute will you? Ok, your eyes and your time, but who is really at their computer right now? You all are probably watching Lost.

Tonight I went to my first ACF meeting, I just joined the organization as a student member a few weeks ago. I have to say, I was really impressed how friendly and welcoming everyone was. I met chefs from several different local restaurants, the hospital, and the local college. I also met a caterer, a nutritionist/chef and another staff member from school. Talk about networking, I think I hit the jackpot!

We start off the meeting with dinner and social time. The meeting was hosted by the chef at the hospital and he prepared us a great feast! To begin, we had quinoa atop mixed greens with oranges and chevre (my fav!). Our main course was lamp chops (bone in!) with a yummy mushroom sauce, brussel sprouts, and mashed red potatoes (skins on - yum!). For dessert, we had panna cotta with a raspberry sauce, a raspberry, a blackberry, a blueberry, and garnished with fresh mint.

We then discussed where our next 3 meetings are going to be held and the potential guest speakers. Next month we are going to a winery, woo hoo! In April, our meeting is about 6 blocks from my house and the speaker is going to talk about buying local produce and meats. Excellent topic! In my restaurant project at school, we are going to "buy" local ingredients whenever possible. It really is a growing trend for restaurants, as it should be here in Michigan since we are crop diversified. Finally, we wrap up in May for the summer at a yacht club and we are hoping to have Fustini's, a local vinegar and oil company, talk to us about balsamic vinegars.

After the official meeting is the education portion. Today, the nutritionist/chef from the hospital talked about the health benefits of chocolate and we had a little chocolate tasting. My favorite, of course, was the darkest chocolate at 85% cacao. We learned that the reason dark chocolate is better for you is that as the cacao percent goes down, it is replaced with hydrogenous fats to bring flavor to the chocolate. What is hydrogenous fats, you ask? Oh yes, ones that are chemically bombarded with hydrogen. And no, I am not kidding.

Flavors vary in cacao depending on which region they are from. For instance, the Green and Black's Organic 85% cacao bar that was my personal favorite, comes from Trinidad. Cacao from Trinidad tends to hav complex fruitiness plus appealing spices such as cinnamon. No wonder it was a winner, I love spicy and cinnamon.

Tips on using chocolate as a health benefit:

1. Choose dark chocolate
2. The first ingredient listed should be cocoa or chocolate liquor, NOT sugar
3. Limit yourself to a few ounces per day and cut calories elsewhere to keep your wieght in line

We also had some bonus information when she started talking about "low-fat" and "fat-free" diets. This was by far one of the most important parts of her presentation. She said that those diets are not healthy for you because you don't know what you are eating. Example would be the fake "butters" or margarines. She said it's better for you to have real butter in moderation than to use the chemically made substitutes. In fact, she says she cooks in 1/2 butter and 1/2 lard!!! Basically you want to stick to natural sources of fat, like what is found in meat and dairy. Other examples of fat you can consume is olive oil and fish oil. It's all about portion control, people, and I tell you what - I can't wait to bring back my stick of butter!! YAHOO!

Let's talk about high cholesterol for a minute. There is no proof that any one type of food can cause high cholesterol, so break out those eggs and make an omelette! It is recommended that you buy farm fresh eggs too. Yes, they are more expensive, but better for you! Causes of high cholesterol: smoking, not exercising, and too much hydrogenated oils. It's basically a lifestyle thing, not a food consumption thing. Interesting!!

After the meeting, I mingled for a bit and spoke with the chef from the hospital. He said to come by anytime and he will give me a tour. He also told me about a really cool event that they put on for their high-rolling donators in August that sounds fabulous. They also have opportunities for local chefs to be the "guest chef" for the day in the "innovation station". They service around 250 to 300 meals in an hour and a half!! WOW!

What a great night! I am so excited that I joined this organization. Friendly, down to earth folks that all have a love of food. It's like I'm in Foodie Heaven.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Quote of the Year

"I recognized that it doesn't matter if a guy is sexy, funny, smart, charismatic and rich if he doesn't make you feel safe to communicate openly, safe to trust his commitment and loyalty, or safe to be your fullest self. A relationship of shared virtue where each partner challenges and supports the other to bloom into their best possible selves."

~Karen Salmansohn

I read this today in my Oprah e-newsletter and thought it was a perfect description of an ideal relationship for me. I do have to admit, had I known this years ago, I may not have the best BF ever today. Timing is everything, and I think I timed it just right.