Saturday, December 20, 2008

Cooking Class at the Biltmore Hotel

I'll admit that I'm no domestic diva. So when my uncle, the new Executive Chef at the Biltmore Hotel here in Coral Gables invited us to an interactive cooking class a couple of months ago, I was a bit apprehensive. Although I consider myself a "foodie," its purely from an end-user standpoint: I like to eat, but I can't cook. My husband, however, was elated because he's more of an all-around foodie: he likes to cook and eat.

These cooking classes are actually for members of the Biltmore's Cellar Club. Luckily for us, or at least my husband, in this case we knew the right person and the chef had reserved a table for us and several other family members, including my grandmother and the chef's in-laws. This would seem to be a fairly pleasant mix of people, but as we were to find out, we had mostly "chefs" at our table and not so many cooks.

One way that members are put into the right frame of mind before firing up the old bunsen burners is copious amounts of champagne. Although I was pregnant at the time and not drinking, I never saw a nearby glass even half empty before it was refilled. I guess the thought is that if your version of the food comes out tasting less-than-celestial, you won't really notice because your taste buds will be numb.

I'll have to thank my husband (again) for capturing the profound moment below. Other unnamed family members will joke that this was my reaction to being told that I would in fact be cooking. However, not only did I cook, but I volunteered to cook the hardest of three courses - Cajun Jambalaya. This is where I found out that my previously docile cast members were really irascible French chefs in hiding. Everything from the burner flames to the spices and cooking time were scrutinized with no regard for the word-for-word instructions that I was getting from my uncle who stood 10 feet in front of me. Apparently the champagne was working.

But despite the well-intentioned commentary from our table, and the reduction of spices to about one-third of what we were supposed to have, the jambalaya, while smelling great, was inedible. If watering eyes and perspiration are any indication, this was about an 8 on the thermal Richter scale. I'm sure champagne consumption increased after this dish. Luckily we had all eaten the first course along with plenty of bread, so none of us were starving. What can I say, my uncle likes it hot.

And here above is my dear Paola, who now looks like this:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Seven Things

After publishing the previous post, I considered the fact that I made some assumptions regarding how much my readers know me. Then I realized that I made references that I've probably never mentioned before in my blog. Coincidentally, I was tagged for a "Seven Things" challenge by The Duchess which will give me the opportunity to let you know a little more about me.

This is how it works: Post a link to the blog that challenged you and add these rules to your post.

Share 7 things about yourself. Challenge 7 other blogs at the end of your post through naming their blog, and post a link to it. Let them know they've been challenged by leaving a comment in their blog.

1. Though I consider myself to be Cuban-American since my parents are Cuban exiles and I've grown up in Miami, I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 18, 1980. We lived there until I was almost five, in a house across the street from "La Quinta Presidencial," a weekend home for the Argentine President. From our balcony, we could see into the backyard where Peron had buried Evita in a mausoleum before she was moved to her public grave. Halloween in Buenos Aires, 1983.

2. I have an older sister named Maria, actually my parents named her Graciella Maria, but when I began to talk, I shortened it to just Maria and that's the way it stayed. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela. Our father was a banker at the time and got moved around a lot. She now teaches children suffering from autism which I find extremely remarkable, and is the mother of two.

3. I have a younger sister named Victoria, 11 years my junior. The true "baby" of the family she is just getting ready to go off to college next year. She is a violinist and wants to major in musicology. She attends an all-girls Catholic high school and in an effort to differentiate herself from the status quo recently lopped off most of her hair.
Victoria and her niece Sofia.

4. I attended boarding school at The Harid Conservatory, in order to train full-time to be a professional dancer. Prior to that I trained at the Miami City Ballet School and the School of American Ballet in NYC. Over four years, I performed every children's role in Miami City Ballet's The Nutcracker, including the lead role of "Marie" in 1991. After high school, I spent a summer at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada, during which I decided to quit ballet altogether. Except for a handful of classes here and there, I've never danced since.

5. I speak French and Italian in addition to my native English and Spanish. I spent an entire year in Europe working on becoming a polyglot. I lived with a family in Chambery, France for 4 months and 7 months on Florence, Italy. I did quite a bit of traveling on my own during that year, going to Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Stockholm, Venice, and many more cities....all by myself! Who says women can't travel on their own?
Back in Florence, May 2008.

6. Upon my return from Italy, I attended Davidson College in North Carolina. This was a major culture shock for me. I had never been to the South, and for once I understood what it meant to be a "minority." I enjoyed my two years there, majoring in Religion...a really useful degree :).

7. After a few futile attempts at finding a job in the non-profit sector, I succumbed to the charm and benefits of Alhambra Antiques, and the rest is history! I'm now married and have three wonderful children. I LOVE to travel and eat good food.
Marcelo, Cecilia, and Paola Granda-Scott.
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