Monday, January 9, 2012

Mushroom Cultivation

Did you know that mushrooms such as White Button, Crimini and Portobello are the only mushrooms that can be grown in captivity?  Morels, Porcini and Truffles are among other edible mushrooms needed to be gown in a forest.  I took interest to these fun facts on a recent trip I took to Gourmet Mushroom located in Sebastopol, California.  It was here that the exotic mushroom industry started, and Gourmet Mushroom was the first to grow cultivated mushrooms in the Western Hemisphere.  Mushrooms are saprophytes: meaning they feed off the breakdown of dead material.  A moistened sawdust mixture is used for commercial growing.  Jars are filled with the sawdust mixture in which the mushrooms are grown.  Join me on a quick tour and see what it takes to produce some yummy fungi!

Mushrooms naturally grow on solid and borken down wood.  Here Oak Sawdust, Wheat Bran and ground Corn Cob are mixed and used as the medium used to grow mushrooms.  This mixture helps the growing process move "more quickly" as it's "pre digested" food for the mushrooms.
Jars are filled with sawdust mixture which mushrooms will grow in.

Once the jars are packed with sawdust they take a trip the auto clave which steam sterilizes the jars and saw dust.  Once bottles are sterilized and come down to room temperature a culture is added to the bottles.  These mushrooms are grown from a culture and not from spors. 
Jars are crated and stacked once the culture has been added.
Jars are stored in a steral room where U-V lights are present to kill germs.
Mushrooms in the growing room.
Mushrooms beginning to sprout.
Mushrooms ready to be harvested!  24,000 jars are hand harvested each week.
A winner of a mushroom!  Gourmet Mushroom harvest 6,000 - 8,000 mushrooms a week.
Harvested jars await to be cleaned to repeat the process.  Gourmet Mushroom harvests 7 days a week for 365 days year with no season.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Clown Heads!

So I decided to organize and clean out my cake decorating toolbox today.  Yes, I said toolbox (I try to embrace my masculinity where I can!).   This decision came as I was putting a few piping tips away that I used on a food shoot. 

Lots of cheesecake was styled on this particular shoot, as it was for The Cheesecake Factory!  Hundreds of rosettes were piped out in a counter clockwise fashion.  Once piped, the hero’s (The most perfect rosettes) were chosen to top an assortment of cheesecake confections.  As I carefully washed and dried each piping tip I realized that my toolbox (kit) needed a little sprucing up.  Actually whom am I kidding, I organize and clean the kit every time I open it up.  It’s my nature, what can I say?  All joking aside, it becomes a disorderly mess with any movement, as there are no compartments to keep tools (tips) in place. 

The toolbox was started when I was in grade school.  My brother and I both received a toolbox as a Christmas gift from my parents.  However my tools never made it into my toolbox and instead they found home in a rubbermaid container.  This is still the scenario today!

Cleaning the base/ bottom bin compartment of the toolbox is always the most important, as sugar debris always seems to make its way into the corners.  But before getting to the corners all my pastry tools and gadgets have to come out.  Clown heads make up this collection.  Red, yellow and blue clown heads!

The clown heads moved into my toolbox when I was twelve years old.  I had my mother sign me up for a Wilton Cake Decorating class at JC Penny’s.  Every week she would drive me to JC Penny’s at 7pm to sit with a group of grown woman to learn cake-decorating techniques.  I had a blast and I must say that at twelve years old I was a much better piper then the “grown ups”! 

During one class we concentrated on making clowns.  Why this was an important technique to learn, I yet to understand.  Frankly I’m not really sure that it really is a technique.  But I can say that I know how to pipe out a dam good clown!  On the upside I used to love the clowns that topped the Baskin Robbins ice cream cakes when I was a kid!  However, my impressions soon changed after learning how to make these festive decorations.  

Clown class turned into a wild bachelorette party and I was the innocent twelve year old trying to learn how to pipe a clown.  As I sat there squeezing out my icing, my “lady” classmates were piping out inappropriate poses on their clowns.  The laugher in the room was unstoppable.  The teacher tried to shield me but it was hard to not laugh.  She gave into the laughter.  I gave into the laughter. 

I haven’t used the clown heads since and they probably will never be used again.  They serve as a memory and symbolize an outlet I that fueled my love and interest for food as a child.  They do give me a good laugh every time I decide to organize and clean my toolbox.  The rosette tips graduated from clown making and have helped me produce many beautiful confections over the years.  Who knew that the same tip that piped the clown would be piping rosettes for The Cheesecake Factory?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In the Kitchen with Mary Ann Esposito!

I had the honor food styling for Italian Chef Mary Ann Esposito last week.  Mrs. Esposito is the host of television's longest running cooking show, Ciao Italia.  I worked with the FAB Libbie Summers to cook up many of Mary Ann's yummy recipes for her 13th cookbook cover!  I must say that all recipes were delish!  A little (or maybe a bit) of snacking happened on set!  Mary Ann was the sweetest and it was so nice to meet her in person after watching her on television for many years!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Spring Snowfall

This Spring seems to be much colder then years past.  Here is a look at one of the freshly fertilized and tilled vegetable gardens blanketed with a light Spring snowfall.  We have a large variety of fruits and vegetables that will be planted this year.  The bulk of this garden will be planted with tomatoes. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Snowy Stroll on the Beach!

As cold and snowy as this winter has been, there is certainly a peace and calm that comes after each storm.  Often times we forget to stop, put down the shovel and take a look at the glistening world around us.  After one of our last big blizzards, I did just that and ventured to the beach.  Bundled up, I crunched through miles of snow covered sand dunes taking in winters beauty!  Here are a few snapshots I took as I weaved through the snow covered dunes.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Drive Through Historic Sedona!

Geographically, Ariziona is such a fascinating destination to visit.  Touring Arizona by means of hiking or biking is such a great way to see all the rich natural history.  Sedona is best known for it's display of red rock sandstone formations.  These formations are the areas main attraction and there definitely a site to experience.  This historic area is a 'must see' when visiting Arizona.  Red rock country is famous for it's colorful geography.  The sandstone formations appear to glow brilliant oranges and reds as the sun rises and sets each day.

Sedona is named after Sedona Miller Schnebly(1877-1950), the wife of the city's first postmaster, who was celebrated for her hospitality and industriousness.

Before hitting the ground exploring the area, I snapped a bunch of landscape shots as I weaved through Sedona's curvy roadways and beautiful rocky scape.  

Visit Welcome to Sedona for more information on the Natural History of Sedona, Arizona.

                        Below is a brief history of Sedona taken from the above wall post.                                                                                                                                           

Early Tourism

Soldiers from the Camp Verde were early tourists to Sedona, enjoying the beauty, cooler temperatures and Oak Creek as a break from the camp.                                                                                                

As early as 1895, Lou Thomas turned Bear Howard's cabin into a two-story hunting and fishing lodge.  it was there that Zane Grey was inspired to write his book Call of the Canyon, which later the 1st movie made in Sedona.  In 1925, the property was sold to Carl Mayhew who operated it as Mayhew's Lodge.  it became a favorite desitination for prominent movie stars, politicians, and writers.  Guest included Lord Halifax, president Herbert Hoover, Clark Gable, Susan Hayward, Cesar Romero, Jimmy Stewart, Walt Disney, and Maureen O'Hara.  The U.S. Forest Service acquired the property and plans to renovate the structure , but tragically the lodge burned to the ground in 1980