Cookin’ with the Fairmont
It isn’t often one gets a chance to spend the evening wining and dining with a pastry chef from perhaps the swankiest joint in town. Two Sundays ago, Sarah, Julie and I found ourselves in that very (awesome) situation; the Fairmont Hotel invited us behind the scenes. What we found was inspiration and a fair amount of palate perfection (pastry and otherwise). Naomi Gallego, the Fairmont’s Executive Pastry Chef, served as our guide, and she proved to excel in both confection creation and tutoring.
Naomi performs her first of many good deeds of the evening: passing out homemade federweisser. Federweisser is a fermented, pressed grape juice drink that is around 4% alcohol and around 100% delightful.
Naomi walked us through the process of making an entire meal. First, we had a traditional Flammkuchen, which is akin to a personal pan pizza minus the pan, gross pizza fixings, and general feeling of eating remorse. Instead, a Flammkuchen has everything you’d want it to have: Creme fraiche, onions, bacon, garlic, chives and fresh thyme. Naomi made the process look easy and gave us each the reins to create our own.
A Flammkucken close-up. It’s like looking at your first born child.
After devouring the Flammkuchen, and being careful not to eat the plate as well, we moved on to the pastry portion of our evening. Naomi taught us how to make a Peach Bakewell Tart. Now, at first mention of this peach tart, I was dismayed. I do not like fruit any where near the vicinity of my desserts, unless that fruit is covered in chocolate or actually icing disguised as fruit. So to base a dessert around fruit is not my thing… until I tried this tart. Sure, fruit is my nemesis, but look at these freakin’ peaches:
You can’t be mad at these.
The Bakewell Tart consisted of a pie dough, with a Frangipane (almond based cream piping), peach jam, peaches, and a simple royal icing (confectioners sugar and milk). My fruit fears quickly vanished upon first bite. There must have been a little bit of magic mixed in with the jam as well.
Sarah pipes in the Frangipane.
Yes and yes.
Unfortunately, the evening did end. But we left with full stomachs and happy hearts! It is always a treat to get to spend time with someone who truly enjoys what he/she does. Naomi has a passion for baking which is evident in her pastries and her joyful presentation of food. She has traveled throughout the country and world (she studied in Cologne, Germany) honing her baking skills. We are glad she has now landed at the Fairmont; Pittsburgh is certainly sweeter for it.
WAIT! There’s more We all had such a great time, here is a samplin’ of Sarah and Julie’s thoughts on the day:
Cooking with an actual pastry chef.. totally rad! I have always been a lover of everything pastry, even dabbling myself in baking. But, having the experience to actually learn and cook with a master chef was fantastic. I learned a lot about baking and measuring and even determining the point of gluten activation in dough. Serious skills learned. The best thing about this experience was that I learned recipes I never would make on my own, or find interesting while flipping through a cook book or magazine. Kudos to the Fairmont, Naomi and Julie for making this wonderful evening this happen. I’m eager for the next one!
Privileged is a gross understatement. I’ve been awarded some amazing opportunities because of my love of food but spending a few hours with Naomi has by far been the best. Who just gets to cook and gab with an executive chef? I now totally get why Anthony Bourdain walks around like a boss. Because being allowed to step into someone’s passion and see them create is invigorating. Intoxicating. A pure dream.
I don’t cook… well. I left that session with Naomi feeling as though I could tackle just about anything in the kitchen. It was either the ease at which Naomi moved around her kitchen, sharing and instructing. Or it may have been the fancy embroidered apron the Fairmont Hotel gave us.
The Flammkuchen was so easy and actually fun to put together. I seriously am considering hiring a small German woman to live in my apartment and just make me this. I’d even let her have my bedroom if it meant I could eat Flammkuchen everyday.
From the wine Naomi made to the dessert, I was in heaven. While I may not have the required skill to turn out delectable masterpieces, I do love to watch the process. And that is what I did. I observed with the passion of a student and can only hope we’re invited back again to observe, laugh and eat.
Done and done.
Ok kiddos. Now that we’ve raved about our experience and provoked loads of jealousy, get your bums over to Habitat, where Naomi’s pastries are always on the menu!
Also be on the lookout for cooking classes with Naomi. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that they’ll be offered soon! We’ll sign right up!