[Sca-cooks] GTU Feast Review *It's Really Long*

Avelyn Grene avelyn at greneboke.com
Wed Apr 8 06:26:03 PDT 2009


First, I apologize for the length.  To see day of reviews, scroll down!
-I'm pretty sure I forgot to include a couple of things, but I think you
get the idea.

I am providing a general review of the feast I did this past weekend at
Grand Tournament of the Unicorn (Ohio event).  I may include a few
annotations and side commentary along the way.

For reference the menu can be found here:

Back story:  The group originally wanted a Celtic feast, which I did not
want to do, so I set about finding head cook.  This proved difficult as
most people are aware that the site we usually use has no kitchen.  As a
university student organization, we are required to submit a menu and
recipes to the university in January in order to receive any monetary
support (to front the money for the feast).   Not yet having a cook, and
it having been decided that the baronial investiture was to be at our
event, the group turned to me and said I could do whatever kind of feast I
wanted.  I made some phone calls to find cooking facilities, and set about
making a menu in a couple of days (on vicodin as I had just had surgery -
good times.  I submitted the menu and waited many weeks to hear back from
the university about my budget.

In the process I realize that my drug induced brain created a menu that
could potentially kill the head table... not good.

About 6(ish) weeks before the event I am told we are moving the event off
campus and that I will have a (nice) kitchen.  Woot!  (While this was very
awesome it also occurred to me that I have not had the opportunity in
quite a few years to work with people in my own kitchen on a feast.)

I experimented with the possibility of making and freezing some of the
food.  Some worked, some didn't.  Ultimately lack of time and freezer
space prevented me from making much of anything ahead of time.

So:  Thursday before feast:
I made the breney in the steam jacket at work after we closed (which
worked beautifully) and made the dough for the breney chips in our giant
hobart.  While there I realized that if I had brought the proper
ingredients, I could have made the Sauce for a Conie, but wasn't hugely

- Went home and finished the spoon for the salt cellar for head table
(documentable, doncha know!)

-Bought most of the food.

-Went to the catering kitchen on campus (where I have been cooking the
food the last 2 years) to fry the breney chips, steam the milk for the
cheese (this also worked very nicely - no burned milk on the bottom of a
pot to scrub), and de-boned the 8 ducks.  Having a clean professional
kitchen and help from the professional chefs that work there was very

-Ended up not getting to sight until about 6pm.  I set to work cleaning
the kitchen (with the help of Her Excellency, Baroness Soffya).  After
cleaning I had people on site offer to help with some prep, so the lemons
were zested and squeezed, turnips cleaned and peeled, almonds ground, and
the wafers made.  I spent my evening working on the pastry for the pig

Somewhere around midnight (when I went to bake the pig) we realized the
ovens (which had worked) were no longer working.  This was bad.  The park
ranger was called and he told us where the super secret hiding place for
the breaker box was to reset the breaker.  (I did a happy dance!)

Once the pig was baked I went home, took a nap and was back on site by 8am.

-I had lots of help all day long and everything went more or less
swimmingly!  All prep was done by 3, and help had the opportunity to get
out of the kitchen and see some of site.

Observations/setbacks/good things along the way, day of:

-There was an issue at troll that I caught wind of around lunchtime about
the number of available feast tokens.  We have had this problem in the
past, and was not wanting it to happen again.  Apparently they had lost
count somewhere of the number of tokens they had sold and were wanting to
stop selling (they had somehow lost track of the correlation of the number
of tokens/people signing the feast sign up/and the money being taken in
for feast (and somewhere in there head table caused an issue - big problem
being they were unsure of how many they were not selling - it was either
40 or 10).  This, in my brain, was an unacceptable problem to have, and
after being very unhappy with most of the event staff over it, I sent my
Hall Steward to Troll to sort the issue out.  The issue was sorted and the
96 person feast was more or less sold out (give or take a couple, I

-The Gely subtleties - I assigned myself one project for the day (once I
finished the pig - I did that in the morning) - to make the subtlety for
head table (baronial arms in vegetarian jello).  It took me five hours to
make due to being constantly distracted. When I was about to do the last
round of colored gelatin on it (the white background) I came to realize
that the girl making the almond pudding had accidentally used my last 2
boxes of veggie jelly (which meant I didn't have it for the white
background or the almond pudding for head table).  Luckily, I was more or
less prepared, and had brought agar agar with me, and was able to finish
the subtlety - which was awesome, but the picture didn't come out.

-The almond pudding - we used the agar agar for the pudding for head
table, but unfortunately not enough was put in, and so it didn't set - it
was goopey but more or less completely liquid.  We had made an extra two
regular puddings and sent those to head table with instructions for Ullr
not to eat it.

The turnips and parsnips - I received some minor grumbling over the
quality of the starchy vegetables, and I can explain.  Parsnips - were not
good quality to begin with.  All they had in the store was very large
parsnips.  Some were an okay size, but there were a few that were
literally as large as my forearm.  The turnips - The parsnips and turnips
were put into the same oven (I was using 4 - the other three contained the
rabbit, chicken, and and duck). Unfortunately for the veggies, the oven
they were in was not working properly.  It was warm, but not very.  When
the rabbit was pulled out, we threw the veggies in that oven, but
unfortunately that cut the cooking time down by 1/2 hour, which is why the
turnips were very slightly under-done. They were edible, but not nearly as
good as they should have been).

-The rabbit - For the ease of service and plating, the rabbit was 
quartered before it was cooked. This enabled it to be easily removed from
the tray and put onto platters, but also opened it up to more air to dry
out slightly.  To add gas to the fire, it was then put into a holding box.
 The rabbit was covered the entire way through, but unideal cooking
situations led the meat to be a bit more tough than I would have liked
(though still quite edible)

-Pie crust - The crust for the pies was not necessarily meant to be eaten.
 I cheated and used foil dishes to hold the shape for the pies for the
tables, but the crust was made a bit tougher that would usually be made,
so that the lids could be cut off and the food pulled out of the pie. 
While the foil was served to the tables (we didn't have the time or
patience to pull them out before service), we pulled head table's pies
from the foil, and they looked quite nice (my head table servers also
removed the lids front he pies in front of head table, so they could
partake of the food.)

-Plates - Wulfwen (my patient hero) organized all my plates for all my
dishes with labels so they could just be pulled an used.  This was a
godsend!  I had worked with her on this for one of Helewyse's feasts and
knew I could rely on her to work it all out, and it went beautifully.  I
also had "hired" two people to just work in the dish room, so that dishes
coming back could be instantly rewashed and ready for use again.

-Garnishes/spices - were prepped during the day set out and labeled, ready
to go ahead of time! :)

-The brain book / production execution.  I have tried for years to write
out a detailed schecdule for when food should be prepped and when.  I
usually fail at this, due mostly to my experience working in catering/food
service over the last number of years.  For me, I have a list in my head,
I have times in my head, it happens.  And I know this is not a useful
thing to have just in my head in a feast kitchen.

My strategy this year (since I had a kitchen):  I made a list of prep that
needed done.  I delegated jobs to people, and they happened.  I also had a
list of when items needed to start cooking (with times) so  that they
could be thrown in/on when ready.  The list was accessible to people if
they needed to reference it if I stepped out for a moment, and allowed me
more or less open to supervise the kitchen, and help where necessary. 
This also allowed the food to me more or less ready to go, exactly when I
needed it ready to plate.

- Feast service - with the exception of only a few, most of the servers
were local group members and had not served a feast before (some had never
seen one).  Knowing this, my hall steward and I made a job/expectation
handout for the servers that was emailed to them ahead of time.  To me, I
think this helped greatly.  They had an idea of what I wanted them to do,
plates I needed back were brought back, and nothing went out without a
utensil!  I also had a few extras "hired" to help clear plates, fill drink
bottles, and wash dishes.

I had picked my head table servers, who have worked for me before, and
they did the most amazing job.  They graciously put up with my antics of
removing pie lids, helping with subtleties, etc.

-The subtleties - went over really well, I think
-The bleeding Pelican - made by Master Edouard Halidai - pastry (pie
crust) pelican, filled with diluted jelly, to be volned by Their
Majesties, so it would bleed.  The pelican bled, though his head sort of
slid off in the process - the look on her Majesties face was priceless,
but it was a good show.

- The Fire breathing boar - Went over very well. I will post pictures
soon.  My only complaint was that he didn't flame as well as  I would have
liked (due mostly to some of the alcohol having evaporated while waiting
to get to course 3, since I had to fill the well before feast began. 
Their Majesties seemed pleased.

-Gelatin - the Flaming Gryphon gelatin was pretty well received - and it
looked pretty cool.

-The entertainment - about 10 minutes before feast began I learned that
His Majesty had asked a couple of people to perform during feast.  I
worked with my hall steward and feast herald to place the entertainment in
the lest intrusive places, or places where I knew I would need a few extra
minutes (eg to get the pig into place, etc).

I apologize to the book.  If anyone has any feedback, I would love to hear

Thank you,
Avelyn Grene

THLady Avelyn Grene
Apprentice to Master Edouard Halidai

The Commonplace Boke of Lady Avelyn Grene

sum scaphium suscitans

THLady Avelyn Grene
Apprentice to Master Edouard Halidai

The Commonplace Boke of Lady Avelyn Grene

sum scaphium suscitans

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