Today was a great day.

I spent the morning at the Schenectady Greenmarket, picking up lots of great vegetables, bread, vegan hummus, and wine from the Hudson-Chatham Winery.  I probably would have forgotten to go the market, had I not been reminded by my neighbor and buddy Chef Mark that he would be cooking at the Greenmarket today.


Popcorn and Taters
Popcorn and Taters
Onions, Red and Yellow
Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts
Mark greenmarket
Chef Mark Graham cooking at the Schenectady Greenmarket

Part Two of today’s excitement after the jump…

After the market, I headed out to indulge in a foodie’s dream.  Yesterday afternoon, Mark invited me to partake in a unique opportunity…to help him prep today- in his restaurant kitchen – for the James Beard Foundation’s “Upstate in the Big Apple” dinner at the Beard House!  That’s pretty huge, believe me.  To gourmands, James Beard is bigger than Oprah, literally and figuratively (well, mostly just figuratively now, since he’s dead).  Anyway, the dinner is Wednesday evening in NYC, and Mark needed help prepping the courses he would be serving.  Of course I said yes.  Bob was excited, too, but I think it was mostly because I wouldn’t be home to bother him during football.

I had no idea what to expect.  I had been to Mark’s restaurant before (MezzaNotte Ristorante in Guilderland), but only as a customer.  I was thrilled to get a behind-the-scenes look at a restaurant kitchen after having spent countless hours reading about them.  When I got there, Mark set me up with a chef coat and apron, and put me straight to work in the prep kitchen making meatballs, for his appetizer: Duck Confit Meatballs with Honey-Poached Cranberries and Dijon Soubise. I would be forming the mixture of duck meat, veal, roasted pureed fennel, bread, and eggs into tiny bite-sized meatballs (about a teaspoon of meat per ball), that would later be made into a conft with rendered duck fat.  Basically, duck meatballs soaked in duck fat.  Doesn’t get any better than that.

After I made about a zillion meatballs, put them in the walk-in cooler, and labeled them (“Duck Balls, small”), I went upstairs to help Mark cook some stuff on the line.  First, we tasted the meatballs that I shaped – they were BEYOND GOOD.  Heaven on earth.  And that was even before they got confited.  I can hardly imagine how good they will be when they’re served on Wednesday evening (and we only made enough for ONE MEATBALL PER PERSON).  I also watched Mark roast some quail wings, to make a stock.  Those were the tiniest things I’ve ever seen.  But they smelled divine.  I wish I were going to this dinner, to taste all this amazing-sounding (and smelling) food.

Having a bit more time before I had to leave, I chopped shallots, and sweated them.  Then it was time to go home.  Damn Bob and his daily need to eat dinner.   Mark assured me that he would have me back again sometime, to help him prep something else.  I cannot wait.

Wendy Mark
Me and Chef Mark Graham at MezzaNotte, preparing for the James Beard House dinner on November 4 in NYC