For most people, the foods they fell in love with during childhood include macaroni and cheese, pizza, burgers and maybe even chicken nuggets. Like many other American families, mine went to McDonalds every once in a while. But, for the most part, my mother cooked at home. And, the foods of my childhood were much, much different. I suppose the thanks goes to my mother and grandmother for my "sophisticated palate." A chef once said that of me.
Among my favorite foods I have from childhood are artichokes, Irish stew and clam chowder made from scratch and ratatouille. I don't know where my mother's culinary choices came from, but I know that my preferences remain today. I love ratatouille. And having some on my plate last week at the Renaissance Center in downtown Joliet made me a happy girl.
Every Wednesday, the Renn center plays host to a themed buffet. On Feb. 15, it will feature soul food. But, on Feb. 8, the theme was French food. I knew I wanted to treat a local resident to the buffet and Nicole Puracchio was happy to join me.
Puracchio was hooked by the first course.
"The soup was very good," she said.
Puracchio had opted for the Creamy Brandied Onion Soup with Barley.
We both enjoyed as much of the food as we could. I wanted more ratatouille, but as is usually the case at the themed buffet, I was stuffed. We both agreed that one of the culinary highlights was the Herbs de Provence Roasted Pork Loin with chasseur sauce. The sauce looked fantastic, but because it was made with a roux, I opted to eat more of the ranch dressing with peppercorns. Either way, it was great. I also really enjoyed the Romaine with Artichoke and Sweet Peppers with Champagne Vinaigrette.
Both of us also agreed that we were not fans of the little shot glasses. I don't remember what the culinary arts students said was in the glasses, but the flavor wasn't the problem. The texture was so creamy, I felt I needed to use a chip or something to eat it.
All in all, this theme was definitely a hit.