Colin, Colin, Colin, and Colin

I’ve been looking at a collection of possibilities over the past couple of weeks and have met some great new people in the business, and learned some things that are unsettling.  One of those unsettling things arose out of my responding to a Craigslist ad for a restaurant for sale in Saratoga.  It sounded good, certainly worth a look.  By the description I had a feeling I knew the spot, but was surprised when it was confirmed because it has only been open for a very short time.  It’s a spot I’ve looked at before and foresaw the potential for serious issues arising with the landlord as a result of my conversations with him.  I’m not saying this is the case now, but the space was available for several years before it was occupied by the current tenant that now wants out. It’s actually a nice space.  When I sent a message to the current restaurant owner to cancel our appointment I received no response as seems both customary and socially important.  “Thanks for letting me know you were no longer interested” would have been nice.

At the tail end of most interviews it is customary to visit the kitchen and other inner-workings of the restaurant.  A couple of weeks ago I saw one of the dirtiest kitchen I’ve seen in quite some time which led me to continue looking at the entire restaurant instead of paying attention to the interviewer.  I noticed that cleanliness was not a goal of this establishment.  Last week I visited the kitchen of another Saratoga restaurant and saw the cleanest and one of the most impressive kitchens I’ve ever been in. The latter is where I very much want to work.  I did have an interview scheduled for today, but I cancelled it after a conversation with a former sous chef of mine, Colin.  He said it was a great place to work, and that I could run the kitchen blindfolded but my ability to control my own culinary destiny would be limited by the lack of creative freedom.  I kind of suspected that, but needed to hear it. Thanks, Colin  Gill for watching out for me.

When failure is a victory: I recall many conversations and consultations with my friend Dennis about a cocktail bar he wanted to open.  One of the things he stressed is that he wanted it to be a craft cocktail bar first, and a place for great food second.  The intention was not to draw a dinner crowd, but to be able to feed the cocktail crowd that wanted something good to eat.  We discussed how he could keep the food secondary without sacrificing quality.  Within his great success is a small failure, but not a failure in the negative sense.  The cocktails at Hamlet and Ghost are inventive, and skillfully made.  The “problem” is that people go there for dinner.  I’ve been there for dinner. Good job, Chef Colin Murphy. Good job to the entire H&G team for having it all.

Restaurants can often be one-dimensional which can keep them from greatness.  I’ve run kitchens that produce excellent food only to see the level at the bar, or the service suffer.  I’ve sat at bars with great cocktails, but poor service.  I’ve had excellent servers apologize for the horrible food.  Putting all the pieces together is not easy, it takes a tremendous commitment by ownership.  If you think owning a restaurant is a hobby or part-time job, you’re mistaken.

I was recently on Phila St. in Saratoga one afternoon with about 20 minutes to kill before meeting someone so I decided to grab a beer in one of the sports bars not named Seven Horse.  I sat at the bar among a sprinkling of regulars and ordered a beer from the less than willing bartender, a young lady of very few words.   When it came time to pay, I had to have another employee go find her.  Here’s your tip: the wearing of clothing one size too small may be working for now, but at some point you’re going to have to pick up some other redeeming qualities as your current “skill” becomes less in demand.  What I miss is a bartender that’s glad to see me.  When I lived in Saratoga and walked home from work I used to like to go to the bar at Wheatfields because it was generally quiet, by the time I got there, there was no one there that worked in other restaurants so I didn’t have to talk about work after a 12 hour shift, and I could just be left alone aside from the friendly bartenders.  One such bartender is a guy named Colin, and he was always happy to see a customer come in, he was up for light conversation with all of the patrons equally, and part of the overall good experience.

I’ve seen more bartenders that are good mixologists more than I’ve seen good mixologists that are good bartenders.

What Colin Kaepernick is doing doesn’t bother me, the fact that he needs to do it does.  He’s leading a peaceful protest to bring light to a serious issue and it seems the only ones bringing attention to the problems of race relations  and inequality in this country are those feeding into the problem.  The point that we’re so divided is troubling, and If were going to focus on his protest method that hurts no one instead of the message, an important one, then I cannot see a solution to our problem.

I’m not convinced he would be protesting if he still had a QB rating of 98 and was the starter on a good team rather than a rating of 78 and a backup on a bad team.

The freedom to kneel during the National Anthem is reason enough to stand during the National Anthem.

Roasted, Sautéed, Broiled, Fried, and Poached

While preparing for the job search I’m thinking about my strengths and weaknesses.  I think one of my biggest assets is that I’m a stickler for proper cooking technique.  If you’re going through the cooking process, then doesn’t it make sense that you do it properly?  I’ve worked with some really good cooks in the past, but I’ve also seen a lot of bad ones over the years.  Yes, I have weaknesses and faults too, but it’s always been tremendously important to me that the food be done to the best of my ability.  Doing something to the best of your ability means learning how to do that thing you’re doing the right way.

While a chef can be a great technician, it does him or her little good without the support of other management or ownership.  That includes the ability to source good product, hire good cooks, and work with a well-trained service staff.  Tom Burke and Paul McCullough at 15 Church are good examples of providing what is necessary for a successful kitchen.

There’s nothing like an extremely hot grill.

I dig properly poached high quality salmon.

Too often a restaurateur must ask themselves “do I want a great restaurant or do I want to make money?” Few can do both.

Is it poaching in olive oil, or is it a variation on confit?

Franco Rua of Cafe Capriccio recently cooked beans in a flask. That’s not only old school, but it’s also cool. He does a lot of old school cooking, therefore, he’s cool.

I’ve seen too many examples of cooks confusing boiling with poaching.

I once worked with a guy that called it ploaching, and I couldn’t tell him otherwise.

Really good roasting of fruits and vegetables requires knowing why you’re roasting them, and what the desired end result should be. Too many cooks think it’s just to cook them.

Fried food in a mini shopping cart or fryer basket is not cool, especially if the fried food is of poor quality. It’s not kitschy either. I was recently served stale, over-seasoned potato chips in a mini fryer basket.  Good thing the beer was good

I’ve been poached.

Sometimes a wannabe should be, sometimes not.

I’m not against new things, but I do find a lot of modern cooking methods and ingredients to be too antiseptic for my liking.  With that said, a lot of these new techniques require a lot of skill and knowledge.

I love a clean and neat kitchen. I was in a kitchen last week that was dirty, and that was before the kitchen staff was in.  If you cannot take pride in your workspace, how can you have pride in your food?

Learn proper technique above all else, if you have a good palate then good food will follow.

Most cooks who “work sauté” do not know how to sauté properly.  They use too much heat, do not get proper color on proteins, and add liquid too soon.  Despite what bad menus say, it is impossible to sauté in white wine or cream sauce. In fact, you cannot sauté in any kind of liquid or sauce.

When someone who knows next to nothing about cooking and food tirelessly argues with you about cooking food.

Putting a bunch of stuff in a blender generally does not result in pesto, so lets stop calling a bunch of stuff whirled in a blender pesto.

Worst braise I’ve ever witnessed:  Barely browned, unseasoned chicken placed in a deep hotel pan with miripoix, and mushrooms, covered with red wine and placed in an oven for an undetermined period of time and called coq au vin.  It was done by someone who thought they had learned everything about professional cooking and I could not teach them otherwise.  Good, satisfying braises are long affairs that result in deeply satisfying flavors.  I now have the urge to make my chicken alla cacciatora.

This is unrelated, but it bares repeating: When you take a picture off the internet from another restaurant and represent it as your work without giving credit, and without making the potential customer aware that it’s someone else’s creative work, that’s deceptive and wrong.

The maillard reaction is important to understand.

Please cook your pasta in a very large pot of rapidly boiling and well salted water.

Blanching requires ice.

I never cook lobsters whole. The claws and tail cook at very different rates.  I also like to keep the bodies seperate for stock so some of the parts can be taken out, like the gills which can add bitterness to the finished product.

 

The Duck Isn’t Flying, So Back To The Kitchen

One of the things I’ve tried to do in this blog is to give an accurate accounting of what it’s like to be a chef, and be in not only the throws of restaurant life, but in life as a whole.  It’s not simply cooking great food and making people happy.  The life can be a grind, it can be frustrating, and it can depend on others to do their jobs well and  I’ve always reported on that with accuracy and honesty, and will continue to do so. Therefore, I present this post in that spirit, because this is the current state of this chef.

As many of you are aware from a previous post I, with support from my family, decided to give private catering and consulting a shot, with the hope that I could make a fair living while providing care and support to the newest member of our household.  While I had a great consulting gig this summer that allowed me to be there for Theresa, and I had some small events, I cannot see too much on the horizon that will allow me to make an adequate financial contribution to our household.

Perhaps our decision was made with too much influence from the strong emotions of the time just following the loss of Theresa’s mother, or just maybe the decision to leave the  professional kitchen was made with the hope that we could do something to ensure that we had control of our own culinary destiny.  Either way, things have not panned out as we had hoped, and will not in the foreseeable future.

I suppose we could give it more time to see if the Fall season and the Holidays bring a change in our business outlook, but do we dare take it so far that we end up a situation that forces us to make major financial decisions? This little culinary services operation at this point is not worth the risk, and it’s something we can revisit far down the road if need be. So, with Theresa now in a full-time day program for the first time and working towards some life goals, it seems like this is the right move for the good of the family as a whole.   With a mortgage to pay, and a family to feed, I have to do what’s necessary and look for a chef’s position and get back into the kitchen.

I am grateful for the ability to spend the last several months with Theresa and getting her settled in her new home. In retrospect I should have just called the move a sabbatical or a leave of absence from restaurant life to focus on family matters so the door to the kitchen was left open, but again, deep emotions and uncertainty can play a huge role in decision-making as I have learned. I did the right thing at the time, and I need to do the right thing now for both myself as a chef, and also for the entire family as a father.

With that said, I am in a state of flux and am looking to take on private functions, but am looking forward to opportunities to find myself running the right kitchen again.

The truth is folks that I miss the action of the restaurant kitchen and the opportunity to create menus suited to my skill set. I miss the action on a Saturday night, and I miss the challenge of making each person who sits down for a meal very happy with their to allow me to cook for them. I do belong in the kitchen, and I belong there more than I’ve been lately.  I’m a happier person when I’m in a professional kitchen, and that is important for the balance we need in family life.  With Theresa finding her place in our family, It’s time for all of us to find similar roles as members of the group.  Were not there yet of course, but with Jenn doing well in her job, Stella starting first grade, and Tate doing his part as the adorable youngest member of the family, it’s a good time for me to return to my proper role as the happy, grumpy, tired, creative, hard-working guy known to the family good old dad that is also a good and dedicated chef.

Snippy Snippets

Sometimes a shallow labor pool can work to your advantage, and even be entertaining.

I’m seeing that some restaurant folks have drifted away from the spirit of the pop-up dinner.  What I’m seeing is events catered by established restaurants being called pop-ups.  The pop-up was established by chefs without restaurants that wanted to showcase their talent in varied locations, often done somewhat illegally with very short notice on the location so they wouldn’t get caught , then a message would be put out on some form of social media or by text to those who reserved spots at the table   The pop-up is now being done by large-scale caterers and restaurants with very accessible  advance notice. There’s nothing cool about that.

This is not cool.  Someone said it’s akin to what McDonald’s does when they show you photo of a perfectly made Big Mac, then you go to the restaurant and the one you get is a mess.  It’s not the same.  What McDonald’s is doing is showing you their own work in its best possible form, then giving you the same work with less effort put into it. When you take a picture off the internet from another restaurant and represent it as your work without giving credit, and making the potential customer aware that it’s someone else’s creative work, that’s deceptive and wrong.

When Jennifer and I operated the Yawning Duck Pasta Co. we decided to hold communal dinners by putting the two 4’x8′ farm tables I had made together to form a large square with sixteen chairs around it.  I called the Saratoga Springs Building Department just to see if there was any permit we needed.  The first thing I was told was to get an architect, which would run us $1500.00.  I thought it was a joke and I told them I thought I could figure out how to place the chairs evenly around the table without professional help.  It was no joke and the now retired building inspector had no sense of humor.  I told him we could not afford that and would not be doing the dinners in our pasta shop.  We must have done at least ten of them.  What’s the statute of limitations on illegal dinners?

I take pictures of my work using my cell phone all the time during dinner service.  Take advantage of the slower parts of the night, either at the beginning or at the end when you’ve got time to snap a pic or two before the plate goes out. This way you are representing your work as it really goes to actual diners.

“Every time I go there its bad.”  Then stop going.  Who has regular customers that complain every time they’re in?

It’s not that you’ve over cooked it, it’s that you served it.

For the first time since 1972 I have little interest in the Olympics.  I remember Mark Spitz winning 7 gold medals, and remember Frank Shorter winning the marathon.  I also remember the theme song on ABC, and Jim McKay.  I also knew that I wanted to be an Olympian, long before I knew I could run.

Steele Johnson is a member of the US Olympic diving team that is.

 

That’s enough tote bags.  One of the cool things to give out at events is an Earth friendly tote bag, one you can bring to the grocery store or farmer’s market so you don’t have to use plastic bags.  Well, we’ve got at least 30 of them at our house, and I’m sure that in 30 years it will become an environmental problem here in the US as we tend to beat a dead horse and over-do things to a fault.

Speaking of dead horses, I’m not sure I’ll get to the track this season.

Cooks that have no interest in food, politicians that have no interest in helping people, doctors that don’t have a few minutes to talk, restauranteurs that think they’re always right, customers that think they’re always right, people who aren’t aware that they’re not the only people at the farmer’s market, people who tailgate on the highway when you’re passing the schmuk in the middle lane going 60mph, even though you’re going 75 mph, the left lane was not made just for you, and when I’m done passing I’ll move over.  People who travel in the left lane, people with little interest in learning to do their jobs better, people who think Fox News is news, people who think MSNBC is news.

No matter what restaurant job I’ve ever had, in both fine dining and pubs alike, I’ve always given my best effort and I’ve always demanded that all those around me give the same effort.  When that effort is not supported throughout the restaurant then it’s very difficult to have a truly great restaurant. The lack of effort across the board is why most restaurants are not great.  Some have great service and just ok food, some have great food and just ok service. This is why in our area Yono’s stands out, they have both.

Welcome to Saratoga Salt and Char.  I have not been yet, but I’m told that quality of the food matches the quality of the service.

This is unscientific, but my observations tell me the most frequent types of vehicles that tailgate are the Audi, BMW, and Lexus.  See a pattern here? I’m not saying all owners of these types of cars are assholes because I have some dear friends that own BMWs and they’re not assholes.  Like I said, this is unscientific so I cannot confirm or rule out the douchiness of the others.  The other vehicle that I tend to have six feet from my bumper at 75 mph is the unnecessarily large pick up truck, like the Ford F-250 with the squirrely little fella driving.  I’m not saying he’s trying to make up for any short comings, but it would explain why you need large off-road tires and roll bars in and around Albany NY.

Also unscientific.  My observations tell me that at least 30% of men do not wash their hands after using a public restroom. I’ll leave you with that.

 

 

Hot for Teacher

Teaching, I mean really teaching someone to cook is a very difficult task.  If they do not have a genuine interest in food and how it should taste there’s no chance they’ll learn.

There are three types of cooks that I’ve trained over the years.  First, and my favorite, is the cook who knows he/she doesn’t know everything and will listen to what you tell them and pay attention to what you show them. They also pay attention when you’re not showing them something.  They learn to understand why you do things a particular way and embrace proper technique.  They also seek information and ideas outside of work and generally end up as chefs.  Second is common, tolerable, and often necessary due to a shallow labor pool.  The cook who pays attention and tries within the work environment to mimic my techniques and present the plates as I would.  They do their job well and have a clear understanding in the professional kitchen.  The third kind of cook has little interest in the food, and is simply there because they started as a dishwasher and moved to the cold station after a while. They’ve been cooking in sub-par in kitchens most of their working days, and see no reason to learn anything new.  They also don’t understand why I’m such an advocate of proper cooking technique, and a clean and organized work environment as the foundation of a quality kitchen.  These guys are a bad seed in the kitchen and will bring the whole group down with their poor attitude and lack of desire to learn.  They are what sports bars were created for.

Some guys have a bigger mise en place than others.

I was going to write something witty here, but I forgot what it was, I should have written it down.

Gray Kunz is in Saratoga. Most people have no idea what that means.

Many years ago I bought a new text-book, The Elements of Taste by Gray Kunz and Peter Kaminsky. If you buy cookbooks for recipes, then this is not the book for you.  If you buy it because you are learning to cook then I recommend you get a copy.

“The accomplished chef understands how taste works, what its components are, how it can be layered, how it must be balanced, and so on.” – Gray Kunz

Typically you get what you pay for.

Really? Dominic the Italian is turning French?  No, not a chance.  I have however been leaning far to the French with my cooking thoughts

“Above all, keep it simple.” – Auguste Escoffier

I watched a very good movie a few nights ago, Haute Cuisine. It reminded me once again of having very tight standards as being a very important part of being a great cook.  It will require you to read subtitles, so if you’re not bright, you’ll have to miss it.

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.” – Julia Child

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”  Also Julia

One of my early teachers, even before I worked in a professional kitchen was Mario Batali. I used to record his Food Network show Molto Mario and then make the things he made.  I wouldn’t follow his recipes, but I would follow his technique.  He explained how to sauté, how to braise, how to make a proper vinaigrette and so on.  He made me understand that once technique was mastered, the ingredients can be switched in and out to create your own versions of a recipe, or to create your own recipes.

 

I was at Hannaford yesterday waiting to buy some cod loins. The woman ahead of me asked for about 12 ounces of salmon fillet without any of that flappy stuff.  After the fish guy trimmed off the tasty belly and put the fillet on the scale he reported that it was “about three-quarters of a pound.”  She replied “I don’t know what that is.”  I turned to her as If I Only Had a Brain played in my head and said he’s spot on, that’s your 12 ounces.  Her reply was “are you sure?”  “Yes, I’m sure, I wasn’t absent the day they covered basic math.”

While I have picked up a great deal of cooking knowledge from people I’ve worked with, I’m for the most part a self-taught.  The bottom line is that you can learn if you want to.  Also, there’s nothing wrong not wanting to learn to cook. Of course, not wanting to learn ensures that you’ll not have a place in a kitchen I run.

Working on the Chain Gang

I take Theresa to a weekly appointment that takes an hour. There is a Dunkin Donuts and a Starbucks within walking distance and since what Dunkin serves is barely coffee, I go to Starbucks. I do want them to know however that no matter how cool they think they are, it’s still small, medium, and large, and no matter how many times the coffee pourer person lectures me about their sizing, I’m still going to call it a large.
The look on Theresa’s face when I told her knife skills are getting much better and she’s doing a great job helping me in the kitchen was tremendously touching.  Cooking is in her DNA
Donald Trump is a fear monger.
I’ve got sleep apnea.
One of the things I love about using produce from my garden is that when I peel, trim, and cut the vegetables I put the scraps into the compost for next year’s garden.  I like the idea of using this year’s garden to help next year’s garden.  Each year’s garden links to the next.
I was at Hannaford today and Theresa said she would like roast beef for dinner.  They only had bottom round roasts in the case and nothing at the counter.  The meat lady asked me what I was looking for and I said a decent roast like a rib or sirloin.  She said “we have chuck roasts.”  If you’re going to dress like a butcher, please act like a butcher.
Of course the same can be said about people who wear any uniform.  Alex Rodriguez struck out 4 times last night.
While buying beer at Hannaford on my way home from work last night the cashier had to get approval from the supervisor.  He called over and the supervisor motioned  back  that it was ok to ring up the beer.  It seems as I get older that supervisors ok alcohol sales from farther away each time.  There was a time when the supervisor had to walk up to the register to look at my ID, now they can tell I’m old from 30 yards away.
I recently stopped at Hannaford on my way home to buy beer from their decent selection. Upon checking out the cashier asked if I needed a bag and I told her no, that I was just going to drink it on the way home. Oddly, she seemed like that was a pretty normal thing to say, like she hears it often.
I go to Hannaford a lot, and I buy beer a lot.
There’s one cashier at Hannaford that chews gum very aggressively.  When I was a manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods I did not allow floor associates to chew gum.
We took a full milk crate of pickling cucumbers out of the garden today and we’re out of vinegar.  Off to Hannaford, again.
Dick’s is well named, based on my experience there.
I worked for Dick’s when the company was much smaller.  They wanted to start an employee newsletter and there was a contest in place to name the publication.  My suggestion The Dick’s Insider was not only rejected, but I was spoken to by upper management.
I rarely go to Price Chopper, this, and practices like it are the reason why. They’re snakes.  Guess who’s going to pay the fines?  If you guessed the customer then you’re right.
Does anyone actually think the gas gimmick at Price Chopper is real?
Lobsters are on sale this week at Price Chopper, $5.99 lb
I  was washing some onions from the garden a couple of days ago and was really enamored with the rich soil smell.
I wonder what Senator Joe McCarthy would think of Donald Trump’s association with Vladimir Putin.

When a Plan Comes Together

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Inn at Saratoga.  I’ve been there a great deal the last week because as one line cook was on vacation, the Inn and another cook had to part ways, leaving the kitchen pretty short-handed.  So, I went from consulting chef to line cook for the week.  My feet hurt.  Much of my time has been spent doing prep work, and other tasks that are not really part of my original focus.  It’s a good thing I can cover a lot of ground when I need to.  One great by-product is that I’ve been able to spend a lot of extra time with the rest of the staff that will be with the Inn moving forward.  Mike, Alan, Dan, Jennifer, and Keyonna are going to make a very good team and I’ll be happy to be in their corner long after my time is up there.

I’m pleased to have helped facilitate the addition of my friend Alan to the Inn. He will be bringing almost three-years of experience at the Wine Bar, two and a half of that under my direction.  He will be a great asset as he knows my food style and my standards well.  Alan is as steady as they come, and it is my opinion that this new setting will allow him to develop his own style and ideas. His potential has not yet been realized.

Whenever I read about a restaurant closing on local blogs I’m always amused by the commenters that want to know about their $50 gift certificate. Someone has just lots their business and quite possibly their life savings, employees have lost their jobs, and vendors may not be getting paid for the products they have provided.  But you, Mrs. Whataboutme, need to know how you’re going to be compensated for the gift you got from someone who couldn’t think of what to get you for Christmas.  Since restaurants go out of business all the time

As of late I’ve unfriended some folks on Facebook because of their politics.  No, I’m not intolerant, and I am very open to opposing ideas.  However, when your political and social views show clearly that you’re an uncaring, unreasonable person then I don’t need you in my life.  I respect your right to be on any point on the political spectrum you see fit as long as you care about all the other folks on the spectrum.

Ok, I am intolerant. Of the intolerant that is.

Fox news is for affirmation, not information.

Speaking of Facebook, Steve Barnes just posted that today marks 20 years at the Times Union.  He tells us that Table Hopping has received 185,000 comments.  This blog has received 265.

I’m hoping to start teaching some classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in the Fall.

I hope Salt and Char does well.

Bar stools are a very important part of a watering hole’s decor.

Sometimes employers don’t appreciate what an asset some employees are.  Getting to know them helps.  Observing them is not the same as getting to know them.

Our house has been like an insane asylum lately. The problem with that is that I’m not sure if I’m a doctor, an orderly, or a patient.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is my favorite movie.

I’m really hoping this Yawning Duck thing works, it’s good for our family life.

Must. Finish. Website.

 

Question: What are the Capital Region’s Iconic Restaurant Dishes?

I’m going to try something new that should actually be old.  As those of you that follow chefsday know, I sometimes go a month without writing which goes against my original intention for starting in the first place.  As I continued this blog I started to put an unnecessary minimum of 500 on my word count.  That limited me and I began to discount ideas for posts because they could not be expressed quickly and briefly. In my first month which started mid October 2014 I posted 7 times.  I’d like to post more often so I can practice writing, and because I’ve got ideas and thoughts that I’d like to share.

One of those ideas that came to me while I was watching a video posted on Table Hopping of Franco Rua of Cafe Capriccio make eggplant with four cheeses.  It so happens that was the first thing Jim Rua taught me at Capriccio when I started there as a sous chef in 1999.  It had already been on the menu since 1982 when the restaurant opened, so that makes it 34 years now.  I’m guessing it has stood the test of time.

The last video I saw on Table Hoping was of Ric Orlando making his well-known purple haze shrimp, another dish that has held up over the years like Madonna.  His blackened  string beans too have been featured on TH.

Two other dishes came to mind as I thought about what other Capital Area preparations have a long history.  Jim Rua’s greens and beans Passanante, and his calamari neri.  So, aside from the five dished mentioned here, which are probably in the top ten of the area’s iconic dishes, what are some of the items that are long running and as great today as they were long ago?  Leave a comment and I will post the unofficial results in a week or so.

Only 324 words, I’m worthless.  Talk to you folks tomorrow, if not sooner.

Snippets and a Sysco Matter

I think the difference between a drunk and someone who likes to drink is that the person who likes to drink knows why they may not feel well, the drunk has no clue.

My favorite dogs are the Beagle and the Border Collie. My least favorite dogs are the West Highland White Terrier and any dog in a purse or stroller. Keep in mind, it’s not the dog’s fault.

Social media is a great place for folks to display their ignorance if they so choose.

It’s also a great place for the misinformed to share their information with other misinformed individuals.

Pro tip: If the chef is drinking Gatorade diluted with water, then make sure you choose another color of Gatorade to mix with your vodka while at work. That way the chef doesn’t pick up the wrong bottle.

The president of Sysco-Albany came to visit me a few days ago because one of the restaurants I’m doing some consulting work for has ended a 20 year relationship with them.  The kitchen manager had expressed a dissatisfaction with the level of service and asked me what a good alternative would be.  I’ve always been a fan of sales rep, Mark McNary, who now works for Performance Food Group so I gave him a call, he set up the account in a day, and the restaurant saw its first delivery the next afternoon.

The president of Sysco asked me why I don’t like Sysco.  I said, “Because the president of Sysco doesn’t know enough not to drop in unannounced to see the chef during dinner service.”

I have been invited by the president of Sysco to visit their facility in Halfmoon to see their operation, their quality, fresh produce, seafood, and meat programs.  I’ll take him up on the offer, and I have no doubt I’ll see some great things because they actually have a lot of great products and terrific resources.

The issue is that while Sysco tells me they’re trying to be more product driven, what they don’t seem to realize is that chefs that use great products are generally better chefs that are busy producing and have very little time to deal with minimal service. Chefs who use prepared ingredients don’t need the same level of service and have more time to hold a clipboard and do their own legwork.

I’m working with a guy now who considers himself a kitchen manager.  When I get done with him we’ll call him chef.

My wife says I should work for Sysco because they could use a guy like me.  I’m not sure I’d fit in, I can be kind of a jerk.

Jerks often get results.

I’ll be doing another Friday Night Cookout  at The Cheese Traveler on the 29th of July.  Argentina will be my muse, and you can expect some handmade sausages made with meats from local farms including Tilldale Farm in Hoosic. Having done a couple of them now I feel like I’m comfortable with the venue and you can expect this one to be especially good.

I like to see chefs write seasonal menus, take advantage of what’s fresh, make an effort, cultivate learning in their staff, work clean, take chances, know their venue and clientele,  focus on their kitchen, show interest in the entire restaurant, know their strengths, know their weaknesses, eat a Big Mac on occasion, and drink after hours. I like a lot of other qualities too.

One of the restaurants I’m working with in a consulting role is The Side Room located in The Inn at Saratoga.  I have spent a great deal of time there over the six weeks and can tell you it’s a great place to be.  Well, a very nice position has opened up in the kitchen and if you’re a dedicated line cook with a love of food and would to take on a leadership role, or you know someone looking to take the next step in their culinary career, then let me know in the comment section.

Shameless plug: The Yawning Duck

Some of the people and places that have shaped the current food culture in the Capital Region.  I’m thinking Stewart’s, The Purnomo family, Sysco, Adventure in Food Trading Co., McDonald’s, Steve Barnes, Ric Orlando, Jim Rua, Angelo Mazzone, Italian restaurants, Daniel Berman,  Jaime Ortiz, Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, Wal-Mart, Gordon Ramsey, The Food Network.  Who am I missing?

A New Menu for The Inn at Saratoga, Cookouts, and Dinner Parties

Since my last post I’ve been very busy with a wide variety of projects including some consulting work for The Inn at Saratoga, some Friday night cookouts for The Cheese Traveler in Delmar, and some private in-house dinner parties. Most importantly I have been helping Theresa settle into her new home here in Schuylerville.

Don’t believe everything you read.

People want restaurants to do grass-fed, locally raised meats, and local produce. They just don’t want to pay what it costs.

I love pie.

Yes, I’m still a chef.  Here

Somewhat coincidently, several days before I started my work for them, the Inn  at Saratoga was reviewed by the Times Union and the printed review will appear in the July 3rd edition, several days after I helped launch the new menu which is very different from what they were doing before.  I have read the review and have no argument with it in regards to the meal except for the implication that I had any input into the menu and the dining experience had by the reviewer. I didn’t, the timeline in the review is not accurate.  The Inn management team recently expressed a strong desire to upgrade their dining following the renovation of The Side Room and decided to hire me on a short-term basis to develop a menu and recipes, train the staff in correct  technique and kitchen procedure, implement some cost and pricing controls, and organize the daily functions of the kitchen.

Starters, Small plates, Sharables

Cheese and Charcuterie – single item or a choice of three items from a daily selection.  $8 each or $22 for three.  served with baguette, fig compote, and fresh fruit.

Grilled Vegetables –  served with lemon vinaigrette and yogurt.  $6 each, $16 for all three artichokes, eggplant, or asparagus

Mediterranean Dips – house made hummus, tzatziki, or baba baba ganoush   $7 each, $18 for all three.  served with warm pita

Spiced Almonds – roasted with fennel and rosemary   $6

Chicken Wings – whole grilled, north african tamarind  bbq sauce. hot, medium or mild   $14

Crab Cakes – avocado crema, fresh tomatoes and corn relish $14

Boquerones – marinated fresh anchovies, cherry tomato and garlic confit, grilled baguette   $13

Grilled flatbread – roasted tri-color tomatoes, housemade mozzarella, fresh basil, and arugula   $12

Duck Fat Truffle Fries – finished with parmesan, garlic mayo   $7

Salads

Farmer’s Market Salad –  local greens, fresh vegetables, olive oil, sea salt   $9/14  

Caesar Salad – classic homemade dressing, garlic croutons, marinated anchovies   $7/12   add grilled chicken  $7  

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad – feta, basil, mint, arugula   $12

Seared Tuna – cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, olives, basil, olive oil, Bordeaux vinegar, arugula   $1

Sandwiches

Hamburger – house made american cheese, slab bacon, bourbon onions, apple cider catsup   $16

Grilled Chicken – slab bacon, avocado mayonnaise, heirloom tomato, local greens   $14

Vegetarian Patty Melt –  hand-made veggie burger, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, rye   $13

Grilled Cheese

black Forest ham, dijon, gruyere, fried egg on top   $14

duck confit, brie, sour cherry jam   $14

lobster, brie, gruyere, scallions   $17

heirloom tomato, homemade american, arugula   $12

all sandwiches are served with either duck fat fries or a side garden salad

Entrees

Roasted Halibut – summer squash, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, corn, basil-lemon broth   $16/30

Grilled Lamb Chops – baby potatoes, fava beans, rainbow carrots, pearl onions, swiss chard, lamb jus   $17/32

Prime New York Strip – roasted potato medley, succotash, chimichurri butter   $19/37

Hannah’s Beef Brisket –  crushed potatoes, glazed summer vegetables  $15/27

Free-Range Half Chicken – with rosemary and garlic, pan jus, potato pancakes, sautéed greens   $25

Wild Boar Bolognese – with house made tagliatelle   $12/23

Sweet Corn and Lobster Risotto – with asparagus  $18/34

I’ve done a couple of Friday Night Cookouts at The Cheese Traveler, and plan to do more. They’re fun, and the food is always great. Don’t let the summer go by without attending one whether it’s me cooking or anyone else.

The Yawning Duck has also been busy with dinner parties.  You too can have us do a customized dinner party in your home.  Yes, this is a shameless plug.  But, if you like Mediterranean cooking, and want to be a guest at your own party, then you’ll call me.

We do food for cocktail parties too.

Theresa is doing as well as can be expected.  I’ve said it before, she much stronger than she appears.

The kids like having her here.  Stella loves to play UNO with her, and Stella generally wins.

I do miss the dinner rush, I don’t miss the late nights and the foot pain.

Donald Trump is an asshole. Think before you vote.

The Red Sox are losing 20 to 2 right now.  Their pitching is not so good.