I reached the empty and peaceful Wine Bar at 11:30. This is one of my favorite times of the day as I get so much more accomplished in this calm, pleasingly lonely environment.
I set up Pandora on the sound system in the kitchen and selected my Parov Stelar station because it’s upbeat and flowing which is perfect for kitchen work. I made a strong cup of French press coffee, and broke into my day slowly by checking the reservations, reviewing the prep list, and setting up the kitchen by getting cutting boards from their drying rack, taking my knives out, then heading down to the walk-in cooler and dry storage for the things I needed for my first projects. It was still about noon and would be a few hours before anybody else came in. It’s tough to express how much I cherish this time, it’s the rare bit of peace I experience in my life.
After a couple of naproxen I was ready to go. The first thing I did is make all my doughs: bread dough, pizza dough, cracker dough for rosemary flatbreads, and I also needed to make rye brioche for our burgers.
I moved along pretty well for an old guy and decided to do an extra pickling project. With country pâté on the Restaurant Week menu, the accompanying pickled vegetables is one item that I can safely get ahead on. I did a turmeric, star anise, and mustard seed brine for a few heads of cauliflower.
2:30 came about and my sous chef Patrick arrived and went into his routine of checking his station, reviewing the prep list, asking about reservations and about the day in general. It was a very uneventful day to this point and after a bit of business related chit-chat were were each steeped silently in our tasks. We don’t talk much. Not because we don’t want to, but because we’re busy.
I did mention to Patrick that I would like to make some small dietary changes like switching from coffee to tea since I use cream in my coffee and nothing in tea. This surprised him since I always say that tea is for ladies, the English, and the infirmed. He made tea, it sucked, I made coffee.
With the first of the waitstaff and the first bartender due to arrive at 3:00, we loosely wagered on who would be first to arrive since they’re rarely on time. The bartender was there at 2:59, the waitress was 10 minutes late.
Between the two FOH arrivals came our cold-side, dishwasher-guy Alan who has been with me for just over a year. He’s smart, likable, but not a food guy. He actually has some nice ideas occasionally, and can do a good job but seems to lack motivation. This frustrates me daily because the potential is there. Now, I know I’m a terrible teacher, mostly because I expect someone to observe, ask a few questions, then know how to do something. That’s how I learned, I’ve never worked under a chef that taught me, learning was my responsibility.
At 3:45 Alan was making rosemary crackers when a stack of (fairly new and expensive) pasta bowls slid off of a stainless steel shelf and smashed onto the table on which he was working, sending shards of white glass onto most of the kitchen surfaces including all the exposed food. With 15 minutes to go before we opened, all food was discarded and all surfaces were cleaned. There were no crackers that night.
With that cleared up, I was looking forward to a 6:00 visit from Jerry and Cassie Papandrea. Jerry is known for his derry x dines food blog, and is a friend on facebook. I was hoping they wouldn’t order pasta so I could sent them a preview of the winter menu. Hand cut tagliatelle with ragout of duck confit, forest blend mushrooms, veal stock reduction, cream, and rosemary. Bingo, no pasta, the treat was theirs.
We had a walk-in 7-top that arrived just before an 11-top so I thought things might get a bit hairy since we have a small staff and a tiny kitchen but things worked well. We were able to get the table of 7 their food in 11 minutes, freeing us up to make the group of 11 easy-peasey. I can’t believe I just said easy-peasey.
Since it was Saturday, I’m first cut from the kitchen, as long as things have slowed down enough for my very capable sous chef to take over. It was quiet enough so I bolted, first to Max London’s for a beer flight, then to 15 church since I haven’t been there yet. I went to the bar and Jonathan Stewart, at the request of the hospitable Paul Mccullough made me a drink on the house. Sweet! Thanks again. Jonathan made me the best Manhattan I’ve ever had outside my own home. It was a Templeton rye, perfectly balanced cocktail. No, people in other bars, you’re not “hooking me up” by pouring me a glass of bourbon or rye. If you want to do me a favor. learn to make cocktails the right way. I’ll leave it at that.