Twas the week before Christmas

On Monday we had a group in for a 5 course tasting menu and wine pairings. They confirmed the number several days prior to be 9 regular people and one vegetarian. At 5:00, about an hour before the event they confirmed the number to be 8 regular people, no vegetarian. 11 people showed up. I have no idea where the vegetarian is, likely too ill to attend.

On Tuesday we had a book club meeting of 10 people downstairs with the promise of perhaps some cheese. They all ordered dinner. No big deal.

On Wednesday I picked up a can of anchovies so I could make puttanesca for a pasta night special. I had enough left IMG_369241526673615to make an anchovy and pickled hot pepper pizza tonight. Damn thing is burning a hole in my chest right now. I’m trying to put the fire out with bourbon.

On Thursday we had a group of a promised 40 people, so I prepared for 40 people. The servers gave me a head-count of 25. The staff ate well that night.

On Friday I did a private catering for a very dear old friend. I have catered his annual Christmas party since 1987. At its peak 10-15 years ago it was 100-120 people in his house, and consisted of three full dinner courses on rented china. We were much younger then. This year there were about 80 people who enjoyed the 3 stews and 3 soups that I prepared with Jenny.  Lamb stew, duck and cabbage stew, seafood and sausage stew, wild mushroom and barley soup, curried root vegetable soup, and creamy cauliflower soup. People still stand in doorways no matter how many time you pass through with hot food.

Saturday was regular, except for that anchovy and hot pepper pizza burning in my chest.

Tomorrow we go look for some stuff at Huck Finn’s Warehouse.

New Format

I’ve been pondering this blog over the past couple of weeks, and clearly have not written much.  The issue is that my time is very limited.  I wake up daily as my wife leaves for work, putting me in charge of our small children. Then, at 11:30 I leave for The Wine Bar and work until 10-11:00. When I get home I like to spend some time with Jennifer and relax a bit before bed.  This all leaves little time for writing something considerable about a topic that has been rolling around in my feeble chef mind.

One thought was to just discontinue the blog, and mark the experience down as a good try.  Nope, that’s a cop-out. So, what I’ve come up with is a bit of a new format, something easier to handle, but hopefully as interesting. It’s kind of extension of the snippets sort of thing, but more substantial. Now what you’ll get is a series of longer bits, but just as random as before. I’m hoping this way I can deliver a few posts a week without having to write something that takes too much time at one sitting.  I generally like to finish a topic before the end of the night, so I’ve been up until 1:00 finishing a piece. I type very slowly, and make a bunch of mistakes that need correcting, therefore it takes me a long time to write 500 words or so. As I get better, I’ll get more efficient and be able to lengthen out my writing. Also, I’m going to start using my phone to dictate during the day, then edit when I get home. I’ll see if that works to make me more productive. My goal ultimately is to write about 750 words daily, which is a struggle right now.

If any experienced writers have any input that would help me become more efficient I’d appreciate it. For tonight though, that’s it.  Tomorrow night I’ll write about the development and execution of a personal tasting menu for some Global Foundries folks coming in tomorrow evening.

Random Thoughts

I was going to use some variation of snippets but I just don’t want that to become some sort of ongoing  thing, I don’t like ongoing things.

We seem to go through 3X as many of our hand-made crackers on slow nights than we do on busy nights.

People with low standards are often easier to work with, if you also have low standards

Sending an order to the kitchen, then going into the kitchen to tell them that your table ordered food is a sure way to be ridiculed.

I know I can be condescending.  You know what that means, right?

Standards are good.

The winter menu is almost done, and will feature our friend, the duck Included on the menu is duck al’orange, Parisian gnocchi with ragout of duck confit and porcini mushrooms, and charcuterie plate of duck rillets, duck prosciutto, and duck pâté.

I prefer to work with demanding people.

I’m going to run a fennel sausage and rapini pizza on the winter menu.

Yes, we’ll make our sausage using Berkshire pork.

I’m also going to do cream of mushroom soup with cauliflower crema.

I’ve been obsessed with watching promotional videos for Michelin starred restaurants around the US on YouTube.

I have a surprise for everyone.

I’d like to start a mentoring program.

Yes, I am drinking bourbon as I write.

I have a lot to teach young cooks.

I’m not a particularly good teacher on a daily basis, unless you pay close attention, and ask questions.

I need to start a tasting menu program.

My wife tried to fool me by saying we needed to go to Walmart today.

I don’t go to the Walmarts.

I’m gonna be stepping it up, who’s with me?

I’ve decided to debut our winter menu on New Year’s Eve.  Come celebrate with us.




A Day in the Life

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.