Food Pictures

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I could eat pizza almost every day. First is Spicy ground lamb, olives, feta, and fresh mint.  Second is chorizo picante, Manchego, and shishito peppers.  Next is mozzarella, Old Chatham Camembert, Berkshire blue, porcini mushrooms, black truffles, eggs. Not sure what I’ll do for spring, but I’m thinking ramps.

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To this day I do not understand bread making, but I seem to get lucky sometimes.

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I do understand pasta making.

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1) Boar Bolognese. 2) Duck confit and mushroom ragu. 3) mushrooms, asparagus, poached egg.

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1) Carbonara 2)Parisean gnocchi with black pepper sabayon, fava beans, chantrelles, and asparagus. 3)Lamb Bolognese with yogurt, olives, and mint.

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It’s taken me a long time to get good at seafood plates. I think I do ok now.  1) Seared Ahi tuna on eggplant caponata with capers, lemon oil, and celery leaf. 2) Grilled fresh-water prawn, grilled artichokes, gigante beans with tomato and dill. 3) Swordfish in tomato-orange broth, fingerling potatoes, olives.

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Beets and onions,  Roasted cauliflower,  Potatoes poached in rendered bone marrow.

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Duck, duck, elk. Sorry, no goose.

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Clams with chorizo and cilantro and garlic, Paella, Lobster bordelaise.

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Offal:  Duck liver pâté with pistachio butter, fig jam, and fresh fig.  Potato crusted sweetbreads, spinach with raisins, mustard gastrique, pine nuts.  Prime strip steak, duck fat fries, veal jus, bone marrow aioli.

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I’m not a baker. My tarte tatin.

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The Good ,The Bad, The Ugly, and Snippets

The Good:  Congratulations to Yono’s for being named a semifinalist for a James Beard Award. These things don’t just happen, years of hard work go into an honor like this

http://blog.timesunion.com/tablehopping/46953/yonos-named-semifinalist-for-james-beard-awards/

That post has 2 comments so far.  A post just after that on the same blog about a woman breast-feeding her baby at a Golden Corral has over 80 comments so far.  A post about Chick-fil-a coming to the area has over 100.  This tells me something.

The Bad:  A new friend and inspiration has suffered a terrible tragedy.  Many of us in the restaurant family are heartbroken.

The Ugly:   On Wednesday a wedge was cut from my bone and my big toe was put back with a screw where it belongs.  A heel spur was also taken care of.

Leading up to my surgery I’ve had numerous blood (and other) tests. As it turns out I have high blood pressure, stage 2 kidney disease (CKD), high cholesterol, and am on the doorstep of diabetes.  All of this is either controllable or reversible. There are big changes in my life to be made.

I’ll miss bourbon.

Some things I hope to accomplish while I’m out of work:  Read all the articles I’ve been saving. Take up the banjo.  Paint our kitchen table red.  Write a great Spring menu.  Quit drinking so much.  Experiment with some of Chef David Britton’s new products he gave me to try and give him feedback.  Have dinner at Mio Posto.  Sleep.  Plan a pop-up with some chef friends.

Most chefs and cooks are chefs and cooks in real life. Most servers are things other than servers in real life.

Modern cooking equipment.

Something I hope to avoid while out of work:  Sloth.

I’ve been asked to show some food pictures. Therefore an all photo post is coming soon.  Here’s one to make us think of Summer.

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Randal Putnam, I’ve put a new vegan dish on The Wine Bar menu. Moroccan winter vegetable stew with turmeric rice.

My mother was telling me about a trip to an Italian restaurant in Schenectady last week.  She said the veal parm was hanging over the plate.  This may be why many bellies are hanging over people’s belts. We’ve got to get some control.  Myself included.

We just eat and drink too much.

Old things need updating from time to time.

It’s much easier to write on bourbon than it is on pain-killers.

When you’re in a medical facility everyone you come in contact with asks you the same questions. Most commonly “what are you having done today?” When the surgical nurse asks you it’s time to be concerned.

I really wish I had not decided on my genitals as an opening topic of conversation as I was coming out of anesthesia.

I’m sure the recovery room staff has heard a lot of funny things.

Less protein, more vegetables this Spring.

Parisian gnocchi with tarragon and Dijon, carrot sabayòn, chanterelles, asparagus, chervil, chives.

No goofy “plays” on this, or “twists” on that.

Isn’t giving you chopsticks with an Asian inspired dish in an American restaurant getting old?

I said in an earlier post that 2015 was going to be big for me. It really is. Major changes are on the way.

Short Stories

A few snippets first to warm you up, then some stories.

Just because it has garlic, doesn’t mean it’s Italian food. Just because it’s Italian food doesn’t mean it has garlic.

It’s maddening to spend some time on a dessert only to see a server wreck it trying to jam a candle into it.

I need a day at the spa.

I’ve never had a day at the spa.

I once won a beauty pageant at the age of 5.

Apparently Ethan Hawke was in Saratoga yesterday. My life hasn’t changed as a result.

Perry Mason is pissed off tonight.

I once had a 78 year-old server that could carry 5 plates. I now have some servers that can carry 2 plates.

Now the stories:

A funny thing happened to me yesterday. I was making garlic cream, something I have not made in at least 5 years.  I was explaining the process I learned from Jim Rua to Joan Dembinski as my phone made a notification tone. It was a message from Jim Rua.

Years ago I was in need of a job so I interviewed at a place on the Mohawk River, I don’t remember the name but it was basically a big clam shack. After some small-talk and a few easy questions I was hit with “what are the five mother sauces?” At that point I realized I didn’t want the job and things turned sour.  I returned with “well, at a place like this it’s ketsup, mustard, cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, and perhaps malt vinegar.”  He said “you don’t want this job, do you?”  “No, absolutely not.”

I interviewed at an inn outside Rutland, VT about 6 years ago. The deal was that I would cook four courses for ten people, no restrictions. Jennifer and I drove up that day and did the food shopping on the way. I had my menu set and after a bit of chit-chat with the owner I was in the kitchen getting underway. Said owner came in and told me that he forgot to tell me that his wife does not eat meat, but fish was ok. Since I was welcome to use what was in the cooler I was fine but annoyed.  It was obvious that he was simply testing me. A little while later he came into the kitchen to tell me one of the guests had an allergy to one of the ingredients he knew I was using. Now he was becoming an asshole, but I said that was fine, I could work around that.  About 20 minutes later he came back to tell me that there would be 15 for dinner rather than the expected 10. Well, I was 80% through my prep for this 4 course menu and this guy was just being a douche bag, so I allowed him to worry about feeding the 15 coming for dinner.

In 1999 I was working at The Shipyard on Everett Rd in Albany. A good customer wanted to do an upscale burgers and fries function for a birthday for 50 people. We hand-made burgers, hand cut fries. The burgers were started on the grill then transferred to sheet pans to be finished in the ovens in my garde manger station. Well, we never used those ovens and as it turns out one was terribly out of calibration, something I was unaware of.  I checked the burgers from one oven and they were medium as requested. I assumed the tray from the other oven was at the same level of doneness since the ovens were set at the same temperature so we started plating the burgers and sending them out to the party.  A few minutes later as we were still plating and sending burgers out the plates starting coming back. Rare!  Well, servers being servers, they started putting plates in the kitchen in random places with no way of knowing whose plate was whose. We had to start over. I learned a bunch that day.

One more before bed.

I went on a working interview years ago at a place called The Purple Pepper. They had a purple theme, and mashed purple potatoes were on every plate. If you cook purple potatoes and mash them they turn grey. I was not working at a place that served grey potatoes. It was a quick night.

More of those Snippets

Who’s jumping on the bone broth bandwagon?

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There’s a difference between learning a few ingredients and learning how and why a dish is put together in a particular way. Once you learn about the relationship between ingredients you can truly think about the possibilities.

Don’t just memorize the words, but understand them.

A reservation for 2 made on-line for Valentine’s Day asks for the best table in the house. Since most reservations have already been made, and since we all have varied ideas what a great table is, I would say it’s a crap shoot for this lovely couple.  Wherever they sit, they’ll get my best.

Before I go on a 6-8 week leave for foot surgery, I’m going to make a few menu changes.  My sous chef Patrick will execute the menu flawlessly.

Isn’t bone broth just hipster meat stock.

Sometimes people ask how I can make a vegetarian dish so delicious. I tell them I cook everything in bacon fat. Then they nervously grin, for a moment, as I look them in the eye without blinking.

If you have a job, do that job to the best of your ability whether you think you are meant for that job or not.

RIP Purple Lady, it was a pleasure to serve you.

Senator Poopie Paws, we do need to wash our hands.  By the way Thom Tillis, Tom is spelled T-O-M

I’m heading down to The Shop in Troy as soon as I can. The menu looks good and the chef has a great attitude towards cooking.

I’ll bring Jenny with me. She’s good company.

I do not recommend R&S linen service.

I do not ever watch The Grammy’s or pay any attention to pop culture, so Kanye West doesn’t bother me.  What’s annoying is the constant complaining about Kanye West. Ignore him and he’ll go away.

Wednesday February 11th will be my last pasta night for a while, so I’m making some special things.

I had my pre-opp physical yesterday. Good to go.

I’m watching Conan while writing this crap.  A Burger King commercial just played and they told me I can get 10 chicken nuggets for $1.49. I was thinking that a good Conan bit would be food or not food. Conan and Andy could discuss whether something was food or not.  Actually sounds more like a Letterman bit, if he still had funny bits.

Valentine’s Day is one of the least difficult dinner services of the year, tables of two can be rattled off by any good kitchen with the greatest of ease.

Valentine’s Day is difficult for the service staff.  Instead of a few larger tables, they have a bunch of smaller tables.

This blog is approaching its 8000th view,  more than I expected after a few months.

With a 6-8 week stretch of no working I will be able to write some longer, more in-depth pieces.  One thing I’d like to explore a theory by David Chang that we chefs in America have no connection to original recipes like true ramen. I think he does suggest that we are starting our own tradition.  Are we right now at the dawn of the American culinary tradition? I believe we are, and perhaps we can call Thomas Keller the father of that tradition. http://luckypeach.com/the-state-of-ramen-david-chang/

Snippets III

I think I’m going to put bread and butter on the spring menu. Of course, I’ll make the butter from great fresh local cream. Perhaps some ramp jelly too.

I spent a great deal of my time making chowder last week, not necessarily the best use of my time. Business is business and ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

We did not run out of chowder this year.

My next splurge is going to be Eleven Madison Park, Daniel Humm’s plates are flawless. So simply complex.

I believe that the best way to have a great kitchen is to be in your kitchen cooking great food every day. Everything else is a distraction.

Yes, we made actual chowder, so did 15 Church.

I would love to learn the banjo. I’d join a band and play Foggy Mountain Breakdown every day.

How do we get people to not need large plates of food?  Small plates look so much better and a large portion of food is monotonous to eat. As a chef I would rather show you my talent across the board, not just one dish to fill you up. 

I wanted to be a third baseman when I was a kid, too bad I’m left-handed.

If I had my own restaurant I don’t think I’d have full entreés. Not necessarily tasting menus, but I wouldn’t let you out without trying some stuff and being social.

Lefties are more creative, from what I hear.

I have very little musical talent.

My all-time favorite baseball player is Brooks Robinson.

There were a lot of intoxicated people at Chowderfest.

Olive Garden has 4 courses for $12.99. Can it possibly be food?

Some people will spend their time on the internet arguing with anonymous strangers about whether or not Velveeta sucks.

While I write these tidbits I’m watching a movie called August Rush.

I pitched 1 inning of organized baseball.  It was during my last game in the Babe Ruth league. It was a 1-2-3 inning. Apparently 11,12, and 13 year-old’s can’t hit a 60 mph fastball mixed in with a 30 mph looping curveball.

I can remember the starting lineup for the 1966 Baltimore Orioles that swept the Dodgers in the World Series.

I often forget to take out the recycling bin.

Influences, Inspirations, and Aspirations

Throughout our lives we are all influenced and inspired by many people, places, and things.  I as a chef am susceptible to many outside factors. A picture of visually appealing plate on Google Images or an ingredient I’ve never used can influence me to try something different, and meal in the right restaurant can inspire me to improve my work, and aspire to achieve more. So, I thought I would write down many of the influences, inspirations, and aspirations in my life as a chef.

My earliest influence as a chef was Mario Batali. Not the pink-faced obese Mario, but the owner of Pó in Greenwich Village from the Molto Mario show on The Food Network. Remember when they used to have actual shows about real food with real chefs?  Before I actually worked in a professional kitchen I used to video tape all episodes of Molto Mario and watch them over and over, retaining as much as I could about cooking techniques, Italian products, and food history. It was a great show because it was simple and about cooking and the love of Italian food culture. I knew then that that’s the type of cooking I wanted to do professionally.

In 1982 I was taken to a new restaurant, Café Capriccio in Albany. Our waiter was Billy Karabin, a legend. He wore a different tuxedo jacket every time he came to the table.  I told the people I was with that It was the kind of restaurant I wanted some day.

In 1998 (the year I started cooking professionally) I opened a small Italian restaurant in Glenville, NY called Theresa’s Italian Grill. With too little money and too little experience it closed after 14 months. It was said at times that my food reminded them of the cooking of Jim Rua, chef/owner of Café Capriccio.

In 1999 I went to work in the kitchen of Café Capriccio and learned that my cooking was not yet like that of Jim Rua. I learned about putting simple flavors together for wonderful rustic Italian, and some Spanish influenced dishes. Jim Rua to this day has taught me more about cooking than anyone else. If you’ve never seen him work, you have no idea what he can do with the most basic staples. His presentation of individual dishes is not overly exciting, but the experience of the entire meal is.

This philosophy was reinforced when I went to Italy with Capriccio’s travel group in 2002 and stayed at Fattoria Lavacchio, a working farm and vineyard outside of Florence. It was here I saw where the simple, earthy, and organic cooking was a way of life. I’ve never experienced life that way and never have since. I do however refer to it in my mind many times when I plan a menu, a meal, or a single dish. Thank you many times over, Jim for the experiences you’ve given me.

The other thing I learned at the Café was the importance of great service and a solid service system. That responsibility fell on Bill Karabin, a constant educator. He saw to it that there were no amateurs on the service floor, he insured front waiters were well-trained and back waiters often waited many month, or years before gaining front waiter status. Billy’s lessons are still with me and I hope to use them more extensively one day.

For too many years after the Café Capriccio I waffled around in too many Capital Region restaurants void of influence and inspiration.

In 2011 I landed the Chef’s position at The Wine Bar and the freedom to be creative has found its way back into my life. I have become far more serious about my career on the last 18 months than ever before. I closely follow chefs like Thomas Keller and Daniel Humm for inspiration for what is possible.  My friend Jason Baker has given me great insight into the drive for perfection  Dominick Purnomo of Yono’s  has shown me, and others that wanting the best for the local clientelle is not just bullshit, but the proper way of doing business. I’ve worked for many people who say “I want the best,” but do not know what that means. Dominick travels, visits the best restaurants and educates himself in the art of being a great restaurateur.

Also, Tom and Anne Gaughan for their approach to life, Mehmet and Mary Odekon for their hospitality and appreciation for what I do, Jonathan Stewart for his dedication to the proper tending of a bar, and Dale and Judy Evans for their work ethic. There are many others who have influenced parts of my life other than my work as a chef. Perhaps in another post you’ll meet them.

Finally, I am most influenced by my daughter Theresa, who for all the obstacles she has faced, still loves life. And, my wife Jennifer, who supports what I do in many ways.

My aspirations are simple, yet complex. At some point I want my own restaurant, with all of these influences put into play. I want to see what is possible in the 518. One day perhaps.