Three Menus, and a Few Bits

There’s a reason some of us are chefs, and some of you are not.

The following menu was created at the request of Daniel Berman of All Over Albany http://alloveralbany.com/ and FussyLittleBlog http://fussylittleblog.com/  From his email: “I’m working on a story for All Over Albany, and I would love to have your participation. As you may know, the origins of California Cuisine are credited by many to one dinner that chef Jeremiah Tower held at Chez Panisse in October of 1976. It was a celebration of local foods, simply prepared, and paired with regional wine. The full menu is below.”  http://blog.ice.edu/2014/10/02/the-roots-of-american-food-paying-homage-to-jeremiah-tower  He then asked, “What would an Upstate New York Regional Dinner menu look like?” Well, this is what I think it would look like.

Flying Pigs Farm pork rillette/pickled farmers market vegetables.

Littlefield mixed greens/radishes/handmade Thousand Island dressing

Foraged chanterelle soup/savory whipped Battenkill cream
Hardwood grilled Adirondack trout fillet/Vermont creamery creme fraiche/shaved apple and horseradish
Oscar’s slab bacon wrapped Wannabea rabbit loin/braised red cabbage
Kilcoyne beef tenderloin slice/Sheldon Farms’ crushed fingerling potato/Hudson valley foie gras aioli
Hand melon sorbet
Black walnut tart, Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue, Rulison honeycomb
Concord grape pie, R&G Yogurt.
While the menus I’ve seen from my colleagues so far are great, a few folks have argued today that the menus do not capture NYS cuisine because they leave out Upstate favorites like Utica greens, mini hot dogs, and mozzarella sticks with Melba sauce. Well, they’re missing the point of the exercise, perhaps because they did not receive the email from Daniel, but the request was that we chefs create a regional menu celebrating local ingredients, not make standard NY tavern fare better with these celebrated local ingredients. I suspect, because none of us did that, that we were supposed to write our menus as if we were at the roots of a new regional cuisine, and we wanted to showcase the fine products grown and produced locally by using them simply, and not hidden in the menus from Anchor Bar to Ralph’s Tavern. Fine places, but that’s not what we do.
Keep in mind also, in a single menu we cannot reasonably include every ingredient that screams Upstate New York. I used locally foraged chanterelles, Adirondack trout, apples, black walnuts, and Concord grapes along with many other locally raised and produced products. With that in mind, if we neglected to use your favorite item, move on, it’s not a Cheesecake Factory menu, it’s a tasting menu.

As someone who is entertained by many things, I read Craigslist ads on occasion, as they can be both humorous and telling of many of the issues facing the restaurant industry.

One ad recently offered a head chef’s position for $15 per hour, the same wage fast food workers will be making shortly.

First draft of the winter menu, starting December 22nd.  Many of you have seen it on Facebook, but for those that haven’t, here it is:

Starters
nut medley
warm olives/fresh goat cheese/orange zest/rosemary/olive oil
smoked trout/creme fraiche/horseradish/apple/toast
rare tuna/eggplant caponata/pine nuts/celery leaf
duck meatballs/tangerine caramel/green peppercorns/mascarpone/ginger
greens/grilled artichokes/roasted peppers/olives/red onion/chickpeas/creamy lemon vinaigrette
Entrees
butternut squash risotto/grilled romaine/apples/spiced pecans/maple vinaigrette
hand-cut pappardelle/ragú of duck confit/chestnuts/dried cherries
lamb chops/roasted heirloom potatoes/rapini/parmesan bread crumbs/lemon marmalade
beef tenderloin/potato mille feuille/leek coulis/bordelaise/spinach
crispy chicken breast/root vegetable bricolage/shallot-herb pan sauce
seared sea bass/shiitake mushrooms/swiss chard/mushroom consommé
beef burger/house made American cheese/slab bacon/onion ring/duck fat fries
Pizzas
sausage and rapini
exotic mushroom, gruyére, mushroom-garlic bechamel
4 cheese
Desserts
orange tart/dark chocolate genache/hazelnuts/sea salt
vanilla semolina custard/cranberry chutney
raisin bread pudding/spiced rum caramel
The cheese and charcuterie section isn’t done.
I wish I had the space for a more extensive cheese program, but I don’t.
Restaurant Week in Saratoga runs December 4-10.
Here’s the menu for The Wine Bar
Course 1 choices

Spicy pork meatballs, tangerine caramel, green peppercorns, mascarpone, ginger

Moroccan chick pea soup

Smoked salmon and egg salad tartine
Course 2 choices
Seared striped bass, shiitake mushrooms, Swiss chard, mushroom consommé
Crispy chicken thighs, roasted root vegetables, sage scented broth
Coriander pork rib chop,  crushed white sweet potato, onion stew
Course 3 choices
Orange tart, white chocolate ganache
Roquefort, honeycomb, pear, walnut bread
You’ll notice a few items that are similar to some items in the upcoming Winter menu.  The Restaurant Week menu allows us to try some things during service before they are on a regular menu.  Also, look for specials that reflect some items on the new menu as well.
Recovery from hernia surgery takes longer than I thought it might.
Since Volkswagen fibbed about their emissions tests on their diesel cars, they’re going to have to pay up. Since we have two new Volkswagen diesel vehicles, they’re going to have to pay us twice. So far they’ve sent a $500 Visa card, a $500 dealer card, and are giving us 3 years roadside assistance for each car. It’s a start.
There have been a few very interesting chef hires lately.
Allowing employees to purchase products at cost is an excellent idea, and benefits the restaurant beyond having happy employees.  When the service staff has access to the same ingredients that the restaurant they work in, they will be encouraged to become more familiar to more specific nuances of those ingredients beyond what they might be told during pre-meal meetings and employee tastings. They will be able to take them home and experience them on their own terms, making them even more familiar, and able to express that familiarity to customers.  Having kitchen people take those same ingredients simply allows them to work with the same stuff at home, hopefully sparking ideas and creativity. And it’s a damn nice thing to do too.
Alexander Rapini was an 18th century hypnotist. No one came to his shows, and that made him bitter.
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Hitting The Links

I’m often looking at the facepage or skimming through the interwebs when I have a few spare minutes here or there. When I see and interesting story I save the link so I can go back and read it when I have some time.

I just noticed that I have a bunch of them built up and it’s time to either read them or dump them. I would like to share some of them with you along with my thoughts, that way I can make a blog post with some substance without doing too much work and hopefully you’ll get to read some decent writing for a change.

http://www.newyorkupstate.com/food/2015/05/upstate_ny_food_we_all_love.html#0  I checked this out because I was just asked to participate in an article speculating what an Upstate New York menu would look like with reference made to the origins of California Cuisine, which Jeremiah Tower is given credit for.  My first draft was based in this link, and it was a bit of a mockery of a trend of chefs doing “twists” on things like Buffalo chicken wings by using a different protein instead. Or, trying to do an upscale hot dog by using a Kobe beef hot dog with local onions, and “hand-stirred” mustard.  It’s a hot dog, and there’s nothing upscale about it.  The menu Chef Tower presented at Chez Panisse in October 1976 was simple, and based on the best of local foods.  So, I rewrote my menu with some fine local and regional products and submitted it.

http://openforbusiness.opentable.com/tips/why-this-chef-is-opening-a-restaurant-with-no-servers/  This is likely the only way to get all of your servers to have an interest in the food.  Some do, most do not. Trying to teach them the menu is like trying to teach me about soccer. I get that it’s a sport, but I have no desire to really learn about it. Therefore, I should not be hired by ESPN to be an analyst for soccer. Hire a soccer player. This scenario also eliminates the perpetual rift between the front and the back of the house that occurs all to often. Go team!

https://www.facebook.com/buzzfeedmatt/videos/967271236667087/  If you haven’t been watching this guy, then you should start.

http://time.com/3990350/restaurants-us-chefs/   This is spot on.  The problem of too many restaurants is seen in Saratoga.  This makes the labor pool very thin, and there’s little to choose from when hiring good cooks.  The other problem is that young cooks, fresh out of culinary school feel like they’re ready to run kitchens, leading to a lot of mediocre restaurants.  The mediocrity is not necessarily a result of these young chefs not being skilled, but it’s more as a result of not being experienced and well-rounded enough yet to produce top-notch food on a consistent basis. Keep in mind, there are always exceptions.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct-food-restaurant-cooks-shortage-20150803-htmlstory.html  Same thing.

http://airows.com/travel/23-brilliant-life-lessons-from-anthony-bourdain   Read these, pretty much all of them make sense.  I wish I had gotten some of this advice when I was much younger.  I should have traveled and learned more. Shit, by the time I became a professional cook I was 36 years old. I did work in a kitchen when I was 18 and I hated it. I wish I didn’t hate it. I wish someone had just helped me find my way into another kitchen.

Well, I’ve caught up on some reading, and I’m pleased that I could share it with you folks that read this blog. Perry Mason just ended, the night watchman did it which I already knew having seen this episode before. So, I’m going to bed, and looking forward to tomorrow night’s special.  Seared scallops/butternut squash risotto/grilled romaine/apples.

Good night,

Just Some Snippets

The Wine Bar has been open for 16 years, and for the most part of the last 13, there have only been 3 chefs. Why? They treat the chef with respect and allow the chef to be a chef.

Too many owners like to write menus. Some owners are good at it, most are not.

A chef that can’t write his or her own menu is not yet a chef.

You typically hear the complaint or observation that chefs move around a lot, far more than we hear about places that go through chefs like a baby goes through diapers.  Hey, you shit in a diaper and you’ve got no choice but to have it replaced.

A major league baseball costs $12.00 on Amazon.  That’s where everyone buys everything, right?  I simply don’t understand why folks go crazy when they recover a foul ball during a game.

The cost of selling as much alcohol as possible in a short period of time: human life.

Disorganization can be expensive.

Ignorance due to laziness, inexcusable.

Has pork belly run its course?

The older I get, the better I get at dodging bullets.

Spin, it’s everywhere.

Tilapia?

CDPHP has published a guide to healthy eating in the  Capital Region  http://blog.cdphp.com/health-living/guide-to-healthy-restaurants-capital-region/  It’s ridiculous.  Not only is the list tremendously inaccurate, but it’s amateurishly done and irresponsible.  I expect this kind of list to be done by an aspiring and inexperienced food blogger, not a large corporation that pretends to be part of the health care industry. Shame on them.

I really don’t care for pecans that much

I had my first post-surgical visit today at 7:20, the first appointment.  I walk in, not a soul to be seen. I sit, listening to the voices in the back figuring the receptionist was answering a phone call.  Then I heard her make one call after the other to various patients. At 7:35, still the only one in the outer office,  I walked into the back offices and expedited the process. After the weigh-in, blood pressure…….., the medical assistant opened a laptop and started to ask me the same questions that I answered both in writing and verbally on the last visit,  the standard questions like medical history, family history, medications……….. Well, I stopped her, said that aside from the surgery, nothing has changed in the last two weeks, so please don’t ask me the same questions over and over.  She said “we have to” and I replied “I’m not going to answer them”  She then informed me that she would have to put that the patient refused to answer. “good, let’s put that and move on the point of the visit.  Things went smoothly from there.

Suppose you went to a restaurant with a 6:00 reservation and no one greeted you, and you had to seek someone out after 15 minutes. Then the hostess recited the special upon seating you, then the busser came by to fill the water glasses and recited the specials, then the server came to take your drink order and recited the specials. It would be annoying, and show a lack of communication and organization. Wait, now the bartender comes over to confirm your drink order. That’s how it feels every time I go to the doctor.

The Kansas City Royals were just better than the Met’s.  Had the Cubs not choked against the Met’s we would have had a better World Series.

I went back to work yesterday after one week of recovery. I didn’t feel well at all. I seem to feel better today.