Kibbles and Bits

This past Saturday, Jennifer and I cooked dinner for the Valentine’s Day event at The Ten Broeck Mansion in Albany.  We served 42 people 5 courses from the butler’s pantry using just a GE Profile home stove.

Duck liver pâtè/spiced red onion marmalade

Hand made ricotta tortelloni/chicken consommè/chives

Butter lettuce/shaved radish/tarragon/lemon vinaigrette

Choice of:

Braised monkfish/truffle butter crushed fingerling potatoes/crimini mushrooms, pan sauce

Roast quail/pheasant sausage stuffing/sweet potato gratin/glazed parsnip/pheasant bordelaise

Roast venison loin/licorice crust/pear and chestnut bread pudding/celery root and bone marrow puree

Choice of:

Chocolate almond torte/ameretto mascarpone mousse/amarena cherries

French apple tart/cinnamon crème Anglaise/caramel stained glass

It was fun, a nice success, and an important fund-raiser for the Albany County Historical Association. Thank you for connecting them to me, Bob Lee, owner of The Wishing Well and The Brook Tavern, both excellent restaurants.  Also thank you to Adventure in Food and Brickman Produce and Seafood for helping defray the costs. As well, Jillian Altenberg, Executive Director at The Mansion, and Sarah Johnson, Education Coordinator.

Things we can do without: Chocolate covered strawberries, they’re cliché.  The “we lost our lease” fib, people just don’t lose a contract for no reason. You didn’t pay the rent.  Add grilled chicken or shrimp, it’s old.  Micro greens, they generally get over used and look sloppy and wilted.  More burger joints. Billy Fuccillo Jr. doing radio commercials, I change the station.  Sore winners, cause you really look bad when you lose. Misuse of the word bruschetta, a pet peeve of mine. The overrated.  Our love affair with mediocre sushi, I’m simply tired of spicy tuna being the most exciting thing on sushi menus.  Unseasonal menus, tomatoes in January, terrible. Under-seasoned food, invest in some tasting spoons. Pre-cooked pasta, there are enough good fresh pastas from most vendors, no excuse for mushy pasta.  Lobster mac&cheese, it’s been done to death move on.  Bacon as a trend, yes bacon is good, but it’s being used as a substitute for good cooking.

Often people will not understand what you did for them until you’re not there to do it anymore.

7% of patients that have laparoscopic hernia repairs have a reoccurrence of the hernia. That includes me. Going in again February 26th.

7% of Americans approve of Congress,

7 foods that start with q: quince, quark, Quisp, quesadilla, quohog, quail, Quiche.

Jennifer and I once cooked a dinner for 14 people based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The envy course was sausage with lentils.  We didn’t give the women sausages.

7% of German citizens were Nazis in 1940.

7 foods that help detox your liver: Grapefruit,  garlic,  beets, carrots,  leafy greens, avocados,  apples.

7% of women love their hair.

7 questions I have: What is bruschetta sauce?  Why do people care what other people eat or do not eat, as long as it does not interfere with them?  Why do politicians spend more to get a job than that job actually pays?  Why do some people refuse to try new foods?  Why wouldn’t a server want to know the menu?  Why do some restaurant menus still say things like “cooked to perfection?”   Why are basic latex gloves about 4.4 cents each, and basic latex condoms about $1.35 each?

I once worked for a guy that took credit for any dish or recipe that I came up with.  He also took credit for all the ideas he got off the internet.

As I write this, Jennifer has The Grammy’s on in the next room.  I see that Justin Bieber is just learning to play the guitar.

Justin Bieber is no Justin Timberlake.

Typically, if in your mind a snippet refers to you, then it does, whether it does or not.

You’re Killing Me

I was sent this article concerning the latest suicide by a top-level chef by a reader/Facebook friend and asked for my opinion.  As I started to respond I realized that I had enough to fill a quick blog post, so here goes.

Also read:

At my level, the culinary level here in Upstate New York, the pressure to perform is present, but not so intensely that it’s life threatening.  We need to put into perspective what we do.  We feed hungry people, and we (some of us) provide a nice culinary experience, and occasionally go beyond to the sublime.  I think any pressure comes mostly from the time deadlines we have to hit on a daily basis, and for many of us, the financial constraints we deal with.  It’s not that I don’t feel the need or have the ability to achieve greater things, but there’s a limit to how far culinary success can go in our area based on several factors. See:   In the Capital District, the expectations and standards are lower, despite what some people might think.  I certainly don’t believe we don’t have a few great chefs, but I do believe we are held back by what the market can sustain.  The good news is that I do see an upswing in culinary quality, a trend that I hope continues. Around here, we chefs likely drink more that many occupations do in order to cope with the issues of the job, and I’m sure we have a higher divorce/separation rate than many due to difficult schedules and off-beat lifestyle, but suicide is not the norm for us.  In fact, the job is not even ranked in the top 20 for suicide rates among occupations.

At the Michelin star level, a drop in stars, or a less than stellar review can have devastating financial results and can be seen as personal failure. That level of dining depends on destination diners, a flawless reputation, high demand for your product, cutting-edge cuisine, and people seeking and expecting a world-class experience.  This is where the pressure can be relentless and unforgiving.  The work required to reach that level is a tremendous commitment, not just by the chef, but by the people in their lives.  The work to maintain it is just as demanding.   Is being a Michelin star chef the cause of suicide?  No, I don’t think so.  While the pressure is high, I think most chefs at that level are intelligent enough to know that, what all chefs do, is simply cook dinner, and the bottom line is that it’s not that important of a job.  Someone recently called the rash of suicides by top chefs an epidemic.  I disagree.  Coincidence perhaps, but not epidemic.  Why someone chooses to take their own life is far beyond my pay-grade, but I am sure that almost 100% of the time more factors are involved in the decision than being a chef.

And now some snippets and tidbits

If you buy a gift certificate at any other than a well-established and long-running restaurant you run the risk of that place going out of business before it can be used. With the high failure rate you have no cause to complain about being out $100 you spent on a gift certificate for a new restaurant.

I made pasta today. Of course, I generally make pasta on Wednesday.

Today I went back to the surgeon that did my hernia repair in October because I’ve started feeling the same pain I did last May.  While I put my well-being on the back burner in the interest of business last time, I’m not going to do it this time.  I’m getting a CT scan next week to see exactly what has happened and how it can be fixed.

I’ve written two Valentine’s Day menus. One for The Inn at Erlowest which I’ll never see executed, and the other one for Ten Broeck Mansion’s annual Valentine’s Day dinner (on Saturday the 13th). That’s the one that I will see executed along with Jennifer.

It is my understanding that there was chowder served at this past weekend’s booze-fest.

This is sad.

A lot of folks also like to report on what happened that closed any business. Of course, they typically have little knowledge of the situation.




Bowl of Super Snippets

Not everyone wants to be elevated, or at least wants to put in the effort to do so.

It’s funny,  you’re more likely find fault with something that you cannot afford to keep.

I’m always skeptical when I read some biographical information about a chef and it says in a short snippet that he/she worked under some well-known chef without any other information like their length of tenure or the position they held.  “Worked under Jeremiah Tower” holds little value.  “Was the executive sous chef for two years, then promoted to chef de cuisine under Michael Symon” means something.

The typical Fox News viewer on average has an IQ 20 points lower than the typical non-viewer.

I read that somewhere, I didn’t do any testing.

Running a restaurant is not like running most other kind of businesses, the people are different, and the product is different.

More than once in my career I have been told by a an owner/manager that there was a desire to raise the level of cuisine then failed to do or allow what’s necessary to make that happen.

I’m not sure most understand what is necessary.  Some, I’m confident do.

Voting for Bernie Sanders will not turn the US into a socialist nation.  We’re in the middle, we move ever so slightly to the left, or ever so slightly to the right every 4-8 years. There is not a single individual or administration that will change the entire political system.

Writing a restaurant menu is a fine line between business and art.

No more free restaurant advice. I’ve worked hard to learn what I know, from now on there’s a price.

I’m cooking Valentine’s dinner with Jennifer at the Ten Broeck Mansion

Exoctix mushrooms

Your and you’re. Very confusing. Not


No, I didn’t say I was supporting Bernie Sanders.

Fred generally has no idea what he’s talking about.

When life brings you full circle, all you’ve accomplished is to end up where you started.

There was no Chowderfest for me this year. Yippee!

Spring training is right around the corner.

I didn’t attend the CIA, but I’m sure they teach more than cream sauces.

Jenn and I had dinner at The Wishing Well Tuesday night. The best meal we’ve had out in a long time.

Cream in risotto is cheating.

Deep pockets allow you the ability to make mistakes.

Shallow pockets cause you to make mistakes.

Pretty traditional food for the game today. Nachos, guacamole, some shrimp.

Beer too.

I don’t watch any pregame analysis or commentary, it’s a waste of time.

If people held hands in a line around The Equator, most of them would drown.

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Yawning Duck™ half time analysis. 

One record set at this year’s Super Bowl: The most 14 year-old girls on a football field at one time.

Followed by the most OMG texts occurring simultaneously.

The half time show is pretty bad so far. Of course, Cold Play is pretty bad to begin with.

Makes me remember just how good Freddie Mercury was

Those leather underpants Beyoncé is wearing cannot be too comfortable.


No Room at the Inn

Well folks, it certainly has been a long time since I’ve written, and I’ve got a lot to talk about. I won’t cover everything in this post, but I will bring you up-to-date on my employment status.  I also hope this kick-starts a revival of this blog.  I have a few new posts almost ready, including some snippets for later today.

As many of you already know, I’m no longer at The Wine Bar. Sometimes relationships just run their course and it becomes time for both parties to move on.  I am grateful for my time there, and am thankful for being allowed to do what a chefs do; create and execute menus.  I think I wrote and carried through 17 seasonal menus during my tenure there.

When the executive chef’s position at The Inn at Erlowest in Lake George became available in mid December, I decided to apply, and  then I interviewed for the position. The Inn has had an up and down ride over the last 10 years, interspersed with a few chefs that would be an asset to any kitchen.  I was sure I could restore the culinary reputation that has been associated with the Inn in the past.  I was also firmly convinced that this was a vehicle for me to take my culinary accomplishments to a higher level.  It is a top-of-the class facility, with the resources that can help a chef achieve lofty goals with the right level of desire.  I was hired as a consulting chef in early January to fill the gap between the time the executive chef left (Dec. 19th) and the pending leaving date of the executive sous chef (Jan. 29), and the hire of a new executive chef, which I was told would be a lengthy process with several interviews and tastings still to be carried out.  It was understood that the current sous chef would run the kitchen until his last day as he had been a steady and dedicated employee for almost two years and had earned that opportunity.  This gave me a chance to become familiar with my surroundings and plan my first menu without the extra responsibilities associated with running a kitchen.   As one of the final candidates this was a great chance for me to prove that I was the clear choice for the position.  I was also given the task of helping revamp the wine list that had been allowed to go into disarray.

Well, last week management let me know that the executive sous chef had a change of plans in his life and was not moving downstate. He expressed desire to stay at the Inn and was given the executive chef’s position without hesitation.  It was clearly the right choice since his skill set was perfect for both the current use of the Inn, and the present level of cuisine happily served at the restaurant. He also has a management style that best fits the overall management style of  the Erlowest management team.  I was however asked to stay on as they really liked me and my work.  It was a nice gesture, and I still had the wine list and some other projects to work on as well as helping out where I could in the kitchen.  I was very surprised by the sudden turn of events that without proper thought agreed to continue even though the position I sought was no longer available.

After a few days of both food production and working on the couple of projects I had started it became very clear that my heart was not into it and without the goal of running the kitchen I felt little desire to continue. The bottom line is, I’m a chef, I first and foremost design plates and menus and execute them with the help of my kitchen staff.  Without that function, other jobs alone do not excite me and will likely be done without full effort. Therefore,  I could not in good conscience accept payment for sub-par work that I was not putting 100% effort into.  Someone else was running the kitchen so it became obvious that there was no room at the Inn.

I’m now available to pursue new opportunities which I am looking forward to.