Working on the Chain Gang

I take Theresa to a weekly appointment that takes an hour. There is a Dunkin Donuts and a Starbucks within walking distance and since what Dunkin serves is barely coffee, I go to Starbucks. I do want them to know however that no matter how cool they think they are, it’s still small, medium, and large, and no matter how many times the coffee pourer person lectures me about their sizing, I’m still going to call it a large.
The look on Theresa’s face when I told her knife skills are getting much better and she’s doing a great job helping me in the kitchen was tremendously touching.  Cooking is in her DNA
Donald Trump is a fear monger.
I’ve got sleep apnea.
One of the things I love about using produce from my garden is that when I peel, trim, and cut the vegetables I put the scraps into the compost for next year’s garden.  I like the idea of using this year’s garden to help next year’s garden.  Each year’s garden links to the next.
I was at Hannaford today and Theresa said she would like roast beef for dinner.  They only had bottom round roasts in the case and nothing at the counter.  The meat lady asked me what I was looking for and I said a decent roast like a rib or sirloin.  She said “we have chuck roasts.”  If you’re going to dress like a butcher, please act like a butcher.
Of course the same can be said about people who wear any uniform.  Alex Rodriguez struck out 4 times last night.
While buying beer at Hannaford on my way home from work last night the cashier had to get approval from the supervisor.  He called over and the supervisor motioned  back  that it was ok to ring up the beer.  It seems as I get older that supervisors ok alcohol sales from farther away each time.  There was a time when the supervisor had to walk up to the register to look at my ID, now they can tell I’m old from 30 yards away.
I recently stopped at Hannaford on my way home to buy beer from their decent selection. Upon checking out the cashier asked if I needed a bag and I told her no, that I was just going to drink it on the way home. Oddly, she seemed like that was a pretty normal thing to say, like she hears it often.
I go to Hannaford a lot, and I buy beer a lot.
There’s one cashier at Hannaford that chews gum very aggressively.  When I was a manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods I did not allow floor associates to chew gum.
We took a full milk crate of pickling cucumbers out of the garden today and we’re out of vinegar.  Off to Hannaford, again.
Dick’s is well named, based on my experience there.
I worked for Dick’s when the company was much smaller.  They wanted to start an employee newsletter and there was a contest in place to name the publication.  My suggestion The Dick’s Insider was not only rejected, but I was spoken to by upper management.
I rarely go to Price Chopper, this, and practices like it are the reason why. They’re snakes.  Guess who’s going to pay the fines?  If you guessed the customer then you’re right.
Does anyone actually think the gas gimmick at Price Chopper is real?
Lobsters are on sale this week at Price Chopper, $5.99 lb
I  was washing some onions from the garden a couple of days ago and was really enamored with the rich soil smell.
I wonder what Senator Joe McCarthy would think of Donald Trump’s association with Vladimir Putin.

When a Plan Comes Together

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the Inn at Saratoga.  I’ve been there a great deal the last week because as one line cook was on vacation, the Inn and another cook had to part ways, leaving the kitchen pretty short-handed.  So, I went from consulting chef to line cook for the week.  My feet hurt.  Much of my time has been spent doing prep work, and other tasks that are not really part of my original focus.  It’s a good thing I can cover a lot of ground when I need to.  One great by-product is that I’ve been able to spend a lot of extra time with the rest of the staff that will be with the Inn moving forward.  Mike, Alan, Dan, Jennifer, and Keyonna are going to make a very good team and I’ll be happy to be in their corner long after my time is up there.

I’m pleased to have helped facilitate the addition of my friend Alan to the Inn. He will be bringing almost three-years of experience at the Wine Bar, two and a half of that under my direction.  He will be a great asset as he knows my food style and my standards well.  Alan is as steady as they come, and it is my opinion that this new setting will allow him to develop his own style and ideas. His potential has not yet been realized.

Whenever I read about a restaurant closing on local blogs I’m always amused by the commenters that want to know about their $50 gift certificate. Someone has just lots their business and quite possibly their life savings, employees have lost their jobs, and vendors may not be getting paid for the products they have provided.  But you, Mrs. Whataboutme, need to know how you’re going to be compensated for the gift you got from someone who couldn’t think of what to get you for Christmas.  Since restaurants go out of business all the time

As of late I’ve unfriended some folks on Facebook because of their politics.  No, I’m not intolerant, and I am very open to opposing ideas.  However, when your political and social views show clearly that you’re an uncaring, unreasonable person then I don’t need you in my life.  I respect your right to be on any point on the political spectrum you see fit as long as you care about all the other folks on the spectrum.

Ok, I am intolerant. Of the intolerant that is.

Fox news is for affirmation, not information.

Speaking of Facebook, Steve Barnes just posted that today marks 20 years at the Times Union.  He tells us that Table Hopping has received 185,000 comments.  This blog has received 265.

I’m hoping to start teaching some classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in the Fall.

I hope Salt and Char does well.

Bar stools are a very important part of a watering hole’s decor.

Sometimes employers don’t appreciate what an asset some employees are.  Getting to know them helps.  Observing them is not the same as getting to know them.

Our house has been like an insane asylum lately. The problem with that is that I’m not sure if I’m a doctor, an orderly, or a patient.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is my favorite movie.

I’m really hoping this Yawning Duck thing works, it’s good for our family life.

Must. Finish. Website.


Question: What are the Capital Region’s Iconic Restaurant Dishes?

I’m going to try something new that should actually be old.  As those of you that follow chefsday know, I sometimes go a month without writing which goes against my original intention for starting in the first place.  As I continued this blog I started to put an unnecessary minimum of 500 on my word count.  That limited me and I began to discount ideas for posts because they could not be expressed quickly and briefly. In my first month which started mid October 2014 I posted 7 times.  I’d like to post more often so I can practice writing, and because I’ve got ideas and thoughts that I’d like to share.

One of those ideas that came to me while I was watching a video posted on Table Hopping of Franco Rua of Cafe Capriccio make eggplant with four cheeses.  It so happens that was the first thing Jim Rua taught me at Capriccio when I started there as a sous chef in 1999.  It had already been on the menu since 1982 when the restaurant opened, so that makes it 34 years now.  I’m guessing it has stood the test of time.

The last video I saw on Table Hoping was of Ric Orlando making his well-known purple haze shrimp, another dish that has held up over the years like Madonna.  His blackened  string beans too have been featured on TH.

Two other dishes came to mind as I thought about what other Capital Area preparations have a long history.  Jim Rua’s greens and beans Passanante, and his calamari neri.  So, aside from the five dished mentioned here, which are probably in the top ten of the area’s iconic dishes, what are some of the items that are long running and as great today as they were long ago?  Leave a comment and I will post the unofficial results in a week or so.

Only 324 words, I’m worthless.  Talk to you folks tomorrow, if not sooner.

Snippets and a Sysco Matter

I think the difference between a drunk and someone who likes to drink is that the person who likes to drink knows why they may not feel well, the drunk has no clue.

My favorite dogs are the Beagle and the Border Collie.

Social media is a great place for folks to display their ignorance if they so choose.

It’s also a great place for the misinformed to share their information with other misinformed individuals.

Pro tip: If the chef is drinking Gatorade diluted with water, then make sure you choose another color of Gatorade to mix with your vodka while at work. That way the chef doesn’t pick up the wrong bottle.

The president of Sysco-Albany came to visit me a few days ago because one of the restaurants I’m doing some consulting work for has ended a 20 year relationship with them.  The kitchen manager had expressed a dissatisfaction with the level of service and asked me what a good alternative would be.  I’ve always been a fan of sales rep, Mark McNary, who now works for Performance Food Group so I gave him a call, he set up the account in a day, and the restaurant saw its first delivery the next afternoon.

The president of Sysco asked me why I don’t like Sysco.  I said, “Because the president of Sysco doesn’t know enough not to drop in unannounced to see the chef during dinner service.”

I have been invited by the president of Sysco to visit their facility in Halfmoon to see their operation, their quality, fresh produce, seafood, and meat programs.  I’ll take him up on the offer, and I have no doubt I’ll see some great things because they actually have a lot of great products and terrific resources.

The issue is that while Sysco tells me they’re trying to be more product driven, what they don’t seem to realize is that chefs that use great products are generally better chefs that are busy producing and have very little time to deal with minimal service. Chefs who use prepared ingredients don’t need the same level of service and have more time to hold a clipboard and do their own legwork.

I’m working with a guy now who considers himself a kitchen manager.  When I get done with him we’ll call him chef.

My wife says I should work for Sysco because they could use a guy like me.  I’m not sure I’d fit in, I can be kind of a jerk.

Jerks often get results.

I’ll be doing another Friday Night Cookout  at The Cheese Traveler on the 29th of July.  Argentina will be my muse, and you can expect some handmade sausages made with meats from local farms including Tilldale Farm in Hoosic. Having done a couple of them now I feel like I’m comfortable with the venue and you can expect this one to be especially good.

I like to see chefs write seasonal menus, take advantage of what’s fresh, make an effort, cultivate learning in their staff, work clean, take chances, know their venue and clientele,  focus on their kitchen, show interest in the entire restaurant, know their strengths, know their weaknesses, eat a Big Mac on occasion, and drink after hours. I like a lot of other qualities too.

One of the restaurants I’m working with in a consulting role is The Side Room located in The Inn at Saratoga.  I have spent a great deal of time there over the six weeks and can tell you it’s a great place to be.  Well, a very nice position has opened up in the kitchen and if you’re a dedicated line cook with a love of food and would to take on a leadership role, or you know someone looking to take the next step in their culinary career, then let me know in the comment section.

Shameless plug: The Yawning Duck

Some of the people and places that have shaped the current food culture in the Capital Region.  I’m thinking Stewart’s, The Purnomo family, Sysco, Adventure in Food Trading Co., McDonald’s, Steve Barnes, Ric Orlando, Jim Rua, Angelo Mazzone, Italian restaurants, Daniel Berman,  Jaime Ortiz, Vic Christopher and Heather LaVine, Wal-Mart, Gordon Ramsey, The Food Network.  Who am I missing?

A New Menu for The Inn at Saratoga, Cookouts, and Dinner Parties

Since my last post I’ve been very busy with a wide variety of projects including some consulting work for The Inn at Saratoga, some Friday night cookouts for The Cheese Traveler in Delmar, and some private in-house dinner parties. Most importantly I have been helping Theresa settle into her new home here in Schuylerville.

Don’t believe everything you read.

People want restaurants to do grass-fed, locally raised meats, and local produce. They just don’t want to pay what it costs.

I love pie.

Yes, I’m still a chef.  Here

Somewhat coincidently, several days before I started my work for them, the Inn  at Saratoga was reviewed by the Times Union and the printed review will appear in the July 3rd edition, several days after I helped launch the new menu which is very different from what they were doing before.  I have read the review and have no argument with it in regards to the meal except for the implication that I had any input into the menu and the dining experience had by the reviewer. I didn’t, the timeline in the review is not accurate.  The Inn management team recently expressed a strong desire to upgrade their dining following the renovation of The Side Room and decided to hire me on a short-term basis to develop a menu and recipes, train the staff in correct  technique and kitchen procedure, implement some cost and pricing controls, and organize the daily functions of the kitchen.

Starters, Small plates, Sharables

Cheese and Charcuterie – single item or a choice of three items from a daily selection.  $8 each or $22 for three.  served with baguette, fig compote, and fresh fruit.

Grilled Vegetables –  served with lemon vinaigrette and yogurt.  $6 each, $16 for all three artichokes, eggplant, or asparagus

Mediterranean Dips – house made hummus, tzatziki, or baba baba ganoush   $7 each, $18 for all three.  served with warm pita

Spiced Almonds – roasted with fennel and rosemary   $6

Chicken Wings – whole grilled, north african tamarind  bbq sauce. hot, medium or mild   $14

Crab Cakes – avocado crema, fresh tomatoes and corn relish $14

Boquerones – marinated fresh anchovies, cherry tomato and garlic confit, grilled baguette   $13

Grilled flatbread – roasted tri-color tomatoes, housemade mozzarella, fresh basil, and arugula   $12

Duck Fat Truffle Fries – finished with parmesan, garlic mayo   $7


Farmer’s Market Salad –  local greens, fresh vegetables, olive oil, sea salt   $9/14  

Caesar Salad – classic homemade dressing, garlic croutons, marinated anchovies   $7/12   add grilled chicken  $7  

Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad – feta, basil, mint, arugula   $12

Seared Tuna – cucumber, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, olives, basil, olive oil, Bordeaux vinegar, arugula   $1


Hamburger – house made american cheese, slab bacon, bourbon onions, apple cider catsup   $16

Grilled Chicken – slab bacon, avocado mayonnaise, heirloom tomato, local greens   $14

Vegetarian Patty Melt –  hand-made veggie burger, caramelized onions, swiss cheese, rye   $13

Grilled Cheese

black Forest ham, dijon, gruyere, fried egg on top   $14

duck confit, brie, sour cherry jam   $14

lobster, brie, gruyere, scallions   $17

heirloom tomato, homemade american, arugula   $12

all sandwiches are served with either duck fat fries or a side garden salad


Roasted Halibut – summer squash, tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, corn, basil-lemon broth   $16/30

Grilled Lamb Chops – baby potatoes, fava beans, rainbow carrots, pearl onions, swiss chard, lamb jus   $17/32

Prime New York Strip – roasted potato medley, succotash, chimichurri butter   $19/37

Hannah’s Beef Brisket –  crushed potatoes, glazed summer vegetables  $15/27

Free-Range Half Chicken – with rosemary and garlic, pan jus, potato pancakes, sautéed greens   $25

Wild Boar Bolognese – with house made tagliatelle   $12/23

Sweet Corn and Lobster Risotto – with asparagus  $18/34

I’ve done a couple of Friday Night Cookouts at The Cheese Traveler, and plan to do more. They’re fun, and the food is always great. Don’t let the summer go by without attending one whether it’s me cooking or anyone else.

The Yawning Duck has also been busy with dinner parties.  You too can have us do a customized dinner party in your home.  Yes, this is a shameless plug.  But, if you like Mediterranean cooking, and want to be a guest at your own party, then you’ll call me.

We do food for cocktail parties too.

Theresa is doing as well as can be expected.  I’ve said it before, she much stronger than she appears.

The kids like having her here.  Stella loves to play UNO with her, and Stella generally wins.

I do miss the dinner rush, I don’t miss the late nights and the foot pain.

Donald Trump is an asshole. Think before you vote.

The Red Sox are losing 20 to 2 right now.  Their pitching is not so good.