Fake News

 

Real news first:  I just finished my second week back at The Wine Bar.  It was a great week.  I presented my 18th menu there and with 100% truth I could not have done it so successfully without the entire team from the top down.  Everyone played an important role.  I think both the FOH and BOH are some of the best I’ve worked with there (I’ve worked with a lot of great individuals in the past).  There’s a mature and professional attitude and a desire to learn and elevate. I expect some very great things to develop over the coming months and believe The Wine Bar has its best days ahead.

 

They lost their lease.  A lease is a contract with a starting point and an ending point.  If you have “lost your lease” between those two points, then you’ve done something that violates the rules of that lease.  My guess is that you didn’t pay your rent.

BJ’s Brewhouse.  Don’t you need to brew beer to be considered a brew house?

Searing meat seals in the juices.  If you see anyone on TV or the interwebs telling you that, turn them off.  Science.

You’re a great cook, you should open a restaurant.  Most people who open restaurants shouldn’t.

Ramen is a new thing.  I have no more to say on this topic.  I do love good ramen though.

Using a temperature probe lets the juices run out of the meat.  Actually, the cell walls are only broken at the site of the insertion, the remainder will be intact thus holding the fluids.  Science.

If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean.  Time thinking, talking, and fantisaizing about food has value.  Keep your kitchen clean, too.

Champagne is sparkling wine, all sparkling wine is not Champagne.

Marinating will tenderize meats.  The penetration by marinades is minimal.  The best way to get a tender steak is to buy a tender steak.

Restaurant servers are personal servants.  No, relax and allow them to do their jobs.  They are working hard and have other people to care for.  

You should not discuss politics or religion.  Why not?  Perhaps if we learned to discuss these subjects in a reasonable, informed, and mature way, we would have a better understanding of each other.

Pork should be cooked through.  Science.

Turkey Bacon.  Do I really need to explain this one?

You should only turn your steaks once.  NO!  Cook them in a pan and turn them every 30 seconds to 1 minute. Science.

Organic is healthier.  Not always.

Chefs have to have full, unquestioned control in their kitchens.  Yelling at the staff is one of the methods to keep everyone in line and on the same page.  That’s old thinking and really quite unnecessary.  I’ve been there, and trust me, it only gives short-term results.  What it leads to is high turnover, higher labor cost, and everyone thinking you’re an asshole.  Use your noodle, think, and act like a reasonable person.  Work with your organization, work as a unit, and everyone will profit.  

Everyone who cooks professionally is a chef.

Using Sysco will give you a bad restaurant.  Not necessarily, but it can tempt you to have bad habits and use less-than-desirable products.  

I was a model student in school.

Red Bull is good for you.

Most food “allergies.”

All people who drink coffee like coffee.  Go to Stewart’s and watch young men put cream and sugar in their coffee.  They like caffeine and sugar. 

I love to give food away because you want to go off the menu and meld two separate items.  Not really.  Last night I had someone want chicken on top of one of our salads.  I’m always willing to do that but it’s necessary to charge for the chicken and the salad minus a few bucks since I was eliminating the sides of the chicken entrée.  What people who order chicken on a salad in an upscale restaurant often fail to understand is that we do not have boneless, skinless, commodity-grade chicken breasts in our coolers like places that offer sliced chicken on a salad.  I use a properly raised chicken from nearby farms that come to me unprocessed and fresh.   So, not only are you paying for better product, you’re paying for that product to be properly prepared and cooked with fresh herbs and real butter or good olive oil.  I also make that call because I’m not the one paying for our food and I have an obligation to those who do pay for it to sell it for a price that will allow them to run a business. 

The Patriots are successful because they cheat.  The statistics on fines for rule violations says otherwise.  Violations by the Patriots make the news, violations by the Broncos and Jets (biggest cheaters) do not.

The refs help the Patriots.  C’mon, a system that favors one team over the others for 15 years would involve an awful lot of people.  Someone would have talked by now.

Most people make their own pizza.  Stella and Tate were amazed when Jennifer told them this morning that most people do not.  We must be doing something right.

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My First Weak Back

 

I’m exhausted and sore.  Not only did I start working again after a 7 month lay-off, I’m overweight and a decade or so beyond middle age.  I also worked my off day on Sunday for a previously scheduled pop-up event with my friend Daniel Chessare.

I did drop eight pounds this week and had a great time doing it.

It’s often tough taking over an existing kitchen with a staff already in place but my past tenure at WB made the kitchen comfortable and the staff in place appears to have a genuine happiness that I’m there and they seem eager to learn and advance their knowledge.  As well, I think this may be the most dedicated FOH group I’ve seen there.  They are mature, experienced, and ready to take a step or two forward.  I’m pleased.

It was a pretty quiet week until Saturday night when I was challenged.  I’ve still got some moves and as a group we were able to deal out the plates pretty well.  We’ve still got some work to do as far as getting used to each other in the fast environment but our core group is very promising and I think as we roll out our new menu we’ll be able to provide some great food.

The menu will be quite simple, and I’ll be doing a few old favorites (or at least variations of those favorites) until we get our wheels turning at full speed.  Spring should see some exciting stuff.

Starters

Nuts – Sweet and salty cashews, pecans, almonds, and pistachios   7

Warm Olives – Mascarpone, pine nuts, and orange zest   8

Whipped Feta – Spinach-walnut pesto, warm pita   12

Tartare & Boquerones – Beef tenderloin, marinated anchovies, caper berries, olives, pickled red onion, radish, chives, olive oil, and grilled bread   13

Chicken Liver Pate – Pickled pearl onions, and grilled baguette   10

Egg on Toast –  Soft scrambled egg, toast with chive butter, vodka spiked creme fraiche, caviar, and cracked pink pepper.  12

Cauliflower Soup – Curried sweet onions, apple gastrique, crouton, fennel frond   9

 

Salads

Simple Bibb lettuce, radishes, red onion, fresh herbs, and shallot vinaigrette   8

Arugula – Fennel, orange, red onion, olives, toasted pistachios, and citrus vinaigrette   12

 

Pizza

Cheese – San Marzano tomato sauce, mozzarella (vegan option), and basil.   10

Eggplant –  San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, smoked gouda,and Parmesan  13

Mushroom – Mozzarella, fontina, and Brie, mixed mushrooms, shaved truffle, and soft baked egg   14

Chorizo and Peppers –  Mozzarella, manchego, chorizo picante, and shishito peppers   14

Entrees

Beef Tenderloin – Pan-roasted tenderloin, potato pavé,  Carmenere pan sauce, shallot-cracked pepper butter.  18/34

Lamb Chops – Pomegranate glaze, pine nut gremolata, eggplant and honey, charred fennel, yogurt.   17/32

Cod Loin – Papas arrugadas, mojo verde, chorizo emulsion.   15/28

Moroccan Chicken – Chickpeas and spinach, spicy-sweet carrots.   24  

Tangerine Duck – Seared breast, confit coquette, wheat berries, beets, green peppercorns 16/30

Farmhouse Ragú – Beef, lamb, and pork ragu, duck egg pappardelle, and goat cheese crumbles.  14/26

Burger – Chuck, brisket, and short rib blend, American cheese and caramelized onions on grilled challah roll with shoestring potatoes.   15

Eggplant Tagine – Eggplant, chickpeas, potatoes, carrots, olives, tomato, and couscous.  17

Desserts

Chocolate-Cardamom Cake – Ginger caramel, bitter chocolate ganache, and pistachios.   12

Lemon Tart – Sweet pastry, lemon custard, ricotta, and honey.   10

Blueberry Crumble – Maine blueberries, cinnamon, oat and nut crumble with vanilla gelato.   10

Gelato Selection – Local, small batch.   8

Happy Hour

Hummus –  Classic preparation with warm pita  6

Warm Olives – Grilled Baguette   6

Cheese and Charcuterie – Chef’s daily selection   6

Simple salad – Bibb lettuce, radish, red onion, shallot viniagrette   6

Tacos – Duck confit, hoisin, Thai coleslaw  /  Cod, pico de gallo, avocado puree /

            Black bean and sweet potato, spicy corn crema   4 each or 3 for 10

Cheese Pizza – San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, basil   8

Steak frites – Grilled and sliced tenderloin, shoestring potatoes, and cracked pepper butter.   15

New menu rolls out Friday.

As I’m writing there’s a study group here at Uncommon Grounds behind me.  The words like, literally, and metaphor are being used an awful lot.

My return was posted on Table Hopping.  The picture isn’t flattering but it’s certainly a fair picture of me.  Steve said I had a long resumé which isn’t true.  Yes, I have worked at a lot of places, but my resumé only lists relevent experience.  Most of my experience hasn’t relevant.  OK, I do have a long resumé.

I can’t decide if I should buy a new bathrobe or not.

With our government shutdown I was wondering how long we could go without it. Leave the essential people, pay them, and ditch the non-essentials like the elected officials.

The long layoff has definitely given me a new clarity of thinking.

It’s really feeling like I never left.

I don’t like beanies.

Please don’t garnish with a sprig of rosemary anymore.

Someone called me a drama queen for talking about my personal issues as they relate to my line of work.  We have a lot of problems in the restaurant business.  Just last week a fellow chef in Saratoga took his own life.  I’ll talk about these issues all I please.  If you don’t like it then that’s too bad, don’t read my blog.

 

Coincidentally

“What chefs should accept is that the people who are judging them have less knowledge than they do.” ~ Marco Pierre White

I’d like to start with a great story and an even better life lesson.  My son Tate who’s in kindergarten has been talking about a boy at school who’s been mean to him. Tate has also declared that he’d like to fight the boy but that has been discouraged.   A few days ago Tate had a red mark on his face and reported that he had been pushed into the snow by the mean boy.  Jennifer decided that was enough and needed to speak to his teacher before Tate either got hurt, or clocked the kid and found himself in trouble.  The next day Tate came home and announced that he had made a new friend at school.  When questioned he said that the mean boy came to his classroom to apologize.  Tate told him it was OK and then asked the boy if he wanted to be his friend.  The boy hugged him.

“We practically always excuse things when we understand them”  ~ Mikhail Lermontov

We often don’t know why people are mean, why they’re poor, why they’re depressed, or difficult, sad, alone, or in any other position.  We know nothing about that boy but my guess is that he needed a friend and a hug for a reason.  The next time you don’t understand someone’s behavior, actions, or situation simply offer to be their friend.

My first visit to The Wine Bar was just before I opened the kitchen at Chameleon on the Lake whose owner took me there to see the taste some food.  I remember liking the size of the place and vibe at the time and soon made it one of the places I took pleasure in spending some of my time off and enjoying the food and wine.  I always thought if the chef’s position opened up I was going to get it if I could.

Well, the position opened up several days prior to the start of the 2011 racing season and I was hired quickly to take the place through the impending onslaught and happened to remain for a bit of time (aside from a brief and poorly concocted absence in 2014).  We eventually parted ways on January 5, 2016.

I found myself days later at The Inn at Erlowest as a consultant and leading candidate for their Chef’s position as a result of some discussions with the General Manager of the property prior to my departure from the WB.  That didn’t materialize.

Over the next couple of years I floundered while working at a couple of places and doing a couple of consulting gigs while working my small catering business.  Everything has kept me afloat and the lack of true commitment to an employer has allowed me to handle some personal situations.

On January 2nd I got an email from the GM at The Inn at Erlowest as I was writing him an email.  They are in search of an Executive Chef and he inquired about my possible interest in the position while I was inquiring about their open Executive Chef’s position. That’s a coincidence for sure.  Add that on January 5,2018 I sat at The Wine Bar and discussed my return and got an offer to oversee the kitchen again, two years to the day that I last walked out of the building.  That’s coincidence.

Those of you that follow this blog know how up and down my life has been over the last couple of years since I left the Wine Bar.  I’ve dealt with personal tragedy, intense life changes, deep personal discovery, alcohol misuse, and lack of direction and focus in life and career.  I have not hidden much from you and will continue to let you into the life of this chef.

“Often people who criticize your life are usually the same people who don’t know the price you paid to get where you are today. True friends see the full picture of your soul.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

I have taken a long rest and my body and mind have been through a lot of healing.  With cpap I’ve gone from ninety apnea episodes per hour to under five allowing me to get sleep for the first time in years.  I have battled my long-term depression head on through medication and therapy, and I have completely altered my alcohol habits.

Over the past week the WB offer has developed into an agreement and I am delighted to announce that I’m returning to take my place back in the kitchen as their chef.  I am looking forward to working with some old friends and to working with new associates and colleagues.  They say it’s better to join the devil you know rather than the one you don’t.  I use the term devil as part of a well-known expression but am compelled to point out that the descriptor is much stronger than I intend.  The point is that both parties know what they’re getting in this deal and there are enough good qualities on both sides to continue with the relationship.

From this point on I will focus this blog on food, restaurants and a chef’s working life.  I have covered my personal issues adequately and am far enough away from the mental and emotional breakdown I experienced that I can move on with those things that need moving on with.   Although I still have demons to fight I am in a much better state now.  I have been given the very rare gift of a “do over.”

“I am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be, but most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see.” ~ Douglas Pagels

 

 

 

First Snippets of 2018

I foolishly started another blog a few weeks ago as an outlet for thoughts beyond restaurants and food.   In an effort to streamline my life and practice better time management I changed direction and decided that all my thoughts will be in chefsday.  Mostly my posts will be focused on food, dining, and life in the restaurant business.  On occasion I’ll veer off and throw in almost anything.  Today I have a mix of snippets for your reading pleasure, and a sure waste of your valuable time.

Some of you may recall from a recent post that I had announced to our Thanksgiving guests that I planned on doing a Moroccan themed Christmas dinner.  That plan was eventually overruled and ended up doing Kitschmas dinner instead.  I really thought my idea would be ok but since I do 90% of the holiday cooking.  What was I thinking?  The funny thing about doing Christmas (or any other) dinner and appetizers based on the 1970s is that no one really noticed.

My 2018 mantra comes from Karen Page, author of Culinary Creativity“Decide not to copy.  Decide to create your own food, your own way.  Feel your own fire, look inside yourself, and make your own thoughts edible.”  

Progress.

MTV – Food Network – ESPN

I recently got an email from someone I haven’t seen it almost two years.  Interesting? Not really, unless you consider that I was writing him an email when I received it.  If you think that’s a coincidence wait until I tell you the rest of the story.  Hopefully later today or tomorrow.

According to Piper the 10 year-old chocolate lab who lives in our house, I’m a wonderful and caring human being.

Trump: “Pakistan has given us nothing but lies and deceit.”  So, the same thing you’ve given us Mr. President?  At least Pakistan does something useful and makes the kitchen towels with the blue stripe.

I get irritated when you get a bundle of blue striped towels back from the linen service and there’s an orange striped one in the mix.  Who allowed this chaos to happen?

Terrorism is a reaction to imperialism.

Ice bars.  Why?

Portobello carpaccio.  Why?

I’ll put my vegan pizza Margherita against anyone’s.

Babies are honest.

Some preparations of produce were meant to be eaten out-of-season.

I was in the doctor’s office last week and there was a woman waiting with a little boy.  He was there for a lingering cough and she reeked of cigarettes.

Just because people will order it does not mean it should go on your menu.

History does not lie, only the telling of it.

My wife asked me if I could be nicer.  I told her I’d try but couldn’t commit to it.

While the nut was standing guard at his front door waiting for a donkey to come confiscate his weapons an elephant slipped in his back doors and robbed him.

What is New American Cuisine?  How quickly does it change?

Excessive American indulgence was a term used recently in the Times Union’s review of a local restaurant.  That’s the term I’ve been searching for in my feeble mind to describe much of the dining scene.  Do we really need to continue to pile pork belly, fat-soaked meats, heart-stopping piles of cheese and cream sauces on everything to make it palatable?   How about making good quality, fresh foods taste great?  Fresh produce, fresh herbs, interesting spices, interesting proteins, and excellent cooking technique are losing out to the deep fryer.  You shouldn’t have to “wash your food down.”

Don’t ask why good food costs so much, ask why cheap food costs so little.

Religion keeps the poor from murdering the rich. ~ Napoleon Bonaparte

My wife asked me if I had a preference for a mop at home.  I told her no, I could watch her mop with any kind she felt comfortable with.

Are you just trying to survive, or are you trying to excel?

People are still doing mango salsa.

As long as I can remember I’ve never been allowed to use the good scissors.

Before learning the tricks of the trade, learn the trade.

The crock pot, like Rosé and Lambrusco get a bad rap.

For Christmas my son asked for an Optimus Prime figure from The Transformers.  To save money I got him an Optimus Select.

Most things that pass are nothing.

Have an overall plan to running your kitchen.

The shift of one moment in either direction in one person’s life can affect the rest of the lives of so many.

The menu you execute says a lot about you, or at least your current situation.

Acceptance is difficult.

Menu writing is an art form.  Some compare to Pollack, Rembrandt, Botticelli or Cole.  Others compare to a dry erase board, a photocopier, or a small child’s finger painting.

I shall remind you that I’m not a Democrat or a Liberal in any way.  I view every policy and situation on its own and I lean right in many cases.  I have voted Republican in three Presidential elections and would do so again.  I  think Barack Obama was the finest President of my lifetime.  I also think Ronald Regan was a very good President.  

Dignity.

The Wine Bar Pop Up Again

For those who couldn’t make the date last month for our inaugural event in our pop-up dinner series we have decided to run the event again on January 21st.

The evening will start at 6:00 with a cocktail hour featuring great wines, and some French inspired cocktails along with their complete bar offerings. There will also be Cheese and Charcuterie consisting of chef-made patés and cured meats, local and French cheeses, and marinated olives.

The four-course French-inspired dinner will start at 7:00

Frisée Salad – lardons, sous vide local egg, and Champagne vinaigrette.

Bourride (Marseille style seafood stew) skate wing, head on prawn, mussels, aioli  (with suggested wine pairing).

Game Cassoulet – wild boar belly, duck and foie gras sausage, and pheasant sausage in slowly baked French flagolets  (with suggested wine pairing)

Chocolate Sponge Roulade – chestnut gelato and mixed nut praline.

Reservations can be made by calling The Wine Bar at 518-584-8777.

The cost is $50.00 plus tip, tax, and alcohol.

For those of you that don’t know, I was Chef at The Wine Bar for about 4 1/2 years.   It is a genuine pleasure to join The Wine Bar team again.  If you can make it you will not be disappointed.  I’m eager to cook for you and you can be part of a great night by making your reservation right away.  If you’re unable to make it, be sure to visit The Wine Bar as part of your dining routine.