Thursday, February 23, 2012

Annual Review 2011, what a wild ride!

In regular fashion I need a little time to reflect on the year, all it has brought, and how to weave a tale out of it. I am returning to the format of stream of consciousness with copious editing and embellishment so let's go for a ride.

January 2011- Oh how long ago. Naive, idealistic, headstrong, and socked in with snow banks so high and sidewalks so narrow we have to abandon the Cadillac stroller, force Olive to walk it out, and buy something new for twin transport. Of course it is a GREAT time to be negotiating a restaurant of my own. I went to this space 6 years previous, never forgot it, and now it has a dying business in it waiting for someone to swoop in. Why not?

February- Give notice, turn it up! finish strong, you are always remembered by your last days at a job, unless you get fired. Not that that has ever happened to ME?!

March- Painting, tiling, buying, selling, trading, writing, anything but cooking. Will this place ever take shape? Of course but how soon? Money's wasting, every day costs, how far before it is go time? Trip to the Law Room for some cocktail research ( word up!), encounter a lawyer that I actually trust and respect. Kids growing up fast. Running, playing, singing, ahhh childhood, ...pushing, shoving, biting, ahhhh....parenting.

April- Opening looming. Bring it together, come on! I need a cook who can handle the hot line? No experience but you REALLY want it? Sureee. Lots of ifs, especially with wine. Why is all this product showing up? No time right now but I really should look into these invoices tomorrow...Friends and family night! Who knew we were so popular! Not me, but the new cook who decided to not come in did. A classic SHIT SHOW! KJ steps to the mike and owns her first hot station, Sandy runs the expo like only your brother can, Antonio shows in one night just how valuable he is going be to RnR, and my General Manager? Houston, we have a problem.

May- General Manager fired, chef now also GM. Waitstaff incompetent and sinking the ship. Fire, fire, fire! Send back the $100 sparkling, get me some fucking Malbec! Blankets and pillow are sent to the restaurant by my loving wife along with a note that she has to travel with to Uganda in a week. Oh my god this is going to hurt.

June- Starting to come together but the food still is solid. At least we have this going for us. "This place is great!", "Wow, this is really GOOD!", "What a surprise. And you got the veges from where? Hell, yeah!"finally got some damn Malbec and a server who can handle their own.

July- 4th. Kids are gone to Cranberry Lake and I'm still here. Head down, work through it, go see the fireworks with Sandy and a road soda. The Charles never looked so good. Patio poppin, weather is perfect, I think we are getting the hang of this thing, review from the Globe coming, I wonder what would happen if when the review came out I wrote a letter to the reviewer giving her my "two cents" about the reviewing process? And hence forth Chef Delicious will be known as "the guy who wrote the letter"

Chapter one, my letter

Chapter two, review

Chapter three, her letter

Home Run, except for all the shit I could have prevented but didn't I need more less better smarter oversight get them going push push push....Oh hell just keep on and actually live what you wrote.

August- New GM on the hook, finally taking off one of the hats. Damn that was heavy. Trip to NYC, 11MP w CDB. PIMP! Trip to the beach with the Mitch,Swift, Erik, wives, kids, and all that comes with it. How is it possible that four people can stay so similar,convince such wonderful women to marry us, and have kids with us? Escapes me but I am grateful. Gin fizz, sparkle this, skinny dip, baby splash pool, who knew you could talk so much shit over shuffle board? Big ups to the old school. Wave on. Website goes up. Computers, how I loath and love thee.

September- Busy, busy busier. Finally becoming a real restaurant. Cornhole set arrives, now we're popping! Weather stays warm, tomatoes still coming, two months solid! Hell yeah. Whole pigs coming in the back door, charcuterie, curing, sawing, cutting, youtubing, tweeeeeeeeting, who is this guy Delicious?

October- Cool it down and shut the patio. Get that record player but where is the automatic spindle? In the toy box?! Arghhhhh! Time to get my hands dirty again. Cook, cook, cook. Putting in 100+ miles on bike, who knew a commute could be so good? Gotta keep it tight for my girl.

November- Farms are still cranking and things are coming together. Even with the Commonwealth breathing down my neck and the City of Boston's gangsters hitting me up for thousands to renew my golden liquor license that is from prohibition we are still head up and looking good. Family, work, car, health, hitting the gym to get some weight on ( that damn bike is melting me away!), still no sign on the door and the city has no money for me. Still can't be stopped. But it sure is tight! Thanksgiving includes a blast up to Maine, warm relaxing dinner lake side, good wine, and a swift return to Boston.

December- Just let this year end with a bang, please? Best of 2011 from Boston Globe, Phantom Gourmet running a piece all month, doors still swinging. It;s a good thing I run my mouth and have no shame.  Wrestling masks, talking shit, I've lost my mind....but people love it! Check out the link below of a tv spot, but please don't recite any of these lines to me...please. It's embarrassing enough being me.

To 2012- Prosperity, Peace, Security, and more sleep.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Records, Details, Memories

After a few days off around the holidays to reflect and evaluate where we are here at the restaurant I thought it would be fun to share about where the thought process went and is continuing to go. It all started with records.

When creating the concept for the place music was an important part of it. What we played, how it was played, and how we make the ambiance match with the concept. At home I love the warmth and style of vinyl and I wanted it in the bar. Old tunes right next to the new stuff that artists are going the extra mile to demand pressings of was what I wanted to show. Upon opening there was no phono and no time to train the team
to do it properly. We had bigger problems in our service that dwarfed the need for a subtle touch like vinyl. Everything was wrong with the service and it needed quick fixing. So just like the rest of the world I plugged in an iPod, made a couple of playlists, and away we went. The tunes and vibe I wanted was there but the detail had been passed over. Cutting corners.

When you come up in great kitchens one of many things you take from it is details. Why is the food in these places so special? Expensive ingredients? Silver and China? Soft linens? Servers who cater to your needs? A chef that is a craftsman of the highest order? No. Details. How the groceries are selected and only accepting the best. Preparing these items with full and complete respect for what they are and wasting nothing. Cutting each herb/scallop/liver/parsnip with purpose, thought and precision. Having a fucking sharp knife. I mean come on! How many jokers calling themselves chefs work with dull knives or even worse knives they don't sharpen themselves?! Details, DETAILS, DETAILS! Cutting corners instead doing things the proper way is the slippery slope of any craft. Those habits of proper technique are what I wanted to get more then anything from my work experiences and why I sought out the best in my field wherever I was. Tasting everything with Rick Robinson at Mondo Bistro. Making every plate shine at the Siena. Only using the best ingredients at Paley's Place. Precision in prep and execution at Radius. Developing simplicity and systems at Hamersley's. Refining all of those at Lumiere and finally learning to sharpen my knife properly. How to make a kitchen (and everything in it) work within cost at Coda. Details that drown most in this industry.

To me the details of cooking technique are the most important thing and they can be found anywhere. I've experienced it:
 in the soft pastas made by an old women in Torino with fresh porcini,

Price's chicken coop's fried chicken is perfect and harbors a detail I can not discover and don't want to,

Gordon Hamersley's roast chicken (when the grill cook is paying attention and Gordon is looking over their shoulder),

 Michael Leviton's scallops, pupusas at roticerria cancun in Maverick,

my Mom's angel food cake with peppermint icing,

my wife's dalbat where I can taste Nepal and the glory of the Himalayas,

 at El Bulli from the reservation process, the clams Oaxaca, the box, to the parting handshake from the whole team there, including the most famous chef in the world who still took the time to get up from an interview and check and see how I liked everything,

Dinner at Celler de L'Aspic in Priorat after El Bulli that was just as good. Why? DETAILS! We don't have the time here to cover it, come in, we'll share a glass (or bottle) of wine and go over it.

my first Michelin meal in Paris at Carre De Feuillant that reset the bar of what a special dining experience could be.

Fresh baguettes and roast lamb at a road side earthen oven in central Mali

The street food of Mombasa with my friend Alex and the mash of Africa, Arabia, India and all that trade cultures can do together.

Lexington BBQ with Mitch; Gastonia Que with Swift; butter beans with Lynn; Rogers BBQ while skipping school with E-Rock; Beans and braise in Wyoming with Emily; Fish tacos with Max and Jill; my first Pho with Leather on Powell; Mission burrito, cherry pie and jazzfest with Chris; my first IPA with Shawn; the best Chianti I've ever had with short ribs at Stone House with Wally, Maya, and friends; Kreb's, it will always go back to Kreb's in Skaneatles. Thanks to all.

11MP with CDB (OMG! PIMP!)

So as I listen to Cat Power warm my soul like only vinyl can in my dining room between brunch and dinner I feel a strong sense of pride that one of the many details is done right. Now if I can only get a sound system that can handle the White Stripes turned up to 11 we will really be heading in the right direction.