Can I just say "Ugh". I hate that biotch. No, really, I think I mean that. And I don't normally dislike anyone, truthfully. Comes into my Bistro with her pretentious, entitled ass like she's the Queen of Sheba and the "best" customer we have and....can I just tell you? All the servers hate her. The cooks hate her. The hostess hates her. No one likes her. WHY does the woman come into our restaurant, you ask?
SO THAT SHE CAN SEND EVERYTHING SHE SPECIAL ORDERS, yes I said special orders, BACK TO THE KITCHEN TO BE REMADE!!!! UUUUUGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!
Now look, if you are going to come to a restaurant, and you don't want this or that which normally comes with that particular dish, I have no problem not putting this or that ingredient in your dish. If you have a food allergy, by all means, let us know and we will be vigilant to make sure there is no allergy contaminated objects, utensils, etc. used near your food. But to come into the Bistro, and CREATE your own dish with a smile on your face, "Oh, can you not put this, but put that, and I'd only like a little of this, and can you make sure that is extra crispy, with the sauce from the other dish, etc. etc. etc." A substitution and add-on nightmare, and then when we are polite enough to not tell your ass to go have it your way at Burger King, you actually send it BACK??? Every time??? WTF?
Let me repeat. My cooks hate her. My servers hate her. I'm pretty sure the cleaning crew who has never met her, would hate her. And me, being the General Manager, has always said, "Oh come on, she's not that bad...Give her excellent customer service and she's no problem." Well, let me tell you. I took that idea crumbled it, shredded it up, threw it on the ground and stomped up and down on it tonight. STOMP, STOMP, STOMP. Then I spit on it, swept it up, and threw it in the trash.
For 6 years, we've had our Salamander. Like all things, sometimes kitchen equipment starts to wear out. And do we rush right out to buy a new one? No. We need to make profit every month to pay our bills, so like all other restaurants, we try to repair equipment, milk it for all its worth, and when its finally time to put something out to pasture, we weep. This is what happened recently to our Salamander. It tried to hold on. The heat had long ago mellowed to warm. The ceramic brick was covered in carbon. The gas lines were beginning to clog. And then it happened. Blue gas flames shooting out of the back of the salamander....right under the gas line! YIKES! Run for the hills. LOL. Okay, well, it wasn't that bad. Actually, we just turned it off.
But none the less, it was time for a new one. Last week, it arrived and was installed. All shiny and new with a new ceramic brick. And man, it's HOT! Put something under that broiler for a minute and call it done. Which is great, right? Well, no. Not really. Because my cooks have grown used to putting food in there and forgetting about it for about 5 minutes. Now, they have to stand there and watch it, lest it burn. But they will eventually get used to it. Besides, we only use it for one thing anyway....french onion soup.
You know, french onion, served in a nice ceramic crock with ooey gooey provolone and Gruyere, melting over the side of the crock. When you put your spoon in, you can barely get past the cheese to the crouton and rich brown stock below...mmmmm. So good. And cheesy and stringy and delicious, right?
Unless, you are the BIOTCH. Then you always order it "Well Done". Well done steak I've heard of. Well done french onion soup? Huh? Oh, okay, so you want the cheese extra brown and crispy on top. Well, normally that's not a problem. Because our ancient salamander that only works when it feels like it, will have time to brown your cheese well done while its also melting it to the crock...oh wait, we don't have that salamander anymore, do we? Nope. We've got the super turbo brand new one that cooks everything in a split second. Melts the cheese perfectly. As it should. But if we leave it in as long as your special request, guess what? It's burnt! If we send it out before it's burnt, you send it back. If I explain to you that I can't cook it longer without burning, what do you say? "Well this is how I've always gotten it here." Yes, yes, I know, but now, you can't. Unless you want it burned by Super Turbo Brand New Salamander over there, which I'm sure you don't. But I'll be happy to give you a refund or something else if you aren't happy with your perfectly made French Onion Soup? Uh, no? You'd like me to remake it? Of course you would. Five times, as a matter of fact. I made that woman's soup 5, FIVE, 5 times tonight. It was too light, too dark, too melty, too soupy, too hot, too cold, too imperfect for her. So she left. But rest assured, she'll be back.
I hate that BIOTCH.
It's even harder when you are reunited with a person through news of further strife. The restaurant manager whom I wrote about in Wedding Triumphs and Disasters has certainly had her share of both celebrations and concerns. Divorce. Remission of her cancer! New husband! BABY! More cancer. Successful bone marrow transplant! Family! Kidney dialysis. Tracheotomy. Friends! Feeding tube. Respirator. Hope!
Today was a day to reunite in person, on phone, and via email with some old restaurant co-workers, staff, and friends. So great to talk to everyone! Jermaine, Kim, Nikki, Mark, Rich, Bernadette, Gloria, Manny, Maynard, and on and on and on. So hard to be talking about this. Restaurant people are one big family. We always seem to pull back together, to find one another, to reconnect, to support one another when the need is greatest.
Positive thoughts and prayers are called for on this long hard road.
Edited: June 1st, 2008, Heather Barrineau, Rest In Peace
Death is nothing at all I have only slipped away into the next room I am I and you are you Whatever we were to each other That we are still Call me by my old familiar name Speak to me in the easy way you always used Put no difference into your tone Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow Laugh as we always laughed At the little jokes we always enjoyed together Play, smile, think of me, pray for me Let my name be ever the household word that it always was Let it be spoken without effort Without the ghost of a shadow in it Life means all that it ever meant It is the same as it ever was There is absolute unbroken continuity What is death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind Because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you for an interval Somewhere very near Just around the corner All is well. Nothing is past; nothing is lost One brief moment and all will be as it was before How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again! ~Canon Henry Scott-Holland, 1847-1918
For years, I wore soft leather shoes at work, $40 a pair, throw them out after the cleaning solvents and grease embedded in the kitchen floor had eaten through the sole, get another pair. About once every two to three months, depending on if my toes were actually sticking out of the shoe yet, or if there was any duct tape available....come on now, you know you've duct taped your work shoes when you were only making $8/hour. You would look at your boss like they were crazy every time they hung up those Shoes For Crews pamphlets on the employee bulletin board. Well, me too.
Then one day, just last year, after 18 years in the business....a revelation. Okay, yes, this is late breaking news for most of you...I'm a little slow. My chef bought a $120 pair of Dansko Professional clogs and didn't like them. I tried them, and can I just say the angels broke out with "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallel-u-jah."
Here's the thing with Dansko Professionals. They are stapled clogs that are hand machined. Therefore, no pair, no single shoe for that matter is going to be exactly alike. The reason my chef didn't like them, is he had gone to a shoe store and said, "I'd like these in a size 8", paid for them and walked away. That will cause blisters or ill fitting shoes.
It's highly recommended that you do not buy them online or in a store that doesn't know about Dansko. If you walk into a shoe dept and ask for a size 10, the salesperson, if they are knowledgeable, will bring you out no less than 3 pair of size 10s. Try them all on. Mix and match the pairs. Find ones that are snug but not uncomfortable in the toes, and slightly lose in the heel. The leather will stretch in the toe area. And they need to be lose in the heel for the rocker style sole to work properly. Your foot should shift forward slightly when you walk, putting proper pressure on your feet as you step.
These will be the most comfortable shoes you wear to work, home, gardening, hanging out, etc. And like Uggs, they are paintable, if you desire to create your own unique style of clog with some acrylics and shoe wax.
Your Next Vacation
Alaskan King Crab legs aren't something that I strive to eat. I know a lot of people who enjoy them. More power to them. And perhaps if I lived in Alaska, I'd enjoy them too.
I try to be a conscientious consumer who is aware of our influence and abuse of our environment, and that means paying attention to the concept of food miles. Food miles means the distance the food you eat traveled from the field/ocean/pasture to your plate. Eating locally grown, non-processed foods helps lower the mileage, supports farms/producers in my community, and is better for our environment. This means, I strive to purchase local whenever possible. Here in North Carolina that means Blue Crabs reign, if one were to need a tasty crab for dinner. And no fancy boats or 700 pound traps are required. A simple chicken neck, a piece of string, a net, a pail, and a comfortable perch near any body of saltwater should be able to produce a nice crab dinner for an entire family.
But there are some who can't resist Alaskan King Crab legs. This interest is most likely recently heightened by the past 3 seasons of Discovery Channel's The Deadliest Catch. Watching men risk their lives in the Bering Sea during freezing winter months, in ocean storms that could topple their vessels, or sweep a man out to sea and to his death, to bring in their share of crab isn't something that interests me. But there are rabid fans of the Captains and crews out there. And from a restaurant insider, I'm glad to see more and more consumers becoming aware of what exactly goes into producing the dinner on their plate. This show is one way to "enlighten" them, so of course, I can appreciate and respect it. Plus, you have to respect any job where a person risks their lives like that.
With that in mind, I recently heard that during the 2006-2007 season, the crabber, Aleutian Ballad, was in the shipyard for a major overhaul and retrofit. They acquired passenger seating on the main deck as well as seating on an observation deck, plus live tanks to showcase their haul to tourists, with crew interaction and narration from the ship's owner, captain, and crew. I wanted to post it here for a few friends who are glued to the Discovery Channel. If you care to check out what's probably the best up close and personal view of our US commercial fishing industry in action, and watch real fisherman pull in the bounty of the sea from a comfortable seat on board their ship, check out www.56degreesnorth.com.
Beginning July 1st, 2008, it will be illegal to use a cell phone while driving your car in NC. There are several other states that have enacted this law, and more will surely follow. Even emergencies will not be tolerated as an excuse. All drivers must pull over and stop their vehicle before using a cell phone unless they have a wireless device usable without a headphone. Speakerphones are not excluded from this ruling.
Mind you, I don't find this to be a big deal, as I only use my cell phone in the car for convenience purposes. I actually prefer to drive safely, and make my calls when I am in a quiet safe place. But not everyone believes in that. In fact, a lot of people feel they can and should use their cell phones whenever and wherever they please.
Namely, inside restaurants.
New York Restaurant Reviewer, Steven Shaw, recently chimed into the 'anti-cell phone in restaurants' debate with these pro-cell phone comments:
'Hello? Just what do these people think cellular phones are for? Although I've seen the occasional person get loud on a cellular phone, and although I hate it when they ring (I think people should put their phones on silent/vibrate, as I do, when in a restaurant), I can't see any other rational argument against their use--it's nobody's business whether I talk to my dining companions, a person on the other end of a phone, my dog or my imaginary friend Billy. When I receive a call, I generally excuse myself and talk in an out-of-the-way location, but I don't demand that anybody else follow that procedure. If you keep your voice down, you're okay by me. I should also point out that, having dined in many other countries, I can state with authority that cell-phone use in American restaurants is extremely low by the standards of the industrialized world.
Opposition to customers who make a lot of noise (be it via use of a cell-phone or through being loud in some other way) is perfectly legitimate. But an objection to cell-phones used at normal conversational volume levels just seems petty. It says more to me about the opponents' inflated sense of self-importance (as though a restaurant meal is too sacred to be interrupted by petty business concerns) than it does about cell-phone users.
Plus, who do these rabid anti-cellular-phone restaurateurs think is keeping them in business? People with cellular phones, specifically business people, that's who. Take me, for example. As a small businessman with a solo law practice and no secretary, I find the cellular phone to be an essential liberating tool. Having the cellular phone allows me to go out (dine out, take a walk, drive my car, whatever) at times when I otherwise would have to sit by my phone all day and wait for a call from a judge's chambers, client or opposing counsel. I can see it now: "Gee, Phil, sorry you had to spend the night in jail, but my hero Danny Meyer said I had to shut off my phone." And it's not just the professional crowd. What about expectant fathers or people with sick loved-ones? Heck, what about people who just want their friends to be able to reach them? Is that so horrible?
If I can't bring my phone to a restaurant, I won't eat there at all.'
His argument was followed by a well thought out response from Rivers Janssen, Editor, Fresh Cup Magazine:
'I'm not really involved in the restaurant industry, other than as a frequent patron. But I do have an opinion on cell phones in restaurants (or in virtually any other arena). I don't like them. Pure and simple.
It's not so much about people talking, although I don't appreciate sitting through a meal while having to listen to one end of an inane conversation. It's more a slight variation on Steven Shaw's argument. He says, toward the end of his piece, that people who dislike cell phones in restaurants have an inflated sense of self because they believe the restaurant meal is somehow sacred. I don't have any such expectation of restaurant food. I do, however, believe 95 percent of chronic cell phone users have extremely high opinions of THEIR self worths, otherwise they wouldn't take it out at such inopportune moments (i.e. at the gym, in a hotel shuttle, during dessert, etc.). I have heard more ridiculous cell phone conversations on the floor of the gym than I care to recount. Not a single one of them couldn't have been delayed 45 minutes until he or she was safely within the confines of a car.
Are you that indispensable that you must be on-call at all times? If you are that important, then more power to you. And please do exactly what Mr. Shaw does and excuse yourself from the dining area. If you're not that important--and most of us are not, but think we are--then you must be like the rest of cell phone civilization. You must believe that by pulling out your cell phone in public, you are somehow impressing upon the rest of the population that you are ESSENTIAL to your business.
There's a reason that much of America looks amused when watching a businessman drive by in a convertible BMW while talking on a cell phone. It's because we understand that this person has lost touch with who he is, and thinks he must regain it by purchasing pretty toys and using them in public.
I know I'm probably in the minority in this one, and I know I digressed from the original argument, but it's hard for me to take this whole thing seriously just because I think cell phones are so ridiculous. I value my free moments, and I love the fact that I can't be reached much of the time. Mind you, I do believe cell phones are useful in certain situations, particularly emergencies.
I don't think cell phones should be banned from restaurants; that seems a little restrictive. I just wish people would take a step back and look at cell phones with a critical eye. When our biggest concern is that we'll lose the right to look like a self-important buffoon in front of a restaurant full of diners, it's clear our priorities are out of whack.'
Mr. Janssen's response is the appropriate response to this debate. It isn't the restauranteurs who feel their establishment is too good for cell phone use. Or that their food is somehow demeaned by their patrons using the cell phone while eating. The argument from the restaurant industry that I most frequently hear, is the rudeness of the so-called self inflated customers, who are using their cell phones. Does this mean they are probably also rude when they don't have a cell phone stuck to their ear? Yes. Truthfully, that's more than likely. But adding a cell phone to the situation just somehow makes it even worst.
Not a day goes by that I don't hear a two-fold complaint from a server about a guest, 1.) who won't look them in the eye and 2.) who is having an inane one way conversation at a table, and can't have the decency to recognize that the server at their table is patiently waiting for them to take a break from their conversation, a quick breath, anything, which will allow the server to start and complete their steps of service which would include things like, welcoming them to our restaurant, asking for a beverage order, confirming a dinner order, and offering dessert, at the very least. Nevermind the other customers who are patiently waiting for the same server to get to their table to provide them with prompt, excellent service. Which they will probably not be getting, because their server is standing at Mr. Cell Phone Man's table, trying to think of a way to politely interrupt, or catch the customer's attention, without appearing to be rude and inconsiderate.
The same thing happens daily to toll booth operators, baristas, retail salespeople, the folks at the DMV counter, grocery store cashiers, front desk clerks, airline ticket agents, and in general, anyone who's job entails dealing face to face with the public every day.
How 'bout doing us all a favor so we can end this debate? When approaching someone for a service, have the consideration to PUT YOUR CELL PHONE DOWN until the service is concluded. Regardless of where you're at.
We would all sincerely appreciate it.
Several years ago, a young restaurant manager I worked with, had a horrible cough. For months. After much persuasion she went to a doctor who told her she had allergies, possibly asthma, and gave her a prescription for Advair. Another few weeks go by, still no relief. After more persuasion from friends and co-workers, she asks for a chest x-ray. And is immediately rushed to the hospital, due to a large tumor found wrapped around her lungs.
This young lady was engaged to be married to a local police officer in October. It was only spring when she received the diagnosis. With the upcoming chemo treatsments, hair falling out, radiation burns and such, it seemed improbable to her that she would make the beautiful bride she always imagined she would be, come October.
So what's a girl to do?
Let her restaurant co-workers plan a wedding for her at the NC beach, of course!
The management and staff of our restaurant made phone calls, organized, planned and schemed for 2 weeks. The wait staff donated their tips for a week so we could pay for a beach side bed and breakfast for the honeymoon. A phone call to a local natural grocery store for a small wedding cake. Another call to a florist who would help us out with a discount for the bouquet and flowers for the cake. The father of one of our waitresses, volunteering to perform the ceremony, as he was a preacher. A bartender volunteering to be the photographer. The staff all driving a couple hours to the beach to be the couple's attendants and witnesses. And more donations for the film to be developed, albums made, and photos for the couple's family, some of whom were not able to attend.
Overall, a lovely affair, made with the love and friendship of a lot of people.
But not all weddings go like that. Some in fact are quite hilarious or even disasterous. We've all seen them on the internet and tv. Brides sitting on the cake, the champagne tower falling over, a bird flocking at the best man's head, wedding guests falling on the dance floor.
As if wedding mishaps didn't happen enough if real life, PlayFirst has come out with Wedding Dash 2, a sequel to it's original spin off from the Diner Dash series. In this game, an assortment of wedding planners have been asked to participate and compete in a reality contest to see which is the most professional, who can plan the best weddings, and keep the strange disasters at bay. We help seat and feed a myraid of guests while our wedding planner Quinn does her best to make sure nothing ruins the bride and groom's big day. Mr. Wright is available to capture those wedding memories on film, and the band, well, they are like most wedding singers.... unpredictable and sometimes out of control. And oh, the food! Where'd they hire that chef? I'd love to try the Chili Rubbed Lobster, Crab Bisque, Steak Au Poirve, and Baked Ham with Pineapple. Let's hope we don't have to throw any out!
My favorite wedding guest is Uncle Charles. He's an extremely suave gentleman, and popular with the ladies. A very dapper dresser also, might I add. But don't let him get distracted while he's chewing or Quinn may need to run over and help him to stop choking! Or don't send her over, cuz that's funny too! Especially when his face turns red.
And poor ol' Norbert. He's deaf. And he keeps forgetting that he needs to order his food if he wants to finish dinner on time and get out on the dance floor with his version of Kylie Minogue's 'Locomotion'.
Let's not forget Chloe, the beautiful and popular blond from the original Wedding Dash. She's back this time with her cry baby, Kathleen. But don't stare at Kathleen too long because that child really got hit with a whole lot of ugly when she was born!
For another wedding disaster story, check out: http://www.playfirst.com/blog/192
Directions from Greensboro:(From I-40 E) - Take 421 South exit (Sanford), also called Martin Luther King Hwy -Go about 14 miles on Hwy 421 South-Take Hwy 62 N. Exit (High Point/ Burlington)-Turn left at end of exit ramp onto 62 North-Go 1/2 mile to stop sign-Turn right (which is still Hwy 62 N. ( which merges with Liberty Rd for 1/2 mile)-Go only 1/2 mile and turn left onto Hwy 62 again (follow signs)(people have missed this turn before)- Go about 4-5 miles and Bowman Dairy Rd. is on the left-Turn left (Homeland Creamery sign) onto Bowman Dairy Rd.
During day's off from school like parent teacher conference's, snow days, holiday breaks, etc. I was okay to stay by myself all day. But once summer vacation started, there was no way my mother wanted me hanging out at the house for 3 months by myself, with no brothers or sisters to watch me.
So my 'Summer Shuffle' with relatives began. First stop, my grandfather's house, where I would stay for a few weeks of running around his big yard, helping to water his enormous garden, picking worms from the farm for 50 cents any time the fisherman knocked on the front door for a pint, and refusing to wash my dirt crusted feet before I crawled into the nice fresh bed linens at night after saying my prayers.
During our summers together, we created so many wonderful memories. In a cape cod house that my grandfather had built himself, on a hill top overlooking the beautiful Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains. His neighbor acrossed the alley way was the local milkman Irvin, who still made daily early morning deliveries to the milk boxes outside everyone's back porches. Running over to knock on Irvin and Virginia's kitchen door and ask for an ice cream popsicle with the 50 cents I just earned, was one highlight of my summer days.
Another highlight was preparing lunch, or dinner as it's known in those parts, for my grandfather. He made breakfast and supper, but dinner was all my responsibility. A quick trip out to the garden, which produced fresh lettuces, spring onions, bell peppers, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, rhubarb, potatoes, cabbage, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, and even bing cherries and concord grapes. Then a jaunt down into the cool basement to look thru the pantry for canned beets, homemade minestrone that had been put up the winter before, or a good old reliable can of Campbell's soup. Simple fresh green leaf lettuce sandwiches with mayonaisse, salt, and pepper, on Roman Meal and canned soup was a normal dinner for us, because I was little, it was easy for me to make, and used up what we had. Important in a frugal home. More importantly, my grandfather never complained. I still love simple lettuce sandwiches to this day, although I tend to more often order a BLT in public, no toast, extra lettuce please.
Now, in my restaurants, I am naturally drawn towards wanting to make the soups each day. It's crazy to spend my time on these items which cost $4.95 a cup, but I have a certain instinct for soup. I get upset if someone doesn't make them well or uses scraps or doesn't dignify the soup. Am I crazy? Probably. Do I know how to make a kick ass soup? Definitely! Do I recognize when someone else's soup is excellent? Of course.
Here are a couple of recipes from my current soup rotation. Recipes are in paragraph form to save space.
Chester County Mushroom Soup
(recipe courtesy of The Terrace Restaurant, Kennett Square, PA)
1 carrot, 1/2 onion, 2 stalks celery, 1 tablespoon butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 lbs. washed button mushrooms, 1/2 lb. washed shiitake mushrooms, 1/2 lb. washed oyster mushrooms, 1 tbsp fresh chopped tarragon, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp white pepper, 3 pints chicken stock, 1 pint heavy cream, 2 tbsp flour.
Mince carrots, onions, and celery in a food processor and saute in heavy pot with oil. Mince mushrooms in a food processor, add to pot along with tarragon, salt, and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes. Do not burn. Add stock and cream and bring to a boil. Mix melted butter and flour until smooth and whip into soup. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until all of the flour and butter mixture is incorporated and the soup is thickened. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve. Adjust salt and pepper, to taste.
Senegal Peanut Soup
(a tradional recipe)
3/4 lb. sweet potatoes, baked, skinned, and chopped; 3 tbsp peanut oil; 8 Roma tomatoes chopped and deseeded; 1 tbsp curry powder; 1 cup onions julienned; 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic; 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper; 1 qt. chicken stock; 1/2 cup peanut butter; 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk; 1 3/4 tsp salt; 1/2 tsp fresh ground white pepper; 1 1/2 lbs. cooked pulled chicken breast; 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro; 2 tbsp chopped roasted peanuts.
On medium, heat a 1 gallon stockpot and add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil. Add the curry powder to the pot and toast for about 30 to 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the minced garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the cayenne pepper and chicken stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the roasted sweet potatoes and tomatoes to the soup. Add the peanut butter and coconut milk to the pot and stir to blend. Let simmer for 10 minutes, and then blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a bar blender until smooth. Season with 3/4 teaspoon of the salt and, if necessary, more pepper to taste. Add the chicken to soup. Garnish with a cilantro leaf and chopped peanuts.
More soup recipes down the road.....
Toasted Coconut Bread Pudding
- 1 Lb. loaf of challah/brioche bread, cut in 1 inch cubes
- 1/3 Cup dried apricots, small dice
- 1/2 Cup sweetened shredded coconut
- 30 Oz. Coco Lopez cream of coconut
- 2 Cups milk
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 6 eggs
- 1 1/2 Cups sugar
- 3 Tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut, toasted for garnish if desired
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 10" X 13" X 3" pan.
In a large bowl, toss the bread, apricots, and the shredded coconut together.
In a sauce pan, heat milk, coconut cream, vanilla and granulated sugar until the sugar completely dissolves and the milk is tepid but not hot. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat.
In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs, then temper them by slowly adding 1 cup of warm milk mixture while whisking quickly. Slowly pour the egg/milk mixture back in the warm milk and stir until well incorporated.
Ladle the egg mixture over the bread mixture. Toss with your hands, making sure all the bread gets moist. Let sit 5 minutes and toss again, making sure all liquid at the bottom of the bowl has been absorbed evenly by the bread. Place the bread in the loaf pan.
Cover with foil and place in a water bath: use a sheet pan if necessary, fill it with an inch of hot water AFTER placing it in the oven with loaf pan sitting on top. Bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden.
Use a sharp edged spatula to cut into squares if you plan on eating immediately. Or I prefer letting it chill in refrigerator, to set back up a bit, then inverting it onto kitchen counter, cutting it into triangles, and reheating a piece in the oven for 8 minutes or until warmed through out to 120 degrees.
Sprinkle bread pudding with powdered sugar. Serve warm with a scoop of french vanilla or coconut ice cream on one side and whipped cream on the other. Finish with toasted coconut on the ice cream or around plate.
My parents were very set against that, as they figured they could teach me the family business for free, and felt that I should spend my college years learning and reading about other topics to expand my horizons. So I did. 2 years as a declared English major, reading as many prominent authors as I could, while working on my writing skills. Followed by 2 years as a declared History major. My parent's were so glad to have a college graduate in the family. Until I promptly told them, I was going into the restaurant industry as my career.
So 18 years ago, it was the school of hard knocks for me. I knocked on back doors, I talked with chefs in the Philadelphia restaurant scene, I said I was willing to do anything. And I did do just about anything. Busser, host, cocktail server, baker, cashier, dishwasher, mini bar attendant, banquet waitress, you name it, I think I did it. Finally, one chef, of an expensive, highly rated, Continental fine dining establishment took a shine to me. He had graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, and worked as Executive Chef for 4 Diamond rated resorts in Hawaii for most of his career, transplanting to Philadelphia for family reasons. He paid me a salary to learn how to cook. And taught, cajoled, and harassed me till my skill set was where he wanted it.
I continued to work fine dining for a few years until I heard the call of the beach, and I was off to Virginia Beach, Va. Sand at my door step, sea gulls over head, and Chain Restaurant Hell in the local classifieds. So I switched directions and went to work for one of them. Small scale, $40,000 a week in sales. But I was willing to travel, work in good locations, poor locations, move, move, move. Then the next chain, bigger, $120,000 in sales per week, move here, move there, help this location, help that location. Then a new chain, $175,000 per week. Then another. $250,000/week. A Mexican restaurant, a seafood restaurant, a sushi bar, a country inn, a Disney themed megabox restaurant, a sports restaurant....on and on and on.
Then my friend who I'd known since Day 1 of kindergarten decided she had experienced enough. Suicide. My world came crashing down. For 4 months I walked thru a fog that never lifted. Doing my job, every day smiling. Every day, going home in tears. What on earth am I doing? Is this what it's all about? The simple answer is no. And my boss at the time was a real ass to boot. So I quit.
I feel like I did nothing but think for 3 months. And then it hit me. Only do what you absolutely love, or don't do it at all. Be happy each day to get out of bed, or just don't bother. Teach others what you know, develop whomever you can, create a legacy if you are lucky, enjoy your customers.
It's had its ups and downs in the two years since. Digging yet another restaurant out of the hole it was in. Developing a mentoring atmosphere. Being tough, yes. Getting results, absolutely. When I started on this newest job, someone told me I should keep a diary. I am really terrible at daily writing. But I've made some notes along the way. The incidents that were amusing eventually made it into two blogs on other sites. The incidents that weren't so amusing, made their way onto employees disciplinary paperwork. Regardless I'm currently working on pulling them together onto this site. It's still in its infancy. But as I pull more resources and experience new adventures in dealing with customers, products, employees, and vendors, it will make its way onto my blog. I try to make my blog engaging and bring you into the moment that I and my staff experienced each and every day. Mostly with humor, because, how else can we make it through each day?
I am asked to make my first trip south to consult on a Mexican restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina that has 3 months to make it or break it before the owner chains the doors. (BTW. I hate when people do this. No class. If you want to close your business, just call everyone on your employee list, tell them you've decided to close, and how/where they can pick up their last check and an excellent reference letter. Is it that hard to be decent to people who just lost their jobs, for god's sake?)
I phone the General Manager to introduce myself. Heavy southern accent on the other side of the phone. My friends in the North East are teasing me that I am going to work for a bona fide redneck. I'm a little worried, but I'm sure it will be fine. Right? Ok. Actually, I'm a little concerned.
The 12 hour drive was pleasant enough. Except for when I stopped for gas, just south of the North Carolina border. I really need gas for the second time that day. Practically on empty. Should have really stopped somewhere around Wilmington, NC when I still had a bit. Now I'm on fumes.
I pull into the first mini mart that I see. Two guys, wearing bib overalls and John Deere tractor caps are leaning against the building, near the entrance. One even has a long piece of straw sticking out of his mouth. No shit. An image of Deliverance flashes thru my mind. One quick look at the gas pumps. Damn it. They aren't automatic. I have to go inside first to pay. Passed those guys.....what to do...what to do...Get back in my car and get the hell out of there and PRAY there is another gas station nearby. Luckily there is.
Finally arriving at the restaurant a few hours later, I pull into the parking lot to be confronted by an enormous black pick up truck on enormous tires with a Confederate flag and a gun rack on the back. Oh shit.
Breathe. Breathe. We are going in!
Upon entering, I find the typical americanized Mexican restaurant, with colorful walls, serapes, margarita glasses, and a life size metal sculpture of a fierce looking bull. The hostess approaches me at the front desk. She is young, blond, has her hair in braided pigtails, with a farmer's hat and bib overalls on. Straw sticking out between her teeth. I mean tooth. Again!!!??? I'm about to freak the hell out.
Then the beautiful princess Jasmine walks by. You know. From Aladdin. Wait. Did I just see what I thought I saw? WTF?
Then Wonder Woman. W O N D E R W O M A N!!! I used to love her. And her bullet proof bracelets, lasso, and invisible plane.
OK. THAT'S IT. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!!! SOMEONE TELL ME QUICK BEFORE I GET BACK IN MY JEEP AND LEAVE YOU FREAKS TO FLOUNDER FOR YOURSELVES!
Turns out, South Carolina is celebrating Halloween 2 days early, so that they can celebrate it on a weekend which is more profitable for the restaurants and clubs; and the kiddies don't have to trick or treat on a school night.
Whew! Ok. Regaining my composure now.
Turns out Princess Jasmine is Rob. THE NICEST PERSON I HAVE EVER MET. EVER.
Wonder Woman is Tony.
Clark Kent/Superman is Amy.
And so on.
APPARENTLY I HAVE JUST INHERITED A RESTAURANT FULL OF DRAG QUEENS AND ONE KING! LOL. OK. THIS IS GOING TO BE FUN!
And it was. Thursday nights in particular. Male servers walk into the men's room at 11pm when the dining room closes. 15 minutes later, my gosh, what a beautiful evening gown you have on. And you made it yourself? The hosiery and shoes are to die for! Some of the staff are performers, stage hands, ticket takers, or just club members at the Arcade, a famous Charleston drag show/bar/dance club. Thursday night is the big performance show each week. Local acts. National acts. And some serious drama off stage as well. Me and the rest of the staff plant ourselves at a table each Thursday, order a couple of pitchers of White Russians (because SC has antiquated liquor laws), sit back and relax watching these guys sing, dance, impersonate, and love every moment of it. And the money drop from the ceiling at midnight New Year's Eve? Now there were some Lee Press on Nails and wigs flying that night.
Overall a WONDERFUL time in South Carolina. The nicest people I have ever met. We even did a great turn around on the restaurant, thanks to the staff. Increase in sales. Increase in profit. Lower costs. Happier guests. Happier staff. (Poor management had been the issue that dragged the restaurant down to this point.)
Unfortunately, the owner got impatient and found a buyer for the property the restaurant was sitting on, prior to the 3 month deadline. A few days after my 3 month gig was up and I had left to drive back home, he chained the doors.
I felt sick about the whole thing really.
The restaurant was closed. Most of the managers were laid off. The staff was looking for work elsewhere. The kitchen and dining room were emptied of all equipment...........And then.......... the buyer backed out.
A month later, I received a sort of apology and a regrettable conversation about how they shouldn't have closed the business. Seems a bit too late for that.
6 months later, I went back to visit and track down the staff. People I had considered friends. They were scattered everywhere. Some to better restaurants. Some to similar or worst places. Some to other careers. Some to the wind.
A moment in time. A lifetime of memories.
You have to complete an application, online or in person. You have to submit a resume. You have to complete two interviews. If you are applying for a management or asst or sous chef or chef position, you need to submit a well written statement about your ideas and thoughts on our cuisine/concept/philosophy, so we can see if you're on the same vibe as us, in other words, do you "get it"? You also have to submit a sample menu that ties into the statement you just wrote. These can be submitted with your resume.
So yesterday, we were interviewing a Sous Chef candidate, who had been hounding us for an interview for the past 3 weeks. I had already called his references prior to the interview, so I knew this would be interesting.....okay, so walk me thru your resume....
"I was Kitchen Manager at so and so place, and I brought food and labor cost down to 20%. I elevated the restaurant from casual cafe to a fine dining establishment."
So we're onto another design, writing another business plan, looking for another investor. I have a feeling we'll be doing a lot of this over and over again in the next year or so.
Updated May 2008:
The new concept is a smaller breakfast driven French Cafe. Warm maple pecan french toast, crepes suzettes, blueberry blintzes, raspberry white chocolate bread pudding, roasted pepper spinach & goat cheese omelets, warm apple struedel, fresh from the oven double chocolate brownies, salads, sandwiches, soups, and lots of java..the menu is currently a work in progress. But it will still feature organic poultry & produce, as well as bovine growth hormone free dairy products....gee, healthy doesn't always sound so tempting, does it? Either way, a much simpler concept, easy design, we can do it in 2500 sq feet. And I've possibly found the money ....mwhahahahahaaa. Now to apply for business grants (cuz who can't use more money) and find a new location...
Problem #2. Appears and smells like he's perpetually stoned. So I go ask the chef. "So what's with the PM dishwasher? Appears to be high, huh?" My chef's reply?
What I've learned in the past two years, is that bistro cuisine is based on traditional Parisian cafes and concepts of French cooking that mean using simple, fresh ingredients to prepare well made dinners that are both superior to the quality you get at most restaurants, and often times, better priced for the quality that you are getting. It's also healthier cuisine. Our bistro features organic produce, bovine hormone free dairy, and free range poultry whenever possible. But we do not cook French cuisine. I think that's the biggest misconception, really. We cook an array of dishes based on international cuisines, but not as they would be presented in their home countries. For instance, in China, hoisin sauce is very traditional, but they certainly aren't using it to make a chicken salad.
We've featured so many interesting recipes (and a few uninteresting recipes) in our time at the Bistro. Some of my favorites were our spin on chicken taquitos, cilantro lime sushimi, and our Mediterranean Cous Cous with Balsamic Glazed Roasted Veggies.
But some days, we just don't feel inspired to think of new recipes. Everyone has a bad day. That's when we pull ideas, not exact recipes, mind you, from our wealth of cookbooks. Some of my favorites for inspirational ideas are Les Halles, a true French bistro cookbook, written by Anthony Bourdain, of Kitchen Confidential and Travel Channel fame; Hawaii Cooks, written by Roy Yamaguchi, who's Roy's Restaurants are some of the best I've ever eaten at ...(very sad to see they recently partnered with Outback Steakhouse)....and a local celebrity chef, Sarah Foster who wrote Fresh Every Day, with recipes from her Foster's Market. Sarah is famous for having run the Conneticut based catering business for Martha Stewart before Martha got famous (you didn't think she did it all by herself, now did you??), and Sarah nows runs a few fresh market cafe concepts in our local area.
There are so many ideas that can be taken by such a diverse group of cookbooks, plus all the other cookbooks I have stacked at work, in my kitchen, in my garage, in my car trunk, in storage, in my bedroom closet....LOL...I could browse cookbooks for hours! How about you?
Today at my restaurant, at apparently 12:30pm, during the lunch rush, we are on a wait. Not one single table to be had, approximately 15 customers at the door waiting to get a seat and have their lunch. From where I'm standing, I can see the people in the front of the line, a couple, and the people all the way at the end of the line, a woman with small children, ages 6 months - 8 years old.
There had been a seating mistake with the couple, and some guests who arrived after them, had been sat before them. I apologized and told them I would get them the next table. As I'm walking away, I see the woman at the END of the line, pushing her 8 year old daughter forward, but I am busy, so I head for the table that just got up, so I can bus and set it for this couple. As I turn around to lead the couple to the newly cleaned table, this little girl is trying to jump into the seat. I apologize to her and tell her I'm sorry but these other people are going to sit here now. She's cute, it's not her fault, and she walks back to the END of the line and tells her mom.
I approach the greeter, and tell her we have another table available, and as I am about to lead a group of 3 guests to the new table, again, I see the mom at the END of the line, pushing her daughter forward again. I go to seat the next group, and as I turn around, this child is climbing into the new table.....again, I apologize, and tell her, honey, I'm sorry you can't sit here, I'm about to seat some customers here, but if you just wait with your mom, we'll be with you. At this point, there are still 10 other people in line, right? Her mom is still at the END of the line.
Finally, some more tables get up, the entire wait couldn't have been more than 10 minutes, and finally they are seated at a table for 4 with the infant staying in the stroller. At which point, the mom leaves the table and walks towards me at the front of the restaurant, with a chip on her shoulder. Here it comes:
"You are so-ooooo UNCOUTH!"
Excuse me, ma'am?
"You have no manners for asking my daughter to leave the table she was trying to reserve for us!"
Ma'am, my apologies, but we are a first come, first serve restaurant, and I was leading another guest to that table, and yes, I did have to explain to your daughter that she was going to need to wait till it was your family's turn.
"How COULD you seat that 2 top before us!?"
Well, ma'am, they were here 10 minutes before you, were at the front of the line, and had accidently been skipped in the seating, so I needed to get them the next available seat. You were several parties behind them.
"What's your NAME? I'm writing a letter to the OWNER!!"
I'm the General Manager of the restaurant, here's my business card, and the address is on there.
"I want you to get me the NEXT available large table."
Ma'am, we only have one table larger than the one you are already at, but as I see it's becoming available, I will be happy to clear and set it for you. Give me one moment.
Okay, ma'am, if you'd like, the table is ready. I'd be happy to move you over there.
"We're ALREADY sitting HERE and I need to change the baby's diaper!"
Okay, ma'am, as you wish.
The baby at this point, is screaming his little lungs out. So, what does she do? She promptly places the baby on the table and changes his poopie diaper right there in the dining room! Then the entire family eats without washing their hands or asking for the table to be cleaned. Then they leave the poopie diaper and a $2 tip on the table.
Now who's UNCOUTH?
Meanwhile, my chef had the same itch. So, he and I have been talking for 3 months about doing a restaurant of our own, in some strip mall, some business zone, or I dunno, something doesn't feel quite right. Shooting around ideas, writing menu descriptions, scoping out new development areas, tossing around ideas about raising money for a new venture next year, if we're lucky, if anything of our talks comes true, if we maybe, oh, I dunno...hit the lottery??
Then suddenly, last week, I thought, what the heck, let's look into that European village. What do we have to lose? So I checked it out on the web and sent an email to the property manager. Maybe he won't answer? Maybe we're too late? Maybe we don't have enough money or good enough credit? Maybe he will laugh at us?
But he didn't. He emailed twice. He was interested in us. Write a proposal for a restaurant concept and menu. Meeting in two weeks. Okay, great! I'll get to work on that, and maybe they won't laugh at us. Or maybe they are just are being polite? Doubt creeping back in.....and then it happened. On Tuesday, the developer of the Village mystery shopped our restaurant and approached me with an offer to open a bistro there! Woo Hoo! I'm so excited! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Now, we still have to get our proposal together, debate the menu, debate a name (we like 'bisque', the develop likes 'bistro-??? some name I can't pronouce or spell'), even debate this partnership and profit sharing. So maybe it will work out, maybe it won't. But here's keeping my fingers crossed for a new restaurant in 2009! Woo!
The latest in the Chocolatier series is here! Chocolatier 2: Secret Ingredients. This newest adventure is set in the 1920's and follows the granddaughter of Evangeline Baumeister as she tries to revive the fading glory of her family's chocolate business while thwarting the efforts of a mole inside the business, namely her fiance who is in cahoots with the competition! You will be hired to grow the family business while they quarrel amongst themselves, help you find recipes, open new factories, purchase chocolate shops, and travel to new ports like Russia, Casablanca, the Sierra Desert, Himalayas, Phillipines, even Fiji.
There are several intriguing addtions to this game, that the original Chocolatier didn't have. First is the factory itself. Naming your factory and designing the graphics for your billboards was never this much fun. Once inside the factory, the mini matching game that takes your ingredients and makes a case of chocolates for you, has been enhanced to add new mechanics and a harder dimension to the game. The storyline this time involves the Industrial Age, and details have not been overlooked. Model Ts drive around New York, the Golden Gate Bridge and Chrysler Building don't even exist yet, (but they will be constructed the farther you proceed in the game), and the characters who carried over from the original Chocolatier have aged and moved on with their lives. Details like that are what make this a great game.
As I've said previously, I really enjoy winding down at the end of my day with a food related PC game. Don't know why. It just works for me, okay? And this series has beautiful artwork, interesting storyline, and crooked characters.
I even participated in a PlayFirst sponsored Chocolatier Recipe Contest, to create a recipe that would appear in the game, and I was one of 3 lucky winners! Woo Hoo! So while you're haggling over the price of anise, black tea leaves, and saffron, if you come upon a recipe for Gingered Pumpkin Pralines with Macadamia Nuts, go ahead and make a huge batch! They will really be worth your while.
Good luck in your quest to be the next great Chocolatier!
To read reviews of the above game, play trial versions, purchase full versions, or ask game related questions, please visit the game developers websites: http://www.playfirst.com/.
For a reviewer's prospective or free game downloads, check out http://www.gamefairy.blogspot.com/.
I love what I do for a living. I never question my choice to work in the restaurant industry. But like everyone else, I need some down time. Used to read. Garden. Work on art projects. Watch sports. Then last spring, I got hooked on casual games for your PC. It amazed me how many were food related!!! ...Yes, it may seem strange to play a virtual version of your actual job, as a way to unwind. But hey, whatever works, right?
In the past several months I've played almost all of the food service games currently on the market. Here's the basic game concept along with a screen shot of the game. There are plenty more games like these ones here. Previously I had the majority of food service games from the past year described here, but I removed most of them, because honestly, some of them were crap, boring, had limited replay value, poor sound or artwork, or just weren't worth the money. I didn't want my blog to be an advertisement for games that, in my opinion, weren't worth the $19.99. These are the games of this genre that I recommend and own:
Burger Island -This is an assembly game where the game play involves making beef and veggie burger combos with all the toppings, fries, and milkshakes. Game story is that a girl has taken over ownership of a beach burger shack on an island and needs to earn money to expand her burger franchise. Patty can win burger recipes and ingredients from the local island tribal chief to enhance her menu. She is also paired with a hysterical French Maitre'd, Pierre, who keeps her in line. The story line never reveals why a French Maitre'd is needed at a beach burger shack, but just listening to that character really cracked me up. 'Zut alors!' 'Z burger is burnt!' I can't wait for Burger Island 2. It's currently in production from eGames, and I get to beta test it! YAY!! Find Burger Island at eGames!
Ciao Bella- I actually liked this time management game, but for some reason, the trial wouldn't run properly on my computer, and I had heard others with the same complaint, so I didn't purchase the game. But I would have if I didnt have those issues. The characters and story line seem real to life. Get out of bed, make breakfast, put on makeup, go to work, eat lunch, work some more, fool around on computer, talk on cell phone, get yelled at by your boss, go to the mall, church, gym, dinner, movies, and perhaps if you've managed your time, health, money, and spirituality well, you might even get a date! While not specifically restaurant related, the characters own and live above a restaurant, are constantly eating, or visiting another friend's restaurant. So I think it counts.
Sweetopia -a marble shooter game inside a candy factory. Help them get the candy back under control before the big grand opening of the factory to the public. I had fun with this one, colorful graphics, amusing sound, fun game play.
Cake Mania 1 & 2 - Help Jill revive her grandparent's bakery business and save it from a big box developer; and then help Jill's friends manage their strange and otherworldly bakeries. These are combination assembly and time management games, from Sandlot.
Diner Dash -The original Dash finds Flo managing 5 diners, using her business skills to make sure that quick cooking, free appetizers, seating her customers quickly, and keeping the libations flowing keep her customers happy, all in an effort to take her diner business all the way to Nirvana, the bonus restaurant you win if you've scored Expert on all previous levels, created by GameLab and available at PlayFirst.
Diner Dash Hometown Hero-Gourmet - The fourth and best Dash has Flo reviving her hometown with 10 restaurants, plus add ons restaurants, multiplayer capabilities, design your own diner and waiter features, and Flo's Closet to pick and choose Flo's outfit. This game is really exceptional. Although costly, if you get hooked and want to keep buying upgrades. But hey, can you place a price on relaxation and fun? I think not. The Gourmet version with online multiplayer challenges and chat room, as well as all the upgrades is only available at PlayFirst. Buying it anywhere else, will not allow you to have these game options, virtual store, additional restaurants, etc. as you won't be linked to the PlayFirst server.
Wedding Dash 1- Help Flo's friend Quinn start her wedding catering business thru 5 different venues, put out dogfights between bridemaids, fix the record player for the DJ, keep that cake from tipping over, watch that Uncle Ernie doesn't get drunk, and for god's sake, don't let the bride turn into Bridezilla! This one was really fun and different from the other Dash games, and was the first official game spin-off from the Diner Dash games. See my post elsewhere in my blog regarding the newest version, Wedding Dash 2: Rings Around The World.
Chocolatier and Chocolatier 2 - This is a combination time management and tycoon style game. The graphics are truly unique and game play is really original. See my 2 posts regarding this game for more info on the Chocolatier series.
These are but a few of the games involving food service. There are so many more to try. So little time to play them all.
To read reviews of the above games, play trial versions, purchase full versions, or ask game related questions, please visit the game developers websites: