Sunday, January 07, 2007

2006 in Review

Year in review

I’ve read every local news outlets year in review, whether it be world news or simple restaurant opening and closings. I’ve found little substance behind the blurbs of news. It’s like looking at old newspapers and being reminded of all the articles you read, but forgot, and in most cases for good reason. What really happened in the past year is more a personal questions opposed to a statement of facts that did in reality occur during the past 365 days, and that is what I want to share. If you are interested in which restaurants opened, closed, relocated, and or restaffed I offer you the links to the left, as for what happened to me the past year, I will tell you. These are the top 5 topics of the past year.

Number One: The year started off in rough waters. The prospect of a change of ownership hung over the restaurant like a bachelor party or cigar smokers. The tension was thick. Fortunately, the transition was as seamless as could be imagined. One day you knew who owned and operated the business where you worked and gathered a paycheck from. The next day it was something of a mystery, the doors opened for business, cooks clocked in, diners payed their check, but to and from whom did the spoils go? No one was fired, demoted, or badmouthed, yet no one was introduced, promoted, or given a raise. The staff spent the next few days examining the new faces that tapped away at computers and dialed safe codes, and as best a batch of bumbling restaurant workers could do, they put 2 and 2 together.

Continuing on a good note with the change of ownership came significant physical improvements to the restaurant that made my work all the more enjoyable. Doors and walls where knocked down or cut into, chicken wire fence was replaced with large walk-in cooler storage. Internally installed AV equipment appeared along with wi-fi, and holy cow another small bar appeared. All of this leads one to believe that the business is in fact a success and heading in a positive, upward growing position. Unfortunately, the lack of ‘ownership’ has left most with a question mark for the future. Where is this business heading? What goals are the restaurant striving for?

Number two: Who can you trust. Easy come, easy go is how I like to distance myself from most co-workers. I hope that they come on slow and contribute to my work. I hope that they leave slow and contribute to their work in the process. I believe that staff turn-over and promotion within the industry as a whole is positive. I’m not at all offended if my dishwasher finds a cook position and leaves, or my cook finds a sous chef position and leaves. I’d rather not they leave in a fit of hell and fury on a Friday night, but everyone is going to move on eventually. This is something I respect. Unfortunately, within the past year I’ve not had one staff member leave on such a positive note. I’ve had one guy go to jail, two guys go to re-hab, another drug addict that is just on the street. I’ve had someone work all of 4 shifts before they showed up absolutely hosed resulting in their termination. The kicker is they wanted a pay check!!! Who can you trust? Well, I guess it’s back to the drawing board this year.

Number three: It has been a pleasure to meet a lot of people at the restaurant. In any week I likely see close to 500 different faces. It has been like that for years now, so to spot an athlete, musician, doctor, or old friend is somewhat common if you’re looking hard enough. For me two people stand out. Paul Kahn from Blackbird restaurant in Chicago dinned at the restaurant a few months ago and I was lucky enough to have a few words with him. I have great respect for the food he prepares at Blackbird, as well as the experiences I’ve had there twice in the past. His restaurant is close to perfectly white, and designed with silk and sultriness. The food is point on. I’ve labeled his style mid-west chic. This is due to the ability to take mid-western comfort food, both ingredient, recipes, and concepts, and make them cool and accessible to modern restaurant trends. Paul Kahn has also been published in Art Culianire Magazine, with an impressive spread. Art Culinaire is one of my future goals, so it’s quite inspirational. Blackbird has allowed me the best overall dinning experience and I’m glad I was able to convey that to Paul personally.

The second person I’ve most enjoyed seeing at the restaurant is Joe Jerivicious. When I was young and in high school I was lucky enough to play football against a lanky tall kid who caught every football thrown his way. Fortunately, this kid went on to make it big, hit the NFL, played in some big games, and now plays for the hometown team. That is just a great story, and I’m glad to see him every time because it inspires me to work hard. Joe is also active in the March of Dimes Foundation, and it was an honor, even in a rather distant way, to work with him during a recant benefit in which the restaurant served lobster nacho.

Number Four: I’ve been drawn in to the cowardly act of picking a favorite book over the past year, and I’ll go as far as to pick two, because two new books might last only half as long as one good old one. I doubt if this is the case for these two volumes. 'Charcuterie' by Ruhlman and Polcyn is fantastic. While it might well have been released last year, it has taken me the past year, a meat grinder, and a bunch of salt to test out the theories and recipes in the book. I’ve found them to be solid, well organized, and thorough. I’m sure 'Charcuterie' is a book I’ll be checking back to for many years.

It has occurred to me in the past that Andrew Dornenburg and Karn Page are quality writers. I’ve used 'Culinary Artistry' as a reference for the past 5 years. 'Becoming a Chef' made my early days exciting, and their writing from the view point of a food critique was amazing. 'What to Drink with What you Eat' is my new best friend. I am absolutely positive that the next wine dinner menu I write will be expodentionlly better than the last without the help of 'WDWE'. An amazing work, this is not comparable to any wine book available. Being a Chef, wine is part of your day, cooking, de-glazing, drinking, but we haven't had to put much thought into it, until now. If you wanted it red, put red wine, otherwise put white, and no matter what ending volume, one cup usually suffices. WOW, we just turned things on there head with this book. I’m so excited to go into the kitchen again with this knowledge.

Number Five: I’ve discovered two restaurant in the area that I found impressive, inviting, inventive, unique, and worth a return visit. This is quite the statement, because the math tells me in the past year, 365 days, I’ve had about 600 decant meals, and to say a quarter of them I where eating out, then I’ve had about 125 experiences of dining out this past year. I’ll forgo my favorite pizza place, or fast food drive thru indulgence, and go for quality.

Melt in Lakewood is an absolutely fabulous concept followed with quality execution. The food, the feel, the service, is all what you wish you had at home. The menu is engulfed in an old vinyl album cover, you remember those monsters. Somehow they collected all the hits too, I’ve had Twisted Sister, Motly Crew, and Black Sabbath on my recent visits. Basically we are talking about a sandwich shop, Melt beckoning the spirit of grilled cheese, but way better. The food you get at Melt is exactly the food you would make at home if you could, but you can’t. The bread is cut thick and incases not only cheese, but coldcuts, brats, fried fish, chicken and veggies. Some sandwiches are all together tempura deep fried, but they all come with hand-cut fries and a cabbage slaw. Now to be honest, sometimes the fries are limp or the cabbage is saucey, but I came here to get what I wish I had at home, and damned if Mom gives a shit when the fries are a little limp. Melt is the kind of place I could go to once or twice a week for a good long time. You don’t have to break the bank, the beer selection is better than good, and the food, well, in heaven every meal will be enveloped between two double thick slices of bread, and served with fries and slaw.

I’ve long held the opinion that the amount of wine you drink while dinning out should directly reflect the distance you travel to any dinning destination. For the past three years Boulevard Blue has been open, and I’ve considered it a dangerous personal trek to that area of town. Barriers are meant to be broken, and recently they exploded with my enjoyment of dinning at Boulevard Blue. The room itself has a playfully light blueish silver glow, like a cloud Yet all the furnishings are dark making for a very warming space. The amount of white space and steel demands a comparison to Blackbird, and both places are just impeccable. The food at Boulevard Blue was quite impressive. Quality dishes, with quality ingredient, prepared and presented in a thought out manner that demanded respect for the chef. The Three Little Pigs entree is my new favorite entree in town It consists of three preparations of pork, compounded with a bacon wrap, and sauces. The drinks at Boulevard Blue are expertly prepared as well, I sampled my sisters Carribean Cocktail that was served layered in a martini glass. Every lady should be so happy as to get a layered martini drink. Even the 5 or so draft pours drew awe from me, I would have had one of each if the opportunity was appropriate. Everything about Boulevard Blue was exceptional, from the valet, to the well kept restroom, and for this I’m bound to return.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing your thoughts.... it's interesting, and appreciated! i hope 2007 is a good year for you....