Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Woo City Ice Cream

At the Wonder Bar, we use Woo City ice cream. They do a wonderful job for us. We offer Guinness, Bass, and chocolate stout flavors, and they are the most flavorful ice creams I've come across, ever! There is no possible way to make our own ice cream at WB, but I've given the frozen cream process a try in the past, and from what I've seen there is nothing like the Woo City product. The flavors are very clean and clear, the way they deal with liquor in the ice cream is top-notch. I tasted an amaretto flavor that was out of this world! Not only the flavor, but the texture is so creamy, and that texture is long lasting. If you are shopping for ice cream, I highly recommend Woo City. Not only is it a great product for home, but it is a pleasure to do business with these men; I think their ice cream is the best in town.

Appearing at Taste Of Cleveland

House of Blues Culinary Showcase presented by WDOK-FM

Where is that savory smell coming from? Daily culinary demonstrations by participating restaurants, appearances by local celebrities as well as Chef Teresa Todia from the House of Blues will take place throughout the weekend. Get cooking tips from the pros and take home some delicious new recipe ideas from culinary connoisseurs. Plus, special presentations will be conducted Sunday, September 2 by a number of restaurants from the East 4th Street neighborhood including The Corner Alley, House of Blues, Pickwick & Frolic, Teresa's Pizzeria, Wonder Bar and Zocalo.

For more info about the Taste of Cleveland visit their website.

I will be preparing our signature E. 4th street chili with ground chicken and crawfish tails. I will also attempt to make one of our unique cocktails like the Alternative Medicine (rosemary and gin) or the 'Ohio' (Jim Beam Manhattan with a champagne float) Wonder Bar's presentation is slotted for 5 pm on Sunday. I hope to see some familiar faces in the crowd!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

And That Idea Falls Flat on It's Face

Well, I started the weekend with some specials.....looks like I'll end the weekend with some as well. The chicken thigh with mole sauce sold one time, four if you count the employee meals. The shrimp and corn custard bombed. It wasn't all that busy, we lost water pressure, one induction burner, and one convection oven so it was a crazy night. I baked the shrimp with bacon, fennel and orange in parchment, (En Pappioutte), and no one really understood that idea. The staff responded well to the items, said they liked them, but didn't come through with the sell. We will keep trying.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Q and A

I have been lucky enough to take part in a quick Q and A session with Michelle from Clevelandfoodie blog. If you have not visited her blog before, now is a great time. She has a very leval headed approach to her posting, allowing for some great discussions if you read through the comments. Thanks again Michelle for this opportunity.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Two weeks in, and what do you get.....

Two weeks in and the Wonder Bar is off and running. With zero PR or marketing we seem to be doing fairly well just opening the door and seeing who wanders in. Unfortunately, we are completely lacking a dinner crowd. Post-work happy hour crowd is ok, but they don’t order any food. The after 10pm jazz band crowd is good, and they eat a little. I’m the chef and I want to see people coming in to eat. I understand from the owners' previous experiences that the food is a tough sell opposed to beer and liquor. With this in mind I’m trudging on, dishpan hands and all.

I want to implement a bar menu and/or happy hour menu consisting of $3 bar snacks that people would buy to nibble while they drink, instead of a meal, or even a single small plate. I want to do a deviled egg, spicy nuts, marinated olives, pickled vegetables, and pita bread; nothing meant to consist of a meal, just snacks. The challenge is coordinating things with the bar staff, and a sufficient amount of signage or menus. It will happen eventually.

This week I am going to try to run a few specials on Friday and Saturday night. Simple yet sophisticated things, I’m setting a par of 15 plates, minus 2 for tasting to sell. If this happens I will be very happy. My aim right now is a grilled chicken thigh with mole, and sea scallops en pappioute with fennel, orange, and bacon. Finally some flavored sweet custard. I have a lot of eggs, and a custard is a good way to use them. These seem like simple, sellable items that are neither too boring nor too sophisticated. I will let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

First News isn't the Best News

It's hard to think that as little as 3 more minutes might have changed the tone of this piece completely. I gotta kick myself in the ass for this one. At least it's a lesson learned, and we can move forward. 8 days open, and a long road ahead.

Poll Results are in.....

Small plates takes the poll by a large margin. I’m still a bit perplexed by the whole small plates theme. I understand what an appetizer is when compared to an entree, but I’m confused about what a small plate it an appetizer, is it a small portion of an entree, is it meant to be shared, how much do they cost, should they compromise a whole meal or meant to be snacks??? I’ve asked different people a lot of these same questions and everyone seems to have their own ideas.

With a whole 2 weeks under my belt dealing with small plates this is what I’ve learned. Customers will never be happy with portions sizes/prices. People will order small plates in courses just like off a traditional menu. Comforting, familiar foods will be most popular no matter how small, inexpensive, and creative other options are.

Cheers to small plates!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lost on the Job

It's been a few days. I've been lost in my work. It is taking a little getting used to with the shift in hours that I'm working. My day has shifted about 3 hours later in the day. When I used to leave at 10pm, I'm now leaving at 12:30 or so. I just have to convince myselft to wake up a few hours later. Not to mention I didn't work for about 3 weeks, and have done 16 straight days.

This is a close up of our grilled shrimp with romonesco sauce and grilled scallions. It's not just the hours, but the photo capabilites that are challanging. I don't have much lighting to work with, and the flash tends to ruin close-ups. I will figure things out for the better as soon as possible.

The basis for alot of good, wholesome, flavorful cooking is roasted garlic, and this is a close up of some beautiful golden cloves soaking in Zoe EVOO. Chances are there is roasted garlic, or oil in most dishes. This is how we store it, at room temp, in a plastic quart conatainer, it looks nice too, for a kitchen.

This is a very interesting view of the late night glow at the Wonder Bar. At this point the music was just ready to start. Cedric plays the stand up bass, with calluces the size of lima beans, tuesday thru saturday. Jerome hits the keys early in the week, the music is a hits the spot, and the food don't suck either. Come in for some jazz 9 till 12 and a few small plates.
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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Opening Party Pics

Doug Hardman was able to spend alot of time behind the camera lens last night. Thanks to Doug we have quite a few interesting perspectives of the bar. His photos are posted at

Monday, August 06, 2007

Opening party

With only 2 hours before our first guest arrived I was able to step away as my first line cook took control, to snap this shot of a resturant that looked in no way shape to open. But we pulled through, Suzanne, Vince, and the staff did a wonderful job pulling everything together. The attendees where very pleased.

I couldn't pass up this post of my dad, nothing loosens up the camera ego like a few beers and a large crowd, although the hands sign says, "stay back, I know I'll regret this."

The band plays a cool six inches away from the kitchen, so we get some mucical vibes, and get to check out their tools. In all honesty, they seem equally interested in what we do, which is really cool. Tonight we had a sax, a bass, and the piano.

Introducing, Joe Blanda. See, evan though I took this pic, I can see on his face, "why are there 5 trays of hor's derves, and not one lousy server to pick them up?" I was thinking the same thing..... so I bust through the cowboy doors, and starting setting plates of food about the dining room, and people loved it.

The opening party went smooth. There are alot of tweeks to work out with running the actual menu, so those are the growing pains. We must have seen 300 people or so, so it's a good start. Tomorow, they all pay, as a result we all get a paycheck, as the world turns!!!
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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Menu Tasting

This is an all emcompasing view of about half the menu. We have a large supply of terra cotta dishes which work wonderful to bake things in the oven. Since we don't have a bank of 6 or more gas burners to sautee over, we really on baking most dishes. The terra cotta accepts heat well, holds heat supurbly, and cleans up well. While the dark brown does little to focus the eye on the food, it's optimal in all other aspects.

This is our shaved carrot salad with balsamic, lemon glazed almonds, dates, mint, dill, and parsley. An explosion of flavors that you think at first would be too strong to work together, but the dish is very warm and delish.

This exeplifies the terra cotta idea. We bake some cheese, with some roasted veggies, and garnish with a chopped herb. The whole thing melts into a warm dip, and we supply crispy crostini, or warm pita wedges.

Another picture of a clean work station. For some reason I'm obsessed with this little area. We now have a spot light right above it, I feel like this area draws me in, like I'm meant to work there.

Devestation, like I said in the last post. We cooked only two dishes of each item for 12 team members. There seemed to be alot of food left over, disappointing. Everyone exclaimed, "wonderful food" but the amount of food you scrap into the trash explains alot. I guess since not one of the tasters weighed in over 120 pounds, I'll cut then some slack, but shit, it's your job to taste. I remember back at Baracelli, and the chef asked me if i wanted a bit of whatever it was he was eating, and I said, "i'm not very hungry." Shit hit the fan soon after, it didn't matter if I was hungry, it was my job to taste everything we sent out. That was a lesson I learned.

We lacked sufficant plates to really examine how things will look, given the lack of photos you understand. The terra cotta dishs need an underliner, so we need to stock a considerable amount of plates. We will get there. I'm happy with the baked dishes we have now, they are easy to prep, produce, and serve, but in the long run i'm a composed kind of guy, and we will be looking forward to small plate composed dishes that focus alot on creative flavor combinations and presentations.
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Saturday, August 04, 2007

Opening soon!!

My first delivery of food came yesterday, Friday afternoon, at a very timely 4pm, thanks Sysco!?!?! Oh how happy it to be working again in well stocked kitchen. I’ve made 20 things the past few weeks that where that one ingredient away from being good. Now I just have to walk down a flight of stairs and search for what I want. Sigh, relief.

Recipes are curious creations. We took time to collect a book of recipe, basically lists of ingredients with various forms of measure attributed to each. No matter how close you follow a recipe, you have to taste the end product, right. I would hope, but what I’ve found is if you leave even one ingredient vague cooks will instinctively taste things, and adjust things as needed, not only in connection with the vague ingredient. For instance, we don’t yet have a scale, and a recipe called for 4 oz of blue cheese. So the cook comes and asked me how to figure out how much cheese to add. Well, I decided that since the wheel was 5 pounds we could look at cutting it into 5, then each of those pieces in four and that should be about 4 ounces. I ended this lesson with, taste the sauce and if you think it need more cheese then add it, and sure enough, after tasting we both agreed to add more roasted garlic. I think I’m going to write all future recipe with one vague measurement in order to take advantage of this phenomenon.

It really is amazing to see things coming together at the Wonder Bar, where every detail that you never really think of is in fact dealt with. From floor to ceiling, wall to all, front to back of the house things seem to be in good order.

We have a staff tasting on Sunday, the first chance to put things on the plate, examine how long things take to cook, and how many things we can have going at once. I’m sure I’ll be devastated as my image of how things should work will be twisted and torn, and like most tastings, the plates look like crap and need a lot of cleaning up. That is another day, another goal to set, another accomplishment to notch.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sweet Corn Wins the Poll

While my personal vote went to heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn won the poll for favorite farmers market item by a slim single vote among 15, thanks to all that participated. I felt the need at this point to look a little deeper at sweet corn, and I pulled this information from winkapedia.
Sweet corn is the result of a naturally-occurring recessive mutation in the genes which control conversion of sugar to starch inside the endosperm of the corn kernel. Unlike field corn varieties, which are harvested when the kernels are dry and fully mature, sweet corn is picked when immature and eaten as a vegetable, rather than a grain.

Sweet corn occurs as a spontaneous mutation in field corn and was grown by several Native American tribes. The Iroquois gave the first recorded sweet corn (called "Papoon") to European settlers in 1779.

All of the alleles responsible for sweet corn are recessive, so it must be isolated from any field corn varieties that release pollen at the same time; the endosperm develops from genes from both parents, and heterozygous kernels will be tough and starchy.

This means that sweet corn is rather rare in that less than a quarter of naturally occurring corn has the possibility to be sweet if picked properly. Even in a field of all sweet corn, only half of that would reproduce naturally to be sweet corn the next year.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Another Day of Change

Our new sign adds to the sights on E. 4 st. It seems to be working as 3 people walked in the front door asking if we where open, even with the brown paper covering the giant front window.

I couldn't help but snap this pick of the huge mirror which represents about half the length of the bar. A few liquor bottles, a few pint glasses of brew and we are in the money

I'm sure your wondering what this picture is doing here, stupid robo-coup and a latter. No, look closely, it an air conditioning vent....pointed right down into the kitchen, freshly installed!!! Vince the owner walked into my little kitchen area, grabbed a paper towel and exclaimed, "it's hot back here, we should do something," from my past experiance, it wasn't all that unplesant. Ten minutes later, after some pointing at the wall and the such a construction guy gets a latter, a tape measure, and a saw...the rest is history, beautiful history.

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