Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Out and About

After a long hiatus of not eating out, and looking at a long run in the future, I’ve happened to eat at both the Greenhouse Tavern and Fat Head Brewery within the past 8 days. I’m happy to say that between the two places I spent less than $100, including drinks, which is very impressive and important these days. Generally I liked all the food I ate. I had chicken wings at both places. This isn’t because I’m a chicken wing fanatic, but is why my bill came in so low. Both places did wings differently, and very good. The Greenhouse wing that had no skin, where very crispy, borderline dry, with no sauce, but they where amazingly tender and the meat fell off the bone in a mind blowing fashion. I have to find out how they do that. I’m not a fan of really crisp wings, which these were, but they were very enjoyable. The FHB has two wings on their menu, fried and smoke house. We got the smokehouse with honey chipotle sauce. The wings tasted great, served whole which I liked, and there was a very full meaty smoked flavor. The sauce was pleasantly hot, but overpowered the finesse of the smoking.

Beer, Beer, and more Beer!!! Greenhouse had a nice list of artisanal beers, a limited number on tap though. FHB had some 50 beers on tap. Matt Cole is the brew master there, formerly of Rocky River Brew Co. I was not a fan of RRBC beers. They all tasted the same, and /or overly flavored. This is very much not the case at FHB. We tasted 4 different house made brews and all were very different, flavorful and filling.

The green factor was mostly absent at the Greenhouse. I was hoping the server would pontificate the environmental responsibility of the ceiling tiles or something to draw my attention to the amount of time and money spent on making the restaurant a responsible one. Instead we found half filled labeless wine bottle on our table. After a quick inquiry, a unanimous discussion was made to push what was described as ‘table water’ to the side. I’m not drinking water from a bottle that’s been sitting on the table before I sat down. We were advised of a $5 split plate charge on a pasta dish that we all agreed was rather excessive. Give the explanation that it’s an ‘inconvenience’ to the kitchen did not soften the blow given my personal flexibility with splitting plates or sharing ect…

To charge for bread or not, that is the question. Unfortunately most dinners would agree that a good dinner starts with and overflowing glass of water that is always full, and an endless basket of bread with either butter or oil, whichever the restaurateur want to give me for free. For the environment we stopped pouring water endlessly, but bread? When I see how much goes into making bread, or how much money is spent on bread, it’s very understandable to charge for bread, but what if bread comes with an appetizer and you ask for more (3 people sharing 5 apps). To go against the grind is always hard, and this is something that has creeped up on us recently. In the kitchen I’ll tell you charge them for bread….and extra for the butter….but when I’m at the table I’m thinking, “everywhere else gives me a little piece of bread, what the hell?”

I’d go back to both, without question.


Scott Sebastian said...

You know damn well they pulled that 'green" shit out of there ass as a "hook".

"Yeah, let's open a hip and trendy restaurant that's green"! Green's the thing now you know!"

"we'll pour less water and make'em drink left over water!"

Yeah, ok.

Never mind the shortage of tap beer speak volumes! Tap beer is FAR more green than bottle. Maybe not as trendy though. I don't know I drink vodka.

Michael Walsh said...

I do sense a little, well alot more sincerity than your giving them credit for. That is why I wish they would have mentioned it while we were there.

I can understand your point of view though, being untrusting of a fancy new flash in the pan type of placing garnering all the press and business for doing the same things you have been for years now.

Scott Sebastian said...

you're easy.

Michael Walsh said...

Just like the girls in college!

Scott Sebastian said...

College? Cocktail waitresses! Back when they still existed. Oh yeah, cocktail waitress, mmmm.

DianeS said...

OK, first of all, I like JS very much and am a BIG fan of his and his cooking. I am however disturbed by much of what I've heard so far from friends and aquaintances who've dined at GHT.

Most of what I've heard I will refrain from commenting on until I am able to get to GHT and experience the place for myself BUT, water on the table that was there with the previous guest? No, no, no! I didn't like the fact that silverware and napkins were left in those buckets on the table from one guest to another at Bar Cento and I am not happy to hear this about the water. I hope this is something that gets adddressed early on.

Dave said...

Have Jonathon or Amilea give you a tour of the place and see if you still feel the same way. Everything in the place is recycled. From the carpeting to the bar to the wood paneling. They can tell you where it all came from. They are also using more energy efficient lighting, toilets, etc. You are way off base saying it's just a marketing idea.

Chef Sawyer said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for coming into the tavern. Glad you enjoyed yourself. I would love to send you a copy of our green initiatives that have been implemented into our restaurant as well as our certification. I would also love to give you a tour of the space. Please email me if you have a chance. Thanx

Jonathon Sawyer

Scott Sebastian said...

Geez Michael, everyone reads your blog.

Ok, I'm not a mind reader so I can't honestly say what their motivations are but how serious are they really? Just look at the bottled beer? will the empties recycled? Tap beer is greener. Also how many beer distributors? Do you really need that many? By consolidating vendors you can cut down on many, many greenhouse (pardon the pun) emmisions. How many wine vendors? Do you really need that many? Food vendors? Kitchen scraps? what happens to those? Compost? Product sources? The obvious is local but what about those far-away products that have to be served in top flight restaurants? Linens? Eco friendly linen company? etc. It's great they have recycled carpet but it's the on-going operation that really makes the footprint.

I'll say it again, (I don't want to argue) I can't read their minds so I may be wrong. I just think if they're serious they'd do a better job of it.

Just my opinion.

Michael Walsh said...

After reading the Green initiatives from the Greenhouse, I can see where alot of effort has gone into building a green space, but what is to be done in the future, with recycling, linens, cleaning chemicals...ect. I assume that the same attention is being paid to those ideas.

At the Black River Cafe we have different trash cans for recycleables. We produce alot of scrap, but 2-3 days out of the week we save compostable scrap for local collectors. Also, our fryer oil gets turned into biodeisal for the owners car. All of our to-go containers are made of recycled material. We buy the Green, eco-friendly cleaning solution as well, the brand name eludes me now.

From what the Greenhouse has done in the recent past, I have to assume they have an eye to the future with their green goals.

lasly, consolidating distributers is just a low blow. We all know how the game is rigged and just to fill out a simple wine/beer list you need 3-4 distributers. this guy sells only this, the only guy has an exclusive, the bud guy don't deliver miller...ect.

All the while, we nit pick each other, we are all doing better than the average.


Scott Sebastian said...

I agree and admit I'm cynical.

I also don't think you HAVE to have that many distributors. What's more imortant? To have the big name Mondavi on your list or a comparable, probably better for the price cab by a lesser known maker. I won't bring on another distributor for a label. Nope. If you really want to be green about it?

I use one beer distributor. I don't sell Bud. People got over it.
(Plus I hate the crap)
Making the tough decisions is part of the movement. If "Green" were easy we'd already be there.

It sounds like the Black River Cafe does a great job of minimizing the footprint. Do you go around screaming about it? Or do you do it because it's right?

I guess that's my whole point in a nutshell.

The CFT said...

Did you order the skinless wings?

maybelle's mom said...

I do think the sharing charge in general is bad business sense in a poor economy. One pair sharing a couple things and drinking beer is still more customers than that same couple going to another restaurant.

DianeS said...

I had the chance to stop by Greenhouse Tavern for a last minute-latish dinner the other night.

The water bottles on every table I observed were not left over bottles of water from previous guests. They were all clean looking bottles filled to the top. My impression was you have a full bottle of water at the table when you sit down not a leftover bottle from the previos table. I did not ask if the bottles are new to each guess but I assumed they were as they were all clean, no finger prints etc.

Scott, I don't understand why you are so quick to be critical of GHT especially having never been there. You keep saying "they could be doing this, they could be doing that". How's about all the things they're doing other than your thises and thats? It seems you are quick to discount them for the things they aren't doing according to you but not interested in finding out exactly what they are doing. Also, unless someone is making a half-assed attempt at something (which is clearly not the case at GHT) I think it is far better to concentrate on what they are doing and plan to do as opposed to being critical for what they might not be doing. One person or place can not do it all and there are also ways of having a dialogue with a person/place if you would like to see them do more other than being negative and critical of them on a place like this blog.

I wasn't aware of the split plate charge. My husband and I shared several smaller plates and then a burger for our main. We didn't ask the kitchen to split anything. I have no problem with split plate charges when the kitchen is splitting a main course between two plates each with its own set of sides. I am not down with a split plate fee if the restaurant is just plating the same amount of food on two plates as they would on one plate or if the fee is a penalty for sharing an entree at the table. I don't know what the GHT policy is but I will ask next time I'm there.

Anyway, my husband and I had a great meal there and greatly enjoyed the space and are pleased with the initiatives they have taken to be a green business.

Michael Walsh said...

Diane S.

thanks for your follow up of the GHT. I think we saw the same things, just through different eyes.

In Scott's defense, I think of Scott as an old timer who has been green since before green was 'green' and he is skepticle of young chefs flaunting and/or lying about mediocore accomplishments. This business is not ethical, moral or wholesome for the most part, and there are plenty of people who will call anything 'green' or 'local' or 'organic' or 'healthy' or 'low calorie' if it gets business in the door.

Not I, Scott, or Johnathan fall into this catagory, but i'm sure we all would be offended to find someone claiming to do one thing while practicing another.

From the sounds of it you will be, just like me, back to the GHT sooner than later, and that is good for business.

Scott Sebastian said...

You put that well. Thank you.