We won't be doing Burger Night tonight, as I reported in my weekly email and on FaceBook, which is where we post the special burger for the week. The reason is that we are temporarily short on the line. And the reason for that is: no Kev, who is the cook who left at the end of last week. Now this is where I got into trouble, and I should know better by now. Naturally, when people saw that we had replaced Kev, but that the new cook couldn't report for duty until Friday, well, naturally people made the leap to Kevin, mistaking line-cook Kev with Chef-cook Kevin. (Not that I have ever heard anyone call Chef Kevin Kev...just sayin'.) Anyway, you know how rumors spread. More than a few folks became immediately concerned that the Chef and Owner of Brooks Tavern was MIA.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Kevin the Chef is alive and well and working the line with Rodrigo as his partner, until Friday night, when our new hire begins his turn at the wheel. Jay will be taking over the middle, while Rodrigo moves over to ex-line-cook Kev's spot on the griddle. Jay hails from Baltimore, amid the bustle of the downtown restaurant scene, having moved here recently with his family. Hopefully the dark and quiet and slow Eastern Shore will be the stuff dreams are made of, not nightmares of boredom. For us, we are looking forward to a new and experienced cook joining our staff, relieving Kevin of some of his mental, as well as physical, burdens.
Last night's menu was very popular, although we weren't super busy. (Probably because the local rumor mill has Kevin moved to California or out to sea in a rowboat...we'll find out which at some point, I imagine.) The first course was a small Caesar salad:
(Why Blogger now and then makes the pictures go sideways, I do not know...)
The salad was followed by duck and veal cannelloni, with a mushroom tomato gravy:
The filling was wrapped in an Italian-style crepe - crespelle - made with flour, eggs, milk and oil. Some of Redman's very early broccoli is also on the plate, along side potatoes sauteed in duck fat and the ubiquitous carrots. We are seeing the end of carrots as veg - finally - with the delivery today of Redman string beans and squash. Thank goodness for an early summer harvest, eh?!
Dessert was bread pudding with caramel sauce, several orders of which went out a la carte.
A fine menu. It was an interesting evening, as Wednesdays go, mostly because of a thirteen that showed up precisely at 6:30, for their "reservation". Fine, except we didn't have a 13 in the book... No problem, we easily put the tables together and got down to business, barely blinking two eyes. We were sort of surprised though - I take all of the reservations, no question about it, and I don't recall a mention of a thirteen any time recently, from anyone. And we have nothing in our book for this entire week, certainly no big parties. The question we asked each other was "What restaurant in town is waiting for their party of 13 to show up?"
Actually the mystery was soon solved. One of the women in the group approached me and explained that she had called a few weeks ago to book the table and had been told that I was busy/not available/what ever, and could we get her number and return the call later? She told me that she said no, that she would call back at another time. You guessed it - she never did. In her mind of course, she had made the reservation for her group, but when they arrived and we acted surprised to see them - happy, of course, because we weren't real busy, but definitely surprised - it dawned on her that in fact she had not actually made the return call! We laughed about it and I told her I was relieved to hear that we weren't crazy!
An interaction I had with another party did not go quite as well. As I have mentioned (several times?), we weren't so busy last night, not typical Wednesday night busy at least, so when I took a 7PM call from someone asking if I thought we would have a table for four open at 7:30, I responded in the positive. At the rate we were going there would be plenty of room for another party. Time went by, a couple of deuces came in but no fours, and a little before eight Kevin asked me if any new parties had come in. When I said no, he said, "Well, all the dinners are out so we're done." By this time, I figured the four-top had changed their minds. The gentleman on the line had said his name, but it didn't ring a bell and I figured it was just a speculative call, in case they decided to come in.
Well, as you have probably gathered by now, they did show up. At five to eight. When I greeted them with the news that we were closed, you can imagine their response. "But we called", the man explained. I told him that we had closed the kitchen only moments before, and when he reacted angrily, I remained sympathetic, but repeated the news that they were too late, that the kitchen was closed. He complained that we were open until eight, and I ineffectively responded that, well, if it's not very busy and no one has come in for a while, we might close a few minutes early, which is what we had done. He was not happy, for good reason, and I wasn't happy either - we could have used another table of four!
Anyway, of course they left, mostly mad, and chances of us seeing them again are understandably pretty slim...
It's not the first time we've closed before "closing time", and it won't be the last. It's not the first time we've had disappointed/angry guests and it won't be the last. I don't enjoy turning people away, but to seat a table of four at five to eight, when the dining room was going to be emptying out very shortly, is also not a good idea. We would have had to keep the kitchen open and dining room crew on for at least an hour more, and when the night was basically over, this just didn't make sense. Perhaps it wasn't a good move politically, or even business-wise, but sometimes you have to end the night while you are ahead, and just let everyone go home. I've been doing this long enough to know that much, at least.