It's looking to be a beautiful day in the land of pleasant living. One of the best perks about our location here in the Radcliffe Mill is the pond beyond the parking lot which annually serves as a landing site for dozens of Canada Geese. That sound of their conversations is one of the best on earth, and certainly a bellwether of location and date.
Last night's menu was a classic Kevin combo - crazy duck wings and comforting meatloaf. I mean, what kind of person makes Asian duck wings?
Unfortunately, I did not get to try one, but they looked pretty enticing. He placed them on a mound of "Asian" slaw, which, as far as I could tell, was made Asian by the addition of kimchi. Altogether a pretty unusual starter.
The entree, Kevin's always welcome meatloaf, was iced with a mushroom sauce. Vegetables these days have been Redman's Farms final hurrah - cauliflower and red curry squash puree. We sure will miss those loads of produce coming through the back door, but I bet Cathy and Tim are ready for their winter schedule to start!
Dessert was in keeping with a seasonal mode - pumpkin rum spice cake. Altogether a pretty popular menu, although it was only a moderately busy night. That being said, our lunch business is back up to normal - could it be the hot dogs? They certainly have been contagious, eaten by all genders and all ages. (Of course, now that I've said that, we will be really slow and no one will order the hot dog for the next week...)
In other news, Maryland crab is on the way out, which means no more crab cakes at Brooks Tavern. This week will be the last, so if you want one more fix of Kevin's superlative cake, come and get it. In the meantime, of course, there is the oyster.
Last week Kevin got in a box of oysters in the shell to "fool around" with. They were sewansecott oysters out of Virginia. Of course as soon as they came in we had to try one! I found them to be pretty tasty, maybe not as salty as my benchmark Chincoteagues, but still right up there in the briny sweet department. Most of these bivalves were served as pictured above - baked with a slice of scallop, a few lumps of crab meat and a melting of crab butter. (This would be known as a "shoulder" special - featuring local products from two colliding seasons, in this case, oysters with crab.) Garnished with lemon candy, they did not last the night.
And of course the oyster fritter is back on the menu, to the delight of its many fans.
Last weekend was a tough one, especially Friday night. We were super busy, and not just busy busy but slammed busy. A first rush was over by 6:30 or so, but it turned out to be the lull before the storm, and by 7:30 most of us were deeply in the weeds. It was one of those nights that I spend spinning round and round hoping to accomplish everything in a timely fashion. Get drinks for those waiting in the foyer for a table, open a bottle of wine for another, get more Jack for the bar, serve drinks to those in the lobby waiting for a table, seat a couple from the bar, transfer drinks from their bar tab to their table, take a dessert off a check that was rung in wrong, find out why table 8's food is taking so long, seat a party from the foyer and transfer their drinks, bring more wine to the bar, fix a tip edit, take a drink off a check that the customer was not happy with, close a house payment, get more wine for the bar, get the dishwasher to mop up a spill by the ice machine, add guests to the wait list, direct the bussers to set tables for two and four, chit chat with a new customer (briefly folks, briefly!), retrieve a bottle of red wine for a server, get behind the bar and help Meg with her protege Patrick, seat the people from the foyer...and on and on for at least two solid nonstop hours. Putting out a few fires, trying to do what ever I can to keep the cogs running smoothly. And of course everyone else on the floor is pretty much in the same mode, doing their own jobs at the same hectic pace. Meg especially had her work cut out for her behind the bar, because not only was it busy serving the guests who were actually seated, and maybe eating, at the bar proper, there was also all the drinks to be made for the dining room and beyond, once a wait list ensures that people are going to hang around for a table. Plus - and this was her main job - she had a new bartender working with her. It was quite an eyeopener for Patrick, I think, and at the end of the night my first question for him was "Will you come back tomorrow?" On top of all this, the beer cooler went up and the two of them had to take all of the beer and wine out and put it into the walk-in until we could get it repaired. It was, as we say, "one of those nights", and you will be amazed to hear that I was rude to only one customer!
Saturday was not so crazy. The worst was probably for the bar - this time Jenn working with Patrick - who had to work around the refrigeration guy who at least got there early enough to allow us to load the cooler back up before the rush. That's Glen Morton of Morton Brothers Refrigeration you see crouching behind the bar bringing our cooler back to life. What a savior! I was not looking forward to ferrying beer back and forth from the bar to the dining room all night long!
Eventually the week ended.
Heidi - a Thursday night regular - brought us in a huge bag of quinces. Apparently they grow quite contentedly in these parts, and she has a quite productive tree in her back yard. We've got them wrapped in wax paper in the cool storeroom until we figure out what to do with them. I am leaning toward a compote, and hopefully today we'll get them prepped for just such an occasion. I've never eaten them, but they smell enticingly of lemon and pineapple.
This is what Kevin cooked for our Sunday dinner - dove, left on our doorstep Sunday morning. Frank Mattes, who sells us much of our seafood, also guns in the area, and on Sunday we were the beneficiaries of his success. Most people just breast these little birds, but we like to gnaw on the legs and wings as well, so Kevin got to de-feather and de-gut them out in the yard by the fire Sunday night, and we roasted them over the hot coals. Delicious! Thanks Frank!
So far this week things have been on a fairly even keel. We've been short staffed by one - Cherelle has been out sick - which, with the addition of Angie not yet being replaced, has put a particularly heavy burden on our Chef. While I can certainly make desserts - and yesterday I made a couple more of those Belgium Chocolate Cheesecakes, from Fran's recipe book, and a batch of cream caramels - the bulk of the extra load falls directly on the owner/operator's shoulders. No surprise to any business proprietor, this is our calling after all. But listen to what Kevin already had going this morning by 7:30 AM: duck bones were browning in the rondo, a lamb shoulder was braising in the oven, he had the duck fat on the burner rendering, the dough out for the dinner bread loaves and lunch cibatta rolls, and sweet potatoes roasting in the oven with the lamb. All this after checking in the first order of the day.
He is my hero.