...so, here we are. (I wonder how many people spent yesterday dreaming of early retirement like we did? First, pay off Randy (of course), then have one last free lunch followed by ROAD TRIP!! Oh well. Luckily we didn't "bank" on it. And what a frenzy - I read that at one point they were selling 130,000 tickets every minute!)
Welcome to Slow December. The competition for your discretionary income really heats up this time of year, with the purse strings once again being opened more for holiday shopping than for dining out, and holiday parties offering a competitive respite from restaurant meals. It is an annual event, and one we are used to. We generally have more to do this time of year ourselves, and so we can put the extra time to good use. Of course the slow down in income is a bit of a downer...that takes all year long to anticipate!
Perhaps to counterbalance the expected drop-off in business, Kevin's prix-fixe menu last night was superlative.
It started with a portabella mushroom (okay, half a mushroom - what do you expect for $20.12?) "stuffed" with sausage, shrimp and hominy. It looked so good, and apparently tasted equal to its looks.
Next up, fluke wrapped around a filling comprised of fennel, escarole and raisins - another clear winner. Obviously this menu sold out long before the night was over, and received high praise from all who partook. The stuffing for the fish may be the precursor to a New Year's Eve menu item.
Dessert was bread pudding, made by Cherelle, with caramel sauce. At least this time the dessert didn't mirror the entree... Overall one of the more successful Wednesday night menus, and of course another chance for Kevin to practice for a future dish. I'd call that a win/win!
In other food-news, here's the steak we served last weekend - the St. Brigid's Farm rib-eye with a pearl onion and mushroom compote. My favorite cut, the rib-eye, and a delicious grass fed example from Robert and Judy's beef. The flavor of this beef is like going back to the old days, when beef actually had a "beefy" taste, not the bland-though-tender product you get from those Styrofoam trays at the grocery store. Even in competition with the NY strip we have on the menu, we sold all but two. (Oh no, you had two left over? whatever did you do with those???)
Mussels are currently back on the specials list - this week being paired with the coconut curry sauce that is another of my favorites.
The rockfish last night - skin on - was spice rubbed and served with pickled fennel and lemon butter sauce.
We had a couple in last night who were using their Donation Gift Certificate - which means one that Brooks Tavern donated to a local non-profit as a raffle/auction item. We write them out as "Chef's Dinner For Two", and they involve a multi-course meal of the chef's choosing. We ask that people call us a day ahead of the date they want to come in with the certificate, and at that time ask if there are any dietary restrictions. If there are - for instance, shellfish allergy - Kevin will prepare a menu avoiding the issue food. For the party last night, there were no dietary restrictions, which gave Kevin free reign to go all out. Here's what they had:
Starter was a little oyster fritter, complete with lemon butter sauce, on the appropriate fish plate.
This was followed by one of the aforementioned portabella mushrooms, only this time garnished with two shrimp.
Their main fish course was the spice rubbed rockfish with mussels, on a rice cake.
The meat course was our duck breast, served with its polenta and vegetable accompaniments.
Dessert was a chocolate pudding cake and a cream caramel. The guests were celebrating a wedding anniversary, so the special menu was quite appropriate. We do these Donation Gift Certificates in this "open" style - rather than a specific dollar amount - because we hope they will bring more money to the charity in that form. In other words, when you bid on a $50 gift certificate, are you going to pay more than $50? No. But if it is a more open ended item, who knows what you will pay, and if we make the winner a delicious meal for their donation, maybe they'll pay even more next time one comes on the Charitable Auction Block. Once more, don't you think this is a win/win? Plus the diners often find out that they like something they might never have tried otherwise - this was the first time the people last night had had our oyster fritter, and now they are serious converts!
As usual this festive time of year makes me yearn for specific high calorie treats. Part of it is the Yule, part of it is the Cool, part of it is just the Drool. Kevin has already put a Mocha in front of me and I have already visited Fran's Web Site (last year I got shut-out of some of her more popular items), so it's definitely time. This morning I began the maceration process for my fruit cakes - which will be on the dessert menu after Christmas - and ordered the peppermint ice cream from Kilby. While there are seasonal fruits and vegetables in December - think pomegranates and Brussels sprouts - somehow they don't get you as excited as asparagus and strawberries in the spring. Instead we find ourselves leaning toward those somewhat illicit dishes we like to prepare or buy this time of year. Some we search out because of traditions from our youth, while others are simply only available around the various Holiday seasons (and probably thank goodness for that!), a category into which fruit cake falls. I mean, who ever eats fruit cake or drinks egg nog in July?
Oh egg nog! I bet it's not too early to get some from Lewes Dairy!