Thursday, March 21, 2013

Vacation Ends - Reality Strikes: Part 2

The return from vacation is always fraught with the pressure of accomplishing everything you need to do to open the doors, after being closed for three weeks.  Bills to pay, end-of-month work to do, all the prep work for two entire menus, from blue cheese dressing to potato salad to lemon chess pie, all the ordering which means taking inventory, and, well, you get my drift. That being said, it is still a small price to pay for being able to take those glorious three weeks off!  But it is also the reason why we don't open back up on the Tuesday of the first week - we wouldn't be able to.  And this year, that would be more true than ever.

We had such a lovely vacation.  But towards the end, we do have to start directing our thoughts back to the work station, thinking about menu items we'd like to do, changes we'd like to make.  We slowly - if not totally willingly - draw ourselves up off the couch and into the kitchen. 

Still, we never dreamt that Brittany, a two year veteran on the lunch line, the actual lead cook on the lunch line, we never imagined that she would be a no-show at the start of her third year at Brooks Tavern.  Apparently she must have been quite unhappy here at BT, so unhappy that she gives no warning or notice that she is not coming back from vacation.  And we also never pictured the scenario of the newly refurbished POS computer in the dining room not returning to work either.  Both situations have cost us dearly, as you can imagine.  It's not like it's our first time at the rodeo, but this double whammy was not the welcome back we would wish on anyone. 

To begin with, the fact that one of our main day cooks does not return means someone else has to do all of the work she would normally be doing - making quiche and hamburger rolls, preparing the soup and prepping omelette fillings and whatever else it takes to get that station ready for lunch every day, not to mention working the line during service.  Of course, luckily in some ways, we have that someone else on deck.  His name is Kevin, the Chef.

But what that also means is that Kevin can't do anything he would normally be doing.  Which includes anything that is remotely special for the menu.  

So, last night when a long-time customer told me, quite kindly, that they were disappointed to see no new menu items, that many of the dishes have been on the dinner menu for too long, I agreed with them.  It's true.  Sure, the duck garnish is new - and delicious - and the lamb and confit preparations have changed, as has the chicken and rainbow trout (that is just about the entire entree list) but there is nothing that really jumps out at you, no new center of the plate ingredient that would be a refreshing change for our guests.  I agreed with them, but I didn't make any excuses, except to say that Kevin really struggled to come up with some new and different menu selections, but it just didn't happen.  Yet.  It will, once we get back to a full lunch crew, but it will be a little while.  

As for the computer, that couldn't have happened at a better time.  It was working fine when I clocked in on Monday morning and began my office catch-up work.  It wasn't until several hours later that I discovered the mother computer was a black screen, and no amount of re-booting made a speck of difference.  DBS was able to bring us a (brand new) computer on Wednesday morning - sure, only hours before we were to reopen, but sitll, better than if the damn thing had conked out on, say, this Friday morning??  That would mean closing for the weekend, because, as we all know, we can not work without our POS system.  Those days are over.  Lisa and I are probably the only ones on the staff who know how to use dupes and hand-write checks; the rest of the crew can barely manage to use a dial phone.  It would not happen.  So, we got our lovely new POS computer up and running at 11:15 on Wednesday, just in time for lunch.

And it has been - for me anyway - really nice to be back.  I love seeing our customers - we had a full bar of regulars last night, and many other well-wishers at the dining room tables - and it is very gratifying to be doing something that many people appreciate.  Although, as I said to Kevin on our drive home afterwards, sometimes it does not seem fair that I am out there taking all the bows while he is working his butt off doing the job of two people, trying to keep the boat afloat...

Anyway, I've got only a couple of photos:

Shad roe has entered the building!   This is one of only a few menu items that Kevin can prepare very well but wouldn't ever eat.  Last night it was quite the popular small plate, sauteed with Smithfield ham and golden raisins and plated on a bed of fresh spinach with a balsamic drizzle.  It is the first sign of spring on a restaurant menu, often followed closely by asparagus and strawberries, so it is always a welcome sight.

The fish of the day last night was fluke with a miso glaze...

...and the aforementioned lamb is braised shoulder wrapped in brick pastry on a chickpea tomato stew.  A little cumin and some serious au jus made a very satisfying early spring meal.  

And then there are these eggs that Nancy Jane brought to us last night.  I wish the camera had caught the beautiful blue and green from her Araucana hens' eggs - amazing.  And of course tasty!  We traded a couple of drinks for a couple of dozen of these backyard beauties, and I couldn't be more excited.  Kevin and I had breakfast burritos with a half dozen this morning, and I also could not resist using some for a batch of cream caramels.  Thanks Nancy Jane, so very much!  These eggs couldn't make us happier!

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