It's pretty funny how this past snowy Tuesday - maybe 2, 3 inches of snow on the ground when we got out of bed - was sort of ho hum. Two months ago that much snow would have struck panic in our hearts and had us texting about a change in venue for the day shift. This time however, we simply got in the car and went to work, assuming everyone else would just do the same. It's equally true of the temperatures - all of a sudden, a morning reading of 28 is shirtsleeve weather. It appears that we are slowing becoming Minnesotans!
Last night's ham dinner was limited to 16 lucky diners. Kevin has absolutely nailed his ham. His cure is salty but not too salty, sweet but not too sweet. You taste the umami that is cured ham, with a little honey in the background. The Wednesday prix-fixe was a good way to showcase his success.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
To start the prix-fixe, there was seafood gumbo. Brooks Tavern will be making gumbo for the People's Bank sponsored "ChesterGras" on March 1, which is a benefit for the county's participation in the national "BackPack Program", and Kevin needed practicing!
The Black Bottom Farm pork that became Brooks Tavern cured ham was served with a mustard and Tillamook Cheddar cheese glaze.
Dessert - once again the neglected photo op - was 86 Proof chocolate cake. Not a real "theme" menu last night, although perhaps between the ham and the ChesterGras we are getting closer to spring?
These baked oysters made it to the small plate list of specials last night, and will also be on the lunch menu today - baked with Kevin's guanciale and spinach. Yes, I want one. No, I didn't get one.
This gratin of scallops, shrimp and lobster was hugely popular as an option for Valentine's Dinner on Friday. Actually, Valentine's Night altogether was a unqualified success for us this year, mostly due to the fact that #1 the weather cooperated and #2 we took reservations. There was a bit of a debate about the latter - starting many weeks before February 14th - going back and forth about the pros and cons and how Valentine's Day is potentially the busiest dining day of the year, which we certainly wanted to capitalize on. The decision to take bookings eventually won out, over the worry that people would not "walk in" to our dining room on a night like that because they would be under the impression that we would be way too busy and the wait would be way too long and so they would stay away and we would have an empty dining room. Finally we decided that the smart thing to do would be to change our reservation policy in honor of Valentine's Day, much the same way we do for New Year's Eve. We started our offer of Valentine Dinner reservations on Social Media and through the email, along with a basic sign on the front door, that we were accepting bookings for that night. We didn't get the message out to all of our customers, but we reached enough to fill the dining room, and many of those who did walk in for a Valentine's meal found a seat at the bar. We never ran a wait list, we pretty much sat all comers and ended up with a very successful dining event!
Does this mean we are going to start taking reservations on a regular basis? That question remains under consideration. It is a possibility. Maybe for weekends? We'll see. One of the attractions of taking reservations is that the restaurant can control the flow of business into the dining room, so as to keep it under an even keel for the kitchen. One of the de-tractions is that once you get the reputation as a restaurant where the guest must have a reservation to get a seat, you run the risk of no one ever trying to just walk in unannounced, and if you don't have any reservations...well, then you might have no business either. I learned this lesson at our first location. That being said however, in these days of Tweets and Likes, there is perhaps better ways to communicate with your guests about the status of your dining room before you find yourself left with an echo chamber. So, we'll see. We've got a few weeks of vacation coming up in which to figure it out.
Two lunch cooks have called out this morning, both sick. I think Kevin, Abbey and I will probably get our illness over with over vacation, since we are the last men standing, who rarely if ever call out. Vacation begins on Sunday, when Kevin will fly out to California to hang with his Chef buddy Rick, who just began a new job in Sausalito, where Kevin might find himself working on the line for a shift or two. Usually Rick takes a week vacation while Kevin is out there, but this year he is just starting in his new digs, so he will have little time to vaycay with Kevin. Myself, my vacation also begins on Sunday, when Kevin flies out to California. Ha!
Anyway, I'll try to get in one more post before then, but if not, we'll see you next month!