Friday, June 27, 2014

Report From 870 High Street

 For Sale - Veal Demi-glaze.  Made with St.Brigid's Farm grass fed veal stock from the Brooks Tavern kitchen.  $10 for 12 ounces.  This stuff will make you the King of any Kitchen.  Available now or later - it's in our freezer ready to go!

Summer arrived over the weekend and with it comes the warm days I love.  I never complain about hot weather, because I am not a fan of cold. There really is nothing like summer in Kent County.  Back before there was a Brooks Tavern, Kevin and I spent a year traveling the country, wondering if there was somewhere else we'd like to settle.   Forty states later, we found nothing that met the standards already established by Maryland's Eastern Shore, and when we got back we greedily hoped the new restaurant wouldn't open before we had a chance to enjoy a full free summer in our own back yard.  (We actually ended up getting not only the summer, but the next two seasons off as well, when the opening of BT was delayed until the following spring, but that's another story.)  There is no end to outdoor pleasures, including being on or by some body of water or another.  There seems to be no end to local fruits and vegetables to feast upon, and some years there are even a lot of blue crabs to pick.  Hurricanes are rare, and while the humidity can become a little, well, damp, it is nothing compared to what folks in downtown Baltimore or Central Louisiana suffer through during the dog days.  Lately the lightening bugs have been putting on quite a show through the trees, and of course the tree frogs never shut up.  Of course there are also crickets, which have just begun to sing, but they are relatively short-lived (especially if you have a fly swatter close at hand).  It's a great time to live in a great place.

Maybe that's why lunch has been so slow this week?  Everyone is enjoying the noon meal al fresco? I'm not certain, but I hope it's a temporary glitch.  Nicole has been out all week with a sick baby, so Kaitlyn put on the apron and has covered the server shift for the past four or five lunches, which made her happy, despite the relative lack of customers. It's always sort of depressing when you are slow - Kevin gets particularly distressed, because, of course, he believes it is because "they" don't like his food, which makes it personal to him.  But this business always has its ebbs and flows, and usually we don't let the ebbs bother us. Unless they last a little too long...  And lunch business is really the toughest shift of all, if you ask me, because you face the toughest competition: not only can your customer base get lunch at any number of equally fine local restaurants, but they can pick up a salad at Royal Farms, or grab a sub at C'Town or just run home for a lunch of leftover roast chicken on rye.  It's mostly about time at lunch, for the working crowd, and money of course.  We have never been able to make lunch affordable to the masses.  When you are using top quality ingredients and paying a staff to do all the prep for your menu items, you can't.  Our steak sandwich is $15.  It's cut from the same New York Strip that is on the dinner menu for $30.  The burger - grass fed, house ground on a house made roll - is $10.  The $9 SausageWich we are serving as a special today is made with house made sausage and mozzarella, again on a house made bun.  Five large shrimp in the shrimp stir-fry = $14.  We've never been known as the home of the  cheap lunch, and while these prices most definitely limit our range of clientele, it would be impossible for us to accept any other way of doing it.  

I was not successful in getting a whole lot of pictures this week, although I did manage to cover the Wednesday menu.  
The starter Wednesday night was particularly delicious - tempura scallops with spicy mayonnaise sauce.  If you've ever had the rock shrimp tempura at Sushi Yama, you know what I mean.

Main course was St. Brigid's Farm calves liver, served with "bacon and onions".  

The bacon in this case is the schmear of bacon jam over the top of the sauteed liver, and the onion appeared as green onion puree beneath.  What a clown that Kevin is! 

Dessert completed the trifecta - a dish of Kilby Cream vanilla, crowned with a sauce made from some of those sour cherries:
Actually, my favorite way to use this cherry sauce is to make a cherry ice cream soda - vanilla ice cream in a glass with some of the cherry sauce and several squirts of club soda.  Cold and sweet and tart, good any time of day!

I always like a picture of the fish of the day adorned with crab and peas and ham.  Redman peas.  Jumbo lumps of Maryland crab.  A few pieces of Smithfield ham to add a jolt of salt.  A little lemon buerre blanc.   Perfect.

Thursday night's special burger was dubbed the "Delaware State Fair" burger:  yellow pepper puree with fried onions and sausage, topped with a slice of house made mozzarella.  Yikes!

My favorite story this week involves a duck.  It was the first thing that happened on our first day after the weekend, on Tuesday morning before we'd even entered the building. The Chef's Warehouse driver came barreling across the parking lot, at a rather faster than normal rate of speed, horn blaring and otherwise behaving slightly out of character.  He rolled down his window and shouted "I've got a duck!"  Well, we often get cases of ducks from Chef's Warehouse, but we were pretty sure this was not what Marlin was referring to...

Turned out, down in Chester, a mallard hen had flown into the truck and slipped upside down between the cab and the body!  Marlin had tried to extricate her, but since he really was not willing to touch her, he was left unsuccessful.   It was going to be up to Kevin.  He managed to nudge her loose, and she fluttered down into the plantings next to the truck, apparently unharmed.  Probably slightly discombobulated...

We set out a pan of water, from which she drank charmingly, and waited to see what she would do next.  There were a few specks of blood on the white truck, so she definitely suffered somewhat in her harrowing ride up 213, but she seemed okay.   We kept an eye on her, and about an hour after her arrival she ambled across the lot to the holding pond, which I think was slightly too scummy for her liking, because she quickly made it up the bank and headed into the Radcliffe Creek, all the while calling "Harry?  Harry?  Where are you?  Where am I?"

We wish her well.

Now that school is out I have more resources for lunch time help - when they are not on family vacations that is!  We now have a full time bus boy - one of two new young men in the dining room, much to the ladies' delight - who, at 14, is experiencing his first ever job.  Tyler's mom worked with us at the Kennedyville Inn many years ago, so we've got a second generation staff thing going on here!   With a regular busser during the day, I can put some of the more experienced busgirls on as host, which frees me up to do things like write Blog Posts.  Leah had her first host shift yesterday, and she reveled in the new responsibilities this job brings.  I love watching them as they take on the serious tasks of proper phone etiquette and dealing with guests who have a fondness for one particular table over another.  There is a lot of customer relations to be handled in a restaurant dining room, and I can't stress enough to these fledgling hosts how important their behavior can be in forming the guests' opinions regarding the decision to patronize this restaurant over another. Answering the phone properly can by itself be a deciding factor in whether to visit a restaurant or not.  The social skills that our dining room staff learn, especially at a young age, will come in very handy when they face larger issues later in life.

Good news in the kitchen too: I daresay that Kevin has the best staff ever right now, working with him.  Despite a few reliability issues with a couple of the day crew, he  is very pleased with them all.  The two newest employees - Deiona and Sheronda - are both great hires.  Sheronda is a bundle of energy at lunch, with no task being too much to ask of her, and Deiona is a quietly confident presence on the salad station at night.  As a matter of fact, I'd say she's one of the best we've ever had on that job!  It is such a relief to have people who are actually happy to be here and willing to do what it takes to get the job done, with mature attitudes that don't include drama.  Another success story would be Dashan, who has made great strides of late, taking the training of Deiona as his personal mission and being very successful at it.  He has become invaluable. 

Finally, ironically, I didn't get this whole post written during lunch service today because we got too busy in the dining room!  Figures, eh?

Peace out!

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