Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Weekly Round-up

 Let me start off by emphasizing how easy it is to navigate the still-under-construction traffic circle at our end of High Street.  It is awesome, how they have engineered this phase, so that traffic moves at a continuous flow, with generally no stopping whatsoever, even as the back-hoes and jack hammers work alongside you.  Just glide right around. (We've been teasing the drivers about getting lost in the vortex of the circle...) Now, you do have to understand when to yield and when to not yield, and not all drivers have mastered that concept, as we know when we make a right hand turn off  213 onto the by-pass.  Yield means yield to oncoming cars, not to simply stop for them, or for nothing, as the case may be.  So, if you are in the circle, cars yield to you, if you are entering the circle you yield until there's a spot for you to slide into.  Watching traffic from our big window by the bar has been an entertainment factor ever since we moved into the mill - first the fender benders, then the three way stop confusion, then the backed up traffic during pre-construction of the round-a-bout, but now, non stop traffic movement.  It is going to be fine, albeit still totally unnecessary IMHO. 

Charlie is on vacation this week, which means his three bar shifts needed to be covered.  I thought I'd simply put Jenn on all three and call it a week, but that didn't happen.  Jenn had a meeting on Wednesday night that precluded her participating at the BT bar for that shift.  So, you guessed it, I posed as Charlie on Wednesday night, and wouldn't you know, it was one of  the busiest in a while.  We even had a waitlist going!  I had assigned my role as Host to Kaitlyn, who did a most fabulous job, from what I could see from my position on the inside of the bar...But mostly I was pretty caught up in waiting on the several couples who were dining at the bar, plus making the drinks for the floor - I had all I could do for sure. At the busiest point, I turned around and pulled five drink tickets off the printer - including one for three relatively complicated cocktails.  I needed to also get drinks for a couple who had just sat down, put in a food order for another and drop a check for a third.  Normal routine for Charlie on a busy night.  Not so normal for a poseur like myself!  But, it all got done.  And hopefully in a relatively timely fashion. 

FYI - if you ever sit at our bar to eat while I'm on duty, the tip you might leave will be going to whoever is bussing that night.  Or, as in the case last night, to be shared by the busser and the person doing my Hosting job.  I gave up a long time ago trying to get people to stop tipping the owner.  You do not tip the owner.  But most insisted on leaving a tip and some suggested having it go into the "pot".  So, I agreed to that, and while it doesn't go into the general pot, that extra cash does make its way into deserving pockets.  And last night Kaitlyn and Mallory - bussing by herself - were both very deserving!

Soup and salmon were on the prix-fixe this week:

The soup was a coconut milk concoction with spinach and corn.  It smelled heavenly.

The salmon was griddled and then sandwiched together with a filling of sauteed arugula and shiitake mushrooms, dressed with some miso ginger sauce and paired with sushi rice and vegetables.  It was a nice looking plate.

If you have eaten here in the past few days, you'll know that Kevin is on a Thai kind of kick.  A recent library book - Simple Thai Food, by Leela Punyaratabandhu - has helped send him down that path.  It is a very good cookbook, clearly written, and, if you have the ingredients on hand, which we mostly do, not too hard to follow.  The picture above is one such recipe that Kevin tweaked only a little - Fish Cakes with Cucumber Peanut Relish (found on page 41).  It has been very well received by our discerning lunchtime clientele!  One guest told me it was one of her favorite Thai dishes and this version was the best she'd had!  ha!  He has also made the sweet garlic chile sauce (nam jim kai, page 187), and is going to give the recipe for sriracha a stab in the near future.  There is a lot of inspiration to be had in a cookbook like this, and seeing as Kevin is constantly trying out new things, this is just a day in the life.  We are the beneficiaries!

The very popular chicken dish morphed first into sausage and now into an entirely new plate, sort of a chicken cordon bleu, with cheddar cheese and bacon replacing the butter and ham.  It looks very inviting, but I wish I had a picture of it cut open, so you could see the juicy center.

My focus these days is, as is usual about this time of year, on rosé wine.  I have rarely met a rosé I didn't like, which makes it a challenge to narrow the field.  I don't often succeed, hence the six different rosés we have on premise right now, with another on order for next week.

My current favorite - which has not reached wine list status yet - is this grenache-syrah blend from Chêne Bleu, a winery in Provence.   With a very approachable balance between fruit and acidity, this is one of those rosés that you don't tire of after  a single glass.  In fact, you don't get tired of it at all, and it goes great with your chicken wings or your Chicken Tetrazzini.

My second favorite at the moment is from Clovelly Vineyard, right here on the Chester in Queen Anne's County.  Tony and Donna Gibbons-Neff began planting their acres of multiple varietals five  years ago, and this spring announced the first bottling.  We have their 2013 rosé on our current wine list, and it is as good an example of rosé as any I have had.  Dry, with plenty of crisp fruit, it is what we look for in a refreshing summer time wine.  Or any time.

These two will be following the Mas Bressades which we are just about out of.  I find the Artazuri to be similar to the Bressades - more full bodied, and pleasing to a red wine drinker who wants a hot weather change of pace.  And, believe it or not, we are tasting the Cassagne even as I type. (Who am I kidding, "tasting"!  drinking would be more like it.)  It's a lovely salmon color, with a definite fruity minerality that I find  a little less dry than some but pleasantly so.

Finally on deck is the BlackBird Arriviste.  Disappointingly coming in as the 2012 when I'd hoped it would be the current vintage, this wine shows its strength in that it is still fresh and delicious.  Some rosés do age well, as you find in the classic examples from Provence, and the Arriviste proves to be on a similar level.  I would say it may have lost some of the fruit  forwardness of the previous summer, but nothing lacking in flavor, and in fact may have evolved into another rosé that a diehard red wine drinker could accept as a summer substitute. Look for these wines - and more! - to appear on our wine list, some by the glass, as July and August unfold.  Summer is short and there are a lot of pink wines out there to sample!

It's been a pretty average week here at 870 High Street, except for the walk-in going on the fritz just as the Health Inspector came in the back door on Wednesday.  That was interesting.  There have been the usual  schedule "changes" to keep Kevin on his toes and the texts flying on the phone, along with some stressful delivery problems and the normal dining room demands.  The weekend always comes around to help us reset our clocks, and we start out the new week refreshed and ready to meet whatever issues might be headed our way.  It's been the same way for 28 years, and I expect it's the same for every independent restaurant owner-operator out there.  It's a crazy way of life, one I suspect we will miss when we move onto the next chapter of our careers.  But that's another story, eh?

Peace out!

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