Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nothing about food....

Happy Thanksgiving. Tomorrow will be the first Thanksgiving in 9 years that I'll spend the entire day with my family and I'm really very excited about it.

Truth is, I'm not a huge fan of turkey, but I am a HUGE fan of folks gathering around the table and celebrating together. It's something that's a little lost on us today in our 30 minute meal/I don't have time world. The idea of celebrating each other and relaxing for hours over food and drink. I would like to propose that we establish eating holidays once every two months. You know....1 day every two months or so that is dedicated to the joy of the table and conversation. Call me crazy(it wouldn't be the first time), but I think it would be very nice.

Tomorrow, we will take a day to give thanks. Make sure to thank whoever cooks your Thanksgiving meal; they deserve it.

In the spirit of 'nothing about food', I've posted some awesome candid photos that the master Andy Smith took a couple of weekends ago at the restaurant. A month or so ago, I lent Andy my copy of Marco Pierre White's White Heat and mentioned to him how inspired I have always been by the black and white photos in the front half of the book. Well, here are some black and whites of us cooking. Enjoy.

By the case anyone cares, I'll be eating freshly baked sticky buns and drinking champagne tomorrow AM while I watch the Macy's Parade from start to finish. What are you doing?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Just messin' around....

Here are some shots from my iPhone(nothing close to what the MASTER Andy Smith can do) of a warm autumn salad that I'm considering for the menu. The veg are all separately prepped(roasted, glazed, etc.) and then warmed on pickup in country ham butter..... the purees are salsify and caramelized shallot(cooked with thyme and pureed with cream cheese) beet jus, dehydrated olives. Boy, does this eat good!!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Naming Conventions

I have to admit, in the interest of full disclosure, that I've been guilty of that which I'm about to rant in the past and have since reformed my ways. Actually, no I haven't. I've just grown up a little bit.

Also, by 'you' I mean chefs everywhere.

LET'S GET OVER THE STUPID NAMING CONVENTIONS ON MENUS. There, I've said it. Well, Andy, what do you mean 'naming conventions'. What I mean is let's call a spade a spade. About .001% of the dining public gives a shit that you're cooking your egg at 61.5 degrees C. Just call it a soft egg and be done with it. Also, nobody gives a shit that something was cooked sous vide. You don't write 'cooked in a copper pot' on your menu. Sous vide is simply a technique and the circ. is a tool, much like a copper pot or stand mixer. Can you imagine a dessert menu that said 'Carrot cake made in a stand mixer'. No, you can't and possibly don't care.

How about this gem? Calling a piece of peeled tomato flesh 'tomato sashimi'. Hello? Wouldn't simply 'tomato' suffice? AND....carrot confit? Technically, confit means cooked in its own fat and I have yet to come across a carrot that had fat, so..... If by carrot 'confit' you mean a carrot cooked in carrot juice, then say carrot cooked in carrot juice or how about this one: carrot. Here's where we get to the root of the problem. Carrot cooked in carrot juice doesn't sound nearly as sexy as carrot confit.

This last one I've been especially guilty of in the past: using quotes on the menu. OK, three things. 1) using quotes to be whimsical and show that you're not taking the literal definition of a technique was really cool when Keller did it in the 90's. It's getting lame now. 2) Using quotes on the menu isn't your license to screw up whatever you put quotes around. Oh, so you don't really know how to make a perfect Sauce Bernaise, so put quotes around it and it can be your own little 'riff'. It's not a riff. It's lame. 3) Using quotes to describe that you're 'doing a play on' something is so last week, too. The dining public isn't stupid. If you've got a concord grape sorbet and a peanut butter tart, they get the fact that it's peanut butter and jelly. Call it what it is and be done with it. If the guest doesn't 'get it', 9 times out of 10 it's not because you didn't put the name in quotes, it's because it was a horrible idea to begin with.

I'll say this again. I've been guilty of most of, if not all of the above in my career. That doesn't make it right.

All chefs have egos. We desperately want to be separated from the crowd, because let's face it, there are a ton of talented chefs out there. I think that in our striving to stand out, we're taking too many liberties when writing menus. The conventional wisdom is that if we can write a sexy, shocking menu with lots of buzz words and techniques, our restaurant will get discovered and that will lead to people beating down the doors on a tuesday night. That might be true and in the age of the internet and PR firms, menus can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. However, I'm preferring to go the other way(are any of you frequent readers surprised that I'm a little different?) and follow a 'less is more' rule when writing menus. Sure, the technique will still be there and the same amount of ingredients will be there. Yes, I will still notate which farms our products come from because I believe that these remarkable products stand apart because of the people who raise them. It's not just a sneaker. It's a Nike sneaker and by that logic, it's not just a pig, it's a Rettland Farms pig and that matters; if it didn't matter, I'd leave it off. I want our restaurant to be judged on the merits of our food and service; not on whether or not I'm using all the current trendy buzzwords on the menu. You don't eat the menu, do you? The bottom line in all of this blabber is the question that I always come back to: 'How does it eat?'

If the answer is 'that's the best piece of food I've ever put in my mouth', then who needs a menu?

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Let's Make a Deal

OK, brace yourselves. Holiday season is upon us. I'm sure we've all spotted our first 'get'em while they're hot' holiday shopping commercial on TV. Kinda sad, isn't it? Oh well, let's roll up our sleeves and make this year one to remember.

Once I saw that first commercial, I was ready to start thinking about holiday party season. I really enjoy seeing guests in their festive holiday wear through the kitchen window as they arrive at the Mansion for company holiday parties or family gatherings. The holidays are a very special time for us at the Mansion and we want to share that feeling with you. SO.........give us a call and book your holiday gathering! Let us do all the work...all you have to do is sit back, relax and drink in the holiday cheer! How about this? Bring a group of 20 people and get a private room. That's right. A dining room all to yourselves!!!! So..... Company party? We can do that. Family gathering? We can do that! Prime rib dinner with all the trimmings? We can do that! Cocktail reception? We can do that! Lunch with the office? We can do that! Lunch with 20 of your closest friends? We can do that! A blowout multi-course chef's table complete with wine pairings and me serving you? We can do that!(well, me serving you is the hilarious part!) How about convincing the boss to take you to the Mansion for lunch and then giving you the rest of the afternoon off??? WE CAN DO THAT!

Karen is anxious and waiting by the phone for your holiday requests(yes, yes....dates are filling fast.).....LET THE DEAL MAKING BEGIN!!!! Actually, how about I take the first shot? Here you go.....BOOK A PARTY OF 20 OR MORE PEOPLE IN THE MONTH OF DECEMBER AND WE'LL GIVE YOU 2 $50 GIFT CARDS TO USE HOWEVER YOU WISH.(HELLO PRESENTS.....) Come on, you know you want to.

HOLIDAY HOTLINE - 717.633.8075