Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why is it so hard to get good service?

More annoying than bad food is bad service. I can leave a restaurant that serves bad food feeling sorry for it, but I seethe when I leave a restaurant with bad service. I think this is all common sense, but apparently it isn't and I have to list out what not to do if not to better the service in this town than just to vent a little.

1. pretend to do me a favor by seating my incomplete party even when the restaurant is half empty. Either seat me or don't.
2. drop a menu that has clearly been printed on a home printer without checking first whether the dumb nut that trimmed it down passed kindergarten and can cut in a straight line.
3. ask two people with three place settings (that the host set) whether there are two or three people in the party.
4. interrupt a lively conversation at a table so that you can take a drink order.
5. ask to take a drink order even before a customer is able to get his coat off after he first sits down.
6. tell me what your favorite dish is, why do I care what your favorite dish is? Is your palate identical to mine? Do you even have a palate?
7. notice that a customer is trying to fix a wobbly table and walk away.
8. deliver food and leave empty beer glasses on the table.
9. allow your busser to provide the best service in the house.
10. touch a check presenter that obviously has not been moved from where you set it and ask if "it's all set."

Just for posting this, I will probably be punished with an unjust review of my own restaurant's service when we finally open. Go ahead and judge me, but I will only stab myself in the eye if we get called out on any of the above 10 infractions.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Food Photos

Loretta and I have decided to dedicate an entire blog to images of our food. We've included holiday meals, dinners with friends, dinners at home, our food at Colors restaurant and Sunday suppers. Enjoy!

This is a beef tartar that we served as an appetizer for Thanksgiving in 2009. It's fresh beef tenderloin, brandy, shallots and mustard seed caviar served with parmesan crisps.

The photo above and the photos below is from our menu at Colors restaurant in NYC. Above is Yogurt marinated lamb chop with tandoori spices and fava bean salad. Photos by Nadine Friedman.

From left to right:
Bagna Cauda Salad: prosciutto, cherry tomato, arugula, fennel and an anchovy vinaigrette
Local Cheese plate: raw orange blossom honey
Brazilian Mussel Moqueca: ginger coconut broth and lime
Three Grain Salad: farro wheat salad with dried cherries, quinoa with pistachio pesto, and cous cous with madras curry and coconut

Clam and Chorizo: Little Neck clams, chorizo, fennel, and a smokey white wine sauce. We sopped it up with some of Loretta's delicious bread.

This isn't the most flattering picture but this is one of my favorite dishes to make. It's a lamb ragu with pappardelle. This is a version of a dish we did at Colors, only that version used local beef short ribs that were to die for and house made pasta!

One of our favorite things to make at home is roasted chicken. At least once a week we roast a whole organic bird, it's so satisfying and we tend to get about three hearty meals out of one five pound chicken. It's definitely one of my favorite things and if you ask Loretta what her favorite dish of mine is...she will say "the chicken".

Home Cured Maple Bacon. Since I've cured my own it's very unlikely that I will ever buy bacon again.

I guess we have a thing for clams. We picked these up at a little fish market in South Hampton.

Loretta's gorgeous bread! She's so talented.

These little guys are cheese stuffed piquillo peppers with fried shallot and lemon zest.

Green Chile Stew: pork shoulder, green chiles, tomato, cheese...yum!

I'll end with a shot of Loretta's Mulled Wine Sangria. It's red wine, fruit, cinnamon, and's amazing served warm or chilled. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sunday Supper #2 Quack, Quack!

For Sunday Supper #2 we focused on Duck. After the first Sunday Supper we thought we should focus in one animal and make a three to four course meal out of that animal. The duck was especially fun for me because they are so fat! Loretta had been practicing her flatbread and I had a pork belly curing so we really wanted to incorporate those elements to show our craftsmanship.

The Menu:
My thoughts are in red

We started with two pintxos (sorry no pictures on these ones):

Duck liver pate with fresh orange and chives
This dish was nice, I balanced the liver with some sherry vinegar to tone it down a bit as well as some fresh herbs. I was hoping that it was not just a dish only a liver lover can appreciate.

White bean puree, duck confit, and confit mushrooms

We had a couple legs and thighs left after we decided the menu on paper so I put them on to confit over night with some pretty miatake mushrooms. I was happy with this pintxo.

First Course: Duck Consomme with preserved lemon, fennel and crispy juniper bacon
I made a rich, sexy duck stock and seasoned it with star anise, juniper berries and some smoked paprika. The little hints of flavor can be perfected but the addition of a crispy piece of bacon at the end was my favorite element.

Second Course: Olive Flatbread with pan seared duck breast, caramelized onion, apple and manchego cheese
Loretta's flatbread was spot on. We have some tweaking to do to the cook time but the flavor profile of this dish was pretty solid. We tested this dish twice before serving it, we kinda like it.

Third Course: Relleno de Calamari, squid stuffed with homemade duck sausage and potatoes with salsa brava and mache salad

This dish came from an experiment at Colors in NYC. I had a menu item called Daily Seafood Preparation or something which basically meant I could do whatever i wanted under the broad umbrella of seafood. I had a sample of hot Italian style sausage from my meat guy so I thought I'd cook it up with some potatoes and stuff the mixture into calamari and grill I did...and it was good. I applied the same idea but used duck sausage that I made at home which I tested at Thanksgiving. The salsa brava adds a nice bite of acid and heat while the fatty sausage complements the lean meat of the calamari. We also gently deep fried the tentacles for a little textural contrast. This dish was well received by my guest. I think it's a keeper.

Final Course: Crema catalana ice cream with olive oil cake

We tried...we're not pastry people but we put this out there anyway. The flavor was right but the cake was just not quite there. We have more success in this department when we keep it simple...and I mean really simple. We'll work it out!

Our general feedback was incredibly positive. The challenges we faced with this supper was the large crowd. We found ourselves with fifteen hungry guests in our home, most of which work in the food industry and are self professed foodies. To be honest we didn't think everyone we invited were gonna show so we kept inviting and inviting. Loretta decided that I should be the front of house for this supper which was probably not the best thing for us but I muscled through it...clearing plates, trying not to spill on people and making sure we were on track in the kitchen. The conversation was stimulating. A bit off topic at some points but I think we fed everyone too much wine. Upon talking over our concept with everyone, a couple of our guests said that we "don't have to worry about the food" and that we should focus on our story. "What story? We're opening a restaurant", I thought. It has to be about the food! We have to keep pushing the envelope and keep trying to invent and create and learn. That's what this is all about! No?

Photos by Christina Yamasaki (thanks X)