Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2011: March 15th

Running. Running. Constantly running. That's what it feels like right now. Since the last post in this twice-monthly series about the restaurant in 2011, it seems as though I have been running constantly. The three big time sinks right now are largely self-inflicted: teaching cooking classes, renovating the restaurant, and hosting special dinners.

My cooking classes are in full swing now and that takes a huge chunk out of the day on which I teach. Right now, I'm doing a class about every week to ten days and that is about all I can manage. So far in this series, I've taught one class on root vegetables coupled with a knife skills seminar and another on lobsters. In Sunday's lobster class, I showed students how to tell males from females (important if you want the roe to color sauces etc.), how to cook and break down lobsters, how to make basic lobster salads, lobster cakes, and then we did a traditional américaine. I love teaching these classes and being able to work closely with students, but the extra work load is tough to manage.

Meanwhile, the renovation of the restaurant is occupying a lot of my time. In the past two weeks, we have chosen new colors for the walls and ceiling and that is driving a lot of other changes: table linens, candle holders, window treatments, menu covers, and so forth. Ann and I attended an industry tradeshow over in Maryland last week where we got a lot of good ideas and were able to purchase some of the things that we needed to complete the renovation. These purchases will all arrive over the next few weeks.

Already we have reconfigured a few tables and moved some things around. We are liking the changes especially in that we have a lot more flexibility in the dining room now to seat larger parties. And the tables have new white linens in place of the old burgundy ones. This coupled with the removal of the ponderous old window treatments has really brightened the dining room.

Lots more changes are underway including a new sound system which I will install as soon as I have a spare couple of hours. Frankly, with the dinners we have this week, I don't see the sound system getting installed until we close on Sunday. And we started prepping walls for painting today. There are going to be a painful few days when our walls look like they have the measles from the spackling before the paint goes on. We're attacking it section by section. So yeah, things will look a little funky for a while, but ultimately, they're going to look great.

In many ways dealing with all the details of this renovation is similar to the chaos of opening a new restaurant, albeit without the major buildout issues and with a functional kitchen in place.

Finally, special dinners are taking the rest of my time. We've ranged the gamut from a private party for 60 on the 28th to Thursday's wine dinner featuring wines and food from South Africa to a couple of 9-course Chef's Tastings and the usual 6-course Thursday night Chef's Table. That's a lot of special menus to oversee and it is keeping me busy. And it is really forcing me to be creative. I don't like to repeat dishes for tastings and I don't like to put dishes on the tasting menus that are available in the main dining room.

Signs of spring are all around now. Besides a few beautiful days in the 60s (and the odd snow shower), bulbs, mint, and chives are all making their push for the sky. Shad roe has made its usual vernal appearance on our menu and rockfish (striped bass) are running in the Chesapeake, bringing prices way down. And of course Daylight Savings Time is upon us. That means that more and more people will start to come out to dinner because it is light later and that translates to a longer day for me. It's the normal seasonal flow of things and I'm used to it in general, but each year, it takes a few days to getting used to working a longer day.

And that's about it for the first two weeks of March. Tune in at the first of April to see what progress we have made in renovating the restaurant and what's new on our menus.

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