Friday, January 22, 2010

Wine series for 2010...Spanish Wine class this Monday

Napa & Co

We hit our 200th wine class in November and as we approach the start of the next session, I really wanted to put a fresh face on the series for a few reasons: keep those that have attended since the start still learning, further expand on the marriage of food and wine, incorporate guest wine makers and stretch beyond the original format to really, anything long as you enjoy yourselves and there's great wine and food!

A STUDY OF SPANISH WINE Monday January 25th 6pm Cost: $30 per person
Guest speaker, Lars Guy from Kobrand. Paired with artisan Spanish cheese, charcuterie and olives.

KORKS 4 KIDS!! The month of February!
Well, we finally found a use for the hundreds of corks we accumulate every day. And so you can've popped that bubbly after work, decanted the dregs for a fine champagne vinaigrette, and reused the glass bottle in five different ways. Now send in your cork to help a child. Korks 4 Kids is a not-for-profit program, organized through Recycle Cork U.S.A., to raise funds for children's charities through cork recycling. Collect your corks in your drawer or in a bag; once you have a sizable amount, come join us….bring in 20 corks and receive a free glass of sparkling and 50% off select bottles of wine for the month of February. Contact Korks 4 Kids, at (717) 880-1709 for more information on their organization.

SUPER BOWL CAB’S…JOIN THE POOL: Thursday, February 4th Cost $20 per person
6:30 pm Bring your favorite Cabernet under $50 retail to be blind tasted by the group. The winner takes home a $150 Napa gift certificate. Maximum 25 people. Cheese and Charcuterie platters compliments of Napa & Co.

“WHAT HAPPENS @ NAPA…STAYS @ NAPA” PRE-VALENTINE’S SINGLES BASH Friday February 12th Cost: $50 per person, wine, food, conversation and sparks!! Starts at 6:30 pm
Just in time to meet someone by Sunday or just in time to celebrate the joy of being single!! Who say’s we have to celebrate Valentine’s? Singles welcome…50% off cocktails all night at the bar. Eric is still single ladies!

WHAT WINE GOES WITH OUR FAMOUS BURGER? Monday February 22nd 6pm Cost: $50 per person
Enjoy our famous Wagyu Kobe Burger as we try five different reds from rustic to rich.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What to do with all of these freaking corks???
Well, I finally found a use for the hundreds of corks we accumulate every day. And so you can've popped that bubbly after work, decanted the dregs for a fine champagne vinaigrette , and reused the glass bottle in five different ways. Now send in your cork to help a child. Korks 4 Kids is a not-for-profit program, organized through Recycle Cork U.S.A., to raise funds for children's charities through cork recycling. Collect your corks in your drawer or in a bag; once you have a sizable amount and mail in your corks.
Korks 4 Kids collects wine cork as well as other scrap cork material from restaurants, among other places. They partner with recycling organizations that utilize the material and then the proceeds from the recycling of the material are donated to the Austism Foundation. This is an easy and proactive way to recycle and a great charity to support.
Drink more wine and help more kids! Sounds great to me...

Contact Korks 4 Kids, at (717) 880-1709 for more information.

Since we're on the subject of kids with special needs, I just had to share one of the most incredible stories that illustrates the experience as a parent to a T.

by Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Enough said...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Valentine's is around the corner...

If you like to toast weekend brunch with a bubbly Mimosa then you'll be sure to enjoy this bubbly treat offered complimentary on Valentine's Day this year. This sweet tart pomegranate cocktail tastes as good as it looks. The bubbles in the sparkling wine make the pomegranate seeds rise and fall in the glass, just like an old lava lamp. Using a flute with a long hollow stem will help out this effect, but most important is using seeds from a nice fresh pomegranate.
1 ounce Pama pomegranate liqueur or 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
5 ounces brut sparkling wine, well chilled
A dash of St. Germain elderflower
3 pomegranate seeds

Add the pomegranate liqueur or pomegranate juice to a champagne flute.
Fill the glass with the sparkling wine
Drop the pomegranate seeds in the glass
Top off with St Germain

Join us for Valentine's Sunday the 14th for fabulous food, great wine and lots of special treats to make your day extra special with that extra special someone in your life. 203-353-3319

Sunday, January 3, 2010

In the Words of Margot Olshan...

Once in a while you come across great people but great people that are great chefs?...not as easy and a great person that's a great chef and a great writer? Well, only one that I know of. I crack up every time I read one of her blogs and I just had to share this one. I hope she doesn't mind. Thanks Margot for the great laughs through 2009 and keep writing, cooking and bitch'n!

"While I don't have any new bitching about the kitchen, I figure maybe I'll start sharing some old war stories.
One that came to mind recently was a little "gourmet" store in New Canaan that I worked at for a few months. Between leaving my first business and building my new one I was introduced to a guy who was in dire need of an executive chef. I went to meet with him and told him that I'd help him out for a few months. At least through the holidays (this was early September).
The front was a pretty little room with a few tables, lots of high end merchandise stacked on shelves on the wall. On the opposite side were refrigerated cases where food was displayed for takeout or eat in. It was cute and a direct rip-off of a very successful business in Greenwich.
The boss-man was tall with a bald head that shined like a beacon. He showed me the kitchen, it was the size of the average closet, pre-McMansion. However, that never bothers me, as long as it's efficient and clean. It was efficient but sure not clean. The convection oven hadn't been maintained at all, so the glass windows were black instead of clear. The gas stove was so dirty that it was almost impossible to light it, the burners were so blocked. On the other side of the prep area was a tiny dishwashing area and a puny walk-in and a desk.
My first clue to how clueless Baldy was about food was when I tried to introduce some new items. He had a monotone voice that he used in a way where he pretended to be agreeable but somehow he always got his way. Hey- ultimately he was the boss but why have a real chef there if you don't want to use their brain? Basically he wanted everything the same as it had been. Even though I didn't know the previous chef's recipes and sales were atrocious, some new stuff might have perked things up a bit.
Luckily I had a sidekick. I will call him "Slowpoke" here. A really nice guy who was very helpful but he worked another job, had a high maintenance wife, thus was always tired and moved like a friggin' snail.
Slowpoke and I would listen to music back there as we did our daily deeds. I'd made cd's full of eclectic music and he had an i-pod full of new stuff. We swayed to the rhythm while we cooked.
Slowpoke was supposed to make sandwiches everyday. They put about a dozen out on the case that were pre-made. It took him literally about an hour to do this. Meanwhile I whipped up all kinds of salads or meatloaf or chicken. Baldy always hovered in the morning, very anxious to fill up the front cases. First drill of the day was filling up platters with food, mostly leftover from the fridge. Baldy would hand something to me or Slowpoke and say, "you want to bowl this up"? I'd heard of "plating as a verb, but when did to "bowl" become one. I think he was trying to speak kitchen-ese.
Baldy insisted that we make roasted whole chickens, just the way the previous chef had. That was OK, they were stuffed with oranges, lemons and herbs and finished with a nice shiny glaze. They almost looked like those fake chickens that you might see in the kitchen of a house for sale, so you will be able to imagine your own real dinner there. What was not OK is that sometimes that chicken did not sell. Day of, next day, or the next. So Baldy had us continually re-glaze them, rearrange them with new garnish and put them right back out in the case again. I'd cringe when on a Friday afternoon some lady in her fur coat would be thrilled to see that we still had chickens available, even if unbeknownst to her these babies had been prepared on Monday.
As a chef, I understand food cost and having as little waste as possible. But Baldy would come out from the walk-in with some little remnant of ham or 2 wilted carrots and say, "is there anything we can do with this?" or "I noticed that we had two chicken breasts in the walk-in...". He had no respect for food, for freshness. Only money.
He was very proud of his "pastry chef". He was referring to a Mexican guy who could bake a decent cake, was a clock-milker and liked his cerveza, making him a little unreliable. I'd had a bakery (in fact Sr. Pastry had interviewed with us once and never showed up for his tryout) and I knew a thing or two about baking. Again, Baldy wanted no part of my contribution. It had to be his way, the same way. And so it was.
One day a couple came in to talk about a catering job. The man was incredibly obnoxious, loud, rude, cheap. His wife looked like she wanted to melt into her chair with embarrassment. On our team was me, Baldy and his girlfriend, Freckles. Again, I was hired to do a job. I was very experienced. I had worked at one time for one of the most famous caterers in the country quite frankly so I was more than happy to do my part. Baldy and Freckles kept talking over me. Between them and the loud-mouthed Israeli I stayed quiet. Until at one point they were discussing dessert and Freckles was boasting about Sr. Pastry. They told him that he would make mini-tarts for them and she held her hands about 6 inches apart. I couldn't help myself. "Those are not minis", I said, "minis are bite sized, never that big. You would have to cut those and that defeats the purpose of passing them". Freckles snapped at me, "yes they are!". I shut my pie-hole about the tarts.
Slowpoke told Baldy that he was going to Chekoslyvakia with his Chek wife for three weeks over the holidays. Not asked, but told. Baldy said OK but proceeded to bitch and whine about it constantly to me. What was he worried about? I was the one who had to cover Slowpoke's slow ass. We got a guy in for a while. He always wore a pork-pie hat so that's what I'll call him here. Pork-pie was a blabbermouth but at least he was funny and he could make a dozen sandwiches in 15 minutes like a normal person. Pork-pie had worked at the place back when it was brand-new and the original chef-partner had been there. He could not believe how far the place had fallen. How dirty, how unkempt. And how Baldy ran it, especially those old-ass glazed chickens.
In any food service business the most vile and disgusting thing is the grease trap. Because of all the grease, oil and various food garbage that goes down the drain, there is a mechanism that separates it with a holding tank that must be emptied. If not on a regular maintenance schedule, the grease trap will let you know it needs cleaning by emitting a smell so putrid, imagine vomit, shit, death and garbage mixed together. He who has the job of emptying the grease trap is an unfortunate man indeed.
Usually the grease trap is cleaned after hours because of the stench. The strong exhaust fans will suck in the smell and it will permeate everywhere.
Not good ole' Baldy. Not wanting to pay the dishwasher overtime he had it done at midday.
This was an older grease trap, the kind where the top comes off and the tank is below the floor. The poor dishwasher then gets to scoop out the soup from hell and put it into a garbage can. Pork-pie and I gagged as our fan pulled the stench toward us. We tied dishrags over our nose and mouths. The dishwasher had a bandanna over his face. When he was done he proceeded to wheel it toward the door leading from the kitchen to the dining room.
Oh- this cannot be, I thought. Pork-pie and I looked at each other. His big brown eyes had the same look as mine.
As there was no back door the dishwasher, mask and all wheeled the offending garbage pail through the dining room, past customers eating their lunch and out the front door. Like in a Pepe LePeu cartoon, you could almost see the putrid aroma following him.
When Thanksgiving came around, again it was his way or the highway. Last year Baldy took orders for organic turkeys, not to cook thank God, but to sell to his customers. He rented a refrigerated trailer to hold them behind the store because we had no room for them. When the trailer arrived it smelled pretty bad so first we had to sanitize it. Then the turkeys came in. Loads of them. They were wrapped in individual plastic bags with their giblets and instructions. As expected there was a little blood pooled in the bags. These were once living creatures of course.
Baldy decided he did not like the way the blood looked and that we should rinse out every last turkey and re-bag them.
So there we were on a Sunday when we were closed, the two Peruvian dishwashers and I with 75 freakin' raw turkeys, one by one, taking them out of their bags, rinsing them out- they were freezing cold and it was easy to get pricked on errant bones. Then patting them dry, re bagging them and labeling them
Come Monday morning all the turkeys in the trailer had not only drained a little more blood, but some water too. They looked even worse.
Then the menu for the holiday. Didn't need my suggestions, just do it the old way even though I had no idea how they had been prepared before.
Slowpoke was still there at the time. He left promptly at 5 o'clock. Had to get to his other job. I had to complete virtually a mountain of Thanksgiving side dishes for all the orders. Sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, celeriac, soup, on and on. And of course, this was Tuesday night, and everything was to be picked up, next day- Wednesday and then the customer had the privilege of serving this nice 3 day old food to their guests.
I plowed through. I say what I do and I do what I say. At one point Baldy's father, Baldy Senior who'd never spoken a word to me came over. "You're really something", he said, "you just put your head down and keep going. I'm impressed." That was the highlight of my evening, that was for sure. And, I got it all done.
Christmas was coming around. I had a huge order from a good customer of mine for cookies. Not through the store, but on my own, done with ingredients that I had paid for, in my own kitchen and my own packaging.
I needed to make a delivery about 11am to them. Baldy had been watching me like a hawk lately. He was so paranoid, perhaps he knew that Pork-pie and I had been having a few laughs at his expense. And though I did my job every single day, he was constantly lurking around.
This being the case I decided that I was not going to tell him about my little delivery. Since it was unseasonably warm I kept a window open on the back of my truck so that the cookies wouldn't melt as I went in to work.
Around 10:45, the bulk of my work was done. I told Pork-pie that if Baldy and Freckles were looking for me just tell them I had to run out on a quick errand. I clocked out and took off to make my delivery. I was paid $500 for that order with a very happy client.
When I returned and clocked back in Pork-pie told me Baldy was pissed. They knew I was up to something. Freckles had looked through that open window this morning and saw all the bakery boxes.
"She did what?!"
Spying on me! The nerve!
So I faced Baldy down. I let him have it. I'd done my work, I'd done this job on my own time, including delivery. You guys are looking in my car. There's no trust. I've done nothing but work for you. I never sit down, I never take breaks. I don't talk on my cell phone, I've never had a sick day. And then I did a real diva thing that I'd never done before.
"DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?, Do you know who I have worked for? The great places I have worked at including my own! I am a professional and should not be treated like a criminal!"
Baldy slithered to the other side of the kitchen and pouted at his desk.
A week later he looked shocked when I reminded him that Dec. 31 would be my last day. I'd told him I'd get him through the holidays. And I did. I was rewarded with a nice empty Christmas card.
A few months later while I was working as a private chef in a swanky house in Greenwich I called Slowpoke just to say hello. He told me that Baldy had gone out of business. He said he'd spent the last few weeks cleaning the place out.
I sarcastically asked him if he'd gotten any severance. Slowpoke said yeah, a handshake. Not even as much as a case of raisins.