Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blackberries Everywhere!!!

Over the course of the last four weeks, I have had the pleasure of purchasing some of the best blackberries I’ve ever tasted. Barry Adler, of Rainfresh Harvests in Plain City, Ohio, has delivered over 25 lbs of his wonderful blackberries. They are tart and sweet, bringing wonderful floral notes in the aftertaste, and a dense and rich body in the mouth.

The first batch he brought me (a mere 2 lbs), was our first introduction to these wonderful tidbits. I decided to do...... what else? A bruleé, of course. I took the berries and cooked them down to a syrup with some blackberry brandy, turbinado sugar, and some vanilla bean. This mixture was then, pureed, run through a chinois and added to 40% heavy cream, along with the vanilla bean.

I then, took butter, brown sugar, AP flour, and a little vanilla extract, and mixed together to form a streüsel crust. I placed this raw crust on the bottom of the bruleé dishes, and baked them blind for about 10 minutes in a 350° oven, allowed them to cool, and topped them with the bruleé custard, and baked them in a warm water bath to set the custard.

I called it “Upside-Down Blackberry Cobbler.” Most everyone has agreed, this is the best one yet. The blackberries have so much Pectin in them that the custard was set in 20 minutes, and was smooth as a baby’s bottom. The streüsel crust at the bottom gave just the perfect sweetness and crunch, and the blackberries imparted those deep, floral flavors and an almost yogurt tang. The vanilla in the custard and the crust gave the final product that “ala mode” sensation. Wonderful.

Four weeks , and about 25 lbs later, we have done almost 6 batches of the bruleé, a special blackberry martini, a blackberry-balsamic gastrique on some seared grouper, blackberry barbecue sauce on a sparerib special, as well as the frequent, sporadic snacking in the kitchen. Sadly, this Monday, I received the last of the harvest for this year. Three pounds worth of purple gold = a double batch of the best bruleé I’ve ever made. (That barbecue sauce was killer as well)

Barry at Rainfresh does an outstanding job on all the products that he grows. All hand picked that morning before delivery: Genovese Basil, Stevia, mizuna, golden grape tomatoes, as well as some of the best baby arugula I’ve ever had. His deliveries are coming to a close for the year as the chilly Ohio fall starts to creep up. Please check out his site and see for yourself what great products and organic systems he uses for this magnificent produce. His standards and values are above and beyond anybody in the state, and he deserves respect for all the work and care that goes into his business.

Notes and Randoms:

-Come out to enjoy the last of the blackberry bruleés this weekend. This will be the last until next year.

-Lease is signed and planning is under way. Tentative opening date for the #2 restaurant: April 1st.

-Good Press:

- Chipotle Shrimp Flatbread review:
- Restaurant peice:
-It's Miller Time!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Burning Bridges

A bridge has been burned. It was a pretty good bridge, too. Sturdy ……. not so old …… not so new. It was a bridge that you knew was going to go on to be a great bridge because of the sturdy foundation. A bridge that could take you places. A bridge that is also very hard to burn.

It is not particularly a good idea to burn any bridges in my industry. I don’t care where you’re from, what your rank, or how much money you make. Whether you are in New York, L.A, or culinary-crippled Columbus Ohio, you never burn those bridges. With the small culinary circle that resides in the Columbus area, it doesn’t take long for things to come full circle. And with this economy, it is becoming more and more obvious to more and more people. Who knows? ……. Maybe that General Manager you walked out on a few years ago could be your inside man at the new hip restaurant in town……… Oh, but you walked out on him a few years back……. “I wouldn’t hire that guy” ……… “He doesn’t have any respect for the job.”

This is a hard job. You work long hours……. You never get to see family and friends that are not associated with this industry …….. You are always working when all the rest of the world is having fun ….. You’re overworked, overextended, underappreciated, and underpaid. You smell like food and crap so bad some nights, that an army of stray cats will follow you home (true story). But the terrible qualities and particulars of this business is no reason to diminish your integrity as a chef, manager, cook, or just a person in general. Be a man (or a woman, if the instance is warranted), and own up to your responsibility. Respect begets respect. Not only are you burning the bridges and loosing respect from your superiors, but also everyone you worked with. From servers, to line cooks and on down the line. Work out your notice, especially if you are a manger or someone in charge.

Now, all of us in some way or another have burned a bridge or two. Whether it was getting someone fired to further your own progress, or just not showing up anymore (Even after you told your boss numerous times that you would be there in the morning), there are times in all our lives where we screwed someone because it was easy….. Because it was a way out……. Because it was warranted. I challenge everybody who reads this, to look within and recognize those bridges that you have burned. Identify those people that you screwed over, and try, somehow, to make amends. A “My Name is Earl” list, if you will, of those persons that you may have not treated with the respect and honesty that they may have deserved. Because Karma is real…… and that shit will come back at you.

Notes and Randoms
- On a lighter note, we have a great spread in the new, August 614 magazine. Check it out here at MTM Review.
-Number two’s lease has been signed. 1400 Grandview Avenue. April 1 is the tentative opening date.
- Banter of the week:
“Chef you’re like the ballerina of chefs.”
“Why cause I’m so graceful on my feet?”
“I was thinking it was because you were gay.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Red, Hot, and Bacon

This past Tuesday, on my day off, I was enjoying dinner with my wife and two boys, telling them about the latest wacky bruleé flavor, when my oldest son, Xavier, informed me he had an idea for a bruleé flavor:

“You could do apples and cinnamon, Dad.”Okay, I said…..”I’ll do apples and cinnamon.”

The very next day, that’s exactly what I did. But nothing is ever simple when it comes to me and bruleé. So, I thought about how we could make it exciting, and a little interesting, and came to an inspiration from Jenny’s Ice Cream here in Columbus, in a fall flavor they had last year called “Red Hot Apple Cider.” (When we got it at Jenny’s we paired it with her “Salty Caramel and It tasted just like apple pie) So, I made a custard with some granny smith apples, and cinnamon schnapps, and fresh cinnamon, baked it off, and the “Red Hot” flavor wasn’t prominent enough.

What to do……….

Goldschalger (?....I’m not even attempting to spell that shit right) and the Cinnamon Schnapps, when cooked down to the “hard crack stage” of sugar cookery, makes a delicious crust. I cooked it down, and spooned it over the bruleés, and made that take the place of the sugar crust.


Rob, my sous, also had a creative bruleé bug up his butt on Tuesday while I was off.

His Marvelous creation: “Bacon Brulee.”

The phone call I got after dinner was like this:

“Dude….I had to call you…….I’m really excited about this one.”

“What? What’s going on?”

“I made a bacon bruleé today, and it’s delicious.”


I was skeptical. One half of me was excited and intrigued, and the other half was wondering why this guy was wasting my heavy cream, eggs, and most of all my precious bacon. He said he caramelized the bacon in the oven with 1 lb of brown sugar, and used the baconfat/caramel mixture in the custard. He chopped up some of the candied bacon and placed it in the custard before it went into the oven.

I brought one home on Thursday to taste, along with the horde of food critics that is my family……….It was ravenous. The bacon was a nutty flavor and texture, with a light, smokiness to it, finished by the sweet and salty flavor of the custard…….Beautiful. I think I got 1 or 2 small tastes, before it was lapped up, and literally licked clean. My wife, the harshest critic of them all, (Seriously, folks…..Anton Ego would shutter in her presence) She said it was “Masterful.” That’s like a third Michelin star in my world. Congratulations, rob…………Job well done.

Notes and Randoms:
Thursday’s bruleé flavor board read:
- Bacon bruleé
- Orange Dreamscicle
- Red Hot Apples and Cinnamon
“I think people will freak out if we ever just had Vanilla.” - Robert H.

Next Crazy Brulee? Srirachia and bittersweet chocolate? Carrot cake with candied walnuts? Give me some ideas.

We may be changing the restaurant’s name to “Matt the Miller’s Ahi Tuna Palace,” because apparently, people go crazy over that shit.

YOU DO NOT NEED TWO PEOPLE TO CARRY A 2” HOTEL PAN TO THE BRUNCH LINE. One person will do just fine. (This actually happened………This really happened……………Ah, Sunday brunch…………is there anything you won’t surprise me with?)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Creme Brulee That I Create are from the Stuff that Dreams are Made.

We made the decision long ago to keep our crème bruleé listed as “Seasonal Flavor” on the menu. This has given me a great deal of culinary freedom to create some really fantastic bruleés. I sort of pride myself as being the ”Willy Wonka” of bruleés, and can and will try everything from double vanilla bean, to red bull, vodka, and cranberry.

(Which was actually kind of delicious: red bull and vanilla Stoli’s soaked cranberries, drained those and used the remaining liquid to make the custard. The cranberries helped to sweeten the mix and soften the flavor of the red bull. The carbonation was a great semi-leavener as well)

Anyway, I had to write about this last one. The actual idea came from one of my line cooks, John. (or Yohn, for any of my Hispanic cooks) He texted me at 12:00 at night, because he got an idea for a bruleé, and had to immediately share it with me. White Chocolate-Covered Pretzel……… Okay, great…… but how? The idea left me for a couple months, until my Sous reminded me on my way out to the store.

“How about White Chocolate Pretzel,”

“Why the hell not? But How?” The question had arisen again.

I thought about how I could utilize the pretzels in a way that combined with the creamy-ness of the custard. I decided to grind up the pretzels in the robot coupe, and mix them with a little brown sugar and butter, and treat it like a crust for the bottom. I mixed it and pressed it into the dishes, and baked it blind (without anything in it, for the layman) for about 8 minutes. I then made a custard from Godiva white chocolate liquor, and callebaut white chocolate. We served it with a white chocolate dipped pretzel rod, and the obligatory strawberry and mint sprig. Delicious. Maybe even in the Top Three.

We sold out in a matter of two days, minus, of course, the one I had to take home to my biggest critic. I had to go back to the old stand-by, and probably the #1 draft pick……….The “Everlasting Gobstopper,” if you will. The “Geauga Co. Maple and Blueberry.” Our Maple Syrup comes from Richard's Maple Farm, in Chardon, Ohio, and be blend that with Blueberry Stoli’s fresh blueberries, and rich vanilla custard. When we pull these out of the oven and cool them in the walk-in, it smells like fresh blueberry pancakes.

Notes and Randoms:
- New Menu going to the printers, more on that later
- The title of this blog is in reference to the song, “Chef.” Press the “Play” button on the music player located on the side bar to the right to listen…….It’s not boasting if it’s true.
- Cleaving, by Julie Powell is a good read. She’s the one that wrote that book, “Julie and Julia.” I have only read excerpts over my wife’s shoulder, but the parts I read were funny as hell. A must read for any woman that is married to a chef or butcher.
- "Stupid is as stupid does, Sir." – You know who you are.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Nachos, Greasetraps, and Monkey Butt

At this very moment, the grease interceptor in the kitchen’s dishwashing area is bubbling up disgusting, foul-smelling water and ooze. It has been doing this on and off for 3-4 straight weeks now. We have had a company come and pump the grease and clean the unit, we have had Ecolab take a look at the dish machine to make sure there’s nothing wrong with that area, and we have had our “DrainMasters” company come and snake (clear) out both lines, and just today, unclog the grease interceptor’s output line to make it flow. Yet it still is creating a huge mess in my kitchen. Poor, poor Dario has been emptying out the dish machine by hand all night. Squeegee in hand. The plumbing in this place is a wreck.

On the lighter side, we will be rolling out the spring menu soon, and have a couple of additions and subtractions. One item that we are definite will fly out of the kitchen doors are the Spicy Tuna Nachos. I know, I know….. what the f@#$? ……..Tuna nachos? ………I know.

As we were discussing possible new menu items, Craig and Rob, to a lesser extent, were hell-bent on some sort of “Ahi Tuna Nacho.” I wanted to put something together that would stand on it’s own, and not just a shabby replica of the “Ahi Flatbread.” I’m all for capitalizing on a great thing, but, at the same time, I don’t want to loose any integrity of the menu.

I thought about the ingredients that would go with that flavor profile, and we all agreed that the “nachos” in question would be fried wonton skins. But how to put it all together. I wanted something a little classier that a pile on wonton chips, sprinkled with cut up tuna, avocado, cucumber…..yadda, yadda.

I concluded with a spicy tuna tar-tar, (tuna, mae ploy, srirachia, honey, scallion, and sesame oil) resting on a bed of some wonderful sesame seaweed salad, and topped with julienned, house-made kimchi, and pickled cucumber relish. We serve it ice cold, in the center, and place the fried wonton chips around, with a little wasabi aioli, and Guinness-soy reduction. So, it’s more of a dip than nachos, but what are you gonna do? I had to go with an egg roll wrapper, because they were a little sturdier, and I like the larger size.

And, finally……………

My grill cook, Ben, picked this up the other day at the local supermarket.

“Anti-Monkey Butt.”

Marketing Geniuses, I tell ya.’ I bet it was someone from my field of work.

Read the back label……hilarious.

Notes and Randoms

- Easter is tomorrow, and we have a great buffet taking place- pictures will be up on the next post.
- Carving fruit and vegetables is a very calming, therapeutic activity.

- Sage Derby = delicious

- Fresh Cured, house-smoked, Canadian Salmon for brunch tomorrow.

- Once again, ladies and gentlemen………”Anti Monkey Butt”

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bathroom Buddy

I have decided to end my very long blogging hiatus to share with everyone a story.

There are not many firsts for me in this business anymore. In this hidden world sheltering all the outcasts and psychopaths, you get to see a lot of strange things. Co-worker fornication inside the kitchen ….….seen it ….. Someone chopping off an appendage……check…….All out brawl on the line in the middle of a Friday night service……..gotcha……..sauté pan flying directly at my head……Yup. All of this, plus a dizzying spectrum of stupidity and idiocy from every kind of customer and every walk of wait staff.

It was a busy Friday night. All was going very smoothly. All the food looked beautiful and on time. The first turn had a great flow, and everybody was on point and focusing. In the lull before the second turn of the tables, everybody is prepping, stocking, and getting ready to get pounded with the next flow of customers. Sally, one of our very lovely wait staff veterans, is busy getting beverages, running app and salad orders, and taking the first steps toward that heavy second turn.

Sally is one of my favorites. Not only is she usually great on the floor and with our kitchen, but she occasionally brings in Resch’s donuts, with a special bag just for me. (The most direct way to my heart is through a Resch’s Glazed or Apricot Danish) Sally was unfortunate enough, on this busy Friday night, to have a service trainee following her around all night, which she wasn’t at all pleased about. Sometimes this pays off. You can have them work as your gopher all night….getting drinks…..go get this stuff…..go get that stuff……pick that crap off the floor….etc, which this guy was doing quite well. Come to think of it,....…..”Gopher,” while I’m writing this, is a fairly accurate moniker for this fellow.

One of the first tables to come back to us, was a table of 13 guests, which Sally, was imputing in the POS system, along with “Mr. Gopher” faithfully by her side. As she was doing this, and I had a short time to get away from the expo line, and relieve myself to the bathroom. I pass her in the server alley on en route, and she calls out to me,

“Ringing in a thirteen top!”

“Cool,” I say, not think a thing about it.

I need not worry with Sally, I know that she will break that table of thirteen guests into two, properly separated, cook legible tickets. We have a rule……neigh…… A Law, If you are ringing in a party of more than 6 people, it is necessary to break this up into separate tickets so it is easier to read and organize from the kitchen’s standpoint. Failure to do so results in Angry Chef. She has been here long enough. She has seen Angry Chef. No problem.

I proceed into the restroom, cozy up to a urinal, and begin the process. The door opens up, and “In walks another, fellow bathroom patron,” I think. Right in mid-stream, with a full bathroom of restaurant guests, I hear Mr. Gopher’s voice saying, “I hate to bug you right now, Chef, but Sally was wondering if 6 and 7 guests per ticket will be alright for this party, or should she break it up into three checks?”

I’ll let that sink in for a minute………………

This gentleman followed me into the restroom, and proceeded to make inquiries to me, while I exposed and swinging. ………My private time…….I don’t get much “ME time,” and that, my friends, I consider to be “Me time.” In fact, I’m pretty certain that the rest of the rational world share my belief that this is private time. I was kind of at a loss. With a whole restroom full of paying guests, I could not say the first thing that came to mind. In fact, I had to go pretty far down the list of things I could not say, before I finally said,

“Yeah…….uh……yeah…that’s fine…….that’s fine.

I would like to make it entirely clear to anyone out there reading this,
There are only two exceptions: You either have to relieve yourself as well, or be a female, and need to do whatever it is that ladies do when they go into the bathroom as groups.


So, chalk that one up on the board. There’s another first for me. There’s one thing I can say about Mr. Gopher: he definitely follows through with direction……….and without question, I guess as well.

Notes and Randoms

- Business is great. There really hasn’t been any sort of slow down since the Christmas Holidays

- Ahi Tuna Flatbread is off the chizzle.

- As seen in this review:

- I think Colin has lost some of the flatbread power after he shaved off the beard. Think “Sampson” from the Bible meets Charlie Daniels.

- Advice of the month: Never curse out the owner of your restaurant. No matter how mad you get.