I'm on vacation this week, and with idle mind time comes thoughts that actually string together to help me learn something.
On Saturday I hosted my latest tasting dinner. These differ from my nightly meals in that they are at least 10 courses, and prepared for a set seating. Back in the good ol' days before I was working 60-80 hrs in the kitchen I had the down time for my mind to be playful, and that led to really cool dishes - although with risk. Sometimes the dishes failed, but other times they were huge hits. Rarely were they in the middle.
But on the last two of these tasting dinners I opted for safer routes with my menus. More classical flavor pairings using more accessible ingredients. The results...even Tyler said this last meal was good, but no memorable.
I've made it no secret that I believe that we should get serious James Beard consideration. This last menu, while leaving no guests unsatisfied, will not achieve that goal. Carving out the downtime to allow for my playful menu creation will find its way back into my life. If not, my guests won't be wowed, and my soul won't be fed.
Turning the page to competition. A restaurant recently opened in town that shot to the top of all of the online reviews. "Amazing," "Best ever!" "Remarkable." Sounds impressive. Well, in the end its a sandwich shop housed in a gas station building. The food is fine, ingredients are as fresh as any grocery store's, but each reviewer is a first time reviewer and so it was clearly not an objective response. I rarely review other restaurants publicly in my town, but I did for this one titling it "Friends don't let friends review restaurants." It really is unfortunate that this has become part of the restaurant business.
On a healthier side of competition. We've always said that 106 and Shevek and us are the top 3 restaurants in town. You can go to any one of us, and depending on your style, you'll have a great meal. We're all very different but doing great things. Part of our shtick has always been that we're going to use local foods (and of course now foraged). We emphasize that because other restaurants state on their menus that they "support the slow food movement." But, the same Sysco truck backs up, or we see each other at the mega-grocery store. Cooking from scratch is only part of the Slow Foods movement. And this is why we've always listed where our ingredients come from - every day on every menu. We don't do this to be better, but because our guests have the right to know. So I was happy to read that Shevek is starting to list his providers. This is where competition is good for everyone!
And a final thought as I dig into my vacation. My intention is to knock out the first two sections of a cookbook that's been swirling through my mind. I'll be sharing parts of it here and appreciate your comments and criticisms.
and btw, if you were wondering what the picture is - I've been trying to make my own malt balls...without much success.
Farina Alto – Albuquerque, New Mexico
6 days ago