Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The waiting is the hardest part...

The weekend was just what I desperately needed; some time to organize my house and my thoughts... the pause that refreshes (and staves off burn out, hopefully).

It is a cold rainy day here in the East Bay Area. I can't remember a grayer summer. Our house is full of large windows and I see the various inhabitants gazing outside in confusion and tired resignation. We know we are very spoiled when it comes to the weather here in the Bay Area, so it feels ungrateful to complain about a little drizzle... but I do miss summer.

I am tempted to drive downtown and see if they've started on the remodel yet, but Sara and Sam are both home sick and it definitely feels like a day to hunker in. There are only odds and ends to focus on... so many tiny details that need to be dealt with now. A lot of the big stuff is done, which is great... but those are also the things forward in the mind and the smaller things are harder to focus upon.

Over the weekends we had Hirsch and Aldith over for a movie day. Bri set up his lap top so I could design the final opening menu on Vistaprint and I spent a lovely day in my pajamas with the laptop and friends and fabulous movies and pounded it out and got it all ordered. I really love the cover art Mike and Sherry did for us (it's really rather perfect with the nautical theme and all)! Now there are only odds and ends left to do until I have my own licensed kitchen...

Strange things like...

Over the weekend we:

  • Ordered the replacement plastic for the sneeze guard from Tap plastics
  • Ordered the replacement hopper for the coffee grinder online
  • Completed Opening day menu
  • Talked Mrs. Stein into fixing the cord for the Bunn brewer
I still need to:

  • Order my window decal
  • Create my vendor account with Spikes Produce
  • Finish the process to get my POS sytem and espresso brewer leased

Stuff I still need for the facility

  • forks, spoons, knives
  • condiment table
  • chairs

I already have plates, bowls, 16 ounce glasses, wine glasses, tables... I know it will be easier to visualize once we get what we have in there and see where the holes are.

So this week... so strange to be waiting. But there is Dani's party to prepare for this Saturday and the kids school year is about to end.

I think I am most frustrated by a strange lack of vision right now. Why can't I see exactly what it will look like and feel like? I am one of those weird people who really doesn't like surprises. Life can be full of joy and grace, but it can also be capricious and cruel.

I am not sure why, but the new that Sarah Bouchard left Barbacco is somewhat disquieting to me. She was (is) so competent and capable and got burn out and left. I really thought of her as the ideal female Exec Chef. Competent and capable, confident and professional. Supportive to her underlings, calm in the kitchen... none of the stereo-types of the difficult female boss. More than once I saw someone approach her about interpersonal gossip or drama and heard her say, "I am not interested in exploring those topics, let's focus on the task at hand". Beautiful and generous of her knowledge and gifts. She was the one who smirked at me struggling to stuff a hot capicolla into it's casing (I had to literally punch it with my fist mutiple times to get it thru the sausage tying thingie) and when I lamented it's difficulty she said, "Did you come here to be a girl, or did you come here to kick ass?". I often times think of her words when things get tough, or I am walking into a room full of skeptical men and have to prove myself, yet again. I think of her often and I hope where ever she lands she is well.

So today I have a house full of my gorgeous, yet quite ill, children who are getting caught up on Dr Who as the rain makes the work shiny and sleek outside. I wish I could sneak into the City and wander around China Town and smell all the strange things and maybe pick up some herbs and nice teas. It is the perfect day to get lost in a crowd. I think I may have a few weeks at loose ends before things start to get crazy again and maybe next Thursday when I meet Jeremy and Andrew and the Crew in the City for dinner I may go even earlier this time to wander the streets and slowly pilgrimage to Leopold's.

Strange, this life's journey. I have been dreaming of David, my ex and the life we lived of domestic simplicity with the children and then waking to think about how different my life would be if I have stayed married. I would have never attempted to become a chef and open my own business. It wouldn't have fit into our busy lifestyle. The girls are doing a Canterbury Tales Theme for the big Arts and Sciences event in a couple of weeks and it seems very appropriate for my life right now; coming to the age where you realize that as long as you are still breathing there is still more path to travel and "destinations" are only pit stops along the way. Landing the big job, or getting married, or giving birth to your first child... these things only create forks in the road and more choices... and ultimately a more complex and richer journey; they are not an end in themselves.

And so today, I will continue to rest my mind for the hectic time to come, spend time with my beautiful children who are growing up so fast and putter around the house trying to right the chaos that is ever present in our busy household.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Time to pull it together!

I've been feeling very out of sorts since the Peddler's Fair. It was such a waste of resources in that we spent a good amount of capital to get the stuff needed, and then didn't make nearly enough to justify the expenses. Now I need to figure out a way to build up more capital and soon.

Dave took Dino over to the space yesterday and they seem to think it will not take long to do the build out, maybe 3-4 weeks. Then we just need to manage getting our final permits (Health and Fire) and then... well we will be able to open any time after that pending our prep time. I guess after the long journey and being so involved in the minutia of it all... it seems impossible that it could be only a month or two more.

We still need our refrigerators, plus I need to pay for the under counter keg set up and chairs and ton of other stuff. I feel like I don't even know where to start on the next phase. Stein and I put in some Finocciona (in big and smaller casings) and we also made a big batch of pickles. I put in a giant Bresaola today with the California Wagyu. It was finally fully cured and now it just needs to hang to dry. I want to do an opening special of a salad with thinly sliced Bresaola, arugula, thinly sliced red onion, capers, parmesan and a light vinaigrette. I also need Bresaola for the Molpus Wedding in Sept.

I know I need to sit down and figure out where all the loose ends are and set up a schedule to deal with them. I still need to create a vendor account with Spikes for produce. I am going to use Semifreddis to start, but we can't travel to get bread forever, so that will have to eventually be dealt with. I know I am just feeling panicky because I need to switch gears from jumping thru governmental hoops to get the facility ready to go to... well what do I need to actually open!? I will feel so much better when I get my shit together and have a more solid plan.

I went out to Leopold's in San Francisco last night with Jeremy Fletcher (the guy who taught me how to make bacon) and Andrew Tye-Green. It was so amazing to eat a great sampling of German style charcuterie. I feel like I have been up to my chin in Italian style food for so long... that a lot of stuff is tasting brand new to me.

Brion got beer in a boot!

I also have been feeling a bit at loose ends. Now that things should progress finally... I am having a hard time switching gears. I think it was such a shock when the Building Department was so difficult that for my own sanity I made the mental adjustment that it was going to take a looong time and would try to fill my days with busy work.

Now, I desperately need to switch gears back to food, my menu, all the prep of the slow food plus all of the many catering events I have going on this summer. My original menu was focused on early Spring foods, now I need to revamp for a mid summer menu. I am slightly nervous that I don't think I've really fully explained all of the stuff I need to David. Especially shelving and storage. I think I will go take a bath and try to start forming all of the various lists. I don't know why I feel so daunted by it all... but I know I will feel better once I get my thoughts more organized.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Up early... not sleeping very well

Yesterday was a sausage making day. Today we bring in the sausages we've been showcasing to T-rex for them to see the whole plate together. The sausages they liked were the Andouille, Orange Fennel (pork) and Bourbon Apple (chicken and pork). I am frustrated because the first batch of orange fennel were too salty so we added pork and then didn't mix it up enough to achieve the bind, so they were grainy. Which meant I had to start all over again last night.

Also, I ordered the slimmer casings from Sausage Makers and they did not come in in time, so I made the 3 ounce portions in the larger casings but they are still not going to be what they will likely have on the plate if we decide to case in the 1 inch (diameter).

Stein was funny yesterday, he was nervous to talk to me about the financial disappointment of the food booth and make the suggestion that we not continue to explore that avenue but I had already come to the same conclusion. I just can't afford to gamble with resources we will definitely need to open the business in a month or so.

I did Tarot which of course Galen and Stein were highly skeptical, but it was soothing to me and it does help me to gather my thoughts. Stein was amused because the #2 position card (which represents the problem or the issue you have to work thru) was the Hermit, which is kind of a card of "Stop fucking around and focus on the prize". It really is time to refocus. I think I was looking for stuff to do while we waited for resolution on the facility but now that things are rolling, I need to get organized about getting equipment, product testing (specials for the opening) and organizing the weddings and party activities for the month of June.

I am glad we got the food prep tent, and many of the other items. I could really use some portable cambro storage systems for hotel pans for upcoming weddings. These are not very expensive so should not be too big a deal to get a couple of them.

Things I still need are:

Dedicated sausage fridge
Sandwich prep station
Sous Vide set up
coffee mugs
espresso maker

Of those things these things are mandatory
Sausage Fridge
forks spoons knives

I can lease the espresso maker and use the smoker at school and the Sous Vide set up can wait.

Today we are hitting the farmer's market for product to pickle and preserve for the sandwiches and the biegnet. As soon as the casings come in we will also be making more Finocchiona. I will try to get to the site soon to take some pictures of things as they happen. I may even have an opening date in the next few weeks! YAY!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The mind and it's delicacy

While many aspects of my personality are well suited to my current journey... there is one that works against me. My tendency to take a small thing and extrapolate it to the sky is falling (The failed Rapture aside).

There is very little room in my plan for gambling and after the poor financial performance this past weekend I am beating myself up for wasting precious resources. I am not afraid of success, I am terrified of failure. What if I've been wrong about Martinez? What if I open the restaurant and no one comes? What if I can't afford employees? What if I go to T-rex Tuesday and they say the sausages are too expensive and they are not going to carry them? What if we run out of money before the kitchen opens and I can't afford to buy the last few items I need?

One thing I extrapolated out of this weekend is I think it is going to take a while for me to find my customer base. People were just not buying the more fancy food. The words of a friend echo in my brain, "It is a blue collar town, and they want blue collar food". I won't be happy making turkey sandwiches and french fries all day forever. I won't do it. I can't do it.

So for me to succeed I will need the people who tried the food and loved it to spread the word and build a clientele over time. I hope I can afford to do that. The basic items we still need are refrigerators and a freezer and some work tables. Everything else (smoker, we can use the one at school once a week. espresso maker we can lease) can wait.

I feel like the universe isn't pleased with me right now. I feel like the sky is falling. I know on a conscious level that I should be grateful that we got so much good publicity this weekend and that the food was so well received. I am super grateful that we finally got a building permit and will get started on the kitchen soon.

That said, I am scared that we did not do well as far as selling a lot of product last weekend. I am worried that my food might not be an instant hit in Martinez. I am worried that I spent money on a tent and all this non-essential stuff and it didn't pay off and what if that is a general reflection of my business acumen and I am doomed? I am worried because it seems like some of my clients lately are surprised that I would hope to break even (not make any money, just break even) on events. I know they just don't have first hand knowledge of how much stuff costs and they are not doing it on purpose but I hate being the bad guy and it is really hard (and kind of embarrassing) to say, "I can't afford to pay for a big party for you right now." I think people are so used to me being able to do that... it doesn't occur to them that my circumstances have changed.

I am also wondering if I shouldn't have waited and gone under the radar longer on getting all the stuff to be "legit" like insurance and a commercial kitchen rental ($250 to start the insurance and $600 for the kitchen rental). No one ever seems to check any of that stuff. But I worry that the one time they would check it is with me and I would be screwed.

I am worried that Stan and Kevi will insist I start paying rent when the kitchen is built out and before the ADA issues with the front entrance have been resolved. They want me to just go get the little certificate that says "I am working on it" and put it in the window, but that is not a guarantee I won't be sued. And they are targeting the people who make improvements downtown (two business sued in the last two years in 6 square block area). I just can't afford to give away 10k right off the bat. And I don't have time to wait forever to open.

I know I will feel better next week. I hope good things happen.

The good, the bad and the ugly...

It's been so busy I haven't had time to write!

so on the restaurant front... David asked me for the plans etc last week so he could submit for final final on the building permit. He got the plans and was kind of like... what a mess! So he spent a few hours redrawing some stuff and submitted on Friday and got the ok to get started any time! We have to get inspections and stuff along the way, but we are looking at 4-6 weeks to be in a kitchen. YAY!

The food booth for the Peddler's Fair... we totally lost money on the thing. I think we made like $400 bucks total and spent that on just food and containers and stuff, not to mention buying the canopy ($350.00), sign ($150) and renting the kitchen ($600.00). So that is the ugly part. I would have to say it was worth it in marketing however.

We had tons of people who work in the area come by and get food, ask us about the Cafe and one person (Janet, who I went to school with) got a bunch of stuff and took it back to Shell Oil (where she works) for people to try. Plus I got interviewed for TV (but I am not sure which TV station it will be played on? I suspect some kind of web thing). A bunch of people took our cards and catering brochures as well.

So while I wish we had made more money and it feels a little irresponsible to have spent the money considering we still have so many things we need to buy for the restaurant, but it wasn't a total loss. The biggest problems I saw with the food booth thing are:

Our food is too busy and fussy for the crowd. People don't know us enough to be willing to eat anything we make. A few people came into the booth saying, "I am starving!" and looked around and then left. I think there were too many choices, and none of them were very simple. People come to a street fair for Kettle Corn and Funnel Cakes... not charcuterie. I think if we cut our selection in half and lose all of the fancier stuff, we would build up a decent clientele

Two, People are not used to cold food at a Fair. I think they could GET used to it if we were around enough. But it is a novelty currently. People are used to terriyaki chicken on a stick and hot sausages. I think if we had one hot item, it would be really helpful. I think if we test out the Sunday farmer's market, we will bring sliced meats vacuum packaged which if we don't sell them we can just take them home, fewer sandwiches, one salad and one hot item (maybe something we grill once we get our cool new grill). If the restaurant doesn't open right away due to the ADA stuff we can use the kitchen to make hot food and serve it at the farmer's market. It just seems like the Martinez farmer's market is kind of quiet, especially compared to the Concord one.

So ultimately it might be a good marketing tool until we open the restaurant, but if I can't figure out a way to make money doing it, it is not worth it over the long term.

Last night I came home to my awesome friends having a fantastic party at my house. It was just what I needed to recharge my batteries. Now for next week, we have a final sausage viewing at T-rex, so Stein and I need to make sausages on Monday. Then we plan to do some pickling for the opening of the facility while the produce is so gorgeous at the farmer's market.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lots of movement, lots of busy...

Stein and I are prepping for the weekend Peddler's Faire and it's been SO busy. Today we prepped the romesco, all of the creamy dressings (Blue Cheese, Ceasar, Ranch), smoked all of the meats and did the big Costco run. Tomorrow we go to the rental kitchen and prep out everything else and package all fo the food in disposable containers. I have a brutal headache.

I have the $600 for the kitchen rental, the copy of the insurance with Kitchen by the Hour as additionally insured, all of the produce and meats etc. We will need more large plastic containers and the disposable cutlery. I am also going to need a 50 cup coffee percolator. My brain is fried.

I am terrified that this whole thing is going to be a colossal waste of money I could be using for the restaurant. I called Trisha at Main St Martinez to see how many food vendors there were and there are only 3-4. We are all supposed to be in a bank parking lot that may or may not be in the path of foot traffic.

But either way, I should be able to market my product, get some advance buzz for our food before opening, talk to people about what we are and what we do etc. And nothing I bought (other than the food, which is perishable) can't be used for other purposes, especially catering.

Also, JeffTaylor called yesterday and was so nice, I almost forgive him for being such a pain so far. It sounds like Dave should be able to get a permit tomorrow and start my build out next week. I know I am probably jinxing myself, but I could have a kitchen in like 4-6 weeks. Weird huh?

I am really excited about the food we are making for the fair. It is simple food, but really well done, with really good ingredients and most things from scratch. The turkey, pastrami and bacon are house smoked and cured, the hummus from scratch and my favorite North African recipe. I just hope people like it. I have to try and remember to put the sumac on top of the hummus and maybe a little olive oil. (Can you tell my brain is fried?) I just want things to be perfect, even if I know that is not really realistic.

I will try to remember to take pictures of the kitchen tomorrow and the fair on Saturday!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nights are stronger than moonshine...

The days are becoming a blur of activity... like I am the soul of the hurricane, the wind and noise and rush of everything rising up around me, everything in motion. So much happens that I am struggling to keep track of the details.

Today Stein said to me, "Everything happens for a reason. Think of how stressed we would be if we were only a couple of weeks from opening. We've been given some time to get our bearings and explore many options." I do think the forced delay pushed me to bump up the implementation and exploration of the food booth and festival idea, plus giving me some decent time to market my products to higher end restaurants (which has been a lot of fun).

Today David talked to Jeff Taylor. If I sign a paper saying I know of the ADA and masonry issues, and Stan signs the paperwork saying I have permission to do the work, and I (re) submit the approval of County Sewer... I can give Dave the new keys I had made for the facility, plus the packet I made for the health department that has everything in it... and they will be able to get the building permit and get started (knock on wood).

We still need to talk to the ADA lawyer and get the sticker that says we are working to fix the ADA issues so I (hopefully) don't get sued right away. I am still really leery of opening with the front entrance as is. Apparently the same group that hit up the Mexican place just hit up the new place, Roxx, for money as well.

I am focused on at least getting this one piece of the puzzle, a working functioning kitchen, moving. It seems strange that after resigning myself to possibly being stalled for months, this thing could be done in 3-6 weeks. Of course something will happen and it won't happen so quickly... I think I disbelieve after so many struggles and the labyrinth process that anything will ever happen.

But time marches on and this week I am focused on the Peddler's Faire next weekend, plus the third visit to T-rex with the chicken sausages (tomorrow). It seems like such a simple thing, but there are myriad tiny details that must be attended to and I have an SCA project this week for my room mate that will be at least a days worth of work. Stein and I will have to divide and conquer tomorrow. He will go to Petaluma to check out a local goat cheese maker, plus a used pastry case and grab the Weaver's coffee for the weekend, while I gather all of the stuff for David to meet up with the Building Department and then deliver them to him. I will try to prep out a few items (candied nuts, aioli base, romesco). Then we will both head in to T-rex for the chicken sausage tasting.

I am just going to fervently hope we can actually get a demo/building permit and get going soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Set up the booth today... and made sausage!

Stein and I planned all week to set up the booth today so he and Bri could work on the sign-frame for the front. Bri is deathly ill and it rained/hailed today... so we set up the canopy in the living room! It went up really easily and was in good repair. We messed around with the tables to see what looked best and Bri and Galen made the frame to hold our banner. (reminder, I need to paint the PVC frame this week)

Then Stein and I made the new sausages for this weeks tasting at T-rex. We made a chicken mole sausage, a bourbon apple sausage and a BBQ garlic sausage. They are all really good! I have to admit the bourbon apple is my favorite.

I am glad we set everything up!I realized I need to make a few more signs and especially the pricing and signage for the coffee and morning pastries. We also need to go by storage and grab the Bunn coffee maker, plus clean and sterilize all the coffee apparatus.

Next week should be busy and exciting... I just it's exciting in a good way!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Time to regroup...

The process has gotten into somewhat of a rhythm; We take some time to research "the next step", then we gather the pieces of the puzzle, put it together and it doesn't quite fit, go get a few of the pieces corrected, then all in a rush a bunch of movement happens and we are done with that step. Last week, we were figuring out how to do the Peddler's Faire legally (what are the health department requirements, City of Martinez etc), this week we tried to get all of the pieces of that puzzle put together, plus ongoing relationship building with clients and potential clients, AND still keeping tabs and monitoring the progress on the restaurant and encouraging that where we can.

So now that we have a kitchen, the NSF tent/canopy and feel relatively confident we can put out a safe delicious product... what is NEXT on the agenda?

Making sure the booth is visually attractive. To this end we bought a very nice lightly used all black enclosed canopy ($350), 10 lexans (used $10 each) to showcase food in ice, a laminator ($20) to make signage, some printable stickers ($12) to label food, a banner ($150) and the clear plastic food containers. We already had a few things too. I don't expect to make a lot of money this time because of all of the initial expenditures, but hopefully we can start doing a regular thing at local farmer's markets and other street fairs that will be worthwhile over the longer term while we wait for the kitchen/restaurant to be completed.

I still need to finish all the signage, call Weaver and order coffee, call Semifreddi and order bread and nail down my purchasing/product needs before next week. We will only be in the kitchen for about 8 hours so we really have to nail it. We will hit the farmer's market on Thursday night for produce.

I need to stay on top of the restaurant thing... I think we are going to go ahead and build out the kitchen while Stan figures out what to do about the ADA and earthquake retrofit. At least then I can use my own kitchen and start prepping my own products for sale to the wider public. I found one more piece to the equipment puzzle (A vacuum sealer) yesterday, now the only hard to find item I need is a smoker. My teachers had been willing to let me buy theirs, but it is a complicated process for them to sell it to me and I don't think it will be completed before the school semester ends and they go home for the summer (CURSES!). So now that piece of the puzzle is a question mark again and I really need a smoker.

I put a ton of stuff up to hang and dry yesterday, including hot beef American Wagyu coppa and hot capicolla. I also put the pastrami into cure for next weekend. Stein and I need to prep the chicken sausages for T-rex next week. We were going to do it Sunday but I have a client who wants some for Saturday so I may do at least one today or tomorrow. I also need to make some croutons with the copious amounts of bread given to me by Semifreddis, plus the cherry mostarda for next week (need candied citrus).

So on the agenda today:

  • Prep all of the signage for the booth
  • Make a purchase order for all items on the menu
  • Call David about progress on the restaurant
  • Try to organize some of the equipment in the front room and see if any of it can go to storage
  • See if I can find vacuum sealer bags
  • Decide which salumi is going on the Charc platter for the fair
  • check out cheeses for the platter (maybe be naughty and hit Berkeley with Wendy today and check out the cheese board)
I am sure I will thin of more stuff I need to do... but it is a good start!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Found a kitchen...

It is in Hayward, but it will totally work and we can store stuff on site. WHEW! It was a really interesting set up. Like 6 individual work stations with their own ranges etc. Plus... apparently there is this guy who makes sausages there and he has this ginormous grinder and mixer... it can do like 50 # of sausage in like an hour. And I can use it if I need it! Pretty cool!

We also went by Semifreddi's for a bread tasting, which was hysterical. Wendy meets us at the back with a full on hairnet and has racks and racks of bread for us to try... whole loaves! We came home with this much bread. Like four giants bags full of bread, four whole sliced loaves of bread and a giant box of pastries. I have the most amazing Carb-haze going on right now... it is hard to really fathom the depths of it....

We also stopped by this place that said they had some restaurant equipment for sale. I thought it was the place we tried to hit in Hayward last time (but the guy wasn't there), but it ended up being a different place. A dad and his son... they had the biggest pita baking oven I've ever seen... it was bigger than my suburban! He said it could cook like 5000 pita breads a day...

Anyway but we also found a Berkel vacuum sealer! YAY! It was kind of funny, the guy said it was $1200, then we grabbed 10 lexans with lids and he dropped the price (for all of it) to $1100. The Berkel sealers (new) are in the $5000.00 range. This one is an older model, but the chamber is huge, I will be able to make head cheese!

We also stopped by Del Monte Meats to get the product to cure for the Peddler's Faire. I also got all of the loose ends out of cure and hung up today, YAY! And I had one of the guests at the catering job in the city this weekend contact me for some personal chef gigs, plus another friend is getting a bunch of my sausages for a friend for her birthday this weekend... All in all not a bad week!

I still have not heard anything new on when the restaurant would open. But we did go drop off the final bit of paperwork at the ABC today, so (whew)... Tomorrow I should play with chicken sausages, we will go show them at T-rex next Tuesday (3rd Tuesday in a row that we get to go hang out in a super cool restaurant and talk shop and play with food).

I am so excited about the Peddler's Faire next weekend! I get to hang out all day with my beloved Brionator, Mr Galen and the Schwienstein (our new nickname for Stein) and sell my products and interact with my future potential customers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Still frazzled from yesterday, but recovering...

Today was insane. I had three tastings, all of completely different products, in different cities. Plus we ran into the city to check out a potential vacuum sealer, which I desperately need.

I got up and Stein and I went to the farmer's market to find a bread vendor we'd seen last Thursday. He wasn't there but we had fun anyway. Today Stein's wife Alicia came with us on all of our errands, which was awesome (I am not sure what it is, but she has a very relaxing effect one me). We tossed her into a Compass Star T-shirt and drug her all over.

Trisha (from the Main St Martinez property/event management group) texted and said that Huge, the exec chef from Creek Monkey was interested in my charcuterie, so I texted her and asked if we could meet up with him at noon with a full charc tasting? So we ran home, sliced some meats, and ran into Martinez for the tasting. God it was a gorgeous day. The large rambling old house they are building into their brewery is full of charm and happy ghosts. The owner (and master brewer) Jim took us for a tour. I just loved the bones of the place and we chatted about our passions (beer and pig!). It was awesome to recognize a fellow freak, even if we freak about different things.

Huge (the Exec Chef) showed up and we talked and talked about meat. He is super interested in collaborating on some projects (like bring in a whole pig and bust that bad boy up and make some killer food). The funniest moment was when Jim (who is really cute) kind of did that thing where your eyes roll back in your head while he thought about this awesome beer that would go so perfectly with my cured meats. I live for those moments!

Then we dashed out to meet up at T-rex with the Sous there, Ryan. I happen to kind of love Ryan. Passionate, smart, personable and (the word doesn't really do him justice) capable. We took in four fresh sausages: Orange/Fennel (pork), French fin spice (Seafood), Andouille (pork) and the Compass Dog (all beef). My favorite moment of that was the kitchen manager trying the fennel orange sausage and the look on his face when he said, "That was the one I didn't think I would like... and it is my favorite!"

I got to hang out with Craig as well, who I adore and he got to try my stuff as well. I am catering his wife's birthday party in July. I can't wait to really pull out the stops for a guy who has bent over backwards to help me.

Then we hit the city to check out a vacuum sealer (that was not really a vacuum sealer, it was a shrink wrapper). Then back home and my final tasting of the day...

For a bridal couple getting married in September. I made them several items off their menu and we got to hang out an chat, which was also super awesome. When you can show a hostess/bride that you are excited to collaborate and make sure her guests are well fed, it can have a very relaxing effect.

ALSO today: found a kitchen! It is in Hayward but I can store stuff and it has a buffalo chopper so I don't have to drag mine around, which is super heavy. YAY! Also I think David has decided to just build out the kitchen so we can get started and let Stan work around us while he gets the ADA and earthquake retrofitting done. Thank God for that as well.

I wish I wasn't PMSing... I still feel a bit anxious instead of euphoric. GAH! Hormones! But even in spite of that; today was just flat out awesome. I feel like such a kid when people like my product. And I love LOVE talking to chefs/brewers who are as passionate as I am about what they do... there is nothing quite like it. We are the dreamers of dreams. We are the alchemists making magic. As scary as my life is right now, I can DO this. It's worth it.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Some days you are the windshield....

other days you are the bug... Today I was the bug...

So I went to go check out the rental kitchen this morning with Stein. It was ok, not great, but it was licensed and that is really all that matters for our purposes. So we go check it out and the guy says it is $20 an hour... BUT... we have to get a million dollar rider on our insurance AND give a $1000 deposit. And he seems pretty shady. I can easily visualize my deposit not coming back to me. Crap...

So we talk to Mr. E and see if we can use the school kitchen, but it's graduation and the final for Garde Manger, so it is just not a good time for that. We call my old standby the Pleasant Hill community center and they are under construction. I am 0 for 3.

We also finally get a hold of Semi-freddi bread, whose Martinez route is booked. Acme doesn't deliver to Martinez at all.

Then a craigslist ad comes thru on a vacuum sealer for $900, I talk the guy down to $800 but only for4 today.. and it's 3:30, he closes at 4:30 and I am in the East Bay and he is in the heart of San Francisco. Not going to happen.

I also meet with Main St Martinez, the property management group, who are totally awesome and totally rock and make the mistake of bitching about how business UNfriendly the Martinez Business Department is... just as the Mayor walks in the door. So the ladies (who are trying to help me) ask me to recount the travails to the Mayor. I do it in the most diplomatic way I can, but now it is not a private venting... I am basically telling on them to their boss, which was not my initial intent at all. I have to still try to WORK with these people. I got an email (out of the blue) from my Building dept contact tonight that is I am sure a result of this conversation. I am usually pretty ok with my big mouth, but today I wasn't. Plus at the end of the day, I know they don't understand why they are the problem.

They just truly don't understand the connection between telling me my ADA plans for my bathroom are not right with out any guidance about what they thought was wrong with it, or making my landlord bring the building up to 2014 code before we can do anything, or not accepting anything I was told was "grandfathered in" (prior to signing the lease), or asking arbitrarily for things not required as being business-unfriendly. They truly feel they are doing their job to the best of their ability.

One of the Main St Martinez women made an interesting correlation, that when she worked for a major newspaper as a graphic artist, until she worked directly with the salespeople, she really didn't understand the financial constraints involved. I know these guys don't understand that in a few months my alimony ends and I will no longer be able to afford my house. Maybe the Cheesecake Factory can afford to wait a year to open a restaurant, but I can't. I literally cannot afford to pay my house payment after August and they have zero sense of urgency about me being able to operate my business. Why CAN'T I just go look thru the 700 pages of ADA code on bathrooms and figure out what he didn't like? Why can't we spend a year fixing every flaw up to the highest (and not even in effect yet) code?

It's not like I knew these would be issues going in to the lease. In all fairness, we did not decide to fix the bathroom and add a hood til after we leased the property, but the ADA issues have been around in the historic area of Martinez for some time. Bleh. I hope tomorrow is better.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Made two new Salumi today! A gorgeous fish (it's like a fish mousse inside with herb and shrimp garnish) one and a really yummy orange fennel pork fresh sausage. We also made the mortadella with no garnish inside a regular hog casing and more Andouille (I think it is our best yet).

We also found a kitchen to rent for about $20 an hour ($500 for the month) so we can participate in the Main St Martinez Peddler's Faire on May 21st. Stein and I decided to do cold foods and we have some cool ideas for presentation and marketing. I need to go to Kinko's next week and get a sign made. I already have the food booth/canopy/tent. After I am done with the private party for tomorrow in the City, I will be able to focus fully on the food booth idea.

We went and checked out the Todos Santos farmers Market to see how other people set up their booths on Thursday night and got some great ideas. I will try to take pictures next week as we get stuff online. I go down on Monday morning at 9:00 am to fill out the paperwork. We also still have to go to ABC and I still have not heard anything about the unreinforced masonry, or what they are doing to fix the ADA stuff. It just seems like they have no sense of urgency... which is a little depressing.

But looking on the bright side, we will be able to explore the food booth thing without also having to run a restaurant and I did find a nice commercial kitchen for rent pretty cheaply where I can store items. It was fun to go to the farmer's market. I talked to local food artisans and got business cards... and had a great chat with this little bee keeper who will hopefully be able to get me some fresh local honeycombs (I should also ask Mark about that).

I know this all seems very disjointed, but things are as busy as I organize them to be and I am tired of sitting on my butt waiting.

So next week so far...


  • Go fill out paperwork to be a food vendor at the Martinez Peddler's Faire

  • Go to ABC and turn in paperwork

  • Go to Semifreddi's breads and set up vendor account

  • Prep food for Molpus Wedding bridal couple tasting


  • Go to T-rex with the four sausage varietals for them to sample

  • Meet with Molpus Wedding bridal couple for a tasting


  • Get Compass Star food vendor signage ordered and designed

  • Start prepping items needed for May 21st Peddler's Faire

Then we will need to put a bunch of pastrami in brine so it is all ready to go on May 21st... LET'S COOK!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Staying busy!

Yesterday we met with T-rex about our salumi, only we didn't realize they were looking for like SAUSAGE. You know, the kind you put in a bun, with condiments and stuff. LOL So we will do a couple of those this week and go back next Tuesday for more sampling.

The T-shirts came yesterday as well and they are SO cool! We met with Aloha POS today which was interesting but it was like a $3000 set up fee to RENT the equipment for another $350 a month (deepest sighs). This is WAY out of our budget. Then we met with Farmer's Insurance to see about catering and/or business insurance. It will be about $700 for the catering insurance and about $1500 a year for the restaurant insurance. We also got additional info on the worker's comp stuff.

THEN we met with this guy who was looking to sell his canopy for food booth activities. It is a really nice commercial canopy, which usually start around $800. He used this one (it's all black) a couple of times and it is really good condition. We got it for $350.

Stein and I decided we would prep this whole "Food booth" thing for the May 28th Peddler's Faire in Downtown Martinez and try to get everything together in time for that. We will just be doing cold foods (which we need to decide upon that selection), but it is a relief to have made the deiscion finally to do it. I was vacillating.

So now I need to get a nice banner and figure out how to best market my product in that venue. I will talk to Trisha of Main Street Martinez next week and see what she recommends. If you pay the $100 fee to join Main St Martinez they do all your permitting etc for you, so it is a pretty low cost event to start with and supposedly the Peddler's Faire is very well attended.

I am thinking for menu

  • Grilled Tri-tip Salad with Romesco

  • Smoked Turkey and Bacon Cobb Salad

  • Pastrami Sandwich

  • Tarragon Chicken and Apple Salad Sandwich

  • Side Ceasar

  • Side Pasta Salad

  • Charcuterie platter with pickle and bread

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Still in limbo...

Still have not heard anything on when we can get started in the facility. I am concerned that the busy wedding summer months will neccessitate a kitchen, so I may need to rent one. But I don't want to if I don't HAVE to. So if they can let us get in there and at least build out the kitchen and get it permitted, we can use it for all of the summer catering on the docket. Plus prep for salumi once we open, and for other clients.

Today Stein and I will go to T-Rex in Berkeley and do a tasting with our stuff, including the new stuff. I tasted them both yesterday and they are really good (the two smoked ones) but they taste a little similar, so I may only bring one (I will see what Stein says when he gets here). I also forgot to put the hot Coppa and Pastrami on the fax odering menu, so I should probably redo.