Friday, July 29, 2011

It's SO pretty!

The Pig Plate at Montrio's Bistro with Compass Star Nduja, Andouille and Finocciona. I love the way it's been plated! I feel inspired :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Woo to the Hoo!

Today Stein and I dropped by the restaurant to meet with Compupay, which is a payroll services company. It ended up being about $60 a month for them to do all of the payroll tax figuring etc for up to 6 employees and cut the checks and automatically deposit them. I am relieved I don't have to decipher payroll taxes and all of that stuff! We then met with the artist painting the mural in the restaurant. As we were getting ready to go to lunch, a guy walked into the restaurant and said he was the contractor that Stan had hired to do the ADA stuff. YAY! We chatted a bit and then we exchanged business cards.

It sounds like he will be starting with his part once the retrofit is done. So I got THAT going for me :) We walked over to Creek Monkey and had lunch after then the kids went to the best candy shop in the world (Main St Sweets) and got ice creams :)

One of my friends from the SCA popped in (Robert) to see if we were open yet and we chatted a bit. Then Stein and I popped over to the kitchen and made 25 # of bratwurst and Andoiulle and then a bunch of mustard. We will deliver to my favorite Sausage Truck owner in the City tomorrow.

We are also meeting with the Health Department tomorrow to get a list of stuff to get done so we can get permitted, then with David and Dino to try and tie up loose ends. We bumped into Stan a few days ago and he was really upset... and it was clear no one is communicating any more. He's been so confrontational with Dino that it's all white noise now, but I would like to know if some of his concerns should be addressed. I fear my lack of experience in restaurant design is the real problem and the plans were so incomplete when they started they just couldn't be as organized about stuff as is normal in these situations. Plus... it made me sad to see how badly communication had broken down. We've tried to call Stan to get as list of his concerns and he isn't calling us back. He really is not a bad person and his honey is really lovely local honey. I would love to be a regular buyer of his products. Oh well, I hope things get better soon.

I was super excited to see that there is a plan forming for the ADA fix too... man, this thing might actually be happening! I am SO stoked!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lots of busy work...

Today Stein, Brion, Galen and myself put the large equipment into the facility. There were some real challenges due to the sidewalk being about 6 inches lower than the front door. But we were expecting that part to be a challenge and everyone pulled together and overcame.

We had a couple of really inebriated guys come by and start messing with stuff, and Brion almost got into a fist fight. There is a really dive bar around the corner and up a block... like one of those ones where not everyone has all of their teeth and I've seen girls come in and out of the place wearing no shoes, halter tops and misspelled ink. It is not very noticeable during the week, but on the weekends when most other places are closed... it is more so.

So we got up early and headed into Oakland to Danny's place where we picked up the refrigerators/freezer and then headed back to the storage unit. The guys got everything loaded with remarkably little fuss and we headed to the restaurant and started unloading stuff. My mom and her husband stopped by to say hi (right around when the drunken youths had their incident) . Then Danny came by with a cohort named Jimmy to help hook up the stove and fryer.

Stein and Galen and I walked down to El Tapatio and had lunch and this GIGANTIC margarita. The food was good and inexpensive.

Anyway, it was so awesome to really be able to get the stuff in there and brain storm how we are going to organize the space! We nearly cleaned out the storage unit (everything but the catering stuff) so I will downsize that next week as well.

Our... I am not sure what to call it? Caseworker? Our guy from the Health Department is named Phoung and I know people complain about the health department, but they have really been awesome. I mean it is a REALLY difficult process, and be glad it is for you own health! But they are also SO SO good about helping you understand the requirements. Our guy is coming down informally on Tuesday to go over everything so we can get in there to get permitted.

They are clearly working on the earthquake retrofit, but I am still not sure if they have a plan to fix the ADA stuff? I will have to call Stan about it next week. Sadly I suspect he thinks we will open without it if he stalls long enough, but I just can't afford to be sued so I can't open until it's fixed. Thankfully I suspect it is a much easier fix than the earthquake stuff. And I might get lucky and he might actually be working on it!

Either way... things are progressing! I will have a better idea of timing after we see Phong this week.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ARGH! Money money and more money,,,

So this weekend we are moving in the equipment (Stove range, refrigerators, fryer, steam table etc). This means

  • $250 for rental of the truck with the lift gate and pallet jack
  • $100 for a guy to come hook stuff up
  • $350 for two quick release gas valves

Yep, $700 just to move the stuff in and get it hooked up. I also need to get gas and water turned on, but the plumber hasn't finished stuff so I hope that will be ok!

On the plus side, Ecolab came out to the site today and did the once over and they are giving us a bunch of stuff (hand dryers, soap dispensers etc) for free for using their products (this is pretty standard). AND very awesome, I talked to my most awesome equipment reseller today and he is going to work something out so we can lease to own a 20 qt mixer and ice machine. And he is being beyond helpful about us getting stuff hooked up this weekend.

So all in all... I am pretty excited about the next chapter... I think this thing might actually happen !

Monday, July 18, 2011

New pictures of progress on the kitchen...

Wow! What a difference a floor makes! So awesome to check it all out!. today we went down and met with the new Exec Chef at Creek Monkey and did a tasting and also had some lunch. We had the pulled pork sliders and an arugula salad plus the paninni. Everything was really good! YAY!

We also got to to meet the master brewer for the Creek Monkey and some of the wait staff. They were all very personable and fun to hang out with. I think Stein and I will be having a beer after work on a regular basis over at Creek Monkey!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Exciting Week Ahead!

Tomorrow Chef Tony Baker from Montrios in Monterey will be visiting the restaurant site. This means Stein and I will be hanging out in the morning at the almost completed restaurant! I will try to remember to get pictures for the Blog. He is picking up the first order for Salumi for the restaurant. We are then meeting the new Chef at Creek Monkey to do a tasting and have lunch.

Then we will be spending the afternoon grinding the offal for Nduja. I cleaned the hearts and kidneys today and kitted out the spices. I would have ground everything but I had to take pork out of the freezer to let it thaw anyway.

I only have about 4# of Nduja left and every one of the restaurant clients we've seen have seemed to prefer it. Tuesday we are making spicy lamb Slim Jims with really small casings. Then we are organizing all of the equipment to be moved into the restaurant next weekend. (YAY!!!)

Then we will spend some time moving stuff around and making lists of stuff we need, and then... (insert drum roll) going for our permitting! Wish me luck!

Friday, July 15, 2011

No one else can feel it for you, only you can let it in...

Feel the rain on your face ~ Natasha Beddingfield, Unwritten

Today is kind of a day of rest... KIND of.

Stein and I took the measurements of the space and got the measurements of the cold storage units from our fantastic equipment purveyor (Danny). So I've been hanging out this morning playing tetris on paper with the spaces, which are simply going to be really tight.

I am worried. This is a constant state of being for me currently. I am worried the sink is not big enough to wash all of our larger equipment. I am worried about having the money to buy the last of the equipment we need. I am worried they put the hand sink in the front on the wrong side of the wall and now I may have to build a barrier between the walkway and the behind the counter area. I am worried about having a sneeze guard for the sandwich prep station. I am worried about how I am going to get an ice maker and a standing mixer. I am worried about how we are going to work out the smoking. I am worried about where and how we are going to clean and degrease the stove. I am worried about Brion's back for next weekend when we are supposed to be moving stuff into the space. I am worried that David won't remember I need another plug/outlet on the wall the left. I am worried I won't find an espresso grinder for a decent price.

I am just so very very worried.

But, dappled like sunshine in the forest, rays of light keep shining through. We are getting so much interest for the salumi that I may need to stop at my current number of wholesale clients (at least until we see how production goes in the new kitchen). I am so proud of the clients and potential clients we have currently; really dynamic and serving the kinds of foods and wines that are SO exciting. That part of this process has been such a fun journey. Meeting people who are similarly passionate about what they do; true believers and ardent advocates for real hand crafted food. I am deeply grateful for the California food and wine culture that encourages craftspeople to push the envelope whole-hog (pun intended).

This past summer has been busy busy with catering, but I am finding that I am still largely catering for friends or friends of friends. Stein and I plan to hit a few of the wedding conventions this fall to see if we can change that a bit. There is one on Sept 18 on Main St in Martinez which we won't have top pay to attend, so we will likely start with that and see how that goes.

I am really getting excited about the prospect of opening too. We have been passing the new hamburger place on our way back and forth from the restaurant and it seems pretty hopping. It is hard to imagine how people will receive us. So far the people in Downtown Martinez have been really awesome.

When we did the Peddler's Fair, the local business people were really curious about us. We had a young couple from the bank come by and introduce themselves, plus several of the artists that participate in the Co-op at the end of the street, plus others. They really seemed to enjoy the food and sought us out specifically to sample our products. I will be so glad to be in my own kitchen! But there is still so much to do before that will be a reality. Bleh... back to worrying lol

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Salumi Tasting at Savour in St Helena

Stein and I drug Galen into Napa today to do a Salumi tasting at Savour in St Helena. It was a lot of fun! It is a co-op tasting room for 7 micro-wineries and it is run by Dejan Nikitovic and Meghan Farley. We got to try some KILLER wines in conjunction with our salumis and... it was just a lovely space and Dejan and Meghan were really personable and knowledgeable.

They are looking to serve small hand crafted charcuterie with wines that are also handcrafted and from small wineries. I think it is a genius concept. Some of the most exceptional wines in Napa are not generally available to the public because the vintners are too small to have the big flashy marketing machine (nor would they likely be able to provide wine in the quantities needed by Costco) enjoyed by the large Wineries. I think the hard core foodies and oenophiles really WANT those hand crafted one of a kind products to be available to them in a beautiful setting like the one Savour has created.

I think they really liked the products and I am pretty excited to be given an opportunity to be a part of something so timely and... well cool!

It was fun to drink fantastic wines and hang out and do a brain dump on salumi. They seemed genuinely interested in all of the historical coolness of the Garde Manger kitchen; enough to ask me if I would be interested in coming to do a tasting/teaching demonstration with the wines. How cool is that!?

Some days... I really REALLY love my job.

Exciting News!

Stan started the ADA and Earthquake work! WOO HOO!!! This means this part of the construction may be done in a few weeks.

SO the floor for the kitchen is going in this weekend which means (drum roll please) we are going to be moving fixtures in next weekend! (July 23/24)

SO if we move stuff in next weekend, we could spend the week getting everything settled and then go for our kitchen permit in a couple of weeks. (July 24-29)

THEN, assuming we go for our permitting on a couple of weeks and they flag a few things that take us (hopefully not more than) a week or so to fix. (July 29- August 5)

Then two weeks of food prep time (August 8-19)

Then our soft opening (August 21st) for friends and family.

then one shut down and processing day (August 22)

Then a week long test run/soft opening (August 23-26)

Then MAYBE just MAYBE (and there is a ridiculous amount of monket-wrench that could be thrown into any part of that plan) we might able to open like Sept 1st.

Strange to think... this thing might ACTUALLY be really happening (knock on wood)!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wine happens...

Today was whiplash day. One minute you are standing with your Sous Chef admiring the wall of work you have accomplished (frankly, not unlike how Michelangelo must have stood back after finishing the Sistine Chapel and admired his accomplishments). And then the next minute, you are on the phone hearing that they've started the structural work on the restaurant and... if everything goes perfectly (and it won't... but if it DID) you might able to open on September 1!

Whoooa... so Steinster and I hit brain overload on the billions of details... but in a good way. And now I've had a lot of wine. I will have to list the litany of details streaming thru my brain... tomorrow... some time.

Jeez, can you imagine... I might actually be opening a restaurant!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday starts with M

And M is also for Money!

Today was a good paperwork day. I wrote down the new new recipes (Saffron Salumi and the Saucisson Sec) and answered an email from a small tasting room that is interested in our Salumi for wine pairings. I am kind of excited about the tasting because it is a shared tasting room for 7 small vintners and I am looking for small wineries to showcase in the restaurant so it could be really mutually beneficial. Stein and I will go down there on Thursday and bring a nice sampling.

I also chatted with Chef Tony Baker (online) and we will be filling the first order on Monday for Montrios Bistro in Monterey. YAY! I love this restaurant and I feel like the garage band who just got signed for it's first major recording deal that my stuff is going to be not only served there, but I am going to be credited on the menu! It is SO cool.

I was also contacted by the Contra Costa Times today by their Food and Wine columnist who is interested in doing a piece on us! It is so frustrating that I still don't know when we will be able to open. Stan has told me point blank on the phone last Friday he does not have any idea when the stuff with be fixed. I will go down some time this week to see if the retrofit has been started, but I am less concerned with the retrofit than the ADA issues. I really can't open until he fixes both, and I suspect he isn't sure how to even start.

So I called David and whined mightily and he will probably call Stan this week and try to get something rolling. Unfortunately Stan just doesn't respect me and trying to get anything done is like wading thru molasses. I am hopeful things will happen a lot more quickly if David can help talk him thru the process. Go Team Compass Star!

Tomorrow Stein and I will stuff the capicolla into bungs and hang them and then work on some duck sausages.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Stein and I looked at our cache of product a few weeks ago and went, "AHHHHHHH! We are dangerously low!" So we got down to bid'ness and have probably made 120 pounds of charcuterie in the past two weeks.

And what beautiful Charc it is! To the left you will see the most beautiful head cheese known to man. Yes, we flayed the entire flesh from the head and wet brined it for 5 days, then sous vide cooked it for 36 hours at 150 degrees. It is a solid mass of deliciousness. That strip of white that looks like bacon is actually part of the jowl.

We also made Summer Sausages, Saffron Salami (with whine and cardamom), Saucisson Sec (hard French salami with out added fermenting agent, just garlic oregano and wine), Finocciona, Tuscan (sweet) Salami, capicolla, hot coppa, Nduja and... and... lardo... and... pastrami... other stuff too.

It is a big relief to feel like I have product coming since our stuff takes SO long (sometimes 6-8 months).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mr Toad's Wild Ride

It was a really weird week on the restaurant front...

Apparently my landlord showed up at the inspections to close the walls and tried to talk the inspector into making them do a bunch more work before we could pass the inspection (this was after the inspector was done approving the work). Then he called the inspector again the next day and talked him into going down to the site when the contractor wasn't there to crawl around under the building and try to get them to... I am not sure? Rescind the approval?

David finally got fed up and told him off. He's been in the industry for more than 35 years and never had that happen... ever. It sometimes feels like this nightmare I cannot wake up from. I don't know how it got so bad or why? I am taking a very outdated simple space and making $70k worth of improvements and the building owners are furious with me and trying to prevent it (They were fully aware of everything I planned to do and even had input into the scope of the work). I just don't understand how they think? They are always full of rage and complaints, obstructionist and abusive. David was going to try to help them get the ADA work done, but none of his guys want to work with Stan/Kevi any more. Stan has no idea when the work will be done, or even how he is going to get it done. It's all so unorganized and angry and strange... I don't understand why they are trying to sabotage my business. It just doesn't make any sense. We all succeed when I succeed.

I informally called a good friend who is a real estate lawyer to see what my rights are. We've set up a chat tomorrow morning. God I hope we can come back from this and forge something good from the chaos.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Bri and I visited the facility on Monday and (of course I forgot my phone so no pictures yet) there are walls and everything! Plus David called this morning and said the engineer Stan hired was getting started this week. Whew! Finally movement on that end.

So this week we will go to Oakland to my favorite equipment guy (Danny, he is fantastic if you are looking for used restaurant equipment) and finish paying for our cold storage. I also need to send Brion over to pay for the under counter keg storage in the So Bay as well. I am hoping we will be able to move equipment in there in a couple of weeks and get it all hooked up to make sure everything works and make any repairs that are needed as well before we try to get our Health Dept permit (another $500 bucks).

I am hoping Stan will get back to me soon about the time frame on the front so I can start planning an opening date! Whew! There are times I thought that would never happen (knock on wood). I am SO ready to be in my own kitchen.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Cheering myself up is not so hard to do...

I did some Tarot, and it made me feel cheerful. I think there may be some inertia short term, but things will flow eventually.

I also finally hung the Finocciona Stein and I made last week. It is so pale! I think the shoulder-butt we used was really really fatty. I am sure it will make for yummy salumi, but it is definitely not the standard color. I wish we had used the fattier pork for the saffron salumi as it would have showcased the mild yellow color really well.

I also put some hot coppa to cure and used my new "Smoking Gun" to cold smoke the Nduja with some apple and cheery woods. I used Alder last time and I wished for the sweeter wood when I was done, so this time I used fruit woods.

The Smoking Gun works well but it has to be frequently refilled with tiny wood chips. It worked well when I cater-wrapped a lexan and left the gun inside for two bowls full of wood. . . I am curious however how much smoke flavor it really imparts? We shall see!!

The last batch of Finocciona is almost done curing, the beef middle sized ones maybe need another week or two. I am going to mist them with water so they don't dry out too fast!

Bri and I are spending the lazy weekend at home with me getting some loose ends tied up for work. I still need to case the Tusan which means I need to clean and tie some beef middles and set up the stuffer. The problem is it is easily 100 degrees today and not the best weather for stuffing sausages. I will try to get to that early tomorrow morning when it is still cool.

I had a fantastic day on Thursday with Stein and his best friend, who is moving up to the area. We went to the city and dropped off product then out to Napa. Napa is one of the world's most perfect places. Rolling vineyards, great food, goats roaming in pastures... we came home and watched Bottle Shock and drank two bottles of V Sattoui Sangiovese and then we watched Sucker Punch, which I also thought was fantastic. I slept most of yesterday... and was grateful for it.

I have been feeling pretty depleted, but the rest has cheered me up and I am feeling a lot more zen today. I have come so far and I am doing great! It is not my fault my landlord is not very organized and I have enough catering and restaurant business that I should do ok until he can figure it out. I wish things were moving faster, but I need to stop being a spoiled baby about not getting everything I want, the first second I want it. I am pretty sure I will survive this process!

Feeling worn out...

I think human beings can take a ton of stress for short periods of time, but to have it go on for months at a time is grueling. The saddest thing is my primary reason for stress can be summed up as having landlords with a personality style that is really different from mine.

We had inspections on Wednesday. Stan and Kevi came by and actually tried to sabotage the inspections by pointing out the thing they thought were wrong. The really strange thing is, I know they want David to help them get the front fix done, but they have been so miserable for the guys to work with between the outright sabotage of the inspections and the ongoing bizarre accusations (peeing on the roof and "Critters" etc) I am not sure why David would sign on for more abuse? I just don't understand how they think. They act like I am the enemy and everyone is out to get them and the only way they can do things is by being totally antagonistic. It seems a backwards way to get things done to me.

Now Stan is not returning my calls and I suspect I know why... he has not taken the steps he needed to take to get the front fixed and now I am nearly done with the kitchen, so I am not going to be able to open. And there is no solution in sight. I think the problem is pretty complex and will take some time to get thru the design, approval and construction process and that process, as far as I can tell, has not been started at all. He hired an engineer that is a total flake and has refused to hand over drawings to the contractor. So we really are at square one. I wish he would get help from someone who can follow thru and get the work done.

The thing that gets to me the most is how carefully I planned for my dream and how excited I was to reach for my goals but the reality is the logistics have been a total nightmare so far. I can't continue on like this forever but the primary cause of stress is not going to end any time soon. I can't make Stan and Kevi be reasonable and predictable and they will be my landlords as long as I am at this place. I am losing sleep and irritable. I worry that by the time I open I will be so worn down I will not have the energy and enthusiasm to do a good job. It is clear they have zero respect for me and seem to be trying to sabotage my business. I just don't understand this... if I am successful we all win.

In the lease there are provisions for mediation and I think if there isn't movement soon, I will try to figure out what the process is to go thru mediation and see if that doesn't help get things back on track. I am worried I am going to have some kind of nervous breakdown.