Monday, September 26, 2011

Chaos and all the fun to be had therin...

It's been a crazy week. I made 80 # of sausage for my favorite client to bring to the Folsom Street Fair (which is a kind of... fetish celebration in San Francisco). Plus 20# of brats for Creek Monkey, plus a wedding and a food booth at the Italian Street Painting Festival in downtown Martinez. Whew.

The street painting festival booth was a loss. We have tried the food booth thing twice now and both times we've lost money. I know the property management group really wants us to participate, but we can't afford to lose money on anything right now. I think people really don't want to eat cold food at these festivals so we will try the hot sausages at the craft brewing festival and if that doesn't work, I think we are giving up on the food both thing all together.

The wedding food came out really well and I was really happy with it, but my meat vendor once again screwed up the order for the pig. We ordered a 100# pig and got an 80# pig. I think I probably need to find an alternative meat vendor who can get the pig order right.

The Italian Street Painting booth thingie... well it rained the second day and was cold the first, so I told Galen to just give away the rest of the sandwiches and salads for free Sunday when it started raining in earnest and come home. It was a good marketing opportunity so it wasn't a total wash (no pun intended).

This week we are waiting again. I still don't think the engineer has a plan to cover the wood beams with the sheet rock and we really can't clean until he does (sheet rock is a really messy process).  I feel bad for Stan; yesterday I noticed the roof was leaking where the retrofit was done. He's had such a hard time getting them to finish the work. They seemed like a really shady outfit and now there is a leak in the roof too. You can't believe how pretty it is looking in spite of all the troubles.

This week is waiting week. We got the air flow test done on the ventilation system, and we are waiting on the paperwork. We are waiting to fix a small glitch in the fire suppression system. We are waiting for the floors to go in. We are waiting for the sheet rock to be put on the beams. We are waiting to pick up the new prep sink so we can install it. Just a whole bunch of waiting. I feel really bad that Galen has now quit his job and I have no work and can't afford to pay him for this next week. Thankfully he can pick up a few shifts at his old job.

The thing that sucks even more is I have no idea when all this stuff will be done so we can move forward. They plan to put in the wood look floors this weekend. But I am not sure how much longer Stan will have to fight with the engineer/retrofit people before we will get the beams sheet rocked. We can't get a health department permit until that is done.

I hate not having control. It always feels like nothing is in my hands (which I know is a overly dramatic dramatization).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Ants Go Marching...

Yesterday was a lot of fun and very productive! I am co-coordinator for a historical food event in Feb 2012 and we have been struggling to find an event site that would fit our needs. It needs to sleep 100 people, have multiple kitchens, plus outdoor cooking area, classroom-like areas, within 1 hour to an airport... you get the idea.

Anyway, yesterday my co-coordinator, Donna Green-Tye, and I found an AWESOME site. I know our historical foodie friends are going to love it and I cannot wait to see what classes and demos people will come up with to fill the space. Donna and her amazingly awesome spouse (if Dicken's Feziwig was tall and slender, and a Burgermiester from a fantastic wine-making town in Germany, he might be much like Andrew) gave me a ride home and came to check out the restaurant. We popped on over to Lemon Grass for lunch and had a very enjoyable and delicious meal and got to chat with the owners. They have been somewhat following my progress and were so welcoming! They thanked me for my kind words about them in the Gazette article, and said a few customers had saved the clipping and brought it in for them.

Then we headed down to the shop and met up with Brion and Stein and our friend George (who offered to help for the day). They put the casters on the cold display case (it has to either be moveable OR 6 inches off the ground... it is SO freakishly heavy, we decided to put on wheels), hooked up the water to the espresso maker and the coffee maker, figured out the drainage system for the steam table, built shelving and moved things around, plus I started cleaning the stove. It felt good to get so much done! It is really starting to come together more every day. George is madly in love with my friend Phoebe and wrote Phoebe plus G on the bottom of the cold display case... I think having all that love around is pretty great!

I also had to put together a large order of fresh sausage for my favorite customer, who is taking the sausage truck to the Folsom Street Fare next weekend. I still need to put together the chicken apple bourbon sausages, but the brats are mostly done (some still need to be poached off).

Next week, we need to put together the order for the Folsom Street Fair, plus get the wedding food for next weekends wedding prepped and fabulous, plus prep for the Italian Street Painting Festival next Saturday. AND still work on getting the kitchen ready. Lots to do lots to do...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Still getting closer!

Yay! Here is a photo of our almost finished new ADA compliant front entrance. It looks fantastic and we are SO excited to get in and get started.

Stein, Brion and Galen will get in today and get started on building shelves and securing racks to the walls etc (I need to go check out an event site in Marin, but will be helping as soon as I am done).

So this week is clean up and hopefully the various contractors will get in there and finish their parts of the job so we can clear away the dust and get inspected by the health department some time after next week.

We worked the Martini's on the Plaza event in Martinez last night. It was a really fabulous with many folks dressed circa 1940's (when the martini was created). We served a smaller version of the our meatball sliders, which people really seemed to like. It was fantastic to get out and talk to potential patrons and give out samples of our product.

Also funny story... so a friend of mine was in downtown Martinez a few days ago and went into Legal Grounds (which is the guy who used to be in the space we are now leasing) for a coffee and overheard the guy telling a customer that we "Were never going to make it... she is in way over her head... she is $200,000.00 in debt... my customers are loyal and she isn't going to be able to steal them!" This gave my friends a chuckle of course because I am less than $10,000.00 in debt (to a few friends) and I am hoping with all of the great new places going in downtown that instead of needing to "steal" someone's customers, we will be able to see a whole new crowd of potential diners downtown. But... it still worries me that the business culture down there seems so negative. Jim Blier of Creek Monkey and the crew over at Roxx on Main are all very friendly and supportive, but some of the old guard... well I hope we will eventually win them all over :)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Motoring thru the to-do list....

Today I stopped by the DMV to register the BBQ trailer that Chuck built for me. DMV is a fascinating people study! $53 to register and get new plates. Then I ran over to Home Depot to see if I could find the fire bricks we need to replace for the stove/grill. They did not have them, but Bri thinks we can get them in Concord.

Then off to Costco to pick up the making for meatballs for the Martini's on the Plaza event this Friday. They didn't have everything I needed including the 1.5 ounce scoop to make them, so I ran over to Smart and Final and grabbed a few other items. Stein was busy setting up some infrastructure items, plus making some equipment arrangements.

I got a call from my absolute favorite clients who is taking the sausage truck out to the Folsom Street Fair which is a very jovial LBTG and fetish event in the City. He wants tons o' sausage, but not sure exact numbers yet. Creek Monkey wants more Brats for this Saturday, so I am going to have to try and squeeze in some serious sausage making some time this week. The upside is, Creek Monkey wanted to try some of our other sausage varieties so we can set aside some of the Andouille for them to try. Pete was also interested in the Orange Fennel fresh sausage. He and his friends are addicted to the Berber Blackberry Organic Katsup. My sauce went to Burning Man this year!

And a dear friend asked us to cater her cast party on October 9. I am really looking forward to this one as I get to make some British food (Bangers and Mash, Pork Pies etc).

So things are busy! I just hope we can juggle it all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Today had a bit of a planning meeting...

With the Steinster and Galen (who was falling asleep... I am going to have to try and spruce up my staff motivational speeches) . Then we ran out to Ikea to check out things like wine racks and... shelving. We also had some Swedish meatballs and Pancakes, plus... I can't remember what else. Ikea is kind of like a Disney ride for hipster soccer moms.

Then we hit the restaurant... which WOO HOO! It looks like they are framing out the last stuff before they put the windows in, and there is this really pretty light fixture they are putting up... I am not sure where? But I like it!

Wow things are going fast now and we have so much busy work to do. In addition to opening the restaurant we have our regular catering schedule. This week we need to make 500 meatball sliders for an event that Martinez Chamber of Commerce is putting on called Martinis on the Plaza. It is going to be a perfect marketing opportunity; 500 locals. So we decided to serve something small that is a static item on our menu. I am really proud of my meatballs and I think they are really unique, so people can sample an original menu item that they can look forward to when we open. We are also going to make some small coupons for the month of October for a free 12 ounce coffee with a purchase of a morning breakfast item or pastry. Plus have our static menu and business cards out. I think it will cost me about $220 in product all together (I am having a really hard time finding the right size slider buns, we used to make them at school but I am not really wanting to make 500 of them).

We also will have another marketing opportunity at the Martinez Street Painting Festival on Sept 24th. While Stein and I are catering a wedding, we will have Galen manning a food booth with an Italian Ciabatta Sub, Pasta Salad and a green salad. This should be a week or two before we are ready to start our soft opening.

We will once again pass out coupons for a free coffee with purchase. Since we are showcasing a locally roasted and truly superlative coffee, we WANT the business crowd to get in and try our coffee. We are the closest coffee to the court house, but we are competing with Starbucks about 4 blocks down. So what we have going for us is 1. we are a small local place and some people do try and shop the small guys and 2. Our coffee is just better. John Weaver was the master Brewer for Pete's Coffee for years and his coffee is kick-ass.

I am pretty excited about getting out there and being so close to opening!

One week from crazy time...

Stan called David on Friday and said he thought they were about a week away form completing the front entrance. Which means...

Well, I am not sure who exactly is installing the flooring and I am not sure if they are still planning to move the water heater... but other than that... we should be able to get in there next week and get started! There will be one week of cleaning and moving stuff around, plus we need to install some shelving (both in the front and in the back), then we should be able to get the kitchen permitted and then a week or two of food prep... then a week or so of soft opening off the grid and then... voila! GRAND OPENING!!!

Stein is coming over today so we can work more on our to-do list and then we are going to Ikea to see what kinds of wine storage/racks they might have. I am still absorbing the information that we are so close. I know there are a billion little details that need to be dealt with...

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down...

I had a dream last night that Stein and I were in the kitchen getting things organized to open. I was standing near the refrigerators looking at the new drywall on the wood beam they installed for the earthquake retrofit and we were discussing whether we should split the fridges and put tables in between or how to best use the space with the beam jutting out a bit. I remember thinking I wanted to get stuff into place so we could start cleaning and wondering if Galen was done moving the chairs in the dining room around.

It was good to know I still could think past the construction and so with that in mind I got up and started the post-construction to-do list. I set up a meeting with Stein and Galen tomorrow to talk about the weeks ahead. There are a lot of odds and ends on my mind...

I stopped in to Creek Monkey on Sunday with the girls and talked to Jim (Blier, the owner). He wants brats (bratwurst)... and I want his wood charc platters that Huge bought to showcase my salumi. The new chef does not seem interested in Salumi (he interned at Olivetos and might want to make his own?). We did the tasting a while ago and they have not shown interest since. Anyway, so I made 10 # of brats on Monday and I am going to see if he wants to trade me wooden platters (which are just taking up space and not being used) for Brats.

I also lost a whole batch of sopresatta. I was too lazy to go get the meat from someplace good and used stuff from Smart and Final (which is on the way to the rental kitchen). Lesson learned. But I grabbed 10# of pork today and need to probably to at least grind tonight and try to mix and stuff tomorrow.

I need to confirm which salumi we will showcase on our initial "Ploughman's Lunch". I know we will do Finocciona, Nduja, Capicolla and Testa (head cheese). This is my proudest menu item and I need to really nail it right away. I am marketing myself as one of the very few chefs who is deadly serious about charcuterie and I cannot afford for my showcase menu item to be anything less that ALLThat, no bag of chips necessary. A good Charc Platter will showcase the Charcutier's general mastery of various techniques including fresh, smoked, cured, dried and emulsified salumi... generally speaking you want some type of terrine or potted meat (pate or rillette), smoked (like andouille or chorizo), cured (lardo), emulsified (mortadella) and dried (capicolla, finocciona, sauccision sec etc).

It feels insecure to showcase too many of the long cured items; they tend to seem very showy and difficult but in reality making a really good mortadella takes more skill and is far more difficult to really nail. But I am only planning to do five on a platter and Stein and I have been working so hard to build our quiver of the longer cured items it is difficult to fight the urge, like tacky new money, to flamboyantly show off these products.

We can't put everything on there :( I am leaning towards doing a Mortadella). Ours is really good and I met a couple at the farmers market who raises the cattle you see grazing on the Martinez hillside as you drive on the freeway... I am going to see if I can get some beef from them so I can make local Mortadella. Mortadella only takes a few days to make so I can wait until we are in our own kitchen to start that process. Plus, no one knows it really but other charcutiers, but Mortadella takes the most skill to get really right. It is a tempestuous dance of buffalo chopper, dry ice and really good beef, then sous vide cooking to the perfect temperature for the shortest time possible to bring it up to temp. Dry cured salumi is more forgiving IMO.

So once we figure out which salumi we will be using, then we need to choose condiments. Definitely a pickle of some type (house made). We did Gardineri, but not as much as I would like. We need a cheese (OH NO! I forgot the name of the cheese we picked! Back to the Cheese Board I go...) and some type of sweet preserve appropriate to meat (fig mostarda?). Probably candied pecans as well.

I am also experimenting with cold shipping methods this week. I am going to ship 4# of capicolla to Montrios. A very funny trip to Coldice in Oakland... I come to the door and there is kind of... no way to get in. So a lady comes to the door and leans her head out and says, "Can I help you?" And I introduce myself and say I am looking for cold shipping. She says, "we don't sell retail". So tell her that I am a professional! Anyway, we got the stuff and we will be testing it out tomorrow!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Woke up feeling fantastic today!

I have had so many small stressors lately that it's been hard to feel good. I have been clenching my teeth in my sleep and waking up really sore etc. But I had a really great chat yesterday with my boyfriend, my plongeur resolved some stresses from the extended wait (to open TCS), my sous chef got his little guy off to a successful start at his new school and we had a great time catering Savour's promotional party this last Wednesday... so the morning feels bright and shiny and new.

I also pulled the new Capicolla from the curing box and cut some up for the party on Wed and that cheered me up too! It is really lovely. I am not sure why I keep waiting for someone to go, "this is CRAP!" When I know how good the stuff really is, but I think partially it is because the demand is so high we've been putting stuff out at the earliest moment instead of waiting an extra month or so for it to get a more familiar dryness. So I feel I am putting some products out "wet". I know once we get the flow down, it will be fine. But it will take 4-6 months to get enough stuff in the queue for that to work. It's really only the ground sausages... but still.

The party was a lot of fun! The Wineries count on the limo drivers etc to guide consumers towards their tasting rooms, so they will have invitational parties to promote their wines directly to these tourist support industries. It was a very fun local insider crowd and they seemed to really like the food. I got a chance to chat with several folks. Meghan (the tasting room manager) and I collaborated on a salumi cone delivery system and it worked out splendidly!

I had a friend (Wendy Bliss) do the service/FOH stuff and she did an awesome job. It is a relief to have someone so capable on the roster for FOH since that is not really my area of expertise. I feel like every day I am collecting pieces of the puzzle to make things better!

I have not gone down to the restaurant in a week or so. I am letting them get their work done. Stan gave all the info to David on the time frame which sounded like 2ish weeks BUT there was some caveat about a wood that needed to be ordered that was going to take longer, so I need to try and figure out if that is going to hold us up or what?

As always I am worried about money. But I am feeling more hopeful and mellow about the whole thing.