The more things change.....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

An interesting, busy, crowded week. St. Valentine's Day always seems to be the ramping up point for the spring season. As if on cue, things begin to bustle. This upswing isn't an absolute certainty, however. One must still wonder if it will continue, or is it too soon to reschedule for a busy spring. With the economy always in the news, why are people filling up the restaurants? Perhaps going out to dinner is an economical alternative to travelling. Also, at this time of year, commerce ebbs and flows with the tide of basketball. A nine o'clock game on Tuesday will cause you to be slammed at 5:30; a six thirty game on Saturday we leave you with empty tables all night. On top of all this there is the drought. I am frugal with water in my home, but sanitation in a restaurant requires lots of hot soapy water.

On that note, I can report that we had a visit from the health inspector this week. I've been receiving the Health Department for thirty years now, and it's interesting to note the evolution of their focus. Less important is the eggshell that accidentally rolled under the stove and got stuck. Now attention is on temperature, proximity, cross contamination. The thermometer and the sanitation strip had bumped the flashlight aside. We presently await a new finding on clarified butter from the State. Yes, we got an A, but despite many dollars spent this years on repair and upkeep in the kitchen, our score remains the same. Thus the rigors of trying to have a restaurant in an old filling station. One interesting item that came to light this time is that places that serve food are now divided into four different risk categories. We fall into Risk Category IV- "food service establishments that cook and cool an unlimited number of potentially hazardous foods...". This means that we are liable to be inspected four time as year as we have always been. Lower categories, where less food is prepared on premises, are now to be inspected with less frequency. On the face of things, this seems sensible, because it allows an overextended staff of inspectors to concentrate on places where problems are more likely to occur. The de facto effect, however, is to allow large chains to be inspected less often, because they serve food that arrives prepackaged in company trucks, while those of us who actually cook every day are held under closer scrutiny. This feels iffy to me although, as I said, I can see the practical side of the decision.

Other items on our plate presently: One Saturday we sell a whole corned ham, then the next week we only serve one order. Should I continue on to Easter as planned or finish up with the two I have in the fridge now? The menu is crowded right now, and I need to make room for shad roe, which will apparently be early this year. On the other hand, we flew through all our salt cured duck, so our wilted salad was only on the menu for only a week. It was gone before it had had time to register with the public. People often ask about this salad, so I've done something I don't often do. I ordered a case of duck legs, last week and packed them in salt so that later this week the salad can reappear. I'm told that we will finally have artichokes this week. For some reason, for the last several years, they have become quite expensive, so I haven't used them as much as I would like. An artichoke that costs three dollars wholesale should cost on the menu- using the accepted pricing formula- nine dollars, plain. I would hope that no sensible person would pay nine dollars for a plain artichoke, so I wait until the price is lower before I put them on the menu. I'll probably stuff them with goat cheese and seasoned bread crumbs in the style of New Orleans. One last thing. Butterscotch pudding has returned. It contains butter but no scotch. I've actually tried to track down the origins of this odd flavor without any luck. We achieve it with a clever use of molasses and vanilla.

posted by Bill Smith at 9:16 AM


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