Monday, July 30, 2007

Still here, but I have traded civilian life for that of an increasingly depraved line cook for the time being.

Bare bones update:

-Momentum rapidly, frightfully gaining at Harry's.

-Got a new DigiSLR! But our computer is dead and so I cant upload photos from it :( Many barbecue and drunk-at-the-bar photos so far.

-Survived an EMG, in spite of quite literally wanting to die at certain points.

Obviously, working about 100 hours a week has a tendancy to cause a blogging standstill (not to mention eating, sleeping, interacting with other human beings, etc etc).

Updates again someday.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sugar, surgery, sweat and stress: the first half-week at Harry's Food and Cocktails

Above: us in the kitchen. I'm at left.

We've been public now since Thursday (the full website is yet to come), and are just starting to get our sea legs. Certain difficulties have been... considerable. Take, for instance, non (or barely) functioning major equipment (which willfully resist repair efforts), next to zero dry storage space (a zillion shelves soon to come), a frightfully (over)crowded walk-in, not to mention the insanity of a dozen or more cooks in a space that often seems as small as a ship's galley.

The way around having no acceptably functioning ovens on soft-opening day?

1.Pack up everything pastry related, veiling raw panic with incredulous humor at the surreal nature of the situation.
2.Call Rainbow Cab .
3.Take over part of a dear friend's bomb-ass prep kitchen a mile away. During lunch service. While said friend is (simultaneously?!) doing a tasting menu and a photo shoot for a magazine. (By the way, THANK YOU TIMES INFINITY, YOU ALL KNOW WHO YOU ARE.)

And what if on that day you're missing a sliver of quadricep from a muscle biopsy performed that morning at 7:00? Codeine sulfate and cyclobenzaprine, that's what.

Keep in mind that the above solution does not resolve the issue of unloading again back at the restaurant only to discover that there is almost nowhere to establish a dessert line, much less stock the prep anywhere...

Needless to say, desperate times called for desperate measures. Tony ain't got the monopoly on kitchen stories!! Things are much much calmer now, at least for the moment, as we try to organize systems in anticipation of the impending onslaught of customers.

In fact, it's the calm before the storm.

Friday, July 13, 2007


500 Washington Avenue South. You know the statue of the fat naked people dancing?

That's us.

Behind the scenes scoop coming soon.....

Monday, July 02, 2007

Hospital food and other (better) recent dining highlights

A few days ago I was served an enormous breakfast in bed of cheese blintzes with cherries, bacon, oatmeal, milk, coffee and apple juice. And at which bed and breakfast did I have the pleasure of vacationing? None other than Methodist Hospital, a most caring host--- albeit one whose rate will prove to be most, er, indulgent to a poor sucker such as myself without health insurance. It's been 13 years since I last spent any great length of time in a hospital. That breakfast was relatively edible but by no means good, though I will say that lunch the next day was actually pretty decent: chicken noodle soup, big turkey sandwich, macadamia nut cookie.

Needless to say, neither of these meals were especially memorable, due not least of all to my general haze of pain and displeasure of being hospitalized.
On to better things. I returned a second time to Queen of Sheba for more kitfo and tibs, and was certainly not disappointed. This time I took the kitfo cooked medium rare for Ryan's sake, and although I think I prefer it raw, it was still very good (except it seems that I did not get the version I had ordered). The special tibs were great, although I was less into the texture of the dried beef than I had expected to be. Otherwise, it was tangy, a bit spicy and with a great texture lent by the torn up injera that got all mushy, thereby binding the sauce together and making it easy to scoop up with yet more injera.
A couple weeks ago I dropped by Vincent for their happy hour, trying the tomato braised octopus (which turned out to be baby octopus) and the pommes dauphines (a bit greasy). Nothing to blow my socks off, but a steal for the price ($4 and $2.50, respectively). That plus a perfectly drinkable three buck glass of Chilean pinot noir equals a good deal that I'd probably go back for if I were in the neighborhood. Sadly, I missed out on the days of the happy hour 6 buck Vincent burger (now $8), although to be honest I saw a couple of them walk by while I was there and they looked more diminuitive than I recall from years past. My imagination?
While we're on the topic of burgers, let me segue to Barbette's Royale with Cheese. It was coincidence that I found myself there immediately after Dara covered this very burger, but with her endorsement in mind I ordered one up. Everything Dara wrote is true:
Each bite is gooey, beefy, funky, craveable, and just enough too much, if you know what I mean.
My sole point of contention (unrepentant gourmande that I am) is that I actually could handle a little bit more too much-- if you know what I mean.
Next up, the very cute Cafe Ena, sister to El Meson, both just up the street. The room is lovely, bathed in bright, warm tones of ochre and chiles, with rustic exposed beams and an airy, expansive feel from the wall to wall windows onto the street. Service was extremely friendly and eager to please, but not very competent on this particular day (no menus for a very long time, our appetizer came out after our entrees, etc). The menu is a unique blend of Latin cuisines without being over-the-top or inaccessable. Delivering fully on that potential, the food was all very good, from seared coriander-encrusted tuna salad to the ceviche (which included among other things sweet, buttery, morsels of sea scallop) to a dense wedge of flan (topped with strawberries and outstanding). Even the fries were great. My only concern is some of the prices, considering the neighborhood... for 12 or 14 bucks, we had expected the salads that include chicken or tuna to be more substantial, yet in fact their size, although not downright miniscule, was more so that of a first course. In this neighborhood which straddles the line between middle and upper-middle class, this fact could be a turn off to budget-minded families who could just as soon head a bit further down to The Malt Shop or Broders, or even to Bistro Levain, which offers a comparable price point yet larger portions. But then again El Meson seems to continue its success, and so hopefully people in the area will recognize the quality and uniqueness of Cafe Ena-- and make sure it sticks around. It's definitely a place I'm happy to have around the corner.
Priced most appropriately for my (lately nonexistant) income is Lu's Sandwiches, the teeny bánh mì joint located in the parking lot on the south side of Shuang Hur. For $2.50 you get your choice of 5 subs, which they toast up briefly. When eaten immediately (perched right there on the Nicollet curb, as I prefer to do) this gives you a warm, crisp crust to contrast the spicy, meaty and pickly guts. This is a procedure sidestepped by some places, and no matter how good the filling, makes all the difference. Of the all the tested contenders on the Vietnamese Nicollet strip, I do in the end prefer Quang's cold cut bánh mì, despite its untoastiness. It's got mayonnaise (I'm not a fan of Lu's use of butter), the pâté is peppery, everything is plentiful and fresh, and I do like the thickly sliced headcheese, in spite of its shocking firetruck red color. But Lu's has a couple options that Quang's does not, and I'll most certainly be back to try out at least the sour pork sausage. Ah, Vietnamese food. I love it.