Heidi’s shrimp stock is bubbling gently on the burner, Dee is icing her swollen ankle and I am sitting on the deck watching Hurricane Ike’s rising surf roll in. We’re out of the storm but feeling the edge of its power on Orange Beach, AL. Been here long enough to be comfortable.
We’re at a beach house with a group that would take way too long to explain. My shorthand is My Wife’s Army Reunion. Actually it is a bunch of GIs and their spouses who served in Bad Aibling, Germany, with ASA during Vietnam. Sorta spooks. Every year they have a reunion somewhere in the U.S. and we’ve been a lot of places we wouldn’t otherwise have gone to. Alabama, for example.
The guys to either side in the photo above are on the right wing of this mostly middle-to-left group, but even in this election year, the politics pales beside the food and booze and field trips.
Yesterday we went to New Orleans for alligator and rabbit liver at Cochon, in the warehouse district … then we headed to the Quarter for cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. When we got there, a trombone, tub and drum trio had set up on the sidewalk. I called my friend Garry at the P-N so he could listen in. He may not have been happy about that.
Today I said goodbye to Patio Grill. We’re on vacation to hurricane country — Gulf Shores, Louisiana, Pensacola — and when I get back I think I’ll be working with the sous chef on, among other things, the winter menu for The Sheaf. Mebbe. People ask you what you want to do and you tell them and in my experience it gets bent, always. So, no expectations. But a real good mebbe.
Chef Joe asked me how my summer had been with the Outdoor Grill, and I could only say great. I struggled early with the amount of daily prep … four hard, strong hours of prep, a half hour of setup, 2.5 hours of service and a half hour of break down. Like, get through the prep and then it’s the hard part. But I learned a lot of skills in prep. I brought my time for doing both the tomato salsa and roasted corn salsa from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. And i learned to multi-task, which is really foreign to me. I can focus like a son of a bitch, I can keep my eye on the ball and crush whatever is in my way … but now, I can do three things things at once without getting wacky.
That helped me with service. Like getting five tickets and seeing what takes the longest, what comes next and what i can do while the duck and the tuna and the salmon are cooking. That’s part of it. The other part of it is grasping that it doesn’t matter how many tickets are coming in if you screw up what you are cooking and plating right now … this dish right here right now. That really helped me, staying in the moment and being present with every plate. Sorry, it’s the zen thing. It is majorly useful.
So I have not blogged because I didn’t want to analyse what i was doing. Maybe I will now. I miss Bilal, I miss the French girls, I will miss Sonya the Expediter and Matthew the Smug. It was a good summer.