Thursday, September 16, 2010

Officially Announcing… The Waiting Game.


A mini dessert preview from Maison Mitchell. 

Over last weekend, we ran soft openings for friends and family to introduce ourselves to those who have supported us over time.  During this time, we got a chance to really run tests on staff, equipment and basic logistics for our space.  And from there, we received different sets of feedback and important pieces of criticism to really help us improve for our opening.  For the most part, things ran relatively smoothly if you discount the fact that all food disappeared in less than 3 hours on Sunday night’s service.  On that end, it was pure madness. 

Here are some of the more notable opinions, observations and highlights this weekend in regards to our soft opening:

- The most important thing that I will always heed is food service issues with seasoning and temperature.  Both were slightly off in some of the dishes that went out due to lack of focus from the kitchen.  Not particularly excusable – especially when you considered that certain scores hovering 7.5 could have easily been 8-8.5 with a simple adjustment.  A simple Sleight (or Salt) of Hand is all that is needed sometimes.  Nice to know, my super cheesy jokes are still alive even though I’ve disappeared for 3 weeks…

- I am putting salt containers on tables.  Ugh.  I’ve conceded that we are cafe/restaurant and fine dining controls are not in place for me to say “how I season this is how you should eat it.”  I don’t think I have the technical tools for that kind of arrogance/confidence – yet.

- The worst comments are the ones that project and grade on personal preferences for how and what menus should look like.  It’s okay to tell restaurants that you wish there were more options.  I appreciate those comments and take them to heart.  But to score actual food based on the lack of a specific preference and option is fairly self-righteous.  I’m not sure I’ll barrel into a restaurant ever and complain that there wasn’t a wild boar option.  It would be a better and a fairer world for people to judge food, art, and people on just their own merits and not our perceived standards for them. 

- On a separate note, is it a double standard to go to a regular restaurant and expect a vegetarian or vegan option, but not the same in a vegetarian restaurant?  I’m just curious.   

- What’s even more egregious – having superficial issues with the direction of plating (completely unrelated to the flavor or food).  It’s basically saying, “hey I like how you drew that picture, but could you paint it in the colors that I want?”  Or how about, “hey I like you, but can you wear different clothing the next time I see you.” 

- The oddest comment was “use organic produce” as a way to improve our food.  It was probably a lack of a sign to point out how we source our food, but we are 100% organic local sustainable farm to table with every facet of produce we buy.  Meat-wise we source from certified humane California farms such as Llano Seco, Petaluma Poultry and Pacific Pastures.  There will be a sign, but we didn’t feel a need to write it all over the menu.  If I started naming every farm for each item, the menu might read like Moby Dick and I might as well be cooking in San Francisco circa late 1990’s.  Feel free to ask me or staff where everything comes from though, I’d be happy to tell you.  Or you can just watch me run around like an idiot at the farmer’s markets in San Rafael or San Francisco as satisfying proof. 

- I totally fucked up one of the dinner plates due to improper temperatures for the protein coming out of my CVAP oven.  It was all my fault – me, myself and I.  I immediately cancelled all table orders and pulled it for refund.  It was my call and I did not want to serve the item half assed.  I apologize to those that did not get it after ordering.  Fail on my part.  Cooking can be unbelievably humbling sometimes. 

- The San Francisco Building Department is not on your side.  We’re ready to go here, but we’re officially playing the waiting game for our final inspections to get done.  Part of the issue lies with horrendous contractors that worked on the building project prior to us (and our own contractors) stepping into the space.  It’s cost us a ton of money, time and problems as a result.  We’re not happy, but sometimes this is the hand that you get dealt.  Crying about it won’t get shit done faster.

- Dessert tasting is happening right now as evident in the picture above.  If you don’t know Gabriel Mitchell (his brand, Maison Mitchell) is our inaugural Summit Dessert Program Chef.  Gabriel boasts a ridiculous resume spanning city to city and was most recently, was the pastry chef at Zinnia. 

- The menu we have for the opening is not the final size that we’d like it to be but I felt it more important that lock down a good opening menu and then add on items as we move forward and push to do more.  Having pastries, lunch, dinner and a dessert program designed or coordinated has natural limitations and I never imagine the assortment of different things I’d have to do and be involved with when I started.  It feels like a intricate balancing act or bee dance of some sort.  First special on menu might be a roasted chicken sandwich with a black garlic aioli – that and I’m working out some fresh fruit pickles.

- Alongside with the food, I’ve been working through to plan out a good beer program here with my bar manager Rosie and consultant Alex Fox.  We’re excited for what we are planning, but I’m at crack-addict desperate with trying to get some Russian River or Moonlight up in here.  Help.

- The best thing about cooking and prepping on the line again are the little cuts, burns and citrus/salt that sting them.  It sounds painful, but I’m not sure there’s anything out there that makes you feel more alive.  Pain is a funny memory sensation in a kitchen.

“Many happy returns, Mr. Wayne.”

- Hopefully, my next blog will introduce a new program that we are trying to experiment with Straus’ Barista milk.  We really want to offer latte/cappuccino lovers a higher end alternative for to highlight all the great flavor profiles affected by milk quality in those drinks.  There is really a science and a positive end result from the quality of milk utilized. 

-I’m crossing my fingers and getting my rest right now.  Let’s hope this waiting game ends soon.