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there seems to be many times in ones career that as culinarians we get frustrated, annoyed and sometimes can be offended by the outcome or the course of a evening.

just recently we have had some very slow days and at the same time they have been very frustrating. With only doing so many covers and so many roomservice style orders, you would think it would be easy money. well it is not, it seems that any mishap or mistake gets multiplied by 10 and then if the guest is not happy they are really not happy.

staying focused is the key to our success, it is easy to wonder when times are slow. but we have to keep in mind of what is he true goal here. Guest satisfaction, great food, and growth as a team.

I had one of our long time Chefs (Chef Rory Reno) turned back th clock a bit and told me about a time when he himslef was so frustrated with a particular situation and went to talk to our front of the house to put things back into perspective. Standing in front of a slew of servers and bussers that seemed to be falling behind or lacking that caring ability that is vital to our industry. He asked the group if they were happy with there work etc. Then he asked for a show of hands as to who actually attended hospitality college or speific training to hone their serving skills. None raised their hands. Then he proceeded to explain that 95% percent of our kitchen staff are students or long time employees that have been studying and trianing in culinary arts for several years. The difference was huge. Now  I understand that this may vary from one area to the next. Some areas are non union, some areas are close to a college that specifies in hospitality. Some areas are close to a foodie type of area. I have had the privilidge to work in several of these different spectrums.

For our current situation there has been a call for defining what we want to do in the Circular Dining Room. This type of thinking can only bring less headaches and more structure. Lets hope for a great Christmas and New Year.

I will be having a few extra days off this week and will be taking the family up to New York for the day. I cant wait to bring the camera and get some great snapshots. Hopefully we get to go by a few of the great restaurant stops to see what is going on. But since I will have my abundance of children we will probably not be dining this time around.

We recently as a hotel went up to new york to the food show (always nice) and stopped by a great place called Perilla. It was a great experience, clean, simple, good flavors, great service. Thanks to there team and to Steve for the suggestion. Great experience.

See everyone soon

Well our tasting menus have begun the transfer from 75th year anniversary to a holiday themed tasting menu. This time of year reminds me of so many times growing up with my childhood and the foods that we ate and loved which may or may not be very different from others. We grew up with tamales, wedding cake cookies, arroz con leche, pan dulces, etc. There was a influx in my household of these mexican goodies flowing into a creole cajun food of braised pork and cabbage, fried turkey, potatoes gratin, boudin (different than european boudin, this is made with rice, gizzards and plenty of seasoning). I loved this time of year for all these bold and memorable flavors.

For our tasting menu I find it important to try and keep as traditional american (???) as possible. With some of my own familiar influences brougt into play.

Menu                                              Amuse

 Cumin Scented Pork Rilette,

Sweet Potato Mousse, Dulce De Leche Marshmallow

 

Roasted Chestnut Soup,

Foie Gras and Chocolate Beignet

 

Whipped Apple Cider,

Jumbo Scallop, Upland Cress, Cinnamon and Allspice

 

Intermezzo

Green Apple Midori Sorbet

 

Roasted Capon,

Stuffing Dumpling, Roasted Root Vegetables,

Giblet and Cranberry Jus

 

Dessert

Gingerbread Spiced Doughnuts,

Molasses Syrup and Praline Ice Cream

 cider crisp scallop whipped ciderpork rillette marshmallowcapon stuffing dumpling root veg

I recently read again about the tempura fried egg yolk, I remember seeing this somewhere about 2 years ao and thought it was a amazing and simple idea, that has so many homes.

Recently for our chef table I wanted to do yet another version of a nicoise salad. Why not the egg yolk method. Egg yolks and eggs in general have a amazing mouthfeel and have the capability of adding so much life and depth to a dish. There is so many other flavor compontents that we can do but it is always nice to have a starting point.

We took a beautiful loin of ahi tuna, cut and lightly pounded until the desired width was achieved. Taking the tuna and cuttting it into strips and layed it down on the plate. I made a salad using velvet oracle, potato threads, olives, haricot verts, pickled beech mushrooms. Finally the moment of truth: the egg yolk.

Perfect finish with a extremely enjoyable texture.

Utilizing products that are available to us or just trying to give them a home.

Thinking about what we can do with a product is a important step of our job in order to keep waste and cost down, while maintaining the products integrity as something amazing.

I recently hand several guinea fowl on hand to implement somewhere, some how, but how??? Guinea fowls are in the same family of the pheasant and are a wonderful ingredient if used properly.

We currently are running a Chefs Table dinner that is tied into our 75th anniversary of the Hotel, the dinners are based on classic preparation aswell as past menu items over the Hotel history.

I wanted to do something somewhat classic and include these guinea fowls.

Coq Au Vin, this classic preparationof a chicken slow cooked in a stew of red wine, bacon, mushrooms, and pearl onions. This combination of flavors and the depth that in portrays is just the right fit for what I was looking for on this menu aswell as it goes great with the season.

How should I start?

The initial idea of just chopping up this bird and stewing it really turned me off, as I knew there is a much more refined way that I can do this, while still maintaining the heart of this classic dish.

I began with removing the skin (in whole), flesh and bones from the bird as shown. Next I marinated the separated white meat and dark meat parts in a blend of red wine etc. for 4 hours in cryovac to ensure the incorporation of flavors. Next I took the skin of the fowl trimmed it down and rolled the dark meat inside using activa. I remarinated this in the red wine mixture and recyovaced. Next I used the idea of the bacon (coq au vin) and rolled the breast is this again cryovacing to incorporate flavors. I cooked the dark meat at 66C for 6 hours in thermobath and the White meat at 70C for 1.5 hours.

The result was an amazing combination of flavors between the dark meat and white met there were 2 very distinct flavors but still blended well together. To keep with the tradition if the dish I used bacon lardons, beech mushrooms, and cipollini onions to finish the dish. There is always improvements to be made but it was definitely a success.

Antique Auto Week is upon us for this are it is one of our busiest week for the CDR we have a lot of preplanning and preperation to do. Also following along with new menus daily and adjustment that may need to be made for special guests. These last couple days of this auto week are crucial it seems it is so easy to get behind bnut for now we are rolling ahead with our menu for this evening and hoping all goes well. This year we are actually meeting our forecasted numbers even so we are going over what it was supposed to be.

We’ll see what comes with a new day

It is hard sometimes when there are so many great ingredients out there to know what exactly to do next. Trying new ideas and preparing myself for what is upcoming is important but difficult with the daily activities of the kitchen. What is the best way to get this done??? For myself, trying to incorporate ideas and techniques into daily production is one way. Here is an idea for a Rye Bread Gnocchi: I paired this with Squash Blossoms and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs. It may have overpowered the dish, but as a whole I was very satisfied. The technique for the gnocchi is simple, the ingredients in the dish are simple, but the combination was awesome.

 

Will this make the cut? And what’s next?

 Communication, Creativity and Inspiration are things that I hope to find every where. My mind is constantly spinning with new ideas and how we can create a amazing experince for our guests.

What is the best way to do this? Walk around, look in the fridge, go outside and smell the flowers. Interact with people, and read.

It is easy to forget why some of us choose this business, but for me, if I am making a meatloaf or sous vide duck roulades, the approach is: “let’s figure out how to make this the best we can even if it is a burger or a hot dog.” Challenges present themselves everyday in the culinary world. Turn them from challenges into opportunities.

 

This year at the hotel we have tried to take a different approach to how we will handle holiday menus, as well as our seasonal regular menus. We have recently turned in all holiday menus, in order to be organized and ahead of the game.

It may make things challenging for some of us chefs who make it a to point to get fresh ideas from our awesome Central PA markets, aswell as talking with our local proveyors . Generally when we get ideas it is what we see and hear around us and it drives inspiration.

So working our organization in this manner make things different. On the plus side we are now more organized, we now what exactly we want to order, we have plenty of time to cost these menus items out. But for myself the plating design will still be held of until closer to the dates, or until I have tangible product in house.

Our Fall menu is now in place, and it seems to be going over very well. There is always some bumps inthe road. Overall I am very pleased with the menu and cant wait for the next change to winter.

Making decisions on the direction of the products for the resturaunt is tough. There are so many products and purveyors out there that it gets tough to know which direction to go.

This is what we chose:

River and Glen are a fully sustainable purveyor that resources fully sustainable meats from all over the country. Sustainable, meaning they are from small farmers from all over PA as well as New York etc. These products are harvested in a wild natural setting where their numbers will not be depleted and the amount harvested at a time is restricted. These products come to us as a whole or very slightly processed. We take it from there to help ensure our own satisfaction.

Everything will be used: carcasses for stock, breast supremed for dinner menu, legs or braising and amuse, feet for veal stock, and the necks and heads not sure yet but I am sure they will play a role too. Ducks and seafood will be used in the same basic fashion.

James at River and Glen has been great and always willing to do what it takes. Making important decisions like this one takes time and planning. “Quality not quantity” is the phrase James used this afternoon and it fits the bill perfect.

Making a great experience for our guest is our goal, lets hope we can make a difference!!!

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