This week was eventful to sat the least. I've worked for ten straight days, with little sleep, and I'm exhausted. Last Saturday, as you all know, was the last night at the old location. I was up bright and early Sunday morning moving furniture from the old site to the new site. And I worked at least 10 hours each day. Monday was a moving day as well, I came in at 1 and moved furniture, cleaned out all of our chest freezers, and moved TONS of stuff in to the new site.
Tuesday was setting all the equipment, organizing all the stations, and we started prep for the reopening on Wednesday. We started from scratch. Set fresh stocks, butchered all new proteins, it was an eventful day to say the least.
Thursday, the new gastropub, Graze was opened for a VIP only night. The cooks at L'Etoile were invited. We finished up prep, and changed into our street clothes, and waltzed out into the dining room of the new bar. It me, Weinstein, Scott, Jed the Garde Manger free hand, Ed the fish cook, and sous chefs Ryan and Pete. We ordered drinks and discovered that our table was on the house... aka, we could order whatever the hell we wanted and the restaurant would pick up the tab. We started off with steamed pork buns with slabs of pork belly, white boy kim chi, and hoisin sauce (good, but completely incomparable to the ones I've had in New York. We then ordered the soft pretzel (I have dreams about this thing) it was a hot pretzel, fresh out of the oven, served with a trio of mustards and a dollop of garlic cheese spread. Then came the house pickles, the escabeche, or pickled cauliflower, was to die for. Then we got potato fondue, or fried balls of mashed potatoes with a warm doat cheese dipping sauce.
Then the fun started, we ordered the bone marrow toasts with braised beef cheeks and oxtails... I really cannot
explain how freakin good this dish is, along with the chopped chicken livers with coriander and golden raisins. Then came the oysters, followed by the house charcuterie plate, and onion rings with truffle popcorn. We ordered four main courses to share too, fried chicken and waffles... gahhhhh.... the graze burger (made with ground ribeye, beef deco, and short rib... the fattiest cuts on the cow... best burger I've ever had, and the fries with garlic aoli that accompany them are to die for). We got the disappointing moules frites, (mussels and fries), that tasted of only tarragon and nothing else, but the Pork cubed was incredible. Picture, the most amazing mac n cheese youve ever had, (it is Wisconsin) served along side braised ribs, pulled pork, house made kielbasa, collards, and a cheddar biscuit... to die for.
Then came dessert... Nisa, the former meat cook at L'Etoile, has taken the burden of being pastry line cook for both restaurants. She churns out desserts for both joints from her tiny station... It's incredible how she does it. When our waitress came and asked us about dessert... Ryan the sous chef said, "Bring us whatever will put Nisa in the weeds." So, naturally, we got one of everything. There are sno-cones with fresh fruit syrups, (unimpressive), an assortment of pies baked daily, (the hickory nut pie is absolutely the best pie I've ever had), a chocolate sundae, and the most amazing cookies. The cookies are par baked before service, then flash finished on sizzle pans to order. Three chocolate chip cookies to an order. Crispy on the outside, molten on the inside... and the accompanying glass of sassy cow milk on the side is the perfect touch.
Friday was our time to shine. We revamped the whole menu design of the restaurant. Instead of offering three courses, we now offer four. The two Garde Manger, or app stations, combined into one. Weinstein, who was responsible for desserts along with hot apps is now on a station with Scott, the cold side guy who does salads and cheese plates. They are now responsible for a combined 10 dishes instead of the original five. They have first and mid courses. The two hilights, in my opinion, from their station on the new menu, are the sweet corn chowder with smoked jonah crab and chili oil, and the incredible open faced foie sandwich. The Foie gras is in a torchon, served on top of a piece of toasted brioche, with a blueberry gastrique and maple syrup. It really is a sexy take on a pb&j... I was lucky enough to have been given a piece by Scott... he likes to take care of me.
Finally, the time has come... sweet corn season in the midwest. Probably the single sexiest dish I've ever seen is now on the menu... on the fish side... it appeals to my past and my present, it is perfect. I start off my day every day by cleaning lots of corn, removing the husks, brushing off the silks, and cutting the corn off the cob. I was bitter the first time I was told to do this, because in my pinion, the ONLY way to eat fresh sweet corn is off the cob... my braces years were the worst years of my life. This prep of sweet corn convinced me otherwise. The minute I saw Ed walk out of the walk in with those small wooden boxes, I was on red alert. I know those boxes. UNI, sea urchian roe. My Dad gets nauseous just thinking about the stuff, but its my crack. Its so rich and salty, it tastes like the deep ocean. I watched Ed take two pounds of butter, and 12 boxes, 180 dollars worth of Uni, and make what appeared to be a compound butter. I ran over stuck my finger in it, and pure heaven ensued. I asked him what it was for... sure enough, God Damn UNI creamed corn. The compound butter is cooked down to order with double cream and fresh sweet corn and bacon lardons, served with corn meal crusted halibut, collards, and potato puree. Tonight, when I was helping the entree line, Ed had fired an order of the dish, but when the ticket was pushed back fifteen minutes, he had to start over... he finished the dish, and said, "Here ya go kiddo," and handed me the plate. I could have cried, I could have fainted, I could have screamed like a ten year old girl... but instead, when I took my first bite, I closed my eyes and my whole body started shaking. I literally lapsed into a food seizure for about five seconds.
Service tonight came to a close, and Chef Tory walked into the kitchen, bourbon in hand. He poured every cook a shot, gathered us all together and made a toast. He said, "Four days later, and were still the best fucking restaurant in Wisconsin. Heres to you bitches for making it happen." Not until then did it hit me. In three days, we opened two brand new restaurants. I say this because on Thursday we did tons of prep for Graze because they were in the weeds, and wouldn't have opened for days if we hadn't stepped in. It was an incredible feat and something I am honestly really honored and blessed to have been a part of.
It was a successful week, and to top it off, at the end of service tonight, Chris, the chef de cuisine at Graze, asked me to come in and work the line at Graze on my days off. I've gotta run it by Chef Tory first, and if he OK's it, I'll get the chance to kick ass on the hot line upstairs at graze, while learning the finer points of cuisine downstairs at L'Etoile.
Tomorrow I finally get a day off. I plan on cleaning up the apartment, biking 40 minutes to see Inception in IMAX, and watching Man United take on the Kansas City Wizards in their third pre season warm up match. Only one and a half more weeks until my buddies come to visit. Can't wait to see them. and take them to Graze and L'Etoile.
Did I mention that Graze is open until 1 am... and I get half off... OH DEAR GOD... Mikey's gonna need a new wardrobe cuz if somebody doesn't intervene I'll double in size.
I should probably rename my blog to "Confessions of a Fat Kid."
Thanks for reading, hope you all get as much of a kick out of reading this as I do writing it.
It's 3 30 AM here, so I should probably think about hitting the hay.