Monday, December 1, 2008

Chef Rant, Black Friday, 2008

Okay, I’m thankful for many things, but come on now….

Three occurrences have prompted this blog. And, yes, it has been too
long since my last confession. Sorry, blogreaders, but these tough
times have demanded more of us small business owners than ever
before. Writing continues to be a necessary outlet for me, and
though I usually resist the urge to pontificate or lash out, that
resistance is growing weaker by the day lately.

Perceived injustice has always fascinated me. Outrage comes more
easily for some people, and these people tend to have high ideals and
expectations of others. Many such souls may have felt shunned or
disenfranchised by the status quo for one reason or another. I have
been through periods of angst in my life and rebelled against
authorities and railed against policies I did not understand and done
dumb stuff I have later regretted. But I have always weighed my
perceptions of justice in a greater perspective. In school, essays
on comparative ethics by Bertrand Russell made me question whether
any one perception of justice or set of values is absolutely
correct. In one class, I remember a debate about cannibalism. Is it
right for our tribe (homeless Eurocentric Western Judao-Christian
soldiers) to intervene in another tribe’s ritual because we find it
wantonly barbaric? Was our great nation not built on this principle,
at the cost of uncountable native lives? How are the Mayflower
sailors, religious missionaries and Genghis Khan different?
Discuss. Meanwhile, I’m feeling a little outraged at the imbalance
of justice, unequal distribution of wealth, and mass confusion
befalling American holiday shoppers today.

Okay, here’s my beef. Three things happened on Black Friday that
should serve as mountainous neon billboards for all of us to see. A
WalMart employee on Long Island was trampled to death by surging
masses of rabid holiday shoppers. There was a lethal gunfight
between two shoppers in a California Toys-R-Us. And, virtually no
one walked the streets of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

The third news item may seem less significant than the previous two,
and of course it is. But as a business owner in a normally
sustainable and relentlessly charming little seaside hamlet, I could
not help but mourn the loss of business in our town (and in my
restaurant, specifically). The day after Thanksgiving, whose
nickname “Black Friday” refers to the first day of the year retail
shops see a profit, should (and usually do) witness gay merrymaking,
public displays of generosity and Capra-esque messengers of holiday
cheer. What it should not witness is Box Store Campers and the
Storming of the Best Deal. I just coined a cool phrase; is anyone
still reading? Get it? Storming of the Best Deal. If you are out
there listening, let me know if you think this spontaneous turn of
phrase is as cool as I think it is. OK, enough. So, violence at
what cost and for what cause? Someone’s life for a limited edition
Wii or X-Box. Shameful.

Fear. We all feel it. We are surrounded by it. We are encouraged
to confront (and therefore augment) it. We wear it like a black
mantle and cower under it until the hobgoblins of worldwide economic
collapse go back in the closet of our imaginations.

There is a Malthusian argument to be made about all this burdensome
phobia going around. In these dire times, our excesses will be
trimmed, weaker competition will disappear, the strong will survive,
and we will emerge all the better for having suffered a little.
Surely that’s a painfully valid viewpoint, but it’s not very human
now, is it? And this being the season of compassion and giving, we
should probably put our selfish fears aside and get out there and
live a normal life.

All of this to say that we Black Trumpeters are pitching to you, the
general populace, a concept that I think makes sense. Every Sunday
through Thursday during December, we will extend our Flight Night
Tasting Menu concept but gear it more toward the soup and sandwich
crowd. Denise and I are constantly battling the perception that
Black Trumpet is an expensive restaurant, when in reality our prices
are reasonable, our portions generous, and the overall value
excellent. Our average menu item is $14 for Christmas’ sake.

Please take note that nowhere in this blog do I mention that a gift
certificate to Black Trumpet makes the perfect holiday gift. Which,
of course it does.

Until next time, eat local, buy local, be local. Your community
needs you just as much as you need it.

Happy holidays from all of us at Black Trumpet.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hindsight is 40/40

Where were we? Oh yes, the devious machinations of Denise's mind. I have been gently hounded by more than a few guests at Black Trumpet in recent weeks, some pleading for more details of the birthday getaway, some merely inquiring as to its outcome. For those few but devoted readers, I hereby give you the potentially anticlimactic details you seek:

The hour-and-a-half plane ride (on JetBlu of course, though I fancied it the last flight of the Concorde), smooth and snack-free, featured two notable occurrences.

First, the details of our secretive dinner plans were unfolded with methodical iciness by the ice queen herself. We were to dine at Blue Hill. Not Momufoku. Not Per Se. Not any of the other obvious choices of spectacular food spectacles in New York. But Blue Hill. How could this be, I wondered? The name--unethnic, unpretentious, unheard of--evoked more mystery in its simplicity than the manifold and multihued veils of Sheherazade. Sort of like Black Trumpet, I suppose. It turns out, that was the point.

The second thing that happened on the plane was a seemingly random but not insignificant moment of foreshadowing: the balding head of a familiar male figure occupied the paperback-sized flatscreen on the seat in front of me. In a sit-down one-on-one interview with a New York Times editor, Michael Pollan gesticulated and opined on issues probably near and dear to me. Because I hadn't sprung for the cheap headphones, I had no idea what the talking heads were talking about. I really admire Michael Pollan. That's an understatement.

Allow me an explanatory digression here. Fifteen-plus years ago, Michael Pollan wrote a few essays and reports in the New York Times that made me cut clippings, something I swore I'd never do based on overexposure to parental newspaper scraps as a child. Since then, Mr. Pollan has written at least two books every human being should read. Botany of Desire, published I think in the mid-Nineties, takes a fascinating and well-researched look at four plants that have changed the world. It's a great and awakening read on its own; I recommend it to everyone. But his most recent effort, The Omnivore's Dilemma, is a must-read not only for its entertainment and literary value, but also for the timely and imperative message it wields, thankfully without a moral-heavy hand. It asks questions I have often pondered, and proposes some interesting methods of addressing these questions. The questions themselves are too heady for me to address in a silly chef's blog, but I hope people try to glean a few good ideas from Mr. Pollan, who has obviously put more thought into where food comes from and how we as Americans view the meaning of what we are eating than anyone we are ever likely to meet. End of digression.

So, after landing, shuttling by subway to the bottom of Manhattan Island, and surfacing with our bags somewhere on or near Canal Street, I--feeling completely oversaturated by surprises--ascended the escalator in the best-kept secret of all New York hotels to find Denise's sister, Cheryl, and her husband, Alan, hiding in the lobby behind newspapers. NOTE: this final surprise may not seem to all readers like the ideal twist in a surprise fortieth birthday party, but I need to make it known that my South Carolinian sister- and brother-in-law are the best dining companions you could ever ask for. They moan and gesticulate over bites of food. They laugh and cheer and fist-pound and celebrate food at the highest level of human appreciation. Alan, being of good Irish storytelling stock, spins a fine filthy yarn to boot, while Cheryl exudes the joie de vivre of a smitten American lass in the greasy grasp of her first Parisian lover. A little graphic, but it's true.

Being too early to check in, we hit the streets in search of Singaporean cuisine, of course. On the plane, Denise had mentioned that our first meal was up for grabs, unplanned, my choice. So I had picked Singapore, a challenge that could only be met by New York and Singapore itself. Five or six blocks into Chinatown, after walking and letting our hunger build to a man-size pique, I spotted a place called Singapore Cafe or Cafe Singapore, I can't remember. We ate a lot at around 2:00, many plates of incredible food, paired with Tiger Lager, Singapore's underappreciated contribution to the world of beer. The usual Indonesian suspects--fish cakes and satay--made an appearance at our table, but two stand-outs were the spicy strips of inexplicably bouncy and crispy squid and the dry curry-rubbed beef dish we ended with. Everything was perfect, and we all agreed it was an auspicious start to our eating our way through the Big Apple.

After walking off lunch, we shopped and napped and prepared for the next round, The Monday Room, my choice for a between-meals meal with lots of good wine. The Monday Room is an L-shaped dark little bar tucked behind the host stand of one of NYC's trendier restaurants, Public. Backstory: Denise and I had strolled down Elizabeth Street on a trip to the city just before we opened Black Trumpet and discovered a Renaissance of restaurants that reminded us of our little brick block on Ceres Street. Public was one of those restaurants.

In The Monday Room, we were treated to profound wine knowledge, our server being more versed in wine than most sommeliers. We ate some wonderful food, not least of which were the fresh chopped radishes with sea salt that arrived shortly after we did. Denise opted for the Premium Flight of white wines, which culminated with a Pouilly-Fuisse that knocked her socks off. I enjoyed a manzanilla sherry with snail ravioli followed by foie gras and numerous wines which were all delivered with a story, presumably true. Our very good friend Jay, a sousaphone-playing, hula-hooping lawyer, joined us to enrich our experience even further.

We barely had time to do a quick change at the hotel, sip a bottle of wine Cheryl and Alan had brought, and get out to make our 10PM reservations at Blue Hill.

Perhaps as a sort of shot in the arm, Denise had chosen a place in New York, the indisputable cultural capital of the New World, that most closely resembled (both in philosophy and in appearance) our own humble bistro in Portsmouth. On the plane from Portland, as I read the printed material she had downloaded, I learned of a chef named Dan Barber who attempts to source all his ingredients from his own farm just upstate from the city. I learned of a guy who has achieved something that many of us chefs only dream of.

We arrived on time at Blue Hill to find a bottle of sparkling wine from Long Island waiting for us. Evidently, Denise's exhortations that the surprises were done bore no resemblance to the truth. It turns out that Tom and Scott, great friends and owners of Lindbergh's Crossing, had bought the bottle as a surprise of their own. Tricky devils, those two. Meanwhile, we were informed, our staff--headed by Julian, our wine steward and resident good guy--had pitched in for a bottle of wine and, upon learning that they were trumped by Tom and Scott, opted to put their contribution toward our meal. Incredibly sweet and thoughtful.

So, we sat down and were treated to a truly wonderful server who asked our permission to remove the menus from our table. "Chef Barber," she explained, was "in the kitchen and would like to cook" for us. So away went the menus. Shortly afterward, we forfeited our wine list as well, effectively putting the sometimes-awkward ordering process entirely in the hands of the chef and the delightfully conversant and upbeat wine steward. The latter walked us through a few of her pilgrimages to wine regions, many of which resulted in unusual bottles on her list. We were impressed and at times wowwed with her selections.

As far as the food goes, suffice to say Chef Barber celebrates the purity of seasonal ingredients like few (if any) chefs whose food I've eaten. Our first bite, multicolored and textured tiny heirloom tomatoes impaled on nails and warmed with a hint of salt, was the very essence of tomato. We moved on to fresh-shucked lima beans in a pork stock reduction that I will dream about for a long time. Turkey, cooked sous-vide, was unlike any turkey I've tasted. Every flavor was buoyed by the very essence of itself--I don't know how else to put it. We chefs can get bogged down in technique, sometimes relegating the vitality and complexity of a single fresh ingredient to the background. Shame on us for that, and good for Chef Barber understanding the full profile of each product he works with.

Somewhere in the middle of our meal, I looked at the table next to us and noticed the muted talking head from our plane ride. Michael Pollan and what appeared to be his family were enjoying a meal much like the one the chef had prepared for us. I mused about how my idolatry had evolved in twenty years. Here I am, sitting down to my fortieth birthday dinner, gazing in adulation at a tall, bespectacled man with a mortician's build and pallor. No Robert Plant or Harrison Ford, this Michael Pollan, but as good a hero as a man at forty can have, I'd argue.

After the meal, we thanked the chef and walked out into the night many blocks back to our hotel. The next day, we sipped espresso in Little Italy, took in an exhibit of human corpses where the Fulton Fish Market used to be, and then lunched at Balthazar, still the institution it deserves to be.

On the way out of town, we picked up our poodle-in-law from doggy day care, packed into the minivan and headed back to our New England world, but not before stopping to pick up some bagels for the kitchen crew.

This is how I spent the forty hours of my fortieth birthday. I am incredibly lucky to have such a wickedly clever wife. Thanks to all who contributed their own skills of deception to this process.

Friday, August 8, 2008

40 hours for 40 years

I am posting this blog for those readers who know my wife, Denise. They know her as a funny, sweet, trustworthy, understanding, patient and wise individual--the type of person you might confide in or leave your children with for no apparent reason. She is beguiling and beaming and beautiful...blah blah blah.

What people don't realize is that she is also capable of conniving, duplicitous deceit. She can lie to her husband with an apathetic shrug and con an entire restaurant staff into complicity with her nefarious schemes. Oh yes, she may wear a veil of sweetness, but beneath it lies a wicked visage of trickery.

Here's how I recently came to be the weak and wobbly pawn in her masterful, crafty endgame.

Last week, I innocently agreed to cook some salmon for an event to raise awareness of the Tongass Refuge in Alaska and its delicious denizens. When I reported to Denise my plans, she replied, "Nope. You have to cancel." After a brief, futile argument, I realized that she was up to something, and that I should not meddle in areas I do not fully understand. Of course, the back of my mind was whispering to me that I had a 40th birthday coming up, and that I especially shouldn't meddle for fear that I wouldn't live to see that birthday.

Turns out, I did the right thing by delegating--at the last minute, sadly--the salmon event to our server/host/day manager (and talented food writer and erstwhile chef) Paula. To have missed the surprise birthday of a lifetime for the admittedly sad salmon situation would have been a pity indeed.

On Thursday morning, the rooster crowed extra early and Denise and I were off (I knew at this point that we were going somewhere and that I wouldn't return until late Friday night.) We hopped in our car and took a northerly tack, leading me to believe that my wife had planned an overnight trip to Ogunquit or Portland, perhaps even Rockland. But then why were we up at the crack of dawn, slamming coffee and scurrying about to leave by 7:15? We pulled into a parking lot at the Wells train and bus terminal only to find my father waiting with some luggage in an unmarked van. (Alright, it was his forest green minivan, but "unmarked" lends the story a little intrigue, eh?)

We drove past Ogunquit and Kennebunk, my groggy but sincere line of questioning meeting only crooked deception as we flew by two possible destinations. As we pulled into the Portland jetport, I began to expand my range of possible destinations to include JetBlue's repertoire--which in my fertile imagination included Napa Valley, Bali, Paris and Marrakesh. Denise had been hounding me for months about making her a top ten list of restaurants I'd like to eat at. ...chapter 2 coming soon (I have to smoke some fish right now!)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Why I Took Your Favorite Dish Off the Menu

Before you get mad at me, let me say a few things.

Complacency is bad. I truly believe that. Routine numbs us, mind and body; it narrows the aperture of our experiential lens, shutting out light we need to guide and feed us. Complacency is a UV-reflecting gray bubble of protection we build around ourselves, yet most accidents happen at home, near home, on the job, or in our cars. Those are the venues of routine, right? So be safe, for your own sake, and break with routine. Here are thirteen lucky suggestions from me, the chef-owner, family-guy, and thrillseeker emeritus:

1. Go to Paris for the weekend. If the Euro is too strong, which it is, go to Quebec City or Montreal.
2. Splurge on one great meal you will never forget.
3. Drive an hour in the direction of your choice. Get out of the car. Do something there. Drive back. (If you’re in the Seacoast area, avoid a due east heading.)
4. Spend twenty dollars more on a bottle of wine than you usually do. Taste the difference.
5. Go to a church service of a religion you do not believe in.
6. Visit that place you’ve always wondered about.
7. Volunteer at a nursing home, hospital or prison.
8. Ride your bike to work one day.
9. Plant seeds and water them. When they grow up, give your friends the fruits of your labor.
10. Learn a new language. Speak it badly, but speak it.
11. Go for a walk in a “bad” part of town. Bring your cell phone, if you’re scared.
12. Try the food you most dislike again, just in case you don’t dislike it anymore.
13. Sky dive, scuba dive, race cars, climb mountains, explore caves, dance, sing and educate yourself.

No school can do these things for us. No job can provide access to all these avenues of experience. We have to access them ourselves. So do it, as they say at Nike.

In the end, we should come back to what is important to us, but to experience the most out of life should be the fundamental desire of everyone. Obviously, it is not. So, adventurers unite. Preferably at Black Trumpet. Our new Spring Menu is coming soon!

Sorry for the diatribe. The above philosophy guides menu-making for me. Seasons bring new weather, new crops, and—for me—new ideas. Some past ideas that have pleased a great many people have already resurfaced at Black Trumpet. Over time, others will evanesce and reappear when their season calls for them. But with my unquenchable thirst for knowledge, my biological predilection for change, and our customers’ collective response to menu changes we have undergone thus far, I will continue to lure leery traditionalists with new dishes, get them hooked, and then remove them, not out of malice, but out of respect for ingredients and the seasons where they belong.

So, when faced with a dish coming off the menu--like the famous radicchio salad, for example--may I boldly suggest that, rather than mourn its loss, you might try a new dish. Broader horizons make bigger sunsets. Oooh, bumper sticker! Bumper sticker!

See you soon,


P.S. – We just took our first vacation as restaurant owners—Denise and I with our dynamic offspring duo—to the southernmost tip of the East Coast. The Everglades and Florida Keys were wonderful, but the best part of our trip was that our kitchen—under the leadership of Sous Chef Mike Piergrossi—and our dining room—headed up as always by lovely Lennie Blace Holt—ran as well without us as it did with us. We are very proud parents to return and find our one-year-old well cared for. Thanks again to all our staff for being so incredibly dedicated and caring.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Blog 08: Let them eat rhubarb!

I recently had a conversation with Lauren, who has brought to our Black Trumpet kitchen her own docile demeanor and gorgeous culinary stylings, about the antsiness we chefs get at this time of year. Around here, Spring is a fat promise of green things to come. Mud notwithstanding, the world reemerges from beneath its snowy veil with colors unseen since November. Yet, here in the Seacoast area, Spring’s local bounty won’t result in ramps, fiddleheads and rhubarb for another month at least. The fiddleheads, nettles and greengage plums featured on our refreshing new Spring menu are coming from far afield, unfortunately. But soon, these items—along with ramps, morel mushrooms and early radishes—will push through the frosty New England mud and fulfill the promise of Spring.

In this little hamlet, where callus-handed, hardy fisherfolk once laid the foundation for our cozy village, Spring often enters with a whimper. Last year, on our opening night at Black Trumpet, it came with a blizzard. The neighborhood die-hards who still support us showed up in force. This year, in tune with Puxatawny Phil’s forecast, Spring enters with harsh winds, freezing temps and plenty of residual snow (in our yard at home, a quinzee on our deck is currently housing the 75-pound lamb we will serve to staff and their families on Easter Sunday). I like that Black Trumpet was born during the week of the Spring Equinox. I like that the anniversary of that day will always coincide with the season we associate with rebirth. That’s what I want the kitchen to be about, too: rebirth of creative ideas, rebirth of dormant ingredients, emergent seedlings in cold loam.

Speaking of cold loam, our current menu offers an arugula and dandelion salad in place of the usual Back River Farm greens. For six weeks out of every year, Garen over at the farm takes a little hiatus between crops to order, organize, cultivate and sow his fields and greenhouses. He does most of this with just his own two hands. Around the time of the Super Bowl, he and I go through catalogues and pick out ingredients for late Spring, Summer and Autumn menus. If the crops are successful, everyone benefits—not just our guests in the restaurant, but farmer’s market patrons and Enoteca customers as well. Garen grows beautiful food, and the community has begun to recognize his efforts, which is fantastic. Later this spring, Garen will be bringing me his “little head lettuces,” a mixture this year of deer tongue and dragon’s ear. Maybe we’ll call it the Tongue’n’Ear Salad. Or maybe not. Either way, we always miss Garen’s gorgeous greens when he’s between crops, and we look forward to the produce that lies ahead.

As for my own garden and our restaurant community garden at Strawbery Banke, I am growing extremely anxious to get my hands in unfrozen earth. We will be divvying up the weeding detail at the community garden again among our BT staff, but this year, I’ve invited the front of the house to participate as well. Christine, our bright and shining new star behind the bar, will hopefully contribute some of her landscaping expertise. The organic and heirloom seeds are in the mail. All we need now are a few dozen more degrees Fahrenheit.

In my conversation with Lauren, one of us (I can’t remember which one) said, “I’m sick of root vegetables.” My daughter Eleanor has sworn off snow. Berwick, where we live, has seen 112 inches of snow this year. Winter has had its way with us, and we are over it, ready for Spring like never before. Let them plant seeds! Let them eat rhubarb!

Your dedicated chef and friend,


Monday, February 18, 2008


Calling all foodies!

Our upcoming Portuguese Wine Dinner features some great labels from the once overlooked corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Typecast for its phenomenal dessert wines, Portugal also makes some great table wines that have only recently landed on our shores. A few of them have popped up on Julian’s wine list in the last year and have consistently won kudos from wine cognoscenti. We are lucky to be featuring the wines of Portugal, imported by Augusto Gabriel of Signature Imports, on Wednesday, February 27th.

Since we are targeting a food-rich region of the world for this dinner, and following the adage that the best wine pairings are those that feature foods and wines from the same region, I have decided to utilize Portuguese ingredients, techniques and recipes to help uncover some of the less heralded dishes.

We have all heard of, and probably enjoyed, Portuguese sweet bread (anadama), fisherman’s stew, and even kale and bean soup. But most American palates aren’t as aware of Portugal’s unique obsession with salt cod, or its deep appreciation for pork and lamb. Or its literary contribution to the world via Nobel-winning author Jose Saramago. But I digress.

Although not a particularly large country, Portugal has tremendous geographic diversity, making for a colorful palette of wine varietals. Also, such varietals as Tinto Roriz and Touriga Nacional cannot be found in any other wine growing region of the world.

So go to Portugal for a night! Join us on Wednesday, Feb. 27.



Sunday, January 27, 2008


Generally speaking, I don’t stop moving long enough to appreciate what a good thing I have. Part of me fears that, if I stop moving, everything will stop moving. It’s part of the only-child syndrome, I suppose, this egocentric belief that so much—my business, my family, my daily kitchen deadline, global climate change--depends on me. To my thinking, hard work isn’t supposed to pay off until later in life. But every once in a while, I take a break from the hard work, and a ray of light breaches the mask of blood, sweat and tears, granting me a peaceful perspective of the world around me. Just such a moment recently occurred, so I thought I’d share it with what few loyal blogreaders I have.

Our Black Trumpet staff—a great amalgam of hard-working, lovable young folks—earned a special holiday treat in this, our first year of business. By answering myriad questions about the change of ownership, by proverbially hand-holding when Lindbergh’s patrons felt betrayed, by smiling through requests for outmoded but much-adored “classics” from the bygone era, by volunteering their time to help pound nails or paint trim, and by sticking with us through this time of change, our beloved staff deserved more than a simple house party or restaurant dinner. Working on the suggestions of two avid winter sportsmen on the kitchen crew, I put together a mid-week “weekend getaway” to North Conway. So, on the first day of this year, the morning after our hugely successful, dual New Year’s Eve wine dinners, we all carpooled northward on the Spaulding Turnpike as snow piled up to the tune of an inch an hour.

We arrived at the Red Jacket Mountain View Resort just in time for a shuttle to Mount Cranmore, where we embarked on our first exercise in the two-day fiesta: an hour of tubing down the well-groomed Cranmore Tubing Hill. Normally crowded, the hill on New Year’s Day had relatively few other tubers (not the botanical kind), so we enjoyed many runs down the hill before the sun’s descent.

After a brief sojourn to the base lodge pub for soul-warming toddies, we found ourselves embroiled in a snow battle that ended promptly when the shuttle arrived to return us to the lodge. The Red Jacket Resort has a few townhouses on premises that proved ideal for accommodating our crew. Four adjacent units housed all twenty-four participants, providing a two-day home base for recreation of all kinds.

Upon our return from the mountain, we were treated to lasagna by Lauren, one of the best home cooks we have in our so-called “professional” kitchen. It was, beyond a doubt, the finest tasting lasagna I have ever eaten. It was so good, in fact, that many townhouse dwellers enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast the next day. Denise, my always lovely and adoring wife, wondered aloud if I might learn a thing or two about making lasagna from Lauren. The implications of her statement are too ego-damaging to dwell on in these paragraphs, Suffice to say, I won’t be opening a traditional Italian restaurant anytime soon.

After a group dinner cleanup, we walked en masse through the continuing snowfall to the main hotel, where a video arcade room kept us busy for a long while. Denise dominated the air hockey table, her Canadian heritage showing itself in every lunge of her wrist. Rebecca and Christy dueled on the footpads of a game called Dance Dance Revolution. Casey held his own, as it were, on DDR while Monica showed a particularly violent talent for street shooting and hunting games, leading to speculation that she may have come to us through the witness relocation program, and that Monica is not her real name at all.

NOTE: Monica and Casey have since moved on to new careers. We expect them both back in the building, albeit on the other side of the bar, soon. Meanwhile, Christine and Rebecca have added to the Jon, Christy and Julian barstaff, tipping the balance in favor of females for the first time. As expert and beloved and Monica and Casey are, we are so excited about Christine—an experienced, professional bartender with a photography career on the side—and Rebecca—another spirited (pun intended) bar veteran with a decorative design background.

Back at The Red Jacket, the late night party (unfortunately captured by some nimble camera work on the part of Jon Plaza) included dancing, the usual party merriment and more lasagna. It was during this phase of the overnight extravaganza that I realized what a uniquely beautiful situation we have. At the party, as I looked around at a little townhouse living room crammed with our staff, I realized that our employees are friends, each with their own quirks and stories to tell, but essentially one cohesive unit committed to a cause we all believe in. It’s so incredibly satisfying to see our group operating as a living thing away from the living thing—the restaurant—that gives our passions a mutual context. I don’t know any other business, much less restaurant, that can boast such a crew.

Each of us at Black Trumpet operates on a bizarre urge to make people happy at all costs. It is in us. None of us tolerates a lax work ethic in anyone else because we don’t tolerate it in ourselves. But that will never stop us from enjoying our own lives. That combination is a rare and beautiful thing in this business. Denise and I are so lucky to have these guys aboard.

Thank you to our staff for continuing to bring a sense of pride to our daily routine. It shows. We adore you all.