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.