Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2011 -- Chaos is the new Order

The last six months have represented an unprecedented lapse in blogposting for me, an already spotty blogger at best.  I chalk this communication gap up to unusual busy-ness, with a transition on kitchen staff coinciding with a series of events I could not say no to, although perhaps in many cases I should have.  I know it has been an unprecedentedly busy time because my office desk at home has developed a sort of paper cancer. 

My desk has become a barometer for how overbooked I am.  The pile—an amorphous amalgam of often unimportant papers and plastics that are a nuisance to categorize, register and deal with—has shown signs that it is a self-sustaining organism, growing even in low light and with little oxygen.   One possible solution, a smaller desk, would mean using floorspace, which creates traffic impediments for children and pets, all of whom seem to enjoy wrestling on the office floor when Denise and I are trying to accomplish anything.  Denise, meanwhile, remains unafraid to let her unique filing system occupy every flat surface (including my desk) in the “shared” office space.  I allow this stealth behavior because resisting might mean being assigned aspects of our restaurant’s accounting, a fate worse than trying to organize my desk.  Speaking of shared “office space,” I am reminded of the film by that name, whose denouement--the brutal beating of a fax machine followed by Stephen Root’s character setting fire to the office building--often tempts me to deal with my cluttered desk in more dramatic and permanent ways.

Here at the outset of this promising new year, I have decided to address the blog lapse and desk situation simultaneously: I will use the papers to report what I’ve been up to since the last blog!  How’s that for efficient?   The result I have in mind is a fragmented free association of events and thoughts that will seem as crazy to read as it was to experience.  Here goes, complete with explanatory footnotes and gratuitous namedropping wherever appropriate:

A brochure for “Marco Polo 2010--Exploring genetics through different ethnic groups, tastes, traditions and cultures.”  A Volvo of curious social scientists followed Marco Polo’s supposed Spice Route, tracing cultural connections along the way.  I can’t say why, but I am obsessed with this idea.  Must not ever throw this away until I join the team for the next pilgrimage.

A scrap of lined paper with tasting notes for Beltane Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 09 and Dutch Henry Chardonnay 07.  Two beautiful places we stayed in our whirlwind tour of California wine country last June, both of which have wineries on premises.

New England Cheesemaking Supply Company Catalogue.  When I am too old to cook on a restaurant line, I will milk goats by the ocean and make really good chevre wrapped in seaweed and aged in ocean caves guarded by half-naked sirens.  Must not throw away this catalogue until that dream is realized!

The Crooked Chimney Pure New Hampshire Birch Syrup brochure
Crookedchimneysyrup@gmail.com.  We used this amazing product as a condiment for sausage at September’s Passport event at Strawbery Banke.

2010 Black Trumpet Sous Chef contract – Carrie Dahlgren. Our Little Bear (who looks more like Goldilocks) had big shoes to fill and made a difficult transition seamless.  Now she’s our Ursa Major!

Bent envelope from The White House that says “FIRST CLASS DO NOT BEND”.  I remember shaking a little as I opened the envelope, fearing some subversive thought had been dredged from my subconscious by the microchip installed there when I was in utero.  Alas, it was an invitation to join the throngs of chefs from around the country on the White House Lawn as part of Michelle Obama’s wonderful “Chefs in Schools” program.  In December, I went into South Berwick’s Central School with the ambitious and delightful Kathy Gunst to get the fresh and nutritious school lunch idea rolling in our community. 

Invitation to participate in New Hampshire Farm Museum’s Spring Fling.  Around the same time, I signed up to participate in the Farm Board’s Annual Meeting (of chefs and farmers).

PART He-P 2331 of NH laws for “Special Requirement for food service establishments processing food in a commercial kitchen”.  The idea was to have a HACCP plan in place to preserve any surplus vegetables form farms.  We pickled a ton of them for the restaurant, which we are still utilizing, but the HACCP plan remains incomplete on my desk, lacking necessary research and legwork.

Il Porticciolo menu from Torino, where John Forti, Jean Jennings and I went for a spectacular week in October as delegates at Slow Food International’s biennial Terra Madre Conference.

Fllight itinerary to  Italy from Boston Logan  - Oct. 20 and 27th.
Terra Madre again.  Throwing away itineraries is like throwing away memories…like Patriots playoff tickets or front row seat stubs for Michael Jackson’s last concert.

Failla Winery’s Fall Offering Catalogue.  The one that got away when we were in Napa.  Keeping this list of their wines is a reminder to go back soon.

“Ribs Ham Tongue Belly” – words written on the back of Waring Blender warranty, complete with a map for Denise to follow when she offered to do the smoking of meat from a Tom Hasty pig we broke down at the restaurant in November.

Eddie and Lynn’s Production Schedule for preparation at the UNH Gourmet Dinner, which I was honored to serve as a guest chef and counselor. 

Menu to the “Common Table” Gourmet Dinner event at UNH mentioned above.

List of Items voted onto the 2009 Slow Food Ark of Taste.  That’s right, 2009!  It was such an honor to be a part of, I can’t bring myself to file the list away.

Navarro Vineyards, Mendocino, CA catalogue.

New Hampshire Seafood Brand & Logo Standards

2010 Hood Cookoff guidelines.  A weird event in Portland that pitted likeminded chefs from each New England state against each other in competition.  The event came two days after my return from Italy, and I failed to understand the rules and therefore made a huge mess, a mediocre dish and a fool of myself all at the same time (while alienating my kitchen staff and missing my daughter’s last soccer game of the season).  In short, a complete and utter failure. (Denise’s feelings are much harsher!)

Salone del Gusto food and wine catalogues.  Evidence of the greatest food fair on Earth.  Seriously.

Favorite Foods current price list – for a friend’s new restaurant.  I’ve been trying to help him without getting emotionally involved.  Which is, of course, impossible.

New England Groundfish Population Management information sheet – Pew Industries – notes on the back from September’s annual Chefs Collaborative Summit in Boston.  I was a panelist and also an attendee of many breakout sessions.  Met author Paul Greenberg in elevator.  Also rubbed elbows with legendary chefs Sam Heyward, Jasper White and numerous renowned food writers.  Learned a thing or two in the process, including not to make chickpea tortillas three days in advance of an event.

Invitation to 25th High School reunion.  A glaring reminder of age’s stealthy agenda.

Undercounter Dishwasher Manual

Scrawled menu for November’s sold-out Beer and Game Dinner.  What a success it was, and what a lot of fun, too!

Calendar of private parties in Black Trumpet for November and December.  The return of the private party is a great economic indicator.  Thanks, party people!

Thank you Card from Caroline Robinson.  Can’t throw out some mementos, especially when they are the only record one has for a meaningful person who has departed this world.

Obituary I wrote for my Uncle Jack, who died in June.  A great man who will be remembered fondly for a very long time.

And that about wraps it up.

Happy New Year, All.