Posts Tagged ‘restaurant’

Let’s not be reasonable…

February 1, 2012

I cut out a quote years ago from Gourmet magazine written by Ruth Reichl that is taped to my computer in my office. It reads:

“Moderation in all things is a mantra we’ve been hearing a lot about of late. It is healthy. It is sane. It is morally correct. It is also very boring. I much prefer people with passions. There is nothing more exciting than watching someone fall so deeply in love – with a food, an object, a way of life – that they throw caution to the wind and follow their heart.”

So true. I do not find myself just leaving well-enough alone; if it’s not broke,don’t fix it – this I reject. My husband Robert and I have opened and closed (or sold) many restaurants over the years; New City Cafe, Krause Dining (a few times, it’s a long story), The Burger Stand at Dempsey’s, The Burger Stand at College Hill, The Burger Stand at the Casbah, and Esquina. Maybe this reveals an attention deficit problem, but I prefer to think of it as a pursuit of passions. Our work life together has changed so many times it is dizzying. A lot has changed professionally for us over the years we have been married (14 years today!) but room to throw caution to the wind and go in a different direction professionally has provided the most exciting ride I can think of.

This is all to lead in to the fact that we are going to do something different at our restaurant Esquina. We will change the emphasis of the cuisine to Mediterranean with a dose of Spain; elevate the service experience to full table service; alter the interior to make these changes aesthetically pleasing. Our last day of service of the current Esquina is Friday Feb. 10th, we will reopen to the public on Sunday Feb. 19th.

This is exciting stuff for me. We are essentially opening a new restaurant, one in which is going to serve delicious food in a cool environment. It is not a decision that was driven by a sense a moderation, however. No, this is throwing caution to the wind for a restaurant adventure. Will my schedule change and become unpredictable? Likely. Do I know how regular life will happen during this busy time – rides to gymnastics classes, vacuuming the floor, exercising? Not really.

And while experience tells me there will be some bumps along the way, this time I am not bracing myself for them. This time I smile at the future, hoping that I am showing our daughters to not be afraid to take on new challenges. I don’t want them to settle for the healthy, sane or correct at the expense of following their heart. Could that lifestyle cause some bumps along the way? Probably, but at least it won’t be boring.

Cooking Class

March 26, 2010

I’ve been waiting for the inspiration to hit and low-and-behold it has! Looking over the pages the publisher sent us of our upcoming cookbook has got me excited about the content. So, I’ve decided to teach a cooking class at The Bay Leaf in downtown Lawrence using the same concept we used in our book – combining flavors. I’ll demonstrate some the recipes showing how the same combination of ingredients (like citrus, fennel, and nuts) can be prepared for both savory and sweet preparations. Come and get a sneak peak of some of the recipes from the book (due to be released in October). We’ll eat, drink, and hopefully… be merry.

Here are the details –
Thursday May 6th from 6:30 – 8:30 PM
The Bay Leaf at 717 Massachusetts
$55 per person – includes food, wine, and recipes
All reservations are taken through The Bay Leaf at (785) 842-4544

Hope to see you there!

Buy a Food Memory

March 20, 2010

An interesting post on Gimundo about “Why a Vacation will make you happier than a new car” has got me thinking. It states that spending your money on experiences (like travel and meals out) will make you happier than spending it on possessions (cars, gadgets, etc.).

We sometimes buy objects like computers and phones that we think we keep us better connected with other people. But they are expensive, they break, get lost and otherwise can cause us more hassle than we want. We want memories, fun, and meaning but that can get lost in the pursuit of the right “thing” to bring ease, comfort, and let’s face it – coolness.

Food memories can be especially vivid – from the smell of the green beans served in your grade school cafeteria to the first (and maybe only) time you tried brains. Sometimes our kids can’t remember what we bought them last year for their birthday, but they recount with detail the time we brought barbecue home and ate it picnic style on their bedroom floor. Or the rough decision of choosing between pina coladas or strawberry daiquiris on vacation. Robert and I had an amazing meal on a rooftop restaurant with friends in Zanzibar in which I can’t even remember what we ate. And yet I wouldn’t trade that experience, and the ability to relish in the memory of it, for anything – even a cute, convertible Mini Cooper.

Maybe it’s another case of “Food is People”.


March 12, 2010

When two things hang around together long enough they are bound to rub off on to each other – couples end up using the same expressions, dogs and humans seem to actually resemble each other, your daughter takes up her best friend’s habit of using “like” in every sentence.

And so goes it the kitchen as well. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with making my own infusions, most typically infusing alcohol with various ingredients to make the specialty cocktails that we featured at Krause Dining. The culinary concept of infusing goes beyond the liquor cabinet however, as many sauces (both savory and sweet) are labled as being ‘infused’ with something. At its most basic form, infusing usually involves a liquid spending time with an flavor (like an herb, fruit, or spice), often with the element of heat, to impart flavor to the liquid. The liquid may or may not be strained, resulting a flavor that cannot be separated (unlike your daughter and her best friend).

I’ve made lavender-infused creme anglaise for fresh berries and green tea-infused pot de creme. Robert has always made a variety of infused oils to season his dishes. Stick a few stalks of rosemary in a bottle of olive oil and voila – an infusion.

We are having a lot of fun filling up some jars at the front of our bar at Esquina – infusing rums and tequilas with pineapple, mango, fennel, and spicy peppers. Take a stroll by 8th and Massachusetts and you’ll see them, the clear liquor getting richer with color day by day as the liquid sucks the flavor right out of the ingredient.

Or better yet, stop in and have a drink – the pinepple rum made into a pina colada martini is my new favorite.

The Low-Down on Esquina

February 27, 2010

Thank you so much to those of you who showed up at Esquina last night, it was great to be among so many friends. Things went well for an opening night with throngs of customers – no major disasters (only a few minor ones). In our effort to get our doors open, we haven’t gotten everything that we want completed – website, written menu, etc. – but it is all coming soon.
In the meantime, here is a bit of clarification on how Esquina works.

**Esquina is open 7 days a week from 11am – 10pm.
**Esquina does not accept reservations. Orders for food are taken at a counter with the menu on a chalkboard. We deliver food, drinks, and desserts to your table.
**Esquina has a very cool bar with fun cocktails that you will want to drink.
**Esquina’s cuisine can be described as ‘upscale taqueria’ (my description, not Robert’s). What do I mean? Come down and check it out!
**Esquina is located at 801 Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence. Street parking can be tough sometimes, but there is a large parking lot behind Esquina, accessible from Vermont Street (one block west of Massachusetts.)

Thanks for being so awesome, I hope to see you soon.

Times of In-Between

February 17, 2010

The kitchen in our home is being dismantled. At first it was nice to move out some of the more commercial aspects of our operation. We really don’t need the pan rack up now that it is not necessary to have a dozen skillets available at all times, and without them being hung we get so much more light in the kitchen. Being able to spread out all of our ‘personal’ food (as in non-work items) felt liberating. It was with joy when we emptied out and unplugged our downstairs refrigeration, knowing that we didn’t need all of the space anymore.

And then today happened.

Robert and Simon loaded up our commercial dishwasher, three-well sink, and dish washing platform into our truck and took them to our new restaurant Esquina to be connected in the kitchen there. I was left home in a kitchen that is eerily vacant and has wires sprouting out of the wall where I once washed dishes. In fact, there really is no longer a place to watch dishes (picture a sink the size of one in a bathroom). I am trying to be philosophical about it…it is a real effort.
Guilt free use of paper plates.
More meals out at restaurants.
A newly designed residential kitchen (eventually).
Personal character development through times of trial and transition (this might be stretching it, I realize).

It is when I am starting to almost smile about my kitchen that I remember our commitment this Sunday. Ages ago we were invited to be guests chefs at a private event with Michael Smith at his restaurant in Kansas City. We are preparing three of the six courses served. That event is this Sunday – for 100 people with high expectations. I am preparing my most popular dessert, apple celery granita on vanilla panna cotta with wasabi, black salt, sugar work, and apple chip. I am also preparing mignardes to be passed after dessert – a plate of three different sweet bites with which to finish the meal. As I mentally make a prep list for the event, I look at our transitional kitchen. I know that the kitchen at our soon-to-be-opened restaurant Esquina will not be functional until after the event. Did I mention the event is for 100 people?

Maybe it will give me something to write about.

Behind the Scenes at Esquina

February 15, 2010

We are beyond color chips and written menu ideas – color has been rolled on the walls and test recipes are being prepared. No actual customers yet, so I’ll consider these pictures a second trimester peek.

The bar is taking shape!

Not afraid of a bit of color…

A dulce de leche tasting – the batch made from coconut milk was delcious, but a bit thin. The batch made from sweetened condensed milk was thick and luscious and the favorite. We tested one evening at The Burger Stand at Demspey’s (hence the french fries in the background).

Still so much to do before we open, which will be soon

Make Your Food Taste Better (No Cooking Required)

February 2, 2010

Sure you could take a cooking class, watch a cooking show, or even just practice. But why not improve the taste of the food you already eat – no cooking required. Here are some tips to get the most out of any meal.
1) Put your food on a plate.
You may go through the salad bar (or drive-thru) and eat directly out of the container when you get home (like I do) or even out of the bag in your car. I urge you to go the extra step of putting it on a plate. This simple act slows down the process of eating, allowing you to better enjoy the flavor of what you are consuming.
2) Make an effort towards presentation.
Food that looks good actually tastes better. A garnish of fresh herbs, for instance, can go a long way in making a plate of food look appetizing.
3) Sit down to eat.
Once you have your food on a plate it seems silly to stand and eat it (unless of course, you work in a restaurant.) Sitting down requires you to be more of a participant in your meal. You may even notice that a dish needs more seasoning and thus enjoy it more.
4) Consider your beverage.
Even if you are eating a frozen dinner (and I hope not), it will taste better with a beverage that elevates the experience. Maybe a glass of wine, a martini, a pot of tea, or even a smoothie.
5) Set the mood.
A little ambiance can contribute heavily towards an enjoyable dining experience. Dim the lights – both you and your food will look better! Light some candles and play some music that you love.

Above all smile – happiness improves everything…

Food is People

January 31, 2010

Our friends and business partners prepared a wonderful meal for us as a gift for Robert’s birthday. It was a carefully planned and beautifully executed meal that was served to us in our own home – an experience that we have not had before. It was absolutely lovely. They themselves cook and serve people food all day long, and going to this kind of effort on their night off was a real sacrifice. Sitting together, laughing and sharing with family, and indulging in their inventive food was priceless.

The act of sharing a meal has so much more to do than just eating the food off of a plate . Awesome food can be utterly ruined by who you are sharing it with. I’ve witnessed people seeminlgy endure a seven course meal with delicious food because they obviously did not enjoy the company at the table. I’ve sometimes wondered what possibly could have happened prior to showing up for dinner (a fight? a betrayal?) that would result in three hours of silence – or do some people really live like this? Or trying to text at the table undectected (I once mistook someone’s texting in their lap with praying) – don’t even get me started…

Because eating is not just about consuming calories for energy, one word about picky eaters. For those who devote their lives to preparing delicious food, this is a sensitive topic. One may say, “It’s not personal, I just don’t like ______ (seafood, mushrooms, spicy food, you name it). To us, a rejection of the food that is made in love – often rejected before even trying it – is a rejection of the hands that prepared it.

Because food is people.

How is food people to you?

Small Victories

January 19, 2010

We have a new family that has moved onto our block of Delaware Street in East Lawrence. So, in the interest of being neighborly I decided to bake something for them. I mean, I do have more time now and these are just the kinds of things that I struggled to do when working at our home restaurant Krause Dining.

Being in the habit of multi-tasking, I decide I can kill two birds with one stone – be a good neighbor and practice my recipes for our upcoming cookbook photo shoot. But what could be appropriate to drop off as a welcome-to-the-neighborhood treat from our cookbook, and preferably one that is on the ‘shot list’ for the photo shoot?

I strike out on finding something from the manuscript that is also on the ‘shot list’ but I do locate a great recipe for a pound cake that would make a great gift. Our cookbook is about flavors, how to combine them and different ways to apply cooking techniques to them. Each recipe features three flavors and the one for this pound cake is “Olive Oil, Citrus, Wine”. This is a unique pound cake in that it has no butter, but uses olive oil as the fat in the cake, as is more typical in Italian baking. I find a Beringer botrytised dessert wine that would complement the orange and lemon zests used and get to work.

Boy, it is easier baking one cake cake than two desserts each for thirty people. And the clean up is a breeze. But since I do have hungry mouths to feed around here, instead of baking it in a bundt pan as I suggest in the recipe, I separate the batter into two small loaf pans – one for our neighbors, one for us. It was beautiful (I suppose I should have taken a photo, that’s what people do in blogs don’t they?) and more ¬†importantly, it was delicious. Not overly sweet or heavy as some pound cakes can be, but substantial and complex with the fruity olive oil undertones and the citrus notes. Yummy with a smear of cream cheese or butter.

I hope our nieghbors enjoyed it, but I may have enjoyed it more – a stress free cooking project that I got to eat! Recipe available soon in our cookbook :)


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