Traveling thru Time

All of us can: shy of a drinking binge, blow to the head or both, remember our firsts as adults.

First date, first kiss, first car, ETC.

I recall my first open house with AGA. Much as I wish there were parts that I didn’t.

Oddly enough the photographer that night didn’t take a single photo of the food. Which not only boggles my mind but kinda pisses me off. It was my first open house, a momentous occasion. And I would have liked to have had some sort of proof that the event happened, even if it didn’t go according to plan. Granted, this was a freebie to get their name out there but all the same. We’re in the FOOD business and there were more photos of the venue, which we’ll never do business with again, than of our presentation or food. Live and learn I suppose.

The theme this time was an eternal one, ten years in business and much like marriage, you’re supposed to make that gift a diamond. And much like the to-be-wed young gentleman that musters up his courage and bank account to obtain said stone I bit off way more than I or my immediate staff could chew. Thankfully, none of this showed on the floor. I was sweating blood and gargling stomach acid, but the guests never knew a thing was wrong. Which I’ve come to understand is an industry standard. You can fly by the seat of your pants for every event, but so long as they don’t know how close them come to utter disaster everything is easy peasy.

I actually had to go into the archives to look up the menu for this event. I had blocked out, and rightfully so, many of the details that went utterly wrong with this one. But on a second glance I also saw there were some gems there amongst the shrapnel that I could use again, so let it be said that I can indeed learn from my mistakes, even traumatizing ones. If the theme was diamond I certainly choose a rock hard menu, one that I definitely don’t look forward to doing again.

The appetizers were seemingly innocuous:
Bacon Wrapped Scallops, Black and Gold Caviar Potatoes, and Gorgonzola Phyllo Puffs.

My first problem being that I still wasn’t familiar with what was ordered from where or how much is in each case. My food reps, bless their dollar wrapped souls, were kind enough to endure my steady steam of mistakes, corrections, and questions through the transition process. But the phyllo cups and caviar proved the hardest to acquire. It’s not mentioned but I gave the scallops a twist, grilled pineapple was coupled with it and then dredged in flour before frying. It then was drizzled with a white balsamic sage sauce. Beautiful, delicious and very hard to assemble!

You try getting two slick and slimy things to stay next to each other under pressure when you wrap them in another greased thing and try to stab it with a bit of wood. I almost gave up they were that much of a pain. The Gorgonzola cups tasted great but apparently they were meant to be a cold item, and the name puff to me elicits a baked good. So there goes my truth in menu out the window.

Next came the autonomous appetizer station, the “award” winning Lobster Tarragon Bisque. This was another inherited recipe that I didn’t quite nail. For service in a champagne flute it needed to be MUCH thinner in consistency and making my own biscotti instead of buying it would improve the quality leaps and bounds.

The salad, sushi, and veg tray, and carne asada came off with out a hitch but the real gem that shown in my mind was the cheese ball display. It featured four different type, an Italian: pesto, pine nut and parm. A French: shallow, red wine, and brie with pecan. An American: cheddar, bacon, and ranch! And not to be understated Asian: tofu, Chinese five spice, and black sesame. Folks just couldn’t believe that last one was tofu cheese, they went back for more even after I broke the news to them!

The last station was a carving one with some added hot starch. This time: turkey breast and tricolor potato pirouettes. The turkey was a little dry, but the gravy more than made up for it.

The potatoes how ever, they were a whole other beast. You see, I had had little experience in having to make my food travel for an extra hour from my kitchen to your plate. Add in bad Seattle traffic and what started as a towering tuber ended up as multi-colored mush. They tasted great, and we even had some folks switch from a roasted potato to this dish but it just didn’t hold up under the pressure. They were also VERY hard to make, each tier requiring a lot of attention to detail piping a very thick potato through a small opening.

The only other mention of note was the pasta. Originally it was to be my signature dish. Patrick’s Pesto Penne Pasta. What can I say, I’ve always had a love for alliteration. And again, my inexperience with long distance travel let to some very flat, dry, and under flavored pasta. Pesto, and prosciutto in a pasta dish can be very good or very bad and this was definitely on the darker side of that spectrum. I have hence changed brands of pasta, and learned to barely cook the stuff so it’ll hold up that extra two hours necessary.

But the night left it’s mark, and I haven’t done a signature dish since. The following open houses went far more smoothly, as earlier and following posts will confirm.

That’s it, the kitchen is closed.


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