People often ask me how I come up with something different every weekend for our Chalkboard Features. Well, let me stress it’s not just “me”. It takes a team of people to do every job here. Even something as simple as the drink in your hand takes at least 3 people. I inventory the booze and do the ordering. Amanda, myself or someone else develops a recipe, the bartender makes the drink, the server delivers the drink, the busser clears the table, and the dishwasher washes the glass.
Food is even more complicated. Although all my chefs here dabble in creating the dishes and many times are the executors of said dish, it is usually Sous Chef Max and I getting our heads together and figuring out the weekend menu. 1st Step; we get a text from our fish monger and butchers letting us know what will be available and the pricing. 2nd step is Max and I get inspired. Sometimes it is a dish we’ve done many times… like Shepherd’s Pie, but more often than not it is something we want to try. Inspiration comes from reading, dining out, our unique family traditions, guest requests and just “chatting food”. Max and I have been known to text each other randomly at midnight or 8 AM with food visions. I love talking food with Max! His palette and mine are very similar and we both thoroughly enjoy the creative outlet food allows us.
This week for one of the dishes my inspiration came from a NY Times article. I was tired and cranky, wasting time on my phone and saw a recipe in the NY Times. Just looking at the picture of the food and the title of the dish gave me comfort. I could smell it in my head and my belly got that “yummy” feeling. The dish looked cozy and soothing and that was what I was craving. So, I sent the recipe to Max and he and I talked about how we could make it ours… that’s the 3rd step… what we need to order to complete the dish, how much product we will need for a snowy weekend and how the chefs will execute it on the line for service.
4th step is physically prepping the dishes themselves. On occasion, we give this job to one of the chefs from the line who comes in early and has a list of things to do. Max or I will communicate with the chefs the night before and we may leave recipes but more often than not we jot down general “notes” as to how to execute something. We check in with their progress as they prep. Often I will taste something 3 or 5 times before the flavor is what I had envisioned in my head. The chefs have all been with me for a long time and they know my expectations and the flavor profiles I enjoy. This is a huge and time-consuming task but our favorite part of cooking. Prepping the Chalkboard Features is where we really use our chef skills and show our individual creativity as artists. My favorite part is where all the chefs gather to taste something one of us did. They murmur “mmms and yum”, “Duuuuude”, and the occasional “hell yeah homz, that’s sick!” tells each other how delicious it is. The comradery and respect given from one chef to another truly acknowledges the work involved.
5th step is executing the final dish on the line. It takes a team of 3-5 chefs to put out the food every night. This last step is really the most important. Every dish must be seared or grilled to the perfect temperature, seasoned exactly right, set up “cleanly” on the plate and ready at the same time as the other dishes that are going to the same table. Without this 5th step being done perfectly, all the first steps would be ruined. Every chef must be on their “A game”.
And that is a peak into what happens in our kitchen every day. It’s a little bit of magic. I’m lucky to be a part of it.
Max's order list and doodles...doodles are a common part of the creative chat process.
Chef notes from last weekend
Past notes from me to Max
~ CHALKBOARD FEATURES March 3 & 4, 2023 ~
Apple-Tini-Rific Belvedere Vodka, Cointreau, Apple Liqueur 14
Nicolas Idiart Sauvignon Blanc Loir Valley, France 10/40
All Bistro Plates are served with a choice of Caesar or DJB House Salad
scallop like flavor, texture of crab; Lightly Dusted in Seasoned Flour and Pan Roasted. Presented over Mozzarella Polenta, Buttery Haricot Verts, and Finished with an Artichoke-Caper-Lemon Butter Sauce. 27
~ Suggested Wine: Sineann Gruner Veltliner ~
Char Grilled and Brushed with Molasses BBQ, served with Tomato Braised Collard Greens and a Buttermilk Biscuit topped with Honey Butter. 25
~ Suggested Drink: Bee’s Knees ~
Ground Beef in a Worcestershire Gravy loaded with Portobello Mushrooms, Leeks, and Carrots. Topped with Mashed Potatoes and Baked until Golden and Bubbly. 24
~ Suggested Wine: Duck Pond Pinot Noir ~
Vegetarian Noodle Bowl
Japanese Soba Noodles tossed in a Sesame-Brown Butter sauce with Ginger, Garlic, and Wilted Spinach. Finished with Daikon, Micro Greens, a Warm Hard-Boiled Egg and Scallion. 20
~ Suggested Wine: Nic’s Sauvignon Blanc ~
Tiramisu Classic Italian Pick-Me-Up 9