26 August 2009

26Aug- something of a blog explanation
I poked a bit through some recent posts and, though I knew it tends towards the self-indulgent, I suppose I'd lost track of just how self-indulgent it's become.
I'm deciding that this is not necessarily a bad thing.

I rationalize the bulk of my posts by making them at least peripherally restaurant, food, or wine related. Fortunately, the restaurant life exists as a broad spectrum of experiences many of which have little to do with food.
Truly, within the last nearly fifteen years of being in this business and every day that i continue to be in it, I learn something about the nature of people and myself. If one is observant and analytical, this business is a rather in depth sociological, anthropological, and psychological study.
By observing interactions among guests, between guest and staff, and even just between guest and restaurant (as in the first few seconds of entering: expression, where their eyes go, body language- such as those people who walk in, cross their arms, and twist at the waist to look around) one can get a thumbnail sketch of personalities.
Coming to a conclusion about driving forces in other people is all fine and well as an exercise but it's in the more personal applications that those conclusions become important. If I learn more about myself and my own interactions with strangers and loved ones alike, then I think I'm coming out ahead.

What does this have to do with posting these ruminations? Well.
Partially to give the potential customer some insight into the personality of the restaurant. While the store isn't suffused solely with my personality I think there lingers about the place some of my undertones. Before a customer walks in, reading an explanation of why it might take a while for the food to come out on a busy night might prepare them. Or why, if they have something to sell me, they should probably give it a second thought.
Partially to flesh out early Baan Sawan experiences. Many of these thoughts and concerns are brought up around the bar only and I feel like these musings, and the musical interludes I add here, echo the overarching, more personal atmosphere that is experienced by a few, long standing regulars. The blog becomes, therefore, something of a suggestion of what it's like to be an inner-door client. Just reading it won't get you free wine, though.
And partially as a learning tool for personalities. As some of you know, I've been taking Tai Chi for almost 2years now and have begun assistant teaching and teaching a few classes on my own, here and there. Frequently, because of my own inexperience, I will be able to see what needs to be corrected in a student because I'm at fault for the same flaws. If I can observe, comment upon, and see what needs to be corrected then I'm closer to correcting myself. Often we are unaware of what could use improvement. This blog addresses, from time to time, the improvements many of us could use. And if I had to tie it in to the restaurant, I try to groom all of us to be better customers to the hard-working restaurant staffs out there in the world.
And partially as a marketing tool. I've got to rationalize the bucks spent on my advertising degree somehow. Not advertising the restaurant just isn't doing it.

And, sure, if I really wanted to I could come up with many more, more self-serving reasons but I'm sure all of you can fill in the blanks. Besides, I've got some linen to pick up at the factory since somebody didn't deliver yesterday.

26Aug- a scene from "The Three Amigos"
because it amuses me.

25 August 2009

25Aug- some thoughts on generosity.

That's what I was going to write about. I was going to comment on various motivations behind generosity. I see many different kinds of generosity manifest at the restaurant: Altruistic and self-serving. Obligatory and faute de mieux. Pity and sympathy.
And it seemed the more I thought about it and the more I delved into potential motivations the fewer I found and the more self-serving those few appeared. I had, perhaps, been influenced by something that Sartre said: "Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives."

So I sought out other people's thoughts on the subject, hoping that I'd come across at least some academic paper that proposed a similarly dismal construct as I'd formed but I couldn't find that much. There's plenty on motivation and influence. There's a little on generosity and forgiveness broken down to the behavioral level (which was close.)

What I did find was a lot of articles written by very happy people. People who either didn't consider driving forces or who dismissed primal gratification as a reason. There were plenty of articles that perceived generosity as a beautiful thing. Suggestions that generosity is, in and of itself, an act of generosity.

And I started thinking about why I was so intent on breaking down something so positive in an effort to find something negative or coldly behavioral. Why would I read someone's presentation of a tree offering its fruit as an act of generosity and see only that the tree is trying to spread its seeds as widely as possible by sheathing them in something edible so that they'd be consumed and deposited elsewhere?

And it occurs to me that, while I may see the cold side of the situation that's no reason I have to dwell on it. I think too much.
Why not embrace the warm side?

16 August 2009

16Aug- restaurant/customer chemistries then a digression

We had a particularly busy night tonight. And we all noticed a peculiar trend.
I've mentioned the necessity for a positive chemistry in this business, whether it be with restaurant-staff or staff-customer or even restaurant-customer. We have a personality as a whole and, within that personality, there exists personality cells that comprise our staff. Generally speaking there's a personality type that syncs well with our own and it seemed, oddly, that tonight sort of felt like a first date that was lacking. There was awkwardness and some pregnant pauses. Even among specific tables there appeared to be poor fits: couples who weren't talkative with each other. Body languages that suggested that their minds were elsewhere (each person leaned away from each other while they eyes flitted over everything but their companion.)
Things just seemed a little off tonight and the energy permeated everything. The result, of course, was stress. Which is the perfect time for latent stress and anger to come out. I've been a bit prickly lately, I think. Less able, or less willing, to be patient or show patience behind our office or kitchen doors.

How strange, how organic a being a restaurant can be. How independent of our control can a general mood be.

It occurred to me tonight, in the thick of things when there was much to be done and too little time and too few hands to accomplish them gracefully, the pointlessness of it. And I don't mean that in a depressive, dreary sense but only in the sense that outside of our walls, on the still rain-slicked roads of 5points, and Shandon, and Columbia, and South Carolina, there were probably very, very few people out there in the world who would be affected, right then, by the seeming chaos that reigned within. And that in no more than an hour (certainly no more than two), the running and the tension and the noise would all give way to a quiet, nearly empty restaurant. And shortly after that, just me as I finish paper work and straighten things and hear my footsteps and turn all the lights off to reveal a patchwork of shadows and blue/grey light that few have seen. And then the restaurant will be empty until it all happens again.

But sometimes a night will stick with you. Sometimes a night can change you. It can manifest itself in countless ways but sometimes, through the murky and dense forest of experiences that covers our memories, a phrase or a look; someone's smile or a heartfelt gesture will rise above that forest canopy, a tower of profundity and purpose, and become a part of your soul's vocabulary. An experiential phrase or thought you want to reference again and again.

Maybe, hopefully, this happened for someone in our restaurant tonight. Maybe someone left with their hearts a little fuller, their souls assuaged. Maybe somebody drove home feeling like more of a complete person.
That would be nice.

14 August 2009

14Aug - Agua Fresca recipe
I love beverages. Drinkables in general bring me much pleasure.
(I could go for a bright, fresh, cold, and slightly sweet drinkable right now.)

NYTimes - Summer Freshness, sipped from a glass

11 August 2009

11Aug - forgot to post this ages ago.
Anne P. wrote this up several month ago and I'm just putting it up. I love her term "oeno-analyst." If I can help someone find a wine they like, whether it's at my bar or elsewhere, I'm happy. What's important is that people are drinking.

05 August 2009

05Aug- Brilliant recipe for lollie-pies

05Aug- Miles Davis, Bye Bye Blackbird

04 August 2009

04Aug- rambling account of a kangaroo lunch
One of our severs is leaving. Jennifer. So because of her interest in consuming exotic/interesting/beautiful animals I acquired some kangaroo tenderloin. My intention had been to grill the kangaroo and serve it on a layer of champagne/mushroom risotto. The tenderloin would’ve been surrounded by slow-roasted mushrooms topped with quartered sesame-marinated hard-boiled quail eggs with a quail egg sunny-side up centrally placed atop the kangaroo steak proper.
Naturally, I waited until the last minute to buy the quail eggs and the only place in town which seems to have them is the Hyundai Korean Grocery on Decker Blvd, which was closed on Monday. Drat, said I. So I thought I might head out to the Asian grocery near Broad River Road, but that suddenly seemed terribly far away so I headed up the street to the European Corner Store on Two Notch Rd where I’d bought some wonderfully thick, cut to order Gypsy Bacon. I don’t know what, specifically, made it gypsy but I do know that it was rich, flavorful, and totally worth the price. I thought if I couldn’t have quail eggs I could at least have something interesting and saltily flavorful on top. Upsettingly, as I pulled into the parking lot next to a moving van and entered the store, I discovered that the European Corner Store was no more and was replaced, instead, by an empty room save for three people with dollies carrying boxes and looking at me quizzically. Mildly-plussed I turned around and headed to the German Meat Market, also on Two Notch, thinking that they might have something interesting. They may very well could’ve but I wouldn’t find out that day as it was also closed on Mondays. So, I went ahead to the Asian market off of Broad River where I did not find quail eggs but did find jellyfish head, an interesting animal that Jennifer hadn’t tried.

So. Lunch consisted of a jellyfish head appetizer, which turned out to be oddly crisp. Sort of a pliant, rubbery consistency with a peculiar crunchiness to it. It came with some seasoning packets which gave it, I suspect, the bulk of its flavor. The kangaroo tenderloin was purchased from Fossil Farms. Lightly seasoned with sesame oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper and grilled to medium-rare, it tasted like lean beef tenderloin. I went with Boar’s Head bacon crumbles on top, which Jennifer took care of. I took the bacon fat and added some of it to the sparkling wine, mushroom risotto. A layer of risotto covered the plates (with a light layer of grated pecorino romano), the kangaroo, and then sprinkled with bacon crumbles. Naturally, a glass of the remainder of the Mumm Brut Prestige used in the cooking was consumed during the cooking process and, to pair with the lunch, we went with the 1999 Guigal Lieu-Dit St. Joseph Rouge, an all Syrah Rhone that time had smoothed out to a fine tannin with some strawberry, light cherry, and leather notes.

So that’s her good-bye dinner, served for lunch, on the Monday before the Saturday that she leaves.