At 5am the sun is almost up. There is a mockingbird outside my window, that I am trying to place a kill contract on, announcing the sunrise with an out of tune and violently-loud refrain that sounds to me like “Ed, you are behind the eight ball” in a rising and falling cadence constantly repeating for 30 minutes. That is what wakes me, but that is not what keeps me awake. What constitutes my night terror is a black space, 4 feet by 4 feet, looming large in my mind and growing ever larger with each tick of my alarm clock. It is in the center of our restaurant, the focus of our guests’ attention, and the source of many sleepless nights: it is “THE BLACKBOARD.” Never has any object been so aptly named. It is large, deeply black and empty twice a day. To fill that space is my daily challenge and nightly terror!!
For the most part, all restaurant menus are controlled and basically static. Via the menu, new guests are offered the Chef’s approach to the concept, and repeat customers are assured that their favorite item will be welcoming them when they next arrive. This is necessary for cost control, purchasing. and concept development, but the additions to the menu truly define the restaurant, the Chef, and the quality of the staff to produce, explain and serve new and interesting items twice daily.
REPUBLIC is the first true farm-to-table restaurant in Manchester and given my Mediterranean style of cooking, coupled with Claudia’s vegetarian zeal and cooking skills, and our vendors’ bizarre delivery schedules, I have a variety of ingredients coming daily from internal and external sources. This is all happening at different times of the day and arriving in varying amounts. Once everything arrives I then have to do something with it all!! And then there are the daily calls to our two fish vendors. It is not uncommon at all for us to sell out of the daily catch before 5pm resulting in a panicked call and drive for more fish, and the resulting need for a new plate set.
In the afternoon we may be grilling diver scallops and serving them with an herbed gremolata and braised lentils. By 5 pm we have only 2 orders left of the scallops and no more lentils because a guest wanted a double order and someone else wanted the lentils as a side . AHHHHH!!!!! The special flat bread with the marinated local beef sold in an hour and now I am out of red meat for the day. AHHHH!!!! A rush call … a new fish … a frantic walk through our pantry and produce walk-in … a speed read through one of the uncountable volumes of cookbooks for some sort of inspiration, all the while staring at this black void between the bar and the kitchen with chalk lines drawn through the menu items, and my heart begins to race. It is worse after the dinner service when I know there is nothing left from the day and at 5 am I am reviewing the produce order, mentally walking through dry storage for legumes, pasta or risotto, and anticipating the call from the fish monger at 8am as to what has just landed.
Early this morning, soon after that *#@!!*# bird woke me, I was staring at the dark ceiling and beginning to get agitated. Some how one of my line chefs came to mind. We were chowing on the falafel that we use to bread the cod and he said, “Chef, this is great, why don’t you do something with it?” A quick scribble on the note pad by the bed and the rest of the menu came to mind. Tonight, we served char grilled Mahi Mahi with a falafel cake, tahini dressing, tzatziki, and a bulgur wheat salad. A few other items materialized as the day went on, while previously ordered products were coming in the back door and Claud was handing me her vegetarian inspirations. Just like that, the BLACKBOARD was filled. My heart calmed and the plates looked wonderful.
As I walked out the door tonight around 10 o’clock I glanced at the board … chalk lines were drawn through all but one of the offerings! The board was again empty. Elated that our guests appreciated the items? Of course! Excited that we will be offering fresh products to our guests tomorrow? Of course! Looking forward to that mockingbird? Don’t think so …
See you soon,
Next Thursday, June 24, we will be at the Verizon Center for NH Magazine’s ” Best of NH” Gala. We were awarded the Editors Choice for Best Euro Cafe. We will be offering tastes from our menu, along with the other winning restaurants. You will be sure to walk away full and entertained.
Claudia’s NYC Botanical Garden photos are on exhibit in the gallery space at Wiggin & Nourie Law firm on Commercial Street 9am to 5pm along with other photographic artists from her group, Off Kamera. Free admission.
Our chickens and ducks will arrive next week and the anticipated menu roll out will be June 28
Our first “Meet Your Farmer” dinner will be scheduled for the second week of July. We will e-mail out the date and the first 25 guests to reply will be invited. Space is very limited.
Given our new and rather demanding schedule, guilt has ruled the feeding of our cats Ricco and Max (newly released from the witness protection program) and they have gotten rather large. Volunteers are sought to exercise our pets.