Friday, April 29, 2005

The Ray-diator

A letter from a fan:

Dear Michael,

We hired A Moveable Feast to cater the reception following our mother’s Memorial Mass on April 13th at the Carmel Mission. Your staff did a good job with the exception of your barman. He was inexcusably rude to many of our guests and family members. He scolded people for picking up glasses to be filled with wine, he propped the side door open with a chair when people were complaining of the cold, he gave a snippy response when someone asked what kind of wine he was serving (His response was, “red wine”) etc. At our family gathering I heard of more incidents involving this guy. You were recommended to us by Dana at Grapes of Wrath and I plan to tell her about what happened so that she can be more careful about passing on her excess business to you. Our mother had just died. We really didn’t need this on top of everything else.

Howling Witch From Hell

LOVE the Love.......

The lady was a failed nun The wake was at The Mission. Ray was a monk. What could go wrong? Well....she grabbed a beer glass from the bottom of the stack, causing a near avalanche of crystal, despite the presence of an active, busy bartender tending other guests at that particular second.....The red wine had no label....a barrel sample. It was in Ray said.....Red. Her sins? No ''please'', no patience, obvious rampant narcissism, no recognition that we don't drink wine from beer glasses....and horror of horrors: no sense of irony.

But still.......Raymond.......please.

Ray is a former monk. Not ''failed.'' He is a large, older man....and getting larger as he gets older. He has a certain acid, dry...well, Saharan.....sense of humor and delivery that leads people to assume that he is a raging queen. Hence ''Gay Ray.'' He left the monastery (the Big House) when they kept him in the basement maintaining the vestments and holy instruments instead of letting him teach theatre.

We met him when he was working as a butler to a couple from Oklahoma who were mounting an eventually successful campaign to get into Cypress Point....Mr. Lawry. Tulsa Tom.

Mr. Lawry was a piece of work: He bought a house on 17 Mile drive on the ocean, three doors up from Cypress. You may have noticed that the Pacific Ocean spends a fair amount of time trying to enlarge it's boundaries....pounding away, storming...things like that. Mr. Lawry was a clean freak. Hated the salt on the windows, and spent most of the time not golfing walking around his house with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels. He would hire two plumbers to do the same job, and watch them battle; two electricians at once to work on the dust problem that the flourescent lights seem to cause in his display cases of Chinese antiquities; he had a carpet comb the tassels on the Persian carpets; he bought new plush fiber door mats weekly for his Yorkshire terrier, Heather, to poop on. Like that.....

The seminal Tom Lawry quote: ''Maa-kul.....some times I go to a pah-ty; I walk in....I give them mah coat.....and I have to wait TWENTY OR THUTTY SECONDS fo' a drink......And I ask myself......''What the HELL am I doing HERE?''

Anyway, Raymond started out as a passive aggressive server. Think Gosford Park. He has reversely mellowed into purely, straight aggressive.

The Lawry's would hire us for fancy dinner parties as part of their campaign. Back then, we charged more than we do now, somehow. They would always pay for an extra full price for dear Heather. Foie gras, confit of duck, Provimi veal with morels, etc. Her psychological and digestive concerns ruled the household....and therefore the lives of the servants. Messing up the carpet tassels, for instance.....and we won't talk about retrieving the daily poops from the jute mats for examination on a par with rabbinical sheep entrails.

Ray started a series of ''treatments'' for dear Heather: two seconds in the microwave. We would check in on the patient as we came to do the monthly parties.......Eventually, Ray: ''Well, I have had to discontinue her ''treatments''.....dear Heather has become disoriented, and fell off the bed today. They have called a doggie psychiatrist....''

Ray went on from the Lawry's to a checkered career in retail in Carmel: fired from Do Re Mi Records....mean to customers; fired from Mediterranean Market.....mean to customers; fired from Nielsen's Market.....mean to customers; fired by Flowers Ltd.....mean to customers. He was fired by A Moveable Feast.....mean to customers. Fired by Grapes of Wrath....mean to, get it.

We rehired him, as did Flowers, Ltd. We are both Irony Sanctuaries......someone has to do it.

Some priceless Ray-moments:

At the Hatfield's, confronted by a roomful of CEO's relaxing after golf: one of the guests made a move to double-dip his shrimp in the chili sauce. Ray, quick as a mongoose, grabbed his wrist, mid plunge: ''Sir, rethink your action......In this household, exchange of bodily fluids is strictly voluntary.....''

Still at the Hatfield's, same week. A writer for Forbes has worked his way in on Thursday night....dinner for 12. He is invited for cocktails. Cocktails only. As cocktails end, he doesn't leave. Mrs. Hatfield is distressed. I say, ''Leave it to Ray.'' Ray waddles out into the family room, where the guests are gathered. ''Dinner is all the invited guests. (Significant look at the writer.) Ray to the writer, ''Sir, let me help you into your coat. I am sure you have somewhere you need to be.'' Writer, ''Well, actually....not really.'' Ray, acid and Saharan dust dripping, dripping: ''Pity.........''

Slicing our smoked salmon at the Big Sur Marathon VIP tent, confronted by the wife of the chief sponsor: She demanded, ''Keep slicing......Put more on!'' Ray, with a significant look down his nose: ''Moron? As you wish, madam. Moron......''

Back at the Hatfield's, for a conference of venture capitalists, on the buffet line. Ray and I slicing and serving lamb and salmon, the guests serving themselves side-dishes. The tenth guest asked Ray, ''Do I serve this, or do you?'' Ray: " people are a captains of industry. You are running our country. The serving pieces that are facing you, are for you to use; those that are facing me, are for me to use......It is simple, and you are scaring me!"

Meeting Bishop Ryan on the buffet, me serving pork and Ray serving salmon. The bishop passed on the salmon. Ray: ''Bishop, no fish? What kind of Catholic are you?''

Serving beef on the buffet at the Bach Festival at the Mudd Ranch. Ray: ''Would you care for beef, madam?'' She, ''God, no! I am a vegetarian!'' Ray, half aloud, ''Funny, you don't look like one.......'' She, ''Sir, you are RUDE!'' Ray, ''I'm sorry, madam. I'd tug my forelock......if I had one!''

Intermission at the Symphony, serving coffee and cookies. Stuart Walzer, reknowned L.A. divorce lawyer, Bronze Star holder from the Battle of the Bulge, comes up to the bar and growls, ''Gimme a cuppa coffee!'' I could see it happening and tried to scamble over......No ''hello'', no ''please'' from Stuart. Ray, shocked at the lack of gentility: '''How would you like that coffee, sir?'' Stuart: ''Black.'' (No ''please.'') Ray: ' may have noticed. ALL coffee is black. Do you want decaf or regular?'' (Stuart was literally taken aback....he staggered back two steps).

In Japan, where space is thin, and they are thick with people, they have National People, as well as National Parks. National Treasures in all walks of life: Fabrics; Poetry; Prose; Dance; Sumo Wrestling...... All receive a state stipend and a place to work for life. Why not here? And why not Irony?

No Proseco

This review got me fired as a restaurant writer. Even though I changed the names! Antipasti for Antinori. Pisello means sweet pea, and is Italian slang for penis. Seemed about right.......And Bay of Pigs? Well, maybe a little strong.....Or not.

No Proseco......

So.....we had this guy: his new wife had thrown an extravagant party for him back in the day. The bill had somehow slipped through the cracks......Then...Oops! Divorce! Now what? We billed her, we billed him.....Nada. So, Carolynn offered to do a spell to encourage ‘justice’: ie. someone paying the bill. As a card-carrying skeptic, I reserved judgment.....but did allow her choice of any restaurant on the Peninsula (or elsewhere) if we got paid.

So.....the poor bastard finally paid (I should have invited HIM to dinner). Carolynn, flush from her triumphal trip to Tuscany, capitol of old world hospitality, chose to eat at Pisello, at the Conde Nast Traveller Top Ten Bay of Pigs Resort.

Restaurants are the second oldest profession.....the exchange of the hospitality of locals for goods and services from the traveller. This simple contract is obviously different in the new millenium....we are after more than mere survival when we hit the road seeking food and comfort. So, we set out to celebrate justice and re-experience the warmth of Tuscan hospitality in its supreme American exponent (designed and run by the Marchese di Antipasti) at one of our greatest resorts.

Upon the day......I arrived on time! I even made reservations! And to set the mood, I picked up Carolynn in a ’71 Alfa Romeo GTV......with working lights and doors and everything!

We parked.....and walked the half mile from the non-valet end of the lot.......At Bay of Pigs the valets have a hundred of the closest spots....(Assuming perhaps: fit guests, fat valets; no one parks his own car anymore? Fine, but do you let a valet drive a ’71 GTV? Not a FAT valet, certamente…..). While we walked, we were giggling like school kids.....’Oh, do you think they will bring us bruscetti and proseco as soon as we sit down?’ Will they have riboletta? Will they have the real Tuscan bread? Cantucci with Vin Santo?’ I think we were even holding hands......we may even have skipped!

Well, no; no; yes; kind of, and yes. Anyway, we arrived, with actual reservations, and were shown to an actual table. No window, of course....Pisello would never give a window to a 7:30 deuce—obvious losers. Our table was in the middle of the empty room and cozy in size, if not location......cozy enough that we were worried we would have room for the food and glassware (we can eat, for ectomorphs).

So....No bruschetti upon arrival....and it was pretty clear the waitress had never heard of proseco....At some length the captain appeared to explain that it was the Marchese di Antipasti’s wine list, and the Antipasti’s did not make Proseco, or any other sparkling wine....though there was a Moscato with a little spritz to it at $25 the half bottle. I pointed out the ‘’Amici di Antipasti’’ part of the list and suggested that some Amici might be in the sparkling wine biz. Well......No, actually. With a superior tone she then told us that there is very little sparkling wine in Italy, and Italians don’t drink it anyway, so they did not feel it was necessary to have on the list.

I could not help but flash back to the tiny wine shop in the Milano market, where (unable to choose from the dozen sparklers available) the proprietor whipped out a fat book listing all of them, with all the data to help me in my selection, and refused to let me leave until I had the perfect one.....and a back-up. Or the harried waiter at Sandro’s in New York stopping in his tracks upon recognizing me, racing to the back and returning with a bottle......’This is from MY village....the best Proseco in the world.’ Or every single restaurant I ever ate at in Italy, from peasant to Michelin 3 stars…..

Anyway.....having failed the Proseco test (us, not they) we were denied a chance to pick a second aperitif. The captain stalked away, and the waitress was clearly too terrified to approach us. We sat....Our stomachs thought our throats had been cut.....When the waitress eventually returned for a food order, she discovered that we actually still wanted a cocktail. As total self-parking, 7:30 dining, proseco-ordering losers we dropped back five yards and had Campari Sodas. What a couple of pretentious geeks……..still clinging to the remnants of our Tuscan dreams......

They did forgive us enough to let us order wine. We eventually settled on a mid-range ($50) bottle of something from ’96. I ordered by the number, so as to try to alleviate the waitress’ trembling at any mention of Italian words. We passed at the opportunity of dropping a couple of hun on a Brunello or a ‘Super Tuscan’. The wine was opened with the typical Californian death-struggle.....bottle flailing around as the screw sinks home.....grand views of the waitron’s armpits. Ecole Somellier Sherwin Williams..... Why can’t the bottle be placed quietly on the table? Has the linen been consecrated, and is the corked bottle ritually unclean......should we be concerned? Or does pulling the cork in such a violent manner send the evil spirits fleeing at a rate sufficient to allow the bottle to be placed on the table without fear? We received new glasses. Apparently the $50 mark rated fish bowls. The waitress, having presented the ears and tail of the bottle she had killed,proceeded to glug a quarter of it into Carolynn’s glass at one go. I, of course, responded like a scalded eel.....and refused to let any of the wait staff touch any of our glassware for the rest of the evening. Talk about ritually unclean! Back Satan!

So......on the menu there was riboletta!.....and it was great: robust flavors, interesting stuff floating around, not the mushy hot gazpacho I saw once or twice over THERE. There was bread.....unsalted in the Tuscan fashion......but limp, flaccid crust. I was thankful, having lost ANOTHER tooth since Italy.....I sense that the Pebble Beach dental demographic may have something to do with the lack of authenticity of the Pisello could throw real Tuscan crust at a burglar.
There was also tripe, Florence style. Here, two roads met in a yellow wood.....and longing to travel both (crunchy, vitamin-rich nouveau vogue or old world peasant) and be one traveller the chef apparently set off for the middle, swinging his machete. Crunchy tripe? Wow....I never considered that one. I admit to mortal terror sinking in when I realized I had ordered tripe in Pebble Beach—how many orders could they possibly serve in a week? Two? How many servings in a typical cow stomach? Visions of projectile vomiting danced in my head.....Turns out I had it all backwards......maybe instead of letting it sit around, they prepare it to ORDER! It was a serious, well needed workout for my incipient TMJ, though. And served at such a violent temperature that I strongly suspect MicroWave By the Bay. (Hoist by my own petard, by the bye......I ALWAYS touch the plate when the waitress says ‘Don’t, it’s hot.’.....well, at Pisello: is HOT! The Bay of Pigs Resort is not subject to PG&E Block 11 rolling power outages.....plenty power here, baby).

By now our entrees had arrived. I had the veal, which was cooked perfectly. The sauce had lovely flavor, but was so dilute I had to chase it around the plate basting each morsel. I further annoyed the staff by having the nerve to order the brussels sprouts side with my entree, as well as the veg o’ the day. I was overwhelmed at the idea of FREE Contorni (in Italy, everything is a la carte—no egg roll with two from Column B). Only a sadist (or is it the other way?) either serves or orders brussels sprouts in a modern restaurant. Brussel Sprouts are the Saddam Hussein of vegetables. No luck here. We were back in the yellow wood with the tripe......Talk about cantucci: these sprouts were .50 caliber. All I could think of was that poor beaver that five or six arms of government came down on last year for eating cherry trees in the DC Tidal Basin. Between the tripe and the vegetables, Bucky Beaver is badly needed at the Bay of Pigs.

But, they had Cantucci with Vin Santo.....not together, but we captured a real waiter from the drunks at the next table and he assembled the dish for us from different places on the menu. Carolynn was thrilled. I was a bit staggered at the $20 per half bottle price for what is essentially spoiled wine. In Tuscany, those of us whose teeth have fallen out eating the bread use Vin Santo to dip the rock hard Cantucci (Italian for cartridge, as in rifle......the carabinieri version of Dunkin Donuts....) Our new waiter tried to pretend that Vin Santo was some fine treat, until he realized we were in on the secret. When he heard our proseco story, he managed to sneak us some of the erstwhile Moscato, which made the Vin Santo price go down a little better.

Meanwhile our new waiter (our waitress was off calling her therapist....) and the drunks provided what had been missing—personality. Nevermind that the drunks ran off the honeymoon couple at the window table by (horrors!) actually talking to them. The waiter was a 4:12 miler at PG High, scholarship kid at Cal Poly, Dad a plumber in Carmel, and he is off to the Big City Lights of Las Vegas with the contacts he has made at Pisello. I am not surprised. His warmth and interest in his guests stuck out like a sore pisello in the sterile atmosphere at Bay of Pigs.

Back in the early days of California cuisine, as the portions shrank and style became the goal, I had a theory that the ulitmate exponent of new cuisine would be a photo of a plate, to be shown to the diner, rather than acutal messy food. Dining at Pisello reminded me of this. Tuscany? All that was missing was a plywood mural of The David, or a Tuscan farmhouse, with holes cut out for us to put our faces through for a souvenir photo. Better than the Holiday Inn Grand Island, Nebraska if you are a travelling salesperson......but Tuscan? No more than a rose is to a photo of a plastic rose. I am sure old school warmth, care and expertise exists somewhere on the will be an interesting search. I’ll let you know.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Land That Time Forgot......

Cachagua.....What, what, what, what?

We just finished one of those catering runs.......three events on Saturday, four on Sunday: a wake for Episcopalians in Monterey....and pool party for the Stanford business kids in Portola Valley.....snotty dinner in Carmel, Big Sur Marathon, SPCA red-tail hawk-release brunch, nice Cachagua social bbq. Oh...and brunch at The Store.

Vignette: Portola Valley......James standing at his bar table by the pool, overlooking San Francisco Bay, Stanford, etc. The very hot female business school roommates throwing the party are discussing swimming nude in the pool. A young male guests looks at James and says: ''Wow.....beautiful work space, pouring champagne in the sun, surrounded by beautiful, rich, smart women.....How do I get your job?'' As I am walking past him I say: ''It's easy.....just graduate!'' This year's graduates are already calling......remember The Roches? ''Please Mr. Sellack, can I have my job back?''

Still, the odd, LSD-like atmosphere that prevails at the moment came from the last party of the run.....cocktails and dinner in Cachagua.

The client: one side of the family are Budweiser heirs; the other side had Auntie write ''Joy of Cooking'' for something to do in between clipping bond coupons. They live in Minnesota from May to November. Their California house has the only authentic view of the Ventana Double Cone that shows both cones.....short of actually hiking back in there, god forbid. The house was designed by Will Shaw, his last house. It has the best guesthouse ever built: three bedrooms, kitchen, living room in 900 sq feet max.......gorgeous. Spiral staircase to full And the rest of the house.......well, you can forgive the guests a sense of unreality as they gaze out over Cachagua, Durney Vineyard, and the Santa Lucia's in a perfectly designed and executed environment done by a master artist as his finale. I call it architecturally induced hallucination....... Same thing probably happened to Jay Gatsby, looking down his pier.......

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the mountain we have redneck crackheads groveling in the mud and dust of their trailer parks....buying Natty Ice and Bugler in my store, and bitching about the organic milk. Alcoholism flourishes in forms as wonderful and varied as orchids in the Amazon; meth idiots are rampant; child abuse, date rape and incest aren't prosecuted....they are graded. The water has such a high natural concentration of flouride that the few teeth remaining after the heroin and meth abuse dissolve in the mineral flush....though most of the locals agree with WC Fields: ''I don't drink fuck in it!''

And....the New People at the cocktail party want to buy in!! Take hold of the magic!! Build a modern restaurant and offices.....and follow in the wake of the MAGIC we have created at the Store. Wow.

I met a chemical engineer named Lolita, dressed in a strapless ball gown (at a barbeque in Cachagua......) who bought the old ATT Earth Station.......and apparently makes a nice cup of coffee on weekend mornings after 7. Spanish Basque, even.

I met a couple who found Cachagua on the internet, and moved here from Livermore after their only son was killed in a motorcycle crash... and could no longer face familiar scenery.....every rock and bush painted with tragedy......They will be right at home here. We lose at least one a year on motorcyles.

And I met a couple that wants to buy the commercial lot on the corner of Nason Road......without water....and build a restaurant/office complex in the middle of nowhere 27 miles from town, up ten miles of tiny, windy, pot-holed roads frequented by well-armed, drunken, drug-addicted maniacs driving dilapidated self-maintained cars and trucks they are certain will never be seen or inspected by the CHP and sheriffs who never come here because of budget cuts. Cachagua is Sarajevo. Cachagua is Chechnya. And I have gathered the magic and can wield it like a sword?

Who knew?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Santo Stupido

Well, alright...change gears. Take a break from The Masters.....I'll post that in the past later. Love the internet.....

The title of this post is not capping on poor dead John Paul......No:

Stupid Food Tricks...........''Sherman....set the Wayback Machine for February of this year...."

I am just back from San Sebastian...still tasting the local baby squid....melt on your fork...forget your mouth. Wham bam, thank you ma'am....Poof!! I am not in Spain, but in Pebble Beach, cooking breakfast for the Hatfields. I arrive at be all set for the boys' early tee-off time.

The Hatfield's house (one of their six......) looks out at Japan. All morning, as I am setting up, I see the brilliant bright lights of a squid boat a couple hundred yards off of Pebble The Pinnacles. I know it is a squid boat because my dive buddy Captain Yid (he claims to be the only Jewish sea captain on the West Coast) tried to float a Night Squid Dive.......Bright lights offshore attract thousands of squid, dump the barneys over the side into the ''school?''. Psychedelic diving. Cap'n Yid loved it himself. It was bizarrely fascinating, I must admit........the general unwashed, though? Well, you didn't exactly hear about it in Condé Nast....not a popular romantic escape for the well-to-do dive couple, the squid night dive in Monterey.....

Anyway, the squid boat was still there at 7am when I called the Tringali's at the Wharf. How do I get Monterey squid? And, while we're at it....squid ink? can't. It is BIG BUSINESS...all the squid is shipped immediately to Salinas and flash frozen. Small quantities are not worth the trouble.

Well, today I found out the ''Rest of the Story'', as Paul Harvey would say. It turns out the squid is indeed frozen in Salinas......then shipped to CHINA, thawed out, cut and trimmed by the fine Chinese work force......and shipped BACK! Then it is resold to the highest buyer......Some of whom are in.........CHINA!!

There was a time when every living sea-thing caught anywhere near Monterey was brought to Monterey, and brought before a squad of Sicilian chicks with sharp knives. Those chicks are now the grandmothers and great-grandmothers of our locals......Then it was the Filipinos: wives of the loyal Navy stewards in WW2......and then the Koreans and Vietnamese. Now, apparently even our most recent and dirt-cheapest immigrants are too pricey....even in an era of crazy energy prices. It is more cost efficient to ship the stuff 18,000 miles to be cut by folks with no health plan...than it is to be cut here by folks with no health plan.......And I still can't by fresh, local ANY price. What the f**k?

Wait.....there is equally dumb stuff inland.

I have long had a serious walnut oil problem....I need a 12 step program. I still lust after the walnut oil-duck-endive salad of the eightiews. I hate the walnuts (well maybe except with '49 Warres and Stilton)....but love the oil. When I first hit Californie, the first thing I did was try to buy local walnut oil. Panetta Road (as in Leon Panetta......Clinton's chief of staff, former Rep. Panetta, etc) is buried in walnut trees. Carmelo a heart surgeon....was my bus boy, and he walked to work. One of our favorite clients, Gordon Rosenburg, owns a whole TOWN full of walnuts.......San Ardo. Well.......turns out that the walnuts are all sold in advance. The only walnuts that go to oil are the INEDIBLE ones....for whatever reason. Maybe they fall on the ground on their own, rather than be shaken down. Because the walnut is inedible, the USDA says the OIL is also inedible.....Can't be sold as food in USA.

What to do? Well, turns out the French are happy to buy our inedible walnut oil.......And.......what do the French do with our walnut oil? Put it in 16oz containers, multiply the price by 100, and SELL IT BACK TO ME!!! See, because it is now is no longer inedible. Wait....stop....hold that thought.....Is there ANYTHING in France that isn't edible?.......NEVER feed me straight lines.......

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Andoni is God....

"Last weekend's 19th edition of the Masters of Food & Wine -- held each February in California at the Highlands Inn Park Hyatt Carmel, overlooking the Pacific Ocean -- had a distinctly Gallic air. Top chefs included Philippe Legendre of the Michelin three-star restaurant Le Cinq at the Four Seasons in Paris, and the much-loved Gerard Boyer, coaxed out of retirement after years of presiding over the Michelin three-star Les Crayeres in Reims. There wasn't a Liberty fry in sight.
Wine tastings were headlined by 10-vintage verticals of Bordeaux's Château Lafite Rothschild and Champagne's Cuvee Dom Perignon from Moet & Chandon, two of France's -- and the world's -- legendary wine names. Even the Monterey weather seemed French: brooding skies that would briefly and mercurially break into glorious sunshine.
At the annual Rarities Dinner, two dozen guests paid $3,500 each for eight courses from Boyer, Legendre and Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, near San Sebastian, Spain. They drank three vintages of Krug Champagne and three of Dom Perignon, three Le Montrachets from Domaine Ramonet and three red Burgundies (including La Tache 1942 from Domaine de la Romanee Conti), followed by Château Margaux 1945 from magnum, Château Palmer 1961, Château d'Yquem 1971 from magnum, and other delights. To follow that lineup of stellar wines, pre-embargo Cuban cigars were proffered over Cognac and coffee. "

Well, that was us. Brendan and I volunteered….excuse me: ‘Did a STAGE’ at the Masters. What a scene! It was strongly reminiscent of competitive soccer at the highest levels. Lots of testosterone, lots of posing, lots of emphasis on small cues: jacket (embroidery, fit, style, attached tools); tools (knives, of course….but scissors, spatulas, surgical tweezers); networking.
I embarrassed Brendan by bringing all my shit: all whole Stanley tool kit of razor sharp knives of all descriptions, poultry shears, graters, melon ballers, steels, cutters, spatulas, etc. He was nervous as a cat…but then he has always been the elite athlete, and I have always been the slightly past it, almost embarrassing coach..... What has changed? Still, this is the first time I am dragging Brendan into my old world. And he has the Michelin 2star experience at Ibarboure……
So, we checked in. Changed in a locker, where I left the adidas coat I would never see again. Went upstairs to the main kitchen and dumped my tools in the chefs office.

Anyway, the sous-chef Mark immediately assigned us to the Frogs, based on my language skills. I told him we were on the lookout for the Basques, but they were days out. The Frogs were at the first prep table. God knows what struggles were taking place beyond in the main kitchen: Cleo, Aqua, WD50, Coyote Café, Charlie Trotter, who knew?

The Frogs: Phillipe, the 3star guy my age; Gerard, the avuncular former star; The Dude, Phillipe’s sous-chef and understudy; and the Serb, their pastry chef. For me it was straight back to France in the old days. No eye contact. Puzzled contemplation of my bizarre accent……at first: total rejection of all sounds, then a grudging realization that almost no one else in missile range spoke even rudimentary French. We were joined at the cutting table by Vincent…..a wise, skillful, wonderful chef from Napa, and Total Fucking Geek….some guy with all the right clothes (well….let’s face it, polyester) and no real jobs. Ever. He had business cards, though….and a strong interest in networking and personal cheffing. Did I mention the testosterone?

And, Sweet Jesus…at the second table was Dirk…..our liquid heroin swigging, DWI prince two-time former sous-chef….workin’ it. Wearing one of MY Cayson Designs chef coats. The good ones. He almost shit when he saw us. I warned everyone to watch out for their knives.

We were immediately assigned to cut little triangles of carrots. We peeled a giant RubberMaid food bin of carrots. I made a point of saving the peels……Well, things have changed in France.
When I was a wee lad…….the French used every part of everything that moved or reposed on the planet. They would either eat or have sex with (or both) ANYTHING. Nothing was ever thrown out. The Chef…..more anon…even saved the chicken tampons for the blood. I used to cut the duck strings through the knots and re-use the greasy string. All parts of all vegetables were saved, sorted, and used for stocks, employee meals, dog or rabbit food, or compost. The butcher took away the lungs on his Mobilette for his fee…..we ate the blood, the fat, and the intestines, and were thankful. Yeah, yeah.....walked through the snow uphill both ways to school......

These pricks had us: peel all carrots, slice lengthwise on slicing machine, sort by width, laboriously cut just-so into little triangles. The Dude would come by every few minutes and berate us by comparing his example slice with our identical ones, and throw ours in the trash.
Now, I was experiencing Hanoi Hilton Syndrome, or Stockholm Syndrom, or L’Auberge du Cochon Rouge Syndrome. Been here, done this.....But: At Auberge, we were never allowed to serve the middle of the carrot to anyone. That is the wood. The support. The carrot Viagra. We always had to cut it out first, then fine dice the meat of the carrot for our mirepoix or whatever. I still have guilt pangs at the Cachagua Store for $3.00 soups for serving wood...and those people would eat oak. And here, The Dude was having us prepare triangles that were nearly all wood. Don't beat me sir....I am a good rat! OH!……commercial carrots, not organic. Half a million dollars a year, or more, of prep guys around the table, thousands of dollars of German steel……and commercial carrots. (All you need to know about the Masters of Food and Wine). Anyway, we had to peel ANOTHER tub of carrots….I am thinking 100 pounds in all…….to get five pounds of triangles. At no time did anyone share with us the ultimate goal….or the final dish….or the presentation…..anything. Kind of like being a Marine in Mosul……except here were only psychic IED’s. Mushroom Theory: keep the little people in the dark, and buried in shit……AND THEY THREW OUT ALL THE TRIMMINGS!!!!! No time for stock, you see…..All weekend I kept saving stuff….apparently foolishly. I was stunned at tossing ninety pounds of carrots……If I only knew: we retrieved ten pounds of foie gras, three pounds of truffles…..and virtuously guarded and returned four kilos of ossetra caviar before we were done. Did I mention the ten pounds of sweetbreads?

Anyway, then we did zucchini. Same deal. By now, M. Boyer had joined us, and The Dude lost all his suck. Revered Michelin 3star chef….prepping triangles with the brothas. Now, triangles were triangles….no more fucking around. Then we did pearl onions. The Dude INSISTED we hand peel them raw. I had a small word with M. Boyer: ‘’Papi, here in America, the housewives whack the ends off these boys and fuck them into boiling water…..then squirt the meat of the onion out of the skin in a second. Then we use the skins for stock……..’’ Papi said ‘’Go for it…..’’ The Dude was not pleased…..the Rabble had gone over his head. We finished in twenty minutes! The Froggies left for the day!

Then we cleaned lamb racks for hours…..Lunch for 150…..I think we did 80 or 100 lamb racks. We learned a neat trick from Vincent about pulling the fat off the ribs before you use the knife….saves lots of scraping. Cut away all the flavorful fat, by order of the Charlie Trotter guy. I rebelled, and did them my way; Vincent was a good soldier…..trimmed them to the bone and the flesh. Then later, the unseasoned thousands of dollars of lamb were fried and forgotten…dumped oh so carefully on the plate, and buried in chile sauce. Vincent was righteously, morally, and ethically....PISSED.

I became Milo Minderbinder. The Highlands kitchen has seen better days. It is a Hyatt now. Sort of like the Wailing Wall being taken over by Disney. Or Wendy's. I say this only with the complete confidence that no one will ever read this blog. Par example: The Dude would order us to puree his marrons….(Another story: no one at the Highlands had ANY conception that there was any other kind of chestnut than water chestnuts (lotsa Filipinos), or sweet ones for dessert….I had to explain this to The Dude. The messenger that I became was so shot full of holes by Sunday: ‘’M’sieur, le caviar est de Californie; M’sieur, les ris de veau sont congelées; M’sieur, il n'y a plus des morrilles y a des chanterelles......; M’sieur, les marrons sont glacées….’’…….I took it for the team, though.......Anyway, we went to Whole Foods and found him a couple kilos of real chestnuts…..) None of the Robot Coupes and Cuisinarts worked, or had parts. I went through four or five, again looking like a complete fucking idiot to the Frogs….in someone else’s kitchen. Oh….and no rubber spatulas. We lost a couple Dope Knives (Henckel’s Santuko Granton edge….to be expected….I think Papi grabbed one! Everyone steals them....even Cachagua crackheads), but I had to fight for my rubber spats. Fifty world class chefs, and no rubber. These cost a buck at American Supply.....Go figure. Brendan began to reluctantly give me some props for my gear. We also had the only steel, the only micro grater, the only round dough cutters……We washed our own cutting boards, because there were fifty chefs…..and only two guys in Dish Dog land. I proposed, and still do: bring the pastry chef, bring the wine steward, bring the 3star chef……and bring the 3star goddam dishdog, too!! Godforbid our dishdogs could empower their dishdogs.....or vice versa.

I am not done with this! I aplogize for the Mark Twain wrote: I am sorry this letter is so long.....I did not have time to make it short!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tail Wagyu Dawg

So now we have come....even in the the $50 steak. It is becoming pandemic. Sightings reported at Pebble Beach....probably Peppoli at Spanish Bay. Also at The Whaling Station, of John Pisto fame. (The last time I mentioned John Pisto in print....a positive restaurant review, even.... I got a death threat). Is completely unread blogspace the same as doomed-to-failure coffee table magazines?

I had a career as a restaurant reviewer for a magazine whose name I cannot recall. My term ended with a review of the Ryan Ranch Rotisserie or some such. The new publisher sent me there, hoping for ad revenue. Despite the fact that I am utterly recognizable I had a psychedelically awful experience: the staff ran in circles, obviously completely coked out, even at lunch; my calamari steak was still frozen.....but the breading was nice. The hostess/manager was bleeding from her nostrils....ever so. I think the quote the editor objected to was: ''Watching the staff at the Ryan Ranch Rotisserie is like watching a monkey fuck a football......The establishment's temporary popularity is proof-positive that Salinas produce brokers will crawl through broken glass for Tanqueray and Tonic.''

Anyway, in an earlier, less combative mood I wrote about John Pisto and his nephew, Domenic. Domenic had tired of fishing in Alaska and being the namesake and 1% partner in Domenico's on the Wharf in Monterey. He wanted more action, John didn't Domenic took his salmon/tuna money and opened across the Wharf.....Cafe Fina, named after Grandma...who could object? Well, John.....He actually picketed. Personally. I wrote a nice article, with fotos....lots of genuine respect: first all California wine list in the state, first mesquite grill in ICBM range; gave the genealogy of all his former chefs and their new successes. Didn't matter....still got the phone call. ''Better look under your car with a BIG fuckin' mirror, wise guy...'' It seems that the foto editor did the layout such that John's picture was opposite Domenic's.....and when the magazine was closed, John's face was on Dom's crotch. (And you thought the people who played Beatles albums backwards were odd!).......The heat only turned off when print-addled tourists and locals showed up at John's store with copies of my article.

Now John has a $50 steak. And the Running Iron has a $36 Surf and Turf....I cannot bear to look. Frozen Aussie Rock Lobster tail and ........ Maybe they could afford to filter their fry oil now.

In New York, a $50 steak is a $50 steak. Ooops, maybe not. Turns out that all those Kobe steaks, Wagyu steaks, Matsuzaka steaks, and Mishima steaks you have been shelling out for in a lust ridden state....(what else could be the incentive?) are not actually from Japan. Imports are TOTALLY forbidden from the Nippon state. Yes, folks...they have mad cow, too. There is no legal Japanese beef in America. Snake River Farms has a Matsuzaka STYLE beef everyone buys. the Wisconsin prosciutto is even in the same solar system as real prosciutto. And the Wagyu comes from Texas. Oh, perfect.

How stupid are: 1) our clients....are they like the Salinas produce guys....awash in a sea of Gilbey's and Gordon's.....desparate to belong to the Tanqueray club...or just trying to get laid.....and now it takes Veuve Cliquot Orange and a $50 steak?; or 2) we restaurateurs...... have we become so arrogant that we assume an infinite supply of dumbshit produce brokers to fill the tables, and engage in an ever more desparate search for ever more obscure ingredients to impress them so they can.....get laid?..... Whatever happened to the Viagra olive for the martini? Simpler.

It would be nice if the ingredients were authentic. Back in college, when erudition could be bought, and the budget was low....I used to buy Riojas to impress. Marques de Murrieta and Marques de Riscal. The bottles had an impressive brass net around them, and an even more impressive date: 1954, or 1949. I think the rules in Spain in those days allowed the cellarmasters to decide which classic vintage the current crop REMINDED them of, and therefore label it. And Jessica Simpson is Jean Harlow. Well, kind of....or, mostly.....

Spain has changed. We........

Irony of ironies: I am attaching as a separate post our supplier letter. Foolishly, as the Food Whore has pointed out to me at the Cachagua Store we wear our opinions and politics on our sleeve, and name names, and you can figure out where I am and come and throw rocks......Anyway, we refuse to buy product from Red States.....or even Red Counties, in the case of California.

Our one exception is Creekstone Farms in Kansas. These poor bastards are Republicans and own a beef operation. They want to sell to Japan. We hold a competitive advantage on land and labor costs over Japan, so why not? Well, the Japanese HATE the idea of BSE and want to be assured that NONE of the beef they buy has it. Creekstone is close to a KU research station, and came up with the bright idea of an academic/business partnership to test every steer, sell to Japan, provide jobs, education, and more campaign funds for GWB. Total additonal cost for the testing: THREE CENTS PER POUND. Creekstone is being SUED by the Department of Agriculture to cease and desist these anti-American practices. In other words, they are making everyone else look bad......and maybe they DIDN'T fork over to GWB's campaign...we could ask Tom Delay. (If this seems insane on the face of it, realize that we produce billions of pounds of beef, and multiply that by .03) You see, the Shrub's Secy of Agriculture was from Chicken People in Modesto...the Reddest of all counties, so she was all over this deal on George's behalf. So now.......Japan has BSE, so we will not buy their beef for a hundred dollars a pound; we have BSE, so they will not buy our beef; the guys at the restaurants are PRETENDING to buy Japanese beef at a hundred dollars a pound from guys who refuse to pay three cents a pound to open their markets to.......Oh shit, I quit. No, wait...there are consumers who are PAYING for pretend steaks from pretend guys who buy from pretend guys who won't..........Never mind

Now.....can I buy some jamon iberico from Basque country while you pricks fight it out?

Letter to our suppliers.....


I am a caterer and restaurateur in Carmel Valley, California. We have been in business for 28 years, specializing in fresh, local, organic produce, natural beef, sustainable fish, etc.

In the wake of the election, we are eliminating our purchases from the ''red'' states (more than 60% Bush), and so must say goodbye to our long time meat suppliers in Idaho, Kansas and Texas and grain suppliers in Nebraska. We are seeking new suppliers from states supporting a sustainable business climate.

This is not a political decision on our part, but an economic one. The policies of the Bush administration are across the board destructive of our view of business life: destruction of the air, water, soil, seas, fisheries, forests, wetlands; needless tax cuts for our wealthy clients that only bankrupt the future of our young workers; declining transportation infrastructure and ruinous energy prices; emphasis on mega-agriculture and government-driven declining standards of quality and safety in our food supply; the trashing of the dollar versus the euro, and finally, a shameful and embarrassing reputation in the historical centers of culture around the world with which we have a deep personal and professional connection. It is not without a sense of irony that we observe that the red states are tax-negative, consuming more of our national product than they contribute. We are voting with our dollars: let them sell their products to each other, and good luck.

Are you accepting new restaurant accounts?

Many thanks,

Michael Jones
A Moveable Feast
Cachagua Store
Carmel Valley, CA 93924
831 659-5100

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Weekend in Paris with a Driver

The title of our protest restaurant this week. The Queen's wedding gift to Camilla.

We were toying with the idea of "Albergo Santo Stupido", but don't want to call down those kind of karmic vibes. (Do I need to explain that all the signs in Roma last weekend read ''Santo Subito!" Saint Now!" God, I hope not). It was nice that John Paul was anti-Nazi and anti-Communist, but I can't get past his attitudes towards condoms.....Like the old story about the Vatican cleaning lady: "Hey, Papa......You no playa the no maka the rules!" How many dead for something so stupid? How many MILLIONS of dead? And, who is to say he DIDN'T playa the game? During WWII, he was in an anti-Nazi guerilla THEATRE group.....sounds like a gay thing to me....and all those costumes!

As I am just now reassuring Amanda...... as I dive into an insane amount of prep in no time at all: we do Monday Night Dinner to learn, to try new dishes.....and to protest the over-priced, pretentious restaurants of Carmel and Carmel Valley. Our theoretical food cost is 33%. Our high ticket item is $14. I just found out the The Running Iron, of all places.....has $25-35 entrées. This from a place with only one fat and fries, together as one. Lord save us. Sysco sends a big truck. Lots of ''product''.

We started our Monday Night deal after two bad meals: one at Will's Fargo (owned by Bernardus), and another at the Village Fish House. Didn't want to DINE, just wanted to EAT....something I didn't cook. At Will's we had a bottle of bleccch wine, two ceasars and two steaks. Canned dressing, two day old baked potato (don't bullshit the bullshitter!), no veg, and black and blue steaks we had ordered MR. Tried to eat the things, to not be the temperamental dick chef in somebody else's place.......sawed around the edges, and then finally sent it back. They re-cooked the same steak!! Obviously thrashed and micro-waved by the vengeful crew. Final bill: $90. Wow. Then, at the Fish House....supposedly groovy, wood fired oven....local Italians: two caesars, three glasses of Paso pinot, two salmons. Got the same damn bottle dressing, TAIL of salmon (I don't serve the tail to my cat.....I don't LIKE my cat). Dry as dust.......85 bucks....and we sat on Costco epoxy chairs in the gravel by the parking lot.

Yeah, theory, a guy making $10-12 an hour driving a truck or a hammer can eat in our place for two for $40-50.....And we have live folk music. Ironically, the parking lot....even 27 long windy miles from full of Lexus and Mercedes, along with the pickup trucks.....We sell out every Monday..about 60 covers. Problem is, there is no second seating: no one leaves, and there are for damn sure no stragglers wandering around Cachagua after 8pm.

Weekend in Paris with a Driver Roadhouse
Her Majesty’s Wedding Gift to Camilla
11 April 2005
Cachagua Valley, Prague, Two Tree Plain

v Duncan’s Pizza: Corralitos sausage, ham and bacon; artichoke hearts, jalapenos, and mushrooms $6.00 and $10.00
v Micah’s Pizza: Crème fraiche, prosciutto, carmelized onions, fresh basil leaves, fresh and domestic mozzarella $6.00 and $10.00
v Cate’s Pizza: Sardinian olives, garlic, basil, fresh roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts, fennel, asiago $6.00 and $10.00
v Roasted Carrot, Fennel and Roma Tomato Soup $3.50
v Cachagua Caesar or Earthbound Farms Field Mix Vinaigrette $3.50
v Corrallitos Market Applewood Smoked Sausage with Store-made Kraut $4.50
v Four Spoons: Venison Tartare and Ceviche of Local Sea Bass $4.50
v Season’s First Oregon Wild King Salmon, Smoked by us…$4.50
v With roast baby potatoes, Organic Asparagus, and Brown Basmati Rice
v Cachagua Style Spare Ribs of Pork with 5 Chiles $12.00
v Creekstone Ranch Natural Tri-tip with Mushroom Gravy $9.00
v Our Confit of Duck with Baby Endive Kraut $11.00
v Roasted Rosemary Garlic Fulton Valley Organic Chicken $10.50
v Bacon Roasted NZ Venison with Pomegranate Poivrade $12.00
v Pan Roasted Monterey Bay Sea Bass with Cilantro Kiwi Confit $13.00
v Roast Pepper Steak Filet of Aussie Grass Fed Beef $14.00
v Pan Roasted B3R Ranch Hanger Steak with Shiitakes and Chiles$10.00
v Susan’s Homemade Apple Pie $3.50
v Death by Brownie with Saffron Glazed Pineapple and Carmel Mousse $3.50
v Basque Sarcasm: Sweet Muffin Fudge Burger with Strawberry Catsup $3.50
v Arroz con Leche and Candied Fennel, Apple Lasagnette and Caramel Mousse $3.50
v Pears Poached in Riesling with Crème Anglaise $3.50
v Amanda’s Meyer Lemon Cake and Beaver Cleaver Double Chocolate Cake $3.50

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Euro Class

So the Cypress Point kids turned out not to be snotty young Republicans at all.....a breath of fresh air! We were running scared all day....two high end dinner parties on Brendan's last weekend. Simultaneous starts, of course. And Anna, my queen-bee prepper and number one production hors d'ouevres person flailed at the last moment. Three yo-yos from UC Santa Cruz turned into two yo-yos from Santa Cruz.......

The kids turned out to be B-School students at Stanford, Columbia, Oxford, and the Madrid Opus Dei school that was in the news because the late Pope was so down with them. Not a soul was there at the 6pm start. Normally, Cypress people ring the doorbell as the second hand sweeps the 12........By 7pm we had eight guests. Wow. Then, the Europeans started to show......ate everything and drank everything in the house. No questions, no complaints....A dream.

We even broke long tradition and served pupus on skewers. Normally, our older guests stab themselves in the soft palate with the point. Our hottie 15 year old prepper/passer/cowgirl Rachelle started out with a tray of satés.....I said: Rachelle.....tell them to eat them like a corn cob, not like a dick! She did....and they did. We used the host's gas powered weber, and the Spanish kids just ran it themselves......

We served hangers, as per previous entry. I make my own tiny english muffins....Greasy D (White Diamond, Orange, New Jersey) style. It is still too challenging for normal social types..... My Europeans inhaled everything....knew all about hangers. Knew all about our tamarind/mole.....Identified the shiitakes......Stripped off the capper half muffin (we were trying to make a hamburger joke....and told the girls to just send things out open faced. For the first time in recorded history in Pebble Beach, I had to call for more food at 9:30pm. Anna, guilt driven Latina that she is....showed up at 9pm from her other gig, just in time. We copped all the hors d'oeuvres from Brendan's party, and all the filet tails......

The epiphany came at about 10:30. I was the only oyster shucker on the crew......So, running the party, running the grill, shucking the oysters. We have a dish (Oysters Laura England) with a Malpeque oyster shucked on the shell, an arugula leaf underneath, porcini cream over top, with Asiago on that...under the broiler. Passed on a big tray on the oyster tops......Big favorite with the Euro ladies.....Normally I can barely sell them to the folks too afraid of a social faux pas to even try to eat them. This one Stanford chick comes up and demands my cell phone. I say ''Sure....'' She punches away on my phone, hands it back to me and says: ''When the next tray of those oysters are ready, punch the green button!'' She IM'd herself from my phone! Sure enough, she was downstairs when the tray came out of the oven....I hit the button, and she was THERE! This is outside of my normal experience.....I must be getting old.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Yeah, well.......This was the week of Two Chicks from Walnut Creek. The first one was for a management company out of Antioch......remodeling and up-scaling a seedy old apartment complex in Pacific Grove. Krissie is very earnest, and very obviously new to the job Cal State Chico if I do not miss my guess. The company invited every realtor on the Monterey Peninsula to an open house, complete with our hors d'oeuvres, a full bar, champagne AND a limo for transport. Friday from noon to whenever. I dropped Film Boy at the Greyhound back to SF and moseyed to the site at 11:30. Of course, the model unit I was to work in was on the second floor. Turns out our Krissie got FOUR responses out of 100. Wow.....realtors are more bitter than chefs! Of course, they out-sourced the invitation phone calls to Antioch, where the other Chico grad had no clear idea of directions to the complex, etc. Clearly impressive to the real estate crowd.

I bumped the new Krissie to OUR Chrissie at Coldwell Banker. Our Chrissie was recently interviewed in the Coast Weekly by the Roving Photographer: Have you ever been really surprised? Her answer: "Yes! I went to Cancun with a girlfriend and came back early to find my husband screwing his secretary!" I wonder what Coldwell Banker thought of that one.....or Merril Lynch for that matter. OUR Chrissie is no stranger to either champagne or limos....and even she was a no-show.

In fact, the only guests to show were from a competing management company. Krissie #1 lacked even the social skills to offer them a drink. I stepped in. Hors d'oeuvres for two.......a career first. The guests quickly drew her out: she just moved down from the East Bay......doesn't know anyone or anything about the area.....yes, she has an apartment in the complex......yes, she is just getting, there doesn't seem to be a place for a TV or a computer in the model layout......Her first apartment on her own, you see. The management company also had an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie oven in the model apartment, as well as a freezer full of freezer burned cookie pellets (Cookie pellets are not efficient champagne coolers, by the way). Turns out the sales girls get demerits if they don't have fresh cookies every morning, and the air filled with baking aromas.....random fake applicants come round to check. Poor Krissie.....she was full of advice on how long to warm up the Spunky Oven, how long to cook the two flavors, and how long to let them cool before serving......She seemed to know more about Otis than real estate.

The good news is that the limo driver is a former Running Iron and Jack's bartender.....trying to escape the restaurant and bar business.......and (thank you, Jesus) failing. So, I have an actual adult bartender for weekdays till the college kids return.

The second Walnut Creek chick of the day was the wedding coordinator from Irvine, Halley. A horse of a very different color. I talked about Krissie #1 to her and mentioned that she was struggling with her first job after college. I got a withering look. Ooops. Turns out she just graduated from SFSU film school (half my crew are SFSU film students). This Walnut Creeker is the class act. Can't imagine she will be long in the wedding coordinator business. Of course, her client is willing to pay for a long weekend of flying around the state booking the wedding.....a long way from Otis Spunkmeyer.

So.....back to the hangers......hanger steaks, that is. I first met hangers in the seventies when I met Chester from Garrapata Canyon. Chet was a partner in our Wild Irish Pigs wild boar operation. He was a lumper....the guys who unload the trucks for the teamsters at the meat companies in San Francisco. The rails in the trucks don't quite match up to the rails on the dock, and the lumper gets to ''lump'' the four to five hundred pound half beef for the two to three foot gap. Forty to eighty thousand pounds per truck, twenty to thirty trucks per night. Amphetimines were involved...but the old-school, benign ones: cross-tops. The lumpers ''cut'', on the deal was that they were allowed to rip the hanger steak off the beef. They kept a little cooler on the dock, and took home pounds of these things (they are just off the diaphram of the beef). Nobody ever bought them.....because there were never any for sale. The lumpers had them all.

Sometime in the last thirty years, something changed. The old-school lumpers must have all died......out-sourced to the hermanos, no doubt. Hangers suddenly appeared in Bourdain's Bistro book....and off we go. Now they Even so, they are still cheap......two bucks a pound....but it scares me that people have discovered them at all.

The lumpers were a breed apart. Their idea of a hobby was looking for old bottles. In San Francisco, the meat companies were all by Brannan Street......where Pac Bell Park is now, and close to the Bay Bridge. All that area is fill....the old shoreline was inland towards Market. The way they started to fill it in was back in Gold Rush days. Thousands of ships came west with the pilgrims.....all classes of ships, many of them beaters. Not so many went back the other way. The abandoned hulks were filled with trash, and sunk on the shoreline and covered over with fill. Lots of the trash in the hulks was glass......the Forty-niners drank a bit. The lumpers.....still all pumped up on white crosses would go out in the morning to China Basin with long rods of rebar, poke them down through the sand and try to feel for bottles. If they got a clink, they would dig. The rule of thumb was: one foot wide for one foot deep, and one cross-top for fuel. Typical depths were 25 feet......a 25 foot crater, and 25 cross-tops. Now we are having fun! But the bottles were worth some serious dough. Supposedly the impurities in the glass colored as they aged and made beautiful hues.......They had to be intact, though.....and sometimes the hole that was dug found the bottle that clinked....with a rebar hole straight through.

The last remnant of the lumper crowd in China Basin is Red's Java Hut....crouched on the Embarcadero right under the Bay Bridge. Hills Brother's Coffee was just up the bluff.....all the meat companies were just up Brannan, and the commerical bakeries were there as well. At 5am it was heaven: fresh hot dogs right off the machine, the air filled with the aroma of roasting coffee and fresh baked bread. Red's had it all. It was packed with firemen, cops, lumpers, teamsters, longshoremen, meat-cutters, bakers, coffee name it. Basic breakfast at 5am was a double dog and a Budweiser.......three bucks. Red's is still there......they roast their own coffee now, since Hill's is idea where the bread is from or the dogs....but a double dog and a Bud is still less than five bucks.....and they have great fotos of the old days under glass on the counters.

My favorite Red's moment was one time in the eighties.......I caught the late SF TV news one night about a fire at a Pier in the City. They showed a huge blaze, with fireboats, hook and ladders, helicopters, you name it......working on this inferno in one of the giant commercial piers. I looked closer and realized it was the Red's pier.....oh shit! Then I noticed that ALL of the water was being poured on Red's....and none on the pier. Red's is still there....and the pier is a parking lot (where the runaway cab driver plunges Michael Douglas into the Bay in ''The Game'').

So.....tomorrow the junior Cypress guys are getting hangers. Grilled on mesquite. We are going to make up fresh English muffins on the teflon grill. My prep guys are all pissed off about cleaning the hangers.......they are fanatics, and there was a big pile of trim for the stock pot. But....we weighed it out: 8.7 pounds gross......6.4 pure lean pounds net. About 25-30% waste....but we started at $2 a pound! Compares well with the $9 for filet that the Cypress seniors will be getting across Pebble on the same night.

The chef..... Posted by Hello