Monday, June 2, 2008

Farmer's Market

If you haven't been to the Neptune Beach Farmer's Market, then you are truly missing out. (Aside from the fact that we all KNOW we have to support it to keep it!)

Last weekend I went with my youngest and had a ball. He beelined to the GIANT sunflowers despite the fact that we have 8 about to bloom in our side yard. He carried that around the rest of the time and it kept him happy. I was thrilled to buy that vs something at the Dollar Spot at Target. It is still standing tall in the living room right now (and I will not curse it one day when I step on it!)

At the same farm stand I purchased large patty pan squash, green and purple green beans and cucumbers. I recognized the patty pans bc they are used in fine dining restaurants a lot. The only difference is they are usually smaller than a ping pong ball - about 2 bites. I took a chance though, since I never ate the larger variety and they might be tough or bitter. More on that later!

We continued around, purchasing desserts from Annie Clyde's (call it scouting the competition), peaches from another stand and talking to various friends and market-goers. You should also talk to Gretchen about getting on their email so you get their market report each week. She is doing a great job holding it all together despite the fact that someone in the neighborhood is fighting against the Community Garden. Can you imagine? No really, don't you dare put fresh flowers, herbs and vegetables in the local park near my house. What will that do to my home value?

For dinner we were making it very simple. Todd was grilling flank steak with some chimichurri on the side (Argentinian rough chopped parsley and garlic compote sort of a thing), grilled corn and grilled patty pan squash. The steak was great, the corn - perfect but the squash, well it stole the show. Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper grilled over real charcoal. (I must mention that it was NOT over-grilled, which is similar to overcooking green beans and therefore making mush) It HAS to be the fact that the squash was SO fresh bc it was SO local. Todd plans on going back with me this week - even if just to thank them!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What am I doing now?

Now I have a job - a non food job - and that is just fine. I work 30 hours a week and someone writes me a paycheck. End of story.

BUT I still love the food world. I still keep up with the scene so I think I will start keeping track here on this blog. So when someone is trying to figure out what's new and fun in northeast Florida, they can check out where I have been lately. Plus I still have friends in the business, still keep up with the places around town. Maybe some of my old clients will stop by to check in and say hi. I may not have the spot on the corner anymore but we can still use this as an outpost to share.

WELCOME,WELCOME, come in and have a Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Year

Things are moving forward - slower than I expected but forward.

I don't want to get too ahead of myself but am looking forward to starting a new chapter here.

As soon as things resolve with the business I am going to start blogging consistently. And hopefully tell someone I am doing it.

Getting there - one step at a time!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I have been blogging about the closing of my shop but noone actually knows it so I guess more than blogging it has been keeping a journal. I can't decide now what to do with it.
Do I tell my regulars and let them see what I have been thinking? Do I tell other people that don't know me on links from other blogs and websites? Do I really want to maintain this and use it to communicate with people that I have come to be friends with that were my clients? I would love to be writing about food and food events in this part of northeast Florida. Do I use the blog to start this process, to get my name out there?

It is a hard decision but I think I know what I want to do...

I want to tell everyone what I am doing, where they can find me, how they can see what I think is going on in this area. Things I would generally share with people when they came to pick up dinner, or when I sent out the weekly email. But it also feels like you are letting people in to your thoughts, anyone and everyone. Therefore a huge leap of faith.

Well I guess I don't have to decide right now.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I am thankful for the new additions to our extended family (Mathis and Zara), for the support of my family and friends and most especially that 2007 is almost over. Cheers to 2008!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil

As I journal my final days in this ridiculous business I find more and more reasons why I cannot be here doing this. It is about 6 am right now. I went to the shop at 6 am yesterday and worked 14 hours. I am exhausted and need sleep. I will be there today - Saturday, and tomorrow - Sunday. I will be there very many hours until Wednesday night then I can breathe. I will be making dips and breads and pies for people's Thanksgiving. But that is not why I cannot sleep. I actually do not have to be in today until 10 so I SHOULD be sleeping. I want to sleep, I have time to sleep but I can't sleep. A problem at a catering last night is keeping me from my bed.

"You CARE too much for this business Meg. You have to be able to put some things aside. You have to take a lesson from the Devil," my husband tells me.
The Devil, you see, is a very famous chef in town. He makes lots of money and has a great reputation. But his employees call him the Devil. I can't live like that.
The hubby is right - I take it ALL to heart.

We were designing platters for a catering that Regina was leaving for at 6pm. Everything was almost done. We were laughing and talking and loading her car. Phew we made it. Then the phone rings from the client at 5:40. Maybe she wanted to add something. Maybe she has a question. Maybe her party starts at 6 NOT 7 which I had noted. When exactly is Regina coming? Oh shit! Regina leaves with what she has in the car, trying to avoid the police out front because there was a wreck literally in the 2 spaces in front of the shop. I follow 2 minutes later bc everything was ready in plenty of time. I am horrifed. I made it this last 1 1/2 years without this ever happening. Another client had just told me a bad story of a caterer coming 1 hour late when guests were already there. Luckily we did beat all the guests and managed to get everything on the table before anyone arrived. BUT that is not a pleasant, calm way to start a party. That is not the time frame I like to have for Regina (who handled it exceptionally by the way - that's why you hire Regina.)

I keep reviewing the planning session in my head. We talked about 6-8 or 7-9. I said I thought 6-8 people came straight from work, had a drink and went home or to dinner. On the other hand, 7-9 people would go home, get changed and then stay later. I was sure she wanted people to come later and stay later. I had discussed this with Regina. I wrote it on BEO's (banquet event orders.) The invitation actually said 6-9 - a twist I really don't remember. (Now I am really panicking - was there enough food for 3 hours vs 2 hours - you can see what I do to myself) The client said she can see why this happened, she did remember discussing those other times with me.

Doesn't change anything. I am sick about it. And awake. Awoken by a dream that Regina came in to tell me that they hated everything. A sick dream that I hope goes away when I lock the door the final time.

I would love to sleep thus I am writing it down. Venting and clearing my head are my only solutions. BUT this is why people in my business turn to drugs and alcohol. Because every week (or day) there is someone that is NOT happy. You cannot please everyone all day everyday. It is physically impossible. Plus there are so many people out there that just love to complain. (At this point I am just talking about the whole scope of things, not my client.) It is an odd way to work.

There is an entire kitchen culture that you have to be a part of if you really want to be IN the restaurant world. I know what goes on in kitchens. I have worked 60 plus hour weeks (before kids). I have seen the diehards, the ones that have their entire lives revolve around the place they are working. They come in on their days off because they can't help it. The kitchen is their family, friends, social network. It is actually how owners keep these people so long and are able to abuse them with long hours, low paychecks, no overtime. They can't leave. They don't know where else to go. There is a social hierarchy there that they understand. Maybe in the rest of society they are not sure where they fall but in the kitchen they know exactly who they are. Maybe there is something they are avoiding in their real life and the restaurant becomes the excuse. Maybe they really honestly love the business and are learning all they can (a reason I only buy for the younger chefs). But I do admire their dedication. They will stay until the last dish is plated. They will be there early to make stock. They will be a great employee for someone to exploit until one day they get pissed enough to leave. And go off to find a new place to spend all their time.

Truly I have never given in enough to the restaurant world. Thus far I have spent time on the edges, looking in. I could never make the leap into the whole world, everything that it encompasses. And that would have to happen for me to succeed in the coming year. I would have to be satisfied giving up everything to make the business a success. Vacations, swim meets, homework and dinner with the kids, family gatherings, lazy days at the beach. The cost is too high for me.

I guess to be in this business, you have to take a little lesson from the Devil. And that is something I just can't do.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More rantings

I never did finish the last post. I was actually beginning to feel pretty good about my decision. I can go back to the business if I ever so desire (although it looks pretty bleak). I cannot go back to my kids being 5 and 8 years old. So many people were sypathizing or even praising me for putting my family first. Everything is moving in the right direction. And it still is but I have a new thorn in my side that is bugging me during a 3 day weekend. ( I might as well close for Veterans Day - it's not like it will be the day that saves the bank account.) Mostly I am hoping if I write this out, I will feel some relief and will go to enjoy the Jag game with my friends at the club.

I got a voicemail (that I can check at home bc it is Vonage) that I should have left until Tuesday but I listened anyway over the internet. My client that picked up crab cakes on Friday was not happy and needs to talk to me. I know the problem. They were smaller than she expected and cost too much. I sypathize with her really. I have been to Costco, Walmart even Fresh Market. They have good prices that I cannot compete with. They buy for so much cheaper than I can. I might as well be buying from another retail store and trying to compete with the same place with my final product. It is the Walmartization of the country and there is nothing anyone can do to save the small independents. All you can hope is that they see the writing on the wall and get out. Like me. I had no choice.

Another problem is I use good crabmeat and little filler. They are small but they are tasty. But people don't want quality they want quantity - supersized product. My husband says to tell her that next time I will use fake crabmeat and they will be bigger. I won't do that. I will explain in the nicest way possible. And maybe even tell her this is why I am leaving the business. Not enough people who want quality. I also oversympathize because I don't want to think that the silly crabcakes ruined the evening but chances are that's all they talked about. Goodness people need to get off the "complaining is fun" bus. But then I think about my regulars - they deserve someone to take care of them.

I am far too sensitive. I need to be a hardass. It isn't working for me. I guess that's the reason why I am getting out. Actually ANOTHER reason I am getting out. Good thing I have someplace to keep track of it all.