To make time useful, satisfy a passion, and pay rent, my latest installment in living as a 20something is serving at a fine dining restaurant here in Brooklyn. I feel that, among other things, it is a nice way to complete and round out a 20something’s way of life: college eats, travel abroad, lounging in fields, eating random things that may not have an English translation, and working in the service industry.
Among other things (like teach), I feel that everyone should hold a restaurant job at least once in their life. It’s important to fully understand how much work it takes to keep people happy, full, and tipping well. I’ve worked in restaurants for a bunch of my life, actually. Well, to be clear: I’ve worked in the food world for a while. Busser, Bartender, Server, Caterer, Sous Chef, Manager, I’ve done a bunch of it (not to mention try my hand at a few recipes as well). And now, I’ve jumped back into the job with joy. Mainly because of the restaurant itself.
This place is an upstanding, upscale American cuisine place that does it up right. They take the seasons as cues for changes on the menu and go to the farmers market as much as possible. They listen to the customer to make sure that the food coming out is perfectly to the diner’s liking. They taste wines and keep their staff informed. And what I like most about it: I can talk to people about food for eight hours at a time. Ask me a question about artichokes, beets, duck, haddock, chicken, sweet potatoes, sunchokes, you name it I’ve got you covered.
And what this job really has enabled me to do is expand my verbal and not written capacity to describe food. So, on this day after a day of all ones (11.1.11) and a few days before that other day of all ones (11.11.11) – side note: is anyone weirded out by that or are there email chains going around about luck or non-luck if you don’t forward that onto seven people in the next three minutes? – I’m going to try something different: no pictures. Only words. Tell me if you get it.
Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we have a plate full of vegetables and grains prepared five ways. First, we start off with a light salad of baby spinach and arugula, both light yet slightly bitter, topped with a sherry vinaigrette providing sweet notes to balance the subtle bite. This light salad is followed by couscous enlivened with rice wine vinegar, ginger, kosher salt, a touch of brown sugar, and extra virgin olive oil to give a hearty base to the green plate. Next, braised kale served with kosher salt, olive oil, to keep a thin flavor line between the couscous and kale, and braised Macoun apples giving it a deep, rich, dark green flavor brought out by the braise, yet autumnal and classic from the apple. Next, roasted sunchokes with olive oil and rosemary. The roasting brings out both the starch and sweetness from the sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, and coupling that with rosemary provides for the perfect Fall dish. Finally, we have pan-sautéed Brussels sprouts with garlic, salt, a touch of maple syrup, and chopped fennel. This flavorful dish gives a hearty green – akin to a small leafy cabbage – some love with butter and garlic, some childishness with the natural sweetening from maple syrup, and a touch of elegance from the liquorish flavors bursting forth from the fennel taking this vegetable far from what mama used to tell us to eat. Together, we play on the sweet, savory, bitter sensations with a hint of sour nestling in the couscous and vinaigrette. Please, enjoy.