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A Tale of Torus

Whew.  I mean motherfucking WHEW.  So much has happened since my last post that I can’t figure out where to begin. I guess the biggest and most obvious thing to mention is the latest project that I’m involved in, Bowery Bagels. The story goes like this: My employer and friend Michael Madigan has a mean bagel recipe. I mean these things are REAL bagels, which where I grew up you didn’t have to clarify what that means. Out here in the Northwest however, the definition of that oh-so common torus shaped bread is much more nebulous; but I digress. Yes, this is a true bagel recipe; a simple, malty, glutenous dough which is formed, long fermented, boiled, seeded, and baked. Anything else just isn’t a bagel. And Michael’s recipe is a fine example. I first tasted this recipe about 10 months ago, Michael had made a batch to butter up a certain contact at a certain grocery store to hopefully get the products of one of Kitchen Cru’s clients onto the shelves at said grocery. The products were almost forgotten as the bagels were devoured, and the contact urged Micheal to go into production and make these bagels available to the masses.  When he came back from that meeting, the excitement glimmered in his eyes, and the so catalyzed the meteoric rise of our bagel production and what would become Bowery Bagels.

We did R&D. We converted Michael’s recipe for 8 bagels to 16, 32, 64 and we outgrew our mixing options at Kitchen Cru. It was right around this time that we started development of one of our signature bagels, the Miso Soy Ginger (MSG.) The most significant milestone in this process, maybe the whole Bowery process in its entirety, was the hiring of my dear friend Kathy High, a Dough Whisperer of the Highest Order. She arrived to the party at about version 9.2 of the MSG’s development, and after touching the dough once, doing a little research, she dialed in the recipe to what it is today.

Fast forward to today. Kathy has kicked so much ass that there is little ass left to kick. 10,000+ bagels a week are pumped out of Kitchen Cru, and more and more are ordered every week from our numerous wholesale accounts which include Stumptown Coffee and New Seasons Market. After several pop ups at Cru, our store front has been opened across Broadway next door to the Gilt Club, and we already have a devoted crowd of local followers; served by a devoted staff of kick ass peeps. I’m working on my second sandwich menu for the shop, which has been delightfully fun thanks to another key employee, Erin Andrews. She preps all the food for the shop as a culinary ninja such as herself would do such things. And me…well…I just try to keep it all rolling forward. One day I’m ordering a pallet of high gluten flour, or picking up huge buckets of malt syrup, the next I might be scaling out ten batches of dough and corn-mealing 500 sheet pans. In the same week you’ll find me R&Ding new sandwich ideas, or showing Erin how to make foie torchon for our foie gras schmear. All the while running Kitchen Cru with my newly hired kitchen manager, Ingrid Chen.

In a nut shell, I’m doing great my Faithful Readers. Better than ever in fact. So as the dust settles a little bit, and the talented people I work with take more and more off my plate; expect a lest a FEW more posts than you’ve been seeing here. And no, I haven’t forgotten about tentop, and I hope you all haven’t either. So come eat a bagel for fuck’s sake, they’re damn good.

Landing at KitchenCru.

When Ten-01 closed, I knew I was at a crossroads.  Being a pastry chef at a fancy restaurant was fun and exciting for a lot of reasons, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized: being a Chef sucks. Sure you’ve heard it all before; the hours are long, the work monotonous and sometimes dangerous and almost never glorious. The part of it that I find fun is the creative element, the incubation of idea to fully realized dish.  After that, it all was kind of annoying to me. The repetition of production and plating, and in spite of myself, always having to come up with a new dessert.  I knew I needed a change, I just wasn’t sure what that change would be.  Over the past few months I’d been picking up shifts at my favorite restaurant in town, Tabla. Producing desserts as needed and working the line a few nights a week was a blast. I worked just enough hours to keep me sane and just few enough to continue receiving unemployment. I came up with the idea for Your Mom’s and that has filled me with an excitement I haven’t felt in a long time.  If I could get Your Mom’s off the ground (heh) I’d really have something.  A few weeks later, I heard through the Ten-01 grape vine about a new commissary kitchen opening up in the park blocks.  The proprietor had purchased a bunch of the used equipment from Ten-01 when it closed, and the industrious Teddy Rupert had delivered it. He brought back tales of endless stainless steel in a cavernous kitchen, steam jacketed kettles, combi-ovens, the list went on and on, his eyes glazed over in a recollection that was no doubt bordering the pornographic. He asked me if I knew anyone that might be interested in managing the place, as the owner was searching. Know anyone, I thought; hell I’m interested.

When I met Michael Madigan, he wasn’t what I expected.  I’m not sure what I expected, but he wasn’t it. The more we talked, the more we both were aware of a certain simpatico.  The KitchenCru project excited me.  It was hard not to get excited, Michael had an infectious enthusiasm that almost immediately swept me up.  Here was an amazingly beautiful, brand new, state of the art kitchen. The guy who built it a lover of all things food and kitchen, a true patron of the culinary arts. The job he was looking to fill played to all my strengths: kitchen logistics to describe it simply.  If only I could convince him to let me continue doing the Tabla desserts and to pursue Your Mom’s (heh,) this would be the perfect job.  He didn’t need much convincing.  He had factored in that kitchen use would be a perk of the position.  He wanted his kitchen manager to be cooking, to be using all of the brand new equipment.  Everything seemed to fit right in there, like a complex puzzle putting itself together.  On top of all this, the type of clients this beautiful kitchen was attracting, there was a huge opportunity for me to learn from a diverse mix of cooks and Chefs, as well as impart my 15 plus years experience to others.  It all makes sense to me, I thought, so I signed on.

About a month later, things have changed yet again. Working at KitchenCru has dared me to dream. Dared me determine what it is exactly that i want to do with my life. Doing the Tabla dessert menu and delivering it a few times a week turned out to be a huge pain in the ass, and spread me a litter thinner than I wanted. When it comes down to it, I want to experiment with food, and write about it.  I started to dream up an idea of how to use the Kitchen Cru space to achieve this…Enter TenTop.  A ten seat pop up restaurant at the KitchenCru counter.  But that’s another blog post isn’t it?

Get Pricked. It’s Good For You.

I’ve always been comfortable with needles, growing up with a severe case of asthma I had plenty of practice getting used to them. For some reason though, acupuncture has always seemed a little crazy to me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in chi and it’s flow through all things in and around me, the teachings of Yoda are not soon forgotten.  I mean if Seagal is in to it, I’m into it. Anyway, my girlfriend had asked me to try it, knowing of all my aches and pains form various injuries.  This shit did something to me. I felt like I was taller; dazed, drunk on my own senses.  In other words, you should have it done. Get that chi flowing again.

Lucky for you, my good friend Ericka Dooley is an acupuncturist.  She is needling folks nowadays at BodyBar in downtown PDX. Check her out.  Ask for the  Winding Dragon, pictured above.  Until the 20th of this month she’s giving out free sessions for newbies at the Pearl District location between Kearny & Lovejoy.

To contact her personally, try this: (503) 224 0292 or (971) 269 4959

We Had a Great Run, Goodbye Ten-01.

We used to joke around in the kitchen about how nice it will be when someone finally writes a review for Ten-01 that didn’t mention it’s rocky start.  The highly anticipated opening followed by the complete panning, the splashy new place with kangaroo rump on the menu.  Fast forward to a year or so later, Jack Yoss shows up and starts throwing down some of the best food this town was eating.  In the following two years he builds a kitchen crew like none other that I’ve worked with, and turns the place around.  During the busiest times, it was fucking machine, churning out beautifully presented delicious food and serving amazing cocktails by Kelley Swenson.  The beloved Erica Landon and her remarkable wine list, a staff that cared about each other; about what they were doing, and it reflected in the service.  Some not to shabby pastries plated pleasantly by yours truly.  Oh, the salad days, the best of times at the best restaurant in town.  At least thats’s what we all thought.  We wanted to make a special place, and those who experienced it knew that it was.

Two and some odd years later the restaurant is closed, doors locked and shades drawn.  No one who survived those salad days was suprised.  At least no one who took a second to look around and think: how does this place stay open night after night while doing only sixty or seventy covers?  A place that size, in that location, serving the world class cuisine paired with an award winning wine list, killer cocktails by people who actually cared about what they were doing, that shit all costs money, folks.  Money that Portlanders weren’t willing to spend.  The two Chefs who followed Jack tried desperately to give Portland “Fine Diners” what they wanted, wondering why P.F. Chang’s up the street is packed for lunch and dinner day after day.  Wondering why mediocre burger joints have a line around the block as their cooks slave to brunoise veg that may never get eaten.  A Michelin trained chef making corn dogs and basket after basket of truffle fries.  The details of the closure are unimportant, at least in my eyes.  The best explanation I got was read not on the web, twitter, facebook, eaterPdx or Food Dude.  It was read it in the eyes of the hardworking owner.  A profound sense of loss and shame, a sorrow too deep for words.  His eyes groped for words that would not come, could not, but they searched the now empty, dusty corners of the place anyway, searching among piles of boxes amidst dejected looking cooks trying to find their pairing knife or quenelle spoon in the carnage.  It would be so easy to rage at the higher-ups, to point and shout “WHY?!”  But when I really ask why, I have to ask: Why was my paycheck paid every time?  Why did the powers that be dump money onto a project that was clearly flailing? Why did they see fit to keep the doors open in these impossible economic times?  Presented with those questions I can only look inside, as any staff member of Ten-01 should.  Why did we stay open?  Why did our investors keep paying us, month after month?  Because they believed.  The had faith in a solid, happy, loyal crew.  Ten-01 was a prodigy child raised by a mother that did not want it, a fine dining experience in a city overrun by food carts and happy hours.  You can’t get world class at a Busch league price, folks.  Most of you will never try Chef Michael’s sous vide tempura egg, or his fucking perfect charcuterie.  Wine that may never grace anyone’s lips collects dust in an unmarked warehouse.  One of the most beautiful rooms in the state now stands empty, a cavernous tomb being carved up for scrap.

To all the great people I worked with at Ten-01, I will truly miss you.  More of a family style work environment I will probably never find.  I wish you all the best in the days to come.  Let’s all pool our unemployment checks and throw a ripper of party.  Let us celebrate the closing of one of life’s chapters as we turn to the next.  I for one will look back on the past three years with a smile; I had it good in the Pearl and so did ya’ll.

Shameless Self Promotion. Again.

So as my true faithful readers know, I will self promote the shit out of myself, least ways as much as any lazy man would.  But this week, I don’t have to!! In yet another demonstration of this city’s undying and ever pounding lust for all things McCarthy, the Willamette Week Restaurant guide had some very kind words to say about yours truly in their review of Ten-01. Now lets take a look, shall we:

Ten 01’s secret weapon is pastry chef Jeff McCarthy, whose highbrow stoner desserts are addictive. His Valrhona chocolate trio—a light malted milkshake, crazy-rich bittersweet torte and dense sorbet decorated with rice puffs—is freakin’ ridiculous.

Upstairs it’s all about the soup, pork loin and anything McCarthy makes.

Kelly Clarke Willamette Week

Ah yes, the Willamette Week has been kind to me once again, and once again I will regurgitate their words onto this blog in order to make you all aware that someone out there, somebody gets what I’m doing, even if i don’t a good portion of the time.  Let’s see what was said about desserts at Tabla, where I also make the sweets in collaboration with Chef Anthony Cafiero.

…the dessert menu, which has options both rich (chocolate truffle cake) and perfect for summer (a lemon poundcake with blueberries and lemon mascarpone).

Michael Mannheimer Willamette Week

In all seriousness, it sure is nice to have a little validation, a little pat on the back, a little “Nice work, Champ!” every once in awhile.  Do I care that the description of the dessert was a little off? Not really.  The milkshake is not malted at all, the misuse of the word “torte” is flagrant, and the sorbet is garnished with toasted baguette, not “rice puffs,” but hey, do I care?  Not a single iota.  Fact is, the desserts are being enjoyed.  People are thinking and writing about them, so color me happy as shit folks.  Thanks to all who ate and enjoyed, and even to those who ate and criticized, for without you I would not get any better at what I do.   Also, ironically, the cover of this years WW Restaurant Guide is graced by none other than the lovely Miss Ingrid Chen, with whom I am in close relation.

Back in the House.

Suffice to say I been through some shit lately, and this blog has been the last thing on my mind.  When my thoughts did finally roll around to it, I was afraid of what I might write.  I figured my commitment to writing that is real, that is raw and personal, would get me into trouble.  Then I remembered at some point that getting in trouble is basically a fake idea, and I looked up and looked around and found myself doing not to bad.  Pretty fucking good, actually.  Great even.  I’ve come home to live with my brother and his housemates, dear friends all.  They found me a spot and built a wall, took me in and fed me well, gave me beer.  This is a place where meat is smoked, where wine is drank while fires burn.  A place where someone says “brisket nachos” and soon they are being made. The sink is always full of dishes, the fridge full of deli cups of mise. There is late night laughing and dogs; a constant roiling mass of fur and barking. Breakfast will sometimes involve ice cream.  Things are created for the internet at every turn, smart phones are always out and a subtle finger tapping can be heard late into the night.  Vegetables are cultivated in the back yard.   The transition into the next phase of my life has been in spite of everything, pretty painless.  Except for all the pain of course.  But that’s life.  And show business.  And we all live to fuck it up another day.  Thanks to all of those who have been there, you’ve always been there haven’t you?  You know who you are. Thanks to my dogs who’ve always kept their tails wagging.  Thanks work, my sanctuary, my safe haven; slaving away slanging treats saves me.  Thanks to my parents, who love me no matter what.  I must be a good person because I am surrounded be good people.  Last but certainly not least, thanks to my faithful readers; whom I know hell of represent.  Oh yeah and whiskey, can’t forget whiskey.

Sorry Ladies, You Lose.

Why do you lose, ladies; you might be asking?  Well that’s because my skinny ass is officially off the market.  The love of my life said “I do, ” and I said it back in a dream-like setting.  We danced our asses off with friends and family, there were over a million pictures taken and I was in some of them.  All kidding aside; my wedding day was surreal, like a fantasy.  My Dad officiated, making it both special and intimate.  I also knew any promise I made in front of him, I’d better mean it.  I can’t recall all the best things that were said this once-in-a-life-time day, all the special moments that transpired.  I did walk away with a beautiful wife, and I did fart on the wedding cake.  My best men gave heart-warming speeches to which I could only reply with silly tears, my friends and family showed such generosity in the giving of gifts that I can hardly stand it.  At one point during the night, I looked around at all the faces, the people.  Suddenly the air rushed out of my lungs, my vision blurred at the edges (more tears,) and I was amazed.  Simply amazed at the gathering of awesomeness that had rallied to celebrate the union of me and my best good friend.  After all the build up and anticipation and nervousness, it was a no-brainer.  When I saw my long time girlfriend then fiancee almost wife walking down the isle with her dad, I knew I was set for life.  From here on out, it was all just details.

I’m Not Dead.

My faithful readers may be wondering about my health, which I can assure them is fine.  I’ve simply had no machine with which to communicate with them.  Once again my love of midget dungeon necrofecalphalia led my poor Lappy into the gaping maw of an Anti-virus Virus!!  Thanks to Jaybill all is well and the normalcy of the blogosphere can resume it’s breakneck pace.  Work is keeping me busy of course and my downtime has been filled mainly with comic books. Summer is in full swing and once again, it seems to be aiming for my head.  Stay tuned for more soon!!

Never Had a Bike be So Good.

I’ve been nagging my manger for months now about getting a new bike.  This past Sunday she ran the numbers and relented.  My old bike, a Cannondale I converted to a single speed, was tired.  I’ve had the thing since ‘97, and my brother had it for a few years before that.  I’m guessing with all the mountain biking and commuting, the thing has over a thousand miles on it.  Time to upgrade.  We visited Bike Gallery’s Hollywood location and I test drove three bikes.  Our salesman was busy, but gave us just enough attention and zero pressure.  I know a bit about bikes, and once he realized that gave me plenty of space.  I liked that.  First I rode the Kona Dew Plus, a multi-geared commuter bike.  Kate has this bike, and she loves it.  It felt good, the disc brakes were responsive and the gears were…geary.  Second, I tried the Trek Soho S, a single speed.  I felt this bike had been engineered with me in mind.  Sleek and sexy, a razor in a stiletto heel.  The third bike I rode was way out of my price range, but I had to try it.  The Trek District sported a new carbon fiber belt drive instead of a chain.  It was so quiet and precise, a triumph in cycle design.  In the end, the Soho was the one we took home, being the best value, fit, etc.  Also:  all black.  A ninja among bikes, a light weight karate chop of forged aluminum.

The Prodigal Lobe Returneth.

I shipped it out Thursday, they recieved it Friday vis USPS Express ($25.)  I emailed them to let them know it was on the way and to ask about the turnaround time.  My heart sank as the replier informed me 5-7 days.  A whole week without myPhone!!  I sent back an email proclaiming my blog and its readership ripe with potential customers, could we expedite this process in exchange for a little publicity?  Memorial Day weekend kept me decently distracted, there were people present that had iPhones I could use.  That Monday I checked my email and find out that myPhone had been repaired and was on it’s way back to me as of Saturday!!  My device had been prioritized, shipping had been upgraded to FedEx next day air!  myBrain myPhone was back in the city already!  Also, had noticed a small crack on the back plate of myPhone, and replaced it, free of charge.  I opened the FedEx box and pulled out a brand new phone.  Thanks ipodjuice, you earned a link from this blog.  It’s nice to know that some businesses out there are trying to make people happy, exceeding expectations, etc.