Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ramps and Old Women

I've been getting ramps for a good price. A good price because they are not cleaned. Cleaning ramps can be fun if you make it fun. Today , i only had 8 lbs to clean. Not a ton, seeing that I plan to get 400 lbs for a ramp party im throwing soon, but it still took me 4 hours.  Tired of being locked in the kitchen on my days off not able to enjoy the sun, my dog, and my girlfriend. I decided to take the party outside. 4 hours for 8 lbs is pathetic, but when your sitting outside in the sun you get distracted. 
Today i had this women stop by. Her name was Maria. She pulled up with a walker, which also doubles as a chair. She started talking to me in another language which i soon realized was Italian. i didn't understand. I smiled and gave her a nice nod and continued cleaning ramps. She continued her conversation with me. I was on my bluetooth talking to my girlfriend, so on one end my girlfriend was wondering what other lady i was talking to and on the other end i had this old women who probably doesn't know what a Jaw Bone NOISE ASSASSIN is and probably thought i was talking to her. 
So i got off with my girlfriend to see what this women wanted because she clearly looked like she was going to stay awhile. 
I dont know how people communicate without talking eachothers languages but it happens. She was clearly wondering what the ramps were. I told her they were ramps. She didn't get it. Then i said wild leeks. nothing. I finally gave her one to smell. Feeling like Sigourney Weaver in "Gorillas in the Mist" i bagan motioning to eat the leaves as i ate mine. We chewed our ramp tops, smelled, and took in the mild garlic/onion flavor. She nodded, i nodded, she smiled, i smiled. She said something that sounded like garlic. i said yes. We were getting somewhere. 
We continued to talk, or should i say ...communicate. 
1/2 way through our hour long conversation, we realized that we could both speak a little bit of french. Neither of us could make full sentences, so we becan talking in a trio of languages. Actually 5. At one point i through in a few portuguese words at which time she reminded me swiftly that she was not Portuguese , but italian, and from the Abruzzo region. (typical italian). And the 5th language was just words i was making up with italian endings like "ini", hoping to get lucky. 
I learned she was 83 years old, from abruzzo, moved here 48 years ago, her mother died a long time ago in Italy, and used to make prosciutto. We talked about how canadians dont cook anymore and that all they do is do take out and eat out. She was on her way back from the hospital visiting a friend with heart problems. I told her i was dutch, she thought german, i said Holland, nederlands, she looked perplexed, i changed the subject. I told her my name was Grant, she said frank, i repeated Grant, she couldn't pronouce it, so we both settled with Frank. Luigi stopped by as i was trying to ask her about grape leaves from wine, and if she grew them, and what she did with them if she did because i could use some for pickling this summer.

Luigi wasn't really into being our interpreter. He gave us a few minutes of his time but then had a look on his face that said, you want my help, pay me. 
I managed to understand that maria doesn't grow grapes because of the raccoons, neither does Luigi. But his neighbour does. He said they throw out the leaves. I said i would buy them, he says not till september. i said i would buy them. Obviously knowing he was not going to make any money with his time or his neighbours grape leaves, he nodded ok, mumbled semtember, and continued on his way. So there maria and i were together, shooting the shit and soaking up the sun. She peered into the window of the hoof and saw Patrice, our server. Maria said "Chinese" looking for my reassurance. I said Phillipino. She didn't understand. So i nodded and said "chinese". 
The day was getting cooler. Maria decided to get on her way. We exchanged gifts. I gave her a handful of ramps and she gave me a banana. I wasn't sure if we were supposed to hug or shake hands after a long talk like the one we had, so i went the safe route with a wave goodbye and a warm smile. 
I'm not sure i will ever see maria again, perhaps ill catch her pushing her walker down the road on her way to visit her friend in hospital. Or perhaps ill find her peering into the hoof looking for me. 

The Hoof Cafe

So, its been a while. Infact its been 3 weeks from my last post. I'm not a writer, so if im not in the mood it doesn't happen. But with all the sun and new veg arriving in the markets expect lots of activity this summer. Now back to the posts title. Jen and myself are pleased to announce that we have acquired the place directly across the street (formerly the Chelsea Room) from the Black Hoof. We have big plans for The Hoof Cafe and although its a little earlier then we would have liked, the space came available and we had to swoop it up. We're not restauranteurs. We dont have dreams of owning 10 restaurants. People who own 10 restaurants rarely excel at any(unless were talking about Mario Batali. He kicks ass and all his restaurants are great). We're looking at this new venture as an extention to the Black Hoof and a place to do everything we would have liked to do with that space that we couldn't. If you've been to the hoof, you've seen the kitchen. Theres nothing downstairs, no prep kitchen, very little storage and ceilings that feel about 4 feet tall. The cooks and i come in a 10 am and leave at 2-3 in the morning, not because we do double the prep, but because everythings a hassle, and hassles=time. 

The Hoof Cafe will hopefully solve this problem. 

So ill keep this short as i have a lot of catching up to do but the Hoof Cafe plans to do Brunch. Cocktails. and Retail 

Brunch. Im not talking about your typical eggs beny. I'm talking hoof inspired brunch. Expect blood sausage crepes, suckling pig beny, rabbit pancakes, and a ton of other tasty things. One thing i should let u know is that i have never been more psyched to cook breakfast. (Brunch on mondays too!)

Cocktails. Jen makes amazing cocktails, without all the bullshit and pricy price tags. She makes everything she can in house, including bitters, alcohol infusions, and a bunch of other crazy stuff (i dont drink much, but it looks crazy). So expect this to be a venue at night to truly showcase what she loves to do. So if by chance you do have to wait for a table, you wont have to do it at a grungy bar. We will be serving a bit of small tapas plates as well to tide you over. 

Third Retail. I'm not talking T-shirts, cookbooks and cold pasta salads. I'm talking charcuterie. Selling charcuterie retail is a bitch, but im on it, and i wont stop till i make it happen. 

So thats the Hoof Cafe in a nutshell. Just as we are recovering from the Black hoof reno's and start up here we go throwing ourselves into another place that needs alot of work. Im exhausted, Jen's exhausted, but were excited, and our staff who are the most passionate people ive ever worked with are excited, and together, with some pizza and some cheap beer, will demolish this building and rebuild it from the basement up. 

Summer? What summer? :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

1/2 head roast

So i've decided the 1/2 head roast is much better then the whole head roast. It cooks better, looks better, and serves better. The crosstown crew came in as predicted, late, hungry and thirsty. 
Thy are generally good at just letting me put up things for them. So, i thought it was a perfect time for the head. We began warming the head up around 10:30. After reheating it in foil, we took it off to crisp up the skin. another 45 minutes on a low broil and the skin was CRISPY!! 
Unfortunately, the heads were overly salty (as predicted) but were not so bad in the middle. We ended up doing a platter (read: get rid of your mise before the weekend) which included bone marrow and some greens and stuff. I was very impressed on how much they ate. Someone even ate the eyeballs. 
We never eat off customers plates at the hoof, but when this platter came back, myself and a few of the staff picked away at the skull like vultures. 
If i had to do it again (which i definately will) the only thing i would do differently is not forget about it for too long while its salting, other wise i think it would have been the perfect dish. 

Lamb heads

Were looking to do round two of lamb headcheese. Lucky for me a friend pointed me in the direction of a butcher who goes through a lot of ontario lamb. I was only able to get 14 heads in and that will barely give me a terrine when it finally gets picked down, but at 2 bucks a head (tongue in) thats a deal!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dry Cure Room

The boys in the kitchen have been really busy stocking up for the warm months ahead of us. With the opening of the patio soon, we know were going to be burning through a lot of charcuterie. We also have to give enough charcuterie for the Slow Food Movement dinner on may 2nd for 200 people. In this picture i see wild boar, beef and dill, lots of Lardo, Pancetta, duck, buffalo, sopprasata, pepperoni, horse, as well as some others. However, i've learned from the past that as soon as you think you have enough for a while, dont get lazy, keep on curing, otherwise one day i'll walk into service with nothing ready. Luckiliy for us, this stuff doesn't go bad.

1/2 head roast

We got these Iron age split heads in as a freebee from the Healthy butcher last week. We brined them then salted them. Yesterday, we roasted them off with some miripoix and braised them out. Everytime the Crosstown Kitchen crew does an event on a monday they usually bombard the hoof after there dinner. We generally keep the kitchen open later on these days to accomodate the hungry chefs. Tonight will be a perfect time to unveil the heads, with some bread and mustard so they can make there own sandwiches. 


Those of you who dine at the Hoof who didn't like going home smelling like foie gras will be happy to know that we finally got a real kitchen hood. This bad boy looks like it wants to eat our little electric stove and the guy cooking in front of it. We also did some tiling and a new sink in the mens washroom. Next up, new toilet paper roll holders... woo hoo! 

All hands on deck

Not only does she make great cocktails but she also makes Testina. The hoof's better 1/2, Jen, lending a hand in the kitchen on one of our off days. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Road Trip

Its been a crazy few weeks at the hoof and i just havn't had a lot of free time to post much. Thats not to say we havn't been doing some fun things in and out of the kitchen. This week on our day off Colin, Chris from Perigee restaurant and myself took a little road trip up to Blue Haven Farms that specializes in beautiful Tamworth heritage pigs. This is the farm where the hoofs first ham for prosciutto came from. Marcia, who takes care of most of the animals during the day when her husband is at work teaching, is as tough as farmers come. She has this straight up, no nonsense attitude and despite having knee problems and using a walker to get around her land, shes up every day tending to her animals and crops. All her animals live outdoors year round. We started out the tour realizing we needed some boots. This was Colins first attempt before Marcia gave us a couple extra pairs of boots. 
Off we went to the pig pen's. This is, i believe, Patsy, the mother of the little ones below. Extremely tame not to mention healthy. 
Here are her little guys peeking out from the hut. They're almost 6 months old. They were shy at first with all the new faces but quickly warmed up.

I dont know what they were nibbling at, but they all seemed interested in my boots and jeans.
Heres the adult male taking a nap. Looks like an old boy. 
She also does goats, chickens and wild turkeys. These guys were entertaining and make shrilling calls simultaneously that sent shivers up my spine.
Heres Marcia picking fresh eggs that we ended cooking up for breakfast. 

As she was picking the eggs,the chickens began jumping over my leg and escaping.
It took Chris a few tries but he managed to get it. 
And heres one of Marcia's small plots where, if i remember correctly, she planted garlic.