Thursday, May 26, 2016

Six Months In, A Photographic Recap of 2016

Its hard to believe that its (almost) June. We're half way through. Ive put up a whopping four (well...now five) posts so far this year. Way to stick with it. But this makes two posts in two weeks. Perhaps a trend? Who knows.

There are other ways to see what I am up to: 
If you're into random cranky snippets, Twitter is probably the way. 
-or-
If you're a little more visually oriented, maybe Instagram



Now lets take a look and see what I've been up to.
Spring Has Sprung:
Rhubarb has been a little slow getting on my menu this year. I sold an 'Old Faithful' Rhubarb & Ginger crisp for a couple weeks but quickly got bored of it. I've also been stocking up on Grilled Rhubarb Jam. Im hoping to get a Rhubarb + Coconut + Honey dessert going this weekend or maybe next week. 

Nick & I were having a little pecks menu meeting when our first delivery of Ramps walked through our back door. John, one of our Cheese Mongers, picked them in Western MA and throughout Columbia County. I'm pretty sure John will be a regular fixture in the little pecks kitchen. 
Pine Shoots - A spring ingredient that I always forget about until its *just* too late. But this year I was diligent, checking trees every day on my way into work. After my first harvest, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them. I pickled about half of them and made some ice cream with the other half (which I served with the pickled shoots). The ice cream was just OK though. Citrusy, resiny, a little piney. I wasn't crazy about the dominance of the citrus flavor and the coating quality of the milk fat. The following week I decided to make a sorbet with them instead (which ultimately became a granita). The difference was night and day. This all boils down to water soluble flavors vs fat soluble flavors - and it was a great example of how two very similar recipes could result in such a different flavor profile. The sorbet was bright, sweet, floral, piney - and reminded quite a bit of some more interesting gin's I have tried.  
To play off the gin flavors I decided to push the bouquet with some spring greens that were just starting to pop up in the garden. Here it is, served with Lemon Balm (Green, lemon, lime, floral), Salad Burnet (Cucumber), Wood Sorrel (Green apple, lemon), Green Apple, Pansies (Green, Grass, Menthol) - and it was finished with a splash of Hedonic Tonic (used as a base for tonic water or as a replacement for tonic water in cocktails). It all came together as sort of a gin and tonic slushy. 
During one incarnation of the menu I was left with the dregs of Vanilla Ice Cream, Buttermilk Ice Cream, and Raspberry Sorbet every Saturday after I was done spinning what I needed for my menu. To alleviate boredom one afternoon,   I decided to combine the three and see how it was. The result was a dead ringer for Black Raspberry Ice Cream.
Sometimes when I am bored in the afternoons before service, I play around a bit with what I have kicking around. Here is a 'Tres Leche', with...Tres Leche Cake, smoked date, mezcal, walnut, cajeta, meringue, and coconut lime sorbet. 
Another result of afternoon boredom - Chicago Style thin curst pizza with spicy giardiniera.  
Throw some pineapple with butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and pineapple juice in the oven until it looks like this. Serve warm slices of it with vanilla ice cream and the poaching liquid. 

We have changed our bread service a bit at Peck's
I try to ferment the dough for 72 hours before baking. When everything lines up perfectly, the result is pretty great.
I've had a bit of a fascination with desserts from the Basque region. I had a Basque Cake on my menu for a little while. This is a Basque Cheesecake, which is intentionally bunt to shit - giving it a flavor reminiscent of flan or creme caramel. The texture is that of a broken custard,  not unlike ricotta - and is oddly pleasant. I really love this one. 


Last week I used up the last of the coconut in my pantry - and for whatever reason I decided that rather than ordering more, I would try getting in a case of coconuts and process them. What I didn't realize was that a case of coconuts was a bag roughly the size of me. There was a bit of learning curve with this project and I wound up wasting an entire afternoon with it. I am left with a shit load of coconut water, coconut milk, coconut oil and desiccated coconut - which I am now actively looking for ways to use up. 
Caramelized things - milk, sugar, potato, butter
Early last year at Peck's Arcade, we had a braised rabbit dish on the menu. Matty and I frequently commented how much it reminded us of chicken & dumplings, or chicken & rice. While we never pursued the idea, it always stuck with me. Over this past winter, a guest gave the kitchen a rabbit (we really do have the best guests), which I was lucky enough to take home. It sat, waiting patiently, for the right day - which brought with it half a foot of snow. Here it is, resting - ready for the tender meat to be plucked off the bone. 
We have been doing a lot of recipe testing for little pecks. 

Its a hard job..
But someones gotta do it
Shaker Lemon Pies, resting before an event that requested seasonal fruit pies. I hadn't made these in almost six years. I originally found out about them in 2010 after spending an afternoon at Hancock Shaker Village, thumbing through books and shooting the shit. I was on the hunt for 'lost recipes' from Upstate New York/Western Mass for a Slow Food dinner that summer. 
Konigin is the subject of a disproportionate amount of my photography. 
She loves running around the back yard we have in Latham. We'll all miss it once we relocate to Troy.
This was the first shot I took with my new camera. It remains one of my favorites. 

I was told the best way to get better with a camera is to shoot boring subjects.

Even with boring subjects, you begin to find patterns. 
For example, I had no clue how much I enjoyed photographing light bulbs.



We have the best sunsets in Upstate New York. This photo was not edited. 

I finally got to try a From Roy panettone - which I ordered for Mothers Days. I was apprehensive dropping $50 (+$25 shipping!) on what amounted to be a loaf of bread - but it really was something special. We ate nearly the entire thing the first night. 












Monday, May 16, 2016

Insomnia

Its just past midnight and I'm sitting here nursing a glass of bourbon

Instead of sleeping - or better yet, doing work that needs to be done - I am working on a Spotify playlist that will never be played at the restaurant. 

As per usual, my sleep cycle is out of whack - not being able to sleep when its most important. I have a 16 hour day ahead of me - starting 7.5 hours from now. 

The upside to this scenario is stretches of solitude where I can actually be productive. The problem is, I always seem to drift off, down the rabbit hole that is the internet. Making playlists. Falling deep into the reddit homepage. Instagram. Anything but what needs to be done 

And there is quite a mountain of things that need to be done. 

The best way I can describe opening a restaurant is being completely overwhelmed by everything at all times. It is an unsurmountable amount of work that never stops growing. Its like when you first dump all the puzzle pieces on the table. You don't even know where to begin. Then, you start sorting your colors. You build your border. And before you know it, the final image begins to appear before your eyes. 

J & I have decided to stay in the Capital District another year. Opportunities have presented themselves that are too good to pass up. Its too soon to move on from Peck's Arcade. We're only just getting started. And little pecks? Its shaping up to be something just as special.

I was rear ended a few days ago. Its been a whirlwind of paperwork since. Ive nursed this car more than any other I've owned, and its been hit twice in its short 4,500 mile life. The first was a hit and run while it was parked, and the second this week. It'll be 10 days until I'm back in it. 

We are moving to downtown Troy next month. Both of us will be able to walk to work. This is probably the best thing that could happen for both of us. 

I've switched to Sleepy Time Tea. Next move is melatonin. 

We toured the Celestial Seasonings factory in Colorado on our road trip. We did lots of stupid stuff on that trip because it was free. This was one tour that was actually fun. Thats mostly because we had a good, very sarcastic tour guide. 

Corey's place opened. I don't see him much any more. That bums me out.

Starting next month I will have health insurance for the first time since my early twenties.

I still miss the desert. 

My life has become a series of deadlines. 

John came in for dinner. Twice. The first time he brought one of my mentors, who I haven't seen since shortly after I moved back from Chicago. It was a lot of fun cooking for them. 

Its fun cooking food you like

Its fun working for and with people you like

Its a remarkable feeling having people back you up. Believe in you and what you do.

I don't write too much any more. Hard to find the time. 


Overhead:

'That rice and beans life'

'Just down here flicking flowers into Greg's mouth, nothing to see here'

'For a while, I didn't even know it, but my wiener was hanging out of my dress'

'I woke up in the morning and the dog was covered in my shit'

'Its so hard to think'

'Amtrak time machine'

'DUDE, I cant read sign language'

'Give that bulldog a taco GOD DAMMIT'

'What book?? Scumbags guide to dating?'

'Hey old Kurt Russel, fuck off. You were great in Waterworld, but get outta here'

'My ass was purple for like 3 weeks'

'She'll love being part of the downtown dog scene'

'The worlds weird today. PUDDLES OF MILK. Everything is so fucking weird'

'Thank GOD I only got like 20 years left on this planet'

'If I had your wiener, Id do LOTS of things with it'

'The penis definitely brightened my day yesterday'

'I wish I was jeff. The muscles'

'I like your little hole'

'Crouching Tiger Hidden Pizza'

'Is that a dog or a GUN?'

'I got into college on my dance skills'

'Remember that time I farted in your mouth?'

'This is a good test because you guys are at the highest level of bakery snob'