Saturday, June 12, 2010

"Free" Friday

Please excuse any weirdness with the layout; I'm trying one of Blogger's new templates.

I took a vacation day Friday.  Unwillingly, because this was not a day devoted to vacationing.  It was, instead, a day required to Get Things Done.

The most important of which was this:
Ugh.  Double ugh.  And please understand that by "ugh," I mean something much less pleasant, much stronger, more offensive.  No, not that, something stronger!

Note the time on this ticket?  I arrived at the office before 9:30.  That's right, it took me TWO HOURS just to get in the door.  And the only reason it was even that fast was because I was simply renewing my license.  The poor people moving in-state, taking driving tests, or doing anything slightly out-of-normal were still standing outside when I left--an hour after this ticket was printed.

I would guess-conservatively-that there were 100 people both in line and inside the office, waiting to be served.  Assuming a three-hour average (which, again, I would consider a conservative estimate), as well as travel time, each person there lost at least a half-day's productivity.  That's 50 days.  Almost two months of work days.  And that's one day, at one of four offices in the city.

So, every day, Charlotte loses eight months of manpower to NOTHING.  Standing in line.  Grousing, reading, texting, pushing down the bile of being talked to like a recalcitrant six-year old.  No wonder our libraries are closing, our schools are bursting at the seams and half our streetlights are out.

The one bright spot in all this bureaucratic waste was that everyone in line that I spoke with was very friendly.  Very little of the "me first" selfishness we all demonstrate once we actually get into our cars!  (And yes, I'm as guilty as anyone, I'm ashamed to admit.)  It really made the wait so much better; we all supported each other by sharing the little bits of information we had gleaned about the whole process.

And ya know the most important thing I learned?  It's possible to make a frickin' appointment!!

So, yeah:  UGH!

Back at home, waiting for Miss Chef to get back from her half-day at the goat farm, I stepped outside to take a good look at the garden.  We pulled the remaining radishes last week, and now it's about time to pull out the peas.  And, after I cut the last little headlets of broccoli, I finally gave Miss Chef permission to pull those giant plants out, too.

Of course, I had to show her it was worth leaving them in a couple weeks' extra!

See?  $3.99, right in our own backyard!

After Miss Chef got home, we headed on over to Restaurant Depot.  If any of you saw Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, you may remember an episode where he went to a US Foodservice warehouse.  (That episode was stupid, because Jamie acted like he didn't know what kind of supplies he could get from them.  Pu-leese, he knew damn well what was in there.)

Anyway, they showed an enormous refrigerated warehouse filled with meats, cheeses, produce etc.  That's the kind of place Restaurant Depot is.  It's like a Sam's Club for professionals, and I get entrance only because I'm with Miss Chef.  Imagine if a third of your local warehouse store was walled off and chilled to 40 degrees, then stacked floor to 50-foot ceiling with huge portions of food.  Entire wheels of cheese, sides of meat, cases of parsley, crates of dried figs.  Oh, and at one end of that chilled area, put in another wall and chill that part down to well below freezing.

Now walk through there in shorts and a t-shirt. *grin*

Ok, they do have puffy coats available for patrons, though we didn't need them this time, as we stayed out of the giant freezer, and we were both enjoying the extra-strength air-conditioning (well, at first, anyway). 

I love going to the Depot, because they have a truly unimaginable variety of restaurant supplies: glassware, dishracks, beans of all colors, chef jackets, cleaning solutions, knives, slurpee syrup...all the way down to napkins, stirrers, and those red-and-white checked paper hot dog holders you might get at a ballgame.

So much awesome under one roof!

Here's a taste (ha!) of what we brought home:

That's 15 pounds of honey (for honey-walnut goat cheese), 35 pounds of canola oil (to mix with olive oil for  feta marinated with sun-dried tomatoes) and 36 pounds of kosher salt (for everything).  This is all for Miss Chef's employers, but we also got an industrial-sized roll of plastic wrap for us.  We figure the old one lasted us six or eight years, so we're good on saran for a while.

Never fear, though, our day was not entirely lost to chores and errands--and I did save the best for last!  Miss Chef also took a personal day from the restaurant, and on these rare nights off, our minds always turn to sampling what other places have to offer.  One of my students had mentioned a newish restaurant called Georges Brasserie.  Notwithstanding their clumsiness in reversing what would otherwise be a perfectly French name, their French-bistro style menu had piqued my interest.

As had this photo from their website:

Oh la la, how charmingly Franshe!

This part of the interior also looked taken straight from the background of a Renoir or Toulouse-Lautrec painting:

So I made reservations for three, having invited a friend along.

How was the meal?  Good, but not as good as it should have been.  Miss Chef pointed out, as we analyzed the meal on the way home, that it's incredibly difficult to do the kind of menu they have with the enormous dining area there.  I'd guess it's three or four times the size of Chef Adam's 50+ seater.

I know you're dying to hear what we ate, right?  Ok, so here we go:

panko-encrusted soft-shelled crab (very good)
red and yellow beet salad with goat cheese (good, if a bit skimpy)
tarte flambée with caramelized onions, bacon and crème fraîche (good, but not very interesting)

Main courses: 
boudin blanc with red cabbage and pureed potatoes (very good, though the boudin was a bit dry--Miss Chef found it bland but we other two liked the flavor)
salmon filet with fava beans and morels (cooked well beyond the mid-rare requested, but still good; veggie side was skimpy again)
escargot with puff pastry and pesto (good, though the pesto was bland and had suffered under the broiler)
lamb sausage with figs, couscous and feta (Miss Chef and our friend thought the sausage was dry, though the figs and couscous were excellent)

profiteroles (excellent; as Miss Chef said, "they nailed that pastry")
lemon tart ("correcte" as the French would say, but no better--and Miss Chef was made livid by the skimpiness of the $6 portion and insultingly bland presentation--four drops of raspberry coulis on a fingerprint-smeared white plate.  Still, it was house-made, and I thought the crust was particulary good.)
dark chocolate mousse (again, good but not very interesting.  And, compared to the weeny lemon tart, far too much for me to finish.)

In the end, we did have a generally good meal, enjoying a nice Sancerre with it.  Aside from Miss Chef's extreme unhappiness with her dessert, the other major shortcoming was the service.  It wasn't terrible, but it was slow, and the server didn't seem to listen very well.  Just small things, like not asking about splitting the check.  Plus, he had stupid, greased up spiky hair, which didn't seem to fit with the ambiance they were going for, and made his general smarminess that much smarmier.

On the other hand, a slight miscommunication about our wine selection, combined with Miss Chef's complaint about the lemon tart, got us 50% off our bottle of Sancerre!  At least the manager seemed ready to take charge and listen to his guests--he truly went beyond what was necessary to make us happy.  If only he'd take Mr. Smarm in hand for a little re-education.

Still, I haven't had boudin blanc in a long, long time, and there's a half portion of chocolate mousse in my fridge right now, so I'm satisfied with our experience.  And that's another restaurant checked off the list--with many more to follow, no doubt!


  1. I 'likes' your is very cool and easy on the eyes...especially my eyes with the naturally blond eyebrows....wink wink.

  2. I like the layout.

    I love you because you use words like "recalcitrant."

    And you have got to meet up with Garret and eat together. Seriously- ya'll both leave me drooling all the time!

  3. FIFTEEN POUNDS of honey! WOW. How much cheese will that help make?

    The DMV is one of the worst places on the planet n my opinion. Everything about it is unpleasant. So sorry you got stuck there for so long.

    Have a great week,

  4. The new template fits your blog well, I think.
    I miss your headers pictures, though.

    After reading about the DMV experience, I'm just so grateful our mountain DMV is never crowded. I've never had to wait more than 10minutes for anything.
    And we have 4 post offices within 8miles of us, and it's rare that I'm not able to just walk in and walk back out.
    I remember all too well when we lived in South Carolina...and Rio Rancho, too, how crowded and long the waits were, though.

    The dinner experience is always interesting. Even if things weren't perfect I bet it's just great being able to spend time with Miss Chef...and shopping for food, too? That honey could be used for some other fun things, ah hem.

    Oooh La La!



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