Afternoon Tea

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We had another lunchtime party today – this time a 24-top at 12:30 for a three-course meal. Since we generally arrive at 11, we scrambled to prep our mise in the short span of time. I didn’t have any dishes on their prix fixe but ended up pitching in and helping with all three courses.

First, of course, we scrubbed down the kitchen from floor to ceiling before anyone could bring out any food to prep. Chef checked in with Pantry to make sure they knew which dishes were on the party’s menu so they could plan accordingly. They said they were fine… famous last words.

I had just finished blending a batch of chicken liver mousse, ready to go into the oven, when the order came in. I had a lot of work planned for today but the interruption for lunch service was overwhelming for the affected stations and distracting for the rest of us so I took a break from my list to help. Chef and I teamed up to handle the 8 beet salads while the boys did 13 wedge salads and 3 arugula salads. Our beet salad has a new (and quite intricate) plate-up, but Chef and I seamlessly started moving like an assembly line… first the beet puree drizzle, then the roasted pickled beets, followed by asparagus, hearts of palm, tomatoes, radishes, and so on. Except for a small snafu — we only had enough hearts of palm for 3 orders. Chef sent me to fetch more when we learned that Sous Chef J was just now blanching them, a task that the Pantry Boys should have done much earlier. Chef was livid but kept pushing to get the appetizers out. I placed the parmesan tuilles (of which the Boys were also running low) while he followed with petite Hearts on Fire (our latest and greatest microgreens from our produce purveyor) to garnish.

When everything had finally been walked up to the window, we realized that they did not fire the accompanying grilled cheese sandwiches for the beet salads. Additionally, some of the wedge salads needed to be fixed (or remade) because of modifications the Boys had missed. Chef stormed over to their station.  “This is bullshit,” he shouted. “It’s not fucking good enough! You two [Fish Stage and Musician Stage] should be embarrassed.” The kitchen went silent for a few minutes. I escaped to help Sous Chef J prepare in advance for the dessert course.

With 10 orders of doughnuts, 11 sticky toffee puddings, and 3 sorbet trios, we had a lot of ice cream scooping to do. For large parties, we will often pre-scoop the ice cream and keep them in the freezer, making the final plate-up as easy as possible. Just as I came out of the walk-in,  I heard that Chef had fired the second course.

New Fish Guy and I helped Pizza Guy J pull and toss pizza dough for the 10 pizzas he had on order. The Pantry Boys seemed to have their tails between their legs, heads down and working quietly. The endless parade of food was fun to watch but I was relieved when it was all over and I could get back to work.

I had to cook off the duck terrine I started marinating yesterday. Each time I do it, I think I get just a bit faster, at making panada, grinding meat, mixing in walnuts, lining the molds with caul fat… But I made a stupid mistake today.
Because of the presence of pork liver in the recipe, I have to bring the terrines up to 157 degrees internal temp before they are ready. While checking the temp with the probe thermometer, the tray I had slid out of the oven tipped over and nearly drenched me in scalding bain marie water. Luckily I (and all three terrines) are safe and sound, though it was quite a scare.

Service was busy but manageable, until Pantry went down hard. Chef shouted for me to step in and help pull them out of the weeds. I had almost forgotten about the seemingly endless onslaught of first course tickets that Pantry faces on a busy night. It was rough but we did it. The Boys were eager to go home after such a rough day, but sadly, I had Late Night (uneventful).

Sleepy now… good night!

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