Haven’s Kitchen: Why I Believe in Mandatory Service

I have always said that everyone needs to work in a restaurant at one point in their life. Working in the industry is hard. Actually, hard is an understatement. When days are good, they are the best days you’ve ever had. When they are bad, you’re in a walk-in somewhere bawling your eyes out while trying to pull yourself together so guests can’t tell you’ve been crying.

I remember when I wanted to get my first job. I marched my way to the principal’s office at my high school to get a worker’s permit signed when I was 15. I wanted to work at the mall so I could spend all my money on clothes. However, my dad refused to let me go into retail because “restaurant’s have more money.” Both him and my mom worked in the industry until their mid-twenties and actually met while my dad was her supervisor at a bar- I guess it runs in my blood. I feel like I owe so much to my dad because I have learned more about myself through working as a busser, food runner and server than I think I could have ever learned folding shirts at Tyson’s Corner.* I am a sensitive person and every day of my 10-year career has made me stronger and molded me into the person I am today.

I am no longer working in a traditional restaurant setting but I am still in the service industry as an event server. I am still at Haven’s Kitchen once or twice a week and I am so happy to be there. I believe in the mission and it’s an enjoyable place to be and a lot of that has to do with my co-workers and the people we serve. The owner, Alison Cayne, wrote an article that was published on the Huffington Post’s website yesterday that everyone needs to check out. She was able to articulate my exact thoughts on why everyone needs to work in a restaurant at one time in their life. Here’s a quick overview of the 10 things you learn as a server but you can check out the full article here!

1. MISSION

2. EMPATHY

3. CLEANLINESS

4. LATERAL THINKING

5. TEAMWORK

6. PREPARATION

7. SOCIAL SKILLS

8. MEMORY

9. BASIC TABLE MANNERS

10. GRATITUDE

*Disclaimer: I have several friends that work in retail (Bloomingdale’s, Lucky, Burberry, etc.) and I by no means want to disregard how hard it is. I don’t actually know first hand but, from their stories, I know customers can be just as difficult.

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Restaurant Review and Some “Scary” Reading

I haven’t posted any of the New York Times Restaurant Reviews yet- I’m not sure why! When I was working at Esca, we had to read the restaurant review in print every Wednesday because we were quizzed on it during our pre-shift meeting. At first this was really annoying and daunting because you never knew what aspect of the review the chef was going to question you on. However, I quickly learned that reading the review kept me in the loop in the restaurant world and it educated me on all the best restaurants in New York.

This week, Pete Wells, the New York Times food critic, reviewed Carbone in Greenwich Village. Nowadays, I will read the review if industry friends post about it on facebook (usually because they work there) because I am not “forced” to read it every week. A chef I worked with at Eataly is now working at Carbone so when his post about the review popped up I wanted to read it. It also caught my eye because Nick and I ate at their sister restaurant, Torrisi, two weeks ago (where I know the GM through a co-worker at Gwynnett St.).

You should definitely check out the review here!

If you are interested in some other light reading, check out this link from Buzzfeed. Just another reason to make your own food and stay away the processed “food” in grocery stores!

Weekend in Maine

I apologize for being so MIA since last week. I decided to take advantage of the weather and squeeze in some beach days and visit my sister in Maine. And one of the best things about southern Maine? Amazing food! We ate our way around Portland and Ocean Park and I enjoyed every bite. My biggest challenge, however, was sticking within my WW points. Usually when I travel, I give myself a “by” and don’t track but my weight has creeped up enough that I needed to get back on the wagon. I enjoyed myself but used all my extra points (all 49 plus some activity points) in order to do so. Here’s a quick look at some of the places we visited!

My first night in town, I had to go to Huot’s which is a few miles south of our beach house in Ocean Park. We have been coming to Huot’s since I was a baby (and before) and are good friends with the owners. The restaurant is in Camp Ellis and I have numerous memories of walking out on the jetty before, during and after every visit!

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Looking out into Saco Bay from the jetty in Camp Ellis

Every time I eat at Huot’s, I have to have a clam cake. I always brag to friends that you can get an amazing, crispy clam cake for only $2.00 so I was amazed to see that price had risen to $2.60! Everything is getting pricer in Maine…

The next stop was Willard Scoops in Willard Beach, South Portland. This was my first trip here but it has become one of Hannah’s favorites since she moved to Portland full time.

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Willard Scoops

Saturday was another day the beach so Hannah and I opted for lunch at the Ocean Park Deli. Our house is on the edge of town so the “downtown” is a 5 minute walk away (OP is wicked small!). The “downtown” consists of the deli, the library, one sit-down, BYOB restaurant, a gift shop, an antique shop and the Soda Fountain. We grabbed salads and sandwiches and spent another hour or two on the beach.

Hannah had to work Saturday night so I dropped her off at 2:45 before heading into Portland for a snack to hold me over until dinner. Every time I am in town, I have to go to Flatbread Pizza whether it’s to enjoy one of their organic, brick oven pizzas or just their organic salad. The Flatbread salad is something I dream about while I’m away. It consists of a bed of organic greens, shredded carrots, seaweed and sesame seeds with a housemade vinaigrette. I almost always add some blue cheese because it’s so creamy and spicy!

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My roommate, Elly, moved to Portland on Saturday for the summer and she invited me out to dinner. I figured I would go because Hannah was working and I would have some company! Her parents treated me to an unforgettable meal at 555 on Congress St. I had a house salad made with all local greens and produce and the pepper-crusted sea scallops with whipped fennel potatoes and veggies. I was able to meet her parents, her aunt, uncle and cousin.

After Elly said goodbye to her family, we headed over to South Portland to visit Hannah at work. We sat on the deck at the Saltwater Grille and had a cocktail while she finished up her shift. Check out that view!

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Once Hannah finished her shift, we dropped Elly off and headed over to Eventide for a drink and a snack (poor Hannah hadn’t eaten in hours!). I went for the Dirty, Dirty Martini made with Beefeater gin, olive brine, oyster brine and hot sauce. It was super salty and spicy and so delicious!!

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Sunday was yet another beautiful beach day so we were back in Ocean Park. Our friend Lynn (more like a sister) came up from Massachusetts for the day so it was great to catch up after almost a year. It was my last lunch in Maine so Hannah and I went to Bayley’s in Pine Point for a lobster roll. At Bayley’s you can choose if you’d like your bun toasted or not toasted and if you’d like it tossed in butter or mayo. I’m a Maine lobster roll kind of girl so I went for the mayo (but light!)- you all remember my Sunday Funday post about Red Hook Lobster Pound, right? The Bayley’s lobster roll is simple and lets the lobster meat shine through- the perfect treat on a summer day in Maine.

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Hannah had to work again, so Lynn and I went into Portland and did the mailboat cruise around Casco Bay. For all the years I’ve been going to Maine (which is my whole life), I have never been on Casco Bay. The mailboat is a 3 hour cruise that stops on 5 islands in the bay dropping off mail and people. The best part- besides being on the water, in the sun and with a great friend- is that it’s BYOB. That’s right, you can bring booze and drink on the boat! We picked up a 6-pack of Sam Adams Summer Ale and spent a glorious (but windy) 3 hours on the water!

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Here I am with Long Island behind me while we were pulling away from Cliff Island in Casco Bay

For my last meal, Hannah and I went to OTTO Pizza to grab some take out. Rain rolled in Sunday night so we decided to grab some pizza to go and settle in at her house to watch some Sunday night TV. We got one of Hannah’s favorite pizzas- sweet potato, ricotta and dried cranberries. I was hesitant at first but, OMG, it was heavenly! Creamy, sweet, tart but somehow savory. It confused my palate, which is hard to do. It was the perfect finale to a perfect weekend in Maine!

Lattanzi Ristorante

Nick and I went to Lattanzi on Sunday night (yes, after eating everything at the BK Flea!). To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes but I went in hoping for the best. Lattanzi is located on 46th St between 8th Ave and 9th Ave which is known as “Restaurant Row.” There are a few great restaurants but most of them are geared towards the pre-theater crowd and the emphasis tends to fall on getting people out of the door instead of on the food.

Nick had a gift card that he received for his 24th birthday so we figured we’d give it a try. We started with cocktails – Old Fashioned for him and a dirty Hendricks martini for me- and then ordered a bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso for the meal. The drinks were great!

Everything I read about the restaurant said I had to try the artichoke appetizer. So we did.

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I will say, the artichokes were good. Not amazingly amazing but solid. I would order them again. Next up we had the beef carpacio appetizer and, again, good but not amazing. The portion was perfect (which means I secretly wanted one more bite but knew I was at a good place in the meal).

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I was kind of excited at this point because everything so far was enjoyable. Next up was bucatini. I love bucatini so, again, I was excited. The first thing that threw me off when the pasta came to the table was that the pasta was stuck together and under cooked. I can appreciate al dente pasta but this was under cooked- crunchy almost. Once I got past the really undercooked pieces of pasta, the dish was really good. I would go back and give the pasta another chance to blow me away.

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We ordered  Orata, which is usually one of my favorite fish to eat (I even wrote a post about making orata at home in my old blog!) The fish was inedible. I took one bite and it was over cooked beyond belief. It was what we called “hammered” in the restaurant industry. I was so sad!

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All in all the meal was good. The ambiance is romantic and old school (in the best way possible). The service was attentive but not instrustive. The only thing that really threw me off were the prices. If the orata had cost $16-$18, which is what it should have cost for how it was prepared, I would have been ok with everything. The fish was $26 which is comparable to Esca. I guess I made the mistake of ordering fish. I’m sure pork or beef would have been better.

We decided to skip dessert at Lattanzi and head over to Esca for dessert. We went for the chocolate, mascarpone cheesecake. It was so delicious. The desserts at Esca never disappoint!

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Family Meal

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I’m at work right now and I gave in and had family meal. I usually pack a WW-friendly meal to have because everything they make for us is loaded with butter and extra calories. I didn’t have time to make food and this looked amazing so I had to have some. Hot dogs, potato roll, homemade chili and steak fries. So perfect before a busy Saturday night service!

I’ll be better tomorrow!