It seems things are just beginning to “heat up” this summer, and it’s already time to expect visitor traffic to recede. Our inclination is to say, “no, don’t go!” We’re just warming up. (Literally, that is true!) We want to say, “what’s the hurry, you just got here.” Seems everyone falls for Fall! With the new fall lineup of TV and the ads for Back To School, we can already see the reservations the week after Labor day shrinking. We want to shout out that the weather here still feels like summer and the though the days are shorter, it’s still daylight after dinner. Time to enjoy more sand, sea air and all that Cannon Beach has to offer. Even the Farmers Market goes till the end of September!
We have already said good-bye to some of our summer help, and Shanda is composing our Fall newsletter. Wish we didn’t have to be so calendar controlled, especially when the weather is still so favorable and we have the energy to entertain with our dinner shows. But the pattern is becoming familiar now as we go into our eighth year. Before everyone leaves I just want to say thanks to our visitors this summer. I may forget your names but most often remember faces and places. Some of you come from quite a distance. We’ve seen first time to Oregon guests from Nebraska, lots of folks from Texas this year, and many from Canada–even as far as Nova Scotia and Manitoba. We know the people from Texas and other southern US places come here to escape the heat. When we go around the room with introductions we heard how wonderful our CB weather is. While those of us who live here year round were thinking our summer has only just begun. Anyway we want to say thanks to so many guests this summer, especially those who make an annual trip to Cannon Beach (& to EVOO).
The fact that many of our new guests referenced Trip Adviser has not escaped our notice, and we are so grateful for the great reviews from those who took time to write. We do so appreciate the power of such a tool, and we also know that the pressure is on every night we serve. Our posture has always been that whether or not it’s a guest’s first time or an encore, our show must be our best! I am driven by the very old and tired but true kitchen saying, “we’re only as good as our last meal.” Every meal tells the story and for me it better be my best. I am not saying I am a control freak, though one might, but I really don’t want to serve my food without being here myself. I admire places that can do it, but if we had to be open seven days a week in a restaurant, I couldn’t do it. My staff is good, and I respect them, but when my name is on it, I need to have the final say. This is actually why Lenore and I prefer to offer a licensed agreement to open a second EVOO; the chefs would also own it!
It is not that my food is so intricate that no one else can do it. No, I want every one of our guests to do these recipes so they better be easy enough. No, for me it is about putting in the same amount of care that I put in every time. That is a tough thing to teach. A standard is a standard, but when life happens, who but the owner can rise above personal issues that road block the way to perfection? It is just a concept based upon repeated observations that has taken me years to formulate. Ownership is best cultivate when you are indeed the owner. Some can do it, but it is rare. Anyway that explains why I only schedule my dinner shows when I can execute them myself.
It is a different story when a guest chef comes to present a piece of themselves. I find those times very educational for our guests and me. I do see their ownership and I like that they are willing to share with us. Teaching is a way to show one’s ownership. When we are away this October we have scheduled guest chefs to be here on Saturdays. One guest is Italian chef, Andre Pianucci, from Portland, who shares many of my food philosophies. The class is hands-on and focused on authentic gnocchi. Kate Koo is a sushi chef who is coming for a hands on class as well. Kate is currently working at Zilla Sake House in Portland. And finally we have Josh Archibald, our hometown guest chef, who will be doing his Northwest ciapino as an encore performance. Many people have said it is the best version of ciappino they have every tasted! Good to know, since I make one myself.
So summer’s been good. A bit short, but definitely good. I will FALL into step real soon with the change of weather, the fall food bounty, wearing fleece again, the anticipation of stormy weather arts festival and finally, the holidays. Oh yeah, and our trip to Tuscany in October. How could I forget that!
Today is our seventh year anniversary! And very happy about that! On the one hand it seems quick, really seven years? On the other like dog-years! Opening a small business and becoming “it” is daunting and humbling at once. It is the hardest and yet the most rewarding work I have ever done. It is like what I love to do on a plate–a total contrast in flavors–or juxtaposition of flavors–it is like the yin yang of running a business. Can’t really have one without the other.
Some of our customers tell us we work too hard. How hard is too hard? We don’t do anything we don’t think needs to be done. We think we are working as hard as we need to. That said we are always refresh, re-energized and renewed every night we do a show. It is as if the energy comes from our guests. Hard to explain, but make no mistake about it, our work is rewarded by the response we get from our guests.
We learned long time ago when we were training for our corporate employers, that human beings are pretty simple creatures when it comes to motivation. We all work best when we are appreciated. One of our HR exercises was to put someone in a circle and just give them applause. Applause! Free unadulterated hand-clapping to say–you are appreciated! Better than tips, I think. Yes, when the applause or appreciation is given spontaneously and in a public place it cannot be beat.
Speaking of that, we cannot thank our fans enough for publicly telling others of our work. Social media has been very kind to us and Trip Adviser, a definite asset to us. For that we put our hands together and acknowledge our customers who have made us who we are today. Thank you very very much!
Tonight we are entering our second week of the August menu. After five full weeks in July we are pretty ready for the change. You see we eat the leftovers all month long. All good, just happy to see the new variety of leftovers that the new menu brings. And our cooks are happy to move on from stuffing corn husks with our tamale mixture to now making buckets of falafel and shaping them into our oval patties.
As a chef, I find it energizing to start fresh and work on new stuff. I guess it is why I always gravitated toward catering in my former career life, because menus are new, at least more variety than typical restaurant menus, except for the daily specials which I always enjoyed, too.
We refer to the beginning of our new month menu as FIRST NIGHT. We expect to make “tweaks” as a result of seeing it altogether the first time and listening to the feed back from our first night guests. This month our first nighters were very generous in letting us know what they thought. So much so, we have changed some of our recipes, though our menu remains pretty much the same.
First up, “too much smoke on the beef course,” they told us, so we reduced the time in the smoke for the beef. “Hard to eat the first course,” a meze salad atop a grilled flatbread (my pizza dough). We responded by increasing the flat bread to fill the entire plate, piled the meze ingredients on top, and encourage guests to roll it up and pick up the entire entree in their hands. That first night Lenore even suggest we change the first course completely, or maybe add our house made sausage, but our guests responded that they wouldn’t change the flavors. It is good as is, just a little hard to eat.
Guests also liked the sturgeon course as is, but Lenore and I thought a “remoulade” addition was needed. It is sort of a homemade tartar sauce. It is just a good summer plate featuring a delicious local fish.
And lastly, dessert. We served a graham cracker cake with warm ganache on top then; we then planted a giant home made marshmallow on the chocolate, scattered some toasted almond slices around, and lastly, torched each marshmallow before serving! As you might imagine the evening ran overtime as we attempted to roast all those marshmallows! They were so big that their outside was toasted before their inside was melted. Needless to say, the giant marshmallow project gave way to toasted marshmallow meringue, instead. It does still resemble a s’more, which is what we were going for.
At this point, we are grateful for all the help our FIRST NIGHT guests gave us this month. So much so, that they will receive a special invitation to come back to EVOO with a 20% discount. In fact we intend to officially make it our practice for every FIRST NIGHT. Maybe we’ll see you some first night.