LUNCH is coming to TOWN KITCHEN AND GRILL

Updating this post with the new date … Take note you all .. Y’all?

March 25th (I moved this out from March 19th at the knowledgeable request from Chef Corey).

March 25th will be a big day for us at Town Kitchen and Grill. We’re going to be opening for lunch.  Fun, huh?  And yes, as in the evenings, we’ll be open 7 days a week… And for those who would ask, yes, seven days actually includes Mondays.

(I’m not sure why, but I’ll confide that I get asked all the time if we’re open 7 days. I say, ‘yes.’ Then people ask if we’re open Mondays. Perhaps there is a day of the week I don’t know about? If so, please enlighten me. I’d hate to think I’ve been missing out on an all important 8th day all these years!)

The menu will be quite different than the dinner menu. About half the menu will feature the protein rich choices health conscious people favor. Whether you are on a paleo, four hour body, or any number of other low or no carb diets, you’ll find dishes that work for you.

The other half will be for the fun folks. 🙂 We’re working on some decidedly unhealthy options for when people want to relax. These include a sandwich called a “next day pot roast panini” – which is a grilled sandwich, and a sandwich made of Salmon Cakes on a brioche roll… (Uhm – YUM!)

We’ll also have a few of the pastas and pizzas and some fun share options for those who have actual friends or at least co-workers. While it may be possible to share with one’s self, I’d recommend against it. (just for the record)

We get that it’s lunch. So, if you’re up for it, we’re up for it and we’ll get you in and out in 45 minutes or so. We won’t rush you, but we’ll be ready in case you’re on a tight schedule. Just let your server know and be ready to order as soon as you can.  (No fair waiting 40 minutes to order and then wanting to be out in five!)

One of these days, in the next day or so, the website will also go online and you’ll be able to start reading these updates at TownKitchenandGrill.com. I’m looking forward to that and to having more people find our number to make reservations. (818) 248 1881… Or use the online link through the site. (Just as a hint, if you get a blank white page when you try to bring it up, it’s not up yet… but it is coming … really. I promise).

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Pepperoni Shrimp

Pepperoni Shrimp

This is a fun and easy appetizer and perfect for a superbowl party if you want to kick the usual fare up a notch or two.

The big thing with cooking any seafood is that you don’t want to overcook it.  For that reason, in almost all recipes, the seafood is added only when all of the other ingredients are ready to serve. That is definitely true with this dish which is quick and easy to prepare.

Ingredients

  • 1 Lb bag frozen shrimp. Any size, shape, shell on shell off. Whatever appeals to you. You can also use fresh if you have the extra dough.
  • 3 TBS Butter
  • 1 Shallot or small brown onion, minced.
  • 1/2 cup pizza pepperoni, diced.
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or beer

In a large saute’ (frying) pan melt the butter and add the shallots over medium low heat. Let them cook until they are translucent, about 5 minutes (if your heat is low enough). Increase the heat to medium high and add the diced pepperoni and saute for 2 minutes or until the shallots start to brown and the pepperoni starts to give off some of its oil. Add the shrimp and the wine or beer and stir for two to three minutes or until the shrimp are just opaque.

Remove from stove. Serve to guests either with toothpicks or over crostini. Dip bread in sauce. Do not lick pan.

Bow to accolades.

Yum

Four Days of Town

Four Days …

When I think about it, it’s hard to believe that town has only been open for four days.  To be sure, they’ve been pretty long days. People who say starting a restaurant is hard work aren’t kidding. I’ve been here, pretty much since January first, from just past 6 in the morning, to very late in the evening, many nights, actually very early the next morning.

We planned on a soft opening. ‘We’ll take it slow,’ we thought, ‘just take the paper off the windows and open the doors for dinner and let anyone who wants to walk in, in.’

We didn’t publicize our opening. Not on Facebook or anywhere else. We didn’t take any reservations. 

So it would be easy and quiet and we could handle it with the entire staff here…

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

So much for nice and slow and easy and quiet.

We were packed Friday night and had a waiting list for a while on Saturday night. To make matters even more exciting, we were down one of our primary cooks who was home sick, so yours truly had to jump into the kitchen and help out. (Dreams really do come true!) Fortunately, Chef Corey and the folks in there were patient with the newbie and by the end of the evening I felt like I’d actually made a contribution, however minor.

We were slow in getting food out on the first night and I had to laugh at us as the evening ground ahead. To be sure, 45 minutes is WAY TOO LONG to get a table their dinner, but I in the midst of the stress I smiled in realizing it was our FIRST NIGHT and we had a TON of people here and the servers said they liked the food and I could hear the clinks of toasting glasses amidst the din of the kitchen.

Afterwards I felt like I’d been hit by a truck, but it was a good truck. The staff hung out and I made pizzas and we took a few minutes to breathe it all in.

It’s been four days. Last night, a Monday night, we were’t full but we were busy. Friends and passers-by have walked in and sat and hopefully felt warm and welcome. We’ve worked out most of the computer glitches and we’re running more smoothly but we’re still learning and I hope we are always learning.

I’m humbled by the support of so many friends and neighbors and grateful for the busyness of these days…

Our Town is Your Town Too…

Town…

I love the word and the meaning. Your Town. My Town. Home.

We’re about a week away from opening. Construction is (mostly) done. We’ve started hiring. (Still looking for some great, experienced, servers). We’re on our way.

A bunch of people have asked about our story. Why here? Why now? Why this place? I think it’s a great story.

When the opportunity arose, I simply had to pursue it.

Cucina Rustica, now Town, is a beautiful place. In my mind, it is the jewel of the La Crescenta restaurant community. The kitchen is large and spacious and extremely well appointed. The bar, full liquor license, and dining room, all provide the building blocks of what I believed could be a great restaurant.

The owner had decided it was time for him to leave the restaurant business behind, but he didn’t want to sell his place to just anyone. He had put his heart and soul into building it – and he has a lot of experience with more than 20 restaurants in his history. He built it for himself and for his family. The design, materials and attention to detail show his passion.

Over a four month period, my friend, Albert, and I, talked about the place and the process. I shared my vision with him and I think he saw my passion.  I’ve had success in business, and failure, and I understand hard work. He also knew that I appreciated what he had built here and that I would honor him and his family with the legacy in what would become Town. When he offered to sell me the restaurant, I accepted.

Town sits near the corner of Honolulu and OceanView in the Montrose Shopping plaza. It is at the epicenter of the heart of the Crescenta/Canada community. It’s dining room opens to ever-busy sidewalks. Sitting at the bar, catching up on the day’s activities and planning what’s next, I watch 100s of people walk by every morning. I can’t wait to give them their place.

That’s really how we see it. When Angela and I and Richard and Kim and Dave and Kathy and Kate and our other partners get together and think about our place, we can’t help but anticipate the day, not long from now, when we’ve been open for a little while and the kinks are ironed out and on a given weeknight there are people laughing and talking at the bar, or enjoying a local game, and the dining room is full, and the kitchen is loud and busy.

That’ll be a great day and a great beginning to what we hope is a long story where our Town, truly is your Town, too.

Town is Hiring!

We’re looking for some great folks to join our team. Town is a high energy environment and we value our staff, understanding that building a great business is a group effort. We’re looking for experienced food service professionals, servers, kitchen staff and bartenders. I’ve tried to describe a little more of what we’re looking for below and if you want to throw your hat in the ring, drop us a line at jobs@townkitchenandgrill.com and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Head Chef

In a restaurant, everything begins and ends with serving great food. We have a lot of specific thoughts about our cuisine and we’re really focused on an enjoyable dining experience built from a series of simply prepared dishes. We want to be welcoming to people with dietary challenges – whether real or imagined – and offer a menu with the breadth to serve these needs, but we are realistic about the capabilities of a new kitchen and we’ll be focused on maintaining a small enough menu to ensure initial success.

We have three qualifications for this position.

  1. We want someone who makes great food.
  2. We want someone who understands the business of a restaurant.
  3. We want someone who can contribute their own ideas to make us better.

If you’re prepared to run a high energy kitchen, nurture a great staff and help us build a great place, and you have at least four years of experience working in a restaurant kitchen, ordering, provisioning, problem solving and creating, we want to hear from you.

Bar Manager

This is an integral and important position at Town and we have very specific ideas about the kind of person we seek. We want those who visit our bar, whether for drinks or for dinner, to have a great experience. We want to offer some fun specialty cocktails, but we want to excel at the standards.

Our Top Three Qualifications for this Position Are:

  1. Three to Four Years Bar Tending, Bar Management experience.
  2. An understanding of the business of a restaurant bar, profitability, vendor management.
  3. A solid understanding of wines, recommendations and pairings.

Along with the appropriate food service certifications, we seek someone who will bring their own ideas to the table, helping us to build a great business.

Servers

If you LOVE service we want to talk to you and we know exactly how important you are to the success of our restaurant. At Town, you’ll be part of a team who understands that you’re on the front line.and you need the support of everyone around you and we’re here to help you succeed.

Top Three Qualifications for Servers

  1. A love of food and service and a drive to provide a great experience to our guests.
  2. An understanding of food, diet, allergy and other conditions commonly encountered and an ability to handle them in a way that leaves the guests feeling honored.and well served.
  3. A problem solving nature and the ability to contribute as an integral part of the complicated process of food service.

You should also have, or be able to immediately retain, servsafe certification. Experience in food service is a big plus.

We’re also going to be hiring bus and expeditor staff and greeter/seater staff and I’ll be posting something when these positions are open.

Fun stuff!

November 28th. Two Years. Remembering a friend.

This post doesn’t really belong in a cooking blog. Not really. But when Don was here he was one of my only followers and he would ask me questions and respond to posts on a regular basis.  So I write this here as a way to thank him for that. I was always pretty intimidated to know he’d be reading a post. He would have laughed if he knew that. He’d be okay that this was here. I hope you are too …

I came late to the game so I didn’t know Don all that well.  At least, not as well as so many others. With that said, both because Angela and I are very close to Kate and because many of my friends were very close to Don, I am always aware of the significance of November the 28th.

In truth, I wish I’d been there when some unknown number of 40 something year old men decided there was nothing better to do than lay down in the middle of Foothill Blvd one night. I’m guessing that Taylors may have had some influence. I’d still love to see the look on the poor Sheriff’s face when he realized that the group of people standing in front of him bore no resemblance to a group of over-partied local high school students. I’m sure there were great stories back at the station about that.  I’d also like to know how Jeff’s phone ended up in the fire, but I hear there is still some pain in that story so I don’t ask.

It’s been two years since Don left. The newspaper said he’d lost his battle with cancer. That always grates on me. He didn’t lose the battle. To the end he remained more concerned about those around him than about himself. He remained funny, interested in people’s lives and fiercely devoted to trying to save his own. Cancer may have claimed his life, but it never claimed his spirit. I don’t think he lost.  I think he won.

Two years is a long time. Five hundred, twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes times two. How do you measure a year? How do you measure two?

It is hard not to ask the inevitable questions. Why? Honestly, I don’t think there is a good answer and I’ve consciously stopped asking the question. For many who suffered through the same illness, a tougher question, why not me? One thing I know is that Don would not approve of the question. He would never have traded his life for anyone else’s. He’d point down the road and ask you how you’re doing and what you’re excited about and what’s next and he’d be excited to hear the stories.

I’ve felt a transition in myself through these last months. I find myself not so much discouraged by Don’s death as encouraged by his life. Don wasn’t perfect. He’d hate being characterized that way. In truth, if you complimented him too much he tuned you out. He was uninterested in hearing how great he was and I don’t think he ever really thought of himself as all that great.  (Not that he lacked opinions :-).

I guess, though, I’ve sort of decided through listening to the echoes in my own mind that Don would want me to look up. I don’t think he’d want me mourning his loss anymore. I think he’d have understood in the beginning, but I think now he’d be changing the subject. And I guess I’m deciding to let him. This is an intensely personal thing and I would never suggest that the whispers I’m hearing bear any resemblance to another’s journey. Everyone must make their own decisions about timing. I get that and respect it.

I’ll have a conversation with Don today. I’ll tell him what’s happening in my life. I’ll listen for his counsel and decide which parts I’ll take to heart and which parts I’ll dismiss. He’ll read my expression and smile and know. There are things he’d be excited about and things that would worry him. He was that kind of friend.

And when it’s time, a little later on, I’ll pour myself a dry, gin martini and garnish it with a twist and never an olive and I may even find a slightly safer place to lay in the street, just because there probably isn’t a better way to let him know we’re still remembering, and laughing. I think he’ll smile.

The Standing Rib (or Prime Rib) Roast… (so easy it’s funny!)

We all love that moment when the Prime Rib roast comes out to the table to be carved.  To any carnivore (and I suspect to many vegetarians) the sight of this holiday roast is enough to make your mouth water.  To the uninitiated these roasts look like they would be hard to prepare.  The fact is that they are among the easiest things to cook for any occasion.  All you need is a roast (Bone in Rib Roast, Large or Small End – but small end is more tender), some salt and pepper and a little olive oil.

Image

I learned a great technique for cooking these a few years ago from Alton Brown on the Food Network.  (I used to LOVE his show and I really miss it).  Most recipes tell you to salt and pepper the roast and then put it into an oven that is preheated to 450 – 500 degrees, dropping the temperature to 350 when you put the roast in.  While this technique is fine, I’ve found that your roast will shrink dramatically due to fat loss.  Fat is flavor and I’d rather not lose it and Alton’s technique works so much better that it is the only technique I use now.

Note in the picture above that the oven temperature is set to 220.  I put the roast in the oven in the morning or early afternoon with the oven at 220 and I let it cook “low and slow” to an internal temperature of 140 degrees for medium rare.  Cooking it this way gives the internal “tough bits” a lot longer to break down and it also brings the roast out of the oven at more or less the same size as when it goes in.  Also, you don’t need to get the roast out of the oven before it comes up to temperature as the temp will only rise a degree or two after bringing it out.  (all pieces of meat will continue to increase in temperature for a few minutes after you remove them from the heat – the hotter the heat source, the more this will happen).

Lastly, cook the rib as I have it in the picture above, with the bones on top.  This protects the loin (lean) portion of the meat and causes the juices from around the bones to run down through the roast while it cooks.

Image

A thermometer such as the one shown above is a handy tool.  When you remove the roast from the oven let it cool before removing the probe (which I insert about an inch above the bones.)

To carve the roast, simply cut the bones off (together – and save them to make barbecue ribs, YUM!) and then slice the roast as you’ve seen a million times at buffets.  Enjoy, and don’t tell your friends how easy this is.

When Good Things Come to an End …

If there are good reasons why some people die and others live I would love to know what they are.  Too often in my experience it isn’t just the good people, but the best people who seem to go young.  With too much of life before them they’re gone.  I have to admit, it makes me wonder.

Don Rhymer is such a man.  Giving without needing thanks.  Funny, but always in a self effacing way.  I wish I’d known him longer.  Knowing him made me a better person.  He’d hate hearing that.  It’s how he was wired.  It was never about him.

Just a day ago or so my friend Don lost his battle with cancer.  In the end he was with his family and his closest friends.  Everyone says it is better that he is gone.  In one sense it is.  His suffering is ended.  In another sense it isn’t.  Death is so final.

Don would say we’ll see him again and I believe that.  He was that good a man.  If there is a heaven Don is there.  No question about it.  I think though that somehow he’s probably still thinking about us.  Looking down and wanting to give, help, laugh, touch, listen, live.  That’s the way Don lived his life.  If there is a way to help, Don will find it.  That’s how he is.

Sadly, the power of life and death was not bestowed on me.  Mine is simply to wonder.  I know though that if I am to truly honor Don then what I need to do is stop focusing on this thing that I can’t change and start finding the things I can.  Don found humor in the worst of circumstances.  From the depths of his pain he also found and exhibited real love.  There are lessons in that and, perhaps, it is these lessons that I am meant to ponder.

I nearly always say at the end of these things that what’s next is what’s important.  Today I don’t think that’s the case.  Just for now, what’s past is what’s important.  I can leave what’s next for tomorrow.

Goodbye my friend and thank you for the time we shared.  I’ll miss you along the way and will love and help those you loved as best I can.  It’s what I know you would have done for me and, I guess, that’s going to have to be enough.

Things Every College Guy Should Have in His Kitchen

My son has a kitchen.

What better use of a blog called Chick Magnet Cooking School then to help him figure out how to use it?

Let’s be clear.  Learning to cook and doing it every day is going to take a while.  Start small.  Shoot for one or two nights a week, maybe cooking special meals on weekends.  Also, when you cook try to think about leftovers.  A lot of times your roommates won’t be there to share dinner.  That doesn’t mean you have to cook for one.  Many of the things you cook will make great meals later in the week when you don’t have time to cook.  (Assuming proper refrigeration, etc., of course!)

For purposes of this post, let’s start with some basics with which to stock the kitchen.  You needn’t go hog wild buying lots of ingredients but you need a few things that aren’t terribly expensive to give you what you need when it’s time to cook.  Let’s start with the spice cabinet.

Starting with the basics:

  • Salt and Pepper.  You need the regular stuff you use when you eat but you also need some salt to cook with.  At Trader Joes (it helps that there is one near your campus) buy their fine ground sea salt.  It’s inexpensive.  Don’t worry about a fancy salt cellar, just pour some in a small bowl and keep it in a cabinet when you’re not cooking.  You do need peppercorns and a peppermill.  (I’ll get you one on Amazon and send it to you if you give me your mailing address!)
  • Herbs.  Just buy an Italian Herb Mix for now.  There is no need to be any fancier than that.  They have a decent mix at Trader Joes.  My favorite for flavor is the Spice Islands mix sold at Grocery Stores.  Don’t fret.  If you go to TJs get theirs.
  • Cumin and Chili Powder.  These spices come in very handy in soups and chilies.
  • Olive Oil.  Just buy the regular olive oil, not the EV for now.  Trader Joes brand (that I use at home) is very good.  Don’t buy the gallon bottles because Olive Oil goes rancid after it’s been open for a week or two.
  • Grapeseed Oil.  This is at Trader Joes too in a slightly smaller bottle than the olive oil.  This oil is awesome, flavor free and actually pretty good for you as oils go.  More importantly for when you start to cook, Grapeseed oil has a VERY high smoke point (the point at which the oil actually starts to burn and gets a bitter flavor).
  • Balsamic Vinegar.  OK.  I’ll get you a bottle of the special stuff we use at home.  But also buy one of the regular bottles at Trader Joes.  I cook with the regular stuff and garnish with the good stuff.  (almost like Ketchup!)
  • White Balsamic Vinegar, also available at trader joes.  Taste it.  It has a bright clean flavor and it is one of the main ingredients in a lot of my marinades.
  • Red Wine Vinegar, I’m going to sound like a broken record, but I like the trader joes brand here as well.  This is a key ingredient in a lot of red sauces.
  • Butter.  Not the stuff in the tub.  The sticks.  Buy two pounds.  It looks different on the East Coast but the size is actually the same.  The sticks are just longer and thinner.  (Weird huh? – Kind of like Hellmans and Best Foods or Carl’s Junior and Hardees – I don’t know why they do that).  Take one stick of butter and put it on a plate and store it next to your salt bowl at room temperature. The stuff in a tub has something in it to thin it.  Canola Oil, etc., all of these things make butter bad for you.  On it’s own in moderation it’s just fine.
  • Soy Sauce.  Just buy the regular green bottle at Trader Joes and keep it in your refrigerator.
  • Two bags of mini penne, Spaghetti, and Linguine.
  • Crushed Garlic (available at Trader Joes in a bottle by the olive oils, etc).
  • Bottled roasted red peppers.  (I don’t know why it took me so long to discover these but they’re amazing).
  • Julienned Sun Dried Tomatoes packed in oil in the bottle.  (The oil makes a very good “flavor adder” too!)
  • Parmesan Cheese.  This is MUCH cheaper at Trader Joes than at the store.
  • Buy a package of the italian sausage.  You’re going to freeze these when you get home.  They’re easy to separate and thaw but they make great flavors in simple dishes.  I would buy the pork sausage, not the chicken.  You guys don’t need to watch your fat intake that closely at this stage.

OK.  Let’s move to the freezer aisle.

Here’s the thing.  When it comes to vegetables and meats, don’t be afraid of frozen.  Particularly frozen vegetables are substantially cheaper than fresh, last longer and are easier to use.  Buying frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts will save you a fortune in both unused spoiled meat and in actual dollars.  These are easy to defrost and offer pretty close to the same flavor profile as a fresh chicken breast.  (OK – Foodie people – these are college boys for God sakes not snooty restaurant critics).  For this reason I would buy.

  • A bag of frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts and a bag of frozen chicken tenders.  (all of this is actually breast meat). For now, that’s it.
  • Also, at Trader Joes or any super market I would buy frozen peas, frozen corn and frozen green beans.  I would not buy frozen asparagus as this will not thaw and cook normally.  Stay away from frozen mixes of onions, peppers etc.  These can come in handy when you want to do a quick meal prep, but in these cases buying the real thing will deliver more flavor and low cost.  Also stay away from packages with “sauces” frozen into the vegetables.
  • Lastly, at Trader Joes buy the frozen rice.  It microwaves in three minutes and makes a great, more or less instant side dish.

Lastly. There are a few things you can get in the canned goods section of any supermarket that can really come in handy.  Here they are in no particular order.

  • Canned Diced Tomatoes (make sure they’re just diced tomatoes, you don’t want the “Italian Style” etc as these are usually heavily salted.  Buy two or three cans.
  • Two small cans of tomato paste.
  • One can each of refried, white and black beans.  Again, these make great, quick, high protein, low fat side dishes and are also good in chilies and soups.

With that I think you’re done shopping for now.  Over the next few days I’ll do a series of posts that are dinners based on these basic ingredients.  Each of these will be quick and easy and will either feed a few of you or you will have leftovers.  For a couple of them you may need to run by the store for a fresh ingredient or two – such as an onion, bell pepper or Asparagus, but for the most part you already have everything you need.  Time to start cooking!

An Epic Party for a Good Cause

For the last several years my friend Richard Villa and I (sometimes also assisted by our friend Patrick McClenahan) have provided special multi-course, wine pairing dinners for live auctions in some of our favorite charities.  These events have a dual purpose; to provide vital funding and also to give supporters of the charity an evening to be together enjoying each other’s company.

Elizabeth House in Pasadena, California provides vital services for homeless, pregnant women and their children.  The winners of this particular auction came to Richard’s home this last Saturday night and it was a lovely, cool California evening for what can only be described as a feast.

When every dish had been whisked away and the glasses emptied we all sat back and enjoyed each other’s company until well into the evening.  An Epic Night indeed for a very good cause.

Pausing the slideshow and advancing the images forward will let you read the captions if you have any interest.  Each dish is designed to be about 2-3 bites.  The plates are small and this exaggerates the size of the courses.

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The Evening’s Menu.

Guests were greeted on the lower patio and enjoyed a light summer cocktail.  Then came upstairs to the courtyard.  Once seated, the served courses were.

Appetizers

  • Salmon Tartar with Crema, Srirachi
  • Vichyssoise (Cold Potato Soup) with herbed crostini
  • Buratta Caprese over Avocado& Basil Cloud with Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • Charcuterie of Handmade Cheese and Dried Meats

Entrees

  • Lump Crab Cakes over Seasonal Greens with Red Pepper Remoulade
  • Chilean Sea Bass over Wilted Spinach and Wild Mushroom Grits with White Wine Buerre Blanc
  • Summer Lamb with Mint/Basil Pesto and Roasted Smashed Baby Potatoes, Crema, Pancetta

Dessert

  • Olive Oil Cakes with Strawberry Sauce, Sorbet