The heat of summer is upon us. It's July again. And you know what that means -Bastille Day is coming.
OH DEAR GOD, that has a sort of Stark-like "Winter is coming" ring to it, I fear. I know I've written about last summer's Bastille Day festivities a couple of times already, but seriously - that particular evening's service seemed, at the time, almost as traumatic for your faithful scribe (me) as I imagine the original Bastille Day might have been for those who suffered through it.
Around this time last year, Whitney had recently signed on as our in-house media director and dutifully set up a Facebook event page a few days prior announcing that we would feature $7 rosé, $7 mussels, and $7 frites on the big night.
Seemed like a safe enough plan, right - what could go wrong?
Soon enough, our faithful TFB Facebook friends were cheerfully "liking" the page, and saying they would be there.
Wrong. By the time we opened at 5:30 pm on the evening of Bastille Day 2015, the restaurant was full to overflowing, and so was the garden. Now as some of you will recall, this was the summer that Chef Mike departed, and rather than hire a new chef immediately, I decided I would use the slow summer season to work on some new dishes I'd been interested in trying - I'd been a line cook for years, and here was my chance to be a true chef. What could be more exciting? So that night it was me, sous chef Dan and manager/fill-in-line-cook Josh in the kitchen.
Well, by 5:45 pm, the kitchen board was full - we were trying to find room for the new tickets coming in, and the printer just continued to make that clicking sound as it spat out one more order after another. I looked over at Dan, who had been through some seriously busy nights in the restaurant, for some guidance
Josh became our de-facto expeditor. Dan, as our best line cook, really needed to keep doing what he was doing. I did my best to rig a way to fire 10 orders of mussels at once using two burners and a large aluminum mixing bowl, while overloading the fryer with frites. So there I was, wondering who might find the time to remake the broken aioli, as I looked over the stainless steel cover of the pass at what appeared to be about 100 people laughing and drinking and clamoring for food, or bread, or another bottle of Cote du Rhone, all stuffed into our 60-seat dining room. And then I thought, Oh look, there's Virginia at table 13. That would be Virginia Wood - food critic for the Austin Chronicle, who had arrived to review the restaurant.
Ah, the food business. It's so sexy. You can't really understand why so many chefs turn into egomaniacal jerks, yelling at their line cooks and drinking to excess until you find yourself staring out at a full house, behind the proverbial 8 ball, with the local food critic seated at table 13 and suddenly the pitch of your voice is rising and you're screaming at the server across from you, "NO, I DON'T KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE READY - YOU'LL GET IT WHEN I FREAKING FINISH MAKING IT!"
And, in that moment, you realize that it's kind of like you've become your parents. There's not an adult on the way to save you from this madness. You just have to muddle through and do the best you can.
And that is precisely what we did. Everyone got their frites and their mussels and their rosé. Virginia wrote a very nice piece about us that ran in the Chronicle a few weeks later, and somehow everything turned out to be just fine.
Can't wait to do it all again this Thursday, when we will once again serve $7 frites, $7 mussels, and $7 rosé. To the credit of our amazing staff, we're far better prepared this year than we were last year (no thanks to me and my crazy notion that I would be great as our substitute chef). I do hope you'll join us - you don't want to miss the fun.
PS - If you're interested, I'll be a guest on Mark Rashap's KOOP 91.7 radio show "Another Bottle Down" tomorrow (Tuesday) to talk about the wine and restaurant industry. Tune in at 1 pm to listen to me talk your ear off in real time.