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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by gfron1

  1. I am so in the weeds...hopefully I'll post an update this weekend. Cleaning crew is here right now. Passed building inspection yesterday along with electric and plumbing. Up next - health inspection.
  2. Final building inspection is tomorrow. All of the subs got inspected yesterday. Health Dept and Liquor license will be early next week...so I made a batch of chocolates. I think I was yearning for simpler times so I used one of my vintage molds and made a foraged nocino bonbon. Also our spent barrels arrived so we can start aging...most likely our persimmon vinegar and our pawpaw vinegar.
  3. Be patient until you see how it's going to be used. 😁
  4. As we enter our final week of construction we're wrapping up some fun furniture projects. We're lathing some elevated plates for our after dinner lounge experience. I've joked that's it's a golf tee for giants, but it feels sturdy enough that some drunk fool won't break it, yet refined enough to look... Refined.
  5. I always struggle with that too, and that's why I'm looking forward to doing 3D work at the eG workshop in May
  6. So much detail work right now! I never even got to my to-do list today dealing with all of the urgent crisis and meetings. It's soooo close! (not that you would know it by the look of our kitchen)
  7. We're really there now...the subcontractors are disappearing daily because they've finished their work. Buying donuts this morning for the remaining workers. I won't be posting any more pics until we open because these finishing touches are so gorgeous.
  8. You'll see above the picture of the barrels of whiskey and vodka.
  9. Yesterday I squeaked in another trip to the Ozarks, this time to the Missouri bootheel, to visit the sorghum producer I'm hoping to use. Sorghum has oddly been a challenge because I wanted someone in the Ozarks, not in Mississippi or Kentucky, and certainly not one who cuts their syrup with corn syrup. The latter really is problematic once you start talking to people in the field and learn about the rampant fraud to occurs to cut costs. Hence my visit - I needed to look around and see how things were done. This particular producer has some really cool stuff going on including that he has built all of his own equipment, and bought parts from the Steen Family who produces a delicious burnt sugar syrup. These gears and flywheel were purchased from them and are over 100 years old. The flywheel is 12' tall to give yo perspective. This farmer grows three types of sweet sorghum, one growing upwards of 20'. Once the juice is pressed out there's mountains of spent stalk which he hopes to convert to bio-fuel. But inside was the good stuff. Barrel after barrel of syrup, most of it intended for other uses (alcohol or vinegar), but he keeps a few special barrels for himself...letting me dip my finger in for a taste. Then we wen to his next barn where he's stilling vodka and whiskey...more tastes... I can tell you I really like sorghum and hope to introduce or reintroduce folks to the taste. Its nothing like molasses, and depending on the varietal the flavor can go from grassy and bright to citrusy to umami and chocolatey. @kayb is the one who introduced me to the concept of freshness, and I've already talked to this farmer about being there when he boils down this fall so I can taste the difference. I want to try something similar to a Beaujolais release party, except with the sorghum syrup. When I was done I headed over to a small river town and found some roadside BBQ. And then headed back up I-55 pulling off for some fried pies!
  10. I've heard their old factory is still vacant and I'm asking around to see if anything is in there that would make it worth a visit/tour. Also, the MagicChef Mansion is minutes from my house and Bulrush and they do tours on weekends.
  11. Very excited to announce that Jon Schmuke has agreed to offer a hard candy demo and workshop on Saturday morning. Jon will do ribbon candies, drop candies and filled. He'll be a great fit for this group because he's also a confectionary history geek who had refurbished a number of antique candy dyes (dies?). As he and I were scheduling we also learned that Saturday, May 18th is National Hard Candy Day (who knew?!), and that Vincent Price's family were candy monarchy here in St. Louis - read short story HERE. Jon and I are going to work on locally sourced flavors using traditional methods prior to the weekend in hopes of being able to share that information as well. This is included in the price of registration!
  12. I don't know what it says, but to be on the short list with Coi is good enough for me! (Seriously though, this is from a fine dining magazine in Korea that reached out to us for a foraged fine dining story.)
  13. There is zero chance of us doing any carry out. We used them for Squatters Cafe last year.
  14. And Grubhub justifies it by saying you're making less per order but by getting orders you otherwise might not have gotten. They are probably correct, but we dropped them after just a few months realizing it could only be of value if you did really high volume.
  15. I'm working on micro-demonstrations. Based on the comments above, I have found someone who does nougat filled hard candies. I also found a Brazilian confectioner: Rene Sackett The candies I know are Beijinho (coconut version of Brigadeiro), Cajuzinhu (lots of nuts), Olho na Sogra (looks like an eye), Maria-Mole (marshmallowy), Cocada, Goiabada (guava marmalade candy/spread), Pé-de Molque. Does that sound of interest? I'm still looking for others too.
  16. Jeremy simply washes the whole, unpeeled beets, turnips, carrots, etc and coats them in koji spores. I'm not sure which specific type, but I know he buys them directly from Japan. Then they go a week or until he gets the proper pH level. That's it. Into the case and sliced thin. The taste is similar to any cured salami but the basis is a bit sweeter. The texture is similar as well including the gritty outside.
  17. We're just about two months until the next eGullet Workshop in St. Louis. Time to add your thoughts on what you hope to learn or share with the group. I still have time to bring in some experts if there are topics that warrant that, so speak now! On my end, I hope to learn more about ramping up my production to a new volume suited for my bigger workspace. And I hope to share what I learned on ganache balancing at the Coppel workshop I attended last summer.
  18. I seriously said to Tyler about two weeks ago, "We still have enough we could move to Mexico and disappear." That's how scared i was.
  19. @teonzo, what would you like me to talk more about? With only eight days until we take possession, now I can share the part of the story that I haven't been able to talk about, and the one that has cost me so many sleepless nights. Money. With the Curious Kumquat we had virtually no start-up money, no private business experience and only a few years equity in our home to use as collateral. Yet somehow that was enough for the local bank to give us a start-up loan for the CK (which started as a grocery not a restaurant). A few years later they trusted us enough to do a full SBA loan to buy a $250k building to expand into. Both loans were relatively fast and easy. And then, of course, we had a strong business run that lasted a decade. Coming to St Louis I thought, "They loaned us the money last time with nothing but a pretty business plan, so this should be easy." I even found a lender in the first month back in town who looked over the new business plan and agreed that it should be easy. Fast forward two and a half years later (the time it took for us to find the right building and landlord), and we finally had a lease back in September which allowed us to officially apply for the loan. I updated our business plan with the correct expenses related to the lease, and submitted the application to the lender. I felt confident because we brought about 25% cash to the deal, along with $200k equity in our New Mexico building, plus a strong track record of success, lots of media hype...I thought it was a super solid application! And the lender agreed. But then his underwriters stepped in. They took nearly three months to decline me because they don't loan to startup restaurants. I wish I would have known that earlier so I didn't just waste three months (I was into December at that point). So I scrambled and put together a few applications for other SBA lenders. In all I applied to nine banks, some local, some national, some large, some small...all on the SBA list of lenders. With every single one of them a loan officer or VP for lending or some other such title would say, "This is a really strong application. We shouldn't have any trouble." And yet They would take a few weeks and ultimately deny because we were a start-up, or the collateral was out of state and they don't take out of state collateral (I knew I should have bought a mobile home.) I learned quickly and painfully that even when you see VP under the name of the person who is saying, "This should be easy," they don't have any power over the underwriters. All of the explaining and selling and shmoozing only get you through the first gate. The second gate is all about mathematic formulas and check boxes, and subjectivity is mostly tossed out the window. And I've learned that these guys are ultimately just sales people. They want the deal so they get the commission, so they'll say what they need to to get you to apply in the hopes that you'll get approved. I do not think kindly of this tier of bank employee anymore as you might guess. In one of my most severe moments of panic (because I was at about six weeks to opening) I asked for coffee meetings with some of the big money players in the business district that we're going to be in, with the goal of either securing them as a private investor, or a referral to someone who could help. Basic networking. This gave me the ability to call a bank that I hadn't even heard of, and to drop a few names of clients of theirs who referred me. This bank offered a creative solution which split the loan into two different loans - one being a home equity line of credit, and the other a traditional business loan. No SBA loan at all. The only reason this worked was they had just (the week prior) purchased a bank in New Mexico...and voila! my property was in-state collateral! So to do the math for you...We take possession of the finished building on 3/18. The first loan closed 3/8. The second loan closes 3/15. I could not have cut this any closer! From day one my real estate broker, the landlord's broker, my insurance agent, the contractors...they all said, "Don't worry, it always comes through in the end." None of them knew just how close this came to not happening, and I only just started sharing this story last week for fear of spooking any of the players (and my employees). I can tell you that last Friday Tyler and I went out for a nice dinner and I finally had a decent night's sleep after six months of stressing over funding. Now I only lose sleep because I actually have to start cooking good food!
  20. And then last week I squeaked in a r&d trip for my staff. I took them to Chicago to eat at Smyth, who while more demanding on service than we'll be is stylistically similar to what we'll be doing for food. and this dish was funny because I've been doing something very, very similar for so long that its in my cookbook Then it was off to Aviary just because we need to not that it has anything to do with what we'll be doing. But at $25+ a drink we didn't stay long. We were actually much more excited about Kumiko. That place is amazing with none of the fluff of Aviary. The next day we went to Cleveland to see my buddy Jeremy Umanski who has become the kind of koji here in the US. He's doing so many amazing ferments and cures...and the day before got a JBF nomination! These are his house drinks: Yes, koji cured vegetable charcuterie. A plate of all sorts of greatness. And walls lined with even more cool creations. And finally we went to Spotted Owl because I had a savory cocktail there a few years ago that blew me away, and they did not disappoint this time either.
  21. So much has happened since my last post. We continue to be on schedule if not ahead. The keys should be handed over to me on March 17th. I'm sort of freaking out if I'm being completely honest. So many details - Where do we store the back up toilet paper? Do I need a feminine product waste container or is the regular trash can enough? If we shift the cooking island one inch will we still have room to move? Does the walk-in actually fit in that space?! The counters are done and installed. They'll get finished next week after the drywall dust is gone. There are two different counter - walnut and ebonized. One is for the bar and the other dining surface. And yet we're still looking into what damn coup is acceptable! Oh, and we're just wrapping up maple season and boiled down close to 200 gallons of sap in my tiny apartment on my tiny stove! ...and...I got called to Jury duty on what is supposed to be opening day! But not to fear! Apparently whoever is in charge of this recognized my name and rescheduled me...for the day we're supposed to move in! That's fine. I'll take that.
  22. I think this is a pretty exhaustive list of obvious and off-radar. The first few are sort of in order of greatness. Q39 LC's Bryants Gates Joe's BBQ (20 mi west of KC) gas stationSlaps Char Bar Slaps Jazzy B's (Lees Summit) Hawg Jaw Rosedale BB'a Lawnside Danny Edwards Fergolicious Chops Plowboys Jack Stacks Wabash Woodyard EJ's Urban Eatery Local Pig (steak sandwich) Brewery Imperial Hayward Here's an app to help find the most current HERE
  23. Walking distance from us is the Angad Hotel (which is incredibly cool if you can get a good price - try calling) and Hotel Ignacio. Both are boutique hotels and I show them at $125 a night which isn't bad at all. I know for a fact that Angad can be booked even cheaper because they are new and out of towners haven't discovered them yet so I've seen prices under $100 a night. Keep in mind that anything in the city is an easy 10 minute drive or less. So you can find an air bnb in south city (Benton Park, Fox Park, Shaw, Tower Grove, Forest Park East, etc) and drive or uber very easily. I personally avoid the Central West End (CWE) because parking is a pain, its more of a party atmosphere and there's a bit more crime. Parking isn't too bad here in town unless you go downtown, but I Lyft regularly and rarely do I pay over $10 per trip. CWE is not far, but absolutely not walking distance. And my comments about the district are only because I'm becoming a Get Off My Lawn old man. My niece loves the area.
  24. And once folks start talking lodging I'll jump in with suggestions. I've been kinda quiet because I'm a bit humbled that you all are doing this. But I do want to make sure you have the insiders perspective on where to stay and where to eat and play. There are definitely places you should go that aren't the Yelp spots.
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