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gfron1

Starting a high profile new restaurant (after closing another)

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2 hours ago, gfron1 said:

Hey everyone...i'm alive, and i'm forcing myself to take a day off so I can finally share more with you all later. It's been a fast and hard 6 months!

 

I think I can speak for the majority when I say we didn't really expect to see much of you for a while once the doors opened.

 

Not that we won't greet any crumbs from your oh-so-full plate with glad cries and exultation.

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“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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Alright...where to begin?! (or continue)

 

After the last review we got our others:

Sauce magazine - a local food publication

Riverfront Times - alt weekly with critical reviewer

and over the weekend we were named the best new restaurant (Best in Class) in St Louis magazine's biannual listing...essentially the best of the past two years! That's not digital yet, just print until next week.

 

Each review had a little tidbit or two of Midwest Nice critique, and we've responded to each, as we felt each had a kernel of truth. To Ian's review mentioned last time I posted - we've significantly upped the anty on the dessert construction. Now, I still don't know if he was criticizing or just using the adjective "haute," but it I view that term as an insult to my food so we remedied it. Sauce mentioned our lack of Missouri wines. Well, show me one that works with my food and I'll serve it, but in the meantime we found this amazing little off-the-beaten-path meadery in the Ozarks that has some dry meads, and now we're the only restaurant in the state serving it. And RFT suggested that the price was too high for many people from the Ozarks (I know her well enough that I didn't read that as a serious criticism), so we are now offering a Bit Of Both Worlds experience where you can get both food from the bar and tasting menu, with drinks for a fraction of the price. 

 

I feel like our food just continues to mature as our larder matures. And we're able to gauge crowd response to the food and adjust. One of the things I'm most happy with is that my sous, Justin, seems to finally be walking the same path as me. His food has always been stellar, but much more traditional. His last few new courses get at things that are important to me but not as easily teachable - whimsy, surprise, completeness of textures, cravability. He's currently featuring cabbage - sassafras butter sous vide cabbage wedge, finished on the grill for a good char crust; sauerkraut cream, pickled apple spheres, parsley oil and crisped ham hock bits. Who knew you could be blown away  by  cabbage...and this coming from a guy who would be happy to have stuffed cabbage rolls on his death bed.

 

We're still struggling to get customers to eat at the bar. The media just wants to focus on the sexy aspect of the tasting menu. So now I'm focusing all of my media efforts on the bar. Just this morning we were on our local CBS morning news show. Next Monday we're on our local Fox channel. 

 

We've been working on gathering our farmers for next year. The goal is to grow historic crops that have been lost to time and productivity/fashion that we've found in our research. I have over a dozen farms just waiting for us to tell them what seeds to get. I the same light, we got a new history intern from St Louis University. He's been going back and transcribing all of the documents that my research uncovered, and coding them. Now he's starting to do new research based on key words i've provided him. Here's what I sent him:

Quote

 

You focus on the Missouri Historical Society database and libraries and I focus back on Little Rock. For both of us we're looking for...
1. Not printed books unless they are issued pre-1870 and document livestock breeds, produce/grapes varietals or any information on indigenous or enslaved peoples.
2. Counties. The researcher I talked to with MO Historical Society said that our best bet would be to look up by town or county, versus Ozarks as a search term. So for you I would focus on the attached map. That is not fully inclusive of the Ozarks but we need to limit ourselves if we're going to keep this manageable. Further I would really focus in on the counties including and below Shannon and Green Counties. I know there's a lot of heritage work around those areas. Remember that searching by towns/cities in those counties may net results too.
3. Topics. We are most interested in these terms (and I'm sure you can think of other synonyms) - food, cooking, farming, hunting, agriculture, trading, indians, native americans, slaves, recipes, seeds, crops, heirloom, preservation, pickling, plantations. Based on my experience those words won't get you far, but they are ultimately what we're looking for. My experience says that if you can find a hand written letter from any of those counties, pre-1870 they will be short enough that you can read to scan for these terms (which likely will have not been coded for the database). The older the better because those are the folks who are writing back home to tell people what they're growing and trading. It might be worth asking just about plantations to see which ones existed and if they have any written documents.
 
That's probably all the guidance I have because my best luck was just having them pull boxes off the shelf and me reading through very quickly for anything related to food and drink. As you have now seen, sometimes it's just one word or a very brief mention. Rarely is it a complete explanation or description. But those brief snippets are enough for us to work with. My other hope - if you decide you want to stick with this - and we continue to think about a potential book, is to start allowing your mind to develop higher level categorizations. My dissertation was completely qualitative, and that involved transcribing and reading thousands of pages of notes. In the process my mind would start to recognize patterns and topics which ultimately became the format and narrative path of my dissertation. You don't need to know how to do this because your brain will do it for you as it subconsciously unclutters your thoughts.

 

So it's exciting to me to get back at the research angle. Just today I got an angry email that we are satan incarnate because we're serving walleye...well, let me just show you the message:

I was excited to here about the concept of your restaurant on Great Day St Louis, until I saw you was serving walleye. Walleye has never been in the water of the Ozarks. Walleye is Native to deep water lakes in northern US and in Canada. There are no waters in the Ozarks that are deep and cold enough for walleye. A fish commonly found in the Ozarks is goggleeye. Pronounced gag-ga-lie. So now I am disappointed. I think you are misleading people. You need to do more research. My family had lived in the Ozarks since 1820 so I am well aware of Ozark Native cuisine, plants and animals
[sic]
to which I responded:
Thanks for the info. When we make claims such as that, it is always based in some form of research. And while our research is constantly happening (ie, we are regularly updating our info), I'm curious how you square your experience with the MDC: https://mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2014/02/show-me-walleye
This article, was in fact, our source for this decision. Early on we were doing pond fish, but obviously that wasn't sustainable for a restaurant, whereas walleye gave us more bang for the buck. As I stated on the web portion of the show, for legal reasons we source our walleye from a distributor who gets it up north. But if we are incorrect about them being native, please help me understand what I am missing in our research. The only thing I can think of is that you are stating that they are native to northern Missouri. Let me know.
And I do want to state clearly - we don't expect to be perfect in every choice we make. We're doing our best. We do have some legal restrictions like where we can get our meats from. And my family's experiences and many of my sources may not jive with yours. But we are working our butts off to continue to gather info both from books and individuals' families with long histories in the Ozarks. We're trying to do this right and we're a very small restaurant, so this has never been about getting rich. We rely on folks to feed us info and correct us, so my response to you is sincere - if we are wrong, we need to know it so we can fix it.

(sorry I can't fix the formatting now...)

 

@kayb My sorghum farmer had a bust year because of the flooding. All he's getting is vinegar. If you know of anyone I've been planning to do your family tradition for fresh sorghum...but I gotta find some first and they're all pressing right now!

 

In personal news, my spouse, Tyler, accepted a job in Portland OR as Conference Minister of the United Church of Christ - sorta the equivalent of a bishop. Yes this sucks that after 19 years together we'll be doing the long distance thing, but it's unavoidable right now. I keep reminding him that if I could live at my restaurant I would. There simply are not enough hours in the day...and I've always been a workaholic.

 

Gonna stop there because I have an Imo's pizza on my table now and while the rest of the world hates St Louis style pizza...it's like milk from my momma's bossom!

 

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Not sure about that cabbage part.  This from someone who could* enjoy her weight in coleslaw.

 

Sorry about your upcoming separation.  I have a retired coworker ordained in a Protestant denomination while his chef husband is a former Roman Catholic monk.

 

 

*eventually.

 

 

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I appreciate the thought you put into your food. As Tom Roston just said about Windows (paraphrasing) it was love not money

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Will be on the lookout for Arkansas sorghum. Got to go to Hardy in a few days, so I'll check up there, as well.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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19 hours ago, gfron1 said:

Just today I got an angry email that we are satan incarnate because we're serving walleye...well, let me just show you the message:

 

You should see this person as a potential powerful ally, not as an enemy, even if you are right and he/she is wrong. His/her comment should be read like "I'm following every single detail of what you are doing because I REALLY CARE, you made this minor slip and I wanted to take the time to make you notice it". If this is his/her only complaint then it means that everything else is perfect even after being scrutinized with a magnifying glass, so you should be proud of it. And you should try to become friend with him/her: if he/she took the time to write you for such a minor detail, then if you befriend him/her he/she is going to be a living advertiser of your restaurant (for free), which is always the best form of advertising for every business.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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3 hours ago, teonzo said:

You should see this person as a potential powerful ally, not as an enemy, even if you are right and he/she is wrong. His/her comment should be read like "I'm following every single detail of what you are doing because I REALLY CARE, you made this minor slip and I wanted to take the time to make you notice it". If this is his/her only complaint then it means that everything else is perfect even after being scrutinized with a magnifying glass, so you should be proud of it. And you should try to become friend with him/her: if he/she took the time to write you for such a minor detail, then if you befriend him/her he/she is going to be a living advertiser of your restaurant (for free), which is always the best form of advertising for every business.

I got there this morning already. If they're willing to engage I can participate with them like I do my other contacts. 

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9 hours ago, gfron1 said:

The Best of List went digital today. HERE

Congrats! Awesome review.

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Think I have found you a source for sorghum. How much do you want? Coming to the Lou next month and will bring it.

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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13 hours ago, kayb said:

Think I have found you a source for sorghum. How much do you want? Coming to the Lou next month and will bring it.

I have gone through about 4 gallons since we opened...so ideally your source can do bulk. I would take as much as you can bring me.

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I can't believe how cool our project is getting! This is a document my history intern found last weekend. Today I attended an archivist association meeting and was told that the Recorder of Deeds for St Louis had a bankruptcy proceeding from a seed store in 1837 that lists the inventory including 10 pages of seed with specific varietals listed. I get it next week!

IMG_0543.JPG

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That's beautiful and interesting handwriting, too! Is that really a "Solution for Soft Soldering" at the top? If so, what does that mean? (I can admire the handwriting without being able to read it easily. :D ) If it is, what exactly is soft soldering?


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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Here's our most recent coolness. A bankruptcy proceeding from 1831 showing the liquor inventory of a bar AND a loan proceeding for a seed store from 1842 that lists all of the seed varietals from that period! Found at the Recorder of Deeds Office, Archive Division. In other news...and related...we're getting a second intern from St Louis University's History program to help us out.

IMG_20191112_105153.thumb.jpg.972a65b53fa4536c4f740fdd34faf8a3.jpg

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Way cool!

 


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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