valentine’s day at the beard house

it has only taken a week but i think i may have finally caught my breath and gotten some sleep.  after a 17 hour bus ride up, two jam packed-action filled days and another 17 hour bus ride home, i can truly say i have had a real career moment!  at times, it was a little overwhelming-to just think about where i was and who else had been there.  at others, it was just plain fun; we were so well prepared that everything went off without a single hiccup.  however, since i was a little busy, i didn’t take many photos-but i have a link to lots of them at the bottom of this post.  these are a few of the photos i took.

the front door to the house doesn’t look like much, i expected something a little grander.  perhaps some stairs leading up to the door.  but in the end, this made loading in a whole lot easier.

 the kitchen, this is the backside of the pass.
 the view into the kitchen from the far side of the pass.

 the line.  it should really be called the tunnel-as short and thin as i am, i felt a little large in this space.

 red velvet cheesecake brownies.  as a parting gift for all of the guests, i baked up 4 pans (see them lined up on the pass in the photo above?).  need the recipe?  click here.

we were unbelievably lucky; our event was on 2/14 and there were not any events scheduled on the day before.  we were allowed to load in and prep the day before.  that meant we were not as rushed and had a little time to wander the area.  when we finished prepping on 2/13, a few of us hit the streets and headed to chelsea market on foot.

 like moths, we were drawn to the light…

i do not envy the person who had to attach all of those little lights.
we pigged out on gelato and sorbetto

 then we headed up to the high line for a nap.

 the old rail line that was converted into the high line park
 love the way the building is staddling the raised railway, as if it is stepping over it
 14th street-the meat packing district

 it always amazes me that the roads are still cobbled in some of the neighborhoods of manhattan.

the uneven sizes and angles of the glass on this building made wonderful reflections.  i could have spent hours photographing the building and the reflections.  we headed back to the house so that we could go to dinner as a group.

after a lovely dinner at mc cormick and schmicks, we walked to times square.  having grown up in new jersey and spending many, many days and nights as well as working in new york city, i must say that times square at night is always impressive.  a little overwhelming but always an adventure.

 and then it was time to head back to the hotel-we had a busy day in front of us…

to see tons more pictures of all the food and the beard house, follow this link.  and congratulations to tara(in the photo above)-she travelled with us and took all of the photos on the cafe’s website.  didn’t she do a great job?

that next big thing…

some people have jobs, some have careers.  some work because they have to and others work because they cannot imagine not working; it’s more of a “calling” than a job.  for those of us who have careers and callings, we are lucky to also find ourselves in love with what we do.  our lives become punctuated by big moments and accomplishments that more often than not, include our professional occupations.

in the restaurant world, there are few things to dream of.  the work is hard, it is stressful and physically demanding.  most of us do not get many benefits and quite often the pay scale isn’t very rewarding either-especially if you are a woman.  even so, we get up at odd hours and work our asses off even when we are sick or have cut/burned/bashed ourselves to a point that would make others cry and give up.  in the back of our minds, we dream of the day that…i know, it’s no different than any other career path but in our profession, at least the food is good.

so where am i going with this?  after 30 years of busting my ass, after countless burns and bruises and cuts, after writing 2 books, and on and on i could go, i finally found myself facing what could be considered a dream come true.  a bonafide career defining moment.  an honor so great that it is one that i simply cannot put into words so that it sounds like anything less than bragging.  so instead, i bring you pictures.

it all starts with a simple sweet potato
 and potato chips
 onions tossed in seasoned flour by hand

crispy fried onions
 the start of a casserole
 tomme cheese made with milk from a cow named eileen
(honestly, i’m not making that up, her name really is eileen)

 carrots mashed by hand
 our own smoked pork loin
 chicken breaded and fried 
 freshly fried chicken made from our secret recipe
 squash ready for the casserole

 profiteroles awaiting their filling
bittersweet chocolate
 freshly shaved

can you feel the love?

as we worked in the kitchen, the tables were set.  it’s almost showtime!  the tension builds and we are ready.  this is just a dress rehearsal, but we took it every bit as seriously as we will in two weeks.  we are headed to the big city, about 900 miles northeast of nashville.  yes, that big city, the big apple.  we’re packing up our recipes and our knife kits and heading to manhattan.  we’ve been invited to throw a little dinner party for valentine’s day.  you won’t find us in a restaurant or hotel kitchen.  this isn’t a pop-up dinner and there won’t be any tents.  we will be taking over a house in the village-greenwich village to be exact.  and whose house is it, does it even matter?  yeah it does, it belonged to a man named james beard-ever heard of him?

and all tongue and cheek aside, none of the attitude or arrogance, i am honored to have this chance and even with all of the preparation we have done, a little nervous too.  the james beard foundation put a nice bit up about us on their website, and we have even more up on cafe website.  our local paper covered the rehearsal dinner and here is what they had to say about it.  wish us luck, and stay tuned for more photos.