Setting the Standard

You wouldn’t even have thought that I still had a blog with the absence of posts recently. My bad. Work plus a combination of laziness leads to a long dry spell. Well I’m back foodies.  Joe Bastianich said, “Working in a restaurant means being part of a family, albeit usually a slightly dysfunctional one. Nothing is accomplished independently.” And we certainly put the fun in dysfunctional. One minute you might want to kill them, the next you’re raising a shot of tequila together. So if you haven’t been to a Just the Tips at Standard Foods, you obviously need to put it on your calender the next time one pops up. If you’re not familiar, they invite guest bartenders, stay open later slinging booze and snacks, all for charity.  Most recently, they raised money for Hurricane Harvey relief. Besides being for a great cause, you get to see lots of familiar faces from around town. The best of the service industry in Raleigh in one room, overindulging all for a good cause. It’s what we do. Prior to that, the Just the Tips really hit close to home for me. My friend Martin Rivera, who I used to work with at Poole’s, tragically lost his sister in Mexico, and the financial burden was tremendous. Working in restaurants and you’re hourly, you have to be there all the time to make ends meet. If you’re sick or have an emergency, you lose money. No hours, the bills pile up. As a result, Standard Foods raised over $5,000 for the family of Martin. Talk about amazing. The service industry truly is a close knit community. Most of us spend more time at work than we do at home or with our families. So when one of our own is suffering, we stick together. We pick up the slack, it’s what we do; whether it’s on the line or behind the bar. You don’t have to have the same blood to be family. It’s something I’ve learned over the years as a chef. It’s not all about cooking great food. Sometimes you just gotta do whats best for the restaurant. You might not want to do it, but you do it anyway. All about the big picture, the greater good. Come in on your day off because someone is out sick? Organize and downsize the walk in after service? You get the idea. Team before self. Well that’s enough rambling for one day, but check out Standard Foods, especially for brunch. Cheers foodies!

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Surviving the Big Easy: Mardi Gras

Check one off the bucket list. I finally made it to The City That Care Forgot to celebrate Mardi Gras. It’s a whole different ball game folks. New Orleans on steroids, as well as copious hand grenades and big ass beers. If you haven’t been, do it. Maybe not make it your first trip to The Crescent City though. It is a lot to take in, even for someone who has visited and survived many times. See my other posts about my favorite city in the world. Surviving the Big Easy and Surviving The Big Easy, Part 2. Where to begin. Obviously we had to run to Willa Jean immediately once we checked into the hotel for a frosé and some to-go pastries. Who needs coffee to start the day? Then off to The Quarter to begin the debauchery. Molly’s for a frozen Irish coffee. Harry’s Corner. Pat O’s for the sweet nectar of a Hurricane. Napolean House for an amazing muffuletta and a Pimm’s cup.  Josephine Estelle. You get the point. These are a few of my favorite things. On top it all, it’s only Thursday. It’s a marathon, not a sprint right? Have I mentioned I love it here? After regrouping at the hotel, you know, a shower and a change of clothes, it was off to to bar in the lobby to hang with Sara’s family and friends. I’ve heard lots of stories, so it was good to finally put faces to the names. Plus I was going to be spending a lot of time with the men since the women had a luncheon, as well as riding in Krewe of Iris in the parade. The men? Well we were left to our own devices. How much trouble could we get in right? Especially in New Orleans. So Friday we walked around drinking 3 for 1 beers. Many o’shitty domestics. The Cat’s Meow was a purrrfect place to spend a few hours on a balcony, observing the scenery that Bourbon Street can provide. I may or may not have seen a few scantily clad women exposing their assets. Yes I saw boobs for beads. When in Rome. A few however I wish I would have looked away. Tough life huh? So every year there is a different theme that Sara’s group dresses up for Mardi Gras. This year? Outer space. A Google search and many Amazon boxes later, I have a shiny silver suit, flashing LED lights wrapped around my arms, shades and a robot hat to top it off. You should have seen how many people wanted to take a picture of me as we walked around Friday night. Plus we all wore our costumes to a nice sit down dinner. Sorry not sorry. Robots use Sazeracs and a Vieux Carre or two for fuel apparently. Operation black out robot has commensed. The Carousel Bar, followed by a trip to the Erin Rose for my favorite window seat, tends to lead to a rusty, as well as hung over robot. Nothing like a little rest, a shower, and a Miller Lite first thing in the morning to make things better. Or at least manageable. As Sara and all the women were throwing beads off their float Saturday, the men and I walked the parade route on St. Charles. You think tailgaiting is crazy in North Carolina? It has nothing on Mardis Gras. We walked around with a cooler full of ice cold beer, meanwhile I saw hundreds of tents, many a keg, grills, bags of Popeye’s, shopping carts full of booze, broken champagne bottles everywhere, inflatable furniture, and an ironing board as a portable bar. All before noon. Yikes. Meanwhile I am wearing a purple tutu. And beads everywhere. Literally everywhere. I had a nice bead sunburn to boot. A pit stop for a bloody mary or two, followed by dozens of charbroiled oysters from Drago’s, does a body good. So does going back to the hotel room to lay down. After getting my third wind, Sara and I saw KISS on an Endymion float, had an amazing dinner at Compère Lapin and took in a burlesque show to end the night. Oh Mardi Gras. Another reason for me to fall in love with New Orleans again. It’s not just beads and breasts, dudes and daquiris. It’s friends and families getting together to reminisce and share stories of past Mardi Gras lore, celebrate the unusual sights and sounds of this quirky city, and to make new fuzzy memories. Cheers foodies!