Sunday, July 11, 2010


OK, so we all get a little crabby every now and then...

This past Sunday we had our 11th Annual Crab and Lobster Fest. This coming Sunday I guess we will have to call the 11.5 annual. In any case this is the one special dinner that has been without a doubt the most popular of all our themes. Everyone loves the harvest dinner in the fall. Regional French dinners suit me well and are always well attended. New Years Eve comes close only in loyalty. Many customers have bragging rights having been to every New Years at Andre's. But, let me tell you the folks are crazy for crustaceans! We had to run this dinner for two Sundays because we couldn't accommodate all of our loyal customers. Well, some people come to both.

So, I invited Rob to come and have an early dinner, and if he thought there was anything worth while he could do that thing that he does with light and time. You know, the way he bends it just so...

The first bite always evolves more than any course. You have an idea but, it needs to set the stage for what is to come. It can't be finalized until the whole menu is set. It's a tease, yet it needs to make sense in the sequence of the meal.

The first course is like the opening number of a Broadway show. You need to let the audience know that you came to kill it. But, it's just the first glimpse and it shouldn't overpower the rest of the show.

Next comes Crab Cakes. I can't say much about this. I think the proof is in the pudding, as they say. If you've had the opportunity to taste mine, it's a pretty damn good pudding.
OK if you don't want to take my word for it try for yourself.

1 # jumbo lump crab meat
1/4 cup + 1 T mayo
1/4 slowly cooked diced red bell pepper and onion
1-2 T bread crumbs
salt, pepper, Tabasco to taste

gently combine and form into patties, dip in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. fry in 350 oil till golden brown and delicious.

Oh, I almost forgot. You have to make the mayo to.

In a blender,
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup strong mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt, white pepper, Tabasco

with the blender running slowly pour in 2-3 cups vegetable oil until the mixture thickens. It will not be as thick as Hellman's until it is fully chilled.

So now for some soup. Lobster and Crab Curry. Coconut Milk, Ginger, Jasmine Rice...

Love 'em or hate 'em, I couldn't not, not include the Soft Shell. Personally, I can't get enough of them. In my humble, but perfect, opinion there are only two ways to truly appreciate the soft shell. The first is as a sandwich, more on that later, and the second is with some fresh pasta and really good butter.

We have been throwing this party for many years. Every year we try to pull off some kind of Chocolate Crab, or Bitter Sweet "Sebastian"-(think little mermaid). Last year was Crab in a Blender. This year, I don't know why, I decided to avoid the shtick, the play on words, and just make a nice dessert. Simple, honest and true. As I read those last few words I think it's some thing we could all use a little more of. Simple, honest, true...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

light bulb...

Did you ever get an idea? You know, a really good idea. One that deserves to be brought to life. Not the, pretty good idea that would do just as well to fester in your mind for a while and eventually rot away and be disposed of into the good idea compost. I mean the kind of idea where all you need to do is come up with a plan of action and then pull the trigger on the whole thing. Get that ball rolling and the natural forces take over. You wonder back to that dream state for a moment and think...Inertia alone will bring your fetus of an idea to it's joyous birth. A can't miss. A sure thing. The mother load!

Let me just back up a minute and say, that for more than a few years now I have had the pleasure to create menus and events to make our customers feel special, happy, even excited to be coming out for the evening. And let me also say, I am the first to admit that we have a format. A format that, even though in constant evolution, is a pretty well confined playpen for us. We know what works and what doesn't. This is the price for such and such courses, beverage package optional, plus tax and gratuity. We just pick a theme or a cuisine and the rest takes care of itself. We get to go all creative on the whole thing. But, at the end of the day, it's a plastic turtle full of sand. I could add that through and through you have all liked what I've done with that sand, and I've enjoyed playing.

Back to the matter at hand... innocently enough a few months ago I had that "Idea". Wouldn't it be fun to throw a party? Like nothing else we have ever done at Andre's. Summer time, a few bands, some good food and a totally casual experience. Pull all the tables outside, kick in some awesome beer and, Ahhhahhhh... The immaculate conception, and we shall call it "Beer, BBQ & Rock-n-Roll". It seemed like a no brainer, perfect, all the little things will take care of themselves idea. A perfect game. A sure thing! So I came up with a plan and put the ball into motion, game on.

So, if you have ever had one of those ideas, you already know... You make a plan, put it into action, and that inertia kicks in. But that inertia is a bit lazy, not quite the be all and end all you thought or hoped for. Inertia doesn't get the job done, so much as it makes it impossible for YOU to not get the job done. After all you were the one who started it. It was YOUR IDEA!

So many times along the way I thought "what have I done, how will I pull this off?"

I won't go into my own self psychoanalization, but I will say that I was riddled with doubt. Coming up with new disaster scenarios, what ifs and potential fire storms everyday.

In the end, we turned away more people than we served. God I hate that. The fire alarm did not go off, a representative from the company was in attendance. The Police and Fire company also kept the peace or more importantly their distance. A lot of the last minute could go wrongs didn't. Well let me tell you, What a fun day! Mike Lawlor said it best " a bunch of real nice people came to partay!" And between the beer, the food and the music, well lets just say we set the house on fire!

I won't say the self doubt was for nothing. We definately made adjustments along the way. The original idea needed to be tweaked to make the whole thing work. But, I did a whole lotta worrying for nothing.

There were two great bands "cousins" and "Mike Lawlor Banned". Four breweries and 16 beers: Ramstein, Flying Fish, and Climax all from the Great State of New Jersey and representing the left coast- the beers of North Coast Brewing Company.

The menu consisted of duck fat popcorn...deviled egg legs...BBQ ribs...bacon ribs...pulled pork sandwiches...cedar planked salmon...grilled wahoo...whole roasted pig...mojo sauce...macaroni and cheese...Brazilian baked beans...grilled vegetables...home made hot sauce...strawberry shortcake and mini chipwhiches!

It took till Wednesday to recover! The big problem to consider now is, do we fine tune the idea, make a brand new box for it and tell it how much we love it. Or, just let it grow, nurture it and let it have a life of its own, see how big she can get...