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Rethinking Self Value, Growing in Catering, Teatro Zinzanni & Gumbo

Mark and I had a real night out with his parents on Sunday and it was truly fabulous! What is the most fun you have had out lately? I am talking about seeing some sort of show, enjoying some music, having a fabulous dinner and just generally being entertained? The best way I know how to do all that is at Teatro Zinzanni. Do you know about this magical evening? This is a thing that exists only in Seattle and in San Francisco, and it is the best entertainment your money can buy. The setting is a lavish ‘big top’ made elegant by candle light and white linens. The music is a live band, there is a story line and they choreograph dinner service within the story. Dinner is a 5 course meal by a Tom Douglas kitchen so you know it is going to be good! The menu changes seasonally and it is very well done. When you are first seated at your table you begin to see the entertainers as they walk around in their old time circus style outfits, and you have a show to watch even before it really begins. Your first course is on the table and you can order drinks to enjoy as well. The lights go way down, the music starts, and out comes Miz Francine Reed!! You know her, she is the blues queen who sang on the Lyle Lovett albums. Her smoky voice makes me shiver with delight. The entertainment includes everything from juggling (and believe me, you haven’t seen juggling of this caliber!) and the magic of illusion, to trapeze arts, and feats of strength & flexibility, beautiful singing, and so much more. We even danced!

I have been to this a few times over the years and in fact I have a beaded head dress that I wear when I am lucky enough to go. I also wear my best rhinestone jewels and I have a feather boa to add if I am feeling it. Mark has been with me one other time, and it was the first time for Sandy & Don. They were both grinning the whole time and I know they loved it as much as I did! We sat in a booth on the perimeter, where I think we can see so much more than if we were down on the floor. This was the first time in several years that I have been and they have streamlined some of it and it is more user friendly than it was at first. The menu always changes and this time I chose to have the wine flight that the TZ sommeliers selected for pairing with each course and it was delicious. Our dinner menu was as follows:

Appetizer: French Country Pork Pate dusted with pistachio salt(heavenly), served with course mustard, Castlevetrano olives (bright green and not briny at all, SO good), cornichons (tiny pickles) and crispy toasts. The wine was Punkt Genau Rose, a pink sparkler from Austria.

Soup: Dreamy creamy asparagus and leek soup dressed with red pepper cream. (Mild and fresh tasting, Mark wanted to lick the bowl!) The wine: 2008 Delille Cellars Chaleur Estate Blanc, a Washington blend.

Salad: Baby spinach, frisee and pickled red onions tossed in lively mustard vinaigrette, topped with a disc of creamy chevre encrusted the pecans. (I did not get a pickled vibe off of the onions and I wish I had, though the goat cheese was great!) Wine: 2008 O’Reilly Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Main Course: I had the Fresh wild halibut with cucumber coriander yogurt sprinkled with fresh mint, sumac roasted sweet potatoes and sassy snap peas al dente. I took the option of adding a small portion of filet mignon and syrah jam to the plate as well, which Mark happily finished for me. (The other options included just filet mignon, or mushroom strata, which I did not have because the waiter said it was more like a bread pudding and that is not really a strata.) Wine: 2007 Corvidae Lenore Syrah from Columbia Valley.

Dessert: A scrumptious Vanilla Custard Tart with fresh berries and kiwi. Wine: 2007 Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Domauine Des Bernardins. (Much like a moscato d’Asti)

There was coffee service between the main course and dessert and they serve Caffe Umbria coffee, which made me very happy!

The show was to have started at 5:30 and it was a bit late, and we did not get out of there until 9 pm. It is a long, leisurely meal of smallish portions (though certainly not tiny) so you anticipate each course with glee without getting stuffed. All the while being delighted and entertained. You must go see this! It is a very expensive evening if you take it apart to look at it, though if you take it as the sum of its parts it is worth every penny. I wish we could afford to go more often, though perhaps my genuine awe and delight occurs more intensely because I only get to go every 2-3 years. If anyone wants to take me I am not opposed to going more often!

The other fun thing I did last week was to run 2 different types of private wine tastings to see how they would go. They were both so fun that we will definitely offer these on our catering services menu from now on. The first was at a senior living apartment complex in Bremerton and they had asked me to give a little talk about wine (I used the talk I did for the library in February for those of you who attended those) and I tasted the folks on 2 whites, 2 reds and a dessert wine. They seemed to have a great time and it was a most enjoyable evening for me. It was a pared-down tasting with more of a community service purpose, and I will be happy to offer that in the future.

On Friday Mark and I served/hosted a more ‘formal’ private wine tasting in a beautiful home. The hosts of the party are a couple of great customers who are quickly becoming lovely friends as well. She did most of the food and had us bring some focaccia and our wildly popular Caramelized Onion Tart. She asked me to choose the wines and I feel like I was wonderfully successful in doing so, because I chose 6 wines and, while she enjoyed them all, she absolutely loved 2 of them! I handed out wine notes and guided the 18 or so guests in a casual discussion of each wine. On the way home Mark and I outlined how we can offer this service in the future and I am quite pleased with the plans we came up with! I am not a trained sommelier and certainly not even a wine professional, though I still have a lot to offer because I am intimately familiar with the wines that we choose to serve. This will be a fun new offering and I hope that we get to do more parties like these.

I had a humbling talk with my staff last week, or rather, they had a talk with me. Leslie approached me and asked me to hear her out on some points that she felt very strongly about, and then she rallied the rest of ‘my girls’ behind her in solidarity. I was informed that I had not updated my value in 4 years and I was deeply undervaluing my service and time. She was right, and while it was difficult to hear and can be very difficult to do, I gave the subject much thought. It is a little scary to set pricing that did not exist before, or to raise prices when it is necessary, because the nasty little voices tell you that no one will want to pay you that money and you will fail. I had promised to honor their concerns and on Sunday I set some pricing guidelines for our catering services. As of Tuesday I have already been hired for 2 separate parties and they did not balk at the pricing at all. This support from the universe is especially interesting because we were closed Sunday and Monday, so these things just came in today. I am very proud of ‘my girls’ and deeply touched by their love for me, and I thank them for helping me take excellent care of our business and my self.

Today was one of those really busy administrative days where no matter how much I got done there was more to do. For every thing I ticked off of my to-do list at least 2 more things popped up in it’s place! I will be able to catch up a bit tomorrow and then it will be time to get ready for the weekend catering. I love cooking for other people’s parties! So what shall we cook this week? I am very hungry and haven’t been to the store lately so my dinner is not looking promising. Maybe I will raid the freezer for this:

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Whole Chicken, cut into pieces, or 6-8 pieces of all one cut, such as breast or thigh
Salt
Cayenne
A few TBS and 1/4 cup Canola
1/4 C flour
1 Large onion, chopped
2 stalks or the heart of the celery, chopped
1-2 chopped green peppers
4-ish Cups chicken broth, warmed
thyme (fresh or dried)
1 lb andouille or other smoked sausage, cut up
fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp file (fee-lay) powder (you can skip it if you don’t have it, or try Chinese 5-spice

cooked rice
green onions, chopped

Season the chicken w/the salt and cayenne to taste. Brown the chicken and set aside.

Get the roux going in a separate pan: Barely warm the oil and then whisk in the flour for the roux. Stirring constantly get that roux dark as the bayou. Take your time with it and go past your comfort zone

In the chicken pan ditch the old oil and heat some new oil and stir in the onions, celery and green peppers, cook and stir until veggies are soft. Don’t get splattered! Add the roux to the veggies.

Stir in warmed chicken broth, mix well.

Add the chicken pieces, thyme, parsley and file powder and bring to a boil. Simmer, partially uncovered, about a half an hour or more, skimming as needed.

Add the sausage and cook for another 1/2 to 1 hour, or so.

Put a big spoonful of rice in a bowl and ladle the gumbo over. The ratio of soup to rice is a personal choice. Garnish w/green onions. Have hot sauce on the table for those of us who like more spice.