Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sidecar Brewery, From Dream to Reality! I Land my Dream Job!

     Dreams can come true, I have been offered my dream job! This job hinges on the dreams of others of course. There is no option to fail, There is only moving the dream forward for a small team of people; and those people carry a passion that few in this ever expanding field of corporate restaurants have in this modern day and age.

     I live in the small city of Wichita Falls Texas, I moved here seven years ago due to family issues and circumstances beyond my control. In this small but food and service heavy town I made my fresh start. Since I grew up on the outskirts of San Diego California, I mean the high country of San Diego, this was not such a big change. As big as Wichita Falls is or as small as it may appear, this city beats with the heart and soul of America. We love our family and friends. We love our city. We only wish to see all of the above succeed.

I now get to help this local Texas brewery grow into, hopefully, a powerhouse of local achievement. As you can see the kitchen is a work in progress. This of course is a not the heartbeat but a compliment to the heart of the brewery. Master Brewer Joe Hayes and myself will be working close together to build a menu to compliment his craft beer.

Our plan is to keep the menu Texas fresh and Texas seasonal. Our aim is not to make the food of Sidecar an afterthought, but to make the food a compliment to a mastered craft. We will be featuring a Gastropub menu that will change with the seasons. My first thought is to keep the menu very short and simple until we catch a groove. We will focus on presentation and freshness then move on to a more sophisticated menu if our clientele permits. 

This opportunity is what dreams are made of.  Carry on, keep your head down, and persevere. You can only come out out on the other side stronger and more ready to face the struggles ahead. Not only do we as a team get to build this business from the ground up, we get to introduce the city of Wichita Falls to a new way to approach food. 

Please join us! While the opening date is soft and looking towards the end of June 2017 this is a push date. I will do my best to make it happen but it may take just a slight bit more time for this to actually happen. If you have any questions please ask below in the comments. I hope you join us as we build the kitchen. I hope to post from start to finish and beyond!
902 Broad St
Wichita Falls, Texas
Call (940) 767-2739

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Back And Going Gluten Free!

     Well life has a way of throwing curve balls at you! This time, for me at least, it may be for the best. I have recently developed a Gluten intolerance. Late in life mind you, this is a big change for me. I was not long ago in the camp of people who said, "What is this gluten allergy thing? Why is it so prevalent now? Are these people just looking for attention?"
     It turns out no, it is real and recently it has risen like the latest fashion trend, only this is serious for some people. This allergy is not new but it is on a drastic rise. I had to ask myself, "Why now so late in life, and is it just me or was this not a thing ten years ago?" That answer is actually as complicated as it is easy to answer. So lets talk gluten!
     It turns out Celiac is quite old as far as a known medical condition. Only recently though has the term been used to group multiple gluten related issues. I guess now would be a good time to let those of you who don't already know, what gluten is. Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.
Read more at (note I copied that statement from the linked web page).
     The easy and uncomplicated answer is: Yes gluten intolerance is on the rise. While there is still research to be done and debate to be had, it would seem that GMO of wheat is the possible cause. With the modern day science of modifying our food for various reasons, the food we eat today is just not the same version of the food we ate even only 100 years ago. I really think you should visit this article I found that has great information and plenty of links to the research that it sites: The Rise Of Gluten Intolerance by: Kristen Michaelis at Food Renegade. Unfortunately this modification of our food to make it better may be causing more trouble than the problems it is supposed to fix. If you stop and think about it, it seems logical. Humans take hundreds and thousands of years to evolve. We have within the last century put our food through those years of evolution while we lag behind. I equate this to the whole Western civilization is able to digest dairy while others can not, due to evolution. 

      This brings me to where I am today. I now have an intolerance to gluten. This is a big life change for me as I work in an Italian restaurant and am used to just eating what ever I pleased. At first I was very upset about this development. Then as I did some research and cooked a few meals it became exciting. I am among the lucky ones that can get away without going completely gluten free. Some people have drastic reactions to gluten, while I just get a bad rash. I am still learning how much gluten I can handle so I have done my best to cut gluten out completely. 
      I am now at a point where I think it is time to get back to what I love doing. Cooking, learning, and writing. I am going to start this blog back up with a focus on low and gluten free food options. I will be posting my finds and restaurant reviews. This time around I will be much more critical about the options and practices of these restaurants. While I don't expect small local restaurants to have gluten free menus, I do however expect major chains to have at the very least a knowledge of Celiac and gluten free options. 

     I look forward to getting out there and trying new foods as well as getting Wichita Falls Foodie up an running again. While at this point I am not sure how often I will be posting, I hope at least two or three times a week. I will be posting everything from new snack ideas to recipes to restaurant reviews. I hope you will join me in this new journey in life and share with those you think could benefit from this new low to zero gluten direction of Wichita Falls Foodie!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

What Has Our Restaurant Dining Experience Turned Into?

What Has Our Restaurant Dining Experience Turned Into?

Being in the hospitality business for over 25 years, I have seen some of the best and worst at their trade.
From the hardworking, studious college kid that was very driven and worked as a waiter 6-days a week to put himself through school; the gravelly-voiced divorced mom of 4 grown kids that needed to pay her bills and get her life back on track; the “hot” chick that thought her looks was her ticket to fame and fortune and that being a waiter was only a temporary setback for her; and the overweight nerdy-guy that really couldn’t relate well with his customers, continually came in late and never got a close shave but always found time to play dungeons & dragons.
They all had one thing in common, they wanted to earn as much in tips on each shift as they possibly could! And why not?  That’s why they have a job. 
But whatever happened to customer service?  What happened to the dining experience we used to receive?  Where are all the waiters of days gone by?
It seems like all the “nice” restaurants have been replaced by themed restaurants, ones that think the way to decorate a restaurant is to hang countless photos of actors, sports memorabilia, and even small boats on their walls.  Regardless of the atmosphere of the establishment, service has definitely changed over the years.
With very few exceptions, gone are the days where a waiter will ‘de-bone” a fresh-caught fish tableside.  And frankly, not many people are interested in this anyway.  But don’t they still desire fine service?  Can’t we still tend to the needs, wants & desires of our customers that come to dine in our restaurants?  It seems that very few establishments strive for this.
Now it seems that the primary goals of many restaurants are to “turn” as many tables as possible during their service, make sure that there is no staff overtime and hire managers that are inexperienced and too afraid to come out of their offices and check on their staff, let alone on their guests. More money is spent on designing eye-catching and colorful menus then is spent on training the staff.
We are used to seeing waiters wearing buttons on their lapels, flowers in their hair, not being closely shaven, and waiters that crouch down at the table when they are taking the order.  Then there is my personal favorite choice of tactless behavior; calling all the guests ‘guys”.  “How are you guys today” or “What can I get you guys to drink”, the waiter may say.  These phrases roll off the tongues of most wait & bar staff today and it has become the norm.
This is not service, this is not the way to greet your customer, your guest, at the table.  Does the waiter know the menu inside and out and know what options there are for substitutions of the starch or vegetables?  After serving your food, did your waiter check back with you within two minutes or two bites?  Probably not.  
This is one of the basic industry standards of service, but it’s almost never taught.  Does your waiter continually refill your water glass or bread basket, or does he wait for the minimum wage busboy/busgirl to do it?  But they still want a big tip from you of course!
Today’s waiters are taught to wear the “focus-group determined” uniform, to form a conga line when it’s time to sing happy birthday to some soon-to-be-embarrassed patron and taught that wearing any color of nail polish or multiple dangling ear rings is OK.  It’s OK to come in late, it’s OK to come back from a cigarette break and still smell like a chimney, it’s OK to be indifferent to the very same people that you are relying on for your livelihood.
I seek out restaurants sometimes just to see if their silverware is preset on the table next to a freshly pressed napkin.  But that has been replaced with spotted, cheap silverware rolled in a paper napkin.
Then to make matters worse, customers have been accustomed to this lower level of service and have been willing to accept it.  You waited 10 minutes for a waiter to take your order, that’s OK.  You’re not happy with how your meal was cooked and can’t find your waiter, well “it’s OK, he will be back soon”.  You want a second cup of coffee but all the waiters are hanging around the service station in the back.  You’ll just wait.  This is not why we go out to dine. 
If we just want to fill our stomachs then this level of service is fine.  But if you want more than that there are fewer and fewer affordable restaurants where the average person can go without spending a small fortune.
I just want to be taken care of, to be catered to on those all too infrequent nights out with my family.  Is that too much to ask for?  I hope not.  Is that possible in a restaurant that is less than 5 stars?  I hope so, I know so.
Remember: Only by making your guests feel special, feel as if THEIR enjoyment is YOUR primary concern, will you make the big tips. All else is not important.
You see, that’s the key.  Any waiter can get to their ultimate goal of making bigger tips but only if the customer service is there first.  Good food can only keep your customers for so long, but good service will keep them forever. 
Author Biography
Author Steve DiGioia has been in the hotel & restaurant business, in one manner or another, for 25+ years.
From booking agent to catering sales manager, to restaurant director and director of banquets, he has seen some of the best and worst at their trade.  Using a hands-on approach, he has developed multiple training programs and personally mentored countless employees that have successfully moved on to supervisor and senior management positions.
Still active in the business, Steve has put together this collection of those same straightforward no-nonsense tactics that he continues to use, that will improve the customer service mindset of your employees.  When that happens, the result is bigger tips for the employees and increased revenue and repeat business for your company.
Steve DiGioia is the author of “Earn More Tips On Your Very Next Shift…Even If You’re a Bad Waiter, available at Amazon.  Follow this link to the book:
The above was a guest post that I was thrilled to be approached about.  I am excited to say Steve has another great article to look forward too and hopefully more to follow.  Please leave your thoughts and comments below.  Your feedback and involvement are highly encouraged!
Thank you Steve and you are welcome to return as a guest anytime!
Love Food, Live Life!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Easy Family Style Empanda

Like most foodies I am addicted to watching cooking and restaurant related T.V. shows of all sorts.  I found one called Made in Spain featuring Chef Jose Andres.  I really enjoyed his energy and he was also very informative.  Spanish food looks exciting and fresh and full of flavor.  When I saw him use a pre-made, store bought puff pastry sheet to make a baked, family style empanada I was floored.  The concept is just so simple and can be the base for so much more, I am thinking quick meat pies!
I decided I was going to make my own version of this Empanada.  I started out how I usually do, with a trip to the market for some inspiration.  I often just walk around the grocery store looking at all the products.  I not only look for new and exotic ingredients, I look for deals, cooking as a hobby can get costly!  I found this beautiful Pork Shoulder for $5.00 and knew right away that it was bound for my Kitchen and my Empanada. 
I am not going to post an actual recipe with this one.  What?!?!?!  Yea that's right.  I want you to build your own and come back and share with me what you did!  Just leave a comment below with the recipe and or a link to a recipe.
I started by scoring the skin on pork, and seasoned it with some salt, black pepper, thyme, and rosemary.  I baked it  to perfection then let it cool so that I could pull the pork apart by hand.  In two hours I had the most tender and juicy pulled pork just waiting to be knocked up another notch or two.
I decided I would use a chicken stock and simmer the pulled pork with Carrot, Celery, Onion, Red Bell Pepper, and Green Bell Peppers.  When my Veggies were cooked aldente it was time to put this bad boy together. 

     Be sure to build this on a non stick baking sheet and you need to poke holes in the top to let the steam escape or you will have a pastry that you can't move and will be soggy after baking. 

Roll or pinch the edges together, make sure to form a good seal.

Follow the baking instructions on the packaging of the pastry that you bought and you are done!

You can go all crazy or keep it simple, just get in the kitchen and have fun!  Cooking is only as difficult as you make it!
Be sure to come back and share what you made!
Writing this blog has connected me with some wonderful people.  One such person is Steve DiGioia.  He has a wealth of experience in the service industry and has written blogs and has a book published (Earn more tips on your very next shift...even if your a bad waiter).  I have the awesome opportunity to let him do a guest post on Wichita Falls Foodie!  The next post will on this blog will be a guest post by Steve and I think those of you who are passionate about the service industry will find it very entertaining, interesting and informative.  Come back soon and check it out and follow the links above to take a look at Steve's LinkedIn profile and his book on Amazon.
Love Food, Live Life!
Wichita Falls Foodies Group Page where everyone can share their favorite recipes, restaurants and anything food related, anywhere in the world.  It is not limited to Wichita Falls residents.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Rustic Sausage and Pepper Sandwich, a mobile post!

Hello!  :D Wichita Falls goes mobile! I am posting this from my phone! Here is a quick easy sandwich idea and it is one of my favorites.  I always try to find the stand at the County Fair that serves these.

For every person you need 1/4 red and green peppers sliced lengthwise.  Equal parts sliced onion and at least one Italian Sausage link per sandwich.  Sautee onion and peppers with salt, pepper, thyme,  & rosemary.  Bake sausage at 450 for about 10 min. Make sure internal temp. is 165°.  Slice sausage and add to your veggie mix with your favorite red sauce and bring to a simmer.  Let simmer until your happy with the temp. and texture of your veggies. Spoon onto your favorite bread or roll and in 15 minutes you have a hearty sandwich bursting with classic Italian flavor!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Guide to Modern Dining Etiquette part 6: Your Server

Well we went through the long wait in the restaurant lobby.  We made our way to our table.  Did you ever think so much was going on just to get you to that table?  Most likely not.  If you have not read the first Five Modern Dining Etiquette articles you may want to do so.  We have been making our way from home to the table and learning all the subtle nuances and work it takes to get you there.  I started this series because I have served food to the public for more than 16 years and it never ceases to amaze me at the lack of manners from the guests and the lack of professionalism in the Food Service Industry.  So now you know where I am coming from and where we are headed.  Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts below, I would love to hear some of your own story's!
OK back to the story.  You are all seated and even the kids are tucked into their seats and momentarily distracted by the new surroundings.  Your server has greeted you and went over any specials or offers and is now asking for a drink order.  This is where as a diner you need to consider where you are and how busy it is around you.  Nothing is worse for a server than being busy and getting held up at a table.  Even if it is slow it is terribly awkward to stand at a table in silence.  "What the heck?  I just got triple sat,  and now you are holding me up!  Just tell me you need more time!"  As a guest I understand that you have undoubtedly had bad service somewhere. You asked for that side of dressing but now your done with the salad and the server shows up with the dressing as you push the plate to the end of the table.  Did you notice that the sever greeted a table just after you asked for the side of dressing and that table kept them there for five minutes?  Probably not, you should be enjoying good company and conversation.  Just keep in mind if it is busy service slows down.  If you want a more slow paced and engaging meal you should eat early during the week.
After quickly deciding weather to order drinks or asking for more time, it is time to get to the menu.  Now as a server if you are busy this is where knowing your menu can come in very handy.  When suggesting dishes at your introduction or if asked to recommend a dish, recommend a quick and simple one.  I takes pressure off of  you and the kitchen.  As a guest don't walk into a full service restaurant on a Saturday night order a well done 20 ounce steak then tell the server "We have 20 minutes to make a movie."  If you are in a restaurant to slow down and enjoy yourself don't let the server rush you.  Let them know you want to relax.  A good server will find a way to ask what kind of service you are looking for. 
Hopefully if it is a new restaurant for you your server can guide you through the menu and help you make some great dining choices.  You should not be afraid to try something new.  Some establishments will be happy to replace the meal if you did not like it.  Some will not though so it is always best to ask. 

Now for the dreadful order error.  It happens.  It seems to happen to me every time I go to a certain McDonald's location here in Wichita Falls.  I don't eat fast food if I can avoid it but sometimes I just want a Quarter Pounder and Fries.  Now I could get all angry and be rude and snobby but I don't.  I think to myself am I just the unlucky guest or do they mess up all the time?  More likely I am just that unlucky guest so I deal with it with manners.  It does no one any good to freak out.  It's just going to raise every one's emotional level and you wont get the fix any faster.

As a server I always own my mistakes.  I also own the kitchen mistakes.  I mean that in two ways, I claim them personally, and get blamed for them.  It has been my experience that the guest never believes the kitchen is at fault.  Most of the time it is a server error but the kitchen messes up just as well, just not as often in a good kitchen.  As a server you need to own it as I said.  You can not abandon the table out of fear or embarrassment.  That is the worst thing you could do.  I shows a lack of care or concern and a lack of confidence.  Get your manager involved and continue as if nothing ever happened, once you start that downward spiral it can be near impossible to pull back up and end the shift on a high note.

A good restaurant will take care of you and do everything in their power to insure that you come back!  The restaurant I work for goes the extra mile when mistakes are made and we do our best to make sure you leave happy and have forgotten all about the speed bump in your dinning experience.  I guess it just rolls right around to the same point as before, use your manners.

If you handle a mistake with class the server is way more likely to make sure the correction is made promptly.  No one needs to have a their blood pressure raise a point or two and cause a scene.  If you make the mistake admit it and move on, you are a professional after all. 

Love Food, Live Life!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Classic American Cooking: Braised Oxtail

America is a mixing pot of cultures.  This makes for a diverse style of cooking.  I have been thinking about this a lot.  What are the roots and classic styles of American cooking?  Now that is a really difficult question to give you a direct answer to.  We as Americans have developed our own style borrowing techniques and recipes from around the world.
One of the most classic styles of cooking is Braising.  I am sure most of you know what braising is but for those of you who don't, then read on!  World wide people eat parts of animals we throw away as delicacies.  Depending on what part of the globe you are on Oxtail is one such cut of beef.  It is a tough cut so it requires time and love to cook properly.  I chose to start a Culinary Journey through American history and then beyond so I thought Braised Oxtail was a great way to start.
I just went by taste on this one.  I started by flouring and browning the Oxtail.  I used red wine and beef stock as my braising liquid and for flare I topped the Oxtail with fresh thyme and basil.  I braised the Oxtail for four hours then added Potatoes, Onions, Celery, and  Carrots and braised for another hour.
The result is a fork tender flavorful delight!
I intend on doing more with this one so keep and eye out!  What  is your favorite Braising Recipe? 

I also roasted some Beef Marrow with thyme and basil.  It is very rich and so I served it with toasted cibatta bread topped with tomato vinaigrette and a side of roasted tomatoes.
So this is part one of my new Culinary Journey! I am excited to see where it takes me and I hope you will join me from home!