Saturday, July 25, 2009

Carlos's Last Day

What do you say about Carlos. He's a guy, who grew me up in the industry, right from the start. I met him first while I as a bussboy at Le Bistingo 117 years ago on the Queen West Strip. I probably would not have been here if he didn't teach (from watching) how to have fun in this cut throat side of the service world. We would share stories as he told me what to do and when to do it. then we'd have a beer after service. the stories he tole are rich in lore, fantasy, and reality that is so rare, it's got to be the truth, cuz you couldn't make it up. Every day would be a new story, and to this day he comes up with more - I don't know where it comes from, but it is good.
Carlos built a bar with my brother Christian in the eighties, and had a great time of it, then he went to the starts for a while, and we lost touch.
Just after i opened Starfish in 2002, Carlos popped in as suggested that he wanted to work a few hours, and like myself, Carlos liked to work 25 hours a day, as mush as possible. So, while he was at Pastis in the evenings, he started lunches at Starfish, then he eventually moved into the night position at Starfish, and took over the wines.
Since then he has been in charge of the wined for a long while, as well as closing out the system at night, but most of all he is a character to be reconned with.
I will miss the strange stories of the resto-world, the sordid dark past, the dangerous accent and playful banter with the customers (especially the females). I can hear it now..."Where do you think I am from? I'll give you three guesses..."
Carlos is building his own place - Leopold - I believe the name is. I do not know as I get so self absorbed into my own world, sometimes I do not find out what is going on out there.
Three weeks ago I asked who was cooking for him, and "dunno" was the answer. Not to worry, Carlos has the answer. You may not know it at the time, but the answer is there, as is Carlos, just when you need him.

I will miss him on the bar at Starfish, and it is difficult for me to make the trek to Leopold, at St.Clair & Bathurst.
But I will make the trek.
You should too - just ask about the time a lawn chair came crashing through his window in Ecuador.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Contest Results

Yes, I'm back and survived yet another wonderful day of oystering at Rodney's Oyster Festival.
If you were there, you and 600 of your closest friends saw some of the finest speed shucking this side of an F1 test track.
Amongst the revelers, there were 30 of the old, and new crew to the shucking world. Old greats like Scotty Shallow - shucks once a year now, at the Festival, used to swing from the rafters with me at the old ROH - "took it easy" on the crew, and shucked a 1:50something, while Geoff Meikle, nearly received a "delay of game" penalty for his saucy set-up ritual which set me to laughing as only GM could pull off.
In the end, the contest set myself against Eamon Clark - RTC's son, and head shucker of 469.
The crowd was already geared up and raging. Chanting of names, thumping music, and pints of beer, got the place on fire like a Man-U football batch.
On the Go we were off and we blasted through the set of 18 oysters. I got snagged on two that I didn't like with "pucks" - a fragment of the top shell stays attached to the adductor muscle - takes too long to remedy, just pick the back-up oyster instead.
At two oysters left the noise was deafening, and I knew that Eamon would finish first as I was behind by two back-up oysters (shucking 20 to make the plate of 18). When his hands went skyward, signaling the end of his shuck, for a split second, silence. The silence heard before the sonic boom of a jet passing like you see in all of those movies. Then a wall of sound rushed past so loud I could feel it. Then I finished my plate, and tapped out. Best sensation shucking with a monster like that.
When you are put in a heat with a fast horse, you cannot help but to be pushed along. I shucked the plate in 1:29 (20 oysters) to Eamon's blistering finish of 1:22. Thank you Eamon for such a finish!!
After the judges took their time with the plates, Eamon took first, with fastest AND cleanest plates (first time for that to happen at the Ontario's) Dave from ROH took second, and yours truly took third.
Of excellent note as well, Bruce of Starfish came in 10th, Lisa Millen of Starfish cam in 9th, LJMDavid of Starfish pulled off 5th, and Dom of The Ceili Cottage, shucking only for 3 weeks, tapped out a 1:55 flat time (finishing unknown as of yet). Thanks and congratulations to the crew!! You all did terrifically well.
Come on down and see some of the fine shucking going on at the Cottage or Starfish any day of the week!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shucking Contests

Hello All! Yes, it is that time of year again, when the knife is polished to an ultra sheen, and the oyster shells are flyin' at the Ontario Oyster Festival chez Rodney's 469 King Street West, in the Oyster garden.
Some 800 of your closest friends will be there to enjoy each other's company, fresh beer, lovely bi-valves, and watch the sweat pour from this year's round of shuckers, some of which show up just in time, for the event to get hot, so you never know who will be on.
Eamon Clark as always in the past few years is one of the boys to watch, and LJMDavid's perfect plate (very difficult to accomplish) has just cut a new blade, and by last account was working with 800-1000 grit wet-sand paper to get that polish right.
I'll be in there as well so the show will be the thing. Starfish will be closed this Sunday, so we can all go to the event.
Warm ups will be at The Ceili Cottage at noon, then it is off to ROH for 2pm. Either meet us at the Cottage, or ROH, and you'll get a chance to see some of the best shucking this side of the Miramishi - just bring your earplugs, and rubber boots - you'll see why when you get there.

Trad Music Sessions

The Ceili Cottage's music nights are about to begin - this Tuesday, July 14th. Hosted by Ena O'Brien at 8pm, all are welcome to attend, and join in if you play. I have a piano in-house that is open to anyone who like to play, at any time as well. Hope to see you there. Paddy

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Ceili Cottage & Oysters

Hello all, Patrick here. Sorry for the long, pregnant pause - several months methinks. I've been putting together the Ceili Cottage. A lovely little Irish Local at 1301 Queen Street East in Toronto, and it's been open now for 16 days.
We opened is such a last minute hurry, that I didn't get so far as to hang pictures on the wall yet, and only just got the music system working yesterday, so we have a ways to go before The Cottage is done. I think that most cottages are like that though.
I will post the stories of how this all came about, from Starfish to the Cottage, and back again. More for me to write down the stories, but for those folks who are interested in this part of the Restaurant world. I would love some feedback, or questions, as I will be answering questions on line as well, so let them roll in...
In the mean time, a shellfish update.
The Oyster is entering its spawning time on the east coast, and some of the west. That means fat, plump sweet-creamy textures, that some people love, but is not for everyone. The summer changes are short in nature, about two to four weeks, and those who buy oysters will adjust supply based on the spawn time.
At the moment, PEI oysters are looking great!!
- Howard's Cove - are coming in with a full meaty texture, and a wonderful brine. The gills are streaked with green, which would cause most folks to run screaming, BUT, if you are in the know (and I'm telling you now, so get the pencils out) the green gills are stuffed full of algae (phytoplankton) that has seen enough sunlight to stimulate the chlorophyll to a gorgeous blue-green. Flavour-wise, the oyster is very bright in oceany salts, and sweets with a hint of the grassy vegetation it is eating. Can't get better than this. I try to buy green oysters wherever I can. This oyster probably has 4-6 weeks until the spawn cycle hits so enjoy where you can.
- Green Gables - fantastic oyster from New London Bay, PEI. Green on the outside, means flavour on the inside, Plump and meaty, not as green as the Howard's, but just as flavourful.
I'm just waiting on my west coast beauties to arrive - Beach Angels, and Marina's Top Drawers, as well as the Weathervane scallops, then I will report on those.