Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Eli's Vinegar Factory


I love Eli's Vinegar Factory on E. 91st in Manhattan. If you don't know it, it's not a vinegar factory (at least not anymore). The building is a warehouse that at some point in its history (Google is not giving up the details as to the history of this place!) was a factory that produced vinegar.

I first started going to the Vinegar Factory as a single guy living in the city. I had been in the restaurant business prior to being in personal service, so most of my friends were restaurant guys. A few of us would get together on Sunday, head to the Vinegar Factory to pick up some food and then spend the afternoon cooking, eating, and drinking. We weren't just any cooks either, one of my buddies was cooking at Blue Hill at the time, another at the venerable La Cote Basque (now closed), and I had a wealth of cooking experience cooking at high-end restaurants in California.  We had a blast and cooked some amazing food together, if only I could remember what we made!

Fast-forward 10 years, I'm back in the same neighborhood that I lived in when I was single, a few blocks away from the Vinegar Factory once again! I introduced my wife and kids to the store soon after they arrived to join me in New York. An added bonus is that there is a gymnastics gym, "Art Farm", and dog groomer and boarder on the same street! I never noticed that when I was single!

There are many great things about the Vinegar Factory, they have the freshest seafood that you've ever seen, amazing produce (some of which is grown on the rooftop greenhouse!), house aged meat, fresh pastries, freshly roasted coffee beans, delicious prepared foods, and the list goes on. In fact, Eli Zabar's idea for the Vinegar Factory was to create a store where the majority of the products were produced on site. He's done an amazing job at creating a truly special place for food (which, of course, comes at a hefty price!).

There is, however, one thing that I can't get out of my mind that really bothers me about the place, the service. A few of the departments have good service, the seafood section comes to mind. But I went in the other morning to get a cake for my daughter's 4th birthday and had an experience that I saw coming for a while that really bothered me.

I was there fairly early in the morning. I had just finished my Saturday morning run and I stopped in to pick up the cake and a few other items. I knew that they'd have some cakes available that would be beautiful and delicious. I went to the pastry section and stood around for a minute. When it was apparent that no one was manning the area, I went to the butcher's counter nearby and asked for some help. Mind you, there were probably 15 customers in the whole store. The lady behind the counter told me that she'd be right there. Three minutes passed, then 5. Employees kept passing me, looking at me, and when I looked back they looked away, so as to not be responsible for having to talk to me. I finally stared at another butcher behind the counter and he finally had to acknowledge me. I asked again for help from him and he told me that I had to talk to the woman I had already asked for help from. I told him that I had already asked her (now) 10 minutes ago. She was busy slicing smoked salmon, not for a customer, but for the display! By now, I'm upset and I head to the checkout counter and ask for help. This time I'm not letting the buck get passed. To avoid the brush off, I tell the lady that I've been waiting for 10 minutes, no one will help me and I need the cake now. She reluctantly came back to the pastry area to help me. I also wanted to have a message written on the cake. I spell out my daughter's name L-I-L-I to her. I'm hopeful that it'll be right. Another 5 minutes passes, no cake. I'm calm, enjoying my coffee, but getting impatient. The cake finally descends from upstairs and I take a look at what they've done. I was amazed by the beautiful flowers that they piped onto the cake in many different colors, BUT my daughter's name is mis-spelled! L-I-L-Y! At this point I'm over it, but not pleased with the service I received when spending a lot of money for a very small cake. We edited the writing to correct the spelling, as you can see in the photo.
My point of telling this story is that even at the best places, if the staff are not well managed and well trained, the service will suffer. At a place like this you're paying for the great products, but you also expect excellent service. The fine points of service make all of the difference in the world. If one of the employees could have taken responsibility to help me, all would have been fine. They were too wrapped in what they had to do to prepare themselves for the day that they forgot that the whole reason that they are there is for the customer! I will continue to shop at the Vinegar Factory, I really enjoy going there. I will be offering my services to Eli Zabar to train his staff on the true meaning of service and how to deliver it better so that his customers feel like they're getting value for their money, even if it is a lot of it!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Busy in NYC

I've been terribly busy working in New York. I have much to write about, but very little time. Please stay tuned for more posts soon! In the mean time, my wife has started a blog of her own about the trials and tribulations of being a mother of 3 little girls in Gotham. Check it out, I think you'll enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Can a Household Manager Do for Me?

I've been working on how my business helps families and here is an interesting look at how much time can be saved by having someone manage your home. How much money is 15-38 days a year worth to you? In a future post, I'll explain how I accomplish all of these tasks for my clients. I'd love to hear where you spend the most time in your home and what you'd like someone else to handle.

Where a family spends their time and how the services of Jared Miles & Co. can help.

Staff Management – A family with a small staff of 1-3 members will spend 20 minutes to 1 hour per day managing their staff. This is after an initial 100 hours or more getting the staff up to the standards that the family expects.
Yearly time saving – 83 – 250 hours (based on 250 workdays a year) and not including the initial 100 hours of training.

Facilities Maintenance – A family will spend between 1 and 4 hours a week on the maintenance of their home. This includes waiting for contractors, arranging appointments, and waiting in the house for work to be completed.  Typically there will also be one time consuming project per year, i.e. remodeling, large paint job, large landscaping project. An estimated 40 to 60 will be required to complete one of these types of projects.
Yearly time saving – 52 – 208 hours per year plus 40-60 for a large project.

Automobile Care and Maintenance – Each automobile requires 30 minutes to one hour of care per week for cars the are used daily. This includes filling with gas, cleaning and washing and includes time for regularly scheduled maintenance (oil changes, service, etc.). An additional 20-30 minutes per week are necessary for cars that are used infrequently.
Yearly time saving – 50-100 hours per year, based on a family that owns 2 cars.

Clothing and Wardrobe Care and Maintenance – Handling of dry cleaning, including alterations and repairs. 30-45 minutes per week.
Year time saving – 25-39 hours per year

Household Bill Paying – A busy family spends 1 to 2 hours per week organizing and paying all household related bills, electric and gas, pool service, telephone, house staff, gardeners, any contracted service.
Yearly time saving – 52-104 hours per year

Grocery Shopping and Meal Planning – A family will spend between 1 and 3 hours per week grocery shopping and planning meals. This does not include cooking, serving and cleanup.
Yearly time saving – 52-156 hours per year

Total yearly time saving 354-917 hours per year or 15-38 days per year! 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Velvet Slippers

Every man should own a pair of velvet slippers. Some might think they're "wasp-y", but I think they're wonderful! There is nothing better than coming home after a long day at work and slipping on your slippers. It's an instant relief from an arduous day at the office. For me, it delays the changing of clothes for a bit and allows me to connect with my family and leave thoughts of the office behind. Mine are from Shipton and Heneage and they're brown with pheasants on the toe (to acknowledge my affinity for pheasant hunting). I just stopped by a Stubbs and Wooton store on the Upper East Side this evening, and theirs are beautiful as well. Here are a few photos of the slippers. As a note, black velvet slippers can be worn in lieu of patten leather for formal wear. You can have them made any way you want them and they will set you apart as a man of style. Check them out and order a pair, you won't regret it!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ask the Butler

At long last, I’m back. I’ve caught up on my sleep and I’m back to writing.  Much has happened since my last post, I left my job in San Francisco and I’ve moved to New York to start my business. Stay tuned for more details! I hope you enjoy this edition of “Ask the Butler.”

I have been invited to a CD release party at a fairly wealthy family's home.  There was no mention of the dress code on the invitation.  What should the default be?  And does that include shoes?

Dress code is always tricky when it’s not specified, so what’s one to do? Use your best judgment, keeping the following in mind:
·      What time is the party scheduled? The evening requires a “dressier” outfit than a daytime party.
·      If you know the host, take a cue from how they might dress and go from there. Do be careful, however, not to go too far off of the beaten path with your fashion (if that’s the regular dress of your host, let them own that one!).
·      Generally speaking, shoes are considered part of getting dressed to visit the house of your host. A lady or gentleman would never answer their door with bare feet, so you shouldn’t show up without shoes yourself! If, however, you are an African tribesman and your dress attire does not include footwear, by all means go without.
·      If the party is held during the week and no indication of dress code is given, you can assume business attire. This will vary by region. Business attire in San Francisco is suits with no tie, or slacks and blazer with no tie, while in New York it would be suit and tie.

Cocktails before dinner, when is it appropriate to serve a chilled sherry?  Any favorites?

There are two types of sherry, fino and Oloroso. Fino sherry is pale, light and best served before dinner, chilled. Oloroso is aged longer, sweeter, and more robust, making it a better choice for dessert or an after dinner drink.
For a Sherry aperatif, try a Sherry Cobbler, described by pioneering mixologist Harry Johnson in 1882 as “without doubt the most popular beverage in the country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen.”

Sherry Cobbler
1.    4 oz  fino Sherry
2.    ½ tablespoon superfine sugar (also called “Baker’s Sugar”)
3.    Slice of orange
4.    Berries
a.    Cut a slice of orange about an 1/8 of an inch thick, then cut it in half
b.    Muddle the orange slice and a few of the berries gently in a cocktail shaker.
c.    Fill shaker with ice and add the sherry and the sugar.
d.    Shake and pour, unstrained, into a tall glass and artfully place a few pieces of fruit on top.
e.    Serve and hark back to the time when this was the most popular drink in the country!

I am having a group of about 10 adults over to dinner, but their eating habits are all over the map (one's a vegetarian, one keeps kosher, etc.).  What is the best way to accommodate them all?

When entertaining it’s important to keep in mind what you goal is. Simply, it is to make your guests feel comfortable and at home in your home. You want to accommodate all of your guests without killing yourself.
It’s best to have something that each distinctive guest can eat. For my Kosher guest, I would find a local Kosher deli or restaurant and serve them something from there. Your friend will be quite pleased that you made the effort to accommodate their special diet.
For the vegetarians, I would include one or two dishes that are vegetarian that everyone would like, maybe guacamole and a crudite platter. For serving dinner to the vegetarians, I would simply leave the meat (or fish, etc.) off of the plate and serve them a little larger serving of the side dish and vegetable.
Make sure to plan the quantity of your side dish and veggies accordingly if that will be the main course for your vegetarian friends.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What I've Been Working on Lately

I haven't posted much in the last month and I feel like I've been shirking one of my responsibilities. I have missed writing posts, but I've been a little busy with this little angel!

Our third daughter, Dylan Olivia, was born on February 25 at 2:15pm. We are thrilled to have her in our life. Her sisters are beyond excited to have a new little one around to play with and help with. Our 3 year old loves to brush her hair and our 9 year old loves holding her. 

As we've brought a new baby into the world, I'm reminded of what it means to serve selflessly. I'm not getting up in the middle of the night to change her diaper because I'm being paid to, or because it's my responsibility to, I'm doing it for pure selfless love. To truly serve, one must love. I look forward to bringing that reminder into my daily duties and reflecting on this blog how it affects what I do everyday.

Forgive me for my posts being not as regular, I'll do my best to continue writing as much as I can.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Well Stocked Bar

As I've mentioned, we love to entertain. A big part of the fun of entertaining for us is going above and beyond what out guests expect. We have so much "stuff" for entertaining, we probably have over a hundred glasses for various wines or cocktails in our small city house. My wife loves to shop for all of the accessories needed for entertaining well (okay, I love to shop too!) and it seems like we're always looking for that perfect accessory for the type of party that we'll be throwing. We can transform our home for a party (or a season) with a few of the right accessories, then match a menu to the decor.
The one place that always needs to be well-stocked is the bar. In my younger days, I would only keep items in my bar that I liked. I've matured and learned that to be a gracious host, I should think of all of my guests. I was once scolded by one of my bosses for not having something in her bar. They had a guest over for a drink and we didn't have what he drank. She said "he was a very wealthy man, we should have everything in our bar that a guest could want." I don't think that wealth has anything to do with it, but I got the point and it has stuck with me.
I am fortunate to have had an expert furniture maker craft a bar for me. It's beautiful, made of walnut and very man-ly. It has a secret door on the side of it that holds my best stuff. It's currently in our living room and I love to look at it. It holds everything that I need to make a few great cocktails and appease most guests with various liquors and mixers. Here's a list of what I think every bar should have:

Whiskey - Your bar should have a bourbon and a rye. I suggest Russell's Reserve Rye, a great all purpose whiskey that is good mixed as well as straight. For bourbon, I'm going to suggest something that some might consider sacrilegious, Hudson Baby Bourbon. It's made in the Hudson Valley in New York, and it is really good. It's a little expensive, but worth it. I would drink it straight.

Vodka - I like Ketel One for an easy to get, good vodka. In the Bay Area we have Hanger One, which is excellent. They make a few flavors (including Buddha's Hand) as well that are very good.

Gin - I like a more citrus-y (as opposed to juniper-y) gin. Locally, we get Bin 209 that is produced in the Napa Valley. It's great in one of our favorite gin drinks.

Rum - I love Zaya Rum. It's dark and delicious. Great in a Dark and Stormy (dark rum and ginger beer garnished with a lime slice).

Tequila - My friend gave me a bottle of Leguas Anejo Tequila a few months ago. It's rich and smoky and will warm you right up. It's 100% agave and 100 times better than Jose Cuervo!

Scotch - I'm not a big scotch drinker, but you should have a bottle in your bar for guests that drink scotch. If you have a good liquor store in your area, ask for a recommendation within your price range.

Accessory Liquors - I like to keep some interesting liquors in the cabinet, both for mixing or drinking on their own. Here are a few of my favorites:

St. Germain - It's an elderflower liqueur that is great in a champagne cocktail or as a secret ingredient in a cocktail. We love it in a drink that has yet to be named, but taste like a pink grapefruit. See recipe below.

Patron Citronage - I always like to have an orange flavored liqueur on hand. They great as an aperitif or used in a margarita. Patron's Citronage is great!

Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur - This is a great cherry flavored liqueur. The story that I heard is that the Luxardo cherry orchard is the only cherry orchard to survive the World War II bombings in Italy. They also produce the only cherries that one should put in their drink, a rich, dark and delicious cherry.

Kubler Absinthe - This is a Swiss absinthe that is one of the best. You can't make the original American
cocktail (Sazerac) without it! It's also fun to pour it over a sugar cube (on a spoon) into a snifter while it's on fire (be careful!).

Frenet-Branca Liqueur - This aromatically bitter liqueur is great as an after dinner drink. San Francisco consumes more Frenet-Branca than anywhere outside of Italy!

Cocktail Accessories
You need a few more items to make your bar truly functional. Here's a good start:

Vermouth - Both dry and red are needed to complete your bar. I like either Noilly Prat or Dolin.

Bitters - You need at least two, Angostura and Peychaud's. There are many more, but with these two, you can make most drinks.

Luxardo Cherries - Not your run-of-the-mill fluorescent pink cherries, these are the real deal. They come from Italy and are the only cherry that are acceptable to adorn and flavor your drink.

Olives - I'm not much of an olive in my drink fan, so choose what you like. I have Pimento Stuffed Olives in my bar, but they've yet to be opened.

Fruit - Keep lemons and limes around your house and you'll always have something to slice and put into a drink!

This is just a basic list. Keep more of what you like in your bar (I currently have 9 different whiskeys in my bar!). Here are a few recipes that will make you a star the next time you have guests over.

Old Cuban
Dash of Angostura bitters
1/2 ounce Simple Syrup (make your own by boiling equal parts sugar and water and cooling to room temp. Can be kept in refrigerator for up to 6 months).
3/4 ounce lime juice (juice of 1/2 a lime)
1 1/2 ounces light rum
8-10 mint leaves

In a cocktail shaker with ice, mix all ingredients (minus the champagne) with ice and shake for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and add 1-2 ounces of champagne to finish. Enjoy!

2 ounces rye whiskey
1/2 ounce maple syrup
1/2 ounce lemon juice (juice of 1/2 lemon)
1/2 egg white
2 dashes Angostura bitters

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and dry shake for 20 seconds. Then add ice and reshake. Strain into a martini glass and enjoy (the drink should be foamy)

The Birthday Suit
1 1/2 ounces Bin 209 Gin
1 1/2 ounces St. Germain Liqueur
3/4 ounce of lime juice (1/2 a lime)
Splash of cranberry juice

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, strain into a martini glass and enjoy. Tastes just like a pink grapefruit!

Drink recipes courtesy Rye on the Road Beverage Catering www.ryesf.com