Nick has been talking about a restaurant bubble for a while now. It seems like more restaurants opened in 2016 than ever before, and not just corner cafés or pizza shops, note worthy restaurants with name brand chefs and cool concepts.
So it was nice to get some validation in this thrillist article.
I highly recommend reading it if you are in or connected to the restaurant industry in anyway.
I think Atlanta’s bubble will continue for longer than the bubble in San Francisco mostly because our labor costs have not been forced higher through regulation only a tight labor market. Everyone I know is trying to find cooks, decent cooks, who will show up on time and work hard and fast when it’s busy.
We aren’t new at 8 years old, but we also are not struggling. I’d like to say we are an aspiring institution. I think we offer a unique experience and atmosphere, one that only gets better with age. We are not the hottest new concept (poke ramen cocktail bar), but that’s comforting to me. Trends change, but beer, beer will be here forever. Eventually folks will have tried all the new restaurants and it will be time for them to come back to their tried and true old favorites.
Babette’s Café where I had my first job just turned 24 and is still kicking along just fine thankyouverymuch! So I’m looking forward to at least another sixteen years, baby!
Bring on the bursting bubble!
It will make the good restaurants stronger and weed out the weaker ones that you won’t miss anyway.
So while listening to Marketplace on NPR recently I heard an advertisement for a product that allowed small business owners to “focus on growing their business” and it made me wonder, is “growing your business” always the goal for small business owners?
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very specifics ways I would love to grow our business. I would love to sell more $50 dollar vintage beers to guests to who really appreciate the time and effort it takes to create a vintage list like ours.
But I am not interested in growing our business in other ways, for example, by adding catering sales or more locations.
Those things would probably help our bottom line. But there’s a formula of sorts for time vs. money. You can make almost infinite amounts of money, but time is limited.
To do more catering business would take an enormous amount of time for Nick and I, because catering is incredibly different from running a restaurant and in some ways is more difficult in our opinion. A second location adds a whole other set of headaches and also requires an entirely different skill set than running one location.
Even though it’s been almost eight years, some days I feel like we are just getting good at running The Porter.
In America I think it can be difficult to be satisfied. Our culture screams, “Bigger! Better! More! More! More!” And in business there is a certain ethos that your are either growing or shrinking, maintaining is not an option.
It is not enough to simply sit on your laurels, restaurants must evolve to stay relevant, but that doesn’t mean we need to open a new location to continue to evolve. In fact, not opening additional locations has allowed us to focus on our brand and continuing to define and refine it. With each year there are more things The Porter doesn’t do that sets us apart as well as new things we try. For example we used to do pint nights, but we found people are not really drawn to free boring shaker pint glasses. It’s not special enough for us or our guests.
A new thing this year has been our slushie machine. Nick and Chris saw Omnipollo making Slushie Beer Toppers at the Copenhagen Beer Celebration and they immediately thought ” let’s do that!” Voila! The slushie beer topper was born at The Porter, and had been a big hit this summer.
So yes, maybe we are “growing our business,” but in our own way, The Porter’s way.
Mark your calendars, September 10th we will be celebrating completing our 8th year!
That means we have survived two election cycles! Our slowest night to date was election night in 2008, everyone was on their couches watching that very close race instead out drinking beer! Hopefully come November 8th, everyone can hug it out and share a pint of something made in America and enjoyed since Benjamin Franklin’s time: beer!
But back to our birthday party….plan to get here early if you can, as always the first 100 guests get a fantastic gift!
And then of course these is an epic draft list to be drunk!
Hints: Omnipollo Nautilus Slushies, Westbrook Mexican Chocolate Cake, Wicked Weed Recurrant, Evil Twin Liquid Double Fudge and many many more!
thanks for including us for another awesome year!
So it began with a ice cream treat on a stick called Golden Gaytime, popular in Australia….
And then Noma Australia made their own version, the Baytime….
raw peanut milk ice-cream, finished with a caramel and freekeh glaze on a lemon-myrtle stick
And so Nick created a malt version of the Baytime…
malt ice cream, chocolate brewer’s malt shell
We should call it the Beertime!
Spoiler Alert! It was amazing!
Nick and I just returned from attending Washington DC’s beer week. DC has a vibrant craft beer scene, which is aided by Washington’s excellent pro-competition beer laws. If a beer is not represented by a distributor in DC, then it is perfectly legal for a bar or package store to purchase the beer directly from the brewery and transport it themselves into DC where they pay a small tax on the beer by volume and then are legally able to sell it.
This is why Pizza Paradiso can have Maine Beer and Grimm on their list and Churchkey can do a Shorts tap takeover. These laws also can cut down the cost to the bar and consumer. Sovereign is able to buy beer directly from the importer Shelton Brothers. So they don’t have to pay another middle man to mark up their Belgian delights like de la Senne.
So in a 3 day whirlwind we hit the following spots:
Toki Underground for Ramen (excellent base for drinking beer!)
Pizza Paradiso which was doing a Ballast Point Fruit Tap Takeover, most of the beers we have had, so we drank some bottles that we couldn’t get in Atlanta!
Church Key for Shorts and Surley 50 Tap Takeover
Meridian Pint for Wicked Weed
Jaleo for dinner (just for fun, not beer related)
Iron Works for a night cap
Churchkey for a Southern Brewery Tap Takeover (Wicked Weed, Burial, Fonta Flora, Parish)
Meridian Pint for Firestone Walker and New Belgium tap takeover (I never got pictures at Meridian Pint because there was pinball, so I was very busy playing Lethal Weapon 2.)
Black Cat for a show by Diaherrea Planet sponsored by Oskar Blues
Right Proper Brew Pub, who was featuring all their barrel aged brews
Savor! The ultimate beer and food pairing event!
I cheated a bit here. I have roasted a chicken before, but I wanted to know if I followed a recipe by Daniel Boulud if I would get better roast chicken.
My usual recipe for roasting chicken is to chop rosemary and combine it with butter and shove as much as possible under the skin of the chicken, then roast at 350 until done, basting with butter as desired.
This recipe was much more complicated and involved brining the chicken for 18 hours, plus drying it out for 12 hours before roasting it.
In the end I got a tasty chicken with crunch skin. I would definitely do it the same way and then still cram butter, rosemary and thinly sliced garlic under the skin.
Nick helped me make Roblochon potatoes to go with it and I sautéed some broccoli rabe.
The recipe finished by saying to let the bird rest for 20-30 minutes at which point it would finish cooking. Mine didn’t tho and Nick got raw bird juice on his plate, blech! He was very nice about it though and after 10 more minutes in the oven, it was ready!
Pre Oven, Post Brine, Post Drying
After Baking at 450 for 15 minutes.
Dinner! Finally! (I ate most of my rabe while waiting on chicken to finish cooking.)
Chris reported back the fermented potato bread at Amass was much more fluffy and much bigger than ours.
Amass also changed their spread to a celeriac and cheese oil instead of the leak spread Nick and I enjoyed a year ago.
Here is a picture of the potato bread at Amass!
Buccatini w/ Bacon and Tomato Sauce.
Once again, I began this process with the desire to improve, to be a better, more patient cook. I came off the rails real fast on this one, reminding me that old habits die hard. I blame Nick because he wasn’t here to tell me to quit shoe-making.
I found a recipe that sounded good by Lidia Bastianich, I bought the ingredients listed, except the grocery store didn’t have buccatini so I used rigatoni. I didn’t really read the recipe until I was ready to start cooking. (mistake #1)
That’s when I discovered it included cooking the onions in water, which sounded weird to me. So I decided to deviate (classic Molly) and cook them in olive oil the way I always do.
Then I read that she had the bacon cooked on one side of skillet while the onions stayed on the other side. When I looked at the pan I had picked out, I thought “who is she kidding?” I’m not cooking on a restaurant flat top, I don’t have room for that. So I just added the chopped bacon while the onions were cooking (mistake #2)
The water that came out of the onions while cooking prevented the bacon from fully cooking, which I didn’t really realize until I tasted the sauce after I had added the fancy tomatoes. It simply wasn’t bacony enough. So I decided to try and add more bacon flavor by separately cooking some bacon, chopping it and adding it in.
But I didn’t want to dirty another pan so I microwaved the bacon (Shhhh! Don’t tell Nick!) Needless to say that was mistake #3. The bacon was fully cooked and crisped, but I lost all that good bacon grease in the process.
In the end, the pasta tasted pretty good, but I know how I’m going to do it better next time. (Cook the onions and bacon in separate pans and combine them once they are both done and use lots and lots of bacon!)
Lesson learned. (Hopefully)
This is Nick’s favorite dish when we eat at Sotto Sotto, which is why I chose it as my first cooking project. Just like Nick w/ the Fermented Potato Bread, I am trying to copy someone else’s restaurant dish.
There are only four ingredients in this dish: pasta, cheese, pepper and pancetta. Now some folks would think, “Four ingredients? That must mean it’s easy to cook.” They would be wrong. With only four ingredients there’s nothing to hide behind when you fuck it up. Also those ingredients should also be the highest of quality. The truth is, however, I work a lot and do not have time to travel to Star Provisions for cheese and the Spotted Trotter for pancetta, so I grabbed from the fine offerings of the Kosher Kroger in Toco Hills and hoped for the best.
I had Nick review the recipes I had procured from a hasty internet search and he said, “No, No, No.” They involved making a paste with cheese and water, and adding the pancetta separately. Nick says “Just cook the pasta, cook the pancetta, toss them together add a ton of pepper and top with cheese.”
It definitely sounded easier than making a cheese paste, but that was one less thing to hide behind.
Nick then doubted my claim that it was hard to find a recipe for Cacio e Pepe e Pancetta. I found plenty of recipes for Cacio e Pepe, but not so many w/ pancetta. Luckily when Nick searched on his ipad he too found similar results including one horrific version by Guy Fieri that was more like alfredo sauce than anything.
Cooking pasta properly is one of the hardest things for me. Mostly because I don’t mind it a bit overdone and I hate it underdone and I never know how much more it will cook once out of the water.
Luckily Nick took over. His first observation is I never salt the water enough. I thought a tablespoon or two of salt was plenty. Apparently you want it almost ocean salty and more than ocean salty if you were going to blanch vegetables.
Once we got the water salinated and boiling, Nick added the pasta. I had partially cooked the pancetta when Nick pointed out the pan was not big enough to hold the pasta. So I transferred it to a bigger pan, but Nick said to not cook the pancetta any more. It looked a bit sad and raw so I began to worry I had bought the wrong kind of pancetta.
As the pasta got close Nick urged me to start cooking the pancetta again to “crisp it up.” Relief flooded through me as the pancetta began to resemble what it looks like at Sotto Sotto. Disaster averted.
As we began to add the pepper Nick warned me to not go all the way and add all the pepper in one go, but rather add some, mix and taste and then add some more. He is so good at this, it’s like he’s a professional or something.
Nick said it was “just as good” as Sotto Sotto’s version. Success!
While Nick is out of town I am going to try and make my favorite pasta dish the buccatini w/ bacon and tomato sauce from Bocca Lupo. So stay tuned for more cooking fun!