I raked leaves this morning. Mother Nature was definitely not cooperating, continually dropping new ones while I scooped the old ones up with my rake. Chilly in the mornings and warm after lunch, it is hard to decide what to wear. Cold, I slipped on jeans and a hoodie to work in the yard, and by two in the afternoon I was back in shorts and a tee-shirt. A good part of this weekend was eaten up with moving our summer clothes downstairs, and bringing the winter clothes up. By the time I was done relocating everything I believe I lost a dress size.
Company is arriving tomorrow from several fronts, so I have a full afternoon of cooking ahead of me. This in mind, I coerced Rick into taking me to breakfast before his beloved forty niners absorb the rest of his day. Still new to the area, he suggested a familiar chain restaurant we’d seen on the end of town. Having errands to run in that general vicinity, it seemed the perfect choice. There were quite a few cars in the parking lot, usually a good sign. Once inside the door, we realized the cars must have belonged to staff because there were only eight or so tables occupied, this on a Sunday morning. Starving, we sat where instructed and opened the Bible sized menu. I always look at everything, change my mind fifteen times, and order Eggs Benedict. It’s a ritual I cherish.
Our waitress ignored us for at least five minutes, seeming not to notice our existence in her station. I am an only child and not good at being ignored. Doing cartwheels in the center aisle and pulling my cheeks aside with my fingers while sticking out my tongue, she finally nodded disinterestedly in our direction. Recognition at all cost. No coffee pot in hand she asked for our drink order. I notice these things. It’s the ex-restaurant owner in me. If you bring the pot with you, the customer will have the coffee in their cup immediately. We indicated coffee for two, and placed our breakfast order. Rick, like myself, looks at everything and orders either French toast or pancakes. Life on the edge. Today French toast was on the ticket.
It became quickly obvious this was the girl’s first day. The line manager was shooting instructions her way in machine gun fashion, and she had that deer in the headlights look often found on new employees faces the first week on the job. In truth, I don’t believe she had majored in motivation prior to accepting this position as I’ve seen snails working their way towards the safety of the ivy moving at a more aggressive pace. People suffering through the first days of a new job need support, however, and I try my best to exercise patience and be understanding. This girl really pushed the envelope.
There were three line cooks, for eight tables. If all of them were in motion, plates should have been flying out of the kitchen. One chef was leaning against the counter studying his fingernails while a second was giving him a full account of last night’s best pick up lines at the local country western bar. I kept running the lyrics to David Allen Coes, “I was drunk the night my mom got out of prison…”, through my mind. In rhythm, my stomach was doing the two-step and my coffee cup was feeling mighty low, mighty low. Oh-oh, I sense a bit of irritation sneaking in.
A half an hour came and went. Rick, also known as the restaurant Nazi, was beginning to act a little squirrely. I suggested he back away from the coffee cup before things got ugly. I could see his French toast pop up under the warming lights so with food on the way, he relaxed a bit. A large plate of French toast was delivered in front of Rick, no maple syrup or butter on board. Oh-oh. My plate came next. It looked delicious. Starving at this point, I would have dived right in, but unfortunately it was an order of corned beef hash, biscuits and gravy and two eggs over easy. Hmmmm. Pointing out (politely) the missing butter and syrup, I said I appreciated the food but it wasn’t mine. Slightly pinking in the cheeks, she grabbed Rick’s plate and mine and headed back to the kitchen. After some discussion with the line manager she returned with the butter and the syrup but no French toast. Apologizing, it seemed she’d forgotten to order my Eggs Benedict, but had put in a new ticket, and would I like some more coffee? Making mention Rick no longer had anything to put the syrup and butter on she returned to the work station to find the French toast had been tossed by the line manager thinking it returned by the customer. Okay, I am an easy-going person, but REALLY?
In desperation and trying to keep the mood light, I asked for a refill on my coffee. Leaving to retrieve the pot, I never saw her again until our breakfasts were delivered fifteen minutes later. Rick had begun to eat the seat cushion and was eying the catsup. Two undercooked poached eggs sat astride several slices of thin deli ham on an English muffin. Covering all was a huge glob of yellow paste I believe was Hollandaise sauce. This could be a secret formula possibly replacing any future need for mixing cement on construction sites. In their defense, the hash browns weren’t bad. When asked if we wanted to-go boxes, I said yes but please don’t put my food in it. I might need to use it later for a receptacle if things don’t go well in my digestive system. Not really, but I was thinking it.
So, we now have eliminated two restaurants from our list and are forging positively onward. For the first time in years I left a small tip. I’m a big proponent of tipping well for good service. Servers work hard for their money, good ones, and deserve a little recognition. Sometimes, you just have to make a statement.
This soup was perfect with a tuna sandwich after a disappointing breakfast.
Potato, Leek and Brussels Sprout Soup
3 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped
3 leeks, white and green, chopped (leaves removed)
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
7 Brussels sprouts, halved
3 russet potatoes, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup cream
Sour cream and chives
Cut off ends of top of leeks. Remove leaves.
Cut leeks in half lengthwise and run under water, rinsing between layers to remove dirt.
Chop and set aside.
Melt butter in large pot on low heat.
Add chopped onion, celery and mushrooms. Simmer 5-6 mins. until tender.
Add leeks and garlic. Stir and cover; simmer 8 mins. until leeks are softened.
Add Brussels sprouts and simmer covered an additional 8 mins.
Add potatoes, broth, parsley, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, pepper, salt and white pepper to pot. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to simmer and cook covered for 45 mins.
Remove from heat. Remove bay leaves. Using an emulsion blender, beat until smooth. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
Whisk in buttermilk and cream.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chives.