How to let go.

My mother and I had a long conversation yesterday night, about letting go. What does it really mean? How does one detach from things that are out of one's control? I still don't know completely, but we came up with a couple of things.

For one thing, there comes a point when you have to just trust in things working out in the end. When we were living in the old apartment, our rent was astronomical, and neither of us was making very much. We could have ended up on the streets. We never did, but the threat was certainly there. The point is, we could have very well spent that time in a daily panic, anticipating the final minutes. Instead, we both realised that the situation is out of our control, and the only thing we could do was work our butts off to make sure that the rent got paid. Yes, some months it got paid 7 days after the first, rather than 3 days before as we'd always done before, but it still got paid.

Funny, that.

The point is that I couldn't really affect the outcome. What I could affect was my reaction to it. It's the same way I view my moments in the subway. I'm an impatient little thing, and don't care to sit around on the train as it's crawling along between stations, or stopped betwen stations, or stopped at a platform. I do whatever I can to avoid such situations. However, when I'm in said situation, I zone out for a bit, and just enjoy the time that I have there, away from everything that can distract or impede on my time. It means that I must stop, and just be for a while. I don't get that chance very often, so instead of getting frustrated, I take it as time to get some much-needed alone time.

Then come the material things. I like my stuff. I like my stuff a lot. I get upset when something happens to my stuff (stolen, lost, broken), not so much because I don't have that thing anymore, but because the role that it fulfilled in my life now needs to be taken over by something else. However, I still think that regardless of what the thing is that I've lost, I'm thankful for what I do have, and the people that I have to share it with. I found a man who understands me, and likes being with me. Stuff comes and goes, but friendship, partnership, and love are much deeper and longer-lasting. Maybe it's not forever, but it's longer than the time my stuff will last!

So how do you let go of things that you're holding on to? You realise that in the grand scheme of things, they only take up a very small amount of importance. When you feel yourself getting caught up in the daily dramas, and stressing yourself out to the point of physical pain, it might be time to breathe, step back, and contemplate all you've done thus far, and all you'll do in the future. And that at the end of the day, whether or not you do something just so, or get something done just so, really isn't going to stop the sun from rising.

And then, you let go.

About the price increases ...

To our dear customers:

You may have noticed that the prices on the menu have increased. This has everything to do with the cost of doing business, and was a difficult decision that Preefer and I had make to keep our heads above water. We haven't instituted a proper price increase that accurately reflects our costs going into the product in years. Unfortunately, the cost of running a restaurant has increased exponentially, and the money coming in hasn't reflected that.

When Cliff started Chow all those years ago, he wanted to ensure that he's being fair to everyone. Fair to the Earth, fair to the animals, fair to his customers, and fair to his workers. Unfortunately, it's not been fair to himself, as he hasn't taken home a salary in more years than I care to count. It's also meant that we've had to forcibly keep our staff small, so that the money coming in doesn't completely get put into payroll before the incidental (repairs, replacement of equipment) and repeating expenses (rent, taxes, utilities, food, supplies) get paid, and we get chased out of the space.

As it stood before the menu cost increases, we were losing money. The labour, the cost of materials, the cost of running the space, and the amount of time everything takes to make (nothing is pre-made, everything is made from scratch) was quickly stifling our growth, and making it impossible to serve all the people who wanted the food. With only two kitchen workers and a delivery person, it was a juggling act of massive proportions to get any work done to grow the business. So we hired more people. And a couple more. And another. So now the work was getting done, but Preefer wasn't taking anything for himself.

Then the cost of our produce started to increase for random things that we go through (for example, over the span of a week, the cost of our onions doubled). And as any fair employer will tell you, a good worker is hard to find, so to keep him with you, you offer raises and other incentives so that the worker will want to stay. To keep someone at minimum wage when they're doing maximum work is unfair, and not a good way to get things done. So wages increased.

All this time, over the years that we're growing behind the scenes, we're still charging the same amount of money, even though our operating costs are increasing. It got to the point where we could no longer do things like we could in the old days. Gone are the days where one wait person was sufficient to cover the restaurant. We've had to hire another person, the lovely Nena, to take some of that pressure off of our servers. You've been there, I'm sure. It's a busy brunch, and it takes like 10 minutes to get your coffee, by which point, it's lukewarm. It's a crazy busy weekday night, and you're waiting 25 minutes for your beer. It's not a good look. We can do better for ourselves, and most importantly for you.

So in that vein, we're pushing to improve the level of service, the quality of the food, and everything about Chow, so that it's a place that you can come, and know that you're fully taken care of. And, at the same time, everyone who's working here is taken care of too.


It's gorgeous out today!

Yesterday was dreary and rainy, and suddenly, today is absolutely stunning out. Mind you, it's a bit chilly, but that's OK. I can handle it. When I stop and think of how quickly this week, this month, and so far even this year have gone, I can't help but be amazed at how much things have changed.

For one thing, I moved from the heck hole that is Roosevelt Island (or as I call it, Stepford, NY) and into a lovely apartment in Inwood. For whatever reason, the commute is way less of a hassle, and about the same amount of time now. Weird. Boss Man and I resolve things within minutes, if not within an hour or two at the most. It used to be that we'd sit and stew with the negative feelings for a good long time, and then drag ourselves through the day. No more. Now, when there's an issue, disagreement, whatever, we manage to very quickly get over our own egos, and find a way to move forward.

I think a lot of that has to do with trust. Not only do we trust each other more, but we trust ourselves more, to do whatever it takes to make the best of our situation, whatever it is. The other part is that we've got an amazing staff who surrounds us. The other other part is that after going through all we've been through as a team, you start to realise that you really can do it, even if it doesn't seem that way at the time.

My mother has gotten far more comfortable with the computer. Now she can get onto her facebook account, look up the pictures on my husband's accout (or mine, for that matter), and keep in touch with her children a lot easier than before. She got a chance to look at our apartment, and a party we'd had, while sitting in Arizona, all those miles away. Pretty cool. Not only that, but she's become more comfortable with typing. Whenever I'd send her an email, she'd send back a very breif line (at the most) to say she'd got it, and read it, and we'll talk on the phone please. The last couple of emails have gotten at least a couple of paragraphs each. I'm inordinately proud of her. It just goes to show that it's never too late to learn!

I myself have become much more sociable. Part of it is that I don't hate where I live. The other part is that I am a lot more comfortable in my own skin. I know full well that what I have isn't the same standard as other people, but it doesn't matter to me. I realised after a while that my friends are there to see me because they like my company, and not to be served from silver platters and the like. I may not have much, but I'm always willing to share!

I don't know what got me going on this long ramble, but something about being outside in that gorgeous weather just shook something loose from the attic that is my brain.


Try this ...

Part of the benefit of working with people like my boss is that he’s excited about food. Not just excited where he gets a new froofy gourmet ingredient that he saw on the Food Network. That’s affected, not excited. Not excited, where he has to go out and buy all the flavour of the week type ingredients/recipes that come and go like horrible fashion fads in the food world. That’s being a follower, not an innovator.

Boss Man gets excited about food in the way that a young kid gets excited about a play date with his best friend. He’s excited about food like a painter is when she sees the perfect inspiration and has to run home and draw it. You see, for Preefer, food is tied deeply into his memories and the people he loves. And tied intimately with that excitement for food comes the deep need to share said food.

When I started working here, on the first day even, he took me on a grand tour of the kitchen, and started describing the various dishes that Sacred Chow makes. “Here, try this,” he’d say, and pop some divine little nibble into my mouth. That was where I started my long-standing love affair with the Mama’s Soy Meatballs. The very first bite was a little grenade of flavour that washed over my taste buds, and had quite tantalising aromas wafting through my head.

Mind you, if he knows that you specifically don’t like something (in my case, that’d be bell peppers, eggplant, beets, okra, seitan of any sort, tempeh … and the list goes on), he won’t force it on you, but then it’s sort of like “Such a shame that you won’t enjoy this with me.”

And the thing is, he has that relationship with all the kitchen staff. “Have you ever had Spaghetti Squash? No? Here, open.” And in pops another little burst of flavour to encompass your senses. “Try this. And that. And that. And that too, while you’re there.” The best part is that we’ve all begun to learn more about food, because the captain of our ship is so skilled at making us fearless to get in there and just give it a try. The cool thing is that even when I make something “out there” or unusual (in the eyes of my coworkers), they’re still interested to give it a shot, because Boss Man encourages us to keep an open mind and even more open mouth!


Vegan Caesar salad!

Missy Maintains
Apr 9th, 2010 by Missy

Jenna and I decided to try a vegan restaurant called Sacred Chow. Jenna was at Sacred Chow once before and recommended the Vegan Caesar salad. I had to get it out of curiosity!

It was delicious! It was even better than a normal fattening Caesar salads! I have no idea what they used for the dressing but it was amazing. The croutons were little bread bites. MMM.

I also got the Hummus Salad Hero * Hummus of the day, shredded beets, carrots, Dijon vinaigrette, and our own blend of mixed greens, Served on toasted whole wheat french baguette* w/Chow slaw, pickle

This was also wonderful! The whole wheat baquette was warm and soft and covered in delicious hummus. I loved the “chow slaw” too! I guess it was shredded carrots and cabbage with a really good seasoning.

Jenna got the Mama’s Soy Meatballs * Meatballs w/ a Sicilian sauce

How good does that look?? Yum! I would definitely go back there! We talked forever and had a great time!


new yelp review!

4/7/2010 Consistently yummy tapas! The protein of the day is always a winner. Don't forget to try their oatmeal cookies, they are pretty amazing.


sweet potato mash

here's a quick, quick, quick, simple, simple, simple recipe! and it's incredibly, beyond belief delicious!

7.25 lbs of sweet potato, peeled and cut in2 small pieces 4 quick cooking.
1 large pot of boiling water, rolling.
gently place potatoes in2 water. pierce w fork after 20-30 minutes. when fork goes through w ease, empty potatoes & water in2 collander and place in2 large bowl.
add 1 can coconut milk such as roland.
1/4 cup veg, olive, seed or nut oil.
1T, or more as desired, salt.
1T, or more as desired, ground black pepper.
3/4 t nutmeg.

mash til creamy w hard whisk.

and u have a perfect, perfect veg 4 din-din party!

for more texture, add 2 cups of toasted nuts or dates, or steamed, roasted, raw or pan-seared veggies/fruit such as cassava, parsnip, chayote, onion, garlic clove, daikon, jicama, turnip, shallots, carrot, apple, mango, pineapple, papaya, banana, pear...

u can play w adding different spices as well such as ginger, cinnamon, clove, all spice, cardamon...

and fresh herbs such as dill, sorrel, cilantro...

and even add more sweetness if desired such as maple syrup, brown rice syrup, agave...

and a small amount of juice or extract, say, apple, pineapple, orange and/or vanilla x, almond x, orange blossom water...

serves bout 1/2 an army, or 10-15 hungry folks. of course use smaller/larger amounts as needed.

go have fun!

Cassava-Leek Soup

So you've all had Vichyssoise by now. Potatoes, leeks, bla bla bla, snoozefest. It's good but it's not great. Frankly, potatoes don't have quite enough flavour to carry this soup on its own. It's neutral at best, and outright bland at worst. No thanks! And what's even worse is that you don't even brown the freaking leeks. You barely simmer them in the hot fat till they're just transluscent. YAWN.

At Chow, I did my own version of the classic, and made a few significant changes. For one thing, I let the leeks brown. It brings out the subtle sweetness of the leeks. I also used the green parts, which is not only less wasteful than the classic version, but also so much more tasty. Then, instead of potatoes, I used cassava instead.

I have raved about cassava in the past, so I'll spare you the lecture, but think about it. If you've had even just boiled cassava, you'll know that it's got a unique, almost floral aroma going down. Cassava has flavour. Cassava has texture. Cassava has character. (Hey, maybe that's a neat idea for a bumper sticker? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?)

I also used coconut milk at the end, which gave it still more flavour and aroma. All in all, I'd say it was a smashing success, seeing as how it got eaten up fairly quickly.

When washing leeks, I tend to slice them in half length-wise, give 'em a whiz through the slicing blade of the food processor, THEN wash them. Saves a lot of finicky scrubbing. The dirt just flies away.

1 lb leeks, sliced thin, and washed well
3 lbs cassava, peeled, stemmed, and diced
3 TB canola oil (you can use olive oil too if you prefer)
1 1/2 TB salt, reserved
1 tsp black pepper, reserved
2 cups coconut milk
Water, enough to cover the cassava during cooking

In a large pot, sautee the leeks until they're light golden brown. Add the diced cassava, and let the cassava and leeks cook together in the fat until the cassava gets slightly transluscent. Add 1 TB of the salt, and just enough water to cover the cassava.

Let the water come to a rapid boil, then drop down he heat to low, and cover the pot with its lid. Let the soup simmer away slowly for at least one hour. You can check every 20 minutes or so to see that everything is coming along nicely. The cassava should be tender all the way through. If you don't cook it thoroughly, you can end up with an upset tummy, so please make sure that the cassava is cooked through.

Finally, when the cassava is cooked through, turn off the heat, and stir in the coconut milk and black pepper. Taste for salt, and add the final 1/2 TB if needed. If you don't need it, just leave it out. I like my soups to be a bit on the salty side, so I generally bump it up at the end, but some people prefer to let the gentle sweetness of the coconut milk come through instead.

I personally like mine to be whizzed in the blender, and be smooth, but a lot of people prefer it to be chunky, and keep all those textures that you spent all this time working to create with the chopping of all those veggies. Either way is a winner in my eyes.