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Summer Break: the Sequel!

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I know, I know…it feels like all I do is take vacations, but really there are only two this summer. Previously, I went to a top secret place where I sat and didn’t do anything. That was for mental health reasons. Starting tomorrow, Saturday July 30, I’m off to recharge my Canadian identity in Vancouver, then I’ll be crawling all over Portland for a few days. Everyone here has been working like a dog and we all made it through the heat wave alive and business is booming, so a few days off feels like a nice thing to do for my staff. We’ll all be back next week and Dirt Candy will be open for business again on Friday, August 5.

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The Signs of Vancouver

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Retro Cookbooks of Despair

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James Lileks has been cataloging sad, unhappy and, at times, upsetting photographs of food from old cookbooks in his Gallery of Regrettable Food for a while, but it wasn’t until recently that I saw his copy of Home Freezing of Fruits and Vegetables in which every handpainted page is an endless vista of pain, suffering and existential angst. Flip through it, if you dare, and feel your soul crumble and its carbonized ashes birth a small, mewling thing made of pain.

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Things take a decidedly upbeat turn for his journey through Cooking and Preserving Vegetables which has inspired me to achieve an alternate plating of the Cauliflower & Waffles:

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Ahhh…cauliflower and pancakes!

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And I’m even getting ideas for a new dessert:

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Everybody say “Treats!”

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How Hot Was It?

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It was so hot that walk-in refrigerators at restaurants across the city were failing, one after the other. It was so hot that almost every chef I know was keeping one nervous eye on their walk-ins which were struggling and straining and making alarming noises. It was so hot that even when Dirt Candy was closed I left the A/C on in order to ease the burden on my fridges. I was going to sleep with my fingers crossed that none of them seized up, overheated or failed. But, oddly enough, despite the heat outside, business was great. Last year at this time, Dirt Candy was averaging between 35 – 42 people a night. I was happy with that because I don’t have a garden, which attracts customers like candy in the hotter months, and the city is pretty dead in the summer and most restaurants see business drop off some, especially on the weekends when a lot of people are out of town. But for the past month Dirt Candy has been doing between 50 and 57 people per night. Every night. That’s in a dining room with only 18 seats. My jaw has been on the floor that business is this good. It’s like a non-stop party in here and we’re having some of our best weeks ever, which completely and totally defies traditional business sense.

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And so while I’m hating this summer because it feels like my face is melting every time I go outside, I’m loving it because every night has been like a vegetable fiesta at Dirt Candy and business is booming. It’s taken me completely and totally by surprise, but it’s a happy surprise and a wave of goodwill and fun that I’m happy to surf as long as it lasts. So to all of you who’ve been making the trek through the inferno to get here, thank you!

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The Circle of Regulars

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This month, I’m in mourning because two of my regular customers, who’ve been coming practically since Dirt Candy opened, both informed me that they’re leaving New York City and while we’ll always stay in touch, and while we’ll still be good friends, and we’ll try to make it work long distance, the relationship is over. They are no longer my regulars. They’ll be in a new city, they’ll find some new restaurant and they’ll go there a few times and then, before you know it, they’ll have forgotten all about Dirt Candy and have a new place where they’ll be regulars. I know this is just the way life happens, but I’m still going to make them mixed tapes and send really long letters with collages in them for a while.

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I never go to any restaurant enough to be a regular. I’ve always wanted to, but I feel like I need to try lots of places and so I’m always running after the newest bar or restaurant when I have free time. Restaurant monogamy is not for me. There are two places in my neighborhood that are my default locations when I’m too lazy to go further, but after 4 years no one at either place has their eyes light up when I come through the door, no one says, “The usual?” and then hands me what I want without me having to ask. I’ve just had to accept the fact that no matter how hard I’ll try, I’ll never be a regular.

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The one bright spot in all of this is that last week, after their meal, another customer came up to me and said, “We’re going to become your new regulars.” Two regulars leave, a new regular is born….it’s the Circle of Regulars.

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Getting Kids to Eat Their Vegetables

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Everyone always wants to find ways to make vegetables more exciting for kids so that they get into the habit of eating them at an early age because habits formed as a child last a lifetime. Now, some genius catering chefs in the UK have found the way: drug food! First up, their snortable asparagus powder, served at their events chopped into a line on a mirror with a rolled up $100 bill as a utensil. For real!

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Inspired by their example, I’m already considering a Fall menu that features Calming Carrot Soup, heated tableside in an old spoon and then injected directly into your arm, Huffable Hothouse Tomato Salad – aerosol tomatoes sprayed into a plastic bag and then immediately inhaled – and Smokeable Cauliflower and Waffles, served in a giant glass bong shaped like a wizard. I’m even going to change my pricing model so that your first meal is free, and then the price increases sharply from there. And I’m looking at a food truck operation that will allow me to locate my business in high school parking lots or maybe I’ll just do a pop-up in some schoolyards and public parks. Parents will love this! They’re going to quickly discover, now that plain old vegetables have the allure of dangerous narcotics, their kids just won’t be able to get enough of them.

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“This cauliflower is, like, totally cashed. Can we get another?”

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The Old Chicken Salad Scam

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The oil rig scam keeps morphing, and now it’s become…the old chicken salad scam. Here’s what I got in the email a few days ago:

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“From: John morris <johnmorris070@gmail.com>
Date: July 16, 2011 12:57:00 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Attn…Manager Or Owner (Chicken Caesar Salad)

Hello My name is John Morris and I would like to order for individual grilled chicken salad in your restaurant for 150 people on 27th of July and pick up time is 4pm and it’s for my Mum’s Birthday Party and it will be picked up by my courier agent and I am ready to pay the full payment with my credit card so get to me with the following information below….

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Restaurant Address:

Total cost for the food:

Personal cell #:

Please advice.”

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I love the details in this one. A mother’s birthday….a courier loaded down with 150 servings of chicken salad (or is it caesar salad with grilled chicken?)…a loving son who must satisfy his mother’s urge for a birthday luncheon consisting entirely of chicken caesar salad and nothing else…an overuse of ellipses…a vegetarian restaurant that must make chicken salad for John Morris’s mum or ruin this touching gesture from a son to his mother…

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Which is it, John? This?

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Or this? Call me on my personal cell # and please advice.


TV Thinks I Am Fat….

 

Just when I thought I was prepared for the summer and couldn’t possibly be surprised by anything, Dirt Candy takes premature revenge. Yesterday morning I woke up, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, my insurance premiums were paid up, I checked my email and saw….

 

From the producers of Kitchen Nightmares & Celebrity Fit Club  COMES A NEW LIFE CHANGING WEIGHT LOSS DOCU-SERIES FOR ANYONE IN THE

CULINARY OR FOOD WORLD!

YOU DON’T HAVE TO LEAVE YOUR JOB OR LIFE, WE ARE COMING TO YOU!

If you are 75+ POUNDS OVERWEIGHT or potentially unhealthy & have a job in the food industry, this is your chance to turn your life around!

 

Why couldn’t it be 60 pounds overweight? Why couldn’t it be 50? I mean, from some angles I can see that someone might think I’m 40 pounds overweight, but “75+ pounds”?!? Thanks for telling me I’m fat, TV. Somehow, I’m sure that this is Dirt Candy’s way of making me feel bad before I go on vacation.

 

“I am not 75+ pounds overweight. Maybe 40. Max.”


Be Prepared!

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Last summer I went away on summer vacation and everything broke. It was like Dirt Candy was mad at me for leaving it alone, and so it took revenge by costing me thousands in repair bills and hundreds in therapy bills by completely imploding for three solid weeks after I returned.

 

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“I hate yoooooouuuu!!!!!”

 

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This summer, I’m not taking any chances. I bought all new equipment. Everything that broke last year has been replaced and I have back-ups for almost every single piece of equipment. My apartment looks like a restaurant supply store. I had the dishwasher looked at, sent the ice cream maker in for repair, bought back-up induction burners in case the burners go down, got a new juicer, there’s a new slicer on the way, I bought new pasta rollers and back-up pasta rollers. The only thing that hasn’t been repaired, replaced or has a replacement on standby is the oven. I’m expecting that to break any minute now.

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No Longer Fit

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Super summer bummer! I just noticed that my ranking on Open Table as “Fit for Foodies” has been removed. But it’s not some insidious plot or a sign of slipping standards. Open Table rankings operate in real time according to the reviews that are there and those reviews are updated approximately every 90 days. So if you have some bad reviews, they eventually slip further and further down in time and finally vanish off Open Table altogether so that when you read reviews you’re only getting the latest ones made in the last three months. What’s happened with my Open Table reviews is that no one’s left one for a while, so currently it’s as if I have no reviews on Open Table, which makes me feel sort of naked.

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If only these kittens had Open Table reviews….

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Don’t worry – I’m not asking anyone to go post reviews for Dirt Candy; you can’t write a review unless you’ve booked a reservation through Open Table. It’s just another semi-interesting look at the way these things work. Emphasis on “semi.” Even stranger, I notice that there aren’t very many recent online reviews for Dirt Candy at all. Have I reached some sort of strange unreviewable status? Is online reviewing over? Did someone break the internet?

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If you do eat at Dirt Candy, please feel free to post an Open Table review. Even the bad ones are genuinely fun to read. I got hours of enjoyment out of the person who complained that they had a three course meal and it took them one and a half hours. Way too long in their book! We’re like a restaurant run by snails!

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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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