April showers bring May flowers… And fruits… And vegetables! That means it’s time for a menu change here at The Cellar, and buckle up, folks, because a handful of Cellar classics are disappearing for a little while to make room for some fresh and seasonal dishes.
Chef has asked that I not reveal too much about the exact details of what’s changing, but I did get to ask why he makes some of the decisions he does.
“I mean, obviously it’s based on what’s coming in to season,” he said, his eyes drifting back to Evan and the other line cooks. We’re standing in the kitchen and it’s not yet so busy that we can’t have a chat about something other than what’s happening right at that moment. “Like, asparagus. When something is easy to get fresh, we try to use it in different, strategic ways.”
This mission is most visible in the ever-changing sheet of features – aka “specials” – that get tucked in to the corner of the menu for you every night. Whether it’s the hummus, the soup, or the entree, those changes are based on what the kitchen has been able to get in that day.
“If I’ve got a farmer saying they’ve got some nice, organic veg or herbs or something right now, then I’ll see how much we can get and start thinking about what we can do with it,” Chef said. “We’ll talk in the kitchen about how best to use various ingredients, especially because we sometimes don’t know just how long we’ll be able to get certain things in. All that is based on the farmers we work with.”
However, not all the changes depend on what’s in season. Sometimes, Chef just really wants to “cook something different.”
“You just get tired of making the same stuff, you know?” he said. “I really like duck, so I want to put duck back on the menu this spring. And if we can get some beef tongue…” I wrinkle my nose and Chef laughs. “It’s different than a lot of what’s around here right now. I think that’s why I want to do it too.”
A ticket shoots out of the printers around the kitchen, and then another. I see they’re both “fire” tickets, and Chef tucks them under the ticket ledge and slides their accompanying assignments with them. He scans his staff working the line that night, and when someone puts up a plate of hummus, he moves around me to see how it looks before placing it on the expo table for dressing. Leif the food runner asks him a question, and I realize my few minutes of conversation about the spring menu change are done.