Here’s a new feature of Chow & Again because I am sick and tired of arguing with people about it. I call it THE BODY COUNT. Why? Because in this business, all that really matters are how many customers you have in your restaurant, how many people are eating dinner right now. So every Wednesday, I’ll tell you how many fannies were in the seats at a trio of local eateries at a specific time in the evening. We are ISO 9000 certified, and our number counters have been rated top five in their field for three years in a row by the prestigious J. D. Power and Associates. Additionally, the internationally renowned accounting firm of Engulf & Devour guarantees that the numbers reflected here are fair and accurate.
Now, stop editorializing in your head. We all know that there are plenty of reasons for people either being in or not being in a given restaurant on a given night at a given time. I call it rationalizing. And we are not judging anyone here . . . but theater curtain times, restaurant size, percentage of capacity, location, convention business, popularity, food quality, service standards, ambience . . . who was on dessert, who had just arrived, who was yet to come, who had already left . . . WHO CARES!?!?!??!! The stark reality of the vagaries of the business are best kept to the simplest of stats. Draw your own conclusions, and we’ll talk next Thursday after another troika of local establishments are peeked in on.
Good news for farmers' markets. Growth is big business.
And locally, the Mill City Farmers Market continues to impress. Last weekend, there were featured-chef demos from real chefs, killer donuts from Pastry Goddess Carrie Summer (check out her myspace page for more info, all set to some pretty good tunes), almost no vegetables (hey it was May for garsh sakes), and still they had a good crowd standing in the cool weather. Rumblings indicate that they will try to broaden their hours into Thursday evenings as well. The voices behind the market are doing a good job of spreading the word as to what makes their market different and why you should head there instead of somewhere else, something that other markets would do well to emulate. Why do I not see huge waves of info coming from the St. Paul Farmers' Market or the Minneapolis Farmers Market telling me each week what is coming in, why I should go there, who their best vendors are, etc.??? They have plenty of points of difference, but they don’t do a good job of disseminating that info to evangelists and advocates.
Shepherd's Way traditional ricotta, made with sheep milk whey, is available this Saturday morning at the Mill City Market and at the farm itself from 9 a.m. to noon. Steven Read only makes a small quantity, so you won't find it in the stores. This ricotta has won top honors at the American Cheese Society gatherings, is beyond delicious, and is one of the only traditional sheep-milk–whey ricottas available in the United States.
Websites of the day: My wife and I are doing online stationary-ordering. Anyone on a budget should check out Hello Ink, and anyone with the dough to burn should go to Mr. Boddington's Studio or Luxe Paperie. The Hello Ink people are local, always a plus. GoCityKids is a new fave site as well, providing instant access to information about what to do with the kids RIGHT NOW, every day of the week. I think I may be the last person on earth to know about this.