One year ago today Merc’s Bier Cafe opened its doors to the first paying customers. It was a fairly long road getting there with a variety of speed humps, hurdles and difficulties to work around but we got there. I still remember the very first customers coming in – well the first customers to sit down to order and eat my food – it was like jumping off a cliff for me, all the hard work to open was done now the real work and test began….would they like it….would people come? It was a resounding yes!
The next two and a half months were crazy – crazy busy, crazy hard, crazy exciting and ultimately crazy disappointing. It was certainly a baptism of fire on many levels and sadly a fire in which my dream of having my own place would be burnt to the ground not literally but figuratively. Two and a half months of crazy and I had to walk away – not from my dream because that had already gone by this time, but from the business. Put simply it was devastating, I walked away from some great people – my kitchen team that worked so hard and were so committed to my food and our customers.
Stories of business partnerships falling apart are a dime a dozen and my business partnership breakdown is by no means unique it is, in fact, as mundane as all the rest of them. I won’t bore you with the details but I will say I never lied to anyone, I never lost the vision, I treated everyone with respect and at all times endeavoured to act with the utmost of integrity. Along the way I made a few mistakes and learnt from them however the biggest mistake was to believe that everyone else involved in the business would act and behave in that same manner as me.
I effectively left Merc’s Bier Cafe on the 13th December and put in my written termination around the 20th of that same month. I have often said I walked away with nothing which is not true at all. I did walk away without any payment for all of my work or any thanks for that matter. I did walk away with a debt that was promised to be repaid and still hasn’t been in full. I did walk away with some new friends and a raft of experiences that over time I have come to learn some invaluable things from. As Richard Bach wrote in (I think) Illusions of a Reluctant Messiah – “there is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hand’. The problem that was Merc’s Bier Cafe most certainly held a great gift for me and I have gradually over the course of the last 10 months unravelled those gifts and count myself lucky to be the recipient of them.
Merc’s Bier Cafe ceased to be in the first week of February – although some say it ceased to be the day I left.
So today I thank all those involved in those early days for the effort, commitment and passion you put in to making Merc’s happen. I also apologise for the hurt caused along the way – I tried to put that right as best I could. I know there are still a lot of us hurting and I am angry about that – some say “that’s business” but that is not how I will do business.
Merc’s will live another day, I will do it my way with the lessons learnt and with the friends I have made.
Some say love is in the air (how many times have I heard that?) but I say spring is in the air. Only by a bit, but the sun does seem a little warmer and that icy wind now has some dulcet tones which encourages one to clean up the backyard and get the barbie ready for party central.
Okay, so you may still be wearing a light vest whilst out the back but I am sure your thoughts, like mine, are turning to slightly lighter styles of beer after winter’s reign of stouts and porters. Food-wise it is a little too early for seafood salad, jelly shots and pilsner — it’s more like good old pale ale or perhaps an amber or hefeweizen and something hearty but with a lighter side.
That said, dammit! Go for a pils, celebrate the arrival of spring and with it I say have some nacho. Not just any nachos though, you deserve my Nachos Extraodinaire for a perfect early Spring afternoon lunch.
Back in the old days when I was a student at the Australian Ballet School I used to work at the local Mexican fast-food restaurant and the trick to good nachos, I discovered, was to set the corn chips in the beans so they stood up like cathedrals, allowing the toppings to fall in between and give you a lovely taste surprise with each mouthful.
…read the rest, plus the recipe, at Australian Brews News.
350g pitted kalamata olives
3 – 4 anchovies – chopped (start with 3 and add another if you feel it needs it)
3 medium sized cloves of garlic – crushed
2 tablespoons of salted capers – rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon of lemon thyme
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Put everything into a food processor and blitz until it is a paste.
Makes approx 2 cups
Have on biscuits or toast with a cold ale!
Keep in an air tight jar in the fridge for about 7 or so days.
Last two weeks I have developed four new recipes! Here is one I wrote and cooked yesterday for a cooking demo I was supposed to do on the weekend but has been cancelled so I figured some one here can give it a go.March 25th, 2015
Smoked Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon (25g) butter
1 leek – white part
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
350g bacon bones
4 cups of chicken stock
3 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 teaspoon paprika powder
1 teaspoon of chipotle flakes
1 tablespoon Pernod
Salt and black pepper
1.2 kilos ripe tomatoes
1/3 cup of rice
1/3 cup of raw sugar
1/3 cup of black tea leaves
¼ cup of cream – optional
In a Casserole pot over medium high heat add the olive oil and butter and allow to combine. Top and tail the leek and discard the ends. Cut leek in half lengthways then thinly slice and add to the pot and give it a stir. When it starts to sizzle turn the heat to low and cook for eight or so minutes stirring every so often being careful not to brown or burn the leek. Add the garlic and cook for another 3 or so minutes stirring often. Add in the bacon bones and bay leaves cook for a further 3 – 5 minutes stirring. Turn the heat to medium high and add the chicken stock, bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
Prepare the tomatoes by using a sharp knife to cut the eye or core out of them then cut an x in the bottom of each. Place in a large pot and pour boiling water over them so they are covered and let them sit for 3 – 5 minutes. Drain in a colander then refresh with cold water. Peel the skins away and discard then set the tomatoes aside whilst you prepare the wok.
Line your wok with three sheets of al foil then tip in the 1/3 cups of rice, sugar and tea and mix well. Place wok on the stove then place a wire cake rack into so that it fits snugly above the tea mix. Give the tomatoes a little pat with some paper towels to remove excess moisture then place them on the rack. Turn the heat to high and place lid on wok. I tear some large lengths of al foil which I gently scrunch then run them around the rim of my wok lid loosely so when I put the lid on to the wok it scrunches up more and creates a sort of seal. When you start to see smoke seeping out turn the heat to medium and smoke the tomatoes for between 12 to 15 minutes but no longer. Turn the heat to the wok off, remove the wok lid and using tongs pick up the tomatoes and put them in to the stock mix. Please note: allow the smoking mixture to cool completely before discarding into your rubbish bin or else you could start a fire in you bin!
Using your tongs, or a potato masher, break up the tomatoes in the stock and then turn the heat to medium high so that it simmers a bit harder than previously. Add in the remaining sugar, paprika, chipotle, Pernod and season generously with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Simmer for about 20 minutes so that all the flavours combine well. Remove the bacon bones and discard (I eat the meat off the bones first!!) then use a stick blender to blend the tomatoes and soup until it is lovely and smooth. I also blend the bay leaves as they add flavour however if you want you can discard them before blending. Return the blended soup to the heat and bring back to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. You can add cream at this point if you want to use it or not sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t!
Serve in four bowls and enjoy.
You could also make lovely toasted croutons with cheese melted on the top to float in the soup for an added depth of flavour and eating pleasure.
Make around 2 litres of soup.
For the couple I bumped into today buying some South Melbourne dim sims – how good are they!!! – here is the link to my salami 101.
The thread is very long and is full of lots and lots of info on salami making so it is well worth a read. Read the first three or four pages and you will get the low down and basics about making salami at home. The one secret I have learnt after doing this for 10 years is to mix the meat really really really well before stuffing it into casings!
Enjoy. Any questions leave them in comments and I will answer them.
Just wanted to post a Happy New Year to you all post!
Don’t know who will read it as I haven’t actually been on here much of late – of late meaning the last two years!
2014 was an interesting year with many many lessons, challenges and some rewards. I’m not so sure how I feel about it at the moment nor am I too sure on how I feel about 2015 although when I think about it I feel positive about this new year, excited about the new challenges and new discoveries, ready for it – in fact I am going to go get it started!
oh and may you have a happy, prosperous 2015 full of love laughter and light