“What has Happened to the Famous Vintages…”

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Lena Brava – Saturday, August 13

Big bold Saturday at Lena Brava.  Tonight we went with 3 servers on each floor, and had the bartenders serve all the bar seats.  This configuration worked out well, from the most part.  One idea that arose from the staff’s experience tonight would be to have 2 SA’s on each floor, and have the SA’s pool by floor.  This would create 2 person teams on each floor, working in tandem with an incentive for teamwork, which some staff posit would lead to better support, and thus even greater Lena experiences.  Just an idea I thought was neat and wanted to share.

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MVP: Brien was all over the seated bar guests, asking where they were from (Watertown, MA, for example), sending me in when applicable (and when I had a minute) to tell stories about Nichols Farm, had the first LB guests enjoy wine from the Poron (I thought maybe they were visiting from Colorado?) and also backing up Edgar on service bar when we had big pushes for cocktails.  Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing (hospitality.)

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Tom Skilling says (cryptically)… seasonable weather expected into midweek.

“All Maîtres D’Hôtel Love To Eat…”

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Cruz Blanca – Saturday, August 6

CB2 was rocking again with many guests staying all evening enjoying the USA versus China men’s basketball game followed by the always popular beach volleyball: the Olympics continue to draw guests to the TVs.  Dinner push with many larger groups started around 6PM and continued through 9PM. Maybe mellower summer weekend than we’ve seen with the arrival of August giving folks a sense of urgency about that last trip out of town.

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Tom Skilling says… still in summer peak, soon to accelerate into autumnal slide.

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Cruz Blanca – Friday, August 12

Awesome Friday – super busy from the afternoon all the way until the end.  We had waves of groups and larger parties all day, and CB1 was full with diners from 4PM until after 10PM.  CB2 opened after our service meeting and was rocking the Olympics all night.  The women’s soccer game between Australia and Brazil went 0-0 for all regulation time and had to be decided by penalty kicks, which was exciting for our CB2 guests.

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Mood Scale:  Towards the end of the shift, I made tastes of the pineapple agua fresca – smoke alley radlers for our CB1 guests.  This allowed me to engage these guests in a dialogue about how we make a custom radler with a unique flavor every day.  I was also using these tastes as an opportunity to say thank you to the guests for coming out on a rainy and thunderstormy night.

The Buttermachine

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Lena Brava – Sunday, July 31

Sunday’s at LB have taken on the episodic nature of a telenovela, there are highs and lows, and it’s always an adventure to end the week.  Tonight one of the service highs was Lynnea dying part of her hair purple by request of the Doe Coover birthday party of 8 (they had all dyed their hair purple as well, in celebration of their college reunion / Doe’s bday) who had such an awesome time.  The low was when a guest fell back from his bar seat (he never fully seated himself, and lost control of the chair-an accident on the part of the guest) and hit his head: we were fortunate Sarah was on top of it (with help from Hector and Jackie) thank you Sarah.

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Mood Scale:  Todd may have set a new record for brewery tours today.  One couple, from table 51, were so interested we had to gently lead them back for their tomahawk steak.  They were still talking positivitely about the brewery tour when we served dessert later on.  Todd is not only introducing CB in a personal and behind-the-scenes way, he is elevating LB guests experience.

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Tom Skilling says… August to open hot, muggy and stormy.

Art at the Hotel Splendide

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Lena Brava – Saturday, July 30

Good energy from the staff and guests on this end of July Saturday.  Malcolm and Kelly did a superb job upstairs tonight, taking the extra 4 tops in the PDR.  A lot of guests celebrating were blown away by our food and service. Lollapalooza had a big effect at CB and yet at LB it felt like a regular summer Saturday, of course because of reservations.

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Mood Scale:  Chef Kelly introduced our staff to the new sweet corn custard and we sold out by the end of the night.  This is what happens when you make desserts so delicious, and then let the staff taste: definitely what Ari from Zingerman’s would call “a good problem.”  I could feel the excitement from the servers and bartenders who got to share this dessert with our guests tonight, and that carried over into the guests Lena experience.  Totally of the moment, totally irresistible.  

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SG’s: CEO of Columbus Hospitality Mgmt in Ohio. Executive producer of the Steve Harvey show.  AGM of Blackbird.  Bonnie and Floyd (loved the sweet corn custard.)  Matt Keen’s family.  Regular at Frontera.  Regulars at Xoco.  Friends of Sarah. Chef’s former dance instructor.  Lisa Carlson, mgmt maven, and Todd’s wife Kate (first lady of CB). Owner of Chuck Wagon Wilmette. Chef Rodolfo, of Origen in Oaxaca, winner of Top Chef Mexico Season 1 (dining with R&D).  Titus Ruscitti, Arthur’s hero, Chicago food blogger (and inspiration for Wisconsin road trips), at http://chibbqking.blogspot.com/

Shout out:  Diego who has been leading the PM dish team has been awesome to work with.  Diego sends help to pick up / drop off plates when the FOH is slammed, and is very conscientious about checking out at the end of the shift.

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MVP: Shane, Felipe and Mayra, maybe our strongest 3-person runner team, all night in great communication with the kitchen and each other, rotating help to the hot, cold or pastry line as needed.

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Tom Skilling says… storms Sunday, followed by heat and humidity.

deep thought (caution: source may be stoned)

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I was thinking that instead of you being sad that I’m staying on in Chicago, better to think of it as this reveals that when my back was against the wall, you were the rock I leaned on. Sometimes just knowing that, without being needed that badly, has got to be better than dealing with all my human elements (as in, problems, as in, I eat hotdogs.) All that being said miss you and P and ready to start planning 2 things:

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A) You and P come visit us for just a couple days mid September OR we come visit you for 3 days early October (which as your brother from the same mother who wants your respect, sadly for me, would mean asking for financial assistance.)

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B) You and P with R and me all same time go see AJ in CT sometime Nov / Dec to cojoin all holidays into one mutual visit. Let’s be Frank, this is how this must get done. If you want to talk about the possibility of…

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X) The tropical vacay. I recommend we look at winter for launch and that you model your approach to this concept like Apple trying to make iPhone and iOS user friendly enough for even children (Raven, me) and senior citizens (AJ.) Be gentle, be calm like a duck above water even if need legs frantically kicking underwater. This is not something we think we can use to make telephone calls, never mind send email or use apps.

Jacob’s Beach

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Jacob’s Beach is a classic of the Connecticut shoreline, as far as I’m concerned.

guilford connecticut shore 3rdarm jacobs beach sunset

I have been coming since much younger, when I used to sit out for hours in the summer reading a book and occasionally cool off in the water.

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Mellow and chill in a good way, except at the height of the summer camp activities, and that just adds the warm glow of (why are kids so loud) memories.

guilford connecticut shore 3rdarm jacobs beach sunset

Lately I have been using my aunts beach pass more for photography.

guilford connecticut shore 3rdarm jacobs beach sunset

This is an excellent spot for sunrise and sunset photos, as well as nature photography.

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The sight lines extend to Leetes Island the town marina.

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The colorful boat racks, washed ashore beachwood and tall, undulating sea grass are all strong subjects for a photo.

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The light coming off the Sound adds the Je Ne Sais Quoi.

Chaffinch Island Beauty

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Lovely park at the banks of the mouth of the West River, with scenic views of Long Island Sound. Large boulders, natural saltwater marsh and plenty of green grass await.

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Excellent spot for photography, a picnic or just to soak up nature. And it’s dog friendly, afaik.

Brave Sea

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Brave sea rushing up the shore

Like a warrior throwing

Wild arms around his bride

Whispering Love I’m going

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Loud sea sounding on the shore

Mad with love’s commotion

Now I hear his footsteps go

Far out on the ocean

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Thus I’ve seen thee fickle sea

Bold advances making

And the broken hearted land

Thy caresses taking

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And I’ve seen the weary land

Throw thee back with scorning

Casting off at set of day

What she loved at dawning

guilford connecticut shore 3rdarm aunty judy roxie

Fickle sea and fickle land

For each other yearning

Ever parting on the strand

Ever still returning

-from the poem “On the Connecticut Shore” by Elizabeth H. Jocelyn Cleaveland

On the Connecticut Shore

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Blue sea creeping up the shore

Like a lover greeting

Timidly the maiden land

And as quick retreating

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Sad sea sighing on the shore

Like that lover grieving

As he gives a last caress

To the land he’s leaving

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Glad sea bounding up the shore

Like a bridegroom bringing

Jewels for the lovely land

Jewels over her flinging

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Telling in her happy ear

Love I love thee only

Let me clasp thee waiting one

Ever I leave thee lonely

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Green as thine no other shore

Out beyond the billow

Not like thine its crimson sand

Here shall be my pillow

-from the poem “On the Connecticut Shore” by Elizabeth H. Jocelyn Cleaveland

“The Problem of Seating People…”

cruz blanca chicago 3rdarm sunset

Cruz Blanca – Wednesday, July 27

Awesome Wednesday at CB with a long pop for dinner that lasted from 6PM to almost 9PM.  Both patio and DR were full with diners for primetime, with one or two parties always on stand-by.  Great energy from both BOH and FOH with everyone focused on our guests’ experiences.

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Mood Scale: The addition of the 3 new beers has the staff and the guests excitement very high. When I listened in at the bar several times, Frankie and Wink were proud and enthusiastic to describe these new offerings to our guests.  All it took was a small taste, and the visual appear of these new brews, combined with the buzz from other guests and the bartenders, and it quickly became a room full of kolsch, gose and Raspberry Flamingos.

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Shout out:  Way to go Jacob completing the Cruz beer menu and so many delicious, refreshing and under-represented styles: you are crushing it!

MVP:  Franky was so solid on the bar, personable, warm, technical on point making drinks, I would NEVER have guessed it was his first CB bar shift!

Co-MVP: Matt Morin for staying deep into the dinner rush to make sure all guests had a great time at CB tonight. 

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Tom Skilling says… omega pattern brings in cooler temps for the weekend.