Sunday April 15, 2012
Last Tuesday night, I snuggled up with Mr. BraveTart on the couch. We made dinner together, shamelessly took down a roast chicken barehanded (it tastes better like that; don’t judge) and abandoned the kitchen because we didn’t have the courage to face the dishes. We’d nearly polished off a bottle of red and had finally reached the stage of the evening where deeper conversations live, past the obligatory recaps, minutia and updates.
My phone lit up and I thought, oh, it’s my best friend Pritters. Or my brother. Mom checking on me. At nine thirty on a Tuesday night it just couldn’t be the restaurant.
But it was. A text from our chef, “FYI, out of dessert.”
I chuckled at his premature defeat, texted back, “more of everything downstairs! backups on right side of lowboy and bottom of speedrack.”
Moments later, he returned volley: “long gone.”
My heart sank.
No one likes to sell out of a menu item, but it happens occasionally. During a late night crush on Saturday, around the holidays or after a big win for the home team. But 86ing the entire dessert menu by nine o’clock on a random Tuesday night? Enough to give me heart palpitations.
If you think that’s melodramatic, you’ve never been in charge of a menu before. Making sure people eat dessert is, you know, kinda my job.
I stared at my phone, unbelieving. We’d just blown past our record for dessert sales on a Tuesday. I’ve said that of the previous night’s dessert sales every day for the last month. When I’d thought I’d finally caught up, forget about even making it one step ahead, it turned out I’d fallen behind.
Mr. BraveTart beamed aboard the Enterprise to hang out with Geordi in Engineering, knowing he’d lost me for the evening. I logged onto our produce vendor’s website and ordered all the fruit I’d thought I wouldn’t need for another day. Sent texts to double my dairy order, to ask someone at the restaurant to pull dough from the freezer for me.
After the Lexington papers picked up the Food & Wine news, we saw a natural uptick in sales both sweet and savory as locals who’d never visited before came to try us out. I started to treat weekdays like Saturdays and Saturdays like New Year’s Eve. But that plan’s out the window and I’ve got “Today is Valentine’s Day” written on the top of every prep sheet. No one skips dessert on Valentine’s Day.
I’ve kept meticulous records of dessert sales dating back to the night we opened. I average them together to see what a Tuesdays looks like, what an April looks like. I use these numbers every week to decide whether to double or trip a recipe. These numbers let me visit my brother in Los Angeles every September, let me fly up to New York to get covered in sprinkles, let me know exactly how many ice cream sandwiches and logs of cookie dough I need in reserve to skip town without anyone noticing.
But right now, math can’t tell me what today will hold much less tomorrow. I did the numbers to find out how many desserts I’d need on a given weekday in April, doubled it to account for dessert’s newfound popularity and still came up short.
The buzz from Food & Wine will subside and we’ll go back to something that passes for normal. Whatever that turns out to be. Until then, the laws of supply and demand are not on my side. Selling out sucks, but it’s a reality.
I don’t have a sous chef, an assistant, an intern or even a dishwasher. Hell, I only have one burner and The One Pot. That’s not a complaint or an excuse, but an acknowledgement of the very physical limit on how many individual desserts one girl can make.
Mercifully, I can share this recipe with everyone and still not run out.
Imagine white chocolate pistachio Nutella, but more awesome, more versatile. At room temperature, it can be spread across a plate or a chunk of baguette. It can be whipped into buttercream or swirled into brownie batter. Warmed, it thins to pourable consistency for topping ice cream. It can be chilled and sliced, then dipped in chocolate. You can refrigerate it, then scoop it like ice cream with a melon baller to make perfect emerald spheres for garnishing a cheesecake.
Quite literally, I can’t make enough of this stuff. You might want to think about a double batch…
39 comments and counting
Apr 16, 2012 · 10:33 AM
In this strange economy, your sold out situation is a happy situation! Congrats and good luck keeping up with demand!
· Susan · http://thespicegarden.blogspot.com
Apr 16, 2012 · 10:56 AM
Nothing wrong with being in demand! Maybe you can use this to scam some assistance from the chef. Great news and good luck.
· KitchenCru · http://www.KitchenCru.biz
Apr 16, 2012 · 1:03 PM
How exciting! You can be sure if I’m ever even remotely in the area I’ll be one of the ones helping to push your dessert menu to the sell out point!
· Michal · http://thehumidity.blogspot.com/
Apr 16, 2012 · 1:14 PM
Sold out, up to your eyeballs in making more, and yet you still have time to share a recipe !! Thanks Bravetart! You’re a superwoman!! The pistachio paste is going to be whipped into submission as a buttercream for macarons at my house this week!
· saltandserenity · http://www.saltandserenity
Apr 16, 2012 · 4:07 PM
I feel for you, I would get that call sometimes from a frowning boss when I worked for Whole Foods. “Were out of baguettes” she’d say waiting on me magically transporting some to the store. Sometimes after all of the sales data and waste logs we still get caught out. It sounds like you did all you could so you should be proud of the demand right now
· Gerry @ Foodness Gracious · http://www.foodnessgracious.com
Apr 16, 2012 · 5:14 PM
Wow – congratulations! Awesome job!
And I love this paste – pistachios are my favorite nuts.
· Kiri W. · http://www.healthyfoodietravels.net
Apr 16, 2012 · 6:13 PM
@Susan, I tell myself that all the time. Despite the economy, I’m making a living on dessert, a totally discretionary course. I’m incredibly fortunate.
@KitchenCru, if only anyone around here had any background in pastry. It’s slim pickins!
@Michal, haha, that’s what I worry about most; someone who’s read the blog making a special trip and then ending up empty handed. It’s a nightmare! Tweet me up if you do make the trip and I’ll try and double-stock the kitchen.
@saltandserenity, it is so insanely good in buttercream! Seriously! It’s funny though, if you look through the archives, I used to post five or six times a month, now I’m lucky if I can manage it twice. But everyone online has been such a huge support to me over the last year, staying in touch keeps me sane.
@Gerry, omg, I would love to study under you for a day or two; I know corporate bakeries like that keep amazing logs and do great projections. I clearly need to learn more about it. Though, of course, I know the numbers will always fail you, there’s no predicting the chocolate cravings of an entire city.
@Junglegirl, thank you so much, that means the world.
@Kiri, you will seriously love this. If you can’t find pistachio oil, you can buy it online. It’s worth the wait, plus the leftovers make a great base for a salad dressing.
Apr 17, 2012 · 10:39 AM
@cuicasolo, if only I could put you on that plane! Skilled help is rather hard to come by over here…
Apr 17, 2012 · 8:50 PM
Blah I totally remember a frantic night when I was working at a little gastropub. Someone had mentioned us on the radio. No one had told the restaurant. And about a quarter through the dinner rush, I had to dash downstairs and remake every single dessert component we had (with the Chef screaming at me). However, that is probably absolutely nothing compared to what you’ve been going through!
Congrats on the increase! And best of luck keeping up with everything until the rush gets normalized again!
OH and PS from my comment on the beard papa post. I saw you in Food and Wine loved the recipe and I thought your pic was far more awesome than all the others. Pshaw. Who can beat sprinkles?!
Apr 17, 2012 · 11:41 PM
You think it’s bad now?? Just wait until you make it to Top Chef Desserts!
· Bonnie · http://www.bakecookeatmove.blogspot.com/
Apr 18, 2012 · 4:06 PM
Congrats on being in the top 9, today!
· CJ at Food Stories · http://www.foodstoriesblog.com
Apr 18, 2012 · 4:14 PM
OMG. This looks so amazing. My mouth is watering. Now if I could only find unsalted pistachios…
· Holly · http://hollyeatsinfrance.com
Apr 18, 2012 · 4:51 PM
This sounds amazing. Congrats on your sell-out.
· alyce culinary thymes · http://www.culinarythymes.com
Apr 18, 2012 · 6:55 PM
@Eve, darling, thanks as always for the support. I wonder if they made my picture so big so people could see that I was covered in sprinkles, not ants.
@Bonnie, now that gives me heart palpitations! I am the least competitive person I know, I would just melt and declare the person next to me the victor, haha.
@CJ, thanks! It was a nice surprise this morning.
@Holly, if that’s all you can find, just give them a good rubbing with a towel and then cut the salt out of the recipe. You ought to break even that way.
@alyce, we sold out again night before last, but finally didn’t sell out last night. It’s so sad I’m proud to have conquered a mere Tuesday.
Apr 18, 2012 · 8:35 PM
Seriously is this legal? I LOVE it, and I am so intrigued at the same time. Sounds wonderful so I obviously need to get on this. Congrats on Top 9, new fan here.
· Laura | A Healthy Jalapeño · http://ahealthyjalapeno.com
Apr 19, 2012 · 10:45 AM
@Jim, haha. I know, I know, it sounds so ridiculous. But actually, equipment orders aren’t much of a problem for me, it’s just that I have such a long list of things that I want and need, The Second Pot is on the bottom of the list. I’ve got a new ice cream machine and a set of silicon madeleine molds on their way even now.
@Laura, totally not legal. Shhh…..
Apr 20, 2012 · 3:30 PM
Silicone madeleine pans? You make me swoon… :
) Oh, and this is going on my to-make list asap. I loved it in the restaurant-I only hope that it tastes as good at home!
· Mindy · http://www.theworldinmykitchen.com
Apr 20, 2012 · 3:32 PM
Okay, and for some reason, it looks like I did a strike-through on my last comment. I didn’t mean to…hmmm.
· Mindy · http://www.theworldinmykitchen.com
Apr 21, 2012 · 1:53 PM
And there I was thinking I was on to something by making a cinnamon-vanilla hazelnut butter. White chocolate pistachio paste. Amazing.
· Whitney · http://www.indrivanilla.com
Apr 22, 2012 · 12:39 PM
@Mindy, haha, yeah, my commenting system uses symbols for different fonts. An asterisk around a word makes it bold, underscores give italics, and using a dash makes a strike through. So I guess your aside was interpreted as a deletion. I’ve never seen that happen before, though. Haha. Definitely let me know if you whip up a batch, I’m so happy to have won you over despite your aversion to nuts!
@Whitney, what in the world are you talking about you are totally on to something.
Apr 22, 2012 · 10:50 PM
HI stella my name is Cristina I just moved to Lexington about eight months ago from Orlando. I found you through tastespotting a couple of months ago and have been following your posts as i love your creativity and approach. For some reason I only just realized that you work right by me about a month ago and got super excited! If you ever seriously need a kitchen assistant part time or for however long I would love for you to consider me. I feel I could be of great help but it would also be a great opportunity to learn from someone so talented. I got a pastry degree from a college in Florida and have worked at hotels and restaurants. Right now I’m working in a retail bakery and it’s really uninspiring scooping frosting out of buckets and baking par baked goods. Anyway congrats on all of the recognition you’re getting you deserve it! My boyfriend works at a catering company here in town where they talk very highly of table 310 too. Well I put my email here if you would ever like to contact me!
Apr 26, 2012 · 10:29 AM
@Cristina, what a small world/town! Where do you work? We’ll have to grab a cup of coffee or something sometime. We’re opening a baker later this year (supposedly late summer, but I’m guessing late fall) and I will be sure to let you know when we start taking resumes. Finding anyone with actual pastry background is so rare in this town, I’d love to have you on the team. I’ll be in touch when we are close to hiring!
@Jesyca, haha, I like that description. I get a ton of macaron based traffic, but I’ve only posted on them 4 or 5 times in nearly two years. A lot of people are really disappointed I don’t talk about them more; I’m glad you like me anyway!! Thanks for the kind words. Hope you also get to the bottom of your macaron woes.
Apr 26, 2012 · 5:52 PM
From a business perspective, Stella, such a great problem to have. But you do raise one of the issues I always wondered about with running a restaurant – how the heck do you decide how much to order and how much to make. Like so many things in life, it sounds like it’s trial by error with a little experience thrown in.
My son is a pistachio lover – I think I’m going to have to step outside my comfort zone and try this. Will report in when I do. And when the NY group finally makes our way to Kentucky, we’ll be sure to let you know so you can stock up on desserts
· Beth (OMG! Yummy) · http://omgyummy.com
Apr 26, 2012 · 11:03 PM
@Beth, I could really devote a whole blog post to that. In the beginning, it’s really tough because you have no data to go on. You just have to always make more than you think you’ll need and resign yourself to waste. Over time, as you learn your clientele, you start to learn which nights are busy and which are slow; which sorts of desserts sell best; etc.
I keep records of exactly how many desserts I have every day before service, exactly how many remain after service, and how many I need to make to bring my par back to the original number. Eventually, patterns emerge. After six months, I had it fairly mastered. Occasionally an event (a show at the opera house or a minor holiday I’d forgotten) would throw my numbers off and we’d unexpectedly sell out, but mostly I had it down pat. Now we’re in the “here there be dragons” phase of the game, and I just prepare for an apocalypse every night, haha.
Would love to have you down this way….
Apr 29, 2012 · 4:32 AM
Sounds like your records were ah-ryth-meh-tic, then suddenly your rep+sales went logar-rythmic (trying to think phoenetically, ahem). My sympathy for your stress, and congrats for the success. And my deepest thanks from here in quiet little Perth, Australia for all the recipes I used to entertain the kids on the last school holidays. Thanks!
Apr 29, 2012 · 4:17 PM
@Crash, thanks so much!!
@smittee, in any event, things went cu-ray-zee. Thanks for the kind words, I’m so happy you’re enjoying the recipes.
Apr 30, 2012 · 8:17 PM
So glad to see your reply stella! I would definitely be up for getting together if you can ever squeeze in some time! I work at the fresh market. Some things like nut breads and lemon squares are from scratch but I spent most of the time in a freezer opening boxes. I’m actually gonna be working there part time now to try out this new restaurant that’s actually right by Table 310 called Shakespeare and Co. where I’ll be a pastry cook. I’m hoping to get some practice and learn some new things!
Apr 30, 2012 · 10:57 PM
@Cristina, That’s a bummer about FM, but I’m excited to hear you’re going to be at Shakespeare & Co! I walk past almost every day and have been watching it take shape for the past…gosh. Year? I can’t wait till its open, so eager to go inside. Have they determined a date for opening?
May 03, 2012 · 9:36 AM
@Cristina, sweetness! Consider my calender marked. Once we’re working on the same street, we will definitely have to have a coffee date!
May 03, 2012 · 2:15 PM
On a Tuesday night? Congratulations! Definitely a good problem to have, and who knows? It might end up drawing out the effect of Food & Wine. People will keep coming back to try!
Was tempted to leave you a “look at me” comment, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. :p
· Suki · http://superduperfantastic.com/
May 04, 2012 · 9:48 AM
@Suki, hahaha, that would have been so funny though. It’s been a madhouse here, I’m eagerly awaiting the calm after the storm.
May 14, 2012 · 3:24 AM
This is pure genius. Love the details and how you caramelized the mini tarts to create the shadows!
May 14, 2012 · 10:25 AM
@Hari, thanks so much! Had a lot of fun with that one.