Be early. Be prepared. Cook plenty of food. Always clean your station. Never say no, even if gracious gifts make you feel weird.
Don’t buy too many snacks, snacks aren’t food-food. Never try too hard. Don’t look too legit. Don’t accept too many gracious gifts, they will make you feel weird.
Our near-spring weekend in the Catskills is breath taking, from rolling hills, deep valleys to the “beware of cute dog” sign. Everything here is good.
My co-chef and co-founder Alex of Urbanites and I are fully immersed in upstate nature, and only a 3 hour drive from the city. From rocky waterfalls to winding trails and even 4 foot deep fire pits, the Catskills are much more beautiful than the events we usually cook for.
We find ourselves feeding 30 people in this paradise and things start to change. Not tremendously, but just enough.
Sometimes you just have to delve in and splurge. Our journey begins with an overflowing trunk and 4 liters of Orange juice inbetween my legs. A winding drive and we’ve just arrived.
A quick clean and the kitchen is ours. One drawer dedicated to knives, tools and spoons, check. Cabinets full of snacks, pantry essentials and cleaning supplies, check. Hidden shelf for our beer, yes check.
Portion control is always an issue, especially on the move; after all, the nearest Walmart is 45 minutes away. We’ve got a car but what does that mean for our mise en place? Or about our hours of preparation? Having everything ready to go is half the battle. Like the the tree’s silhouette of our closest summit, everything must be in it’s right place.
Cooking for more than 20 people is always a struggle. In a small kitchen like this we’re in the weeds, it’s like an invisible and cacophonous ticket machine for about 5 hours. Then a bewildering silence. As if fleeting moments of intense plating, frying, sautéing and braising fade away into the night.
Our task at hand is to prep the first day’s goodies. As they arrive, they begin to set up the “DJ Booth”. It’s bumping techno now. Our dishes are being produced, it’s just after noon, a full brunch sounds good; Waffles, scrambled eggs, braised sausage, maple bacon, sliced fruit, and fresh citrus salad. A perfect way to welcome our tired and weary guests.
We found ourselves feeding 30 people in paradise and things changed. Not tremendously, but almost enough.
After a few hectic hours of dinner service I’m impressed with this AirBnB kitchen – the burners work really well, that’s always a good sign. After tonight we have a really good feeling.
It’s Saturday morning and we’re the only ones awake. Someone stirs in their sleep on a couch next to the still bouncing subwoofer. REM sleep must be amazing that close. Like him, I’m stirring too, a 24 egg scramble.
3 parts egg, 1 part cream. Season with salt, crack of pepper. Stir on and off heat for roughly 6 minutes. Serve when glistening in pan, don’t worry they’ll finish on plate.
We’ve prepped for hours now. Breakfast is finished, everyone’s hungry again. After a few cups of messy coffee, we are ready to fire. Plating on this marble pass just makes so much sense. We’ve got chips to hold them over but the real food is on it’s way. Before we know it, everyone is crowding, watching. After a sleepless night, simple salt and acid begins to cure our surmounting communal hangover.
Dinner is about ready. While some of our new friends enjoy a steaming outdoor jacuzzi, we prepare a feast. Hanger steak, sous vide flank, roasted root veg, steamed salmon, pickled red onion and feta salad.
This time it’s family-style. The elongated table passes along our creations, and I reach for my knife one more time I know they’ll want seconds. I’m slicing meat soaked in bright red wine jus, smokey fragrance wafting from the cedar planks. I season with Maldon. It’s delicious, we think they agree too.
Thankfully we have the best view in the house. Facing the south facade, floor to ceiling windows display this countryside at dusk.
We cooked in paradise, and everything changed. Nothing tremendous, but entirely enough for us.