About our Head Chef – Nate Hines has done everything in the culinary world short of landing a spot on the Food Network. Schooled in classical French cuisine, he was the Executive Chef for Texas’s only five star hunting lodge, spent three years as a Private Chef, and he recently decided to change direction by starting his own place. It’s a cheese shop which also specializes in wine/beer, cheese, and local food pairings. He’s building it with his brother, and you can check their progress here.
Before I went to culinary school, I spent nine years chasing cows. As the shipping season at one ranch came to an end, I was offered a job on a feedlot in Colorado, and for some reason I took it. For the two years I worked there, we kept an average of 91,000 cows* on less than 640 acres of land. It was kinda like New York City without the accents or tourist. (This relates to Valentine’s Day, just hang on a bit).
Throughout the day, there were times when I was sitting on my horse looking for sick cows and the feed truck would pull up. It would drop a metal chute and then drive slowly pouring feed into a concrete trough as the cows would push and shove to find a spot. They would stand shoulder to shoulder, eat as fast as they could, and bellow for more when they were done.
This image always comes to mind on Valentine’s Day when I look out of the kitchen. Guys and gals dressed up nice sitting all but shoulder to shoulder with the table next to them, couples standing waiting on a table because the Front of the House booked reservations so close together that there is still a 15 minute wait, and people all but bellowing trying to get the (over-worked) server‘s attention. I don’t get it, but then again, I have always been fortunate enough to be able to tell the woman I am dating on this horrid holiday, “Sorry honey, I would love to take you out, but this is one of the busiest days of the year and I have to work. We will do something Monday.”
Valentine’s Day is a boon for the restaurant industry. They will run a “short” menu limiting your options, prices will be raised, tables added to the floor and reservations booked so close together that you couldn’t drive a needle between them with a sledge hammer. The Back of the House has been prepping like mad for the past three days and there is a good chance that even the dishwasher is helping out with the cooking. If you have a tight crew that works well together, primetime service will give you a high like no other. If your crew does not… well, it is like a four-year-old’s finger painting. You might know what it is, but it sure isn’t pretty.
A few restaurants do it well. They run a limited menu but it has some cool stuff on it. Their service staff are veterans and they carry it with grace. Their drink specials haven’t been made in a vat the day before and are actually made to order. If you know a place like this, book it, and book it now. Even if you don’t have a date, go ahead and book it.
There are always other options. A nice dinner at home (if you don’t cook, order in Chinese food, take a moment while plating it and make it look nice). Realize that it is just a holiday made up by greeting card companies, and explain to the woman in your life that you don’t need a special day to show your love to her. Choose another night and have your own Valentine’s Day. Buy her a huge amount of chocolate, and pray that she is in a sugar coma when it is time to go out.
The truth of the matter is… it is about what she wants. If the woman in your life feels like you must, or even should, go out, then bite the bullet and do it. Dress nicely, use the valet, yell over the crowd to tell her how pretty she looks, and don’t order the fish. There are just some things a guy has got to do.