Friday, February 26, 2010

Charyn Auctions

Yesterday Brett and I headed over to Charyn Auctions to dig through their large inventory of second hand restaurant supplies. Familiar Spanish phrases could be heard everywhere reminding us of the many markets we've visited in Mexico. But instead of calling out prices for vegetables and dried goods the air was filled with squabbling over pots, pans, grills, and appliances. All stocked high to the rafters in this giant Mission District warehouse.

Our shopping list was composed of a few very simple, but necessary items: Large Stock Pot, Roasting Pans, Roundo's and hopefully no surprise "must have" items. (Fortunately only one item fell into that category. A 6 foot baker's table that's a bit of a fixer project). We managed to get everything we needed and saved 50 bucks in the process.

Sifting through the remnants of restaurants past is a bipolar sort of experience. At one end of the spectrum there is a sense of exhilaration when you discover a great find, but there also looms an undeniable uneasiness as you pick over what is likely the last tangible pieces of someone's dream.

In one corner of the lofty warehouse we discovered the entire inventory of a closed coffee shop. Menu board, cups, signs, tables, chairs, all the way down to the computer system. In another corner, the remains of a restaurant / lounge that couldn't have been more than a few months old. The menus were stashed neatly away under one of the many work tables that litter the warehouse floor. All shiny and new with no dust, dirt, or any first course residue to be seen. A sobering sight for any restauranteur.

Having been to this auction house many times before, Brett and I usually know what to expect before entering. The smell of old caked grease on metal pans, the smoke from day laborers welding repairs on old appliances, the bad interior decorations of old Chinese restaurants. This old warehouse is akin to the best estate sale you have ever been to. All kinds of treasures stuffed away in deep and dark places. And just like an estate sale, you can't help but have a knot in your stomach as you make your way through the maze of pre-owned bits and peices from some stranger's past.

For me, I find the best remedy for this sense of unease is to imagine what once simmered away in these old pots and pans: the wrought iron stove tops where they sat, the hands that stirred their contents, and the journey those same hands made in effort to bring to life the ingredients of which they once contained. These images put my mind at ease and remind me that all things in life are cyclical. And that with death comes life, and that now it is our turn to have our hands stirring these same pots, adding one more chapter to their culinary legacy.

Before and after of the Baker's Table:

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lonchera No Mas (No longer a taco truck)

Today was a cold and foggy day at The SSC headquarters located at San Francisco's Ocean Beach. Brett and I have been working double-time in effort to get all the finishing touches assembled and put on the truck. There are subtle hints of spring in the air marked most noticeably by the building onshore winds. The changing weather patterns signal an end to the surf season and tease the senses with the promise of warmer days to come. Soon the Outer Sunset will be the City's destination for occasional sunshine, bonfires, and barbecues.

When we started on the restoration of the service side of the vehicle, we had no idea that we'd spend the better part of 2 weeks completing it. I was tempted to name this post the "Door Dilemma" as it took us nearly three days to figure out how to raise the clearance of the service side doors by three inches. Brett and I talked today about doing a large scale "Before and After" post to showcase all of the work we've done, but thought it'd be best if we kept it just to the wood working additions. *Note: We've also put in hours of metalworking, but I don't feel that aluminum reinforcement plates and machine screws have quite the visual appeal as reborn scrap lumber.. Maybe I'm missing something having only taken wood shop classes in middle school.

Below you can see the transformation from scrap pile to our most noticeable accents. The 10 foot Redwood mantle piece and the mystery wood slats that transformed beautifully into the menu board framing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Salvage Yards to Side Rails

It has been a busy few days! We have spent the better part of the past week scrounging around salvage yards looking for the perfect pieces of reclaimed lumber, trim, and other accents to finish out the truck. It is slowly taking shape and is looking terrific.

Many a guy or girl has been known to seek out vintage odds and ends for the inherent “cool” factor that these objects possess. Brett and I have been more interested in the “save money” factor on this project. Fortunately, as any hipster can attest, these two forces often work together in great harmony. The old, dusty, and cheap, with a little creativity can be transformed into the…. Tres Cool.

Anyways, the real find of the week has been an old 10 foot long Redwood mantle piece we discovered at Ohmega Salvage in Berkeley. In the photo you can see it hiding up in the rafters in the top right hand corner of the frame. That is were it sat patiently for any number of years until Brett discovered it. I give him full credit for the incredible find. We barely got it home and after a few hours of sanding and a couple coats of stain, what once served as steady ground for photos, candles, and other knick knacks in an old Victorian, will now be affixed to the side of a 1985 Chevy Step Van. Bet they never saw that one coming.

The most exciting part about finding this old Redwood mantle piece is that it put an end to three days of disagreements, arguments, and serious side-eyes that Brett and I had been exchanging over this one detail. I find one of the most challenging elements of a partnership is agreeing on a decision that you both feel is very important. I firmly believe that this difficulty is only compounded when your business partner is your brother. I’m sure he will agree with me on this one.

Pickle Tasting Results:

Sweet Hots are Bomba! By a stroke of pure luck the first batch turned out great. The perfect balance of sweet and spice. We are thinking that they will be our signature pickle to be served on every plate.

Garlic Dills: Need a little salt.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sweet Hots & Dills.. A Day of Pickling

Yesterday we embarked on our first adventure into pickling. Exciting stuff. Actually, for any history buff the evolution of food preservation is truly an interesting subject.

Pickling has ancient roots dating back to the early Mesopotamians and has had many interesting twists and turns along its historical path. From feeding Napolean Bonaparte’s armies in 18th century France to the more recent 57 varieties of pickles and preserves from the Heinz family, pickling has come a long way. Now we’re giving it a go. Making Sweet Hot pickles with Guajillo chiles and the classic garlic and dill variety pickle. So far they look and smell pretty delish!

Once we set out on this little project I was reminded of the humid Summers along the Intracoastal waterway in South Carolina, and a neighborhood girl whose fingers were forever stained from her endless consumption of this pickled vegetable. I couldn’t help but think of her and chuckle. If she only knew the boys from down the street would one day be making her favorite snack by the gallons I think she would die.

"On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally's cellar." Thomas Jefferson

I will return in 48 hours with the tasting results from our first round of pickles.