A hot smoothy delight for winter 5:2 ers

20140112-215309.jpgI don’t know about any other 5:2 ers out there but I’m finding it a bit tricky fasting in winter – I just seem to be hungrier and i want a hot, low -cal snack to keep me going until my low-cal dinner! So today i tried out this ‘hot smoothy’ – or the healthiest instant soup I’v ever seen! In my smoothy mug: 70g beet leaves (red chard), some avocado slices, some mint, a dash of lemon juice (or lime) and some salt (or do without if you’re not a salt junkie like me). Crumble a veg oxo cube (in my opinion the best tasting and only 8 cals!) and then top up with boiling water from the kettle .

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20140112-215403.jpgThen Whizz and drink. Hot, nourishing and full of good stuff. Bon appetit!

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Yes! Two posts in one night – I want to make sure you sleep well :)

A quick one to say that I thought my time had finally come this evening and that I was going to finally be ‘banged up to rights’ – I’m sure someone could find SOMETHING that i’ve done wrong ??? On returning from the supermarket this afternoon, there was a Gendarme car coming out of Smith Cul de Sac – why is the automatic feeling of guilt? I don’t think I have done anything, let’s think….

It turned out they wanted to book a table for 25 Gendarmes mid Feb, phew! Also tonight had a young couple in who are getting married in August here in the area and started talking to Dave about having their wedding meal here. When Dave mentioned groups of 12 being our maximum, they didn’t give up, but spoke of bringing the core group in – parents, best man, bridesmaids etc. Very flattering, I must say.  It could well be time to talk about expanding the restaurant and kitchen to accommodate groups, we turn down a LOT of groups.

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A new service I could offer!

Hello dear friends and readers and a very happy new year! I am having a lovely new year playing with my new ipad, if only I didn’t have to go to work!! But then I guess I wouldn’t have such toys *sigh* bring on a Euromillions win, I say.

Anyhow, I feel it is my duty to alert you all to the existence of an amazing freebie. *Geek warning* It will really only interest the modern cuisinistas or cuisinistos amongst you. If you are such a geek, then you will be aware of the publication a short while ago of a group of books (5 I think) written by an ex top exec at Microsoft who also loves cooking called Modern Cuisine. I believe it costs in the region of 500£ which is a substantial investment for some cookbooks. Although they are not just cookbooks but works of art with fabulous photography and beautiful layout, not to mention the interesting content. Anyhoo, they have put the whole lot in an app which has added content and interactive content for a tenth of the price at around 54£! Still too much of an investment? There is  lite version that is FREE, yes, FREE!! Search it out and enjoy. I’ve got it all ready to enjoy when I have a quiet moment, just in case they realise they’ve made a mistake :) It’s called Modern Cuisine Lite. Look for it!

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It’s just a stage we’re going through …..

I have felt this year that the business feels somehow stronger. Not that we can do many more covers in season, but through enquiries and reservations. It seems to me that we are getting more interest. It is the end of our financial year at the end of October and yes indeed we have seen a small increase in turnover compared to last year but I’m sure the phone is ringing more and that we are refusing more people, even at this time of year. We could really do with someone working weekends even now, well out of season. This could be a 5 year effect, perhaps – or it could be the Tripadvisor Effect, apparently we have a good reputation locally and our TA score is something I am quite proud of even though a lot if people diss it. I expect I would diss it too if our score was rubbish :)

We’ve even had an increase in kids or their parents phoning or coming in asking if they can do a ‘stage’ with us. That is to say, with me, in the kitchen. Ugh. This is probably quite controversial, but the thought of having a kid training with me in the kitchen leaves me cold. Yes, I know that they have to learn and get practical experience, but they will be learning classic techniques that I have never learnt, damn! I could learn from them! Having a kid hanging over my shoulder watching everything I do would drive me bonkers, best leave it to others who enjoy that sort of thing. It’s also not really the right time of year, I’d be constantly trying to find something for them to do. It’s free labour, as well. We even had a chap come from the Hotellerie school here in Vernet who we know and are friendly with trying to persuade us to take someone. But we held firm. We had a couple in our last place when we still had a chef, we even had a pré-apprentis once (14!!) and it was all a bit awful. And our chef liked kids and had 4 of his own, so he was quite comfortable about it all. However it didn’t end well, as our chef went mad and went off sick for 6 months and the kid went awol as a result, but told his Mum he was still coming to work argh. In short, life was a little more ‘exciting’ for a while.

So that’s that. No snotty kids in the kitchen with me, thanks!

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It’s been a while!

Well it HAS been long time since I blogged. I have had a period of writers block, it is true, but also life has been really hectic. We have had a great season and we have come through it in good shape. In June I usually look forward to the next few months with no short measure of fear wondering if this is the year that the business will kill me! But this year I particularly feel better than usual at the end of the season, due in part to losing 8 kilos following the 5:2 diet. Who knew feeling lighter could make one feel so much better! So THAT’S what everyone goes on about. Also, of-course, it is essential to have absolute control over the business and not let it run you. This may sound overly dramatic, but it really is true. A business takes on its’ own life once it’s born, breathes and takes on its’ own rythmn. All we need to do,just about is turn up. However, once you deal with the general public, you need to have really clear parameters or they will push you to working all hours if you let them. We have had people phone us at 7.30am to book tables, similarly at 11.30pm. 11.30pm is more understandable than 7.30am – that’s just madness to think anyone will be there!

Anyway we had the same waitress as last year and a new waiter, a local chap, who both were a delight to work with. It’s always a bit wierd when we emerge from winter working just on our own, to sharing our space with others, but gives us a window on what’s happening outside our immediate corner of Vernet.

Possibly one reason we got through the season so well is that, unusually, we closed for 10 days in June as it was my 50 th birthday and I took myself off to Provence for a cooking course with Jean-François Bérard of Hostellerie Bérard at La Cadière D’Azur, Provence. I shall do a post on this with pics because the place was stunning. I was also so lucky to have the first week in a goodly while where it wasn’t cold and raining. I had a gorgeous sunny and warm week. There really is nowhere else to be than Provence I just love it.

So now we start the winter season, with 2 days off a week and a holiday. Much more civilised!

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Tripadvisor excellence cert

Tripadvisor excellence cert

We have an award from Tripadvisor, which apparently means we are among the best 10% rated establishments on there! Thanks to all our clients, you rock, truly!

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So, decision made on local initiative.

So I have perused the whole proposition by the ‘Parc Naturel Régionale des Pyrenées Catalanes’ that I discussed here. And the answer is no. I think the spirit of it is well meaning, but the actual parameters are too constrained.

There is a whole section on the amenities we must provide for our guests, including high chairs (*scream*) and general friendliness to family groups. Those who know us, know that we have a firm anti-kid stance, but just from a practical point of view: 1) babies take up loads of room, don’t spend any money and make a noise. Sometimes LOADS of noise. The parents are generally distracted all throughout their visit and wander about bouncing baby around trying to keep baby quiet whilst causing mortal danger to Dave trying to transport hot stones and hot food about. 2) We just don’t have any room to put highchairs, baby seats or entertainment equipment, and anyway, I think it’s up to the parents to provide the entertainment stuff. 3) and with a total capacity of around 30 people we just DON’T WANT THEM.

Another stipulation is the way we sort rubbish. Now this I do want to comply with, but again, we simply don’t have the space to have different bins for recyclables and non-recyclables. We do take all glass down to the bottle bank, and we save the corks for the local council who recycle them, but we only have room for the one bin in each part of the kitchen and as for composting – well, nice theory, but what to do with it once composted – we don’t really have a garden that needs it, and again, no space for a composter.

They also want us to put out loads of local information, books written by local people and about the locality. NO BLOODY SPACE! Also to dispense tourist information – which we do to a limited extent – we are hardly experts ourselves, and anyway isn’t that the job of the local Tourist Office, who, by the way, are EXCELLENT. We provide a QR code that links to the tourist office website with a wealth of information within. I don’t see how we can be expected to dispense tourist advice at any length whilst trying to run a busy service.

I think the cost is very reasonable, 40€ is all it costs the restaurateur, and the Parc participates in signage and promotion of the establishment, but I think it is for places in bigger towns, unfortunately, and perhaps with a less seasonal trade. I struggle to think how we would keep the menu local in winter and even in season to turnover the foodstuffs enough to not go over sell-by dates etc, the menu would have to pretty much have to focus on only that.

And our current best-selling mains are the Curry of the Moment (Caribbean chicken curry with sweet potato and cornbread at the moment) and American Ribeye.

So that’s a no, then.

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