Ebola

And here I am, irritated that my clothes are still in the washing machine and I have to walk downstairs to put them in the dryer…
http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/africa/100000003071418/burial-boys-of-ebola.html

$6 dollars a day to bury deadly corpses. I’m in awe.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Excuses

WordPress sent me a link to see my blog stats for 2013.

I have been blogging since 2003, and yet only published two blog posts in the previous 365 days.

My friend Kristen says that I never broadcast bad news. I only tell the good and then bitch about things that other people do that they control.

So. Here’s my excuse.

staples

It’s a Happy Face and a nudie photo all at once. I’ll skip the photo of my boob, just so I can keep this a relatively PG post.

🙂

After going through invasive surgeries cleaning out my insides and removing numerous cancerous polyps and meaty tumors, I finally was able to have every organ that wasn’t necessary removed from my gut.

I have no womb. No fallopian tubes. I am left with a third of my colon (low tolerance for shit now, obviously) and they trimmed my bowels somehow. I have one ovary. Not sure why, and am still confused that it has no tunnel to drop an egg into. But it allows me “hormones” that keep me from going into early menopause.

Which is good, I think.

And yet, I’ve never stressed on it. Really.

I can honestly say that my tummy and boob have made me reflect and respect more than I ever have about my life, and lives in general. I appreciate more.

I’m still more fortunate than so many.

I was annoyed when I would try to talk and my husband would say “you realize that you’re on the table, right?” and he’d just read another magazine, reciting the headlines and telling me what was good in the cafeteria that day when I wasn’t able to eat.

bruised on up

This was after 5 days of poking needles and IVs in me. But I’m very thankful for it.

—————————-

I’m not sure where the time has gone, but it seems like it’s flown by. My goals for 2012 disappeared, but have shown their face in the form of 2015. Life goes on. At least my life has.

I am so incredibly fortunate. And I truly appreciate my friends who have shared their emotions with this last year. Thank you. Now…

back to being me again. We’ll see where this goes.

Posted in All About Us, Giving Thanks, why I love my husband | 3 Comments

Free Food

It irritates me to no end.

Someone gets their pizza and asks for something to add to it, and gets upset when they get charged.

Just because you paid for your meal in advance doesn’t mean that you can order more food for free. Rule of thumb; if it costs me money, it’s going to have to cost you money.

————————————–

Customer: “This pizza is delicious! Can I get a side of green peppers to go on it?”

Crew: “Sure, here you go. That’ll be a dollar and a quarter.”

Customer: “Seriously? I have to pay for a few peppers?”

green peppers

————————————–

You wouldn’t do that at McDonald’s (can I get a few more fries? What? I have to pay for it?) and you wouldn’t do that at a salon (can I get a free pedicure while you cut my hair? I mean, I’m just sitting here anyway and your co-worker looks bored).

————————————–

I had a customer once ask to buy some of the toppings for the Kina’s Favorite Salad that is on our menu. Gorgonzola crumbles, candied walnuts, dried cranberries and our dressing. These are the most expensive ingredients. She said she was going to buy the lettuce and tomatoes at the store.

When I told her how much it was going to cost, she looked insulted and said she’d just buy it all at the grocery store.  I smiled, shrugged my shoulders, and wished her well. Even I couldn’t afford to buy the ingredients at the grocery store and sell it at my menu price for a profit.

kinas favorite salad

Our $9.95 Kina’s Favorite Salad feeds 4 people and has

3.25oz of cranberries ($2.26):
cranberries

3.25oz of walnuts ($3.70):
walnuts

4oz of gorgonzola ($3.33)
6oz of fully trimmed and diced Roma tomatoes (???)
3 romaine hearts ($3.00)
3.25oz of dressing (.75)

That’s well over $13, and we make it, serve it, and clean up after you for less money.

But I’m not in the education business, I’m in the service business. I’m here to serve you…. but not for free! I’m cheap, but I’m not easy. 😉

 

Posted in All About Us, Food, free stuff, Our Pizzeria, Packaged snacks, Restaurants | Leave a comment

Being Rich

Jake has been on his 10-day vacation, so Whitey and I have been working his full-time schedule. This means we have to actually work instead of just sit around and count money all day while planning our next vacation. /sarcasm

Whitey has picked up the lunch shifts, and I have been working the dinner shifts. The last two nights have been busy, so I’ve been able to actually make food. It’s perfect, of course. Toppings are put on pizzas exactly where they should be, and the crust is cooked exactly right. But it’s my restaurant, and that’s how I want it.

That’s the thing. When you hire someone, you want them to do it EXACTLY your way. You trust them to do the job you would’ve done were you able to be there 24/7. A good employee becomes invaluable, because they do it your way, not their way. After all, it’s your business.

Jake has been with Paizano’s for four years now, and Kris will have worked with us for six years this May. I trust both of them to make decisions on my behalf when I’m not physically at the restaurant. Because they do it my way, and with a smile that isn’t forced, because they like what they do.

Working at a restaurant, or in the hospitality business for that matter, isn’t for everyone. But it is for us, and for a lot of people like us. Service minded. Perfectionists. People pleasers.

It’s one of the reasons we opened Paizano’s. I asked Whitey, “What was your favorite job, ever?”

“Cozzola’s Pizza,” he said. “I loved working there. It was fun, and everybody got along, and customers were always full and happy. And I really liked bartending at Legend’s, except the owner was a total bitch.”

I told him, “Sully’s Italian restaurant, and even waitressing at Rosette in Bend. I loved waiting tables and serving great food, suggesting wines and meeting all of the regulars that came in.”

And so, Paizano’s came to fruition. We quit our jobs and went for it.

———————

A couple came in to pick up a pizza with their son who was about 10 years old. They had to wait about five minutes for it to finish up in the oven. During that time, the boy shook the bouncy ball game machine until he had a handful of balls, threw them throughout the dining room, banged on the pinball game, went out on the patio and jumped on the rocking patio chairs, and then came back in to grab the pizza off the counter to take it to the car.

He tilted the pizza almost vertically when opening the front door, and I could hear the pizza slide in the box. I laughed and said, “Whoops! Be careful — that pizza will get messed up if you don’t keep it straight, like this…” (motioning with my hands to carry it correctly) “… and you’ll never get a job as a pizza guy if you can’t carry a pizza correctly!”

The boy stopped in the doorway, wrinkled his nose and squinted as if smelling a foul odor, and said, “I’m not gonna work at a pizza place when I’m a grownup. I’m gonna be rich.”

———————–

I made almost three times as much money working in my heyday in advertising, but I wasn’t as happy as I am now. I had closets of designer handbags and high-heeled shoes, toys in the garage that I’d get to play with once a year, and a fancy business card. Now when I go to work, I get to wear a t-shirt and jeans, comfy Crocs, and schlepp my laptop back and forth in a functional cloth bag. Working at a job that I love affords me much more than a padded bank account. It affords me time. Peace of mind. These are things that are priceless; they cannot be bought. And so yes.

I am rich.

Posted in About Pizza, All About Us, Giving Thanks, Our Pizzeria, random, Restaurants, Teamwork, why I love my husband | Leave a comment

Grumpy Old Man

Kris handed the phone over to Ash, basically telling her ‘it’s that old grumpy guy’.

When I heard this, I had to ask what was up.

Kristen told me “Remember that old man that used to come in and talk to us non-stop about everything?”

“Nope, not really,” I replied.

“Well,” she said. “He now only gets delivery, and he yells and complains and cusses at us on the phone. I can’t even understand him anymore, and so I just give the phone to someone else. Sometimes even one of the guys working in the kitchen will take his order. He doesn’t like women.”

Sure enough, I walk over to where Ash is on the phone and she has repeated “I’m sorry — what did you say?” twice in ten seconds.

She spends ten minutes (AN ETERNITY when it comes to taking an order for delivery) repeating the order, then explaining how much everything costs when he complains about the price.

When she hangs up the phone, rolling her eyes and sighing loudly, I ask for more details.

“Well,” she says, “the last time he called and placed a delivery order, his phone was so static-y and he was yelling, and I couldn’t understand a thing he said. So he yelled louder which just made it worse. Then, when the delivery driver got there, the guy gave our driver a quarter and said ‘Give this to the girl who answered the phone to buy some G*Damned hearing aids!'”

Kris then chimed in.

“And when he called just now, I answered the phone like normal and he said ‘Why the hell you gotta talk so fast? Who are you tryin’ to impress?’ and so I apologized and repeated exactly the same thing, but in slow motion: “I am sorrrrrry. Thannnk yooooou for calllllling Pie Zonnnnnn Ohzzzzzzzz…. how can I hellllllp yooooou?” and he said “You could talk slower for once”.

When our driver overheard that we were talking about this particular customer, he floored me with:

“Yeah, and when I got there, he said ‘What the $%#! is wrong with that #^**# girl that answers the phone? Is she a #$?* idiot? You guys need to #$%****n fire her.” I just told him I didn’t know how to answer him and thanked him for his business.

The customer is always right, until they are no longer a customer.

Posted in About Pizza, Delivery, I might regret this later, Our Pizzeria | Leave a comment

Festival of Trees

Due to lack of blogging, you may not be aware that we decorated a tree for the Festival again this year. The annual event is to raise money for our local hospital; this year, it was to purchase a new ultrasound machine. All of the trees are on display and put up for auction during a fancy-pants dinner that I never go to. I’m just the help. 🙂

Our theme was supposed to be Willy Wonka, but we were told that someone was already doing a Candy tree.

So we went with beer instead. Adult candy.

Front Page of the Baker City Herald

Front Page of the Baker City Herald

We had decided to get a head start on the tree by setting it up in Kris’ garage, and it took us over 15 hours to get the base of the decorations adhered. We used metallic spray paint and Martha Stewart glitter to enhance the plastic hops and pinecones before using a hot glue gun to get them attached to the faux tree.

Kris was leaving on vacation, and we’d only have one day (the day she returned home) to get the tree moved to the venue as well as put all of the finishing touches on it.

The night before she was to leave, I got a phone call at midnight. Kris was in hysterics.

They were dog-sitting for a friend, and her dog (Gabe) and the visiting dog (Hazel) had played tug-o-war with our tree. Decorations littered her front yard, and the tree itself was halfway through the doggy door in the garage.

After so much time and detailing of that dang tree, it was ruined.

I went over the next day to assess the damage and yes, it was pretty bad. Damn dogs.

Baker City doesn’t have a mall, or a Wal-Mart, or a Michael’s or Hobby Lobby or a large crafting store that I could’ve just popped in to so as to find replacement decorations. In fact, I found the last roll of burlap garland in all of Baker County at a gift store that specializes in home decor.

On set-up day, we arrived with our Charlie Brown tree at the venue where all of the other trees were already put up and people were putting the final touches on them. All glitzed out and glamorous, and here we were with a limp, broken, haphazard tree in need of serious love.

The first thing I did when I walked in the door was drop the biggest box of glitter-covered pinecones and clear glass bulb ornaments. Way to make an entrance, Kina.

Kris and I got to work, worried that we wouldn’t have enough time or resources to pull off what we had intended: The Best Tree of All Them Other Trees.

But we did it.

Our tree was, simply put, Impressive.

Beer Tree

Beer Tree

100 Bottles of Beer

100 Bottles of Beer

The gifts that were under the tree were the icing on the cake. 100 Bottles of beer (not corporate beer — only good stuff), lots of beer swag from breweries and our favorite beer gal rep at Graybeal Distributing, and the grand prize?

Barley Brown’s donated “Brewer for a Day” == the highest bidder of the tree would get to spend a day brewing beer at the Baker City Brewing Company, and then invite friends to the tap house for a catered Lasagna Dinner from Paizano’s. King for a Day!

Our tree sold for $1800. Makes me think I’m in the wrong profession, eh?

 

Posted in All About Us, baker city, Bummer, Dogs, funny | 1 Comment

Love you. But not you…

Thank you for your emails, text messages, even the surprise phone call from Missy who I may or may not have ever talked to on the phone before. 🙂

I dropped off the face of the earth to battle some pretty gnarly health issues, and then I used the down time to figure out how to deal with personal relationships with my family and friends.

I couldn’t even remember the password to this blog. That’s how long it’s been.

But now I’m back. I’ve been cut and gutted, stitched back up and supplemented with numbing creams (and pills that do the same that I refuse to take).

Except I may be less tolerant now. Re-writing your will when you’re under 40-years-old might do that to you, right?

Also, I might use a few more cuss words to get my point across. Because I’ve dealt with some shit that has no other word other than that: Shit.

Shit. Shit Shit. And if you don’t like that particular word, then don’t read my blog, and go lock yourself in a room and read Harry effing Potter. Live out the fantasy and find the golden ring or something where foul words don’t exist.

🙂

Effing. See me censoring myself? I’ll try to be good. I promise. Sorry Lyle.

Note: I’m 40 now, not under 40. That makes me “middle-aged” and right about everything, right?

 

Posted in All About Us | 7 Comments

Helllllooooo?

Is anyone still out there?

🙂

After almost a year of seclusion and not wanting to be so transparent, I’m back.

Last July, I found out some scary news about my health, and decided to keep things close to my chest (ironic) and concentrate on my treatment and recovery. And just this August, I have been given a clean bill of health!

I’m not the same. I know that. I’ve been through some pretty hairy shit, and still have a long way to go to regain my spunk and energy again. But I’m cancer-free. And I’m a helluva lot less tolerant and patient when it comes to idiocy. Life is short — really.

So here I go again. My yoga. My outlet. My blog.

Posted in Giving Thanks | 9 Comments

I am not my hair; I am not my breasts.

This makes me smile.

www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/kellie-pickler-shaves-head-support-cancer-stricken-best-friend-summer-holt-miller-article-1.1152412

Why do health insurance companies not cover mammograms until a woman turns 40?

Why is that the “magic” number?

When I win the big bucks, when I’m wealthy beyond my means, I’m going to purchase the equipment for mammograms and practice medicine in my garage for any woman who has no health insurance, or any woman under the age of 40.

I guess I should also stock up on anti-venom for snake, spider and scorpion bites as well.

———————————————————–

 

Posted in politics, random, scary | 1 Comment

Same mistakes, only different.

Here’s a photo of our chalk board menu, which hangs on the wall at our restaurant:

And here’s a photo of the menu at our local brew pub, Barley Brown’s:

I pointed out to Whitey that I found a typo on their menu, and he casually mentioned that we have the exact same one our chalkboard menu. What?!? And you’re telling me now?

We’ve had the same chalkboard menu for almost five years now… and now I have to find the time and energy to take the massive beast down from the wall, erase and re-do the entire thing. Grrrrr.

Can you find it?

First person to find it and comment will be sent a free pair of Paizano’s “The Biggest Around” boxer shorts!

Posted in About Pizza, Advertising, All About Us, baker city, Friends, funny, Menu Photos, Our Pizzeria, Restaurants | 10 Comments

You Get What You Pay For

The proof is in the popcorn:

Generic vs. Name Brand

I’ll never buy cheap popcorn again.

Posted in Food, random | 1 Comment

Throwing gas on the fire. Brrrr. That’s cold.

Thank you for stopping in with words of encouragement and a hug and a what-the-heck comment. And thanks for the emails and words of support.

And…

please don’t stop patronizing a business because of one person’s mistake.

If you already were a customer of the place, liked the food and service and atmosphere and whatever… please please please still patronize it.

—————————————

Today, I was approached by one of our local newspapers who was asking for a comment about this “story” and I knew that publishing something in the paper would be a huge mistake. It’s not that newsworthy, for one. And for two, who suffers for it?

If I screwed up and made a stupid mistake in judgement, my employees have nothing to do with it and shouldn’t be penalized for it.

My response when questioned today reiterated such:

Mr. *** is a partner in the business. His silent partner is a well-respected and liked business person in the community (he also owns ***).

The BTC also employs over 30 people. It doesn’t seem fair that the actions of Mr. *** should trickle down and have a negative effect on those who rely on their jobs at the BTC.

The employees of the BTC use their paychecks locally at other businesses, including mine. They pay their bills and feed their families with those paychecks. If customers choose to not patronize the BTC, I would rather it be for their own personal affront instead of as retribution on behalf of the restaurants targeted by Mr. ***.

It’s not that big a deal, now that we all know. The gig is up. The cat is out of the bag.

He made a huge boo-boo and people are mad, but at least it’s all out in the open.

And here’s a way to spin it into something helpful:

We will all now be skeptical when it comes to anonymous “reviews”.

Us restaurant owners will still read the comments left for us on Yelp, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon (and whatever other “review” site pops up in the future)… and we will immediately act on constructive criticism.

And non-restaurant owners who have read this story will now know to take the “reviews” on the internet with a virtual grain of salt.

A big, huge, gnarly grain of salt.

——————————————–

Final words on this subject for me:

A fire was set, and those who were burned fought back.

But throwing gas on the fire isn’t going to help anyone nearby. It will create a town of ashes and animosity, and that would be pretty dumb considering how great a place it is that we live in.

——————————————-

So back to work.
All of you.

 

 

Posted in About Pizza, All About Us, baker city, Bummer, Giving Thanks, Our Pizzeria, Restaurants, Teamwork | Leave a comment

Bravo, Pavo! Not. / UPDATED

It’s taken me a long time to settle down and write this blog post so that I wouldn’t sound like a lunatic.  I’ve since come to terms with how to address the situation that got me so riled up, and you, my dear friends and blog stalkers, are going to help me deal with a shiddy situation just by reading this.

The first few drafts I pounded on my keyboard were full of anger, highlighted with some pretty choice words that may or may not be illegal in parts of the state.

Yet, after talking it over with other people, including my family, other restaurant owners who are (or were) a party to it, and my own staff at Paizano’s, I decided that there is no reason I shouldn’t just speak the truth and put it out there for everyone to draw their own conclusions on A: Why I’m so pissed, and B: Why we should never, ever, take anonymous “reviews” as fact.

——————————————————————————————

Recently, someone wrote some awful things online about local Baker City restaurants (not mine, this time around). His online persona used the name Pavo, and he had nothing nice to say. He specifically targeted restaurants that are locally-owned in Baker City, even though he claimed to be from Ontario (about an hour away). One of the restaurant owners that he smeared online (someone a lot smarter than I am who has a very successful and popular place here in town), did some investigating and figured out who the person was and sent him a strongly-worded email that contained the following:

The newly created “Pavo” account disappeared soon afterward, taking his venomous words about the restaurants with it.

Afterward, I was told who “Pavo” was (the guy who received the email), but just couldn’t believe it. I mean, it’s a small town. You can’t always believe everything you’re told, for one, and for two, I have collaborated with this Pavo person in the past, helping him to create fliers for his restaurant and co-sponsoring events that he spearheaded at our local ski hill. My brain told me to be careful, to not trust rumors and small town gossip.

So I decided to look into it myself.

Oddly enough, the name “Pavo” had been used back in 2009 on the same review site (with a different combination of numbers after the name), and with the same type of negative words. One of those reviews was of my restaurant, and I recalled reading it back then and feeling upset.

It said:

It was my first negative review from someone who wasn’t obviously a competitive restaurant owner, and I was bummed. Whitey told me to ignore it, and to let the customers decide whether or not we’d stay in business. I remember him shutting my laptop, and telling me never to look at it again.

Right.

So go figure that the latest mean reviewer shared the name “Pavo”. When I heard the name, my hackles went up.

Let’s take a look at “Pavo’s” former reviews, shall we?

For someone from Ontario, this guy sure gets around Baker City… and Mexico.

Let’s see. The Geiser Grill… what does “Pavo” have to say?

And the Sumpter Junction restaurant?

What about the Oregon Trail Restaurant, Pavo? What did you think about your meal there?

Wow. You’re hard to please. Surely you enjoyed your meal at the renowned Haines Steakhouse… right?

Wait a minute. What’s that? You “own a restaurant”?!?? This is crazy! I wonder what restaurant you own in “Ontario” that has such high standards.

Let’s take a look at your five-star ratings, shall we?

That’s odd. One of them is for a truck stop, here in Baker nonetheless.

WOW! Four times during your vacation, you ate at a truck stop? It must have been a truly magnificent experience!

But, this is so strange. You were “visiting” Baker City for 3 days and yet these are the only reviews you have ever written — none are for your “hometown” of Ontario?

Wait… there’s one other 5-star review on your resume, for a restaurant in Mazatlan, Mexico called “Pancho’s”.

————————————————-

My own sarcasm is so thick, I’m suffocating.

The owner of our local truck stop restaurant has photos all over his Facebook page of him vacationing in Mazatlan, Mexico at his vacation home that he’s had for many years.

There are even photos of him and his friends and family dining at, and WITH Pancho, at “Pancho’s” restaurant.

That a local business owner would slam another business in such a shady manner has me seething. At least use your real name if you’re going to write such things. Stand by your words.

I’m not stupid. I’ve seen reviews that other places write for themselves under monikers that are similar to their own names or their spouses names, or they use the same icon that is used on their Facebook or blog profiles.

They write about how amazing they are, how great their own food and service are, and I laugh it off. As long as they steer clear of slander and smearing their competitors, it’s no big deal. Maybe if they spent more time making their product better and training their staff to have great customer service, they wouldn’t need to boost their own online egos.

But I digress.

—————————————————–

I tried to respond to “Pavo’s” review on TripAdvisor, but they didn’t like what I had to say and I was instructed to re-write it in a more positive tone.

So I figured, it’s my blog, I can say whatever I want right.here.without.censure.

Can you imagine if there were a KidAdvisor.com ? We could write about what a horrible child you have, how misbehaved and loud and obnoxious and dirty he is, all under the safety of anonymity because we can hide behind our keyboard. You’d have no recourse. You’d be mortified and angry, wanting to find out who wrote it so that you could retaliate and talk smack about their own child!

Here’s the thing: owning a restaurant is a whole hell of a lot like having a kid. We don’t go to work everyday hoping that it grows up by itself. We have to put effort into it, tons of love and tears, nurturing and growing with it, with the goal that one day we can work a little less, sit back a little more, and be proud of what we’ve raised.

A job well done.

This guy bad mouthed my kid. My baby. He also bad mouthed a lot of other kids in town and these parents are angry. It certainly didn’t make his own kid look any better. In fact, I’ll go on record to say that my kid is a heck of a lot smarter than his kid. Better looking, too.

I’ll tell you what — when we were opening our restaurant over five years ago, I felt the hate. I couldn’t understand why, of course, because I had only ever helped other business owners. When I went to local banks with my business plan, I was shown the door. When I finally got funding, and asked for bids from contractors, I had people ignore my phone calls and finally, grossly over-estimate their contracts.It took awhile to find someone to take me seriously.

Not everyone was so self-consumed, of course. The owner of our local brewpub helped us install our keg cooler, and showed us how to keep it maintained. He shared the contact info of trustworthy vendors, helped us with our floor plan, and also offered lots of encouragement when I would admit to crying myself to sleep. He knew. He’d been there.

When a new business opens here in Baker, I want them to succeed. Really and truly. It only helps my restaurant in the long run by encouraging people to relocate, or get in a more consistent habit of eating out. If a restaurant nearby fails, it lessens my traffic flow. It hurts my business.

Think about it: If you have a restaurant on a busy Main street in a downtown area next to dozens of other restaurants, will you be more successful if they all disappeared? No.

Success breeds success.

And bad-mouthing your neighbors only makes you look worse, and ultimately, turn off your own customers.

———————————————————————-

By writing this, I feel a little better. I also have taught myself a lot about online investigating, and I’ve learned a little Spanish as well.

Did you know that “Pavo” means “Turkey” in Spanish? Neither did I! I would have thought it would mean “Chicken” or “Jackass”.

And Pavo was correct about one thing: our salads are great. In fact, if you love our signature “Kina’s Favorite” salad on our menu (the one with the candied walnuts, dried cranberries, tomatoes and gorgonzola), you can also get it at our local truck stop! It’s featured on their latest menu as the “Corral’s Favorite”. Weird, right?

Oh my. There’s the sarcasm again. I’d better quit while I’m ahead.

————————————————————————-

updated June 07, 2012

Wow. What a response. Instead of sweeping the dirt under the rug, I swept it outside and everyone saw how dirty this really is.

I did have one person email me and say that I should “get over it”. That what Pavo wrote was over 3 years ago, and to “let it go”.

Except that it wasn’t just the things that were written in 2009. He also wrote reviews as recently as a few weeks ago, only, he deleted them after being confronted by someone about it.

Prove it, Kina.

OK.

It took a few emails and calling in a huge favor, but here are a few more lovely reviews by the ever-so-eloquent Pavo:

His profile, as of this evening:

 

And here is his profile as of April 27, 2012:

And here are his reviews from April and May of this year:

Bullridge Brewpub:

———————————————————–

The Inland Cafe:

————————————————————-

The new Corner Brick Bar & Grill:

 

———————————————————————

Porchibees, now known as Crave-A-Bowl (and they have AWESOME food and some of the friendliest people working there):

 

——————————————————————————-

Barley Brown’s Brew Pub:

I just love the “to be fair” comment. TO BE FAIR!?!?? Really?

—————————————————————————————

Another rip on the Sumpter Junction:

Remember, this is a restaurant directly across the street from his place.

————————————————————————

And then of course, a stellar review of the truck stop:

and of course, a photo to go along with it:

Seriously? Seriously.

—————————————————————

The other reviews, all very positive, were for another restaurant in Mazatlan near his vacation home, and the Baker Heritage Museum and the  Interpretive Center.

If you take away one thing after reading all of this, I hope it’s that you’ll never, ever believe something that you read online. Fair, honest, true reviews are written by people who do it for a living — they’re PAID to be critics, to travel and eat and blog and publish their opinions. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising, but only if you know whose mouth it’s coming out of. Anonymous reviews are rubbish.

People hiding behind a pseudonym do so because they have something to hide.

Jealousy? Anger? Resentment? Maybe an ex-employee or a former lover are behind that nasty review you just read. Think about that before believing the hate, and also before believing the love spewed in an online review.

Pavo is entitled to his opinion, but at the expense of his neighbors success? I don’t think so.

I also don’t think he’ll be welcome back at many of the restaurants he’s written about, so I hope that he truly does love his self-proclaimed 5-star restaurant. He’ll be his own best customer.

 

 

 

Posted in All About Us, baker city, Giving Thanks, I might regret this later, Our Pizzeria, politics, Teamwork, why I love my husband | 27 Comments

Vegas: Competition Day

…. continued

——–
WEDNESDAY
——-

We were up until 1 a.m. cooking our sauce, prepping our veggies, and making to-do lists over and over, trying our best to not forget anything. Making a pizza outside of your own kitchen is a daunting task. If you forget something, it’s not so easy to find it (which we realized during the competition, unfortunately).

We were informed that our presentation time was 11:55 a.m., and that if we were even one second late, we would be disqualified. We created our schedule accordingly, waking up very early on Wednesday morning.

Jake went downstairs to the courtyard and turned on the grill. I wanted it as hot as it would get to sear our rib eye steaks, and knew that the longer it pre-heated, the better.

He came back upstairs, I made breakfast (my favorite banana pancakes, bacon, and over-medium eggs), and then left him in the kitchen to pack our cooler while I went downstairs to grill the steaks.

As I entered the courtyard, I immediately noticed someone near our grill. He had a spray bottle of  liquid and a cone sitting nearby, warning that he was “CLEANING”.

NO!

I approached him with my platter of 3-inch thick steaks and asked if he turned off the grill. He responded angrily.

“You no leave the grill on an’ no be here! Kid get hurt, it my fault. You no leave grill on and no be here!”

Of course, we were the only souls up at that hour in Las Vegas. Kids don’t even exist that early in the morning in Vegas.

I set my steaks down and bent over to turn the grill back on, knowing it would take another 15 minutes (that I didn’t have) to get hot enough to cook. He continued to shake his finger and yell at me, saying he was cleaning and I’d have to wait.

Hell no.

“Do you know who I am?” I responded.

“I am Kina, and I’m here for an international cooking competition, and if I am late, there is going to be hell to pay. We’re talking Food Network, dude. Like, on TV and sh*t.”

I felt like the Hulk: Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

His eyes widened, and he looked at the steaks, realizing that only a psycho or a celebrity would be grilling massive steaks that early in the morning.

He shut up and watched me cook. I watched the clock, and wanted to cry.

——————————————————-

We loaded up the car and got to the Expo much later than we had anticipated because of the grill-cleaning-debacle. Parking is awful at the Convention Center, and by the time you walk to the Expo Center and get to the competition area, you’ve clocked a good mile with your enormous cooler while wearing a chef’s coat in 75-degree weather. It’s not easy.

The other competitors were already busy tossing their dough, saucing and topping their pies. It was oddly quiet, except for the loudspeaker announcements of demonstrations about to occur.

Empty Demo Area

Competition in Progress

Chefs doing prep behind the scenes

Competitors

Competitors

Nice Competitor

Nice Competitors

(there were some not-so-nice competitors, too)

—————————————

We got to work.

First and foremost, one of the biggest flaws that I realized from the year prior needed to be addressed. The ovens that are available for everyone to use are brand spanking new, and therefore, have unseasoned decks to cook upon.

Brand New Deck Oven

We normally cook a pizza at 650-degrees. These were community ovens, and the constant opening and closing of the doors during the competition bodes well for a cold oven. We brought a laser temp gun with us, and immediately went over to the ovens area. We waited until someone else opened the oven and then would quickly zap the deck in a few places to figure out the hot spots. We settled on the oven shown above; it had the most consistent 600-ish temperature, and many of the other competitors were using the other deck or wood fired ovens (and this one pictured above is not a common oven in restaurants, so we wouldn’t have to arm-wrestle for position).

Jake unpacked our cooler and began tossing out his dough. I set up our assembly line and allowed him to make the pizza, with me only there to back him up. I didn’t take any photos during this (because I was severely concentrating on his work), but here’s a few of him on the ovens.

Jake on Ovens

Typical Jake “majestic” pose

Competitor on ovens

Note the peel that Jake is holding above. It’s the one that we had to purchase because the day before, we were told that all of the peels and paddles had been stolen. We kept having other competitors try to take it from us, thinking that it was community property. I finally took a Sharpie to it and wrote our name on it, certain it was going to disappear. We were glad to share, but if it came down to “I need to spin this pie and check the bake and you have my peel” I was going to throw down.

Jake was so cool. So calm. I stayed on the sidelines watching as he loaned out our peel and chatted with the people sharing our oven. He even went so far as to use our laser gun to check the temps on the decks for other competitors, helping them to make a better pie. The big city folk weren’t having any of that (suspicious about his intentions), but the competitors from smaller towns were very thankful.

Competitor pie about to go in the oven

Jake and I had decided to par-bake our pizzas, then finish them off five minutes before we were to present them to the judges. We pulled them out of the oven and went back to our station two half-finished and not completely topped pies in front of us. One of the officials came by and eyeballed our offering:

Half Baked

~ Marinated rib eye steak, asparagus, yellow grape tomatoes, whole milk mozzarella with our homemade bloody mary-nara and a celery salt and pepper crust ~

“Flashing it before presentation?” he asked.

We nodded.

“Smart,” he replied. This was a guy that has won many, many awards at this competition, so it felt good to have him give us props.

We watched the clock, then we watched other chefs scrambling for time, racing to the ovens, frantically wiping down their station before running to the judges’ tent (if your station was dirty, you were disqualified). We were as cool as ice. For being late to the party, it was entertaining to watch the drunks while we were just mildly buzzed on adrenaline.

Jake announced “It’s Time” and we both walked over to empty ovens. The bake was good, the pie was bubbling, and we quickly pulled them, topped them with our fresh toppings and then walked to the judges’ tent.

Our Bloody Mary Pizza

One of our two pizzas

~ Cold diced celery, grape tomatoes, green olives and freshly shaved horseradish root with celery leaves as garnish were put on top. That horseradish root is AWESOME! ~

The judges are out of view behind a curtain, where officials would take in your “presentation pie” before the officials would bring a fully cut pie for them to sample.

We were right on time.

And then we were done.

———————————————————————————-

Afterward, the presentation pie is then cut and taken to a table where spectators and fellow chefs can sample your creation. A few other competitor’s pies were still sitting on the table.

Spectators

Competitor Pie

Spectators

Competitor Pie

Ours was set down by an official, and devoured in less than 30-seconds. Gone. Kaput. We didn’t even get to sample it when we got to the table. Now all we could do was wait.

Relieved it’s all over

—————————————————————————————–

We walked the show floor and decided to go to a class on “The Art of Making Mozzarella”. It was incredibly interesting, but honestly, all we could think about was the competition.

Making Mozza

Making Mozza

Making Mozzarella

Jake and I both were very impressed, and he’s since been bugging me to get some curd to play with.

After the class, we simultaneously realized that we were starving. STARVING! With acres of pizza scent wafting through the air, we did what any starving person would do.

We left and got these for lunch:

Double Double

Jake had never had an original In n’ Out burger. He was not disappointed. It was probably a good thing that In n’ Out doesn’t serve martinis, because I was in need of a vodka IV drip. The suspense and build-up of the day was killing me.

—————————————————————————————–

To be continued…..

 

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Meh. It’s just a job.

Had one of our kitchen guys give me the courtesy of a 3-hour notice that he would be leaving to work as a wildland firefighter the very next day. Never mind that he was scheduled the next day (and the next, and the next), and that he had also switched shifts with a co-worker who had bought concert tickets for this weekend.

I guess his job here was a matter of convenience, and the rest of us can just figure it out. He’s got important sh*t to do.

It’s not like we get a lot of turnover is what’s frustrating to me. This guy had worked here since the Summer of 2009, and had taken last summer off to work as a fire fighter. We gave him his job back this past Fall, only because he had respected us enough to give proper notice when he left earlier in the year.

So now we have people working doubles to cover his shift, which doesn’t frustrate them in any way because they make more money. It’s ME that has to pay the overtime….

I’m just disappointed. And it looks like it will be a very busy weekend covering for his quick disappearance.

 

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Foodie Makeup

So strange. Would be a cool addition to a Halloween costume if you were dressed as “FAST FOOD”.

I wonder what Pizza eye makeup would look like?

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Pizza Cook Makeover

Luke showed up to work wearing dark blue socks, wanna-be bermuda shorts, and a Robotron t-shirt with bleach stains. His St. Louis Cardinals ballcap was the most fashionable thing he wore.

I couldn’t help but poke fun at his outfit, asking if he had borrowed it from his 4-year old nephew. Although, his nephew actually has fashion sense, so I should apologize for that.

Here’s what he looked like:

Luke, BEFORE

I know. I am a terrible person. Who am I to give fashion advice when I wear a work shirt every day with my capris and holy Crocs?

Except, I’m not an attractive young single person! I am a married woman who works too much. I’m allowed to have comfy clothes and no sense of style.

I told Luke that I wore those shorts back in the early 80’s, although I didn’t pair them with his oh-so-sexy dark socks and running shoes. We went back and forth for a while, and then Jake showed up to work.

Jake has a sense of fashion. He’s a good looking young man, and takes pride in a clean V-neck shirt and perfectly-fitting jeans.

I mentioned that Luke would look great in Jake’s outfit, and that Jake would most certainly not be as attractive without his ensemble.

I guess they took it as a challenge.

Luke, AFTER

Doesn’t he look great? Really, though. Doesn’t he?

Oh.

And Jake?

Well. Jake wanted his clothes back immediately.

Jake, NEVER AGAIN

Extreme pizza cook makeover. I need my own Reality Show.

Posted in All About Us, funny, I might regret this later, Not About Pizza | Leave a comment

Three Days Ago

Friday, we woke up to 6″ of snow on the ground.

Saturday, we ended up having a girls’ pedicure day the DAY AFTER this photo was taken, and all wore open-toed shoes home.

And then yesterday, on Easter Sunday, there wasn’t a trace left and kids were hunting for eggs in the city park.

I go from my winter UGG boots to slippers in 24-hours. Seriously.

Baker City has the strangest weather.

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A very late update: Vegas, Monday & Tuesday

—————————————–
MONDAY
—————————————–

We left Baker City on Monday morning before dawn, and had an uneventful drive to Boise for our departure to Vegas.

Jake brought only a carry-on bag. I brought a cooler full of pizza dough and cheese, certain that we would be able to find all of our other ingredients for the competition in the city of food and booze.

The flight was direct, and only lasted 90 minutes.

Jake Belongs in First Class

We jumped in our rental car and went straight to the most important place on our itinerary: Lunch.

Jake’s favorite food is Thai, and we found a great restaurant with a 12-page menu chock full of classics.

I ordered the Duck Curry, already bemoaning that Typhoon has closed in Bend and I won’t be able to have their version ever again.

Duck Curry

Pad Thai

It was very good, but no Typhoon.

After lunch, we jetted over to the Las Vegas Convention Center to attend a mandatory meeting for all of the pizza competitors. Some familiar faces were in the crowd, and Jake finally understood the magnitude of the event.

We listened to a long question and answer session, and the length of the day began to take its toll.

After leaving the Expo, we finally found our condo on the strip, checked in, and unpacked.

The place is a total score… set between the Cosmopolitan and Bellagio hotels. It has two giant bedrooms, two private bathrooms, a full kitchen, living and dining room.

The beds are incredibly comfortable, and they have their own pool, courtyard, gym, and really fancy outdoor grills.  Plus, we were allowed the use of the Cosmo pool and shared an elevator. Valet parking was a bonus.

After checking in to the hotel, we got in the car and did our shopping at Whole Foods for the week, desperate to find horseradish root (one of our key ingredients for the competition) and all of the seasonings for the bloody mary sauce we had to make.

I should mention, that was our entry. A Bloody Mary pizza.

We stoked up the car, went back to the condo, and I made dinner.

\

Condo Grub

Coconut and macadamia mahi mahi with a pineapple mango salsa, guacamole, and escargot. I sent this photo to Whitey and he assumed we were at a fancy restaurant spending too much money. Nope. Not yet at least.

We went for a walk; Jake wanted to see the fountains at the Bellagio, and we arrived just in time to watch the water dance to Celine Dion. Jake walks a little differently than most people.

Bellagio Photos

A funny thing happened, too. While posing for a photo, waiting for the foot traffic to subside, Jake was swallowed up by a group of handsomely dressed Russian men.

Proof:

I told him I’d put a leash on him if he disappeared again.

—————————————–
TUESDAY
—————————————–

The next day, we went to the Convention Center to watch the Traditional Pizza Competition so that Jake could see how the rules are put into play. We sampled a few of the pies, visited a TON of the booths, and talked with a lot of people. This expo brings people from all over the world, and it’s not uncommon to hear a multitude of different languages and talk to people through their translator.

One key thing that we noticed with the competitors was that there was a lack of equipment. No peels, no paddles, and people were flaring their nostrils sharing what little equipment was available. When I questioned the management, we were told that 20 peels were stolen the night before, and that “hopefully” they’d find more by tomorrow. Most of the competitors can’t travel with bulky peels, and all contestants are informed that everything we need will be supplied. Now we knew that wasn’t the case.

We filled our bags with samples and brochures, and after a few hours of walking the convention floor, decided to head to lunch.

We ended up in Chinatown, and Jake picked the venue. A place with this logo on the wall outside:

Topless Pig?

A topless pig with a cop hat, rake, floral boxer shorts, UGG boots and a chicken wing in his hand. Not sure if this bodes well for a good meal…

boy was I wrong.

Jake ordered dumplings, which the server recommended in very broken English. I ordered the soup.

My soup was pure heaven. The broth was made from scratch, incredibly flavorful, warm, spicy, and the dumplings in the broth were of the best texture and flavor I could have asked for.

Dumpling Soup

I could barely eat half of it, and yet swore that I would eat a bowl every day of my life if I could. If you’re ever in Vegas, go to Chinatown and the shopping area that has the biggest red arch over the parking lot, find this place. We couldn’t figure out the name of it even when we searched the signage and menu. It’s located on the furthest right-hand side with the topless pig logo and a small neon sign that says “NOODLES”. Get the soup.

After leaving Chinatown, we screeched to a halt by a sign that said “ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE” and “ARE YOU PREPARED?” How can you resist such marketing, right?

The store was small, and sold everything you need to prepare for a worldwide zombie takeover, from weapons to dehydrated foods, to target practice photos.

Zombie Apocalypse

We figured we’d be safe in Baker City if the Apocalypse ever happened, (we both own big guns), but left with a few tawdry bumper stickers: I HEART ZOMBIES and HUMANS, THE OTHER WHITE MEAT.

We then drove to a restaurant supply store to purchase a pizza peel and two paddles to prepare our pizzas on the next day. We weren’t about to arm wrestle competitors for equipment.

Afterward, we continued our quest to find bloody mary seasonings and horseradish root. Hours of driving, and many stores later, we were still out of luck.

I figured that we’d be in VEGAS, home of all foodies and cocktail needs. I was wrong.

After spending hours on the phone with different food purveyors and bar suppliers, we finally found the spices we needed 75 miles away at a specialty liquor store. The gentleman on the phone heard the sadness in my voice, and when I told him it was for a cooking competition the next day, he took my number and said he’d check around as well.

Sure enough, he called back, and our ingredients were found only 10 miles away. We arrived at a liquor store the size of Macy’s, and our ingredients were waiting for us behind the counter.

Liquor Mania

Mega Liquor

Everything Liquor

I had to take photos. Jake isn’t 21 yet, and had to wait in the car. I just had to show him how big this place was. We could fit five of our restaurants inside this one store!

The only thing missing was the horseradish root. Whole Foods didn’t have it, and neither did the multiple other grocery stores we went into. Someone suggested a “hippy” store called Sunflower Market. It was late, we were tired and hungry, and I had made reservations at one of my favorite restaurants for a short time later. It was our last chance.

We went straight to the produce section, and Jake spotted our root on the top shelf, directly under the sprinkler. My relief was quickly overtaken by the fact that every.single.root was limp and beginning to mold. WHO PUTS A ROOT VEGETABLE IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH WATER?!?? If you want them to sprout, sure, but this was just a travesty.

Similar to a hunk of cheese that sprouts mold, we decided to buy a bunch of the roots and to shave the bad stuff off of the skin, then dry out the core in order to get our ingredient.

Back at the condo, we did just that. After taking the skin off, we laid them out to dry out, and crossed our fingers.

Then we went to dinner.

Sage at the Aria hotel and casino is probably one of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at in the past. It’s more than a tad spendy, but worth every bite.

I could tell that Jake was overwhelmed, and he made a comment that maybe his hoodie wasn’t exactly fine-dining attire. I just laughed and said “You’ll forget about that in about one minute. It’s Vegas.”

He looked at the menu and then looked at me. I ordered for both of us.

The Chef’s tasting menu. A bit of everything that’s considered the best.

An unexpected amuse-bouche of seasoned tuna tartare was delicious, and Jake mentioned he’d eat an entire plate of just that. I explained that it was a single bite of something considered perfect, just to whet the palate and make you want more.

“Well they’re doing a good job so far,” was his response.

We started with the Foie Gras Brulee (Foie Gras Custard ‘Brûlèe’ – Blood Orange/Toasted Cocoa Nibs/Salted Brioche) and Wagyu Beef Tartare (Crushed Caper Aïoli/Slow-Poached Egg/Crispy Chocolate).

Then we shared the Glazed Pork Belly (Sweet Corn Tortelloni/Porcini Mushroom/Crispy Pancetta) and the Maine Dayboat Scallops (Braised Oxtail/Wild Mushrooms/Salted Caramel Reduction). The scallops were perfect, and the braised oxtail that they sat on blew my mind.

Dayboat Scallops

So far, lots of rich, sweet foods with crazy flavors.

Next, we each tried the Iberico Pork Loin (Milk-Braised Cannelloni/Baby Eggplant/Creminelli Mortadella) and the 48-hour Beef Belly (Golden Chanterelles/Padron Peppers/California Plums) which our server described as pure meat bliss that is “bathed and babied” for two days prior to preparing.

At this point, we were done. Done done done. Full and fully full.

But there’s more.

Dessert. We were both presented with our final course, Jake having a flourless chocolate cake with hazelnuts and myself a fresh berry shortcake. I couldn’t take a bite. Not one bite. I was doney done done done. The presentation of my dessert was beautiful, too, but I just couldn’t do it.

Sage at the Aria / Dessert

Our server brought us another unexpected finishing touch of homemade hot cocoa in a shot glass. It was exactly what I needed as I polished off my glass of wine, and the we left to attempt to walk off this incredibly rich meal of kings.

——————————————————————–

to be continued….

 

 

 

Posted in All About Us, Giving Thanks, Menu Photos, Our Pizzeria, random, Restaurants, Teamwork | 1 Comment

Tomorrow

Jake and I leave for Vegas tomorrow.

Our itinerary is set, bags are packed, and we made two rehearsal pizzas tonight to test our final product that we’ll be entering in the competition. They were fantastic!

Our schedule is very full: Monday is jam-packed until the late evening, Tuesday is chock full of workshops and walking the Expo floor, and Wednesday is our competition day. We’ll be up verrrrry early in the morning to do prep, and are scheduled to present to the judges at 11:55 am. We’ll know how we do later that evening when they post the scores after 6 o’clock.

If When we make the top of the list, we’ll advance to Thursday’s competition and cook again for top placement for another cash prize.

We’ll fly home on Friday, hopefully with big smiles in tow.

Think good thoughts, cross your fingers and toes, and stay tuned!

Posted in About Pizza, All About Us, Food, Our Pizzeria | 2 Comments