2.23.2008

Quality Control Part Deux

Tempeh Salad Sandwich w/ Greens

We must admit that the cafe has been a little bit busier these past few weeks. And that is a good thing. We need busy. Busy keeps us on our toes. Busy makes it all a little more exciting. But most importantly, busy is what it will take to keep this whole thing going. Nonetheless, busy has brought with it some difficulties. There is more food to prepare, and its still just little old us doing most of the cooking. And when the orders start stacking up, we have to pick up the pace just to keep up. And that is when we start to sweat.

We take our work very seriously, and when we feel as though we don't have that extra few seconds to make the fruit garnish look just so, or cook that egg to the perfect point between over easy and medium, where the yolk still has a runny clear middle and starts to get solid near its outer edges...well, for us thats downright torture. Its a 'good problem to have' everyone tells us, and a lesson everyone in the industry must deal with at one point or another. But it still can be hard at times.

Case in point: today. Perhaps due to a flattering review we received in this past week's Portland Mercury, we had a busier than usual Saturday. At some point in the morning hours (I couldn't really tell you when) Lynn and a friend stopped in at the cafe to pick up an egg sandwich and the recently blogged about cafe sua da. No question I was excited to make the drink, despite the fact that although a few customers have inquired about it, no one has yet to order one, and I wasn't quite sure I could pull it off.

"Hot or iced?" I confidently bluffed.

"Iced" Lynn replied.

And I was off.

When prepared properly the coffee should take somewhere between three to four minutes to drip, and should produce a strong enough brew that hot or cold water can be added to the coffee/sweetened condensed mixture, to produce a beverage suited to one's personal taste for sweetness. No sooner had the drink finished brewing that three tickets had come into the kitchen, one after the other. As soon as I added water to finish Linn's drink I could tell that it was not the best I could do. The coffee was visibly over diluted, and perhaps a little heavy on the sweetened condensed milk. As I left the kitchen to deliver the drink and egg sandwich I grabbed a cookie from the pastry case. With a peace offering, an apology, and a vow to do a better job next time I sent Lynn and her friend on their way. I knew that I didn't have the time to make the drink again as there was a lot of food waiting to be made back in the kitchen. I took 1.5 seconds to rationalize it all in my head:

The drink not yet officially on the menu, I am the only person at the cafe who knows (or thinks they know) how to use the brewer. We always try to do our best, but it just doesn't come out the way we want it to each time.

My thoughts from this morning still ring true. Sometimes the garnish falls apart during its journey from the kitchen to the table. And sometimes the eggs are cooked too easy, or too hard. So when this happens, we take a breath, and do it over, and if we don't have time, we try to make it all better any way we can.

It's still a lot of fun. And most of the time we feel damn proud of whats coming out of the kitchen. I wish that I could explain to customers that when it gets really busy, the longer they are willing to wait, the better their food will be, but that's not how works. As I mentioned earlier, for now it is a good problem to have.

On a more important note, I noticed today upon closing that the food donation box that has been placed outside the cafe during the past week is not as full as I hoped it would be by now. In case you missed it, the box was brought to the cafe by Ilana and Lily from the Odyssey Montessori School. Donated food left in the box will be taken to the Oregon Food Bank, which just so happens to be dangerously understocked at the moment. If you plan to stop by the cafe sometime soon please consider bringing along some food to donate.

That's all for now. I wish you a happy second half of the weekend, wherever you may be.


5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Ali (in particular...all LRBC in general):

For many of us knowing how much you care, how hard you try and how often you nail it is more than enough.

For some others it will never be enough.

Smile at us all, and don't let the curmudgeons amongst us get you down. If the smile doesn't turn them around then perhaps another incarnation is necessary. For them, not for you. I'm sure you'll be reincarnated as a customer, if there is any fairness to life. Thanks so much from one who notices how you try.

jonashpdx said...

as one of the customers who asked after the cafe sua da on friday, but didn't order it (though my wife and i had a lovely lunch and a couple of chocolate malts), know that i'll be forgiving when it is ordered in the near future.

you guys also got a nice little write-up in the most recent "Sunset" magazine, if you haven't seen that yet.

was going to just e-mail you to thank you for the lunch, but figured i'd comment instead, especially as i'm familiar with the quality v. speed argument, having worked short-order in a renowned breakfast place in seattle a few years back. it's all about the balance, and i'm sure you'll find yours...and we want you to stay in business, so customers are great!

looking forward to our next visit.

cooperate in the making of reason said...

i love the little red bike. thanks for the vegan bites.

xo.

elise

AnnMarie said...

yay team! we rock.

Ali & Evan said...

Anonymous,
*Blushing*. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You may never know just how much I needed that.

Jonashpdx,
We WILL figure the cafe sua da out, don't you fret. In the meantime, I can personally guarantee you that the chocolate malts will continue to flow out of this place with ease. Those we do have down if I do say so myself. Thanks for your patience, your kind words, and the heads up on the Sunset article. The answer is no, we have not seen it yet but are certainly looking forward to doing so!

Elise,
No problem. It *truly* is our pleasure.

Annmarie,
Yeah, we kind of do. XO