So I crashed on the sofa and watched the Olympics. Drake actually let me sleep until 7 am at which point he decided that pettins were mandatory. When flt got up we had brunch and then I headed for home.
I managed to pull into the driveway right as LLT was getting out of her car and we finally got around to unloading the last bits from the Luau from the car. Then we headed out to Restaurant Depot to do the Privateer Feast shopping.
For the 2nd trip in a row we ended up needing TWO carts to get everything. But then we had a bit to buy - 120 lbs of chicken, 15 lbs of shrimp, 90 lbs of beef, 50 lbs each of potatoes and sweet potatoes, TWO cases of crushed tomatoes...and that was only the beginning. LLT decided that since in the past we have always had a lot of rolls left over we would only buy two cases instead of three. But I succeeded in talking her into the last pack of beef since I was really worried that we would run out. Little did I know what the feast was REALLY going to be like.
After the Depot it was time to head off to the liquor store (2 huge bottles of vodka and one of rum), Costco and Safeway. Finally we were done with the shopping for the event and could head home.
Saturday morning Acelina, LLT and I got up to load the equipment portion of the day into Acelina's car. She was nice enough to drive everything that wouldn't fit into LLT's Element to the site so that we'd only have to deal with one car after the feast. Then we stopped for a sit down breakfast at Ihop - a tradition since it's usually the majority of what we eat on feast day.
We headed for the site with an annoying detour when Rt 50 was closed due to a truck rolling over. I say annoying because we turned on WTOP to hear the traffic and they didn't say anything about it. So I called them and they said they already knew about it. Well wouldn't it be nice if they'd share with the rest of us? I'm sorry, when a route as major as 50 shuts down it should be the lead story or at least mentioned in EVERY traffic report until it reopens. I get that with lots of traffic issues you can't mention every one but 50 is a MAJOR road.
Luckily where we were kicked off was a good road to go to the site on anyway so we were able to get there without too much delay.
Once at the site we unloaded everything with the help of Acelina and kellfire's helpful son. Then it was time to get organized and start into work. LLT needed to run out to the store to pick up a couple of coolers in order to store the hot food since we didn't have the steam table of years past. I started in on making the mini cheesecakes and neadods helped out with peeling potatoes. Yep - she comes in to help and the first thing we do is put her on the classic KP job. ;)
Soon enough cozit showed up and then pinkribbonwench. Before I knew it we had all the potatoes and sweet potatoes peeled! Really it seemed to go lightening fast. In the meantime I had turned on the stovetop and I THOUGHT I turned on all of the ovens. And I'm merrily going along baking off my cheesecakes. I was a bit concerned that the oven didn't seem to be very hot but I wasn't really worried about it since I was cooking cheesecake at a low temp and they seemed to be setting well. It was taking about 35 minutes for each of the batches to get to cheesecake firmness (they didn't wiggle when I shook them). So fairly soon after LLT got back with lunch for people I was putting the last batch in the oven. In the meantime we'd set up the "outdoor" refrigerator. So nice to have an event on a cold February day where you can use the outside for extra storage.
Anyway - cheesecakes done and transferred to 1/2 sheet disposable pans, I moved on to making vodka sauce. Now keep in mind that we bought TWO CASES of crushed tomatos and a can of tomato paste. Plus two large jars of chopped garlic and the industrial jar of red pepper flakes which I still say we'll never empty. Now LLT used two of the cans of tomatoes for her chickpea curry but I used all of the rest of those ingredients for the vodka sauce. And the two industrial bottles of vodka. And most of a case of half and half. So you could say that I made a bit of sauce. LLT had gotten me a 5 gallon drink cooler to store the sauce in as it came off the stove. This was a good thing since the early batches were under spiced and I over spiced the later batches to make up for it. But as I filled the cooler she took some out to cook the meatballs in and to keep the chicken moist. So I know I made more than 5 gallons of the sauce (it was probably more like 10 gallons) but I'm not sure exactly how much I made. All I know is that by the end of the night there were only a couple of inches of sauce left in the bottom of the cooler so we pretty much needed all of it that I made.
So I was pretty much concentrating on making vodka sauce for the entire day. In the meantime everyone else was busy making the rest of the feast - slicing veggies for the salads, cutting up the veggies that got roasted with honey, making chickpea curry, roasting beef. boiling chicken and making bread pudding.
At some point LLT put beef into the oven that I'd been making the cheesecake in and she asked me to keep an eye on it. The problem came when after a while it occurred to me that I needed to check the meat and it was still raw. I turned the oven up to 500 and it didn't seem to get any hotter. That's when I realized there was another knob that I needed to turn on that specific oven. That's right - the cheesecakes all cooked from the residual heat of the stovetop and the other ovens! Wow - it's okay they actually did cook, but they were more a firm pudding than an actual cheesecake. Sigh...next year I make them at home where it's so much easier.
We also had the interesting experience of a pot boiling over on the stove top. I say interesting because the french stove top reacts differently than any other stove to water hitting it. The water actually beaded and then evaporated - yes a certain amount ended up hitting the flames, enough that we had to relight the stove, but it was interesting to see how the cook top handled the water.
We ended up having a wonderful kitchen crew who got run ragged during the day. As usual pinkribbonwench and cozit were incredible. But we were joined this year by Ellie, Kathy, neadods and occasional help from Maureen. I'm sure there were others popping in and out that I don't remember but that was the basic crew. We were supposed to have Gavin in the kitchen but he switched out with Kathy since he was not feeling well - he didn't want to bring his germs into the kitchen, which I can agree with.
Somewhere around 6 pm (ish)? As I was setting up the front tables I was approached by a couple who said that they were supposed to be on the kitchen crew. Really? And you're just showing up now? I seem to remember sending out an email to everyone saying that we needed people there by 1 pm at the latest. Now it's possible that these people didn't get that email because I will fully admit to having communication issues this year. But still - who shows up at 6 pm the day of the feast and expects to be kitchen crew? I ended up telling them that I would try to find something for them to do but at that point we'd reached the brainless autopilot point of the feast. I just really didn't have any jobs for them to do at that point other than cleaning. I think they helped a little bit at the registration desk with the waivers but who knows how much. I ended up telling them that we needed them for cleaning crew at which point the wife said that was okay since they lived about 5 minutes from the site. I do know that when I told them that it was time for cleanup they really didn't do much - LLT said that the husband carried out a bunch of the trash but as far as I can tell the wife didn't do anything and carrying out trash is NOT really enough to claim kitchen crew. Grrr...part of this is my fault - by the time we were into cleaning I was not really able to stand much and I wasn't very much involved. Plus the whole non confrontational thing etc. So all I can do is try to remember that they are NOT to be on kitchen crew next year and to mention the issue to the Event Chair.
As usual I was feeling like we were in the weeds heading up to the serving hour but again as usual we had everything done in time. Sure there were still noodles cooking through most of service, but other than that it was mostly plating and serving with cleanup and some minor cooking still going on.
One of the last cooking things that I did was make my traditional rum "sauce" which this year consisted of 1.5 lbs butter, 1 lb powdered sugar and 1/4 of a large bottle of dark rum...yummm...it went really well with the bread pudding. But this year we'd forgotten to bring the warming bottle so it got cold far too quickly. Still I don't think that anyone complained.
We got all the food out in time for the performers to go through the line first. Then it was time for the "locusts" to attack. The "Locust time" is how I generally refer to the first 1/2 hour or so of a buffet. That's the time when the line gets long as everyone is going through for the first time. Except that this time the Locusts brought Locusts with them and they brought friends. The first time through the line for some people didn't come for more then an hour into the buffet. During this time we couldn't leave the kitchen other than to check which dish needed to be refilled. Every time through the door we were either checking on the dishes or carrying a refill out. Everyone was very nice about it, but it was kinda scary in a cool way. The really scary thing? Before the line ended we were out of lettuce and rolls. Really WHO RUNS OUT OF LETTUCE???? We managed to find a couple of bags of rolls tucked away so we didn't actually run out of them by the end of the night but if we hadn't had the break where we thought we'd run out they would have been gone as well. So in the end it was only bits of the salad veggies that we actually ran out of. But we went through 2 cases of lettuce and an industrial can each of beets and black olive slices. Plus we were low on most of the other salad fixings and we went through an entire industrial jar of ranch dressing. (Mental note - the french dressing was basically untouched. I think we can skip it next year.)
Once the line finally went away things calmed down a lot. By that point I was having a hard time standing so I went to sit out front for a while. I never made it over to the raffle area, which was just as well since we'd never made it to an ATM. So we didn't have cash to buy tickets and we'd decided it was an okay thing. Yeah we could probably have bought a few tickets with whatever cash was in my wallet but in 3 years we've never won anything so we just didn't feel the need to spend that money this year. (Note: we've been lucky enough in the past that we've been gifted some raffle winnings by people who'd won a lot but we've never WON any of the raffles).
So pretty much I spent most of the rest of the night sitting in the back of the hall and enjoying the crowd. I was sore enough that I didn't do my usual walk through to see how people liked the food - we'll just have to go on the rate the food disappeared as judgment. LLT and I weren't really happy with the food this year so next year we'll just have to do better. ;)
The one thing that I miss about Cherry Hill (other than the steam tables) was the fact that I really didn't get to hear ANY of the music this year. In the past we were at the side of the hall and we had the ability to hear the music from the serving area. We really couldn't hear in the kitchen but once we stepped outside it was right there. This year the kitchen was all the way on the other end of the hall from the stage and the sound just didn't travel far enough for us to hear - even when we were sitting at the tables in the back of the hall. But this is part of the growing pains of having a new hall. Next year the sound will be better and there is even a possibility that they will be able to pipe the music into the kitchen for us.
People had to keep chasing LLT out of the kitchen but she did actually sit out in the hall for a bit. It wasn't really the same as attending the event because again - we couldn't hear the music - but she did get some of the experience. Which is good. I know that there were some issues because LLT had made the request that she really wanted to ATTEND this year. And people kept trying to chase us out of the kitchen once service had started. But lets face it, as long as we're in charge of the kitchen we're NEVER going to have that experience. It's not possible for us to cook and then leave it for someone else to serve. Even if it were possible we'd not have a good time for worrying about what was going on in the back.
Heck - even when LLT left the kitchen for a while it was only a short time before she was back in there cleaning. And by the end of the night I was in there too, scrubbing down the stove top and helping to load the car. In the middle of it all the kitchen staff had our backs the whole way. I don't think that pinkribbonwench left the kitchen for more than a few minutes at a time and cozit didn't even change for the feast. I know they were in there most of the time cleaning once the cooking was done. And when we finally crawled out they were still working with cozit mopping the floor. So yeah - we had an amazing crew as usual.
I also think that everyone, including LLT and me, have a better understanding of what it is going to take to serve 300 people a satisfying meal. While LLT and I had a good grip on things from previous years we really didn't realize how much different adding that extra 75-100 people would cause. But we've already started thinking about next year and the changes we'd like to make. So I think it's safe to say that if they want us back we'll be there.
Oh and the best part of the whole night??? (STILL UNOFFICIAL FOLKS!!!) More than $15,000!!!!!!!!! So as webqatch pointed out Team Wench has raised more than eighty-five thousand dollars in nine years for the cause. I'm proud to say that LLT had I have been part of the last four years of this (thank you museclio!!!)