2010-11-26T06:03:15.053-08:00Mmmm, it was a tasty Thanksgiving. I hosted Sean and Scott for the meal. A small group with good conversation, good libations, and good food.I came home on Wednesday night with the intention of beginning or completing 3 dishes. Sadly, by the time I came home and unloaded the car I was too exhausted to do much. As a result most of the cooking was done yesterday morning. As is my habit I was up by 4am and got to cooking by 6:30. The boys arrived shortly after 1PM and I had plenty of time to get things mostly done.Sean brought with him an assortment of lovely cheeses and crackers. Scott has intolerance's to cow dairy and wheat. Sean's cheeses were almost all goat's milk. I supplied to wheat free crackers. Scott brought some of his wonderful Indian-style falafels. I don't recall the original name of these tasty treats, but I enjoyed them last year as well. Scott also brought some tamarind chutney to enjoy on them.After eating and toasting for an hour or so, I was having to get on with the rest of the meal. Everything was done except the main courses and the greens. I employed Scott's assistance to wrap up the greens while I threw together the final details for the boy's main course.The dishes for this year:- Cranberry sauce made with Grand Marnier and orange zest (traditional for us)- Yams mashed with crystallized ginger and Maker's Mark- Wild rice and porcini mushroom stuffing (actually served as a side dish and made with mostly porcinis, but also a few other dried mushrooms such as morels and shitakes) - Greens sauteed with garlic and red pepper flakes (I used a combo of black Tuscan kale and Rainbow Swiss Chard which made for a lovely presentation) - Baked black eyed peas (a vegan recipe that went over well last year...these are a bit spicy) - Mushroom gravy made with red wine and the left over soaking liquid from the stuffingFor the boys the main course were Cornish Game Hens glazed with a combination of Tayberry sauce and balsamic vinegar. My main course was halibut baked with white wine, thyme, and lemon slices. Our dessert was Pears poached in a spiced burgundy and cranberry syrup topped with Coconut Bliss ice cream (vanilla and chocolate).So, what changes? First, I dropped another veggie dish. I had thought I'd make green beans sauteed with some almond slices, but after looking at the dishes that were already prepared I decided that we had enough food and one green already. Next I dropped the planned corn bread. Scott is wheat intolerant, so I would have made a gluten free version, but again, looking at the meal I decided that we had enough. Even so, I'll probably make some corn bread over the weekend for myself. Also dropped were potatoes mashed with celeriac - to be revived over the weekend, I'm sure.Finally, the mushroom gravy was entirely improvised. I had planned on being lazy and serving Tofurkey mushroom gravy. I even bought some and had it thawing in the refrigerator. However, when I pulled it out, I noticed that it was no longer "mushroom gravy", but rather "gravy with giblets". The giblets were made from wheat (probably a seitan) which Scott couldn't eat. I had the time, I had the wine, I had left over soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms for the stuffing. I also had some button mushrooms in the refrigerator. I sauteed up the button mushrooms in some butter until they began to release their juices. then added salt, black pepper, and dried thyme. To that I added 1 cup of soaking liquid and1 cup of Malbec. I cooked that down a little then added a tempered slurry with corn starch to thicken it up.After the main courses came out of the oven, I left them rest for 10 minutes. During that time I turned the oven off and put the side dishes into the oven to warm (except for the cranberry sauce). It all pulled together nicely.I was thankful for the dishes coming together so well, but more importantly I was thankful for the good company that I was privileged to share them with. Good times.[...]
2010-11-11T07:17:53.652-08:00New special orders in the store this week:
2010-11-07T06:38:56.404-08:00I realized that while sending an email to a couple of friends I was essentially writing a blog post. I copied and pasted it here with minor edits:Man, even when I try to sleep in, I find out that I'm up at my regular time. :-) I went to bed later last night after closing the store, dropping a co-worker off at home, and staying up to speak with S a bit. I got out of bed this morning and the clock read about 5:19. When I came downstairs and started my computer it read 4:34. Maaaaaan, standard time already fucking with me! Woodinville Whiskey Company - had fun bottling with those guys the other night. We got 499 bottles done in about an hour and a half. We would have done more, but they forgot to order more bottles from their supplier. Living and learning. Yesterday a customer came in and we spent some time speaking whiskey and other liquor. She was really into her whiskey and very knowledgeable. It turns out that she had been to Woodinville Whiskey Co. and done a tasting yesterday afternoon. They told her about me and suggested that she stop by. My store is close by to her home, yet she hadn't been by. She noticed the Dolin vermouth right off, before I approached her, and told me, "I knew this wasn't your average store when I saw the Dolin on the shelf". It's nice to see the relationship that I'm establishing with Woodinville Whiskey is reciprocal. The customer eventually bought a bottle of The Whippersnapper - a new whiskey from Oregon by Ransom spirits.The Whippersnapper: retail $27.20/bottle. I've enjoyed the Ransom Gin from the same distiller. The gin is based on an old, pre-prohibition formula often referred to as an "Old Tom" style gin. That is that it's not as dry as the London dry gins and not as sweet as the Genever style gins. It exists somewhere in between, but closer to the London dry. It's also brown in color due to 2 - 6 months of barrel aging and has a fair amount of cardamom in it. The gin makes great, and I mean GREAT, old fashioned cocktails as well as playing nicely in the sandbox when making more modern ones.As to it's whiskey cousin, The Whippersnapper, named thusly for the fact that it's a young whiskey. Ransom is barrel aging a Scotch-style of whiskey. But they were so happy with the results of some of the younger ones that they decided to do a bottling. Because of it's young age and impertinent nature, they named it The Whippersnapper. The whiskey is a blend of 21% barley based whiskey (the Scotch portion) and 79% corn neutral spirit. The barley comes from Oregon and is not peated as Scotch normally is. Even so, one can smell and taste a definite Scotch flavor due to it's inclusion. The corn neutral spirit (otherwise known as white dog, unaged bourbon, or moonshine) is hardly neutral in flavor. It adds a bit of sweet, honey-like flavor and scent to the whiskey. S and I tried some last night. We began with just a glass straight up. It was good and decidedly odd in that it was unlike anything else we had. The finish was not long and the body medium. It reminded me more of American and Canadian blends in the body aspect, but tasted unlike either. Definitely the corn spirit was existing alongside the barley and they weren't quite dancing down the aisle together towards bliss as much sharing each other's time. We then decided to put it on ice. That was a game changer. With the addition of a couple of cubes the corn spirit receded a great deal leaving behind the barley and it tasted like a nice, light, and smooth Scotch. We agreed that it would probably make quite an enjoyable drink either on the rocks or mixed with soda, much like a blended Scotch. I suspect we'll find some cocktails to try it out in as well. It's definitely a whiskey that likes to blend which will make it something to enjoy as an addition to the bar.J sent me a link to a Huffington Post article on fall whiskey releases. Oddly enough, it was just a couple of days after I had sp[...]
2010-10-24T07:43:29.155-07:00One of the things that has really irked me in the debate over initiative 1100 has been the portrayal of government employees. I know that it's popular to bash government. I have a pretty good idea why that is, as well. After all, I cannot go to a competing government to get better service. People like to complain the same way about other monopolies or near monopolies like utility firms and cable companies. I get that. But we also know that just because a company is private doesn't mean that it's run any better as anyone who has dealt with customer service from Comcast, Sprint, Microsoft, et al, is aware.In my experience both in private industry and in the government I've met my fair share of less valuable, less competent employees. I can honestly state that I don't find one system better than the other. In any bureaucracy - public or private - you are bound to attract people of a variety of skills, quality, and motivations. Sometimes it's easy to weed these people out; sometimes it's not. In the latter case the person is often promoted to a position less harmful in the organization.One of the spokespeople for the "Yes on 1100" campaign is fond of saying the liquor board employs people with "cushy government jobs". I heard Ashley Bach say this in the debate at Town Hall. He reiterated it in his post on The Slog a week or so later. For the record, I'm not fond of Ashley's style. He comes off as smug, arrogant (in the way of the actor in the "I'm a PC" ad), rude, and a poor debater. So, making this statement about "cushy government jobs" really rubs me the wrong way.Most of the liquor store employees that I know are hard working people who care about their jobs and customer service. Their jobs are not easy either; certainly not "cushy". Once a week there is a delivery of booze - up to 1200 cases at some stores. Each case weighs about 35 pounds. The goal, often achieved, is to put away that entire load in one day and stock the shelves and take care of the customers that day. Yea, more than one person works on these loads, but I can assure you that everyone who does, works their ass off. On top of that these workers deal with all sorts of customers. Granted, the vast majority of our customers are fantastic, but as with any job you meet some folks who are inconsolable. In fact, given the product, I'd say we meet more of these folks than your average Whole Foods clerk. And, if you think dealing with the government is sometimes a pain in the ass, just try working through the bureaucracy from the inside. Forms, signatures, more forms, specific rules, etc. There's a lot to know and do. The bottom line is they work hard for their money and their pay is comparable to pay at Costco and Fred Meyers, if not a little lower (I know as a manager that I get paid much lower and I put in the same work at my clerk's sides).I'm aware that Mr. Bach considers these jobs "cushy" not just because of the nature of the work. He uses that term as code for well paid (we're some of the lowest pay in Washington government), good benefits, and pensions. News flash: that pension system hasn't been the same as it used to be for a long time, now. In fact when I qualified I found my options to be a choice of 401k plans. Yep, my cushy job's retirement has tanked just like most Americans thanks to those titans of private industry. As for the benefits? Well, we do get decent health care plan options for a reasonable copay (going up, just like everyone). Keeping the copay low is a way to compensate the workers for the lower pay that they get compared to the private sector. Rather than bash the liquor board clerks I'd rather see Mr. Bach get out there and campaign for lower copays for workers in private industry.But that's not Mr. Bach's game. I suspect his views are more in line with his former employer's, The Seattle Times. That paper has cut it's contributions to it's employee's health care while the publisher (the Blethen's [...]
2010-10-14T05:57:00.620-07:00The Enterprise Newspapers: Local News
2010-10-12T10:27:57.654-07:00A friend wrote me this morning and asked my opinion on Initiatives 1100 and 1105. Here is my reply:As I tell my customers, I don't have enough time in with the state to worry about my pension and other such nonsense. Furthermore, I'd love to see a privatization of the system. You may recall me telling a story about the first time I went to a liquor store in Washington at 8PM at night and found it closed. I was pretty ticked off. To this day I find it ridiculous that we have as few outlets as we support and that the hours are so all over the map. Truth be told, I think liquor stores should be available 24/7, 365 if they want to be. Having said that, let me address a couple of myths perpetuated by these discussions: State employees have cushy jobs. I'm not going to argue that all of us are hard working, caring employees. Those in purchasing have cushy jobs, for instance. I hear take that the distribution center employees often have cushy jobs. But at retail, we work our butts off. I defy the initiative lobbyists to come and spend a day in the retail employee's shoes on a load day and see how cushy our jobs are. We move anywhere between 300 and 1200 cases during an 8 hour shift, deal with customers - retail and restaurant, stand and walk most of that time, have to deal with idiotic regulations from on high, do inventories, displays, etc...and take abuse from those fired up about the initiatives. Not everyone at retail is easy to defend, either, but I don't know a chain that can say that. All I can say is that if you work for me and many other managers that I know, then you care about the service and you really don't get paid much for it. Indeed, one reason I'd like to see privatization is because I'd like to be paid more for the work I do as a manager.The state will not be selling it's stores for a windfall. It will sell off it's distribution center (in these times it is hard to say how much that is worth...the equipment it uses is not that useful to many industries) for a one time windfall. But the stores are leased and the leases are written that if the state goes out of the business, then they will close the stores at no penalty. I've read me lease and it is standard for the entire system.The state will save money by not employing these workers. Unlike other areas in state government the liquor board functions similar to a private business (I say "similar" as it depends upon the business....if you're talking inefficient like Microsoft, then the comparison is apt; if your talking streamlined like Google or HP, then it is less so). We actually earn enough in the mark up of the product to cover the entire costs of operating the business. The money in the markup covers the rents, the shipping fees, the employees and their pensions at all levels of the retail enterprise. Under either bill, once the state gets out of the business, no savings will occur because those costs were covered under the pricing. Instead, there will be a cost to the state via unemployment, buy outs (for long term employees), and payments to keep someone around to turn off the lights.Employees will find jobs in the private sector. True, though not right away. And some of these government employees are going to seek jobs in the public sector by bumping other government employees. However, Costco, Wal-Mart, QFC? They already have managers and clerks to ring up customers and stock those spaces. They won't need to hire replacements unless those positions open [...]
2010-09-28T05:05:08.813-07:00Last week, our friend C sent Shawn home with some vodka. The vodka, called Ebb+Flow, is from a distillery that opened it's doors to the public on 9/17. This is the first distillery to open in Seattle since prohibition. The vodka was different from any other that I've tried before. It has a definite flavor and was a tad sweet on the tongue. It wasn't cloying and it made a good martini. C had the owner's (and sole employee) business card and on it was a note for me to call him.
2010-05-17T19:04:36.819-07:00But Shawn's grandmother in North Dakota died on Sunday. I dropped Shawn off at the Everett train station at 5:00 PM on Monday. She'll be back on the following Sunday early in the morning.
2009-12-07T08:02:54.242-08:00On Thanksgiving morning I went to Toshiba's website to order some new RAM for Shawn's laptop. Her computer, a light weight Portege model, came with a mere 512MB of RAM and Windows XP. She wanted to upgrade to Windows 7, but that required a memory upgrade. Just as well as her PC was getting a tad sluggish.
2009-07-10T06:22:09.515-07:00Had a young guy as a customer today wearing an Oregon State University t-shirt. I said to him, "I believe, if I'm not mistaken, that the Oregon Country Fair is in the next week or two?"
2009-07-07T09:15:15.455-07:00Hard economic times force changes in behavior, even in Washington State's government. It was announced last week that the Liquor Control Board's help desk was switching from a costly ticket tracking system to an open source solution. In house testing had been performed, the training needed was minimal, and the cost was right, so we're making the switch. Other open source solutions may be implemented if they offer a reasonable cost savings, according to our IT folks.
2009-07-06T05:34:48.680-07:00gardening photos are up.
2009-06-11T08:05:32.068-07:00My overlords at work have determined that an inexpensive way to improve the customer service experience is to implement a dress code policy. "Inexpensive" is naturally defined as "it costs the state nothing" to implement even though it takes money from the pockets of employees.Now, I'm not terribly against their minor dress code policy. It's pretty loose. I do disagree with the idea that we shouldn't be allowed to wear jeans (hey, we're a liquor store/warehouse - we do a LOT of stock work daily and it requires heavy lifting as well as getting on our hands and knees), especially on load days. But, be that as it may I'm not even passionate about that requirement.What I am passionate about is poverty and the lack of understanding of the situation. Most people don't see poverty. They drive right past it and don't notice it. They think it's just for criminals, drug thugs, and prostitutes. They may have a mental picture of a "slum", but I can tell you that A) that picture is better than many, if not most, such buildings and B)they don't even recognize the poverty that may be around them that doesn't fit that stereotype.I've seen poverty. From the hills of Kentucky to the farmlands of Indiana to the inner city of Detroit, Pontiac, Louisville, LA and beyond. To East St. Louis to San Francisco, NYC, and even Seattle (though they like to deny it like most). Hell, just outside of where I live now there is an American shanty town filled with farm workers, many, though not all, Hispanics living on a river's bank that floods at least once a year.So, yesterday, I find myself on a phone conference with my manager and other managers at my level. The dress code topic comes up. There's some juvenile griping about it for a bit - the banter being very old and boring to me..."I've had this conversation since high school", I thought. Then someone speaks up and says that she has one employee who says that she "cannot afford a whole new wardrobe." Her comment was met with a combination of giggles, exasperation, disbelief, and condemnation. "She doesn't need a 'whole new wardrobe'" was one typical comment. "Tell her to go buy a pair of pants for $10. I drove to an outlet mall [way outside of town] and found a pair for just that price. She could go back each paycheck until she had 3 pairs to switch through." This from an organization that spent thousands of dollars on vests last year that make us look like formal ice cream parlor attendants and now has no money to buy any new ones for new employees or to replace the ones that have been torn on the job. The irony, but I digress.Employees for our organization get paid better than minimum wage. They don't do badly on the face of it. But most clerks at our stores are not full time either. Hell, I struggle to get my clerks between 10 and 18 hours per week. My assistant manager isn't even full time. So, yea, they may be paid, say $12.50 per hour, but when you're only working 10 hours per week, have 2 young children at home, no health benefits, and the state takes a percentage away each week for mandatory "retirement", you're not exactly swimming in dough. Add to this that you may not own a car and therefore use bus fare or, if you do, you're driving a junker with high fuel costs and maintenance.So, how is this person supposed to afford 3 pairs of pants and 3 to 4 new shirts? Is he supposed to choose between food for the children and the clothes? Is he supposed to take a taxi to this outlet mall? Is he supposed to quit and then cost the state more money to support his[...]
2009-06-05T06:05:39.520-07:00Tell me sweet little lies.
2009-04-21T07:05:59.646-07:00I've noticed the economic problems in the store. Sales are off slightly and that's to be expected. People are still buying, but they are scaling down in quantity and quality. We're selling a lot more "airplane bottles" than we used to and low end booze is moving faster than we had seen in the past.