I had been working in the pantry (cold appetizers) section at Restaurant Daniel in New York City for almost a year and I was comfortable in my surroundings -- as comfortable as one could be in one of the best restaurants in the city. I was officially part of the enormous task force that pumped food out of Daniel Boulud's kitchen every day. On this particular Tuesday, I decided to make a chilled shellfish salad in tomato "water" as the "amuse bouche" for that evening. The amuse bouche, one or two bites, was offered to each guest just after they placed their dinner order, a promise of what lay ahead. With 320 reservations that evening, I had my work cut out for me.
I braised octopus with garlic and red wine.
I cleaned and gently poached paper-thin rounds of squid in flavorful fish stock.
I steamed clams and mussels in dry Vermouth and shelled them.
I roughly blended tomatoes and strained them to create the "water".
I cut squares of fresh green basil, a tiny dice of cucumber and little bits of lemon.
I tossed all the seafood together with olive oil and made a little pile in the center of each bowl. I surrounded it with the tomato water and arranged 300-plus bowls in rows in one of my refrigerators by the pantry. They were beautiful. Periodically, I would open the door and peer at all the bowls all lined up.
In the very top shelf of that same fridge, I kept a few plates for cold salads. My colleague requested one of those plates and I reached in and grabbed one. What I didn't realize was that the fan inside the fridge was missing its cover. When I grabbed the plate, I moved it and caught the edge in the fan, spraying tiny shards of glass throughout the fridge. Shards of glass into every single one of those precious little bowls. So much work down the drain after one tiny mistake.
I grabbed bread from the bakery and made a quick blend of olives, herbs and lemon. I toasted squares of the bread, covered them with the olive mix and baby greens.
When I served my "back up" amuse, Daniel looked at me with surprise: "A little simple, Alexandra, non?"
If he only knew.