Another Day in Poe's Kitchen at The Rattlesnake

Chef Brian Poe shows you the world in the back of the house.

Archive for Travels & Tall Tales

The Flavor of Friendship: Doughnuts

People have always been my favorite part of the restaurant business. Camaraderie is a source of warmth beyond the stove, and when I find a way to someone’s heart through food, it is always an inspiration. As the summer comes around again, we get to reunite with many an old friend—and their tastebuds—on the roof deck, at backyard BBQs, baseball games, and the beach.

Doughnuts I’m particularly fond of because they remind me of a dear friend I made when I first moved to Boston to run the restaurnat at the Boston Millennium Hotel, then called Seasons. It was a snowy Sunday night in January, and I was doing double duty as manager and chef. The snowstorm had gained momentum, so I sent my cooks and servers home early to beat the dangers of a Nor’easter. The restaurant had already closed for the night and as I did a pass through to turn off the lights and the stereo and lock up the wine, I looked up to see two people sitting at a table, menus and glasses of wine in hand.

I panicked, because not only did I have no servers, I had already put all of my mise en place away. I quickly called room service down to help me if need be. As I approached the table, I asked if I could be of assistance. I got the kindest response. The gentleman told me that that table was the one his mother had always sat at when she would came to Seasons, and that he and his girlfriend had just gotten engaged right there on the spot. Time for a celebration! They assured me they were not too hungry—but that they certainly loved food. So I took them back into the kitchen and we prepared a dish together. As we cooked, we began to exchange great stories about New England, especially its food.  Together we ate the dish that we prepared—which happened to include one of my first takes on the baked brie empanada!—and then I bade the lovebirds goodnight.

A few months later, the phone in the kitchen rang. It was Tom, the gentleman from that evening. He thanked me for the wonderful evening and asked if I would like to join him and his fiancée Alla on their boat over the summer. So we made a plan to meet up in mid-July.

Now, the girl that I was dating then was a little worried about this boat, picturing some tiny little fishing vessel, as was I. So we did a little research and, just in case, booked a room at the nearest hotel to the dock. But once we passed through the gates of the club, we found on the other side no little dinghy but an 80-foot yacht with 3 bedrooms! (Cancel that reservation please—we’ll be staying afloat tonight!)

The evening that followed was filled with great wine, incredible food, and fantastic conversation. Near the end of the meal, Tom turned to me and said, “You know, this is probably not something that I should share with a chef but I’ve got a really fun, great dessert…” After such a fun-filled evening, how could I say no?

So he snuck back into the cabin and came out with blueberry ice cream, some caramel, and, of all things—a box of doughnuts. I have to admit, I was a little confused.  But he just smiled—and turned on the grill. Within a matter of minutes we were plating up a messy, fun dessert of grilled doughnuts for everyone. There on the water, it was divine, and it has become one of my favorite summer treats—at home and now at Poe’s Kitchen!

Sure, we’ve added a little sass by making our own cheesecake, huckleberry, and chocolate chip ice creams, then topping it off with a champagne foam. But I’m not going to lie to you—I stay true to Tom and Alla’s recipe by using Dunkin’ Donuts! And they, in turn, have stayed true friends to me.

Now I invite you, new friends and old, to swing by the restaurant for a taste…

Culinary Artistry: The Syllabus!

I feel like Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Back to School. Ten years ago, if you’d asked me to step to the front of a classroom full of 20- and 21-year-olds and try my hand at teaching, I would have laughed in your face and kept my hand where it belonged, on the handle of my saute pan.

But now, in retrospect, it seems I never really left the classroom. It just happens to look like a kitchen. I was 23, an instructor from the Greenbrier Resort told me that in order to be a good chef you have to be good at the following five things:

1. You have to be a good cook.
2. You have to be a good manager.
3. You have to be a good businessperson.
4. You have to be a good parent and a good citizen (because you will probably raise some kids in that kitchen!).

And most importantly,
5. You have to be a good teacher.

I’ve lived by these five rules ever since.

I started teaching at Newbury College last year. Not with the goal of switching professions—and certainly not for the money. I was simply very curious to know what schools were teaching the chefs of the future and wanted to be a part of it.

51X63CJ0V7L._SS400_My first class was conducted online from Santiago, Chile, where I e-mailed the students a great chapter from Becoming a Chef titled “Travel, Eating, and Reading: Learning Something New Everyday”—which is just what I was doing, teaching by example as I discovered that the South America you see on CNN is not the warm, wonderful South America you meet in the kitchen and around the dinner table. In the book are some quotes from Lydia Shire—someone I never thought I would actually meet, but who has turned out to be a strong influence on my career—who noted that kids should spend less money on Walkmans (now iPods) and more money and time on travel and education. Guess who I quoted on Monday night during the intro to my fall seminar, Culinary Artistry?

The beauty of it all I’ve grown to love teaching. In our industry we work a lot of hours with some happy people and some unhappy people, some cheery optimists and some bitter drunks. The industry can be tough on us all. But there is nothing more restorative than walking into a group full of eager young people who excited to take everything to take all that fresh learning and apply it in the real world!  As they learn and grow, so do I—while remembering just why I love this business so much.

Here are a few key items on my syllabus. It’s already shaping up to be a great class.

9780316178310_388X586October 5
Cooking for Ideas: Where to Look While We Cook and While We Live

Assignment- Research the top 50 Restaurants in the U.S. and World (guidance will be provided on where to locate this information) then choose one that you would like to research further for your final exam/paper.

October 26
Realities of Our Workplace and How to Create Around Them?

We will discuss how to create around the demands of staffing, bosses, ownership, shortages, costs and running your business. (case study)

December 7th
Building Your Happy Place

How do you inspire those around you to create? How do you create? What is your best environment and time of day for creating food ideas? How do you work around the hectic schedules of school and work to create? What does your ideal creative space look like? (with reading assignment from the book The Six Thinking Hats).

Jeepers! Or, My Shiny New Flying Burrito

For about ten years I had an old red Jeep Wrangler, thoughtfully referred to by myself and friends as “The Burro.” She earned the nickname when a fishing trip turned into a 4×4 adventure on a motorcycle trail that wound around a steep and narrow cliff. Unlike me, The Burro wasn’t scared; she just kept kicking along like the donkey she was. I say “was,” because she was the victim of a hit-and-run last October and we had to put her to rest. Sniffle, sigh.

What does this have to do with food, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you, but first—a little background. All my life I’ve sworn that before I got married, I would have a Jeep, a boat and a dog named Salty. Salty is going to be a yellow Lab, and the boat is on the horizon for next spring. No comment yet on the future wife, except that we’ll own a retirement home with an ocean for a front yard and a farm for a backyard, so that Salty and the Jeep will have nice places to play (separately, of course).

48black_Shirt I also intend to own 365 Hawaiian shirts under $15 with the center buttons missing, so I can get in a good old-man belly scratch after every meal. (My collection is well on its way already; I even have a Hawaiian print housekey.)

Anyway, so far I’ve only had the Jeep. But that Burro and I took some serious food trips in our time. We had a tent, sleeping bags, a camp stove, fishing rods, and of course Hawaiian shirts within reach when we lived in Arizona, where we visited every farm imaginable. We toured Colorado and fished Pagosa Springs, picked wild strawberries in the redwoods of Northern California, and sipped wine all along the left coast. Warning shots were fired at us while we looked for a buffalo ranch on an Indian reservation in New Mexico. We dug deep around El Paso, where we ate like kings out of roadside trailers and stared in awe at the realities of border life. We scoured Nogales and pondered Chihuahua. We had our fun on the East Coast, too, touring Virginia wineries and the Pennsylvania Dutch country. We did all of New York state—The Burro and I loved our Hudson Valley. Connecticut brought us Mark Twain and some good grub. Vermont confused us but we fell in love. We really got to see this country, The Burro and I. Why, in Massachusetts, we were even given permission to drive through the cranberry bogs in Lakeville, the corporate headquarters of Ocean Spray, one Sunday; we then headed up to a great goat farm in Topsfield and milked the goats before slugging some Ipswich beer out of a jug and listening to the Sox game on the radio. We even almost got arrested on a trip toNewburyport for not knowing that a) Burros are not allowed on the beach and b) you have to have a license to dig for clams!

At points in my career I was told that I should have a grown-up car—that I should live up to the standards of my position (not to mention of a good boyfriend)—so I finally bought one of those fancy Grand Cherokees with GPS and lots of buttons. But The Burro and I outlived them all on our culinary journeys.

Yesterday, I woke up a little sad to feel the weather turning. With apple-picking season just around the corner and pumpkin patches about to burst, I really missed The Burro. So when I saw

Jeep

the ’97 Wrangler in my driveway, I thought I must be dreaming. But then my girl—one of the few who never hounded me to get rid of The Burro—handed me the keys! She and I tossed names around—and we’re leaning toward a play on The Burro that also alludes to Poe’s Kitchen—The Burrito. With a name like that, she can only carry us in good directions.

Much like my signature Flying Burrito Bro’.

Poe's burrito

WIth grilled chicken, chorizo, black beans, asparagus & tobacco-chile sauce, it’s got all-wheel drive.