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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Best of the Best 2010 (and 2009)

So this is the second year in a row we have been voted Best of the Best by the readers of the Union Bulletin (our WW daily newspaper).  Which is pretty cool for a number of reasons.  One, at least we aren't the only business in the category being voted upon (drycleaner, dogwash, gourmet grocery, community college).  Two, we received zero votes from anybody that works for Graze, or owns Graze, or is a relative of a Graze employee/owner.  Three, we solicited zero votes from friends, acquaintances, customers, or mailing list members.  We feel we won the silly thing with a clean conscious.

It is really nice to be thought of as the Best... but then again three years ago when Graze Catering was barely know (and we were also the best caterer in town, thank you very much) the Whitman College catering service, which does very very little catering off campus won Best of the Best.  So we aren't about to let a little vote in the UB go to our heads.  Seriously now, how many people even vote for the category of Caterer?

I believe we are the best catering business in Walla Walla, not because people voted for us, but because we do a very nice job, for a fair price, with real food (as much as we can get from our local farmers)... that we make with love and care and attention.  We are proud of what we do everyday, and we are always trying to get better.  If you voted for us... thank you very much, and if you have been to one of our events and enjoyed the food enough to tell someone else about it... thank you very much, and if you have hired us (and hopefully would like to hire us again)... thank you very much.  And if you have read this far... thank you very much (don't you have anything better to do?).

[True story: In Sacramento the free weekly SN&R, ran the Best of the Best Issue every year... this was way before online voting, mobile check ins, smart phone banking, and facebook, so the vote was entirely paper and pencil balloting that readers actually had to fold and place into an envelope and put in their mailbox.  This complete train wreck of a restaurant stuffed the ballot box with their name for the category of 'best crabcake', even though they were some kind of Italian Fusion meets Neighborhood Bar mom and pop joint that maybe served ten dinners a night and probably served frozen pre-made crabcakes.  They win, then proceed to make one of those vinyl signs that read "BEST CRABCAKES IN SACRAMENTO!  Turn Right Here!" at the freeway exit.  I laughed at the absurdity of it all every time I exited the freeway.  The next year the free weekly changed the rules and made every ballot have at least 25% of the categories filled out to be valid, while mentioning nameless certain winners in years past had probably been ballot box stuffing.  At least the restaurant owners had the good sense to ballot stuff a lame category and not "best Italian" or "best fine dining"]

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cattlemen's Association

What do you do to get your mind distracted from extreme anxiety?  I like to play games. 

Lets roll play.  Say you are going to serve 315 people, and you have done this bunches of times, and the math always works out, but there is always, and I mean always, this nagging question in the back of your mind that says "what if we run out?".  What if the guys in the cowboy hats just decide to eat more than they have in the past tonight?  What if a platter of food is dropped?  What if, what if, what if?

In the mad rush to get everything there, and on time, and fresh, and perfect; some wiggle room is always built in if dissaster strikes.  Which means almost always we have fifteen to twenty minutes to kill while waiting to serve our guests. 

So I like play games.  One of my favorites is the over/under game.  Ask any question regarding the event that is quantifiable, and then have everyone guess over or under the number.  Something like "how many bridesmaids/groomsmen will there be in the ceremony?" Or, "How much salad/prime rib/chicken breasts/spanikopita will be left over?".  But my favorite game is "guess the closest".  Every employee guesses how many or much of something is at the event.  I always put up the money, ten or twenty bucks seems to do the trick.  The servers and cooks guess a number and the closest wins.  It causes a lot of anxiety and wrinkled brows, and a healthy distraction from the pressure packed environment.

Our last big question was "guess how many cowboy hats are in the room?"  for the Cattlemen's Association Dinner hosted at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds.  Ten dollars went to the winner. 

Judging from the picture above what is your guess?
Dinner was a huge offering of buffet choices: prime rib and its accompaniments, spinach salad with mandarin oranges avocado red onion and toasted almonds, broccoli salad with sun dried tomatoes golden garlic provolone and balsamic dressing, pea salad with ham and cheddar, buttermilk dressing coleslaw, red potatoes and onions in brown sauce, brians wicked awesome potato salad, cauliflower broccoli and carrots with butter sauce.... whew it was big.  And tasty too, kind of a super fresh down home country cooking with a dash more culinary flair than mama provides. 

For the record, 15 prime rib at 14 lb averages serves right about 340 guests.  And there were 63 cowboy hats.