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Lets Talk About Food and Wine…

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So often I am asked, “what is your favourite wine?” and I hate this question, because I have no answer. This drives me crazy, because wine is my career, and life to a certain extent, so how can I not have a favourite? Well I don’t have a favourite wine because I am obsessed with flavour, and there are far too many to choose from. You really want me to pick between an 02 Clos Rougeard and a 98 J.L.C. Hermitage Rouge?! No thanks, because then theres food, and when you through that in to the mix, all bets are off.

Now I would not argue with anyone that they should not have a favourite wine, I believe that you should always enjoy what you want to no matter what any snobby Somm has to say about it, but there is good advice behind some of that snobbery most of the time, now allow me to explain. Lets say your favourite wine is Caymus’s Cabernet Sauvignon, and you like to enjoy it with every meal. A fine wine indeed, but what if your not having a hearty and hefty, protein and fat rich dish this evening? Well weather you are noticing or not, or maybe just don’t want to admit it, your favourite wine tastes awful, or your dish has been rendered flavourless and unfulfilling. Curse the kitchen you say! Caymus has really dropped their quality you claim! No to both!!! You just ate a plate of perfectly made carbonara while drinking a well made Cab Sauve, unfortunately they pair about as well as toothpaste and orange juice. So how do you make the right choices when your out on the town dining at a restaurant with an extensive wine list? Well the best thing to do if you are not all that wine savvy is to ask your server for a bit of advice. Most restaurants have someone that is educated on food and wine available to help, and they can offer a recommendation that will probably blow your socks off when it is paired with careful consideration. Being a Certified Sommelier myself, I often spend too much time perusing great wine lists and start pairing up dishes with their wines while I browse the selection, but more often than not, I actually leave it to the Sommelier to pair my wine or suggest a bottle. I can not count the amount of times I have made a new and grand discovery by letting a fellow Sommelier choose my wine for me, and I cant think of an example where they steered me in a terrible direction. There seems to be a bit of fear when letting someone else make a choice for you at dinner, and I have a hard time figuring out why. I have heard a few reasons, and some are quite comical. Mostly I think diners are worried that they wont like the selection, so they play it safe and stick to what they know, but what is the fun in the same flavour over and over, do you go to the same movie twice? Are you afraid to take the medicine that a doctor orders? Probably not, they are a doctor after all, and sometimes I wish I choose Med school. So sit back, relax, and listen to your Sommelier, they wont steer you wrong, they generally leave the table pretty quick after they serve your wine, and I think you will find that they prescribe the best kind of medicine.

By: TJ Harstine /Certified Sommelier

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14 Dining Etiquette Rules You Need To Know

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Eating with someone you don’t know well in a professional environment is a tricky situation. On the one hand, you’re trying to get to know the person better, but on the other hand, you’re also worried about what your eating habits say about you.

The most important thing to remember, says career coach Barbara Pachter, is that you’re not there for the food. You are there for business.

In her new book The Essentials Of Business Etiquette, Pachter discusses the dining etiquette rules every professional needs to know:

1. The host should always be in charge.

This means picking an appropriate restaurant and making reservations ahead of time, which is especially important if you’re having a business lunch or dinner when it can be busy. The last thing you want is to be told there isn’t a table available for you and your guest(s).

Once you’re seated, “you need to take charge of the logistics of the meal,” Pachter says. This means directing your guests to their seats or recommending menu items in various price ranges.

2. Never pull out someone’s chair for them.

It’s okay to hold open a door for your guest, but Pachter says you shouldn’t pull someone’s chair out for them regardless of gender. “Both men and women can pull out their own chairs,” she writes. In a business setting, you should leave those social gender rules behind.

3. Consider the restaurant when figuring out dietary restrictions.

“Most people do not impose their dietary choices on others. Nevertheless, you can often judge what to order by the type of restaurant the host chooses.” Pachter says. For example, if your boss is a vegetarian but chooses to meet at a steakhouse, “by all means you can order steak,” she adds.

4. Keep the food options balanced with your guest.

This means if your guest orders an appetizer or dessert, you should follow suit. “You don’t want to make your guest feel uncomfortable by eating a course alone,” Pachter says.

5. Know the utensils’ proper locations.

Want an easy trick for remembering where the utensils go? All you need to remember is that “left” has four letters and “right” has five.

“Food is placed to the left of the dinner plate. The words food and left each have four letters; if the table is set properly, your bread or salad or any other food dish, will be placed to the left of your dinner plate,” Pachter explains. “Similarly, drinks are placed to the right of the dinner plate, and the words glass and right contain five letters. Any glass or drink will be placed to the right of the dinner plate.”

“Left and right also work for your utensils. Your fork (four letters) goes to the left; your knife and spoon (five letters each) go to the right,” she adds.

6. Know which utensils to use.

Each course should have its own utensils and all of them may already be in front of you or will be placed in front of you as the dishes are served. In the case that all the utensils are there at the beginning of the meal, a good general rule is to start with utensils on the outside and work your way in as the meal goes on.

Pachter writes: “The largest fork is generally the entrée fork. The salad fork is smaller. The largest spoon is usually the soup spoon. If you are having a fish course, you may see the fish knife and fork as part of the place setting. The utensils above the plate are the dessert fork and spoon, although these may sometimes be placed on either side of the plate or brought in with the dessert.”

7. Think “BMW” to remember where plates and glasses go.

Another trick Pachter uses for remembering proper placement of plates and glasses is simple: Remember the mnemonic BMW, which stands for bread, meal and water. “Your bread-and-butter plate is on the left, the meal is in the middle, and your water glass is on the right,” Pachter explains.

8. Always break bread with your hands.

Pachter says you should never use your knife to cut your rolls at a business dinner. “Break your roll in half and tear off one piece at a time, and butter the piece as you are ready to eat it.”

9. Know the “rest” and “finished” positions.

“Place your knife and fork in the rest position (knife on top of plate, fork across middle of plate) to let the waiter know you are resting,” Pachter says. “Use the finished position (fork below the knife, diagonally across the plate) to indicate that you have finished eating.”

10. Do not push away or stack your dishes.

“You are not the waiter. Let the wait staff do their jobs,” she advises.

11. Do not use the napkin as a tissue.

The napkin should only be used for blotting the sides of your mouth. If you need to blow your nose, Pachter says to excuse yourself to the bathroom.

12. Never ask for a to-go box.

“You are there for business, not for the leftovers,” Pachter writes. “Doggie bags are okay for family dinners but not during professional occasions.”

13. The host should always pay.

This one can be a bit tricky, explains Pachter. “If you did the inviting, you are the host, and you should pay the bill, regardless of gender. What if a male guest wants to pay? A woman does have some choices. She can say, ‘Oh, it’s not me; it is the firm that is paying.’ Or she can excuse herself from the table and pay the bill away from the guests. This option works for men as well, and it is a very refined way to pay a bill.

“However, the bottom line is that you don’t want to fight over a bill,” she says. “If a male guest insists on paying despite a female host’s best efforts, let him pay.”

14. Always say “please” and “thank you” to wait staff.

“Do not complain or criticize the service or food,” Pachter says. “Your complaints will appear negative, and it is an insult to your host to criticize.”

 

Written By:  | Source: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/14-dining-etiquette-rules-you-need-to-know/

 

 

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A Smiling Face is Worth It with Chef Shonn Oborowsky

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Why do I put up with the long hours, the heat, the problems, all the of hassles that go into running a successful restaurant?

It’s really the simplest of answers. And it’s not the money.

I love making people smile with food. The look on their face when they take that first mouthful. That’s worth everything to me. After 18 years in the restaurant business, I have seen hundreds, probably thousands, of smiling faces, but that sensation never gets old. That’s why I continue to develop new plates every single week. I never want to get bored serving my food because I don’t want that feeling coming out on a plate to my valued customers. If I’m still inspired to cook, they are still inspired to eat my food.

There are rare moments when I do feel some discouragement and it often comes when customers want to change a dish. I have spent hours coming up the right combinations, and yet some feel compelled to alter it. I will most certainly make a change if someone has an allergy, that goes without saying. But when I assemble all the pieces of a dish, I have already spent the time and effort to put it together properly. I hope people understand that and don’t make changes when those changes most often put something on the plate that doesn’t belong there.

Unlike many other chefs and even professional athletes or musicians, I do my read my reviews. I may not agree with everything that is written but I wholeheartedly disagree with the professionals who say they don’t read their reviews or care what is written or said about them. I always read my reviews. They are valuable observations and opinions from an unbiased outsider and useful for determining what is going well or not so well with your restaurant.

I like to change my plates and my resources over the course of a year, especially to take advantage of seasonal highlights. One thing I’d love to see is that suppliers come to the realization that higher end restaurants have the desire to serve different and better products from time to time. Our demand is there but is has yet to be met. I want grants for greenhouses, for the growers, so we can have local produce year-round. Perhaps the City of Edmonton will hear us out on that matter sooner rather than later.

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Changes for the Better

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Restaurants come and go. The good ones last for years. The not-so good ones are gone before you know it.

I think what has kept Characters around for 16 years has been our willingness, maybe even eagerness, to change. I might not even call it change. Change sounds like things weren’t going well so we needed to change in order to make corrections. I think a better way to put it is evolve and adapt. Another is a refusal to stay stagnant.

If it wasn’t for evolving, adapting, and refusing to stay in one direction, I don’t think we’d have become as successful as we have. Our menu changes reflect not only seasonal moves, but changes in mood, changes in vendors and product, and changes in customer desires. As an example, a restaurant might have had salmon on the menu for years – different glazes, different cooking styles, different ways it is served, but it’s still salmon. After a while, the cooks become bored with it. Even the customers who love salmon are tired. So now with that in mind and availability of new products, like sea bass, a change is made to menu. The cooks are re-invigorated and so too are the customers. Change is good.

Some things are hard to change, though. For Characters, it is virtually impossible to change the physical characteristics of our building. If I could I would move the kitchen to the back of our space to alleviate some of the noise. Then I could hit a bell to call for food to be picked up. It might be fun for me but the servers would hate it so we’re probably better off in the long run.

What I do like, and it won’t change, is our rustic look and feel to the interior. The brick is timeless with a great combination of style and strength. The dark coloring is offset by the crisp white linen tablecloths for a striking overall appeal.

Change will come to some degree as the downtown core becomes a greater hub activity with the impending opening of the new Rogers Place arena – home of the Edmonton Oilers, Edmonton Oil Kings and surely hundreds of great concerts. Along with the new arena is the coming of additional office space like the Stantec building and residential structures as well.

For Characters, that will bring change in terms of increased business lunch traffic and longer dinner hours. We’ll quite likely open a little earlier for dinner and possibly stay open a little later. But that’s a change we welcome with open arms.

  • Characters Fine Dining

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The inspiration behind Chef Shonn becoming a Chef & you won’t believe it.

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A great many big names have been the inspirations behind someone becoming a chef.

Maybe it was one of the all-time legends like Julia Child or perhaps a TV-created “celebrity chef” like Gordon Ramsey, Bobby Flay or Jamie Oliver.

For me, yes, you could say it was a celebrity … but not like you’d think. My inspiration was Jack Tripper. He wasn’t even a real person but he was one heck of cook. I knew from watching him on Three’s Company, probably when I was around eight years old, that I wanted to be like him. My purpose in life was to become a real-life Jack Tripper, a star in the kitchen but with a fantastic sense of humor, too. If you’re old enough like me to remember Three’s Company, you might remember the episode when Jack had to cook for a mobster and thought he’d send him a message by overloading the linguini and clams with piles of black pepper. His eyes bugged out when that blast of spice hit his mouth. Turned out, the mobster loved it. Awesome.

Being a chef isn’t about a lot of laughs, though as much as Jack Tripper made it look so humorous and fun. It takes a great deal of time and effort. Thankfully, the passion that Jack Tripper gave me developed my work ethic and drive to succeed. I wanted to be the best I could be in the kitchen. I worked hard because I wanted to. I cared about being the best I could be and the result of that drive has certainly paid off.

I do want to pass that drive down to my kids, but I would much prefer they find their passion in something other than being in the restaurant business. TV makes it look so easy, so glamorous. Unfortunately, it is not. It is a rough business, ugly at times. The hours. The missed special occasions and holidays. The drug and alcohol abuse. I want to shelter my kids from that as best as I can.

But I would want to pass down certain aspects of being a professional chef. Be dedicated. Be organized. Work hard and work clean. Work smart.

Those capabilities are admirable ones no matter what line of work they choose.

Character ” A set of qualities that make a place or thing different from other places or things.”

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Location: 10257 – 105 Street, Edmonton, Alberta Canada