Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

(Re-) Opening Night

By Deirdre Heekin, co-author with Caleb Barber of In Late Winter We Ate Pears: A Year of Hunger and Love and author of Libation: A Bitter Alchemy

From her blog

You would think opening a restaurant again after a month of being closed might be a herculean effort—like opening a summer house after a long winter. Remove the white sheets from the furniture. Throw out the camphor moth balls. Open all the windows. A month in a restaurant’s life is very long, kind of like dog years. A month can make or break a place. But we have been lucky in where we set up shop. Our village of Woodstock is somewhat seasonal in nature. While we are a real town with real people who live, work, eat, and sleep full time there is a natural cycle to our year with the months of November and April being extremely quiet. Not only do visitors tend to skip these more homely months, but our locals tend to hunker down in November, staying at home to nest for winter, and depart for sunnier climes during school breaks or long weekends in April just to stop from going crazy from the long, Persephone months.


From the get-go, we have taken two breaks a year during these two still months. Owning and working a restaurant is tough and constant business, and while we love what we do, we need to break the hard rhythm of being on our feet a good portion of our days, provisioning, cooking, pouring, serving, washing, sweeping, talking, and smiling. When we are in full swing, there are no sick or personal days, there are no long weekends. For thirteen years now we have broken twice a year to rest and rejuvenate. For thirteen years, we have re-opened our restaurant twice a year.

In those early years, re-opening took almost a week. There was spring cleaning, even in winter: dining room, refrigerators and freezers, wine inventory, washing walls, waxing floors, purging. Then there would be several days of cooking to prepare the menu for opening night. In the early years, we also had a much larger space. Now, since we’ve moved upstairs into a tiny room in the building, a space that looks like it couldn’t physically exist when you look at the façade from the street, re-opening takes about three days. We are also older, and I hope at least a little wiser and efficient.


Since we were home a good portion of this past November, and we didn’t fully shut down the restaurant, re-opening took about two days—a record set. Two days to wax the floor, two days to inventory wine, two days to mix and age dough for bread, two days to make a soup, two days to sort the mail, two days to organize reservations, two days to decorate for the holidays (including a late night hike to cut pine boughs for the entrance to the restaurant, buffeted by a cold north wind and several falls in the snow as we haven’t gotten out our snow shoes yet). On the night before we re-open, we bring home the makings for gelato because we’ve forgotten the ingredients in our own refrigerator. It’s midnight, and we are lighting the fire and the house is redolent of warm dark chocolate and heavy cream simmering on the stove.

Two hours before opening, we are finishing arranging the fragrant white roses ordered for the occasion, stringing the white holiday lights around the door, inventorying the four cases of new wines arrived at mid-day—a bright, fizzy Reisling from Lombardia that I set to chill; an obscure Lacrima di Morro, heavy with the red scents of roses, bitter orange and peach; finalizing and printing menus. The soup is made from cabbage culled from our garden and our orchard’s apples, elegant and brothy. The little hand-rolled polpettine, or meatballs, are made from local ground pork, lamb, and venison. We have forgotten the stash of dried currants in our home kitchen, so Caleb improvises with a sauce of wine and raisins. We rejuvenate the cured white matsutake mushrooms brought to us by the wild-gatherers Les and Nova for a special pizza. Sometimes we cannot help but be seduced by the exotic or childhood memories, and we have gotten a bowl full of persimmons to slice like tomato and serve on a soft local chevre and season with salt and pepper and a pungent and green olive oil. I used to eat persimmons as a child: we had a tree over our driveway and they would fall mercilessly in the late autumn. There is the chocolate gelato, and a puree made from our apples served with fresh yogurt and honey.

At six o’clock, the candles on the tables and bar are lighted, the soup is simmering, and the door opens…


From Farm-to-Table to Farm-to-Everything

No longer restricted to the elite segments of society, the farm-to-table movement now reaches a wide spectrum of Americans from hospital and office cafeterias to elementary schools and fast-casual restaurants.Nearly a century ago, the idea of “local food” would have seemed perplexing, since virtually all food was local. Today, most of the food consumed in […] Read More

The Three Cs of Farm-to-School

Most people know about the three “R’s” – reading, writing, and arithmetic. But, have you heard about the three “C’s”?If you, or your kid, is at a school that takes part in the Farm-to-School movement, then you may already know about them.October is National Farm-to-School month, and in their book Farm to Table, authors Darryl […] Read More

Redefining Regional Cuisine: Black Trumpet Chef & Author Evan Mallett

Whether at home or in a restaurant, chefs must rely on fresh, seasonal ingredients to fuel their creativity in the kitchen.At the renowned Black Trumpet restaurant, located in the historic seacoast city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Chef Evan Mallett and his staff reflect the constantly changing seasons of New England, celebrating the unique flavors and […] Read More

Recipe: Apple Kimchi

Looking for a new way to feast on the premiere fruit of the Fall? Try Apple Kimchi.At the renowned Black Trumpet restaurant, located in the historic seacoast city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Chef Evan Mallett and his staff reflect the constantly changing seasons of New England, celebrating the unique flavors and traditions of fished, farmed, […] Read More

Sandor Katz on Reviving His Cult Classic Wild Fermentation

Why would you update what is arguably, a classic book on fermentation?That’s the first question put to author Sandor Ellix Katz by Senior Editor Ben Watson, and rightly so. Sandor’s Wild Fermentation has long been viewed as the starter kit for thousands of fermentation experiments around the country, if not the world.This August, however, Sandor […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By