Saturday, April 28, 2007

Only Seriously Loved Mamas Get to go to Z

Maureen says:

With the weather we've been having, it seemed Spring would never come, but the air is warming up and that's helped us forgive the April showers and their habit of coming and going.

Still, how is it possible that when we flip the page on the calendar next week it will be May? In some ways it feels like we just opened the doors at Z, but in reality, we're one month old today!

Mother's Day will be here before you know it and while Tom's mother is used to the occupational hazard that means working (read: a belated phone call), mine isn't. We'll have her in for dinner beforehand, of course (Tom's parents live on the West Coast) and somewhere in between we'll be celebrating my birthday as well. Although the two dates don't coincide this year, I was actually born on Mother's Day lo those years ago. It was a Sunday and family lore has it that the day I arrived into the world couldn't have been more fitting (it was not an easy pregnancy).

Thusly: Z will be open expanded hours on Sunday, May 13th, offering its full dinner menu from 12p to 7p. Reservations are already coming in, so if you seriously love your mama, call now to make yours--603.629.9383. We bet she likes the Mojitos.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Still Here, Just Busy

Maureen says:
Having been open for business for just over three weeks, it's perhaps naive of me to think that Tom and I would have settled into something resembling a routine or gotten a grasp (no matter how loose) on what the new state of normal for our lives. Hopeful, yes, but also naive. The business of our lives is, out of necessity, the life of our business. And I'm fairly certain that won't change in six months or a year or even five years. It's the nature of the entrepreneurial beast, is it not? And it must be why you so often hear industry peers half joke that the two best days of owning a restaurant are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. Me, I try not to think about that.

Because, if you're good at what you do--and biased or not, I'm going to say again that Tom is brilliant and not until now, working side by side, did I understand just how brilliant--there are a lot of days in between the purchase and the sale. And the best thing you can do you for customers and yourself is focus on those days one at a time.

And focusing on the day at hand is exactly what we've been doing, though lately those days have felt more like they've had their way with us than the other way around. No sooner did we get our boy cat home and healing than our girl cat took a turn that our vet described as 'as serious as internal medicine gets'. We'll spare you the details, in part because even though she's a fighter and a strong little girl, they are fairly heart wrenching. Which means that Tom and I had A Painful Conversation (TM) after hours at the vet's office, the result of which is was the mutual agreement to take things four hours at a time. So far, the little one is better and better each time we check in on her and if she continues to do well, she may come home in a day or so.

I really can't say enough good things about Lockridge Animal Hospital; everyone there is the embodiment of the practice's mission statement. In a world where compassion is often hard to find, Manchester is blessed to have them as part of the community.

Stay tuned for more restaurant-related anecodotes, information about our expanded hours for Mother's Day and other points of interest.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Into a Groove

Maureen says:
It occurred to me the other day that I shouldn't have said you were 'stuck with me' in relation to the dearth of entries from Tom. Not because the phrase smacked of low writerly self-esteem (though one could argue it did), but because once the doors opened, Tom stepped into his wheelhouse and the list of new-and-interesting-to-him things to write about began to dwindle or, at the least, aren't appropriate to publish in a public space.

I, on the other hand? I sit daily, not always calmly, but I sit daily in the center of an information storm. I'm learning the nuances of a line of business with which I have limited experience (things like how, when you're out to dinner and the owner or manager visits your table, yes, they're gauging your experience, but they're also examining the plating and presentation of your meal). I am learning how to modify my skill set to support the restaurant, service our customers and empower our staff. I am learning that the practice of being present and focusing solely on the immediate reality doesn't just keep you grounded and centered, but might in fact be a smart way to build a business.

We are slowly getting into a groove, Tom and I. Slowly learning what life as restaurateurs looks and feels like. And by life I mean the whole of it--professional, personal, domestic, familial, social, spiritual, emotional, physical (we're still not eating our first meal of the day before noon). We're finding our way and finding it more quickly than I anticipated even though this last week has been anything been but typical and none of the anomalies had anything to do with the restaurant (shakeups at my company and the ensuing additional job responsibilities, semi-emergency surgery for our boy cat that's set him right as rain--thank you Dr. McCammon et al at Lockridge Animal Hospital--and yet more snow in April).

So I'll be writing about this search for balance between owning a restaurant and having a life, what I'm learning and what maybe I wish I didn't have to learn and keeping you all up to date on any happenings at Z. Until next, read on for a visual-literary representation of what the 48 hours prior to opening felt like (with apologies to William Faulkner).

Still tweaking the menus and need to finalize them now so the printer can print them and we can stuff them into the menu books and wow they look hot don't they, but we need take-away versions and we're going to have wait on that because there is staff to train and paperwork to complete for payroll and tax withholding and direct deposit and the back door where deliveries come might as well be a revolving and I think right now I could focus better in the middle of Grand Central Station or the Filene's Basement wedding gown sale because I've realized fully and finally that we have XX people in our employ and for me, the long-time good corporate worker bee, it's enough to strike terror in my heart, but there's no time to be scared which is actually helpful because the kitchen and the pantries and the dining room need to be set up and organized because I still have to procure things from the office-supply store like rubber bands and tip envelopes and thermal paper rolls and plastic sheet protectors and more (more!) dry erase markers which disappear more stealthily than socks in a dryer and small trashcans that are in keeping with decor but aren't priced in keeping with decor and then I have to print and hole punch the reservation sheets and what about gift certficates and has anyone seen the stack of take-away menus I just printed or the fuel cells for the table lamps and dear lord in heaven we don't have carryout containers can Joan go out for some, but that's right, the lunch menu isn't completely programmed in the POS yet and we need her for that because Kristine is running all over hither and yon to complete the bar inventory and I still need to record the voicemail message on both lines and why is there so much interference on the line whenever I try to do that, well, I can't worry about that because the glasses and flatware have been buffed and need to held to the light and checked and we only just now determined how we want to present the salt and pepper and yes Joan, you're right that neither Tom nor I has eaten in about 36 hours but I'm off to the mall and I hate the mall, but I'm off to the mall because we both need multiple pairs of dark wash jeans to wear on site and Tom's size is the notoriously difficult to find 32" x 34" and please tell me if you know where I can find jeans that are age/style appropriate for me because there is low-rise and there is no-rise and we are apparently living in a no-rise world and who wants to look at no-rise when they're eating, let's be real, and don't get me started on how it seems that the fashion industry designs for the 20-year-olds and the 60+-year-olds or the issue I take with being ignored as a demographic with spending power and how I can't do anything about it because owning a restaurant and launching a clothing line and having a full time job would kill me and Kristine, please tell me, even if you're lying, that this gets easier and that okay, really, by next week at this time I won't give this day a second thought because there are only 24 hours before we open and there is not enough kava tea in the world to get me to the place where I'll believe we're going to be ready or I can take a full and complete breath.

But we were. And I did. And Kristine was right: it's way easier now. More terrifying in a lot of ways, but way easier.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dear Weather

Stop. Just stop.

That is all.

Thank you.

Monday, April 9, 2007

What New Restaurateurs Have for Easter Dinner

  • Pork lo mein
  • Beef with broccoli
  • Shredded szechuan chicken
  • Steamed rice

Somewhere around 9:00p, choose these or other items from takeout menu. Phone restaurant and place order for delivery. Provide credit card number and expiration date. Wait patiently for doorbell to ring. Eat on sofa while wearing pajamas. Plan to, most likely, repeat on Easter Monday with leftovers.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Casual Elegance

Maureen says:
If you live in the Manchester area, pick up a copy of the Manchester Daily Express and read the page one feature about Z and its aim for casual elegance.

(As of this writing, the Daily Express's Web site had not yet updated its PDF link to the April 6th edition, but you can check back on your own; please note that the PDF version is usually available for one day only, but today being Friday, once its up, it might remain until Monday.)

This time, Tom knew the Daily Express was coming and he neither caught a cold or got caught by the camera wearing a baseball cap. The bad photo curse, it seems, is broken (amen to that).

The article does a great job of explaining an important aspect of our concept in a way that's easy to understand: pressed linen on the tables doesn't have to mean a stiffer, more formal atmosphere; neither does a staff dressed in jeans and t-shirts equate to flimsy flatware and paper napkins. Besides, the cost for new tabletops? Utterly ridiculous.

But I do feel compelled to say that while I've wondered what life would have been like if I'd met Tom at the turn of the century, fact is we didn't know each other then. We met in late 2003 when he was working for The Catered Affair and it was in June, 2004 that we moved to California where he GM'd for an independent restaurateur in Carmel.

We made the decision in July, 2006 to return to Manchester because what we saw happening downtown from afar was exciting to us. We didn't just want to partake in the transformation, we wanted to contribute to it. So we moved back...from CA to Z.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

One Week Old Today

Maureen says:
You're stuck with me for a while as, unlike Tom, I've caught my breath. At least for today anyway. And today, Z is one week old. Last week, I asked one of our senior staffers if it was always going to be this hard (we weren't open yet). She promised me it wouldn't be and I didn't believe her. But you know what? She was right. I'm not saying the hardest part is over, but the bone-crushing sense of urgency is fading fast.

What's Changed Since We Opened:
  • The flow of money as it pertains to the operating account is now bi-directional. We quickly grew used to watching our funds dwindle and drain and were painfully aware that what money we had was all the money we had, so it gave us pause when we saw the credit card deposits hit the account. Money coming in. Whatdya know?
  • Tom remembered just how many people he knows here. Customers from restaurants he worked at in days gone by have been coming in for dinner, cocktails, conversation. I've loved meeting them all; Manchester is still new to me and I, myself, don't know many people in the area (I'm from Massachusetts and my social network resides there still). I think that's the sound of roots being put down that I hear.
  • We know who most of our blog readers are now because a good many of you have been stopping by to introduce yourselves. This has been big fun for me because in some small way it feels like you've been on the journey with us. Just re-reading that last sentence sort of makes me want to gag, but I'm being sincere here. The rest of y'all should come in and say hello.
  • Inclement weather is no longer a prompt to stay in pajamas and slow the pace down. Now, it calls mind to the potential impact such weather can have on business like ours. Restaurateur friends of ours still don't want to talk about what they lost to the Valentine's Day storm. I don't blame them.
  • We are out of laundry detergent, but not yet out of clean clothes (note: it is rare as snow in Apr....nevermind...let's just say I run a tight ship and we don't run out of anything, ever. You know, until now). This pleases the cats because at the end of each day, they are far more interested in the food smells we bring home than they are in us. They're not as pleased as they would be if we brought home leftover chicken, duck or chopped steak, but seriously. They'll survive.
  • I haven't knit a stitch in weeks. Weeks! You don't care. I know. But ask Tom. I'm much nicer to live with when I don't have orphaned socks in my knitting bag, crying for their unborn mates.
  • We love our DVR even more than we thought possible. We just hope it can hold everything we'd like it to until July.
  • Z is no longer a dream deferred, but a dream manifested. The road ahead is long, but hey: we're walking on it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Work the Line

Maureen says:

If you haven't already, don't forget to visit our other home on the web:

Tom's working the line in Z's kitchen tonight while our beloved Chef de Cuisine David Federschneider takes a well- and richly-deserved night off. If you're headed out to dinner this evening, what better time to stop in for your first visit?

It was back to work for me yesterday and back into the Boston office for me today. Is it wrong to say that even with all the month-end reporting and catching up there is to do after six days out, that being there felt like slightly like vacation? I wrote to someone today that aside from mending a broken heart, opening Z is probably the hardest thing I've done to date. When I said as much to Tom he replied, "What?! This was an easy one!"

The empty blister pack of Nauzene tablets in my handbag says otherwise (thanks Ariel!). It was a rough few days for me; I even went off coffee (the horror). But I'm much better now and (finally) working on getting notes together to share with you from the opening (there are so v. many people to thank and they all should be thanked properly and publicly).

More soon!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Visit Our Other Home on the Web

Tom and Maureen say:
More about our first days as restaurateurs will be coming as soon as we can catch our breath. That will happen someday, right?

While you're waiting, you can visit our other home on the Web. Z's official Web site is live for your viewing pleasure at:

There you'll find our full lunch and dinner menus along with our wine list in web-ready and printer-friendly PDF versions.

Z begins serving lunch tomorrow, Monday April 2nd from 11:30a to 2:30p. If you're one of our downtown readers, come in for a chopped salad (bibb lettuce, grilled chicken, serrano ham, croutons, chopped eggs, gruyere cheese, pearl barley, english peas, champagne vinaigrette) or Tom's favorite sandwich--the grilled ham and cheese (serrano ham, gruyere on some of the most luscious rustic french bread we've ever tried). Maureen is more partial to the chicken salad (green tea smoked chicken, cherry tomatoes, sesame aioli, baby spinach, francese roll), but we guarantee everyone will find something they love.

Or at least you'll see Tom. Maureen returns to her full-time job tomorrow, but looks forward to seeing you on occasional nights and most weekends.