My brother Mike and his wife Angela (owners / operators of Pittman’s on 44) spend spring gearing up for summer. They plan new menu items and get the staff (mostly students) into shape before May Long hits.
From that weekend on it’s non-stop insanity. I know because I’ve had a spin in the whirlwind of a beach-town restaurant myself.
One Labour Day I carried a thousand Mediterranean Sandwiches and five thousand Fort Garry Pale Ales onto the patio. Come Tuesday afternoon, I was alone sipping ale under an umbrella when a tumbleweed rolled past. Seriously.
So, my bro and his lady have a crazy summer. They then stay open through the lazy fall. Well, not that lazy: Their staff has all gone back to school leaving them feeling busier than in summer. But they’re open for fewer hours giving them time for meals at home, beach walks with my adorable nephew and, of course, laundry (how busy they must be if doing laundry is a luxury!).
They close after Canadian Thanksgiving, still opening for catering gigs and a bunch of Christmas parties until they open again around New Year’s. Then they hope like heck for snow. Not because they ski. Oh no, they don’t ski. They beg for the fluffy stuff because of snowmobiling.
My brother, like so many snowmobilers, craves the sparkle of the Whiteshell’s groomed trails, which travel over frozen lakes and through dense forest, for the adventure. But, he also loves them for the business: Snowmobiling is hungry work and in winter there are often more Ski-Doos in their parking lot than cars.
As the snow melts, the Pittmans lock the door and spend some time recuperating. They often come to visit us at this time of year (YAY!). We always have a great time together. But even while sipping on caesars at Cocoa Beach, they talk about new menu items and restaurant innovations.
Some people might say that they just aren’t able to relax. Maybe. But I think it’s because they enjoy their careers and so they’re looking forward to those May fireworks blasting in yet another bright, noisy, fun and frenzied summer.
Melty Brie with Garlic and Red Pepper
This is an appetizer that the Pittmans’ customers rave about. The original recipe, Barbecued Marinated Brie from Jane Rodmell‘s Best Summer Weekends Cookbook, is intriguing not only because it’s BBQ’ed but also because of the method for infusing the cheese with flavor. My brother and his wife have adapted the recipe for their restaurant (I’m not giving out their secrets!). I have adapted it differently for my kitchen, mainly in finding an infusion method that involves less marinating time so I can serve this to short-notice guests. Note: I’m giving instructions for baking as well as for BBQ-ing.
Technically this should serve 6-8 people. I routinely make it for 4 and there’s rarely any left. If there are leftovers, your Sunday morning omelet will thank you.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/8 tsp table or fine grind kosher salt
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1-8 oz wheel of brie
- Sliced French bread or water crackers
Into a small skillet measure the olive oil and add the garlic. Warm the skillet over medium low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The garlic should be softened but should not brown. Add the bell pepper and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Unwrap the cheese wheel and place it on a rimmed metal pizza pan. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top surface of the brie. Allow the fork to go all the way to the bottom of the cheese but do not pierce the bottom rind.
Pile the red peppers with garlicky olive oil onto the top surface of the cheese. Use a spatula to scrape every last drip of flavored oil onto the cheese. Set aside for 15 minutes, allowing the garlic oil to drip through the holes you’ve made in the cheese. (You can marinate it in the fridge for longer, even overnight. If doing so, cover with plastic wrap before placing in the fridge).
If cheese is in the fridge, remove it and uncover it.
If using BBQ: Preheat BBQ to 350°F and prepare for indirect grilling. Once BBQ is heated, place the cheese-pan on the grill, being sure that it is over indirect heat (i.e., that the heat is not directly below the pan). Put the cover of the BBQ down.
If using oven: Preheat oven to 350°F. Once oven is preheated put in the pan of cheese.
Bake/BBQ for 15 minutes. If the brie is bulging at the sides and soft to the touch on top, it’s ready. If it’s not soft and bulging, bake/BBQ for another 5-7 minutes but check on it every minute or so (you want to catch it at the bulging stage not at the oozing-all-over-the-pan stage).
To serve: It’s nearly impossible to move the brie onto a serving plate once it’s soft and gooey. I just put a pot holder on the table in the middle of the hubbub and place the pan of cheese on top (be prepared for the conversation to stop and for everyone to sigh deeply in anticipation). Warn everyone that the pan is hot (mine seems to cool off pretty quickly though). Ensure that everyone has a knife for spreading. Slash the bulging rind and watch the garlicky cheesiness slither out. Serve with the slices of French bread and/or water crackers.
Head over to the other posts in the series My Family’s Food and Restaurant History:
Get more recipes and info about brie at Foodista: