Thursday, April 26, 2012

Williams and Graham - the customer is #1

I've followed Williams and Graham's progress from afar, first hearing about it through the Westword and other online mutterings. Sean Kenyon, former Squeaky Bean bar manager, was involved in the SB replacement, The Occidental, and Williams and Graham. Unfortunately, due to lease negotiations, The Occidental never opened, and WG's opening was delayed due to restaurant bar licenses. And so I left for my extended Europe and Australia trip without experiencing either. I was relegated to long-distance voyeurism via online publications. That's never satisfactory.

And now....? Well, Williams and Graham is my hangout. One week you show up there with a friend on Sunday and have a great experience. So great you have to return again and again and again and make reservations for another day.

Williams and Graham is tucked into the corner of Tejon and 32nd Avenue. It's distinctively on the corner, but with their minimal door signage, I accidentally passed it this Sunday. I weaved back around and entered their library front. Did you know that you can trade a hardcover book for one of their hardcovers? They may not be willing to part with some books, but the bartering opportunity exists.

Wednesday through Sunday are their busiest evenings, though one bartender will admit that Wednesday is hit and miss. I definitely recommend a reservation or calling ahead. Be prepared for a 1.5 hour wait. Fortunately, the host will call you in case you're at a nearby restaurant or at home. Consider it a fifteen minute warning.

Once allowed in, typically escorted by Todd Colehour (WG co-owner), you'll be beckoned through the concealed door past a dimly lit corridor into the bar area.
This view is from the back. WG offers bar seating, standing room only at the bookshelves, booths, and tucked away high seats on a raised platform toward the bar's right. Maximum capacity is 80 people. Even though this bar gets packed, conversation is relatively muted. I've enjoyed the bar, a booth, and standing room only settings and have been able to have decent conversations consistently. They don't have rules, so I respect their clientele's class. There is light music in the backroom. Also, at some point each evening scratchy blues will be played.
 Here we have co-owner, Sean Kenyon, a third generation bartender. He is an amazing source of information and has a remarkable memory. I say this because he remembered a drink he concocted for a friend based on a butterscotch drink request. He came back with a Flip comprised of Leopold Bros Three Pins Alpine Liqueur, Noci Amaro (walnut based), egg white, and perhaps another ingredient. Anyway, his attention to detail is shared with his staff. Once you meet your server or bartender, they introduce themselves and get your names. So they manage to remember your name, recall last night's special cocktail, have encyclopedic knowledge of spirits, are able to point you to drinks appropriate to your taste, and are equipped to handle problems proactively. There is much to enjoy.
 Here we have the Rob Roy, a drink featured in their Scotch Whiskey section. Their cocktail menu is separated first by house cocktails and then by spirit. The spirit sections include brand name, its respective location (USA, Ireland, Indonesia, etc), and cocktails that features these particular spirits. You can substitute spirits as I did for the Last Word (swapped Spring44 Gin for Leopold Bros Navy Strength Gin) or even go off menu if you have a special hankering. Sometimes you may be guided back to their menu.
And sometimes you might be very intrigued about an interesting bottle on a bar's top shelf. For instance, here is the 1605 Chartreuse (created to commemorate the return of a mysterious manuscript concerning an elixir of long life to the Carthusian monks). It's part of Sean Kenyon's collection and is $25 for that taste. It's well worth the experience.
For contrast, you can enjoy the Green Chartreuse VEP for $15. This picture highlights both its louching and Jason's fine beard.
Olivea working her magic on a fiery apple smelling drink. She worked very well with my friend and I, nailing requests and suggestions.
Hunting for top shelf Chartreuse spirits.
They let me keep the 1605 bottle since we emptied it. I'm searching for the last few herbal drops.
The secret cubbyhole for passing notes between the house front and bar. If you can't see it now, click the picture for a larger view.

Other notes: Be wary of the toilets. Their lids have difficulty staying up, so it might be less dangerous if you sit. The bacon beignets sound like a fantasy. There is a distinct lack of bacon flavor. The paired blackberry sage reduction is fantastic, though.

Williams and Graham
 3160 Tejon Street
Denver, Colorado 80211

Friday, April 6, 2012

Insanity - expectations not met

Recent facebook discussions circling each other have made me reflect on my previous teaching relationships with fellow instructors and event organizers. A quote from "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is applicable- Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Here are my thoughts.

1. Discuss the services that will be rendered whether it's teaching, djing, performances, etc
2. Be clear about what you need even if teaching is a hobby. Think 5 years down the road. What precedent do you want to set?
3. Discuss applicable fees and if there's no profit split, have a compensation figure you're both agreed on.
4. Inquire when payment will be made and follow up at the appropriate time.
5. Be clear what you are saying "no" or "yes" too. Some organizers are way too flighty or only half pay attention.
6. Don't leave the event without getting paid. If it's cash or check, get it that weekend. If it's a money transfer, confirm it's in your bank account before you leave.
7. If you require a teaching or djing schedule by a certain time for your own sanity and preparation, ask for it.
8. Be professional and demand professionalism back.

An event organizer told me to prepare one aerials class for their event. At a dinner one week before said event, volunteers informed me that I would be teaching a completely different class than the one I was planning for. I was ill prepared and stressed. I also asked for a dj schedule which I never received, so I never dj'ed that weekend.

One dance organizer didn't pay me at the end of a dance where I played an extra two hours. People still remember that very memorable dance. The organizer said he would pay me at the next dance. I believed him. There was never a next dance and I've never been compensated.

At another event, the organizer asked if I could help with the contest that night, so I asked several questions to understand what they were asking. Eventually, this turned into them wanting me to plan the entire contest as befitting my vision. Never let the organizer dump extra work on you that you did not explicitly say "yes" to.

Another workshop organizer who was to be my teaching partner stated that I would receive 100% of workshop proceeds after expenses. This was because I would have to invest many hours training them for this highly skilled workshop. I was paid 75%, inquired about this, and she got upset. In the end, I considered my 25% a donation to her future event.

I discovered 2 months before an event I made the DJ list. This was confirmed 3 weeks before the event and I was put in touch with the DJ coordinator. Two weeks before the event, I find out their compensation figures. Two days before the event I ask if DJs get free admittance to the dance evenings they're djing. I expected the typical "yes" and received a "no". I canceled that day because djing at a loss would devalue my valuable services. The moral: don't expect "typical" dj compensation

In the end, I am partially responsible for people not meeting my expectations. I expect similar business practices to occur in the lindy hop world as in the business world. Someone recently mentioned people taking advantage of working in our cozy scene. Just because we're cozy doesn't mean we should lean toward lackadaisical business practices which can eventually lead toward ill feelings or people getting hurt. Don't live with insanity. If you're getting the same results each time, try something new.

The Local Pig Charcuterie - Kansas City, MO

Watch out for the stop signs! Are we going the right direction? How much further? I can count on one hand how many times I've been in Kansas City's East Bottoms. Maybe once to  visit a backwater blues bar. And definitely second to visit The Local Pig Charcuterie.
I discovered this place via Haus, a sausage and beer focused restaurant that will soon open in Kansas City near Martini Corner. The Local Pig will be providing them specialty sausages. Once you're able to see their menu, you will understand my excitement.

After driving past trailer parks, we finally arrived to The Local Pig. The red brick building stands out amongst the broken down and dusty road. And the mustard colored pig will surely catch your eye. That particular color reminds me of Florence.
Immediately as I walk inside, my eye is drawn to the workers chopping, sawing, and dissecting meat. I enjoy how you see everyone working on the products. It seems old school, out in the open, unshielded.
Once you're done ogling the butchering, slide over to the meat counter. They have multiple sausages, lardo cured for 30 days, flavored bacon (today: cardomom), guanciale, and much much more.
Zoom in on this picture for the full menu. It does change based on certain items availability. If you're hoping for something that might rotate, be sure to call beforehand. I find everything reasonably priced considering that it's locally produced and they demonstrate great care and enthusiasm for their products.
Here is my box of meat goodies. Notice their great logo. If you visit, check out their scratch 'n sniff stickers too. They also have a great paperless system for checking out using Square on an iPad. I'll try to have food pictures later.
A building preview of Haus.
2618 Guinotte Ave
Kansas City, MO