Even the New York Times is jumping on the schnitzel wagon. Take a look at this recent article by Mark Bittman entitled, “Taking a Pounding" posted on October 20, 2011. He gives you 10 ways to make paillards, which is a french word meaning thinly pounded meat…sounds like schnitzel to me! He advocates paillards becuase since the meat is pounded thin, you can cook it faster and there’s more surface area for crunchy goodness.
However, what was most interesting is when Bittman pointed out that certain cuts of meat are best suited for a paillard because they are extra juicy and tender. And I quote, “Those ‘right cuts’ include bonless chicken thighs (not breasts)…” For those who don’t already know, that’s exactly what we use at Schnitz and its one of the secrets to our deliciousness…shhhh.
Enjoy the article and let us know if you have any paillard (also referred to as a scallop or cutlet) secrets of your own.
Wonderful Week 6 @ The Grub Street Food Festival
This past Sunday we vended at the Grub Street Food Festival in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The conditions could not have been more ideal for a mid-October weekend; it was 60 degrees, sunny and thankfully there was no wind. Hoards of foodies ventured downtown to try the delicacies of 70 vendors scattered across the tennis courts while enjoying beats from local DJ’s.
This was by far the busiest day of our Fall vending tour. At one point we had a line consisting of over 20 people. From our perspectives behind the counter, looking up at the line sends a rush of excitement but it rattles the nerves at the same time. We had to contend with a lot of new factors this week. More details below but first let’s start with some photos.
Also, here is a slideshow that Grub Street posted. The Bamberg schnitz is photo #2.
At a festival like Grub Street where you can expect a high volume of attendees, you can also be sure to have serious competition. We were surrounded by all sorts of competing products from Mexican to Jamaican to Korean to Mediterranean and even simple Mac’n’cheese. We observed that the more successful vendors were those who not only serve delicious food (given) but also have had experience in mobile vending. Without a doubt, the 5 weeks leading up to this event paid off big time. First, some of the positives:
- This past week we divided the preparation over 3 days to lighten the load. Day 1 we handled the cabbage and jicama garnish as well as the beets tzatziki sauce. Day 2 we took care of the cucumber daikon garnish and carmelized onion mustard sauce. Day 3 we prepared the breadcrumbs and pounded the chicken. Breaking everything down into shorter tasks really helped to ease the stress and we’ll continue to do so.
- We improved our signage which reduced the number of questions from customers and improved the speed at which we could take orders. First, we had a new sign that defined the word “schnitzel”. This was much needed. We saw a drastic reduction in people asking ‘what is schnitzel?’ because they were simply reading the sign. Second, we organized our menu more clearly and also placed it on an easel at eye level. Small changes that produced very positive results.
- We adorned our customer facing table with a new blue checkered table cloth in addition to our usual yellow cloth. It was much more appealing. We also had a nice straw basket with our pretzel bread and lemons on display.
- We were able to load and unload much faster this week with the use of our new dolly.
- We were rocking new Schnitz hats (on sale soon!) which made us look like a team. Take a second look at those picsJ
In general, aesthetic improvements made a big difference this week. The successful vendors were those that had great signage and booth setups. Some notable ones wereBon Chovie (an experienced Smorgasburg vendor) as well as Miss Lily’s, a Jamaican restaurant on Houston and Sullivan that we highly recommend. Miss Lily’s had a huge Jamaican flag and super cool people taking your order. I don’t think they usually setup stands at markets so their preparedness was impressive. It took us weeks to get to where we are and it’s still not perfect. In contrast, some vendors had absolutely delicious food but a smaller turnout because of their setup. Our friends at Dos Toros (check out their hilarious new “Guac it Out” video) who typically have ridiculously long lines at their store fronts in Union Square and the West Village (I’m talking around the block!) said they were not as busy because they didn’t have a tent or good signage. We noticed this with others as well. It just goes to show how important the branding and look of your establishment is, whether it’s an outdoor booth or physical store.
Now, although we had a great day, success brings new challenges. I mentioned earlier that the line of schnitzel hungry patrons is exciting to see but also nerve-racking. Why? Well we’ve never handled demand like we experienced on Sunday and thus new glitches started to arise.
· Fryer. She’s never been tested like she was this past weekend. The flame that heats the oil at the top of the fryer started to come out of the bottom of a blackened pipe. I gotta say, we were pretty nervous for a while. Thankfully she survived and successfully cooked over 120 pounds of chicken. We certainly need to purchase a new and more powerful fryer, but I think we’re going to try and last 4 more weeks at Smorgasburg where the demand will not be so high. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
· Beverage dispenser. The limonana container started to leak this week. This typically happens with poorly-made dispensers. As they say, you get what you pay for. It didn’t prevent us from serving; it was more of an annoyance. We’re looking to purchase a new one this week. What do you think of this one??
In general, our appliances go through a lot of wear and tear every week during transport so we recommend durable products for the long-run. It pays off.
· Customer service. The great joys of the food business are seeing people smile when you serve them and receiving a compliment from a satisfied customer. Nothing feels better, promise. What you don’t think about before opening a restaurant are all the people who won’t be satisfied. Yes, they exist. I know, you’re probably thinking, “how can they not love it?!” but it’s inevitable. People are very critical, especially in the food world. So this past weekend we came face to face with some unhappy customers. Fortunately, it was not due to our product or its taste; it had more to do with service. I think we can all agree that we have much to improve. We simply had never experienced such an appetitie for Schnitz. It’s a lot of pressure to prepare hundreds of sandwiches in a limited time and space all the while maintaining a high level of consistency.
In one instance, we had a customer that ordered one Bamberg and one Sweet Onion sandwich. In an attempt to serve food as fast as possible so the customer could begin eating, we served the sweet onion first and 5 minutes later the Bamberg. Well that attempt failed after hearing, “you know I now have one cold sandwich and one hot sandwich!” It felt like being punched in the gut. Lesson learned: serve all the items in a ticket together! People want to eat their food together; hot and fresh.
The other challenge we had was determining the exact number of sandwiches we would have left. We had to stop taking orders at the end to be sure we could fill the pending tickets (money we had already collected). At the end we had a customer that was upset because we sold out and he waited for 10 minutes without knowing we were done. We apologize and hope he will come to Smorgasburg to give Schnitz another shot.
For the future we need to communicate better, especially with regards to waiting times. We now know that with about 10 pending orders, the wait will be 11-13 minutes from the time the order is placed.
· Personnel. Another issue on busy days like Sunday is personnel. Our usual crew of 4 (one taking orders, one breading, one frying and one assembling sandwiches) will not suffice. We need an extra person helping to assemble sandwiches and expedite orders out the door. In addition, the one who is breading the chicken needs to periodically cut more bread and clean the stations. Thanks to Matt, Sheffie, Sam and Gila for stepping up and helping us push through over 200 orders. Great job.
For next weekend, we’re going to have some of the following new materials:
- Plastic bags for take-out orders
- A new beverage dispenser
- Spring clips to hang our chalkboards on the ez-up tent for better visibility.
- A new garbage can for the breading station so that personnel in the back don’t need to come to the front to dispose of materials
Until next time…!
Below are some additional blog posts/press coverage from the Grub Street Food Festival for everyone’s reference:
- Grub Street: http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2011/10/grub-street-food-fest-slideshow.html
- MetroMix: http://newyork.metromix.com/restaurants/standard_photo_gallery/grub-street-food-festival/2879003/photo/all
- The Villager: http://www.villagernyc.com/2011/10/a-look-at-the-grub-street-food-festival
- The Low Down: http://www.thelodownny.com/leslog/2011/10/happening-now-the-grub-street-festival-at-hester-street.html
- Midtown Lunch: http://midtownlunch.com/2011/10/24/3-grub-street-food-festival-eats-that-we-need-in-midtown/
- Restaurant Fairy: http://therestaurantfairy.com/2011/10/24/the-grub-street-food-festival-at-hester-street-fair-new-york-city/
- Local Bozo: http://www.localbozo.com/2011/10/grub-street-food-festival-at-the-hester-street-fair/
- Culinary Lens: http://www.theculinarylens.com/2011/10/grub-street-festival-nyc-just-too-many.html
- Foodie Monster: http://thefoodiemonster.blogspot.com/2011/10/delicious-eats-at-grub-street-festival.html
Tomorrow is the big day. Join Schnitz at the one and only Grub Street Food Festival sponsored by the one and only New York Magazine. The festival is located on the corner ofHester and Essex streets. We’ve got over 200 schnitzels marinated and ready to go. The weather is slated to be a sunny, quintissential fall day. Here is a link to a complete list of the 70 confirmed vendors and a chart that shows the layout of all the stands.
We hope to see some of you out there. We’ll be schnitzin’ all day!
P.S. There will be a beer garden and music at the festival. Schnitz happens to go really well with beer and music :)
Week 5 of mobile Schnitz is in the books. Sorry for the delay on this recap. We’ve been busy lining up our ducks for The Grub Street Food Festival this coming Sunday!Check out the fresh cucumber daikon pickle below.
So at the markets we’ve dealt with heat, rain and this past week we were introduced to wind. Before we could complete our morning setup, our tent tried blowing away numerous times. We were able to lock it down with cinder blocks thanks to our friendly vendor neighbors but the Smorgasburg management required us to remove the tarps on top of the tents right before 11AM so to prevent them from flying away. Throughout the course of the day, we dealt with strong gusts of wind and each time yelling “HOLD!” to keep things in place. I honestly think we faired pretty well considering the conditions. Our friends at @bitesizekitchen were not always as lucky ;).
Overall, it was a much smoother process this past week. It really does get better every time. Below are a list of additional supplies and materials we are acquiring to improve the operation and presentation of our booth:
- New outdoor table cloth
- New signage
- A shnazzy folding dolly for transporting coolers back and forth. Highly recommended!
- Large cambros that can fit 200 portions of pickled garnishes each
Last week we discussed how important it was to pre-portion our limonana drink. Well, we started working on a system to simplify serving it, to improve the speed of our refills and to keep the drink tasting consistent. Into our drink dispenser we are now mixing fresh squeezed lemon juice, water and mint. On the side, we have a squeeze bottle of a simple syrup that we’ve concocted with sugar and water. When the order comes in: load a cup with ice and fresh mint leaves, squeeze just the right amount of syrup and top it off with the lemon juice. A really refreshing drink. It complements the schnitzel well.
See you all on SUNDAY this week!
Every week brings new surprises and this past week was no different. We picked up the U-Haul at 7AM and went over to our storage space on St. Marks Place to grab all the materials. We were just about finished loading the van when Matt (who’s been operating our deep fry for most weeks) appears. “What are you doing here so early??!” “I got some bad news guys. Someone called in sick at Mark and I need to work the morning shift.” Wow! We were already shortstaffed because Donna is on vacation. This was going to be interesting. We continued on our way to Brooklyn and called in the reserves. Thanks, once again, to Angelina Lopez for filling in at the front while Yoni and I worked the back. It would have been virtually impossible without you. The 3-person operation actually worked out quite well.
This was a great lesson learned for us though. We had never experienced any issues with employees up to this point but as you might expect, there’s a lot of turnover in the restaurant business so its a common problem. We’re only operating once a week; imagine the potential issues when you’re open 7 days a week! Thankfully the Schnitz concept does not require much training which is a huge plus so Angelina was handling our point of sale system and describing schnitz sandwiches in no time.
It was an unseasonably warm day in Williamsburg and the market was bustling with people. We sold out by 3pm with about 88 sandwiches. It’s been tough to estimate the correct amount of food to prepare. On one hand we don’t want to bring too much because we don’t want to waste food but at the same time we don’t want to bring too little and miss out on eager customers.
The new deep fry worked like a charm this past week. We never had to worry about it for even a second. It was marvelous. It’s got 90,000 BTU’s and had no problem keeping the temperature consistently hot. We’ll just bring some plyers next week to help attach the gas line more easily.
We also tested out a new item this past week, tea with nana (fresh mint), which replaced our cold beverage, limonana. Unfortunately, the sales did not work out too well. First, it was not as cold as we had expected. Second, we did not have a long enough extension cord to keep the percolator hot. Third, still trying to decide if tea goes well with schnitzel :) We’ll give it one more shot this coming weekend but we’ll have an extension cord this time.
This week we’re planning to finish with a bang. We’ll have close to 200 portions ready to go as we expect a beautiful day and nice turnout for the last Smorgasburg of the Fall! See you there.
About a month ago we reported about a restaurant opening in tribeca called The Elevens. They are seeking to raise $500 from 2000 people to become ‘seatholders’. Seatholders are not legal owners of the business but will receive preferred reservations, 25% off the bill each time they dine and a say in some of the operational matters. It’s one of the first truly crowd-funded restaurants in New York and they are doing it completely organically via theirwebsite.
I just wanted to give a quick update because not only have they already received commitments from 134 seatholders but they were recently featured in an article in the Dining section of the New York Times as “the most ambitious” crowdfunding plan. The founders of The Elevens are trying to build a tight-knit community around the restaurant. As opposed to previously crowdfunded projects (e.g. via Kickstarter) where the contributors do not know each other, seatholders at The Elevens will have a physical place to convene and socialize. We highly recommend checking out their progress.
Schnitz is proud to announce that we’ve been invited to vend at the Grub Street Food Festivalon Sunday, October 23, 2011. The festival is held at the same location as the Hester Street Market except there will be triple the vendors taking over the tennis courts next door. Last year saw an attendance of over 15,000 people!
Bark Hot Dogs
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
Char No. 4
Fresh Ginger, Ginger Ale & Bao by Bruce Cost
Georgia’s Eastside BBQ
Kelvin Natural Slush Co.
La Sonrisa Empanadas
Mama O’s Premium Kimchee
Mimi & Coco
My Hero Cuisine
P&H Soda Co.
Pies ‘N Thighs
The Brindle Room
The Chibi Chef
The Shaved Ice Shop
White Belly Pizza
Wonder City Coffee and Donut Bar
We are really proud to be a part of this New York City affair. It’s going to be MASSIVE and we hope that you can make it out. Stay tuned for a Schnitz surprise!
The Schnitz team is back at it again tomorrow at the Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We’ll be there from 10am to 5pm. We’ve just completed our prep work for the night with super fresh ingredients and we’ll be ready to serve you all day tomorrow!
Let’s Schnitz it up!
Recap: Round 4 at the Brooklyn Flea
This past weekend we switched our day of service from Saturday at the Smorgasburg to Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea due to the Yom Kippur holiday. While the Smorgasburg is a market exclusively for food vendors, the Brooklyn flea attracts all sorts of artsy stands for paintings, jewelry and furniture as well as delicious food. In fact, many of the usual Smorgasburg food fixtures like Cemitas, Bonchovie and Solber Pupusas were vending at the Brooklyn Flea. These vendors typically participate in both markets.
Unlike last weekend, the weather was dynamite. It was unseasonably warm at 85 degrees and bright blue skies. We basically got to experience the weather and volume for a typicalsummer day at the markets, except it was October. The flea was jam packed with people; it was almost overwhelming. The great part about that is we completely sold out of everything we brought to the market! And by everything I mean all our chicken schnitzel AND every single one of our beverages including four big batches of limonana. At about 3 o’clock we had a lineup for limonana 15-20 people deep. You may have thought we were a lemonade stand! We had to make several trips out to local convenience stores for more water, ice, mint and lemon juice (thanks so much to those who helped).
I’d like to identify some of the challenges of this past week and areas for improvement:
1. Signage. One of Schnitz’s biggest challenges is communicating what we sell! It sounds simple but its not easy. As of today, a potential customer walks by our booth and sees the sign “Schnitz” with a lemon wedge. They have absolutely no idea what we offer. Its not like walking by a mexican food stand which requires minimal explanation and is a common cuisine in New York that many love. Most people do not know what is schnitzel. For next week we plan to have 3 signs positioned at eye level for the customer as opposed to our chalkboard this past week which was on the floor leaning against our table. One sign will have a tag line, “Chicken with a twist”. The second sign will have a definition of schnitzel. The third sign will be our menu but we’re going to improve the descriptions. This should help to draw people closer.
2. Limonana. Due to the the ”inclement” weather this week. We realize how important it is for us to be prepared with our limonana drink. We need to start pre-portioning servings of water, lemon juice, mint and sugar so that we can make the drink quickly and, most important, keep the taste consistent. This past week we improved the drink by adding mint leaves into the glass prior to dispensing the liquid so to improve the presentation.
3. Samples. Serving samples is a great way to draw people closer to your stand. We’re a big fan of this at Schnitz especially because people need to learn about schnitzel and there’s no better way than tasting it. However, we are very attentive to cleanliness and health so its important to have toothpicks for each piece of schnitzel that we offer as a sample. It sends a positive message to the customer and keeps them safe.
4. Clean-up. One of our biggest challenges is having a smooth and efficient cleanup at the end of service. This is really important to us at Schnitz because we go through a long 36-hour stretch after a week of work (yes, we have day jobs) that runs from prepping the night before service and then waking up extremely early on the day of service. The day itself involves lots of heavy lifting and at times high levels of stress (especially because we’re still new to this). Last thing you want is a time consuming clean-up. This past week we invested in an XL Igloo cooler that not only houses all of our chicken but is then extremely useful for transporting dirty dishes back home. Next week we need to improve on our disposal of oil. We’re going to purchase a spout that extends out of the drain of the deep fry to easily funnel the dirty oil into a container of our choosing. Also, instead of moving the oil into a pot while its 350 degrees and then transfering into a larger container as we do today, we’re going to let it cool to about 200 degrees and put it right back into the jugs in which it was purchased for easy disposal. Thanks to Danny Lyu @cemitas for that tip.
5. Bread. We’ve been getting amazing compliments on our pretzel bread. It’s absolutely delicious and its a big eye-catcher. Next week we’ll be selling it for 2 dollars a roll with a sauce of your choosing! Come try it out.
This past weekend was a big step forward for us. One thing is for sure: it gets better every time. Stay tuned for some big announcements in the next few days. I’ll leave you with some fun photos from service this past week.
P.S. I forgot to mention we got all the way out to Williamsburg on Sunday and setup our stand only to realize we were missing our bread crumbs! Haha. That resulted in a 45 minute detour. Fortunately, no harm done :)