Friday, September 20, 2013

Quick Pickled Golden Raisins // And the Reviews Roll In (Week 5)

Deep down, I think we all still harbor some version of our 6-year old self. I am reminded of this fact almost daily. Nearly all of the things I am passionate about today as a proper, seasoned adult trace back, in some way, to my elementary school days. My love of writing? That was evident by the time I could hold a pencil. My love for cooking and, more specifically, baking? We have entire photo albums dedicated to mine and my mother's holiday kitchen extravagances from back when I was still small enough that I had to stand on a stool to reach our countertop. And yet, I always tend to find it just a little bit surprising when I discover my thirty-one year old self facing the same sort of self-doubt and insecurities that I faced when I was a kid.

Thanks to the help of the web, our shop has been receiving reviews (both from customers and editors) since we were approximately one hour old (no joke). This is a really wonderful and yet really terrifying aspect to owning a business these days. Pretty much every person who walks through our door has the potential to be one of our online critics by way of a few simple clicks. In some ways, it's a pretty amazing form of free publicity (during our first week alone, I observed two diners typing up online reviews on their iPads while they ate). However, if viewed from another vantage point, it is completely nerve-racking. No longer is every customer simply a customer; he is also a potential critic, someone who holds the power to help guide new customers toward our door, or, if he should so chose, to help lead diners away. 

And so, periodically, when I look out at our crowded dining room and observe the solo diners who take a bite of our food and then frantically peck mystery messages on their cell phone screens, I find myself temporarily paralyzed by my own childish fears: Do they like us? Or do they think we're, like, the dumbest business owners they've ever seen?

For the first two weeks of operation, we were blessed (oh, so very blessed) to receive strictly positive reviews online. (You like us! You really like us!) However, sometime during week three, our first less-than-glowing review rolled in. 

I'm a logical enough woman to know that this is bound to happen to every business. No matter how hard you work to keep things perfect, someone out there is going to think that what you're doing stinks. Or that your carefully selected decor is ugly. Or that one of your sauces has just a bit too much of a kick. I'm also logical enough to know that, in many ways, these reviews -- the negative ones -- are the best ones. After all, no one in any field has ever been successful -- truly successful -- because they spent their entire career being patted on their back. In other words, I'm smart enough to know that the negative reviews are the ones that help you grow. 

And yet still, when I saw it, I totally admit that I felt like I got punched in my gut (and it wasn't even really that bad...just something about wishing our rolls were a slightly different size). Without even thinking twice about it, I opened the fridge, slammed down a bottle of Magic Hat, and then, like a child, went upstairs to my room to cry. Kind of lame, right?

I guess that is the other of my childhood tendencies that I'm reminded of a lot recently: my own insecurities (i.e.: do people like us? did they have fun hanging out with us? do you think they'll want to come back to our shop to play with us again?). 

Admittedly, an anxious feeling remained in my belly for several days following that first less than stellar write-up. If you saw me, you would have thought that the entire city of Manhattan had lined up outside of our shop, simultaneously gave us a giant thumbs down, and shouted a singular "boooooo" in our general direction. It wasn't until about a full week later, when we received a call from a really wonderful (soon to be disclosed) magazine informing us that we'd be featured in an upcoming issue profiling the best food and drink options in the city, that I began to feel a little bit more like my adult self again. However, to my six-year old self, that phone call was like the equivalent of having a much older, much hipper high school student tell me that I was both pretty and impossibly cool in the same breath. 

When I was, in fact, six-years old (and seven, and twelve, and seventeen), whenever I'd storm through our front door following a bad day, my mother used food and good conversation as the cure to help melt all my troubles away. Sometimes, this came in the form of a casserole overflowing with bubbling macaroni and cheese. Other times, it was an extra large bowl of whatever ice cream she had on hand. But every once in a while, she chose to keep things schoolhouse classic: a good old fashioned plate of ants on a log. 

I like to think of these spicy Quick Pickled Raisins as a sort of tribute to those childhood moments, as well as a strange homage to the girl I've since grown to become: one who can handle just a little bit more kick than she used to be able to handle, but one who, deep down, is still the same kid who likes to cry and find comfort while she indulges in too many bites of something sweet. Visually speaking, this recipe is like autumn in a mason jar: the golden raisins, which plump up until they are nearly translucent with sweetness, float in a brine flecked with red, orange and amber pepper flakes. From start to finish, the whole process will take you all of ten minutes to make, though it will leave you with a decidedly special kitchen staple that can be tossed into a salad, spread across a cut of meat, mixed into a lentil or quinoa dish or, on the really rough days, eaten straight from the jar. But don't worry: they'll be no judgement coming from this end. 

Quick Pickled Golden Raisins
from Eat Your Vegetables

- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Place the raisins in a glass jar. In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the vinegar, sugar, and crushed red pepper. Cook over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the raisins, covering them entirely. Leaving the jar uncovered, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Cover with a tight fitting lid. When kept refrigerated, the pickled raisins will keep well for about 1 month. 


  1. Hello! I'm Daniel, from Brasil, and I really liked your blog.
    You could make a facebook page to stay aware of your updates.

  2. What a wonderful idea, thank you so much and huge good luck on your venture! I wish you were here (Scotland)

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words! And thanks for dropping by! :)