Bubbles and Oysters

This event was held on Thursday, November 10, 2016,

It was a hit!

Chef’s Creek Oysters
with Beet and Tarragon Mignonette
Waris – Hubert Grand Cru Chardonnay Brut Zero


Chef’s Creek Oysters Casino
Philippe Fontaine Brut Tradition


White Stone Oysters with
a Lemon-Chili Granita, and Cucumber
Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve

White Stone Virginia Oysters
with Garlic Herb Butter
Champagne Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs le Mesnil

Our wine tastings will resume in March of 2017.  


Today marks 24 years.

Babette’s Cafe opened 24 years ago tonight.  Seems like yesterday….

Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years, some of you since the beginning.  No, we’re NOT closing.  Babette’s continues to bring me joy, pride and challenges.  But I am trying to step back a little bit and I’m finding it harder than I thought.

Justin Kurtz is our Chef
Stephen Puche is our Beverage and Floor Manager
Alex Edge is my Host, Kitchen Expediter, and Assistant Manager

My job now is to make sure the “team” has what it needs, to update computers, implement the marketing and keep up with the bills.  Yes, I still have to sort through the 20 different light bulbs we have on hand and I still book parties.  I miss the kitchen terribly, but when I spend a shift in there, in an emergency, I can hardly walk by the end of the night.  I miss hosting, but  I can’t be tied down to one spot.  I could always pull a shift at the bar, but it’s not pretty. Right now, I’m caught between working long days on a project or putting in a very short day, for which I feel terribly guilty.

So in a few years, I will be gone from the restaurant.  I’m not sure what that looks like, but will likely include a little gardening and a lot of traveling.  I dream of packing my Volvo with my dog and camping gear, inviting my husband and hooking up a Gidget trailer to head to the National Parks.  I imagine living in a tiny house in the woods without electricity, (Thoreau), but with indoor plumbing.  I hope one day to know all the names of the plants I have put in my yard, so I don’t have to leave the little tags attached to them.

But, I’m not ready yet, (daughter still in college) and so thankful that I have this second home.  Thank you for coming on this journey with me.  Happy Birthday Babette’s!


it’s all in the details….

  • When do you add the garlic to the dish?
  • How you sort the heirloom baby carrots by size so they cook evenly and can be used best on each dish?
  • Which light bulb goes over the tables (50 watt, 12 degree spot) and which shines on the artwork on the walls (35 watt, 20 degree spot)?
  • Do the plants need to be cut back, deadheaded or watered or fertilized?
  • Is the second handle for the espresso machine cleaned and left on the top of the machine to stay hot for the next order?
  • Are the filters changed in the AC units?
  • Is the online menu up to date?
  • Are the walkin coolers clean and organized?
  • Are the fish bins clean with fresh ice?
  • Are the togo container’s stocked?
  • Are the oysters getting breaded carefully?
  • Is everything clean, clean and cleaner?
  • Are all the light bulbs working?

You have 30 minutes……

Hire a Lighting Designer.

atlanta french restaurantI didn’t do this until several years after I opened the new location. Thought I couldn’t afford it. Thought the architect would take care of it.

I was $30,000.00 over budget with change orders and we were three months behind with a contractor who was not paying his subs. Maybe I couldn’t have spared the money and the time, but I should have done it as soon as possible. It was not that expensive and it made all the difference in the world.

This falls under interior designers work more than an architects I guess, but I was sorely disappointed. No money for an interior designer certainly. I recently had a customer come in who is a lighting director for the film industry. He suggested I needed some cones to further target the lighting correctly.  He said he would make a mock up for me, but that hasn’t come to pass.

So still a work in progress.

New Linens

atlanta french foodOur linen company (Company #1) was bought out recently by another company. Most linen companies work on a par level which means the restaurant sets how much of each kind of napkin, cleaning towels, tables cloths we will need each week. We use cotton napkins, bar towels, 42 inch table cloths, 52 inch table cloths, 62 in table cloths, kitchen bib aprons, and a few black polyester napkins for customers who don’t want the lint from the white napkins on their clothes.

On the par system, if our par is 2000 cotton napkins a week and we only use 1800, then the company will deliver us 1800 but charge us for 2000. If the company is nice, they will let us call a day in advance and “lower” our par to 1800, so they only charge us for 1800.  Company #1 was nice about this.

The new Company (#2) showed up for delivery the first day with the pars from Company #1. But no cotton napkins, just polyester, no 42’s, just extra 52’s. Apparently we are one of only a few restaurants in Atlanta that still uses cotton napkins. No one wants to provide them anymore because they wear out and are hard to clean. I took the order having fully expecting all these problems.

My waiters had a fit with the polyester napkins. The polyester does not work for polishing silverware and when they used them for wine service, the wine would dribble down the cloth onto the floor. I was told that the cotton napkins were on order as well as the 42 inch table cloths. Meanwhile Company #1 had raised our prices in January and I hadn’t caught it, so company #2 is charging us more, especially for those cotton napkins, which I hadn’t received.

So doing what everyone in the business does, I contacted another company. So now this is company #3. A rep came in and we discussed our pars. They don’t want to do cotton napkins either but will for a penny more a napkin. I mentioned the waiters reaction to the polyester and the rep ran out to his car and brought in a “glass cloth”. It was great, can be used for polishing silverware, wine service and have a nice blue and white stripe. I mentioned that I would love to use them as napkins and he said “no, wait”, and ran out to his car and brought in a white napkin with a blue stripe that is called a “Bistro Napkin”.

He suggested that we not use the “glass cloths” as our guest’s napkin because some restaurants use them to clean up spills, even though we’re supposed to use “bar towels” to do that, and they can’t guarantee that they will be spotless. The “Bistro Napkin” is a polyester blend, but was more absorbent than the regular polyester napkin, but not as good as the cotton. I did a water test on both. I mentioned that I loved the blue stripe, but think I have more red in the dining room and he ran out to his car again, but this time came back empty-handed. The “Bistro Napkin” comes with a red stripe, but he doesn’t have one. He’ll come back the next day with a pack of 100 red stripe napkins and we can set the dining room with them and see how it looks.

Meanwhile, I am to contact Company #2 to see how long my contract (which they bought from company #1) is in effect and what the cancellation policy is with them.

So he brings the red stripe napkin. We set the dining room. I call Chef Justin out, he likes them. My dining room manager likes them. My sous chef, saute cook like them.
My host does not. I send a photo to my daughter and she hates them. My husband likes them.  90% of the customers like them.  A few prefer the white cotton. Meanwhile my waiters are fighting over the glass towels that were left for us.

I call Company #2, tell them I want to discuss cancelling my contract.  This gets me to a district manager who tells me to give them more time, he has the red “Bistro” napkin, the glass cloths and now the 42 in tablecloths in stock. He tells me about another restaurant down the street who switched from Company #3 to them. He doesn’t know what my contract says about cancellation.  He will have to pull records from another office.

I call the restaurant down the street and speak to the manager. He tells me he had a lot of quality problems with Company #3 and they were not able to solve them, so they went to Company #2. The prices are very similar.  Five cents more for kitchen apron, 5 cents less for glass towels.

atlanta fine diningSo here I am. I am sticking with Company #2 for now.  I called and changed my pars and orders. We will see what happens.

Kitchen aprons, bar towels (for the kitchen and cleaning), red stripe Bistro Napkins, glass cloths, 42 inch table cloths, 52 inch table cloths, 62 inch table cloths, black napkins.

And I should return one bundle of the red stripe Bistro Napkin to Company #3.

Buy a Manitowoc Ice Machine….

Clean it and hug it every day.

Get in touch with their authorized service rep.  He will keep it running for years.
I bought mine in 1996. My service man keeps suggesting I may need a new one soon and then he fixes it for less than $200.00.

I really do hug it and pat its side once in a while. It’s a workhorse.

Or I have my staff hug it: Nova gave it the hug tonight.

Nova with icemachine



Spring Menus

atlanta fine diningMy favorite menu of the year is spring. Navarin of Lamb is coming back (Spring Lamb Stew with Vegetables).

But some of the other items Chef Justin and I are looking at: English Peas, Asparagus, Morels, Roasted Chicken, White Bean Soup with Pancetta, Tempura Baby Heirloom Carrots, Artichokes (best in May when the California crop comes in), Roast Pork with Dried Plums and Pearl Onions, Wild Mushroom and Mozzarella Flat Bread, Baby Spinach, Fava Beans, Baby Turnips.

We’ll see what makes the final cut.

Chef Justin Kurtz

Chef Justin doing what he does.

Chef Justin doing what he does.

I hired Justin Kurtz as our chef several months ago. I was at a crossroads with Babette’s and my own role in the restaurant.  I had turned over the kitchen a couple of times over the years to people who had been on my staff and they took the role as Chef de Cuisine or as my Sous Chef. I was out of the kitchen most of the time, but I had always been responsible for the menu.  These people had done a wonderful job for me

But this time I needed to hire a peer. In walks Justin. We hit it off immediately. He had come up through the ranks of the Ritz Carlton, had held a couple of executive chef positions. His references were perfect.  He is friendly, cheerful, smart, funny and creative and is not afraid of the hours or the demands of the restaurant.

We talk food. I tell him what works for Babette’s, what doesn’t. I glance in the kitchen on his days off, but he doesn’t want me there. Do I miss it. Very much. But I can’t do it anymore. I’ve been cooking for 35 years and he is 35 years old. You can do the math.
I don’t have the stamina or the patience. So it’s his. I try to stay out of the way.

Chef Justin and Mel

Chef Justin and Mel

I’m back out front with my service staff. I visit with our guests. I do the marketing and pay the bills. I hang Christmas Lights, fix thermostats, work on events. I feel like I’m working as much as ever, but sometimes  I sneak out early. I visit family that I haven’t seen in too long.  I’ve been able to help my mother after an injury. I got a call from the alarm company and had to go check on the place with the police halfway through this post.

Justin has brought new energy to Babette’s, not just to the menu, but to all of us.

How to Start a Busy Weekend

IMG_6460It’s going to be a busy weekend at the restaurant. We’re fully booked with people who preplan – thank you – this weekend for Valentine’s Day

A busy weekend in the restaurant will end better if I start with comfortable shoes. They might be ugly though.