Ultimate Cheese Straws
I think that it should be mandatory that everyone, at some time in their lives, work in a restaurant. It really doesn’t matter in what capacity you work, be it a bus boy, bartender, bar back, or waiter. Not only is it usually downright fun working in a food and beverage environment but you see some things behind the scenes that will stay with you for life. Most importantly you will learn how to speak in public, be assertive, and the how and why of generous tipping. In addition you can also learn some of the industry’s tricks of the trade. Things like quickly dusting off food that has fallen off of a plate before happily presenting it to an innocent diner, scraping mold off of bread before serving it and the legendary desecration of a complaining diner’s food or drink. Now, I didn’t see these things happen very often but they do happen. One thing probably every former food and beverage worker might tell you is, if you are going to go square off with your server, do it after you have your order in front of you.
Bartending was my favorite job in the food and beverage world, but coming in at a close second was cocktail waitressing. During my time serving drinks I waited on Julia Child, Calvin Klein, ZZ Top lead man Billy Gibbons and silver screen legend, Gene Tierney. Even though they were the most famous customers I waited on, they were far from the most interesting. My most entertaining customers were the happy hour office groups on Friday evenings. It would start out innocently enough with five or six happy men and women out to have a good time drinking cocktails on the company. After a couple of drinks, one by one the wiser ones of the group would say their thanks and head home. Inevitably, the crowd would wind down to the boss and an employee of the opposite sex sitting too close and having one drink too many. More than once I felt like slipping the woman a note that said, “Run now. You will regret this on Monday morning.” But, being a good waitress and wanting to secure a big tip, I’d cheerfully bring another round and keep my opinions to myself. The things I’ve seen and overheard could have brought down a marriage or two. Thank goodness I was never subpoenaed.
Personally, I preferred working at boutique hotels and fine dining establishments over high volume, inexpensive places. Not only was the money great but the employees’ nationalities were so diverse that they resembled UN delegates in aprons. Their origins ranged from Mexico to Austria and South Africa to Belgium. I learned some very valuable skills from these people, everything from cursing in Spanish to recognizing a good piece of strudel when I saw one. We had a blast and, on occasion, we even got to dine on day old chilled lobster and drink slightly flat Dom Perignon. Those were the days.
All of this cocktail talk has made me hungry for some of those fantastic little nibbles that are served with them. I love dips and spreads and boiled shrimp but what I really love to pair with cocktails, especially wine, is cheese straws. I’m not talking about puff pastry sprinkled with cheese then baked. No sir, in my book that’s a cheater’s cheese straw. I’m talking about cheesy little crispy bites that are tangy and buttery and addictive. Here’s my favorite recipe. Don’t worry if you don’t have a cookie press or pastry bag. You can roll the dough into a log, chill it until it is firm, then slice it in 1/4” slices before baking up little cheese crackers on a non-stick baking sheet.