Vive La France! August 6th @ 6pm

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Bonjour friends and supporters of FSE! We are gearing up for our first ever wine dinner, “Vive La France” on August 6th 2014. Chef Mel is planning a limited seating event, serving a five course French Provencal pre fix menu that is beautifully paired with French wines. It’s a nod to his culinary upbringing. Chef Mel will present each course with descriptions of each dish as well as the techniques implemented in it’s production. Brian Keenan, of Prime Wine and Spirits, will provide descriptions and history of each wine pairing. We are excited about our first wine dinner, and plan to have more in the future. Advance ticket purchase required. Hope to see you there!

6 weeks old!

I can’t believe we are already six weeks old! Time is flying and we’ve really hit the ground running. We couldn’t be happier with our fabulous guests, many who are already “regulars”. It’s been awesome to meet so many great people in our new home. We’ve enjoyed getting to know you and hearing your feedback on Foundation.
So what’s in the works, you ask? Well, the weather has been gorgeous and what better time to start the long awaited lunch service than Mother’s Day? We’ve got a great patio and some new umbrellas to shade those subject to burn (like me). We will be launching a sandwich heavy lunch menu, for those who need to come and go quickly. You’ll also find some favorites from the dinner menu, for those who have time to linger and enjoy. The new dinner menu will launch this Sunday as well, with several updates for those who are ready to try something new.
Like I said, it’s been great to meet our neighbors, but if we haven’t yet, we hope to soon. Don’t be shy. Come in and say “hi”.

With Care, For You

Making a wine list; fun or frightful? It can be really fun, as you may imagine, to taste a plethora of new wines, but to also learn everything about them: how and where they were made, the producer, special stories about how the wine was treated up to, and after picking, that make the wine even more attractive. This is an overwhelming task due to the vast number of wines and makes. Of course, we have an idea of what we like. The challenge is not only finding a wine other people will like, but finding one that will complement our menu.

As a fan of wine (almost all kinds), this was a great treat in the process of opening up a restaurant. While most of the process has been dealing with planning, and number crunching, and contracts, and problem solving, this was finally a process that I smiled throughout (as you may imagine).
Now don’t get me wrong. This is a big undertaking, tasting all this wine. It takes commitment, and it’s not for the faint of heart. For the first time in my life, I told Mel, “I’m sick of wine”. Thankfully, this was a fleeting feeling. With hard work and serious commitment to the cause, we have selected a great list of wines. These are special. You can’t find them at the grocery store. And remember when you take a chance on trying a new wine, remember they were meticulously selected, with care, for you. ;)

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Custom Finishes

Hi and Happy holidays! It’s me, Sandy- wife of Chef Mel, and co-owner of FSE. I can’t wait to share the interior of FSE with everyone. It’s really neat because we took a shell and are giving it a personality that reflects our own, thanks to the design wonders of Ai3. It’s so unique. Recently, seeing it daily with just drywall, feels as though there’s no personal touch…but these custom finishes Ai3 planned, are bringing our vision to life. It’s going to be a very happy birthday for FSE when it’s all done.
What’s in store for our custom finishes? Let start with the cool, Baltic birch, orchid motif, cut out panels in the main dining room. This is very light colored wood that is finished and adds a soft touch to an otherwise hard material. It will wrap three of the walls in the main dining room.
Then to mimic that graphic motif, there are concrete panels that have been set with a standout mold of the orchid. These are hanging on the walls that surround our open kitchen. Strong and sturdy, but with a dainty flower motif to soften it.
We’ve had custom fabric created to make sliding panel in the dining room. These are opaque shape shifters that can change the look and layout of the room, while still allowing a peak into the action at the bar.
We’ll be having some custom art pieces made with nails to cover the walls in the private dining room. Sounds rusty? Not so. These carpentry nails were found to make the perfect one of a kind piece.
The graphic orchid motif was created by Ai3, and represents the orchid tattoo sleeve Mel has on his right arm. He had the tattoo designed to match the orchid that I carried in my wedding bouquet. We’ve been married now for nine and a half years, and have an amazing little boy, Hudson, who I’m sure you’ll meet running around the restaurant sometime. He has placed his hand print in the concrete floor for his own custom touch.
You may have seen some sneak peeks of these custom finishes on our Facebook page. But here are a few looks if you want to see them again. Let us know what you think!

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Developing the Menu

This week I’m working on the development of the menu. This is really exciting because my mind is finally where it should be; on food, as opposed to building and contractor woes.  So, I’m getting back to this thoughtful process.  What a relief. I have to say, this is one of the most challenging menus I’ve had to write, mostly because I’ve not worked in this particular neighborhood. I want my menu to be approachable, yet not compromise who and what I am, as a chef. This is truly starting from scratch!

Writing a menu entails many factors. First and foremost, the seasons serve as the driving source of inspiration. What is good right now? Winter calls for warm and rich dishes, and a sense of comfort. Secondly, I contemplate the techniques I use during the seasons. For instance, slow braised meats are great during the winter, hearty and satisfying. Finally, there’s the execution of these dishes. It’s all about execution and consistency. During any given dinner service, a cook is going to make a dish 15-20 times. It is important to ensure that it is the same quality every time. I ask myself, “How do I produce a dish over and over, efficiently, consistently, and in a timely manner so that every guest gets the same quality every time?” I plan processes for my cooks that reduce the occurrences of any mistakes in preparing the dish. I try to balance it all. The kid’s menu is still a work in progress…my idea is to offer kids something nutritious and well balanced. We will stay away from the common fried or processed food you usually see on kid’s menus. I want their dishes to stand up to the quality of food their parent is getting.

Yesterday, my wife and co owner of FSE asked, “Where’s the test kitchen?” Well, it’s still under construction. Not having a professional kitchen to work in is difficult. I can’t just do this in my home kitchen. I don’t have the tools I need to produce this quality of food.  I expect to have the week before opening to produce, taste, and finalize the recipes. As of now, it’s all in theory. But with my experience, I should be pretty close to the final product, with some minor tweaking.

We will open initially with dinner only for several weeks, until we get our feet under us. Then we will add on lunch service. The lunch menu will differ in the sense that there will be sandwich heavy offerings and lighter fare. It’s also imperative that it can be executed quickly, for those who have limited time on lunch breaks from work. When is opening day, you ask? I can’t give you a firm date yet, as our build out of the restaurant has hit some significant delays in permitting, construction, and so forth. But stay tuned to the blog and keep following us on Facebook to be in the know. We can’t wait to open our doors and see you here!

 

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New Toys! (Part 2)

Sausage stuffer:  Mwaa haa haa haa (mad scientist laugh). I’m really excited about making my own sausages again. I look forward to experimenting A LOT. I’ll do everything from duck sausage, to pork, chicken, and lamb sausages. I might do a healthy turkey sausage, and maybe even our own hot dogs and bratwurst in the autumn. In the future I can make salumi and make some different types of charcuterie with it. My head is reeling with everything I can do with this great little machine!

Sausage Stuffer

Wood burning oven:  Last, but not least! I think it’s safe to say that I’m most excited by this one. This is the most versatile, there’s soooo many things we can do with it. We’ll be making our own breads in it. I can’t wait to slow roast large cuts of meat in it, such as suckling pig, leg of lamb, or even turkeys. It’s a great tool for the rest of service. We can put our steaks inside to get a nice smokey flavor. I have some previous experience with wood burning ovens, but there is a learning curve involved in using these. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the topic lately- my favorite resource is Michael Chiarello. He does a lot of cooking outside over fire and in wood fire grills. Learning and exploring new methods and techniques is what excites me every day about cooking. I’m starting to feel like a kid in a candy store!!

Wood Burning Oven

New Toys! (Part 1)

Starting my own restaurant allows me, as a craftsman, to finally get what I want and need in a kitchen to really explore my ideas on foods and flavors. I have been able to acquire a few new toys that I’m really excited about. Want to hear about them?

Musso Pola imported Italian Ice cream maker- This will allow me to create ice creams and sorbets that reflect and resonate with my current dishes on the menu. It allows me to customize my own entrees and appetizers. For instance, in the summer, I plan to do a tomato Gazpacho with a refreshing arugula sorbet. I expect to create some interesting and pleasing flavor profiles. I’d like to try a brown butter ice cream with desserts, or my wife Sandy’s favorite- ginger ice cream. I’ve also experimented in the past with a black truffle ice cream used in a seasonal truffle menu. This is not your basic 31 flavors!

Musso Pola Imported Italian Ice Cream Maker

Smoking Gun: A fun little toy! It gives me the ability to inject a little light smoke into a dish just before it heads out to your table. The gun has a compartment to hold wood chips. You light it like a pipe and a fan pulls air through the woodchips and makes a lovely smoke come out the other end. I’ve thought about doing a sautéed scallop dish with either a mushroom or gnocchi garnish. I’d cover the dish with some saran wrap and put the end of the gun in, shooting a bit of smoke inside. It’s then brought wrapped to the guest, and when they unwrap it they get nice little whiff of smoke as well as smoke flavor imparted in the dish. It’s playful and fun. It might be good with a soup, too!

Smoking Gun

Stay tuned. Next time, I’d like to tell you all about my sausage stuffer and wood burning oven.

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What to Expect

I like to describe my food as “rustic new American”.  Our take on food involves the best ingredients available in the moment and a passion for executing classical techniques. Our menu at FSE challenges the idea that quality, well-executed food must be costly. If you’re truly developing your menu seasonally, food should be affordable because you showcase great agricultural products precisely when they are the most abundant. The best tomatoes come in late summer, and it’s also when they’re most affordable.
The menu combines French and Italian Influences with Local Southern Ingredients to create a seasonally driven, honest menu. We have already partnered with several local farmers to bring the freshest local ingredients. FSE will be a scratch kitchen. You will find house made breads, sausages, hand crafted pastas, fresh fish and meat entrees (some roasted in our wood fired oven), diverse sides, and house made desserts. And yes, the menu will be changing seasonally at the least. In addition, my wife and I have a toddler, so we realize the need for a children’s menu, and hope to please their palates as much as yours.

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Behind FSE (Foundation Social Eatery)

When I tell people the name our restaurant, Foundation Social Eatery, I often get questioned on how we arrived to the name. Well, when I think about my past experiences in learning, cooking, dining, and even personal experiences in life, I know that it is all of these things collectively, that have made me who and what I am today. These experiences are my Foundation. Just like the foundation of a building, it’s the strength of what holds it together. Opening my own restaurant is finally a culmination of all of the things I’ve learned, not only in cooking, but running a business, and leading others.   It’s what I am building my restaurant concept from, and it’s what I offer to you.

The Social Eatery part came along later in our process. We decided that we wanted a comfortable vibe, where people have conversations and enjoy each other, and savor the meal, without having their eyes glued to a big screen TV. If you’re into big screen TV’s, I’m afraid we will disappoint you in that respect. But I encourage you to talk or just listen to people, and you’ll find a greater connection among us all. Thus, Social Eatery was born.

What’s really exciting is that our design/architect group, Ai3, has taken these thoughts and used it as inspiration in the design of Foundation Social Eatery. I think Ai3 did a really great job in making multiple areas throughout the restaurant have their own feel.  So, while the design is cohesive, and ties everything together, you can come to FSE several different times and have a completely different experience. We will also feature an open kitchen where you can watch us cook in a wood fire oven. The design is unique and reflective of who and what I am. I haven’t seen anything like it. It’s really special and we can’t wait for you to see it. When you come in, ask Sandy or me about the design and we’ll tell you the story behind it.

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Foundation Social Eatery – Coming Soon!

I remember the day perfectly. It was my birthday, and I was sitting on the beach in Cinque Terra Italy, watching the sunrise. I had the epiphany that I would become a chef. I had spent many of my years in the restaurant business, from busboy to waiter. But I realized on this trip through Europe with my friends that I was enamored with food. I had been exposed to wonderful dishes that were simple, and let the ingredients speak for themselves. It was honest. And it’s what I wanted to do, too.

With that decision, I focused on gaining the best education and experience I needed to make this a reality. I graduated culinary school at the California Culinary Academy and immediately put myself in one of the best French kitchens in the country, Daniel in NYC. Since then I have cooked in Atlanta, San Diego, and even France, to gain the most influential skills that I could carry along on my path to become a true craftsman.

My name is Mel Toledo. This fall I’m opening my restaurant, Foundation Social Eatery, along with my wife Sandy. For years, I’ve been looking for that perfect restaurant that I would want to eat at: One with fresh, quality ingredients that are used thoughtfully, to execute an enjoyable and even memorable meal. I’d like to eat that meal in a stylish setting, that’s not pretentious. Where I feel comfortable in flip flops or jeans, despite the caliber of food I’m eating. And I want to feel comfortable asking questions about the food, where it came from, how it’s prepared, and what wines pair well with it. I want to feel like a guest in a friend’s home, where they’re glad to see me, and I can stay as long as I like. I never found that restaurant, so that’s what I want to create. I hope you will find that in Foundation Social Eatery(FSE).

Whether you heard about us through friends or word of mouth, or you saw our Coming Soon banner at Connexion, the future home of FSE, we hope to have piqued your interest. We plan to be open late this fall. We will be blogging here about the process and happenings as we begin this adventure to realizing our dream. We hope you visit often, to check progress, and to be in the know, so that by the time we open our doors, you’ll know us well enough to feel like you are visiting your friends.

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