|On the road with W. & the late great catering whiz Ariel Alejandro|
|Near the base of the Duquense Incline is where our railroad odyssey began|
|Philadelphia Inquirer article on our railroad exploits. Helped get the ball rolling.|
So we load on, serve the first meal, clean up, then began our first time to relax since weeks before the convention started. First we got to enjoy riding through the Midwest and checking out each successive campaign stop. Me and a few other adventuresome ones went forward to an open rail car and checked out the folks lined up along the way to greet the potential president. Eventually I got in big trouble with the Secret Service and Union Pacific security for this and our outdoor time on the moving train came to an end. Dave Kelly thought this was hysterical. I didn't.
|This is the type of car that was forward of our storage car. We liked hanging out on it|
until the Secret Service decided we shouldn't be there...
|Not our actual bar car, but it looked somewhat like this.|
Video from C-Span on the train.
Saturday arrived bringing a hectic day of two meals, brunch and lunch and a schedule that took us from Michigan through Indiana and ending in Chicago, where we would spend the night and actually go out to dinner. The days events became a blur of similar mid-western cities and towns. As it was our second day on the road we began to run low and out of certain supplies so I became the guy that would sprint off the train at every stop looking for the nearest c-store or supermarket, head back with my arms full of stuff, and make the train just in time to pull away. That night in Chicago Max & Jon decided to treat the staff at Gene and Georgetti, a classic Italian Steakhouse and a favorite of Jon's from his CBOX trading days in the late '80s. We ordered great wines, and spent way too much money, but our staff most definitely deserved it, as did we. The most amazing thing happened as our meal was ending, a group of about 8 of the media that were on our train emerged from another private dining room and as they recognized us, they stopped and spontaneously broke into applause. I can't really describe the feeling that that produced in myself and the others, and thinking about it now still gives me goosebumps and great pride.
|Great food, highly recommended.|
|Final stop. Finally.|
Max Hansen has had a wide variety of experiences during his career as a caterer and restaurant chef, but until recently, he had never chopped vegetables while traveling at 65 miles per hour.
"I was happy to survive the trip with all my digits intact. We were lucky that nobody got cut," said Hansen, chef-owner of Max & Me Catering in Holicong, Bucks County, after a whirlwind three-day assignment on the Bush-Cheney campaign train that hurtled through Midwestern battleground states on the weekend following the Republican Convention. "The cars, when moving at high rates of speed, would shift totally unexpectedly," Hansen, 40, recalled in a telephone interview. "Pots of water on the stove could only be filled two-thirds full for fear of being scalded at any time. The work got easier as we adapted to the movement, but the crew was beat from working 20-plus-hour days [at the convention] the previous week."
The kitchen space looked workable. Tiny but extremely efficient, it boasted a six-burner electric oven with an overhead broiler, an under-counter steamer-cooker, a dishwasher, two sinks, a large reach-in cooler and freezer, and an adjacent pantry with storage space, counter space and additional refrigeration. In addition to Hansen, the Max & Me crew included five other chefs, a pastry chef, two managers, a bartender, and three service captains.
Other staffers, who had stayed behind in Philadelphia to finish up the convention work, met the train the next day in Pittsburgh. They brought pastries, more linens, and the company's best serving bowls and platters, which had still been in use until the very last convention function. Spivak had his beverage order in tow: 15 cases of beer, 21 cases of still and sparkling bottled water, 22 cases of sodas, eight cases of juices, plus California wines and high-end liquor. Exhaustive security checks prevented the group from boarding until just two hours before they were scheduled to begin serving. Working with a budget of $40 per head per meal, Max & Me provided substantial afternoon buffets of "heavy hors d'oeuvres" on Friday and Sunday, plus brunch and lunch on Saturday.
The company did not have to provide dinner, because the candidates and press left the train each evening and flew ahead to the next day's first stop, while the train rolled along and caught up with them. There wasn't much time to relax: the prep work was done for the next day's meals during these hours.
Having met the candidate and heard his message, is Hansen ready to cast a Bush vote?
"I can't. I've been a Democrat all my life," he said.
Spivak, also a Democrat, may have been persuaded.
"I've never voted Republican in my life before, but I think I might this time," he said. "We've been promised some inaugural parties. It's a true case of voting your pocketbook, if there ever was one."
FOR A WHISTLE-STOP TOUR
Friday and Sunday
Puff Pastry Crisps with Smoked Salmon, Chive Cream and Sevruga Caviar
Smoked Salmon Canapes on Black Bread with Fresh Dill
Herb-Roasted Lollipop Lamb Chops with Sweet Garlic White Bean Sauce
Seared Lamb Loin on Croutons with Spicy Tomato Jam and Fried Shallots
Mini Maine Lobster Rolls on Toasted New England-style Hot Dog Rolls
Jumbo Lump Maryland Crabcakes with Creole Mustard Tartar Sauce
Grilled Tuna Squares with Tapenade
Pepper-Seared Filet Mignon on Croutons with Arugula and Parmesan
Mini Corn and Poblano Pepper Muffins with Shredded Barbecued Pork
Wild Mushroom Tartlets with Creme Fraiche and Fresh Chervil
Seared Foie Gras on Croustades with Kippered Cranberries
Herbed Buttermilk Biscuits with Dijon Chicken Salad
Mini Corned Beef Reuben Sandwiches
Chilled Jumbo Shrimp with Spicy Cocktail Sauce
Seared Jumbo Shrimp Skewers with Mustard Sauce
Smoked Fish Platter (including Smoked Salmon, Sturgeon and Whitefish, Bagels, Black Bread, Cream Cheese, Jersey Tomatoes, Onions and Capers)
Petit Seared Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Sauce
Martin's Breakfast Sausage, Kuntsler Bacon and Kuntsler Turkey and Apple Sausage
Granola with Yogurt, Honey and Fresh Berries
Roasted Crispy Hash Browns with Poblano Peppers and Caramelized Onions
Gratin of Yukon Gold potatoes with Leeks and Boursin
Fresh Fruits and Berries
Scones, Fruit Muffins, Cinnamon Buns, Mini Danish
Italian Antipasto Display
New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp with Black Pepper, Herbs and Sweet Butter
Grilled Sushi-Grade Tuna Steaks with Mango-Pineapple Salsa
Grilled N.Y. Strip Steaks with Ancho Chile-Porcini Mushroom Sauce
Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Artichoke Heart-Creole Mustard Cream Sauce
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Caramelized Pearl Onions and Shiitakes
Wild Rice Pilaf with Sundried Cranberries and Toasted Pecans
Grilled Asparagus, Portobello Mushrooms, Peppers and Onions
Jersey Tomatoes with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Oil
Sauteed Haricots Verts with Toasted Sesame Seeds
California Baby Greens with Mustard Vinaigrette
Quite a nice story, huh? I've got a hunch that the stories that will come out of the DNC in Philly next year will be at least as good as this one. I can't wait. Stay tuned.