Twenty-five years ago, 25 years seemed like a long time. Now … not so much. Isn’t it interesting how our perception of time changes with time? The quarter-century in the rearview mirror is on our minds because June 5th will mark 25 years since we opened Lucky 32. I ramble on (and on) about that in an insert to this letter. We’re also excited about some pretty neat things that we have planned for this summer, including: hosting two impressive “foodie weekends” at O.Henry, and building an extraordinary arbor in the GVG Courtyard.
We are honored that you choose to receive these letters. If you don’t want to continue to get them, please just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you wish to receive these electronically and potentially opt for more frequent communiqués that talk about special happenings, please sign up for email updates on our websites or follow us on Facebook. As usual, many contribute to these letters, but they are primarily written in first person by me, Dennis.
(Also see Dennis’ Rambling: “Lucky 32 — and QW — 25 Years On”)
Cheers! Dennis Quaintance & Nancy King Quaintance
(Some have suggested “CBSO”!)
Come June 5th, Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen will be 25 years old. This is a humbling milestone for us.
They say (I always wonder who those “theys” are) that most restaurants close during their first year, while 70 percent of those that make it past the first year close within the next three to five years. So, by a dog years sort of calculation, that makes Lucky’s as old as Methuselah.
I’m somewhat startled that we’re still standing. I was (and am) worried that running a restaurant is sort of like throwing a party, and folk either don’t show up for it or don’t stay. Thank goodness enough came and stayed! Just because we’ve been around this long doesn’t mean that we think we have some sort of special standing. We think we need to earn each guests next visit each time we serve them. I’m delighted that the fine, competent and friendly people with whom I get to work have cooked food and provided service that met enough expectations to allow us to reach this milestone.
My feelings about, and enthusiasm for, the vision and intentions that are the foundational cornerstones of Lucky’s, and QW as a whole, are as real and as intense as they were a quarter-century ago when we first envisioned them. With this rambling, I’ll focus on stories about the times before and after the opening. Then in our fall letter, I’ll ramble on about the cornerstones that QW is grounded upon and talk about how it’s going with our 25-year experiment attempting to stay true to those ideals. (FYI: Many of these stories are about Nancy and me. We worry that they might come across as self-centered. The reason we’re writing about these topics is because so many have asked about them. We hope you’ll find them interesting and enjoy reminiscing with us.)
Let me tell you a few of my favorite memories:
- At age 15, I got my start in the hotel/restaurant business in the housekeeping department at the Edgewater hotel and restaurant in Missoula, Montana. Just two years later my wonderful bride, Nancy, got her start during school breaks working at the restaurants at Disney World. She too was 15. (For 80 years combined, we’ve “played restaurant/hotel”!)
- A couple of years into my job at the Edgewater, a bigger-than-life fellow from Winston-Salem, Bill Sherrill, showed up as the general manager. By then I’d worked in most of the jobs in the hotel, and I had some leadership responsibilities at the front desk, so Bill asked me to spend the better part of a day showing him around. We became fast friends. Most of you know of Bill because in 1978 he opened Franklin’s Off Friendly near Guilford College (Bill now owns Red Oak Brewery). I followed him somewhere I never thought I’d live, east of the Mississippi, to open Franklin’s. I am glad I did, and I can’t thank Bill enough for everything he taught me, for the opportunities he offered me and for the friendship we still enjoy.
- I met Nancy in December of 1980, when she took a job at Franklin’s over her long winter break from Cornell, where she was in the hotel program. I was (and am) so impressed by her! I could never imagine that someone as competent and worldly as she would be interested in this hick kid, but we hit it off. We got married April 30th, 1983.
- A year after our wedding, Nancy and I took off for a three-week trip to Europe to have fun and to decide which direction to take with our careers. We were considering what kind of experiences we wanted to create in our work lives. We decided that we’d playfully narrow down our hundreds of ideas to the three that seemed like the most fun. Then we carefully imagined what each might be like and considered the “plusses and minuses” of each. It turned out that we found them equal to one another, so much so that we were comfortable literally just drawing straws to decide. (That is a true choice, isn’t it … choosing between things on equal footing?Choosing between good and bad isn’t really a choice: We’d always choose good!) The first of the final three was “Barefoot and Pregnant in New Mexico.” We’d settle out West, buy some land and live “off the grid.” Nancy would teach, and I would do what I learned prior to starting in hotels: excavation work and odd jobs. On the side, we’d find derelict antique airplanes and restore them. With all that, plus kids underfoot, we’d live the peaceful hippy sort of dream. The second option was called “Europe.” Nancy was eligible for a transfer to London or Amsterdam, so she’d take the transfer, and I’d tag along. It was more of a three-year holding pattern than a real career plan. The third idea was “Mr. and Mrs. Hotel–Restaurant, Greensboro.” Guess which one we chose?
- With this plan nailed down, we moved back to Greensboro from Charlotte. Nancy worked with the Marriott during its opening, then later with the Guest Quarters in Guilford College. I oversaw five restaurants with the Battleground Restaurant group. Neither of us was heart-set on “owning” a business; we just wanted to be in this industry and have fun working with others to make things happen. Our idea was that we’d commit to three-year job cycles, then reevaluate to see if we were “living our dream.” In 1988 I left Battleground, and as you know from the opening of this rambling, we opened Lucky 32 on Westover Terrace on June 5th, 1989.
- Finding the location for Lucky’s was quite an adventure. At that time, our section of Westover Terrace was a warehousing, light industrial area. So most, including us for a good while, didn’t see it as a good location for a restaurant. But the more we studied it, the more we became convinced that it would work. Man, a lot of retail has followed! And we later lucked out with a fantastic location in Cary, opening there in 2002.
- We are so fortunate to get to be partners with Mike Weaver. What a great person! I’d known Mike from Franklin’s. When Nancy and I decided we wanted to start a business, we thought of Mike first. We wanted someone to act as a sort of mentor, and we needed investment. Mike and I had lunch one day, shook hands on being partners the next and signed a two-page “partner” letter the next week.
- Obviously, we didn’t want to let people down, so we tested everything. Nancy and I modified most of the first floor of our condo for testing things. We had light tracks dangling from the ceiling to test fixtures and light bulbs. We had the various restaurant names we were considering tacked up on the wall, and we’d ask folk to look at them. We really didn’t pay much attention to what they said about them; instead, we watched their faces and noticed how they reacted. We picked the one that caused the most people to smile. We did the same with the graphics, menu covers (we still use exactly the same tri-fold covers), silverware, plates, glasses … you name it. It really is amazing how many things are the same all of these years later. That is because we had amazing people help us. As helpful as all this was, it was less important than the food, so we also did all sorts of recipe testing.
- Why the name? My father, Laythol (L.W. or Shorty), raced a ‘46 Mercury with a flathead V8 on half-mile dirt tracks around northern Iowa and southern Minnesota. His number was 32. Over the years, and still today, when something good happens, I mutter, “Lucky 32.” Plus — I was thirty two 25 years ago. (No need to do that math.)
- I got to design the kitchen and restaurant’s layout with my dear friend, Bill Carlisle. (Don Rives and others helped with the décor and architecture.) Bill was amazing. He would freehand draw different parts of the restaurant in just minutes. He had the whole thing in his head in such detail that one day when we were under construction he walked in and greeted Carl Rintelmann and me near the front door (Carl was project supervisor and now works with us part time). Bill looked toward the kitchen and said, “Why is that opening higher than I drew it?” (The kitchen opening was 40 feet away and 20 feet wide.) Carl looked at the floor, then up and said, “Mr. Carlisle, it is higher by 1½ inch. How did you know?” Bill said, “I noticed it when I walked in.” That seems like a lie, but it isn’t: Bill was a spatial genius. He was also one of the most caring and emotionally available people that I’ve ever been lucky enough to call my friend. He died some years ago. I could write a book about Bill, but testimony of my feelings about him is that Carlisle is our son’s middle name … and that I’m crying as I write this (sweet tears formed by joyful memories).
- Right from the get-go, part of the menu changed every four to six weeks. In the beginning, each menu featured a different cuisine. We were concerned that if we started right off with a cuisine like “Northern Italy,” folk would think it was an Italian restaurant, so our first menu was “Indian Cuisine.” (In that era, nobody would think that we were an Indian restaurant.) We still update menus every month or so, but now the focus is on the local good stuff that is in season.
- The Chicken Tomato Basil Soup and the Weaver Tuna Salad have been on the menu from the get-go. The Black Bean Cakes were added just a couple of years later. Trivia: One day prior to opening the restaurant, Mike shared that he enjoyed a pretty simple tuna salad without mayo. In just minutes Chef John Jones whipped one up with a mustard vinaigrette. This recipe has never been modified.
- Now a tale about our efforts to buy more food locally. First, we think that the wisdom in Lewis Carroll’s line,“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road’ll take you there,” from Alice in Wonderland is an incredibly helpful notion to employ with some efforts to improve. It is applicable in this instance. Back in ‘01, before it was “all the go,” we decided we wanted to serve more food that was grown or made nearby. We even coined a phrase: “The nearer the farm to the fork, the better the flavor.” But dern it, we didn’t copyright it! We had the sort of “any road” idea that we’d buy a “Field Truck” then hire a “victualer” (one who procures victuals, a.k.a. vittles) to pick up directly from the farms. Fast-forward to last year: We bought $795,000 in food, beer and wine locally! Now our chefs have “chefmobiles” that have ample temperature-controlled space for them to pick up this food themselves, mostly at the farmer’s markets. BTW: You can pick up some of the good stuff from the veggie carts in front of both Lucky’s!
- I can’t ramble on about Lucky’s and not mention our turn to the South. About seven years ago, we decided that a turn toward Southern food felt appropriate and authentic. As fate would have it, that decision was made soon after Chef Jay Pierce joined our team. He is great with food, and he loves learning. He already had a good grounding with the genre, having lived most of his life in the South, but he was like Brer Rabbit in the briar patch with this initiative. With Nancy’s Piedmont culinary grounding and Jay’s giddy enthusiasm and with gentle steering by general managers Karen Walker (who joined this team in 2001) and Shane Garrity (who started in 2006), the turn has been made and we’re now on the Southern road. We even changed the name to Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen!
Our hope is that the next 25 years are as joyful and energizing as the first quarter-century. And we promise that taking great care of our guests and colleagues will remain our top priority.
Cheers! Dennis W. Quaintance
Food fanatics — a “Southern dozen” of them — will come together at the O.Henry Hotel to celebrate the wonderful Savor the South® cookbook collection by UNC Press. The authors of these books are all deservedly well-known cooks and writers and a lively lot, so this is sure to be a fun time. There’ll be extraordinary food and drink, mingling with the authors, cooking demonstrations and samplings of more than 30 recipes. Each day will include a four-course dinner matched with some special wines.
Drum roll, please … the authors are:
Belinda Ellis (Biscuits), Debbie Moose (Buttermilk), Kathleen Purvis (Pecans and Bourbon), Miriam Rubin (Tomatoes), April McGreger (Sweet Potatoes), Andrea Weigl (Pickles & Preserves), Kelly Alexander (Peaches) and Virginia Willis (Okra). Joining the authors are hosts Ronni Lundy (cookbook author and great friend), Nancy King Quaintance, Chef Leigh Hesling of GVG and Chef Jay Pierce of Lucky 32 (who is in the process of writing a book about shrimp for this series).
A one-night package, which includes accommodations, two tickets to Friday’s Farm-to-Fork Dinner, breakfast, Saturday’s Tasting Extravaganza Lunch and a cookbook, is $295/person, double occupancy. A two-night package, which includes accommodations, Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and Saturday night Bourbon & Bluegrass Bacchanal Dinner, is $449/person, double occupancy. See ohenryhotel.com or call 336-854-2000 for more details. Do the math. These are good deals.
This is a real treat for folk who love food and Southern Living magazine: O.Henry Hotel will be one of the first stops for the Southern Living “Test Kitchen on the Road.” Vanessa McNeil Rocchio, cookbook author and test kitchen specialist, will share recipes and cooking tips, plus secrets from her 24 years at Southern Living.
In addition, she’ll host a really special farm-to-fork feast. Green Valley Grill Executive Chef Leigh Hesling will join her in preparing a dinner made from fresh finds that they’ll get from the farmers market that morning! They will demonstrate the recipes that you will enjoy during a four-course dinner, which will include wine pairings.
Before dinner, you can also enjoy a relaxing afternoon tea with Vanessa, during which she’ll sign her cookbook, What’s for Supper: 30-Minute Meals Everyone Will Love (included in your package). Most already know that the O.Henry was invited by the Southern Living editors to be a member of the prestigious Southern Living Hotel Collection. This association allows us to partner with the “South’s most trusted kitchen” for this, the first of many collaborative special events. Packages start at $245/person, double occupancy. But you can add extras, like a second night. Please call 336-854-2000 or go to ohenryhotel.com to learn more.
Summer Weekend Getaway: Travel back to an era of Old World hospitality and experience a relaxing weekend escape. Check in early at 2 PM (or earlier if available), use the included $30 voucher toward afternoon tea or a late-night treat in Green Valley Grill, then sleep in and saunter down for a hot, delicious breakfast buffet. No need to rush — check out as late as 2 PM and maybe use that extra time by the pool. Stay on a Friday or Saturday, May 30 through September 1 (some blackout dates apply). $219 plus taxes
“A Night Out on the Town” Overnight Packages: All of the following include transportation to and from the concert or play, a bottle of wine, handcrafted chocolate truffles and a $30 credit at GVG, plus a Southern-style breakfast buffet and late checkout. (Note: The EMF package does not include event tickets.)
- June 23–July 26: The Eastern Music Festival features a world-class concert almost every night, and we’ll transport you in world-class style. $229 plus tax
- June 8–29: Triad Stage re-invents All’s Well that Ends Well, Shakespeare’s classic and one of theatre’s greatest romances. Includes two tickets. $289 plus tax
- June 13: Greensboro Symphony teams up with New York’s jazz guitarist John Pizzarelli and his bride Jessica Molaskey for “For Sentimental Reasons,” featuring American classics and Broadway songs. Includes two tickets. $309 plus tax
New Arbor:Since that first summer 15 years ago, dining al fresco at GVG has been, we’ll not-so-humbly say, pretty fantastic. When our new arbor is complete, it’ll be even better. We’ve long wanted to add a gentle breeze on cue, offer a little more shade and provide even better lighting. This arbor will make all of that happen and ought to be gentle on the eyes to boot. Our great friend, artist Jeff Hurr, is building it. Note: Give us some time! The frame will be up by the time you read this, but some of the components will be perfected and crafted, then added later.
Cooking Classes: A few tickets are available for Chef Leigh Hesling’s remaining cooking classes this year. (The June 14 class is sold out.) Join him at Proximity Hotel on September 20 and O.Henry Hotel on July 12 and October 25. Tickets are $80 per guest, or get a three-class package for $225. Enjoy a seasonal beverage during a cooking demonstration, then a three-course meal with wine. For tickets, contact Lee Healy at 336-478-9126 or email@example.com.
Afternoon Tea: Taking tea, including the wonderful savory and sweet snacks by GVG, in O.Henry’s Social Lobby has become a Greensboro tradition. In fact, it’s so popular that we’re expanding the hours. Now: Friday, Saturday & Sunday, Noon—5 PM and Monday—Thursday, 2—5 PM. Reservations are always recommended. Please call GVG at 336-854-2015.
Here are two ideas for a relaxing summer vacation or “staycation”! For details and more ideas, please call 336-379-8200 or visit proximityhotel.com.
Sustainable Summer Weekend Getaway:Reduce your stress level and your carbon footprint at the same time. Check in early at 2 PM (or earlier if available), and spend the afternoon traveling the nearby greenway on our complimentary bikes or lounging by our infinity-style pool. Use the included $30 voucher for dinner or breakfast on Print Works Bistro’s creekside terrace. Prolong your rejuvenating getaway with a late checkout of 2 PM. This extra-special offer is available on Fridays or Saturdays, May 30 through September 1 (some blackout dates apply). $219 plus taxes
Weekend Rail Getaway Package: All aboard! Ride the Amtrak train to Greensboro, and we’ll pick you up at the historic depot for a sustainable vacation at America’s first LEED Platinum-certified hotel and restaurant. Includes overnight accommodations in a Loft King Room on Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and a $50 dining voucher for Print Works Bistro. The following morning, enjoy breakfast in bed. $249 plus tax (Please book your surprisingly affordable rail tickets separately at www.ncbytrain.org.)
Bryan Series: We are delighted to be one of the sponsors of this amazing speaker series. Our friends at Guilford College bring noteworthy figures from the arts, humanities and public affairs to town to share their wisdom and perspectives. Mark your calendars for next season (2014–2015)! October 23: Ron Howard, November 11: Bill Bryson, February 17: Robert Reich, March 24: Margaret Atwood and April 19: Anderson Cooper. Season subscriptions sell quickly, so get yours now and get a Print Works voucher! For more: bryanseries.guilford.edu.
Dream Weddings: See photos, read details and learn tips from a dozen extraordinary weddings at our hotels on our photo journal blog at GreensboroDreamWeddings.com. If you know a bride-to-be, please share this with her. For more information about creating your own bespoke celebration at our hotels, please call 336-478-9111.
Southern Living Wedding Workshop on October 5: Who knew wedding planning could be so much fun? Kristen Payne, Southern Living wedding insider, will share the ideas and inspiration behind a Southern Living wedding. Taste, touch and see the latest food, drink and décor trends. Meet vendors and get plenty of tips and design ideas. $45 per guest includes afternoon tea, dessert bar, wine and goodies. For reservations, please call 336-544-9615.
- Date Night: From first dates to parents’ night out, tell us your favorite memory.
- Celebration: There are many occasions to celebrate!
- It’s the Little Things That Count: Share your story about a staff member who did something amazing.
Email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Quaintance-Weaver, 324 W. Wendover Ave, Suite 320, Greensboro, NC 27408, by July 31. We look forward to sharing some of your stories.
Recipe Contest: What’s your favorite way to prepare fresh veggies from the garden? Please enter your recipe for an appetizer or side dish into our “Summer Veggie Recipe Contest.” Think potlucks and summer picnics! The top five recipes will be featured on our blog, and the big winner will receive a luxurious retreat to the Proximity Hotel or O.Henry Hotel, along with other goodies, including recognition on Lucky’s menu. Simply email your recipe to email@example.com by June 16. Go to lucky32.com for more details.
Farm-to-Fork Blog: Ride along as Chef Jay Pierce continues to explore Piedmont foodways with features on farms, seasonal finds and recipes. Read all of the past 70 features, and sign up for notifications for new ones at lucky32southernkitchen.com.
Tuesday’s Live Music in Greensboro: Chef Jay Pierce’s skillet-fried chicken continues to be topped with live music by our very talented friends, 7–10 PM (no cover charge). See schedule of artists at lucky32.com.
Rinse black beans in cold water. Place in a colander and drain well (at least 10 minutes). Add beans, salsa, onions, bell peppers, cilantro, breadcrumbs, jalapeños and both Tabasco® sauces to a mixing bowl. Blend well with hands, mashing some of the beans to form a thick mixture. Form into 3-ounce patties and set aside. Using a food processor, blend tortilla chips, cumin and coriander until it has a crumb consistency. Dredge each bean patty in the tortilla mixture. Heat oil in large skillet and sauté bean cakes over medium-high heat, turning when they are golden brown.
- 6½ cups black beans, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup salsa
- ½ cup diced red onions
- 1¼ cups diced red bell peppers
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 cups breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon diced jalapeño peppers
- ½ teaspoon Tabasco® Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco® Jalapeño Sauce
- 2 cups crushed tortilla chips
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
With larger parties, we offer pre-ordering to expedite service so you have more time to enjoy your visit. Let us know when you make a reservation if you would like to pre-order. Just fax us your orders by 10:30 AM at lunch and 4 PM at dinner, and we’ll have your meals served within minutes of arriving. Call the restaurant or click here for a pre-order form.
Our restaurants and hotels offer gift certificates for purchase seven days a week on-site, or you can order online at qwrh.com. Customize a gift certificate for a hotel night stay (or even a variety of packages) for your fortunate recipient by calling the Proximity at 1-800-379-8200 or O.Henry at 1-800-965-8259.
Neighborhood Letter, SUMMER • ™ & © 2014 Quaintance-Weaver and affiliate