Today, Thursday 1/17: The return of the COMM AVE Sandwich from one of our very first menus: Shaved Prime Rib, BBQ Sauce, Melted cheese on a bulkie roll, and FUSION BREAD (Every day): French Baguette, Garlic butter, melted mozzarella, Chef Z’s Tomato Basil Vinaigrette.
As we launch our 25th year countdown to a June celebration, we will continue to remember all that contributed to this milestone.
Like founding Chef, the late Chef Edward Zaranski. Chef Z, Z, Ed Zee. To this day, Z set the standard for Cobblestones. The strong silent type, the food NEVER hit the pickup window until it was ready and it was right. Quality over speed, always. He quietly taught and mentored “a hundred” young aspiring chefs. We still fight that battle daily, 25 years later. You could demand the food from Z—“It must go now!” It didn’t matter. He gave it to you when the marsala was reduced to ‘caramel’, the cheese on the onion soup was “browned and bubbling,” and the bananas flambe sauce was roiling like hot-sticky brown-sugar lava.
Z liked to golf barefoot. With a beer in his hand. Z liked beer. He loved baseball, the beach and The Beach Boys. He loved music and played a mean piano. But mostly, he loved Chef’ing. And teaching.
Z could peel a salmon from its skin with bare hands—something that takes great strength and technique—and is not done by other chefs. (I’ll never forget the time he stopped me from being sucker-punched from behind at The Bench when, from behind the would-be puncher, he caught dude’s fist with his open hand, then squeeze-crushed that fist until the guy dropped to his knees in pain. Ed skipped around him—barefoot with both sneakers in his other hand—and wagged his finger. “No no nooo.”)
He would slice a case of mushrooms while carrying on a conversation, his hands never slowing or missing a stroke. He was a machine, despite bad feet and ‘the gout.’
Z worked ‘round the clock’ for (7) years to cement Cobblestones success—before moving on to a less strenuous lifestyle, a wife, two sons…
Through the years, as a handful of chefs have tried to fill his size 13’s, we’ve allowed their ideas, (and egos) and evolution dilute the menu of much of the greatness that Chef Z launched so long ago. Shit changes—for better or worse. We wrestle with guest opinions; “Why don’t you change the menu up?” and “Why’d you change the menu?” 25 years is a long time, man. (What were YOU driving in ’94?)
I love telling the story of how early on, maybe ’96, Chef Z and I “discovered” hummus—an exotic treat from the Middle East emerging onto menus in NYC. We developed a beautiful version for Lowell. It didn’t sell. We tried again a couple years later. It didn’t sell. It took a few years for it to catch on locally and now I even struggle whether to remove it from the menu—so ubiquitous it has become. (Ours remains the best!)
We joked long after how trends work their way to Lowell “in 5 years or so.” That number has reduced. Some.
In the months to come, we will bring back menu items from Z’s legacy. To join his Marsala, jalapeno butter, amazing chowder and “Five onion soup”. We will also feature items from Chef Spooner, Besana and Z’s protégé and local legend, Paul Dubuque—who started his career with us in 1994—at age 18.
YOU have already provided us a lengthy list of great memories on the Facebook—The Artichokes Francais, the original potato skins, the Comm Ave, the “house dressing” tomato basil vinaigrette, chicken satay, the Prime Choice, G-Man steak and many more.
The Fusion Bread (with that amazing, original tomato-basil dressing) has already begun. It will remain indefinitely as long as it sells. Today, we begin the COMM AVE (warm prime rib, scant bbq sauce, melted cheese). We are searching through old menus and recipe files so we can get it right! The Scallops Pastalaya should debut sometime around Valentine’s day.
Stay tuned each week—beginning on Throwback Thursday—for more specials and homage to 25 years and the people, promotions, and food and beverage that brought us here—and to you of course—our #1 reason for being!
If you have ideas, or memories, share them. Old menu items, stories of Ed Z, etc. We’d love to hear–and PLEASE share with others!
Thank you and hope to see you soon.
SPlath, on behalf….