Additionally, there’s a Starbucks where you can get gooey, creamy, fatty frappuchinos and the like; and Moe’s Burritos where yes, you can possibly stay healthy, but good luck avoiding the fried Quesadillas and tortilla chips.
Is this marketing genius or sheer stupidity? Let’s examine.
The stores have it good because all the doubtful exercise people (myself included) who drag themselves to the gym, can very easily be tempted by the wafting smells of unhealthy food. Ker-ching ker-ching for store people.
Inversely, all the mushy depressed unhealthy food people might see the sexy gym people and say: “Oh, I should probably get in shape.” Ker-ching ker-ching for gym people.
This is some kind of bizzaro ecosystem. Quick, somebody get Jane Goodall.
There are certain things I haven’t eaten in Atlanta yet that I must eat before I leave for the Big Apple. Among them are fried chicken at this famous downtown place (I forget the name), real BBQ somewhere OTP (loyal site readers will know what that means), and–of course–country ham at the Silver Skillet.
Today I checked off #3, after a bomb scare in the law school parking lot sent me scurrying away from Jewish Law. And what better thing to eat when scurrying away from Jewish Law than ham!
Here’s what a country ham plate at the Silver Skillet looks like:
You have your eggs, your grits, your red eye gravy, your biscuit and–of course–your ham.
I was prepared to be disgusted (I really have never eaten ham in my entire life; again, a cultural thing) but found it to be surprisingly tasty (though a tad bit too salty). I could see what all the fuss was about, though I seriously worry over the health of anyone who eats this on a regular basis. The whole thing was a reasonable $7.00 and it kept me stuffed ’til dinner time.
I’m making a concerted effort not to be negative on this site (hence the removal of a gripe against a former employer), but it would be criminal not to point out the maddening fluff of today’s NYT Dining & Wine section story: What He Ate: A Food Diary From New York. This is an article about a 35-year old man who has taken a picture of everything he has eaten. Sounds interesting, right? A suitable feature story about a man who compulsively documents his food. How long has he been doing this, you ask? A decade? A year? No; since January.
This is the fascinating tale of a man who has documented his food for three months. Hello, if that’s all it takes to get into the NYT Dining & Wine section, why aren’t they knocking at my door? And he doesn’t even put his pictures on the internet. He just saves them. Where did they get this story? It’s maddening, I tell you, maddening!
This is Richard Clark, counter-terrorism czar, and catalyst for what is now a full-blown scandal regarding President Bush, 9/11 and intelligence.
But that is not why I write to you today.
I write to you on a matter much more grave, much more serious. I write to you because you are being deceived, and someone has to do something about it. I write to you because The Amateur Gourmet’s bread is a sham and I can prove it.
The Amateur Gourmet painted a rosy picture for you yesterday. He described his bread as his “greatest culinary achievement,” “staggering” and “gorgeous.” He even cried on camera during a pathetic and lousy piece of filmmaking. But there’s a giant hole in his story. And I mean that literally, not figuratively:
This is the giant hole I speak of. Notice the charred, black bottom. “Gorgeous”? Notice the giant gaping wound that goes all the way in; creating a hole as unseemly as Courtney Love.
Now check this out: the Amateur Gourmet posted a thread on eGullet asking for advice regarind the giant holes in his bread. His “greatest culinary achievement”? Some achievement!
People, things are not what they seem. The Amateur Gourmet may seem like a perfectly nice, respectable citizen, pittering his way through recipes and sharing his experiences with you all. But the Amateur Gourmet is not nice. The Amateur Gourmet is not respectable. The Amateur Gourmet is KATHY LEE GIFFORD:
Why don’t vegetarians eat mollusks? I thought of this question at dinner with Lisa several weeks ago. Lisa, who is a vegetarian, couldn’t think of a good answer. I mean, there isn’t much of a difference between a mollusk (clam, oyster, scallop) and a plant is there? Neither have brains, therefore they do not experience pain. Why don’t more vegetarians eat mollusks?
As those of us who read our Bible and listen to our “Jesus Christ Superstar” know, Jesus took a loaf of bread and a fish and fed millions of people. Despite all the messianic implications, I took two loaves of bread and fed myself twice.
Last night, there was salad, soup and bread. Pictured you will see two of the three components. Can you guess which is missing?
Then, tonight, before my excruciating Negotiations class I had to think fast. I wanted something (a) yummy; (b) quick; (c) based on ingredients I already had; and (d) complimentary to the bread. I chose a classic American dish; evocative of clear blue vistas, of Edward Hopper paintings, and of a counselor at the Kutcher’s day camp who horrified me when I was nine* (more later). I chose egg salad.
I told my grandmother I was making egg salad at 4:30 and she proceeded to read me a 90 page article from the Sun-Sentinel that she had clipped all about how to make the perfect egg salad.
“Listen, this is very interesting,” she said. “To avoid green centers to the eggs, avoid overcooking them. Start by…”
“Grandma, I know,” I pleaded, but she wouldn’t listen to reason.
Anyway, after she got through the 90 pages, the Negotiations class was over, the sun had set, risen, set and risen I was starved and I made the egg salad. I used Sarah Moulton’s trick (echoed in Grandma’s article) of starting the eggs in cold water without a lid; turning it up to a boil, and when it hits boiling taking it off the heat, covering, and letting it sit for 17 minutes.
I peeled them under the faucet and did a very Martha-Stewart-like-thing when, instead of mashing them with a fork, I sliced them into perfect squares. I then proceeded to add way too much mayonaisse, yet just the right amount of salt and pepper. The bread was a little difficult to cut but I finally got the knife through. And here’s the end result; a healthy all-American dinner:
As for my camp counsellor*, it’s one of those horrific visual memories that carve themselves into your brain at a young age and pop up intermittently for the rest of your life. In this case, a curly-haired pimpled camp counsellor with a mustache was sitting at my lunch table and she [warning, the following is incredibly graphic and disturbing] proceeded to eat her egg salad sandwich, eggy mayonaisse oozing out of her hair-flecked lips. I remember being so disgusted I vowed then and there to start a culinary revolution, using a robust communication tool that would reach readers across the continents, spreading the joy and wisdom of careful, joyous non-oozing food consumption. Oh well. Maybe one day.
NYC Eats has taken the NYT Quick Guide List for NYC restaurants and added links to the reviews and videos. It’s organized by stars; so you can get tours of NYC’s top dining spots. My favorites were Alain Ducasse and Daniel. You can also tour two places my parents ate at on their anniversary trip, The River Cafe (for their anniversary dinner) and Town.
Service matters. You can have the best food in the world, but if it’s presented in a dry, humorless style (ahem, Charlie Trotter’s) your meal loses lustre.
Good service is a complicated matter. A good server is a chameleon: if one table wants professional courtesy and another table wants to yuk it up, you have to switch gears quickly and smoothly, all the while maintaining your composure. Good service is a difficult matter.
And then there’s decent service. Decent service requires a bare minimum of effort; think Roseanne at the Lanford Diner. The coffee’s plopped down, but it’s still what you ordered. Decent service.
Finally, there’s really bad service. Really bad service entails a complete disconnect between what you want and what you get. A “Ya, you ordered your dinner three hours ago, I’ll go check on it” kind of thing. A decent server is ambivalent; a really bad server hates you.
Several weeks ago, I was at a Caribou coffee reading my Business Associations book as I am wont to do. The door opened up and in rolled a boy in a wheelchair. He seemed self-sufficient, but just barely. His head bobbed up and down as he made his way across the room. He parked the chair near a couch, and–with great effort–thrust himself out of the chair and on to his feet. To the amazement of everyone watching, he made his way back across the room–agonizing step by agonizing step–to the counter, where he lowered his arms and rested his exhausted body. He ordered his drink, carefully pulling money out of his wallet. Then, he made his way back to his chair–overcoming what seemed like extraordinary difficulty. He lowered himself and finally got back in place. You could see the look of contentment on his face.
Here’s how this ties into service. The place was nearly empty. Me, two other people, and the kid in the wheelchair. The woman behind the counter HAD to have seen the ordeal of the boy in the wheelchair; and yet, after he finally completed his journey, she called out his drink order instead of bringing it to him.
Now he had to prop himself back up, thrust himself back on to his feet, and make his way–again–all the way across the room. Not only the that, he had to carry back his drink.
You’re probably thinking: “Adam, why didn’t you help him?”
Believe me, I wanted to. Yet, I didn’t want to embarass him. It was a delicate situation: he seemed so intent on doing it himself. But the awkwardness and sheer sadness of the situation was made that way by a completely oblivious counterperson. There’s really no excuse for her not bringing the drink to him. That’s not even bad service; that’s wicked bad service.
And then today I was in Dunkin’ Donuts–as I am wont to do–and, as I was ordering, a man came in with a really bad case of Parkinsons. He shooked violently as he ordered his food and attempted to pull the money out of his wallet. Without even asking, the woman behind the counter came around and carried his tray for him to the table.
And so we can see, yet again, that: (1) good servers anticipate their patron’s needs (it makes me think of Helen Mirren in Gosford Park: “A good server always knows what their master wants before they know it themselves” [liberties taken]; (2) a good server must be perceptive, taking in everything that’s going on; and (3) Dunkin’ Donuts is a superior dining establishment.