Last week I got a message from Isaac Becker telling me of a bad day trudging the social media trail and asking to give him a shout back if I had time to. I have been traveling ever since in some remote places, and I wasn’t able to call back, but when someone sent me Rick Nelson’s Strib column about The Biggest Loser Bob and his inability to get into Bar La Grassa I put two and two together.
Operating on that information, I can tell you that I have perspective on this story. I work in the TV business, I do indeed use my platinum Amex concierge service, I regularly travel all over the place, and more importantly, I do my 45 days a year on the road doing what’s colloquially called in the business as “non episodic” travel, promoting the show domestically and so forth. I am often alone for a night in a city far from home, and like Bob did, I frequently call into the better places in town, or have someone call for a reservation. And I won’t kid you, I receive truly special treatment a lot of the time. It’s a privilege and one that I am amazingly grateful for. Many times I get good tables on minutes notice, at home and on the road.
BUT, and it’s a big BUT, I was born and raised in the restaurant business so unlike the spoiled TV brat that called and tried to land a table at BLG, I will as many times as not take a seat at the bar or somewhere else in the restaurant. More importantly I understand the word “no.” In many of the restaurants I like to frequent, short of asking someone to get up and give me their table, there is no way to get a seat. I have been on both sides of the equation.
One day while enjoying lunch at Marea in NYC, I heard from the staff of the long list of A-level celebs who were told, “Sorry, nothing we can do for you.” It’s humbling. Sometimes you get in to a joint, and sometimes you don’t. So while I was eating at Marea and Jennifer Aniston wasn’t, later that same night there was nary a seat at The Breslin, a restaurant I have eaten in a dozen times. No worries, well, none if you are an adult. I went somewhere else that night. A month later I got a seat. You never know. I simply said thanks for trying, and I meant it. What I didn’t do was hop on Twitter and show the world I am a spoiled child with an appalling lack of perspective. Poor Bob. And for the record I like The Biggest Loser , but what I can't tolerate is some immature dude calling out my pal on Twitter and making BLG, Nancy, and Isaac out to be the bad guys in this thing. For shame.
Hey Bob, pick on someone with as many unique impressions per month, I think I got about 5 million or so last time I checked. The power of social media is pretty deep. One ticked off celeb can cause real damage to someone’s business. It’s a big responsibility and one that most of us take really seriously. Some don’t. Restaurants are in the business of being in business, and, while some may think it is important to cater to the whims of a misguided schmuck like Bob, well I don’t think BLG will sell one less Lobster-egg crostini because of this bozo.
One of the coolest shows I have seen in years is Dan Klein’s Perennial Plate . Check out this HuffPo link. They are "airing" the show, and I have to say, after years of doing my show, I feel a little paternalistic about shows such as Dan’s. This is the real thing and I love Perennial Plate.
Eat for a good cause: Just a heads up that all 21 Lunds and Byerly’s locations in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud will be selling Tiramisu for Two for $5.99 through February 16. All proceeds directly benefit Children’s HeartLink’s efforts to help partner hospitals around the world provide quality cardiac care to children with heart disease. In addition, all locations will be sampling Tiramisu for Two on Saturday, February 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and select locations will have celebrity appearances from 12 to 1 p.m.
Every week in our house my wife and I reference Sam Sifton’s classic list of 100 restaurant do’s and don’ts. Inspired by Sifton, we often add and expand the list and the genres of application, so here are the latest:
I am getting a sandwich at Subway a few days ago. Yeah, I know, I hear your internal monologue from here, but it’s a guilty pleasure and it is literally 10 feet from my office so the convenience factor is insanely high. Anyway, one of the employees slides my sandwich down to the garnish end of the table and I ask her for “cucumber, tomato, banana peppers, and black olives.” Simple enough, right? So as she pulls the sandwich further downstream in front of the olive and pepper bins, I notice the abysmally low sprinkle of the two items I find irrevocably tied to my enjoyment of my lunch. “Can I have a little more olive and pepper?” I ask. “Sure,” comes the reply, followed by the placement of about 10 percent more product, a smidge as it were. Now I know this is fairly Seinfeld-ian but “extra” requests are implicitly about half again as much, right? Even worse is that this lady and I repeat this dance twice a month. I wanna kill myself some days . . . c’mon people, when you ask for extra nuts on a sundae, olives on a sandwich, cheese on pizza, and so on you need to make the ‘extra’ count for something. Am I alone in this? There is an endemic conspiracy against people asking for extra anything. The conspirators are everywhere. You have been warned.
Yesterday I wait for 20 minutes in line at Caribou in Southdale Mall. I order three beverages and wait my turn for them to be dispensed. As I watch the four lattes being made before ours, each one capped with a lid, the barista wipes the foam coming up out of the mouth-hole with her finger. I am freaked. I mean I am not Howard Hughes or even Howie Mandel when it comes to germaphobia, but I have my limits. I was really surprised considering that a baristas moves are like a ballerina, choreographed and consistent, and I know that Caribou has no training manual that includes the approval of the wiping of a lid with bare fingers. So I ask, as she begins to assemble my drinks and I see her about to do the same to my lid, if she wouldn’t mind not wiping the mouth hole with her bare hand. To which I got a look that would have made Medusa cringe. I guess I’ve turned into an old crotchety man with a social hair trigger. Wait a minute, no I haven’t, finger wipes aren’t cool kids. But it’s amazing what gets me going these days.
And don’t even mention the TSA.