“ poor service is inherent, caused by a staff with lackluster spirit or a manager with a lax attitude. Here in New York, with our restaurants tumbling into informality, a guest can easily become a casualty of incompetence. We've entered the post-service era, where fewer and fewer restaurateurs still stand watch.”
I would argue that many new restaurants trying to embrace the new casual set of rules in the dining world are also paying less attention in the kitchen. And using the farm-to-table movement to cover up bad cooking. But lets talk about that some other time. Maybe next week!
*****Travail Restaurant and Amusements in Robbinsdale made Andrew Knowlton’s list of Ten Best New Restaurants in America. We all know that the list is impossible to curate properly, and it drives me nuts when readers bash authors for creating these listicles. The whole point is to be a conversation starter and someone has to start somewhere. Bravo, Andrew. It was a good list and Husk at number one is a great choice. I should say, I have been to most of these places, and while we can argue all day about some of the choices, I am thrilled Travail made it. And I hope it brings more attention to many Minnesota restaurants worthy of national chatter, and I pray the guys at Travail enjoy the recognition and don’t change what got them there. It’s the attitude about food and the willingness to experiment as much as any other trait, and it needs nurturing, not abandoning, which is the tendency with national status. Don’t cook for the new audience; keep cooking for the old one.
And by the way, yes, our Travail visit is in the new episode of Bizarre Foods premiering in January on Travel Channel. We had a great meal and an even better experience there.
Speaking of TV . . . This is something that always surprises me, with so much on the line, so much success dependent on working well as a team, how could this franchise/production company/network end up with so much enmity between parties? I mean, c’mon people, work it out! The story is most recently seen here, and now the world wants to know: Was it really that crazy behind the scenes at Triple D?
With so many Minnesotans who worked over there I am dying of curiosity. I don’t believe everything I read and this one sounds over-the-top . . . how can this happen and how can this stuff be real? Full disclosure time: I know Guy, I know people who worked on the show, some who still do, and some of whom work for my show now, and Scripps owns both Food Network and Travel Channel. All that aside, I hear that FN’s side of the story is not only spot on, but it is just tip of the iceberg. Wow. Whatever happened to Minnesota Nice?
*****Speaking of Minnesota Nice, I shouldn’t react like such a freakish lunatic, but last night I went to Convention Grill, a regular haunt of mine, my family and I love it there. Great fries, great burgers (greasy spoon griddle style, no pretensions) and good malts. And the one thing there, like it or not, is that its consistent, and we go once every three weeks on Wednesdays with some neighbors like clockwork. I like to reward consistency with more consistency.
I order same things I always order, basket of fries, burger, diet cola. But I love tomatoes and I always steal my wife’s or my son’s, simple math. Less waste. One of them usually forgoes theirs.
Last night, the fries come, and they are all broken and miscooked. That never happens there. Ever. Burgers come out, cooked to death, onions are pale and beige and look steamed not getting the caramelization of griddle-fried technique they way they always are. I steal my wife’s tomato, and I lose it. A February tomato in summer in the Midwest (despite the crappy tomato year)! What? There are TONS OF LOCALLY GROWN SLICERS AVAILABLE FOR NEXT TO NO MONEY AT EVERY FARM STAND, CSA, MARKET in every corner of the state. WTF?????
This isn’t about Convention Grill, this is about the ugliest trend in our industry. It seems that restaurants—regardless of size or menu price and ambition levels of all weight classes—are not looking at or tasting their food anymore. Has everyone lost their inner editing voice? It’s as if it’s okay to sling out whatever junk is in the drawer that day, or push out every plate regardless of how it tastes or looks. There is no excuse, none, for crappy lettuce. (It was spiny, bitter, oversized, and came in on a truck from the southwest or central America, I guarantee it.) Nor is there an excuse for bad tomatoes in summertime. They are available everywhere. And how do you plate all the food, even in a burger joint, and not say, “Wait a second, I can’t send out that burger or those fries or onions, or those tomatoes, or that lettuce.”
I am trying to put that sort of perspective on a recent set of visits to two brand new restaurants that take food way seriously. I am aching to tell you about my visits to Wise Acre and Bachelor Farmer but that has to wait ‘til next week. Just because it’s on the menu doesn’t mean you should serve it if it isn’t right. Anywhere. And just because it’s farm fresh doesn’t make it tasty. Think about that over the weekend.
*****See you Sunday night at celebritycheftour.com benefitting the The James Beard Foundation.