Celina Tio is a wonderful talent, and The American Restaurant in KC is a great place to eat, but the best chef in the Midwest regional pool of nominees for the Beard Awards was Tim McKee. Just one man’s opinion, taking nothing away from the other nominees. Lynn Rosetto Kasper got ripped off also last week, taking nothing away from the other radio show nominees and winner, but week in and week out, hers is the best nationally heard radio food show in the country.
Did anyone see John Edge’s piece in the NYT on Kool-Aid pickles? I had some in Mississippi when I was there in the winter, and they are as funky and wonderful to eat as Edge notes in his column. They also would make a great State Fair food item, I think. You can read the piece online, but for those who are dying of curiosity, you cut a bunch of large brined pickles in half, or keep smaller ones whole, and then soak them in double strength Kool-Aid for a week. Soak ‘em longer if your pickles are big or if you like more fruit flavor in your gherkin. I think Black Cherry flavor makes the best pickle flavoring (and, like brining pork in Coke or Dr. Pepper, Kool-Aid also can be used in other recipes—try brushing your BBQ chicken with double strong Kool-Aid during the last few minutes or so of cooking as a nice grill glaze). Will Berry Dills on a stick be the next big State Fair thing? I think so. Almost no waste and a low-cost item to produce. Ten bucks says someone does it this year.
Several people have asked me about Willie’s Wine Bar closing, and they have indeed been closed now for about two weeks. Regarding other reports of fatalities, Ruam Mit has a sign on their door from an attorney that pronounces them in default of the lease, but according to my peeps, late on Saturday night, there were still lights on in the back. Their phone number is disconnected. I think they’re done for in that location, but look for them to reopen somewhere else in three months. They have done that magic act twice before, if memory serves me correctly.
Restaurant closings are a curious thing. On Mike Ruhlman’s blog he notes a BusinessWeek article by Kerry Miller that puts to rest the “nine out of ten new restaurants fail” canard. Miller insists the number is closer to 60%, a figure that is consistent with new business's death-rate numbers generically. Conspiracy theorists will note that the article blames financial institutions for perpetuating the myth in order to refuse loans or charge higher interest rates to potential restaurateurs. Miller goes on to note the reasons for restaurant failure remain a lack of initial capital and the restaurateur’s failure to devote enough time to the work at hand.
Wow, and here I thought it was because the product wasn’t being well-received by the customer and that the reasons cited (lack of money and time) are symptomatic from that point forward. For some reason, restaurant-watchers are all romantics, myself included. Restaurants fail because the customers don’t go. Willie’s and Ruam Mit both had great product, and while I don’t know if they had the staying power ($) or persistence (time), I think those are excuses that poll respondents to pieces like the one in BusinessWeek identify as causal. They aren’t. They are the direct result of lack of interest from the consumer. If you have customers, you can create a piggy bank and devote more resources because you have income—even if only enough to tread water, you can sell that to a lender. If you don’t have customers, you close your doors. Sad, but truly that simple, especially in these two cases.