According to an e-mail I got on July 13, Town Talk chef David Vlach has announced his departure from the Lake Street restaurant. According to the press release, Vlach will be making an announcement about his next project at some point in the future. Tor Westgard, currently the Town Talk Diner sous chef (and longtime partner), will be the new chef, in addition to his recently transitioned GM duties.
OK, so is the chef's exit and the 86ing of the new TTD pasta-house project a coincidence? E-mails to Vlach and calls to TTD co-owner Tim Niver had gone unanswered until late yesterday, when Niver rang me up. Seeing as how Reetsy and Alexis get all the TTD gossip late night at the bar, I had to readjust my tactics and reach out to the TTD crew for the skinny on the recent news. Why would a chef who is a partner in a successful restaurant leave after such a relatively short run, especially with a new project about to launch? Something was not adding up right. But Niver told me that the partnership was always top-heavy in the management category, and that Vlach, being young and talented, simply took an opportunity to leave and pursue other goals and other challenges.
Niver told me he does not know what Vlach's next project is. As far as the pasta project was concerned, Niver told me that the deal was 90 percent done, and then another opportunity came to the partnership on the St. Paul side of the river. The group decided to move forward with that space and allow the Lake Street pasta project to wither on the vine, a decision made easier after the Lake Street landlord told them that another party was interested in the space and asked the TTD team to make a choice. They did. Wouldn't it make for a great soap opera if Vlach's project was housed in the Lake Street location?
Why am I not sleeping? Because I was watching the news in LA last week and saw a killer KNBC story rehashing the old saw about how ethanol is a tin soldier in the war on our destructive dependence on Middle Eastern oil. It takes a gallon of oil to essentially make a gallon of ethanol, and the corn subsidies that have been playing havoc with our food and health paradigms have served only to line the pockets of Big Ag and the commercial food industry. It reminded me to post this Cool News highlight for you from two weeks ago, something I had been meaning to do for several days now:
"Between 1985 and 2000, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables increased nearly 40 percent, while the price of soft drinks decreased by almost 25 percent," reports Marian Burros in The New York Times (7/4/07). That's according to a study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which wants to save family farms and is part of an unlikely alliance of interests aiming at changing America's agricultural policies. Of course, lots of people have long railed against payments made to farmers for growing—or not growing—certain crops. At issue is the so-called "farm bill," which comes up for renewal this year, as it does every half-decade.
Such subsidies date back to the Great Depression, when the intent was to support family farms. But today "the program costs billions and benefits about one-third of the nation's farmers." And critics include not only the usual run of fiscal conservatives, but also healthcare advocates who say that the subsidies bloat both the budget and the American people themselves. These critics "say the subsidies lead to cheap snack foods and soft drinks, made from ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Meanwhile, the lack of subsidies for fruits and vegetables makes them expensive by comparison."
The subsidies, critics say, "are partly responsible for the epidemic of childhood obesity and the increased incidence of diabetes." And so various bills are now before Congress that are "aimed at helping growers of fruits and vegetables." Other bills, backed by environmentalists, are aimed at setting up "more farmer's markets and helping farmers sell to nearby schools, hospitals, and institutions."
Why am I so upset every time I read a nonlocal entity provide a roundup of local eateries? Well, has anyone seen the latest miscreant screed on the topic, MSN’s City Guides list of the ten best local restaurants? My Lord, what are those people smoking? Their top ten are Alma, A Rebours, Solera, Ike’s, 112 Eatery, Town Talk, Cue, La Belle Vie, St. Paul Grill, and Brit’s Pub.
What about Masa, Cucina, Spoonriver, Cosmos, Oceanaire, three or four steakhouses, about fifteen family-run ethnic eateries, Heartland, Sapor, Barbette, W. A. Frost, Lucia’s, Corner Table, Vincent, and about a dozen other places that should be in anyone’s top ten before Cue, Brit’s, the SPG, or Ike’s even enters the conversation . . . ? And that’s not a knock against those four restaurants (though none are even in my top twenty-five) as much as it is a shot over the bows of the boat of ignorance that those vile misinformation mongers keep afloat because they are too lazy or cheap to hire anyone of about 500 local foodaholics qualified enough to put together a cogent list for their readers.
Has anyone read Bracketology? It’s the book that says any contest over what is best-in-show in any oeuvre can be deduced by setting up an NCAA men’s basketball–style bracket. We should try that with restaurants. On Thursday, let’s talk about my recent last-minute trip to L.A..