The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘restaurants’

Ribbons, Lambs, and Strawberry Jam

June 17, 2014 | by

Carr_Holding_the_lamb

Samuel S. Carr, Holding the Lamb, nineteenth century

When I was twelve and visiting my grandparents in California, we made weekly stops at the Naval Postgraduate School Thrift Shop, where the proprietress suggested that I enter a competition—she wanted me to submit my own concept for the theme of the next summer’s Monterey County Fair.

The fair was a highlight of our annual summer visits: the rides, the crop shows, the 4-H cake booth—all of it seemed magical to those of us from fair-deprived regions of the country. Raised on a steady diet of 1950s kids books, I fiercely envied the challenging but rewarding existences of those 4-H kids. I knew I could never raise my own livestock (let alone have the character to auction it), or work the cake booth, or display my crafts in the dedicated exhibition buildings. My talents, such as they were, lay in other directions. But each year, the posters and exhibits were organized around a central theme, and someone had to come up with that.

I dashed off page after page of increasingly hackish ideas. In the end, I submitted about twelve, in the spirit of playing the odds. And, come February, back in New York, I received a fat envelope from the Monterey County Chamber of Commerce: my concept of “Ribbons, Lambs, and Raspberry Jam” would be the theme of the summer’s fair. (Except that in deference to the region’s booming strawberry industry, the flavor of the jam would be altered accordingly.) It was the most exciting moment of my life. It was considerably more exciting than receiving similar envelopes from colleges six years later. For one thing, there were way more perks involved: in exchange for this top-notch ad work, I received a check for twenty-five dollars, a free family-pass to the fair, and a gift certificate to an establishment called Grandma’s Kitchen. Read More »

Comments Off

These Bugaboos

June 11, 2014 | by

sophieschoice

One measure of a book’s influence is the mark it leaves on the vernacular. In this sense, many plaudits must go to William Styron, born today in 1925, who helped start The Paris Review and served as an advisory editor. His 1979 novel, Sophie’s Choice, has ascended into idiom, as Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary have acknowledged. The latter defines a Sophie’s Choice as “essentially a no-win situation … a choice between two unbearable options,” and gives the following example:

The loan [sic] hiker’s arm was wedged in a crevice when he slipped and fell. He didn't have the strength to release himself. Each movement wedged his arm more deeply into the crevice. After several days without food and water, he was left with a Sophie's Choice: continue to wait for help and possibly die, or use the serrated blade of his pocket knife to cut off his own arm and climb to safety before bleeding to death.

But some don’t seem to grasp the finer points of the phrase’s usage.

To wit: there has been, since 1984, a restaurant in England named Sophie’s Choice. Yes, a center of fine dining, serving “modern European cuisine and a range of wines from around the world,” which takes its name from a novel whose titular choice involves which of one’s offspring will die in a concentration camp.

“Our emphasis on good service creates a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere,” the proprietors write. Mains include roast breast of Barbary duck and char-grilled medallions of lamb rump with Cumberland sauce. They do weddings. 

Styron said in his second Art of Fiction interview,

Not long ago I received in the mail a doctoral thesis entitled “Sophie’s Choice: A Jungian Perspective,” which I sat down to read. It was quite a long document. In the first paragraph it said, In this thesis my point of reference throughout will be the Alan J. Pakula movie of Sophie’s Choice. There was a footnote, which I swear to you said, Where the movie is obscure I will refer to William Styron’s novel for clarification. This idiocy laid a pall over my life for a dark brief time because it brought back all these bugaboos we have about the written word.

One can imagine that this establishment was no better received, if the author was aware of it. And I hope he was not—this is a scenario in which ignorance is bliss. If you choose to celebrate his birth tonight, best to make your reservations elsewhere.

1 COMMENT

Menu Planning

June 4, 2014 | by

800px-Carl_Bloch_-_In_a_Roman_Osteria_-_Google_Art_Project

Carl Bloch, In a Roman Osteria, 1866

The other day, having traveled to a midsize American city that shall remain nameless, my dining companion and I encountered the following description on an online restaurant menu:

Tender day boat scallops, lightly cajuned, pan seared with pancetta, caramelized leeks, sweet roasted red peppers, mint and pickled lentil medley, drizzled with a fava bean puree and organic pea shoots.

I was thrilled. I don’t mean that I wanted to eat it; there were like thirteen different components that I wouldn’t have wanted alone, let alone in combination. But I loved that the dish existed, in this moment in the world, in this place, and that, like a perfectly crafted poem, it managed to illuminate the human condition in a few deft strokes.

As the late Maya Angelou wrote, “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” Certainly, this dish was ambition incarnate—it was like the Macbeth of restaurant dishes—and certainly that was a big part of its appeal. There were seven parts (not counting seasonings) used, some ten different techniques employed, with more adjectives than you’d find in an Elizabeth Bishop poem. Read More »

Comments Off

Lisa

May 15, 2014 | by

John_Singer_Sargent_-_Le_verre_de_porto_(A_Dinner_Table_at_Night)_-_Google_Art_Project

John Singer Sargent, A Dinner Table at Night, 1884

Last week, I was invited to a fancy dinner in honor of a personage in the international art scene who had curated an interactive installation in an urban high school. More specifically, my rather more impressive friend was invited, and he asked if he might bring me. Not being much of a personage in the international art scene or otherwise, I was both excited and nervous. The night before, I tried on and rejected several dresses before deciding on a black lace vintage frock I had picked up at a thrift store some months before, and had altered but never worn. Having had a haircut four days before, I decided to eke a little more mileage out of my increasingly mangy blowout, and I put on my old denim jacket as a sort of security blanket.

The dinner was held in the private room of an austerely chic downtown restaurant. It was already filled with people when we arrived—some recognizable, many beautiful, all looking like personages. The room contained several long tables bedecked with place cards. I accepted a glass of wine and tried to look less anxious. But when my friend went outside for a cigarette, I went with him.

When we returned to the room, everyone was seated. Someone called to my friend to come sit next to her; he had been placed near some famous people in the center of the table. I looked around, but I already knew: there was no place card for me. Everyone else was seated. A waiter murmured in my ear that someone hadn’t shown up; I could sit in her seat for the moment. Read More »

Comments Off

Hoosier State

April 29, 2014 | by

LOVE_sculpture_NY

Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Fifty-Fifth Street.

Once, when I was working as a waitress, a mother came into the restaurant with her two little boys, whom we’d seen before. I must say, they were not particularly appealing children—they were wild and hard to control, and frequently cruised around the interior of the restaurant on scooters. On this day, one of them, about four years old, climbed atop an empty table and wouldn’t get down.

I said, “Honey, you have to come down from there.”

To which he said, “Fuck you!”

So I lifted him down bodily.

He ran to his mother in tears, screaming and whining. His mother said, “Sweetheart, the lady only did that because she loves you.” Read More »

Comments Off

On Being a Regular, or Strange Chefs, Part 2

April 8, 2014 | by

A counterpart to yesterday’s piece.

Regulars_in_the_village_pub_in_Tomintoul,_Banfshire,_discuss_the_Ministry_of_Information_film_show,_held_in_the_local_Memorial_Hall,_1943._D22631

Regulars in the village pub in Tomintoul, Banfshire, 1943. Photo: British Ministry of Information

Speaking of characters. There was a time when, for a small adventure, one had only to go to a particular bakery in the West Village. You know the one I mean. The owner was unfailingly unpleasant, the coffee unfailingly terrible, the place lacking air-conditioning and, in summer, unbearably stuffy. But the croissants were good in their heavy way, and it was always entertaining to see people attempt to ingratiate themselves with the management.

When said owner retired, he sold his business to a hard-working and kindly employee and today things go on much as before, save that now the customer service is more or less normal. It’s not the adventure it used to be. I happened to stop in for a pain aux raisins and one of those awful coffees the first day they reopened, just by chance. One fellow bellied up to the counter and said in a confidential fashion, “Man, am I glad to see you. Jean was a piece of work. Came here every day for ten years and couldn’t get a friendly word out of him.”

He was clearly looking for commiseration, but got only a noncommittal smile from the new owner, and went away with his desired status as “beloved regular” still very much in question. No sooner had he left than another man, who’d overheard, approached the counter with an equally confidential air. Read More »

Comments Off