Tuesday, July 24, 2007

SF food bloggers should grow spines, not hide behind keyboards, say (lame!) chefs. (Was that passive aggressive??)

Mix a bunch of a high end chefs together with some wine, radio tape recorders and a stuffy, older audience at the Commonwealth Club. Allow to simmer for half an hour or so. The inevitable result? Bashing on food bloggers!
Steffan Terje, Perbacco: It's a pradigm shift, a new generation is taking over. I guess we have to get used to this -- everybody's a critic. I don't know if I like it yet.

Michael Dellar, Lark Creek Restaurant Group, darkly: Think of the alternative ... (chuckles) [veiled Michael Bauer reference?? --ed.]

Pete Sittnick, Pat Kuleto's new restaurants: I would rather, if that person had a problem, just tell me that night. Don't put it on some blog I don't know how to access.

Steffan: We're in the people business, shaking hands, kissing babies [shurely againsht health code? -ed.] .... We thrive on this instant feedback.

Dellar: [Story about a customer recently in the restaurants who insisted there was a finger nail in his/her blended, frozen lemonade, when really it was a lemon peel, even when shown the peel. One hour later it was on the Internet.] It's everyone's right to do that.
Yup. They actually want you to be direct, and complain, with your vocal chords, in person, instead of scribbling in your little blogger notebook and angrily belting out your mad little screed on your blog or Yelp or whatever you kids are calling it these days. You know, since that is likely to be well received in the typical restaurant, a cauldron of mentally-imbalanced cooks armed with knives, bitter waiters with your credit card number and clueless, coke-addled hostesses who could not care less about your petty third degree burns or whatnot.

Just kidding! Actually if you use this thing called "tact," apparently you can stand up for yourself in situations like these. So it is rumored. And with these things called "Google Alerts," restaurant owners don't have to complain about not being able to "access" your blog or whatever, but that's beside the point.

Oh, also? Your precious Craig Stoll at Delfina? Who feeds Thomas Keller when Tommy comes to SF? He promises to burst your eardrums, underpay his cooks and raise your prices!

Stoll on prices: People will be getting used to higher price menus for everyubody,

You name the city, and restaurants on par with the people at this table are easily 4,5,6,7 dollars higher (per entree).

Stoll on noise: Our architects -- it's their fault! [Joke -- laughter.] If you have a booked place, it's going to be loud. You want your restaurant to be busy and exciting.

Honest to God, I want a certain level of noise.

On cooks: If we paid cooks what they were worth, people wouldn't be able to afford to eat in our restaurant.

Some additional details from Laura Froelich: 2nd Annual State of San Francisco Restaurants

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Sam in Photo Glam Slam!

The 7X7 headline gets it right, Sam has eclipsed Victoria as most Posh.

And former Posh, frankly, looks like she could use some nosh. A lot of nosh, actually. I know a site with great recipes Vicky! Maybe even some things David would loooorve ...

7X7: The Poshest Spice (Sam Breach!)

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mean words for Presidio Social Club

I can't help but point out a recurring theme in the reviews of Presidio Social Club: The service sort of really sucks!

And it sucks in the friendliest, nicest, most warm-spirited possible way, which goes a hell of a long way, as the consistently positive overall reviews of Presidio Social Club attest.

Listen to Josh Sens in San Francisco magazine:

Where the Social Club suffers is in its atrocious service, as bad as any I've encountered in a restaurant more ambitious than a Jack in the Box. To call the waiters AWOL would be too kind. On both occasions when I was at their mercy, they seemed to synchronize their passes by my table not to military time but to the travel patterns of rare comets. On their infrequent appearances, they were friendly but forgetful. Oh right, your cocktail. Ah yes, your sauteed spinach. Questions about the menu? The fish special, say, or the stock in the veal stew? Don't ask, because they won't tell.
That paragraph sure caught my attention, and stuck in my head even as Sens went on to give an overall "very good," two-of-four star review, apparently on the strength of the cocktails, desserts, and the staff's overall niceness.

So I decided to check around. Apparently Michael Bauer raised a similar, if more muted, critique of the service. He wrote that the staff were "seemingly inexperienced," failed to bring utensils and brought the wrong drinks.

But like Sens, Bauer was eventually won over by friendliness and desserts and cocktails, plus some fine (though uneven) entrees and apps.

Then there's KQED's food blog, where food writer Catherine Nash wrote, "Our waiter had the wink and swagger of a good ole boy, and I had to wonder if he was flirting or stealing nips from the bar since we rarely saw him." Bus boys and food runners were better than the waiter, plus desserts and cocktails were to die for -- you get the idea by now.

Not surprisingly, you can find similar critiques of the service at Presidio Social Club on the Web, if you look for them.

Funny me, but I can't imagine having worse-than-AWOL waiters on two different visits to the same restaurant, as Sens at SF magazine described, and then giving the place anything better than "good," at best. Especially if, like Sens, my review is published two and a half months after similar criticisms were aired in the Chronicle and a month after they were aired on the KQED food blog, giving the restaurant plenty of time to fix things, even taking into account long magazine lead times.

But then, I've never actually been to Presidio Social Club, which seems to have a Reality Distortion Field strong enough to impress Steve Jobs himself. As Nash put it, "the critic in me may have shrugged, but the rest of me had fallen in love."

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Daniel Patterson hates and detests visiting you; hired waiter with paranoid schizophrenia; has investors who are a little slow (if you catch my drift)

Daniel Patterson, a prolific magazine writer who apparently has his own restaurant, wrote today on Chez Pim about the burning shame of coming out of the kitchen to visit customer tables, where he feels like some kind of awkward mental case, which is not at all how any of us expect chefs to be, since they are known for their social graces.

Patterson much prefers the warm comfort of his kitchen, where a psychotic waiter almost killed everyone.

At least there he doesn't have to spend for-EVER at an investor's table and explain very slowly for the millionth time why the food keeps changing, as he did in his dining room on opening night.

The kitchen also keeps him away from what he calls his "bitchy neighbor," an architect who drives a baby blue BMW. (So best!)

Pim scored quite a coup by luring Patterson to her site. He normally writes for the New York Times' various magazines and glossy publications like San Francisco. When he wasn't writing articles or dodging Alice Waters' narco death squads he ran the restaurant Elisabeth Daniel (RIP) and the kitchen at Frisson.

Patterson says his opening day was "boring," but it's not so bad when you selectively quote his story out of context!!:
6:30 AM
Wake up. My blood has been siphoned off and replaced with barely molten lead.

The mechanical tech failed to start the [f--ing air conditioning]. This inspired me to leave a brief but colorful [explitive-laden and physically-threatening-to-the-point-of-illegality ] message with the contractor, encouraging them to pay a visit in the morning to finish the job [or, alternatively, take part in an impromptu seminar on what a well-sharpened chef's knife can do to human fingers]. There are excuses, which I break off [like so many sauteed contractor digits].

Our [a--hole neighbor] is a[n] architect of indeterminate ability [-- though his office is next to a strip club in a seedy part of town, if that tells you anything --] who owns a building in the back of the alley that abuts the restaurant. It'€™s a nice alley ... [considering the] two residential hotel buildings ... [and] Centerfolds[, which is exactly as classy as it sounds].

What is Mr. Architect most concerned about? [The strippers? The drug-addict-filled hovels next door?] Our garbage cans, which cannot remain outside during the day. It is a major obstacle in his grand scheme to turn the alley into the charming, tree-lined ... lane of someone'€s youth. [OK, of my youth. But you get the point.]

Our first sin had been ... forcing him to sit on many occasions for minutes at a time in his baby blue BMW M3 [(license plate: 'JERKOFF')], cartoon smoke rising from his ears, while a worker moved his truck.

9:30 AM
Having learned the painful way that an overly ambitious opening menu is the root of most quality and timing disasters, this time I'€™m playing it safe. This, as [so-called] friends noted rather sharply the previous evening, leaves the "€œinnovation" level a little light, but [they are jerks, and will not got invited to future preview dinners. I think I'll take that guy from Covers just to spite them].

I have ... voodoo ... we will ritually sacrifice innocent[s], ... invoking the devil. Of modernity, [but whatever.]

I stood on the top step of a ten foot ladder, reaching forward three feet while twisting to the left to apply another layer of matte medium to a corner pane. The fact that I have no health insurance is weighing heavily on my mind at this moment.

I make a horrible line cook ... pulled in a dozen directions, peripatetically moving around the kitchen in an attempt to see and taste everything. I would hate working with me.

One of the servers, who had never been involved in a restaurant opening before, and is used to more corporate environs, [thanks to the Department of Corrections' "work-release" program,] is becoming increasingly enraged by the chaos. He insists on keeping a list that he titles – I kid not – “Mental Notes,” of all of the things that are going wrong around him, everything from clutter in the service station to the other servers who jostle him as he works. Midway through the night there are two pages of increasingly scrawling and disjointed handwriting posted in the service station, which by the last line looks to be the work of either an anguished six year old or a long-term resident in a psychiatric ward. He decides to leave mid-service. With our blessing.

[Because having all our patrons physically murdered on opening night is not exactly good press. And the Chronicle automatically shaves half a star off the "ambiance" rating for each mass-murder killing spree in the dining room, as Chez Panisse learned the hard way.]

There’s a lull in the action, and I head into the dining room to say hi to our first guests, who are just finishing up their meal. I normally hate, hate, hate visiting the dining room, unless it’s someone that I know well. I feel nervous and out of place, standing awkwardly in front of the table muttering inanities. But it’s opening night and I feel obligated, so I trudge out.

Our first guests are from Sonoma, where I opened my first restaurant, Babette’s. I thank them for coming in, say hi to a few of my fiancées co-workers and head back to the kitchen.

A little longer of a visit at the investor’s table. He is surprised that the food is better than the pre-opening meal yesterday [, sort of like a small child is surprised by his own image in a mirror, or by the setting of the sun]. I explain, again, [, since my explanation to Smarty McMoneypants didn't seem to stick the first 10 times,] that it will keep improving at a rapid pace for months, and then slow to small incremental improvements – it will take at least a year until it achieves a level of performance I find remotely satisfactory.

Patterson's full articles at Chez Pim:
Opening Day, by Daniel Patterson
Opening Day (Part II)

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