SD Reader Article "How to Dine"
- David Naimark
Any thoughts from the San Diego contingent on this article? Seems like the power struggle involved in this approach to dining might be stressful. Also, if part of the strategy is to withold parts of your order, how would one deal with a tasting menu where they know what you're going to have in advance?
I think "power struggle" is the right phrase. Personally, I don't want to know that much about what my waiter's thinking, I just want to relax and let the food show up! It doesn't sound like an enjoyable dining experience to me at all.
The San Diego Reader does have a web site: sandiegoreader.com. However, to date, they've not posted to article. Perhaps they will in the future. It would really be best if you could read the article. Maybe you could e-mail the reader and they could send/fax/e-mail you a copy.
It's a very lengthy piece that, in essence, tries to enlighten us as to what a restauraunt is thinking about us as we dine. The idea is that by knowing this, you may be more able to intelligently plan a strategy to maximize your dining experience. Unfortunately, the power games involved seemed very intense and unenjoyable.
re: David Naimark
I have worked in the restaurant/food business for some 30 odd years. I have had the pleasure of "real" food since I was old enough to know the difference. I've worked with gourmet chefs, European and Asian chefs and served people from the entertainment, society and sports worlds. San Diego is already so pretentious and puritan that such a disgusting article does not surprise me. The person who wrote it pandered to the already intolerably ignorant attitude of the wanna be's in this town. It is hard to imagine that anyone would even want to work in the business in this town but to suffer these unbearable prigs is asking a bit much.
If this article was a video, it would be a best-selling comedy.
I read the article this morning. Aside from the fact that I found it insufferable, hard to finish and wanted to throw the Reader across the room, I was glad that I don't have to *dine* with the author's friend with any regularity.
Being of a "certain age" (read over 40, pushing 50 ;-)I have had my share of fine dining experiences. They were not marked by establishing an adversarily relationship with the restaurant and waitstaff, nor were they about waiting to bounce upon the real (and imagined) faux pas' during each meal. My fine dining experiences - and there have been many - have been more about sharing the joy of the table in elegant surroundings with great food, superb wine and superior service.
Reading the article in the Reader, however, did bring to memory a piece I read this summer, that I though was worth sharing. It may have been in Karen Page and Andrew Doernenberg's terrific book "Dining Out" or it may have been something in one of the Bay Area publications, I just can't remember exactly where I read it. Anyway, the piece was about becoming a regular patron at a restaurant. It described a fellow from the East Coast who was pretty regularly doing business in Chicago. Getting tired of dining in hotel restaurants and wanting to experience more of the dining scene in Chicago he ventured out and ended up at Charlie Trotter's. He like the food, the service and how he was treated. On his next business trip a couple of weeks later he returned, and had another great dining experience. By about his 3rd visit the staff recognized him, knew his likes and dislikes and began to cultivate him even further. The man went on to become a *regular* at the restaurant. How many of us would like to become a *regular* at a restaurant like Trotter's? I sincerely doubt you'd do it by following the methods advocated in the Reader article.
The gentleman in the example above was open and available to the dining experience and obviously enjoyed it enough to begin going back on a routine basis. He respected what the restaurant was about and how it conducted it's business. Why should any restaurant or waitstaff respect a patron who is intent on playing mind or control games with them, and who clearly has little respect for them or their business. Successful dining requires 2 things. It requires that the restaurant do what it is supposed to do to the best of it's abilities and it requires that the diner be present and an active participant in their own dining experience. How open and present can one be if one is intent upon controlling all aspects of the dining experience?
Okay, off my soap box, and you probably get the drift that I thought the article was arrogant and overly self-indulgent.
And, BTW, I've been in the food business for 25 years. I've eaten at some mighty fine restaurants and I can drop names probably as well as the character in the article. I can honestly say I am glad that my perspective, palate and joy at the table has not become as narrow, jaded or self-righteous as that portrayed in the article.
The article was poorly written, but one thing rang true: The El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn easily has the best service in San Diego. They also have the highest rated cuisine in Zagat.
It's amazing that the restaurant stays in it's present form. If the RBI were not an independently owned hotel, some consultant would have changed the concept years ago. Restaurants like "El Biz" only exist in big cities, where there is a critical mass of carriage trade to support it. The fact that it thrives in an outer suburb is amazing.
If you haven't been, you should, and not just for the service. El Biz is the best dining experience in town.