Sunday, July 24, 2005

Talking back to the Ho

A few days back I was trying to find Michael Mina SF menu online, with no luck. Due to the vagaries of Google, this page came up first in my search results. "Confessions of a Restaurant Whore". Catchy title. Anyway, I read that, reacted and wrote what you see below. The ho deleted it for some reason, so I'm putting in here instead.

Wow! I stumbled on this page while looking for a MM menu - why the hell don't they have a website anyway?

For about the zillionth time, this made me deliriously happy that I finally quit the restaurant business. See, I've waited on you. Quite possibly I have actually waited on you, and I have definately waited on somebody just like you. In over 20 years of fine-dining waiting in NY, LA, and SF, I have dealt with thousands of lovely people, but the reason I'm so glad to be gone isn't them of course, but those folks who come into a restaurant looking for somebody to disparage, or somebody to be rude to, or something to criticize, or just looking for a reason to be miserable because that's their greatest pleasure in life.

Now of course there are legitimate criticisms to be made, and not all restaurant, servers and food are equal -- some do, in fact, suck -- but your review of MM seethes with the kind of discontent that can make restaurant work ugly. People like you inhabit a dining room like a tumor inhabits an organ, and you make people like me feel like prisoners in our own workplace. Reminds me of a busy summer night about a year ago ago. I had another table that was bitching about where they were sat, bitching about their favorite wine not being on the menu, bitching about the food being too adventurous, bitching about their apps taking too long to arrive, etc, etc, and only a short time later, I get a fourtop. These folks are happy and expansive, they love the food, they order good wines, they clearly enjoy each other's company, and they're having a terrific time. And one guy says to me, How come I get to eat chef XXXXX's amazing food here at XXXX, I get to drink this fantastic wine, and I get to enjoy your service and the company of my wonderful friends? How come I'm so lucky? I thought about that for a minute before I replied -- it's because you have a good attitude.

That said, I did eat at MM back in March, and my experience was quite different from yours. I thought the food was amazing and that the hospitality was both warm and professional. I didn't think anybody was a dick, and I wasn't personally offended by anybody's body type, clothing, or financial status. But we didn't enjoy the experience nearly as much as we should because the chef, who was on hand that night, was pumping the food at breakneck speed -- and for good reason, as the huge crowd in the lounge made it clear that the place was overbooked, or at least booking tables to turn very quickly.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005


After a hiatus of 18 months, I'm ready to return to the world of blogging. My last blog was part of a larger website,, that was dedicated to showing marginal voters why I agree with former U.P.I. reporter Helen Thomas that the current occupant of the White House is the worst president in history. I pulled the plug when I thought that other people were getting this idea out there efficiently, and that happier times were around the corner for our country. Boy was I wrong.

But that's not what this blog is about, though I do reserve the right to return to it on occasion. This blog is about the happier times we can manage now, moment by moment, and about some of the things that bring me happiness, namely good wine, good food, and good restaurants -- mostly good wine. As somebody who has spent the better part his life in the restaurant business (no mas, thankyou) I'm also going to diverge into semi-regular rants about the horrors of working with the public.

Please take this introduction as a test. I hope to get things started within the next few days. Our first major post will be a review of the new Cyrus restaurant in Healdsburg. Michael Bauer of the SF Chron has already declared it the equal of Napa's finest, which is saying a lot, and breathily mentions chef Douglas Keane with Thomas Keller. That's heady stuff, so I'm excited about eating there, though I'm taking it with a wee grain of salt, as MB has been proven wrong about a thing or two in his day.