The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It

Archive for the ‘dining’ Category

THERE’S SOMETHING IN THE WATER

If you are even one tenth as much an aficionado of great pizza as I you have no doubt your favorite version of this sublime delicacy.  Of course, growing up in New York, I still prefer the version that is produced there.  Even a bad New York pizza is better than a great pizza from anywhere else.

Living for many years in Chicago I became acclimated to the deep dish thick crust pizza that is the signature trademark of Uno’s and Due’s – started by an Irishman, Ike Sewell.  In fact I make a very good version of it.  It’s filling and satisfying and brings back memories of sitting in Ike’s restaurants with good friends and a pitcher of beer.

In Las Vegas there are a number of pizzerias all of which throw New York somewhere in their name to entice the unwary into thinking that they’re about to get the real McCoy.  Some of them do a reasonable impersonation of the genuine article.  They carry that off almost as successfully as I would doing an impersonation of Mae West.

A new pizzeria, Dom DeMarco’s came to town last fall.  It is only about a five mile drive from the house and people talked it up as the authentic thing – coming as they do from Brooklyn.  I stopped by one day and picked up a menu.  I thought it was pricey but ordered one the next night.  I got there ten minutes early as my salivary glands were in overdrive and found that my pizza beat me to the pick up station by some time.  There was no heat lamp so I had to reheat it when I got home and there were so few toppings I wondered if I had been given someone else’s order for a plain cheese.  All this for $28.00 for a 16” pizza.

I happened to mention this the next morning at the dog park and one of the other morning regulars said he had the same experience – no toppings and overpriced.  He also mentioned that when President Obama had been in town on a fundraiser he had ordered seven or eight pizzas for his entourage from Dom DeMarco’s.  Had I known that I would have realized that I was going to get gypped and not patronized the place.  I won’t make that mistake again.

I did find a pizzeria in North Las Vegas at Uncle Angelo’s Pizza Joint in Jerry’s Nugget Casino which is as close to the real New York experience as I have come.  When I ordered one I swooned.  Great crust, plentiful fresh toppings, excellent sauce, the right amount of cheese and baked to perfection.  A 17” pizza for $17 and that included a free pitcher of beer.   I was by myself so I passed on the beer and took home six wonderful slices to enjoy over the next three evenings.

So what is it about New York pizza that makes it different?  Everyone tells me that the secret ingredient is the water.  New York reportedly has some of the finest water flowing from the tap of any city in the country.  I can believe it – and I think the water has properties that go far beyond allowing for the creation of fantastic pizza.

I say this because I read a story the other day that former Rep. Anthony Wiener (D), NY is considering a return to politics, perhaps running for Mayor of New York City.  The former Congressional Representative resigned last year because of the flap over his posting semi-clad photos of himself on the internet.  He is apparently sitting on $4.5 million in campaign contributions which could be used to facilitate that bid.

Apparently the former congressman’s incipient career as a model for men’s undergarments didn’t work out.

I have a theory that New York City water increases libido and diminishes any sense of propriety.  It is possible that this may only affect politicians.  I have a call in to former Governor Eliot Spitzer to see if I can get some confirmation of this.  I will keep you posted as developments warrant.

Until then, I would suggest that politicians who either live in or are visiting the Big Apple take caution and make sure that they only consume water that has been bottled elsewhere.

There’s something in the water.

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AT A LOSS FOR WORDS

It’s seldom that I find myself at a loss for words.  But viewing the linked video prompted exactly that reaction. 

http://news.yahoo.com/video/health-15749655/man-to-hospital-after-heart-attack-grill-28339844.html

After watching it three times; the first to see what it was about; the second to see if what I thought I saw the first time was really there; the third to jolt myself out of the shock of seeing the first two plays, I had a few questions and would like to hear your thoughts …

By way of a preamble let me again say that I have always had to be careful of my food intake and have taken that as a personal responsibility.  I can put on a pound walking by a French patisserie.

I have followed a healthful discipline and diet for many years and feel better off and better about myself by making good food choices.  I’m sure that as a result I am healthier than I would be had I just given in to my food cravings.

By way of further disclaimer let me say that my essential libertarian philosophy calls for as little regulation by government as possible to maintain an orderly society – but it also allows for intervention when a person behaves irresponsibly and threatens others in that society through their dangerous behavior.

Question 1.  Suicide or attempted suicide are considered crimes in all fifty states.  Does eating yourself to death constitute suicide?

Question 2. If your answer to the first question is yes, what would you suggest that government do to help the overeater into changing his or her behavior?

Question 3. If a morbidly obese person wants to improve their life, do you feel a moral obligation to help that individual and contribute to the cost of their healthcare?

Question 4. If a morbidly obese person refuses to change their eating habits, do you have a moral obligation to contribute to that person’s cost of healthcare?

Question 5. You are a heart surgeon, the only one on duty.  You have two patients who are critical and require immediate attention.  The first is one of the people who was mentioned in the previous question who needs a triple by-pass.  The second is a new-born who has a congenital heart defect.  On which of these two patients would you operate?

I would sincerely like to hear your responses to these questions.  Feel free to answer any or all of them.

Oh, I have gone by The Heart Attack Grill which is on Las Vegas Blvd. in the downtown area.  If you’re coming to Las Vegas and would like the exact address I’d be happy to provide it to you.  But I’m sure that you’re smarter than that and like me, will just drive on by.

TO SERVE MAN

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Let me first say that I am only a “closet-vegetarian.” I put my morality and scruples aside and venture into the meat department and pick up some lifeless piece of flesh that will become my dinner. If I didn’t have that option and had to kill something for supper, I would be on-line with Amazon ordering every vegetarian cookbook they had for sale. (I already own a number of them and use them at least three or four times a week).

I do try to minimize my meat consumption and I don’t waste anything that I have purchased out of respect for the animal that was sacrificed for my meal. And I assuage my conscience by saying to myself – that even vegans and vegetarians kill something in order to sustain themselves.

When I was watching an episode of “The Twilight Zone” I realized that this particular story was not a Rod Serling original but was based on a story by Damon Knight that I had previously read. Nonetheless I was interested how this had been transformed for the small screen.

The story was set during the Cold War of the 1950’s. Three representatives of an alien race, the Kanamit have come to earth with their stated purpose of bringing humanity the health and peace and plenty that they had brought to many other races throughout the galaxy.

The Kanamit are as good as their word – quickly eradicating disease, showing us ways to get unlimited energy which results in the elimination of conflicts between nations because of the new plenty they have bestowed on us. Earth has truly been transformed into a Garden of Eden.

The Kanamit offer humans the opportunity to visit their home planet through ten-year long exchange programs. Many are anxious to travel through the stars and accept this invitation.

Shortly after their arrival, a UN translator (through whom the story is told) gains access to one of the books that the Kanamit have brought with them. The Kanamit have provided humans with a Kanamit-English dictionary and he begins translating this book. After several weeks of labor, our translator concludes that the title of the work is “To Serve Man.”

It takes several more weeks of effort but he finally realizes that the work which he is translating is actually a cookbook – and we’re the main ingredient in the menus.

We live in an unimaginably vast universe where anything can, probably has or may very well yet happen. It’s something for us who consider ourselves the “top dogs” – my apologies to my canine friends – to think about.

Bon Appetit!

 

YOU TURN ME OFF

This has been a long time coming
But I just have to say it,
You turn me off.

When we go to a party
And you speak to other guests,
You turn me off.

When we go to the movies
And you get wrapped up in the film,
You turn me off.

When we go out to dinner
And you’re quiet through the meal,
You turn me off.

But I am loyal and devoted
And though
You turn me off,
I’ll be there for you
Whenever you need me.
And when that moment comes,
You’ll turn me on.

This is your cell phone and
I wanted you to know how I feel.

 

  

THE CART

Like all large cities, Chicago had many great restaurants. One of my favorites was located in the Hotel Harrison. It was called The Cart. It was special to me for several reasons – one of them being that it was the place my dad took mom on their first date.

Mom and dad were working for competitors and had met at the Chicago Gift Show. Dad said that it was love at first sight. Mom said she needed to see the show a couple of times before she knew for sure. But dad’s taking her to The Cart for dinner did help soften her attitude.

The restaurant was a Chicago landmark. It’s signature dish was roast beef – served from a very large silver domed serving cart – sliced to each diner’s exact order.

The roast beef was available in three sizes – “Regular”, “Queen-Size” and “Fit For A King.” Each was accompanied by a huge baked potato and served with the house salad. The Cart had a unique dressing for this salad. It was a creamed Roquefort with just a hint of anchovy. It’s the only place I have ever found it – and it was as wonderful as the roast beef.

When dad took mom there on their date the wait staff consisted entirely of women. My parents’ waitress that night was a lady named Stella. Her career there lasted for nearly thirty years and dad always requested her whenever he dined at the restaurant. A dinner at The Cart was always on his agenda when he was in Chicago.

Dad introduced me to this wonderful restaurant when he came to Chicago for the Lamp Show at the Palmer House. It was the spring of my first year in school. I welcomed a break from the dorm cafeteria whose output only vaguely resembled food.

I was anxious to see dad as well as try one of his favorite places. It was on this visit that I found out that The Cart was the site of my parents’ first date. And I didn’t hear it from dad – I heard it from Stella.

She came over to our table – without a note pad – and dad introduced her to me. She looked at me and said, “You know that I’m the reason that you’re having dinner here tonight.” I didn’t quite know what to say or where she was going with this comment. She said, “It was my wonderful service and our fantastic roast beef that was the reason your folks got married.”

Without missing a beat or waiting for me to say anything she said, “Your usual Mr. D? An Old Fashioned, easy ice and two maraschino cherries, orange slice – the Queen medium rare, regular baked, and the salad with the house dressing?” Dad smiled and nodded at her. I said, “Make that two – except for the Old Fashioned.”

By the way, though dad had patronized the restaurant for almost twenty years – he only came in twice a year – when the shows were in town. Stella had an amazing memory and a wonderful winning way. She made you feel happy that you had chosen to dine with her.

I believe that the reason Stella remembered dad so well was that he always treated the wait staff wherever he ate with respect for them as professionals – rather than looking down on them as the hired help. He was outgoing and genuinely a nice guy and would take time to chat.

I went to The Cart many times over many years. It was only a once or twice a year experience but, like dad I always requested Stella. When I started going there by myself I had a small family of my own – that being my Irish Setter, Finney. So one night when Stella was asking if I wanted the “Queen” medium rare I changed to the larger size. Stella looked at me and said, “What are you trying to do – put on weight?” I explained that I would take the leftover roast beef home for my dog.

She left and put my order in with the carver at the cart and returned with my salad and my dinner shortly thereafter. As soon as I saw the immense amount of beef on my plate I realized that Finney was going to be one very happy Irish Setter.

I finished dinner and asked if Stella would please wrap my unfinished beef so I could take it home. She returned with my check, my leftover meal and a shopping bag full of neatly wrapped packages that she had assembled in the kitchen – the remains of other diners’ unfinished dinners. She looked at me and said, “I hope Finney enjoys his dinner!” Stella was a dog lover. And she did the same thing every time that I returned to dine with her after that.

The south end of the Loop began a long period of decline before it was finally rejuvenated. But by that time, the seedy neighborhood had exacted its toll on the businesses that were located there – and that included The Cart.

I went there one night for dinner only to discover that it had been transformed into an Indian restaurant. I remember a feeling of incredible sadness that this Chicago icon had passed into the pages of the history books.

I miss The Cart and I miss Stella. They both provided some wonderful and warm memories. And, if Stella was right – and I think that she may have been – The Cart and she are the only reasons that I am here to share this story with you.

 

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

English is a rich language. Having an extensive vocabulary allows us to communicate our thoughts effectively and makes our conversation more interesting to the listener. 

But vocabulary is only one part of of communication. The other is the way we use those words.

Consider the following sentence:

I – Never – Said – You – Stole – Money.

What does this sentence mean?

Actually, it has six different meanings depending on which word in the sentence is stressed.

 1.  I never said you stole money. (Joe made the accusation).

2. I never said you stole money. (Emphatic denial).

3. I never said you stole money. (I did write a memo to the boss).

4.I never said you stole money. (I was talking about Fred).

5.I never said you stole money. (You just borrowed some from petty cash).

6.I never said you stole money. (You did take a ream of copy paper home).

  Consider the following scenario:

You go to a restaurant expecting to enjoy a wonderful steak dinner. The server provides you with a menu and after considering the choices you make your selection. You order your steak medium-rare and select your side dishes as you look forward to eating your appetizer.

 After a short while your server returns with your entree. The steak arrives well-done – not a hint of pink to be found anywhere. (Of course, unless the server placed the order incorrectly, she had nothing to do with its being overcooked).

 You motion to your server and loudly say, “Are you an idiot? Didn’t you hear me tell you I wanted this steak medium-rare? Does this look like medium-rare to you? Take it back and bring me what I ordered.”

You have certainly let her know that the meal was not prepared as you requested. In the process you have demeaned the server, (a number of other diners have looked over at the commotion you created with your boisterous display). Finally, you have made yourself look petty and unpleasant – if not downright vicious. While you’ll get your order cooked as you like, you will have made no friends among either your fellow diners or the restaurant’s staff.

Here is an alternate way to handle this situation: 

You ask that the server come back to your table. As she is standing there you say, “Excuse me, I know you’re busy and I’m sorry to bother you. Apparently the kitchen mis-heard you when you placed my order. You ordered this medium-rare – but they overcooked it and its well-done. Would you mind taking it back and asking them to cook another one?”

 In the second scenario, you have dealt with the situation in a polite and mature manner. You are more likely to have your replacement order expedited. You have taken a conciliatory posture so that you have neither insulted the server nor disturbed your fellow diners. Finally, you have demonstrated that you realize people make mistakes and are a big enough person to be understanding of our human frailty.

 The words we use and the manner in which we employ them matter. So the next time you have a complaint, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Your goal is to get the situation corrected. The best way to do that is by conversing with the person who has the ability to resolve your problem in a courteous and non-confrontational way.

 Dad summed it up for me years ago when he said, “You attract a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

And that’s still true today.

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