15% is the new 20%

August 19, 2011 at 1:05 pm (I love my city, plays well with others, present)

Dinner last night at Murray Circle was a performance. (It was also painfully and unexpectedly expensive, but that’s only vaguely relevant and not, in my mind, the fault of the restaurant.) We gathered in a private room off of the main dining room and were split into two tables of twelve. The menu was set except for the entree, so we prepared for four courses. Our head server was just the right kind of attentive and no wine glass was left empty, but the real show began with the soup. Six waiters marched soundlessly to the table, waited for a cue, then in perfect unison placed bowls before the women. There was a brief pause, then a swift motion put bowls before all of the men. The first time this display of Edwardian manners occurred, it created a hush amongst the diners. (And to create any kind of quiet in a group celebrating a 30th birthday with alcohol is quite a feat.) By the time our cake slices landed with military precision, it felt like the final act of a charming period play. They removed dirty plates from the second course before presenting the third. They served from the left and cleared from the right. They were somehow always present, but never intrusive. It was deftly, elegantly, impressively done. And if the server got a $1200 tip (from which he would need to tip out the others who helped, plus bussers, bartenders, hostesses etc.), then he deserved it. Yes, deserved it.

I’m not new to fine dining (though my Michelin star experience tops out at two), but this was utterly divine. And it came the same day I read this Inc. article that led me to the original GQ review. Both recount Alan Richman’s experience with terrible service (which seems to have garnered him an accusation of sexual harassment) at a restaurant in Queens (yes, Queens) that thinks it’s too cool for school. I don’t want to sound all “Good help is impossible to find,” but I certainly agree that when I go out for a meal, I am paying for service (with my tip and the menu prices themselves) as much as for fine food. Over the last ten years much of that service has been sacrificed on the alter of cool so that inked hipsters in whatever they feel like wearing can tell me that the chicken I’m about to eat was named Colin instead of delivering it in the perfect moment between conversations.

C and I enjoyed an amazing brunch on Sunday at Baker and Banker (one of my favorite neighborhood spots), but our server didn’t even attempt to hide her disdain when I asked her to bring a clean fork with the cinnamon roll I was taking to go. And my request that the potato pancake be placed to the side of my smoked trout and horseradish cream so that gluten-intolerant C could taste the fish was met with a barely disguised eye roll. I’m not lamenting the overarching casual turn most dining has taken, I just believe, in my own old-fashioned way, that if I’m paying to be waited on, I’d like courteous, experienced service. Or even some tiny fraction of what we saw last night. And until I do, I will tip the 15% that once indicated a barely acceptable minimum and nothing more.

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My new apartment is a Mercedes

July 29, 2011 at 4:12 pm (I love my city, It's all about me, present)

At 5:30 am this morning, the garbage truck (or “trash people” as I called them in my half-asleep state, which M said made him think of people with no class, while I envisioned piles of anthropomorphized rubbish) came screeching up right below our bedroom window. Not even an early wake-up could ruin my first morning in the new apartment, so I flapped a hand in M’s direction and grunted, which he accurately interpreted to mean, “Darling, would you be so kind as to close the window and then crawl back into bed and warm me up?” He, being the most charming and obliging kind of man, took one long 6’2″ stride to the offending opening and slid it shut. *Shlunk*

Silence.

Not slightly dulled version of garbage truck noises. Not “Nice try, bucko, but this is the City and your windows were installed when booze was illegal.” Silence.

It was like being in a luxury car commercial where you hear the engine from the outside, then the satisfying *thunk* of the door falling closed, then…nothing. Blissful, glorious, peaceful quiet. I think I could get used to the suburbs.

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More info for tourists (er…sorta)

January 20, 2011 at 11:46 am (I love my city)

I ran across a little Lonely Planet poll this morning (alright, alright, I was strongly urged to vote by 7×7.com) and thought it tied right into the SF/NY theme of my Letter to Tourists post.

Check it out (and vote) for yourself here.

And lest you think I’m unreasonably biased, I should mention that I did vote for New York in a couple of categories; the High Line and the Strand are unbeatable.

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A Letter to Tourists

January 7, 2011 at 10:46 am (I love my city, plays well with others)

Oh Gawker, you’re so witty and amusing the way you berate people and slut shame women like some lovechild of Tucker Carlson and Tucker Max. Silly Gawker…

And yet the article posing as a letter to New York visitors gave me an idea. (P.S. That whole thing about sauntering tourists getting in the way of striding New Yorkers is so original that I think it was in Pillow Talk.)

See, the SF version looks like this:

Dear Visitors to Our Fine City,
Welcome. Enjoy the beauty and wackiness of my favorite place. Here are some tips.

Ask for directions
We’ll whip out an iPhone and have you there quicker than LiLo can relapse. And then we’ll be amused that anyone with enough discretionary income to travel doesn’t own a smartphone. Are you visiting from Florida or 2004?

Enjoy the whole damn city
No, really. It’s only 49 square miles. New Yorkers (according to Gawker) may want you to keep to certain neighborhoods, but we’re a bit more inclusive on the left coast. Though you’re likely to stick to the Haight, Pier 39, and the touristy part of Chinatown, you’re more than welcome to Russian Hill, Union Street, and the Mission too. Just, for the love of God,

Don’t come looking for hippies
SF retains only the spirit of those wild, free-loving years. The kids you see on the street are mostly homeless runaways that the foster system chewed up and spit out. They’re not here for your amusement. (I’m talking to you crazy Duggar woman with 27 kids.)

Get your coffee from Starbucks
Leave us our Blue Bottle, Ritual, and Philz. It’s Northern California crack.

Breathe deep
Yes, people smoke weed in public. Yes, the cops can smell it. Yes, it’s legal. Sorry, Josh Hamilton, get over it.

Enjoy the Bush Man
Just kidding. There’s nothing in that bush. Nothing at all.

Keep your Blazing Sadles bikes to the west side of the bridge
There are signs on the Golden Gate. Read them. Or we will make fun of your fanny pack to your face. Weekend + bike = west side of the bridge. This shouldn’t be difficult. Check your phone, it’ll tell you. Oh wait…

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