Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Drive It Like You Stole It

No one wants to be Debbie Downer. It gives me no pleasure to find a restaurant disappointing.

Just about everyone who finds out that I write restaurant reviews as part of earning my living as a freelance writer expresses some level of envy, whether about the exposure to the newest spots, the underwriting of meals out or even the questionable role of being an arbiter of taste.

But the truth is, there are times when I go out to eat at a new place and over the course of that one meal, I realize if I weren't being reimbursed, I'd have absolutely no need to return. The problem is that I would never be so cavalier as to review a restaurant based on one visit.

So I return, not just once but twice, so that I can have an informed opinion after a total of three visits. And still sometimes, there just isn't a lot positive to say.

That's when I try to go into humor mode, so at least my review can be a good read of a bad place.

So when my latest review, here, made it clear that I'd been underwhelmed, I braced for a backlash and instead was rewarded with the opposite.

This review is beyond any doubt the most entertaining I've ever seen in Style. Thank you!

No, thank you for getting my humor.

Best restaurant reviewer in town. Always a great pleasure to read. Thank you.

Somebody gets my writing, so this is all kinds of affirming.

Ripped. To. Shreds.

That's a succinct summary, but it makes it sound like I didn't have a single kind word, which I did. The guacamole and tequila were delicious. Period.

But dining out so much also means I have plenty of experience when it comes to picking where I want to eat.

That means when a social companion suggests lunch, I politely ask if they have any preference where, only to be hit with options such as Casa del Barco, Third Street Diner or Bottoms Up, none of which will do and if you'd like to know why not, please ask.

Others wisely defer to my choices, asking simply what place and time and I mull and make a suggestion.

Today's bright idea was My Noodle & Bar, perched in the "treehouse" booth and with a stellar soundtrack of dream pop, except once when a '20's Tin Pan Alley song showed up in the mix and jarred the entire restaurant out of its reverb reverie.

When I immediately questioned our server on this musical gaffe, the woman at the booth next door said an emphatic, "Thank you!" to me because she'd had the same reaction to the shift in musical direction. Don't mess with guitar effects and synths when there are fans in the room.

It was a gorgeous day to be in the "treehouse," with the restaurant's front doors open wide, sunlight streaming down the dragon-painted steps and neither of us on a schedule.

Being the least ladylike eater on the planet, I cleaned my plate of chicken and broccoli with carrots and black beans in brown sauce while my friend and fellow avid reader barely finished half his sesame chicken and required a box.

I could say there's no shame in a hearty appetite, but it was likely the six-mile walk that proceeded lunch that ramped up my appetite. For that matter, when you're going to chat for four hours, a fair amount of sustenance will likely be involved, no?

Walking home afterwards, I run into a J-Ward neighbor and a gallery curator I know. As we approach high Gemini season, I'm discovering I know far more other Geminis than I realized.

One of the best comments on the subject came courtesy of a sunny Gemini who wasn't happy to hear of other people's negative take on our multi-faceted personas, saying, "I think most Geminis use their powers for good."

Realizing the power we wield, I know I try to.

I also try to see all of Irish director John Carney's movies - I saw "Once" in Philly and then got in the car to drive home, ruminating on it for the entire trip - which tonight meant seeing "Sing Street" at Criterion with a crowd of seven people.

The audience was so sparse that when the screen reminder to turn off your cell phone came on, the man behind me joked to his wife, "I'm turning it off even though we're the only people in here."

Turning around in my seat, I asked him what was I, chopped liver, a comment he found hilarious.

Set in the '80s, the movie told the story of nothing more than a boy named Cosmo who starts a band during the MTV era to win a girl (that old chestnut). The distinct pleasure in it was both the inclusion of period music (A-ha, Duran Duran, Hall and Oates) but also music newly written to sound like that period some of us know so well.

Naturally, the band's outfits and make-up follow whatever band is in their sites at the moment.

And the music humor is delicious. The Cure's music is explained as happy/sad music and that's as apt a description of any I've heard since fans began obsessing over it three decades ago.

When older brother Brendan learns that Raphina, the object of his little brother's affection, has a boyfriend who listens to Phil Collins, he assures his brother that the boyfriend won't be a problem.

"No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins," he advises. Chances are, she'll have a hard time with a man who wants to eat at Third Street Diner or Casa del Barco, too.

No amount of Gemini powers can right some wrongs.


  1. As an amateur cook who likes to dabble in Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine, I was in stitches as I imagined all the things that possibly went wrong in the kitchen. Your descriptions of what the sauce looked like and how it tasted reminded me of some of my early mistakes. Fortunately, when things were bad I could just throw everything out.

  2. Nothing wrong with trial and error, so long as it happens before you ask people to pay for it.

    And speaking of thwarted kitchen skills,I recall a memorable lunch with a young man working on bettering his cooking and conversational skills.

    Throw out what you don't like and keep what you do, that's the ticket.