Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Angie George and Jeff Weber

Silence is golden......

Sorry for the golden coupla weeks. We ran full speed into the Wedding from Hell......and were completely traumatized into silence.

Everyone in foodservice works without a net....some more than others. To completely define the service we provide would require a ten page contract and hot and cold running lawyers. Screw that.....we prefer to trust our people. How quaint.

It almost always works.....we subject our brides to a trip to The Store. If that doesn't dissuade them, nothing will. We pass on most of them.....because life is too short to drink bad wine, after all.

We google everyone.

I learned this trick at Arzak. Amanda and I went there last year, on the day of the big San Sebastian festa. We were fighting like cats and dogs: Amanda doesn't like to leave her ROOM, and here I was dragging her to a whole other country......Yeesh.

The night before, on arrival in Bilbao, I dragged her out to a Michelin One-Star in a fancy museum.....It sucked: the same sauce appeared four times. My food cred was seriously dragging the next day as I swept her out of town to San Sabby. The town was nuts, no parking, parades of wacky boys and girls dressed as milkmaids and Napoleonic soldiers......

Our arrival at Arzak....a Michelin 3 star....8pm on the dot. I felt blessed to get the reservation (I even lied that we were staying at a real hotel, not the pensione across from the Duomo, or whatever they call it. Wrinkled clothes; wet, grubby shoes....and, of course: the whole ''Fuck you!" "No, fuck YOU!! Why the fuck did I come to Spain with you? FUCK you!" "Fuck ME? Fuck you, you psycho control freak! This is a vacation, not boot camp....." A romantic know.

Of course no one in Spain that actually has enough income to pay tax doesn't eat before 10 or 11 at night. By arriving at the stroke of 8 at the Temple of WonderFood, we were already telegraphing: "AMERICAN GEEKS!!" Plus the wrinkled 80's clothes, the muddy shoes, and the whole ''Fuck you" thing......

Arzak is on a main drag.....kind of like Fremont in Seaside. It is a two story building and you have to risk your life to make the turn across traffic. Handy for those who fail is a hospital AND a cemetary. Then you park in back in a tiny little lot designed by Walt Disney in 1953. Did I mention that Arzak is pretty much in the top three or four restaurants in the world?

By blind luck, they were gracious and cool. We were seated in the completely empty dining room like royalty. The wine steward (notorious for over serving, I found out later) was cool. I gave him carte blanche, with a champagne turbo.......

The daughter of the owner runs the dining room. She asked us politely if there was anything we didn't like. Other than each other.......No. She let slip that she knew that I was a chef from California, and they had prepared a couple of different menus for us......

How did they know? They google all their guests.....The reservation form gives them enough info to figure you out, and they shop accordingly. No wonder they have three stars.

They did not disappoint. The dishes we had were highly technical, very simple....and perfect. I got a soft poached egg, with a slice cut out. It was hot, on a warm plate....with a little herb dust and a biscotto. The yolk was just flowing like a perfectly ripe cheese. The technical aspect of getting this to me in a now-busy dining room stunned me. Amanda got a Miro inspired calamari plate......It was a Miro: splashes of color, pefect calamare parts. She was stunned.

I looked at my plate, and realized that this is what it is all about: perfection. I had a perfect egg, and I had to fly 6,000 miles to get it. Amanda missed her museum in Bilbao for the food, and they brought her a Miro (could they tell from google that I am a controlling asshole food freak?).
I teared.....Amanda teared up. Our eyes met. We started sobbing........and laughing.

The Arzak daughter ran over.....disturbed. "Is something wrong?"

The spirit of Maria Louis Lucido descended on me......."Non, senorita. La diferencia entre "llorar'' y ''orar'' es muy pequena."

The difference between ''crying'' and ''praying'' is very small.........

She gasped and ran off......

The courses went on and on......I will post the menu.

For dessert, they brought me a little brioche, cut in half like a bun......with chopped chocolate like a patty, with a raspberry coulis for catsup and a slice of dried apple for an onion.......A one-off tip of the hat to a fellow chef......And the only reason they knew this was google......

So we google our people. We got nothing from Angie and Jeff.....despite that he is the caddy for pro golfer David Duval.

Their people drank $3,000 dollars of booze in 5 hours, eighty of them. They had guys who would order a drink...a vodka tonic.....then take a new glass and dump the drink into a new glass because they wanted it shaken. Of course the bartender has a shaker......they just wanted to burn glassware. They had other guys who would put their fingers into the shaken vodka guy's drink....causing him to freak out and get a new drink.....and laugh. They had mom and grandma buying drinks for a hot looking 15 year old grand-daughter, to get her drunk at a family bash. James the barman figured it out, and cut them off. They got in his face, and insisted that he pour for her. Of course, she barfed.......all over a nice upholstered chair in the rental house.

Eighty guys drank 24 cases of beer. Nuff said. Next morning, when it came time for the bill....they taxed us for the barfed on chair.....and refused to pay for the beer, because it was not cold enough. They also refused to pay for the food: they ordered tapas.....and thought that tapas would fill their guests in 15 minutes. The groom spent the entire night...fucked up beyond belief.....ragging on our crew about the lack of food he hadn't ordered. A class act.

So, now when someone googles them......their names will come up. Like the barf on the chair. Have a nice marriage, Angie and Jeff.......

It is more than 6,000 miles from Pebble Beach to San Sebastian.


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