Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

IT ALL COMES OUT IN THE WASH

The French Laundry is an extremely expensive upscale Napa Valley restaurant considered by many to be the best restaurant in America.  Some while ago it opened a Manhattan satellite called Per Se, an equally expensive restaurant also considered top of the heap in haute cuisine land.  [The Tasting Menu, a series of dishes chosen by the chef, costs $310 per person!]  Today the news broke that the health inspectors recently found so many health violations in Per Se during one of their periodic visits that its health rating is "pending."  After a full-scale indulgence in a bout of schadenfreude, I decided to tell you all about my own personal triumphant experience with The French Laundry.

Twelve years ago, my older son, Patrick, married a wonderful woman, Diana Schneider [quite the most brilliant accomplishment of his long and distinguished life].  Since they both lived in San Francisco, they decided to hold the wedding at a winery in Napa Valley [on Bastille Day, by the way, though I think maybe they did not choose the date for its historic revolutionary significance.]  I rented a tux [the fourth time I had ever worn one, counting the time I wore Susie's father's tux to a country club dance when I was a teenager], and went off to California.  Since this was an event of transcendent importance in my life, I decided to throw prudence to the winds and host a dinner party for Susie and me, Patrick, Diana, and my younger son Tobias at The French Laundry.  Tobias generously offered to pick up the tab for the wine.

We all chose the restaurant's tasting menu, figuring that it would give us a range of outstanding gustatory experiences.  There were seven or eight dishes in all, including an amuse bouche to start and a dessert at the end.  Each course was brought with a flourish by impeccably schooled waitpersons on elegant bone china.

Now, here's the thing.  I feel about food the way I feel about music.  I do not care at all for the wrapping or the presentation or the elegance.  All I care about is how it tastes [or sounds, in the case of music.]  And the dishes, although a delight to the eye, were quite undistinguished in taste.  They looked gorgeous, but they did not burst on the taste buds with brilliance.  Mind you, they were o.k.  Nothing was actually bad.  But I have had many meals much better than that one, in restaurants that could not hope to secure a single Michelin star, let along the coveted three stars that had been awarded to The French Laundry.  The bill, as I recall, was somewhere north of $800 -- no doubt, from the management's point of view, a steal.

I was really bummed out.  This was to be daddy's signature night, my one and only splash as a Big Spender, and the meal was a manifest flop.  By the time we were in the plane on the way back to Massachusetts, I was really getting steamed, so when I got home, I wrote a letter to the management of the restaurant.  I did not just say that I had been disappointed with the meal.  I went through it course by course and described exactly how each dish had failed to come up to snuff.  As it happens, I have an especially good memory for what I eat.  I did not complain.  I did not ask for some compensation,  I just told them that they had been a profound disappointment.

Well, back came a letter of apology with a statement that the charge for the meal would be removed from my credit card, as indeed it was.  A small victory, heaven knows, but there are precious few of them in this world.  I tell you all this just in case you should have a similar experience.  A word to the wise.

 

5 comments:

chrismealy said...

Was it just you, or did the whole party come away disappointed?

Michael said...

No meal in should cost $800.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Everyone was of course being very polite, but I just checked with Susie, and she agrees that everyone was let down.

That, and several other experiences [including a really poor meal at L'Ambroisie in Place des Vosges, one of the most famous restaurants in the world, has cured me of the desire to eat at upscale toney restaurants. I much prefer simple places with warm abiance and really good food in modest surroundings.

Magpie said...

Prof.


The thing is not the food, but to be seen where it matters.

This reminds of something that happened twenty something years ago, when newly introduced mobile phones, costing a small fortune, were the size of small bricks and young "mover and shaker" hopefuls (like I was then, believe it or not) just had to have one of those things, hoping the chicks would notice how much alike Michael Douglas/Gordon Gekko they were.

At the time I was living in a South American country notorious for its criminality. It just so happened that an upmarket, very fashionable restaurant was robbed by a gang. The robbers proceeded to ask the well-dressed customers their valuables: wallets, cash, watches, jewelry and... mobile phones.

The police was called and eventually they actually found the mobile phones. The robbers left a pile of them in an alley. It turns out many of the damned things were fakes people carried around just to make believe!

Robert Paul Wolff said...

I love that story. Like the standard gimmick in theft movies where the fabulous jewel stolen from the rich socialite turns out to be paste.