I was delighted when the New Yorker showed up last week: Calvin Trillin AND John McPhee! Writing about food! But, I don't know... it wasn't as good as I had hoped. First, John McPhee starts off with this bizarrely constructed paean to another New Yorker writer. (I'm not in your club! I don't get your jokes!) He writes: "He it is who improved his understanding of wild trout by filling his belly with brown-drake mayflies... He it is whose acquired tastes run to things like grasshopper juice." I don't know -- I'm no New Yorker writer but doesn't that "he it is" feel weird in your mouth? And then he confesses to eating porpoise. Porpoise!
(A side note: In his story, Adam Gopnik writes about Wildman Steve Brill, this guy in a pith helmet who teaches people how to find food in Central Park. Not in the garbage. I went on a foraging tour with him in early 2001, ate mulberries and cattails, and wrote a very interesting travel story, if I do say so myself. It was slated to run in the spring of 2002 but, sadly, it never was published. After 9/11, the travel editor decided it was too apocalyptic.)
Anyway, this is my food issue -- and it's about my food issue. Last week, for our fifth! anniversary, David and I went to Bebo, a relatively new trattoria in Arlington, offered by a very well-known Italian chef. First warning sign: When we arrive, we have the opportunity to pick up a new bumper sticker. It says: The Washingtonian Lies.
I still don't know what's up with that. As far as I can tell, the restaurant is No. 34 on that magazine's 100 Best Restaurants list. (Did they want to be higher?) Anyway, this becomes my concern: Do angry chefs make bitter food?
No. They don't. The food was pretty much fabulous. But I did have some issues that made me a little less than totally satisfied. So I wrote to the chef on his blog
"Oh, the cherry tomato sauce! And the handmade tortelloni. How absolutely lovely. You delighted my husband and I during our dinner visit to Bebo this past weekend. (The bomboloni! Adorable!)" Note to editors in the audience: This kind of fawning tone would be a good way to approach any correspondence with moi.
"But I must agree with (a previous poster). Our waiter was charming and occasionally attentive — and he didn’t deliver our dinners midway through our appetizers. But some other server did, and it made us feel rushed...There were servers coming out of the kitchen, not knowing where to bring food, stopping by our table (no, not ours, thank you) and then pacing the aisles until somebody looked up to say, “Oh, yes!”
"And, a small matter, but there were little flies all around our table. One landed in my husband’s wine. He drank it anyway, but it was not very nice..."
And today, he wrote back!
"Thank you Mary Ellen for your post. I am thrilled to hear of your love for our true Italian cuisine." (Oh, Roberto, it is true. I do love your true Italian cuisine!!) "Our homemade pasta and sauces are what make Bebo authentic... I am truly apologetic, however, that our staff made you feel rushed...You are a guest in our home each and every time you dine with us and in no way is it our intention to hurry you through your visit with us. I am also terribly apologetic that a fly chose to take its last breath in your husband’s glass of wine...It would have been a pleasure to have brought your husband a fresh glass of wine and given the fly a funeral, if only we had known."
Anyway, he wants to look further into our experience. But I don't want to get our waiter in real trouble. He did, after all, call me "Bella," which goes a long way... And then Chef writes, "I look forward to the pleasure of meeting you next time you are in my restaurant!"