Saturday, May 25, 2013

High Horse

When I told Lee I was going to write this, he said, Be careful. You'll sound like you are on your high horse.

That was familiar. I grew up in a family and in a culture, really, where being on your high horse was frowned upon. I suppose I understand. Grandiosity and arrogance are not attractive traits. But, in Zearing, Iowa, I believe it was a passive and sinister way to keep people in their place, keep people from stretching and telling the truth about what they might want. God forbid they want something other than a nice little house on the back 40. Even an education. Who needs it?

Thank god my own parents didn't think that way and moved on themselves. But, the message lives on and to this day in my head. I feel like my grandfather is going to rise up from his grave wagging a finger and twitching his little moustache, with the words, "Who do you think you are?" whenever I feel compelled to point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

And, so, dear reader...that is the caveat. Proceed with caution, knowing that I may come off sounding like a brat.

Lee and I went to Burch (oops, that would be Burch) last night with two of our dearest friends. I point this fact out because our close friendship allowed us to be honest. I live nearby and had watched its reincarnation from neighborhood pharmacy to local dining hotspot. I heard it was doing well and drawing an interesting crowd from the South Minneapolis creative class, was slightly hipster in whatever way that is in Minneapolis. Expectations ran high.

#1. First, I called for reservations. I mentioned not being a big steak eater but I'd love to try their pizzas. They told me that I needed to call the "other restaurant' if I wanted pizza. They serve steak in the pizza restaurant but they don't serve pizza in the steak restaurant. Did I get that?  Oh, sure, I get that. (Like....NOT.) Okay. Well, I say I think we'd rather eat upstairs. It is a nice dinner with colleagues / friends and we'd prefer the "dressier" spot. She thought I'd find plenty to eat from the steak menu. Okay, fine.

But here's the deal. Should it be that complicated to know which restaurant to call when they are both named Burch? They have two different phone numbers. This was a bad sign.

Our reservations were set for Friday night at 7:00. I wore leather pants, boots and a nice top. Lee cleaned up after golf and put on a great Italian linen striped shirt, a jacket with a nice pocket square. Our friends looked fabulous, as always. Chic and beautiful, Jean wore boots and a great dress that reminded me of something from the 1970's. Mark work a great plaid shirt. We think we are going to a "nice" place, slightly elevated get-a-little-gussied-up kind of spot. A place where people would take a business client for a nice juicy steak.

2. Woooooo-eeee. Was I wrong about that! Let me see....I look around and it seems like we might have missed the restaurant in Minneapolis and landed instead at a boat-in restaurant on Gull Lake in Brainerd. Or we missed the email that it was a special weekend celebrating all things cabin. I swear to god, there was an overweight man in denim cutoffs. Okay, they were hemmed, but there was a man wearing cutoff jeans. It made me want to run right out and get Lee a pair! In fact, there were more shorts and t-shirts on the diners than you might find in a Ron Jon shop in Coco Beach, Florida.

The waitstaff seemed to wear whatever was on top of their clothing pile. You had no idea who the waitstaff was because they looked like they were going to that same boat-in restaurant in Brainerd. Jeans and whatever kind of top they wanted. I was hoping for a nice white French apron over black pants and shirt. It was confusing. I thought once that the waitress was a guest from some table next to us coming by to say hello.

But, no, just Minnesota casual on the march, now taking over EVEN at a white tablecloth restaurant.

Once Lee and I exchanged "that look" when we realized we were slightly over-dressed and had forgotten our tennis shoes, our eyes darting around to see if we might find even one comrade dressed for dinner, we gave up and focused on our beautiful friends.

#3. However, looking at our friends was just about all we could do. We certainly couldn't talk with them. The level of noise, with people literally shouting, was beyond civilized - even in this age of oh isn't it so cool to have a restaurant in a bombed out shell of a warehouse kind of place with nothing to absorb the sound. Lets make it feel like a groovy bar in Brooklyn. Bingo. You did. And, making anything Minneapolis like it is Brooklyn is sooooooo dumb! It's even dumb now in Brooklyn!

It was simply a pain in the ass to try to talk. Even our friends who are 15 years younger with good ears said they would never go back and hey, could we get out of there and go to La Belle Vie where it is quiet for a night cap. Even better, could we just go to your apartment at 510 and talk!

#4 The food. The food. My husband LOVES meat. He can eat a steak every night of the week. (He doesn't but he could.) When he doesn't finish the meat on his plate, it is a sign the world has turned on its axis. Lee did not finish his steak. I had tuna tartare, halibut on cauliflower puree and shared some pomme puree (love the Frenchy name in this Brooklyn dive with the guests dressed for the Brainered 4th of July parade.)

(Warning: Here's where I definitely get that little ladder to climb up onto the very very high horse.)

I had the audacity to imaginine that the tuna and potatoes and halibut would even begin to resemble the tuna and potatoes and halibut that I had eaten at ABC Kitchen in NYC last week. This was a major faux pas.

Now, waiting for my Grandpa....and some of you are saying...."Jeesh, that's New York. How can you compare to New York?"

Here's my response: Why can't you? Why can't you expect a meal to be as good here? Why not? Don't people who own these restaurants to to places like New York or San Francisco or LA or Charleston or Madison! to taste food? 

The prices were the same. The ingredients were similar. Why can't it be good??? Why are our standards so low but our praises so high????

The tuna was bland (compared to the tender sashimi bathed in ginger lime and tamari I had at ABC and ate twice in the week because it was so satisfying.) The idea of a cauliflower puree is probably just a bad one. When was the last time you had mouth-watering, taste-blasting cauliflower? Again the halibut was well-cooked but bland. And the potatoes. Well, my horse just got taller, because what Burch passed off for "pomme puree " honestly tasted like frozen. I can't relive the potatoes puree at ABC without wanting to weep. They were so divine.

#5.  And, as one of our friends pointed out (and I had noticed this too!) - what's with the font used for the logo? Burch 

I wish for Minneapolis that we raise the bar - on how we dress, on what we expect at a $100 meal and probably on a few other things. Not everything deserves a standing ovation - as we seem to give it here in the heartland. It's okay to say it wasn't really that good.

There you go. My horse is getting antsy. I need to get him out to pasture.

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