My friend Jane Tunks (a recovering Citysearcher who's made the big-time now: she works for the SF Chronicle!) sent an email today and it reminded me of all of our amazing meals together. Boy, there've been a few.
The first time I met her Jane had just been hired as the first LA Restaurants Editor. The LA site didn't launch when the other major markets did, it launched probably two years later, so Jane had a ton of work on her plate. When I inherited the Seattle site (after sidewalk.com turned into citysearch) I had hundreds of reviews in the coffers. Jane had a big old zero. So the powers that be decided to cart all of the restaurant writers from around the country to come in and write some reviews for her. YAY! Free trip to a sunny place.
My first night in LA I had dinner with Jane and our San Francisco editor, Stephanie Rosenbaum. We were going to some uppity hotel-ish type place. Totally forgettable. I think Jane was in charge of writing the review so it was a nice break for me to not have to think about and remember everything we ate in order to write about it later.
Anyways, on the way there, Stephanie and Jane started talking about the jobs they'd had in the past. Nonchalantly, Jane starts listing them, including her time working for porn king Larry Flynt (apparently doing some copyediting, if I remember correctly). Of course, being the dork I am, I start asking all kinds of, "so you were looking at naked cooters all day long?" questions. Then Stephanie chimes in with her stories of, well, lets just say she'd made some "interesting" films. So here I am, feeling like a first-rate pollyana in the back, saying, "um, welp, I worked in a kitchen store for a while."
That dinner was the beginning of a goofy friendship. Mostly it consisted of us IM-ing each other during dull, hour-long conference calls during which the powers that be would drone on and on about how everyone wanted to use Citysearch to find plumbers and electricians, even though the stats and readership evidence pointed toward everyone using the site to find restaurants, bars, and spas.
For a while there the only thing we wrote each other was, "DO YOU LOVE IT JANE?" "THIS IS A STROKE OF GENIUS, ALI!" "THE FUTURE OF CITYSEARCH IS PLUMBERS! I LOVE IT!" to try to get through the insanity.
The next time I saw Jane was in NYC a year or so later (probably pre- 911 2001?). Brian Miller (yes, that Brian Miller) had been hired on as the Czar of Restaurants for Citysearch. He'd been the restaurant critic at the NY Times for several years so when we met for the first time I was a complete drip. I was star-struck and nervous. Kind of like how I yelled out during a meal with Beth and Doug, "DO YOU KNOW WHO THAT IS?" (they turn, then turn back shaking their heads) "THAT IS WYLIE DUFRESNE FROM WD-50!" They later said that that's how they'd react if they saw Bono or Oscar de la Renta or something. Anyways, Brian kept telling Jane and me that if we came out to NYC he'd take us to the four-star restaurants. We'd probably heard him say this 10 times. Then finally I got a wild hair and made Jane meet me in NY. And Brian came through! We'd go to three four-star restaurants in four days. God help us all.
We started out with Daniel. In the cab there I was so nervous I was shaking. I was wearing a pretty Banana Republic shirt-dress and black pantyhose and my friend Courtney let me borrow her Prada shoes. Those shoes were the only things that felt at home in Daniel. Anyways, when I arrived the current NY Restaurant Editor at the time, Dan McAlvanah, and Brian were waiting in the bar. Jane and I were supposed to ride together but that got messed up so we arrived separately. Of course, somehow everyone in Daniel knew who Brian was. That rumor about all the smart restaurants in NYC having a picture of the NY Times critic in back is probably true. It's also possible that Brian gave up trying to be annonymous. I don't know. I do know we got the royal treatment.
So we had a Kir Royale or something (can't remember because I was still too excited) and then we were seated right smack-dab in the center of the room. And then the insanity began.
Daniel was in-house and we were told he would be "cooking for us." OK, WOW! He was making four separate dishes for each course.
And I'm just guessing there were 12 courses (before dessert). So slow down and think about that. That's 48 dishes we tasted that night! (of course we passed each plate four times so we'd all get to try everything). Are you kidding me? This was the thrill of a lifetime.
DUN DUN DUUUUNN. And then they wheel the cheese cart over.
I really wish Jane could just take it from here, but I'll do my best to tell the story. However, lets all keep in mind we'd had myriad courses and, naturally, wine to match! So by the time the handsome cheese guy comes slithering my way, I'm feeling no pain. (I'd gotten up to use the restroom towards the end of the meal and prayed the whole way that I wouldn't fall in my fancy heels.) Anyways, legend has it I made it pretty obvious how much I loved cheese! Oh, yes, doesn't that sounds AMAZING! OOOH! AAHHH! The few who haven't seen me tipsy out there simply won't be able to imagine that I might actually hit on the cheese guy at Daniel, but apparently it is so.
Oh, and then we ate dessert! Four courses of it.
Brian Miller must've been so proud.
Next time: Jean-Georges and Le Cirque 2000.