Thursday, July 22, 2010

We are so busy being elitist pricks about food, beer and wine, that we forget what makes them good in the first place.

Perhaps the key to a successful restaurant is simply making good food and drink available to the people that want it. Gastropub is the result of smashing two very humble concepts together into one very pretentious, made-up word. In San Francisco, establishments like the Monk’s Kettle, that call themselves a gastropub, routinely charge patrons exorbitant fees for everyday fare, ala the $15 burger at lunch. Now, while people may be convinced that these are little more than the rantings of a cost-excluded diner, I challenge any pub in SF to answer these questions:

As a public house, what kind of community do you hope to create by asking your patrons to spend $45 at lunch? Are you really a public house, or are you just another enclave for the beer-drinking elite?

At The Porter in Atlanta this week, I was given an 8 ounce pour of cask-conditioned Allagash Curieux for $5.50. That’s about $15 for a 750 mL quantity for a super rare variant on a rare-enough beer that the bottle-conditioned standard fetches the typical SF restaurant price of $22-$25. Now, don’t get me wrong, I realize that rent is high in this city, but why is it that we need to make great beer so incredibly cost-prohibitive that it becomes unaffordable to the people that can appreciate it?

The value proposition with wine is fairly easy, “pay me X dollars and get 4 glasses of wine that you can't find easily enough to justify not paying me 3-400% markup.” And thats how wine has been. Beer on the other hand, is still early enough in its formative stages that people are okay with going out and paying 3 times the price that the Whole Foods down the block charges, for two glasses. Why, people? And why, restaurateurs? Why are we creating an environment that says to people, “Good beer is only for those that can afford the costs of luxury?” when all one needs to do to prove it otherwise is visit another city?

Beer is so often seen as the antithesis of urban elitism. It’s a damned shame that our city, so lately renown for its smug snobbishness, can’t just leave this one alone. Instead, we need cicerones and $15 grass fed burgers to compliment lists of overpriced beers and pubs without the public. Perhaps we as retailers need to step back and ask ourselves what we are doing by charging what we charge and excluding whom we exclude. Do we really want our pubs to turn into beer-substituting wine bars, empty of character and full of rich assholes with too much money and not enough sense? Because what we lose are the rich communities that define themselves through the diversity of their membership and the commonality of a common drink.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Story of the Rooster and the Kitty.

There once was a farm in a beautiful land of plenty. This farm produced wonderful vegetables and was home to lots and lots of animals. There were cows and horses, pigs and sheep, dogs and goats. There was also a Rooster and a Kitty.  Now, most of the animals got along, the cows would graze with the sheep, the goats would mill about the yard while the pigs played in the mud. Kitty liked to visit all of the animals on the farm, and because she was friendly to all of the animals, she was loved by all of them.

The Rooster however, spent a lot of time on the roof of the barn and clucking about the yard. He would wake up the farm every morning, and he took a lot of pride in his work. After he crowed, he would spend the day telling all of the animals about crowing and waking up the farm. The other animals would always listen politely, and the Rooster thought this was why they liked him, so he clucked about crowing every day.

The Kitty was different though, she always listened politely like the other animals, and she would meow to the Rooster about things that the Rooster thought were very interesting and the Rooster loved to be around her because she made him feel special. So the Rooster started to cluck to the Kitty about more than just the sunrise, and the Kitty always listened.

The Rooster was full of ideas and thoughts, many of the about what it would be like to live off the farm. The Rooster thought that he was better than the other animals, because he would wake up the whole farm, so he thought they all needed him. He didn’t listen to the other animals when they asked him to take Sundays off and not wake up the farm. He did it anyway, because it was his job. So the other animals continued to be polite and the Rooster continued to wake up the farm on Sundays.

One day, the Kitty came to the Rooster with a look of concern. She told him about a conversation that the farmer had had with his wife. His wife, like all of the animals on the farm, was tired of waking up early on Sundays. Now, the farmer, who liked the Rooster said that he would give the Rooster a few more weeks to see if he would stop crowing on Sundays and his wife agreed. The Kitty said that she was worried about the Rooster because she really liked the Rooster, and the Rooster was flattered.

As the weeks went by, the Rooster spent his days waking up the farm and making his feathers pretty for Kitty and clucking about the importance of waking up the farm with the other animals. The animals were getting very tired of hearing his stories by now and had started to grumble. Kitty told Rooster this and that she was worried about the Rooster because she really liked the Rooster, and the Rooster was flattered. And he continued to crow on Sundays.

As time went on, the Kitty got more and more worried about the Rooster, because the Rooster kept crowing on Sundays and making the other animals mad. Sometimes, she would try as hard as she could to tell the Rooster how concerned she was, and these times, the Rooster would even get mad and snap at the Kitty. This made the Kitty very upset, but she continued to try anyway, because she loved the Rooster.

The Rooster didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know why the Kitty would say things to him that made him feel worried and concerned. As far as he knew he was doing the best job he could. It made him want to leave the farm and find another farm that would appreciate him more. The Rooster completely missed the point that everyone there wanted him to be a better Rooster, because he was part of the farm and the animals, though frustrated with him, like having him. But the Rooster wouldn’t listen.

So one Sunday morning, the Rooster crowed long and loud, until all of the animals were up and all of the lights in the farmhouse were on. Proud of himself, the Rooster began to preen his feathers and think about life off the farm. Soon, the Kitty came all the way up to the roof to see the Rooster, and she looked very worried. She pleaded with the Rooster to apologize to the farmer and tell him that this would be the last Sunday to crow. The Rooster got very mad at the Kitty, because he thought that he was better then the other animals and shouldn’t be given advice. He clucked very mean things at the Kitty, and she was heartbroken, because she loved the Rooster and he was saying these things to her.

While this was happening, the Rooster didn’t see the farmer get in the truck and drive off. But the Kitty saw him return later with a bag from the store. When the farmer opened the bag, the Kitty saw an alarm clock and a loaf of crusty bread. Panicking, she raced to the Rooster to try again to ask him to apologize, but the Rooster just ignored her. He also ignored the farmer collecting vegetables and getting out a large pot full of water. And as the farmer sharpened his butchering knife, the Rooster thought about life off the farm, and the Kitty cried because there was nothing else she could do.

So in the end, the Rooster ignored the beauty and richness of the farm and the friendship of the animals and the love of the Kitty. He did the best job he thought he could do, despite the best advice of everyone around him. And the Rooster, who thought that he wanted nothing more than to be off the farm, was granted his wish.