Yesterday I was on the plane back from the West Coast for what seemed like all day, and I never signed on to the computer when I got home at last.
This morning I found a lot of good and interesting conversation-starter comments under Monday Morning Quarterbacking that I would usually have responded to.
I decided to make them a separate entry because I know a lot of people don't read the comments. They think the comments are weird or stupid or don't stay on topic enough. Maybe this will convince them otherwise. ...
EL, I was puzzled by the 3-1/2 stars for service, since you didn't mention any problems with the service in your review. (I had no problem figuring out why the atmosphere got 2-1/2 stars.)
Posted by: hmpstd | August 3, 2009 10:46 AM
A very good question. Unfortunately, I have a limited amount of space in the print edition. Often service issues are long-winded to explain, repetitious from week to week, and boring to write about, so I use the shorthand of the stars instead of describing what happened unless I have a specific anecdote to point to.
In this case, for reasons I don't feel like going into, I went to the Prime Rib twice. The first time we had a waiter so good I was planning to give the Prime Rib 4 stars for service. But the place was almost empty. The second time a different waiter was just as nice and was good, but we didn't have his attention as much as we would have liked for what we were spending. Maybe someone hadn't shown up that evening, maybe it's just that the service isn't quite as good when the restaurant is busier. (It still wasn't a full house by any means.) Anyway, if that had been the only night I had eaten there, I would have given the service 3 stars. So 3 1/2 stars was my compromise.
I was just glancing through the comments on ZonTV regarding Lou Dobbs and Obama's birthplace and two things occurred to me: 1. Wow, those people are mean! 2. Is Foie Gras our Obama birthplace issue?
Posted by: matt hudock | August 3, 2009 11:06 AM
I liked this comment because it gives me a chance to say I'm lucky to have a lot of local readers who comment regularly and realize being snarky isn't as much fun as getting into a discussion, even if it gets heated. I feel like I know a lot of you after a couple of years; and even when you disagree with me, you usually do it in a non-mean way because you think of me as a person, not a talking head. I appreciate that. David has a much larger national audience than I do, with drop-ins who comment on the issues they are interested in and have no stake in the blog.
Nice review, although I find the idea of a "martini list" being traditional a bit discongruent.
Posted by: Hal Laurent | August 3, 2009 12:08 PM
Hal, you are absolutely right, and I have no excuse. I misspoke. Obviously there's no need for a traditional martini list. It would have only one item on it, a gin martini made with a little vermouth and of course no ice. I should have said "drinks list," although I don't even think there would have been a need for that. I should have rewritten the whole sentence.
I wondered about the service rating. If "top-notch" is 3 and 1/2 what is four? Oops, I forgot, no commenting on stars.
Posted by: Elite Elephant Lover | August 3, 2009 12:36 PM
To answer the first part of your comment, this wasn't as bad as when I said the service "couldn't be better" at the Oregon Ridge and then gave it 3 1/2 stars. But you're right, I was speaking in generalities, but assigning stars to these two visits.
As for the second part, I think that's a self-imposed moratorium on commenting on stars. This is the conversation I think you're referring to, posted by you on March 30 and answered by me. Admittedly I get bored with going over the same ground again and again, but if you don't, go for it:
"As usual I am confused by the review. Appetizers were excellent. Fish was perfect. Steaks were good. You "really liked" the pork shank. You didn't like the sauce on the Delmonico but that doesn't make it bad. Your score? Two stars. As low as I have seen you score a restaurant. Compare to last weeks review. A seafood restaurant where all the fish was overcooked. Not some. All. Your score? Two stars. Just doesn't seem consistent.
"You think of two stars as bad. I think of it as fair or uneven, as the key says. I also factor in cost, and whether a problem might be simply because of some factor inherent to the restaurant or not (quality of ingredient vs. oversalting, for instance). Stars are a gross measure of something I've taken 800 words or so to say as accurately as I can. I don't know what the next week will hold, so I can't measure one "grade" against another the way you can in hindsight. I've said all this so many times before I'm not sure why you're still confused. But if you are, why do you even bother looking at the stars since in your mind I'm never going to give you accurate information in them? All I'm really saying with both these 'grades' is that the food is fair or uneven relative to cost. It's all I can say with stars. EL
Posted by: Elite Elephant Lover | March 30, 2009 12:49 PM"
How do aging restaurants keep people coming, they get 4 star reviews.. is the prime rib really the only 4 star restaurant in town?
Posted by: hmmm | August 3, 2009 12:47 PM
No, I don't think so. I've given 4 stars to restaurants before, although I'm not going to mention them here because it's been awhile and I don't know if those ratings still hold true.
Does the Prime Rib still routinely direct timely arrivals to the bar even when tables are open?
Posted by: chowsearch | August 3, 2009 1:03 PM
When we arrived, the maitre d' asked if we would like to have a drink at the bar first before being shown to our table. I didn't mind this at all because it seemed to me a sign of another era -- making an evening of it, something many of the Prime Rib's regulars must like doing. (I'm not much of a drinker, so it didn't appeal to me.) Even if you don't have a drink at the bar, the waiter asks if you'd like to have a drink before you look at the menu. That, too, doesn't bother me in a place like this.
Two comments about the review.
1. When you reviewed Sullivan's you made a specific reference to the lack of USDA Prime beef to justify the $30+ cost. No mention of the same thing at The Prime Rib.
2. I am surprised that you are eating and encouraging readers to eat Chilean Sea Bass. I carry a list from the Monterey Bay Aquarium with me when I am eating or buying seafood so I can avoid contributing to the destruction of our oceans.
Posted by: Elite Elephant Lover | August 3, 2009 1:10 PM
I think by your first question, you're suggesting that the Baltimore Prime Rib doesn't serve USDA prime beef. It hadn't occurred to me that they didn't, so I called just now and asked. Yes, the Baltimore Prime Rib serves prime beef.
As for No. 2, why did you assume I ordered the Chilean sea bass? I didn't. But I get your point. I'm unsure how much I should impose my personal beliefs on my reviews. For instance, I personally feel that everyone should eat small amounts of meat and other proteins and large amounts of vegetables. You could consider Americans endangered species because they don't. Well, you're not going to get either of those in any steak house, but should I mention my feelings in every review? It's a little different from mentioning my personal belief that when you order a steak rare it shouldn't arrive well done.
EL has already said she doesn't want to hear what farms her food comes from, so why does it surprise you that she would eat chilean sea bass? ...
Posted by: yeesh | August 3, 2009 2:41 PM
I'm not sure about the logic here. Actually, I'm only guessing what you refer to in the first part of your question because I couldn't find a specific entry. If you can, please post below. It may be when I've commented on the endless descriptions of the provenance of each ingredient on a menu as being a case of TMI and not particularly appetizing. If a restaurant states on its menu that it tries to get local, seasonal, organic, free-range and hormone-free ingredients whenever possible, that's good enough for me.
Just because I don't need to know the actual name of the farm, which always seem a little -- I don't know -- braggy, doesn't mean I don't appreciate the restaurant's efforts to provide good, healthful food.
In any case, I'm not sure what that has to with endangered species.
(Brendan Cavanaugh/special to the Baltimore Sun)