SECOND POST – DECEMBER 24, 2012 –SYRPER’S 2012 ESCOFFIER PRIZE FOR BEST RESTAURANT IN MICHIGAN!
The name, Escoffier, is associated with the finest in dining; the very best in French Continental cuisine. The founder of this much sought-after prize which recognizes excellence in food preparation, presentation and ambienceis the illegitimate great grandson of Georges Auguste Escoffier himself who penned the immortal tome, Guide Culinaire. It has become apparent to us that all Frenchmen have illegitimate children, a condition made all the more remarkable by the ineluctable surfeit of bastards in the country. His great grandson, Louis Barthelme Escoffier, has lent the great name to our prize for which thousands of proprietors of Michigan eateries await, with baited breath and suppressed vainglory, the verdict of our Board of Governors and the SyrPer Committeefor the Revitalization of Detroit Elegance.
Last year, the winner by a scoche was OLD COUNTRY BUFFET. Almost immediately after the announcement, the franchise went partially bankrupt. We attribute this phenomenon to the public’s fear that the bestowal of an award as prestigious as ours would send OCB’s prices skyward and, ergo, beyond ordinary people’s financial means. We are saddened by the possible loss of this culinary lion and look forward to its robust reemergence in the near future.
The cafeteria-like atmosphere coupled with superbly crafted comfort dishes like “sloppy joes”, “chicken a la king” and the signature “meat loaf au jus” made Old Country Buffet a landmark eatery for the Detroit area. The service was great too because there was no service.
But today’s winner is not a cafeteria. It’s not a bistro. And it’s not what you think at all. SyrPer has defied all conventional logic by awarding the 2012 Escoffier Prize to:
Michigan’s reputation for poor restaurant management, execrable service, inarticulate, nay, oafish waitstaff, slovenly hostesses, wretchedly fraudulent menus, clumsy cooks, unscrupulous valets, indifference to tradition and indigestible fare is thrown by the wayside with the appearance of the famous logo seen right here. It is a guarantee of the very best in Southeastern Michigan. When you enter with your membership card in hand, it’s a signal to the world that you are a personage with exquisite taste.
Some might argue that the ten or so promo sample carts in every Costco location do not a restaurant make. We politely disagree. Costco’s marketing strategy of promoting products by allowing customers to taste them at microwave stands located strategically near freezers and coolers where they can pick up an advertised product is sheer genius. It’s also great for the discriminating gourmand.
Being able to have lunch or dinner free of charge is bound to entice even the most churlish of patrons. Near the rows of elegantly appointed stand-up freezers are aluminum carts, each decked with a microwave oven or hot plate in which boxed edibles are cooked and marketed. These items run the gamut from tasty mini-egg rolls, pizza triangles of every kind, savory soups, superb cheeses, Mexican salsas, energy drinks, fruit cups, sample lamb, beef, chicken, vegetarian hamburger, chili con carne and so many other selections from the upscale world of culinary indifference and abject surrender to routine. A man who marries a kitchen-hostile woman can take comfort in Costco’s endless supply of frozen foods, ready at a moment’s notice, by pressing the “Cook” button on the microwave. Or he can just desert the unpleasant spouse and visit Costco.
Elsie Pflumpmeister offers her customers a taste of something as they pass by. Patrons will often pretend to be interested in the product by reading illegible contents on the package, this as they ravenously scarf down the free morsels.
We visited two Costco warehouses in the Detroit area and were amazed at how similar they all were. It is obvious that the company has a formula which it uses to the delight of its customers. The uniformity of presentation coupled with the seemingly “cloned” nature of the employees gave us a feeling of “reliability”, “familiarity”, and, therefore, “comfort”. In almost every instance, the preparation of the sample behind the cart was performed by a misshapen crone clearly programmed to give that unique feeling of being hosted by Auntie Maggie or Mrs. Klumpp, the neighborhood dowager, Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, Sara Lee or Mrs. Butterworth.
As we pushed our cart from the front door, we ignored all products such as clothing and canned foods. We were there to eat, not to buy! We went straight up the central aisle which predictably offered a paper cup filled with superb oatmeal advertised as being completely “organic”. We insisted on the matron opening a box of brown sugar to satisfy our tastes. We complimented her on a fine product and promised we’d come back. She was professionally indifferent. Which gets us to this point:
The Costco administration did not intend these samples to be a complete lunch or dinner. But, if you cleverly manage your itinerary between the various aisles, and use certain techniques of disguise and legerdemain, you can eat a bellyful without paying a dime. Here’s what we did:
Stand one was the oatmeal. We left it while wearing baseball caps. Stand two, in the next aisle offered some sunflower seeds touted as “great for your prostate”. Stand three, had some “joint juice” which supposedly lubricates old joints and makes them more pliable. It was a refreshing wash after the sunflower seeds. Stand four was the natural second course – a paper cup of chicken wings smothered in a spicy, piquant barbecue sauce. We jawboned with the African-American matron who carefully arranged rows of the wings on a tray. Stand five offered a medley of frozen vegetables swimming in a light cream sauce. Stand Six was course three: Kirkland signature lamb medallions flavored with Greek oregano and other spices. Quite delicious. Stand six had an assortment of sausages cooked up in a hot plate. Because there were three kinds, we insisted on standing there and trying them all. My companion, Archibald, took an extra sausage on his cart as the matron was distracted by a nauseatrix jabbering at her about how fatty the sausages were.
Once we finished the “first jaunt”, we did not feel satiated, and we plied our way back to the pharmacy area near the front restart the quest, but, oh so cleverly, without our baseball caps. This was sure to confuse the ladies behind the carts. Sadly, we ran into some problems with a young black man, who impressed us with his alacrity. He remembered me from a previous visit to Stand four. He was sarcastic (“hey, I saw you come here about 5 minutes ago!), I thought, and overly officious. I went back to the front and met the manager. I told him that the young man was “mishandling” the samples. It was pleasing to return to Stand Four to find an old, near blind woman had taken his place.
VIP VP Joe Biden, shows his card to a suspicious house detective after being caught eating five times from the same station. “See I’m a member”, responds the amicable vice president. (As it turned out, the card belonged to a Kevork Momjian. The photo on the back side showed a different person. He lost it three weeks before this incident in the parking lot and Mr. Biden picked it up innocently).
Changing your accent from Brooklynese to Southern drawl to Western cowboy to Midwestern rustic and British pompous jackass can also help in concealing your cupidity. Once you’ve mastered the technique, eating yourself to Palookaville can be as easy as stealing pebbles from a park. Standing at different angles, with or without a hat, and changing your accent, can also be slickness multipliers. By the time we finished, Archibald and I had raided each station eight times without any hint of detection. Our cart was empty. We were absolutely delighted with the elegant meal and the service. It was exceptional. Cost: Zero!!
We don’t recommend you take your first date out to dinner to Costco as the experience might be too intense. That is unless your date is a drug-addicted prostitute from the inner city; they tend to find the feeling of repeat petty larcenies to be very agreeable.
Sadly, while Costco does sell wine in the bottle, it does not offer samples to the public. We are going to discuss this innovation with management during our next trip to Issaquah, Washington, Costco’s HQ. We believe that wine samples can enhance the experience of dining at Costco.
Attorney for 35 years and Supreme Court Certified Interpreter for Arabic/English
Diploma with Honors from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in 1968; B.A. University of Michigan in Ann Arbor 1968-1972; M.A. University of Michigan Dept. of Near Eastern Studies 1972-1974; Ph.D. Cand. Univ. of Michigan 1972-1977; Then went to law school. Credits: Harvard University for classes in Islamic Philosophy; Fellowships from University of Pennsylvania 1976; 2 from Univ. of Michigan. Read English, Arabic, German, French, Farsi, some Hebrew. Studied Ancient Greek and Latin before grad school. Michigan Supreme Court Certified Interpreter/Translator for Arabic and English