Saturday, December 17, 2005

 

Taking the Show on the Road...

Miami Beach, and South Beach particularly, is the place to "see and be seen." The number of Hummers and Lamborghinis on the road suggest that there is no shortage of wealth. I wondered if the locals would appreciate a "random app."

With a few friends, I dined at Ice Box , a local eatery just off of Lincoln Road. I recounted the tales of my new "club" and suggested that, together, we send a random app of kindness. We decided that if someone came in to occupy the table next to us, we would send an appetizer. A few minutes later an elderly gentleman sat down, snow white hair, a rosy face, all dressed in black. As the waitress cleared away the second set of silverware and glassware, it became clear that he would be dining alone. Nonetheless, he ordered a full bottle of wine.

As I assessed the man, I reminded myself of the couple at Eastern Standard who did not appreciate the gesture. I had decided that some people prefer not to be intruded upon while dining out. I thought this man may fit into that category. But, my friend Nick reminded me that this was random, and I could not indiscriminately decide not to send it.

When the waitress came to take our order, I requested one order of the special spring rolls for me and one for gentleman over there. The spring rolls arrived and the server placed one in front of me and one in front of Nick. The waitress clearly did not understand our intent. We explained and she promptly placed the appetizer in front of the man, who by this point, was already cutting into a perfectly medium rare steak.

The four of us split the crispy vegetarian rolls, savoring the ponzu sauce and seaweed salad. We peered out of the corners of our eyes, we all knew he had too much food in front of him. He requested that the waitress bring the spring rolls to another gentleman who was dining alone. As we watched the transaction transpire, a table of four women clamored that they also wanted the random app. The second gentleman, already enjoying a tomato-basil soup with avocado croustini, thanked us and the white-haired man for the kindness.

The white-haired man poured his second glass of wine and called the waitress again. This time he wanted to send a glass of wine to the second man, as a way to thank him. Thank him? No matter, the second gentleman declined the wine. White-haired man then suggested our table should finish the wine, as he would not be able to. As we finished our meals, including a BBQ Salmon with Wilted Purple Kale and Roasted Sweet Potatoes, we spied him leave the restaurant, the bottle of wine empty and his cheeks a little more rosy.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

 

The crowning moment…

I had had a rough day at school, and needed to do something nice for myself. I started to drive to No. 9 Park (www.no9park.com) hoping that I would find David before I arrived. Alas, I never did, so I perched myself at the bar towards the end. My favorite bartender John was working that night. He has an incredible ability to remember his customers, make everyone feel special and create a convivial environment. An older gentleman walks in and immediately John offers, as if we were sitting 3 doors down in the famed Cheers bar, “Grey Goose Martini with extra olives?” Of course, he remembered exactly what the man wanted. He sat in the empty seat to my right and we immediately started chatting about the virtues of pre-dinner cocktails. Of course, John already knew that this man had a friend meeting him. So the person sitting to my left was displaced so that we could make room for the next guest. When he finally arrived, I introduced myself to him, and then to the man I had been chatting with. As it happens, I had been talking with the most famous car dealer in Boston, Herb Chambers.

I went back to my wine and the menu… ordering the Assiette of Baby Beets, toasted pistachios, Humboldt Fog chèvre followed by the lobster gnocchi with truffles. The gnocchi were so tender, and the lobster perfectly briny, that I decided to continue the tradition without David. I sent a random app to the kind soul who was displaced earlier so I could stay on my perch. Much was the appreciation that he sent in return a glass of champagne. As he was making his way to depart, he came over to chat with me. As it turns out, he is a Kennedy cousin. We had a delightful conversation that ended with an invitation to the Sunday brunch he was hosting with his girlfriend.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

A less ebullient experience…

By now, David and I were clear in our mission – In this world of anonymity… people walk around plugged into iPods and cell phone, our Random Apps of Kindness were a way to break the invisible shield around people... a way to connect with strangers with a kind gesture.

We went to Eastern Standard for dinner. I had been there on a (less than auspicious) blind date. The guy was a bit of a goon, so I took great delight when the waitress first spilled wine and then sauce on his lap. My crispy roast chicken was juicy with tender spaetzle. Mushrooms were tossed with foie gras. And despite the awful date, I still enjoyed the restaurant!

David and I sat along the banquet. An interesting assortment of people sitting around us. A young couple tucking into their second round of Cosmopolitans. A middle age couple enjoying a light supper after work. We wondered if we had to bestow a random app every time we dined out? We decided that we should. An older couple, probably in their late 60’s sat down a few tables from us. The woman ordered liver and onions, and the man ordered Steak Frites. It was not clear if they were adventurous or conservative eaters. We took the waitress’s advice and sent them bacala fritters – a traditional Portuguese Salt Cod, made into fritters with potatoes and onions. The couple nodded graciously and then went back to their meal. The intrusion on their space seemed to outweigh the treat. It was not clear that this gesture was selfless.

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