Sunday, June 17, 2007

ripped from the headlines

I flipped to a certain food blog this morning to find that it's author had eaten at an underground restaurant. Now, the idea of underground restaurants is something I find slightly amusing. Not it or them so much as the whole insistence upon calling them underground. I was introduced to this concept by a smug, activist type who pushed my buttons one afternoon and then bragged to the proprietor of the bakery/cafe where I was working, that she was an underground caterer or as I prefer, roving restauranteur. This prompted us, when she turned around, to scoff and say, "Big deal. Underground. What's that? Unlicensed."

Now, I imagine this woman's motivation (punk rock) being different than that of the host of the similarly clandestine Banned Food Dinner that said proprietor/baker attended a while ago or even the Ghetto Gourmet in the Bay Area and especially the motivation of the chef who said blogger mentions in his/her blog.

It seems to me that this is about attempting to provide a very personal and unique dining experience. Akin to the well thought out dinner party it is, with the exception—no doubt—of a cover charge, elevating the whole thing to restaurant status.

The wikipedia page made reference to a well-known (oxymoron, I know) underground restaurant in Australia that really just sounds like rave mystique for the foodie elite. I say this because it's impossible to get a reservation (exclusive!), the location of the dinner changes with each meal (mysterious!) and once your dining date arrives, you are given a series of instructions as to the location (exciting!).

Following this train of thought, I digress, because that's just what I do. Something about all of this exclusion, mysteriousness and excitement makes me think this is the perfect set up for a murder mystery, no doubt influenced by the Raymond Chandler I'm reading, but I'm thinking more Law & Order.

Picture it:

New York's bobo, foodie elite are a twitter over the emerging underground restaurant scene. Inquiries are made at dinner parties and cocktail hours. Contacts are schmoozed, seating arrangements set, clandestine meals savored, but there's a hitch. There's always a hitch.

One night a group of gourmands arrive at a warehouse under an overpass. Speakeasy-style: pass word or secret knock instruction in hand. They gain admittance to a delapitated, but opulently decorated interior featuring a table set for dinner. Diners mingle, finding the seating arrangement to be as well-planned as the wine pairings. The dinner concludes in a poisoning, an obvious suspect or two, but this is Law & Order folks so it goes deeper, ultimately blowing the lid off of the whole underground aspect of the thing.

Humor me here. I can see Jerry Orbach investigating the crime scene and shrugging, "Weird place for a dinner party...Underground restaurant, huh. What's that mean? Unlicensed?"

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