East End Diner, Briefly Noted

Sometimes on the East End of his narrow strip of island things get a little too close for comfort, downright kooky.

East End foodie connections, of course, are rampant. I trade one local farmer jam for green tomatoes and another green tomato chutney for eggs. And the eat goes on…

My dinner at Southfork Kitchen (SFK) last week got to feeling kinda connected, kinda coincidental. I mean, there’s no need to queue the “Twilight Zone” doo-doo doo-doo, doo-doo doo-doo music. It was just…interesting.

Bruce Buschel owns SFK in Bridgehampton. Bruce is probably best known as the New York Times writer who penned “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do (Part 1).” Part 2 followed. People either loved or hated his lists. In either case, it was all that a lot of people talked about over dinner for months!

Restaurant industry types pooh-poohed some of his items. They include tidbits like “If someone likes a wine, steam the label off the bottle and give it to the guest with the bill.” and “Do not pop a champagne cork.” Not every adage should be applied to every restaurant—but if they help a restaurant be more aware about making conscience choices, well, that’s the nature of professionalism. There is no high art to restaurant service, or any other discipline, that doesn’t demand attention to minutiae.

When I first started going to SFK I’d peruse Bruce’s lists before dinner and note whether or not his staffers demonstrated “a perfect score.” But I quickly stopped caring and turned all of my attention to the food.

Following an afternoon of editing Dan’s Food & Dining Section and assigning a raft of articles for our upcoming Wine Guide, I went to SFK for dinner. My husband had “fishes and fish”—sardines to start, then blue fish. I had SFK’s famous clam chowder and a vegetarian tofu dish as my entree. We patted ourselves on the backs for discovering a fabulous pairing—SFK’s Cantaloupe Sorbet and Pine Barrens Malt Whisky Batch #1. TO DIE FOR.

Then we went home. I cut some mustard and dill plants from my kitchen garden and hung them to dry for their seeds and then called it a day, taking the New York Times Wednesday Dining Section along to read in bed. There was an article that is kind of a coda to Bruce’s rants about service. It was all about how restaurants, especially high-end chains, now keep close track of their customers.

It was fascinating. Now, logged into computer systems, are noted preferences, allergies and tendencies. For instance, “wine whales,” people who are willing to spend a lot on bottles of wine, are noted as “WW.” If you get freebies delivered to your table it may be that someone has entered “SFN” in your file—”something for nothing.” Or you might get freebies because you’ve been noted as a “PX,” person extraordinaire, which is the new abbreviation for…VIP.

I went to bed imagining what acronyms I might have earned at SFK that evening. I’m certainly not a “camper,” someone who stays at the table for too long. As soon as I was done I left, wishing once again that it wasn’t so dark because I really wanted to walk all the way home to Sag Harbor to burn some calories.

I’m always very clear that I prefer tap to bottled or sparkling or mineral water, so perhaps I’m a “TAP.” I’ll try almost anything on the menu—”EZ?” I like dry, white wines (DW?), but on occasion I indulge in sweet, girly cocktails (GRL?). I was a locavore long before they came up with the term “locavore” and I don’t consider the Hudson Valley “local,” which probably makes me an “ASS” in many restaurants but perhaps “FAB” at SFK. I try not to overindulge but I was brought up to clean my plate—”PIG.”

And there it is, folks, all spelled out.

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