This Vanity Fair feature on New York’s famed restaurant La Grenouille made me smile, in the midst of my Dark Mood day. I’ll move my pink sunglasses J’Adore to tomorrow.
I’ve dined at La Grenouille several times over the years. This night perhaps 20 years ago I arrived with my fiance and friends.
It seems that this night the Captain was also in a dark mood, ordering his staff around very imperiously. For reasons that I don’t remember, he was so unhappy with how the silver service was handled at the table, that he moved things around himself … in fact, throwing around the silverware and other objects more than once, in a total pique.
One doesn’t dine at La Grenouille in anticipation of hearing silverware clatter. Besides, this captain was playing Wagner, and raining on my beautiful-day parade.
My fiance was an impossible man, when it came to service. There was no pleasing him, which is why I ultimately never married him. He and the Captain were perhaps related somehow. But this story is about La Grenouile.
This night both NS and I glowered with displeasure over the cacophony that settled over our table, casting a negative, dark shadow in the always beautiful room. Our friends were from Paris and quite accustomed to imperious staff. I resented the negativity and his making the forks and spoons the center of our attention.
Just twice in my life have I grabbed someone by the wrist, suspending his/her hand in mid-air with my own firm grip.
Tired of dodging the utensils at La Grenouille, I grabbed the Captain’s wrist, looking him squarely in the eye, saying: “Stop throwing around the silverware or get us a replacement for your services at once!” I didn’t let go either, retaining a firm grip on his wrist and not losing eye contact.
He was shocked; I triumphant. Leaving the scene of his crime … or my own, depending on your point of view … he ignored the waiters looking at me with complete admiration, as did NS. At their encouragement, we hatched another plot against the surly, planning a moment of total revenge and great fun. Such a caper would never happen in Paris, but I loved the idea.
La Grenouille is one of those restaurants where four waiters carry out the main courses, the sublime delicacies lying in wait under silver covers. The plates are placed in on the table, with a waiter at each diner’s side. The Captain appears, as if to strike up the band, and in a moment of great flourish, the food presentation is unveiled in a gesture of total precision.
On command, the glowering Captain, still sulking from my hand tackle, nodded for the liftoff of covers. Voila!
Part of the plot, we all stared at the Captain’s face, as his glowering frown turned to incredulous disbelief. Our plates were empty, totally pristine, without the tiniest morsel of food.
What a prank in such a prestigious restaurant, and I was an instigator! The Captain stormed into the kitchen in a total fit, the waiters and busboys could not contain themselves from smirking, and even the Maitre d’ , who consulted with me on the plot, was laughing nearby.
Our dinner then arrived tout de suite, joining the merriment at our table and the apology bottle of wine that accompanied the detour and delay of our meal.
I love tradition and institutions, as much as I love modernity. But your Anne never suffers snobbish, boorish behavior and bad manners, without revealing my rebellious streak. The Registration Desk clerk of the Bristol Hotel in Paris can assure you of that. Remind me to tell you …
As for La Grenouille, indeed it’s one of Manhattan’s most wonderful (and very expensive) restaurants. Chapters of my life have been written there.
This little chuckle lifted my Dark Mood, which is never around for long with me. Some major “wows” are about happen in my life. That’s all I will say.
I’ve been testing you these moments, without knowing what I was doing. Everything has been unconscious up to this point. Your Anne is about to step out onto a whole new stage, and while I have a new name, I will also make every effort to be the authentic me. It’s scary, frankly.
Remember … I shared that my mother has always suggested often that I must be the center of attention. Well … a Midwestern barn-burning, humdinger is coming your way.
I may never be allowed in La Grenouille again … or they may send a limo to get me. We’ll see.