I’ve Got To Write Something….

It’s the off season.  No hunting, no Aztecs and not as much enthusiasm as I should have for fishing right now.  I’m so confused that I’m scared to death I’ll get the urge to play golf one of these days – a perfect example of how desperation affects rational decision making.

There is no relief in sight until the opening of the dove season on September 1, and that is still four months away.  While I can’t say that I’ve been busy, I’ve found ways to while away my time in a variety of arguably productive ways.

The most unique is my volunteer employment at a friend’s cattle ranch which is in danger of being overrun by ground squirrels, unending squads, platoons and battalions of them.  They undermine foundations, chew up plastic irrigation pipe, eat garden plants, compete with the cattle for feed and on occasion – carry bubonic plague.  Hence my volunteer position as a “Transition Facilitator” with GSH (Ground Squirrel Hospice). 

The only requirements of the position are an accurate .22 caliber rifle (which I have) and a sincere willingness to serve the spiritual needs of the ground squirrels (got that too) by facilitating their transition to the afterlife for as many of them as possible.  Clearly, I have made retirement worthwhile and rewarding by helping out when and where I can.

I’ve even found time to watch cable television which I’ve narrowed down to just a few shows for your convenience and viewing pleasure.  Wouldn’t you know it, they all involve food to some degree and I’ll describe them for you in no particular order as they are all equally entertaining.

The first that comes to mind is Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, a travelogue to unexpected places where Bourdain does a remarkable job of exploring regional culture and food in just 60 minutes. My favorite so far found the master chef exploring the food and people of Colombia.  It airs on CNN. 

Mystery Diners is another show that gets my attention.  It is one of two in which surveillance cameras are used to determine how the restaurant operates when the owners are away.  Mystery Diners tends to focus on a suspicion of employee theft.  Accordingly, the owners and a private detective monitor video cameras set up throughout the restaurant.  The offending employees are later confronted with the video proof and in most cases fired.

The second show to employ surveillance cameras is Restaurant Undercover, in which a restaurant management consultant works with the owners to identify and remedy operational problems which typically involve issues such as rude employees, incompetence, poor training etc.  Most often, the trail leads to the restaurant owner’s lack of experience or leadership, and the consultant does not mince his words in identifying the problems or prescribing their remedies.

Restaurant Impossible does not use hidden cameras.  It is devoted to failing restaurants on the verge of going out of business and again uses as a consultant, a successful restaurant operator.  Failing restaurants apply to be on the show, which provides $10,000 for a physical makeover that supposedly takes places over 24 hours.  At the same time, and much like Restaurant Undercover, every aspect of the restaurant’s operation from service to the food and menu is evaluated, graded and revised.

The Food Network is home to these last three shows.

With that said, it is time give props to a new San Diego restaurant that gets it right from the start and is unlikely to ever need the help of a consultant.  Kafe Sobaka at 2469 Broadway in the Golden Hill neighborhood of my youth is an extraordinary gem.  Featuring the “peasant food” of Russia and Georgia, it has developed a loyal and enthusiastic following in just three months of operation.  Our visit there by a party of six was most memorable and enjoyable.  In its issue of May 2, the San Diego Reader offers a fine review in the Tin Fork column written by Ed Bedford.





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