Save for a nearly entirely gratuitous The Girlfriend Experience reset,* The Cod has done a pretty decent job of staying out of the endless conversation about the Obama date night in NYC. Bruni came with a DJ post that was a troll worthy of a deep sea charter, in that Blue Hill, the place he did eat, was too much like the sort of lace he would like:
Well, of course the Obamas went to Blue Hill.
If you’d known in advance that they were going to spend Date Night in Manhattan and had to guess where they’d dine, wouldn’t it be the smart-money bet?
It’s the proper ethical call, the proper message to send, the proper restaurant segue from the planting of the White House garden. It summons all the correct adjectives: local, seasonal, organic, humane.
In the very predictability of this choice, in its all-too-neat squaring with the officially sanctioned food agenda, in its absence of surprise or abandon, isn’t it ever so slightly disappointing? Just a little too pat and controlled?
During the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama sometimes came across — and was often portrayed — as someone almost joylessly disciplined and restrained around food, and that discipline and restraint went hand in hand with an unflappability that, on occasions, made it difficult for him to connect.
It would have been fun to see the president contradict that impression and play against type when he and the first lady sat down to dinner in New York.
It would have been interesting to watch him bust loose and reach for something rich, messy, decadent, gluttonous: a plate of fatty lamb ribs at Resto; some pâtés and terrines at Bar Boulud; one of the offal dishes at Babbo; that killer bone-in New York strip at Minetta Tavern; the oyster pan roast at the John Dory . . .
There are a couple of things worth noting here:
1) Frank Bruni has never sounded more like Travis Bickle: Four o'clock p.m. I took Betsy to Charles Coffee Shop on Columbus Circle. I had black coffee and apple pie with a slice of melted yellow cheese. I think that was a good selection. Betsy had coffee and a fruit salad dish. She could have had anything she wanted.
2) A parallel kerfuffle has me PTP/SMP, for sure, but points to what's not mentioned here. Even though Alice Waters does not lead the children of Mendocino County in productions of Pippin, regional theater has its champions, just like local agriculture. Terry Teachout points out that the Obamas could have stayed in DC, and partaken of a vibrant local theater scene. Then David Cote of TONY points out that TT is more elephant than donkey, and his boosting of DC theater may have been a way to bash the Obamas, a la Santorum's suggestion they go to Papa Johns or whatever. And there's some more back and forth, a la Zetterberg and Malkin.
To quote Frank, "and yet." Despite a Teachoutesque nitpick at another aspect of the Obama date, my admittedly spotty reading following this post, no one seems to bother pointing out that noted Bush sycophant Frank Bruni is the one giving his replacement a hard time about going to a restaurant that is, uh, too sincere. Bruni even closes like this:
The Obamas’ choice of it does, though, show taste. And it affirms their interest in participating in the current conversation and in the cultural moment — on the subject of food as on so much else.
That wasn’t always the case with their predecessors in the White House. On a date night in Manhattan of their own, George and Laura might as easily have ended up at Smith & Wollensky.
The Cod will bet you could put W. at a Tad's instead of S&W, and he would never notice the difference. The Cod's corporeal host voted for the current president, just in the spirit of putting the cards on the table, but it is impossible to imagine this level of nitpicking of a dude taking the First Lady away for a romantic evening. Hell, JFK took the entire cast of the Mickey Mouse club with him to Berlin in '62, and no one said boo. Yes, this is a democracy, but I can handle having a chief executive + spouse who want to travel, eat in good restaurants and take in a show, rather than spend the evening in Snuggies, gnawing the orange Cheeto crust from their hands. As a wise man said many years ago, A man can't do nothing no more. It's really a drag.
*It is telling, somehow, that the names of the restaurants her johns take her to go in the journal the escort keeps, along with the brands of shoes and lingerie she wore on these dates.