Why am I eating in a boiler factory?

Sunday, Ms Gloria and I had an early supper at Paesano’s at the
Quarry.  Paesano’s has been an old family favorite from the time
they were a dinky place on McCullough Boulevard, so we were eager to
see the new place (they moved years ago, we’ve been busy).  I have
good news and bad news.

The good news:  the food is still great.  My only complaint
was the lack of traditional Italian desserts, and the Grand Marinier
souffle made up for THAT.

The bad news is bad.  For all its chic decor, Paesano’s has
adopted every annoying feature of 21st-century American restaurants,
and practices them as though they were virtures.  The restaurant
has a cubist decor realized in concrete floors, stone or stucco walls,
and flat metal fixtures, all of which reflect (rather than absorb)
sound.  Add to this a large open kitchen, 20% overstaffing, and
close wooden tables, and you get a room filled with constant
clamor.  The hostess apparently felt I wasn’t getting enough noise
in my diet,
so she had thoughtfully seated me next to a door with the squeakiest
hinge in all of San Antonio.  Our waitress had to lean over the
table to shout the specials out to us, and more than once could not
hear my order. The staff has obviously been trained to pester customers
every five minutes in the hope that you will either (1) order more
stuff or (2) take the hint to eat it and beat it, so Paesano’s can ring
up another sale.  This insured periodic shouting matches with the
waitress, who had neither the ears nor voice to prevail. To top it all
off, some genius decided to pipe in salsa music, with lots of
drums.*  I’ve had quieter meals at the Dairy Queen with a carload
of cheerleaders in attendance.

Just what is the appeal of dining in these noise factories?  Noise
isn’t fun, noise isn’t your friend, it’s just frickin’ annoying. 
I’ll be back at Paesano’s when they move someplace quiet.

*I was wrong, that wasn’t the topper. Check out their friggin’ website, which is playing Mexican music!  Don’t these guys ever just SHUT UP?

Update (September 13):  Maybe this helps explain the appeal of noisy restaurants–everyone under 30 is going deaf!

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Chronicles of Plonk: Papio 2003 Merlot

Geez, I love it when people are suspicious of a good deal.  The
mrs and I were out running a few errands this evening, and I suggested
we check to see if her wineshop had any of that $3.60 "monkey wine"
left. "S-u-r-e," said she, always the good sport.  Lo! and
behold!  There were cases of the plonk, stacked for the
taking.  Ten of the chardonnay, and one each of the cabernet and
the merlot, through the checkout, into the boot of the Beater, and home
in a trice [$43.20 for a case of wine? Our grocery stores sell single bottles for more than that!
Tonight we sluiced down the leftover pizza with a Papio 2003
Merlot:  nicely dry, with plenty of fruit.  Another splendid
plonk!  I recommend a case.

Beginning: Plonk Blogging

The blogs are full of specialty blooging: catblogging, birdblogging, foodblogging, gunblogging, and wineblogging, to name a few. I read many of these with great interest (OK, I skip all that kitty-cat crap), and I especially do appreciate the connoiseurship of the winebloggers. They point me to some truly remarkable vintages, and I value their experience, taste, and insight.

However, I always tell myself "Get a franken’ grip! This is just a farookin’ bottle of wine that you and the mrs are going to gulp down with supper!" [We do a fair bit of suppertime wine-gulping.] We do not, as a rule, drink $30 wine [3 bottles per week comes to $4680 per annum, before tax and aspirin], nor $20 wine, and only rarely $10 wine. And yet, we’re not untutored savages, drinking Boone’s Farm from a brown paper coozie; we do have our standards. Therefore, we have appropriated a term from the Brits, to describe palatable table wines that are priced under $5: plonk. We love plonk.

Plonk is wonderful. For about $1800, you can have a bottle of it with every dinner of the year, and maintain a low, even buzz. You can spit the wine back into the glass [Reidel crystal if you want, you can afford it] and bellow "Lousy, all that’s missing is the pickles!" and you’ll have still gotten a full $5 value, just for an excuse to act outrageously. But more often, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much good everyday wine is out there. My suspicion is that the developed world is close to being awash in good wines, and that many of the people buying "luxurious" wines are wasting their money, not realizing that the better is the enemy of the good. When I find a great luxury wine, I might buy one or two bottles. but I know it won’t last. When I find a great plonk, I buy 2 or 3 cases, and enjoy it for months.

Today’s plonk is Papio’s 2002 Chardonnay. The mrs stumbled upon a promotion at a local wineshop: Papio was selling for $3.60 the bottle [$1314 buys a year’s supply!], so she took a flyer on one. Although I am normally not a big chardonnay drinker [I have recommended some chardonnays for suppository use only], I consented to try the Papio with this afternoon’s homemade pizza. Dang! that’s pretty good plonk! Sweet with lots of fruit, a texture similar to a good Gewurtztraminer, only the tiniest vanilla tinge, and not a trace of oak. It’s a good thing the mrs only bought the one bottle, or we’d have split two over supper. The label is goofy, and has an interesting backstory; vintner Michael Kafka is a jazz afficianado with a soft spot for jungle primates. So…his labels have monkeys playing music in the trees. Not bad for monkey wine, I say. Papio 2002 Chardonnay, go buy a case.

Happiness is buying a fine bottle of wine to go with your dinner—and getting change back from a fiver.