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Craft


yvonne johnson
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LOL! You are hysterical, Tommy!  :smile:

oh yeah. and trust, mrs. tommy will feel the same way you do in 4.5 hours when i have to get up for work.  she'll say "you're just a laugh riot this morning, i hope you enjoyed the internet all night."  oh yeah, i'll be a pleasure.  :biggrin:

i should say right now, please disregard anything i post before 11 am EST tomorrow.  i'm sure to be in a realllly crappy mood.

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"Supply and Demand ceased to be an even remotely equitable mechanism for distribution when Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud's nephew, taught those who controlled supply how they could also manipulate demand."

J.W. - But that only deals with price points and the "injustice" that flows from market manipulations. But what does it have to do with whether the public wants something in the first place? No amount of market manipulation (either on the supply side or the demand side) will make the public buy something if they don't want it. Besides, I didn't say that money was distributed fairly. I said that people have a fair chance of being recompensed by what they add to our glorious economic system, which will in my experience fairly value what they put into it based on supply and demand. What that has to do with Coca Cola I don't know.

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I can't tell what scares me more: sociologists like Bernays writing about economics, or economists writing about economics.  

The whole Bernay's argument, the way you have outlined it, sounds rather a bit like a gigantic conspiracy theory to me, not that different from the notion of a trilateral commision that runs the world economy from Brusssels confessed to by Mac Fleetwood, or theories of jewish control of the banking system that seem to break forth in the Pat Buchanon-esque speeches.  Now really, markets and resources may be manipulatible over short term periods (makrtes get cornered), but effective long term control of economic resources and markets has proven almost impossible.  Brazil was effectively able to pay its domestic debts and its government employees by printing money in the early 1990s, but the result was ultimately hyper inflation and economic disaster.  There are reasons China chose to move toward a market economy. Control and effective distribution of resources has proven almost impossible by one or a small group of people over any reasonable length of time.  The late 20th century is littered with the remnants of ex Communist countries who tried market manipulation and having failed, gave up trying.

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There is a big gray area between market manipulation, or control, and consumer persuasion. I believe that working  it is the purview of advertising, marketing and public relations; the latter of which Bernays is a legend.

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J.W. - I don't know. Maybe I'm crazy. After reading your last response I did a Google Search of Bernays and found excerpts from "A Social History of Spin" by Stuart Ewen and read the chapter "Visiting Edward Bernays." As I was reading about Ewen's trip to Cambridge, Mass to vivit Bernays he said the following about him,

"The explosive ideals of democracy challenged ancient customs that had long upheld social inequality. A public claiming the birthright of democratic citizenship and social justice increasingly called upon institutions and people of power to justify themselves and their privileges. In the crucible of these changes, aristocracy began to give way to technocracy as a strategy of rule. Bernays came to maturity in a society where the exigencies of power were-by necessity-increasingly exercised from behind the pretext of the "common good." Bernays, the child of aristocratic pretense who fashioned himself into a technician of mass persuasion, was the product of a "social conscience" that had grasped the fact that a once submissive Dumb Jack, in the contemporary world, would no longer be willing to quietly place his tired head in his folded hands at the end of each day, only to awaken and serve again the next morning. Born into privilege, developing into a technocrat, Bernays' biography illustrates the onus that the twentieth century has placed on social and economic elites; they have had to justify themselves continually to a public whose hearts and minds now bear the ideals of democracy."

I don't know about you but that sounds like exactly what I have been saying. And I have never read a single book on economics in my life. I think a good university should give me an honorary PHD  :smile:. It even allows me to return this conversation to the original topic and point out that Craft's confusing menu is a product of continually having to justify yourself to an increasingly democratic public.  Here is a guy like Collichio who wants to do something that is different from every other NYC upper middle American restaurant so he has reinvented  how to communicate what they serve.

This conversation is always about whether it is fair for the world to be ordered on money or not. One cannot read a writer on this topic (whether it be on this board or in the greater body of written work) where the writer does not wear their heart on their sleeve on this issue.  And the conversation always come down to the question of Mao's point of what other system might be fairer? I must confess I have never seen a good answer to that question.

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So we have a number of rules governing our ensemble.

At least

1. Market efficiency

2. Democracy

in the best of all possible worlds (it's the one Steve P. lives in - judging by his drinking selection).

Is it conceivable that these two could manage a little mutual contradiction?

Or that there are further implicit rules -

the timescale over which they operate might also be interesting - I think Steve is suggesting they operate over timescales of around 2-3 generations.

Wilma squawks no more

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The only information your observation can maintain is that two or three generations ago the demographic of this country was different.  In 100 years, it may well be that a new contingent will dwell in the five-star restaurants where Asians may be predominant, much to the extent we can observe these tendencies in the Ivy League colleges now.

I'm sure your right lxt, but your point undermines the fanciful picture that anyone in America can obtain four star dining by displaying merit.  More important is inherited wealth and the inherited, and thus not necessarily merited, opportunities it brings.  

And I don't see any big difference, on those grounds, between the States, on the one hand, and the UK, France and Spain on the other.

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I don't 'merit' my dna/predecessors?

damn and hell.

Just another form of capital - less liquid than some & more liquid than others - depending on the means of exchange.

I guess reincarnation offers another version of this economics.

I hate to think what I will be eating on the basis of this life, in the next.

Wilma squawks no more

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"but your point undermines the fanciful picture that anyone in America can obtain four star dining by displaying merit.  More important is inherited wealth and the inherited, and thus not necessarily merited, opportunities it brings.  

And I don't see any big difference, on those grounds, between the States, on the one hand, and the UK, France and Spain on the other. "

Wilfrid - You need to add the words "that has commercial value to a market economy" after the word merit. Clearly there are things that are of significant merit which have no immediate market value and which operate in a non-market, or semi-market environment like museums or universities. As for inherited wealth, it plays just as big a part in our economy if not a bigger part than anything else. When someone like me has a good idea that takes a lot of money to implement, where am I expected to get that money from other than through a banking system that reinvests inherited wealth back into the system? What makes the States different than the U.K., France, Britain and Spain is historically who had access to that reinvested wealth.

Take the example of the history of the expansion of restaurant culture in America. It was driven in large part by the advent of credit cards like Diner's Club.  If you look at what Diner's Club is beneath the service, it is a guarantee from financial instituions (who are keeping inherited wealth nice and tidy) to restaurants that they will get paid whether the diner pays them or not. It's the perfect example of what we are talking about. Somebody had a great idea for a consumer financial tool, an elite and moneyed class bought into the idea that it could be profitable and underwrote the idea, and it succeeded based on a democratic process of consumer acceptance. Europe has been a generation behind  this phenomenon both as to providing the funding for entrepreneurs, as well as extending credit to the consumers.

The entrepreneurs have historically been in large part excluded based on old class structures. That's been the key advantage that our economy has had. And the consumers were slow to be given credit because of lower wages. I can remember my first visit to London in 1977 and passing employment agencies and commenting on how low the pay was for administrative jobs. And I can also recall that as

as recent as within the last 15 years that restaurants in Europe didn't accepting every credit card. These days, both of those things have changed but the Europeans are still playing catch up. And though I haven't done a thorough analysis, I would venture to guess that it's the reason that the Bill Gate's and Steve Cases of the world are here and not there.

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I always thought it was the Federal Reserve that played the biggest part in the economy. Oh yes,  the money from the "U.K., France, Britain (sic) and Spain", not to mention the rest of Europe, the oil-producing nations of the Middle East, Asia (etc.) that is invested in the United States and finances our current-account deficit vastly overwhelms whatever sloshing around inherited wealth is doing in the banking system, which by the way accounts for a lot less of it than what is tied-up in illiquid investments.

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Sorry to be nitpicky but that's probably not exactly right.   The US current account deficit is about 4% of GDP, which is around 450 bn USD.  Most of this over the last few years has been financed strangely enough by Europeans via Foreign Direct Investment (eg, Daimler purchase of Chrysler) and portfolio inflows.  However, the point is that the current account is a flow like a stream of income, whereas inherited wealth should be viewed as an asset.  At the end of 2001, the stock of US gross household assets was around 47.1 trn USD, assuming that 5% of those assets were inherited, that puts the stock of inherited wealth at 2.35 trn USD.

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I'm sure your right lxt, but your point undermines the fanciful picture that anyone in America can obtain four star dining by displaying merit.  More important is inherited wealth and the inherited, and thus not necessarily merited, opportunities it brings.  

I reject the contention that the sort of middle-class "wealth" required to enjoy upscale dining in this country is not primarily earned but inherited.  [Maybe you’re thinking about Merrye Olde Socialist England, where income derives either from inherited wealth or government handouts of confiscated wealth.]

And anyway, what is your definition of merit?  The number of hours one works?  One’s talent?  One’s entrepreneurial abilities? Ambition? Education? Temperament? What is it?  

All or a combination of the above plus some luck (or rather “favorable circumstances and environment”) may be necessary to achieve a chance to enjoy a four-star dining experience in a restaurant or, in other words, to say that one was rewarded by displaying merit.  It is not only ‘hard work’ that comprises a quite complicated formula in calculating one’s merit.  If a person rejects this principle, he adopts a myth of egalitarianism, the concept I discussed in detail with Bux in the same post.

As to your notion of inherited wealth, who said that merits of the lucky gentleman’s father should not have an afterlife?  If a wish of the father was to pass his wealth to his child, all it means is that the merits of the father were such as to cover not just one but two people.  If one is not concerned whether he is evaluated by his personal merits, who said that the merits of his father should be annulled?  And if merits (or a compensation for them) of the father play a significant role in building an even more victorious successor, God bless him.  If it doesn’t, then at some point, the hierarchy of  merit compensation passed to other generations will have to be built from scratch all over again.

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Mao, I was using the current account deficit "en passant" to mention what foreign investment in the US does, among other things. (It also helps the Federal government finance its deficits through the purchase of debt). My reply to Steve was based on the premiss of available funds in the banking system; i.e. M1, M2, M3, since the banking system was what he invoked ( I have a copy of "Stigum's The Money Market" at the ready in case there are any nit-pickers) as the suppliers of funds to entrepreneurs. Of course, one can always retain an investment banking or venture capital firm to tap the non-liquid private money market, but this is a slow grind without any guaranteed results. Anyway, I don't see how it is possible to get an accurate fix on how much money is inherited. Regardless, it is dwarfed by foreign investment capital.

Tom Colicchio, are you still listening?

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My perception is that some of you feel like going to great lengths to justify whatever wealth you have (whether you consider yourselves members of the mythical "middle class" that encompasses something like 90% of Americans in opinion polls, or call yourselves rich, or whatever). Merit, schmerit. Enjoy your food! [chuckle]

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Pan -  We went off on this tangent because way back when John Whiting made a comment about "American Culture" in the context of discussing Craft and this is what ensued. Since then, I think the market economy/democratic process supporters have done a pretty good job explaining how it works and why it works (albeit in a simple way.) Now in lieu of being able to put forth an argument against that side, you have come along and personalized it by drawing an inference through the word "justify," as if people accumulate wealth but don't deserve it. Your statement seems to carry an additional inference of it being accumulated in an "unfair" way. Well there are two things to say about that. Nobody here participated on a personal level. Everyone argued what they believe is right, and what they think the facts are. No one should have to defend themselves here against any type of inference on a personal level. Second, if your inference is intended to point out the inequities in the system and how there are people who not only don't participate in it, live in poverty, go ahead and make an argument as to why the process is responsible. So far you haven't done that except to imply that the wealthy are somehow responsible for it and should feel guilty while others are suffering. Meanwhile, I haven't heard you offer a solution to their problem that includes your money. Only somebody elses.

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Steve, I really didn't mean to seem to personally attack anyone. I just think the whole question of "merit" is irrelevant. The capitalist system is not a moral one, in the sense that it is based on greed, but it is a very effective system, as long as it is tempered by some controls a representative government imposes or/and should impose on excesses, for two basic reasons:

(1) In order to prevent monopolization and other anti-competitive behavior that defeats the whole purpose of capitalism as free and efficient competition.

(2) In order to prevent society from allowing the "losers" to simply starve to death, as they did during the laissez-faire days of Dickensian England.

As far as whether wealthy people "deserve" their money: Some do, some don't. The reason why certain people have a lot of possessions and others don't is not because the wealthy or the poor are generally of higher moral character; each individual is unique, and there are people of good and bad character at all income levels. If you or anyone else felt that I meant to imply either that anyone involved in this discussion acquired wealth dishonestly or immorally or that anyone involved in this discussion should feel "guilty" about his/her wealth, I certainly regret that. If my call to give a thought to the lettuce-pickers causes anyone to react with guilt, that's their lookout. It's just that I resent the claim that wealth inherently equals merit, and its implicit corrolary relating to poverty (poor people or otherwise economically unsuccesful people lack merit).

I guess what it amounts to is not that I see the acquisition of wealth as immoral, but as amoral, but while I think that the suggestion that wealth=merit is absurd, but my opinion does not imply the opposite: That wealth automatically equals theft or dishonestly or immorality. So that's why I come down to suggesting that the participants in this discussion cease trying to use moral or mock-moral principles to explain why they are wealthier than equally or more hardworking people who lack their assets or opportunities through no fault of their own, and simply enjoy the wealth that I feel sure all of you earned (or, for that matter, inherited) honestly and legally.

As for solutions using my money, don't go there. It should be clear enough to you without my spelling it out in round figures that there is no way for me to pay down the national debt, shall we say. Though I will say that, even though I need my tax refunds to pay bills, I would be willing to pay more in taxes to help fund a national or state health insurance plan for all. People's lives and health shouldn't depend on their income, and if that concept makes people feel guilty, I think that's fine as long as it motivates them to support a decent system for those of us who can't pay $800+ a quarter for health insurance (I'm getting ready to read the response that those people don't "merit" life-saving health care). Guilt is a useless emotion if it does nothing other than make people feel bad, and I don't want any of you to lead unhappy lives. So enjoy yourselves and be happy! But don't pretend that your income level is a reflection of your superior moral character, though superior moral character you may have, as individuals.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Pan - While your response is well intended, and inspired I might add, it still misses our point. The problem with everything you have raised so far like morality is that it can only be measured subjectively. One persons suicide bomber is another persons freedom fighter. The thing about the monetary system and why it is fair is the market is an objective measure of what things are worth. So when we say that wealth is earned according to merit, we make no value judgements about it other than it has value to the market.

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Pan - While your response is well intended, and inspired I might add, it still misses our point. The problem with everything you have raised so far like morality is that it can only be measured subjectively. One persons suicide bomber is another persons freedom fighter. The thing about the monetary system and why it is fair is the market is an objective measure of what things are worth. So when we say that wealth is earned according to merit, we make no value judgements about it other than it has value to the market.

Measured thus narrowly, I can accept your usage of "merit" and withdraw my objections, on that basis.

Then, the only issues would be the degree to which there really is free competition in today's economy, and such a discussion, though already touched on, would take us much further afield than I'd like.

I'm happy to (at least provisionally) conclude this on an amicable note. :smile:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Jason and I had dinner at Craft last night. This was a last minute thing (escaped a dreadful party, don't ask), we called at 7:30 and were told they could seat us at 9. "But we can be there at 8," says us, "Come and we'll do the best we can, maybe you'll be seated by 8:30" was the reply. Gramercy Tavern was no dice, so off to Craft we drove. (BTW - I feel a need to gloat. We got legal, on-street, parking spaces very near both of our NYC destinations last night, miraculous!)

We arrived at 8 and were seated immediately. The restaurant was only about 2/3 full. I guess they don't want to indicate over the phone the possibility of their ever not being completely booked? Anyway, it is a beautiful restaurant. For some reason I had the impression that it would have very tight, typical NYC, seating. This was not the case in the least. In fact our table itself was very large. At first it seemed uncomfortably large (we were too far apart to hold hands) but then when all the dishes are served you understand why they need the room.

Frankly, we ordered way too much food (and have the bill to show it :wink: ), but we don't get to go to such high quality places very often, so we explored the menu and splurged. Items ordered:

Appetizers:

One each of the oysters: Fisher's Island, Hog Island and Glidden Point. Jason had these, said they were fabulous, very fresh as expected, but he isn't such an oyster connoisseur that he was able to differentiate between the varieties.

Artichoke salad: combination of braised then marinated baby artichokes, celery and onion with shaved raw artichokes on top.

Beet salad: The roasted baby beets, ruby, golden and chiogga (striped) were marinated with a vinaigrette, salt* & pepper. I was starting to get the point. The best quality ingredients prepared simply to accentuate the essence of the main ingredient.

Main Courses:

Roasted Sirloin of Beef

Roasted Loin of Lamb

These were both just excellent, prime meats. The sirloin arrived carved and sliced but still with the bone. We would have brought the bone home for the doggies, but it was way too salty.* Unfortunately, the lamb came out barely cooked (both meats were ordered medium-rare). The sommelier noticed me asking the food deliverer (not our waitress) if this was medium-rare and she came over. One glance and she agreed, whisking the plate away. It returned cooked medium, still quite pink inside but brown on the outside. Both meats were tender and delicious.

*The only true negative of the evening was the over-salting. Our waitress explained that they use Fleur de Sel and that it is saltier than regular salt. I wasn’t going to argue with her that, if it is actually saltier, which I don’t think it is, than the kitchen should use less of it. However, she did point out that you can order your food “light on the salt” or ask for it to be omitted completely (which is what she does). However, IMHO, unless a customer has a specific health issue, they shouldn’t have to ask to not have their food over-salted. Anyway, be advised to, at minimum, ask for your food to be lightly salted (unless you really love your food salty).

Side Dishes: here is where we went overboard

Roasted Carrots

Sautéed Lamb’s Quarters* (a kale-like green)

Braised Baby Zucchini with Fried Blossoms

Spring Vegetable & Saffron Risotto*

Mushroom Trio:

- Marinated Chanterelles (my favorite of the three)

- Roasted Bluefoots (slightly funky)

- Braised Morels (funkiest :wink: ) – I’d never had morels before, they were delicious and reminded me, in a good way, of blue cheese. BTW – the braising medium appeared to be butter, they were saturated with it.

Potatoes Boulangères – fingerlings sautéed with pancetta and onions, they were almost caramelized

The side dishes were so good. Some were extremely simple but likewise delicious, like the roasted carrots and zucchini; others were revelatory, like the mushrooms; others I could have done without, I’ve had better risotto elsewhere; others just interesting to try, but I but I wouldn’t order again, like the potatoes.

For dessert we shared one “side dish” of Apricot Sorbet. We were just too full (and I took home leftovers) to get anything more. This was perfect sorbet. Soft, but not melty, with a dollop of apricot compote (?) underneath and a simple shortbread cookie accompaniment. This was followed by simple mint cream filled chocolates and strawberry jellies.

Oh, Jason had two glasses of wine, a Pinot Gris with the appetizers and a Chianti with the mains. I stayed with NYC tap, refilled without asking.  All in all we had a lovely evening, enjoying a restaurant Jason has been bugging me to go to for nearly a year. I can’t imagine making it a regular place for us though, but I would return again someday.

PS – I desperately wanted the Chef’s Tasting Menu. Everything on it appealed to me, but none of it to Jason. Now I understand the lament of those who are deprived of a tasting menu due to restaurant policy. I think I can understand when it is a large table. But it was just the two of us and we would have been perfectly satisfied if dishes came out scattered between us, due to the different number of courses. That’s my question for Tom Colicchio if we ever get him to do an eGullet Q&A!

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