I was dis-invited to dinner last night. A publicist had invited me to a tasting event at a private club with a couple of new chefs, and then took it back.
“Hello Bret,” she e-mailed me. “Thank you for your RSVP, unfortunately we are unable to provide you a seat for tonight's dinner. We would like to make it up to you by inviting to a dinner at the club this month. Please call me to find out more details.”
No, sorry. Even if she had managed to write a grammatically correct message, she had lost her chance for me to sample her client’s chefs’ food.
I’d eaten there before and was pretty sure it wasn’t my loss, food-wise, even with new chefs, although it probably would have been an amusing evening. I had work to do in the office anyway, and being snubbed gave me extra time to do that work. So in practice I didn’t mind, but in principle, it’s obnoxious to dis-invite people. The very height of rudeness.
But I suppose these are obnoxious times in the New York food world. Eater.com seems to have traded in the first E in its name for an H for the week and is singling out restaurants at which to vent some extra spleen. It all strikes me as unusually mean, so much so that since my dinner plans had been canceled anyway I decided to visit one of the targets of its hostility, Merkato 55.
It’s the latest venture of celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and restaurateur Håken Swahn, who also own Aquavit and Riingo, and is part of Marcus’ journey to seek his African roots.
In case you have other things to do with your brain than fill it with the life histories of celebrity chefs, Marcus was born in Ethiopia and adopted by Swedish parents at age 3. He recently came out with a cookbook resulting from his experiences in recent visits to Africa.
Merkato 55 opened about four months ago and reviews have been mixed, but I mean, it’s just four months old.
So I popped in, sat at the bar and ordered some infused rums.
Aquavit the restaurant has a bunch of house-made aquavit, which is basically infused vodka. Håken explained to me once that Swedish law requires that aquavit be flavored with caraway seeds, but he’s not in Sweden so he infuses it with whatever he likes.
I forget which infused rums I ordered, because the bartender said I had ordered the worst ones and picked three different ones for me — hibiscus-blood orange, banana and date. Hey, I’m happy to take guidance.
Then I had the arugula tabbouleh and jerk pork belly with green mango salad — neither particularly African, but that’s all right.
I chatted a bit with the bartender, who said business had been really busy but was slowing down now that it was summer (in New York we pay no attention to the summer solstice or autumnal equinox — summer is between Memorial Day and Labor Day). But she said the restaurant would be offering sidewalk seating starting June 12. So that’s something.