Friday, January 23, 2009

Things that are from Brittany, and things that aren’t

January 23

I wish I looked like my name. Because, seriously, Bret Thorn is a dead sexy name. It's the name of a romance novel character or a porn star. If I looked like Bret Thorn, I swear I’d never wear a shirt.
Thorn is the German name for Torún, the Polish city that my paternal grandfather’s side of the family claims to come from. When they left Poland they lived in Krakow, but they said they were from Thorn, which is weird because Thorn is in Pomerania and Jews weren’t supposed to live in Pomerania.
So who knows if my last name is accurate.
And my first name means “from Brittany,” which I’m not. I’ve never even been to Brittany. As far as I know, none of my ancestors ever set foot in Brittany, either.
But chef Cyril Renaud is from Brittany, and so I was happy to check out his new restaurant, Bar Breton.
I suspect that places like Bar Breton will be the ones that succeed in New York in the near future: focused without being hokey, casual yet distinctive, restaurants that have something to say for themselves that isn’t “you’re going to have to sell a kidney to eat here.”
I went with my friend Birdman, aka biology professor David Krauss, and as we drank pear cider out of what looked like oversized teacups (our waiter said Cyril said they were traditional cups for drinking cider), we spoke of things that annoy us.
I had been annoyed at a restaurant opening the night before — a crowded affair whose door was being manned by the staff of a PR firm that, in my experience, is always stressed out in that way that a certain class of New Yorkers always are: Put-upon, with too much to do to be bothered with the niceties of civil behavior.
“Hold on,” the publicist said to me, her hand up to halt me, as though she were directing traffic.
"Come on in,” she said to a cluster of statuesque blondes who, to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, I’m just going to assume were important friends of the restaurant.
With the VIPs taken care of, she turned to the rest of us, so I introduced myself and she was all goodness and light, sweetness and smiles, as though that would make me forget that she had just stuck her hand in my face.
It’s true that I’m not an important person to that restaurant. I don’t make or break restaurants by reporting on food trends. I can give them press or not, but regardless of what I do, the restaurant won’t be transformed, and whether I like the publicist has little to do with what I’ll write. If there’s something interesting to say about a restaurant I’ll say it even if the publicist is a simpleton who doesn’t understand that you’re supposed to treat everyone with respect, if for no other reason than because, even if you don’t know who they are, that doesn’t mean they’re not someone important, and if they're not someone important now, that doesn’t mean they won’t be important someday.
It was another reminder that, just because someone has a job, it doesn’t mean that he or she is good at it.
Anyway, Bar Breton had a good crowd. Former Times critic Mimi Sheraton was there, too, and a couple of other food writers whose faces I remember but whose names I forget.
What Birdman and I ate:
Denise's sardines with white pepper and cornichon vinaigrette
suckling pig & foie gras terrine with apple & breakfast radish
braised lamb shank galette (that’s a Breton buckwheat crêpe) with roasted winter vegetables
Roasted baby vegetables and parsley butter
French fries
Black sea bass, endive, bacon, chervil, walnuts and balsamic reduction
Pot de lait with chicory gelée
Far Breton Brûlée


Anonymous said...

I would bet the PR person would have had a much different respect for you as she manned the gate if you showed up as the shirtless Bret Thorn - after all, new Manhattan restaurants invariably fall to have the "No shirts, no shoes, no service" sign up at their opening.

Bret Thorn said...

And if I looked like a Bret Thorn, I assure you I would have been shirtless.

Ron said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron said...

And all along I thought Britney was name for that singing Spears girl. Pardon my French.