Sunday, March 28, 2010
This is a first dear readers, I am reviewing a restaurant that I didn't eat at. Why? Before I tell you why, I must first give you the back story. These last few months my wife and I have been working quite hard in preparation for our move back to England. We're scheduled to leave on May 5th, Cinco de Mayo. Working long hours leaves little time for my real passion, eating. Lately all work and no play has made me incredibly irritable and last week I made the decision to have a nice meal and open a bottle of wine from my cellar. My choice, a 2003 Chateau Duhart- Milon (Lafite) from the Rothschild family.
Although not a particularly exceptional bottle of wine, it's one that I knew would require great food. I did a quick internet search for BYOBs in the Brandywine Valley, a region that I am lucky enough to live in and which has some of the best food on the East Coast. Don't believe me? Do a search for Talula's Table, The Orchard, Bistro on the Brandywine, The Gables, Gilmore's, Simon Pearce, and the list goes on and on. This area is an absolute goldmine for gastronomic exploration. I have been to most of the restaurants listed here, but there are two I'm missing, Simon Pearce in West Chester and The Orchard in Kennett Square. After seeing some exquisite photos of Simon Pearce, reading their menu and discovering that they are a BYOB and finding out that The Orchard is only open for dinner, I decided that Simon Pearce was worthy of my 2003 Duhart-Milon. I was wrong.
When we arrived at Simon Pearce I was very impressed by the building and the decor. There were two men blowing glass directly to the left of the entrance. You see, Simon Pearce is a glass blowing factory, the restaurant came later. As the men worked the molten glass over into shapes that defy gravity and inspire awe, I thought to myself, "this place is going to be good." However, I was let down within 10 minutes of being there. As we entered the restaurant the hosts eyes darted down to my large camera bag like an Eagle surveying its pray. Her eyes then ricocheted off of my camera bag and onto the bottle of wine my wife was clutching in her hand, cork half out.
We were seated next to a large window, which displayed beautiful views of the West Chester countryside. For all of you that don't know this area, it is gorgeous and in fact, is where most of Marly and Me was filmed. It is also home to the Brandywine Battlefield, where the Battle of Brandywine took place on September 11th 1777. The menu was elegant and displayed a brief, but seemingly tasty selection of American inspired cuisine. I was almost done choosing what I was going to have when a young woman came up to us and said, "I'm sorry, but our liquor license does not permit us to serve an open bottle of alcohol." I said, "This is a special bottle of wine, which I have been waiting to have and I wanted it to be the best it possibly could be, so I decanted it for 3 hours prior to coming here." To which she replied, "Well, you can drink it somewhere else." Good 'ole fashion customer service strikes again. Who trains these people to handle situations like this? My guess, no one.
I spent a few minutes trying to get her to understand how insane that rule was, after all, what's to stop someone from simply forcing the cork all the way back into the bottle? Making it seem like it was unopened. And what about screw tops? Do they have a rule that states, if the screw top does not give resistance equal to 3 pounds, while also making a cracking sound like a plastic bottle of Coke when opening it is deemed unworthy and must be destroyed? Screw tops come loose, corks pop up out of the bottle when exposed to heat, etc. Simon Pearce states on their website that they're a BYOB, they say nothing about having to leave the wine unopened. And in this day and age when people like myself tend to decant wine at home, this rule is simply moronic and led to us leaving the restaurant and going somewhere down the road that has served our opened, decanted wine dozens of times. This was no exception.
Dear Simon Pearce management; I implore you to seek whatever liquor license you need in the state of PA to resolve this issue. I'm sure I was not the first to decant wine and bring it in only to be told that I could drink it somewhere else. And I'm sure I won't be the last. Also, I would urge you to train your staff up more so that they do not tell patrons that it's ok to leave. It is never ok for a person to go away from your establishment unhappy and unsatisfied. There was something that could have been done in that situation. There always is.
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