--By Gourmet Live guest columnist Sarah Rich
When John Hartupee found himself eating fast food in the Montreal airport on his way to a weekend dine-around in New York City's finest restaurants, the irony was not lost on him. From his Blackberry, he tweeted: "Burger King in the airport waiting for my flight to NYC. I'll consider this my amuse-bouche for Eleven Madison Park!"
The next day, Hartupee glided through the revolving door of Danny Meyer's palatial restaurant with his girlfriend, leaving the memory of his traveler's appetizer to evaporate in the Manhattan heat. The maître d' greeted them, the host swept them off to a crisp, white-clothed table, and a quiet fleet of servers delivered house-filtered mineral water and minimalist square menus.
By the time the real amuse-bouche arrived, they'd been fully transported. They savored a soupçon of sweetbreads, and the table was cleared. Then a second set of small plates arrived, this time concealed under silver domes. The couple sat expectantly as the waiter carefully unveiled their next pristinely constructed bite. But instead of a torchon of foie gras or an heirloom tomato puree, each tiny plate held a single, silver dollar-size lamb burger on a diminutive bun. "We hope these are better than the one you had at the airport," he said with a wink.
Hartupee was dumbfounded. Had the food police reported his culinary transgression? Were New York chefs omniscient? Reading Hartupee's expression, the maître d' approached the table and explained that as part of their daily preparations, the hosts scan social networks for mentions of the restaurant. Hartupee's tweet presented an opportunity for the staff to personalize his experience, and they took it, figuring that frequent Twitter users aren't too averse to having strangers know a thing or two about them.
Hartupee's dismay gave way to delight. "This is one of the most quirky yet thoughtful things I have seen a restaurant do," he wrote afterwards in another online forum. But the comments that follow confirm that not everyone relishes the diminished privacy of the digital age. One respondent wrote, "This is the creepiest thing ever."
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And tell us what you think: Should maitres d' use technology to build relationships with clients? Or is this just plain creepy?
Photo Credit: Conde Nast Digital Studio
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