NYT's Frank Bruni complains that he didn't have fun on Obama's date night

Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

The New York Times' Frank Bruni didn't have a good time on the Obamas' Date Night.

See, the Obamas dined at Blue Hill, a restaurant that Bruni concedes is "excellent" and "romantic" and "very much among the city's standouts." All of which would seem to make it an ideal choice for Date Night. But the Obamas failed to consider whether their meal at Blue Hill would be sufficiently exhilarating for their uninvited third wheel, Frank Bruni.


In the very predictability of this choice, in its all-too-neat squaring with the officially sanctioned food agenda, in its absence of surprise or abandon, isn't it ever so slightly disappointing? Just a little too pat and controlled?

During the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama sometimes came across — and was often portrayed — as someone almost joylessly disciplined and restrained around food, and that discipline and restraint went hand in hand with an unflappability that, on occasions, made it difficult for him to connect.

It would have been fun to see the president contradict that impression and play against type when he and the first lady sat down to dinner in New York. It would have been interesting to watch him bust loose and reach for something rich, messy, decadent, gluttonous: a plate of fatty lamb ribs at Resto; some pâtés and terrines at Bar Boulud; one of the offal dishes at Babbo; that killer bone-in New York strip at Minetta Tavern; the oyster pan roast at the John Dory . . .

I'm sure the Obamas are kicking themselves for not thinking about how they could make their date more fun for Frank Bruni.

But is Bruni really suggesting that the Obamas' restaurant was too predictable -- and that they instead should have gone to a restaurant (Babbo) owned by Mario Batali? Batali is, no doubt, a fine chef. But is it even possible to imagine a more predictable choice for out-of-towners in New York looking for an upscale meal than a Batali restaurant? You can't turn on a television without seeing Batali; Crocs make a "Mario Batali Edition" of their shoes. In his complaint at the predictability of the Obamas choice, Bruni hasn't exactly recommended an obscure outter-borough hole-in-the-wall; he has suggested one of the most famous restaurants in the country, run by one of the most famous chefs in the world.

Anyway, the point is -- and I can't believe this needs to be spelled out -- the Obamas' Date Night really isn't about entertaining Frank Bruni, no matter what Bruni thinks.

Oh, and that difficulty Obama had "connecting" during the 2008 campaign? Nonsense. Clowns like Chris Matthews claimed that Obama's food choices made it hard for him to "connect" with "regular people" (he ordered orange juice in a diner!) But it didn't actually happen. The guy won Indiana and North Carolina, for crying out loud. Sane people -- regular people -- just don't care whether their president orders orange juice in a diner, or which salad green he prefers, or whether he eats at Blue Hill or Babbo or Bar Boulud.

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