Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Off the Map: The Judge Judy of the Culinary World

Crab Cakes -- Pierpoint Restaurant, Baltimore, MD
Pierpoint Restaurant

Dear Chefs of the World,

If you have a nasty/cranky/generally unlikable demeanor, STAY IN THE KITCHEN and leave the front of the house to someone with a better affect.
In Other Words, If You're a CRABBY CAKE, Stay Away
Nancy Longo at Baltimore's Pierpoint Restaurant could benefit from taking this advice.

It is worthy to note that prior to entering Pierpoint, Vodka, quite literally. fell out of a pick-up truck.  In fact, if Bloody Mary had not been standing is just the right position for Vodka to grab onto as she plunged out of the back seat, Ginger may have needed to find a new dining partner.  It is in this state of hyped-up giggles that we enter Pierpoint, and a fellow customer at the bar looks at us quizzically.

"I'm having a bad night," Vodka explains.
And If Nancy Longo Has Her Way, It's About To Get Worse
"Already?!" he asks.  We look at the time, certain that it is nearly midnight -- it's 6:30pm.  (And considering Vodka's been up since 4:00am, it's no wonder she's started falling out of pick-up trucks).
Clearly She Needs Her Strength. Someone Hand This Girl a Carb
We take two stools at the bar next to what seems to be Pierpoint's "technology support center," based on the number of laptops that are inexplicably taking up bar seats (way to put the customers first, Pierpoint).
Seriously Now - What Is This About?! They're Taking Up Valuable Bar Real Estate
When the bartender comes to take our drink orders, we ask what kinds of flavored vodka they have.  She answers "none."

Excuse me, lady, but the seven bottles of stoli behind you would indicate otherwise.

When Bloody Mary points out the stoli bottles, the bartender backtracks on her initial statement (though still doesn't seem to realize that these stoli bottles and "flavored vodka" are one and the same).
Here's Another Vocabulary Lesson, Lady: This Is Bread
We each ask for a wild cherry vodka soda, and Vodka heads to the bathroom in the back of the restaurant.  On the way there, she gets in the way of at least three Pierpoint employees, who all seem to be in various states of "frazzlement."  Bloody Mary confirms this phenomenon of employee run-ins when she makes her own trip to the restroom, and we are momentarily pleased that we have seats by the door (aka close to the exit should a problem break out in this ill-arranged firetrap).
Somebody Grab Us a Crab Cake on the Way Out
When Vodka returns from the bathroom, Bloody Mary is looking at her out of the corner of her eye, a look that wordlessly says, "We have a problem."

"She can't get it open," she whispers under her breath.


"The bartender can't get the vodka bottle open."  Vodka looks up to find a rotating cast of employees and then customers trying to pry open the stubborn bottle, all of whom are unsuccessful.  When we agree to drink another flavor (for which -- call her crazy -- Vodka thinks we should have been given a discount), this compromise does not produce a much better result, as the bartender fills the glass essentially to the top with cranberry vodka, and adds merely a splash of (not even carbonated) soda.

The whole thing is pretty much a horror show.
And Wait til You Hear How Much These Debacles Cost. Just You Wait, Henry Higgins
Speaking of horror show, while Vodka was in the bathroom, she could hear that bartender telling none other than Nancy Longo herself that we want to sit at the bar even though we have a reservation, and "Is that okay?"  Considering that every table in the restaurant is filled, Vodka is incapable of rationalizing why the bartender feels the need to run this matter by Ms. Longo.  That is, until ten minutes later, when we get a first row seat to the workings of Crabbypants Longo.
Get It - CRABBYpants? So Clever
While back at the bar sipping our cranberry vodka-waters, another party arrives and tries to take up residence at the (empty) bar (while all of the tables in the restaurant, keep in mind, are still full).  Crabbypants Longo, who has escaped from the kitchen once again, is giving them all sorts of grief over the scenario, though in a passive-aggressive, eye-rolling, pouting, and mumbling-under-her-breath fashion that no one can understand.  Truth be told, we are loving this encounter, mostly because we enjoy drama that does not involve us, but still, the behavior is unacceptable.  If we were the new customers (and were we not on this OCD-like mission), we would have walked out immediately upon encountering the highly disagreeable Crabbypants Longo, "world-renowned crab cakes" or not.  As it stands, we're less than pleased with our own experience, and we haven't even received our food yet.
Get Back in the Kitchen and Plate Your Dishes More Symmetrically, Crabbypants
Eventually, our Best Thing I Ever Ate choice arrives: the crab cakes which Duff Goldman had chosen on the FOR BRUNCH episode.  We have decided to order one regular and one smoked crab cake, which come with brussels sprout slaw, a corn cake, matchstick potatoes, and caper cornichon tartar.
Plate o' Beige
The crab cakes themselves are hearty and thick, the meat very fresh with just the slightest hint of a fried coating.  Taking tastes of each, Vodka prefers the regular cake and Bloody Mary the smoked one (though to be honest, Vodka really just likes the tartar sauce.  It is, after all, a condiment).
We'll Take a Whole Plate of Tartar Sauce Next Time, Thanks
The potatoes and brussels sprouts are both fine (though the latter seems a bit slimy), but it is obvious that the crab cakes themselves are supposed to be the stars here.
As an Aside, Please Note How Much of the Vodka "Soda" Has Been Consumed By This Point....
In fact, Bloody Mary enjoys the crab cakes much more than Vodka does (as Vodka believes that a bit more frying and breading never hurt anything).  As the Baltimore resident, Bloody Mary says she would have come back for the crabby delicacies, but certainly not with the threat of the crabby chef's presence hanging over her head. 

And then, there is the matter of our bill.

Now, for goodness sake, we have been known to throw down a lot more cash willingly for phenomenal food and beverages.  But our grand total for two wrong-flavor vodka-waters and crab cakes?  $49.  Before tip.  Each of our "cranberry waters" is $10, and the crab cakes are $29.  This pricing is, in a word, outrageous.  (Oh, and PS Pierpoint charged Bloody Mary's credit card TWICE, definitively nailing shut their reputation's coffin).

Frankly, it's a good thing that Pierpoint's crab cakes are as good as they are, because if they were even a smidge worse, our Pierpoint experience would be hovering strictly in 1-star territory.

Pierpoint Restaurant's Crab Cakes: 3 stars

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