I love eating out with the kiddies. I have six godchildren, aged between early 20s and three, and I must admit I have a weakness for the one who is the best eater. At the age of 9, Chester was so appreciative of a multi-course tasting menu we were enjoying at Redwood Park, George Morrone's old restaurant in the base of the Transamerica Pyramid, that Morrone presented him with a signed menu reading "To Chester - I think someday you will have my job."
Chester asked me "Should I tell him I'd rather have yours? Being a chef is too much work!" (And also heartbreaking: Redwood Park closed within the year that we dined there, and Tartare, Morrone's next place, also had a brief life. The ex-Aqua and Fifth Floor chef is now keeping a lower Bay Area profile as the executive chef of Boca Steak and Seafood in Novato.)
I also enjoy reading about eating out with the kiddies. Gael Greene wrote a genius piece in 1969 about eating out with her 10-year-old niece Pamela, who loved boeuf bourguignonne ("How do they make the gravy so thick?"), balked at the runny yolk and truffle garnish of an oeuf en gelee (where the hell could you even find one anymore, outside of la belle France?), and advised her aunt, when told they would have wine, to "order grape wine," still one of my favorite apercus at the table, no matter how old the companion.
Anyway, I knew this was coming - in fact, in our blog-crazy age, I'm surprised there aren't multiple kids out there blogging their little fingers off about what they're eating. (Hell, I'd read them.) But the sight of a solitary twelve-year-old, carefully allotting the $25 his parents allowed him to spend on dinner at Salumeria Rosi on New York's Upper West Side, inspired an article in the New York Times.
David Fishman (hey, a landsman, big surprise!) learned that $25 doesn't go very far in the big city: he managed to try a plate of prosciutto and "una salata di rucola e parmigiano" (i.e., an arugula salad with shavings of parmesan cheese). But he also found out that cuteness combined with uniqueness (plus maybe writing down his perceptions in his leather-bound notebook, which the piece called "restaurant-critic-like" but we call a no-no) got him freebies: tripe stew from the kitchen (which he tried without knowing what tripe was, sometimes the best method for an open mind - and he liked it!), and chocolate mousse from a couple he was sitting next to.
Plus the chef sent him home with a jar of gianduja. David's head must still be spinning: he thinks that he can make a living writing for Zagat. (Which is written for free by its contributors, and is having its clock cleaned by an even more collaborative and cheaper-to-produce restaurant-rating website, Yelp.) But hey! Welcome to the ever-increasing club, David. Everyone's a critic!