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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Everyone's a Critic

Posted By on Wed, Jan 14, 2009 at 7:29 PM

A casual mention by Frank Bruni in today's NY Times concerning a certain Barack Obama's views about dining out, as expressed in 2001 on, as Mr. Bruni coyly said, "a restaurant-related television show in Chicago" (any foodie fool would know that was a reference, however veiled, to Check, Please!, the original incarnation and inspiration for our local show on KQED).

Although not completely thrilled by the sentiments expressed by

then-State Senator for Illinois' 13th district Obama, whose keynote

address for the 2004 Democratic Convention was still years ahead --

"I'm not looking for some fancy presentations or extraordinarily subtle

flavors. What I'm looking for is is food that tastes good for a good

price." -- I immediately raced to the Chicago Check, Please! website, knowing that our local one keeps all their shows online for repeated viewings.

Only to find out that Chicago's Check, Please! is crowing about showing

what they're calling a "lost episode" (yes, the one with Obama) on

January 16th, 18th, and 20th. They tease us with a tiny excerpt, even

shorter than the excerpt viewable

on Youtube that pleases the critic in us with his ordering of the

Southern sampler and recommendation of the peach cobbler.

Barack's favorite restaurant then was the still-in-existence Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop, which sounds just swell to us. (The Southern sampler proves to include gumbo, jambalaya, and red beans & rice, and is currently offered at the still-good price of $10.95). But we're as eager to hear Obama weighing in on the restaurant choices of the two other guests, in time-honored Check, Please! fashion, as we are to hear more deep thoughts about the Dixie Kitchen.

We've already emailed a friend in Chicago to TiVo the show and burn a DVD for us.

But never fear. The good Check, Please! folks in San Fran are on the case, too, and are "hard at work behind the scenes to deliver more to you than just this clip." 

Why was this episode never aired? According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, David Manilow, the creator of the program and a longtime friend of Obama's (who did the show as a favor for a friend), and then-host Amanda Puck, our President-elect was too damned good. "Too thoughtful, too articulate, not enough of an amateur," the article says. (Hmm. Sounds like an elitist to me. The same traits that certain people thought would make him unelectable made the show, well, unshowable. Until now.) 

Talking with a firefighter and a retail buyer about their picks, Le Bouchon and Zia's Trattoria, "He ended up dominating the conversation." "It was unbalanced," Manilow said, "to put it charitably."

Luckily it went into the vault, and was not, unlike innumerable shows from Hollywood's Golden Age, wiped or destroyed.

We can hardly wait.

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Meredith Brody


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