Saturday, December 21, 2013

Swine Before Pearls

Its the End of the World as We Know It - Manny’s Steakhouse in the W Hotel, Minneapolis

Hidden away in the fake art hotel ambience of the W Hotel on Marquette Avenue in downtown Minneapolis is the storied steak joint, Manny’s.  Prudes will find its ‘bull with balls’ picture to be the essence of tacky ‘men’s club’ juvenalia, but really that is not the most revealing.  The prices are enough to give one a heart attack.  $100 monster lobster tails from Australia.  Pieces of steak bigger than a plate. Simple vegetables that cost the same as entrees at other joints.  And on and on.  The place is full and noisy – the upper-middle class enjoying their just desserts. Very big desserts in fact – one can feed 4 hungry diners.  Upscale steak houses are the same all over the country.  For working class people, this is a once a year ‘celebration’ place.  For the traveling business manager or lawyer, it is just another hotel meal. 

Manny’s never gets listed as one of the 10 best restaurants in Minneapolis – it is no match for La Belle Vie or the 112 Eatery or the other mostly French restaurants in town.  It is just what it is – one of the last vestiges of ‘50s throwback comfort food, of Sinatra style, of “Mad Men’ nostalgia, and of reactionary social thinking.  ‘Murrays Steak House,’ the real thing several blocks away on 6th Street, still exists from the ‘40s but is actually too old to be popular.

Manny’s is owned by Parasole Inc., a hidden corporate manager of a chain of dissimilar restaurants in the city, ones like Chino Latino, Salut and Masa.  It is Parasole’s flagship and one of its main cash cows, pardon the phrase.  The staff is relaxed, yet highly professional.  Their benefits are slightly better than most chains, but they have no paid sick time, for instance.  Our server looked like Ringo Starr, bellowed like Pavarotti and worked hard.  The show starts with a rolling demonstration table of giant cuts of meat and lobster.  Really big steaks, with bone handles, with names and cuts I don’t’ care to remember, wrapped in plastic, waved before us like sacred fetishes.  Anyone with the slightest understanding of the effect red meat has one’s personal health, on the environment and carbon production, on hunger and the production of other foods, on cow methane flatulence, on the lives of cows – well, let’s say this place is the Roman orgy banquet table of modern times.  The vomitorium is just around the corner.  Nero, not Sinatra, is playing violin in the background, romancing the Hummer of foods.  It is gluttony central.  One guy couldn’t get out of the shitter at the W – his friends were looking for him.  He, like Elvis, was probably trying to eject the 40 pounds of undigested red meat in his intestines. 

On the rolling cart was a dark lobster with his claws bound.  And he moved.  Yes, they put a live lobster on a dry tray for our viewing pleasure.  Now, please refer to the essay by David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster “reviewed below.  A hint of cruelty was only appropriate.  The waiter made fun of their ‘salmon’ offering, showing it to us in a disappearing flash, hinting that ‘this was not called “Manny's Salmon House.”  Ha ha.  Even though Alaska salmon is at least sustainable.  The UN has called meat – especially from cows – one of the largest sources of carbon production across the world.  You don’t have to be an environmentalist or vegetarian to find something odd about meat.  The addiction to meat, now growing in developing nations, is pushing carbon production even higher.  As to where these bloody hunks are coming from, the provenance of Manny’s beef is unknown.  Grass-fed?  Local?  Full of antibiotics and other drugs? Treated humanely?  Imported?  Duh.  Manny’s doesn’t give a shit and hopes you don’t either.  Manny’s is just another high-end outlet for that cholesterol-laden addiction, on a grand scale, as a ‘metier,’ a cause, a lifestyle choice, a man’s man’s meal. 

Perhaps there is something of the fear of being gay that makes men fetishize the eating of steak and the drinking of whiskey. 

And cows have horns for a reason. 

Overpriced bottles of California cabernet followed.  Alcohol is the largest financial rape item found on any restaurant table, and no respectable restaurant would go without it.  I don’t know the prices, as I wasn’t paying.  This was a meal of vendor appreciation, competitive feasting and conspicuous consumption, and I was a beneficiary of sorts.  Good company, better than the food.  Though I had to endure a long bit of conversation (silently larded with guilt) over recent visits to health clubs – those locations where ‘exercise’ exists in splendid isolation from the rest of our lives.

The bloody meat arrived for the lawyers in attendance, but was not fully consumed due to its quantity. The bread was returned partly uneaten.  Even the potatoes did not get finished.  Desserts followed, and they were so big that both people who ordered them couldn’t finish them.  Maybe a ¼ was eaten.  What happened to them?  Doggie box sir?  Not in stylish restaurants!  These giant hunks of chocolate, whipped cream, caramel and nuts were both thrown away.  Very conspicuously.  40% of food in the U.S. is ostensibly thrown away.  If you have been around people that barely eat their meals, or throw away food, you know you are dealing with people that are too wealthy or spoiled – or who pretend to both.  Manny’s loves ‘em. 

Chocolate beans are one of the most endangered crops in the world due to global warming.  Eat up folks, for chocolate, coffee beans and even bananas might be going the way of … a good chunk of the human race.  Manny’s and the steak restaurant chains will be there to shepherd you along through the gates, down the ramp … to the kill box.  As their slogan says, “Life is Good at the Top of the Food Chain.”  The question is, who’s for dinner?

(See review of the play, “Oil/Jungle,” below) 

Happy Solstice!
Red Frog
December 21, 2013

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