When is a first strike not a first strike?
When it's Anticipatory Retaliation.

August 12, 2004

More on the Wendy's Debacle

Bravo Romeo Delta

Ok, I know it's been roundly pounded, but I wanted to clarify a couple of things about the now-infamous-if-it-were-well-known lunch at Wendy's by the Johns.

In my previous post (linked above) I parroted nonsense about the reputed cost of the lunches and so on. Well, things being things, I actually went and did a bit of research and all that stuff, so here's what I found.

The restaurant in question, I believe, is Nikola's Bistro - or at least that was the place cited by a number of bloggers.

Of interest, is the menu. Among other things, a number of the stories about the evening's dining assert that, among other things, shrimp vindaloo, grilled diver sea scallops, prosciutto, wrapped stuffed chicken were had by the staffers. Upon examination, one will note that the menu doesn't seem to have any of these items. In general, these items are not entirely incompatible with the menu selections, but they do not seem to be a spectacularly good fit, either. And really, when you think about it, why show up to a restaurant you've never heard of before and go off ask them to make things that aren't on their menu?

There are a few possible explanations for this:

1) The menu has changed since the campaign stop
2) They didn't order from Nikola's
3) The chef cooked a special course for their distinguished customers
4) This was all magically cooked up by the VRWC

All in all, there's not enough conclusive evidence to make a reasonable call one way or the other, but I bring the points up to frame the real reason for the post, which is to get a feel for the prices they paid for their dinner, which ties into a couple of leadership-related issues addressed in my previous post.

To wit, the menu posted on line does not list any prices, this review seems to suggest that entrees are in the $16-$20 range. That clearly doesn't jive with the $200 figure being bandied about.

So, given the list of alternatives shown up top, these two things suggest that:

1) the Nikola's mentioned in Steyn's column really isn't where they got their food.
2) the story is on some (or all) level(s) a fabrication
3) or, that in making a custom meal, they charged custom prices
4) that the $200 figure reflects the total tab for all 19 meals

If one goes with the notion of the food coming from (or near) the Newburgh Yacht Club, we see that the address of the club is 1 Park Place, the same address listed by Nikola's. In looking at restaurant listings, sorted by distance from the yacht club, we see that that there are a couple of places really close to the yacht club that might be eligible candidates, although, oddly enough, Nikola's itself is not listed.

Among the possibilities within a mile of the yacht club are a number of Italian Restaurants, which we can safely exclude (Shrimp Vindaloo ain't Italian). One possible candidate is the Blue Martini is a possibility, although the price range goes from $16-$32 for entrees, so we still don't hit $200. While I have not been able to find a menu for this place, I do note that the items mentioned in the review certainly are compatible with the alleged order by Team Kerry, so that holds out some hope.

There's also a joint right up the street named "26 Front Street Restaurant", but I'm not able to find any info on this.

And none of the possible ranges of entree prices get anywhere near being low enough to cover all 19 dinners for $200, unless, of course, the owners are big Kerry fans and opted to give them a good deal on dinner.

So, when all is said and done, the back half of the story is, perhaps, somewhat dubious, but unfortunately, no reasonable substitute theories suggest themselves. It is, a fairly reasonable proposition to assert that the $200 per plate thing seems a bit unlikely, but also, in all fairness, I know of at least one private club (that runs in a comparable price range) which accepts customers by invitation or membership only, and certainly doesn't go to any lengths to advertise themselves to any extent.

So kids, when bitching about the quality of intel analysis (like predicting 9/11) and drawing incorrect conclusions from available data (like Iraq and the WMD), keep this little exercise in mind.

Launched by Bravo Romeo Delta at August 12, 2004 09:31 PM

Retaliatiory Launches

I live near Newburgh.

The lunches were indeed from Nicolo's. The chef there is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (the top chef school up near FDR's estate across the river).

The lunches were takeout, not eaten at the yacht club. The reported contents were also reported in our local paper. It would not be unusual for a special order from a distinguished chef to include items not on the regular sit-down menu, if ordered ahead of time like this.

Roger you point re: intel.

Posted by: rkb at August 16, 2004 04:26 PM

One other point. Newburgh is not a high-income city ... it stagnated badly in the 70s and 80s and has had a serious drug problem in the recent past. There is a distinctly upper-middle class area next door, however, and new restaurants have opened recently along the river.

FWIW, context for the story: the Kerry entourage stopped in a poor neighborhood and appeared to eat Wendy's, then took off for their gourmet lunches for real.

Posted by: rkb at August 16, 2004 04:29 PM

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