by Ian Froeb
Here at Gut Check, we follow the reports on the new cabinet with interest -- OMG, is he really going to pick Hillary??? -- but we must admit, we get much more excited when we come across an article about the endlessly fascinating subjects of Michelle's clothes, Michelle's butt, Malia and Sasha's new school, Zariff the Barber and, of course, the puppy. Minutes and minutes of procrastination lie ahead! (For the record, Gut Check has no official endorsement for White House puppy*, though we do have a marked preference for any breed whose name ends in "-doodle.")
[* - Gut Check's editor officially endorses a rescue dog, whether pure-bred or mutt. - Ian]
But, of course, our raison d'etre remains food. Which is why we reported on Barack's newfound love of Pi when he was here for that big rally last month.* And why we felt a special glee on Sunday night when Barack told Steve Kroft that he does the dishes, just like us. And why we squealed when Michelle revealed that when she first started dating Barack, he lived near Harold's Chicken Shack.
[* - Pi has returned the love. Read more about the Broccoli O'Bama pizza at STL Bites. - Ian]
The Obamas' date-destination, after the jump...
Harold's, please understand, is a South Side Chicago institution. There are lots of Harold's outposts now, including one in the Loop (immortalized by Kanye West), but we assume Michelle was referring to the original on 53rd Street in Hyde Park. (Okay, it's in a strip mall, not a shack, but whatever.) There is really no experience comparable to shouting your order through a wall of bulletproof glass. Which is why we assume that the Secret Service will not permit Barack to return to Harold's anytime soon, even if he hadn't become a more health-conscious eater, at least as reported by Newsweek.
The man's fortitude is tremendous. On the campaign trail, he favored salmon with rice and broccoli for dinner and, showing the sort of judgment and forbearance we believe will make him a great president (and why Gut Check will not), consumed exactly one French fry on a visit to a diner and took his pancakes and burgers to go. Sigh.
Naturally we were excited to learn that Barack and Michelle's favorite spot for "date-night" is Spiaggia on the Gold Coast, owned by St. Louis Native™ Larry Levy. (Levy also used to own ~scape in the Central West End.) Our crack investigative team gave the place a call and discovered that there would not be another dinner reservation available till mid-December.
We moved on to investigate other rumors. Was it really possible that dinner there for two could cost $700? Well, the most expensive food idem on the Spiaggia menu, Spaghetti alla Chitarra con Tartufi Bianchi, goes for a cool $91 -- not, we assume, for the browned butter, Parmigiano Reggiano or even the handcrafted pasta, but the white truffles. On the other hand, it is quite possible to spend $2500 for a bottle of 1978 Barolo Riserva di Valentino, Rocche dei Manzone. That's for a rehoboam, though, which, Gut Check has learned, is a really big-ass bottle, 4.8 liters or the equivalent of 6 regular bottles. A more modest bottle of Champagne, say, 1990 Clos du Mesnil, would only set you back $1250.
(The menu, of course, does contain many more reasonably-priced items, but what is the fun in reporting that?)
Spiaggia probably considers itself too classy to make its servers wear T-shirts that say "Obama Eats Here." Medici on 57th Street in Hyde Park does not. Gut Check can actually afford to eat there and can confirm that, while its fried chicken and ambiance both pale beside Harold's, the hamburgers, bread and frozen strawberry lemonade are all excellent and far superior to those at R. J. Grunts in Lincoln Park, which the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau has annointed the Obamas' favorite casual joint.
As for Pizza Capri, the Obamas' favorite pizza place, Gut Check has only vague memories of dining there and cannot vouch for the quality of the pizza, only that it is thin crust.
With that, we return to other pressing, though non food-related, matters, like tracking down the book Obama is currently reading.