Dear Chef Arbaugh,
Events of this week have inspired me, nay compelled me to write this letter. While I do want to share the affect these events have had upon me and diners across our fair city, I must begin by describing the first time we met.
My first introduction to you , Chef Arbaugh, was not a handshake, an internet communication, an informative yet one-dimensional article in the Daily Mail. No, the first time I met you, you spoke to me through a sandwich.
When Daniel suggested we try a new place in South Hills I immediately requested to review the menu. No one likes to buy a pig in a poke. I am sure you understand that it wasn’t you, merely irrational fear of the unknown. The menu seemed limited. Nothing spoke to me. I was apprehensive and could feel my systems tensing, my face draw taught. I was resigned to yet another lunch which provided no personal satisfaction for me, only a public service to other diners provided through our compelling reviews.
The décor of your restaurant immediately brightened my spirits. The bold combination of teal and red-orange not only looked great with my hair but evoked a cheerfulness that not even the bottled sodas could quash.
For reasons I may never fully understand, I found myself saying “ham and brie, no mustard”. I never order ham sandwiches. Yet I always choke them down dry so that part of my order did not shock anyone at our table. When the warm melted brie… the salty ham… the buttery toasted bread first crossed the threshold of my lips, I realized I need only one menu selection when I thought a dozen was slim pickin’s. I need only one perfect sandwich to make me the happiest girl on Bridge Road. Your ham and brie sandwich, Chef, was that sandwich.
Allow me to present to you the results of my study on sandwiches using the Joyometer.
As you can see, Chef, your ham and brie sandwich far exceeds other local sandwiches in the amount of Joy Units it provides to me, the consumer. The control sandwich, a homemade turkey, provolone, lettuce, green pepper, Italian dressing sandwich on toasted French bread is itself quite a satisfying mouthful. But it only scratches the surface of the happiness a sublimely simple sandwich like your ham and brie delivers.
So simple. Three ingredients.
Not only have I dreamt of this sandwich, I have attempted to recreate it in my home kitchen. Unfortunately that attempt was gravely disappointing and fell far short of the mark. While the low-carb bread I used may have played some small part in that failure, even the brie did not melt the way your brie melts, Chef. As Carla, Cheftestant on Top Chef, would say: you put the love in it.
The second time we met, it was for dinner. One of the finest dinners I have experienced in the greater Kanawha Valley area. White linen tablecloths, low lighting (which is very flattering, especially when you start to reach a certain age, not that I am approaching such an age), stark white plates. The service provided by your staff was impeccable.
The food! Everything I tasted was delicious and I tasted everyone’s dishes. I can’t even name a favorite item. The lamb was succulent and tender. The beef was flavorful. The tuna tartare melted in my mouth. Dozens of paper-thin slices of potatoes combined with creamy cheese to form a heavenly gratin. Even the complimentary heirloom tomatoes with homemade ricotta cheese made my tastebuds sing.
Dessert, although delicious and decadent, could not provide the culmination a meal such as this deserves like a personal visit from you, Chef Arbaugh. When you came out from your magic-making kitchen to speak to us, your infectious enthusiasm, your obvious love of your craft, shone on your face.
I often close my eyes and imagine the details of that evening, reliving it in my mind. Hearing the crack of the caramelized sugar as I gently thrust my spoon toward the delicately flavored Crème Brulee center…
Now to the events of this week. You wrote to us! It’s like being in the Rick Springfield fan club and receiving a personal note from Rick himself. Not one of those signed 8 x 10 glossies that you know were reproduced with the signature already on it. An honest-to-goodness, person-to-blog communication.
In this email you sent us, you revealed that you have read our reviews of your restaurant. But you didn’t just read them, did you Chef? No sir. You took our comments to heart. When Misty and I read your words we were filled with delight. We felt so special that someone like you would value our opinions and act upon them.
In a move that can only be described as “genius”, you, Chef Richard Arbaugh, have single-handedly solved the pesky pickle problem that has plagued lunch plates for decades. Instead of serving a pickle to every patron, you have decided to designate the pickle a “by request only” addition. This is brilliant on several levels:
- First, those who are offended by it, will no longer receive a sandwich tinged with pickly pickle juice. I was working on the development of a special plate with a pickle compartment, much like a school lunch tray but more Martha-ish, to solve this problem. Your solution is much simpler and more cost-effective.
- Never again will customers feel the pang of regret in the pits of their stomach when they realize they forgot to say “hold the pickle”. Pangs of regret mixed with hunger pangs in the same stomach is quite uncomfortable indeed.
- No more will pickles be wasted. Their short lives beginning with a hopeful journey to the dining table only to end by being scraped into the garbage. Never fulfilling their destinies of being eaten and enjoyed by an accountant on lunch hour. Besides, it’s such a shame to waste food when there are starving children across the globe. At least that’s what my mother always said. Did your mother say the same to you, Chef? I thought so.
I want to emphasize to you that your actions did not go unnoticed by me. After my latest visit to your establishment (for the ham and brie, of course!), I posted a comment to our original review where I announced to the world that the pickle was thankfully absent from my plate. At the time, I thought it was just a happy accident, a joyful twist of fate. But I now know that it was you, Chef, that made my lunch even better than I ever thought it could be.
What innovation will you next pioneer? I wait with baited breath. But whenever whatever happens, Chef, I want to be there to celebrate it.
Thank you for feeding not only our bellies, but our souls. Thank you for the comfy chairs in the dining room. Thank you for reading our blog and not once alleging that I use illegal drugs. Thank you for listening. We will meet again soon.
Sincerely yours,Susan Fork You Contributor
P.S. I know what you are thinking. Well, there are two things. First: Wow! What a fantastic letter! Not only the content, but the alliteration, the use of a wide array of adjectives, evidence that I know how to google for the thesaurus. Your second thought: this chick sounds like stalker material. I want to allay your fears. There is absolutely no reason to have a restraining order at-the-ready.