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Plate & Pitchfork Farm Dinners


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#41 ExtraMSG

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 09:42 AM

Man, I would have been pissed at everyone down the other side of that table, too. I don't think we've ever had this problem at PF.org events despite a ravenous crew. All it takes is a little concern for your neighbor.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

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#42 Angelhair

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 09:56 AM

I agree with you about the top end of the table not being considerate. It happens.

But the organizers have done this before; really, piggies shouldn't be new to them. They should have had a reserve leftover, or switch up the serving. Ultimately it's their fault. For them to suggest that it was my own fault for not getting food is riduculous. Am I to go to the head of the table and snatch plates away from others so that we can try too? Should it be my place to wage battle over a sliver of meat? For $75 NO it shouldn't be!

I am not going to confront another diner...that's ridiculous.

There should be ample food for everyone.

#43 Kristi

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 10:00 AM

Niki,
What a disappointing evening! I can't believe that woman tried to blame you for not being assertive enough. Yes, obviously she didn't know who she was speaking to and it is pretty lame to act like it is your fault. Not to mention, they should have enough food for everyone and then some. Thanks for the honest report.

#44 Amanda

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 10:20 AM

I was hoping to hear better things about this. I've always been wary of trying one of these dinners, but I don't know why. Just not my thing, I guess. I was hoping someone would have a delightful experience and turn me around. Now I am pretty sure I will never attend one.

It seems like the servers should have placed different servings in different areas of the table for the different courses. I can imagine getting no food during one course might inadvertantly occur, by mistake, of course, but several courses where you got nary a morsel??? Especially after you explained the problem? Shame on them.

Someone else can support this cause. It's not going to be me. I wonder if others that have had this same problem have complained. They need to get it together. Word gets around.

Best regards,

Amanda

#45 Angelhair

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 10:28 AM

That's a great idea, Amanda. Just use more platters. Instead of a platter for 12, make it two platters for 6. Six people, espically if they could see one another, would be more courteous. I also think that it wouldn't be too much more work for the volunteer servers.

I am reluctant to diss this event because I love the setting and the food that I did taste was good. It is a singularly unique dining experience that should not go away.

#46 ExtraMSG

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 10:51 AM

With how fast they sell out, I doubt they have much to worry about.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

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Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's


#47 Guest_MostlyRunning_*

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 12:29 PM

Someone else can support this cause.


"Donated" food, "donated" time and no accountability for where the money goes...Doesn't sound much like a "cause" to me. Good concept, but there are plenty of restaurants in town who work with local farmers to provide quality local produce on a daily basis. Sure, meeting the farmer is cool, but you can do that pretty easily by making a few phone calls on your own. I wish them the best, but I am not so sure they are a "cause" at all.

#48 Calabrese

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 06:46 PM

Niki, wow, to have the gall to tell you should have spoken up, they don't know you. It's disappointing to hear this because I've wanted to do one of these events but it sounds like they need to get it together better before I will venture to one of these. I agree that more than one platter is a good start at a solution.

#49 krispenn

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:45 PM

Can you imagine Niki the meek? I mean really! :)

The other point about her experience, which I brought up to Jill-O this evening, is... who was hosting this event? Were they not (atleast once) circulating during dinner, speaking with the guests, and making sure everything was going smoothly? Clearly not, in this case.

Regardless of it being a "charity event" you want your guests to leave feeling they got something for their money and happy enough, that they'll come back and bring friends and/or be racing for a seat at your next cause event. Running out of food (even if on limited budget constraints) at a seated event is just bad form and bad planning.

#50 mczlaw

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 06:40 AM

My usual inclination is to silently suffer complaints that do not ring true. Why bother stirring up a hornet's nest? In this case, I read Angelhair's skreed about her P&P experience Sunday night with equal parts wonder and incredulity. I am going to risk vilification from her and the core of portlandfood.org insiders who have uncritically accepted a story that, in multiple particulars, does not add up and is incomplete.

Why am I doing this? First, I too attended this dinner and spent time wandering about, chatting with others I know (including Angelhair who introduced herself) and observing how the meal and its attendant videotaping went down. Second, this was the third P&P dinner in three years at which I was a guest; last week I was one of the volunteer servers. Third, I have been documenting P&P--what is does, how it happens and why, etc.--since early this spring in connection with a story I am writing. In the interests of full and fair disclosure, I have come to know the P&P principals--Erika Polmar and Emily Berreth--fairly well and hold them both in high regard as individuals and promoters of local agriculture and community.

Let's now turn to the substance of Niki's complaints. The long table format is consistent from dinner to dinner. Each table is served two platters of each item, one platter at each end. How it happened that at one table there was only one platter of two different courses or, alternatively, that two out of six guests were such gluttonous bastards as to have twice scarfed all of a platter sufficient for six is anomalous indeed. Those hogs must have had some incredible appetites, especially since the more than ample Frogmore stew course preceded the two insufficient courses. It is interesting in this regard that Angelhair's story appears to have changed in the re-telling. In her post to this group, she admits:

The first course was really impressive. The Simpatica guys served Frogmore Stew. They basically boiled shrimp, crab legs and crawfish in huge pots full of fresh corn, potatoes and Andouille sausage. The pots were then dumped on big tables covered with brown paper. Guests stood in line and served themselves picking out what they wanted. It was fun and fresh and very flavorful.


She was right, and there was a ton of it. By contrast, in her e-mail to P&P, the skimpiness of the meal was unmitigated:

Sadly, I ate more produce (a carrot and an ear of corn) out in the field than I did at the table.


There are other inconsistencies which plague Angelhair's tale of woe, primarily revolving around the extent and strenuousness of her complaints about being deprived of a decent meal. In the public iteration of the story, the apparently quite assertive (according to her friends) Angelhair acted out of character:

The servers were volunteers, so I was trying to be patient, but they just never came back with more food.


In the complaint to P&P, Angelhair was more herself:

I understand that your servers are volunteers, but every complaint I made to them fell on deaf ears.


This story becomes more and more suspect the more one digs into it. Even with all this, I would have been inclined to say nothing and let this go, but for one circumstance.

Those who regularly read this forum will recall not long ago Angelhair's difficulties with her meal at The Heathman when Tony Bourdain was in town. I wasn't at that dinner, so I am unable to assess whether the complaints about that meal were credible. What struck me then was not so much the public complaint about the meal, but the admitted resort to the "Do you know who I am" tactic to seek satisfaction for the alleged sleight. When I saw that, I was concerned enough to send an e-mail to Nick Zukin (who I erroneously believed was the boss of this site).

I suggested to Nick that NO ONE should be permitted to use their status as a contributor to this forum as a means to gain economic advantage or obtain any other form of consideration from someone in the food service or hospitality trade. It is one thing to offer one's opinions and experiences to the public. It is quite another to use the threat of that privilege to shake down a purveyor. And, frankly, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference whether the complaint is right, wrong or indifferent. I suggested to Nick that Angelhair, by her own admission, had violated that fundamental principle and that there should be consequences. I didn't pursue the point any further with Nick because, frankly, he didn't want to make waves and, in any event, I don't care enough about the Heathman to split a gut about it.

In her e-mail to P&P, Angelhair has once again violated the fundamental principle. In that e-mail, right near the top, she once again brandishes her status as a contributor to this forum (and portlandfoodanddrink.com) as a weapon:

Let me start by saying how much this dinner meant to me. I am a foodie at heart. I eat out a lot, trying new restaurants often. I write for a couple of food sites in town. This meant a lot to me.


Consider here that writing for local food sites is irrelevant to the substance of Angelhair's concerns. It is not as though she was targeted for ill treatment because she was a writer. Thereafter continues the litany of complaints, concluding with the not-so-subtle shakedown:

What a bust! I am angry and feel cheated.


In contrast to the Heathman, P&P and its principals are doing good and important work for the local community for measly compensation. To any doubters, note that both Ms. Polmar and Ms. Berreth work full time jobs aside from the full-time work they do several months of the year to make Plate and Pitchfork happen. Note further that P&P is a registered nonprofit. To understand the breadth of this organization's good works and its principals' dedication is to know that this is a wonderful cause that extends well beyond shaking hands with farmers and eating raw corn in the field.

Implicitly threatening P&P to go public with a dubious complaint, and then doing so, is reprehensible. This sort of conduct should be not be tolerated in this forum. I would like to believe that others will agree, but as I said at the outset, I expect instead to be vilified for speaking out. Because of the important principle at stake, I am willing to take that chance.

--mcz

#51 foodjunkie

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 06:59 AM

Sorry to hear about the bad experience at the P&P event. I am not by any means defending the P&P folks for not doing a better job at managing the food service at your particular event. However, I certainly think that some of the blame can be placed on your fellow diners. How sad that we live in a society in which when one attends an event where it is made clear that the food must be shared among the group, there are so many individuals that are not willing to abstain from taking more than their share. Typical, but sad nonetheless. Unfortunately, I too have had similar experiences at a number of family style events where we were placed in the uncomfortable position of having to remind our tablemates that they need to leave enough for everyone to receive a portion. Doing the family style thing can be tough, especially if the hosts do not emphatically and repeatedly remind people that they need to be considerate of the fact that the food is being shared. FWIW, at previous P&P events we've attended, the majority of the meal was individually plated and served in courses. Hopefully anyone who had a bad experience at this event will take the time to voice their disappointment. Regardless of the fact that this is for charity, the experience should be more fulfilling, especially considering the price of admission. JMHO.
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#52 Amanda

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 07:26 AM

She said she wrote for a couple food sites in town. She didn't name any names. I don't consider that a violation. If she said PortlandFood.org specifically, that would definitely be out of line.

I won't slam you, Michael, but I'm inclined to believe what Angelhair says. It's a big drag to go to an event where admission and expectations are large just to get skimpy or no portions. She's generally as lavish with her praise and recommendations as she is with her criticism of places she's eaten. One thing I admire about her is when something is totally not right she acts (usually) and she gives a place an opportunity to get things right before she unleashes any requests or anquish.

If I had been at this event I would have been one of the "piggies" for sure, but I think if you are a pig you need to make sure no one else at the table wants anything else on the plate before you hoover it down. I'm not always good at this myself, but I try to make the effort and give people a chance to grab what's left before the human vacuum finishes it off. Maybe I'm OK at this, maybe I'm not. Others can pipe in and say what is true and it won't bother me. It may make me aware if I behave inappropriately at PF.org functions. I don't think people should be told they need to be more assertive to get what they came to eat. That's rubbish. The organization should have been more responsible about making sure each patron was served a decent amount.

Angelhair's review won't hurt Plate & Pitchfork. It is a hugely successful fundraiser that people clamour to get tickets for. They sell out in a heartbeat. There are plenty of people willing to fork out the bucks and take it come what may. P&P has never seemed worth it to me, personally, so her experience just clinches my inclination not to attend. I do think they'd be wise to take note of her experience and improve on how they do things, though. They should consider it constructive criticism, learn from their mistakes, and make it even better than it already is.

Best regards,

Amanda

#53 Angelhair

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 08:12 AM

Michael, it's injtersting that you replied to an e-mail that I sent to the organizer, but I have never heard back from them. Let me add that 'my story' can be vouched by my husband as well as the couple seated next two us, one of which is a rep from Pacific Foods.

The brass tacks of the story is this: there was not enough food (the salad and main course) for everyone even after I complained. That's inexcusable.

But let me clarify, there one was platter for each side of the table. Both of the platters for our table were started at the opposite end from where we were seated. I am not sure how many people are on each side, but I am guessing maybe 12. Let me reiterate, there was no food left when it came down to us. When I complained, we (meaning four of us) got nothing.


In my e-mail to the organizer, which I will reprint in it's entirety, I mentioned my hobby only so that they could understand how much this meal meant to me. Regardless, I asked them for no recompense.


I would suggest that your motives for posting are much more self-serving than mine. They are friends of yours. I only posted to save people the disappointment that they would suffer if they went to one of these dinners.

#54 Angelhair

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 08:14 AM

Here's the e-mail I sent to Emily in it's entirety:

" I am not sure that it was you whom I spoke with after last night's dinner. In any case, I want to complain about the amount of food that was served.

Let me start by saying how much this dinner meant to me. I am a foodie at heart. I eat out a lot, trying new restaurants often. I write for a couple of food sites in town. This meant a lot to me. I adore the chefs and wanted to try the fresh bounty from the garden. Sadly, I ate more produce ( a carrot and an ear of corn) out in the field than I did at the table.

I understand that your servers are volunteers, but every complaint I made to them fell on deaf ears. We were seated at the very end of table one. The last four of us, my husband and myself, and a rep from Pacific Foods and his wife, did not get to even taste almost everything that was served family style.

Our server served from the front of the table, which meant nothing was left by the time it came down to us. I got to try one half of one cherry tomato, literally three seeds of bulgar wheat and a single sliver of something green (cuke, zuke? it was too little for me to taste). By the time the goat came around, all that was left was bone and fat and skin. None of the side were left. None. How sad, I really love the Simpatica guys and wanted to taste the spit-roasted goat. I actually left my table and walked over to the tables to ask if there was more, but there wasn't.

Also, we were served one tiny pour of each wine, but no seconds were offered to us. We were just passed over. I raised my glass in the air to a passing pourer, but was ignored. Again I went to the prep table to ask if there was more...I got a thumbnail of the sparkling cider.

So when you asked last night wether or not I complained to servers...the answer is emphatically yes! I also tried to complain to you, but that too fell on deaf ears.

It is unacceptable that there is not enough of everything for everyone. It is unaaceptable that you, or a representative of your group treated me like I was some kind of glutton when in fact I have could be a strong supporter of yours. It's it unacceptable that I am treated poorly when I try to offer you advice (for example, serve from both ends of the table, that way if there are big guys serving themselves huge portions, at least some of the others will get a chance).

What a bust! I am angry and feel cheated. It was infuriating to walk out of the place and hear others say, I am so full I can barely walk, when we had to stop on the way home for dinner."

#55 Angelhair

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 08:19 AM

Regarding the Heathman dinner, which is completely unrealated to this: It was a PFG event! The GM himself admitted that the service that we received was the worst out of anyone attending. We were the last to leave!

I organized that event and felt responsible to the people who attended.

#56 Angelhair

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 08:32 AM

MCZ:"Implicitly threatening P&P to go public with a dubious complaint, and then doing so, is reprehensible. This sort of conduct should be not be tolerated in this forum. I would like to believe that others will agree, but as I said at the outset, I expect instead to be vilified for speaking out. Because of the important principle at stake, I am willing to take that chance."

I never threatened them. From the way she treated me at the dinner, I never expected to hear back from her, and guess what, I haven't, only from her minion.

I just looked and I wrote that e-mail to her at 8:07 a.m. The post about the dinner was at 10 a.m. You are misreading the e-mail. Let me re-iterate, I only meant to convey my passion for food!

#57 Kristi

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 08:41 AM

Michael,
You obviously spent some time writing this post and I can tell you feel strongly about P&P. One thing that bothers me is that you quote from the e-mail Angelhair sent to P&P. This was an email she sent to the organization and if it was forwarded to you for any reason, I don't feel it was your place to post parts of it here. That 's just my opinion, though.

With that being said, I don't believe that Angelhair has any reason to slam P&P so I personally believe her account of the evening. She was disappointed and considering the cost of tickets and what she described, she had every right to be. I am glad that Angelhair was honest about her experience and I would hope that the organizers of the event would listen and try to ensure this doesn't happen again rather than discounting what she said, which is what you seem to be doing. I tend to be the type of person who would not say anything and would simply never return to another event, I commend Angelhair for speaking up.

No event is perfect, problems always arise, but what is important is how those problems are handled. Whether it be a P&P event or dinner at a restaurant, as patrons I think it is our right to voice our opinions.

#58 Piklz

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 03:45 PM

I've read this board frequently for over a year and never felt compelled to post. However this discussion of Plate & Pitchfork has motivated me to chime in. Not only did I attend Sunday nights dinner I have attended at least one dinner each season for the past three years. And frankly, I'm wondering if we were at the same dinner.

The hostess are not only gracious they are always visible. If you didn't notice Emily introduces herself before the farm tour that you loved, and she mentioned her business partner Erika. Who promptly introduced herself when we all sat down for dinner. I've never seen either of those young ladies sit still. They are constantly in motion, checking on guests and their volunteers. And if you missed their introductions they always seem to be introducing a winemaker or a goat farmer or someone else that helped make the meal what it is. And they circulate from table to table sometimes clearing plates or just checking in with guests.

No event is perfect, you all know that. Sounds like you've staffed a few yourselves. So you know that a host can only solve a problem if they are made aware of it. And how could you expect whichever of these incredibly committed young ladies to remedy your problem when you told them at the end of the night. What is she going to do then? Send you home with a doggy bag?

Our table did have a little confusion when the first platter was passed and when we mentioned it to our server she promptly returned with another plate. I know the servers are volunteers but they have always been extremely attentive and keen to take care of their guests. I find them to be more personable and friendly than many of the professional waiters in Portland.

You also reference cause as if Plate & Pitchfork is a shill. If you saved your menu you might want to take a look at page 3 or 4. It very clearly describes all FOUR of the organizations that benefit from this lovely dinner adventure. One of my tablemates asked how the money was allocated and received a very detailed accounting of the funds and their distribution process. You allude to donated food and no accountability. Well you might want to dig a little deeper. Plate & Pitchfork is actually a tax-paying corporation and they make sure that the chefs don't have any out of pocket expenses. And no the food is not donated. I think some of the produce from the farm is provided on a trade basis but they pay for everything else.


I guess the bottom line here is that I think that those of you who have not been to a dinner might want to experience it for yourself. The night is truly magical, the food divine, and the service friendly and generous. I do. And even if you don't go try it for yourself, you might want to check your facts with more than one disgruntled diner before you condemn the whole affair.

#59 Kristi

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 04:30 PM

you might want to check your facts with more than one disgruntled diner before you condemn the whole affair.


I don't feel like anyone has condemned the whole affair. P&P is obviously a wildly popular series as evidenced by the fact that it sells out every year so they must be doing something right.

I'm frankly a bit baffled at the turn this thread has taken. Have you ever heard rave reviews from someone about a restaurant and then you went and had a less than stellar experience? I don't see how this is any different. Heck, Nick just posted the other day about a group dinner at Siam Society where half of the group loved it and half of the group hated it, from reading the thread it didn't sound like everyone was even at the same dinner!

The beauty of this forum is that we are all free to post our opinions. Some people may agree, some may not, but I think we need to be respectful of each other.

#60 ExtraMSG

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Posted 08 August 2006 - 04:31 PM

Oooo, controversy. Budding flamewar. What fun. (Ugh.)

First, let's try to keep this from devolving into personal attacks. There are facts that can be focused on. Michael was there. Niki was there. They both can relate their experiences of the event. People can judge those accounts for themselves.

Also, I don't know that attacking people's integrity or motivations gets us any closer to the truth here.

Piklz, welcome to the site and thank you for giving your perspective. Note, though, that I think you're confusing who said what. Angelhair never impugned P&P's charitible efforts. I believe she only said good things about what they do and only complained about the meal and the reaction of the people running the organization. Someone else complained about P&P as a whole. I don't think anyone even seconded them.

And, Michael, the reason I never spoke up publicly about the Heathman thing was, as I told you, that she backtracked on the issue when confronted. We talked about this issue on the moderators' forum and I think we're all in agreement that no one should be offering a quid pro quo or threatening a restaurant with bad press unless they do something. I've publicly said both here and on Food Dude's site that if that ever became something I really had to worry about that I would shut the site down and never look back. I try not to treat this community as a monarchy, but I do have some privileges that I hope to never have to use.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's