Posted on November 15th, 2012 by ANNA Magazine
Written by Mari Loewen, publisher ANNA Magazine
From my days of reading Ruth Reichl’s reviews when she was food critic for The New York Times, I have wished I could be in her shoes, just once. And on this day, I pretended I was….
As I planned my trip to New York, Balthazar — a restaurant named for having the best fries in the world — was at the top of my list. ”80 Spring Street, please,” I said to the cab driver, through a smile I couldn’t contain. I had been told I would never get in without a reservation, but those famous red awnings beckoned. Asking the cab to wait, I peeked in the front door. I was greeted with an overwhelming warmth and charm. “I’m sorry I don’t have a reservation,” I explained apologetically. “Would you have a table for one?” After a brief glance around the room, the maître d’ winked, replied, “Absolutely,” and walked me through the crowded aisles to a seat in a corner. I quickly spotted a single stool up at the bar that looked much cozier and would give me a better view. I squeezed onto the stool with elbows touching both people beside me.
The energy of Balthazar was electric. It was huge inside, with tables jammed together and every inch of the space used. With everyone chatting and clinking and laughing, the restaurant had a fantastic New York feel.
My placemat was set before me and the menu arrived. Although I was tempted by chicken liver and foie gras mousse with red onion confit and grilled country bread, and the salt-roasted fish with saffron-almond basmati rice, bok choy and Meyer lemon vin blanc, I had specifically come for that classically simple dish, steak frites. And there it was: STEAK FRITES with maître d’ butter or Béarnaise sauce, $36. I placed my order, steak frites, medium-rare!
I was almost overcome with anticipation. World-famous French fries. I couldn’t imagine what they might be like… and I know French fries. Twenty minutes later, my dinner arrived. The fries were glistening gold, the steak looked plump and darkly charred. I dipped a French fry into the Béarnaise sauce and popped it into my mouth. Heavenly! Velvety inside, crispy outside. Perfect! Sadly, when I cut into my steak, it was completely overcooked. I was crushed. I felt so disappointed that I just sat for a moment.
I pondered over whether I should keep quiet and just live with it. Hmmm, what would Ruth Reichl do? What’s the etiquette in SoHo, at Balthazar about this sort of thing? The gentleman on my left seemed to know. “Overcooked?” he sniffed. “I always say Americans don’t know how to cook a steak!” It didn’t take a second to decide I wasn’t into his advice. I decided instead to take a deep breath, lean over the bar and whisper to the waiter so no one else would hear. “Sorry, I hate to tell you this,” I said quietly. “I think my steak may be a tad overcooked.” With a friendly smile, he whisked my plate away and said, “Oh my goodness, let me have this corrected for you. Your steak should be perfect.” A minute later the manager came up behind me and apologized, saying my steak was being re-cooked, that it would be perfect, and that they were very, very sorry.
I was quickly put back on my path of anticipated greatness.
No more than five minutes and my dinner was delivered. And it was perfect! I savoured every single bite, as the ruby-red juices of my now faultlessly cooked steak mingled with the exquisite emulsion of the buttery Béarnaise. Meanwhile, my waiter behind the bar said with a smile that modern etiquette dictates that wine should be continually topped, as he poured my third glass of strong, deep red.
I came to Balthazar expecting to be amazed. I was — and not just by the steak frites. What really impressed me was the way this supposedly “exclusive” restaurant combined sophisticated food with welcoming warmth. And the steak incident confirmed something I’ve always thought. When you’re not sure about etiquette — the codes of behaviour that govern a social group — why not just fall back on being kind? Whatever the etiquette of a situation might be, the fundamental rule of manners is to treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. Getting huffy about an overcooked steak just isn’t worth it. And in the end, I found that politeness was answered by politeness. Kindness met kindness. And the steak was unforgettable.
Posted on November 24th, 2011 by Mari Loewen
I used this very powerful quote to launch our very first issue, it was printed on the cover and titled the section I decided to call “What I Have Learned.” I believe this section was the one our readers first fell in love with. It is this section, I then used to pour out my heart and bear my soul. I had just made it through a divorce, one which I can only refer to as “a long dark tunnel”, it isn’t that for everyone but it was for me. I finally felt like I had made it to the end and suddenly I was thinking, if I can get through that I can get through anything. And with my naïve sense of judgment, I willed my lifelong dream of “doing something” to life. I felt I finally knew what I wanted to do. I knew from my experience that at the end of great pain, comes joy, finally great joy, I wanted so much to share my experience. And so I began my journey of finding a way of putting this message out there. It finally came after much brainstorming, “Make Everyday Special” in the form of a magazine. I remember at the time a friend of mine, dropped an article in my mailbox, and it was the first time I had read those words. “What ever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”. I felt like this was my answer. I believed it and acted on it. I removed all obstacles in my way (a full time salary… yikes.) My brother advised me, if you want something to work, you cannot have a distraction, you have to focus on one idea at a time. Contrary to modern day business advice of having a back up plan such as a second income, I decided to follow my brother’s advice (added was the fact that as a single mother of a 5 year old, not only was there no back up plan there was a desperate need for instant cash flow). I decided to go for it anyway. I felt as though the passion inside of me was dying to come alive. Today, 6 years later, with ANNA Magazine publishing its 22nd issue, being enjoyed throughout North America, and a staff that is made up of an incredibly talented team of people I love… it seems we have defied the odds.
I wanted to preface the following article with former explanation as looking back at it now, I know there was something bigger at play… I can really say this passage works, whatever you can dream, do it! Remove the obstacles, work hard and never give up. Power and magic will happen. ANNA Magazine is proof of that. I hope this article inspires you to find your way and live your dreams, regardless of the obstacles.
The Power of Decision – Premier Issue, June 2006
As important as it is to use food to Make Everyday Special, it is equally important to take time everyday for some quiet time. Most days I’ll wake before anyone else, make some good coffee and settle into a comfortable spot. Everything is peaceful and calm. Whether I choose to read something inspirational or just sit in the quiet, this time brings clarity and balance; it allows me to move forward.
Many times in my life the exact words I needed to express an idea, a feeling, an experience, have appeared in some form and dramatically changed the way I look at life. When I was first thinking of this magazine, my friend Pamela dropped an Oprah Magazine article in my mailbox. Quite simply that article is the reason this magazine exists today. I’m happy to share it with you; I hope it inspires you to do what is right for you.
The article was a passage that occurs in mountaineer William Hutchinson Murray’s The Scottish Expedition. “Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always in effectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. All sorts of things occur that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would come his way. I have learned a deep respect for Goethe’s couplet: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it, boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
It was what I already knew but couldn’t express. In that moment I made a decision, I was committed, and I have not looked back. I learned that if you take the time in the quiet to really listen to the words of your heart, the answers will come. I have also learned there is an absolute truth in the words of this passage.