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 Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch

martin BACK TO THE PRESENT
OF BUSINESS TRAVEL


BY MARTIN B. DEUTSCH

February 15, 2007 -- Please forgive my uncharacteristic silence in recent weeks. A double whammy of computer problems and a visit to the past has diverted my attention.

I won't bore you with my technology issues--needless to say, one errant printer cable can cause chaos in an otherwise precariously balanced computer network--but I recommend you retrace my sojourn to the past. I've just posted in the JoeSentMe.com archives all of my columns dating back to 1992. You'll find interviews with airline and hotel executives, commentary on burning business-travel issues of the day and reporting on trips and cruises of a lifetime. In coming weeks, I'll post my monthly Up Front columns from the birth of Frequent Flyer magazine in 1980 through the extraordinarily difficult business-travel years of 1990 and 1991.

Back in the present of business travel, however, here are some thoughts on the passing scene.

THE HIGH COST OF 15 MINUTES (OR SECONDS) OF FAME
Just the other day, ABC's Good Morning America asked if I'd like to do a quick interview on the effort by airlines on both sides of the Atlantic to introduce a new revenue stream via increased luggage fees. I agreed and was subsequently treated to an impromptu lesson on why the broadcast television networks are often in disarray and why their costs spiral out of control.

I dealt with a producer in Washington and two more at ABC headquarters in New York before we settled on the time and the location of the interview. The deal originally called for a camera team to come to my office, which is located just a few blocks north of ABC in Manhattan. Then another call: Could I come to them instead? I could not. By the time it was all said and done, though, I could see why the producer had made the suggestion.

It took the three-person ABC crew about 15 minutes to unload their van and more than 20 minutes to set up. Then it took about 15 minutes to do the interview, which was conducted over telephone lines from ABC's Washington office. Then the crew had to break down their equipment and load it all back in the van. In all, I'd guesstimate ABC's investment at more than three hours for the crew--cameraman, sound guy and producer--plus all of those phone conversations. We've surely talking about several thousand dollars in costs.

But the story isn't quite over. When Good Morning America aired the next morning, my interview ran just north of ten seconds and, to my mind, contributed very little of real value to the report. And I was misidentified as an "airline analyst."

We all know that fame is fleeting, of course, but ABC spent a lot of money--and it still owes me a lot of time on that much-promised 15 minutes of fame.

THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT WHOLE FOODS
There's an elaborate Whole Foods outlet in the Time-Warner building on Columbus Circle in my slice of Manhattan and I've come to believe that the presence of a Whole Foods market is a plus in any civilized corner of this country. Closing in on 200 stores nationwide, Whole Foods opens its first branch in Maine this week and the company says that its first London shop will open in June. That's good news for shoppers, on-site diners, take-out junkies, business travelers looking for a reliable source of on-the-road cuisine, or, like me, recent converts to their catering option.

Last Thanksgiving, with eleven of us scheduled to partake of the annual feast, we let Whole Foods prepare the meal. We ordered a repast for twelve. Not only could we have fed at least twice that number, but the quantity was fully matched by the quality. The menu was headlined by a turkey of 15 to 18 pounds and it was augmented by mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry-orange relish, veggies, giblet gravy, several dozen dinner rolls and two large pies (one pecan and one pumpkin). Handsomely packaged and prepared, it was a bargain for just $229 plus tax. I ate leftovers, with pleasure, for another four days.

I also frequently get take-out from Whole Foods, such as a portion of beef stew or fresh fish. The food is always reasonably priced and delicious. Then, of course, Whole Foods offers a complete line of edible products, both organic and non-organic, guaranteed to please the most discriminating palate. (If that sounds like a cliché, it's probably because it is.) The bottom line: Whole Foods is the real thing, at home or on the road, for everything from a quick, reliable meal to a feast.

FANCY NEW AMERICAN EATERY IN MAHATTAN WINS A FOLLOWING
Speaking of food, Bill Telepan's handsome American restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Telepan, has caused quite a stir in culinary circles during its first year of operation. I recently took a family group for a birthday brunch, with generally favorable results.

The generous two-course menu of appetizers and entrees, which you could mix and match, ran the gamut from a yogurt parfait with granola and seasonal fruit to a choice called the Upper Westsider: smoked salmon, whitefish salad, crab legs, soft scrambled eggs and a bagel. I tried the latter dish for my second course (quite good), along with a hardy fresh vegetable soup (the veggies were a bit undercooked for my taste). Among the dishes that drew unqualified approval: sheep's milk ricotta blintzes with dried fruit and honey compote; semolina cream crepes with sautéed butternut squash and brown-sugar sauce; a house-smoked brook trout and buckwheat potato blini with black radish sour cream; and an omelet with salad and hash browns and quince-stuffed French toast. This $25 price-fixed weekend brunch starts with "breads and sweet things" that are delicious. Coffee and tea are extra, as are the desserts. The wines we ordered by the glass were outstanding, priced around $16 per glass.

Teleplan also offers a three-course, $28 lunch on Wednesday through Friday. The fixed-price dinners run $59 for four courses. You can add a cheese course for $10. (My wife and several of her friends recently had dinner at Telepan's for about $100 a person and gave it high marks.) Service is attentive and friendly and there is no rush to get you to move out. Another bonus: You can walk to Lincoln Center. Reservations are required.

This column originally appeared at JoeSentMe.com

Copyright © 2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.