Up Front With Martin B. Deutsch



February 1, 1984 -- Last month I addressed weightier matters, such as Korea’s DMZ, no exactly cotton-candy fluff. So this time around I’ve opted for a change of pace, three lighter venues, although we all realize that everything in the solar system is relative.

On my way home from the West Coast last November I booked to fly Regent Air, that super-deluxe carrier for those megabucks willing to part with sixteen hundred and twenty of them for a one-way fling between Los Angeles and New York. (Right now, Regent offers passengers a roundtrip ticket for the price of a one-way. Travel must be completed by March 1.) It would be an opportunity to exercise my snobbery quotient (SQ), if all the advance media hype was on target.

The Imperial Terminal at LAX was hardly the place for setting the proper pre-flight tone, but it does avoid the congestion at the main terminals, which are in the throes of that chaotic pre-Olympic face-lift. And the Imperial facility does have telephones; I availed myself of one to call our local advertising offices (plural for Frequent Flyer and the TravelAge group, a quartet of trade publications), to remind them to call on America West, based in Phoenix. The Wall Street Journal had recently carried a front-page news feature on that new airline and its CEO, Edward R. Beauvais. “Try to get to Ed Beauvais,” I advised. “His company seems to be doing very well and we should be carrying some space.”

We boarded the royal blue Regent Air 727, an event probably akin to being received at Buckingham Palace. Plush leather chairs that swivel, no two abreast in the front compartment, just one each side of the aisle. Five passengers in the forward cabin today and maybe at least as many cabin attendants. A very fancy bar with bartender and in my hands a mind-boggling catalogue of the available inflight entertainment features.

Seat belts secured, I resumed reading Led Deighton’s excellent novel of a U.S. fighter squadron in England during World War II, Goodbye, Mickey Mouse. I was feeling pretty good about the airborne hours to come. But we were still climbing out of Los Angeles when the jet lost an engine—back to base, we were told. At one point during the return a passenger who’d been hidden behind a newspaper leaned forward to say, “If this thing can fly on two engines, it can land on two engines.”

He and a colleague across the aisle were also studying the OAG Pocket Flight Guide to map alternate flight plans. I congratulated them on their wisdom in carrying the PFG. We landed; there were introductions. The man of the reassuring remark was Ed Beauvais, and is companion a senior executive from America West. Small world. What a coincidence. And so forth. I showed him his name in my notebook. The good news: the plane has landed flawlessly. (We smiled and exchanged cards.) The bad news: my advertising people we on his trail.

I warned you that these items weren’t going anywhere.

I hate to blow the whistle on Los Angeles; I mean it’s got a lot to offer. Nor do I intend to condescend or patronize in these subjective remarks. After all; I’ve got a great many friends and business ties out there. (I hope I keep them after this.) But as a frequent flyer with bicoastal tastes, I feel I must speak out. I’m just plain tired of the recurring remarks by L.A. natives that their town’s restaurants have come of age—that the dining out scene rivals New York City’s.

It just ain’t so. Loyalty is one thing, being deliberately blindsided is another. You’ve stolen our Dodgers, this is your year for the Olympics, and you’ve got the weather, but your restaurants don’t hold a candle to Manhattan’s, which has more and better places per square inch, than any other spot on this planet (Paris included).

On a recent-six day visit, I experienced only one outstanding dinner in downtown L.A., at Bernard’s in the Baltimore Hotel. The other meals ranked from acceptable to mediocre. I fail to grasp the excitement about Ravel’s at the splendid new Sheraton Grande; Pavan at the Hyatt Regency was just passable; and Scandia (I know it’s not downtown) has not improved with time. The Odyssey in Grenada Hills was more than disappointing. I can’t really fault Tony Roma’s for what it is, ribs and chicken at a moderate price. And while I like Jimmy’s at Beverly Hills, and I enjoy Perino’s, and I’ve heard about Ma Maison and the new star attractions, Spago (whose owner, Wolfgang Puck, is responsible for Regent Air’s highly touted fare), the overall gulf between the two cities remains pervasive. Even if, as a close friend argues, the Los Angeles restaurants has improved 1,000 percent in recent years. But Los Angeles still has a long way to go to threaten New York’s preeminence.

About 3,000 miles, I’d say.

The croissant has come home. I mean that in the broader sense, that it has really arrived, moving onwards and upwards from its traditional place on the breakfast table, at home or in a ritzy hotel. Lately, it has cropped up everywhere, from local restaurants dedicated to it by name to sandwich menus in bars (for crying out loud). Is there no end to this desecration?

On a recent Republic flight from New York to Detroit, the midmorning snack was a croissant stuffed with ham and cheese. (It could have thawed a bit more, but it was quite tasty.) Where will the croissant surface next? I think it belongs back in the elegant breakfast table, with butter and jam. Next thing you know, they’ll have a designer croissant. Why not? There’s designer pasta now.

This column originally appeared in Frequent Flyer magazine.

Copyright © 1991-2007 by Martin B. Deutsch. All rights reserved.