Side Dish

Don't try this with The Weakest Link: If you think executive chefs are too busy dreaming up new dishes to take notice of pop culture, treat yourself to dinner at Astor Place. Chef Johnny Vinczencz has found an innovative way to keep that irritating Survivor show in the spotlight. He's subjecting his menu items to the same trials the contestants of the series are expected to endure: being voted off or kept on for another week. Vinczencz originally gave three of his signature dishes immunity, leaving the eighteen others at the mercy of the staff. After closing each Saturday night, the "tribe" speaks, voting one appetizer or entrée off the menu. On the following Friday, Vinczencz replaces the banished recipe with a fresh one that has automatic immunity, the object being that at the end of eighteen weeks, Astor Place will have an almost completely rewritten list for us to devour. The only real difference between the show and Vinczencz's take on it? Discarded dishes won't be invited to appear on Regis & Whoever or land on Hollywood Squares.

•Is Coconut Grove's loss South Beach's gain? Probably not, though word on the street -- er, rather, Drive -- is that the erstwhile Miami link of the troubled Planet Hollywood chain will replace the All-Star Café on Ocean Drive in a week's time. A little lesson for us all: Never let a small thing like, oh, bankruptcy keep you from making the same mistakes ad nauseam. 'Course I'll be willing to eat my words if PH's comeback lasts longer than, say, Robert Downey, Jr.'s -- as long as I don't have to eat there.

•As it turns out, Miami's loss is Charleston's gain. Frank Copestick, former executive chef of Red Square in South Beach and late of Tails in Pompano Beach, has been given creative charge of Anson's restaurant in that Low Country city. Copestick tells me his role there is effective immediately. I'd say good luck and goodbye but hey, Charleston is only about a twelve-hour drive from here....

•Kvetch: It's getting out of control. When my husband and I waited 45 minutes for the valet to return our car to the Delano, where we were reluctantly watching the idiot formerly known as Puff Daddy chatting on a cell phone while exiting the ugliest powder-blue Rolls, that was torture enough. But when we got into the car and noticed that the gas gauge was a lot lower than it had been and that the seat settings on the passenger's side of the car had been changed -- including the direction of the air-conditioning vents -- we put two and eighteen together, and the sum of it is not that I have such a great car they went joyriding. (After all, who would want to take an SUV that looks more like the Magic Bus, complete with car seats, for a spin?) The most likely reason that the valets there never seem to be sweating is because they don't run, or even walk, to retrieve cars. Could it be they get rides instead, possibly using the customers' cars as a ferry system? I will be looking into the problems with our valets more thoroughly, so if you've got a notion to complain, don't hesitate to e-mail me. And while I don't really expect many of these, you also can notify me of pleasant and positive experiences you've had with South Florida valets.


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