Nowadays, however, I'm able to do something that I've always dreamed about: travel the country reviewing the finest in celebrity sponsored cuisine. Today I was fortunate enough to be in Long Island, where I lunched at the Old Mill Inn, a large seaside restaurant which is the latest project from FOX News commentator Greta Van Susteren.
It is a sight to see, folks. The Old Mill Inn is folksy on the outside, but elegant on the inside, with rich mahogany floors, and crystal gleaming from every corner. At least I assume it's crystal; to be honest, I can't tell it from cut glass. I'm not that sure about mahogany, either, although I know it to be a rich earth tone, which this certainly was. And Tipper was knocked out by the deck seating, with the exception those tacky green plastic chairs. All in all, it is a feast for the eyes. Which is a good thing, since at least one of my senses was sated at the conclusion of my visit.
The entrées are named after some of Greta's biggest stories, which in and of itself suggests that your meal may be less than a tasteful affair. Von Susteren, who sometimes appears at the Old Mill End as a celebrity bartender, was in attendance today, and she greeted us with complimentary cheese sticks and Bloody OJs (a Bloody Mary made with an overwhelming hot sauce and vinegar). She recommended the day's special, Fettuccini Lewinski - noodles and pork in a heavy crème sauce - but Tipper demurred, preferring to peruse the menu on her own.
After discarding such possibilities as the Lacy Peterson pot roast, the Blue Devils Crab Cake, and the Tawana Brawley (don't ask), Tipper settled on the Chicken Schiavo with rice and I opted for the Natalie Holloway Bacon Burger.
Is there anything positive to be said for a restaurant who's motto is 'We Serve, You Decide'? Well, the French fries are pretty darn good, stubby golden nuggets with symmetrical crinkles in them. It is amazing to me how they cut them into such an odd and aesthetically pleasing shape, but someone in the back really knows their way around with a fry knife.
The chicken, however, was a sat thing to see. Undercooked, unseasoned, lying there cold and lifeless on a bed of white rice... Tipper took one bite and pushed it away, picking up a fry and gazing hungrily at my Holloway Burger.
Piled high with pickles, lettuce, tomato, onions, bacon, cheese and jalapenos, the Holloway was big enough to share. There was only one problem - the complete and utter absence of a meat patty. Now pardon my French, but this is the one component of the hamburger that I find to be absofuckinglutely essential, and I brought the issue up with my server, who scurried back to the kitchen like a rat on fire. That was the last I was to see of him.
Noticing my displeasure, Greta returned to our table with another complimentary round of Bloody OJs and a bowl of cocktail peanuts. Knowing my reputation as a fearless critic of celebrity sponsored cuisine, Greta was in a near panic. "It's the chef's fault, I just know it," she told me. "He was the last man seen anywhere near that burger." She dashed to the kitchen, promising the most up to date report available on the status of my meat.
It was nearly twenty minutes later when a grim faced Greta returned with more Bloody OJs and four packages of oyster crackers, telling me sadly that my burger could not be found. Then she wiggled that cute little nose of hers, adding "And that's the way we like it."
For a moment I sat in stunned silence. Then the cosmic comedy of it all hit me, and I roared with laughter. At the Old Mill Inn, you're not paying for the food, you're paying for the experience. And what an experience you'll have, thanks to the marketing genius of Greta Van Susteren.
Old Mill Inn: Atmosphere 4 stars, Food 1 star, Entertainment 5 stars
© 2006, Mark Hoback