Everything hospitality under one Ocean City roof
The Cape Gazette allows me only a certain amount of ink. It sits in a little jar on my desk, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. That being said, last week’s list of newborn entrepreneurial endeavors was apparently a little short (the jar was empty, you see). Deb Griffin, author of The Local Buzz, rapped my knuckles for omitting the new Spice & Tea Exchange franchise presently installing itself on the ocean block of Rehoboth Avenue. Nobody ever accused Deb of being shy.
About 30 of these St. Augustine, Fla.-based shops already exist, and like the recently opened Morgan & Gower Cheesemongers on Baltimore Avenue, they’re betting that local foodies and visitors will appreciate gourmet luxuries above and beyond local grocery store fare.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the demolition notice posted on the soon-to-vanish Cloud 9. Life goes on, and I applaud progress, but I can’t help but think of all the Rehoboth Beach history tied up in that storied space. R.I.P., Cloud 9, The Palm, Philadelphia Mike’s, the Rehoboth Inn restaurant (with Augie Moon’s Saloon in the back) and all who came before. Memories. Indeed.
Speaking of progress (I had to get out of that somehow…), nothing says The Business of Eating better than a trade show. It’s amazing how many businesses exist to support the hospitality industry! And they were all together under one (gigantic) roof a couple of weeks ago at the 39th Annual Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association Spring Trade Expo. Two of the massive exhibit rooms at the O.C. Convention Center were dedicated to everything from the latest spicy fries to janitorial services, from steam-jacketed kettles as big as a Kia to olives and embroidery companies.
When you sit down at a restaurant, part of their mission is to sell you food. (Duh.) But few people realize that somebody else was responsible for selling them that food. When I was opening restaurants, one of the fun parts was letting food purveyors convince me that their soup, forks, chicken fingers, wine glasses, bacon, grills, tomatoes, dishwashing machines or whatever were indeed the very best.
Don’t plan lunch after one of these shows. It’s a feeding frenzy. Bread. Gnocchi. Fresh vegetables. Every conceivable type of seafood. More bread. Vodkas. Beer. Italian water ice. More vodkas (this time, flavored). Barbecue (and sauce, and rolls, and rub). Shrimp in every conceivable form. Coffee. Frozen drinks. Doughnuts (60 seconds from batter to mouth!). You get the idea.
Of course, the show is also tailored to hotels, motels and other hospitality operations such as caterers, food trucks, personal chefs, you name it. So, scattered among those whose mission it is to force-feed you their goodies (not that that’s a bad thing, mind you…) are other behind-the-scenes services that keep hospitality up and running. Elevators. Concrete installers. Architects and designers. Awnings. Ceilings. Security (including secret cameras). Claw machines, video games and SkeeBall. Software. Spas and waterfalls. Two-way radios. More software. Hot tubs. Landscape lighting. Even Google Trusted Photo (web surfers take a virtual tour of your business).
One of the high points of the Sunday session was a demonstration by none other than "Top Chef" contestant and D.C. restaurateur Mike Isabella. Showgoers flocked to the Culinary Corner to get a glance at the proprietor of DC’s trendy Graffiato restaurant.
The show operators were even considerate enough to provide rooms where participants could digest all those cocktail wienies and recover from the after-effects of picking just the right vodka for their bars. These places are called “Educational Sessions.” Actually, many of the lectures and demonstrations seemed quite relevant, like teaching hoteliers how to prevent Legionnaires’ disease in their water systems. Or how to optimize a website for maximum sales. Or installing on-site energy systems like solar panels or windmills. Reason enough to stay awake. Interestingly, in my former life as a sound engineer, one of my companies used to record these meetings and then sell the recordings to those who couldn’t manage to pull themselves away from the vodka-testing area. Long live The Business of Eating!