Thursday, August 1, 2013


I've always been fan of investigations with the word "Operation" slapped on them;  it provides that old Untouchables ambiance. My favorite one occurred in Naples, Florida. It was decided that cops were to go undercover, conducting drug stings in a black neighborhood. Due to a paucity of blacks on the force, white cops had to wear blackface. The resulting crack-fueled minstrel show was known around the stationhouse as "Operation Al Jolson." That this happened in 1990 is a tribute to Jolson's staying power as The World's Greatest Entertainer-Turned-Narc-Symbol. No doubt, he'd put on a show for the Naples cops gratis if he'd still been alive. 

So when I recently saw local headlines screaming the name "Operation Swill," I figured that the feds were investigating the Spitzer and Weiner campaigns by going undercover as nubile 20 year-old girls. I was disappointed to see it concerned something far less important to my daily life. USA Today reports:

On Thursday, state law enforcement authorities detailed Operation Swill, which identified 29 restaurants around New Jersey, including a dozen TGI Friday's locations, that were alleged to have filled bottles of premium brand liquor with cheaper brands. 

Phony booze at TGI Fridays? Stop the presses! Next thing you'll tell me, McDonald's hamburgers aren't made from prime rib.

When we've had time between connecting flights, my family & I often wind up going to the TGIF in whatever airport we're in. It's a place to get a decent burger, spicy fries and a beer. You look at photos of the 1927 Boston Braves and listen to "Love Will Keep Us Together" on the PA system. TGIF, in other words, is to your digestive system as Sunoco is to your car -- a place to fill up when you're empty, just so you can get to your destination where you can take a shower, change your clothes and kick back with the real thing. You want top shelf liquor at Council Bluffs Municipal, go to the duty free shop and pick up a bottle of Johnny Walker Black. On second thought, just skip the trip to Council Bluffs and hoof it to your nearest liquor store.

TGIF isn't the only example of sticking to what a place does best. One family I know went to Pizza Hut while on vacation. While the husband and kid decided to be their prosaic selves (as husbands and kids are want to do) by ordering pizza, the wife was under the impression that they were at Rao's, and tried the shrimp scampi. The results were less than gratifying to her digestive system. 

Well, of course. It's Pizza Hut! You order the pizza. Similarly, you do not go to TGIF for a Deauville Cocktail. In fact, you do not go to any chain restaurant for the good stuff, especially a chain restaurant found at airports, as you wouldn't blow the week's pay at a place with a neon sign flashing  

Otherwise, as the news story informs you, you'll wind up with something not taught at your local adult education school's Mixology course:

Investigators asked for their drinks "neat," without ice, water or mixer. But instead of taking a sip, the detectives tested 150 samples ... to make sure they got the liquor they ordered. In one case, investigators found that a bottle was filled with a mixture of rubbing alcohol and caramel color to give the appearance of scotch whiskey, authorities said. Another establishment, which was not identified, also poured dirty water, akin to river water, in a bottle and passed it off as the good stuff, authorities said. Officials said no health issues were reported. 

Well, of course there were no health issues reported because they didn't drink these things! And by the way, wouldn't you be doing a public service by identifying exactly which of these establishments is serving Isopropyl Slammers with a dirty water sidecar? 

The moral of this story is that unless you're at a 10-star restaurant, there's no telling what you're going to get in your next drink. The only way to know for sure is to do your drinking at home, alone. If you think that's depressing, do what I do and drink 'til you see double. 

And until Yum! Brands opens a Shrimp Hut chain, don't get any more exotic than the pepperoni with onions.


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