I was forced to study two instruments as a child – one with keys and one with strings – a total of 10 years. I took up a wind instrument on my own as an adolescent. That one kept me occupied for seven years.
Sadly, the only thing that those 17 years of musical training taught me was that I have virtually no musical talent whatsoever.
But I enjoy music immensely. The right song at the right moment can frame life in a way like nothing else can. Music sets the mood, evokes emotions, pumps adrenaline, calms the soul, and etches memories.
Website designers, good ones and (unfortunately) bad ones, have discovered this. And so have a few restaurants, who have made good use of my speakers with wonderful soundtracks on their websites to convey personality, paint vivid backdrops, and entice. I know some who find website soundtracks annoying or obnoxious. To them I say, put your computer on mute. Me? I love them. Here are some of my favorites (in alpha order):
Daniel Boulud’s family of restaurants (Beijing, London, Miami, New York, Palm Springs, Vancouver) – Boulud gathers all twelve of his restaurants under one umbrella website. But each restaurant has its own sub-site to which the designers have assignd a color and a song. All of the songs are great – modern, oft-jazzy numbers with a side of pop that are fun, yet sophisticated, retro, yet au courant. One of my favorite sites is Bar Boulud’s (New York), which explodes with Jack Johnson’s Katalyst Remix version of “Losing Keys.”
graham elliot and grahamwich (Chicago) – Singer Sufjan Stevens wrote the cute soundtracks to both of Graham Elliot Bowles’s restaurants’ websites, playfully capturing the childlike nostalgia upon which Bowles has built his cuisinary style. Stevens’s songs make you want to skip and laugh just as much as Bowles’s fun and innovative food does. While you wait for graham elliot’s website to load, a pot of popping corn helps tie you over.
Guy Savoy (Paris) – The recently redesigned website for Guy Savoy is magnificent, beautifully shot and produced by the Frères Salto. The music, by Eric Serra, brims with excitement and romance, brilliantly conveying the celebratory feel of this Michelin three-starred restaurant as you go from market to plate. (I gasped aloud when the veal shank un-seamed at the gentle prodding of a fork at 4:35.) I can almost feel the cobblestones underfoot, pulling up to 18, rue Troyon.
Le Bernardin (New York) – Synthesizer spa music (as I call it) typically turns me off. The breathy and shapeless zen sounds go nowhere and do nothing for me. But set to a gorgeous slide show that takes you, figuratively, from ocean to table, the soothing music that introduces le Bernardin on its website eases you into the simple elegance of the restaurant and Ripert’s food. The music fades into sounds of the kitchen, which I find almost as calming as the introduction.
Le Bristol (Paris) – A hypnotic call-and-answer among strings, a harp, and a piano, drops you right into the middle of this über–luxe hotel, home to Paris’s newest Michelin three-starred restaurant. Yet, the title of this instrumental piece – “La Grande Ourse” (“The Big Bear”) – suggests something very different altogether. After some sleuthing, I contacted the composer, Nicholas Errèra, and located a copy of the song. True to its title, on its own, the song magically conjures images of a mountain of brown fur, leisurely lumbering along in the woods, lapping at a babbling creek, among the brambles, nudging a beehive, sleeping. But set to two unicorns butting on a field of lime green, who give way to a picture show of the opulence within, “La Grande Ourse” becomes a steely soundtrack of luxury on le Bristol’s website. (I note that the cut in the loop is unduly jarring. If I recall correctly, the loop used to be longer and better spliced.)
R Bar (Kansas City) – The snippet of my hometown’s anthem, “I’m Going to Kansas City,”* in the introductory sequence to R Bar’s website is just enough to put you in the right, jazzy frame of mind for experiencing this bar and eatery – urbane, hip, and contemporary, with a dash of honky-tonk – in the historic West Bottoms. R Bar has, in its first year, quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in the city. This version of Wilbert Harrison’s hit is by David Basse.
Thank you for the music.
Email or leave me a comment on some of your favorite restaurant website soundtracks. I’m a sucker for a good show and song.
12 replies on “rumination 11: i am the girl with golden hair…”
Along a similar line, did you read the NYTimes Magazine Blog article about Graham Elliot Bowles’ involvement with Lollapalooza? He paired different restaurants in Chicago with musical acts performing at the festival–the individual chef’s approach to cooking somehow matched (in his mind) a particular band’s approach to music. I’m not familiar with a lot of the bands or with most of the restaurants he included, but it’s another way to look at the relationship between food and music!
@ Rona Y: Yes, in fact, Elliot is a gifted musician himself. The last time I spoke with him, I think he told me that the music in his restaurant was written and recorded by him. Very talented guy. Funny as all get-out too.
Mark me down as one of those who *hates* music on websites! And that introduction on Le Bernardin’s website drives me crazy. Like the Katz’s website, it makes me want to yell, “Enough already! Let me in!”
When I go to a restaurant’s website, I don’t want to be put into any mood. I don’t need a bunch of bells and whistles. I’m there to get basic information: an up-to-date menu, an address and phone number, and hours of operation. (The latter is all too often either totally m.i.a or buried somewhere on the site.) Make it stupid simple so I don’t have to hunt for the info or go through a series of windows to find it.
P.S. As you know, I’m not a fan of music in restaurants either. Too many restaurants are already extremely noisy before music, usually played at too high a volume, is added to the cacophony.
@ the wizard of roz: Well, tell us what you really think! *wink*
@ u.e., Well, I do have to uphold my reputation for speaking my mind! *big grin*
@ the wizard of roz: And I love you for it.
@ u.e., Right back at you! :)
I’m with thewizardofroz!
Especially because I’m often:
1. visiting the web site while at work and my colleagues don’t need to hear that noise
2. listening to my own soundtrack, thank you very much
@kathryn, If you’re with me, then I’m in excellent company! :)
@thewizardofroz, @kathryn: You guys are no fun. :)
Well, I’m a classical violinist and I love food. As do most of my colleagues. I think music and food go exceptionally well together if done right. I’m in the middle of beginning a series of dinners cooked by me and paired with pieces of music, be it by texture, history, culture, etc.
I love reading your reviews, by the way. I’m headed to Paris in September and cannot for the life of me decide whether to have the lunch special at Pierre Gagnaire or Ledoyen! I drooled over your pictures from your meal at Ledoyen – it’s making it very hard to decide! :)
@Jessica: I haven’t eaten at Gagnaire in Paris, but I have eaten at his restaurant, “Pierre,” in Hong Kong. (CLICK HERE for the review) I am hardly a Gagnaire expert, but from my own experience (as the title of that review suggests), and from what many Gagnaire regulars have told me, dining at a Gagnaire establishment is somewhat like culinary Russian Roulette. At its best, it is brilliant. At its worst, his cutting edge cuisine can leave you bleeding. Ledoyen is certainly the safer bet, I would argue. But the potential at Gagnaire is arguably greater. Report back, wherever you go.