Ryan Sutton and the Union Square Hospitality Group Agree to Disagree


If you thought nobody could rain on Danny Meyer’s publicity parade, then Ryan Sutton would like to hand you an umbrella.

In the wake of Meyer’s beatification by The New York Times, Sutton, Bloomberg‘s restaurant critic, took to his blog The Bad Deal to nominate the Modern’s $210 picnic basket — which is for sale on Gilt City — as a candidate for “Most Aggravating Deal of 2011.”

Why? Not only does a four-course meal for two at the Modern cost a comparatively paltry $196, but the half-bottle of Veuve Clicquot included among the picnic’s components isn’t actually given to customers when they pick up the basket; instead, they get it only when they return to the restaurant’s terrace, a month or so after the actual picnic. In other words, Sutton writes, “It’s like when Best Buy promises you $300 in savings for that flatscreen television and then they tell you to fill out a mail-in rebate and wait 3-6 weeks. Except in our case, you’re not really getting a rebate.”

Enter The New York Observer, which rang up the Union Square Hospitality Group for a response to Sutton’s post. Unsurprisingly, Meyer HQ took a different point of view, claiming that Sutton misrepresented the Modern Picnic Basket, which apparently serves eight people and “was not advertised as featuring a bottle of Champagne.” Except that Gilt City’s photo of the basket — which, incidentally, seems to have disappeared — clearly suggested it was. Regardless, USHG said the point was to “invite guests to enjoy MoMA’s beautiful Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden” by plying them with booze.

Sutton told the Observer that he “stands by [his] satirization of this Gilt City Deal,” and urges consumers not to “put a down payment on champagne that’s available for $25 at Astor Wine & Spirits.”

And so concludes today’s lesson in first-world problems. Tomorrow, we’ll explore what to do when you’re dining out and simply cannot find a good place to put your purse.