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Dean Fearing, You Oughta Know Better

New York Times food critic Frank Bruni has yet to announce where he ranks Fearing's on his list of "Intriguing New Restaurants Outside of New York"; sure, it's in the Top Five, but in which exact spot he'll say "in coming weeks," if you can wait that long, and you can. Nonetheless, today Bruni does address the topic of the music played in his favorite outta-NYC eateries, and, turns out, there's at least one good reason to stay out of Fearing's. Really, Dean? Really. Only, don't blame him, not really: Fearing's is scored by ... Muzak, Fearing said in a phone chat with Bruni.

Back to music: in restaurant after restaurant, I’d hear a track and giggle or smile at how unlikely it was for the setting, or how obscure, or how clearly reflective it had to be of some chef’s or restaurateur’s peculiar taste or sense of humor. That was my reaction when I heard old songs from the Cars and from Rick Astley (remember Rick Astley?) in Thomas Keller’s restaurant Ad Hoc.

That was my reaction, too, when I heard a Alanis Morissette — I’m pretty sure the song was “You Oughta Know” — in Fearing’s, an expensive, assiduously stylish restaurant with a visual idiom and clientele that doesn’t really dovetail with an angry pop tirade against infidelity that, I might add, stands the test of time a whole lot better than many other pop songs do.

Turns out, though, that I was wrong in my assumption that someone at Fearing’s had deliberately selected Alanis for a play list.

Mr. Fearing told me in a telephone conversation that the restaurant’s mixes are purchased from the Muzak corporation, which has evolved far, far beyond elevator music. ... Why purchase mixes instead of doing your own? Mr. Fearing told me that he had watched his wife, who opened her own small restaurant, become consumed in hour upon hour of plotting and double-thinking and assembling play lists before she finally caved and went the purchased-mix route. Plus, he said, the purchased mixes are better than ever.

Maybe. But we'd be happy to burn some discs for ya. And, Dean, don't you have a CD of your own to sell? --Robert Wilonsky

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