The last time I saw Eileen Mintz was at a press event at Canlis in which we, as media representatives, were introduced to new chef Jason Franey. In addition to her longstanding duties as the spokesperson for Salty’s restaurants (and the voice behind the Salty’s blog “Mintz — Her Words“), she was a frequent contributor to the Mercer Island Reporter and the Eastside Business Journal (among other publications), a former TV restaurant-critic and a public relations maven for some of the city’s best known chefs and restaurants. I always loved running into Eileen because she was — as anyone who knew her would tell you — the perfect cross between Annette Funicello and a the Jewish “bubbie” you wish you had. Here she is with her husband Dave on New Year’s Eve at Kaspar’s. Which, as it unfortunately turned out, would be the last evening she’d enjoy at a restaurant.
Back in October, over Franey’s fancy noshes at Canlis, we greeted one another with a big hug. “How are you feeling?” I asked, knowing she’d been dealing with the ups and downs of the cancer that had been dogging her for over a year. “Not so hot, doll” came her honest reply, though, as ever, she looked like a million bucks as she schmoozed her way through the crowd. Unlike me, Eileen was never one to kvetch, so I knew she must have been feeling pretty punk despite her ever-present smile. Instead, she was one of those too-few kind souls who always made the world around her a brighter place. And as trite as that may sound, when it came to Eileen, it was the absolute truth. One needed no more proof than to sit among the 500-plus mourners who swiftly gathered a week ago today to attend her memorial service. She was buried within 24 hours of her death — in the tradition of the Jewish faith she held so dear.
The crowd at Herzel Ner-Tamid on her beloved Mercer Island included many of the big names, top chefs and media personalities that make up our vast food- and restaurant community. We joined other friends and family members who managed to nod, smile and even laugh out loud at the vivid memories of that vivacious woman, revisited by those who eulogized her. As tough as it was to do so, it was my honor to profile Eileen in this news obituary, which ran in the Seattle Times February 7. She’ll be greatly missed. And I’d encourage those of you who knew her to share a fun story about Eileen on this post.
Here’s one, courtesy of Norma Rosenthal, who told me this kick-in-the-pants tale about a trip to New York City in the late ’90s, back when they worked as the business partners behind Mintz/Rosenthal Public Relations. Says Norma:
“We had gone to New York to call on the magazines and were invited to Windows on the World by their PR person, so we went up to the top to eat. It was fabulous. They treated us to an incredible dinner. But you know how big Eileen and I are [note: they’re both tiny], and they kept bringing plate after plate of food, probably five courses and we were still on the appetizers! Then they brought out a plate of foie gras with squash hash. It was the biggest piece I’d ever seen in my life. We were already stuffed, and couldn’t figure out how we were going to eat it. Then I came up with an idea: I said we should each have a little bite, and then cut up the foie gras and hide it under the hash. And as I was shoving it under the hash, Eileen got this frozen look on her face. The chef, Michael Lomonaco, had come out to talk to us and caught me in the act. We just laughed! Eileen turned on the charm, telling him how much we were enjoying it and that the foie gras was so rich and delicious! She had a way of turning even the worst moment into something great.”