Archive for September, 2007

And for tapas, Spanish fly

September 2007

If typos could be defenses against Health Department shutdowns, the one over on the entertaining superchefblog would be OJ-worthy. When inspectors find vermin in the kitchen, the cooks should just say they were whipping up some Morimoto gnocchi stuffed with “fresh salmon mouse.”

Bend over

September 2007

Given that I have not eaten a Mrs. Fields cookie in 20-some years since learning just one packs 260 calories, I was not surprised to see New York City back off from forcing fast food chains to play by the numbers. The truth hurts the bottom line. A bigger mystery is why the powers that wanna be Big Brother saw fit to commission a redesign of the famous choking poster. The old one was graphically graspable from across a crowded room. The one I’m seeing everywhere lately is all small blurry gray pictures and tiny text; you could stand three inches away and not know the first thing to do if your dining partner swallowed a fish bone and suddenly turned blue. Maybe someone can “update” the old “I Heart New York” slogan with: “This individual standing in front of you talking is experiencing a deep and strong and very abiding affection for the five boroughs and in fact the entire state.” It’s the kind of improvement you expect from bureaucratic bunglers in Washington, not Mayor High-Tech. Plus it must look like a muddy mess on the backs of the staff down at Schiller’s.

Good for the goose

September 2007

So Martha Stewart is now doing wine. Bottled water must be so over. But her latest venture is still a reminder of who pays for sins in the land of equality. She got caught in a lie and went to jail. Scooter was convicted of multiple national security whoppers and walked. In a just world, he would be baking pretzels in hell. I guess we have to settle for seeing her keep on cashing in with Gallo.

Frittering away

September 2007

I forget where I read the gossip about the editors on the book review at the NYTimes who once saw a co-worker on the Sunday magazine being taken out by ambulance and guessed that “someone must have had an idea.” But I know where I read the proof that it was not a joke: On gawker, which bared the recovering Botox addict’s pathetic plea for help in coming up with trends to obsess on for T for Twaddle. Here’s a suggestion: Food editors who persist in dropping their friends’ big names. If it ain’t one J, it’s another. And next thing you know it’s an oily mess.

Can you hear me now?

September 2007

Walking home latish Friday night from the surprisingly excellent “Bourne Ultimatum” (the antithesis of “America, fuck yeah!”), my consort and I felt as if we had wandered back to 1986, when we fled Columbus Avenue in the Seventies for the sleepy suburbs half an hour closer to New England, up in the then-dodgy Nineties. Wine bar after wine bar was spilling out with hammered androids who seemed to have one setting on the volume dial: braying. At least three longtime restaurants were suddenly closed and gutted (and at least three more that should be shut down were still full). The sidewalks were jammed, and we could only wonder who those look-alikes were, and from what part of Jersey they might have disgorged. Columbus always goes in cycles, and what’s good for business is bad for the neighbors, so I could not have been happier to be just passing through rather than living in that old apartment one flight up on 72d. The one where the street noise was so bad I once called a floor refinisher to see about having ours sanded and polished and he asked: “Is someone there working on them now?” The one where we once poured water out the windows onto the barbarians below. “Wine bars” may make it sound as if the street is going upscale. But merlot in the wrong hands is just as much a menace as martinis. Does this city always have to be saved by a market crash?

How’m I eating?

September 2007

My other trip in the way-back machine was courtesy of the cafe upstairs at Fairway, where I went to refuel after a grueling bout of PT in preparation for braving the body-slammers down below. As I was waiting, and waiting, for my perfect cheeseburger, in walks Ed Koch, accompanied only by another dodderer. He took a table by the window just like anyone else and settled in unmolested, napkin tucked into the neck of his shirt, placidly awaiting his ex-chef’s food. It was just like the old days when he was mayor and we would constantly see him out in the street, wallowing in attention, long before Rudy “made it safe.” I admit the endorphins were still pumping, but it felt sorta warm and fuzzy to find someone so recognizable moving freely at a time when the allegedly most powerful man in the world cannot go anywhere without armed guards and still has to shut down entire cities “for security.” Maybe they’re right that you are what you eat. Who could ever have imagined a hot dog in chief? (Sorry to hammer, but they’re dying while he’s lying.)

Words are all we have

September 2007

The subscription gods are apparently in retrograde. My New York went missing, so I was spared some Pollan wannabe’s reportedly idiotic attempt at eating locally. Other delivery guys managed to get through with a decent Panchito finally noticing that accessibility is meaningless in the Rbox (crutches are no easier than a wheelchair when there’s “one step at entrance”) but also, unfortunately, with a Mighty Wind that, a far-off friend pointed out, nattered on about a jellyroll pan but depicted the usual casserole. And for some reason the real birdcage liner just will not take no for an answer and keeps sending us the hometown’s worst paper (well, maybe after the Sun, which has only the food pages and oversized photos of photo shows to redeem its waste of trees). A great young friend in Italy with an especially endearing way with his second language once used the term “bust-ballers,” and I thought of it on reading “impeccably serviced” and “designer-clad” (they’re actually wearing the human Armani?), not to mention “corpulent” dumplings. It’s as if this pretentious prattle is being written in Roget’s English and run through Babelfish. And they won’t make it stop.

Can’t beat ’em

September 2007

The most amusing development since the orgy at Bistro du Vent has to be the news that Molto, after famously dissing bloggers, has become one. Guess it’s true, what he says: Bloggers live by different rules.

Every ort his mother’s son

September 2007

Of all the dispiriting details in excerpts of the new “Dead Wrong,” the most stomach-churning had to be those describing the Chimp at trough, wadding cheese into his maw and spewing hot dog fragments while talking with his mouth full. Now we indubitably know “honor and dignity” in the White House really means a child with his boots on the people’s irreplaceable desk demanding, “Bring me an ice cream.” Which he needs, he admits, because he craves the sugar in booze. Surely Panchito could have passed along these kinds of tidbits in time to warn the world a disastrous boor was headed for power-drunkenness. He got seduced. And we got the sloppy seconds.

My city was gone

September 2007

A really fresh-feeling vintage photography show at the main library includes a wall with images by Sy Rubin of 14th Street in the 1970s, when it had a May department store and the Palladium and a generally much seedier character. That was all before my time in New York, but I had the same reaction to those shots as I did to the Eater news that the BBQ place on Eighth Street is becoming — what else? — a bank. Nothing lasts here. But if you’re lucky, you get your moment to remember, and ours was hearing Alberta Hunter sing in that space when it was the Cookery, way back in the early Eighties. She was amazing, having made a comeback in her own early 80s after a second career as a nurse, and standing there with earrings down to her proud shoulders she was belting lyrics that might be too hot for Amy Winehouse to handle. She’s gone, the Cookery’s long gone and now more ATMs and surly tellers are on the way. At least it’s not another Duane Reade or nail salon. Or what helped mallify 14th Street and is now wiping out any hint that Mikell’s ever existed on Columbus: a Middle American Holy Foods.

Grayed out

September 2007

I think the rodents in the Taj Sulzberger are chewing through staffers’ mental computer cables. Who does make the best “ribolata”? (If you want to be snide about youngsters’ obsession with food, at least drop the right name.) Why would anyone stick dental floss in her drivel? (A friend theorizes that that particular brain has caramelized and wonders what she gets paid per word.) But I know the answer to that: Someone who would put asses on sandwiches and expect people to keep reading.

What was more surprising was the role reversal between the daily and the weekly. Every fall New York used to go bonkers in its preview issue listing dozens of restaurants with wildly grandiose plans to open, and every spring I would count up how few actually wound up slinging that hash. Now it keeps the roster short and sweet while the presumably more sober publication goes on a bender. Why do I suspect it has still not sunk in that newspapers aren’t just destined to be scooping up poop by nightfall? On the series of tubes, empty promises are forever.

Now with more BS

September 2007

The silliest new product has to be yogurt “hand wash.” It even comes in a flavor: honey vanilla. The label says it contains yogurt protein, which I guess sounds better than the rendered roadkill in most soap. What’s so ridiculous is that said yogurt protein is being touted as a “natural skin conditioner.” But the best ingredient for that, Jack Ubaldi taught in butchering classes when I was in restaurant school, is lanolin. Which is already in most soaps. I guess Dial Lamb With Rosemary doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Organic candy for the soul

September 2007

Campaigns to get Americans to eat better are the surge of the food wars. Marketers will seize on any tiny sign of progress as huge news, and the media will chime right in while people just get fatter and more diabetic. Take Hannaford Brothers’ test of a star system for supermarket food, which it just proclaimed a huge success after a year. The billboard in the NYTimes read: “Sales jump for many foods that get a ‘healthy’ rating.” But the story said the biggest increase was all of 7 percent, for lean ground beef; the other “jumps” were 1 to 5 percent. That strikes me as being as statistically significant as the Chimp’s approval rating. After googling Hannaford to see how many other news outlets swallowed the press release, I’m starting to wonder about that chain. Not only is it trying to persuade shoppers to avoid good whole milk, but a 65-year-old woman was not allowed to buy wine in Maine because she did not have her driver’s license on her. Chain policy is to card anyone who looks under 45. Which, if I’m doing my math right, is more than double the drinking age in any state. See what happens when a grocer turns nutrition nanny? Grandmas can’t get their heart-healthy shiraz.

Four (paws) on the floor

September 2007

The most surreal dining experience I’ve had in donkeys’ years was lunch with our Siamese. In a restaurant. I won’t name it as “now serving cats,” given that the Health Department is on the warpath these days, but the staff deserves huge points for letting us bring Banshee in after we left the vet around the corner right at 12:30. They even chose the perfect table in the front, where we could stow his carrier and still have room to check on him to be sure he wasn’t having a coronary over this second out-of-apartment experience of the day. He seemed mellow despite having his 23-hour nap interrupted, but I was a wreck. For once I could understand those parents who bring babies into noisy restaurants at 10 o’clock at night. It’s totally inappropriate behavior, selfish to the max. But when you gotta eat, you gotta eat. And as Bob pointed out, at least we didn’t take him somewhere where his kind gets cooked.

What the hell happened here?

September 2007

Call it an intervention by information architects who couldn’t stand by and let my ranting be timeless any longer. I hope everyone appreciates it. I certainly do. The ride may be a little bumpy at first, but I’ve got my paver ready.