Archive for October, 2007

Purgatory on wheels

October 2007

Nothing says GU to me like an invitation to a restaurant party that includes an offer of transportation. If I can’t get there by foot or subway (or some combination) it’s not worth the journey. So I feel for the place over in Queens that deemed itself so inaccessible it sent a hired coach into Manhattan for media types. What did that cost a startup? Probably much more than one line of type on the fancy invite listing the closest R stop. Or even a page or two of content on its web site for CrackBerrians to peruse on the long slog in traffic, maybe? At another event last week I got caught up in an animated discussion of how restaurants not quite ready for prime coverage fake their situation by allowing a closeup of a dish rather than a photo of the whole room. I guess if you can’t get the URL location fully locked and loaded, shoot the bus.

Note to head: Ass faces south

October 2007

Dining seems to be slipping back into its cavalier attitude toward photojournalism. I spotted an enticing shot of a train with a caption mentioning “tours head up the Hudson River,” but the story implied they were actually going by bus. Worse, that train looked to be on the Manhattan-bound track. At least it was more locally carrot-correct than zucchini with pasta in late October. I counted three vendors with the squash at Union Square that afternoon, and one was selling Flintstone-size specimens. If the pasta police bothered, I do hope they ticketed for throwing rice sticks into the ziti.

Bee-S movie

October 2007

I love it when carefully arranged PR campaigns go gloriously bad. This should have been such a happy time for a couple down in the Beresford, him with his new movie coming out, her with her cookbook soaring to the top of the best-seller list on a blast of Oprah. Then someone had to go and ruin it all by pointing out similarities in another yummy mummy how-to. Even Martha Stewart, who went through the same hazing at least 25 years ago, probably couldn’t judge what the truth is, but it’s worth noting that the author herself was essentially stolen from her first husband. And it’s scary to think not one but two women actually came up with the idea of raising little Chimps by teaching them deception is good from a very young age. Now one YM has learned the hazards of venturing into the viper pit of publishing without an agent and the other has had a lesson in the nastiness of the food world. Would Oprah have her back for a different kind of flogging?

A green thing eaten raw

October 2007

There’s a silly e-joke going around about a drunk who gets caught in a field with his pants down and responds in feigned shock when the arresting officer points out that he’s humping a pumpkin:

“Shit, is it midnight already?”

Unfortunately, worse forms of pumpkin abuse are happening on the commercial level. Trend-obsessed companies are turning an aroma-free kitchen workhorse into massage creams and masques and much scarier stuff — one company is marketing pumpkin pie shampoo, another pumpkin pie syrup to be mixed into cocktails or, more chilling still, coffee. The freakiest is selling pumpkin body oil. Anoint yourself with that and you might want to stay in after dark.

Botero with a shiny appendage

October 2007

Michael Lomonaco always comes across as one of the nicest guys in New York, ever since my consort shot him in the wine cellar on 52d Street years ago. So when a friend and I found ourselves late on a Saturday night trudging up grim Eighth Avenue in the high 50s looking for a nightcap I suggested his latest place, even though it happens to be located in the dread TWC. We walked out $40 lighter after a glass and a half each, but was it ever worth it. Not only was the wine list adventurous (excellent Greek sauvignon blanc, Santa Ynez chardonnay) and the noise level set at “adult.” We actually got to hear two words I thought were obsolete before midnight in New York: Last call. I don’t claim to be a good reader of body language, but I got the strong sense why the grownups were battening the hatches. Barbarians were storming the Stone Rose gate across the mall hall. What made it all worthwhile, beyond realizing yet again what an anti-drag it is getting old if it means you can blissfully avoid that kind of pathetic scene, was that it helped me forgive myself for endorsing a blight with my patronage of a good part of it. It was exactly the kind of experience you would have in a big glassy shopping center in Hong Kong, another seductive city that exists on so many fascinating levels. Those silly people at our tourism agency missed the best slogan ever with all their thrashing around: New York — more un-American every day.

Gold in the four food groups

October 2007

The day after reading that food banks are running on empty in New York  thanks to the federal government sweating the small stuff out of the budget, I was lured to Petrossian for an early (for me) press event staged partly to introduce its new private tasting room, complete with caviar omelets. Crazies can call Paul Krugman shrill till the Wagyu cows come home, but something is wrong with a country where the super-rich cannot find enough ways to dispose of their income and the working poor can’t even get vegetables to puree into secret ingredients for their macaroni and cheese. But if you really want your head to explode, start following the WSJournal’s coverage of the investigation into the suspected fraud and corruption involving some of the country’s biggest brand names (Kraft, Conagra, Sara Lee). Every day it gets worse. Nothing, of course, has been proven in a government that does not admit torture, but the gist is that companies and middlemen supporting the troops’ need to eat are jacking up prices to obscene levels. War profiteering once would have been considered treason. Now, where have you gone, Jimmy Dean sausage?

Off Second Avenue

October 2007

Amid all the rending of garments lately over bloggers taking freebies, I should be hesitant to do a shout-out to a friend. But then years and years ago I tagged along to one of her parties with another friend, and I will always remember how well a virtual stranger was treated in a crowd that included luminaries from Geoffrey Beene to David Byrne. So I will say, once again, Zarela do throw one hell of a fiesta. The food was the cosa. I’d had the plantain chips with peanut salsa before, and the picadas, little masa saucers filled with tomatillo and avocado salsa, but not the potato crisps to be dunked into a sauce she later said was made with tomatillos, chile pasilla and worm. Because we had to leave early because my consort was leaving next day for a workshop in Kentucky, we wriggled our way too soon into the salivating line for the buffet and snared the full monte, of which I was most enamored of the huitlacoche casserole. This particular fete was at her home, and while I heard at least 125 people were invited, they seemed to have checked their egos at the door — media guests I expected to piss all over me were cordial to warm. The celebs were even mellower. Call this the restaurateur who mistook her clientele for real human beings.

Worse would be Rachael

October 2007

Clearly I’m spending way too much time online if I spotted a request from a mother for advice on how to dress her 3-year-old daughter, by request, as Molto for Halloween. That kid doesn’t need a costume. She needs a therapist. But I shouldn’t be mean to the orangeman — he’s putting candy in the right aspirant’s bag, unlike another annoyance who is backing that 365-day-a-year Halloween character who is known as Ghouliani in blogville. No wonder people shun his restaurant. Who wants to eat with a tiara shining in their eyes?

MREs forever

October 2007

You know my disorganization is spiraling out of control when I succumb to a slice of crappy pizza for a meal. But at least I got a laugh to go from the roach pit nearest me: The sign listing lunch deals “with free fountain soda” started with two plain slices for $5.50. A regular slice is $2.25. Talk about a No Chimp Left Behind special.

Supreme bile

October 2007

Biff Grimes’ review of the Clarence Thomas spleen-venting noted that he started out in “poverty so extreme that the children did not put sugar on their cereal.” Whether that was meant sarcastically I’m not sure — at least they had cereal. But it could explain the craving for that little something extra. Pubic hair on a Coke, say.

Shave and a drumstick

October 2007

The other vivid detail from an NYT story last week is that a Georgia poultry slaughterhouse raided by immigration is now hiring “men from a nearby homeless mission.” I assume they’re slightly better groomed than the bums shaking coffee cups on my corner. But I’m not sure I’d want them anywhere near my wings. There are worse things than salmonella in chicken potpies.

Grammar, my cula

October 2007

Molto Ego makes it sound as if prosciutto producers go all medieval on hogs’ asses. According to a post in that medium he once condemned, the hams are “hanged.” I hope they at least get a fair trial first.

Get out your Bibs

October 2007

It’s that time of year again, when the Zagats tell the media to jump and the only response is, “How ridiculously high?” No end of nonsense was churned out, but the most annoying spewing, as usual, came from the big eaters themselves. This time the WSJournal got snookered into running one of their self-promos posing as an op-ed, and it was even more annoying than usual. The idea that anyone could take their restaurant prices seriously is about as idiotic as presuming Mrs. Chimp actually cared enough to write her piece for the same pages. (Evil illegitimate government oppressing citizens? Bad. But only in Burma.) You would think this of all newspapers would remember that old Mark Twain saying about figures lying. The Skank Twins would be more credible.

Tapas writ large

October 2007

Despite my best intentions after Loudon Wainwright, I found I could not set out for distant downtown late at night for the Fergus fete at Peter Hoffman’s new outpost, which means I missed probably the party of the week. So my nominee has to be the one at Grayz, which really has succeeded in vanquishing any vestiges of Aquavit. The crowd was not the usual food mafia, which was good, and the alcohol was flowing like at a speakeasy, which was better. But only when the latter wore off, around 5 in the morning, did I start to wonder why all the little tastes at the buffet stations were ladled onto one tiny plate. Was it really the intent to bury the vegetable ragout in both baked beans and brisket with sauce? Or the sauerkraut and sausage under beef stew? I mean, it all tasted amazingly complementary. But it reminded me of happy hours in the kind of bars I used to frequent when I did my main eating at happy hour. My date, however, said the raw oyster she cadged off the ice on the main bar was the best she had had in eons, and the worst thing either of us could say about the superb smoked salmon was that it was too big a bite on one fork. Clearly, this is a destination for its time, now that 1 percent of the population now takes home 21 percent of the wealth in America. Can you say Roaring Aughts?

Limburger heaven

October 2007

So much for my notion that chocolate is like bacon and goes with anything. I just read about the most disgusting novelty of the year: a truffle made of chocolate mixed with smoked blue cheese. Aside from being a waste of two great ingredients, it sounds like what dogs go sniffing for. Under each other’s tails.