Archive for April, 2008

Let ’em eat Ensure

April 2008

Sad that the home of the brave is too chickenshit to consider impeachment, let alone war crimes trials. Not while “Top Trash” is on, at any rate. At least I can take consolation in knowing the Chimp would walk away unscathed no matter what. Given his affinity for junk like hot dogs and O’Doul’s, he has the perfect defense for approving torture: The Twinkies made him do it.

Or a Havahart

April 2008

I guess I haven’t seen everything in an eating establishment after all. The other day, when I succumbed to a slice at a relatively good but famously grody pizza place, an older guy sitting across from me had a big bottle of bug spray on his table. It could have been more unsettling, though: He could have brought a mousetrap.

Giving umami a bad name

April 2008

Hell is not always other people. Sometimes it’s breaking away in late afternoon on a prime Saturday to get to a performance downtown at 6 o’clock, only to find that the music by a friend of a friend actually starts at 8 and some bullshit cookbook seminar precedes it. Since the tickets were nonrefundable, my consort insisted we at least give the bullshit a chance, so we walked in just as a pedant was droning her way through a presentation on how recipes could actually be read as poetry. Not by her, of course. She stumbled and bumbled through half a dozen as if she had never seen her texts before, even asking for help on pronouncing words both English and Italian. I felt bad when I realized how miserable she looked by the end, but I felt worse for us — if you’re going to engage in performance art, do what performers do: rehearse. Oh, and if there is one occasion when a bra is essential, it’s in a small space in bright lights with a captive audience. I kept getting distracted as the nipples in the clingy top grazed the tabletop. And she was standing at the time.

Of course it went on. And on, with a presentation on a starving-artist cookbook project with a “highlight reel” that ran an hour and 43 minutes. Luckily, the woman who droned that introduction showed only a few segments. And once again I had to say: If you’re going to make videos, could you at least learn to focus? The best piece was on a sculptor of sorts who works with animal carcasses and also makes a Jell-O terrine with a flashlight embedded in it. She switched it on just before unmolding, the camera zoomed in and . . . a bright blur filled the screen. Afterward the moderator suggested everyone in the room share starving-artist stories and volunteered that she had a hundred of them. What I said walking in I really meant as we walked out: Pulling my own teeth would be a less excruciating option. We fled to Lucky Strike, hooked up with our friend by accident and came back for the music. Boozy drinks were handed out afterward, and they even got that wrong. If you want to stage a fiasco festival, at least marinate the guests first.

Food miles

April 2008

I misread the blackboard on Union Square announcing a renovation of the north end of the park — I thought it said the Greenmarket had “shitted south.” But it turns out the shift is pretty guano-esque for everyone involved. Now you have to schlep through a maze of nonfood vendors to get to the underselling milk; it’s like a frenetic flea market crossed with the long-gone flower district. Odd that the city would wait to start until the farmers’ business is about to bust out all over, considering the winter was so warm it seemed every other week the same section was closed so they could make snow for commercial shoots. Now the yogurt’s not connected to the bread, the eggs to the bacon. If it isn’t one disruption down there it’s another. But then again, bitching is the only thing  always in season.

Bigger than a drool bucket

April 2008

I guess I’m just surprised this is not sold by Williams-Sonoma, home of the most ridiculous kitchen accouterments: Rachael Ray has now slapped her name on a “garbage bowl.” It’s a plastic thing the speckled color of a call to Ralph on the big white telephone, and the label says it “saves time.” For starters, what halfway-sentient cook would not be working over a trash can? But how anal would you have to be not to just use a regular bowl (or bag) if your designer didn’t realize how crucial location is when it comes to fast disposal of scraps and trimmings? Mostly, though, I wonder if there is anything she would not cash in on. Many opportunities await at the wrong end of the alimentary canal — who wouldn’t want to squeeze her Charmin?

They’re tapping long lines . . .

April 2008

About the only law that still seems to be in effect in America is the one of unintended consequences. Consider the case of the “homeland security” money showered on Long Island. One of my better sources says it has paid for big new boats and crews to patrol the Sound, and of course Osama and his dialysis machine are not exactly swimming ashore out there, so big new boats and crews have nothing better to do than harass fishermen. Who have their own insecurity with lobster stocks never having recovered from the mysterious die-off a few summers back. Apparently tickets are being handed out for oystering minutes past the 4 o’clock cutoff on a catch that used to be allowed from dawn to dusk. Forget the terrorists. The petty bureaucrats have won.

Won’t we always have canned?

April 2008

At the same time your tax dollars are being squandered on paranoid silliness, the entire salmon season is collapsing on the West Coast thanks partly to federal fuckups in managing the Sacramento River. (Global warming is also to blame, but then Al Gore is fat.) What’s almost more depressing is how the disaster is being reported everywhere, as just another price-of-gas story. All I seem to read or hear is that “salmon is going to cost you more this summer” rather than: “Holy shit, humans are going extinct if this keeps up.” And ethanolized Americans have very little to complain about compared with the rest of the world, which is running out of rice and wheat and, in Haiti, dirt to bake into dinner. (Apparently the chilling term for hunger pain there is “grangou klowox” — eating bleach.) But we’re part of the problem with a society built on at least a car per person — and as a friend on that other coast advised me after my last osteo-incident, things are never so bad that they can’t get worse. Into every calamity a little silliness must fall, though. I also see the potato has been declared “the food of the future” in this, “the year of the potato.” Wasn’t that the original Irish Miracle?

Another F word

April 2008

I should have the tautest jaw in town for all the dropping it does. I just read an interview with a very charming celebrity who was asked if she was “suffering from writer’s block”  because she has not had a cookbook out in a while. This is a person who I doubt has ever written more than her name on the back of a check, but she swears she’s “working on one right now.” Yeah, she and seven hired pens. Then again, my cynicism barometer might need recharging, because it took a far out-of-towner to get me wondering what the hell is really up with that My Little Pony enterprise. Richard Thompson wrote a great song asking the crucial question, with the operative verbs starting with the letters J or P. There must be a segueway in there somewhere. . . .

In Total

April 2008

I’ll leave it to the heavyweights to decide whether a chef has to be Italian to cook Italian in Italy (we already know the answer in America: Molto No). The bigger question in that thin-as-blogging-kills story is whether Parma is, even arguably, the best food city in Italy. I have never heard that, even in two eating expeditions to the very town, and would lay my own euros on Torino, which, as a friend always says, makes the Tuscans look like peasants. But then the annoyances just keep coming in the big birdcage liner in town. Was that a food story or a yogurt advertorial? And when you run a piece on the travails of fast food pizza chains, you might want to illustrate it with something out of Domino’s rather than with a shot of glorious pizzas at an independent joint in Chicago. It’s as bad as a photo of people in shorts under a “December sales are down at Coach” headline. Nickel stock might be good for the bottom line. For credibility, not so much.

At least it wasn’t fondue

April 2008

After you have written the most odious and uninformed piece on New Orleans published outside a Dittohead blog, where do you go next? Straight to the ex-wife’s competition to natter (and natter) about how rough your life is. Forget the attempted digs at non-critics that made him look as clueless as he was about puppy drum. My sick suspicion is that he was actually trying to be three whole pages of funny. I’ll put it this way: An icy douche is a laugh riot by comparison. And it doesn’t require cartoons.

Going by in a slur

April 2008

I had one question on unavoidably listening to the Chimp as he knuckled around the birthplace of vodka: Is he shit-faced? Luckily, photographers and picture editors everywhere were not, because he has clearly entered the escargot phase of his beyond-disastrous tenure — he has always oozed slime, but now they’re pouring on the salt and he’s shrinking fast.

Special sauce? It’s hand-whacked.

April 2008

Did you hear the one about the pretentious chef downtown who set out to “revolutionize the burger”? His innovation does sound offaly good, with heart, liver, marrow and tongue all blended in with beefier parts of the cow. But I think he just re-invented the hot dog.

Capital M for merguez

April 2008

This is like kicking a lame ho, but the Human Scratch N Match is really giving bimbos a bad name. I would almost love to be a roach on the wall when the slot decides which copy editor is going to have to descend into the pool of verbal muck to format that crapola and give it a hed. Clearly, no one even attempts to edit it into a publishable state. With Merkato 55, she had me at “the menu is colored.” But the stupid just kept coming. Until I realized that is the whole point. Unlike every earnest reviewer who has ever tried to contort into that impossible position, she has people talking. We study the brain wreck to see if there are indeed limits to cretinism. For the paper, though, it’s a deal with the devil. Let your copy editors amplify delicious nuances long enough and they will soon be letting “seemless bras” into print. And speaking of which, throw one onto the table, please. The promo ads could be for Spitzer services.

Scrapple it

April 2008

Higher up the print chain, all you need to know about why we have a good ol’ fuckup in the White House was on full display in an NYT blog post by a “reporter” on the trail with the Big O in Pennsylvania who was shocked, shocked to encounter that local oddity cheese fries — something sold less than a block from his workplace the last time I worked there, at the Nathan’s straight out of Coney Island. Candidates are expected to be totally in touch with every level of this very complex society. “Journalists” with six-figure incomes, 401Ks and stock plans can afford to be appalled by what the other nine-tenths eat. No wonder the Budweiser heir-by-marriage fed them Costco barbecue — he knew they would roll over and wet themselves.

Neither shocked nor awed

April 2008

What should be scaring the Barneys pants off print journasaurs is this: In the time it took me to gimp the mile and a half home from the press lunch at Cafe Boulud, someone got a blog post up. I was reading about what I had eaten before I had even begun to digest it. Which makes me worry for onebonyass.com — my consort had the same “Shades o’ Molly/How do you make a million in cyberspace? Start with three million” reaction I did. Free is an unbeatable price on the series of tubes.