As Charlie Rangel’s stand-in warned long ago, anytime the Chimp is photographed smirking broadly you can be sure he is up to something evil with no cameras watching. Case in point was the Skank Twin’s “modest” wedding, seen ’round the world. The White House Champagne reception for 600? Held behind closed doors while the Mississippi kept rising. And they probably served Pet Goat cheese.
Archive for June, 2008
One acorn has apparently fallen very far from the tree. How could the dad be so smart when the son doesn’t know free-range chickens don’t live on grain? They’re not out there stretching their drumsticks. They’re running around ingesting worms and other grossness. As a James Thurber, this kid makes a good “Moose Murders.”
When it comes to language, the fish truly does rot from the head down. Start out turning “torture” into “enhanced interrogation techniques” and before you know it “fancy” has lost its meaning. The idea of an “Un-Fancy Food” event to counter the original is totally down the rabbit hole. My friend Rolando, who actually opened a restaurant at one point to avoid the shit show that is the Javits Center in summer, has it right when he says it is all about making America fat, not about any “high-flown” or “expensive” products. For every artisanal cheese, there are 32 aisles of white chocolate-raspberry-bacon dips and crappy candies and tortured meats and seasoned-to-saccharine olives. Suffice it to say that a surprising number of attendees are in wheelchairs, and not because they are wraiths — they are too large to even waddle. The real “fancy” food had to have been down at the alt-event.
Is it my imagination, or has the closing of Florent gone on longer than the Iraq War? And been covered more diligently? You would think the guy was, to quote Cheryl Wheeler, Gandhi or Buddha or someone like that, someone who saved lives by the hundreds everywhere he went. Get a grip. Sometimes a diner is just a diner.
Say one thing for Cesare, though: If he had to go out with much less overkill, he was exiting with an abbondanza bang. We were on our way to the subway from my new favorite restaurant when I remembered the invitation to stop by for wine and salame, and so even though we were five minutes ahead of schedule four of us muscled our way in as the party for regulars was loudly winding down. I felt a little like our friend who rang the doorbell early for a going-away dinner in his honor and overheard my behind-on-the-ice-cream consort blurt out: “Shit!” But the herb-scented one’s assistant immediately escorted us into a booth and brought drinks and then the food started coming, much more than promised: the great fried pasta from the bar; cheese and meatballs; steak and shrimp. A waiter dropped off two bottles of wine for the second round, and it was hard to dislodge my friends before we could consume it all — and we had just finished a huge meal. The good news is that the creativity is undiminished: the prosciutto arrived wrapped around watermelon slices. And the better news is that he’s opening closer to us. I just hope he keeps the horse wineglasses. And as one of the accidental crashers with me said: The closing was more fun than an opening.
I know people from America are very different from us, here at the center of the universe, but really, what would possess a grown man to travel to New York and parade around in a T-shirt reading: “Instant idiot — just add beer”? And how did I know he was not from around here? The shirt was size XXXL and still too small.
Just some random thoughts: Root beer is truly the bottom of the barrel. But let those who do not run Gucci ads on section fronts, and design whole sections around wine ads, cast the first stone at magazines too cozy with advertisers. Still, old media looks pretty good compared with the two silliest things I saw all week, both on the same food blog. One was a post on produce carts in poor neighborhoods in Manhattan that was illustrated with photo clip art from the tropics (yes, we have pineapples, but also every other fruit). The other was a rant against “sardines” on pizzas. Would those be anchovies on steroids? I’d love to hear the idjit complaining in a restaurant: Waiter, there’s a sardine in my Caesar.
Dinner afterward was one long argument about the quality of the movie-making, but I have to say the new Werner Herzog is a seriously good food film. A few sequences are as slow as an Omnivorish exploration of his own dieting, but I got my fill on the shoe-eater’s quoting “the best description of hunger is a description of bread” and his observation that the base camp of the first explorers now looks like “an extinct supermarket.” It does make you think about dried fruit as the new canned mutton. And the Frosty Boy churning out something that Skimpy Treat would have happily served is richly ironic in the land of hard-frozen ice. Mostly, though, I came away wondering why scientists are searching for the origins of life when death for humankind is rapping at the front door. Those scallops and squid and seals are going to be there long after the last greenhouse tomato has been infected with salmonella.
Dips are the fondue of America: always on the verge of turning trendy but never out of style. I wrote the same story for the same syndicate, so I shouldn’t be mean, but I do wonder why the editors in the second city felt compelled to drop a bracketed link to Unholy Foods into someone’s direct quote in their piece online. Is Rumsfeld now working for those saints? The propaganda is being catapulted like war lies lately — in a story about another grocer altogether, the NYTimes felt compelled to expound at length about an employee who allegedly will guide shoppers through the stores to find “values” of the cash register kind. Personally, I have yet to be able to even buy meat at the Union Square outlet because the “butchers” are always too busy chatting among themselves to worry about mere customers. You could grow cobwebs waiting for service. And I don’t think this is what they mean by aged beef. But have you heard about the short checkout lines?
As for the wannabe curmudgeon who mistook speckled for regular trout, he apparently retains an astonishing ability to have it both ways — claim bloggers are know-nothings but follow their leads; claim bloggers don’t bug him while shooting off insultingly stupid emails. As a faraway friend (south of the Mason-Dixon) commented, “It’s sad how far he’s fallen.” He did set the bar for kicking while down, though, so I just have to quote that old saying: When you find yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is stop digging.
Bad enough the Brits wined and dined the Chimp as if he were human and not a war criminal. But now they’ve gone and denied sweet old Martha Stewart a visa (never mind that she did her time, unlike so many Scooters). And that could make it awkward if the Mrs. Chimp Wannabe ever needs an audience with the Queen. After all, she steals not only recipes but drugs and husbands, too.
As for the Chimp’s enabler, I freaked out another guest at a superb 50th-birthday party in the Asian Den at Ruby Foo’s uptown when I told her he was more than just a travesty of a restaurant reviewer. She had no idea. The service was so hyper-attentive I might have had more than my share of wine, though, because I can’t remember if I also passed on the amazing gossip I heard about his partner in late-night teevee viewing. Adam, meet apple. . .
Now that the NYTimes op-ed page has become just another stop on the promotional circuit for authors of food books, I shouldn’t have been surprised that bananas were served forth. Not much of the fruit of the matter was a surprise to me because I had to review a predecessor of the latest tome seven or eight years ago (without consultation, some tight-assed gray ghost of a copy editor rewrote my lede [clumsily paraphrased here, since it has been seven or eight years]: “No one looks intelligent eating a banana. Imagine sustaining a whole book on the subject.”) And I have done at least one story on growers who specialize in “heirloom” bananas and so remain more worried about the extinction of polar bears. But I was amazed at the glib description of the apple as a fruit that is largely local and also at the throwaway at the end about “what other fruit can you slice over your cereal?” How about them apples? Or peaches, or strawberries, or apricots, or even mangos? Looking around at the mess on my desk, I can safely say you can look forward to contemplative pieces soon on fat, and Fairway, and maybe even “Sam the recipe guy’s just a bunch of recipes.”
I must have been an elephant in a previous life. I read all the gushing online coverage of a fadeout on Central Park South and could only remember bad stuff: The first time I went, with a bunch of food photographers, and how underwhelmed we all were by the raviolo with egg and how poleaxed we were by the bill. The second time I went, at the insistence of a sommelier friend who comped me lunch, and how astonished I was to be virtually shoved against my chairback by a pissed-off owner insisting he was right and I was wrong about a piece I’d written in the NYTimes magazine about bogus Italian (my editor there, to her eternal credit, later admitted she had read his letter and sent it straight to the trash, do not pass writer). And the last time was truly the anti-charm: A neighbor who happens to move among the lawyer class wanted to indulge for Restaurant Week and I indulged her, only to find ourselves shunted off to some shitty table in the back with contemptuous waiters and fish that was already in Purgatory and really kiss-off desserts and appetizers. Every time I have walked past the place since I have wondered how it has hung on so long when it is truly the antithesis of true Italian (Italy being, of course, the country where I have eaten more often than I have anywhere but the “homeland”). But I do give him credit. He knows how to work the cyber-world. Next he’ll be hooking up with that superhero Ko-Man and banning photography.
Random funnies I’ve overheard lately: Hustling up Eighth Avenue and late for lunch, I passed a heavyset sweating woman pushing a dolly stacked with Sid Wainer boxes and thought how odd that was on that street, dominated as it is by fast food crapola. Just as I got in front of her and her cellphone, I heard: “Where the fuck is DB Bistro Modern?” (Short “I” in Bistro, too.) I didn’t have the heart to point out that she was a long way from maison. And then there was the fill-in elevator operator in our building who was trained to put shareholders first, leaving no deliveryman unattended. He had a full complement of privileged residents and one Asian guy with a steaming aromatic bag in hand when I got on. After the fourth stop to pick up more people, the bag man started screaming in Chinese (I guess). And the Hispanic kid just responded: “I hear what you’re saying, but I can’t leave you alone.” Floor after floor, fury in Chinese was countered by calm in English. He was good. And then he was gone. Clearly, frustration is a universal language.