Archive for July, 2008

Shane Starbucks

July 2008

What’s even funnier is that one of those sackcloth-and-ashes sites leading the grief parade just touted the opening of a Qdoba. (Manhattan is now a mini-mall.) And on another I learned there apparently is a supermarket chain called Roach Bros. Vermin Ltd. would be more reassuring.

Press 1 for heart disease

July 2008

Funny how the Great Black Hope was so thoroughly lambasted by the wingnuts for suggesting a second language might actually be an asset in modern life. I wonder if the “talk English, damn it!” knuckle draggers are now going to boycott McDonald’s, given that a slick flier tucked into two of our newspapers had coupons in both Spanish and a form of English. It should be the end of America as we know it. But a country cowed by tomatoes will never give up its cheap beef, let alone 20 piezas of chicken “nuggets” por $3.49.

Root beer with that cheeseburger?

July 2008

One of the most talented photographers the hometown paper ever hired had to come in the back door, through the web when the web was the crude and rude cousin of the staid and serious print edition. He was one smart kid, though, because he worked the soft sections like nobody’s business, getting assignments to do anything the other guys already ensconced in their velvet coffins were too comfortable to bother with, and doing them much better. The surest sign of his brilliance is that he managed to get hired on staff, with all those once-lavish benefits, but did not stick around to molder in the velvet. So when he throws out advice, you would think newspapers would listen. He has a long screed up in cyberspace about new media, and one thing he despairs over is a newspaper sending out videographers to cover car crashes simply because those generate the most hits online. What does it profit a publication to attract mega-traffic and suffer the loss of its own soul? Hmmm. Nestle not buying cookie ads? Might be time to review another strip joint. . . .

Three drinks and she’s under the Host

July 2008

I’ve known MoDo was full of Rove fertilizer ever since the day her urgent message went through the Style department desperately seeking a food metaphor on deadline, but lately I’m almost feeling sorry for ol’ Howell’s golden girl. Every time she bares her teeth you want to toss cosmo-soaked Clinton kibble to her. Obama is “in danger of being too prissy about food,” she snipes? When the elitest of the elite throw polished stones, you gotta wonder if old McLame might not be our next president. He sweats. He stumbles. He is a Manly Man out of the Chimp’s mold. Someone please buy this woman a cucumber.

“Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter”

July 2008

The latest proof that there is no justice in this world: The Chimp has done more than enough to be convicted of war crimes. But considering the hot dogs he has inflicted on guests in the White House, he would not suffer a second on a prison diet. Maybe he could be force-fed foie gras?

Bertolli champignon

July 2008

I don’t think it was intended as a spoof, but the half-page ad an Italian-American group took out in the hometown paper was pretty amusing. Protesting some sportscaster’s dissing of a golfer with a name perceived to be one step up from Guido, it listed Graziano and Marciano and Colavito. I read the thing twice looking for the D chef. Either I’m blind or they are embarrassed.

“Do you break your eggs before you buy ’em?”

July 2008

This is the season for reality checks on Union Square. I stopped to inspect the corn even though I should have learned last week, and as I was turning away from the piles of shrunken ears, I overheard an accented voice say: “They are so small.” To which the kid collecting dollars said, “Well, it’s early. They’ll get bigger later on.” And the response: “Why don’t you let them grow?” Foolish foreigner. When you can get 50 cents now, why wait?

Pin the tail on the produce

July 2008

As cynical as I am, though, I was still surprised to see Jersey farmers this summer have to spring for big signs reading: “Our tomatoes are safe to eat.” This was on 97th Street, and at least the photo looked like what was on offer, too-perfect specimens straight from the greenhouse, not the field. But once again, it made me wonder why we are not all storming the Capitol with pitchforks over the unbelievable fiasco the FDA has fermented with its bungling of the salmonella scare. Now the fools allegedly watching out for both bioterrorism and regular old food safety are saying the culprit might be jalapenos. Or maybe cilantro. And don’t forget scallions kill, too. Thank allah it’s only food, or half the produce aisle would be penned up at Guantanamo.

Springwater, now with more statins

July 2008

This same agency, of course, will probably get right behind the insane recommendation to put kids on cholesterol drugs. Kids. Whose little livers have to process whatever is in those pills for decades. I know from my pathetic health-writing years that the best prescription for a long life is to choose the right parents. But cholesterol should be controllable with diet and exercise. I guess that’s just not as lucrative for Big Business as taking the whole family through McDonald’s and then handing out the daily dose before the human larvae sit down to a long night of the latest Grand Theft Auto. If the choice is between hell and reincarnation, I’m going where it’s nice and warm.

And they called it moussaka

July 2008

One of the hoariest of chestnuts in the food writers’ patented Cliche Collection is staff meal, a k a family meal. I’ve experienced it, in restaurant school, and I’ve succumbed to it, for my infamous feature on Mexicans in high-end restaurants. But whether you call restaurant employees staff or family, they always — always — eat much better when a reporter is in the vicinity. In short, eight courses is the new loaves and fishes, the new water into wine. I’ve alway known there are no new stories, only new reporters. Who could have anticipated the internets would be just as gullible? Or that Keyser Soze is really a chef downtown?

Ghost repeaters

July 2008

Then again, how desperate would you have to be to take a flack up on an offer to live-blog a press stunt? People are really going to clog the series of tubes with twits on tea in return for the chance to be a star handing out business cards in the age of Facebook? Sounds like the cyber casting couch. Then again, that kind of comfort work is working out okay on the Bam front. Ad Age “caught up to the celebrity chef on the set of a Crest commercial shoot” and asked, “How do you stay authentic?” Not coincidentally, the accompanying photo showed him in an organic tomato field. Presumably up to his knees in manure.

Big in Japan

July 2008

Not that I’m resentful or anything, but I have to suspect the famous Doughy Pantload keeps his gig in penny-wise times because he gets so many hits even though most of the ensuing comments hit the same note: “You, sir, are a wanker. And a total cretin to boot.” If all a publication wants is traffic, it works. But it really is a sad business model for newspapers in an era of unparalleled knowledge and insight. So, not that I’m scornful or anything, the ode to the cookie older than John McCain struck me as suffering from the same motivation. This was the biggest story in the most sophisticated food city in the country? And it made something so easy so much more complicated? People eat the goddamn dough raw. The saddest thing is that I had lunch a couple of days later with a neophyte so neo he didn’t know the Scourge of New Orleans once had a show on the teevee, let alone (barely) who Pierre Franey was, and his reaction was essentially: “Aren’t all newspaper food sections that dumb?” I felt like the combined ghost of Mme X and the Crocodile in thinking: One didn’t used to be. . . .

In the name of the fatback

July 2008

Another young ’un sounds astonished that the CIA (the good one) would let the Spamsters slap their gross brand all over a new program. I still remember my week up there for a story on “nutritional cuisine” and how my editors made me excise digs on the branding mania in the joint. This revered institution makes Enron on 12th Street look pure. It’s Ecolab this and Hilton that. What’s a little unnerving is that schools of all stripes have become so dependent on this kind of underwriting even before all the easy loans have dried up for prospective students. Will Walmart and Wendy’s be enough to keep culinary education alive in this country?

Private school’s out forever

July 2008

One of the funniest (and not ha-ha) things I’ve heard recently was some talking head saying the economy is actually doing really well, it’s just that journalists are getting laid off and crying the blues. Which makes me think maybe that should have started happening in 2004 — we wouldn’t be saddled with a reprise of the worst administration ever if Americans had been clearly informed that the village idiot they wanted to have a drink with had driven the country into a ditch. On the bright side, though, I am noticing this really interesting break between the bloviators who get so much airtime and the serfs condemned to cover them. For every George Will agreeing with Phil Gramm that this is a nation of crybabies you get a reporter recounting living on a food stamp budget, driving less or otherwise cutting back. And while I am no fan of the Svelte Pantload’s desperately unfunny navel-gazing, his piece on what famous chefs could cook for dinner for $10 put the lie to the notion that this is a recession in mind only. The image of Tom Colicchio having to put back a zucchini because it breaks the bank? Priceless.

They serve fugu, don’t they?

July 2008

Leave it to the Chimp to make the Bud Heiress look like the pettiest of thieves. She only swiped a few recipes (well, and a lot of drugs, too). He stole the whole cookbook on Chinese torture. Are false confessions as good as mock apple pie?