Things I do not want to dwell on: Lime “jelly” smells exactly like our new “green” toilet bowl cleaner. Worse, my consort suspects the latter probably has more natural ingredients. Beware the inevitable bacon air fresheners. You could eat the wick and be better off than with the “real” deal.
Archive for April, 2009
Probably the saddest singles ad I have ever seen is the one now being disseminated by a public-radio food show desperately seeking “gastrosexuals.” Not only is it queasy-making, like watching Wallis Simpson cougaring Prince Harry. But can the producers really believe this Sunday Styles nonsense is what will attract younger listeners to Art Linkletter in the kitchen in the age of Vimeo? Viagra as secret seasoning might be a better bet.
Apparently we’re making progress swimming upstream in the toxic Wingnut River. Hillary’s husband kept the talking heads spewing for years over a mere haircut, but the vocal minority does not seem to be gaining much traction with its feigned outrage over St. Louis pizza baked at (not flown in for) the White House. The juxtaposition of pirate/hostage situation against frothing over “cheese-covered disks” certainly didn’t help. Mostly, though, I suspect the tight-sphinctered crazies are the real un-Americans because food is just fodder to them. The rest of us are rather happy to have a vicarious seder one night, Hyde Park pies the next, after the embarrassment of a sad simian choking on pretzels all by his lonesome. I just wonder how long it will be before the Old Europe dog food outrage boils over while real old ladies in Arizona are struggling to feed themselves. The batshit buffet is always open somewhere off to the far right.
The best part of this silliness is that all the food bloviators bowing toward Bianco seemed unaware of St. Louis slices senza Provel. It’s a leading digital indicator that e-rule by the masses may not be sustainable. Don’t believe what you read in the comments. Or in your slick magazines, for that matter. “Hot food zone” within walking distance? Uh. Huh. If tuna burgers were on the menu at Shake Shack, maybe.
Just as ridiculous was something I spotted about “NoZa,” someone’s idiotic coinage for the area above the anti-Eli’s. Not only have I never heard that term uttered out loud. But earth to hip blogs: You can get coffee up this way. We have dueling cappuccini right over on Amsterdam, and the cafe con leche at Malecon is exceptional. Actually, if it weren’t for Granddaisy, the real wasteland would be “SoFa.”
Anyone worried that blogs are hurting the MSM has only to pick up the latest weekly baedeker — chefs who normally don’t take phone calls apparently posed obediently in just-folks mode, doing the jobs Wall Streeters are crawling toward on bended knee (barista, hot dog vendor, etc.) Idea trumped execution, unfortunately. The photos were pretty effen lame. It was like hiring Joel Robuchon to whip up his signature potatoes and giving him Smart Balance to do it.
The good news just keeps coming these days. One day I’m informed that baby broccoli (a k a sprouts) will ward off stomach cancer, the next it’s licorice kicking bowel cancer’s ass. Ever since the Franklin Mint famously went to the Pom land, the first question I have is: Who sponsored this miraculous discovery? And of course I sat right up in suspense the other morning, wondering when the writer of a damning op-ed on “free-range” pigs would disclose who exactly underwrote the study finding animals raised in filth on antibiotics are safer. I jokingly Tweeted and soon had an answer. Yep, it was your friendly National Pork Board. Those guys want you to eat pork like chicken; they certainly will not get fat and happier by promoting meat from small farms where pigs get to live as pigs should, the now-unnatural way. I can’t fault the catapulter of the propaganda. But I do wonder where the backstop was on the editorial side. As the Journal has demonstrated, you lie down with Turdblossom and you wake up with no credibility. If I were the cynical sort, I’d propose a piece on how endangered snapper is the answer to pirates in the Indian Ocean. Hungry Somalian researchers say it’s so.
And that, of course, was the other big-laugh bonus of newspapers today. The Pollan Wannabe let his carnival mask drop and smart readers suddenly noticed he’s just talking the talk for maximum gain. And I would be bonding with all the alert readers who wondered where his editors were if I had not slogged through the Drivelist in gap-jawed fascination yet again. While she was dragging mollusks all over the kitchen in search of a nut graf, who could possibly look away long enough to wonder what the Google says? No worries, though. A Colbert shout-out is worth lost credibility any day. Just ask a certain new Dallas resident.
I also did not venture very far into but got a good laugh out of the stop-the-presses piece on wine without end. That has been the bane of my drinking existence for almost as long as I’ve been drinking better than Mateus. I get the shivers just thinking about it, and I have had it everywhere in the world. My suspicions about the care with which it is treated were confirmed one memorable day when we were walking past a cafe in Rome near the Piazza Navona and saw a tanker pulled up with hose extended into the cellar. The whole idea of vintners slaving over planting, weeding, harvesting, pressing and blending only to have wine pumped into a glass is unsettling. Gentlemen, start your gyros.
And speaking of wine, I passed an in-progress dedicated bar off Amsterdam the other day and thought it looked promising — good name, nice chairs, sleek design. Then a hulking workman ostentatiously leaned out one of the windows and hawked a honking lugie onto the sidewalk. If that’s what the construction crew does in public, I’m not sure I want to brave the glasses in private.
I can’t remember who dubbed the church down the block from us — the one with a circular pigeon shield over the statue of Mary out front — Our Lady of the Satellite Dish. But I would love to hear what she would make of the church right next door to us that is now trying to attract a flock with free mini-granola bars, handed out on the street with business cards. Pigeons, come to Jesus.
One of the many good things about being an old crank in a neophyte’s world is rolling with silliness that seems so outrageous but is really just the same as it ever was. Tavern on the Green as top-grossing restaurant? Next you’ll be telling me people flock to McDonald’s. Crappy cookbooks taking top honors at a big gathering of the food coven? Friends don’t let friends lose silly contests. Deviled eggs as Easter cliché? Come down off that cross; we could use the wood. Look away before you notice the definition of eternity is two Marys and a ham. July is coming and the grills are getting hot.
Just back from Buffalo, I’m feeling much younger, thank you. At the surprise birthday party we threw together for my in-law equivalent’s 80th, I calculated the average age at 71. At least four guests had reached four score and nine, probably from that good Polish food and those “mmm, mmm good” Easter traditions — horseradish symbolizes suffering, colored eggs represent the tomb, or so the flier I picked up the Brigadoonish Broadway Market insisted. At least I scored the Last Supper in chocolate form, made by fund-raising women of a local church who looked to have used the “one for me, one for the mold” formula. The devout do chocolate differently for sure. I only regret not asking about the protocol for consuming the dark body of Christ. Head first?
The conversation was surprisingly lively at our little soiree, even though only a few people partook of our California “Champagne.” We now know about sexting, for instance. But one guest mentioned she refused to use the self-checkout lanes at the local Topps because they’re eliminating jobs, which is a very good point now that we have inadvertently become a nation of DIY tellers and busboys and gasoline pumpers. Drive around the bleakest parts of downtown and you can also see clearly where delinking the horse from the carriage led, to huge parking lots and monstrous parking garages and neighborhood-wrecking interstates. The car made the streetcars obsolete and the suburbs viable, too. In the 26 years I’ve been going there, even the oldest Polish restaurants have devolved into empty, rotting buildings, and now a scary number of houses are marked for demolition. Yet front-page news on Sunday was the city’s refusal to allow a local couple to buy just two acres there to start an urban garden. Don’t tell Alice. Bad governments still prefer empty lots to locavorism.
One of Buffalo’s many strengths saving it from a fate worse than Detroit, though, is its plethora of one-of-a-kind, locally owned restaurants, so my only excuse for succumbing to Panera for our first meal was that it would be quick when we had cake to pick up and Wegman’s to navigate. And it was worth the journey to marvel at how accepting patrons were of sharing the pagers handed out to alert them when their orders were ready. Even crappy supermarkets have antibacterial wipes for grocery carts these days, and here people were happily handling potential noro virus carriers just before tucking into hand-to-mouth food.
A rather large percentage of diners there could probably afford to spend a week or two off their feed, however. The same was true at a quite good New Orleans-esque restaurant that night, where three of us kept sliding off the benches in our booth trying to connect with our plates. Only at the end, after a trip to the head when I noticed how immense some other diners were, did I realize what the problem was. To accommodate them, you’d need a space between table and chair roughly the width of the Erie Canal. It’s a good thing New York Cityans are migrating to Buffalo rather than the other way around; otherwise no restaurant designer who had worked there would ever get hired here, where the goal is apparently to cram an A train’s worth of seats into a Smart Car’s square inchage.
One last observation from what was obviously a long-overdue respite from the incessant online food BS I waste far too much time on at home. After tearing to the airport to get back, we had an unexpected half-hour to kill, and of course when the flight gets delayed, the delayed get wine. So we ducked into the new branch of the Anchor Bar in the Jet Blue area for some shiver shiraz and chardonnay. While gagging mine down, I was marveling at the city’s shrewdness in giving a local landmark prime real estate even though everyone knows the wings are better (and probably cheaper) just about anywhere else. Then I noticed the one sign attesting to the greatness of the snack invented at the original greasy/musty tavern — a “best of Buffalo” award from a magazine in 1999. Ten years ago. So now I read that the Road Sprats have a book coming out on American foods you must eat before they disappear (the foods, not the authors). And I guess it’s nice to know these wings have less in common with microraptors than with cockroaches. They ain’t going anywhere.