Archive for May, 2009

Check, please, Garzon

May 2009

I like how the Spaniards are letting the world know there’s cocaine in the air in Madrid and Barcelona, apparently in hopes of luring the Chimp over to get the war-crimes trials going. Hope they realize they could trap his evil henchman, too, just by throwing a few babies on the plancha.

Maybe leave the tip in quarters?

May 2009

New rule: Bartenders must wash shorts before bending over at work. Not much detergent got between the one in Dumbo and his Calvin Kleins. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he’d only been pouring wine and uncapping beer, but the hands that touched those skivvies were also muddling the mint.

“Unmistakeable” “Polenzo”

May 2009

It’s not surprising to see Panchito generating more buzz by ambling off to the magazine than he ever did with his chewing and typing. Once upon a time the speculation over his replacement might have mattered, but he did manage to make a big job very small (sort of the opposite of what he did with his coverage of the Chimp), and now the more amusing debate among bloggers is whether the position is being downsized. Filling that small hole in one section is rather expensive, and this would be a fine time to reinvent it altogether rather than rummage through clips looking for a correspondent who’s lunched overseas with Saint Alice. My newish friend down at the Casa de Slim has the best idea ever for saving newspapers: charge for comments, not for content. So why not dispense with the critical middleman, let restaurateurs post their own reviews and watch the feces fly?

Where have you gone, S.I. Hayakawa?

May 2009

We live in interesting times, word-wise. I just saw the absurd euphemism for starvation/force-feeding of suspected terrorists: dietary manipulation. Orwell has to be cringing. And Hormel is apparently too cowed even to use the four-letter word for its meat — you need a magnifying glass to find “pork” in its ads. Instead, they call the swine loins Always Tender Products. Which sounds sort of like something you’d find in the feminine hygiene aisle.

Guess the 5-year-old was busy

May 2009

Maybe it was not intentional, but the CIA sent a pretty clear message of what its graduates are expected to aspire to by choosing as commencement speaker a chef known primarily for appearing on the teevee. Apparently there are more jobs to be had on “Top Chef” than in hot, crazy kitchens where you get your hands dirty and your bones achy. At least Molto Croced the walk rather than just talking the talk.

Let’s make ’em add pop-up thermometers

May 2009

When the last big salmonella outbreak was being hammered on the news 24/7, I tried yet again to sell a piece on how the whole burden of eating safely has been shifted to the consumer in the last few years. What made it most timely was the absurdity of the current situation: How in the hell do you thoroughly cook peanut butter for self-protection? No buyer bit, so I was a little surprised to see the same notion finally deemed front-page news. Leaving aside the sloppy copy-editing (one more time: potpie is one word), it mostly seemed to be a roundup of uh-huhs that built to yet another consumer freakout crescendo. I skimmed it, my consort studied it, but I didn’t see much mention of the biggest reason why processed food is increasingly unsafe. It’s too fucking cheap. How can a parent think a 79-cent meal is going to be fit for a one-year-old to eat? As the saying almost as old as caveat emptor goes, you get what you pay for. These days it could be a ticket to the hospital.

Chicago, the non-musical

May 2009

I know even broaching the subject is going to get my character assassinated, because his best defense is always an offense, but you gotta wonder how the “restaurant guy”  gets away with it now that blogs and Tweets are tracking his every non-move for the check. My favorite part of the latest episode was the squirrelly letter from his editor, whom a friend described as “one slippery little fish.” Apparently it all depends on what your definition of pay is.

Still quoting the quote “machine”

May 2009

Now, of course, press parties are altogether different, and the one the Big Homme gave at his under-construction latest was worth the journey for sure, especially since it got us within three subway stops of our final destination, Dumbo for the photo festival. The menus were all posted, but even he admitted the food is still a work in progress (only photos of his eminence on a ladder were cleared for publication), so I expect there will be more pizzazz in the sausages etc. in the end. The design looks pretty promising, too, with copper cookware donated by Bocuse et al to create what BH jokingly called “the Hard Rock Cafe for food.” The high point was this exchange with a nice guy as three of us dodged the menace of a ceaseless conversationalist: “She’s about 40 percent sane.” “And about 2 percent interesting.” What was most fascinating about the whole elaborate affair was that I recognized so few old-media people, and at least two of those have more presence online. Then I came home and read the huge laudatory feature in Sunday Business and realized the mission was already accompli.

Ass toot

May 2009

I see “The Accidental Critic” is heading toward bookstores like swine flu in airplanes. My only curiosity is whether Panchito will devote at least a chapter to all the horseshit he swallowed and dutifully regurgitated in service to the Chimp. Considering the carnage that ensued, fucking Elvis looks like a noble deed.

Forty stars for an Asian bistro

May 2009

Given all the brouhaha over a code of ethics for food bloggers, though, it’s probably worth remembering how the gullible guy with a taste for towel-snapping wound up in such a position of ostensible power: Panic. MSM fill-in had fucked up as restaurant critic while the paper, still in that KK-induced Nigella fog, floundered around trying to replace the author of such unforgettable lines as “give me pesticides and flavor.” And don’t get me started on all the times I tried to point out that the family retainer was stealing the silver. . . The Wild West of cyberspace needs no stinking code. Those who do the dirty are gonna get exposed. While the old world of media continues to deny it has some ’splaining to do.

Not grilling but drowning

May 2009

I thought the new quesadilla burger was ridiculous at that chain made famous for its salad bar. But now I see the alternative is a bruschetta burger, with “fresh bruschetta” on top. As they say in Tuscany, WTF? I want whatever they’re smoking in R&D. But it’s also easy to see why the ’bees are struggling. A burger stuffed in a tortilla with cheese for $17.25? For that price they should throw in a couple of tamales in a sesame seed bun.

North of South Beach

May 2009

My consort and I have cut back so radically on going out to restaurants that choosing one can take me the better part of a day, especially when we’re hooking up with other people. Paralysis of analysis would be an understatement once I abandon my little notebook and the weekly magazines and descend into the bottomless pits of Menupages and blogs, with their Chang Kool-Aid and KFC kraziness. What I want seems pretty straightforward: Food at least more interesting than I could cook at home. Entree prices that leave some money for the elixir of life. A noise level at least slightly below Bedlam. (Why go out to talk when you can’t hear?) And Jeebus, is that one unfillable prescription. But I learned something from this latest bout of angst, when I thought back on the restaurant formerly known as Montrachet, where braying Wall Street jackasses were doing everything but peeing into the eggplant terrine just before the Eighties crash: The more buzz a restaurant gets, the less appealing it now seems. Given that heat attracts assholes and inspires attitude, trendy can wait.

You vill eat special sauce

May 2009

Just when you think the wingnuts’ batshit insanity cannot get any more guano-unhinged, they decide to stake their stupid on Kraft mustard. Personally, I always thought what you like on your burger should be between you and your condiment, but apparently there is only one true choice. Rather than worrying about how depressed Joe McCarthy would be considering what character flaws really matter today, though, I’m sinking into my own slough of despond over how clearly the food-writing profession has failed. How can Dijon mustard be perceived as elitist today when it has to be the first ingredient in just about every vinaigrette recipe written? (And lest anyone think vinaigrette is effete, some of those recipes were titled “salad dressing,” and I cannot count how many times I’ve been threatened with “honey mustard vinegarette.”) Just thinking about all this monumental crap sent me to the databases, where I was surprised to see Epicurious’s cough up 149  recipes with the offending ingredient while Taste of Home’s yields . . . 974. Guess we know who the real Americans are now. Scrub them down with falafel.

Every Citronelle outing a public shaming

May 2009

A real live reader asked me recently if it isn’t harder to keep carping without the Chimp. But really, how can we miss him when he will not go away? Another reader down in his new hometown sent me a sighting of the simian war criminal in a restaurant where he allegedly was greeted with a standing ovation. So the village has its idiot back. Pretzels all around!

Oysters and pearls before swine

May 2009

Anyone with half an organic brain could tell the cyber-scandale over Saint Alice allegedly acting like an ass had to be bullshit of the highest order. But I loved how quickly it evolved into a new blame game. She may have been in Chicago at the time of the crime, but someone resembling her apparently put on a pretty arrogant show before TWC witnesses. So who was that nasty number?