Archive for October, 2010

Two mints in one

October 2010

And I started to wonder if the Schnorrer might have driven off Michelin’s top guy with the annoyance of his remarkably un-self-aware grilling — no job pays well enough for that merde. (That interview was almost Turd Blossom-level projection.) But then I realized the fact that the Michelin top guy’s departure was considered such huge news actually validates the Guide’s importance. He didn’t even exist in American minds just a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, a certain magazine is doing its best to hide a cover line behind its logo on the new issue. Because of course those best new restaurants were all chosen after repeated anonymous paid visits. . . .

Absent at the reunion?

October 2010

As always, someone misconstrued my Tweet when I linked to the Slate-esque confession by a novelist that she was responsible for Gourmet’s demise because of its indulgence of her free-spending ways. My take was that failure has a million mothers in this situation — who hasn’t been blamed besides the real culprit: the enthusiasm gap? (As I’ve hammered repeatedly, this was a Joni Mitchell line in action: No one missed it till it was gone.) But I’m so cynical I realized the come-to-Jesus moment occurred for the most craven of reasons — I read it only a day after a big House & Home feature and just thought: Someone has a new book coming out. It’s link bait, formerly arboreal media- style.

One mint, missing in acknowledgments

October 2010

The other day I mistyped a URL looking for James Wolcott’s singular snark and realized I’d come up with the perfect title for a Tin Chef cookbook: Vanity Fare. Could someone please explain to me why, in this day and artisanal age, anyone would print a recipe calling for cream of crap soup? You know what works great? Actual cream.

And speaking of cookbooks, the moribund weekly that put Coulter on the cover hit a new low with its roundup, easily the laziest I think I’ve ever read. Every day I open our front door to find new books piled up, and the best choices include one by someone most skilled at appearing on the teevee? One whose recipes are not “hers” but produced by minions while she’s off doing what she does best? And the third recommendation is a book you won’t cook from? And the fourth is more a pander than a tout? The whole column took me back to the sorry old days when cooks cooked and writers wrote and editors understood that the twain rarely met in the same contributor. Also, too, can someone please explain to me why anyone would want a beer-braised cheeseburger? Better to grill some stew meat. And wax melancholic about Atlantic City.

Can’t believe it’s not Land O’Beurre

October 2010

I also enjoyed the “shocked, shocked” reaction to the food writers across the northern border who swallowed the flackery they were handed and dutifully regurgitated odes to soup mix. I guess the Google was down and so many of these pure souls reaching for the smelling salts couldn’t check on how often Americans do the same. Just to pluck the low-hanging fruit, aren’t we way overdue for another ode to Hungry Girl?

Forget the skankery — take the appletini

October 2010

My favorite part of the not-overhyped “Social Network”? The sandwich scene. To think the whole friending business could have turned out entirely differently if the Wasp twins had had the good sense (and manners) to bring out cucumber on crust-trimmed white  on a silver salver, just like he pictured it. But I also have to say I started to take the story most seriously after the 66 scene. The faux rang true.

Double your duck rillettes

October 2010

My consort was bitching that I spend too much time housebound (maybe soon I can reinvent myself as a Paula Deen recovering from “agoraphobia”?), so I picked myself up, dusted off my Metrocard and headed for the Essex Market, with Chinatown or maybe Curry Hill as my final destination, as they say at 30,000 feet when you really don’t want to contemplate what that really means. And what do I wander into but the Grub Street food festival, where the lines for anything interesting were absurd. So I was happy the next day to find everything at the New Amsterdam Market instantly accessible, whether Porchetta’s daintily stuffed panino or Luke’s excellent lobster roll. But what was good for us is bad for those superb vendors. They — and the city — need a covered market that runs 362, like the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco. Bloomberg claims to care so much, so why can’t he water one of the worst food deserts, the South Street Seaport? Walking back to the subway, passing all those sidewalk cafes dishing up tourist fodder, we just wondered why bigger signs weren’t posted to steer the lost souls to the great regional stuff. And then we realized we’d answered our own question. That crap is what makes New York run.

“A tube of bologna wrapped around a breadstick”

October 2010

This is, as our friend Leslie Wong always said, a city where “the more people get fucked the more they like it” — the longest lines are always at the pizza shop with the crappiest slices. So when sensible friends reported they tried to go to the Seconda Venuta and were dissuaded by the queue halfway down the block, this old cynic only wondered if the “crowd control” might not really be a scam to pump up demand. People, after all, once swarmed to Mamma Leone’s.

“Gifted at being on television”

October 2010

I may be no great judge of aesthetics, but I have to wonder WTF the designers cobbling together crap for the queen of EVOO are thinking. With their latest cobbling, they’ve actually topped the scrap bowl in Technicolor Yawn pattern — the oil dispenser bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a female urinal. Next up: a padella for paella.

Spin, PR wheels

October 2010

As I Tweeted on reading about the Minneapolis freelancer who shocked, shocked his editors by asking for freebies in rating bars: Old media apparently expects contributors to turn water into wine. “Zero budget” is kinda limited when it comes to palate experiences. Even funnier, the note to restaurateurs almost exonerated him. There’s a big difference between asking for “complementary” and “complimentary.”

For the same reason, I do like to see how the tables are turning with restaurant guides in the city. Given a choice between the Maroons, with their ballots more like life lists than scientific surveys, and the inflated tire guy, what self-respecting chef wouldn’t go for the professionals? They spend the money to do it right. And for all the alleged change of heart, I still remember Michelin’s debut awards ceremony. Some pretty tough guys were rather weepy that night. . .

Heirloom pumpkinhead

October 2010

And another ReTweet: The most pretentious label of the year has to be the one at the French Laundry: Culinary Garden. Why use “kitchen” when extra syllables will do?

And a $557 feline enema

October 2010

The big story on all-American McD’s threatening to cancel its health “insurance” for employees is the new zombie. Even after it was debunked, it keeps getting dragged out as a warning on “Obamacare.” This is the deliberate opposite of Upton Sinclair aiming at America’s heart with “The Jungle” and hitting its stomach; there’s nothing like fear of no more Cheap Macs to get idiots riled. The fact is that what a mere two or three employees per outlet are privileged to enjoy is virtually no benefits for absurdly high premiums. They, and their underlings, would be much better off under the plan slowly taking effect. But I guess this country would rather wither in the state of denial. You can’t have your 99-cent burgers and be served by healthy employees, too. Would you like shit with that?

Did I really ask about food stamps for soda?

October 2010

Just because I’m a cynic, I Tweeted a link to Time’s piece on the new project by one of the world’s most starred chefs, training poor immigrant women in Paris to become cooks. I carefully phrased my reaction by calling it “interesting” and “small,” just to watch the reaction. And I think it might have been RT’d almost more than any of my 12,000-and-counting other 140-character outbursts. Only one follower, who not coincidentally is a restaurant critic in Brussels, had the right reaction: “Nice PR operation.” Because if you poke that story too ungently, you see that 15 women is the proverbial drop in the bucket with a problem so pervasive. And as the piece noted, some of them are too old ever to make it into a professional kitchen, let alone one as male-dominated as those in France. With such a huge empire — 27 restaurants alone — his heart is in the right place, I guess. But his wallet is stowed somewhere even safer.

“I believe it’s weal”

October 2010

And this is just hearsay, and clearly she had an ax to hone, but a farmer at one of the Greenmarkets this week overheard me talking to a chef about the Seconda Venuta and snapped: “It’s a hoax!” Apparently they promised to buy a cornucopia. Maybe local grows on espresso beanstalks?

Pig in a blanket, indeed

October 2010

So I guess I have to acknowledge the big issue, that the hometown paper’s Sunday magazine finally decided to emulate the New Yorker and devote nearly every page to fud. I tried to slog through it, but even for me it was just too much, too close to fetishizing rather than enlightening. Apparently all artisans are young hipsters too constipated to crack a grin. Every CSA experience has to reflect the same arc, from scorn to worship. (I read backward, obviously.) Self-promotion is now acceptable if you include your boss. Etc. Etc. What was most fascinating was that this should have been the fattest issue of all time. Even back when I contributed to the Food column, in those halcyon days when it was more recipes than plodding prose, I knew the only reason it existed in such a “serious” publication was to lure advertisers. This month I think skinny Relish sucked in more. Still, one commercial appeal worked: By the end, I was ready for a shot of Patron.

4 entrees in “Soul Kitchen”

October 2010

The suspiciously timed “terror alert” for Americans traveling in Europe made me realize what the best definition of an ignominious end is: Meeting your maker at a McDonald’s with a bunch of other poorly dressed tourists too timid to eat foreign food.