Archive for January, 2011

Or, breakfast bars in closets

January 2011

Apparently hospitals are the latest to follow the airline model of chefly promotion. I read the NYTimes feature on Sloan Kettering’s tailored food for pediatric patients and was very glad for any extra effort for kids going through hell. But it still seemed a little off. This is a hospital, after all, that has probably the worst cafeteria offerings I’ve ever encountered, and I have eaten Buffalo General’s. There’s a reason McDonald’s and other unhealthy chains have made inroads in what should be bastions of nutritional sanity. Who wouldn’t prefer a heart attack on a tray over steam table crap and overpriced salads on their last leaves? But I should have known this was a planted puff piece, and sure enough, here comes an e-release touting the CIA’s new course on hospital “cuisine.” Why don’t they just hire a few celebrity chefs’ names and call a press conference? Maybe at a Duane Reade with growlers. And, imagine this: sushi.

Three for the price of two

January 2011

Over on Trails I give deets on the eating, but right upfront I have to say the Seconda Tenuta was more what I expected on my third encounter. The theme park feel only got more pronounced as my friend and I walked from cheese counter to meat case to seafood counter to bread bar. By the time we settled at the bar of the seafood ride I had had about enough jangle. And I was furious at myself for getting suckered into waiting for a table/seats/anything on the pizza/pasta ride. On the plus side, the longer we spent, the more I flashed on DDL Foodshow. This, too, will undoubtedly pass. Maybe one day we’ll be flocking to the Chinese, or Indian, upgrade. Meantime, I have to note that I was very happy to find an Arneis for $28 on the wine list. And I was even happier when my consort came home from the heartland with the menu from his dinner at Lidia’s offering the same bottle for $36. Next stop for Disney Italia: KCMO. Real Americans are easily snookered.

In the top 14

January 2011

Getting the serious stuff out of the way first: It was quite telling that Giffords’ husband issued a statement advising anyone who wants to do some good as she heals to donate to the Tucson Community Food Bank (and the Red Cross). One reason my birth state has gone batshit insane — more than usual — is that it’s not exactly in prime economic health. The Chimp did a number on this country . . .

“Like it’s carved off the roast”

January 2011

And now back to the cynicism: Did processed crap set a world record for exploitation in having a commercial out less than a week after the golden-throated street guy was “discovered”? If he wasn’t on the sauce before, having to intone golden-throated BS about “cheesy noodles” for boxed macaroni might send him straight to the Mad Dog.

But what about the “lasagna”?

January 2011

The hometown paper seems embarrassingly enamored with the idea of a Food Network star as de facto first lady in Albany. Which is probably just as well, because apparently you don’t mess with the Kwanzaa Kake Kreator. Safer to fawn than to mock when even snarky criticism tends to get disappeared. Nice blogs you got your high-paid staff cranking out. Be a shame if anything happened to them.

That said, picking on food teevee stars is like kicking a dog for crapping on the sidewalk. You can’t blame the animal for doing what its handler encourages. But I have to say, having watched only one too-long clip, that the newest entry in the dumbing-down of the American kitchen makes me think the Mayans might be right about end times. This really is crude fud porn, right down to the inflatable-doll O mouth. “An omelet and a pizza falling in love and having a baby” is a longwinded way of saying fucking was involved, and would you want to eat it? But the “Mexican fiesta in my face” just made me think of carrot bukkake. . . At least no Eggbeater label was visible.

Caneles or cankles

January 2011

Not sure why I don’t feel very amused lately, because I’ve certainly had no shortage of annoyances. Like false analogies and seasonal sins and general “how did that see print?” as in octopus “legs.” Describing anything as being as complicated as a Thomas Keller recipe makes me think no one ever heard of butter-poached lobster, and this from a paper that just advised how to cook a Christmas tree. And what was up with saying New Year’s resolutions fizzle like a glass of chilled Champagne? Even in one of those Marie Antoinette tit glasses, Champagne does not fizzle. And then there’s zucchini mock soufflé in butternut season. Apparently summer squash is okay if it’s “flown in from Peru”? But at least no quote whores were dragged out to offer improbable origins of restaurant color trends. Oh. Right.

Just add red, trendy as the Cat

January 2011

My consort laughs at me for wandering into the cesspool that is the WSJournal’s opinion pages, but many times it pays off. You need to know the enemy to see what’s ahead — ugly so quickly accelerates. Take the letter to the editor after a rational column advocating calming the fuck down about butter, cream and bacon. Rather than attacking the writer or the science, the Astroturfer went after a dead icon, noting that Julia Child had breast cancer at 51 and asserting that she had “chronic weight problems.” (Call this anus the jerque who mistook a 6-foot woman for Paul Prudhomme.) “Child Wasn’t a Good Health Model” is a helluva hed when you consider she lived to 91 (they could look it up) and kept her bile well contained. I’m assuming the Murdoch health insurance plan comes with very good drugs.

Someday a change is gonna come

January 2011

ReTweeting myself:

–I saw a sign at Holy Foods for “troll-caught albacore.” From under a bridge, I guess.

–If ever a movie cried out for a cocktail to be invented by desperate flacks, it’s “True Grit.”  Not “Black Swan,” for Peter Martins’ DWI sake.

–And this really is a superb take by the Daily Show on the San Francisco ban on Happy Meals.

Maybe one from the City of New Orleans

January 2011

Meant to write this after my magical ride to/from Buffalo by train to avoid the cancer boxes and grope theatrics at the airports: Amtrak should rip a page from the airline playbooks and hire a celeb chef or two to “reinvent” its “cuisine.” Said celeb would not have to actually do anything, just show up and make some noise about sous vide and cupcakes etc. and let the media dutifully regurgitate the “news” of stars on the rails. Then the cafe cars, like the airlines, could continue punching out microwave sandwiches for drunks (in the immortal words of Rosey the halibut fisherman in Kodiak), but at least people might realize there’s food on board with no radiation or security kabuki. And tables at which to eat it.

First the review, then the preview party

January 2011

After 27 years in this business, I’m not often totally gobsmacked (astonished/amazed/shocked, yes). But this week, dangerously late on a column I could not be late on again, I resorted to the last resort of desperate freelancers and hit a PR agency with a blanket request: HELP, find me a notable chef with three or four bits of advice to offer. Sure, sure, came the answer. And at the end of the day, I got exactly one quote from some obscure idiot that read like an outtake from a particularly cretinous episode of one of the cleaver-rattling shows on the teevee. I wanted to hit reply with: “This is a joke, right?” Instead I moved on, more confident than ever that dinosaurs are languishing between chefs and reporters. Surely those scores of restaurants could be putting those fat fees to better use. Maybe not coincidentally, my consort and I were just at a party where the photographer host was lamenting the shutdown of all the photo agencies that once marketed his work for a percentage. As I pointed out, why do you need the middleman in the age of the internets? One day, probably soon, a restaurant with a high-profile flack will be like a website with annoying music.