Archive for December, 2011

And cheesy was once a dis

December 2011

Naturally it’s behind the paywall, but the New Yorker has a great feature this week on the richest woman in India, who made all those rupees developing drugs. One graf near the end is worth the price of the issue: Her company has been working on the “holy grail” for Big Pharma, which would be oral insulin in a processed-crap world where everyone is developing diabetes (50 million in India alone). And Biocon came close until the patients who were given placebos in trials improved because they wanted to impress their doctors. “Suddenly, their control group of diabetics had started exercising and eating better.” Message? Diabetes is both preventable and curable senza drugs. Maybe it’s time for Occupy the Pharmacies. Walk away from the Lipitor. And eat beans.

Crisco Deen

December 2011

Speaking of the New Yorker, did the hometown editors think no one gets both publications? Faux News attack aside, that lead story read like deja vu all over again.

Not the time to promote a “big ass burger”

December 2011

Even I get weary of picking on Panchito, but he really should take that huge target off his posterior. Didn’t he help keep the Lump in the Bed’s fatal distraction off the national radar until the Chimp was duly installed? And at least he could be gracious enough to address the dissing her successor is taking from the KKKrazies. He is, after all, a guy with his own twisted relationship with pretzels.

“Take that, liver”

December 2011

I’m starting to think I may have to start my own campaign against duck abuse. And I don’t mean against putting birds on the equivalent of a fast-food diet to keep us in foie gras. I’m more concerned with using duck fat to bake cookies that make you crave Crisco for its neutral flavor. And, even scarier, turning roast duck into ice cream. Young chefs, get a slippery grip: Just because the luckiest peach uses it does not mean one fat fits all. Bacon hogs the spotlight for a reason. It goes better with everything.

Belly bombs not allowed by TSA

December 2011

Which is my way of leading into this: I’m a total advocate of the attempted reincarnation of the Fulton Fish Market, not least because I believe food is the future in this country; everyone has to eat, and the opportunities for entrepreneurs are as boundless as the frontier once was. But at this last one, for the first time, I started wondering the same thing I do at the “fancy” food shows: How in hell can people possibly hope to build a business on stuff that just tastes bad? Why don’t their loved ones tell them? I wound up buying a (great) ginger cookie midway through just to get the nasty bits out of my mouth. I know I have only myself to blame for even trying the “organic soy-and-oat tempeh” I was lured by after noticing tamales were involved. But jeebus, was that ever a crime against natural. And the “Peking duck cookies,” made with duck fat and five-spice powder, were nothing short of foul. Duck fat is lard’s funky cousin, and I love duck. I would ask if the food revolution now heating up might be hampered by its weak food soldiers, a generation raised on processed crap and now setting out to change the world with no palates. But I also tasted two fish soups that were pretty bland. And those were all made by established companies. Coming soon to the Javits Center . . .

No LaFrieda, please — we’re trendy

December 2011

Epistemic closure is the undeniable diagnosis for most of wingnuttia, which probably explains why the deluded would look to an “economics” blogger sans calculator for advice on cookbooks. Naturally, she did not mention the manual for the socialist contraption she so proudly hailed after dropping $1,500. But she did “inform” readers that Maida’s books are out of print. Because that’s how capitalism works — no reissues are possible if the market demands. My advice to the closed-minded: Ask a liberal. We think anything goes anywhere, but especially in the kitchen.

Also, too, it’s unfortunate there’s no place where good people like Willie Nelson can go to get their food message out to a wide audience online. He’s totally right on Occupy the Food System, but I ain’t linking to a site that apparently believes we can all eat well when outlets don’t pay. Might as well shill for Smithfield processed crap behind photos of frolicking heritage hogs.

Once were salad bars in Korean delis

December 2011

One of the founders and I go so far back I can remember when Dover sole first came flying into New York thanks to him, but I still have to say I was not surprised to see the oddest upscale food emporium in my neighborhood go belly-up suddenly. All of us who hate Barzini had high hopes for it, and I will never forget spotting the nervous owner of our neighborhood downscale market cruising through on reconnaissance on opening day. But the reality was that the prices and the mustard-museum esthetic kept it from becoming a destination, which is ironic if you go back far enough to the coinage of “mustard museum.” I admire OotF for not whining about the rent going up or blaming brutal competition from either Holy Foods or the coming Westside Market. The place took its lumps of coal and shut down. And jeebus, did it shut down fast. I stopped in on Tuesday for a croissant on my way to the hip gym (and I mean that adjective sardonically) and the shelves looked tidier but by no means under siege. On Friday a hyper-local blog announced everything was 50 percent off, and by the time we walked over around 5 the whole cavernous space looked as if locusts had been through. As my consort said, it was most fascinating to see the left-behinds: Not just obvious Karo and Crisco and Cajun roux in a jar but a huge chunk of the fresh Mexican deli shelf (corn and flour tortillas, Wholly Queso etc. [Can you say Las Palomas?]) The last cheese sitting was halloumi, in a processed form. I was happy to grab Liquid Smoke — what fools West Side mortals be in not realizing what a great, useful, natural ingredient it is. The fish counter had a big sign reading something like “thanks for all the fishes” while a couple of slabs of shrink-wrapped something once-finned were tucked into the case with the unsold broccoli rabe and cucumbers. And that was what was most unsettling. In a big store stripped nearly bare, the fresh food was still languishing . . .

Muslin in a koshered kitchen

December 2011

File all this under “no wonder the stock is down 85 percent”: The new routine in this consortium involves me trudging to the front door to pick up our two newspapers (and The Cat off the dining room radiator) and returning to bed to listen to my consort rattling off all the fresh news he’s picking up on the iPad. But as accustomed as I am to moths flying out of gray pages, I was still pretty amazed to see a cover feature on a restaurant attraction I wrote about in . . . 2005. This was pre-permalinks, so I’ll excerpt from Older Trails:

The Disneyesque: Gradisca, where we wound up after the Greenmarket thanks to all the press the mamma making the ravioli has been getting. Walking in to see her in all her ample glory, rolling out the dough and spooning ricotta and herbs into it, was like Italy, but the prices were definitely New York. I think there were eight little square ravioli on the plate for $22 at lunch. They were good, and the butter-sage sauce was extraordinary, but that is not exactly comparable to many lunches at “Mamma’s” in Costigliole in Piedmont a few months ago. ETC

And then, where do I begin with a piece with potluck in the hed and the archival photo but bake sale as the apparent point? I guess with this:

Memo From the Bake Sale Police:

–Rice Krispie Treats will continue to be acceptable; baking store-bought cereal with store-bought marshmallows proves you truly care.

–Naked Oreos will not be tolerated. Please enrobe them in melted 85 percent cacao chocolate, preferably single-origin from the smallest plantation in Madagascar. If the chocolate seizes, it’s the pastry gods’ way of saying you’re a terrible mother.

–If you must bring Munchkins, please be sure to turn them into a towering croquembouche first. Cooking sugar to the crack stage is no bother; candying fruit for the garnish is a snap. (Please start with hand-harvested heirloom fruit, however.)

–When we say homemade, we do not mean Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. Brownies from a box are an insult to all true moms slaving over Rice Krispie Treats.

–Poundcakes are definitely encouraged. Your one-hour, 45-minute investment in all-time-high-priced butter and free-range organic eggs and special cake flour will pay off when we sell slices for $1 apiece to cover toilet paper for the kiddles’ bathrooms. Do not think about why bakery cupcakes would cost you less in time and shekels.

–Also do not do the math on flour and sugar versus Chips Ahoy. King Arthur goes for more than a buck a pound. Chocolate chips will run you $4 a bag. You will need butter (now at an all-time-high price). And brown sugar.

–We will not, however, suggest any reasonably priced, non-time-sucking alternatives to Oreos. You’re on your own, bitches.

14 fewer batches of gingerbread men to hang

December 2011

Every morning I wonder about the inevitable “Obama Fail” headlines when the guy who volunteered to helm the Titanic is doing so much. Now I have an inkling why. Apparently the Chimp and his Lump in the Bed always treated the Panchitos of the press corpse to a huge preview of the White House party fare for the endless and necessary holiday receptions. The Os do not. Revenge must be served hot every morning.

Those cookies again? In a rococo chifferobe?

December 2011

And I almost felt sorry for Panchito when Gawker tore him a new bunghole over his latest thousand-word motivational poster. But as a real friend on Facebook noted, he must make enough not to earn pity. So I’ll just disagree with everyone who opines that he should go back to the fud beat. Because he was just as shallow and lacking in expertise and pedaling inanely there. Two years around the McD’s at the Spanish Steps does not an A.J. Liebling make.

Hay tamales — for horses?

December 2011

This Christmas it’s funny to see how the whole menu-sourcing overkill is spreading to tree lots. The other day we passed one on the Lower East Side with a big sign offering “hand-picked, super-late-cut Fraser firs.” Wait a minute. They weren’t grass-fed?

Faster, Pussycat

December 2011

Speaking of horses, much in the news as food recently, the lede of the hometown paper’s front-pager on banning beast-of-burden-drawn carriages in the park was buried in the last graf. For once I’m on the animal-rights activists’ side, because this city will beat the manure out of the strongest human; horses don’t belong in the bedlam and mayhem. I also feel sick every time I see some sad old steed plodding along pulling the gross national weight of Iowa. But, as always, the issue is a little more complicated. As the last quote quoted noted, every horse saved would go straight to slaughter because there are no refuges to take them in, especially in a depression. At least the slaughterhouse would be on American soil. But horse tartare is still horse tartare. And I kinda doubt tourists would line up for it in the Plaza food hall, for a “real” New York experience.

Baby. Formula.

December 2011

I do feel seriously bad for everyone trying to maintain a livelihood in the Gulf of Oil these days. But I have to say that I saw a promo Tweet for shrimp, touting them as fat-free, and could only think: Not with added BP they aren’t . . .

Mocha and caramel frappés and oatmeal

December 2011

I read the WSJournal’s cheery report on the boom in fast-food deliveries in China and just envisioned a worse “Wall-E.” Isn’t getting the diabetes diet to consumers quicker, with no effort, only going to make humans fatter and more unhealthy? Isn’t the use of millions and millions of motorbikes just going to mean more pollution in a country where the air is already pretty near apocalyptic? And I don’t know which detail was more chilling, that two-thirds of McD’s sales in this country come from drive-throughs or that overlords of the evil empire are salivating at the prospect of web orders enabling them to shut down call centers (a k a places where actual humans earn money). Good move in a 99% world. Maybe next they get rid of the workers who pack the crap into the special compartments on the motorbikes. And then ask Henry Ford why they need to move to Pandora.

Pepito in a drum

December 2011

My mom had a million maxims, one of which was that you only entrap yourself in a tangled web of deceit. (She always quoted the original, of course.) And I’m hoping that will be the case with the butter-golden girl of the most tarnished hog business. And with those who just promoted the book in the pages of what presents itself as an august publication, of the highest integrity. I’m so old I remember when you wouldn’t review a cookbook without actually cooking from it. Let alone shill a promotional brochure without pulling back the chicharron to acknowledge what lies beneath.