Just back from Philadelphia, I know a couple more words for smashed (squiffy and zozzled) and a great euphemism for hooch (jag juice). But mostly, thanks to the totally vaut-le-voyage Prohibition exhibition, I have the perfect epithet for so many wingnuts, and more than a few “celebrity” chefs. And that would be the one applied to anti-booze William Jennings Bryan: “idol of all morondom.”
Archive for December, 2012
A sign in a shop in the Reading Terminal Market, warning against handling the snooty merchandise, gave me that old French feeling: Sometimes “merci” can sound just like “fuck you.”
I also got some useful perspective on our respective food scenes. A woman we met at the Fair Food Farmstand in the market said she had moved south not least because “What’s happening in New York has already happened. It’s still happening in Philadelphia.” (Even though Fette Sau has opened there, too.) And just before we went we were advised that Vietnamese food in the home of the cheesesteak would be superior to NYC’s partly because more immigrants have gone into restaurants there, rather than into nail parlors, but also because the essential ingredients are easier to come by. Philadelphia, as @atrios Tweeted me, does not have one tiny market but three actual supermarkets just near his home close to the Italian Market. And the one we meandered through in fascination was like nothing here. There must have been 20 kinds of rice paper alone. (Our favorite detail was the sign threatening a $100 penalty for opening the box of live frogs. Or maybe the one advising parents not to let their children play on the 100-pound bags of various brands of rice.) But I also came home feeling less envious of Philadelphia’s plethora of BYO restaurants. The food this trip seemed much pricier in them, I guess because they can’t take the mega-markup on alcohol. And who wouldn’t rather pay for wine in a civilized restaurant than set foot in one of those soul-sapping state stores?
Our most surreal evening started with a loooong walk to a restaurant deep in South Philadelphia that took us through a strange blocked-off street fair lit up like Christmas in Rizzoland, complete with both Santa and a somewhat deflated balloon Grinch, a North Pole express choo-choo for the kids, a tent with a whole roast pig and Sterno tins of pastas, and braziers with fires around which little groups of people were drinking. On our way back we stopped for a glass of wine at a just-opened place called Rhino that made us realize we weren’t all that far from the Jersey Shore, and somehow it seemed like a good idea to check out the bar at Le Bec-Fin on the way back to the hotel, just to see if things were as dead in the temple as they’d appeared from the street when we’d walked past the night before. Our route took us past Butcher and Singer, in the old Striped Bass, and Bob suggested we just take a peek. And OMFG was it ever bizarre. The huge room literally smelled like blood, as all the 1 percenters were tearing into their steaks like hyenas. I thought it looked Felliniesque; Bob compared it to “The Cook, the Thief etc.” Whatever. If they cut Social Security and Medicare to keep those people in the carne money, we’re doomed. A more sedate sort was holding down the chairs at Chez Georges, but one older couple was getting merrily sloshed. Bob: “Looks like they’re going to have a hot time later tonight.” Me: “Yeah, sliding around in the vomit.” But I had the most rewarding realization as we walked through the lobby to bed. The best part of staying in a hip hotel is passing people coming out of the bar and reminding them with your presence: They are drinking in a hotel.
One more observation: When we asked for the menu at the bar at Chez Georges, we were handed a tablet. Many words were misspelled, and clicking turned up as much additional information on the wines by the glass as the Inky/PDN “touch screen” did on news o’ the day. But as I often quote-purloin: A dog does not have to speak in complete sentences; it’s impressive enough that he speaks. This is huge progress. Unfortunately, though, I suspect restaurants that adopt the technology will still use designers who think you want a goddamn PDF menu.
Is spatchcock code? For wide stance, say? // Sometimes I read a chef profile and hear horseshit calling, saying it wants its reputation back. // Definition of stale: four-year-old linkbait. // Signs seen at Union Square Greenmarket: “gords” and “hairy balls.” // Was Iron Chef sponsored by Crisco cuz lard has no ad budget? // Glazed chicken thighs sounds like a geriatric spa treatment. // Frank Prial was a prickly character. But jeebus, did he ever know the regions/wines/winemakers about which he wrote. . . Terroir is not a wine shop. // At this point it’s starting to seem as if there’s a thin line between a Julia biographer and a ghoul. Let her RIP. // Often wonder if many food world people don’t step away from an air kiss thinking: “That smelled like ass.” // And I always suspect Trump & the Furry Anus were separated at birth. Both share the reversed end of the alimentary canal.