“The Lunchbox” is the best movie since “A Separation,” and it doesn’t even have to be shunted off to the “food movie” category. The food is so seductive, though, that you know not to go in search of Indian afterward because it could never measure up to the celluloid vision. The director gets both the story and the eating exactly right. By contrast, “Tasting Menu,” obviously modeled on the last night at elBulli, is the most craven piece of crap I’ve sat through since the last free screening I couldn’t resist. As I came home and Tweeted, the message seemed to be: Cerebral food attracts truly stupid people. And what a terrible ad for Spanish wine — every glass seemed to be filled with water (they couldn’t even spring for food coloring?) Teh Stupid was so deep and dense it’s hard to list it all — the top two idiocies had to be either the world’s best chef spending her last night musing, yapping and sipping wine, not even throwing copper pots, or the owner losing his shit worrying that a solo diner might be a critic. It’s the last night. It could be AA Gill multiplied by all the female reviewers both in history and yet to be hired in a universe yet to be discovered. And what difference would it make? Cerrado es cerrado.
Archive for April, 2014
Thinking some thoughts. Underlining them twice. There must be something really wrong with me. I do not want sick people cooking/serving my food and am very happy NYC now has a law requiring paid leave for restaurant workers (and, of course, others). With all the scaremongering over increased prices, I guess I need to point out that the food biz finds many ways to pass along increased costs. (Try to find a bottle of wine on a list for under $40 these days). As I have noted many times, the sickest I’ve gotten beyond the incident with the baby butt on the falafel counter was after the waiter in Florence wiped his runny nose and set down my plate. FFS, I washed my sauvignon blanc bottle the other day after a cashier with pinkeye merely touched it. So I guess I have to say this one more time: Typhoid Mary was a cook. And Hepatitis C is out there, waiting to shut down your establishment after one worker goes on an unfortunate vacation. It had to be someone like Escoffier who first realized an ounce of prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. That new miracle remedy, after all, runs a grand a dose.
Today’s lesson: ice cream sandwiches are meant to be craptastic. Artisanal don’t cut it. // Finally settled a little debate over what espelette is: Separatist paprika. // Apparently if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. Ms. “How to Cook a Wolf” must be spinning in her urn. // Funny how it’s always mice in a fancy fud joint. And rats in a real one. // A whole generation is growing up not knowing a kittybag was once an aluminum foil swan. // Canard was word o’ the day on a couple of political blogs. No mention that you need to shred a few birds to make rillettes. // Pizza, you ask? Didn’t we already get the ultimate advice? // Maybe we could both vanquish the abomination “foodies” and disempower NRA nutz by calling them “gunnies”? // Remember when the smart kidz were thinking you should watermark your fud fotos? Good times, Getty would say. // And some deaths you the e-slimed just want to note with a hearty R.I.Pee. Funny how that “hefty but healthy” tome never sold.
Whatever else you might say about the Big Os, they are the most food-savvy White House occupants ever. He not only knew to make a pit stop at the most revered deli in America but could riff on the menu afterward. “Stinkburger” and “meanwich” may not be the most clever coinages. But joking about them seems much more presidential than choking on a pretzel after too much O’Doul’s.
We are definitely living in interesting times. When I was putting in my post-pee-in-the-cup 46 months at the hometown paper, even a spouse was not allowed to slap a bumper sticker on the family car, lest some reader suspect bias. Today you can be an op-ed columnist and do a promo for a salad shooter, no problemo. But why should the Egopedist suck up all the gravy? Mr. Chunky Reese Witherspoon should team up with Chik-fil-A. And MoDo with Skinny Girl. Those two could redefine “mean martini.”
“Grand Hotel Budapest” is Wes Anderson’s most food-centric movie yet, not least because so much of the plot hinges on a confection. But I’m thinking he should get an Amtrak residency just for the great tip he passes on through his characters: Pack wine to avoid the cat piss on the train.
Even I initially got suckered into thinking that residency would be a cool thing — but I thought that mostly because the rail overlords didn’t need to go looking for writers when I had already done a few rolling odes on my own. It’s undeniably magical to sit in total comfort and type as you glide up the Hudson River and westward along the Erie Canal, particularly when it’s snowing and you know everyone else is stranded in airports. But it didn’t take long to realize the R word is just a press trip by another name. And everyone lauding the concept should be aware that that is how so much delectable travel-and-food sausage gets made. Even worse: It’s like the Pillsbury Bake-Off without the glory. There are no free rides. You take it, they own it.
Some days you don’t even have to wonder how the media got gulled into selling the invasion of Iraq, or the impeachment of a president. You only need to read coverage of a “celebrity chef.” Just as I predicted, the Butter Guzzler’s “$75 million comeback,” splashed all over “real” media, turned out to be a flash in the bedpan. Suddenly she closes a flagship restaurant? You don’t shut down if rabid fans are turning up in droves. Still, it’s not over till the fat lady pantses. She could still team up with the Duck Dynasty or Mozilla bigot and fool “reporters” one more time.
For once I’m siding with Goliath. It’s parochial to think the Eataly infringement is about Molto Ego when the brand was built in Torino. Fiat wouldn’t take a Little sitting down, either. Or rolling.
What’s the first sign you’re going to pay out the ass for a a glass of wine? Every window in the restaurant is shrouded by drapes, so you can’t see the inner sanctum before penetrating it, sitting down and opening the sticker-price shock encased in leatherette. Private clubs are never cheap. But at least at this one we got a little something extra with our $14 wine: the sight of the bartender soaking napkins in booze to hand to the hostess to wipe down the menu covers. Beware the well vodka . . .
And speaking of personalities behind bars: What’s worse than a mixologist who can’t make a margarita? A bartender who thinks he can “invent.”
No wonder I’m distracted. There seems to be more than the usual amount of teh stupid burning lately. A chilling new aggregation of climate change reports makes it very clear we’re dinosaurs waiting to happen, fast, and still I see idjits asserting that “humans adapt very well — we build houses with furnaces or AC — so too bad about all the other species.” That’s like thinking you can just order in when the food riots break out.
And maybe we won’t have to wait around until the trashed planet totally melts down. Hog farmers, in their wisdom and greed, seem to be accelerating toward the Apocalypse all on their own. They’re feeding piglets pig blood, and what could possibly go wrong? Aside from piglet epidemic diarrhea virus? The story didn’t spell it out, but I assume the cute little critters poop themselves to death before they can grow into real Babes with chops just falling off ’em. Oh, well. Cheap industrial bacon on/in everything was fun while it lasted . . .
I’m so ancient I remember when kids just out of diapers were being hyped as credible restaurant critics. Now it’s kids too young to drive as “chefs.” (How long till the Bitterman wangles a photo op, anti-narcissist that he has suddenly become?) The whole thing seemed so silly I didn’t read it, but I did wonder if this might not have been yet another exercise in pandering to the 1 percent to get the ads for the $25 million apartments. And I guess I wasn’t far off. The peasants will have to continue starting as dishwashers to work their way to the middle. Meanwhile, a certain previous cover kiddle should carpe diem right to it and do a piece advising the latest on how not to wind up eating frozen peas for breakfast while trading fame for notoriety. Or does that only happen to girls?
It’s easy to walk into the field after the battle and shoot the wounded, but in all seriousness the fatal flaw with a food issue devoted to only the platinum links in the food chain really was the disconnect from a world of hurt. As I’ve been predicting, Walmart has itself seized the day to warn its shareholders to expect lower sales and profits thanks to the food stamp cuts; the Republican obsession with punishing the poors is already boomeranging on Big Biz. And it’s not as if advocacy in a cruelly unequal society isn’t glamorous — Mr. Top Chef himself has been everywhere walking the walk on getting kids nourished better; Mrs. O’s own has been recruiting marquee names to help upgrade school lunches; more and more chefs are signing on for hunger benefits. (And just as an aside, here’s how a kid raised around a soup kitchen turns out.) Instead you got the Egopedist abandoning his usual Mount to sermonize on chefs not staying close to their one-and-only kitchens to keep, yes, the 1 percent satisfied. Which was beyond pot/kettle rich. Are we to believe a cookbook celeb developed every single recipe while building his brand?