Maybe I have eaten/shopped in too many real-world joints. But somehow I suspect California’s new law requiring food handlers’ hands to be encased in latex is not gonna make anything better. Hands get washed. Gloves, I have seen too often, go into bathrooms and come back out to serve again.
Any restaurant review in Harlem really should acknowledge that “the neighborhood” is not what the cliché would have you think. But if you arrive at the next hot spot by commuter car rather than A train or shank’s mare, of course you’ll mourn for all the church ladies shut out of the fried guinea hen.
The first time I went to Istanbul I thought a majority-Muslim country would be my own private Betty Ford Center. And what a lovely surprise it was to learn Turkish rosés were not just poured in every bar, restaurant and museum around our hotel in Beyoglu, but they were close to world-class. Wine (plus raki) meant as much to the Istanbul experience as sexy lingerie shops catering to women in burkas. So I should have known the reports in the last year of crackdowns on sidewalk cafes were ominous. From there it had to be an easy slide to jacking up the price of booze and then, eventually, simply prohibiting the secular stuff. Still, I didn’t realize just how grim it had gotten until my consort and I trekked to Grand Central in the cold the other night for a reception for a friend’s work on a promotional photo collaboration. It was billed as a “cocktail and exhibition opening,” but what they were pouring was barely mocktails (as in: syrupy lemonade). I’m no marketing genius, but if I were trying to make Turkey look as alluring as possible to the big wide/NY world, I might at least try to make it taste worldly. I kinda doubt the rich-looking older woman I overheard saying “let’s get a glass of wine before we walk around” is going to be booking a flight to Istanbul anytime soon. Unless she wants to dry out.
Not that I’m cynical or anything, but is there really any chance an indestructible faux food could actually be in short supply when guacamole is as close as the avocado aisle for Super Bowl? Somehow I suspect Krapt swiped a page from the cocky playbook to generate hysteria. And did anyone really ever run out of the rooster sauce? Shelves were full in every store I happened through whenever I broke away from the online panic. Also, too: The gullible coverage makes it sound as if there is no substitute for the cheez substitute. Maybe the real deal, cut with cream or, for maximum gooeyness, bechamel? Seems as if this is a dangerous game Big Fud is playing. People might try the fill-in and never go back to the orange slime.
I might have missed some news by sluggishly reporting a piece for Eater, but I did take away a big revelation: Print is still a BFD — indie magazines not only sell well, they command collectible prices. So it was no surprise to read a @carr2n column on the allure of the old way of reading. Which happened to include a nugget on what turns off readers from online ingestion — all those goddamn ads. And that reminded me why I get only two magazines delivered: one because I don’t know why, the other because my in-law equivalent just will not listen when I tell her it ain’t what it used to be. I hadn’t seen the Amex food pub in years before picking up a copy at a promo event, but I was amazed at how impossible its dense pages made discerning editorial from ads. No wonder people will drop 8 bucks for the likes of Modern Farmer. If they want nothing but ads, they’ll click on a listicle.
A shit-ton of BS escaped me as I took a little mental-health break the last couple of months, and so much of it seems so trivial now that I’m back in typing mode. But two tin-chef tempests can’t go unremarked upon. One involved the stick-up-their-butts old-media types trying to stir up a tempest in laptops over a certain blow-up doll having been accused of blowing a rush up her nose. I knew forcing journalists to pee in a cup to get hired would not end well. Do I even need to rewrite the title of the classic kids’ book, “Everybody Poops”? Who doesn’t know coke makes the food world go round?
Also, too: For all my dissing, I have a whole new respect for Molto Ego for standing wide against the onslaught of cretinous attacks on his support for women’s health. He clearly gets the reality that the “pro-choice” battle is not about rescuing unborn babies but about controlling the more than half of Americakind who happen to have been born with babymakers. The most entertaining part was watching the loons come out and knowing the last thing he had to worry about was a boycott. Duck dicks ain’t gonna be springing for real meals. Better to let them protest by contracting diabetes by gorging at Chik-fil-A. There’s more than one way to prove the theory of evolution . . .
I’m no marketing expert, but if I were trying to persuade the world my product was the world’s best I wouldn’t be enacting absurd laws that will do nothing but contribute to the world’s plastic glut. According to this mishmash, Spain is forcing restaurateurs to jettison their refillable cruets for olive oil in favor of single-use containers. I guess, although I can’t quite tell, that will have the advantage of, maybe, a label? Why don’t producers just do what the Italians did and hype the hell out of their product? Bring a buncha American food writers over to taste a little oil, soak up a lot of sangria and then spread the “news:” Spanish oil rocks and rules. And it wouldn’t even have to be all hype. You can’t make a tortilla without either breaking eggs or breaking out the good oil.
*No shit, Sherlock
The latest evidence America just ain’t exceptional: Brits are going hungry, too. I did like this line, that the working poor have been “long a part of the social landscape in America.” Sorry. I remember there once was a shining moment when the rich didn’t have to wonder what the poors were eating that night. But then, as the muddled but good-hearted “Place at the Table” illuminates, along came a useful idiot out of California. My consort “rented” that doc the other week from our own public Netflix, the NYPL, and I saw new merits in it even though it remains a mess. “Food insecurity”? It’s complicated — li’l kids can be obese, hungry kids can own horses, well-meaning teachers can sweet-sell $5+ honeydews to kids whose families can’t even afford an apple to slice up for five. But in the end, you walk away from the teevee thinking food banks and soup kitchens are just like everyone else in this country post-Alzheimer’s-Patient-in-Chief: Trying to pretend the trickle-down is not actually a golden shower.
Determined to move to daily posts, I am going to cheat here, right under the wire, with a few backlogged RTs/MTs&UTs: Pretty funny when waitress said she wanted to kill the kitchen for slow food. That solves everything. // Plaza Hotel really feels like “The Shining.” Expected to see Scatman in food hall. More surprised to get good food. // OFFS. The Pilgrims did not have blueberries in November. Let alone a freezer from which to extract them. // Pitying those who have to clean the bathroom after a juice cleanse. // Saw a huge roasted beet with a tail in an open restaurant kitchen the other night & thought it was a bloody rat. // “People complain about noisy restaurants, but they don’t go back to quiet ones,” says Pat Kuleto. Food Arts. 1994. // Not even durian will stink up your whole apartment like Dunkin’. // Should be a statute of limitations on restaurants posting NYT reviews. Especially of $25&Under variety. // And: Pretty funny where the Guardian files @anamariecox Duck Dynasty column. Cook their geese . . .
Just in from a movie, dinner and a storewide state of panic. We hit Fairway after the much-to-chew-on “Her” for pizza, pork and cheap wine and figured we should pick up a few groceries afterward since we were there. And what a scene. Locusts had to have come through right before us: The fresh bread aisle was stripped bare (although you could have all the plastic-bagged, “good-forever” crap you wanted); the milk shelves were empty (unless you wanted the ultra-processed crap with an expiry date sometime in July), and over to the tomato-pasta area only the finest cans and boxes had been left behind (all the cheap crap was gone, baby, gone). Not for the first time, I had to wonder if blizzards aren’t actually staged by supermarkets. This is New York. Food is never a problem. I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday: I trotted right out for kitty litter and cash in the a.m. but got pizza and wine delivered that night. Even in the last blackout, you could get any food you wanted if you had cash to circumvent frozen registers and weren’t desperate for ice cream. No wonder the clerks and cashiers tonight were laughing all the way to the hedge fund bank. They’ve seen this movie before, and it is very, very good for business. The funniest part was inching across the snowy sidewalks to the C train while dodging delivery bikes and realizing: All these people juggling all these bags with milk and bread and tomatoes are just going to go home, pick up the phone and order in Thai . . . .
You can partially blame the nonstop hysteria over “Obamacare Fail” for my neglecting my blathering here. These days I feel obligated to correct everyone wrong on the Internets/radio/teevee, but of course Sisyphus had an easier job. It’s pretty clear no one in the media has ever dealt with the insurance marketplace on her/his own, so we got all the Chicken Little non-coverage. My new name for these easily manipulated losers is the Poussin Press.
I have a lot of catching up to do, but in the meantime I have to note that I can remember every time I ate out, puked/squittered in. The third worst was after a waiter in Florence touched his runny nose while serving us lunch. The second was that time, was in another lifetime, when I took an inter-Appalachian bus to meet a friend for Thanksgiving dinner off a buffet and rode back on my knees, talking to Ralph on the big white telephone. (Well, little stainless-steel telephone.) But the winner was the day I brought home an outstanding felafel sandwich from a neighborhood joint where I chose to ignore the fact that a baby was sitting on the takeout counter. Within 24 hours, I thought I’d died and gone to liquid hell. So I guess it makes perfect sense that visionaries thought people waking up after the most alcohol of the year would want to see a diapered butt posed over a slab of salmon, with beans looking like turds shooting off to the side. The only thing more sickening would be tilapia paired with white chocolate and macadamia.
Late to this, but I have to say all the restaurant analogies for the rocky start to the Obamacare.gov exchanges have been pretty amusing. Either the site was as slammed as a Shake Shack or the whole program was hopelessly in the weeds. The reality is somewhere in between: The Health Department finally showed up to try to keep the cooks from spreading Hep A, and it might disrupt service a bit till the customers are covered, too. Too bad safely insured journamalists are all wannabe Yelpsters now.
Apropos of nothing, or maybe everything, I just remembered a gracious friend who excused me and my consort (bad grammar because I caused the screwup) for showing up on the wrong night for a party. She recounted how she and her husband showed up on the wrong night at a hotel in Alaska, threw a fit to get a room and then, at the cook-your-own-breakfast buffet next morning, mistook the sausage and gravy for waffle batter. “I’m sure there’s a warrant out for us in Anchorage.” At least we left before stinking up the joint. . . .
Also to be filed under remembrances of funnies past: I had to stop at one winery’s table at a food festival/gangbang the other weekend (more below) because I had such an amazing experience 15(!) years ago as its guest at the Trois Glorieuses in Beaune. Part of which involved sitting next to the new owner at lunch one day and having to make conversation across a divide that was clearly wider on my only-menu-French side. I forget what I asked him, but the answer was: “I am in the Champagne like the pickle in the vinegar.” Little did I realize he was offering inside information years out on the next big thing in food: fermentation.