If a conservative is, famously, a liberal who’s been mugged, a Sanders scorner is a longtime admirer who finally got a taste of the real Marie Berniedette. Nothing says revolutionary more than a menu for a return flight on a chartered plane that includes lobster sliders just before landing in (I assume) NYC. So many desiccated sandwiches in steerage will really stick in your optic craw. . .
So I came home from yet another night of yelling and “huhing?” across the table while youngs whooped and hollered in a restaurant, only to find my Twitterstream flashing neon over @alineababy. I’m so jaded I didn’t even click through to read what the shitstorm in a linen Pamper was all about. I just took the opportunity to note that bad parenting/dining is nuthin new. As I’m sure I’ve posted before, my consort and I had our pilgrimage to Jean-Louis at the Watergate shat upon 20-some years ago because a sanctity-of-marriage duo brought their infant to dinner and chose to let the poor creature shriek through our many courses. The waiter commiserated with our lamentation that surely no one who could afford a dinner at that price could not also find a babysitter, but what was he supposed to do? I came home and pinned the receipt to the bulletin board in my office for many years because I thought we needed to be reminded we could have flown to Paris for the price of that disrupted meal. I remember nothing of what we ate, but that might be because I had to ingest through clenched jaws. So, for everyone lamenting the decline of civilization, be aware: Like the poor, over-privileged assholes will always be with us. . .
It may not be poetic, but the justice meted out for one of the Kochsuckers is rather amusing, if you like your wine with a hefty chaser of hypocrisy. So a huge believer in the free market got taken in the capitalist wonderland and then betrayed his own belief in tort reform by . . . suing. The whole thing would be funnier if people whose lives will actually be ruined might have even a chance of winning $12 million if they believe fracking will pump Petrus.
Guess I hit a nerve when I Tweeted that throwing out a lasso for “locals to show me around” makes a food writer look like Helen Keller in this day and interconnected age. Mr. Cutlets promptly suggested I (re)read my Liebling. Leave aside the fact that ol’ A.J. wore very, very big shoes. If he were typing today, I kinda doubt he would helicopter in and rely on some stranger picked up on the series of tubes. The best way to experience a place is absolutely through the eyes and tastes of someone who lives there. But the someone is only part of the recipe, and the internets make it possible to both research in advance and connect on the ground. In Istanbul this summer, I did spend an invaluable day with one of the founders of the great restaurant site there, with an unforgettable lamb lunch when I was only hoping for cheese guidance. Thanks to my consort, though, I also had a steady diet of insights from the fixer for his workshop, whose mom owns a restaurant in Beyoglu. In between I read Orhan Pamuk’s melancholic but funny memoir of growing up in that gray city. But I had seven days to poke around with no goal beyond selling a story months down the line and just enriching my life with regular infusions of rosé. A weekly deadline would make that impossible. I’d have to get a dad-in-law to spot me some dinners.
I was happy to learn I’m not the only one who looks at Seconda Venuta and remembers DDL Foodshow. Both productions should have taken the Costco tack: Open out in real America and get the sophisticates salivating in envy, then bring the spectacle to town.
One good thing about being culled out of the herd flocking to the Seconda Tenuta is that I can wonder about the ethics of others. And marvel at whether the best man at an infamous wedding has gotten more blow jobs for his product than any bride will ever have to give. As the Marquis de Sade observed, only the first murder is hard. You get away with promoting a friend once, you’ll do it everywhere.
The most unseemly striptease ever was the slipping off of chef’s whites for two weeks leading up to 15 minutes at the White House. I think at one point there were 829 news items to be found about it, and that was even before the mole had muddied up the Wagyu. (Never let protocol and letting the hostess announce the menu get in the way of self-promotion.) You’d never know Maricel Presilla managed to do a dinner there without all the grandstanding. For Kass’s sake, I think even the top Tin Chefs were less self-aggrandizing. No wonder the attention whores thought they could crash the dinner again. Security had its hands full just trying to monitor the kitchen Tweets.
And, of course, Saint Alice is always worth a story even at the drop of a dis. The latest fawning profile set off The Gurgling Cod big time, which is the only reason I slogged through it. Only to find a rather revealing detail, about the chickens raised to order for allegedly the most demanding restaurateur (not chef) in the country. A few years ago I interviewed Frank Reese for a piece on Heritage Foods, and he mentioned that supermarket chickens are rushed to market for maximum profit — their bones are so bloody even when they’re cooked because “you’re eating babies.” What he nurtures are birds only ready to lose their heads at 16 weeks minimum, 28 weeks ideally; the extra time eating and moving lets them develop their skeletons and “healthy organs” before they turn to muscle. And for Ms. FussBudget? Ten is enuf. To be fair, though, if Jesus were around today people would be criticizing him for not using the proper water to turn into wine. . .
I don’t know what was funnier, the cafeteria in the House of Hubris shutting down after an outbreak of food poisoning or the fact that a three-graf blog post about it needed two bylines. (Hey, buyout guys: You missed some!) I’m just surprised the old Cafe Regret escaped a similar fate — I can still hear the moaning after anyone ate the smoked tuna there, and I know the one day of work I ever missed because of physical illness was due to a wrap I stupidly ingested on a deadline day when I could not escape for lunch. Mostly it all made me remember the shitstorm after we let now-Mme Friend write a little piece about the onetime-House of Ruth’s shiny new cafeteria in which she referred to something like a “sad little cookie” on our 11th floor. The publisher was not amused: Next day the section editor had the equivalent of a horse’s head on her desk, a couple of, yes, wraps from the CR and a snide note from the GWB of newspapers on how they were proof positive of the quality fare on offer just a few flights away. How the mighty have tripped. So here’s a stylish hat tip to the Crocodile for his new corporate slogan: If the work won’t kill you, the food will.
And I have been trying relatively hard to avoid the whole swamp of the NYT’s denial on freebies, but it’s hard when a mere vegetable can be exchanged for a blatant shout-out. Sure, a root is worth pennies, but where do you draw the line, at Jamaica? Someone else thought a recipe promo/payoff for a winery was no biggie, either. Shoulders are also shrugging over high-proof dots that can be connected by googling byline + press trip. I have no problem with freelancers availing themselves of opportunities in this ridiculous cashless society the Bushwhackers left us, but the hypocrisy and pomposity flaunted by the paper are absurd. Don’t can one contributor and let another flout the 5,600-page ethics statement. Bidets have been gold-plated on technicalities for the decades. So just come clean and quit pretending the rules have never been and are not being bent. What the FTC thinks is good enough for bloggers should be good enough for the paper covering the FTC. I’d insert a joke here, but I’m still doing the math on 31 destinations on less than $0 a day.
Call this the buyout that was heard around the world. After I Tweeted that Ferran Adria would not be weeping over the ashcanning of a certain silly reporter who abused his paper’s power for a cretinous stunt, I got a DM noting that the news had indeed been mentioned to him. And “the barest smile crossed his face.” His cooking may be over the top, but his restraint is admirable. I’d be breaking out the cava.
As for the week in reviews, Ms. Prune’s was everything the Twits all said, smart and evocative and well-reasoned. Halfway through, I was so impressed I thought some savvy editor should lasso her to replace the glib shallowness usually provided by one of the leading dims of the old food coven. Then I sobered up. There’s a big difference between a one-off gig and rounding up a shitload of books, just the way there is between a mega-dinner party and running a restaurant kitchen night in and night out. Apparently the first thing to go is the diligence; if you can cook through two recipes you’re doing twice what most do. And read, did you say? Besides, the trouble with print is that there’s a limit — the space is constrained and both phrases and ideas are sacrificed. Mostly, though, sustainability is not just an issue with food.
And while I was challenged for challenging Time for breaking the old “friends don’t get friends to review them” rule, it was amusing to see how successive takes on the food memoir of Mr. Miller were not quite as enthusiastic. When you have to judge a book by its words and not its author, it’s funny how the flaws are exposed.
And I admit I am totally faithless after coming across something on one of those websites where Bourdain wannabes contribute for free. While Googling the other day I turned up a post on a restaurant in Florida in which the “writer” admitted she had just posted the press release, saying she normally would have taken time to rework it but had to focus on paying gigs. The only difference between that and what you so often read on Wednesday is just the honesty.
This was the ad that went all around the Internets: “Desperately seeking all-around butt girl. Will pay in connections.” Of course, it wasn’t put quite that way, but anyone looking to hitch a wagon to that particular New Drivelist star should know at least one very smart editor rates her “the worst.” With luck, though, she’ll be signed as the “real” writer on the Depression cookbook that has just been signed. Because something tells me that even when we are all cooking only off apple carts, we are not going to want to consult recipes from the bad old days, not when we live in this brave new wondrous world of multi-culti kitchens. Boil unsorted lentils or wrap up a burrito? You be the decider.
I swear to Jeremiah Tower, the hometown paper must be leasing its water fountains out to the Saint Alice Kool-Aid Co. The latest to drink deeply of the hubris flavor casually informs readers around world that the Cloched Crusader has humbled the Big O into hiring his own longtime chef. Unfortunately, the rest of this paean to the latest “success” makes clear how ugly Americans abroad can be. Why wouldn’t the Academy in Rome cook the way the Romans do before this divine intervention? Did they really need to import “the mother of American cooking” to persuade the kitchen to buy local, cook seasonally? And if this the talk of Rome, I have a bridge on the Tiber to sell Sunday Styles.