Thin air

One of my favorite media mysteries is why anyone succumbs to the horse shit shoveled out by airlines hiring “celebrity” chefs. Escoffier crossed with Robuchon with a few Jean-Georges genes thrown in for good measure could not make anything decent to eat seven miles up in the clouds, and the average hostage strapped in cruddy coach would never be able to detect the improvement if he could. Yet this continues to constitute news. And what do the allegedly cash-crunched airlines get for their neon investment? At Delta, hummus. You know, a Todd English “creation.”

But then this is a strange time for travel reporting, with the NYT deciding readers’ comments are fit to print (or just suddenly realizing that content really is free). Among the suggestions for ways to economize in Eutopia with devalued dollars was advice to buy supermarket food to take back to your hotel room “and ask the housekeeping staff to bring the bowls, plates and utensils for your meal.” On what planet? Try to get an extra roll of toilet paper, let alone a wineglass. You would have better luck asking a flight attendant to produce a sharp knife for your Safeway sausage. Hotels are in the business of selling food and drink, not catering to your chintziness. You know that “refrigerator in your room”? It’s called a mini-bar, and they don’t even like it if you move their $75 half-bottle of wine out to chill your bargain Burgundy. Strange to think old media believes everything it reads on the internets. . . .

Girlishness

A food writer whose name I actually remembered but was afraid to mangle had a good take on the critical version of Scratch ‘n’ Match when I bumped into her at the Greenmarket. We agreed that the Harvard-girls-gone-wild aspect was key, but she pointed out: “Our president graduated from Yale” — an Ivy League education just isn’t what it used to be. But that might be news to editors who think four pages of Lindsay/Britney/Paris is barely enough coverage every day and don’t seem to hear that awful sound on Tuesdays is prose being tortured. And in other updates on ill-gotten fame, the buzz is pretty strong over on the Padma blog. A law degree definitely isn’t what it used to be.

Weak flesh

Apparently the Daily News saw Dining’s tits and decided to raise them. What it’s selling is not exactly expertise and integrity, let alone proficiency with transitions, but then this is a paper that lets Grandpa Hinckley dribble into his culinary diaper on a regular basis, not to mention one that has no money for original food content on Sunday but plenty to send “reporters” flying off after Britney’s flingee. I did enjoy the Porcine Pantload’s professing to be shocked, shocked at the vitriol this silliness has incited, given his history of presiding over feces-flinging of elephantine proportions. The funniest thing is that I told my consort this could be the tipping point, that we might have to cancel our subscription, and he responded: “But what about the comics?” And he’s right. We do need it for laughs, and it looks as if she delivers.

Image is everything

I was kidding about tits in Dining, but I see they may be the mound of the future. This week we got the mother load, the bare-nekkid pate of the south, even true udders in action. Nice of them to include something for the girls, though: cucumbers and sausages.

Stopped presses

A reader more literal than I noticed something more unseemly: The thin line between trend story and free advertising. That milk label was as clear as a product placement in a cheesy movie. The same mostly single-producer sin was committed in the name of uncaged eggs, but that piece was guilty of something worse, a lede so clunky I can only hope it was written by a copy editor with delusions of lyricism. Comparing nickel-premium eggs and $500 phones is bad enough, especially when big business is not beating a path to the Prius factory. But isn’t there a new have-to-have-it product in the world of food about every three hours? The front page, though, seems to be suffering from the same precipitous decline in value as any other real estate. I read that drivel about a Hamptons party all the way to the end, trying to figure out why it was even written, let alone showcased. No answer, just more questions: What the hell are frozen tacos, and why are rich fucks serving them to guests?

Tail chasing

Steve Cuozzo has officially established himself as alpha dog in this town. He proclaims the Upper West Side a dining destination and the pack falls right in line, including the teacup Chihuahua who is considered the pit bull. Funny that the homecity paper will barely cover bad news out of Walter Reed or Baghdad if the competition breaks it, but a right-in-plain-sight story gets regurgitated online like a particularly tasty hairball. Maybe blogs are the new editorials.

Bloody mess

All I can say about the girls-eat-steak! travesty is that I never thought the day would come when I would miss old KK. She may have been batshit insane, but at least she would have insisted on a meaningless statistic or two to throw up a mesquite smokescreen of truthiness about the “trend.” Given that the birdcage liner got what it wanted, web traffic at any cost to journalistic credibility, expect many sequels: Boys eat salad. Kids eat vegetables. Strippers sell steak. Oh, wait. I think they’ve done that.

Tales from the crypt

For all the gnashing of artificially whitened teeth over the sale of the Journal to the Anti-Zenger, though, no one seems to be commenting on the precipitous slide of two other hometown papers. The Daily News — where the writing has gotten so relentlessly slipshod that “perpetrator” has now become “sleazeball” in crime stories — has pretty much thrown in the paper towel on food on Sundays, running nothing but text-free book and magazine excerpts that are guaranteed to make a paying reader wonder why she needs the Internets. (Oh. Right. Content is free.) And the Pretentious Broadsheet? It appears to be trying to out-Rupe Murdoch. I mean, really. If your best anecdote has to be a couple of years old, does your feature qualify as a news story? Or are you just trying to tantalize enough to drive up web traffic? For a newspaper obsessed with every perfumed passing of Papiere-Riche gas, it seems oddly unable to deliver examples of how those overpaid boors really behave. I still remember horrific behavior at Montrachet right before the 1987 crash; assholes are always in ascendancy in places of ostentatious consumption in boom times. But as far as I read, this was one big yawn laced with urban legends. And as someone who has been in newspapers since high school in the Mimeograph Era, I’m not bitter so much as sad. Once upon a time you needed three examples to validate a trend story. Now you may think all you need is the first three letters in titillation, but somehow I suspect there’s a certain sly old fox who will always beat you at his unsavory game.