On one foray to Philadelphia, I came across the food world equivalent of the most famous six-word story ever. This was the sad sign in the window of a vacant space off Rittenhouse Square: “Restaurant equipment for sale. Bought brand-new. Used for seven months.” Of course, not even Hemingway would have opened a hummus joint so close to Dizengoff.
I panicked and captured a huge bug in the kitchen by slapping a plastic “glass” over it and — cuz I know how those suckers can push back — weighting that with a tin of salt and a mango until Bob could get home and kill it. Then I put on my glasses. And saw it was a piece of crust from the Maison Kayser olive bread.
I try not to take the stinkbait (which always seemed to be my dad’s most successful lure for the crappie he caught), but too many people linked me to the carbonara brouhaha. France actually dared to mess with Italy? Stop the Internets! What was most amusing (or annoying) about it was how no one seemed to care how thoroughly that classic dish has already been debased in a country where Italian always ranks in the top three, if not as the top one, among “ethnic” cuisines (funny how Western European countries never get that tag). Forget the mascarpone and boiled bacon. “Artesano” types would add white chocolate and macadamia.
No link, cuz the hometown paper refuses to keep me logged in, but I got sucked into “daughters of Nigella” and staggered out wondering how “healthful” and blow-up dolls wound up connected. Shorter, though? They’re quacks. Hometown-paper-validated quacks but quacks nonetheless.
A friend emailed me with a funny of a food site’s Tweet noting that “the lifespan of a human hair is three to seven years on average.” What the hell would that have to do with food? The more I thought about it the more I realized the memory of a hair in your food is forever. And not on average.
You could watch a chop suey video. Or you could just shove chopsticks into your eyeballs. More and more the megalomania stories just keep rolling in. And then there’s the case of the disappearing chef indictment. Too bad that trick wasn’t possible when a certain hotheaded Brit decided to sue for libel. And won.
A bit more in the same vein: My consort and I still subscribe to two daily print editions. I look at everything but the five pounds of glossy magazines that seem to arrive with one or the other every single week. Luckily, or unfortunately, Bob will flip through and rip out the fud stuff. And so I now know there is actually a chef who can get ink by touting the woods she uses for cooking. She lost me at carpaccio, but the whole exercise struck me as “the Escoffier is wearing no apron” of the first order. Really? It’s hard enough to keep the sel gris separate from the Maldon, but to throw wood into the walk-in? Whoever the publicist is deserves a long trip to a faraway country, too, because when I Googled the joint I actually turned up the line “If Brooklyn and Louisville had a baby, it would be . . .” I’m all for marriage equality, but do we really want boroughs screwing cities to create bogus trend babies?
Back story on my Tweet that you should always take your camera to the bathroom in Philadelphia: I made the mistake of leaving mine at the table in a ramen bar where a sign over the toilet advised pressing the small flush button for broth and the big button for noodles. Which of course reads funnier in the original handwriting. Elsewhere a sign warned the closet-sized water closet was for patrons only, “no newspapers or magazines allowed.” Take your balky colon elsewhere, I guess. I did tote my camera into nearly every bathroom in Buffalo last trip but only made crappy (so to speak) pics of a revelatory sign everywhere. Usually the rule over the sink says “employees must wash hands.” There the word “their” is included. Which makes all the difference. Not just any hands handle food.
Also, too: The first rule of food writing really should be: Do not make the reader want to punch your own mom. WASPs serve “en famille,” my derriere.
Throughout the whole Rudy-wouldna-taken-it mayoral vacation, every time I wanted to mock the over-coverage of our socialist leader in Italy, I remembered I read every word, mostly to see what he was eating (and whether the reporters could transcribe and the copy editors could clean up behind them). Of course everyone went right for investigations of the pizza and whether it was tackled like a dollar slice. Having wrestled so many pizzas over so many trips, though, I know the stuff should be eaten not with a knife and fork but a spoon. It ain’t pie. In Italy, it’s soup.
Never buy the green salsa. // One of those weeks to remember you can die at TOTC and everyone will just move on. #countmeamongthegutless // More gracious women than I will not point out that there was some serious “you didn’t build that” warranted in the fud world lately. // Scoured BizDay looking for its story on the French effort to regulate restaurant food claims. Guess you don’t need three to make a trend now. // Saw “curated” and “crafted” used in the worst way possible: to advertise condos. // “Italian Grandma Salad”? I’m not sure sure about the main ingredient. . . // Always hope the sad souls flogging booze get to tipple before typing. // Just a suggestion, but any Thanksgiving release from here on out should come with a shot of hemlock. // Constantly amazed by NY burger lists that rank feedlot beef so high. #nomadcowinthegrass // Knew nothing about German bread last week. Now learning left and right down to the museum. // “Prochetta,” “prociutto,” “zuccini” and “vinegrette.” In just one release. // Message from Crab Weekend: Sunday Styles pages make the best absorbent for the yellow gunk and picked-clean shells. // Drollest note from an email from a friend advising a neighbor on how to bait an electronic mousetrap: “The peanut butter does not have to be organic.” // Got two $25 gift cards in the mail for one resto. Decided neither was worth subway fare for what Biff described as “if clowns had a cuisine.” (Dream on, Hairy Anus. No one as creative.)
All the buzz over Mr. Congeniality’s new restaurant almost makes me want to smoke a baguette. My consort and I were actually out the other week with one of his collegial collaborators and passed the scene of the first success, but none of us could recall the name, even though we all agreed the reviewer who set off his success was one of the greats. (Of course, I do know who that guy’s secret arme was.) And I could dwell on what it says about the fud world that after two incarnations as a 1 percent wine the joint is now saying “let ’em eat bread.” Instead, I’ll just have to MT myself: Every time I see the name I flash on the sign at the 14th Street Garden of Eden: Olive Bastard. Which would, come to think of it, make a very good chain.
Consider this a confession of what a sloppy journalist I can be — I saw on my FB feed a hosanna for a new book devoted to cooking in your dishwasher and am now just going to trash it without delving deeper. My first thought was that the “pitch” was derriere- backward: “You can clean your dishes and cook dinner at the same time.” My second was that I really hoped author/agent/editor/fact-checker all understand food science at a very deep level, with “canning jars and vacuum-seal bags” involved. (Shall I mention one of the great lessons of restaurant school, that sautéed onions left overnight under a cover on a griddle can kill with botulism?) My third, saddest reaction was the reading the excitement that “it’s with a major publisher.” How long till we get “Mix Your Margarita With a Cat on a Roomba, in a Super-Lucha Cape”?
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. . . .
It’s hard to compare a close-enough-to-get-spattered experience with a blurry video, but it did seem as a chicken slaughtered to make a mad point was sacrificed on the altar of machismo. Real chefs learn a calm bird makes a better roast bird. It’s a good thing technology is so transitory, unlike in Mayan times. A thousand years from now, no one will know the feathers flew for stagecraft and not stew.