What was really vaut le voyage, though, was Sara Moulton’s keynote speech at the Les Dames d’Escoffier event I was lured down to babble at. I’ll use her real name because she told real stories: How one of my heroes said flatly that he would never allow a woman to work either front or back of the house in his temple to French cuisine, how ex-pats in Florida killed cruises to Cuba, how the Food Network jerked her around as it went for a younger, more testosterone-burdened audience with WWE (my word) competitions, how so many male stars of today were first on her show (can you say my biggest fan?) In 1999 when I was at DI/DO we ran a big story on why New York had so few top women chefs. Too bad no one thought to interview this wonder woman. I just read it again and should not be surprised, though, that the Quote Ho was thoroughly quoted. Because a guy’s point of view always matters most.
I typed a “no cussing” elegy for Charlie Trotter’s over to the Epi-Log, but I’ll add a bit more here because he really is one of the good guys — his food and his integrity are on a rare par. I’ll always be grateful to him for actually picking up the phone and calling to alert me when the food coven was out with pitchforks after I’d reviewed a cookbook and pointed out that the empress of the farmers’ markets was wearing no apron. And he was extremely (uncharacteristically) patient with me when we worked on “The Chef” column together back in 2001. But right now I’m impressed that he’s saying nothing more after making his big announcement. Which makes chefs gloating about still being in business at 25 look even more unseemly. Of course Burger Krap money will buy you time.
I’m running out of steam or would update my Goods page with some of the great stuff I discovered at The New Amsterdam Market at the South Street Seaport: Brooklyn Brine pickles, The Redhead’s bacon peanut brittles, Maple Hill yogurt, Porchetta’s porchetta, etc. etc. I know I don’t get out enough these days, but I was pretty encouraged by how much energy is obviously being channeled into artisanal foods as the country goes down the toilet. This may sound as if I’m repeating myself, but food really is the new religion. Now, though, the cathedrals come to the peasants. And Gutenberg meets Google.
Jonathan Waxman gave the best book party since Cesare’s, and the Californian may even have done the Tuscan five better. That was about how many media types I recognized at uncrowded Barbuto, where the wine was copious and the food generous (bacon pizza, lobster tacos, good beef on skewers). I reveled long enough to try it all and also hear the rumor that Panchito is ready to bail once his memoir is published (although a parody of “Ambling Through Idiocy” would be more likely as a best-selling exit strategy), as well as speculation that all publishers need to read anymore is a couple of trend stories to buy a cookbook proposal (anyone say steak twice?) and disappointment that Saveur has sold its soul to GE Profile kitchens in order to morph into Bon Gourmet & Wine (“It’s as if Bentley was advised to start making Fords because everyone else is”). What the party organizers should hear is that culling the herd would be a great new trend in authorial fetes.
Having dutifully ordered my heritage turkey to save a breed by eating one of its own, I was feeling a little shaky on calculating that I had just spent more on one piece of the big meal than what an entire month of PT co-pays would cost me. But then I went to buy milk on Union Square and heard a vendor at the next booth telling a customer, “No, he got the seeds in the divorce.” And I realized my investment was not in vain. Clean food should have real value in a world of bacteria burgers and high-fructose everything. Having gotten a thank-you email from the purveyors, though, I also have a little warning to anyone who might be tempted to sneak off and buy a far cheaper ordinary turkey, no matter how free-range or organic or Wagyu-pampered: It’s a small wattle after all. They know if you are being bad or good. . . .