My consort is definitely the sharpest blade in this rack these days, as I am consumed by the shitshow no one has the guts to impeach so I can get back to food. He was flipping through the Murdoch Crier and noted yet another tourism ad that put chefs front and center of the skyline. And it is a sea change. Art is dandy as a city-sell. Food is quicker.
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Big scandale down NOLA way might have an easy answer: Locals can’t write “see it like a local” stories cuz they have no idea where to sleep. AMA about Manhattan, and I am clueless on where to drop $300 a night beyond our own AirBnB. . .
$46 service, chicken included
I never know quite what to make of this kind of stuff but am certain of one thing: The most money I ever made in my life before I landed a job at the (now dead) Louisville Times was as a waitress in the summer before I dropped out of college. People, even down-and-outers (or especially down-and-outers), could not leave enough on the diner table to encourage this working-her-way-through-college striver. Unfortunately, I moved on to Nebraska and learned in a single day how the serving pros are perceived. As one of those, I made exactly 15 cents in tips on my first and only day. There’s a big argument lately over whether everyone should go to college. I vote yes, if not just to feed your head by expanding your horizons. The attaboys at part-time jobs will keep you going.
And the Citymeals bid?
Also, too, what amazed me about all the elegiac coverage of the carcass-stripping of the Four Seasons was how little mention was made of why that sorry end had to happen. A greedy developer was not ungreedy enough to let the okay abide. All those who lined up to throw down megabucks for nostalgia in the making never seemed to have been called to account for their part in the destruction. For once this pauper can feel superior. I took matchbooks and didn’t have to consider dropping $1,400 on a check holder.
And that’s proof that my consort and I actually ate at the Four Seasons a couple of times, once on our own dime. The second time, as “research” on a black trumpet mushroom story, was nowhere near as much fun as when we were much younger and reserved for dinner on Britchky’s recommendation for what must have been Bob’s birthday. The waiters et al were so clearly thrilled to have relative youngs in the house that they showered us with attention, so much that we wound up ordering a second bottle of wine. I think the tab was $250, a ginormous amount at the time, but neither one of us had a whiff of remorse. (Or any recollection of what we ate.) The memory is worth any two of the $10K hassocks Marie Kondo would just advise us to pitch.
It’s always 5 o’clock on the Internet. Or closing time. // Never omit the fish sauce. // Flip through a Sur La Table catalog if you wanna see a million solutions to non-problems. #buyonegoodknife // So many food photos online are just Technicolor yawns. Is it soup or is it hurl? // Also, too: Biscuit or Googled squamous cell cancer? // Tuna tartar is what’s scraped off fish teeth, no? // So old I remember when Krispy Kreme generated the NYC excitement Bigot Chicken now is. // On the 7 train I read a review that had editor boot prints all over it. Narcissism must be the greatest fuel of all. // Bylines are more than enough, thanks. // Overheard woman in white linen pants at the Greenmarket telling her husband they can’t buy Ray Bradley’s amazing tomatoes cuz “they’re out of season.” // Wanted to say “go to hell” to every flack flogging New Year’s Eve shit. And then I got a VD one. Skinny VD, at that. // Have you tried penne alla Vicodin?
Tom Waits to the Small Batch piano . . .
Got up and told The Cat WCTLWAFW I was going to spend the whole day eating and calling it work. Let him envy me for a change.
And he was getting all ready to come with me until reality intruded. His day would be spent sleeping on the refrigerator as usual.
Second thing I heard on walking into the press office: “Did you bring The Cat?” (His fame was my fortune: fast retrieval of a badge despite some glitch in registering.)
Walking to the show I felt 23 (I have been to old age but got to come back). Three hours in I was 83. Feets don’t fail you. Guts do.
Vosge banner reading “what would chocolate not marry?” makes cacao sound like a total whore. (Raspberry is also shameless. Even lies down with wasabi.)
Sriracha apparently can be rendered tasteless.
Brooklyn aisle was almost an alternate universe of hipster overkill. Jarring to walk out and encounter a booth with sampling from the Ozarks. #clichesareclichesforareason
As always, “no” and “free” were the most ballyhooed ingredients. And more and more, it was ironic to notice “salt-free” and “low-sodium” were nowhere to be seen. At least 20 vendors were shilling salt, salt and more salt, even shaped into a mortar and pestle.
So much water being flogged you’d think there’s a drought on somewhere.
Jerky went crazy and I finally realized why: It’s the new power bar, gluten-free and high-protein.
Terrible crimes have been committed in the name of gluten-free.
Chickpeas can be made into many amazing things. Pasta is apparently not one.
Saved myself many letters in my notebook all day: Foul could be reduced to F. Why don’t their loved ones tell ‘em it sucks?
Probably not the best week to roll out your crab sensation with a shoutout to the Robert E. Lee plantation. . . Especially when the recipe yields nastiness.
So “fancy” latkes are just Jewish pakoras?
I actually tried a “sea salt caramel cheese straw.” Cannot say I tasted it.
Things I saw but did not try: Frozen risotto from Italy. Sun-dried tomatoes from England. Jalapeños from Vermont. Camel milk. Things I kinda understood: Powdered blue cheese. Powdered peanut butter. Thing I did not: “Autism approved.”
You can put beets, orange and quinoa together in a jar. But you really shouldn’t call it salsa.
One more place you will never spot Bill Cunningham: The Javits Center during the food show. #glamourdonts
Props to Jeni’s for having a presence if nothing to sell in the midst of the listeria crisis.
“Troll-caught tuna” makes you think those online assholes should just get out and fish.
Indian, with so much overlap with Mexican, should be taking over the world. Instead, Korean rules. And don’t get me started on how many weird juxtapositions with kimchi there were.
Funny how the backlash against the “fancy” food show looks even more ridiculous now. Not only did I see more artisanal, more vegetables, more fresh (or frozen) meat. I also noticed at least three booths with a certain kimchi that apparently only wanted to be invited into the club. Call it Dumboing Down.
Two more changes in the show over the decades. The frenzy to find a distributor seems to have subsided — many people just told me I could find their stuff on Amazon. #greatdisruption And “press” on your badge no longer marks you as prey. “Old” media is clearly not essential to getting a product promoted.
And while the amount of garbage generated is still staggering, with all those plastic mini-spoons and plates and endless plastic cups, there are hints of hope: Paper spoons and edible spoons might save the oceans a tiny bit.
Nothing, however, will save us from grownup kids of moms who didn’t check English homework. Cow’s and cook’s also on board.
Oh, and there was a lot of drinkin’. Ice creams touting alcohol content, wine brownies, bitters on bitters and Bronx ’shine. I’m not crazy about Mr. Semi-Homemade, but he has been very, very good to NYS firewater, both the making and consuming of.
Finally: If all this food is so super and so smart, why does it all wind up in the toilet?
Not sure the NYT fully informed the populace on the closing of Cafe Edison. . . // There is no such thing as a “best vegan cookbook.” // I’ve never eaten at an Olive Garden, but I’m sure it has fine spa food. // Food writing was more readable before the dick-swinging started. // Amazing what search engines auto-fill when you type in “yams up” // Anti-foie gras stories are as predictable as xmas — will no one speak up for tortured champagne grapes? // Odd, idn’t it, how Saint Alice’s favorite books of the year were by chefs in her employ? Call it logrolling under the cast-iron egg ladle. // And I wonder if Dorothy Parker would have been able to get any drinking in if Twitter had been around before typewriters.
Tears of a mountaintop removal
Speaking of suckers born every minute, WC Fields would probably drink but undoubtedly laugh at the new bourbon “aged at sea,” since a boat ride is, apparently, just like what laundry experiences in the dryer as it bumps up against the cylinder. And it’s hard not to suspect most of the bottle price goes for the processing and pricing. Isn’t there an old saying about a 1 percenter and his money soon being parted?
Call me ready to be roped out of the culled herd, but I just can’t freak out about Ebola. Not when the bigger story is consistently buried far inside the newspapers, dead-tree and digital both: Antibiotic overuse in animals bred for fud is flat-out out of control. Just imagine if the only cure for the latest plague were the very same stuff the farm greedsters squandered on quick profits. As always, I am very glad I’m old. And there had better not be reincarnation. Fear the lipsticked wineglasses . . .
Robuchon potatoes, in the freezer case
If you aren’t convinced we’re living in end times, consider what’s happening with corn. And I don’t mean GMO scariness. At the food show this summer, I saw butter designed in a cylinder to make rolling an ear easier. What, dragging your corn through a stick is too much work? But this, spotted in Philadelphia, was like a Fellini vision of elote. At least it’s gluten-free.
Oversized mange tout & “out-of-fashion” coriander
I always half-joke that I recognize more names on the obit pages than in the Vows columns these days. But I’m seriously surprised whenever a face and name pop out in the news or arts or other sections. Mostly recently both brought back a memory from 1988, and my first trip overseas, where my consort was shooting a story on what today seems like an unimaginably lavish expense account. The writer was a famous one, back in those days when magazines paid for marquee names who liked traveling large, and he’d brought along his wife, who spent most of the trip sitting in their car as he went interviewing. (Not to brag, but the first thing Bob did was take me shopping for a wax jacket so I could join him in the damp and cold.) Our time together was minimal, but one Sunday we all wound up at a big, fancy, drafty restaurant in the countryside. This was in the early, early days of what would become New British cuisine; we were still operating under the old “you can eat well in England if you eat breakfast three times a day” rule. But the menu here would not have seemed unsurprising in Berkeley. Still, she made a royal fuss with the waiter, insisting she wanted her fish with no sauce, no garnishes whatsoever. Bob ordered the same bright, jazzy dish while drooling over the description. And when the team of waiters arrived and pulled back the gleaming silver cloches on each plate, her fish was fully accessorized. And his was completely naked. Both he and I watched in sadness as she blissfully, and obliviously, tucked into hers. Guess you can guess what the first line would be if I wrote her obit. . .
I like that there’s a new sheriff in Cookbook Town. I don’t even want to think how often I was told there was no money for test-cooking whenever I got a freelance gig to pass judgment on others’ “Blood, Sweat &” compilations. And for 30-plus years I’ve contended there is only one way to assess a cookbook. Get it down and greasy. Even if you have to eat the “profits.” Imagine a world where no “first the duck must be dead” corrections would ever be needed. Best of all: Now it will be harder for ghostwriting drivelists to get away with the verbal equivalent of punching out microwave sandwiches for drunks.
Eden is a place where no seasoning ever happens
Usually I jump right on any armchair activism, but I’m resisting hitting send on emails pushing a boycott of the Hobby Lobby of food. How can you promise to stop buying shit you gave up already because it totally sucks?
Actual Tweet: “Are we in Hell or Heaven?”
I would wonder why so many food and wine entrepreneurs are expanding to Istanbul even as the country’s own GWB is clearly going all medieval on drinkers’ asses. But then I remember: Eataly’s wine shop didn’t do so well in the progressive state of New York . . .
Concrete labor at 30 percent
Thinking some thoughts. Underlining them twice. There must be something really wrong with me. I do not want sick people cooking/serving my food and am very happy NYC now has a law requiring paid leave for restaurant workers (and, of course, others). With all the scaremongering over increased prices, I guess I need to point out that the food biz finds many ways to pass along increased costs. (Try to find a bottle of wine on a list for under $40 these days). As I have noted many times, the sickest I’ve gotten beyond the incident with the baby butt on the falafel counter was after the waiter in Florence wiped his runny nose and set down my plate. FFS, I washed my sauvignon blanc bottle the other day after a cashier with pinkeye merely touched it. So I guess I have to say this one more time: Typhoid Mary was a cook. And Hepatitis C is out there, waiting to shut down your establishment after one worker goes on an unfortunate vacation. It had to be someone like Escoffier who first realized an ounce of prevention is worth 10 pounds of cure. That new miracle remedy, after all, runs a grand a dose.