Lush wine groves

And I’m so old I remember when the hometown paper had people whose job description included keeping ads and editorial separate. Food stories are obviously generated to lure advertising, but at least a sheen of a veneer of respectability was needed. So I really never thought I would ever see a feature on booze right next to a full-page ad for booze. Of course that was in the magazine. Wednesday doesn’t have to worry — there are no ads.

Momofuku, singular

I’ve dutifully trudged through all the debates over whether the Google is destroying recipe searches while wondering: Why not just refine by clicking the blog option? That filters out megatons of crap. And the other night I had a chance to test my theory, when we had a great-looking pork loin from Ray Bradley and I didn’t want to cook it to jerky using the old rules (“60-Minute Gourmet” is foolproof on cooking times for most ingredients to this day, but the “other white meat” pigshit screwed things up big time). The first blog I landed on had a tantalizing technique and adaptable recipe (rub meat with a mix of ancho chile, salt, pepper, garlic etc., grill). It did say to cook the loin to 155 degrees, but I pulled it off earlier and let it rest on a carving board and it was amazing: juicy, tender, pink at the core. The very next day, the government issued the new rules: 145 degrees & three minutes’ rest. That’s change you can believe in. Maybe the USDA knows how to search real cooking today, too.

Limoncello shower

Name and identifying details are omitted to protect the guilty, but someone at the contest/show actually posited that chef challenges and/or upscale cooking are boojwah. And if I hadn’t passed out flyers with a union boss for my next-door neighbor last October when he was running for Manhattan DA I might not have objected — that organized father of boys said his kids were cooking thanks to the seduction of all the food on the teevee. But I contend that food is the only area of American life in which trickle-down actually applies. I’ve been eating for a living for a very long time, and I’ve seen how the tastes and indulgences at the top work their way to the masses. If you had told me back when most fish was frozen that sushi would one day be sold in every supermarket, I would have wondered what truffle oil you were huffing.

Insult to injury: Flash site

I forgot last week to bitch about my “happy” hour at the Regency. Power bar, indeed. After waiting just short of forever to order, my friend had to send back her gin and tonic because the tonic was flat, and then the cashews in the mixed nuts were rancid. The waiter was barely sentient, either overworked or not bothering. But the worst part was paying $14 a glass for Rock Rabbit sauvignon blanc and later seeing it in a store for $8.99 a bottle. At five glasses a bottle, $1.80 apiece, that’s a markup of what, 6 gazillion percent? I guess those tax cuts definitely have to stay in effect. Rich fucks can’t squander their money fast enough.

Premier Anderson’s

Just back from a flying trip to Buffalo (no restaurants were harmed), I’m still marveling at the rather porcine cashier at Office Max who mocked the sales tax charged on the phone my consort bought his mom. She had no idea what the 7 (or so) percent was used for, which puts her right up there with the idiot running for Congress who believes salmonella in eggs could be prevented if only we got the government off the chickenshit producers’ back and simply let buyers beware. Can’t these cretins just move to Somalia and start food blogs, please?

Sated, with an I and not a D

And this sounds insensitive, but one of the high points of my week was the Batterberry sendoff. It really was a memorial that reflected a seriously impressive life with a ripple effect far beyond what he made his name doing. The overflow crowd included lots of boldface food names, but Garrick Utley started things, and Geoffrey Holder did almost a performance piece that I couldn’t quite understand totally in the SRO section but apparently involved Lena Horne and ended with applause loud enough to be heard wherever the two departed are now. Among the many great remembrances was Dan Barber’s LOL recounting of what he went through to write an Adam Gopnik-level introduction for Michael and Ariane when they got a Beard award this year. His Moleskin is a book waiting to be expanded. Another eulogist noted that The Batt (or Bat) was described in the big obit as “puncturing the pomposity” of Gourmet — which was a phrase he would have found to be “a little labored.” He may be unimaginably gone, but he’s still editing. . .

Quoting that Rome innkeeper

I am, once again, reTweeting myself here, but I really would like to see a forensic editor turned loose on the series of tubes. There is simply no way the hands on the keyboard that banged out ovine blather this week were the same ones that took an unnamed but easily identified Florida chef to the woodshed. Someone must have misheard “get a life” with a W. And, off topic, I have to say it’s also amusing to think back on how Mme Ami took Mrs. O to task for setting a bad example by not cooking. So who had 500 chefs in her yard this week, ready to do her bidding? Link bait has a pretty short shelf life. . . .

While we were snarking

Dwight Garner’s review of the Wilbert Rideau memoir in the NYT included a detail I don’t know that I’ve ever read before. Death Row dinners are “ordered for, and eaten by” friends of prisoners — “condemned men usually lose their appetites.” Might be the saddest thing I’ve read since the tale of the about-to-be-whacked convict who saved his dessert “for later.”

Stick a pistachio in it

One of the most sobering experiences in some time was mentioning a Carolina chef who once brought his young son to my apartment on 72d Street to deliver a recipe when I was just starting as a food writer and then having my e-correspondent note that the “kid” now has his own eating establishment, not to mention two kids of his own. How the hell did that happen when I was not aging at all? The only encouraging news is that so many spawn have been allowed to grow up and choose their own careers without having their every bite/burn documented. Maybe the best advice for life really is: First you dig a pit.

Greening down the house

The funniest headline I saw all week was on an op-ed in USA Today: “Food industry has improved our recipes, marketing and labels.” Who is this “our” of whom you speak? It’s just amazing that two generations — at least — now don’t understand you can make a casserole without a can of soup. (It’s probably not a coincidence that heavy cream became a scary phrase in that same time span.) And now I see, just as a rather awesome short film about the foreverness of plastic is making the e-rounds, that McCormick’s has decided what the world needs now is pre-measured spices packed in plastic on a recipe card. Why not wrap it in a plastic bag, too, and then a jewel box to tuck into a white baggie? Probably the same cretins out in the streets, protesting with all the misspelled words they can scrawl against Big Government intruding too deeply into their lives, are blissful to know they can now cook mindlessly, never realizing Big Food has far, far more dominion. Even the slogan echoes Faux News: “We measure. You create.” Thanks very much, but I’ll make my own “socialist” borscht.

Little pictures

I know nothing about frying pigskins, but I do know a story on the whole trend might want to at least mention why you should start from scratch: The crap in stores is pretty fucking scary. Of course that exposé ran in the paper that also reported on the horrible downside to better food in more casual settings at a lower price point: Bedlam R Us. And also ran photographic evidence of what a French friend who doesn’t get fat noted: Houston is home to America’s fattest Americans. It was all almost enough to give the paper a pass on sliding closer and closer to Faux News in print. No wonder its MoDo is guzzling all the gin she can ingest.

Cough into the subway pole

Another day at Zabar’s I saw, at the same moment, people greedily scooping up food samples and a worker walking past in a flu mask. It was just as jarring as considering how amenable New Yorkers are to communal tongs in the mesclun bins in the midst of an epidemic that has hit nearly all 50 states. Maybe it’s proof that lack of universal health care makes us tougher. We can compartmentalize our paranoia.

When they’re good they’re very good

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.

Mojitos don’t need no stinking bitters

Only two Maroons would go to Cuba and complain that the food wasn’t cutting edge. For Che’s sake, can you say embargo? And poor people? But then as a travel writer friend noted, they were clearly just going through the payback motions for the trip. I blame the Food Coven’s honcho for “printing” their drivel; he does seem to take a hands-off approach with his old pals. One just did a trite ode to a “storied gem” of a trattoria that mentions a tart “in the photo above” when all that’s on display is fruit. But at least what he’s not doing is working. I check in just to see the latest brain wreck.