This reaction is not even shooting the messenger -- it is shooting the mailbox. The article is generally well reported, with quotations from some SF food interwebnets types, Ben Leventhal, and Bruni himself. The reaction of the bistro proprietor in the lede reminds me of a leitmotif of Ann Landers columns in the late 1990s -- "My spouse met his or her new lover on the Internets and left me. Damn you Internets, damn you to hell!" In each of these cases, the internet provides means and opportunity, but not a motive. If the food is not crap, then, chances are, folks will not say it is crap.** The Yelp thread in question is here. Decide for yourself.Also, working in another industry that allows for anonymous critiques on the internet, I can attest that a) folks moved to make those responses generally have anomalously positive or negative things to say and b) it is human nature to dwell on the negative comments. So a prospective diner will tend to read reviews differently than a proprietor, which is a good thing. By way of example, imagine the following conversation between two people planning to dine together:
"How about restaurant X?"
"Let me check.... wait, no, someone said something bad about it on the Internet. Any other ideas?"
Well naturally. After the long permitting process, the years of apprenticeship, the daunting expense, taking 30 seconds to open a Blogger account, why wouldn't a food blogger feel like a big shot? But this guy should stop being an asshat fire his publicist. I just finished reading Danny Meyer's book, (interesting, and more on that soon), and it is pretty clear by about page 8, that he's managed to thrive by maintaining a really exalted notion of hospitality. The essence of this philosophy might be distilled into treating people like big shots, even if empirically, they are not. Coincidentally this is the opposite of the approach Kridech takes, and hammers home with the "scrambled eggs" jape.
My moral antennae may be a bit more musketty than usual, as I'm getting ready to teach Uncle Tom's Cabin for my day job. If you have not treated yourself recently, this is the book where Harriet Beecher Stowe fulminates against the evil of slavery for six hundred pages or so. Correctly identifying slavery as a great moral evil, her position is that all the slaves should be freed. Skipping ahead to 2007, Puck may join Stowe as in the ranks of great moral crusaders. Earlier, Puck released his new animal welfare policies. And now Burger King has done the same. But there is a difference -- read and see:
There's some other, stuff, but overall, it reminds me of that old spiritual, "When Israel as in Egypt's land / Let 10% of my people go." This is like that. It is better than nothing, but I ain't buying the Burger King a ticket to Stockholm just yet. And, as the Accidental Hedonist points out, there is nothing about cows. Fuck 'em, I say. Despite dire predictions, this whole animal welfare slope does not seem so slippery after all.
Bourdain steps back into Ruhlman's chrome sandbox, and drops the simultaneously oafish and righteous science like only Tony can. On one hand, he sticks up for the nameless army of mainly Latino cooks who, night in, night out, actually realize the visions of the Beard honorees:
Yah, that sucks, but it is not clear how the lack of Garland ranges is discriminatory. I'm all for kicking against the pricks, but as Scott Norwood can tell you, when you're kicking, aim is important. Also, as predicted, some other posts in this sandbox have denounced Puck's foie ban as a publicity stunt. I think that might well be true, but Bourdain's advocacy here might well have similarly mixed motives.
Despite the best efforts of science, each pig has one belly. So where are the extra bellies coming from? Or, more to the point, what used to happen to the bellies? More generally, it would be interesting to know how changing fashions in food, viz the offalsance of the early Oughts, affect what happens to the rest of the beast.
I frequently indulge in this sort of X is like Y approach, but this seems unfair, in that it is reasonable to suppose that many readers of the Times will not be familiar with Ethiopian food, as many of them a) own mattresses and boxsprings and b) are not in grad school. It would seem more reasonable for Mr. Norton to congratulate himself on his cosmopolitanism.
4) In the ever-changing world of foie (that whole thing in Iraq worked out, and we cured AIDS, right?) news that it may be possible to get foie, sans gavage. I'm sure I'm not the first to make this joke, but if someone would just design an adaptor so geese can get their tiny beaks into a Graffix, this problem would solve itself.
5) Not surprisingly, Stabucks wants to crush the rebels before the start of the rainy season:
Jebus. Once again, life imitates the Onion. The post goes on to point out that Starbucks will let you hang out all day long writing your dissertation/novel/40 page rejoinder to a dear John letter, though "extra living room" is pushing it, as my living room's comfortable chairs are rarely monopolized by vagrants, and there is almost never a line for the bathroom. As a reminder, if you enjoy the sociability of the coffeehouse, but prefer not to suckle at the teat of the mermaid, plug a zip into delocator.net, and it will give you the closest non-Starbuck coffee spots.
From time to time, a man has to reconnect with what's really important. In these latter days, it is easy to get caught up in the nonessentials-- finishing collards with balsamic vinegar, truffled grits, watching Rach on Youtube, and so forth. But too much of that sort of thing is not good for the soul, and a time comes where a man must turn aside from such vanities and get back to basics. A man needs to find a place where they still make hamburgers out of food, where the local food section will teach you how to make classics like brown veal stock, where a handshake is a man's word, and where the people live simpler, more connected lives.
I was lucky enough to find this place. It is called Los Angeles. Both on and off the blog, Angelophiles as diverse as Addison and J-Grizzle had commended the Los Angeles burger culture to me. The cinetrix and I managed to hit two ends of the spectrum, Pie N Burger in Pasadena, and an In N Out that was a Leinart scramble away from the rental car return. In their own ways, both were impressive. Pie and Burger is an institution, but comes a little pricey at around seven bucks for a fastfood sized burger.* But I'm still thinking of it with fondness. In what I gather is the normal presentation, the burger comes with a variant of Thousand Island dressing, and in a little paper corset holding the whole contraption together, which is useful if you can manage not to eat the paper. Pie and Burger was also the site of one of the more remarkable server encounters I've had in 07: Pie and Burger rocks a vaguely nostalgic vibe
with the decor, but it seems to be the retro born of not ever redecorating. One exception is a giant plasma screen near the back. When we visited, accompanied by gracious hosts the Turtles, said plasma screen was displayng -- wait for it -- the Yearling.** (Click through for spoilers, which will explain our party's consternation.) We were in a booth, and watched with some trepidation as a dad and young son took stools directly in front of the screen. (We'd arrived about the time that Flag started getting into the 'baccy.) As we settled up, we observed to the waitress that it seemed like kind of a harsh vid for the Pasadena lunch crowd. She begged to differ and then proceeded to articulate a fairly involved argument that the title "The Yearling" was a metaphor, referring equally to the boy Jody and the fawn. Our waitress did not appear to be waiting tables between auditions, but rather seemed to be a diner lifer who probably turned at her birth to face the OB who delivered her, took a pencil from behind her year, and said "what can I get you, hon?" So the film analysis was a bonus.
In N Out is a better-known institution, with multiple locations, all in Cali, I believe. (Long may the regional cult chain wave). I'd been told in no uncertain terms that this was the one can't-miss LA food item. That may be pushing it, but even at 10:30 in the morning, it was in many ways a more interesting meal than our Sunday Supper (deets to follow):
1) We were not the only people there. Even allowing for third shifters having a second breakfast, how many people eat burgers at 10:30 AM?
2) The burgers were tasty, and set the cinetrix and I up for another long day on the wrong side of airport security. The presentation was much the same as Pie N Burger, though the patties were smaller and not as succulent. (For testing purposes, I had a Double Double, and did not try any of the fancy ordering tricks I'd heard about. [Next time, Animal Style.]) The secret to the burger seemed to be that In N Out makes them out of food. You could watch burgers and fries being assembled to order, out of buns, patties, lettuce, tomatoes and condiments. It tasted like a combination of recognizable elements, rather than a congealed lump that eats like a tallow-flavored fruit (see Big
Mac). Alice Waters and In N Out have more than a stretch of I-5 separating them, but I could not help wondering if
the general betterness of produce in Cali as opposed to the East Coast explained some of the joy of this burger. The fries were good, and there were not an obscene amount of them. The meal I had at In N Out was a foray of a glutton
epicure trying to squeeze one last experience into a trip, but Angelenos can eat like this all over the place, and it is no big thing. Conversely, New York experiments with selling real hamburgers at a reasonable price have resulted in hysteria, lines, bribes, and webcams. If Los Angeles is a hyperbolic exaggeration of the rest of America, but a popular New York burger spot is a hyperpbolic exaggeration of an LA staple, somewhere, Baudrillard is asking for fries with that.
*A little bigger than a slider, but much smaller than a thickburger, perv.
**Rated G! (With "some intense scenes," they do mention.) What could be better family fun than watching some kid snuff Bambi?
1. Wolfgang Puck has now eliminated foie gras from the menu of all
of its dining establishments. Foie gras is produced by force-feeding
ducks or geese to the point where their livers swell up to ten times
their normal size.
I wish that he'd had the sack to come up with one more precept, so we could have Wolfgang Puck's Ten Commandments2.0.** These are laudable precepts, by and large, but it's hard not to think that LA Eater might be on to something with the notion this is a way to perk up a flagging brand. Most notably, Puck's sensible production-side dictates get pushed behind the consumption-oriented, literally headline-grabbing foie gras ban.
As I've opined elsewhere, the foie ban is kind of like being involved in a Papillion breed rescue organizaton. You are mitigating suffering, but a very small spectrum of the suffering that humans inflict on animals. It is, because of its class connotations, the softest target imaginable for PETA, et al. To their credit, the NY Times got it, focusing on the larger animal welfare issues related to Puck's move, while the LA Times was blinded with foie. On the other hand, any effort to remove foie will spark caterwauling from folks like Ruhlman and Snack, generating pub for Puck's empire.***
**It is fun to rewrite the originals in this style:
"Wolfgang Puck will not make unto Wolfgang Puck any graven image, or
any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the
earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."
Wolfgang Puck will not covet Wolfgang Puck's neighbour's house, Wolfgang Puck shalt not
covet Wolfgang Puck's neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant,
nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is Wolfgang Puck's neighbour's.
***For the record, I like foie gras. I'm against banning it, but largely because I think the specter of gavage is a red herring drawing attention away from much larger scale animal welfare issues. Come to think of it, if I ran PR for Tyson, I'd propose covertly funding anti-foie campaigns as a way to keep PETA out of the hen house.
I share the following, with misgivings, fearful that this collage may have been assembled for the wrong reasons, but it is a Friday. Stay tuned for a return to PHC. A reserved tip of the fin in the direction of commenter and codpadre New Orleans. Update
Update: A similar compilation is here. I suggest opening either one, then just letting the audio run in the background. Via TFS.