Late to the party on this, but! Nice to see some love for Gabrielle "Prune" Hamilton's new jawn in last week's DI/DO,** esp after that twerp from the Atlantic dissed her. However, interesting that for character witnesses, they went with Suzanne Goin from Lucques in LA, and Barbara Lynch from the of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo in Boston. Glass half full Cod thinks it's nice to see DI/DO stretch out and abandon the notion that NY is the be all, end all of the food world, and get some quotations from the land of Big Ticket and the land of Kobe. Glass half empty Cod thinks maybe someone felt that since Gabrielle Hamilton has a vagina, it would be important to find other vagina-having chefs for soundbites, and VHCs are hard to find in NYC. It is Boeuf Gras today, but perhaps the NYC dining scene is still un petit peu de fete du saucisson? If so, could we possibly be looking at just another Guiteau Monday?
Anchower, Sifton Soundtrackswise, I know. A DM exchange with the man himself has egged the Cod back into his self-appointed, yet sadly neglected task of sharing appropriate music to listen to while you read Sifton's restaurant review. With Bar Basque, Sifton makes it easy on the Cod, if tough on himself. He drops an uno on Bar Basque. Bar Basque is a Chodorow jawn, and longtime Cod readers will remember that Chodorow is fucking crazy. Dude took out a full page ad in DI/DO to respond to Bruni's pan of his samurai steakhouse. Chodorow would seem to be for the restaurant critics what the student you enjoy hearing stories about, but hope you won't end up having to teach is for fessers. (Aside to grassoppers -- this never happens.)
Hard-body work associates? Anyway, no need for "dinkadiknkadinka club music," (does Sifton have a bootleg of the long-lost Paul Anka dubstep project?) The American Psycho nod makes the soundtrack automatic, thanks to this scene. (You can watch it here, if axmurdering yuppies are S for your W. Chodorow and Huey Lewis -- what could possibly go wrong:
Today's DI/DO piece on chef's tables seems like a curious echo of last weeks Rocco kerfuffle. Instead of dismay that Rocco would rather get paid for doing the limbo with Jerry Rice than busting his ass at the stove, we get amazement that Top Chef's Tom Colicchio is actually cooking at the restaurant that bears his name. The confusion and disappointment that attends such things seems to be a funciton of a semantic drift of the word "chef" -- it can mean someone who cooks in a restaurant, someone who owns a restaurant they always cook in, someone who owns a restaurant they sometimes cook in, someone who owns restaurants in Dubai and Vegas, as well as a flagship in some regular place, or it can mean a person who has essentially become a brand, or someone who gets a W2 from the Food Network.
It's almost Christmas, and maybe Benjamin is a bit heavy, but it seems to me as if food's resistance to mechanical reproducibility is part of the question here. If we compare a star chef to a star musician, the challenges facing the chef are apparent -- the recording artist can press up more CDs, or start playing larger venues, and people will be getting fundamentally, if not exactly the same experience. Obviously, your Santogold CD is not the same thing as seeing her in a basement in Williamsburg, but it is closer to the same experience than, say, the difference between Emirils' ca. a decade ago, and Emil's Steakhouse in Gulfport, MS. In this light, the chef's table phenomenon, (which in its dodgier iterations sounds like one of those baseball camps named after a famous Red Sox player, but actually staffed by galoots from Northeastern ), seems to be an attempt to leverage a name by charging a premium for what used to be the norm. Nice work if you can get it, I suppose.
An individual still supporting his family via the fishwrap industry (I know) asked if I thought the Rocco piece in last week's DI/DO was more torch and hatchet or kneepads and chapstick (I may be paraphrasing). Evidently, both responses have been popular. I have not folowed Rocco's career closely, and don't watch reality TV, but on perusal and reflection, I have to say my inclination is to neither. By all accounts, Rocco is a talented chef. The question the article raises is if it is incumbent on someone blessed with talent to manifest that talent in the realm where it manifests itself, or if it is acceptable to leverage that talent to pursue a more nebulous, and more lucrative prominence, in other areas, such as Dancing with the Stars. The discourse around chefs treats the talent like an artistic one, but I am not sure that that is the right analogy. We could condemn a great chef for screwing around on reality TV shows in the same way we might lament Caruso's late-career foray into yodelling, as similar wastes of talent, but I'm not sure if that's fair. Being an actual chef in an actual restaurant is actual hard physically demanding work, and repetitive in a way that other arts are not. A more apt analogy might be to a boxer or running back who quits while they still have possession of their faculties. In any event, it's not clear what obligation Rocco has to people who would like to eat food he might cook, if he stopped supporting himself in less demanding ways.
I am not sure who this Harris Salat is, but let's hope that his appearances in DI/DO remain mercifully intermittent. It was the "deconstructed,"* a notedCodpeeve, that caught my attention, but the entire second sentence is remarkably unalloyed bullshit. First "suffuse" is to "spread over," so unless it's a parfait, it's the wrong world. It sounds fancier than "mix," but "mix" would seem to be the word that describes what's happening. Split infinitives may be my lonely crusade, but as usual, the adverb here can easily be chopped. Then "applying the emulsion in a deconstructed New England fish chowder"? It might be an emulsion, though I am not confident of that, but what the fuck is a "deconstructed New England clam chowder"? It does not appear on the current Salts menu, though lots of wincing quotation marks do, so it's not clear if the name is Bremer's or Salat's. But if you put the ingredients for a chowder on a plate, you have a mise, not a deconstruction. More generally, this is a contemporary example of the kind of nonsense Orwell got after back in the day. Hard to imagine a single sentence that could manage to piss off fans of both Orwell and Derrida, but this is the one. Am I reading journalism more closely than intended? Maybe, but this is America's Paper of record, so are sentences that make sense asking too much?
So the rant of the day with the higher stakes is up on the Tumblr, but when DI/DO goes out of the way to piss off the Cod, the Cod will take the bait. Steven Stern has a nice piece about how a mini restaurant empire in Brooklyn is buying whole beef carcasses and butchering them themselves. They work with local farmers, etc. Terrific, and au courrant, in other words. They have a diagram of a cow, and what they use the various cuts for -- very nice. However, the whole thing comes to a screeching halt in the accompanying recipe, which is for "pork belly guanciale." There is no such thing. Guanciale is made from the jowl, pancetta is made from the belly.* It's like saying "kidney foie gras." It's great that Marlow & Sons is doing its meat like this, but "pork belly guanciale" makes me wonder if elbow ham is next.
The entire economy is in the shitter, so can we please, please please, stop talking about whether to tip on the tax? A tiny bit of math: Assuming a $100 check total, plus a an 8.25 NY tax, your base for tipping is either $100, or $108.25. Figuring an 18% tip, the difference in the tip is $18.00 vs. $19.48. If you/Uncle Punch can't swing that buck forty-eight, you have no business eating in restaurants. In either case, the civilized thing to do, in the case of reasonable, unexceptional service, would be to throw down a double sawbuck. *Surprising that a noted fan of our current president would take such a dim view of financial chicanery.