I would be remiss if I failed to mention that some of the grits news coming out of the 02139 is not terrible.* Right catty corner from the grits pizza nightmare is Christina's Spices & SpecialtyFoods, an offshoot of Christina's Ice Cream, (aka the East Cambridge ice cream store owned by a taxpayer). When the Cod is lucky enough to shop here, he feels like Pee Wee in the magic shop. Hand to God, I had an inkling this would happen before I saw the sign, but Cantabridgians can now purchase Anson Mills grits over the counter. Prep instructions are a little finnicky, but Anson Mills is the Real Deal. One of the mantras at the day job is "retention," for much the same reason that casinos promote retention of their patrons by injecting oxygen into gaming areas and by removing clocks. As such, one cannot but wonder if access to non Quaker Instant grits might have been enough to keep Quentin Compson out of the Charles River, thus improving Harvard's retention numbers for the Class of 1910.
Coco Chanel is famous for saying something like “Before you leave for the day…take one thing off…” or, "take off the last thing you put on." In any case, it's a dictum that comes to mind for a certain kind of restaurant that's a little bit ambitious and is likely in a town with an Airport with more gates for Southwest than for legacy carriers. They want to please, but they want that Beard nom, etc, so they keep on adding stuff, a la Todd English on an Adderall bender. Soby's, the restaurant where the Cod and cinetrix hit on this Coco-restaurant connection, (and the host for a recent Romney fundraiser), has an unusually compelling example this evening. Skirt steak w/ mashed potatoes? So far, so good, though the mashed potatoes seem out of keeping with the Gaucho vibe skirt steak wants. But then, grilled asparagus (in September? where does it come from, besides off the Sysco truck?), and a dressing that screams "scared money don't make none" - toasted garlic and chives? For a salad dressing?
And dessert. Bread pudding? Dayenu - in the right hands, bread pudding can be a ridiculously compelling dessert. But, this one, propped up w/ blueberries, and, uh, lemon curd, and an utterly confounding garnish of "fruit and nut white chocolate bark"? Is there any reason to imagine that the chef at Soby's has thought much about a) skirt steak or b) bread pudding? De La Soul has the answer:
So this whole Chick-fil-A/Gay thing is really starting to eat my brain, a la Gatesgate '09. On the one hand, folks who don't get that free speech is pointless if that speech does not have consequences, on the other folks whose commitment to civil rights begins and ends w/ not eating chicken sandwiches. But, there is a man in Greenville, SC who is living Biblically, specifically Ezekiel 22:30, And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it..."
In this case, the gap was a Chick-fil-A drivethrough, and the man was Jeffrey Martell:
Certainly, the good people at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University warm the Cod's heart with their linguistic precision (no "vodka gimlets" for them, one imagines), but they do have a dog, er, sturgeon in this fight, in that UGA produces its own sturgeon caviar. Considering that it says right on the can "They have Gatorade... we have caviar," in a not very subtle dig against the University of Florida, it's clear that Dr. Peterson, distinguished ichthyologist though he may be, is engaged in some good old fashioned SEC trolling of Louisana's caviar pretensions.
Evidently, the geographical confusion that has gripped college football has extended into the realm of condiments. Duke's Mayonaise, the beloved cultish secret of Southern cooks, is now available in parts of the South that are north of Canada! They are selling it -- openly -- in Pennsylvania! The new slogan is "the secret of great cooks." As a reasonably serious question, what happens when/if Duke's is available at supermarkets nationwide? What portion of the Duke's mystique lies where you cannot get it? The only intentionally regional brand that went national that comes to mind is Coors, and that's complicated b/c of Nazis and stuff.
In other regional news, regional supermarket chain Bi-Lo defines local like so. The Bi-Lo HQ is in Florida, and the chain's reach extends well beyond these states, but there is something reminiscent of the idea of the home counties in this notion. It's not as good as, you know, locally grown food, but better than trucking everything in from California.
In case you missed it, around ATL "march to the sea" generally refers to Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's experiment in total warfare, what with the incinerating stuff and all. While we're at it "The South has risen" is problematic, in that the "it" in "The South's Gonna Do It Again" is not "provide porky treats to NYC food writers." It's nice to see this festival get some love, but let's hope Rach finds Ozersky a new editor before he samples the culinary delights of Nanking. Play us off, Charlie Daniels!
FOC TWM passed along news of a new BBQ joint coming to TLOTB&TC, called The Bearded Pig. For when you get tired of the bean and the cod, BBQ is a nice change of pace, but in Greater Boston, they still talk about long-departed Jake & Earl's like they talk about Gretzky in Edmonton. (Redbones is fine, but let's be real here.) As mentioned previously, Somerville struggles with swine, the jury is out (place has not opened for eat-in yet) but there are some reasons for concern. The menu offers eight meats and five sauces, which is at least six more meats and three more sauces than one would like to see. More alarming are the sides, as in "all our sides are vegetarian, except for Brunswick Stew." I asked, and yes, the baked beans and the collards are somehow, mysterously, prepared without meat. I hope this place does well -- it's a good location, and a great name, and I hope they have the best pulled pork north of Lexington, NC. However, lapses like these w/ the sides are why it remains difficult for people to take northeast BBQ seriously.
So, the Globe, like a million other outfits, (see esp Southern food and drunks) has its own NCAA tournament knockoff, Munch Madness in this case. It's exactly as compelling as a battle of the bands in the gym your sophomore year, except that Tony Maws, Beard awards and all, REALLY wants to win:
Thanks to you, Craigie has made it to the finals of The Globe's "Munch Madness" Competition. Of course, I want us to win. Who wouldn't appreciate such a vote of confidence?
We've tooted our own horn a fair amount over the last few days - thank you for reading and voting for us - and, yes, I'm asking for your vote again. We know it's "just a contest", but I hope that winning can be so much more than bragging rights. I hope it will focus more attention on our nose-to-tail, stem-to-root, fin-to-gills approach to cooking and how it enables us, in our small but consistent way, to spread the word about sustainability.
A vote for Craigie is really a vote for our suppliers too. I am just a cook; they are the ones who produce the beautiful product that I am honored to work (and play) with. They do this through rain, sleet, and snow. I'd love to win it for them too.
Most of all, I would like to win for the proud committed people who work here at Craigie: Sous Chef Matt Foley, Pastry Chef Jessica Scott, and the entire kitchen staff; Our Managers: Carl York, Karin Brudvig, Ted Gallagher, and Mark Grande, and our front of house staff. No way could we do what we do without them. THEY deserve the recognition.
No matter what happens in "Munch Madness, we'll all be here the very next day fixing the plumbing, harassing suppliers, and finding new ways to honor our 100% commitment to both sustainability and yumminess.
I am humbled and proud to have our family-run restaurant make it to the "Munch Madness" finals. No matter what, I'll be excited to cook for you the next time we see you at Craigie.