Archive

Archive for the ‘Eating Food’ Category

What’s Green And Gift-Wrapped For The Media?

EAT YOUR F*#!KING BROCCOLI, JUSTICE SCALIA!!

 

 

5  JUSTICE SCALIA:   Could you define the

6  market — everybody has to buy food sooner or later, so

7  you define the market as food, therefore, everybody is

8   in the market; therefore, you can make people buy

9 broccoli.

Advertisements
Categories: Eating Food, Food Media

When Is A Foodie Not A Foodie…..?

New York Magazine, ever on the  prowl for a new urban trend or lifestyle to expose to its audience of affluent ex-Manhattanites, offers up a lifestyle piece this week on a “youth culture phenomenon” being perpetuated by what are best referred to as “Yuffies” (Young Urban Food-obsessives) (The term is mine, not the magazine’s, so please direct your disgust at me).  Specifically, they profile a Ms. Diane Chang.  As New York Magazine describes Ms. Chang and this “phenomenon”:

Diane Chang is a prime specimen of the new breed of restaurant-goer. The species is obsessive and omnivorous. Although they lean toward cheap ethnic food and revile pretension, they do not ultimately discriminate by price point or cuisine . . . . They abhor restaurant clichés (Carnegie Deli, Peter Luger) and studiously avoid chains (Olive Garden, McDonald’s) but are not above the occasional ironic trip to either. They consume food media—blogs, books, Top Chef and other “quality” TV shows but definitely not Food Network—like so many veal sweetbreads . . . . They talk about food and restaurants incessantly, and their social lives are organized around them. Some are serious home cooks who seek to duplicate the feats of their chef-heroes in their own kitchens; others barely use a stove. Above all, they are avowed culinary agnostics whose central motivation is simply to hunt down and enjoy the next most delicious meal, all the better if no one else has yet heard of it.

Ms. Chang seemingly defines herself by what she is not – she is not a hipster, not a foodie, not a yelper.  “I just like what I like,” she says.  Fair enough.  The article seems mainly focused on how her tastes seem calculated to support a certain agenda – i.e, obscure, unfamiliar, unappreciated food is good, while mainstream, well-known food, even if widely appreciated, is lacking.   A lunch at Momofuku Ko and dinner at Blue Hill are dismissed negatively, while Ms. Chang’s iPhone screensaver proudly displays a pig’s foot dish “from a tiny food stall in Taipei.”

Of course, Eater pounced, extracting ten damning lines from NY Mag’s “insufferable foodie story” and declaring that the article is “ostensibly about how people have turned dining out into an obnoxious status-symbol seeking hobby” and “eye-rollingly maddening.”  The comments (both on Eater and the NY Mag article) were not kind either.

Now, it would be easy to pile on,and certainly Ms. Chang made some statements in the article that are hard for me to defend:

She says she disliked M.Wells, last year’s consensus “It” restaurant, partly because of “the fact that everybody loves it, and I just don’t want to believe the hype.”

If you say something like that you are selling yourself out right there, and you lose credibility.  But Ms. Chang also speaks some truth.  In regard to her quest for obscure dining experiences, she says: “It’s a badge of honor . . . Bragging rights.”  As much as I might hate to admit it, its true – having gone to more than my share of obscure restaurants hidden away in Queens and elsewhere, IT’S FUN to be able to brag about it afterwards, boast that you went on this adventure that no one else did.  Of course, you have to be honest about it – if the place sucks, you can’t brag to everyone about how good it is.

The truth is, Ms. Chang and I are not so different.  I’m sure we’d have a lot to talk about if we ever met.  Honestly, it sounds like she needs to get around Queens a bit more – Spicy & Tasty is sort of a noob’s Flushing Chinese (not a criticism of the restaurant,which I enjoy greatly), much like Sripraphai is a noob’s Queens Thai (again, no critique – they have taken lots of my money over the years).  Likewise, I don’t know my ass from my elbow when it comes to eating in Brooklyn.  But I can’t escape the feeling that Ms. Chang did not get a  fair shake from this interview, or from Eater.  As to their “Top Ten Lines” from the article, I have already discussed the ones that I don’t particularly agree with (e.g., M. Wells, Momofuku Ko).  Others I am not so sure about.:

The author describes the “silence” among Ms. Chang’s lunch guests when he revealed his favorite restaurant was Eleven Madison Park, and writes cleverly that “on the food-as-indie-rock matrix, I have just accidentally confessed to loving the Dave Matthews Band.”  But his whole issue seems to be entirely internal, there is no indication that his guests care one way or the other.

Second, Eater (via the author) seems to be trying to pin the (purported) opinion of a friend of Ms. Chang’s on her, excerpting  the statement that:

Lately, Casey has been championing the theory that mediocre food is better than good, the equivalent of a jaded indie kid extolling the virtues of Barry Manilow.”

“Casey” is James Casey, a friend of hers and some sort of food writer.

Eater again goes after her for “not riding the subway,” quoting the article’s report of her taking a $38 cab ride to go to a Korean BBQ place in Flushing.  Now, I’m not sure why anyone who knows better would take a cab to Flushing when it is about 15 minutes away on the 7 Express Train.  However, read in context, it is clear that she had a budget to spend on food from NY Mag and the cab fare came out of her budget.  Plus, as I mentioned before, it sounds like she is not very familiar with Queens. (Also, it sounds like she took the subway home anyway, I’m not sure $38 would get you there and back.)

Finally, she calls Park Slope “the worst food destination ever.” Now, I have no experience in this area but when I sent the article to J. Burger the first thing she said was “she’s right about Park Slope.”  So there you have it.

Anyway, all this to say, the media may have been a bit hard on Ms. Chang.  She obviously is very passionate about food and highly opinionated.  The author of the article made his decisions about how he would describe their time together, and fashioned his story accordingly.  When I first read this article I prepared to pile on but, as I said earlier, Ms. Chang and I are not so different.   We obviously care enough about food enough to spend our time eating out, or planning to eat out, or cooking at home, or planning to cook at home, or writing elaborate blog posts when we could just be relaxing and watching Netflix.  I can’t support everything she says in the article but neither do I think it quite makes her out to be the “status-symbol seeking” snob that some have labeled her.  And I am probably guilty of exercising some of my “bragging rights” in a way that has annoyed people.

Her Tumblr page is quite unassuming, just a simple collection of photos of stuff she’s eaten with some commentary and a link to a “paired” song.  Unlike this blog, there are no tirades about restaurants, or culinary trends, or news of the day.

UPDATE: Eater has posted Ms. Chang’s response to her coverage in New York Magazine (and subsequently on  Eater).  Without further comment on my part, it can be found here for readers interested in pursuing the subject further.

The Last Meal Part II: Last Meal In New York?

March 22, 2012 1 comment

Many moons ago J. Burger posted on “The Last Meal,” where she discussed the meal choices of inmates on death row immediately prior to their execution.  A recent feature at Eater asks a similar question, but rather “what would your last meal in New York be?” (assuming that you were moving elsewhere, not that you would soon be executed).  I perused the responses with a jaded eye, quick to pounce – for we bloggers must always be vigilant for opportunities for snark.

Some responses were predictable:

Per Se, VIP menu

Le Bernadin or Momofuku.

Some responses were trying way too hard:

This totally depends on where I’m moving to. If I’m moving to Sidney, then I’d forgo hitting up Momofuku one last time. If I was going to Shanghai, Bora Bora, Las Vegas, Scottsdale or The Bahamas, I’d skip Jean Georges. If moving to northern California, I’d be able to resist hitting Per Se before I left. Miami or LA? No need to hit Scarpetta or any other Scott Conant restaurant. And assuming we are just concentrating on NYC (because otherwise my last meal would be at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, of course), it’d have to be something like Torrisi or Hearth or Prune or some other homey/chill place that really has a NYC vibe to it and of course great food and drinks.

Some were inadvertently(?) funny:

Why was my “Balthazar” response immediately rejected?

and then there were some others that intrigued me:

Katz’s – Pastrami on rye, stuffed derma, and knoblewurst. Nothing like Katz’s anywhere in the world. Last meal in NYC couldn’t be anywhere else, for me.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of Katz’s or “New York-style delis” generally, but this one seems genuine and perceptive – honestly, you probably won’t find a pastrami on rye like this one outside of New York, so why not go for it?  Plus it is a New York institution.

And there was this:

A smörgåsbord along the 7 train line.

Now, first of all, points for using the umlauts.  For those of you who are not familiar with Queens, what this refers to is the act of “grazing” all the way down Roosevelt Avenue (over which the elevated 7 Train runs), starting in Corona or Elmhurst and working your way toward Manhattan, through Jackson Heights and Woodside and into Sunnyside and (for the truly dedicated) eventually into Long Island City, on the East River.  This route contains street carts, kiosks, store fronts and full-service restaurants serving food from all nations of the world.  You could walk this route ten times, eating in every neighborhood, and never go to the same place twice, nor experience even half of all the available options.  By virtue of having lived in these neighborhoods for 7 years, I have eaten in many of these places, although I have never done “the crawl.”  Overall, an interesting and non-traditional choice,  if not somewhat strenuous.

So, I pondered what my “last meal in New York” would be.  What I soon realized is that my last meal needed  to have particular significance to me, it couldn’t merely reflect what I think would be the “best” meal in the city (i.e., Per Se – VIP menu).  Although I have poked some fun at the response that tries too hard, there is a grain of truth in there – somewhere like Per Se really isn’t giving you anything you can’t get outside of New York (like, at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, for example).  I appreciated Katz’s and the 7 Train food crawl, but neither were for me (the food crawl mostly because I doubt I am going to want to walk for miles down Roosevelt Avenue as part of my last New York meal.  I will probably have spent the last week packing).

For me, it would have to be places I have been again and again, in various stages of my life, and enjoyed each time. My “go-to” places, if you will.  I would not regret it at all if my last New York meal were at Corner Bistro, even if I had to wait in line. That line is where a beer tastes best. And, once rewarded with my table, I would devour a Bistro  Burger, cooked rare,with fries and more beer.  Brings back fond memories of late nights in Manhattan.

Another choice would be the curry noodle soup with vegetable dumplings from Mee Noodle Shop in Hell’s Kitchen (and various locations).  Nothing more than a clean and efficient Chinese take-out shop, but when I used to work from home I ordered from them every day at lunchtime.  They never messed up my order and they always got it to me in about 7 minutes.  For my last dinner I would eat in, order some steamed pork buns to start and wash it all down with a few Tsing Taos.

My final choice would be Tournesol, a cute and traditional French bistro just across the river in Long Island City.  My wife and I have been going here for romantic dinners since we moved to Queens seven years ago, and it is always charming and dependable for classic bistro dishes – a rich rib-sticking cassoulet in the winter, delicious bouillabaisse, steak frites, foie gras terrine and the like.

So, after some soul searching, these are my choices for my last New York meal, and I would be happy and satisfied by any of them.  Maybe that day will never come, but then it never hurts to reflect on these things and, even if I never eat a meal in this city with knowledge that it will be my last, I have some understanding of what food experiences have been most important to me while living here.

Move Over, Padma

For those readers who can’t get enough sexy burger eating, this one’s for you

Divisive Durian

I’ve created some tension in my house because I am storing durian in the fridge.  It’s not even a full durian fruit, just the pulpy insides, which are in a shrink-wrapped plastic box.  Nonetheless, it is stinking up the  refrigerator, so that a cloud of durian-stench wafts out every time the fridge is opened.

For those of you not familiar with durian, it just stinks.  Of durian, Anthony Bourdain has remarked that after eating, “your breath will smell as if you’d been french kissing your dead grandmother.”  In Singapore and other parts of Southeast Asia, durians are banned from being brought into enclosed public spaces.  However, they are also praised as “the king of fruits” in that same part of the world.  Here in the West, they are a lightning rod of controversy.  As far as I can tell, most people in this country are thoroughly disgusted by the durian before they even taste it.  Even then, they are likely not to come back for a  second bite.  Now, I sought out durian a few years back after reading about it in some Asian cookbooks, which sung its praises.  I  find it quite delicious, addictive  even – but I do not deny that it is pungent – and funky tasting – as hell.  After several unsuccessful attempts to turn people on to durian, I have come to the realization that most people are happier not to have me serve it to them.  So I am forced to enjoy it in solitude, sitting and eating it in the  backyard because  my wife does not want it in the house.

Case in point: I threw a dinner party awhile back, and since I had some durian in the fridge and needed to cook dessert, I threw together a durian cheesecake.  I figured, what better way to ease people into eating durian – they don’t have to deal with the pungent fruit itself,  it will be mixed with traditional cheesecake ingredients to cut the strong flavor.  The meal went off great, everyone was singing the praises  of the food, so I brought out my cheesecake with much fanfare.  There was much discussion and anticipation, my dinner guests being familiar with the durian but never having sampled one.  I should add that this was a sophisticated group of diners, many of whom would not hesitate to consume the funkiest of unpasteurized french cheeses.  But durian threw them for a loop.  Many took one bite and left the rest. Maybe one guest ate his entire piece, though less than enthusiastically.  It was pretty much a stellar flop on my part, I should have just served some ice cream.  So I learned my lesson – durian is not ready for prime time in this country, or indeed outside of Southeast Asia.  You will not be buying durian at Gristedes or through FreshDirect in the near future, if ever.  Durian will not be all the  rage on NYC menus, nor will it be sold from food trucks.  Its just too funky, and too divisive.  Its one of the few foods that separates consumers into two camps – utter revulsion, or blissful enjoyment.  There is no in-between, no one is just okay with being served durian (actually, J. Burger may provide  an example of someone who is basically lukewarm about durian.  Of course, she is Southeast Asian, so she is kind of over it at this point).

Next up: I am keen to find some interesting new recipes, beyond custard, smoothies and cheesecakes.  Durian cake intrigues me but my wife will never forgive me if I fill the house  with the smell of cooked durian, so that will have to wait.  I’m also curious about durian pairings.  We all know that prosciutto and  melon pair well together, but what on earth pairs with durian?  I feel like there is lots of new culinary ground to be broken with durian, once you have gotten past creamy desserts.  I’m just sorry I can’t get more people enthusiastic about this particular journey – but, as the Grateful Dead sang:  if I go, no one may follow, that path is for my steps alone.

Finally! Good Chinese Food in Park Slope!

March 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Park Slope is a great place to live — proximity to Prospect Park, beautiful brownstones, good schools, relaxed watering holes, etc.  However, it is definitely lacking in good, reasonable restaurants.  Sure, you could blow a wad at Al Di La or Blue Ribbon for a great meal, but is that what I plan to do every Wednesday night after work?  (Don’t worry.  There are those who do.)

While many Park Slopers fancy themselves “foodies” or otherwise knowledgeable about organic-free range-local-artisinal this and that, the reality, based on the eateries in the nabe, is that there are a good number of people paying lots of money night after night for mediocre take out and delivery food.  This is especially true for ethnic food.  There is no good Indian restaurant.  All of the sushi and banh mi joints are run by ethnic Chinese folks, which alone doesn’t discredit the establishments, but do they compare to the real thing?  No.

But at last!  Some quality Chinese food exists in the ‘hood.  Tofu on 7th has been on 7th Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets for a good number of years now.  The name speaks to its history of catering to the large number of vegetarians in the area, but don’t let it be a misnomer for its current iteration.

Recently, a new chef has been hired and real Szechuan food can be had from its kitchen.  The decor is a bit blah, and I’ve never observed many people eating in.  Go for delivery and order off the Szechuan menu (there is an American menu available for all your greasy, overly sweet favorites but just skip it).  My favorites so far have been the Ma Po Tofu (with pork), “Kung Pao Style” chicken, tea smoked duck and “Hot Pepper Style” beef.  I hope more people discover this joint as I would love for it to stay as is for years to come.

Shame on You For Studying The Science Behind Food Porn

March 14, 2012 3 comments

Yes indeed, we loves us some food porn here at A.O.D., and not least because it drives substantial traffic to our blog.  But apart from the shameful pleasures and tawdry thrills derived from ogling images and video that display food at its most lustful and succulent, do we really understand food porn? Have we bothered to comprehend the cognitive and biological factors that drive us to stare hungrily at sun dappled images of farm fresh garden veggies, or at Padma Lakshmi devouring a cheeseburger, or at the Disney Food Porn Facebook page?

Well, some scientists have concluded that this is all a result of “supernormal stimuli,” a phenomenon in nature in which the features of an object – be it a parent, a mate, or food – are exaggerated to make animal respond more strongly to them. In her book Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, author Deirdre Barrett discusses how advertisers and fast food companies exaggerate things that we like in order to hijack our emotions and cravings.  The idea is that viewers will react more strongly to images of a food/product where the enticing features have been enhanced – mainly, color and texture, e.g. crispness, moistness, freshness,etc.  Barret’s hypothesis is that everyone knows that fast food is unhealthy, but because its advertisements (TV, print, etc.) are expertly designed to scratch a particular itch, by manipulating our desire  to feed ourselves, we can’t resist eating things like Big Macs or Arby’s Big Montana.

So – courtesy Of Christopher Mims’ article on the SmartPlanet blog, we can share the ultimate food porn experience – a nearly 3 minute montage (actually a music video by the Amsterdam-based DJ Mason) showing food porn/advertiser manipulation at its finest.  Mims claims the video drove him to make lunch immediately, and promises you will be headed to get a snack after viewing it.  So, see for yourself – be sure to crank the volume.:

Supernormal Stimuli got hold of you yet? No? Well, we understand that for some of you, food porn may be more properly used to satisfy some of the more base biological urges. We don’t want to leave you all frustrated, so here are some of the most titillating advertisements we have come across in our long history of exploiting sexual food imagery. Enjoy!

Image

Here’s one that goes well beyond chicks eating burgers, and will assuredly be never aired in the U.S.  However, it is some pretty optimal food porn.

Next up: Hardee’s Monster ThickBurger.  I don’t know how this one escaped my two previous posts on the subject, but in the interests of completing the oeuvre, here you go:

And that finally brings us to the grand prize winner, food porn commercial extraordinaire, blue ribbon, par excellence (warning: may be an ad before this one).