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Posts from the ‘Page & Screen’ Category

Singapore on the Hudson

The so-called Bourdain Market, which will purportedly offer food from around the world in 40 to 50 stalls, is certainly generating a lot of interest.

Though Calvin Trilling might argue otherwise (scroll to the very last paragraph), recreating the Singaporean hawker center experience in NYC has always been my fantasy, assuming that one day I became old, wealthy and persuasive enough to make it happen.

(Sometimes this fantasy goes a step further and I imagine having a superpower–invisibility and flying are so overrated–where you could beam yourself anywhere at any time so I could lunch on char kway teow or laksa in Singapore [though it would be the middle of the night] and then materialize right back at my desk afterward.)

Of course I wouldn’t call my food center Garcia Market because that would be really arrogant and stupid, plus it would cause people to expect nachos and I wouldn’t be selling them.

The latest news is that K.F. Seetoh, Singapore’s chowhound-in-chief, will be involved to some degree with Bourdain’s project. I’ve been to Seetoh’s highly curated Gluttons Bay, though sadly I only got some satay to go and took very few pictures because sickness become the overriding theme on that trip. I will say that five years ago I never would’ve imagined a NYC equivalent ever coming to fruition.

It can be fun watching food shows with people who have no interest in food or food personalities. An episode of Parts Unknown focused on Bahia, once appeared on my TV screen and Anthony Bourdain was sitting on a beach eating wedges of grilled cheese on a stick when the scene slowly faded to an attractive woman in a bikini showering al fresco. The cable-free friend posited how funny it would be with a gender reversal. Indeed, a weathered 58-year-old, white-haired woman in shades, drinking caipirinhas, morphing into a hot young man in Speedos would never ever be on TV–though it’s sadly hilarious to imagine it.

Surprise, Surprise

Not so long ago, The New York Times ran an article with the subhead “10 of New York City’s Most Surprising Wine Lists.” I mean, I guess. Are we surprised by Má Pêche or Roberta’s?

I’m that person who orders a bottle of wine at Bonefish Grill, so obviously I prefer The Wall Street Journal’s “The Pleasant Surprise of Chain-Restaurant Wines,” which ran the day after. So much wine surprise for one week. Included was an odd mix of restaurants, heavy on steakhouses, with P.F. Chang’s thrown in. It really could’ve used a little Seasons 52.

The overall takeaway wasn’t so positive, despite the promising title. Fleming’s list was overpriced, Morton’s was boring and overpriced, Legal Sea Foods poured the wrong year, and the server at the White Plains P.F. Chang’s had never opened a bottle of wine before, including the 2010 Renato Ratti Ochetti Nebbiolo D’Alba that was supposed to be a 2011.

This isn’t the first time a legit, i.e. non-bloggy, publication tackled this topic. In 2011 Food & Wine did a round-up with many of the same characters–and the surprise addition of Olive Garden.

And now I’m having the strangest urge for Chateau Ste. Michelle Riesling.




Loose Ends

Ugh, I managed to practically lose the entire month of June, and July is already escaping me. Can I talk briefly about a few unrelated things that aren’t new?

Fireball Whiskey is apparently a thing among the cocktail set. Punch said so, and then posted this more pedestrian Williamsburg evidence today. I’m pretty sure I bought my sister a bottle of Dekuyper Hot Damn! for one of her birthdays in the early ‘90s, but until recently that had been the extent of my cinnamon-flavored liquor knowledge. Fireball was rampant in New Orleans, and I finally caved at Twelve Mile Limit when faced with a French 75 twist called the Spitfire (just add champagne–probably prosecco, in reality–and lemon juice). It’s easier to take risks on cocktails when priced in the single digits, not $14, the new $12. No, the picture is not great. Maybe it’s the inverse of “camera cuisine.”

Should I care about endless appetizers at TGI Friday? I don’t really.

I do care about NYC’s first Melting Pot. Why is no one talking about this? Maybe it’s too hot to think about melted cheese.

I wouldn’t go all the way to Florida for the experience, but I definitely need to see one of these new re-modeled-for-millennials Olive Gardens.

Smith & Wollensky is opening its first international location in London.

Maza Loukouma and Espresso Bar, a Greek coffee bar, is supposed to open in Greenwich Village next month.

Jackson Heights has a new international chain Pastes Kiko’s, which I’m excited about because turnovers not tacos, obviously, but also because it’s just four blocks away from my new co-op (I’m going to scope the hell out of the neighborhood come September).

I could take or leave the healthy Belgian chain Exki that also recently opened. By the way, my sporadic Serious Eats column, “Fast Food International” was a victim of the recent site revamp. Anyone dying for some amazing NYC-centric international intrigue?

I thought Bolivians hated fast food—it’s the country that’s always trotted out as being McDonald’s-proof—but I guess now that we’ve depleted all of their quinoa, they’ve been forced to embrace KFC. Wow, Ventura Mall is clearly where it’s all happening in Bolivia. There’s a new Sbarro too.

I’m pretty sure this is the first food commercial exploiting normcore fashion (just the white guy, to be specific). Sensible since it doesn’t get much more normcore than Chex Mix. Enjoy.



Virginia Is For Lovers

coronrita for two

Initially, I wasn’t so sure about Vice’s new Sugar Babies column, but thankfully it’s not all Trump Towers, Japanese toilets (and ghee). The latest installment from a chubby girl in the Northern Virginia suburbs is pretty awesome, though.

Lessons learned:

Chains are the most stealthy.

“My friends all hang out at the local bars and restaurants downtown, so I normally suggest we meet at chain restaurants: Ruby Tuesday, Outback Steakhouse, Chili’s, etc.”

Outback Steakhouse has the best lighting.

“I like Outback because it’s a bit darker in there; places like Ruby Tuesday and Applebee’s are always lit so brightly and it’s really unflattering.”

Closeted clients can be ok too.

“We didn’t have sex—he just wanted company—but he was really fun. He’d buy my Jeffrey Campbell shoes and take me to Outback.”

The Great American Restaurants group in Northern Virginia has the classiest chains.

“For example, there’s Coastal Flats, which is like a super high-end Red Lobster with amazing crab chowder, and Sweetwater Tavern, which has delicious bread and fantastic cocktails. And the decorations are amazing. They have giant black jellyfish everywhere. It’s great.”

Ugh, I just learned about Coastal Flats last week, but four days later officially broke up with the boyfriend of 13+ years with family in Northern Virginia and went there for Mother’s Day so now I’ll never be able to go and my life is ruined. In other words, how does one go about becoming a sugar baby?

10pm Snack Just Doesn’t Have the Same Ring To It

The May issue of Saveur is a composite of meals progressing from day to night. Among the late night snackers, a list that includes missives from Martha Stewart and Traci des Jardins, lurks a standout from Kathleen Hanna.

She sings sugary praises for cake batter-flavored vending machine F’real milkshakes worth sneaking into FIT for, then concedes “If F’real is not available, I just down a gingerbread martini at Outback Steakhouse.”

BUT the Chelsea Outback Steakhouse, which one would assume is the Outback Steakhouse in question, closes at 10pm (11pm on weekends) which would render the chain useless for a true midnight snack. It do like the spirit of this story, though.


Anchors Aweigh

Looks like Schott forgot to add some secret lingo to his Times bar piece. Ok, If I’m to understand, the cast of ABC’s upcoming Mixology aren’t bartenders but misguided douches who hang out near mixologists and use “Barcabulary.” Let’s hear it for the other side of the bar.

Can not wait for more.

Something to Be Thankful For

gostner schwaige bread bowlIn the December Food & Wine (no features online yet) you’ll find what might be the world’s classiest bread bowl, prettified with saffron, violet and pink petals floated across the still surface. I would like to believe that the crusty loaf is sitting atop a bed of smoked hay, but it’s probably just dry Alpine grass, and it is.

The dish is actually called Hay Soup because that is what it’s baked in, and not only contains 20 herbs, but cream from cows that have eaten the same herbs. You’ll have to go to the Dolomites to experience this sourdough majesty, though; it’s served at Gostner Schwaige, a restaurant with no website.

Since I’m spending Thanksgiving in a desert where the only English-language TV shows appear to be Low Winter Sun and According to Jim, indulge my nostalgia and allow me to link to a teenage photo of myself with a bread bowl (on Christmas, but a holiday still).

Elsewhere This Week

While I've slowed down my posting a bit this summer
(also, there are still THREE MORE WEEKS left after Labor Day) I did write two
things this week elsewhere:

I praise the cashiers at Yip's in one of Eater's front of the house tributes.

I encountered haggis and more at Smith, a new
gastropub in Bangkok of all places. Read about it on Food Republic.

Crystal Light Cares


Appletini drunks no longer have to worry about inadvertently humping fugly dudes.

Le Self

Village buffet

Le Village Buffet photo via Where is Cat?

I've not been a Francophile for decades so my cultural understanding of the country is admittedly weak. Yes, I realize they are a thin nation and we are mostly chunks, but I'm pretty sure that when people talk about a certain French aesthetic, they really mean Parisian not the entire country.

Acclimating French women to Jenny Craig is no easy sell, as Susan Dominus' article in this past Sunday's New York Times Magazine points out. In particular I was struck by Valérie Bignon, the director of corporate communications for Nestlé France's irrational vehemence against cafeteria-style dining (I didn't interpret this as all-you-can-eat) a.k.a. "Le Self."

“You know what I find totally crazy?” Bignon asked, momentarily sidetracked. “Le Self. You know this system? It’s American. You take a plate, there’s a line, you take some salad. . . .” She was referring to what we call self-serve, an option so neutral to me that Bignon might as well have been decrying the rise of the photocopy machine. “In school cafeterias, there used to be a gentleman who made the meal and a madame who served it, and everyone ate together at the table, as they do at home,” she said. “But Americans hit on this system that is fast, it’s cheap, you take what you want — and now it’s everywhere in France!” she said. “I am anti-Self. It’s bad for rapport, and it’s bad for health — it’s too individualistic.”

But in the new issue of Saveur, a woman raised in France in the '60s reminisces about summer family road trips along Route Nationale 7. Author Sylvie Bigar writes:

Other times when hunger struck, we could count on the casual roadside restaurants that fed travelers, as well as truckers who drove the route year round. I remember filling my plate from their generous buffets with as much leg of lamb or entrecote as I wanted.

So, what gives? Le Self is clearly not a modern invention, nor strictly an American export. Buffets are viewed by Parisians much as they might be by a certain class of New Yorkers, which doesn't mean they don't exist.

Also, not terribly related: I feel like a bad person because whenever an article by an American writer mentions a pivotal family trip to Paris (which happens an awful lot–I can think of two off the top of my head in magazines this month, alone) that formed their ideas about food, my brain shuts off and I start feeling twitchy. Obviously, my aversion is born out of jealousy because the idea of a European vacation is unfathomable to me despite even the seemingly middle-class Griswolds partaking in the rite of passage. I am making a vow to hold back on kneejerk character assessment just because so many writers experienced kickass family vacations involving Michelin-starred restaurants.