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Posts from the ‘Small Tragedies’ Category

Course Thirteen: A Palette Cleanser

I may have retired Palate Patrol 2014 but that doesn’t mean the abuse has abated.

In fact, it may be getting worse. If you’re of the ilk that not only writes parodies of Noma’s stint in Japan but gets paid to publish such humor in The New Yorker, impeccable grammar would seem to be a given.

From the (since corrected) imaginary East Village walk-up tasting menu:

Course Six: A shot of tequila.

To be consumed by chef, staff, and diners. Should act as a palette cleanser and a sedative and reduce grumbling from the kitchen about having agreed to make this meal in the first place.

Now on to 2015, where there are anti-bone broth bots protecting stock’s good name.

Tears by Proxy

Twice in the past two days I’ve encountered examples of dining-induced tears by proxy. I’m not sure if this counts toward my ongoing Crybaby Compendium. I’m pretty sure Judge Judy would consider this hearsay and bust a gasket over it.

I haven’t watched the video responsible for these tears, so it’s possible that simply hearing about salad dressing could make a woman cry. Could someone less cynical go watch it and report back?

* * *

Because I’m a crybaby about dining alone but not getting a nice birthday dinner because I’m too self-conscious to dine alone would be more tear-provoking, I have been toying with the idea of sushi, the solitude-averse’s compromise. In my reading up, I came across Eric Asimov’s 2011 review of Sushi Yasuda, which opens with an anecdote about a  friend who enjoyed dining at the French Laundry alone.

“Wouldn’t she miss out on the communal relishing of shared flavors, delights and memories?” he wonders.

Sure, but she wanted the freedom “to laugh or to weep as the mood dictated, without the sort of inhibitions companions might pose” as we all might want.

Asimov gets it, but wants to make it clear that he’s a guy so this has not been a problem for him. “Being a somewhat stolid male, I have rarely found crying at the table to be an issue,” he reassures.

You and me both. I still haven’t made a birthday reservation. And I’m still not clear whether or not it’s ok to cry during Yasuda’s omakase or not.

Heart and Palette

Thankfully, I stumbled upon a palate problem right before the end of the month. I was starting to get concerned that 2014 had turned itself around. #blessed

Also, there is a new venue called Pinot’s Palette in Staten Island. I would like to hold the borough responsible for that name, but it’s a national chain and actually involves painting.


Palate Patrol 2014

I’m not even close to being a grammarian and would fail deeply as a copyeditor (my persnickety background comes from the library sciences, the most unscientific of all sciences–and wildly fluctuating self-esteem bolstered by others’ mishaps). I’ve caught myself saying literally for emphasis, and pre-hoarding barrage in pop culture, often mixed up hoardes and hoards. And really, does anyone really care about the difference between hardy and hearty?

But the rampant abuse of palate/palette/pallet is reaching epidemic proportions and can no longer go unchecked. It’s not enough to note a few errant examples on Twitter or verbally in passing. I must begin collecting and archiving  for future generations, though I don’t plan on going out of my way to be offended. Examples will likely only stem from my casual RSS’ing and social media skimming.


How Foodspotting, the book, was born.

“When Alexa Andrzejewski traveled to Japan and Korea in 2009, she was rather hungry. It wasn’t one specific dish she had her heart and palette set on, however, but rather a roving buffet of local delicacies.”


Joshua David Stein likes his words. And sometimes–often actually–I like his words too. Which makes this passage (now corrected) in his review of M. Wells Steakhouse in The Observer all the more egregious.

As for those doomed fishies in the concrete trough, they became the truite en bleu ($30). Guests able to stomach ordering a real-time execution would witness them plucked from the pool, clubbed over the head, then gutted, bathed in vinegar and poached in a court bouillon. They arrive at the table Sinatra-eye-blue, with heads unnaturally bent, looking as sad and poetic as an Enrique Metinides photograph. But fresher fish you’ll not find, nor flesh more yielding to fork or pleasing to palette.


A restaurant named Palates opened in Bushwick. This is actually not misuse since it’s meant to be a double entendre; it just sounds funny.

Food That has Moved People to Tears In No Particular Order or Timeframe

Is crying in a restaurant ever acceptable? Probably not if you’re a baby and everyone around you paid roughly $400 for the chance to eat green apple flavored helium balloons and exploding black truffle ravioli (Alinea is likely the most notable restaurant I dined at in 2013 and never blogged about–more on that soon because I know you can’t wait for my opinion).

But what about the adults who weep literally (in the traditional sense of the word) because the beauty tasted was too much to contain? I kind of hate these people and their emotional availability (and no, I don’t mean that mid-2000s meme) so I’ve been collecting examples for the past few years, waiting for the right moment to do something with them. That time is now!

I would know nothing about this personally, having only been moved to tears by too many pre-birthday dinner Manhattans and a quoted 70-minute wait at an Edgewater, New Jersey Outback Steakhouse over a decade ago, but this soulful breed exists, if primarily in the pages of food and travel magazines.

Food that has moved people to tears, in no particular order or timeframe:

Mackerel tartare with osetra caviar

Grilled sole with olive oil, pine nuts, orange, bergamot, and fennel

Turkish ice cream

Truffle soup

Salmon, avocado and mayonnaise hand roll

47 courses during El Bulli’s final run


A meal that ends with five desserts including the Mont Blanc Snow-Bowl, resembling “a 3-D map of a winter landscape beneath a glass dome” that’s presented as the room turns blue and Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” plays.

Cronuts (lack of)

Double header: foie gras and fig and an oyster encrusted in “dirt.”

If there were any themes to be gleaned, I would say seafood and spectacles have high potential for making crybabies out of diners.

The Last Lunch

Final yip's lunch

All good things must come to an end, and after six
year my office will be moving far away from Yip's, my favorite greasy-good by-the-pound
lunch buffet. It was nice knowing you, $4.16 worth of salt-and-pepper squid, shriveled
green beans, hunks of fatty pork belly and soggy zucchini in black bean sauce with
all the chicken picked out by 1:30pm.

I'm off to the land of the bi-level Dallas BBQ and
the new Buca di Beppo. The fact that there's one in the Excaliber casino tells me all I need to know about the Italian chain.

Crystal Light Cares


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

Wildly Wrong

Char burger signWild may be the new Eat, Pray, Love, though I'm guessing with less of the eating? I was surprised to see the Bridge of the Gods mentioned on one of the first pages; it was the author's ending point on her 1,000 mile hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. Do you know what else sits right next to the Bridge of the Gods? Char Burger, the world's best wild west-themed eatery with a cartoon Native American mascot and a view of the Columbia River! I waited 309 pages for the author to reach her final destination–and she celebrates with an ice cream from East Wind Drive-in. WTF? I've never even heard of it. I don't think I can be inspired by an inspirational memoir that doesn't involve Char Burger.

Still Thinking About Gale Boetticher

The Marie Callender's lasagna incident has really become a thing. "Bloggers Don’t Follow the Script, to ConAgra’s Chagrin," The New York Times reports. Eater and Grub Street both picked it up, as well.

I'm trying to resist the urge to get victim-blamey…ok, resisted. I'm going to write more about foreign chains now.

Gale Force Winds

Compared to many food bloggers, I suspect that I have an unusual level of fascination/tolerance for mainstream food innovations and marketing ploys (I cover consumer packaged goods digital marketing in my day job).

That’s the main reason why I accepted an invitation to a pop-up restaurant affiliated with George Duran and the Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert, even though I suspected it might be gimmicky. I mean, a Food Network personality and a product spokesperson who appears on Good Morning America and The View? I kind of knew what I was getting into.

Well, sort of, at least. It turned out to be a focus group that ended with a gotcha moment when it was revealed that the main dish served was really Marie Callender’s Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna and we were being filmed the whole time. Apparently, this has upset a lot of bloggers (something I only discovered after receiving a damage control email from the PR agency a few hours ago) particularly mom bloggers, likely the brand’s target audience. Not to denigrate anyone’s experience, but perhaps I had different expectations.

I wasn’t going to even mention this event, but here I am waiting to see if Irene is all that it’s cracked up to be, watching the Doctor Who premiere, drinking a use-every-thing-in-the-liquor-cabinet Charleston and an ad for the Marie Callender’s  lasagna comes on—and it stars Gale from Breaking Bad (formerly of Damages, The Wire and Flight of the Conchords)!

There he is happily enjoying his frozen entrée with his pretty, age appropriate wife and…is that a  well-adjusted daughter or friend? When I see a recently deceased meth-cooker with a penchant for Thai karaoke renditions of German one-hit-wonders surrounded by such a loving family, smiling (or is that a smirk?) to himself, really savoring his slab of bubbly cheese-topped pasta, I can’t be mad.