Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We suppose it shouldn't be a surprise that when asked by the Rocky Mountain News, "If you could prepare a meal for any president in history, who would it be? And what would you serve?," Ursus Major Tom Colicchio should have picked the original Teddy Bear, Theodore Roosevelt.
As Colicchio puts it, "He was such a great outdoorsman, and . . . the dinner conversation would just be amazing. I could see where he would eat for four to five hours nonstop and it would just be a great night." He would have served Teddy a meal based on game--no mention of bear meat--and truffles.
All well and good and delicious, but somehow--without, of course, any evidence--we had always figured Tom Colicchio for a Democrat.
Oh dear, possums.
Well, frankly, we're shocked that it took four seasons for anyone from Top Chef to be arrested, and even more shocked that it should have been Marcel Vigneron. We just assumed that it would be Ilan Hall.
Marcel had appeared at a gala for the Pageant of the Masters on Saturday and was arrested after midnight by the Laguna Beach police. Surprisingly, it seems he returned hours later to give a cooking demonstration at the Festival of Arts. It remains to be seen whether Marcel will take the (awkward) rap; we will keep you updated and supplied with bad puns.
Shiver our timbers, possums. What the Blaises is going on?
This is how we are used to seeing Richard Blais, with soft-serve whoosh atop his head. Whether intentional or not (we think intentional), this is a trademark of sorts, and a canny one at that, an instantly recognizable silhouette. Even if it’s not a becoming coiffure, it’s part of his “brand.”
So imagine our surprise when we came across this online ad in the Los Angeles Times for a Baileys promotion. Where, oh where, is the fauxhawk?
Don’t get us wrong; that’s a very flattering picture in the ad. The (new?) haircut is a good one, and either Richard has lost some weight, or we want to get ahold of the bitch who PhotoShopped that pic for Baileys, giving him a firm jawline and highlighting the cleft in his chin. We just wonder whether it diminishes his “brand” to get rid of the fauxhawk.
On the other hand, notice how the Top Chef connection is absent from the ad. Knowing how territorial NBC Universal/Bravo is, it may well be that they wouldn’t let him use the Top Chef association in connection with a non-approved product or brand. And yet, it seems canny and a step up to go from mere Top Chef finalist to “Celebrity Chef,” and in that light, perhaps the better haircut is part of the same strategy. Better to be a “Celebrity Chef” with a good haircut than a Top Chef finalist with an unflattering, gimmicky haircut that cannot in good conscience be maintained beyond 2008.
The “Grews” Had a Word for Them: While Cockteasing Raggaydy Andy, Spike “Asshat” Mendelsohn Confirms Jen and Zoi Are Kaput
Seriously, possums, this is a document for the ages. Spike:
* confirms that Jen Biesty and Zoi Antonitsas have broken up, that they had broken up by the time the reunion show came around, that Zoi was “more into the breakup” than Jen, and that, indeed, Zoi brought along a new girlfriend to the reunion! Quel scandale!
* says Ryan Scott has “quite a mouth on him”
* calls Lisa Fernandes “pretty miserable of a person.” He also says he “gave her [his] old restaurant.”
* does his best impression of a red-light district catamite, though Raggaydy Andy doesn’t rise to the bait, other than to say the Greeks are “AC/DC”; what could possibly have given him that idea, Spike? Surely not the pawing, the leering, the giggling, and the suggestive talk? Nah. Anyway, we simply figured that, unlike the blond Navy boy from The Bachelor, Spike simply wasn’t Andy’s type.
* says he hit on Padma during the show. Raggaydy Andy refuses to confirm that Padma is single. Very interesting.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Oh possums, somewhere in his babyproofed lair, Anthony Bourdain is having a very good laugh this morning. Yes, indeed.
Confirming not only that he has accepted his fall from three-starred grace into the muck and filth of "has-being" but also that he is positively rolling around in that same muck, our little Rocco DiSpirito has now picked up his tight(er) trousers and dance shoes to join Dancing with the Has-Beens, er, Stars.
His illustrious companions in this dance marathon straight out of They Shoot Has-Beens, Don't They? include Kim Kardashian, Ted McGinley and Lance Bass. (There had been talk that they might allow Lance to trip the light fantastic with a male partner--wouldn't Rocco have been ideal?--but it appears that is not the case.) On the plus side, Susan Lucci will also be on. Aging Star Collapse Watch begins in 28 days. ("Oh please," says Miss XaXa. "Susan Lucci would never pull a Marie Osmond. Ever.")
‘Tis true, possums, we had very nearly despaired of ever identifying the “goatee’d, vaguely toothsome lad” in the photo with Miss Universe, but last week another anonymous possum sent a tip our way, and we’re pretty sure we have our man, as it were.
Feast your eyes upon that splendid hunk of Italian beef. No, possums, no; look to your right. Eccolo. Now, the giovanotto standing next to the fine specimen is Fabio Viviani, owner and executive chef of Café Firenze, an “Italian Restaurant and Martini Lounge” in Moorpark, California, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Granted, we’re not with the FBI or anything, but based on the comparison of a photo from Café Firenze’s website and the Miss Universe photo, we’d say it was positively the same guy.
As if by the grace of E.M. Forster himself, Fabio is a native of Florence, Italy.
But before you go all A Room with a View, cueing up “O mio babbino caro” and heading off to Porta Rossa to buy the ring, you ought to know that he’s married, to a certain Jessica (pictured below).
(Rest assured, Signora Viviani, that we mean that in the nicest, most teeth-gnashingly congratulatory, does-he-have-a-brother way.)
From 2003 to 2005, Fabio cooked at a number of restaurants in Florence, such as “Central Park, Osteria Del Angolo, or Mariposa.” According to Fabio’s blog, in 2004 he won “the Best Steak Dish at the Sagra Della Bistecca in Cortona.” His “love of cooking Italian food…comes from [his] mother and…from watching [his] grandparents cook traditional Italian dishes made from the freshest herbs, vegetables, seafood, and meats, in a style of cooking that goes way beyond just the following of a recipe. [His] grandfather says you can have all the fancy tableware and the expensive kitchen, but if you don’t have a love and passion for your food and friends to enjoy it with, you have wasted your time.”
Viviani opened Café Firenze last year, and the local paper gave it quite a good write-up. Mind you, we were left speechless by another article about Viviani in the local paper bearing the headline, “Big Love to take on Firenze’s huge steak” and starting off with lines such as, “This won’t be Big Love’s first go at a major hunk of meat” and “‘I ate the whole thing and said, “Is that all you got?”’”
Not to worry, possums. The article merely informs us that, as befits the winner of the Sagra della Bistecca, Fabio “dry-ages his meats the old-school way.” Can you blame us, possums, for developing a taste for bistecca alla Fiorentina? We have but one prayer, though: Lord, please let him not be another Ryan Scott.
A little possum told us that one of the cheftestants competing on the next season of Top Chef is Jill Snyder, executive chef of Red Maple in the Mount Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore. The same little possum told us that Ms. Snyder's audition video for Top Chef had been posted on YouTube, but that spoilsport Bravo had jacked Jill and made her take it down.
Naturally, we set to looking into this, and--wouldn't you know it--this video did indeed exist on YouTube on some point, but now has been mysteriously scrubbed clean from everywhere it was posted. This was all that we could find, this spoor, this tantalizing trace:
As you can see, it's rather difficult to get a close look at Ms. Snyder, but there is enough there for us to hazard a guess that the woman in the first picture on this post (from Red Maple's website, which does not identify the subject of the photo) is none other than the fair Jill. There are, to our eyes at any rate, suggestive similarities in the shape of the nose and mouth; likewise, the band in the hair is similar, and the earrings appear to be the same. This is by no means definitive, but we think it's a good hunch. Still, if you happen to have a photo of the telegenic Ms. Snyder, please feel free to send it in.
(We also discovered that Ms. Snyder's audition tape was put together by Marcus Morelli, who happens to have the following food-related video on Funny or Die, which itself has a Colicchio-sponsored, food-related partner site, Eat Drink or Die):
According to the restaurant's website, "[w]ith every seasonal menu update Executive Chef Jill Snyder and her staff consistently deliver gastronomic feng shui" (!!). Further, "[t]he Red Maple menu is focused on obtaining locally grown and raised foodstock while at the same time drawing upon globally influenced spicing, marinading, food prep and cooking techniques." On verra.
At any rate, possums, please keep the tips coming.
Oh, don’t mind the headline, possums. Season 3 finalist Casey Thompson, pictured here on a recent jaunt to the beach in the Hamptons, is, as we know all too well, nothing if not a good sport. Says she: “Hey, give a girl a break! I haven’t had a beach vacation in years…; it was a really fun time. As for the tattoo, we all had some college moments we would like to forget…”
Saturday, August 23, 2008
You know, possums, sometimes strings of words form sentences, and sometimes those sentences are so beyond the pale in meaning, so utterly absurd, that it seems they must be ransom notes composed by Dadaist monkeys using back issues of Life & Style and the Pennysaver. To wit, take this example from People Magazine’s “Caught in the Act” section:
Sandra Oh, smiling big over the nude scene in Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. She sat next to Top Chef’s Spike Mendelsohn, who watched the hippies while eating an ice cream sandwich.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot indeed.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Well, possums, it is Heterosexual Monday on Amuse-Biatch, and in that spirit, what could be more apropos than free beer and barbecue, music by Islands, and the company of a 6'8", "ungay" former beach volleyball player? Yes, indeed, possums, CJ Jacobson, the cheftestant cum Padma Lakshmi crush object from Top Chef: Miami is joining forces with New York Magazine to host a Highbrow BBQ this coming Saturday, August 23, in New York City (have a look at the flyer below for details). A ticket costs $25, and if you would like to purchase tickets, have a click at www.nymag.com/nyxny.
We have a pair of tickets to give away. So, if you live in New York and are free this Saturday, do throw your hat in the ring.
This being a Highbrow BBQ, we figured we ought to ask a highbrow sort of question. So, what is the name of the cake or cookie that unlocks memory when dipped in tea in Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past? The first person to email us with the correct answer wins the tickets; deadline is 5 p.m. Eastern, tomorrow, Tuesday, August 19. Bonne chance, possums.
Amuse-Biatch Heterosexual Monday: Season 5 Guest Judge Dayana Mendoza Universally Acknowledged to Give Padma Lakshmi a Run for Her Bikini'd Money
Ah, possums, another beauty queen, another nekkid pic scandal. Only this time she looks to be a Top Chef guest judge as well. Imagine that. After all this time, another occupant at Judges' Table with a portfolio of "arty" black and white shots!
So, this is the newly crowned Miss Universe, Dayana (pronounced, à l’américaine, “Diana”) Mendoza, who recently filmed an episode of the upcoming season of Top Chef in which the cheftestants had to cook for an AIDS charity benefit. You will no doubt be relieved to discover that the "arty" photographs, discovered after her coronation, will not cost Dayana her rhinestone crown, though they are sure to win her many a loyal subject in the Top Chef audience.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
So, possums, we came across this photo of the current Miss Universe, Venezuelan Dayana Mendoza, and one of the cheftestants from the still-filming season of Top Chef. Any of you know the name of this goatee'd, vaguely toothsome lad? The photo was taken during the filming of a Top Chef challenge at an amFAR event in New York City on August 6, 2008.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Politely, of course, possums, this being The Washington Post and all. Still, the Post’s review has some cherce bits. While praising the bacon (presumably not Spike’s doing) and the strawberry milkshake, the reviewer singled out the “tough” burgers, the fries that were not crispy “despite having been fried twice,” and the onion rings described as “lumps of mushed-together fried onions that resembled a run-over baby octopus.” WaPo definitely brought the meow, and then some.
The review also mentions that the restaurant’s décor includes “oversize photos of the fedora-wearing Spike.” We don’t know about you, possums, but that would definitely put us off our feed.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
You may remember, possums, that when Christopher Ciccone accountably appeared as a designer during the Restaurant Wars episode of Top Chef: Miami, we channeled Rupert Everett to give you a taste of the tragedy of the pudgy, washed-up, gay bro. Chrissy has now struck back with a tell-all book in which he doesn’t tell all that much—but the first rule of Madonna Club is that you don’t talk about Madonna Club, or Madonna clubs you. Interestingly enough, Madonna’s friend Sandra Bernhard, says that “Madge has a lot of money and that she should’ve put some aside for him and then this wouldn’t have happened.” Write all the Chrissy-Hissy you want, Chris, but for what it’s worth, we think that, as the photo above shows, time most definitely does not heal all wounds, and that makes it the best avenger of all.
"In southern Spain, they made me eat a bull's testicles. They were really garlicky, which I don't like. I prefer to take a bull by the horns, not by, um..."
Uh, perhaps some (totally not scruffy!) people would beg to differ?
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Amuse-Biatch Presents “The Rrrruff!! Guide to Eating,” Part 2 (Do Not Read This If You Are Squeamish; We Mean It)
As promised, possums, here is Part 2 of James Hamilton-Paterson’s article on the more unusual regional dishes of the Philippines. At the risk of sounding schoolmarmish, we must again stress that this is not for the faint of heart or stomach, and should probably not be read around mealtimes. It describes the cooking of taboo animals and methods for killing animals that would make any PETA member’s every hair stand on end. Do not read if you cannot handle it.
Certainly the article contains an element of bravado and provocation and épatez les bourgeois who are reading this British newspaper in the first place (we would also argue this is a particularly British phenomenon; one would never see this in The New York Times Food Section). We nonetheless think the article is extremely informative and has a point to make about prejudices and received ideas.
Also, have a look at this very interesting academic paper from the University of Southern California. It corroborates Hamilton-Paterson’s reporting in the process of analyzing how the practice of dog-eating leads to discrimination against Filipinos in the U.S. (The authors note that dog-eating was outlawed in the Philippines in 1998; Hamilton-Paterson’s article was written two years before the ban).
“The Rrrruff!! Guide to Eating,” Part 2
By James Hamilton-Paterson
The Guardian (London), May 18, 1996
Like any other civilized people, Filipinos make a firm distinction between pet and pot. Times would have to be hard indeed before old Rover made the supreme sacrifice. Dog dishes are often referred to generically as asosena. This is a felicitous pun on the Spanish word lily (azucena), that deathly plant introduced for their cemeteries by the Philippines’ first colonisers. But in Tagalog aso is dog, while cena is Spanish for supper; so with a small triumphal act of semantics, an indigenous eastern dish flowers to outrage the European invader.
Up in northern Luzon one can eat a satisfactory array of dog recipes, though in the town of Baguio the meat is often sold from door to door already butchered, and gastronomes will tell you it’s important to know the breed you’re cooking, as well as its age, and vary your recipe accordingly. This is where a discriminating palate pays off, since true dog lovers will know whether the dish’s lead character was a dog or a bitch, especially one on heat. Of course puppies, like veal, need bland and delicate cooking.
Filipinos, like the people of many other nations, generally kill their animals by cutting their throats and keeping the blood as a separate ingredient. One reason for this may be that bloodless meat tastes less malansa – an impossible word to translate since English doesn’t recognise what it defines. Dictionaries usually give something like “the smell of fresh fish”; but that’s not precisely it, and both fish and meat may be described as tasting malansa. It’s interesting to discover a sensory perception that is simply not recognised by one’s own culture. Bearing this in mind (for Filipinos consider malansa unpleasant), there are half a dozen common ways of cooking dog – other than straight roasting over an open fire – and plenty of regional variations. It should be remembered that most rural Filipino cookery is of the “open fire” rather than the “oven” type, which gives a distinctive flavour.
Kalderetang aso (caldera, of course, is Spanish for cauldron): A classic dog dish. Garlic and onions are fried in coconut oil until brown, and reserved. The meat (chopped Chinese style, with the bones) is fried in the same oil until tender, then the onions and garlic are put back in and a cupful of soy sauce added. When that has bubbled and seethed enough, any or all of the following can be added: tomato ketchup, peanut butter, margarine, peppercorns, chili, pickles, potatoes, carrots. The ketchup and margarine give a debased and over-sweet taste and may safely be omitted. The peanut butter imparts a slightly Indonesian flavour. To this is added a bottle of San Miguel beer – one bottle per dog – and the whole thing allowed to stew gently for an hour. A fancy asosena might even include pineapple chunks. Adobong aso (adobo being Spanish for pickling sauce): This gets rid of any malansa flavour by a different method.
Here the meat is boiled first in coconut vinegar and soy sauce. It can be embellished into adobong aso sa gata by adding turmeric and fresh ginger and then coconut milk at the end. Depending on the quality of the dog, the flavour emerges rich and clear and muttony. Bulacan dog: In Bulacan Province they have a method of boiling the meat with tamarind, onions and garlic to achieve a good, sour, sinigang flavour. Then the meat is patted dry and fried in plenty of oil. It is served with a dip made of soy sauce, chili and ketchup. This is delicious, though I can’t recommend it for cat, which is a dry meat and easily becomes stringy and floury if fried as well as boiled.
I am now in a position to promote dog done alla Toscana, which I tried out in Italy last autumn after a huntsman foolishly shot his own hound. I roasted a haunch in the oven with olive oil, garlic and rosemary. My house guest considered it a great success. Sadly, owing to the lack of rosemary and olive oil in the Philippines provinces it would be hard to introduce this taste sensation there. I feel something very good might also be done with a stuffing of basil, prunes and lemon, held together with mustard flour. Certain Italian friends affect horror – as do some of my Filipino friends – but this is a received response and not based on experience. (Hypocritical, too, since dog meat is still occasionally smoked in the Italian Alps). It’s the old argument of the ayatollahs who hadn’t read a line of Rushdie. “Oh, taste and see,” is the reasonable response.
In any case, cane alla Toscana suggests a whole range of possibilities using exotic ingredients but in a European style. I am familiar with adobong sawa, which is python, and am eager to invent python steaks in Trieste fashion, with white wine and anchovy fillets. They would be fabulous. But alas, it is an idle dream. The most one could hope for here in Europe would be an occasional adder stew with shallots.
The Philippine provinces also have some unusual culinary specialities which, for sheer inventiveness, are a tribute to the human spirit. There is a dish from the mountain provinces that requires a chicken to be plucked before it is beaten slowly to death with spoons. The theory runs that the beating mobilizes subcutaneous fat as well as breaking the capillaries, and produces a flushed, creamy texture.
I have to report – regretfully, in view of the bird’s protracted demise – that in my case it was all for nothing since it tasted to me like roast chicken by any other name. Evidently my palate is still poorly educated. I gather the Ewondo of Cameroon use a similar method on plump dogs, which are tied up and tenderized for a day with small canes before they are cooked in a complicated nine-hour procedure. In any case, readers wishing to try for themselves this method of preparing a chicken are urged to use nothing heavier than one of those light wooden spoons from Habitat. The point is not to break any bones.
Also, the sensitive are advised that even in the cheerful outdoor context of tribal cookery the scene is not without its pitiful aspects. I suppose the bird might be given an anaesthetic; yet this would violate the no-chemicals rule.
Also from the north is pinik-pilkan, which I have yet to try. It, too, starts with a chicken being beaten to death, this time with its clothes on. Once dead it is briefly roasted in its feathers before being cut up and cooked in the normal fashion. A tasty combination is for it to be mixed with itag, which is belly of pork dried and packed in salt in earthenware crocks until it becomes maggoty. This, when cooked with the chastised hen, yields a greeny-greyish sauce described as “hearty”. The sum of its parts is apparently far greater than their individual promise.
Buro dishes, a Pangasinan speciality, are also something I have never eaten. Buro refers to a way of pickling in brine. One celebrated version starts with a stew of pickled vegetables which is allowed to cool before being fed to a dog that has been starved for a couple of days. The dog wolfs it down and after an interval, someone gives the animal a special blow behind the ribs with the edge of the hand which induces immediate vomiting. The regurgitated stew is caught in a bowl, re-cooked with additional herbs and eaten. The dog, which is more cross than injured, is rewarded with a meal which this time it is allowed to digest completely.
A friend who has tried this dish, as well as another version involves fermenting fish and rice in a crock for several weeks, says buro is something you need to acquire a taste for, like kimchi, the Koreans’ pickled vegetables. Yet another Pangasinan dish involves a goat being fed as much grass as it will eat before it is killed and cooked with the grass still inside. The grass-filled stomach is allegedly delicious.
There is a range of papaitan dishes from Ilocos (pait means bitter) which have percolated south to the extent that one can find workers’ restaurants in Manila specialising in them.
A good papaitan will present an interesting taste to a European who is otherwise accustomed to bitterness only in tonic water, or in vegetables like chicory. It is well worth trying and nothing like as bitter as it sounds – far less so than some varieties of Italian salad greens, for instance.
I returned from my trip up north to my home village to find somebody’s birthday being celebrated with an old favourite – a brilliant campfire version of duck à l’orange called patotin. The duck is lightly spit-roasted and then transferred to a large iron saucepan, in the bottom of which is a bed of the Chinese fermented black beans which come in tins. A bottle of Sprite is added (though Fanta is equally satisfactory) as well as a large lump of ice. The ice slows down the cooking – heat control is always a problem with an open fire. After an hour or so the patotin is ready.
Free range duck is delicious in any case; but what makes this dish is the fizzy-drink-sweetened black bean sauce.
It used to be obligatory to end a food article by quoting the 18th-century French lawyer and gastronome, Brillat-Savarin, “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, et je te dirai ce que tu es” (Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you what you are). I haven’t the least idea what he meant. What kind of judgment was he threatening to make? A class one? Racial? Nationalistic? Economic? Religious? Or merely implying a confident assertion of his own bon goût?
However, if he meant,“You are a curious traveler, soon to be dead and happy to try anything once,” one might allow the old fraud some points. The only form of abuse I remember without pleasure from my schooldays is gastronomic. It is a reminder that we come from a culture which thought nothing of giving Spam fritters to impressionable children. We owe it to ourselves to put our cast-iron digestions to better use, and abandon taboo in favour of new taste experiences.
Any visitor to Manila wishing to do the same might make a good start by dining at Patio Mequeni, a restaurant near Remedios Circle in Malate. Nothing too outrageous, but an interesting range of regional Filipino dishes.
The deep-fried mole crickets to nibble with a cold San Miguel as one waits for the main course are highly recommended, and would have made Vincent Holt’s evening. They rustle agreeably on the plate but are still squidgy and peanutty inside.
Dog-fanciers, on the other hand, will have to ask around, since the restaurants they are looking for tend to lie outside the touristy areas. If you find a taxi-driver who pretends not o understand, you can convince him by telling him you’re looking for aw-aw (rhymes with bow-wow). You can’t get clearer than that.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Monday, August 04, 2008
Having Just Survived Sherman, Is Atlanta Ready for Dale Talde? Lesbians, Lockers and Pork Bellies Advised to Hide
Can it be true, possums? Is everyone's favorite crotch-grabbing, foul-mouthed, chipmunk-cheeked, locker-punching, Lisa-hating, vanity-belt-buckled, Littlest Gangsta really leaving the Big Apple for the Big Peach, or whatever Atlanta is calling itself these days?
These people seem to think so. According to them, Dale is going to be the new chef at Aja, an Asian restaurant opening later this year "in the former Emeril's restaurant in Alliance Center near Phipps Plaza." Apparently, the restaurant is owned by the same folks that own Home, where Richard Blais is running the kitchen and recently earned four stars. As much as we would like to believe this, we can't help but note that the source says Dale Levitski while using a picture of Dale Talde, which makes us a little uneasy; if they can't tell the Dales apart, how reliable can this information be? If you possums know anything more concrete, feel free to send in the details.
In its Q&A with Le Bernardin chef and Top Chef guest judge Eric Ripert, Bravo lists his age as 30, but, as you can see, Ripert was born in 1965. For that kind of treatment, who wouldn't want to be a guest judge on Top Chef?
Yes, possums, it's happened. On the day when the Brangelina twin-baby pics are being released, Eater is bringing us a glimpse of yet another rare species, the remaining Season 5 contestants. Yes, we know, possums, for a second we also thought it was yet another paparazzo photo of Lindsay "The LAPD Chief just called me gay" Lohan and a galpal. We may yet have more chefbians on our hands. Stay tuned.
According to the New York Daily News, Stephanie Izard has written a memoir to be called Tasting Menu: Why Food Equals Life, Why Restaurants Equal Soul & Why Cheese Makes Me Happy. The book is supposed to provide a "female perspective" on Chicago's best restaurants.
Amuse-Biatch Presents “The Rrrruff!! Guide to Eating,” Part 1 (Do Not Read This If You Are Squeamish; We Mean It)
At the top of our list of favorite contemporary writers is British novelist, poet and journalist James Hamilton-Paterson, who, as The Guardian points out in one of the profiles on him, is the object of “a tiny cult” that includes J.G. Ballard, Michael Ondaatje and Barry Humphries (a/k/a Dame Edna Everage, from whom, of course, we shamelessly stole “possums”).
For something like 20 years, Hamilton-Paterson split his time between Europe and the Philippines, and in 1996 The Guardian published an article on the cooking of his beloved adopted country. We have kept a copy ever since, and since it seems to be unavailable on the Internet, we are going to bring it to you in two parts (the second and most vivid part on Wednesday). But it deals with eating all sorts of creatures and things that may disturb the more sensitive and squeamish among you, possums. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Still, if you give the article a chance, you’ll have something to remember.
The Rrrruff!! Guide to Eating
By James Hamilton-Paterson
The Guardian (London), May 18, 1996
I first woke up to how rigidly one’s own culture defines the edible when I spent a year in Libya back in the mid-sixties. I was interested by my initial revulsion to eating a live locust. Tripoli then was something of a hick town, many of whose older inhabitants were true sons of the desert. In the locust season these people could be seen sitting outside their houses, gossiping and idly eating the insects alive. As though shelling peanuts, they would strip off the wings and legs and pop the body into their mouths.
The day inevitably came when I was hospitably offered a locust. It was partly a tribute to public school food that I was able to eat it with stoical panache, but only partly. I was curious, and that helped. The taste was faintly greenish and suety, and I remember being anxious to chew it all at once before my tongue could detect any tiny movements of protesting mandible or pulsing abdomen.
The tradition of eating in a spirit of curiosity exists even in Britain. Eminent Victorian naturalists such as Frank Buckland and Vincent Holt did it all the time. Buckland ate anything, including exotic zoological specimens, and was the one who wrote “A roast field mouse – not a house muse – is a splendid bonne bouche for a hungry boy. It eats like a lark.” Holt’s excellent book Why Not Eat Insects? (London, 1885) was full of satisfying dishes which any Briton with access to a garden could prepare, such as Boiled Neck of Mutton with Wireworm Sauce and Moths on Toast. Some years ago a reception was held at, I think, the Royal Geographical Society, at which cocktail sandwiches spread with Holt’s woodlouse paste recipe were served. “Better than shrimp” was the widespread verdict, and one might think a taste for it would catch on if only woodlice were conveniently available by the pint, like winkles. Wake up, Sainsbury’s.
I thought about all this on my most recent spell in the Philippines, which remains my favorite country bar none partly because it offers novel experiences of every conceivable kind with high good humour. Among these are gastronomic pleasures and challenges which leave one lost in admiration at human ingenuity and discrimination. Discrimination, because the recipes often rely on a palate tuned to fine shades of flavour that elude the untrained.
The supremacist reputation of French gastronomy and oenophily have tended to bludgeon us into thinking that tastes become cruder the further one gets from Europe. Yet it is not just Basque chefs who can identify from a beef stew the exact pasture where the animal grazed. Tea experts from Darjeeling to Japan will often identify a source of water from taste alone. Similarly, I discovered, a feaster in the mountain provinces of the northern Philippines can tell to the nearest day how long a piece of salted pork was packed in its earthenware crock simply by its flavour.
I had long since tried all the old party favorites in the village where I live: bayawak (a large, iguana-like lizard); dog in one guise or another; fruit bat; and, of course, that ubiquitous national favourite, balut. Balut are hawked in the streets of almost any town: hard-boiled duck eggs which have been fertilized and in which the embryonic chick’s tiny beak and little folded wings are well defined but still soft. Eaten warm with salt they are superb as well as nutritious.
This time, though, my travels took me some hundred of miles to the north, to the late Ferdinand Marcos’s home territory of Ilocos Norte. I remembered Libya as soon as I encountered pinaluksong hipon or “jumping salad”. The hipon are tiny live shrimp which leap and squirm on the plate. I was told they could be subdued with a squeeze of lime juice, but this seemed only to provoke mine. Maybe the juice stung their eyes.
The taste is wonderful, quite unknown to people who have never eaten seafood which has not been locked in ice since it died. They do twitch a little in the mouth: the effect is not unlike the crackling sherbet (Space Dust and Moon Rocks) British children could buy a few years ago.
When you eat jumping salad it is easy to believe in sympathetic magic, which claims that the soul or essence of the victim passes into the devourer – the theory which once gave us larks’ tongue pate. It made me feel sprightly for hours afterwards. Don’t be tempted to dust the shrimp, however lightly, with black pepper: it overpowers them. A judicious drop or two of fresh ginger juice adds bite.
Ted Allen to Lisa Fernandes: Editing Is the Real Bitch; Lisa Fernandes (Not to Ted Allen): I’m Not Your Bitch, Bitch
Possums, we’re rather tickled to have stumbled upon this little clip, in which Lisa Fernandes plays television host at the Garden Party celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York City. She’s personable, she’s charming, she makes a lesbian joke, and fittingly enough, professes her love for the “I’m not your bitch, bitch” catchphrase. She also catches up with Raggaydy Andy Cohen and Season 4 guest judges April Bloomfield, Johny Iuzzini and Ted Allen.
Ted commiserates with her, telling her, “Editing is a bitch,” which Miss XaXa says is the most house-music-worthy declaration since “Rhythm is a dancer.” And most interestingly, Ted tells us in no uncertain terms that he feels he is “a pawn in the hands of [Bravo’s] editors,” and that he is glad to be working on his new Food Detectives show, where he won’t be subject to such editing.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Oh, possums, the unkempt fur is flying in England, and The Guardian has all the details.
Apparently, On Her Majesty's Service, a book by one of Salman Rushdie's ex-bodyguards and set to be published this week, claims that during the years that Padma Lakshmi's ex lived under police protection because of the fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the British "police nicknamed Rushdie [']Scruffy['] because of his unkempt appearance."
This allegation has made Rushdie's hair stand on end: "I had a lot of sympathy and understanding from the police. Our relationship was the exact opposite of what has been written. I never heard myself called by the name Scruffy in nine years."
Of course, the book discusses a lot more than Rushdie's grooming. In response, Padma's ex says, "[The ex-bodyguard] is portraying me as mean, nasty, tight-fisted, arrogant and extremely unpleasant. In my humble opinion I am none of those things."
And now, Rushdie is set to sue to prove that it ain't so. Ah, the beauty of British libel law.
(If you want to hear from Mr. Scruff, click the vid.)
Saturday, August 02, 2008
An anonymous commenter let us know, and now The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (yes, really) confirms, that last Monday, July 28, the Foo Fighters taped an episode of Top Chef. According to this, the show in question is the Thanksgiving episode.
Friday, August 01, 2008
Well, possums, when you go on national television--and alongside Kathie Lee Gifford, no less--it can hardly be called a spoiler, but if you’re of the sort who wants to remain unsullied, read no further (though, really, if you were the sort who wanted to remain pure and unsullied in the first place, you probably wouldn’t be reading a blog called Amuse-Biatch, would you?).
So, as you must know by now, Season 5 is being filmed en ce moment in New York City and its environs. (We had heard rumors about New Orleans being the chosen site, and had winced in anticipation of Quickfire Challenges such as “Cook Breakfast in a FEMA Trailer!” Or perhaps we’re too cynical; given what happened with Chicago, perhaps they would never have left the French Quarter during the filming. At any rate, we’re relieved it’s the Big Apple rather than the Big Easy this time around.)
And the Ursus Major himself, Mr. Tom “Padre Padrone” Colicchio, went this morning charmingly to disport himself with what passes for the salon des précieuses these days—Meredith Vieira, Natalie Morales, Hoda Kotb, and Kathie Lee Gifford. The video is here, but because those lovely folks at MSN won’t allow us to embed the video, we’ve resorted to screencaps and a little transcription. Bear in mind, though, we’re not court reporters, so we may have missed a word here or there.
The segment begins and Meredith Vieira announces, “This morning we put 13 chefs to the test of making a meal for us. We’re going to taste some of them and pick our favorite.” [Hint, Meredith: Go for the fat ones first; they taste better.]
So assuming the season began with 15 or 16 cheftestants, this tells us that two or three have already been eliminated. Meredith then brings on His Royal Bearness.
Pardon us for a moment while we let him bashfully beam.
So, Tom says, “We’re shooting in New York, so New York’s a great background. The chefs are all seasoned pros, and so far the competition’s pretty stiff.”
In other words, the usual shtick, except that, surprisingly, no talk this time of how this season’s contestants are the strongest yet, etc., etc. Hmmmm. God, this always feels like Kremlinology.
Tom again: “Their assignment was to prepare and demonstrate a dish that they would make if they were on the Today Show. And we have 13 chefs; they all did a two-and-a-half minute demonstration, and we are pretty much deadlocked. So we narrowed it down to three. You’re going to make the decision.”
Why, it’s like that new Kevin Costner movie about voting, except that maybe the Today Show women are like the Electoral College, or maybe the Supremes (in both senses of the word). And by the way, don’t that sound aaawf’lly like Next Food Network Star? We sense a gradual convergence.
Tom yet again: “Whoever wins the challenge, on December when this episode airs, will come on and make their dish on the Today Show.”
What did we tell you? Perhaps Top Chef will decamp for Food Network much as Project Runway went to Lifetime. Also, this lets us know that Season 5, now officially called Top Chef: New York, will begin airing in November, or perhaps early December.
So, on to the dishes.
Tom: “This is a tomato, watermelon, feta cheese salad…with basil oil and balsamic vinegar.”
We learn Meredith Vieira does not eat watermelon because it makes her sick.
Tom: “The next one is a sautéed shrimp cabbage roll, and it’s also made with roasted peppers and walnuts. There’s a spice in there, which is sumac.”
Kathie Lee Gifford, after putting a roll in her mouth: “I can’t stand that. Can I do something with this? I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for the person who made this.” She goes to the sink, spits it out in a paper towel and throws it away.
Natalie Morales can’t eat it because she’s pregnant.
“We all have our issues, don’t we?” asks a seemingly un-self-aware Kathie Lee Gifford (yes, it’s redundant, we know).
“Not Hoda, though,” Kathie Lee adds, “she’ll eat anything.”
Hoda shows admirable restraint in not knifing her right then and there.
The, er, ladies then confer, and render their verdict: