22 December 2004

Shmooze and swag

Derrick Schneider, one of my favorite online food writers, wrestles with shmooze and swag: Blogs need to address this topic more and more. A number of companies have started schmoozing food and wine bloggers in the hopes that we'll promote their products. I've gotten press releases, offers of samples from wineries, notes from publicists about movies, and even an offer from a publisher to help me design a contest so I could give free copies of books to you... I have a label in gmail called "Rent this blog!" for all these. I'm glad to see that marketers view us as influential, but I think our greatest strength is strong, independent opinions. Pick up just about any mainstream food mag if you want to read text that's shaped by advertisers and devoid of personality.

21 December 2004

Celebrating tee-totally

Sarfraz Manzoor shares what the holidays are like for him: "I have never tasted alcohol in my life. Trying to explain why is something I have to do with tedious regularity. I usually cite religion, and that is partly true; I was raised in a Muslim family where drinking was beyond forbidden: it was unthinkable. Yet others who shared that background later took to drinking; I did not. It was not so much religion that stopped me as habit and the desire not to disappoint my mother and the memory of my father."

19 December 2004

Digestible criticism

The Observer's Jay Rayner has his way with a London mogul's newest London eatery: Before I ate at the Paternoster Chophouse, the latest venture from Terence Conran, I regarded his restaurants as slick, professional but ultimately soulless businesses, which placed the emphasis on function and form rather than food. Then I had lunch. Now I regard them as slick, professional but ultimately soulless businesses, which place the emphasis on function and form rather than food. There are occasions when meeting expectations can be seen as a virtue. This isn't one of them... Dead shellfish is not a confidence-inducing measure in a restaurant. You cannot help but start to worry about episodes of food poisoning, which is not a good thing when your companion is the managing editor of your newspaper, and the man you negotiate your pay with. (Note to self: avoid poisoning boss.)

18 December 2004

The mastermind behind all of this is known as Tim

The FT's Nicholas Lander tries Bangkok's best restaurant, the unprepossessing, almost century-old Chote Chitr: "Chote Chitr boasts just six tables with a central aisle that allows the staff and the restaurant's dogs equally easy access to the tiny kitchen. The furniture, crockery (with forks and spoons only), paper napkins and lavatory are basic with the kitchen range boasting no more than three gas-fired woks alongside a jumble of pots and pans, cases of Coke and a television set. The dishes—a staggering 400 of them—are written on four menus hung on the wall. The mastermind behind all this is known as Tim, a middle-aged woman whose plump figure matches the size of her smile."

17 December 2004

Hong Kong bites

The Globe & Mail takes a bite of Hong Kong: You don't need a glittering emporium to eat well in Hong Kong. Start your day at Law Fu Kee in Central, an amiable hole in the wall specializing in congee, simmered-to-velvet Chinese rice porridge laced with ginger and spring onion. Condiments range from shredded pork to fish head; as with pizza, you design your own. Arrive early enough, and you'll see family members shaping shrimp dumplings by hand and prepping noodles for the lunch trade in a flurry of flying fists.

10 December 2004

Death of a Dublin caf

Goodbye to the ghost of James Joyce, licking his fingers over sticky buns and drinking the only cup of coffee in the country that didn't taste like heated-up bog water... A reminiscence of Bewley's, described by Irish poet Brendan Kennelly as "the heart and hearth of Dublin": Her name was Attracta. She had eyes like mountain lakes and a faint smell of freshly gathered hay about her. On that long ago wet Thursday afternoon we sat among the coloured tiles and bustle of tea trays in Bewley's café in Dublin. I can't recall the conversation, only the memory of scooping thickly creamed iced coffee out of elegant long stemmed glasses, every spoonful a glorious indulgence.

World of Mondovino

Here's a link to a look behind the world of wine and wars of words in Jonathan Nossiter's doc, Mondovino.

08 December 2004

Deli in da Bronx

The Gothamist goes deli on Bronx's Arthur Avenue: the pics are smoky-tasty-mmm.

07 December 2004

New comics by Kevin Huizenga and Anders Nilsen

MONTREAL-BASED DRAWN & QUARTERLY Comics brings the two newest solo voices on their roster to Quimby's for signings: Chicagoan Anders Nilsen's "Dogs and Water" and Kevin Huizenga's "Or Else #1," putting his "Supermonster" mini-comics into a regular format. Huizenga's free-associative knack is best shown in "NST 04," which obliquely traces the course of an ill-fated relationship through light reflecting off tombstones at night, the smell of baking bread, and the overnight musings of the night owls at a burger shack whose name, "Katchor's," nods toward a master draftsman of urban night. It's quiet, modest work, but moving nonetheless. Nilsen's book, whose earlier work includes "Big Questions" and "Ballad of the Two Headed Boy," (which won a Xeric award) is more elusive, a succinct and apt summation of a troubling dream that includes more than one iteration of falling, and sudden stops that begin again, repeating the misfortunes of the protagonist, perambulating an open highway with a stuffed bear strapped to his back, encountering aggressive, antlered deer, inadequate rowboats on rocking water, blizzards, wolves bearing submachine guns in their maws, and gunshot girls dead on the verge as they're about to be eaten by wolves, crashing helicopters, mutes sent to help. It's a loving treadmill.

[Newcity, 7 December 2004]

06 December 2004

Jury duty for your butt

James Wolcott rhapsodizes over his recent colonoscopy: Anyway, don't let anyone deter you from a colonoscopy with their icky anecdotes. The Demerol drip is divine, the test can nip trouble in the bud, so to speak, and once you've had it, you won't need another for five years. It's sort of like jury duty for your butt, though perhaps that is not the most precise or felicitous analogy.

02 December 2004

Richard Kern, Softly

It's Richard Kern week in New York, with several events upon the release of "Soft," his new book of nudes.

Lyric of the day

From Owen's "Good Deeds":
Maybe my mom's right,
Good deeds will not save the world