Friday, October 24, 2008

I Never Sang for Lee Klein....Part 1

So I guess it's time to discuss what transpired between myself and the Miami New Times, after I was asked by Gail Shepherd to contribute a piece to their then-new 'foodie' blog, Shit Order. It's filled with the usual bad writing, incorrect/incomplete information, amateur photos, and comments from each of the bloggers about how wonderful they each are in their blissful ignorance. So I guess they thought that one of my pieces would fit right in....

Gail works for the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, and at the time (and perhaps still), Chuck Strouse was the editor of both papers. Now I'm not here to trash the New Times, or the fact that they basically do four different cover stories, which could more or less be defined by the old saying, "gas, grass, or ass, nobody rides for free", where 'gas' is replaced by 'DJ/rapper', and 'nobody rides for free' is replaced by "Cuba". Once (or twice) a year they do a food-related cover story, usually effed-up by Lee 'Grampa' Klein-the last one I believe was about bottled-water versus tap water. Yeah, he really glams it out.

So Gail asked me to do a First Bites. The conversation's a little fuzzy, but it went something like this...

" Hi Miami Danny: Thanks much for your entertaining participation in Short Order, and for your kind words on Presschops. I want to start a regular feature on Short Order where I ask SoFla foodies (writers, chefs, purveyors, bloggers, farmers, etc) to reminisce about their earliest food memories. The entries would be fairly short, maybe a paragraph or two, and I'll be collecting them either via email or by phone, depending on the interviewee's preference. Would you like to participate? I'll include a link to your blog (well, to Daily Cocaine, anyway!) and, if you approve and have one, a photo of you. Let me know if you think this would be something fun to do. Best, Gail Shepherd, New Times Broward Palm Beach"

Like I said, it's a little hazy. So I responded something like, oh..."Hi Gail-You are hilarious. Of course I'd love to participate. The New Times is like family to me! Can I interview you and Lee? ....Now that would be fun. Just let me know when you need it.

Gail-Cool! Yeah, family, well that’s one dysfunctional little clan you’ve got, isn’t it? You can definitely interview me anytime — my intuition tells me that maybe Lee would pass (you might think of Lee as an estranged uncle).... I’m pretty sure that it would be hard to get us all in a room together. Unless there’s a death or something. As for the question:
What’s your earliest food memory? Or one of the earliest? Please elaborate."

Like I said, it's been a long time, and it's all a little hazy. So to make a long story short, I send them the piece (see below), and Gail posts it immediately on the blog. I alert my readers, friends, family, former cellmates, etc., and they all enjoy my humorous jaunt-even though most of them have heard these stories a million times (I'm old). And I send the link out to the world.

Here's some more of my hazy recollection....
"Hi Gail-Here's the memory and my bio-I was trying to get it to you yesterday but the day just got away from me....
I was never a wine distributor, but I know a bunch pretty well from my days at Stop Miami. If you have any questions, maybe I can help. Let's grab a cocktail sometime soon and catch up. I'm also sending you a photo. Enjoy.

Gail-Thank you, this is really, really great. I remember going to the butcher with my mom too, it seems very quaint now. We also had the same refrigerator — full of nothing to eat — and a set of kitchen cabinets, also full of nothing to eat. You’d open the cabinet door and there’d be like, 8 cans of stewed tomatoes and some baking soda and a couple of rusty cans of bamboo shoots and maybe a pop-top of cocktail sausages. I’ll try to post this today.
Yes, I’d love to get together, maybe also with John Linn, who I’m sure would like to meet you.... Thanks again for this..."

But wait, later that evening, or the next morning, Lee Klein comes back from vacation and storms into the New Times offices after seeing my pretty face on their blog, and fuming, sputtering, and almost shitting himself because his panties are in such a twist (yes, I know for a fact he wears panties-don't ask), demands that my post and all mention of me be removed forthwith, or he will have a stroke right there in front of Mr. Strouse. The post is removed, and a runner is dispatched to get Miss Klein, whose seething hissy-fit shocked even some jaded staffers, a box of Kleenex (the kind with the aloe lotion-he has a tender rectum apparently) , with which to clean himself.

Of course I laugh about it, and of course Mr. Strouse feels compelled to phone me a few days later to explain why Klein is acting like a six-year-old schoolgirl, and try to make it seem like somehow I was at fault for accepting Gail's kind offer to submit a piece (again, this was not a paid piece (what is, anymore?)), after I had "called Mr. Klein an asshole." according to Strouse.

Three things:

#1-First let me say, I have never called Lee Klein an asshole. If you google "lee klein asshole", PressChops doesn't appear until 10th position, and I do not say that Lee Klein is an asshole in that post; I am referring to a hypothetical situation which does not involve Klein being an asshole.

#2-If I feel that it serves to edify, elucidate, or otherwise inform (or entertain) my readers (or myself) about something they probably already are suspicious of, but not really 100% sure of; if I might some day feel the absolute necessity to say, "Lee Klein is an asshole", I will feel no compunction about doing so. I have not done so yet, but I do reserve that right.

#3-Grow a fucking spine.

In Part 2, I finish what I started with this whole "Lee Klein is an asshole" rubbish, and get back to what PressChops is all about...calling out the frauds, the hypocrites, and the candy-ass sycophants. And, ahem, believe me, they know who they are...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Where Does the New Times Find These Losers????

In case you were wondering why this link is broken, the New Times removed the post, from both its Broward and Miami versions. I will only say that I am not in the newspaper publishing business, so I'm not sure why they would request that I submit a piece to them, publish it, and then remove it less than a day later (a coupla days later for the Broward edition-although it was subsequently reinstated For those of you who feel that I probably wrote some crazy, incendiary post, and got pulled for some fiery diatribe, here is the post in full. Incidentally, this was a freebie.

"Notorious blogger and culinary gadfly "Miami Danny" may strike fear and loathing into the hearts of local restaurant critics, but he never shrinks from jumping into the foodish fray -- pick a topic, he has an opinion. Here he shares his first food memory with Short Order:

My mother was a working mom, so often it would fall to my brothers and me to pick up our package from the butcher. “Pound-and-a-half of Kosher-made chop meat, please. For Mrs. Brody.” Our mother's instructions were always to tell either Sam or Mr. Katz, our butchers, the same thing. Even though we were pretty steady customers, almost daily, in fact. You couldn't get Kosher meat at the supermarket like you can today, and apparently my mom thought that our butchers would never remember who we were from day to day, or what we ordered. 'Chop meat' was ground beef, although I didn't start calling it that until I went away to college in Buffalo, NY, and no one seemed to know what 'chop meat' was. You learn fast that your East Coast big city ethnic charm can only go so far in the face of an exasperated 300-pound Polish butcher from Lackawanna.

The 'chop meat' was usually rolled into meatballs, which my mother would start doing as soon as she got her coat off. After hacking off a glob of margarine (does anyone still use margarine?), some chopped up pieces of carrot stick and an onion-half would go into the ancient, bent, 'meatball' pot. I say 'stick' because I never actually saw more than one carrot, or half-an-onion, at a time, in our jam-packed but somehow never-anything-to-eat-in-it refrigerator. Where did they come from? Was my mother actually buying carrots one stick at a time? Follow the vegetables with a cup or so of water, then the meatballs, and cook for about 45 minutes. I guess you could call them 'potted' meatballs, and they preceded almost every dinner of my childhood. My mother was very proud of her spice mix, which included 'garlic salt' and paprika that had turned to dust sometime in the late fifties. But if you complimented her on her delicious meatballs (which you did, because you were polite and famished), and asked her why they tasted so good tonight, she would often get this proud and mischievous glint in her eye. “Really? Thank you, boys. And do you know what I added to them tonight to make them taste so good?” she would ask us, waiting a beat before answering our curious looks. “Absolutely nothing!”

Recipe to follow (just kidding)."

**Danny Brody, aka Miami Danny, is the author of "The Gilded Palace of Sin," a book of poems published in 2008. He is also the founder of,, and He writes 'The Art of Hunger' for MAP Magazine, and writes 'Under Deconstruction' and 'Culinary Cage Match' for Along with his wife, he is the former proprietor of Stop Miami, a notorious watering hole in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Big Thank You to Jose at the New Times food blog...

On Wed, Jul 2, 2008 at 7:30 PM, Jose D. Duran wrote:Hey, Just wanted to let you know the Miami New Times and Broward-Palm Beach New Times have just launched Short Order, a South Florida food blog. New Times restaurant critics Lee Klein (Miami) and Gail Shepherd (Broward-Palm Beach), along with several other staff writers and freelancers, will be posting news, reviews and everything related to South Florida dining. Feel free to link to our blog at or
Regards,Jose D. DuranWeb Editorjose.duran@miaminewtimes.comMiami New Times2800 Biscayne Blvd. Ste. 100Miami, FL 33137Tel. 305-571-7640Fax 305-571-7678

Hi Jose-I forgot to thank you for your heads-up. Nothing personal, to you or Klein, but if you read Klein's piece today, I think you will get an idea as to why I loathe his column. There are so many innaccuracies that I had to laugh. I hope you understand that I don't criticize out of malice-just out of the undying belief that food writing should be held to the same high standards as every other kind of writing. The entire paragraph on 'flat' steak was hilariously rife with errors.

"The big hit in both categories are the grilled meats, ranging in cut from skirt to New York strip to filet mignon to a pair of thick, succulent double lamb chops, and in price from $18 to $24 (the chops). We particularly enjoyed a plush Reubensian plank of "flat meat," even if our waiter couldn't explain what it was when we ordered it. A manager visited shortly afterward with a description and the helpful info that Argentines call the steak vacio — at which point we knew what to expect. This cut is part flank, part hangar, and lots of fat tissue, which contributes to a crunchy exterior and chewy, juicy flesh. Bartolome's flat meat was just that, as well as imbued with deep beefy flavor."

I challenge you to do a simple google/wikipedia search on terms like vacio (with so many Argentinians living and cooking in Miami, how could one not know this?), FLAP steak, flank steak, and, of course, 'hangar' steak. If someone made this many errors anywhere else in the paper...Well, perhaps your credo for Cheap Eats, "no research required", has been taken up by the rest of the paper. Maybe an educated guess is all that's really required anymore. Educated guess. Yeah.

Anyway, thanks again for the heads-up. I have a feeling I'll be 'linking' to you guys an awful lot...

Edited to add...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Miami New Times Finally Gets a Pair-Welcome Gail Sheperd!

Where have they been hiding her? I welcome her into the Miami blog pantheon; although sharing the spotlight with La Klein-in fact, having to defend Mr. Klein's blog posts is going to be a lot of heavy lifting if one judges by the 'Rendezvous' post. Judge for yourself...
Now I'm not saying that South Beach isn't full of rip-offs or that not mentioning the price of a daily 'special' (or not bothering to mention that your tip was included in the price of a drink the bartender just charged you) is anything but a scam. But the point I am trying to make is that in any transaction the operative phrase is Caveat Emptor-buyer beware. If I don't ask how much something is going to cost me before I consume it, I am an asshole. If a restaurant doesn't mention the price when reciting specials, and I order said special, and I don't ask the price of said special, I am an asshole. "How much is the Surf & Turf?" 6 words and an ampersand. Of course the restaurant is going to charge you $105. Because you are a moron. You are eating on one of the most heavily touristed rip-off streets in the world, Ocean Drive, at a restaurant no one's ever heard of (Rendezvous), and you are ordering surf and freakin turf.

But my larger point was that perhaps there was another side of the story that these two delightful tourists from Danbury, Connecticut, Peter and Neil may have left out. Was there another side of the story-the restaurant's side? People complain about getting ripped-off all the time. If I said that Home Depot charged me $100 for a hammer, you'd ask for more than the receipt-as a journalist you might call Home Depot, ask to speak to the manager, and get their side of the story. Now I'm not no professional journalist like the hit-man LK47 or major stoner Gail Sheperd , (go GShep!) but maybe if you are about to put something out there that could drive someone out of business or stain their reputation for all eternity, you might want to include their side of the story. Make one fucking phone call. Even to say, "the restaurant had no comment", or you could even say "the restaurant wasn't available for comment" (it's bullshit but at least it seems like you are trying). Why is it that every freakin topic in the world gets taken seriously except the one about which I care most passionately? Even the traffic reports are more balanced.

And one more thing. I noticed in her balanced annual piece on the Design District for the Miami Herald, Lydia Martin mentioned that Michael's Genuine Food & Drink was mentioned as one of the New York Times' 10 Best Restaurants in the US. In point of fact, it was called by Frank Bruni, the Times critic, one of the ten best NEW restaurants in the US for 2007. This is obviously quite a distinction, and one that might get past someone who doesn't write about food regularly. Of course it is still a great accomplishment for Michael Schwartz, but what made me wonder even more was that this claim was repeated in the Miami Sun Post's 'Best Of's'. Perhaps someone was using Ms. Martin's piece for research? Look, I read the Times articles (it was a series of three, actually), and I enjoyed having eaten at two of the top ten in the same week (MGFD and Michel Richard's Central in DC), but I'm assuming I can not be alone in having read the damn thing. Am I alone? Am I the only douche out here? I love reading about restaurants, I really do, and I sometimes fall off to sleep reading vintage cookbooks. But when I do my research, I also like to talk to the people who are, as a great man once said, "down in it."

Unfortunately, according to the web editor of the New Times food blog, and the writer of 'Cheap Eats', when I queried him on why he didn't ask the owner a question to clear up an issue, he responded that "research is not required." That just about says it all, douchies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

When Writing Gives you a Headache, Only Alcohol Can Cure The Pain...

The great fiction-writer George V. Higgins, in his non-fiction classic primer for aspiring writers, 'On Writing', said something to the effect that a writer should not quote another writer who was far superior, thus pointing out his own inferiority. This is advice that Lee Klein, of the Miami New Times, might have heeded before he wrote "If vegans are a 'Hezbollah-like splinter faction' of the vegetarian movement, as Anthony Bourdain once wrote...." This pithy quote of Bourdain's outshines anything from Klein's pen that comes after it, rendering the entire review an exercise in excruciating boredom. But for perhaps the last time, I've taken one for the team and plowed through the muck.

Before I continue, though, I would like to address Bourdain's comment, which I find both small-minded and pandering; but of course that is Bourdain's shtick-throw out four-letter words and quotables to the bored mid-western housewives who make up his core audience. Unfortunately, trying to be cute and superior by making fun of vegetarians shows he is neither-it only makes the 'Hezbollah' comment sound purposefully provocative and desperate.

But back to LK....Klein has his weekly New York reference, but at a record 500 words into the review-very restrained for Mr. Klein. He bemoans raw foodists as the "loopiest fringe" of the "vegetarian movement", whatever that is, so you know that what follows is going to be an objective overview of a raw foods restaurant (sarcasm). Kind of like when the Kleinster reviewed Brosia but wouldn't eat their most interesting dish because he "doesn't eat bunny". Kind of how six months ago he demanded that restaurants provide the sources of all of their meat and fish entrees, then promptly forgot about his high standards to kiss up to another Italian joint. I understand. I saw La Klein at an event at Pacific Time this past Monday, and he was looking as bored as most of his readers. Maybe it's those "Five Questions" that he asks of potential advertisers, I mean 'chefs', that has got him down. I feel you, Lee. You're one of a dying breed (print writers with a job). Maybe that's why he disliked the raw beets at "The Art of Food", but doesn't have a problem when Michelle Bernstein or Michael Schwartz serve them. Those chefs at least provide a fat expense-account meal paid for by the New Times. It sucks when your only real remuneration (a coupla free meals) ends up being some vegan terrorists (more sarcasm).

Speaking of Pacific Time, I loved the event this past week that highlighted the use of tap water at PT and Fratelli Lyon. Of course the Herald sent their top writer, Taylor Barnes. This is an important issue, and only the best will do. The germ of my original altercation with Kathy Martin and Herald food writing came about because of my disappointment with their knack for giving important stories to amateurs who had just gotten off the bus. Of course, with all the layoffs, one has to be kind. Soon Enrique Fernandez will be the only writer on staff. Of course he's been there since the '60's, and can't be fired. Best of luck, Taylor, and say hi to Jaweed for me. Perhaps in your piece you may have mentioned all of the top restaurateurs in the country, as well as in Miami, who have not eschewed bottled water. But of course, that would have been journalism, and that is frowned upon by the Miami Herald. Speaking of Jaweed, who has moved on to bigger and better things, one last look at 'Clink', the feature that tells you where to get the latest 'hot' cocktails...
[The Florida Room] "is styled after a Cuban speakeasy, and the menu also reflects that," says manager and mixologist Angelo Viera. "The focus is on a lot of rum cocktails and vintage Cuban classics." Of course the three drinks that follow contain no rum; nor are any of them Cuban in origin. Nor is there any such thing as a "Cuban speakeasy".
"Not on the list? Taste the glamour at home with these recipes." When a Pisco Sour is considered glamorous, there is really something crazy going on here. But don't worry, Jake, it's just Miami-Town...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Don't Eat Sushi...It's Not Funny...Later...

Enrique Fernandez in the Herald reviews Abokado, and has this throwaway gem..."I skipped sushi and sashimi." Yeah, you wouldn't want to touch that stuff, especially in a restaurant review of a place THAT SPECIALIZES IN RAW FISH! Also, "A good selection of wines includes the spicy whites that complement Asian food..." Like what? Some direction would be nice. Anyway, the best wines to accompany Asian food, esp. sushi, would be considered a slightly sweet wine, a simple Chablis, or a dry sparkler. By spicy whites I assume he means Gewürztraminer, which also goes very well with Asian food-so why not mention it? Of course sushi goes best with sake or beer, so that would explain the lack of a word or two about the wine list, because there's all this stuff about the sake list. Just kidding. There's a "wide range" of sakes. A wide range. No names, no prices.

"The menu tilts heavily toward Japanese raw fish and its South American cousins, ceviches, tiraditos and estiraditos..." Guess that's why he didn't try the sushi or sashimi-with all those Latin treats, perhaps sushi and sashimi are outside abuelito's comfort zone? Oh, and thank you to an anonymous commenter for this It's nice to know that Enrique knows as little about fashion as he does about food. Man can that guy not write.

And Lee Klein's wacky piece on pancakes had something mysteriously fascinating about it...Least funny thing I've read this year. And I mean in any genre, including obituaries. The one about the 58 year old dude succumbing to brain cancer? Hilarious next to this dead-on-arrival piece of shit attempt at humor. The good thing is, when La Kleine is trying to be serious, he's gut-bustingly funny, so there are always a lot of laughs in his regular columns. And the 'Five Questions' ? Is the point to be as bland and uninformative as possible? Then I give it a perfect 10. How do you fuck up an interview with a guy as interesting and quirky as Dewey LoSasso? What is the point of this feature if there is nothing new there? Well, I guess at least the New Times is saving money by having Lee work harder. Well, maybe putting in more hours is more like it, because it's obvious no 'work' went into this one.

And it's great to see Linda Blandholm in the Herald getting the goods on the hot story of the 'Spice Guys'. A few months late but at least they're getting their due. Personally, I don't think who gets there first is necessarily as important as just getting it right, but a few months late is a little, well, too late.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bland, Blander, Blandest...

I love Linda Bland-holm of the Miami Herald. There, I said it. She has done for food-writing in Miami what Leopold & Loeb did for baby-sitters. I loved her tale of the new Buena Vista Bistro, near the Design District, which is all about love. Of course, the new owners of the spot formerly known as 'A', can't be held responsible for..."When they recently Buena Vista East...they were frustrated by the lack of neighborhood places to get a good meal. Then a spot became available and they bought it...offering reasonably priced food with a French flair." Kind of reminds me of 'A' a little bit. Well, a lot. And the owners of 'A' were also a couple with a great love story, who got, ahem, screwed by their landlord and were forced out to make way for the next sucker, I mean, the new owners. The reason, I'm trying to say in my usually un-erudite way, that there was no place "to get a good meal", was that the last placed THAT THEY TOOK OVER closed. I wish them the best of luck, especially getting that wine and beer license, but Blandholm is not helping with this over-the-top blessing for the semi-retards she must think her readership is comprised of.

"Postel shop every morning and plans menus accordingly...Most days there are escargot...roast salmon...and thick rice pudding." So, as a moron, I'm guessing that each day the chef, on his way to work, turns over rocks looking for snails, fishes the cold Atlantic or Pacific Northwest for salmon, and then hits the rice paddies. Busy day.
Then comes a paragraph explaining rillettes, well, never mind, dummy, just hit Wikipedia like everybody else.
"To cater to the neighborhood Rastafarians, there is usually vegetable lasagna or another vegetable entree and salads." Salads! How inventive. And I'm guessing that Rastafarians are outnumbered by regular old vegetarians in BVE. I guess that was an attempt at humor. I failed to laugh.

Best part of LB's work are the two recipes accompanying the piece. The 'Zucchini Lasagna', and the 'Rice Pudding'. Now wouldn't it be great if these were the chef's own special recipes? Yes, but this is Madame Bland, and the lasagna recipe is from 'The Best of Bon Appetit' (1979), and the rice pudding from Saveur Cooks Authentic French (1999). Hey, maybe there hasn't been a good cookbook published in the last couple of decades by an actual chef. But then any lasagna recipe that calls for canned tomato sauce can't be all bad. What the heck are they thinking over there?

Enrique Fernandez of the Herald claims that Por Fin in Coral Gables is already earning raves on foodie websites. Well I guess that's okay to say if all of your readers probably don't even know what a 'foodie website' is. For example, I went to Chowhound, which I believe is the only 'foodie website' in Miami with any activity at all, and found exactly two people who commented on meals they ate there. It's sad that food writers not only do their research on the web, and not only steal ideas and concepts from bloggers and others on the web, but that they lie about it, knowing that their readership is probably comprised of people who, for the most part, either don't know what the internet is, or who have fallen, and can't get up. With all due respect to Enrique, who picked a bad time to go on a diet-you're a food writer, dummy!-nearly has a stroke when he encounters "Potato foam with fried spuds? Yes, and miraculously it works." Potato foam is so ubiquitous every restaurant on South Beach has it on their menu-and we're only about five years behind on that one. The old guy needs to get out more. who knows, maybe even see what's happening in other cities, with non-Latin chefs. Crazy? Perhaps. But for someone who can rave about fried eggs on fried potatoes (that's one egg at $10, 2 for $20-that's some freakin' egg!), and then tediously go on to explain that this is what "Spanish moms make for kids"-holy shit! I just called my mom and asked her what's up? How come we never ate eggs and potatoes for breakfast like those lucky Spanish kids? After slapping me several times about the head and face, she reminded me that moms everywhere, except maybe Japan, make eggs and potatoes for their kids. Oh, right. Sometimes after reading my adoptive abuelo I forget that he doesn't really know shit about cuisine. Sorry, ma. And for you wine drinkers? "A sommelier is being hired to revise the wine list." Which currently consists of, what?

Lee Klein of the New Times makes fun of Andu Lounge because it is "modern-Med-by-the-numbers". At least, according to La Lee, they get credit for not going the really repetitive path of pastas and pizzas." You mean like every other fucking Italian joint you drool over-including some joint in South Beach called Vita, just a couple of weeks ago? Where you salivate over their tortini, papardelle, and pizza? But then in trashing Andu, I guess he really doesn't want to see those precious pastas and pizzas leave the menu. Witness the loving review of yet another Italian joint this week.

And by the way, just because the calamari (who the fuck orders fried calamari anymore?) takes forever, doesn't mean it's fresh OR homemade. "Fratelli's cuisine does mimic the Old World in that it is fresh and cooked fresh-to-order. I know the latter is true because reheating food couldn't possibly take this long. On one visit, we waited about 20 minutes for an order of fried calamari. The crisply battered squid rings ultimately arrived cleanly fried, if a bit rubbery. A few logs of fried zucchini get tossed in too, all accompanied by a smooth, slightly spicy tomato sauce." Two things-first, I believe I expelled a few logs of zucchini this morning, and, second-You know, they got these bags of frozen squid rings, that everyone's got now. One trip to the kitchen, or even an actual question to the cooks would have clarified that, but that would have involved reporter-like journalism and shit you lazy a-hole. Which leads me to...

1)When did you stop caring, douchebag?
(You can insert the rest here...)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Thievery or Homage?

La Klein, Miami New Times, 5/1/08: "Upon entering Maya Grill, our eyes were instantly drawn to a cooler with "Michoacán" written on the side in blue lettering. Inside were a dozen flavors of frozen fruit popsicles that are renowned in the namesake region but have also proven to be a reliable refreshment for my constant companion and me through various trips across the Yucatán."


April 18th

"It was a nice, big, plate, which carried my constant companion and I through our first bottle of wine-a very nice Syrah-heavy Côtes du Rhône"

April 10th

"But back to Rascal House. My constant companion, as it was Thanksgiving, demanded, and got, the full works-turkey with all the trimmings, as they say"

Feb 10th

Judith Williams (right), discussing spices with my constant companion over $8/lb Stone Crab Claws"

Jan 25th

"When I go out for Burritos, I always bring one home for my constant companion."

Jan 15th

"As I begin my 21-Day raw-foods cleanse with my constant companion..."

And that's just this year. I'm not saying I invented the term, but I can tell you, my constant companion is not amused at this, ahem, homage.

By the way, LK's review had this insight: "...residents here have long been relishing Maya's tacos, which were formerly sold from a Taco Loco trailer in various vacant lots around the neighborhood. I was never aware of that tacqueria on wheels [no shit] and wouldn't have known about Maya Grill, either, had Redland reader J.L. not e-mailed me with a headsup."
Or, perhaps, Lee-seph's been doing some late-night blog-surfing 'research' again? Although at least it's great to see Lee NOT drool over another Italian joint again this week. Nice to see they reprinted his Orale! theft, too. The man has no shame.

Friday, April 25, 2008

One Visit, One Month...

I guess with all the bloggers out there, the rush to review has become paramount in the prints, and the lack of return visits may be constrained by shrinking budgets. No one is being forced to try a restaurant during its first week or month, of course. Unlike a performance, it's probably going to be around for more than a limited run (of course there's always 'Cats'). But I'm not going to engage in that argument. Just like anyone who has the skills to read a book thinks they can now become a book 'reviewer'; and anyone who has the skills to walk through and around a building thinks they are now an 'architecture critic', well, you get the idea. The bar is low, my friends, and I'm just part of the crowd rushing to limbo under it.

Enrique Fernandez, in the Miami Herald, reviews a Cuban restaurant. Enrique, you'd better be careful-soon you're going to be typecast. As the, you know, Cuban guy.
Some highlights:
"Picadillo is rich enough in flavor to make one forget it is basically ground beef." And imagine that it is...Hamburger Helper?

"...a salad of watercress, avocado, cucumber and scallions is quite refreshing." Did you eat this or splash it on your face?

"All over the country, nay, all over the world..." Nay, ye doth spake?

"But this is a Cuban town." Havana is a Cuban town. Miami, especially the area of North Beach where the restaurant is located (often called 'Little Buenos Aires'), is filled with many immigrants, especially Argentinians, with about a dozen Argentinian, Uruguayan, Venezuelan, etc. eating establishments. Some of them might perhaps be offended at your description. Personally, I find it charming, like Lee Klein's warm embrace of sexism.

Lee Klein in the New Times lets loose on another Italian restaurant, Vita. Man, he really gives it to them for their ridiculous practice of handing the men menu's with prices, and the ladies menu's without prices. Oh no, wait, he swoons over it, like an older, somewhat senile uncle trying to figure out why they don't make the carbeurator cover for his '47 Packard. He also, rather oddly, really lays into women, noting the infrequency, nay, rarity, of those bitches ever picking up a check. Dude, when it comes to women, this poor guy is, as John Stewart would sing in a high voice, "Bit-ter".

"While most people would agree it would be wrong to return to this ritual (dual menus), we thought it kind of neat as a novelty." Like slavery? Neat? I'll bet Mrs. Klein had a headache after that meal. Probably lasted a week. Can't you just say that it's a stupid fucking practice that some sexist Med smoothies think they can get away with as 'charming', and then go on to review the food? Or must every Italian restaurant get nine fucking stars?

Of course the branzino is "flown from the Mediterranean"; that's right-they catch it at an undisclosed location at sea, and then it is flown directly to the US. As opposed to what? Sending it by trawler? Mailing it?

"You can tell how good the food is going to taste just by looking at it." I'm not sure why, but that sentence irks me. You fill in the sarcastic rejoinder.

But his wine paragraph kills me. "...with the now-standard three-time markup..." Three-time markup is NOT STANDARD. It is a rip-off. And Mr. Klein has become a major part of the reason for the shitty, overpriced wine lists at many restaurants here who think they can get away with ridiculously high markups, because high-profile critics like Klein will just slough it off as 'standard'. Well, fuck the consumer, Kleinie's too busy finding 'NO' fault with another perfect Italian joint (amazing that we have so many...).

By the way, where was all the discussion of organic and local ingredients that Lee-seph was demanding from restaurants in the not-too-distant past, sir? Gone like Earth Day, I guess. Especially when your faithful critic wants to smack his lips around another Italian restaurant's hind-gut.

Oh, and a tip-o'-the-hat to Jan Karetnick in 'Florida Travel & Life' magazine. "For a special night out, visit the popular Michael's Kitchen...Chef-owner Michael Blum, who says his place is the "cure for boring food", has a flair for showmanship that entertains children and parents simultaneously. (A candy apple martini and sesame and black bean glazed ribs keep us locals coming back.)" Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure no one, especially "us locals", ever went back...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hola OLA, Goodbye Dignity...

Sorry I've been away lately, but I've been busy gazing lovingly at 'red light' and Kris Wessel. Seriously, has every fucking blogger/foodie douche been to this place like ten times already and he hasn't even started serving a full menu? Jesus, who knew the food-writing scene could become even more pedestrian? And then you have the blogger photo of the 'Bacon and Eggs', but without the bacon (it's half the dish, for godsakes), because someone at the table doesn't eat bacon-then write about something else! Or the blogger who complains that everything there tastes like onions, but then admits he doesn't like onions? Maybe you shouldn't be writing publicly about food, zippy, if you don't like onions. Just write all about it in your letters to your mother. I'm sure she'd love to hear from you, anyway.

And that brings me to this week's installment of 'Lee Klein Sucks Celebrity Chef Ass', featuring Doug Rodriguez and OLA. I was wondering why Lee would choose to re-review this place, but then it seems that Rodriguez has been nominated for a James Beard Award. As Lee is already as far up Michele Bernstein's ass as he can get (she is also nominated), I guess he figures he'll take no chances and goes into overdrive Star-fucker mode, which includes gushing like a schoolgirl, of course. “So salmon suffused with yuzu and clementine juices, basil, chives, Thai chilies, and wasabi caviar could easily be mistaken for a plate of fucking diamonds god I love Doug Rodriguez!” (Actual line, “plate of salmon sashimi”.) And then, “Same goes for meaty slices of hamachi in a divine pool of pomelo-and-yellow tomato sauce, the whole thing refreshed with zesty lemon juice, jalapeño, and a small dazzling mirror on which to do the lines of Peruvian flake that are chopped up table side by the Chef himself!” (Cilantro.) Have some dignity, Lee-seph!
(More on the bathrooms (my favorite spot) at the Sanctuary, the hotel in which OLA is located, coming up soon on DailyCocaine).

Oh, and it's nice to see the New Times exhuming two-year-old reviews from Kleinie. Here's how they explain... “If you feel funny about plunking down big bucks for oxtail and plantains gussied up in the guise of Nuevo Latino, here are a couple of viejo Latino spots to consider.” I love this feature because you can see how badly Lee's writing has deteriorated over the years; and also because it reminds me of 'Culinary Cage Match' over at, where expensive dishes go head-to-head with similar but cheaper ones, comparing quality and price, with the winner usually the less expensive item. But I guess it's just another homage....

Over in the Herald, Enrique Fernandez reviews a Spanish restaurant. Oh, Enrique, is there nothing you can't do? At least he mentions one wine, which is exactly one more than Klein (which rhymes with No Wine) does. But Enrique, my darling abuelo, if the kitchen is out of the 'fried rabbit from Navarra' that you wanted to taste, may I suggest that perhaps you return, and eat it on another occasion? You know, like a professional restaurant reviewer? I know it's tough, but that rabbit won't review itself. So put back on the cardigan, and make the trek. Probably want to visit the place more than once for a real professional review anyway, right? Right?

And I never thought I'd be writing about Linda Blandholm, but I just want to set the record straight: In her review of Kafa Cafe, she states that, “They took over the Midtown space that Uva had vacated for the Upper East Side...” Well I happen to be intimately familiar with that building, and there were two businesses in it before Kafa. One was Cane e Sucre, on the left, and the other was Stop Miami Wine & Tapas Bar, on the right. As the owner of Stop, I can tell you that the three years we were there have not been forgotten by any of our customers, so I will assume simple ignorance on her part. Cane e Sucre was gone for months before we left, incidentally (it was never called Uva, either). Also, there is no such neighborhood as 'Midtown'. There is a condo development called Midtown Miami, and there is a strip mall called the Shops at Midtown. There is Wynwood, Edgewater, Downtown, and even Overtown. But no Midtown. That is just some long-ago-absconded real estate jerk-off's wet dream. Not that I'm bitter....

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In the Wrong, In the Way, and Out of Touch...Plus Clink!

From the Miami New Times Letters:

“...I'm not completely surprised that Lee Klein would have been misinformed about a few typical Peruvian dishes he wrote about in his March 20 review of Adriana Restaurant, "Peruvian Chill." First of all, any Peruvian would laugh uncontrollably at his ingredient list for Huancaína sauce. There are variations from one cook to the next, but the sauce never contains mustard, olives, eggs, or flour. Second, lomo saltado does not contain green peppers, unless this was the restaurant's particular version (and it would have been wise for Mr. Klein to have mentioned that). Last, I know very few people of any ethnicity who would say chicha morada is an acquired taste, unless one considers something similar to fruit punch an acquired taste.
Carlos C. Olaechea

See it ain't just me....

Enrique Fernandez of the Miami Herald is a restaurant killer. Anyone who can work the word 'humoresque' into a restaurant review is dangerous. I have $100 that says Two Chefs Too is gone before next Easter. His review is just too good. And by the way, “they have a fairly extensive beer and wine list.” Fairly extensive. Does that mean more extensive than extensive? Or just “I don't know dick about wine”? Of course I could be wrong. And what is with restaurant reviewers mentioning that they don't eat stuff? “The sweet tooth of youth has left me altogether, so I seldom eat dessert unless required. I will report that the brandied peach soufflé is wonderful, and dribbling it with crème anglaise and caramel, as the waitress suggested, is the right thing to do.” As opposed to dribbling it all over your bib? We get it Enrique, you're old. At least Victoria Pesce Elliott still has most of her original teeth. And to then say that “Classically trained, [Chef] Jorgensen has never gone in for froufrou”? I can't think of anything more froufrou than a brandied peach souffle, dad. But maybe you're right Enrique. Perhaps Ferrán Adriá is just a passing fad, not the most accomplished and imitated chef in the world. Wait, you also shoehorned Adriá into a review of TCT? Did I say gone by Easter? Make that Christmas. Which brings me to youth, sweet youth.

I love the Herald's Clink! columnist, Jaweed Kaleem. The best thing about this kid is that you've already traveled around the world twice just by reading his name. Second, you gotta love the guy cause he's a dazzling young urbanite. It's so important in every field to weed out (no pun intended) the tired old farts, and pump up the new brands for the hip doofuses. I consider myself...older, wiser, more...douchey-er, of course; although as a professional writer, I'm still in my infancy. I'm crawling. And youth, as they say, must be served, and the Clink! column is where the kids go for their latest booze instruction. Two weeks ago it was the Vinotini (any drink ending in 'tini is sexy, baby, especially if you're underage), a drink made with like ten ingredients. What is this? Chemistry class? I want to party, not delicately measure orange flower water into beakers. “Where's my drink?” she coo's. “One moment, I'm pasteurizing the egg whites!” he drools.

But how wonderfully fortuitous that last week's drink was the Sapphire Ace, which is made with Bombay Sapphire, a main sponsor of this week's Sony Ericcson Open tennis tournament. Now I like Bombay, I really do. I love all of Bacardi's products, in fact. And I want to get in on some of this cross-sponsorship stuff, because that's where the moona be. So here's my Spring drink, which I call the...
1)Ice Cold Grey Goose Vodka (Biggest Bottle You Can Find)
2)Chilled Martini & Rossi Dry Vermouth (Same)
3)Drink a little from each bottle, until you feel like a Scotch.
4)Grab some Dewar's 12 year-old ( a great Bacardi product)
5)Top the night off with a digestif of some Disaronno Amaretto or Drambuie (both Bacardi's finest) on the rocks.

If you wake up with a hangover, sip a few cold Bacardi Rum Island Ice Tea's. That'll get you right back into the mood to make another cocktail with 10 freakin ingredients and a whip-cream dispenser...(So you know I'm not kidding, here's the drink. If anyone can actually make this at home, I will buy you the whip-its, personally. Wow that brought back a lot of memories. And sour mix? C'mon, that's for lightweights, JD. Ten ingredients and a bottled mix? From Tony Abu-Ganim, the Modern Mixologist-“Mixing 2 parts fresh squeezed lemon juice with one part simple syrup will easily make fresh lemon sour.” Ta-da.)

Next week, the Maroone Milkshake ©

The Vinotini
Mix 2 1/2 ounces pasteurized egg whites, 3 ounces sour mix, 3 ounces pomegranate juice, 2 1/2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice, 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth and 1 1/2 ounces Cointreau in a whipped-cream dispenser (see note below).
Combine 1 1/2 ounce grape vodka (e.g., Roth), 1/2 ounce sour mix, 1/2 ounce Cointreau, 1 1/2 ounces whitedessert wine (e.g., Bonny Doon Muscat) and 2 cups ice in a cocktail shaker.
Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Top with a 1/2-inch layer of froth.
Garnish with 3 frozen white grapes on a long pick.
The Sonoma Fog is $11.95 at Fleming's, 2525 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-569-7995.
The Whip-It! brand whipped cream dispenser is $40-$50 at and other online retailers

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bloggers Suck, Too...

While preparing to open a vein during the interminable time it took to get through the Miami New Times' Lee Klein's lulling review of Adriana, I switched over to the Miami Herald's Victoria Elliott's rhapsody to Brosia. The one thing the reviews had in common, other than an unbearable ennui, was that both Lee and Victoria seemed petulant over their treatment at the hands of some of the restaurants' staff. Lee has complained bitterly before, about not being acknowledged, and this time it's more of the same. Missy Elliott is even more miffed. “On another visit, the staff kowtowed to a flashy woman claiming to be a restaurant critic while ignoring my husband and me. (Note to restaurateurs: Legitimate critics neither announce themselves nor solicit free meals.)”

This got me thinking, who exactly are the “legitimate critics” she speaks of? There are your major daily types (VPE among them, of course), your alternative weekly types (Kleiny), your alternative, alternative weekly types (moi), and then the lowest class of all, the vermin, the scum of the earth, the Belgians. I mean the bloggers. Although the Belgians rate a close second. Just ask Monty Python....

So who are the 'legitimate critics'? They don't pay for meals (their company does), but they don't solicit free meals. Except when they're invited to try new restaurants' food and wine at various free events, open only to the press, or trade. This results in exactly the opposite of what, I believe, Ms. Elliott is referring to. Bloggers not only announce themselves, they do it with the hope of freebies, and I'm sure that's who the “flashy woman” the staff was “kowtowing to” was. I even think I know who it was. Don't people on blogs, and even in the dailies/weeklies, foam at the mouth about new places where they have eaten for free, as guests of the owners? And how are we to trust these descriptions, when everything is great, wonderful, but if you are in the least critical, you can kiss your free meals and all the status of having restaurateurs kiss your ass, goodbye.

I feel ya, VPE, these flashy morons invoking 'Critic's Privileges' are getting in the way of real discourse; and for all my complaining about the print critics in Miami, the bloggers and their kiss-ass philosophy are just as tiresome. With few exceptions, the food blogging scene in Miami is dreadful. The lack of knowledge about the basics is stunning. And the smarmy desire to please celebuchefs for freebies is meretricious at best, bordering on the obscene. Randomly pick out a few, and you will quickly see who is getting the royal treatment and why. Try to figure out who is simply a Press Release whore, who feels privileged just to be on Brustman/Carrino's email list, and who is really doing the work-paying for their meals, learning about the mountains of shit they never knew existed (because there's a lot of stuff out there, my friends), traveling to the city's different neighborhoods, and never setting foot in pretentious, outrageously over-priced 'Celebrity Chains', because that always leads to despair.

In my mind, there are only two kinds of food writers. Those who have the knowledge, background, understanding, education, experience, and, most importantly, critical judgement; and the ability to communicate all that in one's writing. And then there's the rest. Whether you're getting paid or not, that doesn't define your 'legitimacy'. What defines it is ideas. And that is what is in short supply here in Miami. See you Meche's.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Local Daily Laughs in the Face of Death....(Updated)

In an homage to the 'Car Bomb', the whimsically-named Irish cocktail that the wacky Miami Herald editors supposed was a great idea to promote for St. Patrick's Day I'd like to add a few 'Holiday Cocktails' of my own, which also commemorate the loss of life and limb of innocents; not just in Ireland, but across the globe. Here are the holidays and the drinks that make bloody death such a hoot!

EID-The Osama
This is a non-alcoholic drink, of course, in honor of the festival at the end of Ramadan. Add some pomegranate juice to ice in a large glass and stir 'like crazy' (it's okay if you spill some). Top with some liquid smoke, and decorate with twin 'towering' flaming sparklers. This drink always kills!

Manischewitz Concord Grape Juice, a bissel Schnapps, garnish with a falafel ball on a toothpick. Let flavors mingle for a while until they 'explode'!

CARNAVAL IN HAVANA-The (Dead) Cuba(n) Libre
Moonshine Rum. Lime to (kill the) taste. Drink while floating on a door. In Argentina they call this the 'General', and believe me, this one will get you so drunk it will make you feel as though you've 'disappeared'!

An update of the classic, but along with Coke, you use 'coke'. And it goes up your nose. Like the bubbles from Coke. For the 'real thing', garnish with a crushed-up Roofie. This one will definitely have you, as the kids say, 'filing a police report'!

CHINESE NEW YEAR-The Tibetan Titty
Let some rice wine 'intrude' upon some rose petals in a shaker, then pour into a tall glass of 'India'!

Basically, a really fucking enormous 'Sake Bomb'!

JEWISH NEW YEAR 5768-The Holocaust Sunrise
Same as a Tequila Sunrise, except delightfully administered as an enema, by Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS!

Have a great holiday, and don't forget to kill or maim someone!

Elsewhere this week, Enrique Fernandez 'reviews' three spots on Key Biscayne, including an outlet of the Venezuelan chain, Don Pan. Now it's bad enough that the Herald is spending highly-limited, super-visible newspaper space on some crummy chain, but at least he could have taken the time to describe the “South American nation's version of a country breakfast”, perhaps with all the loving (and correct) terms he uses to describe Cuban cuisine, instead of blandly calling it “beans, braised meat, farmer's cheese and arepa”. Could he possibly mean Pabellón? Are they black beans? Is the “braised meat” Carne Mechada? Wait. Braised meat? Does he mean beef? And farmer's cheese? Is that Queso Guayanés? I could be wrong. But it just goes to show that, as I've said many times before, just speaking Spanish does not make one an expert on every culture that does so. Especially when it comes to food. I would love to see the Herald describe a dish as “shredded flank steak in a tomato sauce base” instead of Ropa Vieja, or “a big pile of ground beef” instead of Picadillo.
“Braised meat”. Enrique, you slay me.

Speaking of chains, and fools, here comes Lee Klein in the Miami New Times reviewing a restaurant that has not even been open a month! And that is supposedly the first in a chain. What is the fucking hurry? And who gives a shit? And almost 1300 words to tell us that this place is mediocre? I have to admit it, it took me two days to finish this review, and that's with about an entire bottle of Visine, as well as copious amounts of mind-alter-ers (sometimes booze is not enough). If I could have scraped my eyeballs out with a rusty spoon, I would have. But I have a duty here, and that is to tell you that Mr. Lee has finally devoted an entire paragraph in a review to beverages. That's the good news. The bad news? The wine-list is “user-friendly” according to Kleinie (I guess that means it's in English). Doesn't bother mentioning any names, though. That might be TOO user-friendly for Lee's readers. “Some 16 sakes are offered”, but other than the $120 bottle of Akitabare Suirakuten, he doesn't mention any. Is that one a good value, by the way, you may ask? You'll never know from the review. At least he mentions the beers this time.

Oh, and Lee? We're getting really tired of your 'dining companions' and their lame opinions. Especially when you contradict them, and then yourself (well, I guess we can both agree that you're often wrong), in the same paragraph:
"Why put jalapeño with hamachi?" asked one of my dinner mates, who is admittedly a cynic in regard to such contemporary fusings. [Just a side note-I believe Nobu has been doing a Hamachi Jalapeno dish for over 20 years-Lee (and his wayward dining companions) REALLY needs to get out more.] "What good can it possibly bring to the fish?" His point, well taken, was provoked by an "envy" roll that included those two ingredients with rice, cilantro, and avocado, the whole thing wrapped teardrop-shaped in pale green soy paper. It is true the subtle, buttery [Everything's 'buttery' to this guy.] aspects of hamachi can only be obscured, not enhanced, by such a partnering, but in this case the kitchen's consistently timid hand worked to its advantage: The chili was applied so parsimoniously that the hamachi was able to shine.”

So then it was good....Right? God, gimme that fuckin spoon...

(Update on New York pizza from last week-had a chance to stop at Primo Pizza and it was exactly the opposite of how Leo "The Lip" described it-it was actually a thin, foldable slice, with not too much cheese, and thoroughly mediocre. Which makes his oddly glowing review even more incomprehensible. Unless, as has been suggested, he had had a few too many next door at The Room.)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Late Night Lee....or, Trouble Brewing?

Now I'm just depressed. Victoria Elliot in the Herald reviewing a neighborhood sushi joint in Homestead (Victoria, what have they done to you?), another Enrique Fernandez piece on some shit no one fucking cares about (“Like many Cuban Americans, I grew up eating [blank]. Fill in the blank yourself, sparky, I have a headache. Then write 500 words about salt cod. Again. Get paid. Take a nap), Linda Bladholm in Hollywood, Fred Tasker on Chardonnay (where have I heard of that grape before?), Jaweed on the Cilantro Martini 'invented' at Andu (people need to stop believing everyone's press, for godssake), and Lee Klein in the New Times on two fast food joints. Well, let's just go with Lee, that always perks me up.

Did you know that Queen Latifah owns a piece of the Fatburger on South Beach? Did you know that the royal ex-rapper “didn't even show up for the opening,” according to one disappointed (and about to be fired for talking to LK) employee? Did you know that Lee is now familiar with 'Sysco', the giant food-supplier, and now must throw that tiny bit of professional knowledge around like a hockey-mask-wearing serial killer wields an axe? He's disappointed in the burgers, but, and here I'm going out on a limb, maybe that's because it's a fucking CHAIN! Why is the lead reviewer for the Miami New Times devoting more precious space to another chain? And people wonder why we can't get the rest of the food world to take us seriously. Incidentally, I was just in New York, at a very hip and exclusive cocktail bar (don't even ask how I got in), and they were going through tons of Sysco's waffle fries. You can't just say 'Sysco' and end the discussion. Even Thomas Keller at Per Se uses frozen fries, and apparently no one's complaining. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A very little knowledge-a very dangerous thing.

But it gets worse, I'm afraid. Speaking of New York (and why must Kleiny always bring up the city? Is he hankering for a spot at the Voice? Guess what? R. Sietsema blows you out of the water sir, so sit your hick ass down, and get back to writing about shit you don't know about, like pizza), the Wee Man has this doozy at the start of his timely review of the 'year-and-a-half-old' Primo Pizza on South Beach. “What makes a New York slice a New York slice? For one thing, the crust is not crisp. It is floppy-soft, thicker than flatbread but thinner than deep-dish. There are no black char marks on the bottom; if there were, any self-respecting New Yorker would return it and say, "Hey, Einstein, you burned the goddamn pizza!" [I guess Lee thinks that by shoehorning in a 'goddamn' every column, he'll sound much hipper and younger, as opposed to corny and decrepit. Not working.] Plus it is cheesy, and the cheese is chewy.”

First of all, if you told an Italian pie-maker that he just burned your pie, you would probably be about to replace that pie in the oven. Or as an old pizza-maker at Lombardi's once said to my buddy when he asked about the temperature of his pizza oven, “You wanna know how hot it is? Okay. How do you want to go in, feet first or head first?”
Anyway, it would be more like, “Thank you for a great slice, paisano,” because that's how a fucking New York pizza's supposed to look. A little charred on the bottom, the crust should actually be crisp enough to hold when folded in half (it should have that 'snap' when you fold it), so you can eat it wit ya hands. The classic NY pizza places, like Arturo's, Patsy's, Lombardi's, John's, etc., all make pizzas whose crusts have char marks. In fact, contrary to Lee's bullshit, they have thin, crispy/chewy crusts, and not too much cheese (source: Stu Gatz. I owe you one, cugino).

So now I'm wondering, since both Fatburger and Primo Pizza serve pretty late at night, if perhaps Lee 'The Lip' Klein has been staying out a little past his bedtime, maybe chewing on some grappa, looking for trouble? He did mention last week that some food was arranged in almost “snortable lines”. Does that mean what I think it does? Maybe that's what makes the fast food seem so appealing at 5AM. Or maybe the poor guy just needs a little more rest.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Post SoBe Fest Blues, or How Insulting Lee Klein Always Raises My Spirits...

The SoBe drunkfest broke a lot of hearts, so let's just get to it, and try to move on to bigger and better things, oh my little brothers and sisters. 'Celebri-chefs Talk Favorite Restaurants', says the Miami Herald. Okay. Anthony Bourdain may "prefer San Loco for burritos", but the place has been called 'T-Mex' for a couple of months. Wouldn't expect an out-of-towner to know that, of course, but a local food writer ought to. Was that from an interview, or, as I'm guessing (since there aren't any quotation marks), just something culled from his writings/TV shows? It wouldn't hurt to ask, you know. Incidentally, great photo of Bourdain to lead the article. How did they get a a six-year old copy of 'A Cook's Tour' to stand still for a photo? At least they could have used a more recent book jacket, or, I don't know, maybe an actual photo of the guy. He was JUST HERE. I guess they wanted to make sure they somehow shoehorned in the 'Food Network' logo on the cover.

Speaking of whoring, according to the Herald's Sobe W$FF blogger, the idea of having 'Viva' paper towels at the tasting booths, to wipe your hands, of all things, was so amazing! By the way, Viva Paper Towels was a sponsor, bubba. Yeah, even us uncivilizied gorillas in Miami occasionally use napkins, plates, cutlery, and especially spoons (often to eat) when we're around company.
Then Tyler Florence has this insightful quote:"Casa Tua is one of the sexiest restaurants in the country. It's fantastic." Better than Applebee's? Sexier than a waitress named Merrilee? I guess he means when someone else is paying.
Bobby Flay loves Joe's Stone Crab. Hmmmm. I'm drawing a blank.
Jamie Oliver loves Michael's Genuine. Who exactly is Michael Schwartz sleeping with? 'Nuff said.

Let's move on, to another tutorial from Professor Klein, in the New Times, in which he defines 'fine dining' as something that "once conjured images of elegant salons, white-glove service, and the type of meal you would never, and could never, cook at home." Now I must humbly ask you, gentle reader, What the fuck is this guy talking about? Someone please explain to me why this fellow feels in-Klein-ed to re-inform his readers every single fucking week as to what his definition of the word restaurant IS. We got it. You own a dictionary. "Nowadays it is a label affixed to restaurants that charge a lot of money." You see, my son, in the old days, fine dining restaurants were cheap, and expensive restaurants weren't 'fine dining'. Did I get that right? Someone please help me before my head explodes.

It turns out that Mr. Klein is reviewing Bourbon Steak, Michael Mina's new joint, which Victoria Eliott in the Herald has already declared the best place for meat in this area ever. So why do I even need Lee's humdrum suckup to another celebrity chef? VPE has the goods. And quite frankly, in just five words. And after reading LK's spurt-fest about $90 lobster dishes and $190 Kobe fillets, I had to laugh at his line about 'snortable-looking lines' of capers, onions, and the like. I realized why poor Lee always seems so befuddled about the food: He's been trying to put it up his nose. I think you need some bathroom lessons, my old friend.
Also,"the decor is striking...thousands of wine bottles stocked and showcased behind glass." The names of those 'thousands' of wines? The prices? The stuff that might pair well with your $64 Rib-Eye? Don't expect to get that info from Lee. Not ONE WORD about the wines. And please don't ask me. I'll be in the bathroom. Snorting cornichons.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Not As Easy As It Looks....well, maybe...

Sure. Write whatever you want. Be Funny. Bitter. Combative. Sounds like fun, no? To spew out bile and to cast aspersions on some well-read shnooks week in, week out. Well, it IS fun, except for one thing, zippy: you have to READ the damn shnooks every week, just like every other poor soul in this town. No days off here, no reprieve from the bad jokes and twisted metaphors, and no way to avoid wanting to slit your wrists at the mention of Lee Klein's “observation”, that is really just a recitation of facts (as in, I 'observed' that someone else did some research and I read it, and then I'm spewing it back at you as an 'observation'), and somehow shoehorn-ing in the name of his “cute cat”. What did poor 'Yani' ever do to him? Maybe that's where the guy gets his inspiration, from watching his cat clean its anus. So now I'm attacking a defenseless cat? No letters, please.

It's a thin week, due to the Sobe Wine & Food Clusterfuck, sponsored by every motherfucker under the sun, but at least Lee got the good 'get', as we say in the biz: Randy Fisher AND Barry Gump. Holy shit. That's almost as exciting as his droll interview with Michelle Bernstein, where she states, and Lee doesn't contest, that she's “really always at Michy's.” (Not last Thursday.) But then why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Incidentally, if you do a search on the New Times website for 'Michelle Bernstein', you'll find 39 articles. Maybe they ought to take their collective heads out of the chef's ass for five minutes.

But let's get back to Fisher & Gump, two highly sought-after dinner speakers on the lucrative Food Network World Tour who, oh, who fucking cares. I never heard of them either. Who watches the Food Network, anyway? I mean other than middle-aged lonelyhearts, like the entire Miami Herald food section. (Or as I like to call them, The Four Lindas.) The two guys are actually an event manager and a professor. Wake up! But getting back to the SW&FC, who in their right mind pays $150 to eat a burger? I know what you're thinking. Rich douchebags? Star-struck Oprah-watchers who would pay anything to get a glimpse of Rachel Ray in the flesh? Ooh, that just gave me goosebumps.

Speaking of rich douchebags, here's something from the Herald's wine writer, Fred Tasker. “Sick of hearing about the South Beach Wine and Food Festival?” Well, here's Fred's solution. Just dine “any time Thursday through Sunday at La Marea restaurant, which “presents a seven-course meal for $250 each, or $350 with wine pairings.” You know, not all rich people are douchebags, and not all douchebags are rich (Dylan said that). But I have a feeling that if you're paying nearly $900 for a dinner for two on South Beach, you're probably both.

Oh, and I really love all the profiles of Dylan (my daddy's Ralph) Lauren. Especially her quote that "people really respond to candy." Deep. But writer Ben Torter of the Miami SunPost gets a little weird, with his breathless, "Lauren’s enthusiasm for life and for candy is contagious even over the phone — so much so that it’s easy to forget that you’re talking to a sophisticated 33-year-old woman." Is it really that easy? Does he mean forget you're talking to an adult, and maybe pretending she was a cute little schoolgirl? Freakin perv. Was this being typed with one hand, perhaps? It's candy. Easy fella.

If you need me, I'll be at the bar, with all the other adults.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Don't Point That Thing at Me...

Not to beat a dead horse, but one last thing about last week's Herald article on food bloggers. I spoke with the editor of the Miami Herald Food Section last Thursday. She called me, actually, in a bold and, I thought, touching move, to take the bullet for her reporter. My complaint was never with the reporter personally, only that he had been assigned a topic about which he obviously knew nothing, and perhaps that led to the superficiality of the piece. So I agree with her, she gets the lion's share of the blame. Her contention was that he's 22, and online all day, so therefore he knows all about blogs. My response was two-fold. First, I'm 53 and I'M online all day. EVERYONE is online all day. Even old Fred Tasker, the Taskmaster, wine columnist and old fart (he's gotta be older than me) has a freakin blog now. That's why TV and Newspapers are dying (not because of Fred, I mean the other thing....Or do I?). Second, would any other section of the paper hire a complete novice to cover a subject like, political blogs? Sports blogs? Gaming blogs? I don't think so. And that is, and always has been my problem with the local newspapers' food sections-they simply don't take their audiences seriously, and treat us like morons. Same old same old, week in, week out.

You know, I was at trade-and-press wine seminars and tastings the last two days, and I can tell you-everyone I spoke to echoed my sentiments. Young, old, male, female. They may not say it for publication, but the disappointment and disillusionment with the food writing establishment here is widespread. Does the press even know who their audience is, anymore?

One last irony, then I'll get on to slamming Wee Klein. The food editor thanked me for pointing out Mark Gibson's BBQ, on NW 46th St and 2nd Ave., and said, “Thanks to your blog, and JD's article, we all went there for ribs and it was great.” First let me say that anyone who ventures to Mark's rib spot deserves praise. And I'm glad he's getting the business. But the funny thing is, I first wrote about this particular rib guy last summer, for, the Herald's own online website Perhaps it's time for the food editor at the Herald to get online herself.

The Miami New Times Restaurant Critic Lee Klein may or may not be a good writer; he may or may not be a good restaurant reviewer, wheezing with delightful alliteration and clever puns, but one thing of which we can all be certain, is that he is a hypocrite. In his latest pompous installment of why he's a superior being, he claims, after not reviewing the rabbit dish at Brosia, “Rabbit stifado, with feta cheese, walnuts, and pearl onions, is the most distinctive menu item, but with apologies to those curious about this dish: I don't eat bunny.” Isn't that why you have dining companions? Isn't that who ate the 'endangered' Chilean Sea Bass a couple of weeks ago? Does this guy realize he's a fucking food critic? Who extols foie gras, one of the cruelest foods on earth, as well as veal? I eat both, but then I choke down everything. Especially when I'm at a restaurant with only seven entrees. That I'm REVIEWING. If you don't eat rabbit, maybe you should find another line of work, pal. Go to work for Vegetarian Times, maybe, reviewing the latest sprout sandwich and wheat grass juice smoothie. He doesn't eat bunny? How about the poor little lamb, or the veal calf, or the unborn quails, or the little quack-quack swimming on the pond? And I'm called the douche?

This guy uses the flaccid metaphor of the flag at Iwo Jima twice in one review. Is he running out of tedious puns, already? It wasn't funny the first time. And stop saying 'plated'. We got it, you know someone in the food business.

I'm so amused by this braying ass that I won't even get into my pet peeves-no mention of the wine list at all, reviewing a restaurant that hasn't even been open three months (it's just not enough time to work out the kinks/see which menu items work/shake out the staff/get rid of the losers, bad cooks, alkies, cokeheads, etc), and then slamming it. What's the point? Unless you just like to swing your big balls around. Iwo Jima? Peter, Paul and Mary? What century is this guy living in?

Incidentally, aside from the rabbit no-show, these are the descriptors Lee uses for the food at Brosia.
'Unremarkable' spears of toast...” No critique of the actual dish containing them.
Chicken was 'partially raw'.
After said chicken came back from the kitchen, it 'impressed'.
Pappardelle was 'toothsome'
Greek Salad is 'tweaked'
Duck leg is 'crisp'
New York Strip is 'paired'.
That is the sum total. Guess he ran out of adjectives drooling over Timo.
(Also didn't like the baklava (who does?), doesn't rate the other three desserts, and hates the sangria-wait-he mentioned wine! I take it all back...)
One question. Did this guy actually eat here? Or did he sleep through the meal? We know he went to the bathroom, because “...I was in the restroom and out of necessity drying my hands with toilet paper.” May I suggest you aim for the urinal next time?

And how about that douche over at the Sun Post? Whatever he's on, I want some of that. Oh wait, here it is. Never mind.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

St.Pete Times Blows Miami...

I didn't plan on expanding out of Miami so soon, but this article, to which I was directed by Lax2Mia on Chowhound, is so filled with misconceptions and downright untruths, that I feel compelled to give a small salute to Laura Reiley, 'Times Food Critic'.
If you go to this article, you will notice that she touts Marilu's French Box Cafe, "...the tangy Breton-style buckwheat crepes at the more established Marilu's French Box Cafe...", which has been closed for three years (they must be pretty 'tangy' by now), and recommends having "...a glass of the latest Super Tuscan at the just-opened Fratelli Lyon...", which is not, in fact, open at all. The opening is planned for at the earliest, Mid-March. I spoke with the manager personally today. (Took ten minutes.) She also mentions the " juicy pan-roasted poulet rouge chicken" at Michael's Genuine; while it may be juicy, it is obviously 'wood roasted', seeing as the wood-burning oven is the centerpiece of Michael's exposed kitchen (it's also right there on the menu, available for online 'research').
Mistakes, maybe. Outright bullshit? You be the judge. Feel free to add any other blunders you may find in this major howler. And "Miami food writer Pamela Robin Brandt", call your attorney. Below are photos taken today of 3622 NE 2nd Ave (Ghost French Box, something else for a long time), and Fratelli Lyon's front window. Truth in Food. Have a great weekend...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Large Newspaper Notices Bloggers...Again

Does the Herald get a nickel every time it puts a reader to sleep? I mean, this paper is more effective than ambien. Thanks to them, I've finally found something more boring than reading people's food blogs-reading about the bloggers themselves. And don't they look cute typing away on their magically disconnected keyboard, reclining in bed, with a stupid sandwich next to them, as though they're eating while they type, how clever.

Poor reporter Jaweed Kaleem doesn't know anything about food, is on the job 6 months god bless him and is probably getting paid a similar amount to what I make typing right now. Never heard of Jean-Louis Palladin? Here's the actual quote, “Some years ago, when I lived in DC, I had the good fortune of knowing Jean-Louis Palladin, who opened Jean Louis at the Watergate- a seminal restaurant that basically rewrote the books on fine dining in the US. Many current chefs site him as a major influence, including Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, and Miami's own Michelle Bernstein. I had a good friend who worked the line with him. Watching him cook was a revelation. Every single plate got his attention before it went out, and to watch him bent over making sure everything was meticulously perfect, made me understand that cooking could encompass great artistry.”

A little high-brow, perhaps, but a nice background to give the reader an idea that the blogger isn't just some unemployed chronic masturbator, with no professional insight or experience. Never made it. Doesn't surprise me, it takes a little food industry knowledge and experience to plow through that.. Probably shouldn't have brought it up. One of the most influential chefs in the American restaurant industry, and the writer assigned by the Herald draws a blank. I don't blame him-everyone should try something new. Hell, I've covered the World Orchid Conference. But that's the problem here in the food-writing game-having a blank slate is considered a good thing. Don't want to confuse our poor, barely literate readers. Wouldn't it be great if newspapers, instead of writing down to the lowest intellectual level possible, wrote to the higher level, and educated and informed? I guess that's probably too much to ask when it comes to a piece on food-bloggers, especially that smug douche on his 'scooter' (jeez), who states, “You have to be a little brave and adventurous, but I believe it's worth it.'' Thanks for not scaring us too much. What did you eat, more liver? Oooooh!

Just for grins, and because I've been burned before, I asked the Herald reporter about HIS background. He stated in an email “I've lived here 6 months. I don't have an extensive food industry background, but I usually do not write for the food section and do not write reviews,” Mr. Kaleem emailed me. Don't sweat it my man, you're doing fine. Give it another six months and you'll be replacing Enrique Fernandez.

Oh...and a big thank you to Fred Tasker, wine writer for the Herald, for his piece on Brunello, exactly ONE WEEK after mine... Of course I interviewed Count Cinzano at his Col d'Orcia estate in Italy (he was there, I was here, lucky for him), not some faceless 'spokesmen'. The Count is the head of the entire Brunello Consortium, and that is his picture that graces the article. I'm not sure if that is Fred in the picture accompanying his column, but if so, Fred, keep that damn bird away from your hair, man! It looks hungry...

Part One...Valentine's Day Comes A Week Early...

...for Sunny Isles' Timo Restaurant and their secret admirer, Lee Klein of Miami New Times. Lee drools like a six-year-old schoolgirl who has just received a paper cut-out teddy bear from the most popular boy in second grade. His wide-eyed amazement that any restaurant can manage to maintain its standards for a whole five years, is innocent and adorable, especially considering how breathlessly he introduces his pucker-job. And by introduces, I mean fully half the review goes by before any food is mentioned. Not until the 558th word does he get into the food. I mean, this guy is so wordy he makes James Joyce look like the guy who writes Dilbert. Not much of it means anything, of course, unless you've never eaten in a restaurant, don't know what a restaurant is, or can't write your name in the ground with a stick. I look around and check the cover again. No, I'm not in a pediatrician's office, and no, it's not an issue of Highlights magazine. But let's try and find the hidden rabbit, anyway. “A long full-service bar takes up the restaurant's right side; a hearth oven set in stone occupies the rear left. [The floor is mostly down, under your feet, and the walls are on the outer edges, to make not walking into them that much easier.] The rest of the intimate space is a neat arrangement of brick, wood, glass mirrors, modern art, subtle curves, light earth tones, white linen cloths, and high ceilings with exposed beams.” Okay, maybe he could have gone on and on (you know, 'sparkling wine glasses, shiny cutlery, dreamy brown eyes'...sorry), maybe he was cutting it short, and maybe there's a lot more stuff he didn't describe Like the 'gleaming black bakelite toilet paper dispenser' in the freakin' bathroom.
Of course it is now time to explore the traditional 'wine sentence', this week doubled to two. Here it is in full. “And Timo touts a distinctive wine list, [Pretty informative. Good Start] although admittedly I base this judgement on it being composed mostly of labels I've never heard of. [Must be a LONG, motherfucking list.] Seriously, it's a distinguished list, [The waiter told me so, and so I called this guy I know on my cell phone, and told him, and he said, I know, I know, I heard, it's like, super-distinguished!] including about two dozen dessert wines by the glass.” Distinctive AND distinguished. Perhaps someone will one day expand upon that judgement, but it won't be now, and it won't be Lee. I though the next sentence might do it: “There are also a dozen smartly chosen cheeses (none have names but don't worry, they've been 'chosen', so shut the fuck up) to match with the wines...”, but then he goes on to another topic. Alas, it is not the 'organic, free-range' lecture we were promised last week, when Mr. Klein pompously chided his children, I mean restaurateurs: “Whether restaurants are serving organic produce and meats “...will be noted in future reviews of establishments that serve entrees of $30 or more.” Timo has main courses over $30. I guess Lee forgot about his big 'green' stand right after he wrote it. That's sticking to your guns. And I could have sworn Lee was whining just last week that we needed Il Mulino to shut up those bitchy “...New Yorkers who complain about a lack of quality Italian food in this city.” I guess Lee forgot he was giving a glowing review to another Italian restaurant this week, too.
But I know that you're probably thinking, like that crazy You Tube character screamed about Brittany, “Just leave Lee and his new BFF alone! Leave Lee alone!” And you're right. After all, if he wants to sweep back his pigtails and shuffle his Buster Browns, who am I to interfere. It's just a schoolgirl crush.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cheery and Chatty, The Lesser Known Dwarves.

When I first started this thing way back in the heady days of mid-January, I stated that I would not give credit where credit is due; that I would leave that to the foodie sycophants and apologists out there. You know who you are. Well, I guess I have to take a step back and humbly admit that I was wrong not to want to give credit; and that I can not go another day without giving credit to a job well done, and a tip of the hat to, well, to....ME. I have to say that, perhaps, after all my obnoxious heckling from the balcony, there was at least an attempt by VPE in the Herald this week, in her valentine to Cantina 27, to expand the traditional 'wine sentence'. To three sentences. But my pat-on-my-own back was short-lived. The last of the three sentences reads, “Many of the wineries represented are little-known here, but the knowledgeable staff is happy to help.” Oh, they're happy to help. How delightful of them! Perhaps they might be helpful in other matters, as well? I can't wait to meet them. And I believe, in reality, that when VPE says the wines are little-known here, she means BY HER. No point in helping us morons out by mentioning any of them except two, one of which is the “rare and intriguing 1999 [a vintage year! Yeaaaaaa!} Brunello di Montalcino.” “Rare and intriguing.” Translation: Never Tasted It.
There was “perky arugula” and “perky fennel and arugula” in back-to-back sentences. Apparently Sally Fields works here. And there are “friendly owners.” I guess that means they tied her bib for her. Incidentally, in the next-to-last paragraph (when the decor's to her liking it comes up at the beginning of her column. Odd.), she mentions that the place is separated from the notorious crap-hole The Office, and its “noisy bar”, by a curtain. “Worse,” she goes on, “the bathrooms the two businesses share are foul.” Maybe someone could educate the “knowledgeable staff” about the business end of a mop?
But VPE saves the best for the next, and last sentence. “Still, this delightful neighborhood joint just steps from the beach would be just as appealing for the family as for a first date.” Noisy and foul. Not sure my family'd appreciate that kind of ambience. Maybe a family of bounty hunters? And a first date? I guess that means that at least the condom machine in the bathroom is working. Oh, and this week? *** means 'very good'. Again, thank me.

Lee K. of the New Times calls out New Yorkers in another in his endless, over-the-top gabfests (sue me); this one about the best Italian restaurant Lee's ever known, Il Gabbiano. Isn't it funny that Lee likes to get tough with New Yorkers so that he can then kiss the ass of OTHER New Yorkers? This man has some complexes. And for a restaurant that Lee claims will “...stop those whiny...New York refugees from complaining about a lack of quality Italian food in this city,” isn't he troubled that the first thing he orders takes forty minutes to NOT arrive? (And I'm sorry, isn't Klein from New York? I guess he only whines on paper.) It seems that half the dishes Mr. Klein orders here never arrive, or don't exist. Cool! Think of the calories you save. He doesn't seem to mind, though, because the pastas “...are all good.” At least the two he describes. I suppose he could divine that the others were good. (Or maybe he meant they were 'all good', as in 'Yo, it's all good, homey.' He's your hip, urban uncle now.) And how about all those poor non-New Yorkers here in Miami. Doesn't Lee think maybe they would like to see great Italian here; and that they too have been clamoring for such for years? I say Thank God for those discerning New Yorkers finally getting Lee's attention. Too bad for the rest of us.
The Branzino special is $48. The dover sole is “presumably least $10 more.” He says presumably, because god help the poor man to ask a fucking question. I guess the journalist in Lee died a long time ago. But now Lee is on this whole 'green' thing all the kids are talking about. He'll stay relevant that way. (Works for me.) My guess is someone finally made Lee read Omnivore's Dilemma after two years. Maybe it was his “dining companion/osso buco enthusiast” ( Lee employing a food-taster now?) Although I'm pretty sure the poor, abused calves, ripped from their mothers to be tortured and have their flesh made into veal (osso buco is veal shank, baby), probably wish he would re-read a couple of chapters. And like your sweet old grandfather, who just discovered something everyone else has known about for years, he can't stop talking about it. Whether restaurants are serving organic produce and meats “...will be noted in future reviews of establishments that serve entrees of $30 or more.” Wow, this guy can get tough...every other sentence (and I guess not in this review. Because it's about some New Yorkers. The good kind. The kind's whose asses he puckers up to.)
We got it man. You read a book. So I guess all those past paeans to foie gras, etc., etc., were all a mistake? Thanks for getting on the bandwagon two years too late.
I'm not going to say anything about the following 'wine sentence': “A worthy Barolo, though, doesn't come cheap ($80 for an Alba to $250 for a Gaja).” There is so much wrong there that I just want to cry. I'll leave it to my fellow wine-geeks to roll their eyes and type in why. And anyway, my constant companion just cooked up some tasty Chilean Sea Bass (above). To quote the Greek poet Leemus Kleinus, who once walked the earth and beheld a poached pear, it is a “vision to behold.”

And, one last thing. Why, you may ask, do both major dining critics in Miami bring up NYC in the same week? Maybe they hear the sirens calling. I say go, my children, fly up to the Big Apple and disappear like the muck in the gutter. We will mourn you; but we will carry on.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Heist, Hype, Hoary, and Lame

“Late night finds me in the parking lot of Take One strip club on Northeast 79th Street (could this be the new restaurant row?).....
Pamela Robin Brandt-New Times 1/24/08
“No longer just a toll-free way to zip from Miami to Miami Beach, the 79th Street Causeway is becoming a surprisingly hip restaurant row...”
As Stewie Griffin might say, THANK YOU!
New Times' Lee Klein hypes Domo Japones, and here's what I like to call the Klassic Klein Beverage Sentence (r) -”An upstairs lounge in the rear of the space provides a romantic nook to partake of sake, cocktails, or wine; a listing of the last encompasses two dozen bottles, with many in the $30 to $40 range.”
37 offhand words about the beverages here, including 18 about the wine. I think that might be another record. But the real laziness comes in the annoying omission of anything to do with sake, which many people, I've heard, enjoy drinking with sushi.
I also love the fact that he says that DJ, Michael's and Grass, all located on NE 40th Street, are on the same 'corridor'. I predict that NE 40th Street will become the Surprisingly Hip New Restaurant Corridor. You heard it here first.
Over at the Herald, Enrique Fernandez, in his continuing million-part series, 'Cuban Food Retreads Nobody Gave a Shit About the First Time', your favorite elderly uncle discourses on 'Cuban Pizza'. Turns out the best Cuban Pizza is in Cuba. (I can't keep using the phrase, 'No Shit' every week, can I?). Well, it turns out, according to my sources, that the best Italian Pizza is in Italy. The best Paella, Spain. The best tacos, Mexico. You may be on to something my friend. And also, according to Tío Enrique, the best Cuban pizza he's had was at a private-home restaurant for Cubans only in Havana. The pie 'rocked'. Eloquent. I can't wait for the next part, 'Other Stuff Nobody Can Get But Cubans', by Anonymous Bearded Old Guy.
Victoria P. Elliot-VPE-First let me say that I'm not a big fan of the star system, but I understand people like to see them. But maybe there could be an explanation of what the stars mean, so that when you pan a place, like Alta Cocina, and give it 2 ½ stars, maybe we would actually know what that means. Can a place get no stars? Ten stars? Just a minor suggestion.
She whines that on her two visits, neither of the owners come by to make sure everything is okay at her table. What, does she need somebody to tuck in her bib? Isn't everyone these days complaining about overwrought, over-attentive service? I praise God when the people leave me alone so I can have a damn conversation. I don't like to plunk down $100 or more for dinner with my constant companion and then have to talk to some guy I've never met all night, just because he brought me my prawns.
About the wine list? “Markup on the 50 or so mainly New World wines, from a $32 Chateau St. Michelle reisling to a $120 brunello from Pogio Antico, seems to be the usual two to three times retail, but it's hard to judge with vintages absent.” Like from ALL OF YOUR REVIEWS? Sorry, didn't mean to yell. Maybe you could ASK TO SEE THE BOTTLE? Sorry. That's why they (don't) call them journalists, folks. And what is “the usual two to three times retail...” Does that mean the St. Michelle is $16 retail, or $11 retail? Not that big a deal, but when you look at the Brunello, the difference between 2 and three times retail is $20 on the retail side. (In other words, Zippy, is the bottle being marked up from $40 retail, or $60 retail. That's a big question when it comes to how much of a rip-off the wine is, or isn't.) And if reviewers keep talking about such exorbitant markups as though they are normal, we will never see ridiculously high wine prices in restaurants come down. Someone needs to fight for the consumer, and stop giving restaurants a free pass on their wine gouging.
I see four very disturbing trends here. 1)Klein reviews a restaurant open barely two months. 2)VPE only tries a restaurant twice before reviewing, and 3)Enrique reviews a restaurant that closed thirty years ago (it's possible-he never mentions when he ate that great homemade pizza). I think a fine-dining restaurant needs three months and three visits before reviewing, to get all the kinks worked out. Then you can fairly judge. And your review is more helpful to the dining public. It's not just an ill-informed, hastily written, meal recap you might see on Chowhound. At least that's how it's done in the bigger cities. Time to step up, folks. Oh, and the fourth thing? I don't call it stealing anymore. It's an homage. So, thank you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why Is There a Press Chops?

When I was younger I always loved the 'Press Clips' column in the Village Voice. Crotchety dudes would muckrake through the media and destroy their enemies from within. Blunders, lies, cozy relationships, crookedness; journalists who were deemed guilty of any of these crimes and many others were mercilessly exposed and pilloried by the likes of the radical-left-leaning Alexander Cockburn, who often wrote as though he were wiping the bile off his mouth with his right hand as he typed with his left. I'm not saying that what happens in restaurant reviewing is as important as real journalists getting things right. I? With today's emphasis on 'sustainable' food, and the push (especially in the media) to change the way everyone in this country looks at the way we eat, maybe it is important enough to be taken seriously, and not sloughed off as mere insipid, genre writing. it? With this column, I'm going to take a look into the weekly shenanigans of our local food pimps, whip myself up into a righteous frenzy when I feel they've used their bully pulpits for naught, and give credit where credit is due when they get it right (just kidding-I'll leave the credit-giving to the rest of the sycophantic foodie tribe). And I promise that all words used in this column will be organic (at least according to USDA standards).

A Look Last Week

January 17, 2008....I'm going to start with the New Times this week, just because it's so easy. (As for Enrique Fernandez in the Herald, he and his bad Julia Child references and abuelito folksiness will have to wait for next week.)
New Times reviewer Lee Klein has another bad burp day, and I don't mean the food. The followup to his bland menu-recitation/sermon (I hesitate to call it a review) of the mega-chain Chipotle outlet, seemingly all done with 'research' off the Internet (including “quotes” from Chipotle's founder), is a review of the Miami outlet of Bonefish Grill. First let me say that I learned something from this review. According to Lee, after writing that his crab cakes were composed almost exclusively of pure lump backfin, comes this piece of edification, “ takes 30 pounds of crab to produce one pound of backfin.” But isn't that like saying it takes 30 pounds of cow to produce one pound of sirloin? No shit! And, although I don't blame Lee for the general misunderstanding of crab meat, 'lump backfin' and 'backfin' are not the same. There is other meat in the backfin that is not lump, dude. I suppose his major 'point', which is that Bonefish has no freezer, therefore it serves never-frozen fish, leaves one to wonder about the journalist in Klein. How does he know that the fish is not delivered frozen (or frozen at sea, etc.), and simply defrosted in the refrigerators? And I'm pretty sure that those shrimp he ate were frozen, too, as most medium-grade shrimp are frozen, often at sea. In fact, if he never saw anything but fillets, does he assume that they're filleting fresh fish at each and every Bonefish Grill? And of course the do-gooder Lee, who won't order Chilean Sea Bass “...because it's nearly extinct..”, has no problem allowing his dining companion to order it, and to then review it! If you have a problem with the fish, either tell people not to order it and move on, or order it (I'm sorry, isn't the New Times paying for Klein and his companion's meal?), and review it. You can't do both.
Also, according to Klein, the wine list exists. Why won't reviewers at least mention a couple of bottles? One, even? One would be nice. Don't most people order wine with their dinner? But restaurant writers here seem to know or care little about wine.
And the review starts out with 'insipid', but ends on 'great meal'. Shill, anyone?
Bill Citara reviews Wine 69, which is across the street from Uva 69, no relation, but I see a trend forming (Michy's 69?). His premise is that Wine 69's owner was bold to open in this neighborhood, but the wine bar is two doors down from Michy's, one of Miami's most sought-after reservations. Within a block or two are also the popular Uva, Dogma, Karma, and the actual pioneer of the neighborhood, Casa Toscana. Did I mention Subway is a block south? And some coffee place is about a hundred feet away, what's it called? Oh, right. Starbucks. Smart move, but not really bold. So let's stop pretending this stretch of Biscayne is desolate anymore, okay? There's a Starbucks for gods sake!
I'm not sure of Bill's wine knowledge, and he doesn't convince with this one. I could go on all night, really, but with stuff like “...everything from Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to French reds and premium Old World wines,” it is obvious that he doesn't know that, obviously, many French reds and premium Old World wines ARE Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs. In fact, even the simplest beginner knows that reds produced in Burgundy are almost exclusively Pinot Noirs, just as the whites are exclusively Chardonnays. That's about as Old World as one can get.
But here in the New World, we like to know about the prices of the wines by the glass, by the bottle, and maybe a few words on the size of the pours, so we can decide if there is any value here. Are the flights two ounces, three ounces, or what? How big are the by-the-glass pours? Perhaps a run-down of some of the best buys, or splurges, or unusual bottles? I have to report that Bill failed to give any of that information. That's right. In a review of a wine bar, there is not one mention of any of that. Not one mention of the prices of bottles, or which wines are served by the glass, or the vintage years of the wines he drank. My suspicions are that Mr. Citara knows bupkis about wine. But for someone writing about a wine bar, at least (as Bill says about Wine 69's owner) you have to applaud his Chutzpah.