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.