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.