The Bruni Digest

In which I sit on a dirt mound somewhere in Brooklyn with my ears pricked, waiting for New York Times head restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who I imagine to be a Venetian count in a huge ruffled collar, to dole out stars from the inside breast pocket of his brocaded chamber robe. This blog is predicated on the suggestion that every Wednesday, in the Times Dining Out section, Frank lays a huge faberge egg of hilarity.

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Location: New York, New York, U.S. Outlying Islands

I am fiscally irresponsible, which means I have weak bones and a dorsal fin. And a penchant for dining out, even though I am, in the words of many rich people, a "poor people". I make a different face when speaking each of the foreign languages in which I am shittily proficient.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Red Cat: What Kind of Cat do YOUUUUU Think It Is?

After reading the Red Cat review this week, was one of your eyebrows arched, The Rock-style?

Mine certainly was.

“By turns cozy and sexy, laid-back and fleet, the Red Cat is a restaurant Rorschach, different things at different times to different people”

I seeeeeee.....ummmmmm....a hedged bet! No wait! A sidestepped conclusion! No I got it, a really intense way to say "versatile"!

I mean, sure, sometimes Frank overdoes it on the Courvoisier and finds himself teetering in his trusty, fireside Laz-E-Count, red in the face and giggling extra hard at the pages of Lady Chatterly’s Lover. On more than one occasion, Frank has alluded to his deep appreciation of a good martini, or lamented the results of a few too many. Nothing I myself haven't perpetrated, of course.

But this week, if you clang the massive knockers on his chateau door, a pensive and spaced-out Frank will answer. (If you clang MY massive knockers, a quarter falls out my nooners. Try it sometime.) Frank’s in a Stevie Nicks muumuu with a frightening décolletage...

...with a lot of psychobabble literature under one arm, and he’s smoking a J upheld at the butt end by many manservants.


(I picture them singing from Cavaleria Rusticana for some reason.)

"The Red Cat feels vaguely colonial and tavernlike, except when it feels downtown-gallery cool, and apart from those moments when it feels modestly and eclectically elegant.”

Apart when it's a spaceship except when it's a congressional hearing not counting when it's a petting zoo. Of course.

"It seems...in equal measures a local joint and a destination. It's the exceedingly rare place that can often take a reservation only a few days in advance and yet is almost always packed."

Paging Marty McFly: Red Cat defies all known business principles, as well as the time space continuum.

Doc and young McFly attempt to order the steak tartare, wind up in ancient Eritrea.

Basically, I’m all, “So Frank, tell me about The Red Cat!”
And he’s all, “Why don’t YOU tell ME something about The Red Cat.”
And I’m all, “No no no, you’re the reviewer: you’re supposed to go check out the restaurant and tell us what it’s like.”
And he’s all, “Why don’t YOU let the RED CAT let YOU ask YOURSELF what The Red Cat’s like.”
And I’m all, “Frank! Please take off your transparent chiffon mumu. Your tart, exposed nipples are making me very uncomfortable. How is The Red Cat?”
And he’s all, “Are my nipps really exposed? Or is the Red Cat telling you to think about whether my nipps are exposed because you want to touch them.”
And I’m all, “What?”
And he’s all, “My nips.”
And I’m all, “Red…Cat?”
And he’s all, “It’s not like I want to you touch them or anything.”
And I’m all, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!”

[More] crazy Brunisms:

After listing The Red Cat by name several times as the perfect place for every and any occasion, (i.e. Place to get your shins waxed? Red Cat! Place to choke a stray mink? Red Cat!) he answers his final “Place to blah blah?” query with “Hint: a domesticated animal in a popular color for fast cars.”


How about a dog in black with silver detailing? How about just saying “Red Cat” again? Is it because, according to Frank, the name itself is an existential koan to intended to unfurl the psyche?

“The simultaneously prosaic and cryptic name they gave it alludes to nothing, connotes nothing. It's a phrase to be imbued with whatever meaning the imbuing party deems fit.”

"Red Cat": it is at once everywhere and nowhere, like the wise corn-fart of a Navajo Elder trapped in a dizzy plains wind.

"Safety!"

If you say “Red Cat” three times fast, Michael Keaton comes out of your butt in an alarming amount of makeup, and if you watch the Red Cat on video, Naomi Watts drops dead.

And you thought it was just a cute downtown bistro!

And even though the identity of the Red Cat is completely in the eye of the beholder, Frank, forced to pin down a quantifiable opinion in at least one respect, gives it two stars, starts a cult, is the only member, drops out, joins a kibbutz, gets bored, misses his fireplace and his Courvoisier, and returns to his chateau.

Well, I guess everybody's allowed an annoying hippie phase.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bar Americain: Orange You A Little Exhausted??

Bar Americain, suggests the headline on Bruni's review today, is "Not the Place to Wear Hot Pink."

Why, you ask? Because the cuisine reflects that of the Southern United States, where hot pink can prove an unwise wardrobe choice for men? No such thing! In fact, it’s because hot pink would clash: the whole place is orange, from the food to the décor to the red-headed stepchild of a chef, Bobby Flay.


At Bar Americain, I guess the rug DOES match the curtains. LITERALLY!

“NEW YORKERS have seen many a thoughtfully designed restaurant, but I'm not sure we've yet seen one where the décor and food are as color-coordinated as at Bar Americain, which finds a union of palette and palate in one bright hue.”

He really hammers home the orange thing. He highlights every orange food item, and decides that colors that aren’t orange are in fact orange, just in different moods.

“The lights glow orange. The walls are painted orange. The leather that upholsters some of the seats is orange - or, to be accurate, caramel, which is just orange in a retiring, pensive mood.”

Brown as retiring, pensive orange? Or orange as hopped-up brown? Or both as kind of poopy and 70’s? Food for thought, friends. Food. For. Thought.

big fans of brown and orange.

But Frank also got into the orangeness:

“As I dressed for one of my visits here, I found myself putting on the sole orange button-down in my closet.”

What? It’s a button down! There are buttons down the front, under the ostrich trim. He got it on sale at Banana (not the Republic—the leather store on Christopher.)

“I figured that if the restaurant's chef, Bobby Flay, and designer, David Rockwell, were going this far with chromatic integration, I should do my part.”

Frank frequently "does his part" to blend in with the decor of the restaurants he's reviewing.


Frank blending in at The Modern


Feelin' the spirit of BLT Fish


At Greek spot Periyali


And Prune

This review shed light not only on Frank's wardrobe strategies but also on his career ambitions:

"At this juncture Mr. Flay had two options. Like Julia Roberts in 'Closer,' he could choose a nuanced vehicle, challenge his image and assert the existence of an underappreciated aesthete beneath the megawatt luster. Or he could go with the flow and try to pack people in."

This is the third film commentary in recent weeks. Last week, he noted that tamarind and kaffir lime provoked and seduced each other like Brangelina in “Mr. And Mrs. Smith,” and let’s not embark on prior mentions of “the Aviator.” Note to A.O. and Manola over in Movies: if you see THIS guy hovering around your office, don’t worry, he’s only trying to replace you.


Two stars!!! YAAAAY!! ORANGE IS FUN! And Frank and I are alarmingly similar journalists:

"According to my exhaustive semiotic research, by which I mean a few clicks on Google, it's a color that connotes enthusiasm and is 'very effective for promoting food products and toys.' Simply put, it's fun. So is Bar Americain."

Friday, June 17, 2005

Stanton Social: Best of the Best Mediocrity

Frank’s review of the Stanton Social this week begins not with food (surprise!) but with a discussion of how, these days, thanks mostly to technology, we can boil everything down to exactly what we want:

“Ours is a culture of all favorites and no filler. Bookmarks weed the Internet into a garden of our liking. Digital video recorders allow us to forsake any one network or night for a lineup of our choosing to be watched whenever we choose. IPods let us filter diverse bands and genres for only the catchiest tunes.”

He went on to explain how buttons work and what toilet paper was for.

But The Count has a point. When I was a wee tivo-less twatling, idling my afternoons away before the tube, I would have to sit through MASH if I wanted Golden Girls. Or if I wanted to watch “Tin Cup” on TNT (my favorite movie for many years, including this one) I was going to have to watch another brain-retarding episode of "Rodeos Gone Wrong 8" or “Tornados that Swallow Dogs IVXCCM.”

“’Go outside and pee, Ralphie!’ Elaine Goodbottom urged her Spaniel, in a tragic lapse of judgment.”

But today, the kids can just GOOGLE their dreams, TIVO their fantasies, and GEORGE FORMAN their tits. There’s no discipline!

So in the spirit of reduction, I am going to comment on Frank Bruni’s review of Stanton Social in Haiku form—no filler, no jabber, just the salient heart of things.

Stanton Social's hectic menu "doesn't dawdle anywhere or dwell on anything.”

alliteration
Is for you what cigarettes
Were to peg bundy

“[Stanton Social] bolts to Mexico to assemble a few tacos, then zips to Japan, wok-charred edamame in its sights. It touches down in Thailand to infuse a broth below steamed clams with lemongrass, then pivots to New England to scratch an itch for lobster rolls.”

Let us hope the itch
Was not in Frank's pants. Lobster:
Do not castrate him!

But also, relax, Carmen San Diego, you’re giving me a headache. Bolt, zip, touch, infuse, pivot, and scratch? Maybe your giving me more than a headache. Sounds like the actions of a perverted basketball player with a lottery ticket.


“The Stanton Social, in other words, stages an orgy of hors d'oeuvres.”

Always one left out.
Wienie bangs devilled egg: crab
Cake waits to jump in.

"It's the perfect restaurant for the commitment phobic and not a bad place for diners with attention deficits.”

Billy Bob Thornton
And Robin Williams dining?
I just peed from fright.


“[insert aggressive stream of consciousness rant, including at least one Viagra joke and 75 accents]”

“Take his onion soup dumplings, which epitomize the way he cobbles together unrelated traditions - in this case, French and Chinese - and tweaks staples, changing their contours or contexts.”

French and Chinese: Who
Would have thought to combine them????!!!!
(besides HISTORY)


“Each of these dumplings has a hot liquid center, a Gruyère-drizzled exterior and is meant to be hoisted with a toothpick and consumed in one big, flavor-detonating bite. The subsequent explosion is wonderful.”

Even a newborn
Would read this and go,
“massive orgasm.”

Frank's "Best Of" hypothesis confuses me a bit. We can program the catchiest tunes, get the best shows, etc., but he basically thinks this place is mediocre. If it was hard for you to discern that through sixteen buckets of sexual innuendo and small anthropological treatise on the impact of technology, then you can pretty much tell by the lone star-shaped loogie he left on the Stanton stoop.

P.S. Hey Frank: I love you and all, but don’t get all lazy with the language and make me jump ship to the blogs I’ve been flirting with in the back of my mind, thingsmybrotherwouldcallgay and letterstocelebritiesaskingthemtobuymestuff. Remember who you are, Frank, and don’t let jerks like me bully you away from mind-melting metaphors and alliteration. When kids made fun of me for trying to change my name to "Little Rabbit" in 5th grade, did I stop? Yes. Yes I did. But you're not at risk of getting your ass beat.

OR ARE YOU??? IS BITTMAN BULLYING YOU??

PUT DOWN YOUR MAI TAI AND FIGHT BACK!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Prem-on Thai: What-is Goingon?

I'll get to Stanton Social shortly, but first...I was tossing and turning all last night, unable to sleep without addressing Frank's Diners Journal. Also, I got drunk at a math tournament and ended up spooning someone with a protractor in his back pocket, which wasn't very comfortable.

Not smart, Jules. Not. Smart.

But on to Prem-on Thai:

There’s a little term that we “thespians” (and yes, I’m making finger-quotes) use frequently when talking about our “scenework” (read: “giggling poofery”), and it’s called “justification.”

E.g., I can’t just walk on stage wearing a bra made of deli ham, have a conversation about the weather, and leave without, at some point, addressing my ham bra. Perhaps that explanation will come gradually in what, again, we “actors” (foundation-wearing nancychildren) call a “slow reveal,” or perhaps it will be explained right away (“Ah! It’s ol’ HAM BRA MARISSA!” for example) Either way, you have to ACKNOWLEDGE it, or people get weirded out.


Hey HAMLET, what's with the accessories?? Spill the beans!

Which is why it’s so fucking WEIRD, that Frank wrote his entire Diner’s Journal on Friday in the form of A PRAYER, for NO ostensible reason:

“Let us now praise the crispy fish, which has swum and sizzled its way onto the menus of so many Asian restaurants in our fair city, determined to prove that seafood can taste as ecstatically naughty as anything else.”
(Well, sexually-charged prayer, of course. It is the diabolically erotic, wandering-around-his-chateau-with-his-paisley-robe-open Marquis de Bruni, after all.)

“Let us focus on the sea bass at Prem-on Thai, a finned and scaled vehicle for a kaleidoscope of flavors, an indulgent case in point."

Finned and scaled vehicle. Always evoking half-naked ladies, huh, Frank?

Also? Frank gets a virtual Dr. Scholls-clog-tap on the knuckles from my Fifth Grade English teacher for using the kaleidoscope metaphor, the ONLY cliché that was just plain off limits in the classroom, along with “Dumps like a Truck” and “Wigger,” of course.

Ah, Sisqo, sweet bard, your sun-like rays of genius were not to fall in our schoolyard...

Finally, Pervy Pastor Frank gives a shout out to the sexual chemistry of Brad and Angelina (I’ve stopped making fingerquotes and am now jabbing my uvula with two fingers while making an exaggerated “barf” face) and slams his prayer book shut with another bawdy incantation, this one about getting shitcocked: “Let us not contemplate the island of unconsciousness on which too many [Islandtinis] might strand us.”

Amen? I still don't get why this review was in prayer form.
Maybe I'm just stupid.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Yumcha: As Yummy as, say, Fleetweek? or Josh Hartnett?

Ummmmmmmm, is it just me, or was this review, like, totally GAY? And not in the way idiot teenagers mean when they’re applying “gay” to, say, U.S. foreign policy or the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil,” but rather in the sense of actually…gay. Or frequently just…erotic. Listen, have a Malibu and soda, relax, and let’s explore, college-style, shall we?.

Frank Opens:

“LIKE private school admissions, the Tony Awards and Judge Judy, the New York restaurant scene isn't entirely fair, and the first cuisine to tell you that would be Chinese.”

OK…Private school, Judge Judy, the Tonies…nothin’ gay here…

WAIT A MINUTE!

Incidentally, when a survey of “what is the most unfair thing in the world?” was given to 150,000 starving Indian children, almost all of them responded with “Judge Judy”

“Bullshit! That Jersey bodybuilder DESERVED to keep his razor scooter out of the hands of his cloying bitch ex.”

Frank probes further into the question of Chinese cuisine's struggle for status:
“It seldom stops hustling, knowing that if it doesn't come on a bicycle to you, you may not find your way to it…”
True. If Chinese food wants respect in this city, it's going to have to stop bike-hustling, a lesson I learned the hard way.

I am now a devoted fan of pants, along with dignity.

“And it usually pretzels itself into predetermined positions.”
Ahem. Cough. Next.

“While a large part of [Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s] 66's approach is to upgrade the quality of ingredients in an otherwise recognizable lineup of appetizers and entrees, Yumcha presents a more original, albeit much shorter, menu.”
Ok. Well! That’s informative and direct! Hey guys, you can remove your hand off your toddler’s eyes! Frank continues:

“If you sense in those descriptions a blurring of boundaries - a sort of pan-Asian embrace coupled with a French kiss - you understand Yumcha's wiles. It christens its come-on ‘modern haute Chinese.’”

We’ve seen sweet and savory “flirt”, we’ve seen onions and olives “consort”, but this is getting randy. What's next? “The eggplant was vulnerable, like an oiled-up grifter who hitches to the city on a flatbed Chevy, hungry for love, unbuttons his tattered flannel shirt and winds up at the Cock with a knapsack full of pennies and a handful of stranger.” I would literally not bat an eye.


“Sichuan peppers dust beef tenderloin: steak au poivre on a jaunty trip to the Far East.” Presumably to get a little of that steak trimmed off hmmm?

“hey Timothy…how was Thailand?…”

“Hunks of pork rib shimmer under a sesame glaze.”
Another prime example of a highly-glazed shimmering hunk:


“Ginger and garlic romp proudly across the plates.”
Proud of their love, Ginger and Garlic hold hands as they walk their pug across the buffet.

AAAAND finally, it seems that Frank is going to beat me by joining me, authoring perhaps the most elaborate frilly metaphor since Margaret Mitchell confused her Epsom salts with raw meth and wrote an entire novel about a heaving bosom:

“At Yumcha, Chinese is relieved of its bicycle, put into a limo and squired to the prom, where it sashays onto the dance floor, giddy and resplendent, and cannot figure out precisely how to twirl.”

I repeat: I DID NOT WRITE THE ABOVE SENTENCE. LITERALLY? FRANK BRUNI DID. I will now light my tits on fire in thanks.

Falai: The Week Jules' Panties flew at Half-Mast

I know what you're thinking: "Is Jules literally cold and dead in the ground?" and "I hope a stranger took pity and paid for her burial, maybe even a reception, some Cap'n Crunch, some Diet Dew, a track or two of Indigo Girls from her 1982 Aiwa cassette player...Something to send her off with the dignity she so eschewed in life..." But no, I'm not dead although I definitely flatlined a couple of times at a delightful wedding where I didn't know anybody.


Makin' friends.

So, for one week, even though Frank's extended metaphor of Iacopo's "marzipan shackles" made my vestigial fang tremble, I didn't bite.

However, in future, even if I am incredibly busy, or hard at work, I promise to keep nipping at Frank's heels like the immature virtual Terrier I am.

"Hey Frank! You forgot your bra! LOOK! A bra!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! I love to sniff poop! Because I'm stupid! YAY!!!!"

Yumcha to follow...