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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

STK and Porterhouse: I am Giving So Many Thanks

Another killer week. I don't have time to do this one tonight (early flight, you know the drill) but check in later this week...and don't forget to wear your "edible accessories for a naughty expedition to the other side of midnight." (YES, HE SAID THAT) Other choice tidbits to which I will be giddily appending deranged imagery:

- "I’ve never taken a spin inside a pimp’s stretch limo, and now I don’t need to."
- "It’s unclear whether she’s emerged from the boudoir or the abattoir, but her idea of fun obviously involves meat."
- "STK’s idea of a feminist must be Pamela Anderson"

And a bonus from the Diner's Journal (thanks for the heads-up, Cod):
"While Mr. Chow TriBeCa felt in many ways like a cynical swindle, the duck was a highlight. Restaurants will get the glistening, crackling skin right only to muff the thin band of meat just beneath, or they'll keep that meat moist and muff the skin, which won't be crisp enough."

MEAT + MUFF = Have a very sexy Thanksgiving.

This turkey's givin' a lot more than THANKS! Yowza.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lonesome Dove: Sleepin' in the Prairie when there ain't no Stars

Weeeee-haw! What we done gone dood din havin’ got up in here is an ole- fashin’ ass-whoopin’, like pappy use to give me when I git to splashin around in his tannery barrel.

That’s how come I got them chemicals in my brains.

The Count not only zero-stars Lonesome Dove, he does it with confidence, with panache, with the sangfroid of a prudish cop shutting down a tacky whorehouse. The place struck Frank from day one as nasty and he’s got the language to prove it:

Outside the restaurant, “on the sidewalk, like a rustler’s riff on a red carpet, lay a brown-and-white steer’s hide.” Chef/owner Tim Love apparently likes to shop for furniture and décor on Highway 9.

“Look at the handiwork on this bureau! I wonder if it comes with a dresser?”

With rain and traffic, Frank returned to find “this hairy and scary welcome mat plastered to the ground, mottled with dirt and squishy with water: roadkill after a rainstorm.” So already, Frank is being greeted at the doorstep by a sewer-rat’s jerry curl.

And yes, that’s Pedro Martinez’ hair. Don’t you recognize the sheen?

Lonesome Dove is playing up the cheeky southerner ad nauseum, according to Frank: décor includes a “mounted steer’s head and a chandelier of antlers,” while the cooks wear cowboy hats (which must be totally unbearable and really impractical.)
Not that I’ve ever cared about practicality!

One of my little inventions…It’s the ultimate easy travel pack for the traveler who just wants 50 extra pounds of dead weight— say, someone taking a dinghy across the Pacific.

Speaking of impractical,

“Lonesome Dove imagines and executes what might be called contemporary cowpoke cuisine. It’s a mash-up of the Southwest, the Wild West, the Outback and maybe even Brokeback…”

Wow. Australian Southwest gays?

+

It’s like the baby of Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban.

Lonesome Dove seems to test the limits of the most intrepid diners, offering meat from every animal that walks, e.g. “marsupial nachos” consisting of “reddish meat on blue corn chips with avocado and corn scattered about” like the marriage between a Vampire and a Fatass, where the guests threw trash instead of confetti. The shocker here is, the crazy meats turn out to me “more interesting in theory”: tastes like chicken, the Count admits.

Tim Love’s ingredients are as multiple as his meats are weird, and about as ineffective: “A deluge of salt and a gooey dollop of butter mixed with Serrano chili, shallots, Boursin cheese and fresh lime juice” topped a buffalo rib-eye. I can’t even play that one out in my imagination. Maybe Tim should have applied to his food Coco Chanel’s advice about removing one accessory before leaving the house:

“Ya know what? I’m gonna take this bracelet off, it’s just too much.”

But does the cheekiness of Lonesome Dove come as any surprise? Tim Love has been a cheeky press presence for a while now--

Perhaps more surprising at this point is the praise that the Dove actually gets:

“Mr. Love seems dedicated to getting first-rate cuts of meat, and if the rub-happy kitchen goes overboard in seasoning them, especially with salt and pepper, it certainly knows how to cook many of them.” Oh good ‘cause I like my chipmunk medium and I’ll take my meerkat and my narwhal as rare as they’ll let ya!

Tim Love's ranch.

Frank also appreciates the hearty portions and the inclusion of sides. But who cares, because move over for one of the most amazing Brunisms of all time:

The grilled $120-“Tomohawk chop” is a “bone-in rib-eye for two, accompanied by a lobster tail and two scallops as large as tennis balls, and that bone is so long it seems to stretch all the way back into the partly visible kitchen.”

Tim’s coming up from the rear in a separate tent with the balls and a signed copy of Innuendo? Yes please! Give Me Two Heaping Scoops, by Frank Bruni.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Picholine: Frank's Satin Panty Collection Turns 100!

I know I know, it looks like, following Frank’s Italian séjour, I took a little “vacay” of my own. Not the case! Not at all. No, on the contrary, it took me some time to grapple fully with Frank’s Italy piece, a display of unflinching journalistic courage. Finally, finally someone had the guts to ask the question everyone’s been thinking but no one will spit out: “Just How Good Can Italy Get?”


So naturally, it took me a while to accept the man who had DARED, in the face of danger, to pit Tuscany against Piedmont (itd’s about time), might be back to reviewing papas-flinging tapas joints.

I mean, how does one, after forever being altered by The Naked and the Dead, read a post-it note left on the fridge by Norman Mailer?

Mailer loves the ladies.

But this week, Frank is back in inspiring form in his review of recently-renovated Picholine.

I’ve enjoyed Picholine in my day, mostly for the extensive consultations that I have with the maitre fromagier, a man who counsels you with awesome sincerity, pushing his little cart of stinky chunks, as if you were Brooke Astor and he were your portfolio advisor. He used to station himself against the wall making a brooding, hateful face, which I suspect had more to do with always standing directly above the farty waft of the cheese cart.

A face he was unfortunately also forced to make at home, standing in the waft of Thierry, his gaseous tabby.

But Frank picks up on the real reason for Picholine’s recent renovation: The place looked like a fancy funeral home, with 800-year-old opera patrons stacked along the cream-colored banquettes like wax dignitaries in Madame Tussaud’s storage locker.

Ex-Netherlandish Prime Minister Jeremiah Van Der Perv just doesn’t bring the crowds in like he used to.


There were other problems leading to the restaurant’s makeover: says Frank,
“The food lacked luster. The service lacked smarts. When my sister foolishly asked our waiter how old he thought she was, he even more foolishly took the question seriously, hazarding a guess that was two years too many. What a dolt.”

Yikes. Calling your sister "foolish" in the pages of the Times— risky. I mean, I called my Cousin Jeremy an “asshead” publicly, but that was different; it was a trial, and I was testifying.

Oh Jeremy. After years in the finest of European boarding schools, he still preferred the gentle cloak of a cool breeze to any cottons we could provide.

Frank is back to assess the place post-renovation, and he attests that “It now looks sleeker, shinier and better…”—

“but not much.”

Awww. Looks like Grandma Picholine got her mustache waxed, but forgot to change out of her muu muu:

“Was a nearby interior décor store having an end-of-summer sale on the colors purple? Picholine has gone with a cloying monochromatic palette: lavender walls, lavender accents, plum carpeting. It’s the architectural equivalent of a bridesmaid’s dress.”

Well I haven’t seen the new place, but it does sound pretty dismal—The color purple is such a talcum-crotched, potpourri-strewing, taffeta-wearing sign of preciousness. Unless it’s a musical about a battered black woman finding inner courage at the turn of the century. Or unless it’s this guy:

This guy: changin’ the way people think about purple. Also giving them cold, sweaty nightmares.

But all is not lost for dowdy Picholine: Frank calls it “a winner,” “the nicest restaurant surprise of this disappointing season,” due to the kitchen’s successful reinvigoration.

Some dishes are new, some old; some include surprising twists (a sauternes jelly under a Roquefort salad) and others are simple, like one where (drumroll) “the role of a slow-cooked egg is, in fact, played by an egg.” Shocking. I thought eggs were usually played by Danny deVito.

...With Sharon Stone obliging as the chicken

Even if Picholine is wall-papered in Bea Arthur’s panty-hose, Frank manages to drum up some fun from my old buddy the cheese guy:

“Max McCalman directs the cheese course with Tony-worthy exuberance..."

"STILLLLLLLTOOOOOONNNNN, all alone in the CAAAA-VEERRRRNNNN, all alone with its ENNNNNZYMES and its veiny blue moooooooooold." Alternately, "We have an excellent Stilton from-- what are you looking at? No seriously what are you looking at? What, you think it's fake? You think I put a baseball diamond in my felinetard? Take your eyes off my sack and focus 'em on the cart. AND THAT GOES FOR EVERYONE IN HERE, ok?"

We all know how much the Count loves a great meal, but he's always eating out on the job, doing Papa Keller's professional bidding. But this shows how much Frank really enjoyed Picholine:

“When a late-October milestone of my own approached”—OMG, Frank’s collection of satin Victorian bloomers turns 150!!!!!-- "and I surveyed the restaurants in my sights, I decided to celebrate the occasion with the last in a series of visits to Picholine."

There is. No. Greater. Honor. You could bestow on Picholine, Frank. 3 stars! Also, way to roll your celebration in with work, huh? When I tried to celebrate my birthday at the office...

...well, somehow a Dell monitor ended up in my bra. Not nearly as confusing as the staples in my pants.