Thursday, May 29, 2008

Corporate Comfort

There are so so so many independently owned places to get a meal in the neighborhood of my office. And they are great! In fact, many of them are not even open on Saturdays and Sundays simply because they cater only to the office lunch crowd in Tribeca/the Financial District. It's really fabulous to have so many choices and one of the big reasons I really like New York is because you'd be hard pressed to get tired of eating out around here. There's just too much to try! The only unfortunate thing is that 8 dollars is thew new 5 dollars. Le sigh! But, back to the good... I love how in New York you can get anything made just the way that you want it. People can be incredibly meticulous to the point of OCD status and you'd think this would drive restaurant workers insane ("Yeeeah, can I getta smoked turkey, little mayo, lettuce, on toasted roll, mustard on the side?"), but, to the contrary, they'll make anything you want and usually with little guff given. It's like just the way things are here; order it the way you want it, I'll make that for you, sure, move on. Next. No pleases, not a lot of thank yous. Just a straight up relationship between you and your sandwicheer. It's actually sort of refreshing, in the way that I remember the no-bullshit attitude of the French being.

Here's my question of the day, however: Why, when there are a wealth of good, very good and great independent restaurants, do people feel inclined to eat corporate??? Why is there always a line at Subway and Dunkin' Donuts? And McDonald's? The fact of the matter is that it's actually often times much easier to go to an independent place and just as affordable (if not cheaper), so let's eliminate the cost and convenience aspects as reasons. Where does that leave us? Comfort. Familiarity. No thinking required. These are the reasons that I think people eat that fucking shit. It's a matter of feeling like, no matter where you are, you can have the same boring old taste in your mouth as you've had since you got your first stupid Subway BMT or whatever when you were 10 years old. So, people are just anti-change, anti-decision-making, anti-flava. What can I say?

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm oinking out pork in my diet.

As some of you know, I have not eaten chicken in well over a year. With Vegetarian Week approaching next week, May 19-25, I am vowing to cut out pork this year. Pigs are as intelligent, if not more so, than dogs! And they receive some of the worst treatment on farms--they are kept in the smallest pens, castrated, force fed, essentially tortured only to be murdered, chopped up and shipped out to be put on your pizza.

It's fucking disgusting, to be honest, and I'm sad that ever I partook in it. As with any of my relinquishing, I do reserve the right to enjoy pork, as chicken (though I actually have not touched it), in certain key situations, such as fine dining or under re-assurance that the pig was essentially raised by a friend of mine on a nearby farm...etc.

I'll post some more info about vegetarianism and it's advantages, but for now I will just say that if you are a vegetarian, according to PETA, you save (on average) 100 animals a year. An alternative way to consider it is thinking of actually consuming 100 animals a year. That personally makes me feel ill.

For me to cut out chicken, all it took was to watch a film called "Our Daily Bread" which is an amazing documentary unlike any PETA video or "animal cruelty revealed" undercover thing. It's a film festival circuit documentary that I first saw at the Walker Art Center. It's a look at the food production methodology and industry in Europe, from pigs to fish to salt to nuts and grains. It shows machines and people working to produce what we eventually put in our mouths--some of the images beautiful, some disturbing, but the key feature that I adored about this film was its lack of narration. There is no direct, in-your-face message; the images speak for themselves.

Other facts about pigs/pork from PETA:
In the U.S., more than 97 percent of pigs—smart, social, interesting animals—are raised on factory farms. They spend their entire lives in cramped, filthy warehouses, where they never see the sun or breathe fresh air. Because of their hideous living conditions, more than 70 percent of the pigs have pneumonia by the time they are kicked and prodded onto trucks bound for slaughterhouses. As piglets, they are ripped away from their mothers when they are less than 1 month old and dosed with antibiotics, and they have their tails, teeth, and testicles cut off—all without any pain relief. But even that's not all that they go through.

Breeding sows are imprisoned (there's really no other word for it) in metal gestation crates so small that they can't even turn around or take a single step—many develop painful sores and bruises from being immobilized on a hard surface. Shortly after giving birth, they are forcibly impregnated again. This cycle continues for years until their bodies finally give out and the animals are sent to slaughter. After enduring these hellish conditions for years, squealing pigs are poked, kicked, and dragged onto trucks so that they can be sent to slaughter.

Something to consider.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Berate then plate?

What is the deal with going out to eat at a place where you get unfriendly service? A place with no atmosphere, but "amazing" food? A place where the food is supposed to speak all the niceties, I guess? Is there something about being basically berated by the waitstaff, ignored, given no choices and told what to do that makes the restaurant more appealing? Does it make the food actually taste better? In other contexts, these adjectives could be construed to describe torture or an abusive relationship. But, then again, we all know that many people in this world suffer from Battered Wife Syndrome where they exist in a relationship that is plainly and clearly unhealthy, yet they keep going back for more and, in many cases, even thrive on it. Foodies may have a similar syndrome when it comes to their favorite restaurants.

Did this start with the Soup Nazi episode on Seinfeld? Remember watching that and thinking how much you wanted to taste the lobster bisque? So much! Or perhaps it is based on the French model--fixated more on food, less on ser-vees (though, to be honest, I never had a terribly rude server in France), but that is the general stereotype.

I just read this article in the New York Times about Momofuku Ko, le restaurant de l'heure in New York. My friend Julie and I had a long convo about the place and the impossibility of getting a reservation (one must, literally, click one's mouse at precisely 10AM and pray to the gods of deliciousness that your internet is milliseconds faster than the internet of the other 1000 people trying at the same time to get the same table) and even recent drama that has ensued over getting into the place, it made me wonder: Does this drama, hype, difficulty, masochism add to the appeal? In general, do people enjoy going to a place more for the excitement of being at the "it" spot or for the food, straight up? Would anyone honestly go to a place with plywood walls that plays Led Zepplin without being enticed by others? Does being influenced make them linger longer over bites? It's an age old question, to be sure, but it says a lot about the mentality of the foodie world and also how much a critic's opinion can affect a business.

I want to linger longer over all foods, the gold and the bronze, the absolutely delicious complex types and the mediocre... to taste a food that is single, unmarried to spice or other influences and stands on its taste a banana, truly and genuinely, or even a cheeseburger from McDonald's. To taste for quality, for flavor, for your own appreciation. It's idealistic, but we fall into ruts of monotony in our food choices and we forget that the daily act of eating, even a simple lunch, can be a treat. Think about it: Eating is the only necessity that we have to do every single day that can give us that much pleasure. Here I go sermonizing again.

Monday, May 5, 2008


I went home for the weekend and got back last night. It's funny, because whenever I am at home (by home I mean Minneapolis and St. Paul since I rarely venture to Brainerd these days) I find myself wanting to eat basically only Asian. I mean, I live in New York and there is an abundance of Asian food, but I think the Twin Cities truly has an amazing selection of choice Asian places, most notably on University Ave where you can find probably 30 Vietnamese restaurants alone. Here are my favorites metro-wide:


Little Szechuan

Taste of Thai

Fuji Ya



Jasmine Deli

Unfortunately, I only got to eat sushi at Sakura, but I dream about the other places on a regular basis...Please go eat there for me?

If you only buy some organics...

...Buy these. I just got this in my email. The most pesticide-ridden foods are, obviously, the most important to buy organic. And they are:

According to John La Puma, MD -- RealAge expert and author of the new book ChefMD's Big Book of Culinary Medicine -- going organic with these 12 fruits and veggies could cut your exposure to pesticides as much as 90 percent!
  • Fruits
    • Peaches and nectarines
    • Strawberries and cherries
    • Apples and pears
    • Imported grapes
  • Veggies
    • Spinach and lettuce
    • Potatoes and celery
    • Sweet bell peppers