Friday, January 29, 2010

Night-Off Eavesdropping

How you know you're sitting next to a First Date at the bar:

She tells him, "I really only drink maybe 2, 3 glasses when I'm out with friends and even that's not very often. I'm a believer in moderation. After this, I'm going to work out, from about 9-10."

"After your mother's? Wow, that's commitment."

"I'm not afraid of commitment."

A stiff pause. She's got it in for him. He's the next one, after all.

Later, he is telling her, "Life insurance is an investment, really," and I feel like I have his whole story down. I mean, don't you?

They ask for the check and the woman leans across him to ask me if I enjoyed my soup.

"Oh yes," I say, "It was watercress and andouille sausage. Awesome."

"You look like you were enjoying it. I love soup."

I wonder what looking like I was "enjoying it" looked like to her, and why it warranted a conversation. I dab at my mouth with the side of my hand, just to be safe.

I tell her I think I recognize her.

I ask if she used to frequent the last restaurant I worked at, a popular upmarket Japanese place. Her long, middle-aged face is so familiar, despite the heavy black eyeliner disguise she dons tonight. I know her horsey nose, her lantern jaw.

"I live in the neighborhood," she answers. "Did you ride your bike?" I nod, wondering if she saw me pull up, what made her need to make a point of talking to me with her date watching. In the world of women, this is a disarmament. A polite stare-down of sorts.

She introduces herself and her date. Joy and Chris.

"I own a company, I go to people's houses and organize."

I give it a beat. "Well, God bless you!" I say, more to Chris than to her. They both laugh, but she not as much.

I do not see a second date. Maybe, but not a third.

Then the coworkers come. They line up at the bar and I figure that the girl at the end is British because the alpha male on the end closest to me keeps shouting "Oi! Oi!" to her when she isn't paying attention. One of the girls asks pointedly how his love life is. "Kevin, how's your love life?" They've had too much to drink. This will either bond them or make things weird at work on Monday.

"I'm an Aquarian," he says. "Impossible to date."

The girl next to the Brit squeals. "I'm a Leo! We're supposed to be perfect together!"

Kevin begins to talk about being attracted to girls who are projects and the girls holler at once. "I know about projects!" All women think they know about projects. This implies all men are projects. The truth is, all of us are projects. Some projects build our muscles and some tear them down. You have to know who you are to know which project to pick. I almost offer this p.o.v. but there's too much estrogen in the group as it is. We'll give Kevin a break.

The Brit asserts she has found the man she is going to marry and Kevin waves his hands about, "Hello….! What? That's awe-rsome….I had no idea." He is too eager to hear about it. He is disappointed the Brit is in love, you can tell. "Tell me about this guy!"

He wants to hear the guy is just like him. Or worse than him. That way, he has a shot. Not just at her, but someone like her. He needs to know that someone like him would have a shot at someone like her.

She has circumvented the rest of the girls to talk to him beside his chair, standing up. A girl will do this to talk about the man she loves. Kevin will not do this – will not abandon his comfortable seat to ask her more closely. Instead he stays seated, not waiting for her, not expecting her to come over and tell him, not even thinking about it, his question beyond answer, his look faraway even as she speaks right into his face about love.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Foodie Guilt

I want to replace the word "foodie" with something else. First of all, adding a diminutive "-ie" to the end of anything used to describe adults makes me want to punch a panda. (Those things really don't want to live, anyway. Look it up.)
Secondly, to add "-ie" to any mundane noun that we all require for survival is just asinine.

I'm an airie! No one enjoys breathing more than I do. I can identify different types of air. This one is cold; this one is warm and thick -- ooh! This one reminds us of the air we breathed that one time in fucking ROME. Have you been to fucking ROME? You should go. You'll love the air.

Food is a sensual experience. It transcends the metabolic and becomes, like art and music, that which nourishes our imaginations, our aesthetics, the undefinable soul. You can eat a Big Mac and instantly be seven years old again, sitting across from your grandmother in those shiny plastic booths looking at a Mayor McCheese statue. You can bite a forkful of risotto and be in Piedmont on your first Europe trip, scared to death of your new lover and picking fights to make sure they aren't going to just leave you there when things get ugly.

I once took a bite of refried beans at this old-school Tex-Mex dive and cried a little. Of all the refried beans in town, these were the exact flavor of those found in a bean and cheese burrito I used to get every day before work in San Clemente, CA. It was right before my mom died. I was living in my car and on friends' couches. I was 22 and wrote and drew in a huge sketch book every day. I was free and my whole life was before me and I ate this damned burrito until it proclaimed itself the author of this whole period of my life. Surely you have a burrito like that.

Anyhow, I get it. You love food. But you want to distinguish yourself from the others who love food - you really love food. But you aren't a chef or anything. You might have read Jeffrey Steingarten, watch "Top Chef" religiously, cook from the Julia Childs cookbook. Have a subscription to Bon Appetit.

Or let's go a step higher, yes?

You took a cooking-class vacation in Emilia-Romagna; you went to Brooklyn to learn to take apart a pig. You wear a t-shirt that says "Offal sweet." You read everything you can get your hands on about food, cooking, even hunting.
You're committed (or rich).

Awesome. Terrific. Passion = good. Learning = good. You want to define it. Who you are, your commitment. You want to say Take me seriously, give me the good eats, because I ain't no plebian palate!

So "foodie." This is it. The moniker for both types, and everything in between. Maybe you hate it and want a better word, but you hesitate to come up with one because you tend to shirk such easy definitions of yourself. And "food snob" makes you insanely sick to your stomach (or should).

To you demoted souls, I feel you. Just remember, a person is defined by their actions. Order the tongue and I'll appreciate your foodieness. Mostly, order it without pomp or a weird affected accent (you wouldn't believe how often I get this when guys order, especially wine), or a sinister wink to your date (rettttch), and I'll appreciate that you Get It. That you are One of the Good Ones. You are a better lover, a better liver, and a better companion.

But show up in my section and make tortured, twisted faces when I suggest the lamb's tongue sautéed with wild-honey pan sauce, but announce that because you are such big "foodies," then you "should get it," and I will know you for the insecure, bandwagon-leaping imposters that you are.

And you are legion.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Talking back to Yelpers as if they can hear me

  • I'm no sushi expert, but Maki Toki has everything I want in a sushi place at a very reasonable price. During happy hour, it's even cheaper.

If you've ever eaten at Maki Toki, you'll know this guy means that he likes depressing, sterile strip malls; flatscreen TVs; Romanian teenagers; sushi bars with not one remotely Southeast-Asian-looking chef; a selection of four fish that all taste identical and are sinewy, slimy, and cloudy; Beyoncé; and mushy, bland rice.

"No sushi expert"? Pal, you're not even reading the pamphlets.

  • First of all, I am very shocked to see so many negative reviews about this incredible rice and raw fish heaven. I am only the biggest sushi and seafood fan I've ever met, and pretty sure anyone's ever met, so this is confusing to me.

It's easy to be the biggest sushi and seafood fan you've ever met when you're the only person who can stand you.

More that I just cannot respond to because a language hasn't been invented yet that's capable of reaching across the internet and choking someone to death:

  • It was the oddest antipasto with a lot of pickled stuff. I don't like pickles.

  • I love Pad Thai. When I usually go out to eat Thai, it's always the one dish I like to try at every restaurant- each having their own distinct taste and style.

  • The place is too stinky to have decent seafood

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Week in Wankers: The Big 'Un

We got this crazy email from a customer complaining that he bought the special advertised by the server and was upset by the price when the bill showed up.

Let me break it down for you: he had classic sticker-shock and, instead of being angry with himself for not asking how much the special cost before ordering it (a dinner of filet mignon topped with foie gras - something most people living above ground and not breathing in toxic, brain-melting chemicals might consider a red flag for expense), he took it out on his server, complaining that they ought to have told the price up front.

I have never, in any city, - whether at an awful chain restaurant or an upmarket fine dining establishment - had the price of the special(s) offered to me without asking for it. It's considered rude and indelicate to discuss such matters without invitation, as if you're implying that the diner cannot afford it. If they need to know, they will ask. No one buys a fucking Range Rover without knowing the price; no one plucks shirts and jeans and shoes off of shelves without checking (okay plenty of wealthy people do, but fuck 'em anyway); so why buy a dinner - something you can't return, and one that includes two traditionally pricey components - without asking the price, if you think that price will be an issue for you?

Personal responsibility. This guy probably goes home and moans and cries about having to pay taxes so poor people can get the bare minimum of medical care or food stamps for their kids, all the while blubbering that they should take "personal responsibility".

Then he comes to a nice restaurant, orders filet mignon with foie gras, and bitches about it costing $4-6 more than the average filet mignon - sans fattened goose liver - at any steakhouse in town.

And for that we have to change our policy and do what even Chili's doesn't do, and announce the price right at the table. Why stop there? I'm going to make customers guess the price and if they win, I'll throw in some extra bread. Maybe throw 'em, a ticker-tape parade. And wear flair.

Thanks, tacky asshole. Good luck with those three spirits next Christmas.