Miscellany & Poetry - On food, wine, film, lit & then some.

Basic Microwaving Lesson 4: You can’t spell “pork chop” without “poop”

…& apparently you can’t make one without it either. Per the instructions, “microwaved pork chops need to be encased in a crust to hold in juices or masked with a dense sauce to provide moisture.” Per the photos, it seems you can find all the ingredients you need for your coating of choice right in your own orifices. Talk about one-stop shopping!

Pork2
This crumb-crust gives new meaning to “shake & bake”!

Pork1
Smothered pork chops: so easy even your dog can pitch in! (Provided he’s been eating grass.)

Basic Microwaving Lesson 3: “Provide an opening for excess steam to escape.”

That’s for the plastic wrap.

Plasticwrap_6

As for yourself—once you have, per the photo instructions, ripped out your own throbbing stomach and those of your loved ones for supper,

Human_stomach_model

you too will probably need an opening through which to escape. We suggest a rift in the space-time continuum, where no one can hear you steam.

Basic Microwaving Lesson 2: “Gray color will turn brown.”

And brown may turn gray, because these burgers will age you. Here you were, just trying to make their jobs easier by upgrading their facilities from dirty old grill to gleaming new microwave oven, and what’s your thanks? They go on strike.

Burgers

Send in fresh patties all you want, they won’t cross the picket line; it says so right there: “surface will not be crusty.” They’re no scabs.

Basic Microwaving Lesson 1: “Roast is easier to carve after standing.”

Not this roast, though. This roast is easier to carve after sitting, and taking deep, slow breaths, and puking. And then passing out cold. For hours. Naked.

One man’s roast is another man’s flayed monkey skull, I always say.

Roast

Who knew basic microwaving could be so complicated…

that it required a 160 page instruction manual complete with index…

…& yet so disco superfly that it doesn’t cook your food so much as have a mesmerizing strobe effect on it…

Bm1_2
Do the hustle!

…& yet really so horrifyingly twisted as to make your food’s head explode, like Francis Bacon invented kitchen appliances…

Bm2

cf.

Bacon_study1953

…whose sci-fi source of energy turns out to be spiders on drugs.

Bm3_2

Stay tuned to learn the basics—if you dare.

Water, friends, is boring. We must not say so. After all, there’s Metromint.

I think that’s how John Berryman would have started Dream Song 14 if Metromint had been around back in the mid-20th century.

Water1

For lo, cocoa essence wafts therefrom, & a hint of mint from the Yakima Valley, & the water hath been purified by reverse osmosis, which methinks means it’s magickal.
Indeed, O, it floats in midair.

Water2_2

Plus it has a chill factor, whence we ourselves who flash & yearn could well derive benefit.

If I were the kid in Poltergeist,

and I had to go into the light, it’d be cool if it looked like any of these.
Dishlamp
The Dish Bistro
Chandelier
The Kitchen
Jinglights
Jing
Leaflamp1
Leaf
Lolalamp
Lola
(And no, it’s not because I drink myself down to the floor a lot that I notice what’s hanging from the ceiling a lot. My fixture-fixating has nothing to do with coming to.)

Is it gross—or is it genius?

So those mussels I mentioned yesterday came with bread. While my many-times-aforepromised discursion on bread baskets is coming forthwithish, Swimclub 32’s won’t merit mention, being neither a treat nor a shame; it contains thin slices of perfectly okay whole wheat. We were asked if we wanted butter or olive oil; we opted for the latter.

A ramekin of pale-yellow liquid arrived & I dipped disdainfully, expecting nothing prickly nor twiggy nor caramel—although I could have, according to this organoleptic evaluation chart, otherwise known as a sensory wheel, otherwise known as deep sadness in a circle—nothing more than nothing.

What I got startled me for a second. Was this melted butter? It sure tasted like it, but it was room temperature, so how now, dairy cow? The Director thought I was tasting things, but he did concur that the flavor was unexpectedly fine, & we dipped & kept dipping & even asked for a second ramekin.

When Pippi-Angelica returned, she told us its secret: it was 75% canola oil.

So basically a half-cup of Wesson was my favorite dish.

My point is this: just as the deconstructionists determined that a text’s essence inheres in its parentheticals, its footnotes, its errata & so on—in short, anywhere but in its supposedly meaningful body*—so I often find my very favorite flavors in sides, condiments, garnishes, leftovers, dregs, scraps, etc., anywhere but in the thing I’m really supposed to be eating or drinking.

Well, actually, that’s not my point. That’s a means by which to couch my point. That’s the elegant upholstery of a pointed confession. Here’s my point: I drink pickle juice. Not only do I drink pickle juice, but lately I’ve been mixing it with gin. Sometimes, when I run out of pickle juice before I run out of pickles, I add distilled vinegar & salt to the jar & then I drink that. Often my tummy hurts, but more often I think myself quite like Tristan Tzara.

*Not that the deconstructionists would admit to essentializing texts, but, essentially, they did.

Krupnik (no offense)

Before there was chocolate vodka & peanut butter vodka with jelly-vodka chasers & cookie-dough vodka, before there was cake-batter vodka & powdered-doughnut vodka & conversation-heart vodka with real messages sprinkled in, before there was stuffed-French-toast vodka & baklava vodka & flaming crêpes-Suzette vodka, there was Polish honey vodka.
Krupnik1_2
It’s called liqueur for the same reason restaurants with limited liquor licenses, covering beer, wine & cordials only, can carry the coconut-marshmallow vodkas of the world: none of it technically counts as hard liquor because its sugar content is too high.
So, speaking of being too high, I tried this stuff recently at a friend’s dinner party, expecting it to taste like mead—you know, the stuff English majors like to guzzle from pewter steins while perched on rooftops clad in cloaks & trying to outquote each other (so I’ve heard)—but no, this doesn’t lull, it braces, it has the sort of jagged edge a 13th century Polish peasant would surely need to slice his brain into pieces with after a dinner of rocks in his hut made of snow following a 112-hour day in the wormfields.
But even if it didn’t taste hardcore, it’d be hardcore by virtue of the name, which sounds like if you came over & I offered you a glass you wouldn’t know whether to say “fuck off” or “bless you.” Or both.

Pimp My Meal! Part 2

Last time on Pimp My Meal!, I challenged my pal Slim—a contributor to Boston Magazine, The Boston Phoenix, Stuff@night and the Weekly Dig—to, in his words, “identify which of a given pair of Denver restaurants looks more promising to a Boston-based outsider based solely on information gleaned from their online dinner menus and no other portion of their websites. I scrupulously avoided my usual resources for restaurants in unfamiliar cities: local friends, websites like Chowhound.com, guidebooks, and newspaper reviews.”

His mission accomplished, rounds 1 & 2 sure were nail-biters! And how will the contenders in rounds 3 & 4 measure up pound for pound? Let’s turn to Slim for the play-by-play.

ROUND 3—THE DATE-NIGHT DESTINATIONS: FRUITION vs. OPUS

Fruition
“My first impression is of slightly modernized Continental fare, a lot of old-school French technique in butter and cream, plus some heavy Northern Italian starches. I imagine this place being a bit flouncy and fusty, with lines out the door on Mother’s Day. Maybe it’s my strain of Mitteleuropean ancestry, but I am capable of enjoying leaden cuisine like this, especially the sides accompanying the beef culotte: choux dumplings, braised oxtail, trumpet mushroom ragout, and sweet carrot puree. (Is that really prime beef for only $24?)[*] Of course, I’m just wondering where I’ll find a Fernet Branca afterwards. With one token-looking veggie dish, this is either a very old restaurant, or it’s trying to channel one to fill a perceived gap in the Denver healthy / globetrotting / veg-friendly hegemony.”

Opus
“From the chef glamour shot to the overly explicated descriptions of dishes with one idea too many on the plate, Opus looks Denver’s answer to Olives, the launching pad for Boston celeb chef Todd English. That’s not a good thing, as English went from beloved local original to whoring national hack the very second he possibly could. Prices occasionally seem ridiculous, like $100 for an ounce of domestic sturgeon caviar and a stack of buckwheat blinis. Entrees strike me as precious and too busy, like peppered King Canyon bison loin, cinnamon skewered apple ‘lollipop,’ root beer bison sauce, and bison jerky scrapple. The parallels to English are eerie: the ‘classic’ dishes look much simpler and more appealing, presumably conceived back when the chef felt more passionate about cooking than marketing. I’d order that double-thick rosemary-rubbed veal chop on saffron risotto well before I chose bison in root beer sauce. Predictably, the wine list excerpt shows a thuddingly dull reliance on overpriced Cali and Oregon reds. I’m looking at a $200-300 check here.”

VERDICT
“Which reruns would you rather be forced to watch, MC: The Lawrence Welk Show or the first season of Sex and the City? Ugh. I’m reluctantly going to go with Fruition, where at least I won’t feel swindled by the check, and am less likely to be surrounded by Food Network–Tivoing, self-styled ‘foodies’ shrieking about how their companions simply must try a bite of their campfire beef-cheek mole.”

Damn. It probably won’t surprise Slim—who knows my tastes are such that if fashion designers were chefs, I’d be a regular over at Bob Mackie’s place, wolfing down the edible equivalents of get-ups Cher’d wear, all bespangled & feathered & slit to here—

Images_2

to hear that I was rooting for Opus; one Slim’s “precious” & “busy” is one Denveater’s “bold” & “exuberant.”

Meanwhile, while Slim couldn’t have known that his sense of Fruition as more of a journeyman than a million-dollar baby in the restaurant ring, solid but perhaps past its prime,** isn’t technically correct—it’s one of the city’s quickest, farthest rising stars—as far as I’m concerned he has the place pegged. With the exception of the wonder-if-I-take-you-home-sounding blonde carrot cake with cream-cheese ice cream & sweet brown butter, everything on the menu seems, to me, just so—it couldn’t be more tasteful, more exquisitely balanced between Gallic classicism & contemporary luxury, couldn’t be more confit here & emulsion there,

Images1(confit here)

Images2(emulsion there)

couldn’t, in short, be more boringly likely to meet all my expectations than to totally upend them. This is why some of us prefer cats to dogs, villains to heroes, David Foster Wallace to, I don’t know, anyone whose novels get roundly praised for their spareness & elegance.

But OK, Fruition wins, fair & square. Knowing as I do a slew of savvy supperers who adore the place, I’m going in with both feet. I’ll even bring my mouth.

*Welcome to cattle country, city slicker!
**Boxing metaphors courtesy of my divided attention—Klitschko’s back, baby!

***We’ll return with the final round after this brief intermission***

ROUND 4—THE MODERN MEXICANS: LOLA vs. TAMAYO

Lola
“Denver seems to kick Boston’s ass on Mexican, Central American, and South American restaurants.* Ours good ones are mostly cheap, bare-bones, authentic venues in modest residential neighborhoods like East Boston. Certainly we have nothing like Lola, with its upscale take on chalupas, ceviches and vegetarian migas and its four housemade salsas. While the perspective on these cuisines is gussied-up and the dining room fancy-looking (from the menu photo), the prices look reasonable. And it has a serious happy hour: joy!”

Tamayo
“Holy frijole, an even wilder, fancier, more expensive Latino restaurant, this one all-Mexican! The menu’s length and regional breadth are impressive: Bostonians don’t see much Oaxacan food, and we just got our first real Poblana restaurant last year. It’s unusual to see so many elaborate seafood dishes on a Mexican menu. Is this an occasion place for Mexican ex-pats, or Mexican cuisine for gringos, done in a Norteamericano gourmet idiom to justify its $25 entrée prices?”**

VERDICT
“I’d be grateful to have either of these places in Boston, but I gravitate toward Lola, which seems to be trying to modernize traditional Latin American cuisine without straying too far from its soul: it still does $2 tacos. Even though I imagine its food to be wonderful, Tamayo has a sensibility and a price point that smell a little too Yanqui to me.”

Lola it is!

“So, how’d I do? Have I been totally hornswoggled by a series of clever online façades, or can I cut through Internet self-puffery like a hot knife through Polish lard?”

Slim, you did swell. Now I’m gonna go take these joints for test drives, joy rides, police chases around hairpin turns. Wish me well.

Images3_2
Woohoo!

*True, of course, for the most part, although I haven’t come across any little Venezuelan zingers like Boston’s Orinoco yet…

**The simplest answer: it’s located in LoDo.