Thursday, March 29, 2007

Oh, snap!

Oooohh! And the battle of the kitchen hardasses continues! (via Eater)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Nightmare kitchen

The Taming of the Chef

Found this interesting read from the New Yorker. Also note the "New York magazine's story on Momofuku's David Chang"-esque "lovingly cradling my animal ingredient" photo accompanying this story.

Some people dislike Ramsay. I don't like or dislike him, but find him interesting. Unlike the one one patron in this story who wanted to watch Ramsay tell off one of his staff members, it's not that I find Ramsay interesting because his anger is amusing to me. In fact, I would frequently wince watching "Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares" when he'd lay into some clueless restaurateur or the failing restaurant's chef about why their business was going faster than raw chicken breast left out on the counter in the middle of June. I'd find myself internally reasoning, "But Gordon, they don't KNOW any better. That's why they came to you." I kind of talk to the TV a lot.

Obviously though, many times they quite deserved it. Like the one horrifying episode when a chef had no clue that the scallops he was serving had turned and got thoroughly boxed about the ears verbally by Ramsay. The truth was many of these restaurant usually didn't have the faintest idea what the public they wanted to serve thought of them or why (as evidenced by when Ramsay would sometimes go about polling people in the neighborhood about the restaurants he set out to help). So his screaming and obscenities seemed to be a pressure cooker of sorts making up for years of not hearing or listenig to customer feedback.

On the contrary, I find Ramsay interesting because he's so refeshingly strict. Not that screaming and yelling alone is an awesome old school institution, but it's that sort of lack of gloss and feel goodness behind being serious about what you do.

Foodservice hasn't always been a glorified job to have. Some might argue it still isn't, and that there are just more visible "celebrity chefs." I have nothing against celebrity chefs, in fact I have the highest regard for cooking personalities such as Jacques Pepin and Julia Child, but what intrigues me about foodservice is the discipline of it all and how at the same time there's the stubborn existence of that seamy underbelly that never quite went away even with the efforts of Escoffier.

I think it was Anthony Bourdain likened the kitchen staff to pirates. While I agree, I liken it more to the French Foreign Legion. It's the perfect combination of those who know what they are doing and have trained for years and have worked their way up to where they are and are a machine of efficiency, but at the same time they're a ragtag crew who can and will get the job done no matter what the cost.

In the same way, Ramsay sort of embodies that, a guy from the projects who gets trained under a hardcore master and while he has learned to taste the minute difference between a good sauce and a bad one, that very same delicately trained tongue will curse up a storm and let you know that the sauce is fucking shit.

While the episode described in the piece where Ramsay is ripping cook Stuart Collins a new one, it might sound like frustrated abuse, but his tirade is accomplishing something twofold. In foodservice, consistency is key. Sure the food needs to taste good, but if you can't make the same good tasting dish every couple of minutes, let alone night after night, it doesn't matter how phenomenal it is this one time if it's utter crap the next. Not only is Ramsy trying to make sure Collins understands that the food must always be prepared a certain way, but he's also making sure Collins damn well doesn't forget about it. Also the kitchen is a hectic place, and if you can't consistently create a dish with a guy yelling at you, forget about being able to do it when the house is full and you have orders coming in left and right.

At the same time the piece isn't an apologist for Ramsay, since it also hints at darker sides of his temper. The author's physical description of Ramsay and the observation how this fit healthy man who does not smoke has such deep lines in his face must be a symptom of something else is an interesting note.

And quite honestly, the author points out, the man has pulled some dick moves in his life. For example, in this story pay attention to the story about what went down between him and Marco Pierre White. The author has paced this perfectly and it's a truly "Oooh, snap! No, he didn't!" moment in the story.

It was also pretty cool to see the behind-the-scenes reasoning as to what happened with the chef switches at his NYC restaurant when there was speculation going about as to how recovery from a bad review was usually handled by firing your chef. This story shows it's not that simple (though it kind of is too).

Who knows, maybe it was all an act for a writer that was shadowing him, but I think it's a story worth noting. It kept me entertained at least.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Beating '300' references to death

So after watching 300, I was enjoying a meal with a friend at Dinosaur BBQ. Thanks to the restaurant being ridiculously slow with getting my friend her meal, they doubled her order and also let us have free soda. We went with Boylan's Grape soda, a drink neither of us had tried before.

My friend: [taking a sip of soda] Huh, this is...good.


Monday, March 19, 2007

More moi Caprice

"Thieves Like Us"

"Riding in Cars With Girls"

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pianos, Feb 13 , 2007

I skipped on the St. Patrick's Day revelries. I never particularly enjoyed the crowds to begin with. Also, I paid my dues closing out the bar with some great boys from Dublin earlier this week so tonight would've been kind of unnecessary compared to that.

Thanks to a tip off from the guys of the Delorentos, I found myself at Pianos on the Lower East Side this past Tuesday. They fully won me over the last time I saw them play. Though their album is coming out on April 20, I figured I'd have to rely on music from Myspace while I figured out how to get a hold of copy. Also, I wanted to catch one more dose of live performance before they headed back to Ireland.

The lineup of bands playing that evening was an interesting mix. I was looking forward to hearing more of the first band moi Caprice. Not a new band, but new to me.

("Summerfool," moi Caprice)

("The Town, the City," moi Caprice)

The sound was a Scandanavian goosebumps inducing pop with a sprinkle of synth. Not goosebumps inducing in the Sigur Ros type of way, but a very specific airy sound that seemed to be the bastard child of The Cardigans and a-ha, and then you let that kid spend its formative years staying with their uncle The Smiths in Copenhagen. This was not a bad thing. In fact I'm <3-ing (Oh yes, I went there and turned that into a verb because that's the only way to describe it) "The Town, the City."

The second act was Cowmuddy from Philly. I really liked how "Bread and Butter" sounded and I enjoyed that the folk sound he had.

The third act was Powersolo and quite honestly I don't know what to think. They were fantastic and confusing all at the same time. It was basically rockabilly via Denmark with heavy influence from...Bud Light and Nascar.

("Juanito," Powersolo)

The singing dialect(?) was so distinct that you could practically smell the meth cook. It was almost as if they'd sat down in one of those contraptions from a Clockwork Orange and watched episodes of Hee Haw. While they were at it, the lead vocal got the special treat of watching a bunch of tapes featuring the talents Michael Winslow of Police Academy so that he could properly punctuate the songs with cat yowls, fart noises and what sounded like a souped up outboard motor in some sort of his own version of eefing or something. In other words, they were AWESOME. Also, their drummer looked like James Spader circa Stargate. Anyhow, definitely watch these guys live if you ever get the chance.

The Delorentos took the stage a little after 11 pm. I was surprised to learn later on that they had just arrived in New York on Wednesday of the previous week because their performance on Thursday was spot on. They definitely seemed to be having more fun with the show on Tuesday.

Interestingly, they had played Hard Working Class Heroes last year when I was in Dublin last year. I didn't get a chance to see them play, but they were recording their album at the Temple Bar Music Centre right across the street from Barnacles, the hostel I was staying at.

Nial: Did you by any chance hear a French horn while you were there?

Me: ???...Actually, now that I think about it I kind of do remember wondering...

Nial: That was me!! I was blowing the French horn out of the window!

Not only that but we had both been at the set The Star Department played for HWCH. I got a guitar pick from Justin of The Star Department only to find out later that it was his lucky pick. But that's another story that I managed not to tell when I got lazy with finishing up my travelogue.

We stayed at Pianos until they kicked us out. I got home at 5:30 on Wednesday morning, slept about an hour or two, and bounced off to work. The boys were great. Their friends were great. I simply want to thank them for the fabulous time that was had and I hope SXSW was good to them.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I repeat themes

I kind of run things into the ground when it comes to drawing stuff, so I get a bit redundant.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Irish (and one Glaswegian) music!

I made my way to the music portion of last night's Craic Fest festivities at Sin-E. While I was there to check out new music, I was also there to listen to Oppenheimer, who I last saw in November.

The line up was Michael Hargan, Noelie McDonnell, the Delorentos and Oppenheimer.

Anyhow, I'm now hooked on the fantastic-ness that is the Delorentos (Myspace here). Here's the video for 'The Basis of Everything,' but quite honestly I'm more taken with 'Any Other Way' at the moment (direct link to MP3 from their site here).

They're going to be out at of these days I'd like to go to SXSW. Hopefully, before I get too old to fully enjoy myself at events like that.

And while I'm talking about musicians from Ireland, a quick good-luck-slash-shout-out to Colin who'll be playing a gig in Belfast in the very near future.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Once again, I read too much Gawker

So on Friday I was found myself around Houston and Lafayette waiting for someone. As I stood there waiting, a gentleman in one of those highly popular, crazy-patterened hoodies with tight gray jeans walked past me excitedly yakking into his cellphone.

I thought to myself, "Wow, that looks a lot like The Other Guy from the MisShapes."

But because of his bright pink coif I decided, "Nah, it couldn't be. That would ruin the whole MisShapes' aesthetic..."

First of all, WTF? Why do I even care? How the hell did I become so goddamned aware of this that I'm actually having internal conversations with myself about the 'MisShapes' aesthetic'??"

I fucking blame Gawker. I'm serious. Dammit, what has become of me?

So I go to check out another exciting installment of Blue States Lose, and guess the fuck what? He does have pink hair now.

I don't know what I'm more gobsmacked about. The fact that I actually saw a MisShape in the wild or the horrifying fact that I can now pick them out even when they go and decide to change their look.