December 2006 Archives
Actually, 2007 will see me segueing away from being Mr. Food Book and getting back into being more of a generalist writer person, considering subjects from Canadian water sports to medieval home remedies that you can try on your children. But lo, there’s still some shameless product-pitching to be done: On January 10, I will be the patsy author wheeled out to be abused by Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report. And there will be a few more United States of Arugula-related appearances, which I’ll keep you abreast of.
Meanwhile, in other news, Frank Bruni of The New York Times talked to me (and some other white people) about food trends for the final 2006 installment of his blog.
And seriously, Ed Levine’s Serious Eats web site has finally launched! I like Ed, who has come to be known as one of America’s leading authorities on cheap eats. For some reason, he reminds me of Burt Bacharach. Ed looks nothing like Bacharach, who I’ve interviewed twice, but he’s got that same omnipresent smile, slightly scratchy voice, and contagious joie de vivre. (And his musical compositions are gorgeously unorthodox in structure, veering from 6/8 in the verses to 5/4 in the bridge; wait, no, that’s Bacharach.) Ed had been intimating for a while that he was going to launch an online food network, complete with blogs, original video content, and fresh reportage, and Serious Eats, though still only in its trial phase, looks like it’ll be, like Ed, lots of fun and not exclusionary like those more psycho foodist web sites out there.
As John Lennon was fond of saying, have a Happy Chrimble and a gear New Year.
What with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation having become a motion picture and Ruth Reichl’s Garlic & Sapphires apparently headed for the big screen, it was only a matter of time before this year’s bumper crop of food-related books started getting optioned for film, TV, and stage adaptations.
I hear that Bill Buford’s Heat is being developed into a comedy-thriller pilot for Fox in which David Koechner (The Office, Talladega Nights) will play Buford to Donal Logue’s Mario Batali. Together, “Buford” and “Batali” will not only crack wise in the kitchen but use their knife skills and highly developed palates to fight crime, vigilante-style! I can’t wait.
Sam Raimi (the Spider-Man movies) has optioned Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table with the idea of transforming it into a horror flick called Setting the Table... for Death. In Raimi’s treatment, the “Meyer” character is a charismatic yet psychotic restaurateur who systematically murders every critic who has slighted him. James Naughton is attached.
And Broadway legend Jim Dale (Barnum) will bring merry life to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Musical, which its producers, Fran and Barry Weissler, hope to bring to the Great White Way by autumn 2008. Dale will play Pollan, genially introducing–through song and dance–a series of vignettes about food sourcing and sustainability. Elizabeth Swados has been tapped to adapt and direct.
No nibbles yet re: The United States of Arugula, but I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
Legal disclaimer: This entire post is a load of bollocks.
I’m flabbergasted and grateful that The United States of Arugula has made some prestigious year-end lists, such as the New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of the Year and the School Library Journal’s Best Nonfiction Books of 2006. But there has been no greater honor than being named one of Pearl’s Picks–so named for the King County (Washington State) celebrity librarian Nancy Pearl, whose action figure is the best-selling librarian action figure ever! I’d shout out my thanks to Nancy, but she’d shush me.
Had an eventful week right after Thanksgiving, with a “conversation” in a New York auditorium with Mario Batali and a “conversation” in a San Francisco book store two nights later with Clark Wolf. I use the scare quotes to denote that these were not authentically natural, intimate, free-flowing conversations, but public, occasionally shticky discussions about food and my book. (Mario and I joked that we were ex-lovers; afterwards, privately, we wondered if someone would blog about this. Sure enough, someone did.)
But this isn’t to say that these talks were canned. Mario surprised me when I asked him about his countrywide aspirations. I noted that for years, even as he expanded his restaurant portfolio, he’d never opened a place outside of New York City (and barely even outside of his own Greenwich Village), and now, all of a sudden, he’s partners with Nancy Silverton in a new L.A. restaurant called Mozza and has two restaurants on the way at the Venetian in Las Vegas. It appeared to me that Mario was heading down the Puck-Colicchio-Vongerichten path of trying to build a multi-city empire, with all that that entails: weekly jet flight; struggles to maintain quality control; wracked, pensive, solitary scenes of emotional despondency on luxury-hotel balconies, asking oneself, “What have I done?” while a wedding party obliviously makes merry twelve stories below.
Rather reassuringly, however, Mario told me he really intends to remain a New York guy, and that this is as far-flung as his empire is going to get. The L.A. place, Mario said, came about only because he holds Silverton in such high regard and liked the idea of combining their talents. He would never have otherwise invested in the city, he says, since its citizenry tends to eat early and go home early–unlike New York’s, which is sufficiently diverse in its dining habits that his restaurants can reliably pack in three seatings a night. Vegas, Mario said, is the only city outside of New York in which it makes economic sense for him to have a restaurant, because it, too, can fill three seatings; its spend-mad vacationers will dine at all hours, so it’s a good investment. I have to admit I’m relieved that Mario won’t be doing a Babbo in Singapore and an Otto in Orlando.
As for the San Francisco bookchat at the lovely Book Passage store, all I can say is, Bay Area foodies live up to their billing. Clark Wolf happened to bring up the subject of the Paris Tasting, a notorious (to wine people) 1976 blind taste test by snooty French judges that put California wines on the map. I interrupted Clark, thinking/saying “Whoa, but are people here going to understand what that is, the Paris Tasting?” The audience, as one, gestured to me that of course they know what the Paris Tasting is, who doesn’t? Wow, San Francisco foodies. I shall never again doubt you.