February 2007 Archives
...a preview entry from The Food Snob’s Dictionary, to be published this fall by Broadway Books.
Newtown Pippin. Homely, tart, green-skinned HEIRLOOM apple variety native to the Long Island section of New York State. An ideal apple for baking and cider-making, the Newtown Pippin is also upheld by righteous SLOW FOOD people as one of the historical gems that was nearly rendered extinct by the evil, Frankenfruit-favoring hybridizers of agribusiness. If you care about good fruit–if you’re a feeling, compassionate human being–you’ll join us in our efforts to help reestablish the Newtown Pippin.
(The CAPPED words indicate a cross reference to another term in the dictionary. More such preview entries to come.)
The Chinese New Year’s Menu at Chinatown Brasserie, the non-Chinese-owned restaurant that nevertheless has the best dim sum in Manhattan, offers a dish called Prosperity Branzino. Isn’t that the name of that ingenue Jersey girl on American Idol?
In today’s (2/21/07) New York Times are two compellingly disparate uses of that expensive, attention-grabbing PR stratagem: the epistolary full-page ad in a national newspaper. In the “A” section, JetBlue CEO David Neeleman flagellates himself for the air carrier’s operational meltdown and grovels for forgiveness; in the Dining section, a restaurateur named Jeffrey Chodorow all but asks for the firing of the paper’s restaurant critic, Frank Bruni, on the grounds that A) Bruni gave Chodorow’s latest venture, Kobe Club, a bad review; and B) Bruni is “not really [a] food critic,” given that he previously worked as a political reporter and has no culinary background.
In the annals of full-page epistolary Times ads–I’m a collector–Chodorow’s is not as spectacularly ill-considered as the one that Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford took out in 1994 to affirm their heterosexuality. Nor is it as cluttered with nutjob typography (like a Dr. Bronner’s Soap label) as this guy’s, or as the ones that Steve Allen took out in the 1990s to lament the hell-in-a-handbasket trajectory of American pop culture. But Chodorow’s ad still has the effect of engendering precisely the opposite response that its writer/purchaser desires. Rather than making me feel for the guy (whose restaurants I’ve never visited, so I have no opinion of them), the ad makes me want to stay far, far away from Kobe Club and all other points in the Chodorow empire; its author comes off as a bitter, vengeful megalomaniac. Which, call me crazy, isn’t the best personality profile for someone in the hospitality business.
Neeleman’s letter-ad (a version of which appears here) is something else altogether, an extraordinary document. We’ve all seen corporate apologia after a product recall or an E. coli scare, but I can’t remember another instance of a CEO being so authentically wracked with remorse. The despairing tropes pile up, one after another: “We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry... Words cannot express how truly sorry we are... We know we failed to deliver... You deserved better–a lot better–from us last week and we let you down.” No misguided upbeat chirp-speak, no legalese qualifiers, no buck-passing to underlings. Neeleman is the anti-Cheney.
So I accept his apology. Yes, readers, I am a survivor of last week’s JetBlue Terminal Six Apocalypse. I shall take Neeleman at his word and fly JetBlue again. But not with any takeout from Kobe Club.
The image above comes from the video for the song “Kingdom of Doom,” off The Good, the Bad and the Queen, the lovely collaboration between Damon Albarn of Blur, and, among others, Paul Simonon, the former bassist of the Clash. I’ve long held Simonon in high esteem as a musician, a painter, and one of the most stylish men on the planet. Now, thanks to this video, in which the band prepares a typical English fry-up, I know he has solid knife technique as well.
New York magazine’s newish but already very accomplished food blog, Grub Street, invited me to contribute a list of five great reads about food and dining in New York City. I obliged them, and in so doing continued what the young people would call the “viral campaign” for my book.
You might have heard about John Amaechi, the former NBA center who just became the first pro basketball player, active or retired, to identify himself as gay. The situation is very evocative–alas–of Dave Kopay’s. Kopay was the first pro football player to come out, way back in 1975. I profiled him for GQ in 1998. Like Amaechi, he was a journeyman, not a star, and his career was already over when he disclosed his sexuality. Even so, it was a big deal for Kopay to come out, a much bigger moment than any he’d ever experienced in his playing days.
I admire Amaechi and Kopay for their steel spines and fortitude, but it’s troubling that even in our putatively more gay-friendly era, Amaechi is still eliciting the kinds of responses from his former league-mates that Kopay got in the mid-’70s. LeBron James’s comments are especially disappointing. I’m inclined to like James, whose precocity, grown-up appearance, and game belie his 22 years. But in this instance, he sounds more like a callow, unenlightened high-school jock. Reacting to the news that Amaechi spent his career in the closet, James said, “With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you’re gay and you’re not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy... It’s a trust factor, honestly. A big trust factor.”
Were LeBron to read about what Dave Kopay went through (I’ve just posted the article), he’d see that a gay athlete has many reasons to fear that he can’t trust his teammates.
...it’s probably because there have been some technical problems with this site over the last couple of weeks. Pretty much anything sent to me at the david (at) davidkamp dot com address since mid-January was obliterated and not seen by me. So, my apologies, and if you’re one of those former Chez Panisse employees from the ’70s writing to tell me that, man, my book didn’t get the half of it (I get, like, two of those a week), the system is up and running again. Feel free to re-send.
For those of you in the New York area who have an hour to spare at midday on Wednesday, February 7, I’m discussing The United States of Arugula at James Beard House, as part of their Beard on Books series. You can call 212-627-2308 to reserve a seat. The newsletter I received says, “Illy caffé and Acqua Panna and Perrier waters will be served. Guests are also welcome to bring a brown bag lunch.” Brown-bagging it in Beard’s own house! What would the Dean of American Gastronomy™ have had to say about that? Maybe I’ll pull a Bono and order pizza for everyone.*
* POSTSCRIPT: Actually, I decided that pizza would be too pedestrian a gesture, so instead I brought sandwiches from Murray's Cheese on Bleecker Street. And, in Beard House’s defense, they enlisted a chef, Ken Goodman of the Art Institute of New York City, to prepare a thematically appropriate and delicious snack, grilled beef tenderloin with arugula pesto on water crackers.