Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Alice Waters Hate

So I'm in the process of retooling the purpose of HFF. Without having decided anything specific just yet, I think it's going to involve more frequent and much shorter posts, focusing on trying to give you quick breaking news or my short takes on events and articles in the food/wine/restaurant world. Fewer restaurant critiques, still some long-winded diatribes.

In the mean time, check out this commentary on one of the NPR blogs.

While I appreciate the author for taking Alice Waters' hegemony to task, I am disappointed that he so off-handedly dismisses the idea of local eating. In fact he conflates being a "locavore" with the real target of his contempt, California Cuisine. Locavorism is just eating food that is grown/produced within whatever arbitrary rule you decide (most say 90 miles) a reasonably noble objective. California Cuisine is about using the best local ingredients and preparing them simply. Simple to the point of dull. But there are plenty of restaurants doing weird, wacky, innovative things with food while still using local or regional ingredients.

Case in point, the fabulous lunch I had at Redd a while back definitely was not short on innovation and cross-cultural influences, but it was still made from largely local (or at least California/Pacific coast) ingredients. And of course French Laundry has built a global reputation on its cuisine produced largely from very local ingredients but drawing on diverse classic and modern influences for a wholly unique culinary experience.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

I've been blogging for a long-ass time. Here's something I dug up from my old blog when I was a student at UC Berkeley. Enjoy.

Monday, March 25, 2002

I swear, I need to get the fuck out of this town. Too much to do around the SAME GODDAMN PEOPLE EVERY DAY. I don't know what it is, but every 6 weeks or so I just get fed up with Berkeley and need to hit the road somewhere for a few days just to relax, unwind, and drink a whole fuckin' lot. I've never been more fed up with this town than I am now. I'm seriously annoyed, peaved, bordering on downright angry.

Just because I graduated in the top 5% of my high-school, scored pleasantly high on my SAT, am holding down a 3.7+ here at Cal, and hope to graduate with honors and go to grad school, doesn't mean I didn't take time to learn how to wipe my own ass.... To use hyperbole, of course. I'd like to think that I could get by if all of a sudden I was without a computer for a week, that I could cook my own food over an open fire that I started myself with maybe one match..... That I know not to walk in front of moving cars, or that at the very very least I can hold a conversation with a girl and not automatically think that she wants to jump my bones. Seriously though, there are some people at this school who couldn't do one or all of those things. There's something about prestigious academic institutions, where our future leaders are made, that bring out some of the most utterly ignorant and self-absorbed people in our fair state; whether they be student, faculty, administration, or staff. Or even city councilmembers.

Berkeley kids, by and large, lack something I call common sense, or even practical sense. I don't know whether that's because their parents sheltered them too much because they were "gifted" or because they just have no interest in worldly knowledge, but there are certain things that you'd expect college-age people to know. If the light is red and there is a car driving down the road at a pretty good speed, DON'T WALK IN FRONT OF THE CAR. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I wish people would stop protesting for a minute to learn how to change a flat tire or sew up a hole in one's pants.

My life is too complicated. Too much shit to do, too much shit that I own. I need to get a job where I live out of a suitcase; quantify my life into a couple of bags and just travel, maybe stay in a hotel here and there. That's the one thing I miss about my drum corps days, just getting on a bus for a week, sleeping on gym floors, nothing but one suitcase, a sleeping bag, mattress pad, and a bugle. Man that was great. Whenever I'm in Berkeley I'm a slave to the internet, to cable tv, to homework, to social life.... I'm not complaining, but it's just not streamlined....

Good news is after work tomorrow I'm going to head down to San Jose, catch the No Doubt concert with a friend of mine and the she and I are going to head down to San Luis Obispo/ Santa Barbara. Visit some friends, hit the beach if the weather's good, and just generally simplify. One suitcase, a sleeping bag, and a pillow.... Good times.

Catch you when I get back, fuckers. I should be in a better mood.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A sign of the times?

A big thanks to this report from the AP.

I now have a new hero. The man loves his shellfish.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is a recession slowing down the food blogs?

As a food blogger and a hospitality professional, I used to read a lot of food blogs. Now I don't, but I read "EaterLA" several times a day. It's sort of a meta-blog, offering pithy commentary on and links to interesting articles in newspapers, blogs, message boards. I read it to keep up on the openings and closings in the LA restaurant scene.

When I first started reading Eater, back in May, there were 4-6 postings a day. In the last few days it has gone down to 1-3. And 1-2 of those are typically "Board Watch" or a photo with a quick caption.

My theory is slowed economy=fewer openings=fewer things to write about. Though you think there'd be lots of closings to write about. (Un?)fortunately we're not there quite yet.

Actually, the real truth is that with layoffs happening at the drop of a hat, people are actually buckling down at work instead of reading and/or writing food blogs and message board posts during the work day. That's my guess.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Yelp! User Faces Lawsuit

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, an area Yelp! user is facing a lawsuit over his negative review.

He criticized a chiropractor over his billing practices calling him dishonest and alluding to insurance fraud. The chiropractor insisted that he was practicing standard medical billing procedures, claims he attempted to educate the Yelp! user and asked him to reconsider or change his review. The Yelp! user instead posted a second review accusing the chiropractor of manipulating his reviewers into giving him positive reviews.

Of course we all know that this lawsuit shouldn't exist because chiropractics shouldn't exist, but that's just one man's opinion.

I think the chiropractor faces a tough battle on this one, but at least he's attacking the principal Yelp! problem head-on: what liability does an individual have when he or she writes (or continues to have posted) VERIFIABLY FALSE information that can be shown to have a PROVABLY NEGATIVE effect on a business.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Yelp! Hate (again)

Here's a Yelp! review of a California business of my acquaintance. I've removed the name of the business:

Reviewed by XXXX X.

I don't even know where to begin. I guess the beginning.

I was running late and meeting some of my friends to shop at XXXXXX XXXXXX. They had been talking the place up and I was excited to get some new threads. Anyways, as I said, I was running late and my friends had already been shopping for awhile. I walked in alone and
immediately a woman working there gave me a look of fear and quickly closed the register. Then, she came over to me and asked me why I was there and if I had an "legitimate" business or if I was merely there to shop lift. I couldn't believe it. I guess XXXXXX XXXXXX doesn't want
business from a black man. I didn't know what to say. I tried to ignore the hateful comment and just walk over to my friends who were trying on hats. I kept walking into the store and the woman working register stepped in my path and tried to block me. Again, I tried to
ignore it and just get over to my friends but she pushed her arms out to stop me. When she shoved me, she lost balance and fell over screaming that I was responsible for shoving her. My friends shot me a look of "What's your problem, why would you shove a shop girl?" I tried to explain to my friends that she shoved me and merely lost her balance, but the shop girl told the complete opposite story and my friends didn't believe me.

Things have never been the same for me since I lost my social circle. I know it's not the shops fault that they employee a racist woman or that my friends were so fair weather. But I can never walk by XXXXXX XXXXXX without being reminded of the racism that still lingers behind the pretence of our equality.

And now commentary from the proprietor of the establishment:

some fake person put a review up for the XXXXXX XXXXXX that is totally
made up and false. you can tell by reading the review that it is false. there has never and would never be any type of incident like this at the XXXXXX XXXXXX. we run our business based on respect for
everyone and do not tolerate racism, sexism and homophobia and hate. we have NEVER had anything like this happen at the store. I need your help to flag this review based on slander and false accusations of racism and violence. it is interesting that the persons name or face
is anonymous. anyone who knows me and the store knows this is not true, but i fear that people reading this on YELP will believe it. I have tried to address yelp and they actually responded with flagging my review of my own store stating that " an owner of a store can't
write a review of their business" and suggested " i pay for a business account" where i can monitor my reviews. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?

Without getting into this too much, a couple comments:

1. Even if the complaint by the reviewer is true, where does Yelp! get off attempting to extort money from a business owner in response to their complaint?

2. Why does Yelp! operate under this pretense of unbiased reviews? The review of a business by the business' owner is not necessarily any less biased than any random reviewer who has it out for a business.

Keep on keepin' on with the Yelp! hate. Send me more evidence.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Wurstkuche - Los Angeles, Ca

I recently watched "Milk" and what I found most intriguing was that thirty years ago people had the decency to display their bigotry, homophobia, and hatred right out in the in the open instead of couching it in rhetoric about "preserving family" or "I love gays but..." Because let's be honest there are fewer bigots and homophobes now then in 1978, but the bigots and homophobes today are bigots and homophones for the exact same reasons as then: fear and ignorance.

Wurstkuche, in the downtown LA Arts District, is neither a bigot nor a homophobe, but it does have the decency to present itself in an honest way: we grill gourmet sausages, top them with a few things, and give you some french fries with dipping sauces. Simple, honest, elegant.

Had the pleasure of eating at Wurstkuche last week and it was freakin' great. As you walk through the windowless storefront of the converted warehouse and stand in line to order your sausage in the spare entry room you feel like you're back in east Berlin circa 1983. The friendly smiling staff and the somewhat bourgie prices are the only indicators that Stasi operatives probably aren't pouring your beers. Probably.

Wurstkuche sells a couple dozen varieties of sausages broken down into three price tiers including "classics" like brats and hot italians ($6), "gourmets" like mango jalapeno chicken and Filipino marharlica ($6.75), and Wurstkuche's big draw, the "exotics," featuring such originals as buffalo, beef, & pork with chipotle, alligator & hickory smoked pork, and rattlesnake & rabbit with jalapeno ($7.75).

All sausages come on a nice torpedo roll with your choice of two toppings (sweet peppers, hot peppers, caramelized onions, sauerkraut) and an array of mustards. My duck and bacon sausage with jalapeno (topped with onions and hot peppers) was stellar. Rich, flavorful, moist, and well-balanced. My only complaint was the ultra-thick casing that was a bit tough to bite through. Girlfriend Charlie's sun dried tomato & mozarella with smoked chicken & turkey sausage was also fabulous (with a similar complaint).

Your only other menu option are thick cut frites in two different sizes ($3.50 or $5.50), available with your choice of two dipping sauces from a menu of about a dozen (soon to be two dozen). Sauces include housemade ranch, walnut blue cheese, and chiptole ketchup, as well as white truffle oil for a $0.75 premium.

The fries were great, unlike any thick cut fry I've had. They were fully cooked yet still firm in the middle, crisp, and lightly caramelized on the outside.

Beverage wise you have a choice of a couple dozen German, Belgian, and domestic draughts, another dozen bottled beers, and a pretty freakin' cool selection of artisan soft drinks.

Sure two beers, two sausages, and a large frites will set you back about thirty bucks for two people, but you'll be a helluva happier doing that than dropping $80 on dinner for two at 95% of Los Angeles restaurants.

Wurstkuche's open 11AM-10PM every day, soon to stay open until 3AM on weekends.

800 E. 3rd St.
Los Angeles, Ca 90013