Tag Archives: New York Times

In Which I Allege Prime Meats Has No Clothes…Or is At Least Half-Naked…

I’ve been Yelping.

Mostly because I realized I have opinions about local restaurants and it’s silly not to share them…even though I remain terrified someone is going to call me out, a la the Lucky purse disaster on Consumerist. I guess this proves that despite all the book rejections that have come my way, I still haven’t developed very thick skin.

Nonetheless, I did a bold thing today: I posted a review of Prime Meats in which I alleged the restaurant is completely uninviting. Angry mobs may be assembling as we speak.

I’m not sure whether I’ll become a hard-core reviewer on Yelp — after all, there are so many places on the Internet where you can review things and provide your opinions…like, say, on Epicurious…and there just aren’t enough hours in the day to write it all.

But I also know a little cross-promotion can’t hurt…and am kind of proud of this review. There — I said it. (Which probably means it is terrible as that is usually the case whenever I like something I write.)

Nevertheless…for non-Yelpers, here’s my review:

I am going to make a bold statement. And I’m fairly certain it’s going to ruffle some feathers, but I’m going to say it anyway: I think, to a degree, Prime Meats — like the Emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale — has no clothes. Or it is at least half-naked.

The food is very good, to be sure. Prime Meats wouldn’t have garnered so much attention if that wasn’t the case.

I also think it was a bold move for the owners to focus on German cuisine – although perhaps therein lies their genius.

But somehow Prime Meats, despite its delicious food, doesn’t have the warm, inviting atmosphere of other restaurants of its caliber. That is not to say it is not aesthetically pleasing. But it is permeated by a sense of entitlement that belies the site’s humble history as a dry cleaning business.

On a recent weekday, one of the owners waltzed about with his French bulldog in hand with such an air of confidence, I wondered if he would actually get in trouble if a health inspector dropped by or if he could simply say, “Do you know who I am?” and get away with it.

I’ll repeat: The food is very, very good. You can get a fine steak here – and this is a neighborhood that cannot otherwise boast a good steakhouse.

But I think the fuss over this restaurant is partly psychological. In other words, I think part of the reason people rave about it is the same reason the head cheerleader and the quarterback of the football team are powerful in high school. It’s not necessarily because they’re good people…

Sam Sifton did an excellent job describing diners in his NYT review last May: “…brownstone bohemians, third novelists, people with Web sites, with good art at home.”

They are served by waiters in beards, skinny jeans and suspenders…or, as Sifton described them, “a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles.”

I am admittedly a struggling writer with a degree that has so far not justified its pricetag…and perhaps if I had landed a job at the New York Times or Conde Nast, I would feel more welcome here. But I don’t. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to think of a restaurant where I’ve felt so unwelcome.

I could perhaps understand if I was dressed inappropriately or was spewing profanities. But I wasn’t. I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And I live very close. I walk by virtually every day. And yet when I decided to drop by to take advantage of an oyster special and the restaurant was unoccupied with the exception of one other party, it took 15 minutes for our drinks to come and yet another 15 more for the oysters to appear.

“I’m sorry, but the oyster guy is backed up,” our waiter explained as the table next to us received their second platter of oysters and we checked our watches.

We were eventually served and, as noted, the food was good. But at no point did I feel my business was wanted or that I would ever be compelled to return…unless I was suffering from acute hubris and needed my ego cut down to size by a staff eager to imply that I wasn’t good enough to eat there.

It’s not just me. I’ve heard stories from neighbors who were deemed unfit to mingle with the clientele and who were encouraged to sit at the bar or move along.

Take Frank Bruni on Twitter, for example. On January 5, he wrote, “At Prime Meats last nite, didn’t think: I’m in BROOKLYN!”

In his defense, he went on to say, “Didn’t mull geography. Just ate well at super place. The borough has plenty.”

But, at the same time, a Brooklyn prejudice seems terribly outdated and pompous…and somehow completely fitting for this restaurant that calls the borough its home.

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What Makes a Banana Republic?

I’ll be perfectly honest: I wouldn’t have read this Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed if it wasn’t the Most-Emailed story on the Times’ site as of early Monday afternoon and I hadn’t thought, “Boy, what exactly *is* a banana republic?”

According to Wikipedia, it is “a term that refers to a politically unstable country dependent upon limited agriculture (e.g. bananas), and ruled by a small, self-elected, wealthy, and corrupt politico-economic clique.”

Granted, politics are not my territory — that’s T’s turf — but I wonder: Why would a quasi-upscale clothing retailer choose to named itself after this?

The answer lies on the Gap. Inc. (Banana Republic’s parent) website: In 1983, Gap Inc. acquired Banana Republic, “then a two-store safari and traveling company.”

This description makes it sound a lot like the J. Peterman Company, which I did not actually realize was a real thing until right this second.

So I guess “banana” is supposed to equal “travel and adventure” rather than “political instability.” And, heck, I’ve never really thought about it until now, so I can’t get self-righteous about it. I just think it’s interesting.

I also kinda like this Embroidered Velvet Blazer…and the accompanying description instantly makes me think of Elaine Benes:

On the moors.

Hair blowing in the wind.

Perfectly.

(Remember, no humidity in dreams.)

You were enrobed in a long, velvet blazer, walking, walking, seemingly lost, but not afraid.

Almost as if you were there for a purpose.

And then… on the horizon, your purpose.

On a silver steed your Lochinvar coming to rescue you.

Turns out you’re beautifully adorned for the Duke of Aston’s holiday party where you’ll dine on venison, plum pudding, mincemeat pie, and fine medieval wine. Embroidered Velvet Blazer (No. 2889) is made from pure cotton velvet. Silver embroidered leafy pattern subtly beckons. Further eye-catchers: peaked lapel, two-button front closure, modified princess seams at front and back. Slightly padded shoulders for shaping. Center back vent. Mid-thigh length. Enough grace to attend any event in any century.

Perfect for looking resplendent while walking Arthur, your Scottish Deer Hound. Or wearing it with leggings and just going to party. Imported.

Women’s sizes: 2 through 18.

Color: Garnet with Silver Embroidery.

Image via *clairity*/Flickr

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In Which I Underestimated McRib’s Cultural Relevance…

I thought liking the McRib in 1994 was my embarrassing childhood secret, but everyone on earth seems to be on the McRib bandwagon now.

McDonald’s has a “Legends of McRib” ad campaign in which, if I understand correctly, you can make up a back story for the McRib and potentially win a trip to Germany. Which makes perfect sense! (And part of me is actually tempted to enter. What the heck? That’s what less-than-full-time-employment is for, right?)

Speaking of which: Gothamist mentioned it in an ad for a job I want so badly I might actually die. (ZOMG, Gothamist, if I have to break out into Abba’s Take a Chance on Me like they do at the end of Mamma Mia!, I will.)

Former New York Times reporter and forever-cooler-than-you-because-her-middle-name-is-a-number writer Jenny 8. Lee said it is one of her five favorite foods.

Even Stephen Colbert had a McRib monologue.

Re: Colbert’s point on bones, presumably (or quite obviously) a satiric jab at mass food production: Yes, as noted before, it’s a little weird if you think about why it doesn’t have bones. But, at the same time, even nice places have boneless ribs! Case in point: Brooklyn BBQ/whiskey joint Char No. 4 has spare ribs on its menu that, as T would say, are “banging.” (In other words, I liked them.) Although, then again, they were not actually on the menu when I dined there (the dish was a nightly special) and so, together, the McRib and Char No. 4’s spare ribs may prove that boneless ribs the world over are a fleeting phenomenon…

Although, sadly, I was not as nuts about Char No. 4’s bacon-jalapeno cornbread as I thought I would be. The flaw was perhaps with the cornbread itself: Too dry. Although more bacon and/or jalapenos would have helped. (It did, however, inspire me to add bacon and/or jalapenos to *my* cornbread next time…

Image via McDonald’s. (Thanks.)

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Who Cares What Nation’s Restaurant News Thinks? Here’s My Top 10.

On the same day the New York Times wrote about Pop-Tarts World, the Huffington Post added this blurb from a Nation’s Restaurant News report on America’s favorite restaurant chains.

Cheesecake Factory topped the list. And while some of my favorite restaurant chains were on the list, they missed some good’uns. So…if I ruled the world (or at least Nation’s Restaurant News), the list would have looked like this:

10. Quiznos/Subway — I like toasted sandwiches and LOVE QUIZNOS’ CATS. I could also go for a sandwich from Subway with everything in it — even the peppers — just about any day of the week. But only if it has everything.

9. In-N-Out — While I think In-N-Out is somewhat overrated — YES, I JUST SAID THAT — it’s a classic burger joint and it does things right, which earns it a spot at #9.

8. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s — They clearly won me over with the ads featuring scantily clad Paris, Padma and Audrina + that French-talking mouth app. (Why, yes, I *did* write about it for ClickZ…)

7. Swensen’s — I have found memories of getting ice cream here as a child. Unfortunately, all I can remember is that it was good.

6. Coco’s — I used to go with my grandmother (who hid in a booth in a corner). I have fond memories of Coco’s southwestern melt (see? Told you I like toasted sandwiches….) and boysenberry pie.

5. Panera — This joint has one hell of a muffin…and was also the focal point of my first (…and admittedly only…) story in the Wall Street Journal.

4. Sizzler — A popular joint with my maternal grandmother. I loved the cheese toast and was once a bit of a smartass when the manager asked if everything was okay and ended up with an entire platter of it.

3. Baja Fresh — I perhaps love nothing more than Mexican food. And I think this place does a fine job. I don’t care if Wendy’s owns it.

2. Chevy’s — Annnd…I don’t care what Jonathan R. Duke says either. I love this place. Always have, always will. And I have the birthday sombreros in my closet to prove it. The cookbook proved to be a little overly complicated, but that’s just fine — gives me a more powerful excuse to go there in person.

1. Waffle House — I also have fond memories of the Waffle House, which I will forever associate with my brief stint in Mississippi and Georgia. Plus, their menu development team was genius — who doesn’t like saying, “Scattered, smothered, covered…”?

Image via Stevie Rocco/Flickr

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Pop-Tarts World Beckons…But Guess Who Still Hasn’t Gotten Frosted.

As thankful as I am to have new freelance gigs, blogging for CafeMom’s The Stir has not left me with a whole lotta energy to write about even *more* food topics here.

Plus, I may or may not be gainfully employed for a bit…making it even less likely that I will have the oomph to write about food (or food-ish topics) when I get home.

Thus, my blog has been neglected. (And after conning my friends into supporting me on Facebook no less. Sheesh.) Now it’s practically September…which means Labor Day and Back to School and Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and I AM ALMOST 30.

So. A lot on my mind…but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking of you, my dear blog/readers…

I read this story about Pop-Tarts World when it was published on August 8 (!) and I thought it would make a great blog post. In a perfect world, I would have visited the Times Square location by now and would have the inside scoop on Pop-Tarts sushi, vending machines that enable you to create your own variety packs and how you can get “frosted.” But, sadly, the best I can do is tell you that it exists. And that I think the idea is pretty great (…and I applaud the Pop-Tarts marketing team…)…even though I’d probably pick Pillsbury Toaster Strudel over Pop-Tarts any day of the week.

Image via oskay/Flickr

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Sam Sifton Says…

There are SO many good lines in Sam Sifton’s review of Prime Meats…which, conveniently, is *extremely* close to where I live:

  • “You can see these people standing on Court Street nightly, staring through the plate-glass windows at a dining room packed with brownstone bohemians, third novelists, people with Web sites, with good art at home. They look slightly pained, these visitors from afar wondering about the life choices they made that put them in Chelsea or Park Slope or Montclair, and not down here in Carroll Gardens, this little Italian village off New York Harbor where life is obviously perfect.”
  • “But forget to line your pockets in the manner of a Biggie Smalls impersonator and you’re going to need to leave your guests before the end of it all, and walk to a bodega A.T.M. to rustle up enough cash to pay your bill.”
  • “The staff is exceptionally well trained and efficient, a crew of handsome men and women dressed as if ready to ride horses back home to Bushwick, where they trap beaver and make their own candles.”
  • “And a meal in the restaurant proceeds with all the jollity and good manners of something scripted by Laura Ingalls Wilder and scored by the Grateful Dead.”
  • “Also: soft weisswurst like a hot dog from a parallel and slightly more enjoyable universe.”

I still haven’t eaten there. I met a guy at a local watering hole who bartended there for the summer (waiting for the Gowanus Yacht Club to open…and who apparently lives around the corner from me and knows my next-door neighbor, Rocco, who he called the “mayor” of our neighborhood…which is really pretty accurate…and *he* said he couldn’t stand to work there much longer because it was “full of people with ironic mustaches”).

Now perhaps it’s too late to get *in* — isn’t there a line in a movie to the effect of, “Go there before the Times ruins it with a good review!”? I want to say When Harry Met Sally or something? Or am I totally nuts? — although I do, as noted, live close enough to wander in any ol’ time…

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Roman Holiday

My latest Big Thought? Rome. I want to go to Rome.

It sounds like maybe Japan isn’t in the cards anymore…and I was happy as a little clam going all over creation last year. I’ve been in New York now for FOUR STRAIGHT MONTHS. It’s time to plan an escape.

And then yesterday, as I was finishing Frank Bruni’s Born Round (which isn’t about Rome outright…but there *is* a brief section on his tenure as the Rome Bureau Chief and he *does* hail from a large Italian family…), it hit me: I should go to Rome.

I really liked Bruni’s latest book — and not just because I once went to a party at the apartment he talks about in the final chapters. I totally get his relationship with food — from the late-night binges as a means of self-healing and escape to the cherished articles of clothing that allow you to hide your imperfections (my beloved cardigan was at the dry cleaner for four days and I almost died. And it didn’t help that I had a claim ticket that said it would be ready on Wednesday…and when I arrived on Wednesday to pick up aforementioned-blogged-about-beloved cardigan, the woman was on the phone forever and then gave me serious attitude — “This says Wednesday!” — which made me panic for a moment and think, “OhmygodisitTuesday?” but then I remembered that I had fake-gambled that morning for the first time that week, so it was definitely Wednesday and said as much and she said, “This means Wednesday NIGHT.” And so I waited another day…). And, I mean, Dude was the restaurant critic at Times, so I suppose he has a way with food words…but, man — his descriptions of meals in and around Rome seriously made me want to go (in some parallel universe in which I have unlimited cash and speak flawless Italian…[which reminds me of an old roommate’s friend from Rome who once taught me to say, “Stai fuori come una Jacuzzi in giardino!” which, if memory serves, translates to, “You’re out like a Jacuzzi in the garden!” and basically means, “You’re crazy!”]).

Missing Italy (and, frankly, Greece…and Ireland…and Norway…) is one of my big regrets from my two years in England. (But, at the same time, I was a poor student…so it’s not like I never got around to it…[again, it’s unfortunate we don’t live in that world in which I have lots of money and speak lots of languages]). And it’s crazy to think that’s been eight years since I’ve been back (which is all beginning to sound a lot like “New York, We Have to Talk,” isn’t it?)…

I’ve also heard a lot of talk lately about Eat, Pray, Love (once from a fake-gambler who vowed to punch the next middle-aged lady he sees on the train reading it…but also from a J-school colleague). And…gotta say: I was totally with Elizabeth Gilbert when she was in Italy. Gorging yourself on pasta and practicing Italian with a charming young man are two things that make absolute sense to me. (But, alas, I found I identified with her less and less as her journey went on…and, honestly, I thought she was kind of a jerk to the guru in Bali. I know he *expected* her to abandon him and move on…but, still…seemed a little mean to me to drop him like a bad habit as soon as she met the Old Guy…)

And…so, minus the Praying and the Loving, I wanna do it, too — I want to go to Italy and eat pasta and bread and cheese and gelato until I weigh twice as much as I did before. And I want to sit on the Spanish Steps. And I want to throw a coin in Trevi Fountain. And I want smarmy men with slick hair to tell me I’m beautiful even if they don’t mean it and I want to say, “Ciao!” and “Grazie!” and to ride on the back of a Vespa with Gregory Peck. And I want to marvel at old things.

So…perhaps the Big Birthday is a reasonable goal. What better way/place to usher in the next decade of my life than in the Eternal City?

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