The fire that affected so many so quickly has been chronicled very well over the past few days. The ownership and staff at Blackbird, Heidi’s, and all the other businesses affected by the conflagration are in our thoughts and prayers. The sudden loss by fire is unusually efficient, livelihood is lost in a matter of moments, and for those who thought of these restaurants as homes away from home, the fires are also a reminder of how quickly life can take an extreme turn. Life is often fired at point blank range. For the immediate Blackbird and Heidi’s families, the reality of starting over is traumatic, the losses extreme. Once again, this is a reminder that the best way to pay homage to these restaurants in the months before they re-open in some manner either in their old locale or in new digs is to dine out more often, and enjoy the great restaurants of our cities. Dine frequently, tip well.
Last Thursday, Tony Bourdain and Eric Ripert debuted their new short-run episodic radio show on Sirius/XM. Turn and Burn was a great listen, and I clipped the following from grubstreet.com for those who missed it. If this doesn’t get you to listen, I don’t know what will. Highlights for me? A tie between the FRICKIN’ GENIUS Tao of Ruth segment and the fact that Mario, Eric, and Tony dubbed tongue and chitlins as the next big food thing. We have all been saying that for a long time, but I am thinking this might finally be the Year of the Tongue! And then there were the following gems.
On the closing of elBulli:
Batali: “They never ever make money. I don’t know how that works, because in a kitchen of 46 there were only three paid people.”? Bourdain: “When people look back on elBulli, it’s going to be like, well, you either saw Jimi Hendrix live or you didn’t I think Ferran just got tired of being Ferran Ferran always told me it was never a profitable venture for them. He said [he was losing] 500,000 euros per year Ferran told me that for six months of the year he was an artist, and for the other six months he was a prostitute.” ?Batali: “Maybe he just wants to live on the coast of Italy, like all the Italian movie stars do, eating linguine and clams.”
On the pinot noir wine scandal: ?
Batali: “Is it a crime to sell bad wine to Gallo? They’ve been selling bad wine for years.” Batali said that as punishment, the defrauders “should probably have to drink Gallo’s wine for 10 years,” but later backpedaled and said, “I actually like Gallo’s wines these days, they’re actually not bad.”
On Ruth Reichl:
?During a segment called “The Tao of Ruth,” Bourdain observed that “she’s living inside an M.F.K. Fisher novel” as he read her recent tweets over zen music. “What kind of life does this woman live? I don’t live a life anything like this, and I travel all over the world.”
On bone marrow:
?Bourdain: “If God made butter it would taste exactly like bone marrow.”
On selling out?:
Bourdain: “Before you opened Babbo you were anointed — you were adorable Mario from the Food Network. You could’ve opened up Mario’s Old Spaghetti Factory across America, serving overcooked spaghetti with tomato sauce ”? Ripert: “That was Rocco.”
On future food trends?:
Bourdain: “I’m thinking tongue is the next big thing, the next trendy food.”? Batali: “I’d like to see the lower fifth of the exit canal being something that’s interesting, in terms of chitterling or the dirty sausages that the French make.”
On Le Bernardin’s least popular item?:
Ripert: “Fresh sardines. They were not grilled but they were good seared skin-side down, super-crunchy and very rare, and we were serving them with a tomato sauce, actually. [Everyone laughs, because Ripert had previously said he only uses tomato sauce in staff meals.] We call it compote.”
On a cage match between Sandra Lee and Martha Stewart?:
Batali: “It’ll be a Sandra Lee Kwanzaa cake bloodbath. Sandra Lee would go down in a second.” ?Ripert: “I actually have a vision of Martha throwing a can of Campbell’s soup in her head and getting her down immediately.”
On the best thing they’ve eaten recently:
?Ripert: 80-pound spit-roasted lechon.? Bourdain, the uni and lardo sandwich at Marea, “You shove that into your face and your eyes just roll up into your skull and you want to black out.” ?Batali, woodcock, “the brain of which was served inside the brain itself, inside the head,” at London restaurant St. John.
On to other things. Il Gatto in Calhoun Square has some of the same clever advertising and marketing that its brethren (Salut and Chino Latino) do. There’s a billboard for Chino at Excelsior and 100 that says “here gatto gatto” promoting both the restaurant and providing a shout out to the new kid on the block. Well after last week’s news that the leading Italian food expert, writer, and TV host Beppe Bigazzi has been suspended indefinitely from his TV program for curiously recommending a cat stew to viewers, this billboard can be read two ways maybe three. You can watch the outrageousness for yourself right here.
According to HuffPo,Bigazzi's spectacle occurred on a recent episode of his midday show, La Prova del Cuoco ("The Proof of the Cook"), which appears on Italy's main public broadcasting channel, RAI. Said Bigazzi, as his co-host (and cat-owner) Elisa Isoardi nervously looked on, "I've eaten it myself and it's a lot better than many other animals. Better than chicken, rabbit, or pigeon... I've eaten its delicious white meat many times." Leading animal rights groups in Italy are predictably enraged. The Italian Animal Protection Agency has called for his firing, explaining, "anyone who goes on television to promote the taste of cat meat is guilty of instigating viewers to commit an act of cruelty to animals, a crime punishable by up to 18 months in prison." Italy's deputy health minister, Francesca Martini, decried Bigazzi's rant as well, saying it was "absolutely unheard of for a public service broadcaster to tell people how delicious cats are to eat" and "offensive to the growing number of people who care about the way we treat animals." She also noted that "cats are pets protected by law [against] cruelty, maltreatment, and abandonment." Bigazzi, previously the author of Cooking with Common Sense, has since explained that he was joking, although he indeed has enjoyed feasting on cat. "Mind you, I wasn't joking all that much. In the 1930s and 1940s, when I was a boy, people certainly did eat cat in the countryside around Arezzo," he explained.