Redeeming Fieri

A restaurant review of Guy Fieri’s newest concept in the New York Times has recently gone viral. The platinum blonde, husky host of Diner’s Drive ins and Dives is an easy target; he’s not known for subtlety nor for setting the world of gastronomy on fire. His concepts – much like his TV show “Diners Drive-ins and Dives” – are all about food that he would like to eat himself.

Fieri flingin' flava!

Fieri flingin’ flava!

In that regard, I can understand why a snooty food reviewer would be inclinded to fire off on all cylinders and write a hyperbolic review of a restaurant created to take advantage of Mr. Fieri’s Celebrity, especially when paired with the tourist trap appeal of Times Square. Reading the review, it became apparent that the only difference between this new outlet and other established American dining chains like Ruby Tuesday’s or Chili’s, is the fact that there is a Food Network Celebrity’s name attached to the sign out front.

I doubt he cooks there himself, and I’m fairly certain the recipes were developed by an underling and approved by at a tasting session by a group of Bluetooth-equipped suits. Mr. Fieri is all about marketing the concept. So, with that being the context, one wonders if the restaurant even merited a review in the first place? Certainly the review was a pointed and at times personal attack, and reading between the lines, it seems the men and women on the ground – the people actually preparing the food – were the ones at fault.

Yet the piece became extremely popular; even to merit a response by Guy himself who explained that the staff may require retraining – while at the same time reaffirming faith in the concept. The sensationalist piece spawned another article as to whether or not a negative review actually affects customer’s willingness to try out the restaurant. Interestingly, it did not, and even encouraged some people to try it to see how bad it really was. Sort of like watching a train wreck – we know we shouldn’t gawk, but we can’t look away either. This review probably did Guy Fieri a big favor by putting the spotlight on a new restaurant, and perhaps even opened a few doors for high profile appearances at the location.

In this light, I can’t help but be on Guy’s side: the plucky Food Network Star standing on the event horizon of a New York Times Black hole review. And honestly even if the food was as advertised, was he going to get a 4 star review? I certainly wouldn’t have given 4 stars, no matter how much I enjoyed the food; but I’m prejudiced and I’ll admit it. The New York Times should admit it, too.

Contrast that review with another, decidedly negative review of a Neuro-Gastronomy restaurant in New York. Yes! This is what food writing is all about. There was no hyperbole in the review: just brass tacks. It reads like a cautionary tale of culinary snobbery, pretentiousness and blindness. That’s a review I can take seriously; I would no more go to that restaurant than have dinner at a “lights out” restaurant. But while both reviews document restaurants that are – at their core – gimmicks; one has a gimmick we can appreciate, while the other is made at our expense.

There is a lesson to be learned here. The restaurant industry is not an easy one, and it doesn’t get easier at the top. Restaurateurs and Executive Chefs may not slave away in front of an army of saucepans; but the job trades one set of physical burns for another set of emotional ones. The emotional ones tend to be more expensive to heal.

Percolated, 35 Minutes.

The Pop Up: Chef

It seems like I’ve been talking about this project everywhere except on my own website. I blame twitter because there is instant feedback and the pressure to write a particularly interesting post dissolves when you’re faced with 140 characters. I’m sure there’s an observation to be made about decreasing attention spans or the power of haiku styled tweets; but let’s be honest and say it: I’ve been lazy busy.

The story of the Pop up and it’s progression has been documented in a number of online and print publications, as well as on my twitter feed or the Pop-up facebook page. Please excuse the cellphone pictures of the food; my photographer friend has been too busy walking the spanish countryside.

I’ve aggregated the full list of links below; If you haven’t seen these yet, please take a look and leave a quick message about how I’ve changed your life and given your palate a purpose to keep on living.

Chef’s Table listing on Guestaurant

Big Bang Theory by David Blanks, Daily News Egypt [Review]

A Victorious Concept by Sarah Khanna, Egypt Monocle [Review]

Sit at the table of a Top Chef by Dalia Ferrer, Ahram Online [Interview]

Pulling the Strings by Wesam Masoud, Egypt Monocle [Opinion]

5 minutes, nuked.

 

Internet Trolling: Grab Bag edition!

I do a fair bit of web surfing. I ride the big waves like the New York Times or Chowhound, and occaisonally find myself in the backwaters of I-am-bored.com or 4chan. Othertimes, I’m taken by my browser to darker, more disturbing waters – where Lara Croft has an affinity for multiple appendages. I;m then reminded of Rule 34 of the internet.

So on these surfing trips, I came across a few humorous and interesting pages I liked so much, I took time out of my super busy schedule writing recipes for a new Gastropub and wrote this post. For you.

Now don’t you feel special?

Going Out To Dinner With Food-Loving Friend A Huge Ordeal I’m not like that; but I can be if I’m out to dinner with another foodie. Then it’s just a masochistic gripefest.

The Pasta Naming game: I got 5 wrong. Don’t tell anyone.

The Ancient Egyptians invented pie crusts. Score another one for Egyptian Food History!

17 Best Picture Food Scenes: Kinda reads like an advertisement for the DVDs, but these list 17 scenes from 17 Oscar winning Best Pictures. Kinda pointless, really.Shouldn’t have linked it; but I wrote this line already.

How Panko is really made: Electrocuted bread. That’s how they do it in factories, anyway. and a coarse grain. This video will demystify the panko and should give you an idea of how you can make a viable substitute at home. Clue: High hydration, hi salt, hi yeast slow cooked dough. (Note to self – NHCIA test kitchen episode!)

Cooking Time: 3 minutes.

Midnight Snackbox: Thomas Keller’s Spanglish Sandwich

Strange things happen when I’m sick with the flu. It happens a bit too often (according to the Bouch) but when it does I can take advantage of my stress free and congested sick day to play around in my home kitchen. Plus I get the munchies something awful when I’m sick.

If you haven’t seen the movie Spanglish starring Adam Sandler, then you aren’t missing much in the way of cinematic excellence. What you are missing, is arguably the world’s greatest sandwich designed by arguably the greatest American chef Thomas Keller. He consulted on the movie – Adam Sandler plays a successful chef – and created a simple yet mind-blowing sandwich everyone with a full set of teeth needs to try.

The video of Mr Keller teaching Mr Sandler, with recipe, is here.

I’ve been making this sandwich myself quite often these past few days; mainly for 1 reason: I have in my possession a package of smoked streaky beef bacon from EgySwiss. The same beef bacon we use over at Top Dawgs. While it’s not as fatty as I would like (Oscar Meyer turkey bacon from La Fromagerie is still a superior albeit more expensive product) a few experiments allowed me to get around the lamentable lack of fats. What’s wrong with no fat? Well 2 things: First, fat is flavor, so there’s that. and #2, the beef bacon dries up too quickly. As it stands now, the packaged bacon is sliced too thinly – a thicker cut may yield a better cooked product. But the flavor is pretty damn good.

The solution is to shallow fry the bacon in some foaming butter over a medium heat. after flipping once, I lay them out on a rack and allow them to crisp up in a 140C oven till I get the rest of the ingredients ready.

Other notable departures from Chef Keller’s recipe were the omission of the cheese and the lettuce – I’m not usually a fan of cheese on my sandwiches (personal preference) and I had no lettuce. I did add caramelized onions and Dijon mustard to provide a bit more kick to the entire affair. It’s important to remember that the key is a runny egg yolk – overeasy eggs need not apply.

This is what I ended up eating in 30 seconds.

Now I realize that most of you won’t be getting your hands on EgySwiss’ Beef Bacon any tme soon since their not available for commercial retail. But that doesn’t mean there is no hope – EgySwiss also has a very good smoked duck breast, which when sliced thinly and fried up in butter will hit the same flavor notes, just not the same textural ones. You could even go native and use Al Marai Bastirma (or other low garlic bastirma) and make yourself a posh Egg and Bastirma sandwich.

You’re welcome.

Cooking Time 10 minutes.

Internet Trolling: Happy Beefgiving Day!

What the hell is beefgiving day anyway?

In true Aussie fashion – where babies are eaten by dingos (sorry bout ya baby) and its considered normal to walk upright on the bottom of the earth – Meat and Livestock Australia have concocted Beefgiving day to encourage consumers to think of beef when they take their barbies out in the hot sun this summer.

Beefgiving day, it would seem, is a day to bring together adversaries over the pleasures of the seared flesh. It is in this spirit that a video has been created by a company called Kindling Media to show two Australian politicians coming together over beef cooked in a flying kitchen over the Australian parliament house in Canberra. I wonder if the Aussies are aware that to “have beef” with someone means to “have or start agrudge against another person” – this makes the concept of the video incongruous to the little 2Pac in all of us.

Here in Egypt, Australian Beef is routinely touted as the best money can buy, with Gourmet Egypt cornering the market on upside down cattle through their mother company, AM Foods. Australian Beef is on offer at almost every 4 or 5 star hotel in Egypt, as well as a few well regarded Cairo restaurants. For flavor and consistency in quality, it stands above most other options; but being the Red, White and Black blooded Egyptian that I am, I’d prefer to see more use of Egyptian cattle at these restaurants.

We can’t expect the Egyptian Food Service Industry to recover, let alone grow, if we keep importing foreign (and faraway) ingredients while our own locally produced pantry is ignored and slighted. Keeping local means keeping costs down. And if local Egyptian producers aren’t cutting the mustard (‘scuse pun); then w should work with them and demand a better product. Eventually we’ll get there, and on the way, we just might give this industry the boost it needs.

Poached, 10 minutes

Internet Trolling: NYT on “Mindful Eating”

The New York Times today has an interesting piece about focusing on the texture and flavor of foods has its roots in Buddhism and it’s myriad benefits, both psychological and physiological.

“The concept has roots in Buddhist teachings. Just as there are forms of meditation that involve sitting, breathing, standing and walking, many Buddhist teachers encourage their students to meditate with food, expanding consciousness by paying close attention to the sensation and purpose of each morsel. In one common exercise, a student is given three raisins, or a tangerine, to spend 10 or 20 minutes gazing at, musing on, holding and patiently masticating. “

Porn groove soundtrack  is completely optional.

Cooking Time: Boom Chica Wow!

Up in the Air

Skyscanner.net, a travel website, often have these interesting polls going on all the time – one such poll “The best inflight airline food” has yielded interesting results.

Cheggit. 45 seconds

 

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