The Bruni Digest

In which I sit on a dirt mound somewhere in Brooklyn with my ears pricked, waiting for New York Times head restaurant critic Frank Bruni, who I imagine to be a Venetian count in a huge ruffled collar, to dole out stars from the inside breast pocket of his brocaded chamber robe. This blog is predicated on the suggestion that every Wednesday, in the Times Dining Out section, Frank lays a huge faberge egg of hilarity.

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Location: New York, New York, U.S. Outlying Islands

I am fiscally irresponsible, which means I have weak bones and a dorsal fin. And a penchant for dining out, even though I am, in the words of many rich people, a "poor people". I make a different face when speaking each of the foreign languages in which I am shittily proficient.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Robert's at the Penthouse Club: Frank takes a seat on Mahogany

Well, I should probably call my dirty uncle Earl and tell him it’s time to whip out that “eunuch in a whorehouse” joke: Frank Bruni finally made it to the Penthouse Executive Club.

Uncle Earl can be a real liability, even sobered up and strapped into a supportive braziere.

Never in the history of critics has there been a man so in love with sexual metaphors for meat as Frank Bruni—well, sexual metaphors for anything really—

Typical Frank: “The baby clutched the hard, glistening wooden shaft and tickled the head tenderly…” P.S., it’s gonna get so much filthier, so relax.

But yesterday’s review of Robert’s at the Penthouse Club broke some kind of superfluous-sex sound-barrier, screeching through the skies of the restaurant world with everyone on the ground pointing up at Frank in disbelief. Especially following the Kobe club/ Chodortard debacle, it’s interesting to see the man courting further scandal, or at least attention. It's as if, following a dirty fight in the middle of the schoolyard, he got up, walked away calmly, and then bent over and yanked down his Italian hand-tailored trouserpants to bare some victorious ass.

For those who want a similar effect without the drafty chill on their cheeks.

Frank opens: “IT may be laughable when someone says he gets Penthouse magazine for the articles. It’s no joke when I say I went to the Penthouse Executive Club for the steaks.”

This week anyway, it might be laughable when someone says he gets the Dining Times for the articles. Any illiterate hobo would enjoy the many stripper photos:

Times caption: “SHE NEEDS A STEAK…OR A SWEATER.” Couldn’t have done a better caption myself. Although I could try:

“Hi, I’m an asshole!”

For the first time since Horatius Pittenfarthing reviewed Big Edna's House of Both Ill-Repute and Chicken for the Times in 1896, a restaurant review actually came with a slideshow of exotic dancers:

Frank's commentary: “They whirl and gyrate and toss their heads around so violently that you wonder: is stripping-related whiplash covered by workman's comp?”

Yeah, when a lady takes off a fake policeman suit item-by-item and then polishes the length of an aluminum pole with her bush, you tend to wonder about the labor conditions stipulated in her contract.

These guys are wondering if “Chesapeake” has gotten her W-2 yet. Also whether she will let them touch her yams for free. Actually, the guy on the left just remembered it’s his wife’s birthday and the guy on the right is laughing because his pants are secretly off.

But the slideshow gives away the joke of the whole review: Frank and his "companions" are, in his words, “strangers to such pulchritudinous territory, less susceptible to the scenery than other men might be, more aroused by the side dishes than the sideshow.”

Wait a minute. Wai-wai-wai-waiiiiiiit a minute— Frank is less susceptible to the scenery? What’s he saying? He doesn't pitch a tent for gorgeous women humping banisters? IS FRANK BRUNI BLIND?

"The decor in the dining room... sounded... very beautiful..."

No, he's not blind. If you listen closely, you’ll see that he’s telling you something more personal, something that I’ve never explicitly addressed--

I’m just here to sit really unlady-like, smoke Pall Mall 100’s and make dirty jokes.

But since he's making it the central joke of his review, I think it's fair to point out that Frank is telling us he's gay.

Frank is gay.





Gay, gloriously gloriously




Fine. One more.


Man, I feel like I just came out of the closet. So liberating.

But does Frank simply pout, ignoring the titties and burrowing in his porterhouse? No. The man bucks up and does his Times-given duty of enjoying the ladies, mostly in conversation:

“A beautiful woman claimed the plush armchair opposite mine. She introduced
herself. I wasn’t sure I’d heard her name correctly.
‘Mahogany?’ I said.
‘Yes,’ she purred.
...‘Mahogany,’ I asked, ‘do you know where you’re going to?’
She didn’t miss a beat, noting the
reference, summoning the singer, and moving on to another of the dreamgirl’s
hits. ‘I’m ... coming ... out!’ she sang, waving her arms, wiggling her hips.
Mahogany and I would get along just fine.”

About 80% of the review consists of priceless interactions like this, Frank dodging the come-ons of women named after shades of Sherwin-Williams deck stain, indulging them the way a hospice worker indulges a mildly deranged old person:

"I've got to be at the Folies Bergeres in twenty minutes to meet President Wilson! I'm going to eat this dustpan first, as soon as I find m' teeth!"
"Of course you are, Mrs. Prendergast."

As if to tantalize and frustrate the straight men out there, he repeatedly turns down sexy propositions, never quite takes advantage of his enviable combination of an endless expense account and the ostensible professional excuse to have his ears boxed by a pair of coconut-oiled stripper's tits:

“She said she was running low on cabernet. I took the cue and asked if I could buy her a fresh glass.

‘Yes,’ she said. ‘And you can pour it on my toes.’

Didn’t happen. And when one of her sorority sisters sidled up to us to pose a question not commonly uttered in fine-dining establishments — ‘Is there anyone I can get naked for?’ — the response was silence.”

And a thousand teenage boys said "DOH!"

For those nights when you just want to take grandma somewhere after church for a nice cut of meat, Frank reassures you that the naked ladies will “vanish quickly if shooed away.”

After all, grandma has made it pretty clear she enjoys the love of a gay gigolo far more than that of a female stripper. "It reminds me of my youth in Palermo" she screams, as she jams four figs and a tupperware full of her best gravy into his banana hammock.

Although prices, “pumped up to reflect the entertainment on hand, might also be called topless,” (groan) the steak bests competition from heavy's like Luger's, thanks to chef Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May's. Hence the count's one-star award.

As for the rest of the food, the "onion rings are fat and crunchy, and cream and bacon turn a side of brussels sprouts into something naughty."

It's funny, all it took was a little cream and bacon, and they spun those sprouts right into a grade-A, superfilthy butt-flossing dickmitt. EAT YOUR HEART OUT, ROBUCHON!!

But it gets naughtier: "It’s called a buttery nipple, and it involves one of the women straddling your lap, tilting your head back, pouring a combination of Baileys Irish Cream and butterscotch schnapps down your throat, and squirting Reddi-wip into your mouth. It costs $20 in cash. Note to the newspaper’s expense auditors: I don’t have a receipt."

You know, it's funny, there are a bunch of things Frank didn't get a receipt for this week:

I've cited about 1% of Frank's gay-among-the-babes hilarity; it must be read in its entirety to be fully appreciated. But the last third of the review is just extended conversation, covering everything from education to cell phone choice, between unaroused Frank and some braindead hotties in their birthday suits:

"'Foxy, I began, then stopped myself, wondering if I was being too familiar. 'Are you and I on a first-name basis, or should I address you as Ms. Foxy?'
'You can call me Dr. Foxy, she said.
'Is that an M.D. or a Ph.D.?'
'Yes,' she answered."

I think Foxy speaks for all of us. I for one, am completely confused, totally exhausted, and a little creeped out. I'd like you all to know that this post required me to do a lot of disgusting image searching, and I've seen more Ukranian pooter in the past few hours than the Planned Parenthood in downtown Kiev. It's time to just sit down, throw some ice down the back of my neck and stare at the least sexiest thing of all time:

Yyyyyyyup, thanks, Al, that'll do.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Waverly Inn: Ye Have Lost Ye Mind

Ok I’ll admit that I’ve been in a vegetable state for the past few weeks…

… but like a 102-year-old in a nursing home who can still pop one for Barker’s Babes, when Frank goes as nuts as he did this week I get out of my wheelchair with a tent in my dockers screaming “I still got it in me! I still got it!”

Yes, it’s Free Bar of Gold Day for Frank Bruni satirizers and, I would argue, for Graydon Carter, whose Waverly Inn got it pretty easy from the Count. And by easy I mean completely crazy.

But before addressing Lady Huffypussy’s email correspondence (just wait) let’s pause briefly to salute Frank’s Critic’s Notebook complaint about being made to kow-tow before the city’s luminary chefs. The article included probably the funniest image ever cobbled together in Times Dining:

Oh, except for this one back in 1993, when someone was just having fun with Clarisworks:

Oh the heady early days of photoshopping. My what fun they had.

Anyway, for his review this week of Graydon Carter’s clubhouse Waverly Inn, Frank took a nom de plume, writing, in email format, as:

"Frannie Von Furstinshow," writing from the email account ">"

Glossing completely over how disgusting "guccipucci" is, I'd like to not that this has happened before: Frank made up a fake interlocutor (a broad hybrid of A-hole meatpacking cruisers) when reviewing Sasha, and everyone wondered if it was a real person. Clearly it’s a sock puppet on Frank’s left hand.

Except way less inadvertently peeny.

Don’t worry about the sock puppet interfering with the typing; the Count dictates to a manservant who writes in a wax tablet with Dior eyeliner.

Frannie Von Furstinshow represents a sort of block-headed fancypants in-crowd stereotype. She begins her letter to “Dear Graydon” with a quibble, and no, it’s not about his maxi-pad haircut:

Now extra thin! With extra wide wings!

Frank, aka Frannie, begins:

“First, dear, a quibble: Demi? On the cover? Back when she was large (and naked!) with a child destined for a nutty celebrity-spawn name, it made sense. But if ‘Bobby’ is a comeback, I went to a state university.”

Get it? Cause rich people are snobby about state schools!

I'd like to point out that that’s just rude…

Chief Burning Asshole, the Florida State mascot, finds that quip incredibly insensitive.

But Frannie Von Tinklepot raves about the place:

“Now, applause: Waverly. Love it. I laugh when I hear it called a restaurant, as if it were anything so mundane and (apologies to Demi) pregnable.”

Those of us who are both extremely mundane (check) and extremely pregnable (well…my fallopian tubes are connected to a beer helmet right now but I could probably have the operation reversed) shouldn’t be offended here.

Frannie’s talking about the rigamarole you’ve got to go through to get a reservation at this exclusive spot, which, according to Frannie’s account, not only pretends to be closed, but won’t take phone reservations.

The foreboding door to Waverly Inn.

Frannie loves that “we have a Toots Shor’s of our own, a Stork Club without the plumage. I think back to that night in London at the Groucho Club (remember how everyone was trying not to stare at Martin Amis’s new teeth?!) and how we agreed that New York needed an English gentlemen’s club that didn’t take English gentlemen as members.”

Ah the conundrum of the English gentleman. Love the wit, hate the yard-long wake of hoppy beer gas.

Speaking of wit, Frank is really giving some pissy satiric sauce to Graydon's trans-Atlantic fashiono-literary crew. There’s too much crazy business here for me to excerpt it all. This one is a surefire must-read, start to finish.

OK, goodnight. Oh whoops, wait! The food!

Frannie likie: “chef John DeLucie is doing some of the best tuna tartare in town (all that creamy avocado and zingy heat!), plus a hefty and juicy pork chop, a classically blissful Dover sole, an addictive clam chowder, a gorgeous fillet of wild salmon (with those adorable little beluga lentils) and …feloniously fatty short ribs….”

Wow. Get in there, Fannie. Not so much a social X-ray as a social XL.

At Fannie’s last showing at the East Hampton Equestrian Show, many in the audience smiled to her face but secretly whispered about what the addiction to clam chowder had done to her judgment, not to mention her once-lithe ass.

We know the Inn is only getting one star, but Frank’s/Frannie’s review barely pauses the praise. Frannie hints at some disappointments (“the dull chicken pot pie and the humdrum crab cakes and the functional strip steak”) but ends with a sweeping conclusion about how genuinely great the place is:

“It’s not just about an A-list daisy chain of writers, actors, models. It’s not just about ringside seats to the latest Perelman-Barkin smackdown.
It’s about the ease and privilege of being among people who reflect your brainiest, prettiest sense of self.”

For those of you (whom Frannie calls “the lemmings”) unable to score a reservation, who would nevertheless like to see two divorced people engage in a smackdown, Rita and Derek Huffenblatt will be battling over custody of their ’82 Nissan Sentra at the Applebee’s in Elmhurst from now until Rita jams a press-on nail into Derek’s cornea sometime past midnight.

Less glitzy than Perelman-Barkin, sure, but there's a far far higher likelihood that one of them will call the other a "slutbucket." You take what you can get.

On the theme of dysfunctional couples, today’s Times has really reminded me how much Frank and I are meant to be. Or at least how badly Frank wants me to make fun of him. Hey guy, if you want to switch panties and hold hands, give me a call, m’kay?

Missed ya, buddy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

STK and Porterhouse: I am Giving So Many Thanks

Another killer week. I don't have time to do this one tonight (early flight, you know the drill) but check in later this week...and don't forget to wear your "edible accessories for a naughty expedition to the other side of midnight." (YES, HE SAID THAT) Other choice tidbits to which I will be giddily appending deranged imagery:

- "I’ve never taken a spin inside a pimp’s stretch limo, and now I don’t need to."
- "It’s unclear whether she’s emerged from the boudoir or the abattoir, but her idea of fun obviously involves meat."
- "STK’s idea of a feminist must be Pamela Anderson"

And a bonus from the Diner's Journal (thanks for the heads-up, Cod):
"While Mr. Chow TriBeCa felt in many ways like a cynical swindle, the duck was a highlight. Restaurants will get the glistening, crackling skin right only to muff the thin band of meat just beneath, or they'll keep that meat moist and muff the skin, which won't be crisp enough."

MEAT + MUFF = Have a very sexy Thanksgiving.

This turkey's givin' a lot more than THANKS! Yowza.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Lonesome Dove: Sleepin' in the Prairie when there ain't no Stars

Weeeee-haw! What we done gone dood din havin’ got up in here is an ole- fashin’ ass-whoopin’, like pappy use to give me when I git to splashin around in his tannery barrel.

That’s how come I got them chemicals in my brains.

The Count not only zero-stars Lonesome Dove, he does it with confidence, with panache, with the sangfroid of a prudish cop shutting down a tacky whorehouse. The place struck Frank from day one as nasty and he’s got the language to prove it:

Outside the restaurant, “on the sidewalk, like a rustler’s riff on a red carpet, lay a brown-and-white steer’s hide.” Chef/owner Tim Love apparently likes to shop for furniture and décor on Highway 9.

“Look at the handiwork on this bureau! I wonder if it comes with a dresser?”

With rain and traffic, Frank returned to find “this hairy and scary welcome mat plastered to the ground, mottled with dirt and squishy with water: roadkill after a rainstorm.” So already, Frank is being greeted at the doorstep by a sewer-rat’s jerry curl.

And yes, that’s Pedro Martinez’ hair. Don’t you recognize the sheen?

Lonesome Dove is playing up the cheeky southerner ad nauseum, according to Frank: décor includes a “mounted steer’s head and a chandelier of antlers,” while the cooks wear cowboy hats (which must be totally unbearable and really impractical.)
Not that I’ve ever cared about practicality!

One of my little inventions…It’s the ultimate easy travel pack for the traveler who just wants 50 extra pounds of dead weight— say, someone taking a dinghy across the Pacific.

Speaking of impractical,

“Lonesome Dove imagines and executes what might be called contemporary cowpoke cuisine. It’s a mash-up of the Southwest, the Wild West, the Outback and maybe even Brokeback…”

Wow. Australian Southwest gays?


It’s like the baby of Kenny Chesney and Keith Urban.

Lonesome Dove seems to test the limits of the most intrepid diners, offering meat from every animal that walks, e.g. “marsupial nachos” consisting of “reddish meat on blue corn chips with avocado and corn scattered about” like the marriage between a Vampire and a Fatass, where the guests threw trash instead of confetti. The shocker here is, the crazy meats turn out to me “more interesting in theory”: tastes like chicken, the Count admits.

Tim Love’s ingredients are as multiple as his meats are weird, and about as ineffective: “A deluge of salt and a gooey dollop of butter mixed with Serrano chili, shallots, Boursin cheese and fresh lime juice” topped a buffalo rib-eye. I can’t even play that one out in my imagination. Maybe Tim should have applied to his food Coco Chanel’s advice about removing one accessory before leaving the house:

“Ya know what? I’m gonna take this bracelet off, it’s just too much.”

But does the cheekiness of Lonesome Dove come as any surprise? Tim Love has been a cheeky press presence for a while now--

Perhaps more surprising at this point is the praise that the Dove actually gets:

“Mr. Love seems dedicated to getting first-rate cuts of meat, and if the rub-happy kitchen goes overboard in seasoning them, especially with salt and pepper, it certainly knows how to cook many of them.” Oh good ‘cause I like my chipmunk medium and I’ll take my meerkat and my narwhal as rare as they’ll let ya!

Tim Love's ranch.

Frank also appreciates the hearty portions and the inclusion of sides. But who cares, because move over for one of the most amazing Brunisms of all time:

The grilled $120-“Tomohawk chop” is a “bone-in rib-eye for two, accompanied by a lobster tail and two scallops as large as tennis balls, and that bone is so long it seems to stretch all the way back into the partly visible kitchen.”

Tim’s coming up from the rear in a separate tent with the balls and a signed copy of Innuendo? Yes please! Give Me Two Heaping Scoops, by Frank Bruni.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Picholine: Frank's Satin Panty Collection Turns 100!

I know I know, it looks like, following Frank’s Italian séjour, I took a little “vacay” of my own. Not the case! Not at all. No, on the contrary, it took me some time to grapple fully with Frank’s Italy piece, a display of unflinching journalistic courage. Finally, finally someone had the guts to ask the question everyone’s been thinking but no one will spit out: “Just How Good Can Italy Get?”

So naturally, it took me a while to accept the man who had DARED, in the face of danger, to pit Tuscany against Piedmont (itd’s about time), might be back to reviewing papas-flinging tapas joints.

I mean, how does one, after forever being altered by The Naked and the Dead, read a post-it note left on the fridge by Norman Mailer?

Mailer loves the ladies.

But this week, Frank is back in inspiring form in his review of recently-renovated Picholine.

I’ve enjoyed Picholine in my day, mostly for the extensive consultations that I have with the maitre fromagier, a man who counsels you with awesome sincerity, pushing his little cart of stinky chunks, as if you were Brooke Astor and he were your portfolio advisor. He used to station himself against the wall making a brooding, hateful face, which I suspect had more to do with always standing directly above the farty waft of the cheese cart.

A face he was unfortunately also forced to make at home, standing in the waft of Thierry, his gaseous tabby.

But Frank picks up on the real reason for Picholine’s recent renovation: The place looked like a fancy funeral home, with 800-year-old opera patrons stacked along the cream-colored banquettes like wax dignitaries in Madame Tussaud’s storage locker.

Ex-Netherlandish Prime Minister Jeremiah Van Der Perv just doesn’t bring the crowds in like he used to.

There were other problems leading to the restaurant’s makeover: says Frank,
“The food lacked luster. The service lacked smarts. When my sister foolishly asked our waiter how old he thought she was, he even more foolishly took the question seriously, hazarding a guess that was two years too many. What a dolt.”

Yikes. Calling your sister "foolish" in the pages of the Times— risky. I mean, I called my Cousin Jeremy an “asshead” publicly, but that was different; it was a trial, and I was testifying.

Oh Jeremy. After years in the finest of European boarding schools, he still preferred the gentle cloak of a cool breeze to any cottons we could provide.

Frank is back to assess the place post-renovation, and he attests that “It now looks sleeker, shinier and better…”—

“but not much.”

Awww. Looks like Grandma Picholine got her mustache waxed, but forgot to change out of her muu muu:

“Was a nearby interior décor store having an end-of-summer sale on the colors purple? Picholine has gone with a cloying monochromatic palette: lavender walls, lavender accents, plum carpeting. It’s the architectural equivalent of a bridesmaid’s dress.”

Well I haven’t seen the new place, but it does sound pretty dismal—The color purple is such a talcum-crotched, potpourri-strewing, taffeta-wearing sign of preciousness. Unless it’s a musical about a battered black woman finding inner courage at the turn of the century. Or unless it’s this guy:

This guy: changin’ the way people think about purple. Also giving them cold, sweaty nightmares.

But all is not lost for dowdy Picholine: Frank calls it “a winner,” “the nicest restaurant surprise of this disappointing season,” due to the kitchen’s successful reinvigoration.

Some dishes are new, some old; some include surprising twists (a sauternes jelly under a Roquefort salad) and others are simple, like one where (drumroll) “the role of a slow-cooked egg is, in fact, played by an egg.” Shocking. I thought eggs were usually played by Danny deVito.

...With Sharon Stone obliging as the chicken

Even if Picholine is wall-papered in Bea Arthur’s panty-hose, Frank manages to drum up some fun from my old buddy the cheese guy:

“Max McCalman directs the cheese course with Tony-worthy exuberance..."

"STILLLLLLLTOOOOOONNNNN, all alone in the CAAAA-VEERRRRNNNN, all alone with its ENNNNNZYMES and its veiny blue moooooooooold." Alternately, "We have an excellent Stilton from-- what are you looking at? No seriously what are you looking at? What, you think it's fake? You think I put a baseball diamond in my felinetard? Take your eyes off my sack and focus 'em on the cart. AND THAT GOES FOR EVERYONE IN HERE, ok?"

We all know how much the Count loves a great meal, but he's always eating out on the job, doing Papa Keller's professional bidding. But this shows how much Frank really enjoyed Picholine:

“When a late-October milestone of my own approached”—OMG, Frank’s collection of satin Victorian bloomers turns 150!!!!!-- "and I surveyed the restaurants in my sights, I decided to celebrate the occasion with the last in a series of visits to Picholine."

There is. No. Greater. Honor. You could bestow on Picholine, Frank. 3 stars! Also, way to roll your celebration in with work, huh? When I tried to celebrate my birthday at the office...

...well, somehow a Dell monitor ended up in my bra. Not nearly as confusing as the staples in my pants.