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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Stone Park Cafe: I Like Big Bones and I Can Not Lie

First, Frank admitted that the folks at The French Laundry, due to some very sophisticated usage of their voices and a telephone, had managed to alert Per Se to Frank’s impending visit after he dropped in on the California sister-restaurant for research purposes. Then Eric Ripert at Le Bernarndin goes right up to Frank and says “what up” at the table. Today, the elaborate Venetian carneval mask slips down a little further, but this time in a coy and deliberate act of revelation. Frank is going to tell us all about what toothless children everywhere call their “favowit foodth,” but what Frank would probably call “my most frequently and delightedly ingested victual preparations,” and what I call “buffalo wings”: that’s right, Frank is letting us in on some of his tastes.

But this valuable info is like the Aztec treasure at the other side of a dense verbal forest through which we hatchet away the creeping syntactical vines and slap the buzzing adverbs off our sweaty necks. God, that’s sexy. He begins:

“Parting company with most literary scholars, utopianists and ovo-lacto vegetarians, I like to think that when Henry David Thoreau wrote in 'Walden' that he wanted to 'live deep and suck out all the marrow of life,' he wasn't dabbling in metaphor. He was fantasizing about dinner, his pent-up carnivorous impulses breaking through his reputed meatless resolve."

First of all, parting with literary scholars and ovo-lacto vegetarians is usually highly advisable. I do it whenever I can.

This woman is probably an ovo-lacto vegetarian literary scholar.

But after that brilliant call, I’m pretty lost. Thoreau? Walden? Unless the pages of this “book” have been photographed in a series of stills, which are then shown in sequence, very rapidly, to create a moving image on Television, I haven’t “read” it. But it certainly is plausible that Thoreau “wasn’t dabbling in metaphor.” I mean, when Justin Timberlake said “I wanna rock your body,” I always took it like he wanted to publicly stone someone. But his point is, bone marrow is delicious, and he’s right. And he admits he’s been eating it at Prune, which is where I go when my printing press is up and running and I can churn out a couple of decent $20’s on some two-ply Charmin.

Jules at her printing press.

As the mask falls, we begin to learn that Frank is what I like to call a “hitter.” He doesn’t want you stealing shit from his plate. “If that description [of bone marrow] disgusts you, I want you with me next time I dine at Stone Park Café, because you are unlikely to encroach on my…marrow bones. If your hunger is primed, I …want you far away from my table.” Damn. BACK OFF M’ BONES, BITCH.

Weirdly, he makes his point about gluttonous, fatty marrow in Patrick-Swayze-in-Point-Break guru fashion:

“To live deep is to eat deep." EAT DEEP? Modifying a verb with an adjective? But you LOVE adverbs, Frank! Get out of that wetsuit this instant! Put that joint down! Where is your tricorner hat??....that's better.

Back to being his glorious self, he continues “A palm-sized short-rib sandwich arrived with a quail’s egg perched atop the meat and poised to bathe it in an extra, unnecessary … measure of moistness.” Since we're being literal today, an unnecessary measure of moistness would be, say, if you were to put a yardstick to Larry King’s diaper. I’m pretty sure what you're talking about is just a “topping.”

So finally you’re exhausted by Frank, you just want some sorbet and the Metro Section, but in fact, at the end you get some juicy tidbits: a choice of burger “accessories” (again, JUST SAY “TOPPING”) included blue cheese, “which I always appreciate.” Bring on the defensive blanket of blue-cheese amuse-bouches at NYC restaurants. And the fish sandwich?: no more waxing wordy, just a straight “I loved it.” In the end, it seems he is a self-described "truly committed carnivore." Below, another recently committed carnivore.

He'd love to give you a high-five, Frank, but for now he'll just have to give it to his clavicle.

I have to say, for all of his greedy finger-slapping and his unwillingness to share with his dining "companions," he TOTALLY stole most of his friend's cosmo: "I admit to stealing more sips than a mere appraisal needed." A) It's hard to "steal" from a mannequin, Frank.

"Yo! Give me my cosmo back!"
And B) ORDER ANOTHER 25 COSMOS. It's on Daddy Timesbucks. WOOO HOOOO!

Two [BUUUUURP] stars! Check, please?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Della Rovere: "There's a Jew, a Polack, and a foppish raconteur in a rowboat..."

Have you ever heard the old Italian expression, “Sometimes the proctologist uses surprisingly nice lube”? No? Well, no matter: Today's theme is "secret treats at crappy places": Frank is telling us about a few impressive dishes at an average enoteca called Della Rovere (Italian for “In the Range Rover”.)

BUT, to deliver this news, he has put on an oversized black leather jacket, greased back his hair, and signed himself up for beginners night at a Jersey club called something like “The Ha-Ha Bucket” or “Dan’s Chuckle Hole.”

After asking if anybody here’s from out of town, he begins,

“New York needs another Italian restaurant like Seattle needs rain…It represents about as virgin a theater for long lists of wines by the glass as Las Vegas does for keno cards.” I know—it’s no use mourning the fact that he said “keno cards” rather than “pension-pissing geezers,” or “cross-gender hustlers.” He’s new at this, cut him some slack. I had a fist full of rotten tomatoes suspended in the air, until I realized that his humor is actually adorable, and that I needed the tomatoes to garnish that evening’s boot-and-tin-can stew.

“My friends and I practically had to perform calisthenics to catch the server’s attention.” (Why do I suspect it was actually “RIGHT HAND, YELLOW!” in nudie swingers Twister?) The performing doesn’t end there. “The persistent emptiness of our water glasses suggested a sudden Tribeca drought.” Ay-O! And finally, “the gap of time between when we finished our entrees and when we were asked about dessert could almost have accommodated a showing of ‘The Aviator.’” YOWCH!

As if receiving negative-29 Oscars wasn’t enough, Scorsese turns around to find himself being almost imperceptibly spanked by a tiny Count Frank with a Hermes switch.

"Your movie's stinky! I'm hungry for petit-fours..."

“That beet salad…was among the best of the 1,189 I have tasted over the last nine days.” I have actually run this one through my scientific joke detector machine, trustily manufactured by the same people that patented Tom Cruise, and it is, officially, an exaggeration meant to cause subtle delight. In other words, it's a joke-- THANKFULLY he did not eat 2,000 beets this week, ‘cause word to the wise, The Crimson Poopers ain’t just a Harvard a-capella group. Ahem. Moving on.

Frank creating jokes:

After getting all micromanaging-middle-aged-wife on us and telling us, to the bite, what to eat at Della Rovere, Frankie Goodtimes ends his set: “even a city as lavishly delectable as ours can stand another treat.” A.k.a, “Dis one time I was fuggin' a nasty chick, and it was like, pretty good.”

Monday, March 21, 2005

Xing: a Generous Gesture

"You can think of Xing as a corner Chinese joint in peacock feathers."

OMG, Frank, you lent them your peacock feathers?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Le Bernardin: 4 stars etched in bikini wax

"THERE is reason to pity the nearly perfect. They have so many ways to falter. In thrall to their own legend, they might well overreach, trading glory for folly, or they might simply coast, converting acclaim into idle narcissism."

And so begins Oliver Stone’s "Alexander". But wait, that’s not Anthony Hopkins in a toga with an enslaved tranny-boy fanning his chundle, it’s Frank! He’s reclining on an alabaster chaise longue wearing nothing but a strategic piece of poached lobster. For today, Frank takes on a review of an ancient and hallowed culinary institution, Le Bernardin. By my Shrek IV Happy Meal watch, this makes three 4-star Times reviews for Le B over the past 10 years. Damn. So how did a place serving so much of Frank’s pet peeve (raw seafood) manage to worm its way into the travel-size bottle of Courvoisier that beats inside his ribcage? With subtlety: Le Bernardin “eschews high drama,” which is more than I can say for Frank, in T minus ten minutes, when Faye Dunaway shows up at his door with a mallet and a .45:

“Le Bernardin has aged with astonishing grace, more Deneuve than Dunaway,” (JUST WAIT) “doing what it must to remain youthful without ever making an elastic fool of itself.” Has Faye Dunaway joined Gumby and Gromet in the pantheon of beloved elastic fools? Or does "FOOL" refer to her new role as reality-TV judge on "The Starlet," and does "ELASTIC" mean he knows something we don't about her thong? Listen, I'm just doing the math, I don't write the numbers.

Well, Starlet or Gromet, she can do some damage with those steel-toed jester booties either way.

And what about those who are underwhelmed by Le B's subtlety? “Because of the restaurant's legend they expect a riot of flourishes, an explosion of fireworks. Nothing less than being made to levitate above the table will do.” Well, honestly, Frank, last time I went to Per Se, my waiter ate a hot coal, pooped a diamond and was then robbed of it by a band of warlords who stole my clothes and lit my crotch on fire. It was damn sexy.

But Le Bernardin, by contrast, “has all the sex appeal of a first-class airport lounge.” A-ha! So even as he dutifully dabs his pinky into $60 appetizers and seven-course tastings, he retains a hint of his monastic slant, apparent in his praise of Le Bernardin’s “sustained belief in the sacredness of piscine flesh,” which I think is a direct quote from my Confirmation.

My conclusion? “Damn, I’d eat the shit outta that shit,” but then, for special occasions, I usually treat myself to the clean Dojo, so of course I would. Frank’s conclusion? “Le Bernardin amounts to the restaurant equivalent of old money, so secure in its station that it need not strut.” He has a point: I did hear that V Steakhouse has a stucco mansion in Boca with white porcelain Versace cats lining the driveway. And we all know, there’s nothing classier than old money:

But I’m not quite ready to thump my chest, burp, and leave Frank’s panegyric to Le Bernardin alone— with a quizzical cock of my head, and baffled squinting of my eyes, I leave you with this:

“[Chef Eric Ripert] has sidestepped the more flamboyant manifestations of celebrity chefdom…except for occasional appearances on the ‘Late Show With David Letterman’ and his participation six years ago in an advertising campaign that featured chefs in the buff.”

Eric Ripert stole Frank's heart.

And I know where he put it...

Friday, March 11, 2005

Bellavitae: A Frankless Task

Am I out of a job?

Perhaps it is only the burden of star-doling which incites Frank to write like Baudelaire, rolled up in an oriental carpet, shoved up an old man's ass, and lit on fire. Today, the Diner’s Journal is so…simple. Take a look at THIS abominable CLARITY:

“He and a business partner, Jon Mudder, have done a terrific job giving the relatively minimalist space - exposed brick walls, wide-plank pine floors - a fresh sheen.”

WHAT? A “terrific job”???? What’s next? “Kittichai was pretty sweet.” Or “Pasternack’s doing some great shit up in that bitch.” Someone needs to follow the strewn trail of silk scarves, adverbs, and stacked heels that leads to the closet in the Times building where he’s been bound and gagged, and where, deep in his purse, lies THIS snippet:

“Mr. Beramendi and his occupational bedfellow, Jon Mudder have put babies everywhere to a deep and perverted shame, by birthing in the space – baked-earth wallage and generously-hewn pine flooring – an albino virgin swan of architectural purity.”

Someone, track down this kid to go save Frank. Give him a gun. He’s so good with his hands, I bet he’ll be amazing armed:

C’mon, trust me, it’s worth it. I really miss the old Frank. I don’t even want to TALK about how judicious he was in his report on the choose-your-own-adventure menu trend.

sniffle sniffle.


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Bistro du Vent: Meat n' the form of a bra n' panties

I feel like for the past several weeks I have been gearing up for Wednesdays, excitedly slipping on my cat-ears headband, painting whiskers on my face, and ringing Frank's doorbell with an empty plastic pumpkin outstretched in my hands.


But before I can even yell “Trick or Treat??” Frank has stuffed a handful of Kashi in my mouth, spanked me with a pine plank and sent me home with a copy of “Little Women” tucked somewhere in my unitard.

Frank’s all humility and values these days. I want candy! Where are all the indulgent Butterfingers and Charleston Chews I will later throw up on a Jenga tower?? I’d love to see Frank, in his present fit of monasticism, review the Enchanted Chateau in Beauty and the Beast: “The thousand gilded dancing spoons inviting me to ‘be our guest, be our guest, put our service to the test’ were like specious diamonds on the bosom of a gigolo-mongering Bathsheeba, yet the giant ham hock spat out by a talking oven certainly failed to seduce me.”

So with a lumberjack’s fist-pump, Frank applauds Bistro du Vent for its uncanny courage in serving what those Upper East Side you-know-whats (rhymes with "kunts," starts with a "c") refuse to eat: potatoes.

“At Bistro du Vent, Mr. Pasternack, in partnership with Joseph Bastianich and Mario Batali, has created his own private Idaho, a place where, if I may mix my geographical metaphors, diners heretofore victorious over starches are bound to meet their Waterloo.”

May I point out?: not exactly the words of a true Dan Connor. The Count’s anti-snob reviews may indicate that he has traded in his ruffles for a Carhart jumpsuit and a Cubs hat, but clearly he’s still turning in his Tuesday night copy in the form of sequins hot-glue-gunned to his servant’s ass.

Amazing Brunisms of the Week:

- “This cake is oily in the center and crunchy at the edges to precisely the right degrees, like an order of hash browns that's been to finishing school and graduated first in its class.” And below, her sister, who tested retarded at birth, went to public school, eats with her toes and farts at the table:

- “The restaurant fries [the pommes frites] in a combination of peanut oil and lard, with blissfully addictive results. A friend of mine suggested that they be advertised, in the manner of special fish, as ‘line-caught.’” This is his friend the marketing genius:

But literally, what does that line-caught thing even mean?

- “Desserts proved to be a trickier arena. Only the apple tart thrilled me, while pot de crème and a lemon tart simply accomplished their pleasant paces. The pink peppercorn ice cream with spit-roasted pineapple actually frightened me. The profiteroles were irritating.” Rrrrrright: because obviously an unfussy everyman who just wants his 'taters gets "thrilled" by tarts and "irritated" by profiteroles...

And so, despite the pink peppercorn ice cream, which apparently hopped up from under Frank's table in a Tutsi war mask covered in blood, he still feels that Bistro du Vent deserves 2 stars. Whether an extremely refined place like Café Gray, where one person spends all afternoon to make the berry topiary that garnishes your working animatronic marzipan laptop, should be on the same two-star level as a casual midtown bistro doing Frenchie staples, is a worthy question. But so is, “Essscuse me?” because this conclusion, Paula-Abdul style, casually pretends to be real English, and then, dramatically, isn’t.

“It's a place for diners who are suffering dazzle fatigue, and who have the wisdom to recognize a potato thoroughbred and the flexibility to submit to its spud service.”

The last time I had the flexibility to submit to someone’s spud service, I came in to work 6 hours late with a condom in my hair YOW!!

P.S. By “dazzle fatigue”, do you mean "sexy cargo pant"?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Just Curious

Do you think Bittman ever just bodyslams him? Hmmm.

Friday, March 04, 2005


Wanna see me perform sketch comedy with my group, the Wiener Philharmonic? every Wednesday except the 16th through March at Juvie Hall, 24 Bond Street, 9:30 pm. Here's a mille-feuille made of thousands of paper-thin layers of buttery idiot-talk to gnaw on while you endure your doubly hard wait for Wednesday.

PS: why not the 16th? Because our producer, Jon Friedman, will be hosting his Rejection Show at PS 122, featuring Jessi Klein, Bob Wiltfong & Matt Oberg, Marisa Acocella & Mort Gerberg, Tod Levin, and Wiener Philharmonic's own Langhorne Fisher.

Crave: HERE! I'm HERE! Under all these throw pillows!

Hey! Ye! Come, pull your rumpus hearthside and let the flames, as a she-lion might groom her cubs, lick winter’s drear off your tattered soul! For as Frank was leaning on a twisted knob of a giant sequoia last eve, the trunk suddenly groaned open to reveal a fat peasant woman scooping meal into the gaping maws of the local Carroll Gardens yeomanry. Well, six of the local yeomanry, stacked on top of each other on one chair. Because Crave is officially the tiniest, warmest most comforting establishment/square of pavement in Brooklyn.

The theme of today’s journal entry is company: Frank mentions enjoying some Cotes du Rhone with his “friends” (perhaps last night Philibert, his trusty steed, and the Lalique crystal coq he usually places on a booster seat accross from him, were supplanted by real people). But Frank is not the only one with friends!

“That Tasmanian sea trout had silky flesh and a bevy of good company: prawn crackers, sea salt, olive oil, cauliflower, asparagus, garlic and chives.”

Well maybe they were good company THIS time but you should have seen Tasmanian Sea Trout last New Years, when prawn crackers did poppers and fell off the balcony and asparagus was making chives’ dog lick PB off his chassee. BAD NEWS, man.

Well, if you have nobody to wear a turtleneck and hold hands with, Frank has some words of support:

"When it's frigid and difficult outside, you want something warm and cozy. You want an unassuming hug of a place." Yes, Frank ACTUALLY CALLED THIS RESTAURANT A "HUG." What he actually should have said is "you're welcome, World! No no, don't worry about it, I'm just going to continue being amazing, you don't owe me anything."

Another local wench stumbles out of Crave, in Carroll Gardens.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Gari: Cue Barry White, Fade into Vivaldi

Oh. My. Goonness. While your head is about to spin from a sincere usage of the word "CAD" which I think is Old Latin for "tiny hat," your amygdala is also about to throb, with panicked fear, as you read the following opening paragraph of this week's review, in which the count will literally refer to a former habit of wanton, promiscuous degradation of flesh:

"I am ashamed of my past. Horrified by it, really. I need to glance back only a little more than a decade to catch a glimpse of my wantonness, to see myself treating something precious as if it were just so much flesh. When it came to sushi, I was a cad. I degraded it with excess wasabi paste, and my use of soy sauce was nothing short of promiscuous."
(For more on "soy sauce; promiscuous uses of" please see this guy:)

But in short, ladies, just before you slapped a second padlock on your panties, you realized the real victim of Frank's kinky indiscriminate soy-play: mediocre sushi. As Frank explains, we have an abundance of fresh, delicious sushi in the city these days, but when Frank was younger, navigating the virgin web of medieval New York's many canals and foot trails, they had NO idea what to do with raw fish.

Personally, I like to be generous with the wasabi--sure, occasionally I'll end up grabbing my tits, screaming "uncle" and pounding milk, but I think people agree I'm pretty tough. But wasabi and soy are irrelevant at Gari, which serves pre-garnished sushi, where yellowtail gets "caressed with sesame paste" and bluefin "sports an ecru plumage of tofu mousse."

aha. artfully prepared indeed.

But don't let all this caressing and crowning and plumage lull you into thinking something terribly sad and violent didn't happen at one of Frank's dinners at Gari. The getaway tracks still fuming from the pavement and three geishas down with head wounds, Frank stands outside the restaurant, reporting dutifully into a bamboo sake cask he grips like a mike: "an à la carte maki roll of fried oysters... were held hostage by a ruthlessly unctuous mayonnaise."

Thanks Frank. Now back to you Frank, with Sports. JK!! With a serene and humble conclusion, that is.

"I consumed the luscious toro as it was, even though the barest dab of wasabi or the subtlest splash of soy sauce would have been O.K. Now that I'm older and wiser, I know how to show a little restraint and respect."

While I would venture to say that RESTRAINT could steal Frank's purse a thousand times before he could so much as pick it out of a police lineup (for which I am profoundly grateful), it's good to know he's reformed from blindly bangin' every piece of tail he can get his chopsticks around, and carelessly bathing them in a "salty murk". And by tail I mean yellowtail...[cricket chirp]...of course...

And so after lathering my screen up with those lascivious--and laudatory-- murmurs, Frank calls Gari pricy, gives 'em the ol' vampire bite (2 stars), mops his brow with a satin doily and retreats to his villa.

P.S. Because I feel inexplicably dirty for writing (well, citing) the "salty murk" bit, I'm posting a picture of this wholesome Nigerian dwarf dairy goat.