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, February 08, 2006

Gilt: I like the avant-garde, I just don't LIKE the avant-garde

Frank’s dipped his ponderous mug into hundreds of troughs so far in this city, but he hasn’t encountered much avant-garde cooking in New York—you don’t see a lot of guys in NASA suits with particle separators freeze-drying air for your dubiously pleasurable consumption. Chicago’s really the capital of that world; all we’ve got is little Wylie Dufresne at WD-50 holding up his fried mayo cube like the 85th-placed kid at the science fair with a poop colored ribbon slapped onto his mold garden.



Bruni on the cutting edge of futuristic food is actually a rather momentous event.

“At many restaurants I've received tutorials on the workings of the menu. At Gilt my companions and I heard a whole treatise on the ‘thought process’ behind the meal that was getting under way.”

Gross. I have to admit a prejudice against food that makes you feel less like you’re out on the town and more like you’re assembling furniture. Which no one should let me do.

"The baby’s crib is all ready honey!"

“Our server said that specially tailored side dishes with the entrees and even with the appetizers would provide contrasting or complementary effect, a dynamic not so revolutionary as to warrant introduction.”
That’s actually a very good point. Cut to server in futuristic avant-garde getup…

"It’s this conceptually intense approach whereby we broaden your flavor receptor sensitivity by orbiting your main dish with satellite dishes of things like vegetables. Don’t worry about it, you’ll catch on.”


You mean a side? I’ve heard of it. You know who else has heard of it?

Wendy.


I’ve recently been through an experience where I was coached for 3 hours about what and how I was to eat, so I sympathize with Frank’s friend: "'I feel like I'm in my first class of organic chemistry,' one [friend] said, 'and I'm ready to drop pre-med.'"

Definitely drop pre-med, dude. It’s like, why go through eight years of school when you can get the scrubs UPS-ed overnight? Am I wrong?


See how convincing that is? Ignoring the abject pervert grin and hair, of course.

But embedded in the whole exhausting, tutorial experience ("semester"), Frank did find some “extraordinary payoffs, like duck poached in beet juice and lobster seasoned with vanilla and set on a cauliflower purée.” And all of his meats and fish were--gasp!--cooked precisely to order (no doubt a first.)

In the end, the Count’s crystal clear message to mad-genius 29-year-old chef Paul Liebrandt, which you can read between the two shiesty stars if not the lines: CHILLAX. “Gilt sometimes doesn't know when to pull back, pipe down and let superior food speak for itself.”

Liebrant’s fame derives equally from wacky food (crystallized violets) and wacky gimmicks (blindfolding people and making them eat off a naked lady.) Unfortunately for repressed secret lesbians who love new age cuisine, the latter’s been eliminated—“He's not as intent on gadgetry”—but the food still involves “intricate constructions, with so many facets they fatigue.”

Take a piece of ocean trout, garnished with razor clams, sea beans, braised snails, TrimSpa, edible panties, a fire extinguisher, two Doc Martens and some Spam.

The trout “deserved to be big, on a stage of its own” but “was mobbed by an unruly cast.”

I felt the same way. Trout was WAY too good for such ensemble work.

But Frank is not one to quash an effulgence of youthful creativity— he concedes that Liebrandt's stuff “springs from an admirable thoughtfulness” and that Liebrandt is not ”some vacuously flamboyant bad boy, as his detractors have claimed.”
Let me translate this: “I like what you’re doing, Paul, I just don’t LIKE what you’re doing.”

The décor is as out-there as the food, with two rooms that are “like two Kubricks in one, a ‘Space Odyssey’ segueing into ‘Eyes Wide Shut.’ With a palate wide open, you embark on a feast worthy of ‘Barry Lyndon.’”
Eiwww. You had me with the Kubrick thing until...EIWWWWW

BARRY LYNDON + a sweatsuit from Price Club = the nooniest 40 year old woman's DREAM come true. This movie is SO NOONY! Even the mention of it makes me want to pluck a hair from my chin and go jazzersize. If you can't intuit what nooniness is from that definition, refer here.

Frank wraps up with a few more demerits (a sole "topped with Comté cheese, which was in turn topped with a tarragon mustard sabayon. What a lost sole." GROOOAAAAANNNN) and some compliments, but he touches on the olive oil drizzled over a wasabi-green apple sorbet:

"Women received a lighter oil from one bottle, while men got a heavier one from another. Gilt could provoke the first condiment-based gender discrimination suit."

You know, that just doesn't cut it for Po-Mo in this town anymore. Frankly, if he wants to do make an extreme statement he should serve men their food on a floppy disk and women from a L'Eggs panty hose jar. It's so avant garde it's almost...avant-garter.

OK, for that, I promise to kill myself. See you next week.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Mango Lassi said...

Well done, as always.
Did you hear Bruni on Leonard Lopate today? I love me some Lopate but at one point he complimented Bruni on writing so well and . . . my . . . brain . . . melted.
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/episodes/02082006

7:22 PM, February 08, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TWO Bruni Digests in ONE day!!! I am hyperventilating from excitement. Someone get me the banquettes from Barbounia so I can pass out onto them.

10:43 PM, February 08, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

You're telling ME! I'm bleeding at the knuckles over here. But it's worth it-- unless someone actually has me committed for "Friends and a Trout."

10:16 AM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous A said...

I also heard the Bruni interview and almost gagged from listening to how he happily hopped onto the pedestal Lopate slipped him. The Gilt review made it sound like a very uncomfortable place to dine, atmosphere and food-wise. I guess I'm not suppose to knock it til I try it. Jules, I normally just read AmateurGourment but you are also my weekly read, thanks for the sarcastic blogging!

11:26 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger The Write Stuff said...

Committed? You should be commended for Friends and A Trout -- more specifically for the trout being too good for such ensemble work. Brilliant! And, as probably your nooniest reader and fan in all the world, I have to agree that evoking Barry Lyndon is definitely a turn off, even for those of us among the chin-hair-tweezing set.

12:07 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger The Write Stuff said...

Committed? You should be commended for "Friends and a Trout" and especially for the caption line about too good for such ensemble work. Brilliant! And, as probably your nooniest reader and fan in all the world, I agree that evoking Barry Lyndon is not a positive, even to those of us who are among the chin-hair-tweezing set.

12:29 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger The Write Stuff said...

Committed? You should be commended for Friends and a Trout, specifically for the caption line about the trout being too good for such ensemble work. Brilliant! And, as probably your nooniest reader and fan, I certainly agree that evoking Barry Lyndon is not a positive, even for those of us who are among the chin-hair-tweezing set.

12:35 PM, February 09, 2006  
Anonymous Fesser said...

Love the 7th Friend, hate Bruni's sole pun. However, the gag Bruni can't stay away from conceals
"a sole 'topped with Comté cheese, which was in turn topped with a tarragon mustard sabayon.'"
In other words, a pretentious cheeseburger, but with sole? I'd rather have Achatz serve me mylar baloons full of acetylene.

12:36 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger The Write Stuff said...

Committed? You should be commended for Friends and a Trout, especially for the caption line about the trout being too good for such ensemble work. lmao! And, as probably your nooniest reader and fan in all the world, I certainly agree that evoking Barry Lyndon is not a positive, even to those of us among the chin-hair-tweezing set.

12:46 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Justin Kreutzmann said...

any self respecting Trout wouldn't hang with those Fiends...opps, Friends.

8:20 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

Thanks, Write Stuff. I'm glad someone understands why Barry Lyndon makes my blood curdle.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get the Lubriderm stains off my unitard before the Leeza show.

1:25 PM, February 10, 2006  

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