Blaue Gans: Things that make you go "meh..."
Since Jules is tromping across the south of France in her trusty European traveling costume of shapeless peasant dress and milkmaid's hat, stuffing fistfuls of rich vineyard soil into her souvenier "Je Suis Avec le Imbecile!" fanny pack and learning, whilst on a day trip to Monaco, that Prince Albert is not only her favorite piercing but also an ambiguously gay royal, I, Mike "Dinglefairy" Barry have been entrusted with this week's Digest.
An accurate rendering of Julia abroad. Not pictured: the smuggled American version of Us Weekly tucked into her pewter chastity thong.
This week, the Count seems to have stumbled upon a pleasant if uninspiring sibling of Kurt Gutenbrunner's more celebrated culinary endeavors, not so much a delightfully nostalgic re-run of a fresh new formula as a rough distillation of themes and ingredients that have already regaled dining audiences in more sophisticated forms. Let's call Blaue Gans "The Nanny" to Thor's "Who's the Boss?"
"MS. FINNNNEEEE!!! You know you can't come near me for an unexpected tongue-ing until season 7!"
The familiarity of the place, from the food to the decor, is discomfiting to Frank, if not horrifyingly so:
"The space belonged to Le Zinc, and the few tweaks he and his collaborators made to its décor — still defined by a long zinc bar, scores of vintage posters, a curved ceiling and high-backed red banquettes — are so negligible that you find yourself wondering if he simply changed the locks and the name on the utilities and flicked on the lights."
Obviously, Frank has seen "Single White Female," and he's not falling for that steez, no siree.
Jennifer Jason Leigh, top, and Kurt Gutenbrunner, below. Both copy things they admire, and both have blown Steven Weber on-screen.
Displaying his position as a man cognizant of geopolitical history, Frank calls Blaue Gans both an "Austro-German" restaurant and "as much a land grab as an elaborately imagined restaurant." Does that make Le Zinc Czechoslovakia?
CHAMBERLAIN: Alright, Addy, you get some lebensraum and we get to keep our fruity accents. Deal?
HITLER: Zat vuz vot I vuz goingk to say!
HITLER: [fingers crossed] Foreverrgh!
Dare I say that Frank seems a bit bored with his choice of restaurant this week? Indeed, he yawns at the monotonous palette of components to the dishes presented:
"The menu Mr. Gutenbrunner installed is brief, and it returns again and again to the same ideas and ingredients. Sausages have their day, sauerkraut gets a say and horseradish holds sway over a third of the dishes, or so it seems."
He went on to rhyme, "Volkswagen Cabrios are gay, Xtina Aguilera's a great lay, and my preferred biopic is 'Ray.'"
Frank's backyard during his favorite month--May! Rimshot!
Nevertheless, he sees a niche for such a creation:
"As dashed-off as Blaue Gans may be, it perfectly suits a certain casual mood and a certain basic appetite, proving that a restaurant needn't be tremendously significant to be significantly appealing. It's for impulsive diners who haven't taken the time to make reservations, which it doesn't accept. For impatient diners who don't want to pore over dozens of relentlessly inventive options, which it doesn't have. For exhausted diners who don't want to study a lengthy, abstruse wine list. Blaue Gans doesn't have that, either."
So, all you shallow, fretful, overworked people with a neanderthal's palette and a hankerin' for some riesling, come on down to Blaue Gans!
"Dammit honey, I can't make you pork chops tonight, I've got a major presentation tomorrow morning and I'm lactating like the fountains at the Bellagio. Let's just go to Blaue Gans."
One thing's for certain: the Count doesn't just want to eat like a kaiser, he wants to be treated like a kaiser. That's why when the service is spotty, Frank gets a-snotty:
"Service isn't entirely reliable. When a friend and I went for brunch one weekend, our waiter repeatedly forgot to bring us things we'd asked for: a napkin, her second mimosa, her third mimosa (she'd had a rough week)."
What the waiter didn't realize, though, is that his friend wanted the mimosas all at once.
Frank's "friend" sleeping through their coffee date at Dean & Deluca
Thankfully, the negligent waitstaff wasn't so callous in the evening, after a couple of hearty braus and a long stint of admiring each other's genetic purety:
"Dinners proceeded much more smoothly, perhaps because the gracious young Austrian man who works as a combined sommelier, host and floor manager was there. He also lent the restaurant an aura of authenticity with his pronounced accent and Alpine musings.
When I arrived one night, he was raptly watching the winter Olympics on a TV above the bar, discussing the beauty of the mountains and reminiscing about his home country. If ever I felt a hunger for schnitzels and strudels, along with a thirst for raindrops on roses, it was then and there."
I imagine that Frank half-yearned for his entree to be served in a brown paper package tied up with string. Or was it the young Austrian that he hoped to wrangle home in a doggy bag?!
"Shoo-ah Herr Bruni, I vill hail you a leemo--vat did you poot in my bee-ah? I saw you! You roofie Dieter every veek!"
Gratuitous phonetic accent writing aside, Frank rouses himself to emit some faintly glowing admiration for the sausages at Blaue Gans, including a "mash of blood sausage and fingerling potatoes...molded into a circle and placed on a roomy bed of sauerkraut." However, he calls the fillets of cod and Arctic char "menu stretchers."
Likewise, he characterized the desserts as "as lazy in execution as a Sunday afternoon in the ol' Barca Lounger, sipping Knob Creek and reading a leather-bound edition of 'The DaVinci Code.'"
Frank Bruni's idea of a hike.
Taking note of a meringue dessert Frank sampled, meant to resemble the three mountain peaks surrounding Salzburg, his new friend the Austrian sommelier "glanced longingly at it. Was he reconnecting with his native land? Or just looking forward to a reliably satisfying meal at the end of his shift?"
One may never know. But more importantly, does he have a brother?
Tune in next week, when Frank samples a "Triplets of Bellville, Ontario sandwich"