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, July 26, 2006

Little Owl: Lose the Bra, It's a Love-In!

Oh, hello. I didn’t see you there. I was busy plucking wild gardenias in a meadow, and hot-gluing these puppies together.

This week, Frank submitted his review in the form of a hand-made quilt. His editor was at first a little miffed (“how am I supposed to ignore this?” he screamed) but finally cried when he read it, and then gave Frank this:

That’s right. It’s the newest American Girl doll: Louis XIV in drag.

Why? Because Frank’s review this week is adorable and heart-warming, just like its subject, Little Owl.

Frank begins, “One of the reassuring wonders of the New York dining scene is the speed with which word about some unassuming new restaurants gets out.”

Mmm, “reassuring,” like hot cocoa after sledding, and “wonder,” like “Sometimes I forget my wonderpants.”

"Anyone feel that icy breeze?"

Of course, Frank is referring to a different wonder—the way that “unassuming” places like Little Owl (Good Fork comes to mind) go from 0 to 60 in a matter of weeks.

Little Owl, having opened in May, is so molten hot that it has even had to create what Frank calls “an impromptu sidewalk cafe for the overflow, serving people wine and complimentary canapés out there.”

OMG, they’re feeding the homeless, too??

“Take your cod liver oil, boy!”

Gabriel Stulman, manager and co-owner, is Little Owl’s Florence Nightingale:

“’It’s the Little Owl way,’ he said as he tended to all of us. ‘We’re just trying to put the love back in dining.’”

That is SOOOO CUTE. Then he smoked an enormo blunt and healed some leppers.

Gabe Stulman's back yard.

Frank knows he’s being a little too earnest for the irony-and-cynicism set, so he adds a hip twist to the Stulman's gesture:

“Hokey? No doubt. But when Mr. Stulman says things like that — and he says things like that with disarming frequency — he does so in a slightly mischievous voice, acknowledging the hyperbole and turning it into a kind of joke.”

Right, I forgot to mention— as he hands out multivitamins and does light physical rehabilitation on minor aches and pains, he’s dressed like this:

"Tootie Toot Toot and Roota Tootie Doodie! Can I get you some lime for your mineral water?"

Usually when Frank front-loads with praise, he’s about to topple with criticism. But this time, Frank stays in a hearty treble clef, rolling with the praise:

“[Little Owl] has an irresistible earnestness and exuberance that explain its instant, well-deserved popularity.”

The menu, which is “without much pretension,” has, in Frank’s eye, one clear star: a pork chop that boils down to “a glorious hunk of flesh.” I can’t decide if that sounds like Penthouse or the Pentateuch.

Or the Chippendales. After all, they injected with brine and roasted for hours.

I love Frank’s little indulgent moment of confession— it turns out his passion for hunky pork exceeds his professional obligations:

“I had it twice,”—

That’s right, he had it twice, but came back for more!

- “and twice marveled at its juiciness, so often absent from such an oversize pork chop. If I could have justified a third evaluation (consistency must be monitored!), I would have.”

He was only supposed to tend to the ranch, and give the occasional perm…but her juicy pork was too much for him!

Pork is all over the Owl:

“Pork pops up repeatedly, not just in the centers of dishes but also on the peripheries.”

Even in dessert!! HAHA GET IT GUYS? Sigh.

“It pops up when it’s essential and even when it’s not, which makes its popping-up no less appreciated.”

Of course, I understand that perfectly. After all, I wanted a human child, but I settled for a wild boar.

Wow, this post started off SO wholesome and ended up SO GROSS.

But you know, after nods to the friendly front-of-house and the well-appointed space, Frank wraps it up by giving the lion’s share of the praise to the cooks (“In dish after dish the kitchen demonstrated remarkable care,” “puts the focus on…disciplined cooking”) and if that doesn’t warm your heart, well…


Come on people.

2 stars for Le Cirque last week, 2 stars for the Owl today. That’s got to make the smiles of chef Joey Campanaro and “Love-In” Stulman slightly sweeter.

No comment on how it feels to have your restaurant named after an animal that is



Heads up for the next Campanaro-Stulman venture: The Pint-Size Meerkat


Blogger Julie said...

I read your blog every week but never comment. The digest is constantly hilarious, and strangely enough, makes me appreciate Bruni even more. The man has perfected unintentional (and sometimes intentional) comedy in the written word. I also think he's a pretty good critic, but that's beside the point. So thanks for writing.
One more thing: the photo of Patrick Swayze feeding the horse a hotdog, is what I think about when I need to find a happy place...priceless.

9:28 AM, July 31, 2006  
Blogger psnd1969 said...

You're killing me, smalls! Everything you write turns to gold. I wish my blog was half as funny as yours!!!

9:52 PM, July 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shall NEVER recover from that photo. You know which one.

3:54 PM, August 15, 2006  
Blogger Jules said...

You know, I've had that one in the "reserves" for a while, just waiting for the right moment. In time, you'll recover, trust me.

3:33 AM, August 17, 2006  

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