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.