Archive for September, 2008

Books of Poetry

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Nina Katchadourian
using book titles as lines of poetry
to great effect.

Eat Me – Kenny Shopsin in print

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

So I’ve been putting off blogging about Kenny Shopsin ever since we opened this place. And when we heard he was writing a book, I put it off some more. Ditto when we received the advanced copy a few months ago finding it to be everything I could have hoped for in a book by Kenny.

Kenny’s a chef who’s had his eponymously named restaurant in three locations in NYC. I first ate at his place around 1990, and quickly became a pretty regular customer (a really regular customer might eat there almost daily, or at least several meals a week – I was in the 4-7 meals a month range). I remained loyal until I moved to Maine in 2000, and made a point of going back whenever I was in town. Samantha and I can be seen on an early date in our relationship in the film “I Like Killing Flies”, Matt Mahurin’s documentary about Kenny, his family, and the restaurant on the eve of the first location’s closing.

Many of my visits to Shopsin’s were spent alone, sitting at the counter (later it was a strip of small tables), watching some of the most interesting people I’d ever seen come and go, some unwillingly. Kenny even set me up with a woman I dated for a while in the mid-1990s. I can’t begin to explain the seemingly random set of rules by which customers were expected to comport themselves at Shopsin’s. But that’s what Kenny’s new book, Eat Me, does. It’s a cookbook, but also an explanation of a personal philosophy which allows an unusual, somewhat eccentric and talented person to survive in this world. Many of us have come close to weeping as New York rapidly loses its specialness. To me, New York was the sum total of millions of conflicting dreams being played out on its streets, in its studios, galleries, shops and restaurants. The oddness has been on the wane for some time now, and the city is more a reflection of some homogeneous, focus-grouped concept, imported via chain stores and Midwesterners seeking a Seinfeld lifestyle. But Kenny seems to have spent a lot of time thinking about this changing world, and concocting ideas about how one might remain true to oneself in it.

To experience Kenny, you have to eat his food. And you have to sit in his restaurant and take in the interactions: of Kenny and his customers, Kenny and his family, the customers with each other, and the customers with the food. But if you can’t make it to the Essex Street Market on NYC’s Lower East Side anytime soon, the book is an excellent fill-in. Kenny’s real voice is there on the page, with long, tangled explications, summed up with a zinger or an expletive, and somehow, grounded and utterly sensible.

And the book his designed throughout by Kenny’s daughter, Tamara Shopsin, an incredibly talented young woman whose work can be seen in the pages of The New York Times and elsewhere.

There’s an interesting blog entry at Serious East about Kenny’s customer service style, and even more interesting responses from people (most of whom have never eaten at Shopsin’s).

Oh, and Kenny’s going to be on Conan O’Brien tonight.

Great Lakes Compact is a go

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

So the House voted today to prohibit new diversions of water from the Great Lakes region to other places. This plan has been more than ten years in the making. So what are Maine lawmakers doing to protect our water?

Fall Cookbook Lineup

Friday, September 19th, 2008

[still under construction] Here’s a heads up on the fall cookbook lineup. There is a lot of amazing stuff due (and a bit of it already here). If you’re serious about food and food books, then this is a good very season. I’m naturally drawn to the big books – with all of their high octane, high cuisine bragadoccio. And there will be many. We’ve got new books coming from Joel Robuchon, Ferran Adria, Pierre Gagnaire & Herve This, Thomas Keller, Heston Blumenthal and Grant Achatz. For most of us, these books will provide more food for thought than put food on the table, but for anyone interested in what food can be, and in the intersection between food and art, there much here. 

For the less cerebral but still serious cooks among us, there are promising new books from Jamie Oliver (a tie-in to his recent Food Network show, one of the few palatable offerings on that low cable network; The Prawn Cocktail Years from Simon Hopkinson, who’s produced a series of brilliant books since walking away from the kitchen at Bibendum in London some years ago; and David Talis’ much-awaited A Platter of Figs.
Outside of the cookbook category, we’ve got Rowan Jacobson’s Fruitless Fall, about the collapse of honey bee colonies, and the implications thereof; Gary Paul Nabhan’s Where Our Food Comes From, the first biography in English of the great seed saver Nikolay Vavilov; 

City Chickens in the News

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

“It’s a shame, because they’re cool chickens.” Animal liberator moves chickens from slaughterhouse to busy NYC intersection.

The Gastrononscriptophobe

Monday, September 15th, 2008

A whole new kind of twit: from the Portland Press Herald.

"Prime Minister defends cooking show in court"

Monday, September 8th, 2008

Now there’s a headline you don’t see every day!