829 Southdrive

829 Southdrive

A New Jersey state of mind

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Birds of a Feather

Tony Bourdain.  One of my heroes.  Jersey
guy, went to the CIA.  Even had some chef-instructors
that I would have 4 years later. I found that out 
when I read his book, "Kitchen Confidential".
We would eventually have the opportunity to
rehash those memories several years later at the 
home of his publisher.  He is, I think, the original
American Bad Boy chef.  Punk rock loving, pot-
smoking, hard-drinking............... Anyway, I read 
his book and immediately felt a connection to him
like anyone else who has worked in the restaurant 
business.  He told it like it is, for the most part (I've
never caught my chef having his way with a new bride
over the dumpster behind the restaurant during her 
reception).  But you get my drift, right?

In our heyday in the kitchen, we all felt the same kind of
bravado and invincibility that Bourdain wrote of.  We were
the Kings of the castle, the rulers of our domain, and to
hell with anyone who thought otherwise. We held the knives,
we cooked the food, we controlled the pace at which our 
customers dined. And sometimes when we were in the shit,
we found a way to blame it on the servers.  In no way did
we originate that.  I can assure you.  

Bourdain's menu at the home of his publisher, whose
name and number are upside-down on the bottom.  I
trust none of you would be weird enough to call him?
By far, my absolute favorite item on the menu was the
marrow pipes.  Marrow slathered on croutons with grey
sea salt sprinkled on top is my most coveted of treats.
The cheeks were okay, but I quickly concluded that
ours at the restaurant were better.  I helped carry out
the clafoutis to the table and proceeded to bump into
someone on the way, dropping one on what I imagine
was a very expensive rug.  Cherries don't stain, do they?


  1. Okay, there.

    You said 'grey sea salt'.

    Why the heck doesn't it say 'grey sea salt' on the menu? What is it about fancy shmancy chefs that makes them use French at the drop of un chapeau?

    Does sel gris taste any better than grey sea salt? Maybe they think they can get away charging more for it?

    I think they do it just to pad the total on l'addition at the end of the meal.

    Neither I nor ma bouche are amusés.

  2. O Docker: I can appreciate your skepticism. Foodiespeak can at times be annoying. But I kinda like Sel Gris. After using the French phrase for something a thousand times, you get used to it. It's a universal kitchen language that's often easier than saying it in American.
    Meez (Mise) is a perfect example.

  3. Baydog, this is nonsense up with which we should not put.

    I would think American chefs who are proud of their cuisine - aw hell, now you've got me doing it - would call for an end to this shameless fawning all over the French.

    Why should a pig raised in Iowa and cooked up in New Jersey end up being called Charcuterie?

    Does the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce know about this?

    I think it's high time we started calling things like pommes frites by their proper American names.

  4. O Docker, it is simple - Americans are willing to pay more for food in French. A lot more. It's part of their lack of national self esteem.

    And who in their right mind would order this stuff if they knew what it was?

  5. You Americans only have yourselves to blame. If only you hadn't let the French help you out in that little revolution of yours back in the 1700's you would all still be speaking English.

  6. Panda, you are absolutely right.

    How many Americans would order a plateful of slimy snails?

    But call them Escadrille de Lafayette and they're willing to pay through the nose for them.

  7. We had a very nice little French bistro in Midwood for a couple of years.

    The food? Délicieux!

    The name? Pomme De Terre.

    Funny thing to call a restaurant, n'est-ce pas?

  8. On the other hand, there is a splendid Phillipino restaurant in neighboring Ditmas Park, which is also named after a root vegetable - but they just went with English and somehow Purple Yam just works better as a restaurant name.

  9. Exactly, Bonnie.

    The French place must have chosen their name in deference to Dan Quayle. They didn't want to embarrass him by showing they knew how to spell 'potato'.

  10. The Purple Yam looks great! No pretense there, just lots of flavor and the nasty bits: Snout, ears, oxtail, all of which make my mouth water. I'd also need to try the ribs, duck leg, pork belly, and the Kaffir flan! What time should we meet there?

    O Docker, remember that Quayle episode happened in Trenton, and now that kid is a grown man, currently doing time from what I hear. Good job Danforth.

  11. No puedo leer este blog. No está en el idioma de los Estados Unidos. Me encantaría un vaso de bourbon.

  12. Damn it, Joe, bourbon! Can't we get away from these French names?

  13. Anytime you folks want to trek out to Brooklyn, just let me know! I never need arm-twisting to go to Purple Yam.

    Purple Yam = P.Y. = Pinoy Yumminess!

  14. Extra large, thin crust; no pepperoni; barbecued chicken; greens; smoked oysters; add avocado before boxing to go. Give me pizza or give me death.

  15. uh oh - "barbecue", that's from the French too!

  16. Not so fast Bonnie.

    See this excerpt from the Wikipedia (which is never wrong) etymology:

    "The origins of both the activity of barbecue cooking and the word itself are somewhat obscure. Most etymologists believe that barbecue derives ultimately from the word barabicu found in the language of both the Timucua of Florida and the Taíno people of the Caribbean, which then entered European languages in the form barbacoa. The word translates as "sacred fire pit."

    Mon dieu, how I love the sacred fire pit!

  17. And the Wikipedia (which is never wrong)says that the first recorded use of the word in the English language was in 1697 by the British buccaneer William Dampier. One of my favorite bloggers, Captain JP often writes about Dampier and even said in one post that his family believes they have a distant connection with him.

  18. And contrary to the name Dampier, the family to this day prefers a dry rub.

  19. ah, but foodreference.com says:

    Either from the Spanish spelling of the Taino Indian word for their method of cooking fish over a pit of coals (barbacoa), or from the French barbe à queue (from whiskers to tail) or de la barbe à la queue (from the beard to the tail) or even the French barbaque (which is from the Romanian barbec) meaning roast mutton. Take your pick, every one has their favorite, and none are certain...

  20. "buccaneer" is also from the French.


  21. There's foodreference.com (... really?) and there's Wikipedia, which is never wrong:

    "The word barbecue has attracted several inaccurate origins from folk etymology. An often-repeated claim is that the word is derived from the French language. The story goes that French visitors to the Caribbean saw a pig being cooked whole and described the method as barbe à queue, meaning "from beard to tail". The French word for barbecue is also barbecue, and the "beard to tail" explanation is regarded as false by most language experts. The only merit is that it relies on the similar sound of the words, a feature common in folk-etymology explanations.

    ... The related term buccaneer is derived from the Arawak word buccan, a wooden frame for smoking meat, hence the French word boucane and the name boucanier for hunters who used such frames to smoke meat from feral cattle and pigs on Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic)."

    Seems to me that it all comes back to the sacred fire pit, derivative in the Caribbean.

    Mmm, jerk chicken is coming to mind.

    ... or I could travel to NJ. Baydog's grill is nonpareil (... doh!)

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