If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

One Side of a Text Exchange, Which I am Posting Here With No Name, No Comment, No Edits, and Months After The Fact

In answer to people who ask if I've ever had awkward situations come out of eating with strangers.

9:33pm: hey zoe, ur nt gonna call me bk? thats messed up...i thought we were kool
9:42pm: i would really like 2 b friends with u...and nt some odd stranger u eat with and then rip apart on ur blog...kind of hard 2 do if u dont call back
9:46pm: u said some not so nice things zoe...and u didnt have 2 mention my age, where i work and my pic...a little discretion would b nice
9:48pm: listen, im just a regular asian just like u trying 2 connect just as u do...i though dinner was nice even though it wasnt what we had planned...
9:49pm: im sorry u thought it sucked...zoe, i just want 2 try new eateries with u...u seem nice and i thought we could b friends...thats all i want...
9:54pm: i tried 2 reach u a couple of times and u cant even have the decency 2 text bk...i read what u wrote...why cant we hang out, try new eateries, and b friends
9:55pm: all im saying is there is a new place i found and i want us 2 try it
9:58pm: understood...it takes but a second 2 text back...i can be a good friend 2 u...if u let it happen...is that so wrong?
10:28pm: goodnight zoe...dont work 2 late

Weeks later...

"upon the glowing review in ur blog, i tried one of the eateries mentioned and it was everything u said it was...ur palette is as refined as ur social skills ;)"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gravity-Bonging With Shereen, Alex, and Janelle@Desnuda

Back in college, some of my overly intelligent classmates would put their high SAT scores to use toward crafting the most ingenious smoking devices since the dawn of Getting High. One guy even used a magnifying glass to etch an elaborate fresco onto the wood of his home-made vaporizer.

I can only hope a couple of those ambitious peers will grow up to become the next Peter Gevrekis and Christian Zammas, co-owner and executive chef at Desnuda*.

I don't know which of the pair conceived the idea of smoking oysters with Sichuan peppercorns and Lapsang souchong tea leaves via gravity bong, but on the night I was there, I asked Peter with all the wide-eyed earnestness of a school-newspaper reporter,

"So what was your inspiration for this dish?" And he just smirked. Okay then.

He'd already indulged me by whipping out the apparatus in the first place. The oysters were not on the menu that night, but I'd read so much about them that I had to ask. He warned me that he didn't have the right kind of tea that night - his new supply was a mistake: more expensive, not smoky enough - but I didn't care, I just wanted to see how one smokes a bivalve.

So behold, I have the first (really shitty) video clip of the Desnuda smoked oyster!

video

The finished product:

I think you could read fortunes in those spheres

He was right: the oyster was delicious, and definitely the most interesting I've had, but I could see its potential for improvement. However, the uncommon act of inhaling deeply and then swallowing a slippery body is a novel enough experience that I'd recommend this imperfect oyster to anybody. We get used to certain acts associated with eating - cut, spear, stab, lift, bite, chew. I think it's safe to say the old inhale-n-shoot a la cannonball (uh, definition number 2) is a new verb in fine-dining.

But if you want a real gastronomic reason, Desnuda has that as well. All of the ceviches I tasted were good, but the composition with deep sea scallops was one of the best dishes I've had in recent memory, including Le Bernardin. I'm not going to try to describe all the components of that dish, because I can't remember them all, but I think Desnuda's menu is pretty open to night-by-night improvisation anyway.


As you can see, it includes mandarin oranges and avocado

Full disclosure: I tend to be a sucker for places where I can interact with the person making me food. I'm annoying. I like asking questions and digging for personal opinions. Sitting at a bar and talking to the owner about his inspirations makes me feel hip.

Here's my one complaint. If you're like me, in that you have a bottomless capacity for raw fish, you're just not going to get full here. Even if you bought, like, all six things on the menu. I probably had four of these free cones of truffled popcorn:



But then, Desnuda is mostly a drink and nibble kind of place, and the edibles are lush, the vibe groovy. It'd be a great second date location to bring and impress your cosmopolitan yet slightly anorexic pickup from the previous weekend.


See those straw fans along the ceiling? They are mechanized to sway back and forth. Groovy.

The takeaway: smoke+ gadgets+cannonballing oysters+delicious seafood+acting like you know the chef = panty-dropper.


*Winner of TONY's 2008 Eat Out Award for Most Inventive Use of Drug Paraphernalia.

ME??? REALLY???

I WON!

Guess I'm not going home to Boston this weekend. So excited!! Excited to be in Coney Island, excited to meet the other two lovely ladies, excited for the gross quantities of food, excited for Juliet Lee, and excited for Kobayashi, who's been making a comeback lately!

A million thank yous to the people who voted slash endured my endless FB status updates and Tweets, especially my awesome friends, the Disgrasian girls, and Slant Eye For the Roundeye. And thanks to Josh Ozersky/The Feedbag for setting it all up!

Too bad I can't liveblog it.

In Pity of Joe Dobias

I'm currently following a developing story I came across on Eater.

While most commenters are quick to deride Joe Dobias's grasp of grammar, his attitude, and his food, I see a chef painfully lost as the roles within the little theater of dining - chefs, customers, and critics - shift around him, thanks to this thing called "the internet."

In Hong Kong, I briefly interned for a time at HK Magazine, a free weekly magazine read by the expat population. I had the opportunity to review a few restaurants there. I was unpaid, but the reach of the publication was considerable, and no reader could have known that I was a 20-year-old with zero experience in the food industry.

I had a lot of fun, and the fact that I saw it as fun didn't strike me as problematic until after my internship ended. I decided that I would no longer write reviews until I gained a level of food knowledge I was comfortable with. I didn't want people's livelihoods on my conscience. Not that it mattered - it's not like the Times, or any other publication, was banging down my doors.

And then I started this silly little blog on a whim. I'd received a deluge of responses to my Craigslist ad and thought it would be funny to post about the food and the conversations with strangers. I know my friends found it amusing enough.

But I've gotten a significant bump in hits since the Top Chef Masters liveblog and the recent Bunnette ridiculousness, and this morning I saw in my stat tracker that someone at Jean-Georges Management had chanced upon this blog. That all makes me very nervous, because I still haven't learned a thing in the two years since my last "formal" review for HK Magazine, and I really hope to God no one takes me seriously.

I hope that even after I go to cooking school, or get whatever cred I need (which is probably none, in this democratic age of critics), that no one will take me too seriously. As Marc Shepherd at New York Journal astutely pointed out, even Frank Bruni's data point is but one of many. And what is Frank Bruni but a man who gets the technical facts right, and forms an opinion on the rest based on his own collection of sensory data points? He has the weight and resources of the Times, which is not to be confused with extra taste buds.

As a customer in today's restaurant world, you have many choices - not only in the restaurant you frequent but the reviews you read. When I read Yelp reviews of Chinese food, I roll my eyes at many people who don't seem to know what they're talking about, but that's the snooty foodie in me. Ultimately, people just have different standards, and the only thing you can do is decide whose opinion to trust and whose to ignore - be it Bruni, a friend, or some uppity blogger.

You don't need knowledge to enjoy a meal; that's why I love food. As a chef/owner, the only thing you can do is decide where your audience should fall on the foodie spectrum and hope that the right people come. Joe Dobias simply does not understand that there is no All-Powerful Critic anymore, and that in the deeply subjective world of food, there were never any "credible sources." I wonder what he'll say if certain rumors are true and the Times hires a blogger to replace Bruni in the fall. Yet panic rings beneath his nasty personal attacks, and for this reason it worries me to see so many people declaring that they'll never visit JoeDoe based on his comments. It's always a sad day when a restaurant fails.

Let's face it, the role of "food blogger" is self-appointed and therefore inescapably self-important. As a blogger, I get to decide what degree of integrity I hold myself to when I write, and I think about it quite a lot because Google can always find me, and someone might actually care. We the masses may be entitled to opinions and free websites on Blogger, but if that means we're also entitled to some small determination in another person's success or failure, I hope we don't forget it. Entitlement should come with ownership of one's words, however sparsely read they may be.

I still write for fun, while others still cook for a living. Thus, I don't think I can ever be as careful with my words as I should be. The formula is a work-in-progress. Generally, I've shied away from giving typical reviews here, and I try to say everything equally irreverently. A friend commented the other day that he'd take me more seriously if I didn't pepper my posts with variations of "fuck," but that's exactly the point. I'm a random girl on a lark; don't take me more seriously than I take myself.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ok Guys, Now's The Time

Vote for me!

Root for the underdog! I wasn't home when I sent in my "application," so I only had access to FB pics, hence that unfortunate selection. Who am I kidding, I can't remember the last time a camera was on me rather than what I was eating.

Don't be distracted by the blonde's shiny hair! Mine is just as shiny! And the girl with the chicken feet? Girl, I've been eating chicken feet since before you knew what "foodie" meant!

Vote for me!



Ron Jeremy pic goes up only if I win. Get on it: editor@the-feedbag.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eeep!

I got a reservation for two to Momofuku Ko!!! Now accepting bribes.

I'm so behind in blogging that the thought of how behind I am makes me anxious and not want to write. Restaurants I need to blog: Cabrito, Desnuda, Le Bernardin, Lupa, Aldea.

Also got tickets to Food and Wine Festival in October the day they went on sale, because I'm a dork like that. I'm seeing Bruni Unveiled and the Bourdain/Chang talk on bullshit food trends. Good thing I'm going to Ko next week - gives me a solid three months of idolizing Chang from afar.

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Bunnette

The following email is a response to this:

Hi,

If it's not too late, I'd like to be considered to be a Bunnette!

My name is Zoe, I'm 22, and I am completely obsessed with food. I write the food blog Strictly Platonic (http://zoehasappetite.blogspot.com), in which I frequent NYC's restaurants with strangers I find on Craigslist and then write up the food and the conversation. Previously, I was a fairly well known sex blogger before I took up a corporate job and had to go undercover (foresight FAIL). Other stunts in my life have included gogo dancing and appearing on a lesbian episode of MTV's Next (note: I am not a lesbian). Looking back, I guess at some point my youthful boredom just turned into flat-out attention-whoring.

I love Major League Eating and Juliet Lee is my hero! It was a proud moment for small, food-loving, Asian women everywhere when she blew away the competition at the Spike TV Thanksgiving 2007 cranberry sauce challenge. I will personally eat anything and do not get grossed out by food in gross quantities. I'll wipe spit and clean up reversals of fortune if I have to. Maybe.

Please consider me!

Zoe

So the three pictures I attached? 1) Zoe flashing peace signs at a Japanese restaurant. 2) Zoe with Ron Jeremy, fully clothed. 3) Zoe in front of Nubian Goat pen.

I'd like to think I have a fighting chance. Rock the vote, peeps, rock the fucking vote.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Liveblogging the Premiere of Top Chef Masters

...Because the challenge is set at my alma mater, POMONA COLLEGE!!!

10:02: Michael Schlow of Radius up. The pastry chef at Radius's ex-boyfriend had a crush on me last summer. True story. I would've stuck with the pastry chef.

Whoa, who invited Gandalf? Dude looks badass.

10:03: Been dying to go to Aureole. I think this show is going to add a lot of restaurants to my ever-expanding list of places to hit.

First whole roasted animal spotted.

10:05: Kelly Choi is hot. Bitch stole my career.

10:06: Favorite Top Chef Quickfire? Is it the vending machine challenge?? Nope, dessert. Lame.

10:07: What makes someone a Master rather than just a regular old Top Chef contestant? This kid from Texas is right - he's just a kid from Texas.

10:08: I wonder if anyone has ever tried to scam the Make A Wish Foundation. I have cancer! I got better! Sounds like a job for the Hipster Grifter.

10:10: Those choco balls look foolish. Oh God oh God first spotting of doodoo on a plate. Literally a chocolate turd.

10:13: This is the first time I've liveblogged something. Whew. Thinking about quitting. I'm not funny slash interesting enough.

10:14: The Glad commercial bothers me SO MUCH when the voiceover says "yummy" and the word on the screen says "tasty."

10:15: Serving cookies to a Girl Scout? Your first problem was with conception, my friend.

10:16: What makes something chicken-fried?

Wow, make things in animal shapes. Of COURSE that's the key to sucking up to kids. Just ask any Japanese mom.

10:18: Hey Schlow Chow, way to NOT represent Boston with your plated turds.

10:19 Texas has a sense of humor. Cute.

I'd do Texas.

POMONA COLLEGE NAME DROP WOOOOOOO.

Too bad Pomona dorms DON'T EVEN HAVE HOT PLATES. My friend Janelle, an ex-RA, raises an interesting question: are hot plates even allowed in dorm rooms? I think not, Bravo.

10:20 How did Pomona score this show? WHICH SUPERMARKET IS THAT? SPROUTS? VONS?

Ten bucks from me to me if the dorm they use is Lyon Court.

10:21: Whole Foods? Where is there a Whole Foods near campus??

10:22: Some rookie mistakes from the "Masters" so far. No amateur has pulled off a major shopping FAIL yet. Are autistic kids a worse motivator than self-interest? Let's hope that's not the inevitable conclusion.

10:25: Freezer FAIL. Poor Texas. I retract the statement about doing him.

HARWOOD COURT OMGOMG CLASS OF 2008 SAGEHEN POSTER

10:27: Of course they chose Harwood, the shittiest dormy-looking dorm.

Taking a break, this is getting too good. Don't want to miss a single shining moment of Pomona on Top Chef.

Oh wait, hey current students, HOLLA IF YOU LIVE IN ROOM 113.

10:28: Who is that kid? I don't recognize him. Oh wait, of course I don't, he's a freshman this year.

10:29 The French do it better. Check out that Harwood bathroom looking all...clean.

10:31: oooOOO great clock tower shot.

Ha! Gael Greene was at Pomona! Sitting in the Harwood common room! Looking completely out of place in that ridiculous hat! I am so tickled.

10:33: Haha that kid made a funny. What a Pomona sense of humor.

Mmm eat mi cuit alright. "Adventure in my mouth" Asian girl knows what's up.

10:35 Second spotting of turds on a plate - Tim's braised kale from afar.

"Needs more...zest" is the verdict from my new freshman pet with the Zac Efron hair.

10:36: How did lucky students get chosen? I would've given a whole batch of my eggs.

10:37: ZOMG so excited for NYC Prep.

10:40: Haha what a pretentious foodie joke, that inscrutable big black box with the beeping buttons.

10:44: Mac and cheese is a great foodie-yet-apropos touch. Clever Gandalf.

10:45: So bitter, I bet none of those students appreciated this as much as I would have. Those girl scouts made better critics.

10:47: Oh nonono, silly man in the sweater and glasses, we don't "tailgate" at Pomona. We don't have sporting events. Or cars.

10:48: In which chefs get drunk for the first time. Count it.

10:49: They're not quoting student comments at all. That means they weren't interesting enough. The timing of my life is all wrong.

10:50: Top Chef amateurs are blowing the Masters out of the water so far in terms of plating design. These presentations are hideously real to dorm life.

10:52: Kodak commercial. Is printer ink really such a racket? Someone must do something!

10:55: Ouch, 2.5 stars is technically 50%. Of course Pomona students, being used to grade inflation, would give Schlow Chow a whole point more than the critics.

Boston first to go down, damn.

10:57: "Dowdy dorm room?" Bitch please, Sweaterman, Harwood is VINTAGE.

10:58: The French do it best.

10:59: Is that Doogie Howser?? Is that TRACIE EGAN? If yes, EW.

11:01: Rerunning the episode. SWEET. This time I can actually watch. Signing off, kids.