Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tony! Tony! Tony!

People don't necessarily notify the Chamber of Commerce when Anthony Bourdain shows up for a meal. As a chef, they say he is about the sharpest knife in the drawer, although you have to wonder if his sauces are still exquisite, now that he has crossed over that big divide between working, sweating chef and globetrotting, book writing TV-starring Famous Chef. I can't say. He works, or did work, for a swanky French joint in New York called Brasserie Les Halles (literally, "food with sauce all over it and you don't have a say-so in the matter so just sit there and eat it!") As someone who greatly and loudly prefers Brasserie Le Diner, and grits over couscous, and pulled pork over Chateaubriand, suffice it so say that old Anthony and I are in different culinary leagues.

I enjoyed his first book, "Kitchen Confidential," quite a lot. I have always enjoyed reading about different jobs, and talking to people about their jobs, and hearing how things get done. If you're picky about how your food is cooked - what happens between the farm and your restaurant plate - I don't recommend the book, but for those willing to accept a little extra flavor on their pommes frites (literally, Frito pomade), you should be OK.

But Bourdain has had to slowly climb down from the petard on which he found himself hoist when he picked on Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray for becoming celebrities. He became quite the celebrity chef for damning others for becoming...celebrity chefs.


Tony the Celebrity showed up in Baltimore last January to film a segment for his show on the Travel Channel. Temporarily eschewing his standard diet of bull testicles and tiger innards (I think it's offal to eat like that!), he showed off the foods upon which we here in this aging Rust Belt city (he lumped us in with Detroit and Buffalo, for crying out loud) like to chow down. The show showed up on cable the other night, and it sure made me wish it was January again, when it's cold and rainy here, not hot and humid.

Bourdain is catching the dickens for the shallowness of his Cook's tour of Baltimore - hey, that's where that expression comes from, maybe?! David Zurawick at the Sun paper says Bourdain fit his preconceived notions about life in B'more into the show by having as his docents a couple of people who were involved in the TV show The Wire - one cop turned actor, one crook turned actress. Doesn't bother me at all. And you have to like this sort of least the first and third places they went!

Chaps Pit Beef is over on Pulaski Highway, the section of US 40 on Baltimore's east side named after the Polish soldier of fortune who saved George Washington's life during the Revolutionary War (ours.) You could look that up; it happened! Many a motorist bound between DC and points northeast has gotten off I-95 in this area and wound up at Chaps - the place where Tony met the Tiger Sauce® - eating sandwiches that look like this:

You just have to think that at least a dozen or so of those travellers said, "The heck with going back to Boston! Let's live here and eat like this forever! Who needs baked beans and chowder? Why stay there and get scrod all the time?"

I am really sorry about that last one.

Indeed. AB and sidekick then headed to the Northwestern part of the city - right across from the Northwestern police precinct house, and you can't get much more Northwestern than that around here. Here, in an erstwhile Burger Chef® building, Lake Trout is served. We call it Lake Trout for the same reason we call Larry King Larry King... we know he ain't the King; it's only a temporary, honorary title, like Queen Latifah or Governor Palin. Lake Trout is not trout, but whiting, and the only lake it ever sees would occur when the delivery truck takes a shortcut around Lake Montebello on the way to the place where they bread and deep fry all but the head of the whiting. And, since it's whiting, they serve it on white bread, with greens on the side. And macaroni and cheese, and that's good eating.

These are items not found outside of BallTEEmore, hon, and you can bet that when we go to New Jersey in a couple of weeks, I'll be like paraphrasing Chuck Berry: "lookin' hard for a beef stand, searching for a corner fish joint."

I had a friend who cried when she moved to Kentucky and could not find TastyKakes, Utz's Chips or Old Bay in the Piggly Wiggly. Baltimore gets in your belly and stays there.

Thanks for stopping by, Tony!

1 comment:

Peggy said...

Oh - good blog today! Now I'm craving Utz Potato Chips and Tastykakes. Two things definitely not on my diet!!!