You should know, chefs teetering on the edge of following me north, that New Hampshire is in the midst of a gluten-free renaissance (or civil war, depending on one’s perspective). Every fifth customer we get at Ciao asks for their cream-massacred pasta dish or cheese laden pizza to be made with gluten free versions of the pasta and crust. Now, before you Celiac patients jump my ass, I know that gluten intolerance is a horrible affliction. No bread? No pasta? No pizza? What an unfortunate hand to have been dealt. Bread truly is, in every meaning of the word, life. I’ve seen what sneaking a little flour into a dish can do to someone who’s truly stricken with the protein allergy. It can kill. I get it. I take it seriously, believe me.
But come on New Hampshire. Wasn’t the whole gluten-free/Adkins Diet thing trendy twenty years ago? I’m pretty sure Dr. Adkins himself died from complications, at least in part, related to his carb-free diet. It was an irony that quelled furor over the evils of the maligned protein, at least in the South. How can you deny yourself a fat hunk of olive oil smeared focaccia or a properly made spaghetti carbonara? It just doesn’t seem right. Do you think you’ll be more attractive to the opposite sex or something? Do you think you’ll be thinner? I’ll assert that a woman happily demolishing a big plate of pasta is far more engaging than a wafer-thin primrose hesitantly pushing rice noodle around in a bowl. The only thing more irritating are the pasta sauce on siders. That’s not how pasta is done, unless you’re at Olive Garden. Sauce and noodle should be joined in unholy matrimony in the pan. One should not nappe one’s noodles with sauce poured from a plastic ramekin. How undignified. A trillion Italian grandmothers beat their coffin lids every time a ladle of sauce is unceremoniously dumped on overcooked pasta.
Sometimes you just have to go for it. Do a few extra laps around the snowy neighborhood with the other insane, temperature-resistant joggers, but don’t deny yourself the good shit. Or at the very least, if you’re going to be fussy about a non-existent gluten allergy, don’t eat pasta.
As the three of you reading this might be able to tell, I have an attitude this week. After getting killed Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and dealing with a passive-aggressive member of the management team for weeks, I’ve got a fully loaded gun of snark to unleash on the world. Yesterday, flashing through Facebook I came upon two separate posts from restaurants that bragged of a “curated beverage program”. Delving further into the days missed posts, two more restaurants opened with the overkilled moniker “provisions” attached to their names. For years, both words have incited tirades and anxiety in me. I know. Chill the fuck out dude. Who cares what they call their restaurant? I happen to like the name provisions and I think curate is catchy.
I don’t have any defense but let me try to piece one together. I have an unhealthy problem with followers. Even as far back as the playgrounds of elementary school, I’ve had a bone-deep suspicion for those who pedal in idolatry and sycophancy. I get it from my father. When little Davy, my former best friend, switched teams to the bully side because of the obvious benefits of being on the aggressor’s side, I was livid. Not because the phalanx of my detractors had grown by one, but because he joined a group of self-congratulatory meatheads with little to offer. Said more succinctly, conformity pisses me off. Provisions came from a popular, Beard Award winning restaurant in San Francisco called State Bird Provisions. And curate came from Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago. Both words are now so overused, that State Bird and Achatz would be rich beyond their wildest dreams if they had somehow managed to copyright them. They are to the written word what foams are to gastronomy. Played out.
But yes, neither the gluten thing, curate thing or provisions thing are real world problems. Maybe I just need a couple days of continuous sleep.
In the happy department, we put out some beautiful food this week. The Cape Cod Bluefin Crudo with Fennel-Almond Gremolata was especially gorgeous and tasty. I have never in my life seen a better slab of tuna. According to the Boston accent on the phone at Seaport Fish it was two days out of the sea. That may sound like an old piece of fish to some, but consider that rigor mortis renders all fish inedible for at least twenty-four hours. It’s only after rigor releases its tendony and flavorless grasp on flesh that fish, beef, lamb, chicken, etc. are truly delicious. To contrast, the tuna that you enjoyed last night in Memphis at the top of the line restaurant? I don’t care what they told you, it was least five to seven days out of the water before it arrived at the restaurant. I worked at Sysco for a year and a half and visited their fish processing plant in Atlanta. I know the gory details. Some asked why I didn’t serve more fish at Caritas…Now you know why.
Also in the happy department were Kristin’s desserts. Her pistachio-chocolate torte and butterscotch budino with homemade gingersnaps were epic. She received so many gushing compliments that it almost broke her veil of humility. I am so proud of that woman. Everything she touches turns to gold.
And that’s much more important at the end of my day than a sour taste for the gluten tolerant but ignorant and the copycat restaurateurs.
Apologies to those who were offended by today’s dispatch. If there was ever a clearer indication of why I called my website The Saltiest Words….