Tuesday, February 12, 2013

David Burke @ Bloomingdale's - The Hot Dog

David Burke In the Box is one of those eateries where you'll see people drinking wine at lunch, more often than not paired with a salad. This may be a New York phenomenon, but I'm leaning towards a classy-people-in-big-cities trend. Of course, because it was created by a celebrity chef, it will have some sort of fusion, in this case between the high and low-brow of american cuisine.

Note the classy white people and tiny plate of food.
Not that any of the menu makes sense or is priced in a particularly affordable way.  Though you can get it at the store for 2 bucks, David Burke's Mac and Cheese sells for $16. Oh, that's because it has chives. Well, it makes sense now. (The mac and cheese with lobster is $24). There is simply no theme to this menu, you can have a meal of Chicken Spring Rolls, with a Pizza Entree and a side of Tabouli Salad or 'Cowboy Beef Chili' (though I prefer my beef made from cow, I was curious what cowboy might taste like).

They also have a Kobe Beef Hot Dog, and I simply had to try it.

The Dog: 2/5
Doesn't look like a hot dog, does it? More like "ode to a hotdog"
I know what you're thinking, a poor rating on a KOBE BEEF hot dog? And yet, here it is. The shape, size, snap, all of those things were excellent. The dog itself? It has none of the classic hot dog essence one might hope for. I couldn't figure out why there was little flavor or spice, or why the texture seemed just a touch off, almost too beefy. And then it dawned on me, this was a healthy hot dog. A good dog has to have a balance of fat and mystery cow bits to be good, but this seemed like straight steak meat. Not that I'd normally complain, but I wanted a hot dog and what I got was a tube shaped pastrami sandwich. 

Acoutrement: 4/5
They get a good score for inventiveness, though I can't say I particularly enjoyed it. Sauerkraut and Sweet Pepper Relish adorn the dog with a bit of dijon to add kick. The Pretzel Bun was FANTASTIC though, and should probably be used for everything hot dog related from now on.

Ah, here we have a more authentic look
Value: 1/5 
This was the major sticking point. $16 is a ridiculous price for a hot dog. Did I really care that it was made from Kobe Beef? Did that taste any different? Not really. It's not like it was so much more tender for being Kobe. If it were organic or grass-fed or included something that actually made a difference, they'd get a '2', but in the end I'd rather have paid $1.50 for a COSTCO dog.

Other: 3/5
I could probably go on way too long in this category. Let's just say when I was asked if I'd like a side of Tabouli Salad or Truffle Fries, I was flummoxed. Lots of unnecessary choices, though the yam fries are a nice idea. The green bean and almond salad still makes no sense to me.

Maybe I'd have enjoyed it more if I were drinking wine. Or perhaps I simply want spices and flavor in my hot dog. A Bratwurst, Knockwurst, Polish Sausage, Lousiana Hot Sausage, any of those would have been preferable to what I had. And yet, for some reason I think I'd try it again if I went back. I genuinely have no idea why. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Robo Taco (Portland, Oregon)

I refuse to photograph these tacos. Not because they're so horrible to look at, although I'm not keeping much from you. They come on a paper-encrusted tray, with a troubling amount of space between each flat taco. I refuse to out of self-consciousness, not wanting to be one of those people who photograph what they eat. Nausea toward unceasing aestheticism does not stop aesthetically mediated decorum, nor does it stop the internal spewing of judgements that so offend an anti-sensibility sensibility. Note that above I noted that the space between the tacos is troubling. What kind of eaters note such things? What kind of eaters, indeed, take notes? What kind of people are "eaters," when there is nobody who does not eat?

Not the intended patrons of Robo Taco, although certainly the paintings of robots and colorful, presumably taco-producing locales are designed to appeal to someone's sense of cuteness. It is not quite "stoner food," but a category of food at once more general and specific, "post-bar food." With its homey multicolored lights, it is a kind of hospital for the strained aesthetic economies that surround it, bars so dimly lit that they appear to have lost electricity--something meant to magically displace onto its customers. I may have my circutry metaphors crossed, but that's a lot of potential resistance. Just how lively can one become when sufficiently sedated?

The distance between lively and deadened isn't far. It's about a block. Here, there is nothing to appreciate and nitpick. There are no appreciators and nitpickers orchestrating experiences. There is no nuance. Robo Taco has created an ontology of taco. Taco is taco. Meat is meat. Relleno is relleno. Food does not come on the painstakingly composed plates of cuisine, but is made of discrete components. A chile relleno plate does not have a chile relleno, but has chile relleno; it contains beans, rice, and kind of Mexican mash of chopped-up chile rellenos and salsa. It's not difficult to imagine robots in the kitchen.

There is an automatism in eating here, too. When every thing is a proper noun, there is no reason to develop knowledge about any of it. It is consumed like a landmark. Which I presume is as lovely as anything can be sometime after midnight, the waning of alcohol pressing on the back of the skull, the electricity both dead and revealed not to be static, after all. I'll leave the tacos to people with such needs. Robo Taco's place in the local geography is clear, but this is a blog of a wider area and mood. We map a different index, photographing and nitpicking food because we're innocent enough to seek out innocence. We want to eat the taco that does not invite us to wonder if it's the right taco. We at Street Meat Nation are nostalgics.

The Taco: 3/5.
Accoutrement: 4/5.
Other: 3/5, but I speculate: 5/5 if drunk and/or hungover.
Overall: 3/5-4/5.