Burns My Bacon: Cheflebrity Pseudo-Locavorism

There are plenty of controversies in the food world, but one thing pretty much everyone agrees on (except maybe Sarah Palin), is that the proliferation of local and seasonal ingredients on restaurant menus is a good thing. Even if you don’t care about counting carbon miles, it’s hard to deny that vegetables grown nearby and eaten in the correct season just taste better. Even if you love McDonald’s, it’s difficult to not be at least a little grossed out by factory-farmed meat. So every foodie should be excited that the farm-to-table ethos has expanded from homey, reclaimed-wood-paneled spots in places like Brooklyn and Portland to restaurants run by some of the nation’s most celebrated chefs. Right?

Maybe not.

I recently ate at ABC Kitchen, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s vegetable-centric, farm-to-table restaurant in Manhattan. Now when I say farm-to-table, I mean outrageously, over-the-top, down-to-the-tiniest detail farm-to-table. There is the requisite rooftop garden growing the eatery’s herbs, and everything down to the soy-based candles is organic. The tables themselves are made from salvaged northeastern woods. Decor consists of discarded tree branches and photos from local artists who understand how to put a bird on it. The menu has two sides: the first lists the dishes, while the flipside relates where every single ingredient is from. And we’re not just talking about sourcing the fish and the tomatoes. Literally every ingredient is accounted for. Thinking about ordering the pretzel-dusted calamari but need to know which artisan pretzel establishment makes the pretzels that generate the dust? They’ve got you covered.

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Cheflebrity Smörgåsbord: When in Rome

roman

When I was asked for my last meal on earth, I immediately went Italian. I have a bit of Italian blood in me, but I’m not the typical New Jersey goombah.  No, I’ve never worn a track suit and gold chain and you wouldn’t mistake me for an extra from The Sopranos.  But it’s certainly the cuisine with which I most closely identify.  I’m actually more Irish than Italian, but you’ve got to be kidding me if you think I’m spending my last moments with potatoes, cabbage and corned beef.

Looking at the list of my fellow ESers, I was struck by how many of them went for simple dishes that undoubtedly remind them of home, family, heritage and the positive memories of life around the dinner table.  Nobody picked the twelve course tasting menu at The French Laundry.  I briefly toyed with the idea of a star-studded mega-meal, but it just didn’t feel right. If you have one last shot, I think it’s best to go with something that reminds you of all the good stuff in your life.

Another wise choice for a last meal?  How about a smörgåsbord?

– Well, if you were going to go high-end for your last dinner, you might want to go Jean-Georges.  If he’s good enough to cook for the past four presidents, he’s good enough for you.

– James Beard winner, Philly food rock star and my personal foodie man-crush Jose Garces makes fish tacos on the Today Show.  He’s pretty good on camera (hint, hint, Food Network folks!)

After the jump:  a politico makes a bold statement on communicable diseases, a food festival as envisioned by William Golding, and the perfect gift for the Giada-stalker in your life.

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