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Tables for Dupes

A successful parody of the restaurant column in 'The New Yorker.'

By Aileen Gallagher

Encounter David Chang in This Week's ‘New Yorker’

Late in Larissa MacFarquhar’s profile of David Chang, the Momofuku man makes a confession: “I’m slowly realizing that I’m a highly complex individual,” he says. It’s not an insight likely to surprise readers of the piece, which will appear in The New Yorker this week. Chang comes across as brilliant, inspired, and high-strung to the point of actually giving himself shingles, a diagnosis made by a doctor after the chef literally incapacitated himself with worry and anxiety. But if you want to get a sense of how intense Chang really is, just read the passage where he reads the riot act to a group of hapless Noodle Bar cooks, who had committed offenses ranging from using tongs on the family-meal chicken (a Chang bête noire) to cutting up the fish cakes for the ramen carelessly.

Bagel Claim Laid Bare?

When we read in The New Yorker last week of a Long Island man who claimed to have invented the everything bagel 30 years ago in Howard Beach, one line stood out: “So far, no one has contested Gussin’s claim, setting his invention apart from the radio (Marconi vs. Tesla) and calculus (Leibniz vs. Newton). ” A droll enough observation, but one we suspected wouldn't last long in a city filled with boastful, self-promoting bagel mavens. And sure enough, Serious Eats reports that marketer Seth Godin has already contested the claim. But are we really to believe that the world waited until 1977 for the invention of the everything bagel? Somebody's zayde in Warsaw is going to be getting a phone call soon. Who Really Fathered the Everything Bagel? [Serious Eats]

‘The New Yorker’ Hits Fiamma Hard

The New Yorker’s “Tables for Two” reviews have generally been mordant little affairs, short on criticism and long on wry descriptions of restaurant culture. Not this week. Nick Paumgarten comes down hard on Fiamma, describing “FEMA-like” service, cold food, a martini made without vermouth, and, in general, the very picture of a major ripoff operation, subsisting on “a strong euro and the proximity of the Soho Grand hotel.” It’s a wild departure from the usual “Tables for Two” mold, and though it may or may not be reflective of Fiamma (practically all of the reviews have been very positive, including Adam Platt’s two-star job), it’s certainly a lot more fun to read. Something tells us Paumgarten had a lot of fun writing it. Tables for Two: Fiamma [NYer]

The Hackensack-Pyongyang Connection

NJ/NK
The New Yorker has a truly mind-boggling story in this week’s issue, a story so bizarre we could hardly believe it, even though we're familiar with the subject. Bobby Egan, the owner of an unremarkable Hackensack meatery named Cubby’s, has become an unofficial liaison with the North Korean government. We expected the piece to be pretty lighthearted, the tale of an unwitting dupe doing PR for Kim Jong Il as if he were the Mayor of West New York. The truth is far weirder, and more chilling: In fact, Egan presents himself as an adviser to the North Koreans on high matters of state.

‘New Yorker’ Food Issue: Plenty to Digest

The New Yorker
This week’s special food issue of The New Yorker would be worth reading without any specifically New York–oriented content. But fans of the locavore movement will probably want to flock to Adam Gopnik’s long piece on eating the fruits of the five boroughs (if you consider live poultry from the Bronx fruit, that is). Friend of Grub Street Gary Shteyngart has a moving little memoir about his boyhood love of McDonald’s that got us right in the kishkas. (Similar essays are by Anthony Lane, David Sedaris, and Nell Freudenberger.) But most enjoyable of all was Calvin Trillin’s essay about Singapore street food.

Perilla Found to be Basically Okay; Richman Loves Balthazar Even More Than The Good Fork

Perilla tried to be sober and sane, and what was the result? One star from Frank Bruni. But that’s still pretty good for a first-time effort, even by a ‘Top Chef.’ [NYT] It’s no surprise Alan Richman approves of Balthazar, given his fondness for insouciance in restaurants. He all but opens the floodgates of his enthusiasm for Keith McNally’s flagship. [Bloomberg] Related: Why Is Alan Richman So in Love With Brooklyn? In an apparent effort to differentiate the two once and for all, Andrea Thompson considers both the Farm on Adderley and Flatbush Farm in one column. But read closer, and only one entrée is mentioned at each place, a disservice to both. [NYer]

Hawaiian Tropic Is Just Misunderstood, Owner Says

This week’s New Yorker offers a touching portrait of a restaurant mogul in pain – in this case, food-court mogul Dennis Riese, the owner of Hawaiian Tropic Zone. Riese knows that people consider the Zone little better than an upscale Hooters, or worse, a strip club. But nothing could be further from the truth, he says: For one thing, there are “no nipples.” You can’t very well have a strip club without nipples, can you? Of course, even nipples wouldn’t necessarily make the Zone woman-unfriendly. “Women like sexy. Talk about empowerment and feminism! There’s nowhere offering women sexy in the way they would like it to be — classy sexy!” The short piece is probably a ten on what ESPN’s Bill Simmons likes to call the Unintentional Comedy Scale, but we feel a twinge of sympathy for the Zone, having actually been forced to eat at the regular Hooters, which, “talent” aside, has pretty awful food. In The Zone [NYer] Related: Hawaiian Tropic Zone's Tina Marino Probably Won't Be Sharing Her Life With You The Go-Go Gourmet