Clueless at the Scratch Bar

Sometimes I like to just show up at a restaurant without knowing anything about it; surprised by what I find; never knowing what hidden treasures lurk.  But if you do that at the Scratch Bar you’ll be totally fk’ed.  Don’t get me wrong the place is awesome.  Just don’t go in cold.  First, you need to know that you’re gonna drop a minimum of $400 minimum on two people.  Second you need to fast for two days; there’s only like 20 courses.  Which if I had spent two minutes on the internet I would have known.  But I like surprises.  Sorta.  Kinda.  Okay, fine, nobody does, and I was just being f’n lazy.  I was looking for a good place to impress a woman I’m dating, and someone said it would be perfect.  Actually, now that I think about it, it’s probably even worse that I didn’t check out the restaurant to which I was taking my date.  Especially since here were 20 courses and you might want to warn someone about that before taking them there.

The meal itself was outstanding.  Any one of the small plates could have been expanded to a full meal and done the job.  The hit list included: Trout, Blue Fin, Spot Prawn, Cuttlefish, Leek, Sweetbreads, Hamachi, Foie Gras, Quail, Lobster, Joshu Wagu, Cheese, Chestnut, Bone Marrow, Chocolate.  And the ambiance, hipster cool, but not annoying.  The meal started out in the enclosed bar.  Very speakeasy, and we were the only ones that is that added to the mystique.  Even the popcorn starter was good.  But things really got going on the mixology scale with hibiscus champagne float with our savory lemon meringue, and some kind of crazy gin infused maple mojito something with our charcuterie.

By the 14th course my girl was ready to bounce.  It was kind of a bummer because after the 10th course, dollar signs started to go off in my head.  What had I gotten myself into?  There were no prices to be found because there were no MENUS!  Not that I was making her stay to eat her keep, but I had to finish what I started.  It became a death match.  Either I was going to make it through this meal or it would kill me.  After the 14th course, I let her just sample each new tasting.  I’m not a monster, and to prove it we’re still together.  That’s love.


lions of Babylon

Nudo Negro is not just a black knot but a black ball of thread that a cat unwinds and uses to create havoc and wreak destruction on your orderly living space. The ponzu oysters on the half shell sell out and all waiters yell in unison. It is a sad moment but it is cause for celebration as we bagged the last order. Chefs deliver food from upstairs loft kitchen in artsy upscale Condessa neighborhood of Mexico City. Spider man music blasts as a masked waiter is lowered from kitchen. There is Lebanese influence in the lamb leg mole and grilled eggplant.  The pork shoulder with beats and carrots rocks hard. The atmosphere is surreal. The food is sublime. Fusion is the future. Meat is featured prominently.   We prepare our children for the future we cannot imagine. At dinner with Chinese industrialists, Mexican retail family and Gringo Loco. We toast our grandparents who prepared us to sit at this table together in Mexico City’s finest offering to gastronomic perestroika. The future looks bright.  ‎The lions of Babylon never sleep.

Wood Fire Inferno

“Propane is my favorite fuel but I still don’t want to‎ taste it.”
Ben Eisendrath, owner of Grillworks.
A little bit better is everything to die hards. You pay a lot more to get a little closer to perfection but the last part is the best part. The last mile is the hardest mile. The last 10% is where miracles happen.  
In the same price range as an architectural Grillworks wood fire 36″ you can buy state of the art Lynx smart grill with enough Stainless steel to resurface a Delorean. Wifi tells temperature and where to place t-bone. Propane not included.  Infinite btus. The coin flies high but you know deep down. Grillwork’s 36″ architectural wood fire grill is custom made in Michigan with testosterone boosting crank wheel, v-channel surface grates slanted at 4 degrees to persuade juices back into basting pans.  Grillworks are the people we have been waiting for. No compromises. Built for Armageddon.  Sure it takes longer to burn wood but we aren’t going anywhere. We are home with good friends and family. We are here to bring the meat to the people. Our people. .
Wood grilling takes us to the next level.  Low tech thrill of natural wood fire opens a universe of unpredictability, excitement and smoke infusion. There is a place for technology and instant gratification. There is a cost too. It is too high and the results are compromised. Our grandfathers knew how to grill in the fire. Let’s keep the flame burning for them.
Cara Hogue at Grillworks was professional, caring and sincere. Custom wood grill goes hand in hand with seaplanes, outdoor showers and wing-suit flying. And it makes you smarter. ‎Measured twice. Sent pictures.  Stand back there’s fire.  The grill arrived.   Installed same day. Wood fire smoke ring makes a difference. How much of a difference? 8% better if you need a number. Time cooking over fire bonds generations. The results are game changing.

Reindeer Stew

During prohibition there was fake haig & haig scotch. Hard to find the genuine article for obvious reasons.  You could taste the difference. You always can. All wax without the wick. There was a vessel docked 10 miles out from New York harbor named the “McCoy” – the real McCoy.
In Balestrand Norway, homemade reindeer stew is what’s for dinner. The Sviknes Hotel can keep you there but Hilde brings it home. We barely got a table. When we asked to order, Hilde asked if we had a pen. She meant it.  She disappeared. The stew made her beautiful. The reindeer sausage and elk burger brought tears to our eyes.  Service is optional. Reindeer stew is comfort food.  The real McCoy.

Carnivore Chaos

It is a baroque and teutonic Hanseatic league capital. Perfect for a carnivorous chaos. Far from the maddening crowd with a robber baron’s sense of acquisition and an aristocrat’s sense of entitlement, we are seated at Bocca Grill in Bergen Norway. Eyvind and Silje third base coach me into ribbesvein aka grilled pork belly. It is Norway’s other white meat. We discuss currency spikes, political scandals and romantic shipwrecks. All messy components. We are grateful but road weary. The greatest gifts we receive are accompanied by an extraordinary amount of pain. Not tonight. We dodged a bullet. There’s always tomorrow. Tonight ribbesvein.