Thursday, December 1, 2011

La Banquise

I know the French are the sworn enemy and antithetical satans of all that it means to be a proud American, but after a visit to La Banquise in Montréal, I can safely say I would rather be fat than be a patriot (This is of course delightfully ironic because there are no fat people in Montréal, a moneyed city populated with swarthy mustache-bearers, impossibly fit birds in size 2 jeans, and lots of bums).

La Banquise is touristy and not particularly easy on the eyes, with yellow walls, hokey wall art and a plastic-coated menu designed to keep drunken projectile vomit at bay.  It's open 24h and ideally serves to coat the stomach before or after a night of binge drinking.  But who cares? With options like "Obélix" (Jewish style smoked meat), "T-Rex" (ground beef, pepperoni, bacon and hot dog sausage) and "Taquise" (guacamole, sour cream and tomatoes), you'll thoroughly enjoy shortening your lifespan with a steaming pile of what is possibly the most unhealthy culinary creation in North America.

Poutine at its basest level, without any fancy add-ons, is a pile of french fries covered in thick brown gravy and fresh cheese curds.  It was born in the Quebecois countryside sometime after 1950, and has since become a staple in Canadian fast-food and diner-style eateries.  Tell anyone you're visiting Montréal and they will tell you to eat poutine, and will probably recommend La Banquise.

I have eaten a good selection of terrible things in my time, from a whole package of Tim Tams dunked in peanut butter to an entire pizza by myself, but my poutine Taquise from La Banquise is possibly the most obscene thing I have ever put into my body.  From the moment of fork implantation down to the last gasp for air, it was all greasy, fatty guilt.  Just a heaping pile of salty carbs topped with fat. 

It's no wonder I haven't had a bowel movement in seven days.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Old Thunder

"If you were going to own a bar or restaurant, what would you name it and why?"

Without blinking, I'd open a Moby Dick themed brew pub (the kind that serves food) and call it "Old Thunder."

In third grade when I was allowed to check out classics from the middle school library, I went right for the white whale and read it cover to cover. Of course I didn't understand 99% of the historical/mythical references and the vocabulary was over my head, but I wanted it all and I loved the story, which was simplified a bit in the weird Danish kiddie movie "Samson and Sally". I finally got around to rereading Moby Dick just last year, devouring it in less than a week during down time at work. The experience was aurally enhanced by Ahab, whose (in my opinion) finest moment is the track "Old Thunder."

Old Thunder the pub will visually be an homage to the whaling industry of the 19th century, with as many genuine artifacts as all the collectors of the world can muster up. Harpoons, anchors, scrimshaw, whale-oil lamps, ambergris in glass bottles, flaying knives, bits of rope, all that stuff.

The menu shall be a fantastic thumbing of the nose at Sea Shepherd, PETA, and vegetarians the world over. From whale bacon to whale tail hors d'oeuvres, whale steak, and whale burgers, every edible item will contain whale meat harvested legally by Japanese or Icelandic hunters. Even nonwhale items will be cooked, fried, baked or sautéed in whale product, so no one can possibly be safe from the innocuous-sounding "Sperm Fried Squid..."

As for drinks, Old Thunder brews and bottles its own beers on the premises. Each stout, hefeweizen and lager will be named after a human character from the book. Daggoo will appropriately be the darkest porter, while Queequeg shall be a robust and universally enjoyed brown ale. Fedallah, being a Persian and all, will probably contain strong hints of exotic spices. Custom cocktails will be named after nonhuman characters/places...with the infamous house special, the "Moby Dick," containing both absinthe and whale blood.

Old Thunder's target demographic will ideally be a brilliant mix of smart weirdos, metalheads, book nerds, and loners. The staff will be a collection of wild cards from patternless and diverse backgrounds. Purveyors of snobbery, jerks, and assholes will be gassed and thrown into a vast mass grave - the call of the wretched sea.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Slaying buffets in FUK

Sometime during the three years I lived in Fukuoka prefecture, I developed a crippling addiction to 食べ放題/バイキング ("tabehoudai/Viking," aka all you can eat) restaurants and deals. In true "vampire the buffet slayer" form we would descend upon these establishments, populated mostly by slim Japanese women, and put them out of business. Unlike CiCi's Pizza and the Golden Corral, there is little shame in slaying Japanese buffets because even though you're eating the same amount of calories, they're coming from tasty gourmet food made on premises, often from locally grown and fresh ingredients. It also helps that the places tend to be decorated impeccably and the clients do not appear to have compulsive overeating disorders. I gotta say, one of the toughest culture shocks I've faced upon coming home was acceptance of the fact that I will only get to slay nice buffets at weddings and hotels.

During my time in Fukuoka I submitted "Top Five" articles every month to "The Refill," a newsletter put out by some other English teachers in the area. "The Refill" itself is of food-centric origin. From its website:

"As you may know, Fukuoka is famous for a soup noodle dish called ramen (this might be an understatement). There are many ways to make a bowl of ramen your own: a dash of this, a splash of that, or a side of those. But ramen stores in Fukuoka offer another option: a second helping of delicious noodles, called kaedama. This lets happy patrons refill their bowls with noodles, extending the life of the broth. This parallels the purpose of The Refill: Filling you in about the Fukuoka community and providing insight into life in Japan."

By far my best (and most heartfelt!) Refill article was "All You Can Eat Buffets," which was published in the spring edition. Screencap and link are below.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

More Ham

The first time I ever strung two words together to form a cohesive thought, I said "more ham." First words from the mouths of babes can mean jack shit, or they can provide insight into the future of the lifetime of the babe in question. In my case, I grew to be unpleasantly (thankfully not too severely) roly-poly at a young age, loathing exercise in favor of fettucine Alfredo and multiple bowls of Reeses Peanut Butter Puffs cereal. Eating, not necessarily food, has always been my favorite pastime, and I have always had elephantiasis of the appetite. As a vain young adult I must keep my weight below the "fat point" and input a healthy variety of macronutrients, but "more ham" is always there lurking.

Two days ago, I went on a date. We got beer and two dozen chicken wings - Buffalo Hot, BBQ, Chipotle BBQ, and Garlic Parmesan. I could have easily slaughtered all those wings myself, but I pretended to be full after seven or eight since I noticed he was slowing down. Sure enough, when I asked "how many wings could you eat if you were competing?" he said "Probably ten." The night before, I'd gone out for wing fries (shoestring fries soaked in hot wing sauce and bleu cheese) with someone who once ate 67 hot wings in a competition. Not all men are created equal.