Sunday, Bloody Sunday: #1 with a bullet!

After last night’s African drumbeat infused, madcap evening at China Pearl, to attend the wedding of my elders who are throwing the connubial dice and trying for a fresh start, it’s time to get into gear.  Dogs walked, wind blowing, pot of black coffee gone, second walk impending, and a book about the 1938 race riots ahead!  Oh, happy day!  Happy, happy day!

Beckett?  Always there when you need him.  Talk about an elder.

Last night the wine flowed from NZ and Argentina, and the pork rump and Peking duck were delicious.

But the big news today?  We’re #1 with a bullet:

A perfect time to pack it in and head to Tokyo.


Whole Foods or Holy Mackey!

There’s a great, very revealing interview in tomorrow’s NYT with a Mitt Romney supporter: John Mackay, CEO of Whole Foods:

Worth your time.

Years ago, Mr. Mackay made it clear that he is:

Against allowing employees to be part of organizations that advocate on their behalf;

Eager to buy products grown in China and market them under the Whole Foods brand;

Opposed to mandated health care coverage.

This has not stopped him from creating a flat out brilliant business model that is based on the colossal distraction of organic foods, “natural” foods, hormone free foods, and a farm to table “ethos.”  (As Tony Bourdain put it: Of course food comes from farms.)

I’m fascinated by it all, and while some folks are calling for a boycott of Whole Foods due to policies they disagree with, I feel differently.  Thing is: I stopped buying most of their food years and years ago.  There was a far more visceral reason I quit than who Mr. Mackey votes for and what ideologies inform his decision making :

The food does not taste good.  The fish isn’t tasty; the meat is choice (rather than the higher grade of prime), and has little flavor; the vegetables and fruits are OK, but no better than my local supermarket (that also carries organic stuff); the prepared foods have a texture of paste, are too salty, and because they are mass produced lack distinctiveness; why buy frozen or packaged foods; and, the breads are awful.

The best things about Whole Foods are the yoghurts they carry and their cheese section.  So, I’ll admit it: Yeah, OK, occasionally I buy that limited dairy from them.

Why bring an owner’s ideology into a decision?  Chances are many people you buy stuff from have views on race, class, labor, and laws you will disagree with.

But if something doesn’t taste good?  And that something is food?  Buy the food somewhere else.

I hear that Attila the Hun is opening soon…


Hearing Voices & Sugary Drinks?

I have the day off, thank goodness.  One radio interview @ 2 for the book.  Good thing, too: Yesterday I saw 13 people, 10 of whom were unemployed and mentally ill,  and three of whom were in a locked, inpatient unit suffering from depression and psychosis.  The last person I saw, a man in his twenties, began to respond to auditory hallucinations while we spoke.  That’s unusual and frightening.  Heroin, he said, makes them go away.
For me, it’s a pot of coffee, walks with the two Bernese mountain dogs, a three mile run, and a sandwich: Then the voices go away.  What voices, well you might ask.  That’s a metaphor.  Gee.  Let’s not be so pragmatic.  I mean, simply, that nonverbal, physical activity, along with caffeine and food, have a calming effect.
You stay in your cave, you come out of your cave, you build a fire, you hear the baying dogs come closer.
Kundera had it right, ironically: The unbearable lightness, though, should not be seen as “unbearable,” but a relief.
You can get in a huff, for example, about any number of things, but at the end of the day all we have and know is visceral.  That is: If we are lucky ducks.
Take the sugary soda story.  Sugar is bad, water is good.  Well, that’s happening now: The big soda companies are buying up water and they’ll sell it back to us at a tidy profit.  Until that happens, the real story isn’t the sugar in soda, but the private sector public health folks who are paid massive sums to advise the soda companies on how to sell their story to the public.  It’s the same old, same old: Follow the money.
Here’s what I mean:
But will Coca-Cola make the voices go away?  That’s what I want to know.

What’s In, What’s Out in Food

This year eating with chopsticks and a fork and knife is very in.  Picking up bones laden with fat, borderline in, is on the cusp of being out.  Depends: If you go to the restaurants where pork and offal are at the center of the stoned out chef’s imaginative repertoire, count on using your hands and dreaming of flatware and sticks.

Super in: Talking about food, noting a favorite meal, describing floral notes in wine, and going on about why being vegan is so yesterday.  Out: Intimacy.  Do not–do not!–talk about needs or desires.  Unless you’re Lance Armstrong, keep your emotions and observations in the bunker.

So in it’s breathtaking: Remember the neighbor’s 16-year old kid who borrowed the family car and took a case of PBR to the beach and got the DUI?  Now, fast forward: Chef’s whites, tats, a culinary vocabulary informed by bacon, ribs, burgers, shakes, and fries: Voila!  Out: Using expensive products, chiefly fish and vegetables, to create tastes that are not immediate.

It promises to be an exciting year, that’s for sure, as the pigs face off against the pea shoot greens.

In: I’ll be selling my new book, “Back of the House,” on Parkside & Calhoun in Trenton.

“Hey, what’s up?  Got Back of the House, you ready?”

Where To Eat in Boston

Let’s take a breather from shameless promotion of my new book, “Back of the House,” shall we?  I mean even Biggie came in from the cold after selling CC all night.  Am I right?  Of course, I’m right.  Canada Goose can only keep you so warm.

Dog–that’s what my intimates call me, and it’s not because of my uncanny vocal resemblance to Nate and his ex-cousin Snoop, but rather because I have, in fact, two Bernese mountain dogs–Dog, they say: Where should I eat in Boston?

My favorite restaurant in the entire city is Galleria Umberto: Ralph & Paul run this place, and it’s on Hanover Street, and, no kidding, this is the one place I will miss most if I ever pack it in and head to the mountains.  Square slices, the most positive vibe in the city, and, seriously?  You won’t be able to stop once you start.

Next up?  Why, Sullivan’s, on Castle Island, it’s where I always take out-0f-town guests.  The best dogs on the planet Earth, and the panoply of guests is like Boston’s version of a Fellini picture.  Post dog, walk the loop and joy will come to you.

I’m partial to the city’s bakeries: The best, easily, is Hi-Rise: Do not take the snoot factor to heart.  Look, if you had a B.A. from some hoity-toity college and socked it to the ‘rents for 200K?  You’d have attitude, for sure for sure, while serving scones and coffee to the wives and children of the investment banking community.  Focus!  Focus on the bread.  It’s light years better than any other joint; the only bakery that comes close is Sullivan Street, and Hell’s Kitchen is too far away.  For now.

You wonder about restaurants.  Don’t lie!  I saw you wondering.  Here is my list of places where, when you spend time and money, you won’t feel as if you’ve been hit upside the head.  And this list?  This is it: The downstairs bar at Upstairs in the Square; Park for drinks and pot pie; Nebo; Yakitori Zai; Darryl’s; and any number of Sichuan and Taiwanese places in Brookline and Allston.



#1 with a bullet

Lots of PR yesterday on, “Back of the House,” from Dallas to Albany, from Boston to New York City.  Eater called it, “scintillating,” and, “juicy,” (which I found odd and ironic as these were the exact same words I used to describe my girlfriend in high school), and the columnist in Texas was positively salivating.

The result?

This morning we hit #1 in Kindle, Professional Cooking, and, folks?  That’s pre-sales.  The book is not even out yet.

#18 in Books in the same category.

#50 in Gastronomy (like astronomy, but less celestial).

If life is contextual, and it is, the current context has a certain appeal.


And in today’s top story…

Oh, my goodness.  “Scintillating and juicy,” reports today’s National Eater.  Albany Times Union!  KRCW!

Back of the House hits the charts!

Is it just a rumor?

Or is Beyonce going to talk about “Back of the House” @ HT?

And this just in: We hit #3 tonight in Kindle Professional Cooking:

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Back of the House: The Secret Life of a Restaurant
Scott Haas
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Available for Pre-order

Could be…



Journey to Oz!

In the latest development, my new book, “Back of the House,” is getting air time in Australia.  I have not yet been to OZ, but I expect to be there soon, one of these days, to feast on the beef and throw back a few cold ones, and weigh in on whatever it is I am asked to weigh in on.

Meanwhile, closer to home, we’re only days away from the 4,000 word excerpt of, “Back of the House,” in Boston magazine.  On the very day that the issue hits the stands and appears in cyberspace I’ll be soaking in a very hot spring in Kaga Onsen.

Even closer to home, this just in: Four wild turkeys crossing the intersection of Lowell & Brattle Streets at 7:45 A.M.  Two fellas, two gals.  My dogs were curious and then?  Then they weren’t.



Tahrir Square: Big Book Event!

We’re all gathering our prayer books and putting on our shoes and Friday Best robes and heading down to Ye Olde Tahrir Square to buy copies of, “Back of the House.”  Zamir said it was #7 on Kindle yesterday, in Professional Books, and though my friend, whom I regard as a brother, tends to exaggerate–I mean, really?  Did that weekend in Alexandria even happen with Adara?–this time he was telling the truth.

Look, OK, it’s not quite as good a read as, “The Protocols of Zion,” and, no, it won’t be the dust-up over the latest outpost in Nablus, but still?  It’s a good book about celebrity chefs and who better to rustle up a bowl of couscous, grilled lamb, and stewed okra than Ghalia Alia Mahmoud?  I’m not saying that he’ll be there, but  الحمد لل, we can hope, can’t we?  They cannot take that away from us!  Even the prisoner pacing behind the bars, to paraphrase Rilke (not Jewish, by the way, though I can see why you might think that), has hopes!

What do we hope to accomplish?

For one thing, we’re talking about freedom!  Freedom in the kitchen for the galley, the moppers, the scrubbers, and the people making deliveries.  For another, it’s breaking the chains that kept us in the old ways, the mental dungeons of the oppressor.

Above all, we are going to usher in a new era!  Back of the House (available on Amazon, pre-order yours today) will be like the Koran of the Second Arab Spring.


Back of the House: #7 with a bullet

If anyone finds my copy of the Rathenau bio, please return it.  It’s been MIA since yesterday, which is disconcerting since I’m up to page 148: WWI is nearly over, Rathenau is going back to AEG, and it’s only a few years before he becomes Foreign Minister of the Weimar Republic.

So now I’m stuck reading, “The Night of Broken Glass,” a collection of eyewitness accounts of the race riots of 1938.  Bedtime reading, but where’s Eeyore when you need him?  Bray for us.

On a happier note, Back of the House hit #7 in Kindle Professional Cooking today.  That bodes well.

On a happy note: Discovered NEBO this evening–it’s a terrific, neighborhood Italian-American place near the Garden.  Pizza, IPA, and the Cs?  Now we’re talking!  Harden was great fun tonight, but Rondo was more fun.