Jenny Famewhore

Tokyo reverie

Posted in Tokyo by Jenny Famewhore on September 25, 2009
tokyonight

On top of the world, Tokyo 2009

My emotions are so bound up with this city and especially magnified now that I have left it (unavoidable human feelings stemming from retrospectivism and nostalgia.) I feel electrocuted when I see a photo floating out of nowhere on facebook of Heiwadai, the quaint radish-valley where my hovel was; chancing upon a picture in a Taiwanese model’s blog, of her posing in front of Shinjuku station and wishing I could take her place; walking past Book-off, Chiyoda sushi, and Beard Papa in New York; Tyler describing to me an article in Maxim about yakuzas running the red light district in ikebukuro (10 min. from my ‘hood); or meeting a friend made in Japan in an American context. It triggers a slippery slope of memories: of riding the eerily punctual trains everywhere (only made un-punctual by the occasional “human accidents/人身事故”), of the language in its many forms (casual speech, formal speech, japanglish), but most overwhelmingly, of the times I spent with the people there (the Finns, the Americans, the U.K. corner, the Frenchies, the westernized Japanese youth) rendezvousing in the public parks outside Sophia University and in Kichijoji, karaoke bars in Shinjuku, and izakayas (Japanese-style bars) in Shibuya– being young, beautiful, crazy, and in the moment.

The irony is that when I first arrived in Tokyo, I was constantly comparing its gastronomic landscape to New York’s– how it didn’t have proper pizza, bagel, and how decent italian food could not be found (What is tobiko and nori doing in my spaghetti? Why does my spaghetti come from a box imported from America?) Why is Chinese food 1500 yen ($15) and so inferior to New York’s Flushing (a mecca of Chinese stuffs) when Tokyo is a short 3 hour flight away from the source? Why does demiglace used by restaurants to top off the “hambagu” with rice come from a metal can and packaged by Heinz? Why does an apple cost 500 yen ($5) and a watermelon 3000 yen ($30)?

Unfortunately, I spent my first month or so in this querulous, close minded haze until my friend, an American expat living in China, verbally slapped me out of my self-righteous stream of blahblahblah about the superiority of New York’s food culture. Then the clouds parted etcetera. Sample enlightenment:

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midnight walk to fruit stand in Phuket

“I want mangoes. There aren’t mangoes around here worth my yen.”

“Fool. Go to Thailand dude. Just take a one week trip and gorge yourself.”

Ok. — fast forward a few months, I fly to Thailand… Finding myself in fruit paradise, where all mangoes come to die, slurping on mango shakes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and fourth meal. Brilliance. Everyone needs to go to food counseling now and then.

But his other advice was more sensible and rocked my stubborn mindset straight to the core (direct quote minus all the cussing in between):

“If you’re trying to recreate an American lifestyle there you will find it takes a lot of effort. But why would you want to do that? Just enjoy the great Japanese food that is both ubiquitous and cheap.”

Moved to Boston, ate some stuff

Posted in Boston by Jenny Famewhore on September 13, 2009

The top five things I learned about food this week:

1. Soul Fire BBQ, on Harvard Ave/Beacon Street has All You Can Eat WINGS! on Mondays for 6.99 dolla dolla billz. If Jean-Georges ever have a tabehoudai (食べ放題) of Seared Skate, this is the wings equivalent– mild exaggeration, but they produce just as much happiness points on my satisfaction curve. Under cost-benefit analysis: benefits for the win!, because these wings are unbelievably juicy (the drumsticks are less so, but still does the job) and available in four delicious homemade sauces: (ordered in descending favorites) Pit-Boss (a Soul Fire blend of bbq and a sweet n’ sour sauce); Spicy Honey; Golden BBQ; and Buffalo. Every Monday! Who! Is! With me?!

2. In a perfect universe, I would never order again at Mickey D’s in America (especially having more than my fill in Tokyo, and under peer pressure from my America-lovin’-European-friends)– but I can still watch, in abject horror, Victor do a midnight drive-thru McMassacre on this new (new to me at least, the recently re-patriot’ed) Franken-burger:

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The McGangBang.

I don’t really care enough  to remember the official name or google the ingredients composing this monstrosity, but it’s like a turducken: two beef patties flanking a breaded chicken patty, with tasteless iceberg lettuce (that may or may not have been there. Might have hallucinated it just so my mind does not explode from the overwhelming mental image of lotsa bad meat) and condiments.

IMG_44473. IHOPS still cannot poach eggs. No surprise.

4. Ghirardelli brownies made from the box (with cream cheese added) is a 4AM munchies staple.

5. Eggplants in America are LARGE. At least 5 times larger than their Japanese counterpart. This is not necessarily a metaphor for other things.

Referenced Locations:

Soul fire BBQ
182 Harvard Ave
Allston, MA 02134-2806
(617) 787-3003

Shake Shack: what all other burgers aspire to be

Posted in New York by Jenny Famewhore on September 1, 2009

Burger and Ice Cream, those words are already repeating itself like a mantra chanted by Buddhist monks at five in the morning at a temple in the Himalayas. Except that my backdrop is Madison Square Park on a cloudless blue summer afternoon. I prance up to the Shake Shack line to meet Lisa Famewhore, who is already clutching a bag of Shake Shack cheese fries and saving me a spot on the twenty person deep line. Almost immediately, my vision locks into her cup of Berry Blue ice cream, and on cue, she spoons a bite-ful of intensely blueberry flavored, milky, frosty delicious into my mouth. My eyes rolls upwards and I moaned, “MMMM, SO GOOD!” to my audience of two women behind us, who had completely halted their conversation to watch this entire exchange, and the very intently staring man in front of us who (according to TJ and his male instincts) had thought bubbles visibly emanating, “mmm, yeah, so good, that’s right. You lick that ice cream off that spoon. Now, lick each other.”

Honestly, Shake Shack is SO good, it doesn’t even require two Asian girls and borderline lesbian food play to market it. Just look at this. Instantaneous mental food-gasm. The golden ratio redefined into: 2 butter-coated buns, 1 crunchy fresh lettuce, 1 thick ripe slice of organic tomato, 1 secret sauce (my kryptonite in any food menu. Just write ‘secret sauce’ and my curiosity drives me to own it) and primo-meat (“a proprietary blend of beef by Pat LaFrieda.”)

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Every single Shake Shack Burger consumed, past and present, undoes the heinous evil of Really Bad Burgers (such as the tragic fail that is the McDonald’s Mega Mac exclusively made for Japan.) It’s like every tasty molecule is dying for our gastronomic sins. Imagine, Jesus times 300 units of energy.

Orion, my Confederate-expat (or in more P.C. terms, “Southern”) friend who entertained aspirations of culinary stardom before it was crushed by the economic shitstorm, formerly worked at the second Shake Shack on the Upper West Side where he’d punish French people for being French by forcing them to babble on in their hated language English, make eyes at the gay head-waiter at Dovetail across the street, and receive severe Shake Shack discounts as an employee. He still luuuuurves Shake Shack burgers; which is the most genuine form of compliment anyone can give as an insider to this industry (another acquaintance who had formerly worked at McDonalds, to preserve his sanity, became a vegetarian for 5 years.) Tragically, Orion has since quit, which leaves him nothing but dead to me (jaykay.)

Referenced Locations:

Shake Shack
Madison Ave and East 23rd St.
New York, NY 10010
(212) 889-6600