November 2006



My cell phone rang yesterday and it was my friend Mark, theater critic and music blogger. “Adam!” said Mark, eagerly. “You blew the lid off a Playbill scandal!”

It took a moment to understand what Mark was referencing and then I recalled that I posted a post on All That Chat, the theater message board yesterday. (Yes, I’m a theater dork, I read theater message boards. Sue me!) I posted the post to help answer a question that’s bugged from the moment my enthusiasm for food caught up to my enthusiasm for theater. Are the restaurant plugs that you see at the back of a Playbill real or made up?

You see, for those of you who haven’t had the good fortune to see a Broadway show yet, at the back of the Playbill that you get at each performance there’s almost always a page where two Broadway actors reveal what is supposed to be their favorite New York restaurant. I have a Playbill from Spamalot with me on my desk right now and on pg. 42 the top of the page says, “Celebrity Choice” and there are two theater celebs: Adriane Lenox from “Doubt” (which is no longer playing; it’s an old Playbill) and Alan Tudyk from “Spamalot.”

Adriane, it says, chooses Monte’s on MacDougal Street between W. 3rd & Bleecker. “For 22 years, Giovanni Masconi has been running a little piece of heaven on Greenwich Village’s MacDougal Street,” says the text beneath Adriane’s picture. Did Adriane really say that? “A little piece of heaven?” And what’s Monte’s? Has anyone ever heard of it?

Alan chooses “Marseille” (a restaurant that I have heard of) and the text says, “A year ago, shortly after Andy D’Amico had come aboard as executive chef at Marseille restaurant, he and general manager Robert Guarino took a trip to Marseille….” The text sounds like standard promotional material, not a genuine account by an enthusiastic restaurant fan.

So I posed the question on All That Chat. “How does this work?” I asked. “Do these actors get paid to shill for a restaurant? Or do these actors really genuinely recommend these restaurants?”

The responses came in pretty quickly. RelaxnNYC writes, “A good friend of mine was featured in the ‘actor’s’ pick column. He told me that Playbill approached him, gave him the name of the restaurant, and gave him a free meal in exchange for the publicity. He didn’t have anything to do with what was written in the column.”

BroadwayFan says, “I believe that all the restaurants that are “recommended” by theatre celebs purchase advertisements in Playbill. In exchange for advertising in Playbill, they get the “celebrity recommendation feature” once or twice a year. If a restaurant doesn’t pay to advertise, they don’t get the featured in the celeb column.”

TheGuy tells a funny tale. He writes: “Thirty years ago I was working on the New York Shakespeare Festival at Lincoln Center’s production of THREEPENNY OPERA when Ellen Greene opened the Playbill and found out that she had ‘recommended’ a steak house. She went to the press agent to complain and was told ‘don’t worry, you get a free meal’ but that would not assuage Ellen, who was a vegetarian. She asked for a retraction but none was forthcoming.”

Finally, JBFB tells a similarly funny story about Kelli O’Hara, star of “Light in the Piazza.” “I took my girlfriend ( a huge o’hara/piazza fan) to the see the light in the piazza for her birthday. i surprised her by taking her to a really nice restaurant (we went to “kelli’s pick” in the playbill) and i showed her kelli’s playbill column after we ordered an expensive dinner to explain why we were there. she went nuts, and loved it, and i told her we were meeting kelli backstage after dinner and the show. so talking to miss o’hara afterwards, i told her we went to her restaurant, and she said…oh, was it good? i’ve never been there….i get a free meal though…i’ve GOT to go! too funny.”

So there you have it. Next time you hold a Playbill, put it down or you may be infected by its LIES.

The Recipe Tweaker (Apple Cider Cupcakes)

Those cupcakes above are my invention. Well, they’re mostly the invention of (specifically this recipe for Apple Cider Cupcakes With Cider Cream Cheese Icing) but they become mine because I tweaked the recipe. The recipe called for shortening instead of butter. Shortening instead of butter? Are they mad? There must be a reason for this. So I discussed the issue with Diana.

“I want to make these cupcakes,” I said, “but this recipe calls for shortening instead of butter.”

“So use butter,” said Diana.

“Can I do that?”

“Sure,” she said. “Just use a little more butter than shortening.”

So I suppose this recipe is Diana’s invention. Instead of the 3/4 cup of shortening I used 1 3/4 sticks of butter. And the cupcakes came out terrific: an exciting use for that ever present apple cider that overflows the farmer’s market in fall. So when you go home tomorrow and make these cupcakes and someone asks whose recipe is it, say, “It’s from the Tweaker. The Recipe Tweaker.” And write me a theme song and I’ll show up in a cape and eat one.

The Truth About Pamela

People are saying that it’s Borat who broke Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock apart. But I am here to tell you that’s not true. The truth is that it was my dad:

More Blogging Advice

I hadn’t realized this until just now but if you Google “How To Start A Food Blog” the #1 result is the post I wrote on August 17, 2005 about, appropriately, how to start a food blog. Since more than a year has passed since that post, I have an archive in my brain of things I’d like to amend to it: further tips and pointers that I think could help food bloggers who want to get more out of their food blogging experience. So what follows is a sort of free-flowing supplement to the original essay: some of the points will be re-echoed, many points will be new–all of the points will be issues I feel strongly about.

More Bread Bakers

Who knew that my “Make Bread” post would start a bread-making revolution? In addition to the five people I featured in the first round-up, I’ve received several more e-mails and pictures from first time bread-bakers eager to try their lot with yeast, flour, water and a hot oven.

Meet Liam:

He made the bread and says, “You were right, it was easy and worked just fine even though I ran out of AP and had to use the WW flour that was in the pantry.” He took the picture while on the phone with his wife who was in Chicago at the time. “She was impressed with my bread,” he says.

Mmmm Zzzz

The title of this post encapsulates everything I have to say at the moment about tonight’s giant Thanksgiving dinner. But prepare for an epic comic book post of everything that happened, a post that will appear next week…yet not on this site. Not on this site? But how did it go? What’s going on here? Stay tuned!

Hope everyone had happyThanksgivings, with plump turkeys and tart cranberries. Time to ride that tryptophan train to bed.

Status Report 1

As of 1700 hours, Wednesday:

– Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie, check

– Frozen Key Lime Pie, check

– Corn bread for stuffing, check

– Cranberry Sauce from scratch, check

– Candied nuts and pretzels for snacking, check

– Carrot Soup, check

– Find out we’re having more guests for dessert, check

– Make apple cobbler, in the oven at present

Left to do:

– Make stuffing

– Brine turkey

– Sweet potato casserole

– Brussels Sprouts

– Pop-overs

– Breed family love and harmony through the love of food. (Sayeth my mom, "Everyone in this family’s on a diet except you!") (Sayeth my grandmother, "It’s only one dinner Mister Boss" (after I told her how to peel an apple.) Sayeth me, "My back hurts but I’m heading back downstairs to start the stufifng."

Good luck and happy THanksgiving everyone!

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