Thursday, May 10, 2007

It's-a Me...Mario!

Unlike his cheery, black-mustachioed video-game brother, Mario Batali is battling a very bad image as presented in Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford. Apparently Batali, according to Buford, is an insecure, over-testosteroned p---k who shoves food in his kitchen staff's mouths and forces them to repeat his words that it's what America is craving. Nice guy.

In a recent New York Times article, writer Julie Moskin compared a risotto made with a $70 Barolo (as called for in Mario's recipe) with one made from a bottle of Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon (closer to what Mario actually uses in his restaurant). In a blind tasting by the NYT dining staff, the Charles Shaw won hands down. The Barolo version was described as "
'least flavorful,' 'sharp edges' and 'sour.'"

I decided to try this experiment in our own GoodStuffNW test kitchen, using a cup of 2004 Mas Donis "Montsant" as a substitute for the Barolo and my two faithful test kitchen staffers as judges. Again, the cheaper wine was judged as "great" and "really great." 'Nuff said. You can download a version of the NY Times recipe here and try it in your own test kitchen.


Anonymous said...

Hey Kathleen, I read Heat and I thought Mario came off well...a man of appetites and passions, yes, but we pretty much guessed that. He's still the last best thing about the Cute Chef Channel and I imagine he'd be pretty great to have a beer with...
By the way, for one of those fascinating literary he-said-he-said moments, read Mario's account of the day he
parted company with London chef Marco Pierre White, then read White's surprisingly subdued version of same in his new "The Devil in the Kitchen." Were they both at the same fight?
John Foyston

Kathleen Bauer said...

I love the fact that when you're not eating food, you can be reading about it! It's the parallel to the situation I'm often in, where you're at a restaurant dining on a fantastic meal and talking about other meals you've had in the past or might have in the future. Is this a problem? I think not!