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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Anagram menu

Frank Bruni reviewed Rayuela yesterday in the New York Times. It's unlikely that I'll ever go there, but I was delighted by one of Bruni's parenthetical asides about the menu: "I’ll say this about its long list of brightly hued special cocktails, its sprawling roster of festively tinged ceviches, its rethought paellas and retooled empanadas (a skate one as well as a steak one, as if the menu were driven by anagrams) — they won’t bore you."

An anagram menu? I'm not even a very good sandwich-maker or water-boiler, but I do love anagrams. My first attempt yielded only simple dishes you could devise from a couple of rounds of Boggle:

roast taros
a pear and rape appetizer (rape is a member of the mustard family). I think this might be pretty good because I love whole grain mustard, and the texture would go well with the graininess of the pears.
a skate and steak duo
melon and lemon sorbet for dessert

I wasn't satisfied with this slight menu, so I fooled around with the Internet Anagram Generator and came up with some experimental dishes that sound mostly awful, but they're not much weirder than some of the dishes from Top Chef (Hung's white chocolate and cauliflower ice cream and many of the exotic surf and turf dishes from the first episode come to mind):

Kalamata olives --> Tamales via Kola (a Russian-Mexican fusion?)
Broccoli rabe --> Cool crab brie (this would probably be gross)
Blue corn enchiladas --> A Chinese collard bun (I don't think this would be out of place on a dim sum cart)
Poached salmon with mustard --> Shadow-tint rum peach dolmas (I don't know what shadow-tint rum would be, but I'm imagining it as a dark rum)
Turtle cheesecake --> Sheer lettuce cakes (certainly not an improvement on the original, but how can you outdo turtle cheesecake? There's also Tech's leek tea cure, which would go well with the lettuce cakes--if you were doing something like the cabbage soup diet)
Veal saltimbocca yielded Vilest Cacao lamb, so I tried
Chicken saltimbocca --> Chic clambake tonics and Nick's catacomb chile

Here's Bruni's assessment of Rayuela: "It’s a beautiful, fascinating, frustrating place, its cosmetic showiness echoed by dishes that are also all over the map, in terms of their appeal as well as their geographic and ethnic tethers, and in the way they throw ingredient upon ingredient and seasoning after seasoning at you."

So maybe some of these anagram dishes might work there!


Blogger Writer, Rejected on Thu Aug 23, 09:52:00 PM:
These are fabulous. I fell in love with anagrams when I realized in college that Vladimir Nabokov had a shady, odd character in Lolita named Vivian Darkbloom. What a thrill! Anyway, love your blog. Mine is all about literary rejections, which may or may not be up your alley, but check it out anyway, if you're in the mood.
Blogger Ben on Fri Aug 24, 12:12:00 AM:
I'm glad you too follow the merrily bonkers Mr. Bruni, Alice. Did you notice the ad addressed to him in the Times last week, from equally entertaining restauranteur Jeffrey Chodorow? (It followed his one-star review of Wild Salmon, in which he complained that he couldn't find the penguin figure which used to adorn the Baked Alaska...)
Anonymous Anonymous on Fri Aug 24, 09:24:00 AM:
Alice, this is great! I would love to try the chic clambake tonics.

Do you read Frank Bruni's blog? It's so great. The post about mechanical-bull cuisine was very entertaining, especially since I am a secret fan of Urban Cowboy.
Anonymous Anonymous on Fri Aug 24, 03:50:00 PM:
If these never became gourmet recipes they do make for a delicious read! I'm wondering if the anagram menu holds any reference to Julio Cortazar, the author of Rayuela, who loved anagrams and constantly deployed them in his's a cool idea but it also seems like somebody's trying too hard.