Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Chowing with the Big Dog

In my dream I am your customer,
And the customer is always right.
-Laurie Anderson, United States Live, Part II

OK, enough sniveling. There ARE lots of things to do in NYC, and here's one of them:

Jim Leff, "Big Dog" of the everyone's-a-critic site Chowhound.com, is signing copies of his new Chowhound City Guides on Wednesday, May 18, at Coliseum Bookstore on 42nd St, across from the Main Library, at 6:30pm. Leff is a very opinionated guy, so expect plenty of chat about foods far and wide--the harder to find and more obscurely, grubbily authentic, the better. Will the Sainted Arepa Lady attend? I'm going to see if I can't find him a package of his favorite Italian cookies*, just to say thanks for being such a big dog.

He'll also be at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope on Thursday, June 9 7 :30 PM (143 Seventh Ave, Brooklyn), and at Tekserve (yes, the Mac computer store) on Saturday, June 18 at 2 :00 PM (119 West 23rd Street, in Manhattan).

* What cookies are these, you ask? Well, when I worked at Time Out, we did a series of interviews with local food-industry folks for our big Eating & Drinking guidebook. Leff claimed that his whole reason for living while on tour (as a jazz musician) in Europe was a particular kind of cheap supermarket cookie, shaped like a little corncob and called pannocchie . Now, anyone who reads Chowhound knows that Leff is a populist. He would much rather stand up and eat an arepa from the Sainted Arepa Lady's cart under the el in Queens than sit down, well, just about anywhere.

Pannocchie are made by Il Mulino Bianco, the Keebler of Italy. Go into any Italian supermarket, and the bulk of the cookies on offer will be in Mulino Bianco's trademark yellow bags with the little picture of the white mill on them. They are cheap and ubiquitous and generally pretty good for mass-market cookies.

Because pannochie are basically the Teddy grahams of Italy, they don't have much in the way of import cachet, which makes them MIA in most fancy gourmet shops, even Italian ones. But I'm determined, as least as far as Carroll Gardens and Little Italy can take me.

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