Tonight was a night I was waiting for for quite some time. I held off getting Anthony Bourdain's latest screed, "Medium Raw," in hopes I would be able to meet the man when I made the purchase. I settled for seeing him, and it still didn't disappoint.
My wife and I just returned from An Evening With Anthony Bourdain, put on by the Vinoy Hotel. A "No Reservations" 3-course meal at their flagship resto, Marchand's, followed by a short jitney down the street to see the man himself throw down in front of a packed house.
The meal was good; classic French, presumable as a nod to his days at Les Halles in NYC.
The wife and I went went in divergent directions. She: French Onion Soup, Coq Au Vin & Pommes Puree, Chocolate Mousse. Moi: Frisee Aux Lardons (salad w/cubes of smoked bacon, Roquefort crouton, poached egg), Hanger Steak & Pomme Frites, Fresh Apple Tart w/ Vanilla Ice Cream. All the better for sharing! LOVED my salad (like refined breakfast with greens thrown in for good measure) as much as anything served. The steak was tender and the shallot sauce was deep and rich. While Jill didn't care as much for her soup, I benefited (as usual) from her smaller appetite, and really enjoyed the classic components (gooey cheese, tinge of sherry). Both desserts were prepared and presented beautifully.
It was with full bellies zoomed to our engagement with a man who I believe has the singular most interesting and honest voice in the TV Food universe. Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" manifesto is 10 years old, but it's good to see that in the ensuing 10 years, the man himself may have mellowed, but this tiger certainly still has his stripes. He at one point admitted to "throwing away the leather jacket; the earring; the thumb ring... there are no cool dads!"... but he still has a fire in his belly and a fearless flair for sharing his pointed opinions. Perhaps that's why his new book title is so aptly, if not ironically, named. He's still raw; just more on the medium side now that he's staring down 50, and with a 3 1/2 year old daughter at home.
His routine was rehearsed (can't blame him for that), but it still came off as sincere and quintessentially Tony. He looked the part, in suede cowboy boots, dark jeans, blue shirt and blazer, and his profanity at times was never over the top, just seemingly in balance with a more laid-back disposition. He came out of the gates firing, immediately crushing Sandra Lee (give the people what they want), took shots at even his own network ("Why do we all really watch 'Man vs. Food'?... Because we want to see the guy kill himself!"), and later opined on how Americans would benefit from following his simple, yet apparently overlooked, travel laws: Be Gracious. Be Adventurous. Don't Eat Where Tourists Eat. I particularly appreciated his take on how to keep his child out of the clutches of "The King, the Clown, & The Colonel." Indeed, Mr. Bourdain is decidedly not a fan of fast food nation, especially as it pertains to the youth of America.
It's amazing to hear him recount how shockingly different his life is now versus a scant decade ago. Then, he was 44, cooking for a living, and had never seen beyond the myopic focus of whatever kitchen he was in, and the people who inhabited said kitchen. Now, he's been all over the world many times over, eating and drinking his way through fascinating journeys, recording it all for prosperity with a camera crew in tow.
The best job in the world? He readily admits he believes it is. And from listening to him tonight, I'm hard pressed to disagree...