Abbe Diaz’s Greatest Rant

Abbe Diaz is an old friend. If you catch her at the right moment, she’s an angel, but if you say something offensive that could be the most innocuous thing, she’ll rip your throat out. I try to always be pleasant around her. I ran into her on my way to BINGO recently. She was sitting alone at Gemma, and I took her up on her offer to sit and chat. I adore Abbe Diaz. The last time we interviewed her, sparks flew so I figured I’d try it again.

What’s all this movie stuff about?
It’s actually a pilot/web series for more of a TV show than a movie. PX This: The Series is based on my book PX This (Diary of the Maitre d’ to the Stars), so it’s essentially an audio/visual manifestation of the story depicted in it. Some stuff was restructured to make it more adherent to the paradigms of television, but it’s still based on a true story. I mean seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

Aside from that, this show also really reflects the exposition of my book, because it’s such a bootstrap project. I am lucky to have been able to assemble an amazingly talented cast and crew, many of whom have worked in the restaurant industry and whose lives mirror my own to a pretty substantial degree. I am humbled by their passion and dedication, working such long arduous hours, for a sum that doesn’t nearly compensate their tremendous skill and effort.

Of all the messages people have seemingly or professedly derived from PX This, the one about holding tight to your dreams (as clichéd as it is) is the one I cherish the most. So PX This: The Series is turning out to be quite the spiritual manifestation as well. And that is so infinitely satisfying. The teaser-trailer (and more information is available at) at IndieGogo.

You are a relentless proponent for fair play in the restaurant biz, and give the newbies the 25-cent tour. Who are you and how did you become you…and leave mom and dad out of it.
Well, that’s a nice sentiment but I don’t think I’m really all that “relentless.” I published a diary that happens to expose certain unsavory aspects of some renowned and illustrious fine-dining organizations. And since all I was doing was telling the truth, I take a fair amount of umbrage at those who would seek to disparage me for simply recounting these anecdotes in my own comical and satirical way.

All I was doing was minding my own business, literally. I’m one of the most chill people anybody will ever know. The industry has made me misanthropic enough that I’m perfectly happy to keep a good distance from other people and their fatuous escapades. I think I have pretty much one philosophical mandate and one alone, and that’s: DON’T COME FOR ME– which is undoubtedly a fairly easy rule for anyone to follow.

Unfortunately, it seems some people have had to learn the hard way that if you come for me, oh, you are sure to find me alright. Too bad I’m not quite the feeble prey you anticipated. I ran into you a couple Monday nights ago at Gemma and you seemed happy. Many people see you differently…some as a crusader – a c word – and some would use a b word. We always hear about your peeves, but what makes you happy?
Ooh, I’m afraid to say because then I might jinx everything. But yes, you have it right; I am happier now than I have ever been because I have pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted. (And what I don’t have yet, I’m about to get.)

Come to think of it, that last sentence alone is probably enough to make certain people seethe. I must admit; that does make me happy.

We’ve been friends for decades…we both have the scars to show we were there. What is not talked about within all the scandals surrounding Limelight and the characters you used to work with? That’s a leading question because so much written and screened is misleading.
Which is probably why I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m so accustomed to “misleading” representations in the media and whatnot, I have no idea what’s “talked about” anymore, because I’ve long stopped paying attention.

But I can well imagine that what’s not talked about very much is everything that was good; the wonderful people we knew, the fun times we had, the outrageous things we saw, the spectacular things we experienced, the whopping money we made. Despite all the hard work all those years (and the scandals), the only thing I regret about any of it is I never took any photographs.

We were part of a unique era that will never transpire again. Sometimes it feels like certain elements would have us apologize for it. But that very same era fostered a generation of strong and fearless wills – some good and some not so good, but largely the unparalleled combination of both.

What are you going to be when you grow up?
Fierce. Like my mom. (Oh, oops, sorry I didn’t leave Mom out of it. Hey, I didn’t bring up my dad.)

Ok, we need a rant … who makes you mad and why?
Woo child, that’s a whole other book. Literally. Its title is PX Me (How I Became a Published Author, Got Micro-Famous, and Married a Millionaire), as a matter of fact. Coming soon in the autumn of 2012!

But okay, I’ll give you a rant. Right now it’s still some particular facets of journalism and the media that make me really mad. To this day I am dumbfounded by the media’s rampant unscrupulousness and hypocrisy.

And if a piddling little nobody like me can be subject to the media depravity I’ve encountered, imagine the global implications of such a thing. It’s vomitous. It’s enough to make the entire news system suspect and incapacitated, the universal consequences of which we are just beginning to realize.

How’s that for a rant.

A Damn Good Reason to Go to Princeton: Dining at Elements

Normally I wouldn’t advocate jaunting across the Hudson River on a train or dealing with Holland Tunnel traffic just to have dinner, but on a recent Friday night I found myself doing just that—and it was totally worth it.

My friend had rented a blue Mini Cooper, and as she navigated around end-of-the-week traffic, I tried to read the map off her iPhone. Almost two hours later, and after passing a set for a new Justin Timberlake movie, we made it to Elements. Chef Scott Anderson and partner Stephen Distler opened the restaurant in October of 2008 with the premise that Elements would draw from many resources from the surrounding area. From there, they wanted to serve intricate dishes that strike the senses and give diners a sampling of all facets of taste. Anderson calls it “interpretative American cuisine;” I call it an experience worth spending hours on.

Though, from the outside of the restaurant, I had yet to be impressed as it looked like any place built in the 1970s or 1980s you might find in New Jersey, or Connecticut, or anywhere that isn’t a major metropolis. But, we weren’t there for the setting; we were there for Anderson’s multi-course chef’s tasting menu. They sat us in backroom, across from the open kitchen. There, we could see the handsome chef and his minions hastily plating food, pulling pans out of ovens, and chatting as they prepped each dish. The beauty of owning your own restaurant is that you don’t have to follow anyone’s rules, and as it is, Anderson doesn’t even follow a solid menu. On any given night, you can find dishes inspired by what he got at the market, what fish was best, and what local product was at its peak. You will not get the same dish twice, so in that, each experience remains priceless.

The richness of that knowledge started simple, with a dish of Big Eye tuna with fermented celery and lemon juice, served in a glass on top of a cut stone. After that amuse quickly vanished, a stream of unique items were presented to us in true fine dining fashion, each a surprise, and each as tasty as the last. We had potato custard with caviar, Dungeness crab with ginger lily, and duck tartare with seared foie gras.

At one point, the chef-de-cuisine, Mike Ryancame out to show us the whole woodcock that they would be serving us later. This was one of the exceptions to Anderson’s hunt for local and market-driven products, it was explained, the woodcock had come all the way from Scotland because you can’t hunt the birds and serve them in the states.  The end product, which looked nothing like the feathered bird sported before, was a mix of gamey meat and earthy mushrooms that got tied together with an herbaceous note.

After nine courses, I had tried a handful of dishes that completely surprised me, like the innovative sunchoke ceviche with tuna cream and a tomatillo broth. These flavor profiles, textures, and overall composition played beautifully, and showed me you don’t have to be in L.A. or New York to get a meal worthy of the trek and time it took to get there. Though, I recommend taking the train instead of driving, that way you can do a wine pairing with the meal and avoid the craziness that is the Holland Tunnel at any hour. 

21 Becomes Tie-Free Zone

The sharp-eyed, discerning tongues over at Eater have some bad news for the Gotham’s old-line traditonalists. The 21 Club has relaxed its dress code. Hidden within a press release announcing a prix-fixe deal, the owners let slip they have dropped their long-held dress code of tie and jacket. “We have (somewhat) relaxed our dress code in the lounge and bar areas, as well as the dining rooms,” reads a press release. “Ties are still preferred and greatly appreciated, but they are no longer a must.”

A quick peek at Zagats reveals that ’21’ was the last eatery in the city to drop the mandatory tie dress code. Nearly 80 years old, ’21’ has been a glamorous, old-school style-driven draw, and since Franklin D. Roosevelt, ’21’ has been a Presidential fave. John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Frank Sinatra were regulars. Humphrey Bogart proposed to Lauren Bacall there, and it was a thriving hotspot for business lunches since opening day. “More deals are done at ’21’ than on the stock market floor,” noted Forbes.

Owners say they have relaxed the dress to encourage more business during the recession. A company rep also added that it reflects changing times. “Why should we say no to somebody who wants to have dinner with us [for lack of a tie]? Times change. We have to move forward.” Yet, while diners and drinkers no longer require a tie and jacket, t-shirt and jeans-wearing B&T sets will still be turned away at 21. Notes one hyperbolic commenter: “The more dress codes are relaxed, the closer we slip into barbarism.”