Find party invitations for any occasion at Personalize, preview, and order your invitation instantly.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Thing 77: Olsson's Books and Records

I needn't have panicked, of course, because in this city, great Things are happening every day.

Take Olsson's Books and Records shops for

example. They have author events, signings and readings going on nearly every day. There is likely to be something that will please everyone in any given month, and for me, that something was Anthony Bourdain. Live, in the flesh, and telling it like it is.

Most people don't know this -- in fact, I don't think anyone knows this -- but Bourdain is one of the three people that spurred me to start this blog in the first place. I'd just finished reading A Cook's Tour, and was struck by his narrative style, his knack for the travelogue and the casual, humorous and honest ways he looked at food and travel. Unfunded by cable TV, I don't the means to do what he does in quite the same way, but darned if I couldn't write a fantastic travelogue about the city I'm in love with, which I am lucky enough to experience every day. (The other two people were Molly, and the Boyfriend, if you were curious).

So Tony holds a special place in my heart, even though he would probably ruthlessly make fun of me if I ever had the opportunity to tell him so. At 11:45 I ducked out of work and took the bus to Chinatown.

I was not the only one with this idea. By the time I rolled in, a few minutes after noon, I couldn't even find a place to stand where I could see the man. It was like Bourdain Radio, with a view of the backs of people's heads.

My view at Olsson's -- the backs of peoples' heads
But I could hear his voice, and what a voice he's got. I suppose he wouldn't be a successful author if didn't have a distinctive voice, but having now heard him live and off the cuff, I can vouch that he speaks with the same snarky bluntess that he writes with and that pervades all of his TV appearances. He's half jerk and half best friend, heaping honest praise on those that deserve it, and mercilessly ridiculing those that deserve it, too.

Anthony Bourdain! Live!
Bourdain on vegetarians*: If you are priviledged enough to be one of the few people who is even able to go to Thailand and you don't eat everything in sight, it's not just rude, it's dumb. It's like going to a museum and saying 'I only want to see the paintings in blue and red.'

On which Food Network chefs are worth their salt: Mario. Mario is a behemoth. He knows everything, about everything. Those are cloven hoofs he's got hiding in those plastic clogs.

On which Food Network chefs are not: People would complain if I went on TV and told all the kids at home to listen to Judas Priest records backwards, and then go into the woods and slaughter goats. But that's what that Sandra Lee is doing! Putting spray cheese on a Triscuit and telling people it's a healthy, homecooked meal for their families -- it's the same thing.

On why his show is no longer on the Food Network and on Travel Channel instead: They came up to me and said, "We want more BBQ shows. Our audience doesn't really get this thing you do where you go to other places. They don't do subtitles. But our grilling shows get huge ratings. What if you went to different tailgating parties instead?"

On whether he ever gets sick from the foreign food: Most of the times that I've ended up with my head in a bidet some place foreign, it's been alcohol related.

On where he plans on eating dinner that night: Ben's Chili Bowl. Ground meat of unknown origin? How can I say no?

Olsson's has a pretty strict system for getting books signed. You have to a) buy the book that day, at Olsson's b) then they will give you a numbered card and c) then you wait in line based on the number of that card. I was still on my lunch hour, so I ducked out shortly after his talk, but I did manage to sneak up to the front and get his picture as he was signing. Skinny black jeans, boots, dark shirt, silvery hair. He looked tanned and a bit gaunt, just like on TV, but, you know, in three dimensions.

For those of you who want more Tony -- he'll be at Lisner tonight, though it's sold out, and from his lips to your ear he'll be at Ben's tonight for dinner.

*These quotes are from my memory, as I wasn't taking notes or recording it. I'm a blogger, not a journalist!


adrienne said...

Blahah! I love Bourdain and his take on vegetarians and Sandra Lee. :) Did he offer any tidbits about the Capital Food Fight Tuesday night? I think he hosted/commentated.

dc365 said...

He also said something pretty funny about the Barefoot Contessa. Something along the lines of "Weird stuff goes on in that house. I would not want to spend the weekend with her. But at least she can cook."

He did not say anything about the Capital Food Fight. He did say he ate on Tuesday night at Eric Riepert's new joint at the Ritz on M Street.