Friday, March 21, 2008


March 21

“The cheesecake is Argentinean-style, which is like Italian-style.”
“Then why are you calling it Argentinean? Why not just call it Italian?”
“Most people don’t know what Argentinean-style cheesecake is, so I’m just saying it’s like Italian.”
“But what’s Argentinean about it?”
“I’m saying it’s like Italian so people will understand.”
This conversation was going on between my friend Birdman and our waiter at GustOrganics last night. It could have gone on all night, so I thought I’d intervene.
“Is the pastry chef Argentine?” I asked (I prefer “Argentine” to “Argentinean,” for no logical reason).
“The whole restaurant is Argentine.”
Birdman, aka David Krauss, is a science professor. He likes to get his facts straight, and he’s a stickler for clarity. He’s also a stickler for proper use of the English language, and woe unto students who can’t use it properly. Indeed, I’m sure they look at their graded tests and say “woah!”
Like pretty much any scientist I’ve ever met, Birdman, who’s a biologist with specialization in paleontology, is easily irritated by the fast-and-loose usage of scientific terms — such as organic.
GustOrganics says it’s the first Certified Organic restaurant in New York City and the first one in the country to use 100 percent USDA Certified Organic ingredients (I’m not saying that it’s not, but I haven’t confirmed it). The owner, Alberto Gonzalez, is from Argentina, and he is apparently so excited about his restaurant being organic that he didn’t bother to mention that it was Argentine, although the press materials do call the food ”Latin-inspired.”
Now, to be Certified Organic, you have to follow all sorts of regulations and jump through a bunch of administrative hoops. To be organic in common parlance you have to be grown or raised without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
But from a scientific perspective, “organic” just means formerly alive. So petroleum, which is former dinosaurs, is organic and therefore so is plastic. Glass, on the other hand, being silicon-based, is not. Neither is table salt (which is sodium based). Bug parts and mammalian excretia: organic. Water: not organic (or more precisely, inorganic).
Speaking of water, a chemical is anything that can be described using a chemical formula, such as dihydrogen oxide (water). It is impossible to grow any plant or raise any animal without chemicals.
Most European languages that I know of use the term “biological” instead of “organic” (biologique in French, for example), which makes no more sense than “organic.”
Perhaps we should just call a spade a small shovel and label some foods as politically correct and others as not.
At the moment, GustOrganics is BYO, so Birdman picked up a bottle of Côtes du Rhône, which we drank from stemless glasses (inorganic) as we ate a spinach salad topped with strawberries and peanuts and a beet salad (made with raw beets), and then beef stew (which tasted like beef stew but was more like braised brisket, really) with a side of grilled vegetables, and vegan risotto with endive.
For dessert we had a “tortita,” which was sort of an Argentine-style strawberry shortcake, and dulce de leche ice cream.
I asked Birdman why we couldn't eat petroleum products but we can consume vegetable oil (for example). He said that the “oils” we eat are actually fatty acids, not true oils, but he couldn’t say whether a teaspoon of motor oil, say, would be harmful in any way, so he didn’t.


m.alandete said...

Hi Brett,

Having been featured in Nation's Restaurant News in the past, I am curious to hear your opinion on Pizza Fusion. We are a 75% organic and earth friendly pizza franchise, which offers a menu catering to the health conscious, vegan and celiac communities. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Bret Thorn said...

I haven’t tried your food, but I certainly think the niche you’re trying to fill has potential.