I have a pet peeve as my friend Carl gleefully shared with recent dinner guests. I was in my local Garden of Eden with Carl when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a pack of hot dogs. Could it be there are eight hot dogs in that package? I went over and counted and indeed there were. That's the first time I've ever encountered eight hot dogs packaged together. Why, I have often wondered, do hot dog companies insist on packaging seven hot dogs when everyone knows that hot dog buns come eight to the package. Carl was a bit startled by my utter jubilation over this discovery. But really, how many times have I had to stuff the extra hot dog bun with tuna salad or a slice or two of bologna? I only wish I could remember the name of the company that so thoughtfully came to their senses and have packaged their hot dogs equally so that a consumer wouldn't have to waste their time thinking about this.
This week "Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol" surprised most of their audiences by selecting as their winners two underdogs that weren't on the face of it, supposed to win. Well I for one was rather disappointed to find out that Gilles, the favored French heart throb had been beaten out by Shawn, a 17-year-old Olympic Gold Medalist. Gilles had proven himself to be a natural, sexy, graceful and compelling male presense on the dance floor week after week. Shawn had good technique, but she lacked maturity and her dances whether she was doing the samba, the Paso doble, a waltz, fox trot or lindy, seemed blandly competent. She got better as the competition moved towards the final, as Gilles faltered a bit for a few weeks. Well Gold Medalists always win these competitions and besides, Gilles was let down terribly by his dance partner and choreographer, Cheryl, who came up with a dull-dog of a freestyle dance for them in the final. PUHLEESE CHERYL! FLAST DANCE? The freestyle was supposed to be about Gilles not you! Meanwhile Shawn and her partner, Mark, waltzed off with the points in their freestyle with a fast and inventive romp that had the audience on its feet and convinced me then that she would take the trophy. But I'm not at all sad for Gilles. He's probably drowning with offers to act in movies or a TV series. What's Shawn going to do? It's terrible to peak at 17.
I don't pay much attention to "American Idol," mostly because the sheer banality of the talent and the terrible music they perform, or at least the awful versions of the songs these kids cover, is more than I can stand. But I was fascinated to read the New York Times this morning as Stephen Holden pondered the fact that the androgynous young man who was beat out by a bland 23-year-old may have been the victim of homophobia. Well if that's the case, how the hell did Clay Aiken win the prize? Even though he came out after his win a few years ago, nobody would mistake that guy for a heterosexual. And was Holden kidding when he tried to compare these two performers to Elvis and Pat Boone? I don't remember ever thinking that Elvis was androgynous. Ah American culture. It's just so...so...silly.
And now for a restaurant recommendation. In these tough economic times, it's fun to encounter a really good neighborhood restaurant that actually serves cheap food. LA CARBONARA may have an unfortunate name (they might as well have called it Tutta Pasta!), but this recent bright spot in Chelsea serves seriously good Italian food at prices you won't believe. None of the entrees is priced more than $14.95 and pasta entrees, made with care, can be ordered for as little as $9. Formerly known as Primativo, a dreary and often empty restaurant on the east side of 14th Street (just west of 7th Ave.), LA CARBONARA has a spruced up exterior all white with a red awning, and has the feeling of a well designed modern trattoria with an attractive interior, that's far nicer than it's prices would indicate. Packed since the day it opened, the food demonstrates why. The fried calamari, the Caesar salad, and the baked eggplant with mozzarella are highly recommended. The bright mixed salad with a lemon viniagrette is garnished with tiny curls of raw carrot and beet. I've ordered the rigatoni with eggplant and ricotta as well as the rigatoni with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, and bread crumbs and thought highly of both. Of the entrees go for the Baked salmon with lentils or the excellent Pork saltimboca or the tender braised Lamb Shank. They offer a wide variety of wines gently priced from $22 a bottle and up. The ricotta cheesecake and the creme brulee cappucino style are good choices for dessert. This really good restaurant is an outstanding addition to the neighborhood and an amazing value.