Monday, September 08, 2008

I Ate Armenian Meatballs with Bradley Lastname

Chicago poet and artist Bradley Lastname, author of such unhefty tomes as Bela Tarr Has Feathered His Nest, The Squeaky Fromme Gets the Grease, Oracle Whip, and Your Pretty Typeface is Going to Hell, is a master of profound silliness. He writes like Bozo the Clown on nitrous oxide chanelling the likes of Tristan Tzara, Luis Bunuel, Steven Wright, and a mischievous eight-year-old with ADD. I hooked up with Bradley for Sonny Rollins's concert at the Chicago Jazz Festival. I had last (and first) seen Bradley in 1985, when he was instrumental in arranging the Chicago performance of "Love Me Like a Bitter Pill."

The concert took place at Frank Gehry's Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. After the show we went to dinner. I had researched places within walking distance of the park and suggested Sayat Nova, an Armenian Restaurant named for an 18th-century Armenian poet. "That's a Chicago institution," Bradley said. He had never been there before and was game to give it a try. The place had a dark, old institution look and feel. We settled in and I ordered a beer, a Goose Island Honker's Ale, an excellent, crisp, pale ale from one of Chicago's premier microbreweries.

The food at Sayat Nova was good, not great, basically hearty Armenian grandmother cooking. I had the Armenian combination plate. It consisted of four items that all were similar to common Greek, Turkish and Balkan dishes, but with different names or variant spellings. The plate had a cheese boereg (a stuffed filo triangle), sarna (meat and rice-stuffed grape leaves), stuffed eggplant (layered with ground meat) and kufta (a meatball in a yogurt-mint sauce). For me the kufta was the highlight. The sauce was wonderful. It definitely had garlic in addition to mint, but I don't know what the other seasonings were. Kufta, or kyufta, is, of course, similar in name to the Turkish kofte, Greek keftedes, and Middle Eastern kefta. According to one source, "Language may give us some clues and all indications point to Persia as the origin of meatballs. The word kofta, used in variations throughout the Middle East, India and Central Asia probably comes from the Persian word koofteh which means 'pounded meat' and derives from the verb koobidand, 'to pound.'"

A legendary saxophonist, a solid beer, an Armenian meatball and a wacky poet for company. There are worse ways to pass an evening.

* * *

With Bradley's permission, I offer you:

Selected Quotations from Badly Steamed Lard
(anagram of Bradley Lastname)

The Beatles did it in the road; Robert Frost did it in the road not taken.

Miss Muffet testified about the Kurds before the House Wheys and Means Committee.

Mail that used to come marked to my attention now comes marked to my limited attention span.

Artaud shocked the bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie electroshocked Artaud.

A bad hair day on Mercury is only four hours long.

When the odds maker made something odd on my front lawn, I vowed to get even.

The girl from Ipanemia went walking to get some iron supplements.

Repossession is ten-tenths of my car.

What happens in the litter box stays in the litter box.

The postman with obsessive-compulsive disorder always rang thrice.

The alchemist shouted "earth air water fire" in a crowded theater.

During my fainting spell I was unable to spell 'fainting.'

Lipstick traces, but mascara draws from scratch.

I'm with the band, but the band isn't with me.

Sayat Nova on Urbanspoon


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great dinner. Funny how you come across things. I have a news alert set up for work, and it pulled this in. Reminded me of how much I enjoy Bradley's poetry!

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the link. Sounds like a good time was had by all + Bradley Lastname.

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there, I live in India googling the term "dadazine" because I want to start a dadazine :-) and came across Bradely Lastname and his amazing works, lo and behold suddenly I am "eating in historic Chicago" eateries. Man,cyberspace is a trip!

1:49 AM  
Anonymous Jay Bonatrino said...

When I lived in Chicago...The Chicago deep dish pizza everyone raved about was made with a Boboli style dough (Not Cornbread) and loaded down with Stella brand mozzarella cheese.
Last few times I've been there I couldn't find one like that.
To bad...I guess I'll have to keep making them at home!
Only I remember the good ones?

6:42 PM  

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