Tuesday, August 11, 2015

I Just Don't Learn

I really need to stop trying name-brand chain restaurants, i.e., anything opened by Michael Mina, Daniel Boulud, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Colicchio.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sometimes the Good Guys Win

"The Court ... PERMANENTLY ENJOINS AND RESTRAINS Defendant and her agents, servants, employees, representative, successors, and assigns from enforcing California Health and Safety Code § 25982 against Plaintiffs' USDA-approved poultry products containing foie gras."

See Association des Eleveurs de Canards et d'Oies du Quebec v. Harris, Case No. 2:12-cv-05735-SVW-RZ (N.D. Cal. Jan. 7, 2015), ECF No. 155 at 15 (emphasis in original).

Friday, November 14, 2014

Michelin 2015 Chicago

Grace (new)

42 Grams (new)

EL Ideas
Longman & Eagle
North Pond
Takashi (closed)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Michelin 2015 San Francisco Bay Area

Benu (new)
French Laundry
Saison (new)

Acquerello (new)
Atelier Crenn (seriously?)
Baume (seriously?)

Auberge du Soleil
Boulevard (seriously?)
Campton Place
Chez TJ
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
Gary Danko
Keiko a Nob Hill
Kusakabe (new)
La Folie
La Toque
Madrona Manor
Maruya (new)
Michael Mina
Plumed Horse
Sons & Daughters
State Bird Provisions
Terrapin Creek
Village Pub

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Michelin 2015 NYC

Brooklyn Fare
Le Bernardin
Eleven Madison Park
Per Se

Aquavit (new)
Atera (seriously?)
Blanca (new)
Ichimura (new)
Momofuku Ko

15 East
Ai Fiori
Andanada (new)
Batard (new)
Betony (new)
Blue Hill
The Breslin
Cafe Boulud
Cafe China
Casa Enrique (new)
Casa Mono
Caviar Russe
Danny Bar Wine Bar & Kitchen
Delaware and Hudson (new)
Del Posto
Gotham Bar & Grill
Gramercy Tavern
Jewel Bako
Juni (new)
Kyo Ya
La Vara (new)
Luksus at Torst (new)
Meadowsweet (new)
Minetta Tavern
The Modern
The Musket Room
M. Wells Steakhouse (new)
The NoMad
Peter Luger
Picholine (new)
Piora (new)
Pok Pok (new)
River Cafe
Spotted Pig
Sushi Azabu
Sushi of Gari
Take Root (new)
Tori Shin
Torrisi Italian Specialties
Zabb Elee (new)
ZZ's Clam Bar (new)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Random Thoughts

I love that my favorite restaurants continue to be better and better every time.

I hate Shake Shack's new non-crinkle fries.  Not to mention the Shack burgers, once so good that I wondered why New Yorkers ever wanted In'n Out, are now so salty and sloppy that I forget why I used to like them so much.

I hate that Yahoo email keeps getting worse and worse with each update, trying to copy Google.  Either copy well or don't bother.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Places I've Eaten in Philadelphia

Places I would go back to eat

Geno's Steaks
Pat's King of Steaks

I am not really certain whether there is such thing as a "great cheesesteak," but in the battle of the two famous cheesesteak stands (only compared "wit-out, cheese whiz" combination), Pat's has better meat and bread, relatively speaking. Geno's roll has a spongier texture, and its cheese whiz was a bit watery (they also have the strangest tasting fries I have ever tried, like they were made from fake potatoes?).

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Another Sign of Age

I know a lot of people who like to go see newly released movies on opening day or soon thereafter. I used to be that way about restaurants-- maybe not within the first week of opening (after all, a new restaurant needs to settle in a bit), but at least within the first couple of months. As much as I enjoyed trying new restaurants, however, I rarely returned for a second visit unless the restaurant was truly spectacular.

More and more frequently, I am finding even that initial visit to a new restaurant to be more tedious than exciting. I catch myself bracing for the inevitable disappointment of poorly-handled ingredients or slogging my way through huge portions of mediocre preparations, at the end of which I am left with nothing but an expensive tab, not unlike a bad first date, and confirmation that I do not agree that this hot new place is all that. Chef/Author Gabrielle Hamilton said in an interview that she never bothers to try a restaurant unless at least three people whose opinions she trusts tell her she needs to try it. I wish I could adopt that approach, but I would have a difficult time coming up with three such people, even including professional restaurant critics and bloggers (chowhound, yelp, or otherwise) in addition to friends. Most diners do not know or care about what they are eating or how ingredients should be treated, and very few chefs will disclose their honest views about another restaurant to a diner (especially if they have less than a glowing opinion). I tell myself that I eat alone frequently because I travel so much for work, but if I am being honest, I would rather eat alone than with obnoxious foodies, people who rub chopsticks together at the sushi counter and create a wasabi-soy roux to dunk their fish, or people who order their meat well done. So not only do I have very few people whose opinions I trust, I have very few people with whom I am inclined to go to a restaurant.

In addition, while I am never opposed to paying for quality, dining out is not inexpensive. To give a couple of examples, I recently had the joy of eating a burned pizza with a soggy fried appetizer at a very popular restaurant, and the tab for two people, including wine but not dessert, came to $80 before tax and tip. (No one else seemed to notice such mishaps, as the place was jam-packed at 5pm and the servers were so slammed that I waited over forty minutes between my appetizer and my pizza. I was starving and ate everything, although not happily, and I still tipped $16.) I recently had dinner at a popular downtown restaurant with two other people, including wine and dessert, which totaled over $300. For that price, I had gummy gnocchi, sweetbreads that were so overcooked and rubbery that I could have bounced them across the table, and flavorless carpaccio.

This is why I find myself returning to my favorites rather than venturing out to sample the Best New Restaurants of 2XXX. Komi, Saison, and Manresa will never disappoint me.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Messed-Up Priorities

I was watching an interview of one of my favorite chefs/authors Gabrielle Hamilton (if you have not read Blood, Bones & Butter, get it now), and she described foodies as having "messed-up priorities." Even though I am completely food-obsessed, I do not consider myself a "foodie," which in my mind conjures up the image of someone pretentious and obnoxious who refuses to eat anywhere without a Michelin rating or collects name-brand restaurants like expensive purses or cars or whatever. Blecch.

But if I am absolutely honest with myself, I have to admit that other people might consider me a "foodie," under some variation of that term, if not my exact definition. When I taste good food, it makes me happy. Depending on how good it was, I can be in a good mood for days (which is saying a lot because I am generally a very grouchy individual). When I am looking forward to going to a restaurant that I love, such as KOMI, Saison, Manresa, or 15 East, I am can float in an anticipatory good mood for weeks.

Conversely, when I spend money and time (and calories, as I get older, this actually seems to matter) on a bad meal, I get extremely cranky. I completely understand Chef Hamilton's description of wanting "salty, sweet, starchy, brothy, crispy things that one craves when one is actually hungry," and bad food (e.g., overwrought food, anything adorned with truffle oil, anything "frozen" with liquid nitrogen) puts me in a bad mood.

I plan vacations around where and what I want to eat.

@#$%! I do have messed-up priorities, but I still refuse to consider myself a foodie. Those people are ignorant snobs that I do not want to eat with. They suck all of the enjoyment out of good food.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Texting in Restaurants

This post appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle about texting in restuarants. While I understand and appreciate the general sentiment in theory, I have to say that because of my job, I would never be able to go to any restaurant or bar that bans texting. I completely understand that using cell phones at the table, camera flashes popping at every course, or even too loud conversations at a nearby table may disrupt the ambiance, but is it really offensive to simply see someone in the dining room texting? What about single diners reading a book or magazine? Is that offensive too?

My Blackberry is often the only thing that allows me to leave the chain of my office and computer because I can respond to emails and deal with work issues without having to physically be there all night. If texting were banned, I might as well stay at the office and eat styrofoam takeout for every meal and force my family and friends to join me there because I will not be able to join them at the restaurant or bar of their choosing if texting is not permitted.

I try my best to limit time spent looking at or typing into my Blackberry, and I would dearly love it if I could completely ignore my clients and my colleagues at work until it is convenient for me to respond, but my job does not work that way. So between declining to go out at all or going out with my Blackberry, I am sorry but I am toting my Blackberry so that I can dine out and not get fired.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Words I Can't Resist on a Menu

Certain menu items and descriptions just bore me to tears (modern, local, fresh, seared, grilled, breast, loin, chop), but after Michael Bauer of the San Francisco Chronicle blogged about menu descriptions that appeal to him, I started to think about some of my own trigger words. Here are the ingredients/adjectives that hook me almost every time:

sepia/squid ink
egg (deviled/slow-cooked/poached/runny/soft-boiled)
sea urchin
razor clam
spot prawn
pork belly
crispy skin (chicken/duck/pork)

No wonder my clothes don't fit ...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Frank You Did Me So Wrong

O Ya
9 East Street
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 654-9900
Chef Tim Cushman
Dinner only Tuesday through Saturday

I adored Frank Bruni's sarcasm and writing style as much as I admired his taste in food-- until now. Whatever points he gained by recommending 15 East (one of my must-eat places whenever I am in New York), he lost it all with his crazy recommendation of O Ya. This place could only be described as the evil spawn of Nobu and Morimoto.

The three Asian sushi chefs behind the counter are trying to remain motivated among diners who would prefer to eat a deep fried spicy tuna hand roll with tempura flakes coated in truffle oil mayonnaise, as opposed to an actual fresh piece of fish. I saw a couple of regulars steal the tiny wooden spoons that Japanese restaurant provide for dishes like chawan mushi-- seriously people, go to a freakin kitchen store and BUY SOME!! In any event, I digress. My only point is when the dining audience is stupid, I guess one should not be surprised at the scariness coming out of the kitchen.

There is so much overmanipulation of every dish that any original flavor that any of the seafood might have had is extinguished to oblivion, leaving behind ill-conceived sauces and combinations that are too hideous to imagine. There is not enough toothpaste or Pepto in the world for me to be able to forget this meal quickly.

Especially since the sushi counter is a prominent (albeit mostly ignored by diners) part of the restaurant, I was flabbergasted to see my hamachi with julienned apples and jalapeno sauce (yes, it tasted exactly as good as good as it sounds-- shudder-- but it gets better) sit on the counter after the sushi chef had prepared it, have a server whisk it away, in the opposite direction from me into the HOT kitchen, and then I waited. And waited. And waited. And watched my server walk around the dining room (he wasn't slacking; he was quite busy), then go back to the kitchen, pick up my raw fish, which has been sitting in the warm kitchen this whole time, in all of its sauced glory, for a solid five minutes before it was returned to me, sitting at the counter. What kind of idiocy is that?

Even knowing that it is not the server's fault and that it is likely some management policy, I could not help but yell at him for how the restaurant was treating that poor fish. If there was a remote possibility of that original preparation tasting good, it was killed by the extra time sitting on the plate in the warm kitchen until the dish came back out and was presented to me at the counter, sitting six inches away from the chef who prepared it.

But even the rest of the fish that did not necessarily take a journey around the restaurant before being served were mostly mealy and awful, not to mention hideously overseasoned with things like spicy banana pepper mousse, something they call osetra caviar but tasted like oversalted paddlefish roe way past its prime, ceviche vinaigrette, cumin aioli, and sake sea urchin jus.

I had ordered the grand omakase and had to stop the bleeding two-thirds of the way into the meal. It was too painful. No ingredient or cook should be made to suffer like that. At least I could do something about it and walk out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Shag or Die

This is the food version of that English game, "Shag or Die," meaning that you must pick one at the exclusion of the other (with my personal pick in parentheses, meaning that I have forego the other forever):

Sugar or Butter? (Butter)
Salt or Soy Sauce?  (Salt)
Eggs or Cheese?  (Eggs)
Fish or Steak?  (Fish)
Bread or Potato?  (Potato)
Rice or Pasta?  (Rice)
Fruit or Vegetables?  (Vegetables)
Coffee or Wine?  (Wine)
Red Wine or White Wine (White Wine:  Riesling, White Burgundy, Champagne, Sauternes...)
Beer or Soda?  (Soda)
Fried Chicken or Barbecue?  (Fried Chicken)
Hamburger or Pizza?  (Pizza)
Chinese or Mexican?  (Chinese)
Olive Oil or Vinegar (Vinegar)
Ice Cream or Bacon (Bacon)
Chocolate or Caramel (Caramel)
Nuts or Popcorn (Nuts)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Defense of the Amuse Bouche

One of my favorite parts of a fine dining experience is the amuse bouche, that little surprise gift from the kitchen to start the meal. In fact, I am quite greedy when it comes to these little preludes.

I first fell in love with Manresa after receiving not one but six mind-blowingly delicious little bites, and they are one of many reasons I keep going back six years later. The mezzethakia at KOMI is the stuff that dreams are made of, seven year after my first taste. I would sell my soul for an extra stomach just so I can keep tasting Johnny Monis' miniature creations.

Why are people coming down on amuses all of a sudden? Gordon Ramsay, on the BBC's Best Restaurants program, critized a French restaurant for giving guests more than one amuse. I could not disagree more. One of my pet peeves is being late for a restaurant reservation, but I had one of the most incredible amuse experiences at Restaurant Guy Savoy in Las Vegas when my guest was late in meeting me for dinner. While I was sitting alone at the table waiting, the kitchen kept sending me a series of little snacks, including a beautiful briny oyster enrobed in creme fraiche gelee, a tiny little triple decker foie gras sandwich, a miniature burger the size of a macaroon, etc. I would never do that again on purpose-- well maybe-- but I almost wished that my guest took longer to arrive.

Note: My love of multiple amuses does not extend to a platter containing multiple amuses at once. Not to look a gift dish in the mouth, but amuses are generally not at their best when presented buffet style. Their beauty is in the fleeting tease of the palate, not working my way around a plate.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Worst of 2010 (and Beyond)

1. Butternut squash soup

Make it stop. I can't take another spoonful, even if it is well prepared and not the typical gloppy sort.

2. Liquid nitrogen

Seriously what is wrong with using the freezer. Because that crumbling plasterboard texture is so appetizing?

3. Truffle oil

Reminds me of drugstore knockoff of expensive perfume. I would rather ingest the perfume than the oil.

4. Vanilla in anything savory

I don't care if you are Guy Savoy. Please keep it away from my seafood.

5. Chocolate in everything sweet

Have some creativity (and I don't mean the tired use of bacon, which I otherwise still love).

6. Servers who crouch down and/or touch me

I don't know who decided this increases tips, but this is just plain weird.

7. Wine lists limited to domestic wines

I like local almost as much as any politically correct diner, but I like things that taste good more. I have one word for this kind of wine list: corkage.

8. Wine lists limited to bottles over $100


9. Wine lists that offer only Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, and Krug NV for sparkling wine options

I must be in Vegas.

10. Mixology

I have yet to taste anything to rival the classic martini, and I would rather get full on food, not cocktails.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Places I've Eaten in Seoul

Places I would go back to eat

Crystal Jade Palace
Hong Yuan
Gimbap & Ramyun
Korea House
Myeong Dong Kalguksu
Nolita Garden
Paris Grill
The Restaurant
The Spice
Timber House
Wong Jokbal Bo Saam (cash only)
Won Kang (cash only)

Chicago Michelin 2011


Charlie Trotter's

Crofton on Wells
graham elliot
Longman & Eagle

Bib Gourmand
Ann Sather
Belly Shack
Bistro 110
The Bristol
Ceres’ Table
De Cero
Frances’ Deli
Frontera Grill
Gilt Bar
Girl & The Goat
Green Zebra
Han 202
Kith & Kin
La Creperie
La Petite Folie
Los Nopales
Lula Café
M. Henry
Mixteco Grill
Opart Thai House
Paramount Room
The Publican
The Purple Pig
Raj Darbar
Riccardo Trattoria
Smoque BBQ
Spacca Napoli
Taste of Peru
Thai Village
Twin Anchors
Urban Belly
West Town Tavern

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New York Michelin 2011

Jean Georges
Le Bernardin
Per Se

Chef Table at Brooklyn Fare (new)
Gordon Ramsay at The London
Kajitsu (new)
Marea (new)
Momofuku Ko
Soto (new)

Aldea (new)
Anthos (closed)
A Voce Columbus
A Voce Madison (new)
Blue Hill
Breslin (new)
Café Boulud
Casa Mono
Danny Brown Wine Bar & Kitchen (new)
Del Posto
Dovetail (new)
Eleven Madison Park
Gotham Bar and Grill
Gramercy Tavern
Jewel Bako
Kyo Ya
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon
Laut (new)
Marc Forgione
Minetta Tavern
The Modern
Peter Luger
River Café
Rouge Tomate
SHO Shaun Hergatt
Spotted Pig
Sushi Azabu
Sushi of Gari
Veritas (closed)

San Francisco Bay Area Michelin 2011

The French Laundry
The Restaurant at Meadowood (new)


Alexander’s Steakhouse (new)
Applewood (new)
Auberge de Soleil
Baumé (new)
Campton Place (new)
Chez TJ
Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton
Dio Deka (new)
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
Fleur de Lys
Frances (new)
Gary Danko
La Folie
La Toque
Madera (new)
Madrona Manor
Mirepoix (new)
Murray Circle
One Market
Plumed Horse
Saison (new)
Spruce (new)
The Village Pub
Wakuriya (new)

Bib Gourmand
Bay Wolf
Bistro Aix (new)
Bistro Jeanty (new)
Bistro 29 (new)
Bottega (new)
Brown Sugar Kitchen
Burma Superstar
Café des Amis (new)
Cafe Gibraltar
C Casa (new)
Chapeau (new)
Chu (new)
Coa (new)
Cook St. Helena
Crouching Tiger
Cucina Paradiso
Delarosa (new)
Domo (new)
eVe (new)
flour + water
Gather (new)
Girl and the Fig
Hachi Ju Hachi (new)
Henry’s Hunan
Hibiscus (new)
Hong Kong Flower Lounge
Kabab & Curry’s (new)
The Kitchen
K & L Bistro
Kokkari Estiatorio
La Costanera (new)
Laurus (new)
Le Charm
Monti’s Rotisserie
Oenotri (new)
Rivoli (new)
Santi (new)
Slanted Door
Slow Club
Sons & Daughters (new)
SPQR (new)
Starbelly (new)
Sumika (new)
Sushi Ran
Tavern at Lark Creek
Thai House (new)
Troya (new)
Vanessa’s Bistro
Willi’s Wine Bar
Wood Tavern (new)
Yank Sing

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hungry in Plano

Jasper's Plano
7161 Bishop Road
Plano, TX 75024
Executive Chef Kent Rathbun
Chef Annika Sacher
Lunch and Dinner daily

Jasper's on Urbanspoon

Overcooked ribs with a bizarre soggy flour coating on top. Ketchup-y BBQ sauce.

Dessicated, overcooked home fries coated with flavorless sour cream and bacos-like bacon bits, decimating any hope of a crispy exterior, served as the "baked potato salad" accompaniment to the ribs. Would have been more accurate to call it "baked potato jerky."

Gave up on the plate and tried for a side of macaroni and cheese. Limp, overcooked mini-farfalle such that pasta pieces and boiled ham slices both had the same texture; flavor overall was not bad, but the aged gouda had a very gamey aftertaste-- a bit too aggressive for a comfort food offering like mac and cheese and yet not interesting enough to be a riff on the classic. Nicely seasoned, however.

Yawn-inducing wine list. After finally locating a half bottle that was not horribly overpriced, a 2005 Crianza, the bottle was warm to the touch when the server finally fished it out "from the cellar." Cooked flavor confirmed that the wine had not been properly stored.

Must not be unusual for diners to leave most of the food and more than half of the wine unfinished. Server noticed nothing and cheerily announced, "Hope to see you again soon!"

First impression of Kent Rathbun not so great. Also confirmed that I don't really trust the opinion of Bon Appetit (see menu).