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  1. Charlie, I did not go last year, but attended the previous year as a guest of JBF. Even with an elevated "sponsor" status, the food was NOT the highlight of our evening. As with any walk-around mass-feeding tasting event (Starchefs, Taste of the Nation, Citymeals-onWheels, etc.) there tends to be too many people and not enough food. Also, no matter how talented the chef, food prepared in makeshift kitchens over butane burners or left in chafing dishes will never be an accurate representation of anyone's talent. You should DEFINITELY GO, but more because it's an opportunity to commune with chefs and to meet and greet anyone who's anyone in the industry. The chefs there were very "real" and eager to share with most every attendee. As a student attendee, they may be even more open. I think that's because the investment you must make to attend really reflects your passion for food. I'm not sure how that has changed now that they got even bigger and moved to Lincoln Center, but I imagine the food situation may be even worse.
  2. Having worked with TC casting in the past to help identify new contestants, they were extremely interested in making sure the cooking on the show represents the best that is out there. They have always wanted to include the most experienced and well-known chefs they could get. Of course, since the show requires a hiatus and the $100k prize is chicken-scratch when you consder the cost of operating a high-end restaurant, the contestant pool has been self-selecting to those who are typically in the early stages of their career, or who have not yet opened their own place. Of course, another element that this brings into play is the drama created when a home-spun, self-taught cook bests a classically-trained and established chef. I'm paraphrasing here, but one casting director once said, "how great would it be if a self-taught line cook beat out a French Laundry alum?"
  3. Cross the street and head to Cortez at the Hotel Adagio for terrific small plates and a vibrant bar scene. Cortez Restaurant For Breakfast, lunch or brunch head around the corner to Dottie's True Blue Cafe - try the grilled cornbread as a side to any dish. Be prepared to wait, and don't leave without ordering the sticky buns. You won't be disappointed. Dottie's Info on SFWeekly.com Enjoy your stay
  4. The OpenTable FAQ states the following: "* Two tables are also available online for lunch service, one at @ 11:00 am (party of 4) and one at 11:15 am (party of 2) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. The French Laundry does not offer lunch Monday - Thursday." So it looks like one table for two is available online, but for lunch only.
  5. Wolfgang had formal training in an apprenticeship before coming over from Austria. What the biography doesn't tell you is that after coming over from Europe (before becoming "the star attraction at Ma Maison" ) he slaved away at a hotel chain in Indiana. The locale wasn't so bad though. He said the midwestern girls loved that he was so exotic. It being the seventies, I'm sure he did quite alright.
  6. Cafe du Monde Beignet mix & coffee always make for a nice gift. The company was hit hard, but it is recovering. They served them hot at the James Beard Awards this year, and they were fan-freakin'-tastic. I figure if the Marriott catering staff can make them in bulk and not screw them up, the mix must be pretty fool-proof. Cafe Du Monde Mail Order
  7. Don't Forget Duncan Hines and his "Adventures in Good Eating" guides. You can find them on eBay from time to time Duncan Hines History Does this mean we'll see Zagat-brand cake mix in 25 years? Also, Gayot has been second to Michelin in France for 45 years and then Zagat in the US since the 80's. Their 20-point system (as opposed to Zagat's 30) seems to result in every restaurant getting a "13".
  8. Kit, Thanks for all the research. Both look delicious!! As a Washington State native, I have some apple-growing cousins who swear Pippin apples make for the best baking. While I haven't compared them vs. Pink Ladies, they seem to have the tartness you seek, but a starchier body like the red delicious. The only experience I've had with cooking Pink Ladies was on a grill with a honey-butter baste to supplement some granny smiths. In that situation, I found they broke down & got mushy pretty quickly in comparison to the granny's. If you can get some Pippins, I'd encourage you to give them a whirl (if only so I can see more gorgeous pictures).
  9. Mulled wine or even Sangria would be great, as they can just soak up the flavor of the medium, seeing as how they have little taste of their own. Also, recipes where the ingredients overwhelm the apples would be good, too. A caramel apple tarte tatin (classic tatin with extra caramel or hard sauce drizzled over everything) would be tasty even when made with styrofoam.
  10. My dream set right now is Laguiole, though I haven't learned enough about the different artisans to claim a favorite among them. I love the models with voluptuous handles and a good heft. Of course, I'm a freak when it comes to sharp knives. I love the idea of a nice clean cut, so I'd never go for serrated. Williams-Sonoma has caught on with a nice starter set, but I really like the look of these in Amourette wood. Of course, I haven't robbed a bank or won the Lotto, and I don't cook meat nearly as often enough to justify them, so our Henckels steak knives are great, and a terrific value at only $40 per set of four. I found their shape to be pleasant, and they keep a good edge.
  11. RE: Pasta Moon, it's not anything like a NY/NJ Italian place at all. While they emphasize house-made pastas, her cuisine is rooted in California with fresh ingredients grown by the farmers down the road, and well-executed meats & fresh seafood (caught just a stone's throw away). Here are just a few selections from their sample menu: Fettucine, Grilled Chicken Breast, Dried Cranberries, Sage, Cream & Harley Farms Goat Cheese Butternut Squash & Mascarpone Ravioli, Brown Butter Sage, Crushed Amaretti Porcini Mushroom Pappardelle, Prosciuotto, Wild Mushrooms, Porcini Mushroom Cream, Black Truffle Oil My husband is a Rockland County & NJ native, and his father LOVES this place every time he comes out to visit. I would hope you wouldn't dismiss it for being too "Italian." If you're skeptical, stop by the wine bar for snacks and good wine selections by the glass. Stay for dinner if you're impressed. [edited to add menu sample]
  12. I will wholeheartedly second Pasta Moon on Main Street. Their house-made pastas and fresh local ingredients are equalled only buy their outstanding wine program. Kim, the owner runs a wonderfully cozy yet bustling dining room. Save room for dessert! Cetrella down at the end of Main Street is a big restaurant, popular with the more well-heeled locals. Expect Mediterranean-influenced California seafood heavily accented by the wood-fired grill & oven. The early evening weeknight prix-fixe dinners are a great deal, and you can follow it with their wide array of cheeses from their custom built cheese cave on display. The owner, Paul is an amiable New York transplant who really makes you feel at home. If staying at the Ritz, Navio is a very beautiful room, and it has a wonderful brunch. However, it may not be worth the time & expense for dinner. If you get the room upgrade, their club lounge had great complimentary lunch & breakfast offerings in a beautiful seaside setting, including amazing pastries and an omelette bar in the mornings. Their new Ocean Terrace grill has terrific, more casual dining options on the outdoor deck if weather permits. Also, one of our favorite things to do is order snacks & desserts in the Conservatory lounge (live music on some nights). Follow that with drinks & cigars outside in the Adirondack chairs circling the bluff-top firepit, and you have a great evening. Enjoy your trip!
  13. Oh - I completely realize with the time change and the nature of email that this was a minmal delay. I just have to say that I tend to be a spoiled brat when it comes to wanting immediate gratification from the web. Besides, a couple of weeks in Spain definitely helped me with that affliction - if only briefly.
  14. I'll be up-front and say I work for OpenTable, too (hi, Rich!). On our last trip to Spain we reserved at Cinq Sentits in Barcelona, and booked our table online using their own web email form. Being so used to instant confirmations, I was annoyed it took three days for them to return my request. Nevertheless, I received a very polite confirmation in passable English welcoming us to the restaurant. So, it looks like Spanish restaurateurs have already embraced the concept of online transactions. For your list, I would also add Santceloni in Madrid - Elegant dining room, amazing multi-course meals with fresh, local ingredients and a cheese table that's out of control. Of course the dinner-only restaurants in Spain don't open until very late, and Santceloni was abandoned for most of the day. This made changing our time and party size very difficult to do in advance of our reservation. I also think the local concierges would love to be able to book places like this online (The Hotel Hesperia is right upstairs). It was Abac that 'failed to respond'. But they did respond immediately to my email. ←
  15. Actually, the controversy in SF came from inaccurate reviews. After the book came out, it was found in the blurbs that the writers cited restaurant features, staff members and menu items that hadn't been in the restaurants for years--well before the evaluation period was to begin. Also, it's San Francisco, whose overall attitude tends to be that the rest of the entire world just doesn't "get" how freaking amazing and special everything is out here (believe me, I'm one of them)
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