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Everything posted by wnissen

  1. wnissen

    Tour d'Argent

    Hello, First of all, congratulations on your upcoming marriage! My wife and I honeymooned in Paris a couple of years ago, and decided to go for one all-out meal at a ***. Discussed and read about La Tour, but read too many reviews that said that the food was disappointing, even if the service and setting were impeccable. Also read many from people that enjoyed it. Still, we found it too risky. Ultimately decided on Taillevent, which was described as a "temple of gastronomy." I'd say that was about right. I have no real basis for comparison, but everything about the experience was flawless. Easily the finest meal I've ever had, and I have trouble imagining how the service could have been any more perfectly attentive than it was. We rolled out of there, took a walk on the Champs Elysees whilst floating on air. Even now, two and a half years later, I cannot help but recall the feeling of absolute contentment. And this was lunch!! As for setting, we were seated in a room with other English speakers (including a well-behaved tot) which was nice because it kept the smoke down. My only (very minor) regret was that the other tables brought cameras with them and asked their waiters to take a picture. I don't begrudge folks that, but it still seemed out of place. We were so wrapped up in our own meal that I don't think anything could have really interrupted our reverie. On the other hand, the food at some of the other places will certainly be more creative, and might be better. Your call. A couple of tips: 1. Decide well in advance when you want to go. We only selected a restaurant three weeks out, and were unable to get a dinner reservation. 2. Don't know what your schedule is like, but often they are closed on the weekends. Good luck, I am sure you will have a meal to remember. Walt
  2. Wow, I was not aware of the strong feelings surrounding this issue. My opinion (formed over a four day visit, for what it's worth) is that BC is a good quality "boutique" wine region. Go into a Napa tasting room and often as not their bread-and-butter will be oaky Chardonnays at US$20 and up. I have had a lot of decent but expensive wine in Napa. On the whole, I found the style of the BC wines I had to be much more to my liking than a California wine. I live in a minor California wine region (Livermore Valley) and it's pretty much the same situation. Most of the wineries are in the 5,000 case or smaller range, it's impossible to find outside of the area, and a decent bottle starts at $US12 or so. Grapes are only lightly subsidized in the U.S., so maybe it's not quite comparable, but in the main... Most of my inexpensive wines do not come from the local wineries, even though they're three miles from my house. They come from the Central Coast of California, Australia, Spain, France, etc. I just treat it as a blessing to have all those fun wineries nearby and don't really worry about the value proposition. Walt
  3. Thank you, thank you, thank YOU! I have been putting up with drastically inferior pepper mills for too long without even knowing it. I only decided to buy one when the cheap plastic job I was using finally stopped working. Even when it did work, grinding 2 tablespoons of pepper for a recipe was a real chore and took several minutes. Now, I have a Magnum Plus. It is a joy. A huge range of fineness, and grinds so quickly that it is wholly inappropriate for tabletop use. I have been grinding pepper into the sink all week for the pure joy of seeing the perfectly ground flecks flutter out. eGullet, I am in your debt. Walt
  4. In the Feb. 2004 issue of Consumer Reports, they did a brief evaluation of Glad Press 'n Seal on twelve bowls each of plastic, glass, styrofoam, china, and stainless. All of the glass, stainless, and china bowls leaked liquid when tipped over. It worked best on styrofoam and plastic. I assume they were using it correctly. Walt
  5. What steams me is the fact that all appliances are the same, except not. When we bought a fridge, we ended up with a Kenmore model that was identical in every way to a Frigidaire model, except for the absence of a water filter. There's no way to find out who the actual manufacturer is! It used to be the Consumer Reports listings were simple, but now they are forced to list a half-dozen models, all microscopically different, selling as different brands. Sheesh! Walt
  6. Re: Protein powders, some of them are full of crap as well. I believe the 100% whey ones are the most natural, and are not that expensive (~ US$0.50 for 25 g protein ). Not sure if there is a big difference among brands. Best of luck dealing with this life change. Walt
  7. In college our dorm (~70 students) had a small shared kitchen. For two years, my official dorm position was "Dorm Mom." This meant I was in charge of haranguing people to "Do your dishes dammit." Since there were so many people this was often a pointless endeavor, although the kitchen stayed much cleaner than one might expect given the heavy use it got. The fridge in this kitchen was another matter entirely. People would leave food in there for months. I eventually resorted to buying a rubber stamp and stamping the date on everything. If people wanted to keep something, they could rub out the date, but anything still dated two weeks later went in the garbage. This actually worked pretty well; I only had to do it a couple times a semester before the abandoned food retreated to a reasonble level. Sorry, no specific memories of disgusting food, as I have blocked them all out of my memory. Walt
  8. Safeway in Livermore, CA wants US$24, while Beverages and More (a big chain) wants US$17. Unreal, isn't it? Walt
  9. This is a situation in which I would keep my mouth clamped shut. There's just no way to fix the problem. The second you speak up, everyone who liked the wine feels like a dummy (and nothing makes people feel like dummies than the intimidating world of wine) and the host feels doubly bad. Unless you have a chance to make the first comment on the wine, thus educating everyone without making them lose face, the polite thing to do is smile and sip slowly. Even a moderately corked wine is not undrinkable. Walt
  10. Carmel, at least, is so heavily touristed that pretty much everything is expensive, crap, or both. I do have a couple of suggestions: 1. Find a deli, buy some bread, meat, and an avocado. Then go to The Cheese Shop in Carmel (in the shopping center at the top of the downtown) and ask them what's good. That cheese shop absolutely rules. Then drive south a bit to Point Lobos and go for a hike. Any trail will do. Even when it's freezing outside, eating this in the car is one of my favorite Carmel meals. 2. For a charming French restaurant experience, try Chez Felix in Carmel. Madame is in front, Monsieur in the kitchen, and it's like you have your very own grandmere for the evening. Resolutely traditional simple fare, with occasional local fish specials that are actually special. Very reasonably priced, to boot. Can fill up, so call ahead. I don't have much input on the truly "fine" dining, sorry. Walt
  11. Comfort Me, I think I saw your story on Etiquette Hell. Isn't it amazing how it's always the responsible semi-outsiders (i.e., not the so-called "attendants") who end up doing the work? But back to the original topic. This is not at all the same thing, but my wife's parents arranged for beverages to be delivered for a small reception after her senior year recital. This was the Sunday of the spring time change, and they were scheduled to arrive in time to serve at an 1 p.m. reception. They didn't even arrive until two (fifteen minutes late on top of the hour) so they were sent home. In this case, I feel justified in giving a caterer nothing, because no goods or services were accepted. In such a case, I would try to get a deposit back, if any. In the case of the indian food, I don't necessarily think it's right, but it is completely understandable to take the food (what would the caterer do with it anyway) and not give them a penny more. Weddings are important to people, and anyone who provides food for a wedding should be prepared to stick to a schedule or else be prepared to not get paid. Probably this was a good lesson for them to learn. Walt
  12. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to pick a few random recipes off the Food TV site and look at the ingredients, just to see what she's using and assess how well she lives up to the ideal. Hmm, white morsels instead of a bar of white chocolate, plus cookies and pound cake if you count the dipping items. No convenience items, but also seems like a regular recipe. I actually made this a few months ago (from a recipe that called them "cowboy beans"). Good bacon flavor, although I like Bush's beans even without the additions. I guess it does count as a time-saver, since real baked beans take forever, but this is hardly a bizarre recipe. Okay, this is a definitely a mark in the WTF!!! column. This recipe is hamburgers in the shape of hot dogs! I have to give it props for "semi-homemadeness" because it uses a manufacturer's seasoning packet. This is a genuine time and space saver, assuming you remember to buy the packets. However, the shape of the dogs is such that the narrow ends would get burnt to a crisp, and the middle would not get fully cooked. And then, you'd have a big log of burnt meatloaf crushing your hotdog bun. Truly a horrorshow. Wow, a recipe that actually lives up to the name. Uses those crescent rolls, which do taste good despite being horrible for you, and are much quicker than making something flaky yourself. I'm sure this looks and tastes pretty good. One would think that this recipe would also qualify, but the first instruction is to beat the butter with the frosting in a mixer. Oh, congratulations, you managed to get the mixer dirty without taking the extra minute required to make homemade frosting! Plus you get to dirty the food processor as well. Does get points for not requiring baking. Probably looks and tastes good, but using the "product" is pointless. So, basically, she fails to produce something semi-homemade and tasty most of the time. Sometimes it's semi-homemade, and sometimes it's tasty, but rarely both. Good luck to those actually making these recipes rather than deconstructing them. Walt
  13. Has anyone else noticed a little air sneaking into the bags? I was sent a free sample of "Le Cask," a CA Zin in box, and while the wine was actually quite good (better than e.g., Ravenswood VB) it did deteriorate slightly over the course of six weeks or so. There did appear to be some air admitted to the bag. I'd be curious to learn if others have seen this with bag-in-box wines. Walt
  14. ... attempt to prevent myself from grabbing the handle of a pan freshly out of the oven by placing an oven mit over it. The melting plastic of the non-heatproof inner fabric makes a nasty smell and sticks to the handle! Walt
  15. Actually, in Vancouver the BC wine was pretty good. It took a little while to get used to the idea that Merlot was a food wine, but I had a very good one from Township 7. A nice sparkler was Hawthorne Mountain Brut "Dosage Zero", and a fine dry Gewurtz I had was 2001 Poplar Grove Late Harvest Gewurztraminer. 2002 Adora Element No. 8, a light, crisp wine that paired well with the heat of Indian food was quite tasty. I also liked the tropicality and balance of the La Frenz Semillon. There is good wine in B.C., but none of it leaves the province so I think you're just not likely to find people who have had it. Walt
  16. Have had the OXO for 5 or so years now, it works very well. Sharp enough to peel with ease (even butternut squash) but not so sharp that a slip will send you, swearing and bleeding, to the medicine cabinet. Very comfortable handle, and dishwasher safe. Walt
  17. Even with a bit of sugar, an espresso tends to completely overwhelm any dessert of reasonable subtlety, IMO. In France I sometimes had trouble getting coffee after dessert, because the helpful waiter would assume that, as an American, I would want them together. In nicer places in the U.S. I just specify the order and haven't had any problems. Now if I could just get them to bring the dessert wine not with dessert! Walt
  18. wnissen

    A Chef's Beer

    Gaaarrr, turns out I won't be able to brew. I decided to start taking classes toward an M.S.C.S. and and that means I need Saturday to get my computer set up. Hope everyone has a successful brew day! Walt
  19. Hee! Basically the same thing happens to me every week; they love the basket, especially when it is filled with neat-smelling produce. And yes, to answer the question above, both cats came from Tri-Valley Animal Rescue, a group that fosters cats and dogs until they are ready to be fixed and adopted. If it's not raining, they have an adoption day at the Pleasanton market every Saturday. Walt
  20. A very interesting topic. Honestly, I can still savor Hershey's, and frozen shrimp, and two-week old eggs. But the stuff that I just go without is a pretty small set. Real tomatoes. In CA that isn't usually a problem because there are greenhouse tomatoes that don't totally suck, but when those aren't there, I eat something else. Real cheese. Anything with "product" or "processed product" on the label isn't worth eating. Butter. I can tolerate the Brummel and Brown stuff, but margarine is right out. Fresh ground black pepper and fresh rosemary. The jarred, dried versions of these two are just so far from the originals in flavor, it isn't worth it. When my pepper grinder gave out while I was making chili last month, I used a knife to chop the pepper rather than use the box of pre-ground. Non-draft American Lagers. On tap, these aren't so bad, usually at worst tasteless, but in a bottle or can they're actively bad. I'm sure there's a few more, but those are the main ones. Walt
  21. wnissen

    A Chef's Beer

    I'm still in to brew, but I'm 3000 miles from NYC and haven't been since high school, so I'll be going solo unless someone in the S.F. Bay Area wants to join in. Walt
  22. wnissen

    Wine and Food pairing

    Snide it may be, bemoaning the "good old days," but in the main I agree with him. Making wines more dramatic on their own necessarily reduces the ability to pair with food. I don't think that's really controversial. Restaurant reviewers rarely give even a thumbs up / thumbs down on the list or its pricing. I don't think anyone disagrees with that either. Unbelievable markups on wine and low quality at the low end discourage people from buying wine in restaurants. Also not a bit controversial. We can argue about tone and writing quality (actually, we probably wouldn't argue about that) but he makes his point. Walt
  23. Odd that they are not upfront about this, given that anyone, especially someone with an expense account, could buy a small saucepan from all of these lines and have the answer in a few days. On the other hand, they probably aren't interested in competing on mm of Al, but rather on how exclusive they can be. One thing I was surprised by was the apparent thinness of the sides on the SS saucepans. To me, it looks like they have a 5 mm Al layer throughout. If that's true, that's not even really as good as, say, Sitram. Interesting. Walt
  24. Am I the only one reading this who remembers that CSPI et al. were the ones who fought against nutritional labeling of alcoholic beverages in the first place? As I recall, the argument then was the it would allow purveyors of demon rum to claim health benefits by adding vitamins and whatnot. I'm suprised (although not too surprised) to see a flip flop in light of the obesity thing. It was always moronic that alcohol be the only packaged product in the whole store without even a calorie count. And god forbid they settle on listing the alcohol content by proof or percentage. Walt
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