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Posts posted by Tess

  1. 4. Unwillingness to move my table due to inclement conditions. This has yet to actually happen, though I suspect it will soon enough.

    This suggests to me that you walk in anticipating problems. You may be ascribing these anticipated problems to your youth or clothes. Certainly, biases in that direction exist. But also, people in the service industry have a pretty good sense of who is coming in expecting their own negative biases to be confirmed. Some respond by trying to confound your expectations; others will be only too happy to fulfill them.

    I would suggest that if you really take yourself seriously as a journalist, you check this baggage at the door and try to have an experience that's not tainted by your own attitude. As a bonus, you'll have a better time when you dine out.

  2. I love adding it to tomato or vegetable soup. You just put it in the bowl, add a little soup to temper it and stir, then add the rest of the soup. I also top it with a little bit of caponata or other vegetable confit like the types you get in jars from eastern European and middle eastern markets.

  3. I get suckered into this often at Asian markets that have lots of sample tables on the weekend. I eat a dumpling or a mini cup of udon soup and am told what a great sale it is today and often cave. The product is usually decent but I think I operate under a possible misconception that the company is tracking the sales and that the sweet ladies working the tables may be judged on the sales figures.

    Some sample people are judged by sale figures. They get bonuses, or their hours are determined by how much they sell. I know that's true at Costco; those sample ladies are not paid by the store but by the vendors, through the demo company. That doesn't mean I'm about to buy stuff I don't want, but I would think twice about wasting a sample person's time letting them chat me up when I know I'm not going to buy anything from them.

    I have bought a lot of things because of samples. It's how I discovered the insanely delicious vegetable-flavored tofu at Super H Mart. My favorite sample experience was at Foodstuffs, a suburban Chicago chain. I asked what a new kind of beer tasted like; the counter person opened a bottle and we both tasted it. I'm leery of samples that are just left out on the sales floor, though. God knows how many people have touched then. Oh, and I won't touch food if I can't wash my hands after.

  4. You're completely right. I have no justification for it whatsoever, and like to think I'm a pretty ethical fellow. There's just something about those big fat stems that bugs me.

    Then pay for the whole mushroom, go to the nearest trash can and throw the stems away there. This way, you are not only stealing, you are making a mess for the next person.

    This makes the original question seem incredibly subtle by comparison.

  5. It's the same as pocketing a few sugar or Sweet and Low packs from the diner, or asking for extra ketchup packets (notice they're not left out anymore) at a fast food place when you don't really need them for that particular meal. It's not illegal. It's also not something that someone who cares about the potential longevity of their local store does. If you need the bags, or just want them, offer to buy a whole roll and be done with it.

    It's also the kind of thing that makes stores put stuff behind the counter so you have to ask for it. You have to ask for packets of soy sauce at Mitsuwa now whereas a couple of years ago you didn't. It's called ruining it for the rest of us.

    I also agree with the comment about setting an example for the kids. My aunt is the kind of person who always pilfers complimentary items. We laugh about it but we're embarrassed when we're with her and she does it. On one level it's kind of cute, like people who make "lemonade" by asking for a lot of lemons to go with their ice water. On another, it's somewhat shady, and sad. In one of her novels, Alison Lurie has a character go into an airplane bathroom on a transatlantic flight and put all the toiletries in her bag. It says everything about that character: she is someone who feels like life is shortchanging her and she needs to take something for herself at every possible opportunity. She does learn and grow by the end of the book, mostly by getting laid I think.

    Edited to add: oh, taking stuff with advertising on it seems a little less bad to me, somehow. Still wouldn't want my kid to grow up in a house full of ketchup packets and airline silverware, though.

  6. I think the Chicago food board, lthforum dot com, will stay around unless someone decides to kill it and/or or the major players migrate elsewhere. It's a really good source of food news for that specific area. (I think the news part is key; there are people who are tireless about spotting and reporting developments, which is an ideal use of the board format imo.)

  7. That article is incredibly cursory. He's talking about markets in what? Seattle and Vermont?

    In my experience of cooking and shopping, it's nearly meaningless to talk about this or that market being more or less expensive than another. I visit a bunch of different markets and buy certain things from each, according to what is better or cheaper or available, period. I do watch the prices. Here in the Chicago area, I am pretty sure that if you can find an item at Jewel or Dominicks, it will almost always be cheaper than at most farmers markets. If it's at Super H Mart or Costco, it will be tons cheaper. But I don't go to the farmers market to get a wide range of things at lower prices; I go for things that are hard to find elsewhere or found only in markets that are still more expensive. I almost never see things like Michigan sour cherries outside of a farmers market, for instance. (And prices for such vary widely even among vendors at the same markets.) I think I would be shopping in very different ways if I lived in California or Hawaii or Nebraska.

  8. If you enjoy liquor responsibly at home, I don't see any reason to hide it from the kids.


    A lot of people start to question aspects of their drinking when they have kids-- wondering how it looks to the kids. That's probably a good thing. Strangely enough, I just saw a recovering alcoholic on TV admit that she stopped because her kid was referring to "mommy's juice"-- the wine she was drinking all the time. But that's the thing: if you're modeling bad behavior, it's not just at the point where you're buying the stuff. In fact if you are drinking to excess, I dare say being secretive about it it only makes it worse.

  9. They also have at least one horrible WF; honestly if I'd first stepped into that one, I would be mystified about why people ever went into a WF at all. (The people who work there are perfectly nice; they just have an awful selection.)

    That's interesting to me. Are these terrible Whole Foods markets that the company bought which were pre-existing as something else? It's hard to believe that they would build a brand new market and make it terrible.

    I really don't know what the deal is with that. As FoodTutor suggests, they may have bought a smaller property, but I don't think that can be all of it. I'm guessing it's like different branches of a Barnes and Noble or similar; some stores seemed to have been assigned different profiles based on demographics and travel patterns and things. The horrible WF is in a strip mall in an area where there are some pretty wealthy suburbs but all spread out. Actually, the more I think about it, I wonder why they have a store there at all.

  10. I'm lucky enough to have large Asian, Mexican, Polish and Italian supermarkets in short driving range, as well as an independent with a good butcher. I would spend five times more at Whole Foods for no more choice and rarely better quality. Yeah, "Whole Paycheck" resonates with me.

    That's one way to look at it but once you've driven to those 4 different supermarkets as well as your butcher, I would imagine that the opportunity cost + gasoline gets pretty close to the register receipt at WF.

    Actually not -- I said I was lucky. None of these stores are farther than three miles away, most within a mile and a half. My WF is within that geographical circle.

    Yes, the western suburbs are truly remarkable in the variety of markets they offer. They also have at least one horrible WF; honestly if I'd first stepped into that one, I would be mystified about why people ever went into a WF at all. (The people who work there are perfectly nice; they just have an awful selection.)

  11. Funny, I was JUST talking about this with my wife the other night. For me, Whole Foods has the POTENTIAL to be “Whole Paycheck”…..but when that happens it is because of impulse buying.

    Here in the Chicago area, I'd say it's about the same.

    My impression is that WF has become less expensive overall in the past 5 or so years. They are still expensive for produce compared with the big produce-oriented markets. Meanwhile their produce has (in my opinion and, again, in my local area) slipped terribly in quality. A lot seems to vary depending on your region and even from store to store in my region.

  12. Seconding the idea of anything shaped/constucted. If there are kids in the household, I am sure they would like to learn how to make sushi or rice balls, and most people enjoy those. For chilled dishes, I have monetarily forgotten the name of those slices of tofu topped with tomatoes and things-- so good in the summer. A meal with some of those items and chilled edamame, cucumbers, and pickles would be heaven in the hot weather.

    Anywhere in the US, you run the risk of people being upset about the idea of sushi containing raw fish, or certain textures. A lot of people I know are freaked out by eggplant and okra in any kind of dish. I wouldn't avoid those, just make sure to have some rice or something that anyone can eat.

  13. I thought the blogger aspect did not go along with the rest; it was like they didn't have enough stuff for a whole show on either thing, so they just got smooshed together. His take on blogs seemed too naive to be true. People have been blogging on extremely narrow subjects for a very long time, often to build an audience platform for some other project and with a somewhat concocted "obsession." People have gotten on TV with blogs about things like Weight Watchers recipe cards and boxed macaroni and cheese. Bourdain's been online enough that the gee-whiz aspect of his discussion seemed kind of intelligence-insulting.

  14. Poor Kev. Lost his wife and Top Chef at the same time. Man, when I saw him being chopped, I could FEEL the shock and pain in his face - it hit him like a ballpeen hammer. I think that was the worst loss I've ever witnessed on TC. It was truly painful, and I really hurt for Kev when he was back in kitchen with his mom. And, no, he didn't deserve to be made "third" - Padma could've just said Michael was TC, and leave it that. None of us need the "heightened drama" at the expense of a well-liked, highly-skilled and totally deserving chef who didn't happen to win. It was declasse - word up, Padma.

    I think Kev is still on the track to culinary greatness, and he left TC with the respect and affection, as a chef and a classy person, of everyone who saw him. Time to make tracks to hisa restaurant in Atlanta, which seems to be producing a lot of classy, well-liked and respected chefs these days. (Chef Blais, anyone?)

    Yeah, Kevin's going to be just fine.

    I think the most unfortunate dismissal ever was Lee Anne Wong-- that big crybaby beat her into the finals-- and look at her now. And Richard Blais looked miserable losing the final, and he's doing great too. Kevin is 26 and he's probably going to get fan favorite. (I love it that he got into MIT and was known as the low-tech one!)

  15. I don't drink now. When I did it was not with wine accompanying my food, I was more a scotch on the rocks kinda drinker.

    I don't understand how wine which has a strong taste, contains alcohol which I would think deadens nerve endings, can enhance the taste of the food its eaten with ?

    When you are sipping wine with food it does not have the same alcohol-forward effect that Scotch on the rocks does, IMO. I think you can certainly impair your sense of taste with too much wine, or the wrong kind, but it's more difficult. (Conversely I have found a meal enhanced by having say a martini first, but I've given that up because about half the time it seems like the gin does overwhelm my taste buds.) Probably varies by person.

  16. Thanks for the reminder! We only make summer pudding at red currant time. Totally agree about the strawberries. Too many people use them.

    Thanks to your post, I might try putting in some sour cherries. It's that season here, and I'm obsessed with them: eating with sugar and Greek yogurt, making pies, putting up in brandy.

  17. Do people think Dufresne really crashed that badly? He acted awkward-- editing might have been used to enhance this; god knows they have done that to others-- but the judges really liked his main creation. I would totally eat in his restaurant based on the pictures of the chicken, and I don't even like chicken.

    I loved the way Tracht blew everyone out of the water with that crazy bowl. Bowles is the one who mentioned living in Hawaii, but her dish reminded me of some of the cool things you can eat there, only dialed way, way up. In fact everyone's food (outside the quickfire, which is always iffy) looked fabulous except for the yam-papaya puree. Ick.

    My partner said that giving the number of DUIs by Lost cast members in Hawaii, they should have soaked all the food in booze.

  18. Do you know how unpleasant being scolded by restaurant staff, is? If I had asked to hold my meal until we came back, the owner could have accused me of trying to leave without paying. If I asked to pack the meal to go he could have said he did not have the right containers or could not pack it properly.

    So you made zero requests, based on things you imagined the restaurant mighthave done? I'm just trying to get this straight in my mind.

    If I read your original post correctly, yes there are better things they could have done spontaneously, such as say, "Oh, I'm sorry sir. You seem to be stuck out here in the rain. Unfortunately health code does not allow animals inside, even this very nice animal. May we pack your food to go? [Or even: do you want to call it a day and come back courtesy of us?]" If they didn't act the least bit solicitous, that is not very polished service. Maybe you sat there in the pouring rain feeling like you were being laughed at a little, even. That could leave a very bad taste in the mouth-- sitting there in your predicament being ignored.

    The one thing they really couldn't have done, though, is bring the dog in. Which makes it kind of silly that the focus came to be on that option.

  19. I wasn't suggesting a dining room announcement requesting a show of hands.  Rather I envisioned the host, having mustered his tact and charm, explaining the situation and his thoughts to the guests at each table.  (Personally I would not object to being asked.  I would welcome this sort of interruption far more than the robotic and inevitable question, "How is everything?")

    Personally, you would not object to being asked. A lot of people would. The host does not know what's going on in the lives of each guest and it is a hell of an assumption to think that they wouldn't mind having their meal interrupted to hear his/her "thoughts" on something like this.

    The other thing is, when you (hypothetical "you" this time) are asking for unusual service, it's not just you and the host. It's you and the other customers. It is one thing for a host/manager/whatever simply to put forth extra effort on your behalf. But there are times when granting your request has an impact on the other guests. At that point, the host has to weigh it. It's not a simple case of "It would have cost him nothing to make a little effort." You are expecting him to ask something of the other customers.

    This is all kind of superfluous anyway, since he couldn't reasonably have been expected to violate the code and was not asked to do anything else.

  20. I accept the will of eGullet, but I think the owner could have done a 100 gracious things,

    Like what?

    You put the guy in a situation where ANYTHING he did could very well have upset you or someone else there. You chose to bring the dog. At least this way, he did not violate the law and did not upset any other customers who did nothing to create the situation and were just minding their own business eating dinner. Honestly, I do understand the idea Holly Moore is puttiing forth along the going the extra mile lines but it really seems kind of nonsmart to break in on other diners' time and ask them about you and your dog. That's a crashing bore in my opinion and, depending on the other diners' circumstances, could be seen as a real imposition.

    By the way: dog lover here; often seek out places to dine with my dogs. I've also seen people cross the street to avoid my Boston terrier. Strange as it may seem, some people really, really want to dine dog-free.

  21. That is annoying.

    I ordered some things online from Dean & Deluca last year. When the order came, I discovered it was broken up with some items backordered. Phoned them and they assured me the shipping on the remaining items would be on the house. That's the only food order I can recall placing that wound up being incomplete, and I realize it's not exactly a parallel situation to yours, since I did not have to place a re-order. Anyway, I would hope all you would have to do is remind them of the discussion that took place initially, and they would make it up to you, ideally by waiving charges for shipping the brisket, assuming you are willing to re-order.

  22. I am guessing that  sometimes they avoid doing too many things to showcase the city, because those things would be more apt to create spoilers.

    People on the show have confirmed this: they are pretty much compelled to keep everything indoors or in obscure places, because otherwise it would be pretty clear who was eliminated.

    In nearly every judges table challenge, there are members of the public involved in the events they stage. I would think there would be more danger of leaks when the people involved know exactly what's going on, as opposed to random proles on NYC sidewalks who stop and take a gander.

    You will note that those challenges are always under "controlled conditions." I am sure that those who participate are asked to sign confidentiality agreements, or at the very least, are lectured sternly about the importance of preserving the show's element of surprise. I am not sure what they do, but I guarantee it's something, and it seems to work.

    Now contrast this with, say, holding an event in the middle of Central Park, where any random person can just walk by, snap a cell phone photo, tap something into twitter, and so forth. Under those conditions, it really would be impossible to prevent spoilers from being pretty widely disseminated.

    Sure they do "something," but seems like there's no way to gaurantee that in a roomfull of culinary students, like in the football challenge, an anonymous internet post about what happened won't occur. They ain't. You could have them all sign an encyclopedia's worth of papers. How would you determine which person in that roomfull, who otherwise have no stake in the show or competition, posted about it? Or in the restaurant challenge. Or at Blue Hill Farms. Or at Natasha Richard's shindig. The only way to ensure what you say they are trying to ensure is to have no outsiders at all. Of course, unless you meant a double secret stern lecture.

    It's interesting. You would think there would be more leaks than there are. People are certainly hungry for the information. When the show filmed here in Chicago, there was a lot of gossip about who was seen where. Yet somehow, no one ever seems to know much.

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