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Scott -- DFW

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  1. Well, I discovered this morning that (not surprisingly) there's no chance of getting into the Fat Duck this late. Time to find a backup plan. Moby, you said you had a very bad meal at Zaika. Which of the higher-end Indian restaurants would you recommend in its stead? Or would two Indian dinners on a trip this short be disproportionate? What are people's views on Nahm? That started out on my short list; but, after reading several negative reviews (including a scathing one from the erstwhile Cabrales), it basically dropped out of contention. Should I reinstate it? Are there better Thai options? Thanks, everyone. Scott
  2. Thanks to everyone for the input. I'm not sure what to make of the occasional self-consciousness/flagellation about London's haute cuisine scene. I was able to land a late dinner reservation at Gordon Ramsay RHR. If it proves lackluster, I can't say I wasn't warned. But since that will be the only high-end French-oriented meal on my itinerary, I'm not risking much. I won't know about the Fat Duck till I call in at 3 AM (Texas time) tomorrow morning. If, as Tarka (whose postings I've been following with interest on the Chicago board) suggests, it's in the same ballpark as Achatz's exceptional work at Trio, I'd really like to get in there. I'm not finding anything like unanimity on the Indian front. There seem to be a number of names that keep popping up at the mid-range level, though (e.g., Zaika, Tamarind, Chutney Mary, Cinnamon Club, Soho Spice, et al.). If there's no clear leader, I suppose that means quality is good across the board. So many names have been mentioned at the low-end that I haven't a clue where to focus there (other than to head to Tooting). So far, the greatest consensus in any category seems to rest on St. John. At the beginning of my research, I feared the restaurant might be more gimmick than substance. Apparently I was very wrong. I hope to visit both St. John and SJB&W at least once over the course of this trip. If I had to finalize the itinerary today, it would probably look something like this: Dinners: GR RHR Fat Duck Tamarind Zaika Hakkasan St. John Lunches: The Cow Dining Room Golden Hind or Rock & Sole Plaice Providores St. John Bread and Wine Indian TBD in Tooting (e.g., Kastoori) St. John or SJB&W Additional suggestions or substitutions would be welcome, as I still feel like I'm in way over my head. And, since the only reservation I have at present is with Ramsay, some of the above may not be doable. (Are same-day reservations available with most places in London?) So a Plan B list is probably in order. Scott
  3. Thanks to everyone for the helpful advice. It's nice to hear the pros and cons on The Fat Duck. But since I don't have a reservation there yet, odds are we won't be able to get in. Same thing with Ramsay's joint. (I'll wake up at 3 AM tomorrow and try for FD reservations. BTW, if anyone has eaten at both FD and Chicago's Trio, I'd be interested to hear how they compare.) So, let's hone in on some other questions: (1) English puddings. My exposure to these concoctions is limited to Patrick O'Brian novels. Where should I seek out the best London has to offer in this department? (2) Pies. Shepherd's pie, steak & kidney, etc. What and where are the best options? (And are jellied eels something to be eaten or merely admired from a distance as a bit of local color?) (3) Fish & chips. Never had them. Want to try them. (4) Cheeses. Any great cheese shops? Are free samples customary there as they are in the US? (5) Breads and pastries. What can I expect or hope for? (6) Breakfasts. My food guides don't speak much of breakfast and I've found little in the archives here. What are some good breakfast establishments? Thanks for all the help! Scott
  4. The following are listed as Top Ten Gastropubs on the View London web page. Any thoughts on their list? The Cow Dining Room The Eagle The Atlas The Oak The North Star The Salisbury Tavern The Engineer Bradley's Spanish Bar The Durell 25 Canonbury Lane Since I'll be in London for the first time next week, I'd appeciate tips and recommendations. Thanks. Scott
  5. My wife and I are Dallas, Texas, e-Gulleteers who'll be making our first trip to London (spur of the moment) next Wednesday. We're looking for the following: 1) Two or three recommendations for unique, world-class fine dining options. We'd like to do the Fat Duck and/or St. John, but I don't know if it'll be possible to get reservations this late. (Any thoughts? Suggestions?) 2) Great Indian. Several Indian friends have told me that the offerings in London surpass almost anything that can be found in India. Since Indian isn't a strength in my neck of the woods, I'm eager to see that cuisine in its highest forms. 3) Distinctively English food experiences. Anything that tastes great and is particular to London or the UK. 4) Anything worth eating around our hotel near Regent's Park. We'll be moving around a lot. But it would be nice to know if there are any great things close to base camp. 5) General information about dining culture. Are dress codes (e.g., jacket & tie) enforced at many restaurants? Are reservations usually required and, if so, how far in advance? Any tips or direction would be appreciated. Thanks in advance for any help. In the meantime, I'll try to comb through the archives for more info. Scott
  6. Scott -- DFW


    I think it's just a matter of what you're after. The carnitas I've had in the US and Mexico have usually been very straightforward affairs--pork cooked in lard, sometimes with some orange thrown in for a citrus undertone. That was the kind of result I was shooting for--pure, intense, crispy, succulent chunks of pork. From the universal acclaim of your recipe I've seen here, it's obvious that using a flavorful brew instead of water can produce some very tasty results. From the pictures and descriptions, they seem to be somewhat different from the kind of carnitas I'm most familiar with (and was trying to recreate). But if they taste great--as so many have testified--that's all that matters. Thanks, again, to all who have posted their thoughts, experiences, and images. And remember: El Cerdo es Bueno. http://www.elcerdoesbueno.com/ Scott
  7. Scott -- DFW


    Here are some photos of stove-top carnitas using the water method described by Kennedy, Poore, and others. I chopped the pork (country ribs) into pieces, placed them in the pot, and added water almost (but not quite) to cover. Because the meat wasn't as fatty as it needed to be, I also added a couple tablespoons of lard. No citrus, salt, or other seasonings were added. The water was brought to a high simmer/low boil and left to evaporate, which took under an hour. After the water was gone I cranked up the heat and began turning the nascent carnitas in the remaining fat until they became brown and crispy. Photo of carnitas cooking in pot after water has evaporated: --- Photo of finished carnitas: --- Detail of finished carnitas: I haven't done a side-by-side comparison to see how the results of this method would compare with those of the "confit" approach ExtraMSG has described (which is admittedly closer to the method used by taquerias all over). But I can say that these carnitas are as good as or better than most I find at taquerias in Texas. And, even if the confit method produced better results, the convenience and ease of the water method (one pot, stovetop only, limited lard requirements) are enough to commend it for many. Thanks to all those who have contributed to this thread. Scott
  8. Several new "gourmet" pizzerias have opened in my area in the past several months, including Stromboli Cafe (in partnership with Al Biernat), Taverna Pizzeria and Risottoria (from Alberto Lombardi), and most recently Fireside Pies (from Tristan Simon). Fireside Pies has been open for about a month in a small, awkwardly shaped space (something like a wood-slatted bunker) adjacent to Cuba Libre on Henderson. The interior looks great, with wood floors and paneling, low lighting, and an open kitchen (with pecan wood-fired pizza oven) surrounded by a convenient bar for take-out customers. Indoor seating is limited to about a half dozen booths along the front wall, with more seating available on the attractive, covered patio running along the side and back of the building. Since I ordered take-out, I didn't have much chance to observe service elements. However, I was promptly seated at the bar, asked if I wanted a drink while I waited, and offered a copy of the menu to take with me. I didn't have to wait long for the pizza (i.e., under 20 minutes), even though they were busy at the time. Pretty good service, for take-out. The menu is limited to (i) a few appetizers, salads, and sandwiches, (ii) the pizzas (one size only--10"-12", judging from the one I got), (iii) two desserts, and (iv) drinks, drinks, drinks (e.g., beer, frou-frou cocktails, martinis, wines, and a handful of ice cream floats). I ordered the "triple 'roni" pizza--pepperoni, Mozzarella Company mozzarella, fresh basil, and truffle oil. The hand-tossed crust was thin, light, and slightly crisp. A roasted-tomato sauce gave enough sweetness to balance the other toppings, but wasn't excessive. The MozzCo cheese was thick and delicious, though I would have liked it to be left in the oven a little longer, so it could get more toasted. I'm not sure what was "triple" about the pepperoni (nothing unusual about the quantity), but I was pleased to see them placed on top of the cheese rather than underneath. (Putting them underneath the cheese prevents the Maillard reaction from turning mere slices of sausage into the crispy, up-turned, grease-filled flavor buckets that make a good pepperoni pizza sublime.) The truffle oil was a nice addition, adding earthy undertones that I'm unaccustomed to with pizza. (I'll try that one at home.) In all, it was a very good pizza--among the better ones I've had in Dallas (which is, admittedly and unfortunately, not a great pizza town). I'm definitely interested in returning to try some of the other options, such as: Jimmy's spicy Italian sausage with MozzCo scamorza and roasted red onions; Peta Pie with Sonoma goat cheese, balsamic mustard portobellas, baby arugula, roasted red peppers, roasted pine nuts, and charred tomato vinaigrette; Fireside meatballs with roasted red onions and red peppers; "Piled" prosciutto with goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and black olives; et al. It's nice to see them using quality local ingredients, such as Lambert's cheeses and sausages from Jimmy's and Kuby's. Prices are on the high side, averaging around $13 per pizza. But, considering the good quality and that the pizza is enough to comfortably feed (without stuffing) two adults, I think they're reasonable. I'll update this after some more visits. Scott
  9. I'd like to see a searchable database of Dallas restaurants' inspection scores. Having to comb through month after month of reports in search of a particular restaurant is a pain. Scott
  10. Thanks for the input, guys. If fine dining isn't a strength, I definitely don't want to waste my time or money on mediocrity. What are the strengths in the area? Scott
  11. Sound advice. Though I haven't been to the main dining room since the departure of Chris Peters, my experiences there have been inconsistent (i.e., as to food--the service has always been good). It's a reasonable value at the price point, considering the solid service, the "luxury" ingredients that appear on the menu, and some excellent dishes at times. But the Tasting Room, as your companion's waiter-friend indicated, is another animal entirely. Since its opening early last year, I've had (as a conservative estimate) over 150 distinct dishes there. The vast majority of them have ranged from very good to sublime. I can count the dishes I've questioned on one hand; and, even there, I admit the likelihood that they were good courses that just didn't fit my palate. Despite the aggressive menu rotation (e.g., only five courses of the menu I described above are repeats or adaptations of dishes I've had there before and, of those, most are repetitions/adaptations from the menu I had there about two weeks ago), the quality and execution of dishes is consistently top-notch. Since Lola and the Tasting Room are in the same building under the same ownership, it's easy to assume that they're in the same quality category (but with a slightly different format). They're not. Give Uygur's work a try and see what all the fuss is about. Scott
  12. I'll be visiting San Diego for a couple of days at the end of the month for my little brother's graduation at MCRD. I'd appreciate recommendations for the best of the best in the area (price not an issue, one way or the other). Thanks! Scott
  13. Since you've mentioned Lockhart, it sounds like you're already on the right track. Go there for Black's, Kreuz, and Smitty's (in that order); then, if you have time and stomach space, make the quick drive from Lockhart to the City Market in Luling. All four are in the top echelon of Texas BBQ. And, when you order, play to their strengths. Texas BBQ (at least according to Central Texans) is about beef--particularly brisket and sausage. (I've had good pork ribs at some of those places, but never great ones.) Also, be aware of the traditionalist attitudes that prevail in the area. Black's is the only one of the above that will provide utensils. The rest (being meat markets that gradually evolved into BBQ restaurants) preserve the tradition of serving meat on butcher paper without utensils. Black's and the City Market at Luling have sauce, but the others don't and will cast hostile glances your way if you say anything about it. There's a twofold reason I suggest going to Black's first: (1) because I think their brisket is consistently better than that of the others and (2) since they have sauce and utensils, you can grab an extra cup of sauce (if you like it) and plastic fork before you proceed to the others. Enjoy your trip! Scott
  14. ExtraMSG, I know what you mean (both about lighting and spousal humiliation). One recommendation: don't use a Mini Maglite. First, because it's too bright and uneven a light. Second, because an incandescent bulb skews the color reproduction. Consider the CMG Infinity Tasklight (white). It's smaller, uses an LED (that will last forever, basically), casts a true white light (making for better color representation), distributes it more evenly (so you don't have focused hot spots), and operates for 20+ hours on a single AA battery. (You can find them in some stores or online.) A quick rundown of the courses: Oyster with horseradish and Champagne mignonette. Peeky-toe crab salad w/ avocado, microcress, and pickled carrots. Raw asparagus salad with shallots, lemon vinaigrette, and sieved egg. Salad of bocarones, roasted red bell peppers, shallots, and flatleaf parsley. Crispy sauteed fluke w/ cured salmon, macerated cucumber, and dilled creme fraiche. Littleneck clam risotto w/ lemon and Italian parsley. Seared diver scallop w/ English pea puree and sauteed morels. Lady pea soup w/ apple-smoked bacon. Duck w/ roasted cipollini onion and succotash. Veal flank steak w/ broccoli puree and polenta cake. Beef tenderloin w/ anchovy-garlic butter, haricot vert, and boiled potatoes. Rhubarb sherbet. (Skipped cheese course, since I was about to explode.) Cherry and peach gratin w/ whipped mascarpone. Baked Alaska (w/ chocolate genoise and coconut ice cream). Mignardises: Citrus gelees, honey tuille, and chocolate-dipped candied orange zest. Maybe next time I'll take good photos for a full review. The restaurant is recommended to visitors enough that it would be nice to be able to point to a photo essay about a meal there (like that excellent post on Trio's "tour de force" in the Chicago forum) so they can get an idea of what it's all about. Scott
  15. THIS IS ONLY A TEST Just trying to figure out how to incorporate images in text for future reviews. Last night's quiet dinner in the Tasting Room (the only other customer was the executive sous chef of a high profile Dallas restaurant) was good enough to merit a full write-up. But (1) I don't have the time for it now, (2) the photos were taken with my dinky Palm Pilot rather than a real camera, and (3) I don't even know if this will work. Please excuse the exercise. First Course: The signature oyster with horseradish and Champagne mignonette. Fourth Course: Crab salad with avocado and pickled baby carrots. Last Course: Baked Alaska (chocolate cake, coconut ice cream). I just "previewed" the post and it looks like it's working. Awful images, though. (Bad camera, low lighting, and no flash will do that, I guess.) Thanks, ExtraMSG, for the instructions. As you can see, they clearly were idiot-proof. Scott
  16. Theabroma, Thanks for even more barbacoa data! A couple of additional observations. 1) The cabeza de cabrito I had was in the home of some immigrants from Guanajuato, who said it was a typical dish in their hometown. It was braised/steamed, of course. Might that be called by some other name? 2) I've seen pig heads sold at Fiesta. If people aren't using them for barbacoa, do you know what they are using them for? Do you think it would be possible for us to arrange for a true barbacoa event here in Dallas? Granted, restaurants don't do it. But there's probably an abuela out there with the expertise who would be willing to put a pit and some cow heads to good use, for a few bucks. If it could be lined up, count me in. As for what I'd like to see in an upscale Mexican restaurant, my thoughts are pretty close to ExtraMSG's. I'm not so concerned about the cuisine style (e.g., one region, multi-region, fusion, etc.) as I am the overall quality, consistency, and care--in ingredient selection, presentation, flavor, and service. I want four-to-five star Mexican, instead of the three star stuff that we usually have to settle for as the "high end." BTW, I'm going to try to get the details on arranging a meal at Lanny's Alta Cocina Mexicana in Fort Worth. If anyone would be interested in coming along (at an agreeable date and time), let me know. Scott
  17. Absolutely! My BA in philosophy would enable me to write opaque postmodern press releases for the restaurant during the day, while my law degree would qualify me to scrub pots and pans in the evenings. Let me know where to send my resume. Scott
  18. For something regionally distinctive, get "puffy tacos" somewhere (e.g., Henry's). Scott
  19. I can see it now. Trio "Hot Dog": A finger-length mustard and poppyseed gelee balloon filled with variety meat consomme served on a cloud of pickle relish foam with the aroma of exhaust and fresh bread. Scott
  20. Theabroma, Thanks for the info on Texas barbacoa. Like Nick, I thought most of what I get around here was stewed, braised, or steamed cabeza, resulting in a tasty tangle of fat and fibers of beef (or, as I've had in one person's home, cabrito). But, since I rarely see the actual cooking process, I don't really know. There's also the complicating factor of nomenclature; what goes by one name in one place may go by a different name elsewhere. (Just did a quick search online and came up with the following site on barbacoa methods: http://www.lomexicano.com/barbacoa.htm .) In any event, my complaint isn't really with the "authenticity" of the dish, but with the result--a chunk of mostly dry, nondescript beef, lacking any noticeable seasoning, served without a sauce. Even if that were an authentic result, some authentic dishes are more worth replicating than others, and the restauranteur should exercise some discretion. (And the waiter lobbied hard for the barbacoa, steering me away from dishes that, in retrospect, I probably would have enjoyed more.) Do we lack the critical mass to support an excellent, high-end Mexican restaurant? I don't think so. The fact that Fonda San Miguel, Cafe Azul, Topolobampo, Ciudad, et al., can survive or thrive at their respective price points suggests that the market is there. (Well, Cafe Azul is no more; but, from what I gather, that wasn't because of lack of business.) And I don't think any of those restaurants need much reconceptualization. They just need to improve the quality and, more importantly, consistency of their dishes. Rightly or wrongly, customers already have to get over the psychological hurdle of paying "this much" for Mexican food. So when they get a dud of a dish, their "value" concerns storm back to the fore. Nick, As soon as you give me idiot-proof instructions on how to include photos in my posts, I'll start including photos in my posts. I'm not sure how I'd rank Fonda San Miguel among the restaurants you've listed. It wouldn't near the top, because--despite the fact that nearly everything was good--nothing was great. With as many dishes as we had, something should have left an impression. Scott
  21. Had two meals at Fonda San Miguel last weekend. We passed plates clockwise so everyone got to try every dish. Appetizers sampled were the tostadas (guacamole, cochinita pibil, and a bland chicken tinga), sopes (fish, shrimp in adobo, and nopales), and queso asado (with poblano rajas and slices of chorizo). Entrees were lamb chops with chipotle au grain potatoes and a side salad, pescado Veracruzana (with a pico of olives, capers, tomatoe, onion, sided with rice and beans), a chile relleno (ancho, filled with chicken, olives, capers, and almonds, with rice, beans, and a cilantro cream sauce), duck in salsa verde, and a special "barbacoa" (beef short ribs cooked in banana leaf, with a slaw and soupy black beans). Desserts were crepes with cajeta (and cajeta ice cream), tres leches, and a "coffee toffee" pie (sort of like a firm semifreddo). Almost every thing was good (the barbacoa special being the exception, tasting like last week's pot roast wrapped in a banana leaf), but nothing was exceptional. I admire their commitment to doing more traditional dishes. The presentations were very good. The restaurant is quite attractive. Service was solid, apart from a couple of glitches (i.e., their failure to confirm reservation requests twice and a nearly half hour gap between table clearing and presentation of dessert menus on the second visit). Given the package, it's a reasonable value. But, focusing on the food, I didn't have a single dish that made me want to go back for more. On the basis of these meals, I'd say I like the idea of Fonda San Miguel more than its actuality. It felt like so much unfulfilled promise. So I'm still on the lookout for the great "white tablecloth" Mexican restaurant. Did anyone ever go to Lanny's Alta Cocina in Fort Worth? Scott
  22. Lyle, Yes, that's the one. Note, however, that there are at least 11 outposts of this regional chain taqueria/meat market/grocer in the metroplex. If the Greenville location isn't convenient, perhaps another one will be. Go to the "Direcciones" button on their web site ( http://www.lamichoacanameatmarket.com/ ) for a listing of locations. At $3.50 per pound, the carnitas are a steal. Scott
  23. Today's "dining deal": Lunch at La Michoacana market/taqueria on Greenville. Instead of ordering from the taco bar, I bought about 3/4 lb. of carnitas (basking under heat lamps at the meat counter), a guanabana Jumex, and a tamarind pulp stick for a little under $3.50 altogether. Went to the taco bar to get napkins, salsa, and a plastic fork. Tasty, filling, and cheap, cheap, cheap. (I also saw the quart tubs of lard/assiento at the meat counter, which I'd never noticed before. Thanks to Theabroma for pointing that out to someone who then pointed it out to me.) Scott
  24. For those who have been to both Moto and Trio, how do the two compare, in terms of food quality and consistency? Thank you. Scott
  25. Had a look at (and taste of) Aurora's new lunch menu today. Appetizers average around $10, entrees range from $15-$20, and desserts are $9. A complimentary amuse bouche is offered (today's was toasted brioche topped with chived creme fraiche and house-smoked salmon), portion sizes are generous, and quality is comparable to that of the dinner menu. (Mr. Samuel was in the kitchen.) Scott
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