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Everything posted by robyn

  1. Zilla - I live in north Florida - the southernmost part of the south :). Haven't been to Louisville recently - although I once met a fellow at a bar in Chicago who owned a bunch of restaurants there - and my husband's old neurologist is now head of neurology at the University of Kentucky teaching hospital. Do people in Louisville demand trendy? If not - how about something just plain melt-in-your mouth good - like the best sweet potato pie? We have a potato and cabbage festival every spring here (bet you didn't know that we grow potatoes in Florida) - and it is hard for me to imagine any better dessert than the sweet potato pies the church ladies cook up. I have favorite sweet potato pie recipes if you're interested. Robyn
  2. I don't know where you are from - or what you're looking for. I am from nowhere and am always looking for everything :). We had excellent dim sum at a strip shopping center place right near the Getty when we were there a couple of years ago. Perfect pre-museum stop in my opinion. Robyn
  3. Can't tell a lie. I only read about 1/3 the thread - and then started to nod out. My husband and I go to Chicago about every 2-3 years - and have had some very good meals there. Especially lots of ethnic food we can't find at home (including such basic staples as Italian). Have never been to CT. But - from the description - it sounds like restaurants like Jean Georges in New York - and Azul in Miami. Very cutting edge - very intellectual. You feel out of place if you're not in black head to toe. At best your taste buds will be challenged - and you will appreciate the interior design. And you will feel trendy. But you'll never think that anything you eat is "yummy". You will never say to the person you're dining with - "no - I won't share - I want it all" :). If you drop a morsel on the floor - you won't try to distract everyone around you while you try to pick it up. I have eaten at quite a few restaurants like this - and - although I know they have their fans - they are not my cup of tea. Deconstructivist/intellectual architecture is a little boring. Deconstructivist/intellectual food is a lot boring. I want "yummy". Like when I put the food in my mouth - my mouth should be excited (sorry - I edited this sentence for content - didn't know if this was a PG audience). Just my two cents. Robyn
  4. Bux - I see that you are active in terms of France. Let me tell you a little story that I think neatly ties up the issues of France - and drinking hard liquor - and knowing what to do/not do at fancy places - and how to express one's self when things aren't going right. My husband and I were very fortunate to have a mentor when we learned how to eat at fine restaurants. A business colleague about 20 years our senior - who had served in France during WWII. After WWII - he spent about 3 months in France every year. One of his best friends in the world was Nino - the head bartender at the George V. On our second or third trip to France to see our friend - I got a bad cold. It was late winter. I am not much of a "brown spirits" person - but everyone decided that I could benefit from some Johnny Walker Black. This was not something to have at dinner - it was definitely something for mid-afternoon :). So me - my husband - our friend - and Nino went to Joe Allen's - and they ordered me a double Johnny Walker Black - straight up. I tasted it - and although - like I said - I am not a "brown spirits person" - it didn't taste right - it was too rough. I was reluctant to say so - but finally said something. My husband tasted it - our friend tasted it - and then Nino tasted it. All of them are scotch drinkers - and all agreed it wasn't Johnny Walker Black. So they summoned the waiter to the table. And told him that. The waiter got all huffy - denied the "drink switch" - and basically said - "who the heck do you think you are?". Well - my husband and our friend were basically "nobodies". And if they had been the only 2 people with me - I think we would have had an ugly scene. But Nino got up (he was pretty short - but he got up tall as he could) - and said in a grand way - "I am the head bartender at the George V - and this is not Johnny Walker Black!". He did everything but throw the contents of the glass in the waiter's eye. And the waiter apologized - went back - and got me a drink which everyone agreed was Johnny Walker Black. I couldn't swear to it - I just know it was a lot smoother - and I forgot about my cold after I drank it :). Guess the moral of the story is sometimes all of the stuff I mentioned in the first paragraph doesn't matter - it just helps to go drinking with the head bartender from the George V :). Robyn
  5. Mayhaw Man - Thanks for the compliments. I am glad that I am retired - and I am a fast typist. So I have the time to say what others would also say if they had the time. I tried to look up the "Adrober" debacle - but couldn't find it. Can you point me in the right direction? Apart from all of the philosophy - there are perhaps some basic nuts and bolts rules to keep in mind. For example - if you are going to a really big deal restaurant - and you are not a "regular" - try to avoid Friday and Saturday nights - and Valentine's Day :) - if at all possible. Go during the week. The staff will be less pressured - and so will you. Many world class restaurants serve lunch - at bargain prices compared to dinner. Unless the restaurant is a "power lunch" venue for the rich and famous in a city like New York - lunch can be a relatively inexpensive way to eat great food in a relaxed setting. Just don't do a lunch like this if you have to be back at work by 1:30 - or have a 5 pm deadline the same day :). Note that I live in Jacksonville Florida - so I am never a regular at great restaurants :(. With most of them - I only get there once in a lifetime. But staff who might be too busy to refill my water glass on a Saturday night can usually spend lots of time with me on a Wednesday night. Everyone is more relaxed when the people who arrived for the 8:00 seating aren't still waiting at the bar at 9:00. These ideas won't necessarily insure success - but they will maximize your chances. I'm sure that if we all put on our thinking caps - we can come up with other "basic nuts and bolts" suggestions. Robyn
  6. ...I don't know how this compares with "New American cuisine"... Jonathan - I guess the major difference is that most new American cuisine is based on traditional domestic foods - and also the influences of immigrant groups living in particular areas of the country. It doesn't really draw on countries outside the US unless a fair number of people from those countries live in the US. When I look at the dishes in your "modern European" category - well - a majority are "European" - from different countries in Europe - as opposed to what I think of when I think of the UK (although something like venison with parsnip mash seems British to me). Doesn't surprise me - since the geographical scale of the United States is much larger than that of Europe. I can fly 3000 miles from where I live and still be in the United States. If I headed east from the UK and flew 3000 miles - well I can't even count the number of countries in that circle. Also - I never discount the "Michelin effect". I think that the Michelin guides are wonderful for evaluating French food in France - but they tend to give undue emphasis to French food in countries outside of France - and to ignore more local cuisines. When I was much younger - I wound up eating a lot of very bad French food in Europe outside of France in reliance on Michelin guides. I would have been better off "staying local". And that's what I try to do now when I travel unless there's an exceptional French chef in the kitchen. Anyway - I think what I am looking for is "Modern British" - the wonderful mutton that grandma would have made if she had had terrific mutton to start with (which I'm sure she didn't) - and had been a good cook:). Etc. Not British interpretations of French - or Spanish - or Italian cooking - but what good chefs are doing now with their own indigenous cuisine in an extended period of relative prosperity. I don't know how old you are - but when I first went to the UK in the 1960's and 1970's - my dominant impression was that country hadn't yet recovered from the ravages of WWII. Seems like the post-WWII prosperity which people my age in the US take for granted didn't come to the UK until about the 1980's. And all the good things about prosperity - including good cooking - started about that time. By the way - I am enjoying the discussion in this thread. Will be out of town and off line for a few days starting tomorrow. So I'll see you all in a few days, Robyn
  7. What Robyn said. ;) Eating is definitely enhanced by knowledge, as just about all endeavors are, but it's not like playing a violin. It's about eating. A natural and imperative human need. A restaurant should be about pleasing the diner and one should never be made to uncomfortable for their dining experience (unless, of course, someone is being rude or obnoxious). And like everything else, a million people can say something tastes good and if it doesn't taste good to you that doesn't mean you're uncouth. It just means you're you. So my advice would be: 1) Go with the attitude that you're there to enjoy yourself. 2) Be polite and sincere. A good waiter will be happy to explain unfamiliar foods and terms. 3) Try foods you've never had before and always try something more than once if you didn't enjoy it the first time. 4) And remember---it's just food. Not a cure for cancer. You're absolutely correct - and not only because you agree with me :). The most important parts of the dining experience are a chef who likes to please his customers - and a customer who enjoys eating good food. And that's true whether you're eating in a local rib joint - or one of the world's most famous restaurants. I am almost tempted to ridicule people who think it's very complicated - but then I remember how neurotic and anxious I was when I was in my 20's (a long time ago) - and taking my first baby steps in the mysterious (and expensive) world of "high end dining". I think the difference today is that good food used to be an end in itself - even for the very highest of high end chefs. But things changed over the years (it didn't happen overnight - and it didn't happen yesterday). Today there is so much more - the TV shows - the cook books - the "food weekends" at high end hotels - being "trendy". Just complicates things more for those people who are just starting their journeys. Take care, Robyn
  8. I know it's not in your preferred neighborhood - but Seastar in Bellevue is a pretty restaurant with a wonderful raw seafood bar (that is probably a bit of an understatement - the chefs can do more than simply serving unadorned seafood). We were in Bellevue last year and enjoyed it so much we ate there twice.
  9. I meant the UK equivalent of "New American" cuisine - whatever it might be called. If I had to define it - it would be chefs taking what is best about their local cuisine - and modernizing it in various ways. In many parts of the US - a lot of chefs do "fusion food". E.g., in parts of Florida - it is popular to take traditional ingredients like seafood and combine with them with latin influences. On the other hand - some chefs don't do fusion. They just take what is best about their traditional cuisine - and try to improve on it (in many cases by using the best possible freshest ingredients). It is really hard to explain - easier to know it when I see it :). I first saw evidence of that when I went to the UK in 1987. My last trip had been in 1977 - when almost all the food I ate was just this side of dreadful. But by 1987 - there were restaurants serving lighter - more inventive - more interesting - and definitely more tastey versions of British food. We had several memorable meals (I can still remember them!). The dishes didn't look like piles of glop (and taste worse) - like they did in 1977. So that's what I'm looking for - if it exists. Or something similar. Perhaps a better phrase would be "new directions in UK cuisine". What is the difference between "English" and "Modern British"? Robyn
  10. Isn't Sketch the new restaurant that is supposed to make Alain Ducasse in New York look cheap :)? I have only read a little about it - didn't get a firm impression whether the food was worth the price. Do you or anyone else have any thoughts about it? I also seem to recall that there are dining alternatives (including a bar) in addition to the main dining room. Is my recollection correct? Robyn
  11. the mutton suet pudding at rhodes 24 is a serious contender for my dish of the year award. moist, fluffy, squidgey, suetey crust stuffed with meltingly tender slow-cooked mutton (3 years old, rhodes couldn't find his desired 5 year old) and onions. it comes with three little jugs of sauce - an onion soubise, a caper sauce and really intense mutton gravy - so if you chemistry-set it about with these you can have a different tasting mouthful each time. i want it again. NOW. m That recommendation puts it on my "must try" list. Robyn
  12. Jon - Agreed. Especially about the filet of beef - which has always lacked flavor in my opinion - and is usually mushy to boot. I think the difference between me (over here) and those of you (over there) is that not only does mutton have scarcity value - so does good lamb. It's just really hard to get here. I probably feel the same way you feel about lamb when I look at shrimp. There are simply so many of them - and they are so cheap in season - that I don't give them a second thought. If I lived in the mid-western United States - I'd probably think they were an exotic item. Also - I suspect that chefs find what I call "Depression" cuts of meat more fun to cook with than more expensive cuts. They adapt more easily to lengthy cooking methods - like braising - which can infuse them with lots of (frequently very nice) flavors. When it's cold here - which isn't that often - I have fun braising things from time to time. Robyn
  13. Jonathan - I read the thread you referenced - and you are probably right that we are getting old lamb instead of mutton. Just like it is almost impossible here to get a proper cut of brisket these days. I.e., a whole brisket where every ounce of fat isn't trimmed off - it's almost impossible to cook a flat cut of brisket without any fat on it and have it turn into something other than shoe leather. And when you do get a proper cut of brisket - it requires a lot of braising (not the 7 hours you say is needed for mutton - but about 3 hours). That said - I have had older lamb in the UK - and younger - and - as a matter of personal preference - I prefer the younger. And - have you tried the restaurant which was mentioned - 24 Rhodes I think it is. And is their mutton as good as yours :)? I will try anything at least once if someone thinks it's delicious. Robyn
  14. PDC - First I want to point out a somewhat mistaken point of view in your posting. You are under the impression that *you* have to be worthy of a restaurant. To the contrary - a great restaurant will try to please *you*. I will give you an example. One night many years ago - my husband and I had reservations at a 3 star Michelin restaurant with rooms in a small town in France. We mis-estimated our driving time somewhat - and it rained like the dickens getting there. So we arrived 20 minutes before our reservation - scrambled upstairs to our room to change - and arrived for dinner still half-soaked and with bad headaches. Now we know at fancy French restaurants - you are not supposed to order hard liquor before dinner - you are supposed to have an apertif. But those headaches demanded hard liquor! So I ordered a gin and tonic - a drink virtually unknown in those parts of France. And what did the servers do? Did they call me a worthless piece of American you-know-what? No they didn't. They all huddled together - and tried to figure out how to make a gin and tonic that would please me. Which they did. And that set the mood for a great dinner. It is true that one must spend some time learning "how to eat". It isn't easy to do in the United States - where the eating industry isn't very organized - and where many so-called "great" restaurants are simply this month's fad. It is easier in France - where everything is very organized - from the 1 "knife and fork" local places which had good food -to the 3 star culinary shrines. There is much criticism of the Michelin ratings - that they are too slow to grant appropriate stars to new places - and too slow to remove them from fading places. Some of that criticism is warranted. Nevertheless - the system is better than no system at all. My husband and I learned about food and eating in France when we were younger - and I can heartily recommend that approach. It certainly beats the current approach in the US and many other countries - that the chefs and the restaurants are the stars - and their goal is gaining public acclaim and notoriety as opposed to pleasing customers. And - for many places we've dined at - the only customers worth pleasing are celebrities. In our opinion - any customer who is paying the freight at an expensive restaurant is entitled to be treated with dignity and good food. I cannot tell you how many times we have been disappointed in recent years by restaurants whose "hype" fails to live up to the dining experience one actually encouters. For example - since you mentioned Charlie Trotter's in Chicago - I will mention another restaurant in Chicago - MK's - where we dined a few years ago. It was supposed to be good - but our appetizer came before we had given our wine order - and it was obvious that our "dinner timetable" was about 60 minutes. Totally unacceptable. We told the staff to "slow it down" - which it did - grudgingly. We were evicted from our table and served dessert in the bar to accommodate the next seating. Later I read in the Wall Street Journal that MK was trying to turn its tables 4-5 times a night. You cannot have a fine dining experience in that environment. On the other hand - we have had some very excellent dining experiences. The most recent was at the Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead (Atlanta). Fabulous chef - meal pacing - and service. The give-away-at-the-end-of-the-meal dessert trolley was to die for :). Both of these restaurants got good reviews. So sometimes it's just live and learn . One thing you should definitely do is learn what you like to eat. There is so much "trendy" food these days. A lot of it photographs better than it tastes. Perhaps it is amusing to go to a restaurant where everything is raw - or everything is piled in a huge tower -but my husband and I favor chefs whose primary emphasis is taste. That is not to say that everything we like was perfected 40 years ago. For example - I like some of the new "foam" things I see on menus. But "foam" simply for the sake of "foam" isn't amusing. If your favorite love is meat and potatoes - you can experiment with raw fish - but you will probably love the restaurant that does the best meat and potatoes in the world - as opposed to the best raw fish in the world. I happen to love chicken - and one of the best meals I ever had in my whole life was eating the best possible chicken one could ever have in a restaurant in France that specializes in chicken. One way to learn more about food is by learning how to cook a bit - finding out what you like - what you don't like. Order things over the internet. We order things we can't get locally all the time - cheese from France - chocolates from New York and Chicago - meats from restaurant purveyors. Go to lesser restaurants - and work your way up. Refine your taste buds. Don't be afraid to say - "this doesn't taste good" when it doesn't taste good - or "this service is unacceptable" when you are treated shabbily. If you ordered the meat rare - and it comes out well done - send it back. Put your trust in a restaurant you think is very good - or great. Ask the wait-staff for recommendations - what are the chef's signature dishes? - what wine will go with this course or that course - most restaurants will pair glasses of wine with courses these days (and never be afraid to ask what that wine costs - at most really good places - the staff will try to satisfy you while staying within your budget if you let them know what you'd care to spend). If the restaurant is very good - or great - the game isn't "catch a rookie" - the game is "please the customer". The first time my husband and I ever had hot fois gras - we had never heard of it before. But it was a house specialty - and the chef insisted that we try it. Which - to our delight - we did. And - when you are happy - let everyone know that too. I have eaten at many restaurants where I didn't speak one word of the language everyone else spoke - but everyone knew I was happy because of the big smile on my face. Please feel free to ask questions - here - or at restaurants - this whole eating thing is a lifetime learning process which should be a pleasurable experience. And if a restaurant disappoints you after you have spent a lot of money - it is generally the restaurant's fault - not yours. Robyn
  15. Al Dente - Don't know about Washington - but here in north Florida - many grocery stores (especially Winn Dixie's) carry lard in 5 pound tubs. It is frequently not refrigerated - and is usually in the section where you find cooking oils. Robyn
  16. Prasad - I would very much appreciate your reporting back after your trip - and telling us which Indian restaurants you liked and which you didn't like. My husband and I love Indian food - but it is not available where we live. So we like to eat it when we travel to large cities (like New York) - and we will be going to London soon. Regards, Robyn
  17. Megaroo - I am 56 - and I have been through this with many family members and children of friends. They register for *everything* - tons of stuff I've never used (and I've been married for over 30 years). Bottom line is what do you think you're going to do cooking-wise? With many younger couples I know - they both work - and neither is going to cook much of anything (just like my husband and I didn't cook much of anything when we both worked). And - if you are going to cook - what are you going to cook? You don't want a 5 pound skillet to cook eggs in (a $10 lightweight non-stick pan will work better). You don't want a 10 pound 8-10 quart pot for boiling pasta. On the other hand - you don't want a lightweight piece if you're braising a roast in the oven for 3 hours. Which is why I dislike "matched sets" of anything. Pick the things you need to make the dishes you're actually cooking. By the way - the things we have used the most in our kitchen over the years are knives - cutting boards - and salad bowls. Get lots of cutting boards - and good knives (and get those knives sharpened professionally when they need sharpening). Robyn
  18. Hi Jon - I took a look at the menu there. Perhaps I am dumb - but you guys in the UK have perhaps the best lamb in the world (I haven't been to New Zealand - but your lamb is fabulous compared to ours in the US). Makes sense - you have a country full of sheep - I must have 200 pictures my husband took of me over the years in the UK posed with sheep :). It was a real epiphany for me the first time I went to Gidleigh in Devonshire in the 1980's and had amazing baby lamb. It was the first time I'd ever eaten a boneless tenderloin of lamb - seemed like an outrageously extravagant cut of meat - which it is! My husband had always hated lamb - because his mother's idea of lamb was always an old leg of lamb (mutton). But he loved that lamb at Gidleigh. So why should I pay big money for mutton on the Rhodes 24 menu (which is basically what I get in my grocery store in Florida when I try to buy lamb)? I read some some discussion about this restaurant on this forum - and I recall that one reader basically said - why should you spend almost 200 pounds for a somewhat disappointing meal. That is kind of the way I feel. I don't mind spending a whole lot of money for a terrific meal. I do mind spending a lot of money for a ho-hum meal (on the other hand - my standards are flexible - I don't expect or demand the same things from an inexpensive restaurant as I do from an expensive one). I am a somewhat decent cook (have to be - because I live in a city that doesn't have a lot of decent restaurants) - and I know it's easier to make a terrific dish when you start with terrific ingredients - like lamb instead of mutton. So who is dishing out the best little baby lamb in London these days :)? Robyn
  19. Clerkenwellian - Thanks for the heads up on this. It is hard to keep up with what's happening in a trendy city like London even if you live there. And - since I am 3000 miles away - and only visit every 5-10 years - it is really impossible. I have mixed feelings about "trendy" in general. I used to like old traditional French restaurants - where you went because the chef had perfected a half dozen dishes - and that's why you went to his restaurant - to savor a few of those dishes. I have never had the urge to try grouper cheeks or other concoctions because the chef has run out of good ideas using more expensive cuts of food (although I am a big fan of organ meat). On the third hand - if everyone in the UK had rested on his laurels since the first time I went there in the 1960's - I don't think I'd be on this web site now asking about restaurants :). Do you know what happened to Nico Ladenis? We had a really nice meal at Chez Nico. And a very pleasant evening. My husband and I are both lawyers - and we were seated next to a couple who were both doctors from Kent celebrating an anniversary - we had a great time for over 3 hours talking and eating and drinking. That is why I worry about 2 seatings in a 2 or 3 star restaurant. If the place is really good - and you're having a good time - you don't want to be rushed out in less than 2 hours - and you don't want to show up for an 8:30 reservation and wind up getting seated at 9:30. Take care, Robyn
  20. Tarka - When you look up London on the Michelin web site - it also lists Waterside Inn in Bray-on-Thames - which I suspect is a suburb of London. Robyn
  21. Tarka - Lunch and dinner at RHR. That is quite an endorsement! On the other hand - I was surprised that after all these years - London only has 2 Michelin 3 stars (and of course - this is one of them). I haven't been to that many Michelin 3 stars - and most of them were/are in France - but I have never been disappointed. By the way - last time we were in London - we went to a place called Chez Nico on Park Lane. Not great but very good - the chef was rumored to be a lunatic but we saw no evidence of that the night we dined :). It seems to have closed - and the chef now seems to run a small chain called Simply Nico. Are any of those worth a lunch or dinner? I suspect if I wore a short enough skirt and had enough champagne - I might feel like a Bond girl's mother :). Robyn
  22. My husband and I will be going to London in May - first time we've been there in 7 years. A week long vacation. Lots of museums, theater, the Chelsea Flower Show - and - of course - food. We like all kinds of food (from the fanciest to the plainest) - as long as it's good. So - if you don't mind - I'd like to pick your brains a bit. If you had to pick your one favorite restaurant/bar/pub in any of the following categories in central London - which would you pick - and why? 1. Really fancy; 2. New English cuisine (don't know if that's the right phrasing - I mean what the best chefs are doing to reinterpret English food); 3. Indian; 4. Ethnic (non-Indian); 5. West End after theater; 6. Lunch near Chelsea flower show; 7. South Bank or anyplace near Marriott County Hall Hotel (we will be staying there couresty of Marriott Rewards program so we'll have lots of money left over for food); 8. Outrageously good interior design. Also - what is your favorite extravagant food store? Note that I have been reading a bit about the "fancy" restaurants (reviews and the like). I was thinking of the Gordon Ramsey restaurant in Chelsea - but then I read somewhere that it is now a two-seating restaurant. Perhaps it is a prejudice of mine - but I think restaurants of that alleged caliber should only have one seating. So comments about this restaurant and the two seatings would be appreciated too. Thanks for your help, Robyn
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