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Robb Walsh

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Everything posted by Robb Walsh

  1. FYI: The Association of Food Journalists (AFJ) Ethical Guidelines for Restaurant Criticism: http://www.afjonline.com/rcrit.htm
  2. There are quite a few restaurant owners who swear they know what I look like. And they are mistaken. There are 8 Robert Walshs in the Houston phone book and some of them are using the confustion to their advantage when they present their credit cards and make reservations. Scott Tycer at Aires thought he knew what I looked like because he saw one such credit card. But I hadn't been in his restaurant that night. Other imposters are making reservations in my name too. The Press has received numerous complaints about my behavior in restaurants--when I wasn't there! Want me to prove it? Name a restaurant that says they know me and I'll go there without being spotted. If you read my reviews, its easy to see that the restaurants don't know who I am. Why else would they seat me at the worst table in the place, give me horrible service, lie about the fish, and kick me out so often? As for advertising, I have written extremely negative reviews about lots of Houston Press advertisers. One Italian restaurant used their ad space to launch a rebuttal. Others pull their ads in protest. But it doesn't matter. The public trusts us because we are as likely to blacken an advertiser's eye as anybody else's. There is a wall that separates advertising and editorial--reputable pubs observe it strictly and bottom feeders blatantly ignore it and trade editorial for ad dollars. But the New York Times? C'mon. If the state of Saudia Arabia buys an full page ad in the New York Times, do you think the editorial page is suddenly going to lean pro-Arab?
  3. Steven- Just curious--I understand that you don't think anonymity is important and that comps are okay. But it has never been clear to me whether you are defending restaurant reviewers who identify themselves and accept free meals in the abstract, or if you also review on this basis yourself? -Robb
  4. Ms. Nichols- In Food Fight, you note that you have abandoned the anonymity which is standard operating procedure for restaurant critics all over the world because "Times have changed...the emergence of...dining critics like John Mariani as high profile celebrities have put pressure on food writers to increase their visibility and feed the public's curiosity." In the book, The Soul of a Chef, it was reported that Mariani also gets free plane tickets and hotel rooms from restaurants he reviews. And he never pays for the food or the wine when he is reviewing. So do the "new, higher-profile" restaurant critics also take freebies? -Robb Walsh Restaurant Critic Houston Press
  5. Your white rum and lime mojito has inspired many chefs to try their hands at creating innovative cocktails to complement their cuisines. These chef's cocktails are starting to be taken quite seriously by critics. When did you first start making cocktails for the El Bulli? Have you created any new cocktails recently? Can you share your thoughts on the subject of matching cocktails and food?
  6. Russ- You need to fill AP in on this pyramid thing. They got the same memo I did. Puck Cafes are out, McPucks owned by franchisees are the future: September 2003 IRVINE, Calif. (AP) - The 8-year-old Wolfgang Puck Cafe in the Irvine Spectrum Center has closed amid reorganization of the Beverly Hills-based restaurant chain... The restructuring will focus on two concepts: the Express restaurants and high-end eateries in Los Angeles and Las Vegas....At least 300 new Express restaurants - all of them franchised - will open in the next three years...
  7. I'm a Texas food writer who has written extensively about France. I'll be visiting Brittany next week researching oysters. Mainly, I'm interested in belons and fin de claires. Anybody have any advice on the subject? Anybody in the area interested in having a glass of wine?
  8. Thanks. I will be careful with my oyster knife. A friend of mine missed his flight to a cooking demonstration recently because he absent-mindedly stuck a chef's knife in his carry on and he got nabbed by security. What do I want to know about oysters? My theory is that the old oyster and beer culture, which was associated with native oysters, is dying out all over the world and that a new oyster and fine wine culture, associated with cultivated varieties, is replacing it. Marine biologists have told me that native oyster fisheries are being phased out in some places because there's no demand. Only old people eat native oysters in France, for instance, because the younger generation have always eaten the cultivated variety. I am interested in the Colchester oyster feast and the Galway Oyster Festival becase they are two very famous celebrations of native oysters. I need to understand how Portugese, Pacific, and native oysters are harvested and or cultivated in Britain. I also hope to find a good museum or library archive of old illustrations, photos and product trademarks of British oysters and people eating them or gathering them for which I can get reproduction rights. And I wouldn't mind a little company at the oyster bar!
  9. Thanks Jackal! I wish your old professor was around to give me an oyster lecture. Actually the mayor of Colchester is taking me to lunch at the Company Shed. I'm stopping over in Whitstable as well on my way to Brittany. I appreciate your reponse--it being the only one. No doubt I will need to find a marine biologist for a serious conversation about bivalves. Foodies over there seem preoccupied with sniffing soiled chefs' whites.
  10. I'm a Texas food writer (more at: robbwalsh.com) working on a story about oysters around the world. I am going to the Colchester oyster feast next week and then looking for some historic oyster bars in London. In Texas and Louisiana, you can find oysters in posh settings, but mostly oysters are still eaten in rough and tumble oyster saloons. I ate some native Irish oysters at Moran's on the Weir in Clarinbridge near Galway last month and it felt like the same sort of "oyster pub" tradition. Any thoughts on where to go for a similar experience in London?
  11. I loved the one that said Alison and I shouldn't review the same place on the same day. All newspapers come from the same big newspaper factory, you know.
  12. Sad to hear that Portland bookstores don't have it in stock.
  13. The Gruyere cheese enchiladas at Cafe Pacifico on Montparnasse were fabulous--but that was 8 years ago, I have no idea if they are still there.
  14. In an earlier book, Nuevo Tex-Mex, I had written that migas was a Tex-Mex twist on the Mexican version of chilaquiles with eggs. But rather than the stale tortillas used in chilaquiles, migas employed stale tortilla chips, of which a Tex-Mex restaurant has an endless supply. Migas means crumbs, of course, and hacer migas, means to smash something to bits. So it all made perfect sense since you have to crush the tortilla chips to make the dish. But migas, it turns out, is also the name of a very old Spanish dish made with breadcrumbs. So I have had to amend my creation story.
  15. Great article, Caroline. What I really wanted was machacado con huevos. It was available for almuerzo if you could wait until 11 or noon, but I never did find a place in Monterrey, other that the Novotel breakfast buffet, that served eggs early in the morning. I guess I should have gone to Sanborns.
  16. I agree with most everything that's been said on this thread. But I'd like to address two points. First, the part about Tex-Mex being simplified Mexican food. I understand where that comes from. But it has become self-fulfilling. Take the case of Acenar in San Antonio. Bruce Auden of Biga, and Lisa Wong of Rosario's Mexican food opened a joint venture restaurant on the Riverwalk a few months ago and called their food "Modern Tex-Mex." And some critics refuse to accept it. The salmon nachos have dill on them, so that can't be Tex-Mex and ceviche is Mexican, not Tex-Mex, etc. etc. Why can't anyone accept a modernized version of Tex-Mex? I heard the same thing when I wrote the book, Nuevo Tex-Mex. It was panned by the Austin Chronicle and amazon.com. When Doug Rodriguez upscaled Cuban food, it became Nuevo Cubano. But when David Garrido upscaled Tex-Mex, the critics said, that's not Tex-Mex. If your definition of Tex-Mex is "cheap and cheesy", then when you encounter Tex-Mex food that isn't cheap and cheesy, you must conclude: This isn't Tex-Mex. This faulty logic needs to be set aside. Secondly, I'd like to challenge the fundamental basis of comparison that Kennedy set up 30 years ago: On the one hand, we have Tex-Mex. On the other hand, we have Diana Kennedy's cherry-picked recipes from Mexico. Sorry, that's not exactly apples and oranges. As the LA Times article linked earlier on this thread observed, everyday Mexican food can be average and ordinary. On my last trip to Mexico, to document the spectacular cabrito cookery in Monterrey for Saveur, I also experienced the other side of Mexican cuisine. I walked into three cafes at nine in the morning trying to get breakfast, or failing that, a real cup of coffee. No go. No huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos, or migas. And nothing but Nescafe. Mexicans don't eat eggs for desayuno. That's a Tex-Mex tradition. I love to eat in Mexico. And I never fail to learn something new about food when I am there. But it's silly to think that everything is always wonderful. Under Kennedy's basis of comparison, the American food community has discounted Tex-Mex and romanticized Mexican cuisine to a ridiculous extent. Sure Tex-Mex is poorly represented by ball park nachos and Taco Bell tacos. Just like frozen pizza pockets reflect badly on Italian-American food. But Mexico has got plenty of awful, artificial food too. And they are just now entering their convenience food phase. Bimbo white bread is gaining fast on the tortilla. Today, 30 years after DK's The Cuisines of Mexico was published, it's time to take off the rose-colored glasses and see both Mexican food and Tex-Mex for what they really are.
  17. Esperanza is absolutely right. Melted cheese in a bowl with various additions is popular all over Mexico. But you would never mistake it for chile con queso. Mexican queso fundido generally resembles the stretchy cheese on top of a pizza. Quite good in a flour tortilla, but not that golden liquid we call queso in the U.S. Chile con queso is famously made with American cheese or Velveeta (or restaurant industry equivalent). It stays liquid a long time, especially if you make it in a crockpot. (Rotel tomatoes or Pace picante sauce are also popular in two ingredient quesos, see page 202 in The Tex-Mex Cookbook.) Pimento cheese, on the other hand, is regarded as a Southern invention. The SFA, Southern Foodway Alliance, did a recipe project on it recently. ()
  18. Before there were chips and hot sauce, there were saltines and hot sauce. And it isn't just a Houston thing. Tex-Mex restaurants all over the state once served saltines, pats of butter and hot sauce while you waited for your meal. Tostadas, or chips caught on much later, according to an oral history by Delia Moya Hobbs of Moya's Cafe in Refugio. (See page 165 of The Tex-Mex Cookbook.) There are a few Tex-Mex restaurants that still serve saltines, butter and hot sauce instead of chips. El Patio on Guadalupe and 31st in Austin being a famous example.
  19. New Mexico includes most, but not all, of an area first colonized by the Spanish conquistador Juan de Onate and his 400 colonists in 1581. That area of colonization also included El Paso, Presido, and other areas along the Rio Grande river in present day Texas. Stacked enchiladas sauced with red or green chile sauce are popular in New Mexico and in those parts of West Texas that were also a part of that Spanish colony. These kind of enchiladas have a long history in Texas. They were served by Tulia Borunda at her cafe in Marfa, Texas--an eatery that opened in 1887. And they have always been the primary enchilada style of El Paso. While the stacked enchilada may remind many people of New Mexican cuisine, it is also a part of Tex-Mex.
  20. I have an enormous amount of respect for what Diana Kennedy did for Mexican food. And I think I have gone out my way to congratulate and praise her work. Unfortunately, Kennedy thought it was necessary to trash Mexican-American food in order to get Americans to accept her version of authentic Mexican. This was never necessary. I have much more respect for Rick Bayless who celebrates Mexican cooking without insulting anybody. Unfortunately, Kennedy's negativity has been taken up and expanded upon by some segments of the food community to the point that Tex-Mex has been utterly villified. Can we all sit down at the same table? I hope so. I have nothing against lovers of authentic Mexican food--I count myself among them. But I won't sit silently and listen to anybody badmouth Tex-Mex anymore. There is another side to the story. And that's one reason I wrote the Tex-Mex Cookbook.
  21. I don't think stupidity is implied. And I agree with Bayless that Mexicans in the Pilsen are cooking for fellow Mexicans from the same regions of Mexico. So they cook stuff like they did at home. They will get around to making burritos and fajitas when more people come to the Pilsen looking for them. In Texas, an immigrant taqueria is always across the street from some successful place that serves Americanized Mexican food. It takes a real effort to stay pure. But you're quite right about the continuing influence of Mexican immigrants on Tex-Mex.
  22. Tex-Mex a subset of Mexican cuisine? Sure--and Cajun is a subset of French cuisine. But I would also insist that both are also American regional cuisines. Put Tex-Mex on an equal standing to Mexican food? No. I would say: Tex-Mex is rock and roll, authentic Mexican food as described in Diana Kennedy's Cuisines of Mexico is opera. But as the LA Times explains, what we are calling authentic Mexican food in the U.S. is NOT what Mexicans really eat: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-12...ntic.story?null As for the birria de chivo, I found some on a taco truck in Houston last week--the first time I've seen it in Texas. There is an interview with Rick Bayless in the chapter of the Tex-Mex Cookbook titled: Mex-Mex: The Myth of Authenticity. In it, Bayless theorizes that places with fresh Mexican immigrant populations, like Oregon and Chicago, have more "authentic" Mexican food than places like San Antonio or Santa Fe. That's because there is no indigenous Mexican-American population in Oregon or Chicago to show the newcomers how it's done. So it's not entirely a matter of taste.
  23. I see it the other way around. Tex-Mex has long been a pejorative term meaning Americanized (bastardized) Mexican food. So it's already subsumed in a larger category that includes ball park nachos and Taco Bell. In the book, I hoped to illustrate that the Texas variety of Tex-Mex is something unique--that it came from a real culture and is in fact, a very old American regional cuisine. I have no fears about where it goes from here.
  24. No cookbooks about New Mexico? What about: The Rancho De Chimayo Cookbook: The Traditional Cooking of New Mexico by Cheryl Jamison Cafe Pasqual's Cookbook: Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe by Katharine Kagel, Barbara Simpson The Food of Santa Fe: Authentic Recipes from the American Southwest by Dave Dewitt, Nancy Gerlach Green Chile Bible: Award-Winning New Mexico Recipes by the Albuquerque Tribune The Red Chile Bible: Southwestern Classic & Gourmet Recipes by Kathleen Hansel, Audrey Jenkins Best from New Mexico Kitchens by Sheila MacNien Cameron Best of the Best from New Mexico Cookbook: Selected Recipes from New Mexico's Favorite Cookbooks (Best of the Best Cookbook) by Gwen McKee, et al Best from New Mexico Kitchens by Sheila MacNien Cameron The Santa Fe School of Cooking Cookbook by Susan Curtis License to Cook New Mexico Style by New Mexico Federation of Business and Professional Women, Esther Feske Southwest Flavor: Adela Amador's Tales from the Kitchen by Adela Amador
  25. The Baja Grill Mexican seafood restaurant concept and the fish taco are from the Mexican Pacific. And these are gaining in popularity a lot faster than cochinita pibil or dishes the are closely associated with the Yucatan. The origin of ceviche may be Ecudorian, or it may be Peruvian, but I don't think it's Yucatecan.
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