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Robert Schonfeld

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Everything posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. No pasties, Glenn, but we did have some decent Pierogies with sausages and sauerkraut at a tavern in the middle of nowhere up on the peninsula. I also neglected to mention a good roadhouse called Pepino's in Walled Lake. Frog's legs, trout, lamb chops, ribs. Very fair prices for good quality food.
  2. Thanks, Beachfan. It's likely we will go in October also. How far in advance should one make reservations?
  3. Things I enjoyed: The crabcakes at Windows in Traverse City The hero sandwich from Folagarelli's Deli in Traverse City; better by far than the pathetic perpetration foisted on tourists and locals alike at the Central Grocery in New Orleans Fried smelts at the Bluebird Cafe in Leland Bagels in Detroit The hummus and the rosewater-scented rice pudding at Lashish in Dearborn Unpleasant things: $32 for two crabcakes at Windows The rest of the fried fish everywhere The refusal of the waitress at Lashish to clear the table of a mountain of dirty dishes before serving dessert and coffee. She actually slid the rice pudding onto the table from the edge closest to me, and used it to push enough dirty dishes out of the way so that it would stay on the table, surrounded by savory detritus. Everything else was just food Frightening observation: Everyone out there is fat
  4. I think the FG is right in taking the unpopular position that right and wrong exist independently of the customer. But perhaps more importantly in the real world, restaurants depend on repeat business for success, so it is less a question of right and wrong than it is of keeping the regular customer happy. Unless I missed it, no one mentioned the brilliant axiom of Danny Meyer: "Write a great last chapter". In my opinion, the smart thing for the owner to have done would have been to ask his regular customer, in his own way, "What do I have to do to make this right?" or "Let me make this up to you" or some such. If the aggrieved customer (speaking in general terms now, not specifically about this incident) insists, pursuant to such a reasonable approach, to prosecute a vindictive agenda, then what he needs is an analyst, not satisfaction from the owner.
  5. FG, the starter used most emphatically makes a difference in the final product, for the most part because the taste it contributes to the loaf is characterized by the combination of wild yeast and lactobaccilli prevalent in the location in which it is fed. The acidity of the starter at the time of use, which is governed by the ambient temperature and the amount of time it is left to develop before use will also affect taste. As always, details are available at the rec.food.sourdough faq's. The best way to get a starter, unless you are determined to go through the motions, is to acquire a known, stable starter. An excellent one can be gotten, free, here.
  6. Except sometimes; pasta making being an obvious example. Did you read the Batali profile in the New Yorker, FG? What did you think of it?
  7. Thanks for the detailed report, lizziee. A wonderful vicarious experience.
  8. *Never* attempt a public debate with the FG. Although I disagree with the FG to the extent that I think cell phone users should be asked to take their calls out of the dining room, it was a fine appearance.
  9. A famous Italian chef working successfully in America once said to me, "We are about 80% authentic." No further comment necessary.
  10. As Rich says, his view of what is authentic is influenced by his family experience, making it more likely that he is talking about "authentic Italian-American" than authentic Italian, a category that exists only barely in New York. Mazal and I went to Manducati's once. The wine list is impressive. The food is not. Enough said.
  11. You got my attention, Rich. We will definitely visit soon. Please tell us about Bern's and Parkside.
  12. Very clever, that. I was using the French Laundry as an example in reply to your question, FG. Substitute the name of any restaurant, or all restaurants. The larger issue, the one that Danny Meyer, a businessman, understands, is that every customer should be treated alike. "Extras" for regulars is a different issue. My order of whatever-it-is should be exactly the same as yours, the distinguished food journalist, or Lizziee's, the regular, or Paul's and Joanne's. If it's a highly intensive dish, that's not my problem, that's Mr. Keller's problem. If it is necessary for one portion to be more pluperfectly prepared for a regular at the sacrifice of the quality of mine, then that is a flaw in his restaurant that would, in my mind, keep him from a three star rating. Again, extrapolate to the general. At the conclusion of our first visit to the Quilted Giraffe, Mrs. Wine insisted that we take the restaurant's limo home, a ride of three blocks.
  13. I think it is important to look at this issue from the point of view of a diner faced with choices. More diners are closer to Simon than they are to the FG, a professional, or Lizziee, a frequent diner at high end restaurants. But most of all, I think it is important for me to be selfish. I don't know any chefs. I don't dine professsionally or frequently at high end restaurants. Mazal and I go out to a high end restaurant maybe 6-10 times a year, or maybe 10-15 times if we are travelling to an area where we might visit several in succession. How many times will I go to the French Laundry in my entire life? Given my advanced age, and the infrequency with which I travel to California, maybe twice, give or take. Will Vongerichten make a call for me and tell Keller I'm coming? Will I send Keller a case of Cabernet from my top-rated vineyard as a gift? Will I go with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward? No, I will go as just another anonymous, infrequent diner, and I bloody well want the exact same level of quality in service and food as the local who is there once a week, beginning with the reservation process, and ending with the way we are seen off at the door. Can I judge the restaurant based on my two visits? Who cares? What I can judge, is the quality of my own experience. What else matters to me? If you ask me subsequently, "How was the French Laundry?", what am I going to tell you? I'm going to tell you about my visit. If you want a discourse on the restaurant, read egullet. I call this approach "My Three Hours". Your three hours may have been different. Again, I don't care. For my money, my time and effort, I care about what happens when I interact with the restaurant.
  14. Certainly agree about asparagus. Whole lobster and crab in the shell are perhaps the ultimate eat-with-your-hands foods. I once received a lesson (not without subtext) from a waitress in New Orleans about eating crayfish with my hands, the way it's intended in that context. Also, lots of fried foods: french fries, calamari fritti, etc. It's worth noting that, once the fun's over, one wants to wash up as quickly as possible. If I'm stuck at a table, an ice cube from the water glass stands in nicely. Mazal always carries some kind of hand wipes.
  15. I will eat mixed green salad with one hand, even if it is dressed. I did this once at a black tie Park Avenue dinner party, and provoked open mouthed gaping. I will also eat green beans with one hand. Actually, in both cases, it's the thumb and middle finger of my right hand. Bread, of course, and things soaked and swiped up with bread, are eaten with the hands.
  16. Make the chili, Holly. Like bellaS.F. says, you'll be glad you did.
  17. If I'm making a smooth sauce, I'll use crushed San Marzanos, drained, because it's easier. All the junk is left behind in the mill. If I'm making a sauce in which the tomatoes need to appear in pieces, I'll laboriously pinch off the stem end (hate that part), de-seed and de-gut them. The pure pulp of good quality whole canned tomatoes makes a very nice sauce.
  18. No, no, FG. There is only one state of ultimate readiness for risotto, allowing, *maybe* a 5% variation. (How's that for rigidity?) One day, if you're good, I will demonstrate this for you The idea of frothing, etc. is sufficient blasphemy to convene a tribunal. You may be a witch!
  19. I didn't even know there were "risotto texts". Bibliography, please. It might be worthwhile to talk briefly about the finishing stage of a correctly made risotto. The objective is to regulate the heat so that the liquid is being absorbed at a consistent rate such that the finished grains will neither be overcooked and mushy, nor undercooked and still hard inside. They should offer some resistance, but yield to the bite. It is crucial to be able to judge the texture of the rice, and to judge the rate at which liquid should be added, near the end of the cooking, so that when the butter and cheese are added, the final texture will be perfect. The risotto should then be plated and eaten immediately. Not a minute or two later. Immediately. If one is using cream in the final stage, then the cream must be absorbed by the rice such that the perfect texture is arrived at. It would be wrong to simply stir in some cream at the end and serve the dish, as there would be liquid in the final product not integrated into the whole. In other words, there's still cooking to do once cream is added. The resulting texture of the rice must be taken into account if this is to be done. As an aside, the "Italian rigidity" proscribing the use of cheese with seafood is a misunderstanding. Italian cuisine is highly regional, and in some areas, you will find home cooks and restaurants that will not serve cheese with seafood (Tuscany); in other areas, the Veneto, for example, it is done. Marcella Hazan offers a truly superb recipe for white clam sauce that uses butter and cheese. (I suppose if you screwed around with the concept, you could find a way to work some cream in.)
  20. So now it's Robert, eh? I don't doubt anything you say about cream; I agree with most of it. Asparagus, spinach, they ask for it. Italy ranges from French and Swiss influences in the north to African influences in the south, so many things are possible and appropriate. Still, tradition has its place, especially when it's justified in terms of quality. Also, and I'm sure you appreciate this, I have problems with the Plotnickist use of the term "better". (Advance note: I have no wish to be drawn into this black hole again. Fool me once, etc...)
  21. Egullet member I'd most like to have cook for me: Jinmyo.
  22. I could see that, Jin. In my foolishly narrow mind, mushroom risotto and porcini risotto are the same thing. Must choose my words more carefully.
  23. Lucky be the picky ones invited to your house for dinner.
  24. Rather than talking about what's "better", might we not talk about preference based on experience and ethnicity or nationality, for example. Granted, in the case of Americans with no other experience, an enrichment of cream will taste "better". And a million French people would probably vote the same way. But would a million Italians say that a mushroom risotto, inauthentically prepared with cream would taste "better"? Could you shift the taste paradigm of a people with this idea? If you think you could, I would suggest to you that you have the makings of a very newsworthy stunt you could perform in Tuscany one day.
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