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Robert Schonfeld

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Posts posted by Robert Schonfeld

  1. Manducatis is excellent when Ida (the co-owner) is behind the stove and preferably in the early Autumn when she's returned from a long holiday in Italy armed with fantstic fresh ingredients.

    She was behind the stove the day we were there. We went specifically to order her highly touted roast pork. It was overcooked and poorly seasoned. I suspect that regulars are treated very differently there.

  2. reading the India board here is a great start.

    Did that. Just reacting to a seeming reticence to ongoing discussion of Indian cuisine in its details, as opposed to "whose Indian really stands out?" That's a little too Zagat-like to hold my interest, particularly as it seemed intended to support a single restaurant.

  3. Simon, given the complexity of Indian cuisine, and its regionalism (regionality?), why not start us all off on a learning experience by drawing the distinctions and using the vocabulary that will help us to understand the differences? A thread that talks about "the best Indian food" seems silly in the way that any discussion seeking to generalize about "the best" seems silly. If no one else will, why not help us out with a gradual introduction of specifics?

  4. We're heading for the pizza at Gonzo tomorrow evening. Asimov rattled off six pizza places on the radio this morning, but so fast that I didn't get any of them.

    Roberto's is on my list too, out of the same sort of morbid curiosity that drives me to Don Peppe and Parkside.

    If Manducati is the place by PS1, you can skip it, as far as I'm concerned. An amazing wine list, but nothing to eat with it.

  5. Are you saying that Parkside is comparable to the best restaurants you've been to in Italy? Can you add any detail?

    I'm interested as to why you would ask for that comparison, Robert. Are you suggesting that the best Italian restaurants in the world are to be found in Italy ? Or maybe that Italian restaurants are "authentic" and you consider this an important component in the assessment of an "ethnic" restaurant ?

    I'm just interested in what ZenFoodist thinks, Martin. If there's great, or even good, Italian food to be had nearby, I'd like to check it out. But since you asked, yes, I think the best Italian restaurants in the world are found in Italy. The "authenticity" debate, which has been hammered to death on egullet, no longer holds much interest for me.

  6. Parkside, in a word, is exceptional.  We've had the same monthly reservation there for years and have never been disappointed.  We've eaten at almost all of the Italian restaurants listed in this three page thread, as well as extensively throughout Italy each summer and I still maintain that I've had some of my most memorable meals at Parkside.  The bread basket alone- that crusty semolina, decadent sausage bread and tomato bruschetta.....



    This is a strong statement, ZenFoodist. I've never been to Parkside. Are you saying that Parkside is comparable to the best restaurants you've been to in Italy? Can you add any detail?

  7. Last Saturday, about 4:00 PM. The Village around NYU is packed on the first pleasant afternoon in ages. The Grey Art Gallery has a small, interesting show on the Park Avenue Cubists. The Strand was impossible. Inside Otto, every seat at the bar is taken. None of the standup tables is occupied. There are two names on the waiting board.

    RS: "How long will we have to wait if we come back at about 6 o'clock?"

    Typically good looking Italian guy, speaking with his whole body: "If you come at 6, you wait maybe a half hour, forty five minutes. If you come at 5:45, you wait maybe twenty minutes. If you come at 7, you wait an hour, more, who knows?" The latter comes with a shrug suggesting the unknowability of the universe itself.

    We return for our first visit to Otto at 5:30. The bar is still busy, the barroom is still quiet. There are still just two (different) names on the board. We give our names, and are given Vicenza as our code town, to be posted on the waiting board when our table is ready. Another couple arrives, the man opens his mouth to speak, but the good looking Italian guy holds up his hand, stopping the new guest before he can utter a word. As he turns 180 degrees to face an attractive young woman who is leaving, his gains a devastating smile and focused eyes. With the latest arrivals now at his back, he devotes a positively selfless couple of minutes to the circumstances of this young woman's life, ending with the assurance that she will find him right there, waiting for her, when she comes back from LA. He turns back to business with a recitation of the arrival essentials. The other guy never said a word. All I could think of was Sid Caesar.

    At 6:00, Vicenza, last on a list now grown to six, went up on the board, and we were shown to a table. We ordered a plate of Lonza, inscrutably described as "thicker" than prosciutto, but served sliced to translucence by one of Mario's sexy red machines. As are all pork products at Batali establishments, it was delicious. We ate it with the commercial grissini Torinesi that are ubiquitous in Italy, but rarely seen here. Then, some artichokes and some cauliflower, both very good. The cauliflower had almonds, maybe raisins and a hint of heat. The artichokes were cut up with red onion, pepper flakes, who knows what else. The table next to us ordered the large plates of both meat and fish appetizers. We thought later that a good strategy would be to have a pizza to start, followed by a goodly selection of these appetizers, bruschetta and/or the daily fritto as the body of the meal. The fritto on saturday was chickpea puree, which was bland.

    You just have to take the "pizza" for what it is: flatbread dough topped with first quality ingredients, griddled and broiled. Eat it as fast as you can. The vaunted lardo struck me as a bridge too far, even for Mario. Melted fat on bread, seasoned and drizzled with good oil. Maybe one slice. The Margherita "DOC" (I love that) was delicious. Those toppings on a first class new york pizza crust, yum.

    We drank quartini of chainti and a merlot-cabernet blend, $9 and $11 respectively.They were both better than average house wines. We resisted an attempted upsell to the more expensive carafes. No need with this food. As it was, this was the equivalent of a $40. bottle, more than one would normally spend at a pizza place, but right for the rest of the food we ate.

    The gelato was exemplary.

    We could see the kitchen door from our table. It never stopped swinging. When we left at 7:30, there was no place to sit or stand anywhere in the restaurant. The good looking Italian guy is near the door, waving ciao to everyone. Business couldn't be better.

  8. That's why God invented pasta.

    Et tu, FG? As you know, God invented pasta to be consumed in private homes in the United States, with just a very few exceptions. If you're foolish enough to order pasta, or nouilles, or long life noodles, in a restaurant, you deserve what you get.

  9. I think the space is wonderful and, as Mogsob has said, is one of those places that defines a New York sensibility. The last time we were there, about a year ago, they had fresh sturgeon, which I ordered a notch underdone. With the aftercooking effect, it was just right when it was put in front of me. Some lemon, some pepper, that's it. Not a place to get fancy. Guests from out of town always enjoy it.

  10. In my midmarket home gas stove, I use 1.5" thick unglazed ceramic tiles, preheated for an hour at 500 degrees, to make bread. I know that they, and steam in the first ten minutes of baking, are essential to really superior results. Based on this, I tend to believe the idea that the transfer of heat from a massive surface is the key element in good bread, and pizza, baking.

    I have this question for the experts: Is the fire and temperature in an oven with a separate firebox easier to control than one in which the fire is built directly in the cooking chamber? Is the successive cooking of foods requiring progressively lower temperatures easier or more difficult when the fire is directly in the cooking chamber?

  11. I'm loving this discussion, because a fantasy high on my list is a wood fired oven. Probably more impractical as a toy than a '65 GTO (which I once had).

    The only thing I can add is that many wood cooking fires in Tuscany are built from olive wood, using dried grapevine cuttings as kindling.

  12. I've read Steve K's piece, and I've read this thread. I have only a passing familiarity with Ms. Schrambling's work.

    As Steve K said somewhere hereabouts, many participants on egullet have an interest in what goes on. My own interest is in support of a wish to see it be successful.

    So I have these questions for the Steves: Why was it necessary to write this article? Which of egullet's interests are served by it? Are we harmed or threatened by her in some way? Or are we upholding a principle? If so, what is it and why this means of upholding it? If we are upholding a principle, are there others who might be treated the same way for the same reason, or for a related reason?

    One more question: is it possible that this is seen to be a clever/safe/effective (choose one or add one) method for Gully to be a bad boy in public?

    I ask because I only want the best for the site.

  13. This reminds me of an idea I had for a style of service. I really see no need for flowers on the table -- does anybody really want flowers on the table? -- and in fact I see no need for there to be anything on the table other than what the customer needs and is going to use at a given time. On one of my visits to one of Ducasse's restaurants, I realized that during the course of the meal they were building the table into a composition of sorts. It was a progression from sparse to bountiful, and it was quite intentional -- it wasn't just the incidental effect of bringing more stuff. It occurred to me that it might make sense for a restaurant to start with totally empty tables. Just the surface, with nothing on it. Build from there.

    Kudos, FG, for understanding that the table is a composition. One way to approach the composition would be with a "blank canvas", nothing on the table. That would be I guess a minimalist approach of sorts. Of course, other ideas are possible. Most begin with place settings. Flowers and candles are associated with romance, and are appreciated by many couples.

    The "blank canvas" idea can be extended further. I once visited a restaurant in Rome that begins each evening as an empty room. Totally empty. As guests arrived, tables were brought in and set.

    It would be interesting to think of a dining experience as performance art, and to imagine some of the performances that might take place.

  14. Robert, did you eat the kid (mysteriously referred to everywhere as "baby goat").  I have my sights set on eating that.

    Yes, Wilfrid. Quoted from the menu in my opening post as “moist roasted vermont capretto/baby artichoke and potato 'groestle’ and natural reduction”, with the comment that it was "spot on". I think if you have full portions of the polenta with wild mushrooms and the capretto, with maybe some of the spaghetti with tomato and basil, which we did not have, you will likely be happy. Or maybe I mean that I would have been happier.

  15. Robert,

    Did you not like L'Impero primarily because you found the quality of the preparation of the food to be uninspiring and at the same level as so many other restaurants in NYC, or because it holds itself out to be an Italian restaurant yet you found it to be not authentic due to its use of so many "local" ingredients which one would not find in Italy?

    These seem to be very different criticisms.

    Very much more the former than the latter, Ron. One doesn't expect a thoroughgoing Italian experience in New York, but one goes looking for good food from time to time just for the hell of it. Lupa has held its rewards. I avoid Babbo because I am impatient with the scene. I've never felt comfortable in the dining rooms at Feldia, but I've had some good things to eat there. I haven't been to San Domenico in a long time. I'm sure there are others where good things can be had.

    I had hoped to be clear that my one meal at L'Impero was professional and that almost all the food tasted good, a characteristic shared by many "upper middle" restaurants in New York. But it was soulless. It had the feeling of a contrivance. It was The Blues Brothers, not Sam and Dave.

  16. Pardon me for asking, but what more do you want from a restaurant.  L'Impero is a very comfortable restaurant, has a very good and well-informed staff, serves very good food, and has an excellent and interesting wine list.  I would eat there any day over Babbo, which was uniformly awful when I went (terrible service and several dishes that were poorly prepared).

    L'Impero, by contrast to many restaurants in NY, generally hits the mark.  Does it have great aspirations?  No.  Is it haute cuisine?  No.  Is it Italian?  No.

    L'Impero is simply good, and very reasonably priced for what you get.

    BTW, it does not surprise me one bit that rm was a disappointment.  Oceana, in my opinion, was always overrated in the same way Babbo is today -- the kitchen was just not capable of preparing its dishes correctly on a consistent basis.  The fact that it, probably, hit some high notes now and then is no excuse.  To use a baseball analogy -- a top professional kitchen should be a .400 doubles hitter, not a .250 hitter who gets 40 HRs or so a season.

    There is no need to ask to be pardoned. Your question is a fair one.

    I believe I said everything about L'Impero that you have said. Nice room, nice staff, nice food, interesting wine list. Not Italian. I chose the tone I took because this clutch of attributes is weak and the restaurant has been presented, particularly by the New York Times, as strong. It isn't. The chef, both on the plate and in person, lacks passion. The strongest impression I received from L'Impero is one of a good business plan. There's nothing wrong with any of this for a great many people. It is not, however, to my taste.

    I intentionally did not contrast it with Babbo specifically, but rather felt that certain mentions of Batali's style, which is evident in all his operations, would be instructive as a means for pointing out differences.

    I believe too that I said I liked it, but that it is likable in an undistinguished way. It is likable like lots of likable places.

    What's the problem? It has an institutional sheen. It coyly invites the belief that it is Italian when it is not. To paraphrase both of us at once, lots of New York restaurants generally hit the mark; lots of New York restaurants are unsatisfying. I want a lot more for my money, and if you think I'm asking for too much, then perhaps that is where we may differ.

  17. The mavens also say that you don't want to compress the meat too much, but to form it loosely into the right shape. This helps cooking and juciness. My experience says they are right.

    You are absolutely right. I've done this forever, thanks to a long-ago Paul Newman interview.

    But the best part of that interview, and his burger secret was:

    Pour one half teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce on one side of the patty. Lovingly spread it out and rub it in with a finger.

  18. It is really that easy if someone actually cares about you as a diner.

    So it would seem as if it's a matter of getting the server to care about you, and the degree to which he or she is amenable to doing so at any given moment. This probably has as much to do with his or her relationship with the kitchen as it does with the customer.

    Is there any other strategy that might result in some attention beyond pro forma from the server and from the kitchen? Being a regular is an obvious advantage. What about the less frequent diner?

  19. I'm surprised at what happened at GT, although it seems from various reports that servers are not as uniformly enthusiastic and accommodating as some of us have known them to be in the past.

    All the same, interesting that so many of the places were willing to go along.

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