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Everything posted by Deacon

  1. And I thought Three Olives was scraping the bottom of the barrel with root beer flavored vodka. Who drinks this stuff?
  2. I've not only seen it, but read many of the reviews in detail, since Austin is a city in which I enjoy eating out. But you guys are *savage* to some of those places. Every sacred cow in sight: slaughtered! Ouch!
  3. I think Smith & Wollensky, or at least the bar downstairs, is nothing but a crowded pick-up joint. My preferred steakhouse is Pappas Bros. It has good, expensive steaks and a soothing '40s ambience.
  4. I recommend Mi Tierra Cafe and Bakery for Tex-Mex. Especially good for breakfast, or just for having a pastry and coffee outside at a table and watching the world go by.
  5. I second the Saltwater Grill, downtown across from the opera house. Oh, and Clary's, back near the causeway bridge.
  6. Mexican food: El Tiempo Cantina (either one) pizza: Fuzzy's (in the Village) or Star Pizza (either one) BBQ: Goode Company (either one), or Luling City Market sports bar: Griff's There are better in each category, but not unless you want to drive all the way across town. These are the closest-in choices.
  7. None of this is exclusive to Japan, of course--you find examples of all these things everywhere.
  8. I'm not talking about judgments. And I'm not talking about functionality--of course food is ultimately meant to be eaten as well as appreciated visually. I'm saying that food, especially at the highest levels (finest restaurants) can convey a message, and that message is non-representational, non-verbal, and as difficult to articulate as a "philosophy of art" or a "philosophy of sculpture" would be. More so, because the gustatory descriptives are more subjective.
  9. Whoops, sorry, I had your comment confused with theisenm85's.
  10. theisenm85 wrote: "Art is the ability to give people what they want." Is it? I think the highest-level cuisine challenges the person who experiences it as much as a painting or a sculpture does. Food is ephemeral, meant to be consumed, therefore temporary. It gets used up in the process of experiencing it. Art is not always "comforting." It can be challenging, confusing, even disgusting. Consider the delicacies of other cultures that are considered delicious by their indigenous cultures but which are disgusting to us (e.g. durian).
  11. I want to clarify that when I said "abstract," I wasn't talking about "non-representational" as used in painting. I mean, a Carvel ice-cream cake in the shape of a whale is "non-abstract" by that definition, but a cube of chocolate in the middle of a white plate is "abstract." I didn't mean visually abstract, I meant "intellectually abstract." I wasn't opposing "abstract" and "functional" as opposites, either--of course, food is primarily intended to be eaten, rather than just looked at, so it's necessarily functional. There are specific adjectives used to describe various tastes, but the tasting (as opposed to the cooking) is definitely qualitative rather than quantitative, therefore "abstract" as opposed to "concrete."
  12. I would call it abstract because it conveys a message indirectly. Also, not *all* art is as abstract as a Mondrian. Some of it is very straightforward and representational. When I called cuisine "abstract," I was talking about its qualities across the board, qualities that *all* high-level cooking has as art. In that sense, any "theory" of cuisine, anything that it tries to "say," has to be conveyed obliquely. Consider the whimsicality of some of Thomas Keller's dishes at The French Laundry, for example.
  13. Food, especially food on the cutting edge as served in the finest restaurants, is arguably the most abstract of all arts. Provided we are in an open frame of mind and not too exhausted at mealtime to be receptive to new ideas, a fine meal can convey not only gustatory information but also emotional, expressive, historical (and maybe even philosophical) information to us. This is where background reading can broaden a wide experience with food from different cultures (in particular the kind of focused-on-food reading you can get at eGullet and a few other sites). Food does more than nourish us physically. It can also nourish us spiritually, emotionally, and even on occasion intellectually. We bring, or should bring, our imagination and intuition to the table as well as our taste buds. Eating in this frame of mind allows up to tap into the social, cultural, and aesthetic traditions of other cultures. It's an excellent way to begin an exploration of those cultures and frames of mind. For the duration of a meal, we can be learning about other cultures, other socio-economic levels, other neighborhoods, that we might not otherwise sample. We become aware of our shared humanity (since everyone eats). And it's simply fun to enjoy a good meal, it can be inexpensive (though not always), we can do it by ourselves or with others, and most cities have numerous cuisines to enjoy, depending on your mood at the moment. Any thoughts on or additions to this?
  14. <ul><li>either of the El Tiempo Cantinas (Richmond Ave. or Washington Ave.) <li>either of the two Pico's Mex-Mex (Bellaire and I-10) <li>Noemi's Tacos (Park Place just south of the Gulf Freeway -- great barbacoa tacos) <li>any of the La Tapatia Taquerias (many locations, extensive menus, fine-tune your meal with exactly the kind of meat you'd like on anything you want to order) <li>Otilia's (Long Point)</ul>Most of these places are authentically run-down, but don't let that stop you, because the food's uniformly excellent.
  15. In a way, though, that makes sense. You choose a place to eat from the available choices where you happen to be at the time, so those restaurants are measured against each other. You don't choose from restaurants all over the country when you're deciding where to eat on a particular evening.
  16. The numbers are the easiest thing about Zagat. You don't get any REALLY useful information from those little one paragraph summaries because the "quotation" marks make everything very "irritating" to "read." To address Fat Guy's original point: grade inflation happens everywhere. You can see it in Zagat ratings, in the grades teachers give students, in bonuses given for exemplary performance at work. The tendency creeps over time in the direction of giving an award to everyone. And of course, when everyone gets a high grade, the grade itself becomes meaningless.
  17. I had lunch there about a month ago. I thought that it was one of the more *pleasant* lunches I've ever had in my life. The service was flawless: friendly without being fawning, attentive but not intrusive. They asked for my last name and I was addressed by name for the entire meal. Excellent touch. As far as the food is concerned I never had the chance to eat there when Dean Fearing was the chef, so I have no benchmark to measure the current chef by. But I did order the tortilla soup (a holdover from the Fearing era), and it was excellent: spicy and crunchy, not watery (as I've had elsewhere).
  18. 1) Williams Smokehouse in Houston (especially for ribs) 2) The Swinging Door in Richmond (surprisingly good)
  19. Marfreless. No sign, but it's the blue door under the fire escape at McDuffie and West Gray, across from Sherlock's and around the corner from the River Oaks Theatre. Classical music, black-and-white framed photos, couches upstairs. Very little beer in evidence: mostly cocktails, and they pour them heavily. Very diverse clientele, but definitely not a loud frat-boy place.
  20. I've always liked Z'Tejas Grill (preferably the one near the arboretum) and Castle Hill Cafe in Austin. In San Antonio, Boudro's on the Riverwalk is very good.
  21. Fine dining is an oxymoron in Bryan/College Station. The best food in BCS is served at the Chicken Oil Company, at the intersection of College and Old College, which at least has great burgers.
  22. Good point. The tables should be each in a different room or, if the dining room layout and size of the restaurant does not permit this, screens of some sort could be set up so that none of the tables has a view of any of the others. And no, we're not proposing Iron Chef here, and Tara Reid (for instance) isn't going to sample the soup and say something like, "It makes my mouth happy!" No, I'm talking about professional food critics. The meals for the five critics would be paid for by the production company of the series. Good publicity for the critics, for their employers, for the restaurants, for the chefs. Everybody wins. Except that the restaurant would have to be closed during the taping, which would mean loss of business for that night.
  23. There should be a Competitive Eating contest, but it should be geared to quality, not quantity. It would naturally be directed more toward foodies, and the results would be aired on the Food Network, not ESPN. It would work a bit like Iron Chef: each week, you'd basically have the five best-known food critics in the country, each sitting at a separate table in the same restaurant. They would each be brought exactly the same meal, so that the audience could get some idea of the interplay of customer and server (heavily edited for time), but the majority of the show would be each critic giving his or her perceptions of the meal just consumed. One week, The French Laundry; the next, Charlie Trotter's; then Masa, then Alain Ducasse New York, and so on. The winner each week would be the critic who'd most eloquently encapsulated his experience at the chosen restaurant. At the end of the season, the critic with the most points for style and eloquence wins the competition.
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