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Everything posted by Deacon

  1. That would be $40. Or something. Split 'round the entire Starbucks staff, that would leave them each with . . . well, enough money to buy one item in a Starbucks. . . . What antagonizes me is the "promotion" of tipping. In the upper-echelons of service, you don't get that, and those are the very places where you'd be likely to tip 20% anyway. Any place that puts up a "witty" sign reading "TIPPING IS NOT JUST A CITY IN CHINA" gets bupkis from me. One counter-girl actually had the nerve to pick up the plastic tip jar while I was standing there and *shake* it at me. If it's a bribe, it's only a bribe in advance, if you plan to go there again next time. But then, a place full of friendly professionals (as opposed to mercenaries) would make you WANT to return, and tip more. Bad service makes you go elsewhere, so the problem of retaliatory bad service doesn't apply. Tip hawkers are trying to make up for bad service and/or their wretched payscale by guilting you into giving more than you want to. Which is a form of bad service in itself.
  2. "Issue Two! What did you have for dinner? Tommy!" "Um, roast beef and--" "Cabrales!" "Ah, well, we had to cancel at the last minute, because--" "Nina!" *flustered* "Um, um, you mean last evening? Ah--" "John Whiting!" "Well, Steve, I was lucky enough to get in at Chez Panisse, and--" "Wrong! You all had free-range chicken! Next issue! . . ."
  3. Deacon

    Hot towels

    I'm impressed. Usually you have to go to Scores for that sort of thing.
  4. Deacon

    Hot towels

    Another classy (and practical) touch lost to the ages: finger bowls afterwards. In the poorer and less-frequented areas of Mexico (not Mexico City or the resort areas, that is) there is frequently a sink right next to the front entrance, so that the patrons of the establishment may wash the dirt and God knows what else from themselves before even sitting down. . . .
  5. A born restaurateur! Cheescake Factories are the T.G.I.Fridays of our generation. Remember how people really thought that T.G.I.Fridays were great and innovative when the chain first got started? (Same with Houlihan's.) CF's are decorated like a cross between a Chucky Cheese and a strip club--somewhere between a Bennigan's and a cheap New Orleans whorehouse. And as loud as the inside of a wind tunnel. But they do have a wide selection, competently prepared, maybe a 6 or 7 on a scale of ten. Any higher and it wouldn't be comfort food any longer, which is a big selling point of any chain. I get the feeling that they've found their level and don't really want to get any better, because then they'd have to cut items from the menu, and where else will you see egg rolls next to chimichangas? I get the feeling they're trying to be the equivalent of a good, solid TV series rather than an avant-garde movie. They don't want to take chances. Everything's competent and workmanlike, slightly higher than average, but nothing higher. They're not innovators, and for most purposes, that's OK.
  6. *chuckle* Nice turn of phrase there, John.
  7. Sounds like it was written in English, babelfished into Japanese, and then babelfished back into English again.
  8. Didn't there used to be a private club of this kind in Chicago called Les Nomades? I realize that I'm dating myself, but it's a slow Friday night around here.
  9. That's the whole idea. Let them DARE to be rude to you THEN. You might be in the top 1% and could bury them. "Is he a critic?" "Well, he's got a notepad." "Let's not take any chances." No, when you've sunk millions into a restaurant, you're not going to do anything but kiss-up to every reviewer in sight--in self-defense, if nothing else. Anyone who believes anything else is deluded.
  10. Best restaurant reviewer? Depends on the city! NYC -- Steven Shaw. (Best recent quote: "Show me what you got, you French bastard.") If Shaw declares himself ineligible, I'll just write-in his name on the ballot anyway. Knowledgeable. Entertaining. Discriminating. Elitist and down-to-earth simultaneously, which is a difficult trick to pull off. Not afraid to refuse to gush over Rao's. A good review from Shaw is better than a line at the entrance two blocks long. St. Louis -- Joe Pollack. Demonstrates that eating everything on the menu is the best way to form a complete and informed opinion. Choice of language: elevated, with a whisper of elitism. the world at large -- Anthony Bourdain. Fearless. Profane. Not afraid to make a fool of himself or admit that he doesn't know something. New Orleans -- Dr. Richard Collin, author of The New Orleans Underground Gourmet and other collections of New Orleans restaurant reviews. No longer current (Collin was writing back when LeRuth's was open), but I loved his style: intelligent, concise, exact, cultured. He knew more than you did, but he would never be so ill-mannered as to act that way. He coined the phrase "platonic dish" to describe the best of all the different New Orleans restaurant versions of that dish.
  11. Ill-mannered and impolite communications from people you're actually doing a favor for don't deserve consideration. Besides, they weren't even savvy enough to find out who you were and who you were working for before slamming the phone down in your ear. Kill 'em with kindness: in the back of the guide, include a list of places that were "going to be included, but were deleted from the final version of the guide at the restaurant's request." If they're the only name on the list, so much the better. Or, a transcript of your "conversation" with the owner, just as you gave it here. Serves him right.
  12. Deacon

    chefs & cinema

    Bland. James Bland.
  13. Gee let's have a look at that first sentence: "It really was the Russian Luchow's with a better location." Which one of those words is "today"? Maybe it's somewhere else in the post? Nope. Don't see the word today anywhere in there. Will you two knock it off, I'm trying to drive! I'll turn this car around right now! I mean it! All right, that's it, no more meals at Daniel for EITHER of you! Seriously (?) if there's room for a Russian restaurant in ATLANTA, of all places (Nikolai's Roof), there's room for one in NYC. Sorry to hear RTR is closing.
  14. That's OK, nothing ever goes to waste around here.
  15. If Shaw keeps refusing to add to threads he hates, after awhile he won't be able to post here at all.
  16. Deacon

    Zagat Bashing

    OK, but if the Zagat reviewers simply "parrot the current critical opinion," then they ARE (secondhand) giving informed ratings. It's not firsthand knowledge based on personal experience, but it should, by that logic, be just as reliable as the original critic. Zagat's not exactly the voice of the great unwashed, either. Assume that a reviewer is giving his own opinion, and not someone else's, and you assume a reviewer base with enough money to spend on restaurants, which runs into quite a bit of money if done regularly. Almost a luxury item--DEFINITELY a luxury if you're talking about ADNY, Lespinasse, Le Bernardin, etc. Those who eat out at the high end of the spectrum presumably have more money and time to travel and eat out, so their mind-set would put them closer to a professional critic. Perhaps this explains the "skew" in Zagat at the lower levels, simply because those who eat-out at the middle and low end have far fewer opportunities to go to ADNY. You would expect chains, which are everywhere, to get higher scores from these people than they would get from a professional critic. That's where they go more often, because that's what they can afford on a regular basis, as opposed to rarely going upscale for a special event. I'm not embracing Zagat wholeheartedly, just pointing out what I thought was an exception to the usual middle-brow scores when it came to certain expensive restaurants in certain cities on the high end of the scale. As far as a "29" in New York City equalling a "29" in Minneapolis, I don't think the ratings are valid when comparing restaurants in different cities, but only internally, ranking one restaurant against another in the same town. Since most people use their own city's guide most often, this works out most of the time. "30" is the hypothetical best, regardless of which city you're in, but it means something different in NYC than it does in Denver. (pause to read part of John Whiting's "Bunfight" thread) Eating out is an EXPENSIVE hobby. Eating out at the finest places is very much a function of how much money you have to spend. At the risk of actually agreeing with Comrade Whiting, I think that perhaps a lot of the backlash against the rank-and-file Zagat reviewers is that they ARE rating the middle of the scale higher than merit would indicate. But this is due to the fact that they have less money to spend on the high end of the scale. *sarcasm* And why should the great unwashed venture their opinion, and have it rated as validly as someone who dines (not "eats") at Le Bernardin or ADNY regularly? Why, this is blatant egalitarianism (as opposed to eGulletarianism)! Here they come, storming the Winter Palace, waving copies of Tim and Nina's Little Red Books, holding banners that read "I (heart) Bennigan's," "I (heart) TGIFriday's"!!! We're all doomed! *sarcasm off*
  17. I recently added to a thread which had as one of its ancillary points the old chestnut about Zagat reviewers not having "elevated" tastes (as we presumably do). And as anyone with more than trivial knowledge of and experience with food reviewing does, or so went the thread. We were all having a hearty, self-satisfied virtual laugh about those unwashed masses that review for Zagat, and I admit, I joined in as well with a few remarks about Zagat reviewers. Perhaps I spoke too soon. I went to www.zagat.com and checked to see whether my remarks were justified. In some cases, it turns out, they weren't. I checked the Zagat databases for New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Here are the number one restaurants in SF and DC, and the top five in NYC, *based solely upon scores for food*: NYC -- Daniel, Chanterelle, Le Bernardin, Nobu, and Jean Georges, in that order, all 28 DC -- The Inn at Little Washington, 29 SF -- The French Laundry, 29 I don't expect anyone to gasp. These are not controversial scores. I don't think anyone would disagree with them, and yet they were taken straight from Zagat. At least in the case of SF, DC, and NYC, the unwashed suburbanites of Zagat seem to be hewing exactly to the current critical opinion. For other cities there's less agreement, but I still didn't see anyone nominating Joe's Crab Shack or Claim Jumper as the best restaurant in town. Another thing I noticed, BTW, was the "The Best Restaurant in Our Town Isn't IN Our Town" phenomenon. Frequently, according to Zagat, the best restaurant in town is way out in the country, or at least out in the suburbs. Call it the "Washing/Laundry" phenomenon if you want. (This doesn't apply to Detroit, apparently, where MOST of the excellent restaurants are out in the country.) But apparently the top restaurant, or close to it, frequently seems to be quite a drive from the center of town: Washington, DC -- The Inn at Little Washington (Washington, VA), 29, #1 for food San Francisco -- The French Laundry (Yountville), 29, #1 New Orleans -- Lafitte's Landing (Donaldsonville), 27, #4 San Diego -- El Bizcocho (Rancho Bernardo), 27, #2 Chicago -- Carlos' (Highland Park), 28, #1 Seattle -- The Herbfarm (Woodinville), 28, #2 Portland -- Tina's (Dundee), 28, #3 Comments? Suggestions? Death threats?
  18. 1) I was really impressed by the Baricelli Inn the last time I was in Cleveland. 2) Apparently to eGullet "The Heartland" is everything west of Pittsburgh, east of Portland, and north of Dallas.
  19. Anejo tequilas are most likely to impress. Avoid Cuervo Gold, or just Cuervo in general, except for their "Reserva de la Familia." Patron Anejo -- Good! About $50 per bottle. Cuervo Reserva de la Familia -- Good! Can't remember the exact price, but it was in the luxury glass case in the front of the liquor store. Herradura Seleccion Suprema -- VERY good! Like drinking clarified butter. Very oaky, however, for tequila. About $260 (!) per bottle. Anything by Casa Noble is reputed to be excellent.
  20. baklava -- synonym for ski-mask Zagat -- a popular 50's candy bar with nuts mille feuille -- a popular 60's children's card game about cars shirred eggs -- eggs that pretend to be playing blackjack to lure real players to a table tiramisu -- a Japanese dessert omakase -- "please charge me as much as possible" (Japanese)
  21. I know you're being facetious, but the idea of little booklets standing in a little metal rack in the food section of the bookstore does sound theoretically helpful. One for each major city, like Zagats, only far more comprehensive and helpful. Imagine that--with the eGullet logo on each cover, of course. Problem is, the texts of "Heart of Darkness" and "1984" don't change from year to year. They don't need constant updating, whereas our unlikely booklet project would. By the time they were published, the restaurant information would be at least partially obsolete--restaurants don't stay on-point forever. Magazines like Gourmet pick up the slack on a monthly basis, but there's still a one-or-two month lag time during which your "current" info gets a chill. The obvious solution is the one we've got right here, and it's instantly updatable. Thanks to Internet access and eGullet, you can find a currently outstanding restaurant in Seattle or Atlanta (or Hong Kong) anytime. Tell them they can get all the info they need right here.
  22. You can't beat a death threat for a cogent philosophical argument. Getting back to the word "marginalizing" for a moment, referring back to the idea of a person with an "idiosyncratic" top ten list. Is a person whose taste doesn't agree with the mainstream ("doesn't like French Laundry," for example) marginalizing HIMSELF--or is he BEING marginalized by the "critical community"? Is marginalizing something you do to yourself, or is it imposed upon you from the outside?
  23. --getting hair plugs, buying a red Camaro, and dropping its old restaurants in favor of younger, prettier restaurants. . . .
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