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Everything posted by lxt

  1. Information as an abstract entity is limited in that it assumes one’s acceptance without questioning how accurate or complete it is. Pragmatism emphasizes the fact that some of our beliefs based on presented information turn out to be mistaken, as reality has many faces and it’s easy to be misinformed. How would one know that his perception of a “burger vs. fine cuisine” is true? True ideas are those that we can validate, corroborate and verify. False ideas are those that we cannot. The way to distinguish between the two is through induction and the scientific method, where a collection of facts is bound together. More often than not, even in our “arguments for the sake of argument,” not only do enough facts get presented to permit valid judgments, but the arguments themselves assist us in making those judgments. I won’t argue that my explanation may not seem tedious, but could it be called “argument for the sake of argument?”
  2. If there is any relevance to the relationship between fashionable and “better,” then no matter what the roots of the success, the ultimate conclusion must be that “French food is fashionable because it is better.” Whether one acquires a taste for French cuisine after pursuing the “fashionable” or because of subjective admiration for the cuisine, the result is the same: as of today, French cuisine is dominant on the market over other cuisines. It is mostly desirable and appreciated not only among prolific food experts but as well as by general population. I haven’t seen even one argument over the course of this discussion that would prove otherwise. If there is a question that fashionable is not necessarily better, than time usually sets apart “art” from “pretense,” and French cuisine seemed to earn its place among “masterpieces.” Of course one can suggest that not all parts of the world are mesmerized by French food, or even fully exposed to it like Singapore, where Mexican and Italian are predominant favorites, but even then the speculation is that it is due to the fact that French food uses too much cream which does not feature in the native Chinese or Malay diets because of the Mongoloid intolerance of lactose. Judging by the growing number of French restaurants in that part of the world, Singaporeans do seem to be developing a palate for it after all. And isn’t it true that when the number of subjective opinions based on knowledge, experience and scientific expertise exceeds a certain level, then the opinion rightfully or not becomes objective?
  3. The “An All-American meal for the masses” article by Renee Kientz highlights certain points Steve P. suggested in regard to the role of the burger as a joining force of commonality in a multi-cultural American society. It also tries to answer the question of who was the one who invented the “American burger.” Here is the excerpt: “Before hamburgers, Hogan wrote in his now out-of-print 1997 book 'Selling 'Em by the Sack,' we were a nation of diverse ethnic groups, speaking different languages, eating our own homegrown cuisines. The burger was a bridge; almost everyone liked it. The sandwich, along with the car and galvanizing events such as World War I, helped forge a common identity: American.” An All-American meal for the masses.
  4. The question is how great a gap is there between the chef’s ability to present a dish exclusively for a VIP order and his daily performance? How better can one get if he is a lousy chef? Assuming the chef’s performance for a special order is superb, wouldn’t it be a good indication that a restaurant has some potential, which you, as a reviewer, would’ve otherwise missed had you not disclosed your identity? However, my main point was that I would not condemn restaurants for trying their best for special guests and that this is as natural as for any of us when presented with similar life situations, i.e. a job interview etc. P.S. The subject of reviewer anonymity was discussed at length in a prior thread. We may both find it interesting to visit Compromised food critics.
  5. Lesley - It is absolutely wonderful when a restaurant’s policy is to make its customers feel comfortable and welcomed indiscriminately; however, I may disagree that preferential treatment in case of “regular patrons” should not be acceptable. A special table by the window, a little touch of an extra dessert at the end of dinner as a token of appreciation… What is wrong with that? If I am not mistaken, the subject of whether the quality of one’s dinner may differ dramatically for a known reviewer vs. a regular customer had been discussed previously, and some of the thoughts expressed were that a restaurant’s ability to overexert itself, in fact, is limited. What a reviewer may receive, however, is “special treatment” unrelated to the chef’s performance: better service, for example. Though one may view this as bribery, it may simply be explained as people’s desire to be at their best for someone they consider to be important. Wouldn’t we all under certain personal or professional circumstances attempt to bring our potential up to its limit (a job interview, a special presentation that may result in promotion, a special date that may result in marriage etc.)? Why should we apply different moral standards to restaurants, considering we do it on a daily basis? Interestingly enough, I had a chance to witness “special treatment” that was extended to a notable patron during a dinner at Blue Hill. The number of waters, busboys and the frequency with which they came to our table with and without any need was simply overwhelming. The only missing attribute from having been treated like a “king” was the lack of a beautician tending to his nails before the meal. However, the overall impression was that these were hard working people whose only intention was to look good in front of someone who had the power to “spread the word” about the restaurant.
  6. Just to make sure that we are referring to the same place, the original name of the restaurant was ‘Kebab House’ and was changed relatively recently. It is located at 1955 Coney Island Ave. (Between Ave. P & Quentin Rd.) If this is the one, the “many times” you have been there is within what period of time?
  7. Sahara does seem to maintain a reputation as a good Turkish place in general. However, I received mixed reviews in the past and was never tempted to sample their cuisine until recently. I thought the food was average compared with another place (Taci’s Beyti, located nearby) I visited several years ago, but can’t vouch it is still as excellent as I remember. I plan to revisit Taci’s Beyti soon and report on my experience.
  8. I can’t resist mentioning a long-time favorite “Death by Chocolate,” by Marcel Desaulniers. What better way to go, one may wonder assuming he is in charge of his fate? Every recipe I make from the book consistently has a devastating result providing a rhapsody one enjoys with each bite. “This book is about obsession, cravings and licit indulgences. It is about deliriously delicious, silkily sensuous, soul-stirring chocolate desserts, about Rabelaisian pleasures, and fantasies come true.” I rest my case.
  9. Him and all the rest of us. I stumbled across an educational and captivating article describing in detail the history of chocolate and some “obscure chocolate ingredients.” The article seems to lift the curtain of mystery from our chocolate “love affair." One expert reveals that “chocolate contains a natural 'love drug'. Tryptophan is a chemical that the brain uses to make a neurotransmitter called serotonin. High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy - hence the name of the designer drug that also works by increasing serotonin levels... While tryptophan could be considered 'chocolate's ecstasy', another chemical called phenylethylamine has earned the nickname ‘chocolate amphetamine’… Phenylethylamine works by stimulating the brain's pleasure…” May we not make reasonable, consequent conclusions as to why some of our self-indulgences extend to the mystical world of chocolate?
  10. lxt


    Intrigued by Robert Schonfeld’s review of a tasting lunch at Bouley, I felt an urge to fulfill my childhood reminiscence of that wonderful apple smell that I experienced many years ago every time my grandmother would send me down to her den to bring up some of those apples she used to store over the winter. The tasting menu price sounded like an extremely good deal for the quality of lunch Robert described as well. We had, however, mixed feelings, but I can’t state that our lunch was a complete fiasco. Where roasted salmon was exquisite, halibut was overcooked and so tough that it almost had a meat texture. Where chicken was unimpressive, roast venison filet (which was apparently a replacement for the duck you’d find on their web site) was incredible – tender to the extent that it almost didn’t require any chewing effort. We also had a separate order of soft-shell crabs, which was quite disappointing. Though crisp on the outside, they were somewhat mushy and lacking the expected sweetness on the inside, and covered with an overly spicy, sour sauce, reminiscent of Tabasco, which unpleasantly shifted the accent away from the crabs. The palate refreshment that consisted of an assortment of sorbets didn’t fulfill the expectation of a slightly sweet and more acidic taste to prepare you for the desserts that followed. It was too sweet and, I’d say, rather another dessert than refreshment. I can’t pinpoint exactly what was the difference, but the hot Valrhona chocolate soufflé wasn’t even close to the divine taste of the soufflé we had tried at Blue Hill recently. I also thought that the wonderful arrangement of multiple one scoop ice-creams accompanying the soufflé would have been perfect had it been presented as a separate dessert but sadly only undermined the main accent of the dessert - chocolate soufflé. As Beachfan stated, “A lovely assortment…” of “Florentines, cookies and several indescribable delights, including one filled with pistachio parfait” was a very nice touch at the end of the dinner, indeed. The interior looked lovely and predisposed one to a cozy lunch or dinner. The service in our case was excellent, even though I have noticed that some of the orders were stopped from being delivered to the wrong table by a captain at the last minute. The contingent seemed to be composed of a mostly presentable, suit-oriented crowd of older generation gentleman and ladies. We didn't find the food uniformly excellent, but lunch was certainly interesting and a bargain at $35 for the tasting excluding wine and crabs. Robert Schonfeld's review
  11. Nina, we actually sampled the spicy and regular hot chocolate and found them both too sweet. Interestingly though, as I recall now, the spicy one seemed to be even more cloying sweet.
  12. I must agree with nyfirepatrolchef_10-26. In sampling almost every dark chocolate on the stand, the one that superbly stands out is Earl Grey Tea. The other types that leave everlasting memories are also chocolate with fruit fillings as other combinations may not be as distinguished in comparison with other chocolate shops like La Maison (my preference for nut and ganache enriched chocolates) even though AHR may disagree. I also didn’t find the hot chocolate to be as satisfying as at Payard, though the spicy version was more interesting. The consistency of the hot chocolate was lacking enough chocolate texture and was way too sweet for my taste. The croissants we had were not right out of the bakery and therefore may not be fairly judged, but the impression left was “reasonably good”. The place is tiny, cozy, welcoming and chocolate smelling, and for some of us, that may be just enough for a “must visit”.
  13. Very perceptive, John. Unrelated wisdom: The history of man’s attempt to communicate with his fellow man has been paralleled by another history–that of man’s attempt to overhear this communication.
  14. Ironically, jaybee’s post was the last one I read several hours before the sad news of my own loss had arrived. Interestingly, not only haven’t my views on the subject not changed, they’ve been strengthened. Am I too old fashioned or retro to suggest that mourning should be observed in private? Or that in our modern days, the perception has changed toward having fun as a means to cope with the stress of a loss? I can hardly imagine myself going to a restaurant unless I am certain that neither my companions nor other patrons will be affected by my personal circumstances. (Assuming that a restaurant is still viewed as a place where people are to have good times). Each of us requires a different length of time for healing. Should one decide to submit himself to a restaurant endeavor at a time of personal grief, it becomes his personal responsibility to be tolerant of the surroundings without placing the burden on “society”. Perhaps it is just a question of manners or…politics? Forgive me for being insensitive, but I hardly experience any sympathy toward a woman who violated someone else’s privacy and made his dinner less enjoyable. Quote: Wilfrid “But, yes, yes we do listen, and many of my own dinner table conversations are actually about conversations we have just overheard. “ Several years ago, we had a memorable lunch where none of us uttered a word. Somehow I believe our table wasn’t the only one involved in the enchanting and quite personal (but not offensive) details of the sex life of a young lady who occupied an adjacent table. As appalling as it may sound to a well-mannered some of us, I have to admit that the enjoyment was such that it resulted in our leaving an extra 5% for the tip. Jaybee, Wilfrid you are just perfect dining companions. There will never be an awkward moment at your table. If there’d be nothing to say, there’d always be others to overhear .
  15. lxt


    I reject the contention that the sort of middle-class "wealth" required to enjoy upscale dining in this country is not primarily earned but inherited. [Maybe you’re thinking about Merrye Olde Socialist England, where income derives either from inherited wealth or government handouts of confiscated wealth.] And anyway, what is your definition of merit? The number of hours one works? One’s talent? One’s entrepreneurial abilities? Ambition? Education? Temperament? What is it? All or a combination of the above plus some luck (or rather “favorable circumstances and environment”) may be necessary to achieve a chance to enjoy a four-star dining experience in a restaurant or, in other words, to say that one was rewarded by displaying merit. It is not only ‘hard work’ that comprises a quite complicated formula in calculating one’s merit. If a person rejects this principle, he adopts a myth of egalitarianism, the concept I discussed in detail with Bux in the same post. As to your notion of inherited wealth, who said that merits of the lucky gentleman’s father should not have an afterlife? If a wish of the father was to pass his wealth to his child, all it means is that the merits of the father were such as to cover not just one but two people. If one is not concerned whether he is evaluated by his personal merits, who said that the merits of his father should be annulled? And if merits (or a compensation for them) of the father play a significant role in building an even more victorious successor, God bless him. If it doesn’t, then at some point, the hierarchy of merit compensation passed to other generations will have to be built from scratch all over again.
  16. lxt


    Wilfrid you are profiling. The only information your observation can maintain is that two or three generations ago the demographic of this country was different. In 100 years, it may well be that a new contingent will dwell in the five-star restaurants where Asians may be predominant, much to the extent we can observe these tendencies in the Ivy League colleges now. Bux– According to your statement, we should expropriate Steve Plotnicki only because it is not fair that someone else didn’t succeed. Let’s split his wealth among those less fortunate and drive restaurant prices down so more people can enjoy the experience. If this is the plan, I am all for it. With one exception, it awfully reminds me an experience of my first 20+ years living in the country where equality was the main principle of life. My verdict is that there is nothing more unfair than equal distribution away from talent, abilities and even sheer luck without one’s consent. The unfortunate turn of this utopia is that you are taking a chance away from, not giving it to everyone. The proposition that we all ought to be equal abolishes luck by default. We can imply that all ought to have equally good luck, but, inasmuch as there is no way in which we can turn bad luck into good, or misfortune into good fortune, what the proposition means is that if we cannot all have good luck, no one shall have it. That is all that egalitarianism ever can mean. The worst becomes the standard. I have yet to see evidence of a successful society where equality is promoted above all else. I just hope I won’t have the pleasure to be a part of such an experiment again.
  17. lxt


    Robert - “Guernica” has the impact of extreme psychological subtlety; that is a fact. However, this work heavily relies on symbolism, and I find it imperative to have the artist’s perception of the subject. It will be useful to know that Picasso used the ancient animal symbols of Spain to spell out the terrible catastrophe. Would it not enrich your emotional perception of the painting knowing that the bull is brutality and darkness, and the horse represents the people? Unless you want to leave it fully to the imagination of the viewer, you are bound to come to Steve’s conclusion that “sometimes it's good to hear it in the artist’s own words”. The only “change of its meaning” in the future may be attributed to the intensity of the emotions, not to the context.
  18. “We have been close friends with a couple for many year…” Jaybee – It is common to identify the basic principles of friendship as a reciprocal affection between people, a reciprocal willing of the good or well wishing between people and a shared awareness of the good will of each other. However, friendship could be segregated into two categories: friendships of pleasure and utility, and friendships of virtue. In friendships of pleasure and utility, the person wishes another well but does so because of self-interest, because the other person gives one pleasure or is useful. By contrast, in friendships of virtue, a person wishes another well for the other person’s sake. Friendships of virtue are altruistic in character. It seems that your relationship was more of a friendship of shared pleasure because pleasure is a non-negotiable quality. One does not bargain to have one's friend be more pleasant. If one is not pleasant, the friendship tends to end on its own. But as long as it exists, each is satisfied. Based on your description, it seems that your friends did not single you out in avoiding reciprocation. They have chosen a certain life style that does not include an effort of hosting guests. If, at some point, you realized that this attitude is not acceptable for you to receive a full satisfaction and achieve happiness in your relationship, it is only natural that your friendship would end. Personally, I try to be very careful in using the word ‘friend’. To me, a real friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out, nothing else matters.
  19. Stefanyb – Here’s my perception of the above statement. The Truth is believed to be a spiritual reality, not a physical one. What comes through our senses exerts a powerful influence on us. It presents itself as true, and we are inclined to believe it. In addition, what we see is shaped by our individual way of seeing. We focus on what interests us; we filter out of our perception what seems unimportant to us. So each of us perceives the world around him and the events that fill his life in a unique way. No two people see the same event precisely alike. To take it further, we might understandably conclude that truth is relative; i.e., it varies from person to person, that one person’s truth is another’s error, and that there is no higher claim to validity than individual viewpoint. “There is no truth. There is only perception. “ - Gustave Flaubert
  20. I appreciate the pun, John. 'Many who bear the wand, but few who become Bakchoi.' Does it mean I passed initiation? Wilfrid – Wittgenstein didn't mind what he ate so long as he ate what he liked. Wittgenstein's Trifle: Put some tinned or bottled peaches in the bottom of a glass bowl. Cover with brioche slices dipped in Grand Marnier. Then a layer of proper custard, flavored with orange zest, Chill to set. Spread over whipped cream and some flaked toasted almonds. Eat every day exactly the same. Just don't think about it too much.
  21. John- As Wittgenstein would say “There can never be surprises in logic”. Your point is well presented. Since del Grande, in your opinion, had logical fallacies, his argument is not valid, as the conclusion must follow logically from the premises. However, more often than not, in identifying logical fallacies, it’s tempting to think that if we find errors, we automatically disprove the conclusion. Del Grande’s reasoning could be presented as a hierarchy of Atom to Element to Compound (AKA molecule) – which is of just the right complexity for cooking purposes -- to Mixture of molecules, where the last becomes ‘complicated’. As to “Another chef whose culinary talents outweigh … his literary style,” the excerpt was taken from one of del Grande’s interviews, and hardly represents his literary talent, assuming that two different skills are required for writing and extemporaneous speaking. Ex facto, del Grande has Ph.D. in Biochemistry along with his culinary achievements, and if there were any relevance of the IQ's' relation to educational level and the ability to express oneself decently in a literary format, I would give del Grande the benefit of the doubt. Well, since there is no legitimate use of language beyond picturing facts and stating tautologies, I shall retire now.
  22. Yvonne – I agree that food as a product of a certain technique, as a result of one’s experimentation and experience can hardly be attributed to a philosophy; it is rather science. However, is it wise to dismiss ‘Philosophy of food/cuisine’ as a concept? Robert Del Grande’s reasoning, in my opinion, can be well validated as a philosophy: “What we strive for cooking-wise comes from 4 words: simple, simplistic, complex, complicated. So, we have to caution ourselves about simplistic that becomes complicated. We like simple that offers complexity. That’s at least a paradoxical relationship and we understand how it works. Generally the world is simplistic and then realizes that it’s simplistic, and then begins to add things from a sense of insecurity, trying to get complex, but ends up as complicated. And as we say here, there’s complicated and then just past complicated is a mess and then just past a mess is a swamp. It’s a starting point that you can use… with young cooks, with every dish the first question you ask them is, ‘How much can you take away for it to be just as good?…’ Generally, with the young cooks, you can take away half of it and it generally improves… Each dish on the plate should be a manifestation of one single thought.” I found Robert Del Grande amusing and have a very hard time dismissing his notion as a simple ‘philosophical waxing’. Philosophy – the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with the view to improving or reconstituting them (Webster). Del Grande’s reasoning seems to fully qualify for the above description.
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