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Posts posted by detlefchef

  1. Just got back from 5 days in PV. Here's my notes.

    On a non-food related issue, Villa Premiere is a wonderful place to stay. Not cheap mind you, but right in town, absolutely charming, great staff, whirlpool baths on the balcony of our room. All in all, a great place to stay. They also happen to serve some well executed Nuevo Latino food. We enjoyed a few nice breakfasts, some tasty apps when we got there (octopus sopes, ceviche, crab taquitos) and had a late night snack at the fancier of the two restaurants (a salad of verdulagas stood out to me).

    As for the rest. Hands down, our favorite street food was the taco truck across the street from Salsa Mexicana. I believe it was called Cescine. Pretty standard fare, but well executed. I had to stop my wife from going back reminding her that, good as they were, we could essentially get the same thing back home in the Latin neighborhoods of Durham. I can't say much good about the tacos at the stand right next to the plaza near the begining of the Malecon. Kinda skanky. The tamales at the stand right where the Malecon starts were great.

    El Arrayan had wonderful scallop and avacado ceviche, very good local cheese, and another app that escapes me (perhaps because the cocktails were also quite nice). Margaritas made with Arrayan fruit, also some cool drink of basil, fresca, and vodka. I wish I could say the same of the entrees. My Concinita al Pibil (sp?) which is one of my favorite dishes Pork cooked in achiote paste wrapped in banana leaf was quite dry and chewy. There's almost no excuse to make pork dry. The 21 ingredient mole that came with the filet could have perhaps used maybe 23 or 24 ingredients as there seemed to be a hole in the middle of the taste. The mahi was overcooked and the sauce was non descript and the grilled shrimp were super tough. Not that the entrees were horrible, just not so good. The space was also quite nice.

    El Repollo Rojo (once we found it) was amazing. I did the house pris fixe while the other three at the table cherry picked the rest of the menu. Guac- outstanding, cooked spinach salad- ditto, squash flower "quesedillas"- liked by me, not by all, cream of peanut soup- interesting and good. My Chiles en Nogada (another favorite) did not at all disappoint. As for the entrees, the clear cut winners were my Mole Poblano with chicken and the Roast pork leg with garlic sauce. In contrast to Arrayan, the mole was spot on and the pork was melt in your mouth tender and moist. The mahi in squash blossom sauce, however, was a bit of a let down. The sauce was super creamy and completely smothered the somewhat overcooked fish. The veggies, while al dente were rather uninspired. The flan was overcooked. Oh ya, the margaritas were the best we had while down there. All in all, a very nice meal.

    Mariscos Tinos. This came highly recommended from one of my customers as a place to get simple, honest seafood. After the seafood lover among us suffered through the last two dishes he got, he basically insisted the next place we went had simple, grilled fish. Well, that's what you get. Very good margaritas again, tasty ceviche, the whole grilled snapper was immense and quite tasty. I split a Lobster al guajillo that was tasty if a bit dry. Honestly, I'm not sure if it was worth the shlep, and I may have preferred checking out another of the "High-end" Mexican in town, but it was a cool adventure none the less.

    Lastly, fish tacos in the Zona Romantica at a very clean restaurant/street stand across the street from the big grocery right next to the swinging bridge you can take to get there from the island weren't quite up my alley. They were made from stewed fish and were a bit funky. The roast chicken sold kitty corner, on the otherhand, made a great 6am snack at the airport the next day.

  2. Is it a 'if you build it they will come' kinda thing? Will cases of REAL buttercream frosted homey cakes and truely seasonal, golden fruit pies and tarts (unlike the insipid apricot puree-glazed, whatever-Ford's-produce-has-on-special-this-week-from-Argentina fare we've all seen around) incite the masses to abandon their low carb/all-in-one-place spending and return them to a single vendor style of food shopping?

    Am I dreaming?

    I would imagine the best chance of something like that happening is for mini gourmet "malls", like those in Oakland and Berkeley CA to start sprouting up. Since this is such a driving oriented community, it's just really hard to get people to go all over the place to pick up their provisions. I despise the bread at Whole Foods, but have bought it on plenty of occasions simply because we were there and couldn't stomach the hassle of driving elsewhere for just one thing. We try to think ahead a stop in at specialty shops when we're in the area, but it doesn't always work that way.

    Those "malls" I speak of were typically a collection of independant high end food stores anchored by a restaurant. Thus, the convenience of one stop shopping coupled with the quality that only comes from buying fish from a fishmonger, pastries from a baker, wine from a wine shop, etc. I think the area is getting ready to support these things.

    That, of course, is only part of the issue. The hard part is determining how many people actually share your opinion that local bakeries are, in fact, lacking. Unfortunately, all you need to do is check the number of glowing reviews about Mad Hatters on City Search to see that plenty of people don't have very high standards. Thus, it may be tough to convince enough people to spend a few bucks more and/or go out of their way to buy something that isn't necessarily perceptively better to them. That's a bit defeatist, I know, but the slim margins in this industry require that you take a very hard look at what quality level people are willing to pay a premium for. More importantly, how many of them are there.

    The vocal minority may pine for true Parisian macroons, but they'd better be willing to come in several times a week for them if they want you to stay in business for more than a few months. Many, of course, likely just want one every now and then but want to know that some quixotic baker is waiting there for them when they want a fix.

    Certainly the landscape is changing and I also think that the fact that Guglhupf has a line out the door most of the day is an encouraging sign. In the right location, you could have something. As a food lover, it is certainly in my best interest to encourage people to offer things like that you're describing. However, I also know the enormous risks involved and hate to see people either fail or become reluctant martyrs, so I beg of them to take a long look at it.

  3. On the fish front I just got an email from Fowlers claiming to have a load of shashimi grade fish in today: tuna, flounder, salmon, and striped bass. I'll probably swing by and buy some for dinner on the way home.

    By the way, I've always thought sashimi-grade in a grocery was synonymous with "previously frozen". Do any of you pros know?

    I'd say it's a bit like when a California winemaker says "Reserve". Depending on the producer, it may or may not mean much. My guess is that Fowlers probably means that it was graded as such at the wholesale level. For instance, the tuna was #1 as opposed to #2+ or #2.

    Now if Kroger was saying it...

    The fishmonger that I've been fortunate enough to find employs a former sushi chef as its main butcher. So when he says sashimi grade, he means it. You want to cry when you see the pristine block of tuna jello that comes safely packed in cryovac. Perhaps I'll do some poking around and see if he sells to any local markets and let you all know where. In the meantime, the company is Coastal Treasure, so you can ask the stores if they carry their product. The lineup that Bryan spoke of sounds like the type of stuff they have. He was pushing striped bass to me this week and they always have organic salmon from Ireland (farm raised but clean).

  4. Thanks to the fact that I live in ACC country and every restaurant without 10 big screen TVs is dead tonight, we had a chance to mess around a little with the Green Mary.

    Thus far, the base is:

    Puree of cucumber, celery, scallion, cilantro, green curry paste

    added to that is horseradish, fish sauce, lime juice.

    The bartender mixed in Stoli Orange and straight Stoli.

    Pretty freaking good to start.

    This sounds great. I think I'm going to rip you right off. I'll try to give credit where credit is due.

    Just one second, I thought this thread was about me ripping you guys off!

  5. Thanks to the fact that I live in ACC country and every restaurant without 10 big screen TVs is dead tonight, we had a chance to mess around a little with the Green Mary.

    Thus far, the base is:

    Puree of cucumber, celery, scallion, cilantro, green curry paste

    added to that is horseradish, fish sauce, lime juice.

    The bartender mixed in Stoli Orange and straight Stoli.

    Pretty freaking good to start.

  6. I'm looking to put together a bloody mary list for my new dim sum brunch that I'll be rolling out in April. Anybody have anything lately that really knocked them out?

    I'm currently working on an all-green version with cukes, jalapeno, herbs, and wasabi.

    I'm also looking to integrate some of the star-anise beef broth from our braised ribs into one.

    sometime in the next week, my bar manager and I are going to get together and just start screwing around but I'd love to hear some thoughts.

    My kitchen is already full of plenty of things that could work. Fish sauce, various sambals, of course soy sauce, and the like.

    At any rate...thoughts?

  7. Guessing that two out of three isn't too terrible ... sorry about your experience at South City Kitchen though ... have never been there but from the looks of their website and the accolades, I would have expected something considerably better:

    South City Kitchen

    Awards & Accolades

    •  Best All Around Restaurant - AOL Digital City - 2002-2003

    •  Distinguished Restaurant of North America (DiRoNA) - 2002-2005

    • "Award of Excellence" - Wine Spectator Magazine, 1998-1999, 2001-2005

    • "If this is the direction that new Southern cooking is taking, it's on the right     track" - New York Times

    • "South City Kitchen became a mecca for low country cooking the minute it     opened in 1993" - Where Magazine

    DiRoNA is a complete joke. While I've certainly been to plenty of great places that have that distinction, I've been to at least as many bad ones. They may as well drop the "D".

  8. I've bought some stuff from Carniceria Superior on Roxborro. They seem pretty clean. The meat market at Grand Asia is also run by latinos FWIW.

    Another vote for Grand Asia BTW as a good food source. Other Asian stores of note are Asia Mkt on 15-501 Business and Silver Wok in Chapel Hill (also on !5-501).

    Neomonde in Raleigh is a great source for Middle Eastern supplies. Great pickles, olives, Lebneh, Ajvar, and other cool stuff. Their prepared foods are also delicious. The one in Morrisville is fine for the prepared foods but the groceries are a bit limited by comparison.

    As for Mexican, my favorite for prepared foods (though they don't do tacos) is Miss Tortilla way out East Durham on 98 and Mineral Springs. Rotisserie Chickens, braised beef cheeks, carnitas, salsa, lengua, fresh tortillas, and a bunch of other goodies. Certainly worth the trek. They do sell raw meats so that may be of help to Nibbs question as well.

    Best mexican grocery is... You know, I can get there but I forget the street. I think it's on Allendale in a shopping center behind an office furniture store. Like that's not cryptic enough.

  9. Well, the Whole Foods in Chapel Hill isn't so bad for produce (Durham's is about as bad a Whole Foods as I've ever been to). That said, this Northern California shopper misses the produce out there more than any other food stuff. The Durham and Carrboro markets (when open) are a great source, but that's pretty much it.

    I echo the Carolina Wine Co. suggestion but also think that Southern Season has a fair selection in the lower price point.

  10. Despite the number of times I'd sampled a plate of food here and there from Bin, I had yet to actually sit down and get the complete experience until twice in the last two nights. Once at a large party of Italian winemakers and once with my wife on her birthday. While it would be safe to assume that my familiarity with the restaurant would result in preferential treatment, I can honestly say that, looking around, it seemed that everyone else was getting the same level. That level being outstanding. Absolutely everything you could need was brought as you needed it. When our waiter noticed from accross the room that I had taken the last wasabi cracker for my tuna tartare, another dish was brought. That kind of thing. While we had a specific waiter, every server on the floor worked together to take care of all the tables. Honestly, I could go on about the service, but let's just move on and say that I honestly can't imagine how it could be better.

    As for the food...

    The aforementioned tartare is a perfectly understated dish. Brightly seasoned raw tuna belly, spicy mustard, and tasty little crackers. Not much else to say here but that I could eat a pound or two of it.

    The foie gras itself is the best I've had. Honestly, I think what makes it so is the fact that they start with a big piece. That means they can get a nice sear on the outside but still have plenty of decadent, slightly warmed middle. To be completely honest, I'm not a huge fan of the complete dish as I think the polenta served with it doesn't work as well as other mediums I've experienced.

    The watercress and endive salad is clean and satisfying with a playful contrast of grapes and blue cheese. Would I ultimately prefer they lay off the grapes until summertime? I suppose, and I ordered it without noticing them on the menu (though I imagine it's written there). None the less, it's a damned fine salad.

    As for the entrees. The first night I had the pork chop along with the dried cherry sauce. As I was zeroing in on that sauce choice (pork and cherries being a rather classic combo), my waiter was on the verge of suggesting the same thing (which demonstrates a nice and thorough knowledge of the food). I requested it medium rare and it came out text book. Essentially white with just the faintest hint of pink. Better still, it was uniformly so from edge to edge. There wasn't an excessively thick layer of char and grey done level with a pink rare center as I often find when restaurants use those silly super high temp broilers. This meat was cooked hot enough to get a good sear, but slow enough to cook evenly. It was also obviously rested.

    The second night I had the bone-in ribeye and my wife the Hanger steak. First for the ribeye. That's pretty much the only cut of meat I like past Med Rare. It just has so much fat that it can handle the cooking time and I don't enjoy coming accross large chunks of uncooked fat. It came out just so. It was also amazingly tender. For the life of me, I don't understand why NY strip is the steak of reference. Ribeye has more flavor and is often waaayy more tender.

    My wife loves hanger steak and this one didn't dissapoint. Funny, it gets this reputation for being really flavorful but a bit chewy. But you know, it's really not that chewy. Certainly you have actually to use your teeth, but it's not that bad. Especially considering how tasty and inexpensive it is. When we ate at BLT Steak in NY last year, the hanger was hands down the best cut on the table, easily blowing away the porterhouse (there's that NY again).

    The sides were lovely. Garlic studded spinach with what appeared to be ricotta salata on top, sweet potato puree that was luxurious and well spiced if a bit sweet for my taste, and king trumpet mushrooms which were freaking great.

    Stuffed but undaunted, we split one dessert. The molten chocolate cake with orange syrup and buttermilk ice cream. A great study in contrasts between the gooey middle, the brownie like cake and the ice cream. The orange sauce adds a lovely flavor.

    Bottom line, this place rocks. Once again, I did have an involvement at one time, but I'm currently nothing more than a neighbor so I gain nothing from hyping the place. When we were doing research for it we went to BLT in NY and I can safely say that Bin blows it away. The apps at BLT were certainly good, but the sides were completely brutish compared to those I had over the last few days. The steaks were also better at Bin but I didn't eat the same cuts with the exception of the hanger which was great at both places. Both had great wine lists that afforded you the option of getting something insanely good for a ton of money or something entirely tasty for much less. You needn't feel like you're bottom feeding if you want to spend less than $50/bottle as is so often the case in places of this ilk.

    Certainly Bin is about as expensive a place as you can eat in the triangle. However, I've never gotten out of any local steakhouse for less than $60 per person (and that's not going for it). That said, I'm usually iritated by several things. The service, the boring apps, what have you. Sullivans does a horrible job with veggies, so for maybe a buck less, you get boiled brocolli rather than the delicious spinach I had last night. At any rate, I suppose my point is that I'd rather drop $150 (or more) for two people and get something truly remarkable than drop $120 and feel like I should have just stayed home. If you're going to splurge, go somewhere that approaches every detail the way Bin does.

  11. I buy my fish from the fish counters at Whole Foods or the Earth Fare in Chapel Hill; Whole Foods now displays the source for the individual fish on their price tags. I generally know what I'm looking for going in and what I'm looking at when I'm there so I don't ask too much of the counter help. There isn't generally anything interesting available, though I just picked up some lovely shad roes at the Whole Foods and Earth Fare has had skate. If you want lobster or bulk oysters then Fishmongers is the place to go, on Main St. They preportedly sell other fish at their market, but you can't see it, so I'm not sure what good that is. There is a fish store on University Dr. on Enterprise St. near downtown that does a good business and will cut on site to meet your needs.

    That's Capital Seafood and I've gotten some very good stuff from them. I forgot about them in my earlier post.

  12. Can't help much on the meats. I have access to gorgeous local fish from a wholesaler on the coast, but that isn't much help to you.

    As for coffee. Chapel Hill has the two best options. Cafe Driade has the best cappucino I've had anywhere (which would include SF Bay area, NYC, Seattle, but not Italy). 3 Cups makes delicious french press coffee from locally roaster Counter Culture (who keeps winning national awards).

    In terms of Bakeries. It's between Guglhupf and Weaver St. IMO. Guglhupf has the pastries, the really dense breads, and the stollen. Weaver St. does better with French style breads.

  13. BTW. How are people defining "Downtown Durham"? Right or wrong, I tend to see the string of old tobacco warehouses that separate the Brightleaf district from the downtown circle as a bit of a border. Thus, I rarely think of the Joyce or Federal as being downtown even though they're so close. Am I alone in this thought?

    Another thought. Speaking of the Harry Teeter at Northgate closing, how do you all see the proposed new Northgate fitting into the mix? From what I hear, they're going to put a ton of money into it and a multi-plex, among other things are planned. Of course, right now it's a borderline ghost town. Mind you, my relationship with malls is rather utilitarian. If I need a new pair of Levis or something, I go there, buy my pants, and leave. Sometimes we catch a flick at Southpoint and if we happen to be hungry, we might grab a burger at the Thunderbirds place (because they actually make a pretty good one). That said, destination mall dining has always struck me as a very strange phenomenon. I think the last time I saw a frabricated mall as social center, I was about 12 years old.

  14. The closest I can come to comment on this is the fact that I have a few friends who frequent that level of restaurant. Frankly, I often find that their batting average at those places isn't any higher than mine is simply hitting the local somewhat high end spots. ($100 for two). At the heart of the issue is that a large super expensive place demands perfection from a ton of staff. That seems to be a tall order.

    The food would seem to be the easiest part to pull off because I'm sure they're starting with top notch ingredients. However, it seems inevitable that something would fall through the cracks.

    Beyond that, that $350 goes to pay for a lot of stuff that you may or may not care about. Someone's got to pay for the water show at the Bellagio. It's pretty cool, but your neive if you don't accept the fact that a good chunk of your bill is subsidizing those things. Now you're not talking about a $350 meal but a $250 meal (at least the food/wine/service part of it). Which, of course, is still a good deal of scratch but you probably get the point.

    Thus, unfortunately, I don't think one can expect to immune oneself from a less than stellar experience by paying that much. That's basically why I don't do it. If I was to do so, I think I'd choose a smaller, owner-operated place so I could feel like it had a better chance of living up to it.

    This isn't meant to give the place a free pass. However, the good news is that the food was great.

    Another question. How bad could the service have been? After all, in order for the food to be great, it had to at least been delivered in a somewhat timely manner or it would have been cold, wilted, dried out, or otherwise reflective of poor service. Was it was simply a manner of not feeling pampered (which is a completely fair expectation given the price)?

    One of the biggest complaints I often get with those places revolves around the dining room. Either the waitstaff knows far less about the food than my friends who are dining there or the wine list is total robbery. A list where you feel like you're bottom feeding to find something less than $100. Not, mind you, because the list is filled with high end Burgundies, but because they mark up $20 and $25 wholesale wines 4 to 5 times. So you're getting basically good quality, but hardly exceptional wines for what you'd expect to pay for ambrosia.

  15. I'd just ask to see the wine list. That way, not only to you avoid paying too much (or at least being surprised by the price), but you can avoid a bad wine.

    As far as what the high end should be, I like the fact that higher end wines are being offered BTG. When my wife and I go out, we're good for one bottle max. The problem is, I usually want a white with the first course and a red with the second. If all the cool stuff is only sold by the bottle, you're kind of stuck. So I'm more than happy to pay the money to try a glass of really nice wine.

    Now, if some casino wants to sell me Blackstone Merlot for $15/glass, on the other hand... That's not very cool.

  16. I see your location is Washington, D.C.  So I'd run to MacArthur Beverages (Addy Bassin's) or Calvert Woodley.  And I'll keep you under $30.  Both stores should have the 2002 Baumard Clos du Papillon Savennieres.  It's a stunning wine.  It will last ten years at least, but it is so hard to lay off it right now.  Buy one for your dinner.  Buy a second one to open 5-7 years from now.  It will need to open up a bit, so just leave the bottle uncorked after you've poured out what you need for cooking.

    Despite the general adage that you shouldn't cook with wine that you wouldn't drink, I think these wines are too good to use in cooking. I suggest getting a much cheaper bottle for the cooking, you could get a similar style of wine. The remainder of this could be kept for another night or alternatively try both wines to see how the "bang per buck"(using the US expression) compares.

    Ditto the part about trying to get off a bit cheaper with the cooking wine. Ask the same store for something less than $10 that's well balanced and you'll be fine. I usually tend towards a cheap French Sauvignon Blanc. Something I'm often concerned about when someone who admits not being that into wine asks for advice is the word "dry". By the book that means absent of residual sugar. If that's what you mean, then all the suggestions in the first reply would work. However, if you mean a crisp, high acid wine (which is typically what I find people are asking for when they want a "dry" white), I'd stay away from the white Rhones. I'd bet the Savennieres would be a great match. I actually have the basic Baumard on my list and it's one of my favorites. Not as tightly wound as they can tend to be when they're young and showing glorious peach and citrus flavors. Of course, the acid is definately there.

  17. Downtown Durham has so much potential, but until something is done about the crime, I do not always feel safe walking around after dark, and that often makes me want to spend my evening elsewhere.  I saw the Shanghai Circus at the Carolina Theater a few weekends ago -- we walked the theater and and Another Thyme for dinner.  The evening was lovely, except for the walk between the two.  I don't know how much money Duke can throw at this district to improve the late night safety.

    Did you witness a crime being committed? Were you the victim of a crime during this walk?

    My wife and I are regularly in downtown after dark and I rarely feel unsafe or threatened, but I do know a lot of people who feel like you do. The closest I've gotten to figuring it out is that people read about crime in the paper and somehow translate that to downtown. I've been reading the crime briefs for a long time and don't recall ever reading about anything happening between the Carolina Theatre and Brightleaf. I welcome the influx of new restauants and I sincerely hope that there is enough daytime business to keep them going until the nighttime business catches up. Joe and Jo's seems to have enough business and I consider them in downtown. We now have a pharmacy (Gurley's on Main) and restaurants only add to the draw for more people to live in downtown. I'd love to see a grocery as well.

    I'll do anything to promote these places. I'd rather be mugged than see more exburb development in Durham County. I hate seeing business dragged away from exiting locations in downtown or at least "in town" because some developer thinks we need another 150 house development near Southpoint. Ugh.

    I should say that the diner in me agrees with this 100%. I would really love to see this work out over, say, another Shadybrookmeadowcreekfarms development elsewhere.

    In all fairness, it should be mentioned that Bryan is a rather imposing figure so it's pretty understandible that nobody would mess with him walking down the street.

  18. The hardest part about revitalizing any area is that there is little long term reward for the trailblazers. If you're the first to go into a potential transition area and it doesn't "transition", then you lose. If it does, then others will soon follow and public that you had a brief monopoly on will soon be spread around to other restaurants. By then, few will care that you were there first and the only advantage you may have is that you got into a cheaper lease than the others. So what, besides the pride in knowing you helped turn around a neighborhood, is in it for you if take the risk rather than wait it out let someone else be the guinea pig.

    The landlords really need to be ready to play ball because they'll be the biggest winners if this thing goes well. Oddly enough, I didn't find that to be the case with the one person I actually spoke with early last year. Certainly I won't name names, but the project was, at best, risky and they wouldn't budge at all on TIs or free rent. They just kept playing the "Downtown Durham is going to be the next hot spot." card. That may well be true, but I couldn't afford to subsidize the project until (and if) that was the case.

    American Tobacco is a bit of an exception because they essentially built their own, self supported mini-downtown. Fully equiped with reasonably safe parking, complimentary businesses, and of course, the great seasonal draw of DBAP. I can see why they weren't throwing money at people to go in there.

  19. Neither SF or NYC (two places that get a lot of run for their ethnic food) hold a candle to San Jose's Vietnamese food. Go to the corner of 10th and McLaughlin and you'll find several shopping centers devoted to Vietnamese food. It's been a few years, but my favorite is Pho Ha located in the largest of the three centers.

    NYC also can't touch the Mexican food in the bay area. There's little reason why you should have to settle for Baja Fresh. Once again, I've been gone for a while and actually lived in Santa Cruz when I was there, so names specific Mexican places in the south bay escape me, but they're everywhere.

  20. I recall that she'd set up this amazing kitchen and garden at a middle school near Chez Panisse.  Here the kids were cooking pizzas in a brick oven and such in a food wonderland.  Beyond that, it was in a North Berkeley neighborhood that was populated by possibly the most food crazy people in the US. 

    Just for starters, there's a misapprehension here that should be cleared up. The school--Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School--was (is?) heavily African-American and rather slum-like, which is exactly what attracted Alice--if diet could be turned around there, it could happen elsewhere. She wrote:
    When I saw . . . the graffiti on the windows and the burned-out lawn, I thought it was abandoned. The cafeteria had been abandoned for fifteen years. Most of the kids didn’t eat breakfast or lunch. What I envisioned was a place where the kids could serve each other the lunch they’d grow.
    Details of her Edible Schoolyard project are here.

    There's more about the project, and about what led up to it, in my history of Chez Panisse, The Green Gourmets

    Fair enough. I suppose by the time I lived near there, it had changed a bit. And I do think that "was" slum-like is the operative word. I'd be surprised if you could get into a 1000 sq. ft home in that neighborhood for less than $500K anymore.

    Once again, my main point is that perhaps we should just try to turn them on to how easy it is to make real food, rather than aiming for chiogga beets. The edible schoolyard is a nice thought and may be a sexier thing to sell to the types of people who have the money to support such a project. However, I'd think that before you try to get kids to have an association with soil their food comes from, you should at least turn them on to the produce section of the local grocery store.

  21. I, too, have had the fortune of cooking in many a fancy home kitchen.

    There's one funny thing that I've found more than once. These people bring in commercial grade ranges and apparently just have the plumber attach an adapter to make their smaller gas line fit the larger range rather than installing a bigger gas line. So here you've got some bad-ass stove that should be able to knock out more than 20K BTUs with this dinky little flame no larger than what my Maytag back home can muster.

    Of course, they LOOK a whole lot cooler.

  22. Well certainly something has to be done. I had someone dining with their kids in my restaurant and got the request to put absolutely nothing green on one of the dishes. "My son wont eat anything green." I assumed he was like 4 or something and they just didn't want to go through the struggle and have a peaceful meal. I took a look and the kid was something like 15 years old! I could just see myself trying to pull that crap at any age, let alone 15.

    I applaud Alice Waters intention, but have often thought that there were more practical ways of promoting what she was doing. Mind you, I'm basing this opinion on what I saw when I actually lived in the East Bay. I recall that she'd set up this amazing kitchen and garden at a middle school near Chez Panisse. Here the kids were cooking pizzas in a brick oven and such in a food wonderland. Beyond that, it was in a North Berkeley neighborhood that was populated by possibly the most food crazy people in the US. For all I know, the program has changed immensely since then.

    I always thought a less romantic, but highly effective tact would be to lower the bar a tad, utilize (and revamp) existing school kitchens and have a more production oriented approach making solid real food, even if it wasn't the coolest thing going. In High Schools, you could have two period of elective classes in food prep prior to lunch and have the kids actually create the food eaten at school. You'd also be turning kids on to a possible job skill. Theoretically, you could even have the HS kids go to the local middle and elementary schools to cook there as well. As a senior, I took classes at the local CC, so I can't see how that would be much different.

    Certainly by now, the landscape has changed to a point where that could be impossible. Fast food and Pepsi are donating money for things like gyms and the schools are too strapped to say no. Then they get their foot in the door and the whole school lunch thing has changed. The sad thing is, taco bell etc. is actually an improvement over what school lunches had become. Companies like that have enough pull to demand clean meats from slaughterhouses and tend to do so to avoid getting sued. The school programs have no such pull and often end up settling for the leftovers.

    My guess is, the districts that have enough money to do something cool with school lunches also are the last people who really need to get this kind of thing. Likely, they have a larger percentage of stay at home parents and thus, the kids may be getting turned on to real food at home. It's the less affluent areas where it's Taco Bell for lunch and KFC for dinner.

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