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Suzanne Podhaizer

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  1. Have been craving flourless chocolate cake since I made one for Valentine's Day. So, I made another one. It's on the dessert menu tonight!

  2. Made a black cherry sauce for my buttermilk panna cotta. Yum!

  3. Ordering food for the restaurant is so fun! In a delivery this morning, we received chestnut honey, 8-year-old balsamic, truffle oil, Sicilian sea salt, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and lots of other cool tidbits.

  4. The Leonard Cohen mix I made on Pandora is reminding me of my UMass days - especially since The Boxer just came up - But I doubt I'll get any Blondie.

  5. Cloves. A restaurant in my town serves their cheese plate with dried apricots that have been reconstituted in a clove-inflected syrup. Gorgeous.
  6. Thanks Mimi! I think it will be beneficial for me to cultivate that perspective...I know I'll need thicker skin to do this job. At the moment, my critics outweigh my credentials (at least in the eyes of the public, since I'm new at the job) but eventually, the equation will reverse, I hope!
  7. I've been publishing as a food writer for some time, but just recently became the all-around food writer/newshound/critic for an artsy newsweekly. For the first couple of weeks things were kind of quiet -- I got one note that scolded me for writing positively about a foie gras experience -- but one of my recent articles really pissed some people off. As a very sensitive soul, this isn't easy for me. So food journalists of all varieties -- how do YOU deal with YOUR hate mail? Do you post it on your dartboard? Correct your critic's spelling? Forward it to your friends so they can console you? Make me laugh...I need it!
  8. When you skip the wedding (paying to feed all those other people is so expensive!), take a trip instead, and make the whole journey into a culinary tour. When you view trips to visit friends and relatives across country as excuses for going to the best restaurants within 100 miles of their homes. When your partner/housemates books are in stacks on the living room floor because your cookbook collection has taken over all of the shelves. When you can't get out of a used bookstore without bringing 6 cookbooks with you, 5 of which you'll never cook from because they are novelty items like "The War-Time Edition Russian Cookbook for American Homes" from 1943 and the Campbell's "Cooking with Soup" cookbook from 1970 (horrifyingly great food photography).
  9. My friends laugh at me because I'm a complete spreadsheet geek! Here are some of the culinary uses I've found for Excel: 1) Indexing my food magazines. I track article topics, all recipes by main ingredients, recommended restaurants and wines, etc. This takes forever!! 2) Creating a recipe database. When I take cookbooks out of the library or borrow them, I enter all of my favorite recipes. Each tab is for a different type of recipe. I have a separate sheet for my own recipes. 3) Keeping track of food costs. Self-explanatory! 4) Planning weekly menus. I get almost all of my food from farm shares, and each week I need to make sure that I use up all of the vegetables (in order from most perishable to least perishable), so this is how I do it. It's a wonder I have time for anything else!
  10. My immediate family (mom, sister and brother) have never experienced a tasting menu, so this year, my husband and I are going to try to create the experience for them. Since there will only be five of us, I'm hoping that we won't go too crazy. We'll probably take breaks between courses to play games and finish up the next course. The recipes are from a combination of places--the French Laundry Cookbook, my own head, and Epicurious mostly, with one that is based on a dish I ate at No. 9 Park in Boston. Smoked Salmon with Sweet Red Onion Crème Fraîche on Toast Sweet Potato Soup with Orange Creme Fraiche Seared Foie Gras with Pickled Cherries on Mesclun Greens with walnut oil and cherry vinaigrette Chestnut Ravioli with Fontina and Celery Root Puree Seared Scallops with Brussels sprouts, Pancetta, and Browned Pear Butter Duck with Honey Glaze and Lavender Pomegranate and Orange Sorbet Cheese Course—Humboldt, Aged Gouda, Something sheepish with Fig and Anise Bread, Pears, Candied Hazelnuts, and Candied Kumquats Haven't figured out the dessert courses yet, but I'm thinking about a trio of Christmas-y ice creams (peppermint stick, eggnog, and maybe gingerbread, plum pudding or fruitcake flavored?) with some accompaniments, but I'm not sure yet.
  11. I'm a bit of a tea purist since I used to work at a tearoom. My favorites are: Chinese Green-- Dian Lu E-Shan, Bi Lo Chun and Huang Shan Mao Feng Japanese Green-- Gyokuro and high-grade Tamaryokucha Chinese and Taiwanese Oolongs (most of my favorites are in this catagory) Tai Guan Yin Tung-Ting Huang Dan Cong and of course Pu-Er. When customers asked me to describe the flavor of Pu-er, my favorite answer is that it tastes like a basement, but in a good way. I also enjoy tisanes of Rooibus (btw--I think there may be different regional pronunciations for this word--a South African woman told us that it is pronounced Roo-boy) and I also like Mate--served in a gourd with a bombilla. The tearoom where I worked, which is located in Burlington, VT, also sells tea on-line--here's the URL Dobra Tearoom.
  12. I've certainly had my best restaurant year ever--most of the offerings are in the San Francisco area cause I was there on my honeymoon...here's the list: 1) French Laundry (Napa) 2) Fleur de Lys (San Fran) 3) No. 9 Park (Boston)--not dinner though, this was a delightful 9 course lunch that I had all by my lonesome. It was my first time eating alone in a fancy restaurant. 4) Chez Panisse (Berkeley) 5) Quince (San Fran) 6) B&G Oysters and the Butcher's Shop (same night--Boston) I was on a Barbara Lynch tour during that trip to Boston 7) The Slanted Door (San Fran) 8) Cortez (San Fran) 9) L'Amante (Burlington, VT) 10) Smokejacks (Burlington, VT) I ate at Gary Danko too, but was disappointed by the meal and the service.
  13. While it is true that artificial vanilla is made pretty much entirely of vanillin, which is the main chemical componant of real vanilla, the difference is mostly in what is absent...real vanilla contains between 250 and 300 chemical compounds which give it the complex flavor for which it is prized--artificial vanilla, with its one flavor compound, does taste different. In college I took a course in the Sensory Evaluation of Foods. In that course, we learned to identify chocolate and ice cream that used vanillin vs. vanilla--however, we were also trained to notice the difference, whereas most consumers are not. Also, some of the commercial vanillin making processes generate toxic waste (benzene among other things), while other more modern techniques are more environmentally friendly (they produce "more manageable" waste). Regardless of the way in which they are produced, most vanillin is made with industrial by-products, either of the wood pulp and paper industries or of the petrochemical industries. Both aesthetics and ethics may be a consideration for some people when making a decision about which vanilla products to use.
  14. Even though we celebrate at my mom's house, I am in charge of Thanksgiving dinner (I think that started when I was in my early 20s). My mom does all the desserts, and I take care of everything else (with the help of my younger sister, and these days, my fabulous husband). I try to make sure that the menu is different every year, and I'm lucky because I come from a family of adventurous eaters. Here's the bill of fare this year: Breakfast: Sweet breads (not sweetbreads) made by my mother. Will probably include cranberry bread and some type of scone. Lunch: Smoked Trout and Horseradish Creme Fraiche (from Gastronomic Meditations) Smoky Deviled Eggs Onion and Bacon Tart Olives Honey and Chipotle Roasted Nuts Goat Cheese with Homemade Chutney (inspired by Recipe Gullet) Dinner: Brined, Free-Range Turkey--Roasted with Herbs Apple Cider Gravy (cheating and using homemade chicken stock instead of Turkey Stock) Roasted Chestnut, Sausage and Sage Stuffing--it's not Thanksgiving unless my sister and I have chestnut-peeling related injuries (burns and scratches). Yukon Gold Potato and Celery Root Gratin--made with Gruyere Shredded Brussels Sprouts cooked in Duck fat and served with Toasted Walnuts and Bayley-Hazen Blue Cheese Homemade Citrus and Spice Cranberry Jelly Sweet Potato and Apple Dish provided by my Mother-in-Law Dessert (after many board games): Blueberry Sour Cream Tart Pumpkin Cheesecake Pecan Pie I love holidays!!!
  15. Although I haven't eaten at Per Se, I recently ate at the French Laundry, and the service was anything but snotty. Hopefully this information is still pertinent to the discussion... Although I do not make much money, I choose to spend a good portion of my income on food--whether this is at the grocery store or at restaurants. I always tip at least 20% (more on smaller bills) in average restaurants because I know that most servers are making less than minimum wage and don't have health insurance. Anything above the 20% I consider to be discretionary and based on service. This is my own rule and standard I've set for myself based on my knowledge of the industry and my system of ethics. When I'm saving up to go out to dinner (which I have to do because of my income), I factor in this extra amount. I've seen people, both older and younger than me, tip very poorly. Many (the older folks particularly) don't seem to understand how tough it is for waitstaff at most restaurants to make a decent living. Others (generally the younger folks) suggest that they don't make much money either, so they just can't manage to tip well. I recently ate at the French Laundry. It was my first experience with a waitstaff that was paid via a service charge...here's what I experienced: 1) We didn't order wine initially (my husband doesn't drink) and the level of service did not change at all. In other restaurants, I've had servers treat us "snottily" because we didn't order a bottle. 2) When we told the server it was a special occasion (our wedding night), he comped me 2 glasses of champagne (and sparkling cider for my husband) and the kitchen sent out two extra courses (on top of the 9 regular courses). Later I ordered a glass of gewurztraminer and a glass of port with dessert. However, the sommelier decided to send me a more expensive glass of sherry that he felt paired well with the "extra" dessert course...and they didn't charge me for the wine either. They also gave us 8 FL chocolate bars and two copies of the menu to take home. 3) There were 5 staff members who provided service to our table throughout the evening. Each one took the time to talk to us, answer questions, etc. 4) The people at the next table (a 4-top) clearly had more money than we do (judging by their attire, jewelry, and their conversation). However, they didn't seem to be "food lovers" as we are. For example, one of the women stated that the "oysters and pearls" tasted kind of like Kraft mac and cheese (which she really likes, by the way). These folks also had wine. My perception (and I could be wrong here) was that the waitstaff enjoyed talking to us because we loved the food, and because they weren't worried about their tips, they could take the time to do so rather than focusing on that 4-top. I feel like we got better service because of the arrangement. 4.5) I'd have been thrilled even if he'd just comped that champagne and given us the menus--it was above and beyond to send out 2 extra courses and the glasses of wine and sherry, and the chocolate bars. The only explanations I can imagine for this is a desire to provide good service and a once-in-a-lifetime experience (which one's wedding night ought to be), or to reward us as customers for being so obviously thrilled to be there--it is possible that they were hoping we'd leave extra money, but given that the folks at the next table over were a better bet for a bigger tip, I don't think this was the case. 5) When the bill (which for me represented more than a week's salary) came, I opted to tip on top of the 20% service charge because the service/experience was so wonderful. I don't know what exactly happened to that "tip," although I would be interested to know, but I was happy to leave it. 6) The service charge was a separate line item on the bill. It was 19% of the food and beverage costs, and was calculated before tax. Whether or not this system would work for the average restaurant I can't say, but I can attest that it is working at the FL (or at least it seemed to that night).
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