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Everything posted by Simon_S

  1. RRO, I must say I'm really enjoying this blog. The range of ingredients you guys enjoy over there is really something else, and I can see why you've taken so many fish and seafood photos. Fantastic stuff! I should report that a friend of mine has been in Sydney for the last couple of weeks. Most of her photos on facebook show her sunbathing and swimming, and a bikini seems to be the attire of choice. Sydney's winter weather is apparently better than Irish summer. Can I ask a simple question: how do you pronounce Woolloomooloo?
  2. There are a lot of places on that list that I know nothing about, but I'll certainly be able to come up with some Dublin recommendations. Much like Arnie, I'll be back!
  3. Well...yes I can. I think anyone who has eaten in a variety of restaurants, who has eyes to see, and who doesn't live exclusively in their own little bubble can easily tell such things. It's also pretty obvious to me when somebody hasn't turned up and the remaining staff are over-stretched. It's pretty obvious to me when there are problems in the kitchen. It's pretty obvious when a new menu is being served that the staff aren't used to yet. This isn't rocket science, but it's also not a situation where I'd under-tip. As mentioned above, attitude is key, and if somebody is obviously making a genuine effort they that's always a pretty good start. I'm not so precious that I'll under-tip if the bread doesn't arrive straightaway or if I experience some of the other minor slights mentioned above. But there are major things that can go wrong, very occasionally, and if they occur I certainly wouldn't tip in Ireland, and I'd be VERY reluctant to tip anywhere in the world. For example, if a server is actively rude/insulting without any reason (as I have experienced), I really don't see whey they should be paid, by me, for that "service". All that said, whenever I'm in the US I just tip 20% pretty much no matter what, because life is too short to deal with the associated hassle of under-tipping (some friends who tried to under-tip for poor service had the exits blocked when they tried to leave...) I've just learned to suck it up. What I don't understand is why this model continues to persist if the tip is in no way optional? In the US of all places? After all, paying somebody the same irrespective of how lazy they are is bordering on communism!!!
  4. Actually I really don't, and I'd almost argue that it could skew a critic's view in an inappropriate direction. That's not to say I think bloggers/would-be critics are entitled to be ignorant, far from it, but if I'm reading a blog, I'm interested in the experience as encountered. I've never waited tables, but I feel I'm pretty well-qualified to talk about restaurants I've been to lots of times. I know good service when I see it, and I know bad service when I see it. As a punter, the reasons behind the bad service are virtually irrelevant to me. That said, there is a whole other side to this discussion which is related to the blogging world and the average blogger's inflated sense of self-importance. I'm not surprised that leaves a bad taste in business owners' mouths! It is, however, a separate issue. I believe, in my heart, that a diner who encounters appalling service shouldn't be obliged to pay his/her server 20% of the bill for the privilege of experiencing it. If it is the case that you have to pay no matter what, then I simply don't understand the logic of leaving a tip-based model in place.
  5. And the whole world of criticism crumbles before our very eyes. I see this comment made frequently about wait staff, and I just don't get it. Why is this so different to: - Don't judge your surgeon's mistakes until you've been a surgeon. - Don't judge a musical act until you've been a professional musician. - Don't judge a thief until you've been a thief. Bad service is bad service whether the diner has waited tables or not. Why the diner should have to pay for that service no matter how bad it is continues to elude me. But hey, I come from a different culture.
  6. I honestly think the best restaurant *meal* I've ever had was at Alinea not long after it opened. For my money it surpassed even the mighty elBulli. I don't know that you could say we experienced elBulli on an off night (because let's face it, at this stratospheric level such terms don't really apply) but recent reports seem to have a greater variety of dishes, and more that I'd like to eat. That's not to say elBulli was disappointing, but I just don't remember too many wow moments. Alinea on the other hand served up a plethora of wow moments, and had such an astonishing variety of ingredients and styles that I was genuinely blown away. My wife, it should be said, feels the exact opposite. The best restaurant *experience* I've ever had is an entirely different question altogether. Alinea can't take the top spot here because we were so jetlagged we were falling into our desserts by the end. Not the restaurant's fault, but still greatly affected the experience. Likewise relatively simple meals have been elevated in my mind due to expectation and mood, and I can think of lots of times when I've eaten a perfect bowl of mussels sitting outside on the seashore, or a perfect rib-sticking game pie beside a roaring fire on a rainy winters' night, etc. In any case, there are a few standouts restaurant experiences that spring to mind: - Louis XV the day I got engaged to my now wife: Can't remember much about it except being on top of the world, and basking in the warm glow of circumstance, surroundings and service. The only dish I can recall was the amuse of vegetables, and to be honest I don't even know if the meal was any good. It simply didn't matter that day. - French Laundry while on honeymoon: We arrived for lunch at 11:15 or something outrageous, and left at 5:30 or something even more outrageous. For all the reasons described above it was a nigh-on perfect experience. I may have eaten better food on a very few occasions, but I've never felt more comfortable or welcome in a restaurant. It was so good, I almost don't want to go back in case it can't scale such heights again. - Pintxo crawling in San Sebastian: This might be outside the scope of the thread, but I'm not sure that dining out has ever made me happier than it did crawling around pintxo bars in San Sebastian and eating little morsels at every stop. - Lunch in Jean-Georges with my parents: My parents had never been to the US, so decided that their 40th wedding anniversary was as good a time as any, and they kindly took us along. Historically they wouldn't be adventurous eaters, and they'd certainly never eaten at anything like the level of Jean-Georges, so I was worried that they wouldn't really enjoy it. As it turned out, they had a ball, and it was great to live vicariously through them as they sampled their first taste of many new ingredients. - The first time I ate in a Michelin-starred restaurant: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin was the setting for a number of firsts. First time eating foie gras, sweetbreads, Epoisses, and all washed down by wines the like of which I'd never experienced. That was a road to Damascus moment...!
  7. Yes I agree about the cheese, it doesn't bother me quite so much there. But anything with a sauce... I certainly get the cost consideration, but the question of washing is a good one and had never really crossed my mind. Interesting.
  8. One of my very favourite restaurants (and genuinely one of the finest restaurants in the land) serves a lot of its dishes on flat black slate, or on black plates that have a similar surface. The food is at the creative end of the spectrum and it's always beautifully plated, but for me the slate takes away from the experience. It's partly a question of presentation -- this is colourful food, and I think colours often look better on white -- but more importantly, I hate the feeling of cutlery on slate. Trying to scrape that last scrap of delicious sauce from the surface is an uncomfortable and noisy experience. I know it's not exactly rare to see food served this way, but what's the attraction to chefs? Do other diners like it, am I just an outlier?
  9. Can I ask FG, given the difficulty of sticking to the 7-day veggie rule, why are you continuing with the attempt? Are you learning anything from this? Are you enjoying it? (Not intending to be inflammatory in any way, you understand. I certainly couldn't do it!)
  10. I certainly don't have any guilt about eating animals, but that's not to say I have no concern for their welfare. I never have a problem eating game, but when it comes to farmed animals I'd prefer to pay extra for "happy chickens", etc. Of course, there's a quality consideration there too so it's not purely altruistic. I also accept to an extent that not everyone has the means to make such choices. I don't feel any guilt for eating meat per se, and I'm honestly surprised when it's portrayed as an ethical issue. I've never thought of it in such terms.
  11. Interesting thread. I live in Ireland where grass-fed beef is simply called "beef", and I'd never even heard of cattle finished on grain until I started reading eG. In my (admittedly limited) experience, US beef tastes strange to me, somewhat bland, and I personally don't like the mouthfeel. I don't find it juicy, I just find it fatty. The most expensive steaks I ever bought were USDA prime, and they were also some of the most disappointing to my palate. Does this tell us anything? Probably not. The thing is, I don't believe my tastes have anything to do with superiority of grass-fed over grain-fed per se, it's simply a question of what I grew up with and what I'm used to. I don't find it at all difficult to imagine that US-based consumers find grass-fed beef strange. Most of my Irish friends find US beef strange. Why the push for a "winner"?
  12. Actually, about the streaky bacon, the major use in our house is to cover the turkey before roasting at Christmas. The streaky rashers keep the turkey moist, and have the added advantage of turning into a very fine bacon helmet when removed.
  13. Excellent report, really enjoying it. Generally you wouldn't eat the cartilage if you're eating ray, but who am I to say you shouldn't?! Ray is actually one of the classic fish to have battered with chips in a Dublin fish n' chip shop (not so common in the UK perhaps?) although the bones mean it requires a bit of surgery to eat properly. Still my number one choice. Can't wait for the next instalment.
  14. If I'm faced with something "new" at a restaurant, I definitely sniff. If I'm feeding from the trough at home, not so much. I have to say, I think there's a difference between the sniff-for-spoilage and sniff-for-ecstasy body language.
  15. Interesting thread. I can't stand dining alone, and will avoid it whenever I can. On the rare occasions I do it, I try to ensure I have something to read, and I certainly won't go anywhere too nice. The idea of languishing over a multi-course meal alone in a fine dining setting fills me with dread.
  16. Oh yes, how could I have forgotten that one? Of course, if this problem were fixed forever, I'd have no further use for the business cards in my wallet. I've left business cards folded in 3 on the floor of many a fine establishment.
  17. Once basic standards of seating and tableware are met, my biggest problem is temperature, especially in a meal that runs towards 3 hours. If it's too hot, sitting in the one place for too long can leave me seriously uncomfortable. I don't often have a problem with lighting, unless it's seriously bright, and I wouldn't eat in a restaurant with loud music, so that doesn't apply.
  18. I don't recall ever seeing anyone say grace at a restaurant, but even in an increasingly secular Ireland, most will still have grace before a wedding meal, for example. To be honest, I think large gatherings are the very WORST time to say grace, but it's the only arena in which I witness it.
  19. I dunno. If you're an athlete then fine, BMI is useless. If you're not, and if your BMI is 35, you could probably stand to drop some weight. The problem with blanket criticism of BMI is that genuinely overweight people take this as some kind of get-out-of-jail free card. Getting your BMI below 25 may not mean you're healthy, but burying your head in the sand with a high BMI probably isn't a good idea either. In any case, congrats to FG on his weight loss. Given that "Fat" Guy now weighs less than I do, and is 2 inches taller, I'm taking this as a sign! {Edited for spelling}
  20. I'm confused. If you wash plates in the sink and ultimately eat off them, surely that's worse than washing vegetables in the same sink and then cooking those vegetables?
  21. Heh, I don't think I'd have the cojones to implement Scoop's suggestion, but I like it. Given a non-intuitive menu (and really, even without an obvious split it's rare things are THAT difficult to follow) I still don't like the 'have you been here before' question as a concept. It suggests to me, almost certainly erroneously, that the answer to the question is going to contribute to the level of my enjoyment. Of course, that may be the case, but I don't want it spelled out that I'm not a regular if I'm not. I think 'let me know if you have any questions about the menu' is a far less patronising way of doing things.
  22. I still don't get it. Are menus so difficult to navigate that punters need guidance? Really? Okay, if I'd never been to a restaurant at all before, then I'd understand it. As a consequence, the question "Have you eaten here before?" immediately translates itself in my mind as "Have you ever eaten in a restaurant before?"
  23. I've been thinking similar thoughts in recent days and weeks. I think the problem is partly fragmentation (too many different food forums and too few real enthusiasts to spread among them), partly the rise of individual blogs (many people who used to discuss food on forums now just write their findings on their own sites) and partly simple boredom on the part of regular contributors. One of the continued problems I see on any forums (on any subject) is that they reach a stage where the regulars have discussed everything they're interested in, are reluctant to cover old ground again, and as a consequence any newbies dipping their toes into the water are likely to be received somewhat poorly. I'm not accusing any poster or any forum specifically, but I often feel there's a certain kind of regular who'll only be happy when a board becomes a search resource rather than a forum for discussion. Of course, I know how irritating it is to see the same question posed time and time again, but if the alternative is discussing our favourite colour of egg-cup or similar, maybe old ground isn't such a bad idea. Anyway, that's my little rant for the day!
  24. Up until a week or two ago I'd have suggested The Brown Bear gastropub near Naas, but I heard recently that the chef has left for somewhere else. It still might be worth it, but I can't say for sure. If you're hungry earlier on your journey and you're inclined to leave the motorway you could consider Cafe Hans in Cashel. I've eaten there once and was somewhat underwhelmed, but some people speak highly of it. Personally, I'd keep driving. Not much help, am I?
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