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K_A_S

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  1. I'm with those who would prefer that the server not pour the wine and will (politely) stop a server who reaches for my wine bottle. I understand why they do it, since some patrons like to have wine poured for them and since many restaurants try to push the wine sales, but I'd prefer to exercise some control over my wine intake, and I'm not a fan of "hovering" waitstaff. The way I see it, the more things they have to do at my table, the more time they have to spend at my table, and I go out to dinner to spend time with my dinner companions and not so much with the servers, however interesting, polite, etc. they may be. As for the rest of the complaints about service, I tend to be like one of the posters above, who mentioned that sometimes taking a break from eating out serves as a good antidote to consistent disappointment. I, too, find that if I eat out too much, I start to get a little... not exactly cranky (ahem... cough...), but let's say a bit more demanding in my expectations and a little less forgiving when they are not met. Just my two cents, for what they're worth...
  2. K_A_S

    What Size Pour?

    Just as a point of comparison, whenever you look at various dietary publications that count calories or health guidelines that discuss a "serving" of wine, they always count 4 oz. as one serving of wine. Not that restaurants EVER follow the actual recommended portions for either food or drink...
  3. Put me in the camp with the folks who see two examples of bad behavoir: (1) I almost don't even know where to start with the 3-year old issues. I'm not sure that it's appropriate to take a 3-year old to a fine dining establishment to begin with, as it is the truly rare 3-year old who can manage that level of social behavoir, especially at the end of a tiring day. I don't think that it's fair to anyone -- the child, the restaurant staff, or potential customers in the restaurant. I'd recommend a babysitter, a different type of restaurant, or if one really wants to eat at a certain fine dining establishment, maybe lunch or a very early dinner would make more sense. If we set aside this issue, that still leaves us with parents who wore their child out, knowing that they had dinner reservations later in the day, and then waited until the time of the reservation to notice that their child was tired and called the restaurant. As someone mentioned above, would the parents have done the same if they had purchased tickets for a show, or might they have thought ahead and planned a bit better; at the very least, it must have been obvious at some point earlier than the time of the reservation that the child wouldn't be up for it. So, yeah, to my mind it was poor behavoir to call and cancel at the last second. (2) That said, the person at the restaurant had no reason to react as he did. Sure, the customer stiffed them, but chewing out customers is simply no way to run a business. It's not only rude, it's also unprofessional. OK, there's my two cents...
  4. K_A_S

    Menu Atrocities

    One of my personal faves is a place that offered "vegetarian chile con carne." I've also seen plenty of the already mentioned shrimp scampi and things served "with au jus."
  5. As I read the "supertaster" discussion, I noted what seems like some confusion here between taste (the five tastes that taste buds allow one to distinguish: salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami) and flavor (our experience of food beyond those basic categories, which relies on smell, among other things). While I've not done research in the field, it certainly strikes me as plausible that there may well be people who are supertasters and not particularly good at distinguishing flavors, and vice versa, given that these categories, while related, are indeed different. And I would expect that this site would be the place to find plenty of folks who might not be supertasters (i.e., having to do with number of taste buds) but do have well developed palates (i.e., can distinguish between flavors). Or maybe I'm just wacky...
  6. Add a pro vote for the burger: I ate there the other day, and the burger was actually quite good. On the downside, the "special" fries were stone cold, and when they brought me some warm ones (after explaining to me that the first batch were so cold because they had to be tossed in the special sauce), they were terrible. TOTAL: 1 thumb up for a tasty burger 1 thumb down for nasty fries (and maybe a pinky down for really lame service)
  7. I finally had dinner at Mamma 'Zu recently, and it was quite good. We started off with some very tasty antipasti (roasted red peppers with fresh mozzarella and an arugula salad with shaved parmesan) before splitting some pasta (a la carbonara) and an amazing merguez with beans and polenta main course. For dessert, we split a heavily boozed tiramisu. It was all well prepared and tasty; my only complaint, which isn't really a complaint, is that I was completely unprepared for the portions, which were enormous. We ended up bringing almost all of the main home, which wasn't a terribly bad thing, of course. Although everyone had warned me about their legendary bad service, I had quite the opposite experience. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that our service was great, with the exception of not being able to pay with plastic (for which I was forewarned and thus prepared).
  8. I spent a couple of days in Chicago at the beginning of the month, and based on all that I had heard about Quartino and a look at their website, I decided to give it a try. I have to say, I had the worst dining experience that I've had in quite some time. I only went one time (and am not keen on going back, based on that experience, so I acknowledge that it's possible that I was just terribly unlucky, although some of the problems were so basic that I have my doubts. First, the good things: the appetizers were quite good -- we opted for some taleggio, bresoala, and artichokes -- and the various condiments and sides that came with them were every bit as good. There were so many small plates that sounded good that it was difficult to decide, and I suspect that many of those we didn't order would also have been quite tasty. Unfortunately, that's were the good ends and the bad begins. To start, the place was so noisy that my dining companion and I were yelling at each other and could barely even make ourselves understood. While I have no problem with some noise and activity -- I like a lively and bustling scene as much as the next guy -- by the end of our dinner, my ears were almost ringing, and I was getting hoarse from the yelling. Given the name of the place and list of wines by the quartino, I was all the more disappointed with the wine; we tried four different wines, and they ranged from uninteresting to downright bad. If I were forced to return, I'd skip their various quartinos and head right for the bottle list, which looked fairly promising. After all the antipasti, and since our ears were beginning to ring, my friend and I decided to split a pasta dish, and being a fan of duck and a good ragu, we went for the bigoli with duck ragu, which was a disaster. The pasta was unevenly cooked, with some strands being just fine and others so undercooked as to be crunchy. By this point, I was so underwhelmed that I decided just to leave it on the plate rather than complain, and I paid the check and headed out as quickly as I could. I've read the other reviews, and it seems that my experience was unique. I'd like to think that I just stumbled in on a bad night and that normally the food, wine, and service is much better. But I must admit that I'm skeptical... On the upside, during the same visit, I had great meals at Frontera / Topo and Bin 36 and I had some great sausage and duck fat fries at Hot Doug's. I had hoped to stop by one of my old faves, Cafe Iberico, but ran out of time.
  9. If I could piggy-back on this thread with a related question: Can anyone recommend somewhere that both has good drink selections and is cigar-friendly? Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
  10. The recipe sounds interesting and the dish would probably be tasty, but I would still prefer my trou normand the old-fashioned way. I've never had any form of a trou normand in a restaurant, but I have certainly had a little Calvados (or eau de vie or somesuch) in friends' houses. Maybe I'm just a cranky traditionalists here, but I like my Calvados in a glass, with nothing else. Now I'm getting thirsty...
  11. I'm in agreement with the consensus here: Otto was wrong, Marissa was wrong for not speaking up earlier, and if anyone else heard what Otto said or about what Otto did and didn't speak up, he or she was wrong, too. Frankly, I was glad to see Otto finally accept responsibility for what he had done and take himself out of the competition, but it's worth mentioning that it took him quite a while to do that; he clearly was trying to weasel out of it the first time the foursome was in front of the judges (Otto: "Let's not turn this into a he said, she said situation" or some such), so I'm not willing to give him full credit for fessing up at the very end. As for Marissa, she dodged a bullet this time, since her food was terrible. Her mistake was all the more striking since it was the sort of mistake that "even a pastry student" (or something along those lines) would know better than to make. Last night's episode was one of those during which I was sorry that only one competitor gets eliminated each week; I would like to have seen both Otto and Marissa go.
  12. Wow, I can honestly say that I wasn't really expecting to stumble upon references to The Chronicle of Higher Education on this site. Thanks for the link!
  13. This is one of the many reasons why I am a Bourdain fan; from his writings and his U.S./Mexico border show (in which he gives credit to the people who are doing so much of the cooking in high-end restaurants they could never afford to patronize) right up through his Beirut special (where he manages to share his own traumatic experience without failing to grasp that others have it even worse), the man manages to understand the big picture, and in a serious way. My hat's off to him.
  14. While we've only seen one show, and while we know that the editors like to stir up the drama, I'd have to say that Marcel does strike me as a pompous a$$. That said, I would agree with the comment that somebody made (maybe Chef C.) that Marcel is young. I suspect that many a 23-year old male (having been one myself) could be thusly categorized. It'll be interesting to see if he can start cranking out food that matches his self-image. As for the rest, my first impression of Ilan was that he's certainly solid, and while the little "pre-cap" vignettes suggest that he's not above talking a little smack and playing the game, I would expect him to be around for quite a while. It seems that Carlos is off to a pretty bad start, and from the comments made by so many of the other competitiors and judges, there is every reason to believe that he'll be gone soon. Otto, clearly selected to be the Dave of this season, doesn't seem to have the skills that Dave did, so his meltdowns are less likely to be tolerated over the long haul. The pastry chef -- I can't remember her name -- should be somewhat interesting, in that (despite her overly-developed sense of her attractiveness) she does bring something a little different to the game. I just wonder if sooner of later Chef C. will feel obligated to tell her that "This is Top-Chef, not Top Pastry Chef." (Anyone want to bet on how many episodes before we hear that one?) As for the mom-with-the-comfort-food Chef, it will be interesting to see if she can do the haute cuisine stuff with enough style and technique to hang around. All in all, this group of would-be Top Chefs strikes me as a fairly strong bunch, and I'll be looking forward to seeing how it all turns out. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the judging goes. Padma, despite the nod to her professional food cred (cookbooks or something, if memory serves), is obviously there as eye candy, but I think that she'll be less annoying than her predecesor (whose cred, as far as I can tell, is that she's married to somebody famous). Here's to the new season!
  15. Chef José, First off, let me say muchas gracias por la conversación. In addition to the many good things that have already been said about you and your restaurants, your willingness to spend so much of your time here answering our questions is yet another tribute to your comittment to sharing your love for and through your cocina. Thank you. In the U.S., when people think of Spanish cuisine, the first thing that comes to mind is tapas. Also, even many who are a little more familiar with the richness and variety of Spanish cuisine know very little about the various regional traditions; instead, we often tend to think of Spanish cuisine as one monolithic entity and fail to grasp the ways in which la cocina gallega might be different from what one might find in Andalucía. When I speculate about the direction that Spanish cuisine in the U.S. will take in the future, I can see a couple of directions. One possibility is that tapas will remain king, but I wonder if perhaps regional cooking will come to the forefront, or if there is some other take on Spanish cuisine -- perhaps the nueva cocina -- will become the new face of Spanish cuisine in the U.S. Do you have any predictions about the direction the Spanish cuisine will take in the U.S.? If you were able to influence the U.S. eating public in any direction you chose, in which direction would you lead us? Why? Thank you again for your participation in this forum. (Edited for grammar errors.)
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