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Pan

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Pan

  1. Pan

    Paris Dining

    Thank, Jaybee and Bux. Your posts are informative and reassuring. My father is blessed with good teeth, thank God. By the way, I'm thinking of emailing a (detailed) request for a special menu for my father to the 3-stars I reserved for lunch, le Grand Vefour and Arpege. Do you think that emailing is a complete waste of time, or is it worth trying? I ask because I'm not set up to fax, though I can receive faxes (the machine is busted for outgoing and has been for a long time). I figure, too, that emailing is free and easy to do, though I certainly won't shrink from faxing if it's necessary.
  2. "I think we should say quite clearly that, assuming one exercises reasonable judgment, the more money one has the better one can eat." I quite agree, though it sometimes helps to "be someone" or to seem like you are someone. I often think that the NY Times reviewers get better food because they're recognized. Yes, I _do_ think that it's possible for restaurants to be slipshod when they think their customers are "nobodies." "Having said that, I do find it useful when people on eGullet post tips and recommendations on cheap restaurants. As with upscale restaurants, Zagat borders on the useless; personally, I don't read all the restaurant critics slavishly; and a thoughtful comment on eGullet gives me something to go on other than luck. I hope discussion of fine dining and its role in our social fabric, which I love of course, does not dissuade people from telling us which restaurants in Chinatown are worth trying, where the good Puerto Rican lunch counters are, and which are the better hotdogs." I'm glad you feel that way, Wilfred. I'd hate to feel like my posts about places that charge less than $50+ for dinner are off-topic here.
  3. You're probably right, Steve, but the difference is that you wouldn't be out an astronomical sum of money. I went to both Lutece and Chanterelle shortly after they were given 4 stars by the New York Times, and both places provided me and my family with supercilious service and mediocre food. Though the desserts at Lutece were spectacular, they were the only thing that was, and there was sand in the bottom of my soupe de pistou! Chanterelle served something with duck that tasted like mediocre, watered-down Mexican food, and my brother commented that he could get something much better at most any taqueria in the Mission District in San Francisco. He complained about it and was met with a surly and somewhat indignant reaction, if I remember correctly. (Both of these experiences were a bunch of years ago.) I have to say that having had experiences like that in high-end places, I am suspicious of the idea that there is an extremely high correlation between spending lots of money and having a good experience. Surely, a large percentage of expensive restaurants are less than consistently wonderful, too. And another point: Some of the most memorable meals of my life have been at higher-end places like the old Jo Jo, a place in San Mateo called Viognier that I hear has since ceased to be special, and an amazing restaurant between Tarquinia and Tarquinia Scalo that specializes in seafood (sorry, I don't remember the name, but ask the cab driver), but some have been at places like a restaurant up a rickety staircase from the central square in Srinagar, Kashmir, where we were served amazing wedding food, and the "2nd-best" Chinese restaurant in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, which served incredible chili jumbo shrimp (udang galah - lobster-sized shrimp which I hear no longer exist in Malaysian waters). Those last two places were cheap and informal but had wonderful, fresh ingredients and brilliant cooks. We knew the owner of the restaurant in Kuala Terengganu well (her husband was the chef), and we asked her once what kind of food she cooked (e.g. Hakka, Hokkien). She said modestly that it was just "home cooking." You know what? For "home cooking" like that, and without the attitude, a round-trip flight to KT could be a worthwhile investment, if the place is still there and still as good as it was.
  4. Pan

    L'Astrance

    I've found out just how hard it is to make reservations to Astrance. Yesterday afternoon, they told me they were full through June 15, and today I found out that I can't try to reserve for June 26 until a month before. So obviously, what happened yesterday is that by the evening, everything for a month to come had already been gobbled up. Therefore, it's clear that the only way to guarantee a spot on June 26 is to call as early as possible on May 26, whereupon my question: When do they open on Sundays?
  5. Pan

    Mirchi

    I coudn't agree more! I think there must be a lot of people in New York who think that tamarind is a very sweet fruit, when it's actually quite sour! When I lived in Malaysia, one of the things that was outside the kitchen area was a tamarind tree, and tamarind juice was regularly used to add nice sourness to eggplant curries and other dishes. In fact, the juice of the and kaffir and especially the wonderful, aromatic thin limes (limau nipis - I don't know an English name) was sweeter than tamarind juice, if I remember correctly. I do not like sweet tamarind chutney, and I think that making tamarind chutney cloyingly sweet defeats the whole purpose of using a genuinely sour and interesting-tasting fruit (if tamarind is indeed a fruit because, though juicy, it comes in pods and is related to beans!)
  6. Pan

    Paris Dining

    Do you think an Auvergne-style restaurant will have anything reasonably low-fat for my father, or is that a total lost cause? [smiling despite myself]
  7. Pan

    Craft

    Measured thus narrowly, I can accept your usage of "merit" and withdraw my objections, on that basis. Then, the only issues would be the degree to which there really is free competition in today's economy, and such a discussion, though already touched on, would take us much further afield than I'd like. I'm happy to (at least provisionally) conclude this on an amicable note.
  8. Pan

    Paris Dining

    I got reservations for dinner at Ambassade d'Auvergne, which is right near the Centre Pompidou. It's a Michelin 1-star listed as a good value. Here's the description: Address 22 r. Grenier St-Lazare - Paris 03 Description . 25.92 and menu 35 to 40. True ambassadors of a province rich in flavours and traditions : Auvergne-style furniture and surroundings offering produce, dishes and wines of the region. Anyone been? Anyone have any comments about cuisine from the Auvergne?
  9. Pan

    Tamarind

    mikemkie: I'm glad you posted again, but I don't see any substance to your post, just more ad-hominem attacks. Since you feel you know much more than Suvir about Indian cuisine, it would be nice if you shared your knowledge with us. Also, what Indian restaurants in the 5 boroughs do you like, other than Tamarind? Do you have an opinion about Banjara, for example? What about restaurants in Jackson Heights? Any favorite South Indian places? I do hope you'll answer.
  10. OK, I understand where you're coming from. I figure I'm not quite part of the "cheap eats crowd," then because I _do_ value high-quality ingredients. I actually was not blown away by Le Bernardin when I went there a few years ago (though my reaction had little if anything to do with the quality of their ingredients), but I thought the scallops I had at the River Cafe were probably the best scallops I had ever had, and perfectly prepared. Even though it was a Restaurant Week meal (and therefore significantly less expensive than their usual menu), the fact that the River Cafe is a high-class establishment helped assure the high quality of their ingredients. I guess where we differ is that, in judging the quality of a meal (the food quality, not the ambience, service, etc.), I think deliciousness is the most important thing. Quality ingredients are part of the deliciousness, but only if they're prepared deliciously. So I guess I would summarize by saying that it's undoubtedly easier to make great food if money is no object, but high-end places can be mediocre and low-end places can be delicious. It does seem like we agree on that last point.
  11. Pan

    Craft

    Steve, I really didn't mean to seem to personally attack anyone. I just think the whole question of "merit" is irrelevant. The capitalist system is not a moral one, in the sense that it is based on greed, but it is a very effective system, as long as it is tempered by some controls a representative government imposes or/and should impose on excesses, for two basic reasons: (1) In order to prevent monopolization and other anti-competitive behavior that defeats the whole purpose of capitalism as free and efficient competition. (2) In order to prevent society from allowing the "losers" to simply starve to death, as they did during the laissez-faire days of Dickensian England. As far as whether wealthy people "deserve" their money: Some do, some don't. The reason why certain people have a lot of possessions and others don't is not because the wealthy or the poor are generally of higher moral character; each individual is unique, and there are people of good and bad character at all income levels. If you or anyone else felt that I meant to imply either that anyone involved in this discussion acquired wealth dishonestly or immorally or that anyone involved in this discussion should feel "guilty" about his/her wealth, I certainly regret that. If my call to give a thought to the lettuce-pickers causes anyone to react with guilt, that's their lookout. It's just that I resent the claim that wealth inherently equals merit, and its implicit corrolary relating to poverty (poor people or otherwise economically unsuccesful people lack merit). I guess what it amounts to is not that I see the acquisition of wealth as immoral, but as amoral, but while I think that the suggestion that wealth=merit is absurd, but my opinion does not imply the opposite: That wealth automatically equals theft or dishonestly or immorality. So that's why I come down to suggesting that the participants in this discussion cease trying to use moral or mock-moral principles to explain why they are wealthier than equally or more hardworking people who lack their assets or opportunities through no fault of their own, and simply enjoy the wealth that I feel sure all of you earned (or, for that matter, inherited) honestly and legally. As for solutions using my money, don't go there. It should be clear enough to you without my spelling it out in round figures that there is no way for me to pay down the national debt, shall we say. Though I will say that, even though I need my tax refunds to pay bills, I would be willing to pay more in taxes to help fund a national or state health insurance plan for all. People's lives and health shouldn't depend on their income, and if that concept makes people feel guilty, I think that's fine as long as it motivates them to support a decent system for those of us who can't pay $800+ a quarter for health insurance (I'm getting ready to read the response that those people don't "merit" life-saving health care). Guilt is a useless emotion if it does nothing other than make people feel bad, and I don't want any of you to lead unhappy lives. So enjoy yourselves and be happy! But don't pretend that your income level is a reflection of your superior moral character, though superior moral character you may have, as individuals.
  12. Pan

    Jackson Heights

    Suvir: So far, nobody seems to be responding to your question. I've been to the Jackson Diner once and had takeout from there once. I found the food delicious. I especially like the chicken appetizer cooked in batter with shredded coconut and mango chutney. Their curries are spicy and very tasty, too. I have yet to find better Indian food in the 5 boroughs, which is why I wish someone would post about other options. For example, does anyone have any comments on the Bangladeshi place Sietsema reviewed in his "100 best/cheapest" list, Grameen?
  13. I sometimes feel I'm out of my socio-economic stratum here. OK, yes, some of you have told me you save money on other things so that you can spend more on eating out. But never mind that for now. The fact is that many people eat cheaply out of necessity. A $10 or $15 or $20 meal at Congee Village may not be as good as a $200 meal at Le Bernardin in various ways (though, comparing apples and apples, it may or may not be comparable to a meal at Shun Lee Palace [which serves great and probably superior food], but will probably be significantly better than a meal at Shun Lee West), but a lot of people would consider it a better value - especially if $200 is 1/3 of their monthly rent and their yearly income is, say, $20,000 or less. And there are certain other things about cheap meals: You don't have to be very concerned with your appearance, and things are generally more informal. A lot of people like that environment most of the time. And whereas I see arguments here that chowhound.com is biased toward cheaper restaurants (which I think is a questionable assertion, by the way), I think it would be hard to argue that the New York board here discusses high-end places much more than low-end places. Just as there is room for both $400 dresses and some comfortable, cheap t-shirts, there is room for both Alain Ducasse and Bo Ky, and someone should be letting people know which cheap restaurants are good values. Having said that, I agree that both Sietsema's terms and choices are open to a lot of question, but I also think it's strange that the New York Times just about refuses to consider restaurants in their "under-$25" category for any stars. I think this is money-driven, not quality-driven. To paraphrase Steve, what does price have to do with quality? My answer is that, while he's right that certain ingredients simply cost more, we all know that's not the only thing that's important about a restaurant. Henry's Evergreen costs a lot more than Congee Village, but Congee Village and numerous other inexpensive Chinatown places beat Henry's Evergreen by a country mile in terms of food quality.
  14. A bunch of thoughts: I like that Congee Village, one of my favorite Chinese restaurants in Manhattan, is #6. Does anyone think that I should try Borobudur, at #8? It's a few blocks from me, but my friends on 3rd St. just think of it as their ordinary local takeout place, nothing special. I have to check out Natural Restaurant (#10) again and look for the handwritten scroll. The place is really cheap. I'm surprised that he rates a Thai restaurant above Sripraphai, but I haven't been to Arunee (#9). It's not far from a friend's house, so it could merit trying. Anyone been? Is Temduang (#11) really that good? If so, I should walk over to 10th Av. when I'm in that hood (hell's Kitchen). Any comments on Grameen (#37, the Bangladeshi place in Jackson Heights)? Is The Mill (#70) good again (for those of you who think it was ever good to begin with)? My folks and I went some time ago, had a rather poor meal, and were informed when we asked that there was a new chef. And is it better than all the Korean restaurants on 32 St.?! Or are they too expensive for Sietsema's list? Does Bali Nusa Indah belong on this list (it's at #89)? I stopped eating there after having a mediocre meal with surly service two or three years ago. Have they improved notably?
  15. Pan

    Craft

    My perception is that some of you feel like going to great lengths to justify whatever wealth you have (whether you consider yourselves members of the mythical "middle class" that encompasses something like 90% of Americans in opinion polls, or call yourselves rich, or whatever). Merit, schmerit. Enjoy your food! [chuckle]
  16. Pan

    Bayard's

    I had never heard of Hanover Square. Assuming that the one you went to is in Manhattan, I did a check in Mapquest, and the result is that it is the continuation of Old Slip, 2 blocks south of Wall St. Your meal really sounds wonderful! Are the prices comparable to Le Bernardin? By the way, what's wrong with eating jellyfish?
  17. Pan

    Craft

    where those guys in the Bryds at some point? i swear that anyone who ever mattered played in the Byrds. LOL! You are hysterical, Tommy!
  18. Pan

    Craft

    Yeah. The lettuce-pickers would be millionaires. I used to date a stockbroker. I know what hours they keep. I also know that they wouldn't starve if they worked a little less. That's not the case for hundreds of millions of poor people around the world. But we won't resolve this, so enjoy your money, whatever it is that you earn and however you choose to and are able to (legally, of course! ) obtain it. Just give a thought to the people who pick the food you eat.
  19. Pan

    Guru

    Sorry you had a mediocre experience at Guru, Suvir. I think it will be very hard for you to find an Indian restaurant in New York that will meet with your full satisfaction. What do you think of places in Jackson Heights? Any favorites? I've been to the Jackson Diner a couple of times and enjoyed it a great deal, but I'd be interested in hearing about other options, especially as friends of mine recently moved to 84 St., which is only 10 blocks from the heart of the Indian neighborhood. By the way, I've also found that service is slow at Guru, and I don't know why that is. I can be somewhat pushy when I need service, and it's easier to be pushy when one is dining by oneself, as I have the two times I've been to Guru so far.
  20. Pan

    Craft

    Excellent post, Wilfred. I see no need to discuss why I see Warhol's work as contentless and others see it as - well, whatever they see it as. I have my views on what I consider advertising and publicity masquerading as great fine art, and others have their views.The rest of your points are, as John Whiting said, a "model of clarity." As for Steve's views on economics, I think I'll decline to argue about them, except to say that the hardest-working people in this country are certainly not the rich but, rather, the migratory lettuce-pickers and so forth who are responsible for the food you eat. And they will never see the insides of the expensive restaurants you "deserve" to eat in. That said, even people with appallingly self-righteous and annoying views on socio-economics can be very nice people.
  21. Pan

    Guru

    Doesn't sound like you were blown away by it. I went again the other day and got a "hot" utthapam. It was only moderately hot, but I thought it was very tasty. The only real criticism I'd give it is that part of the bottom of it was slightly burnt, but not so much as to really bother me (that happens with pancakes). Then again, when I eat Indian food in New York, I don't generally think of meals I had in India for comparison because I never expect to have an Indian meal in New York of the quality of my breakfast at Madras Woodlands in Delhi, for example. Then too, that was a long time ago (1977).
  22. Pan

    Craft

    Steve: I think that it's quite different to talk about food and to talk about a painting. If you don't like the taste of the food, the concept the chef had is of only intellectual interest, if that. If you do like the food, you might or might not be interested in the concept the chef had when s/he created the dish. However, lxt made a powerful point about "Guernica": Not knowing the meanings of the symbols used in the painting would decrease the scope of one's frame of reference in interpreting and understanding the artwork. I could make an analogy with programmatic music. Probably in most cases, both music and visual arts either work or don't, more or less regardless of what symbolic content that's not readily understandable is there (at least, presuming a viewer with a reasonably trained ear or eye). That said, I think that knowing that the program to Berlioz's "Symphonie fantastique" gives a lot more vividness to an already vivid work; in the case of "Guernica," one can make a strong argument that understanding the symbolism is crucial to understanding the political content of the work and its political meaning, even if you eventually choose not to consider "Guernica" one of Picasso's greatest artworks according to certain aesthetic criteria (and I'm not sure whether I do or don't, though it is at the very least a very important and impressive work - I'd have to look at it again in the flesh to rethink how I respond to it aesthetically). The intentional fallacy, as I understand it, is the assumption that the creator of an artwork is both truthful and has fully explained the meaning of his/her work. But a greater fallacy is to assume that the artist him-/herself could not under any circumstances be a reliable source of information about his/her work; that is a ridiculous and, I'd say, purely contrarian viewpoint, and probably one promoted by non-artists such as critics, art historians, musicologists, and literary critics who are motivated by big egos to claim that they must know more than the creators. (Please note that the "who" clause in the previous sentence is a restrictive clause: I.e., I would never assert that all such non-artists have big egos, etc.) But this is all a tangent. Art appreciation and food appreciation are simply different animals because one does not consume art into one's body. Cooking is an art, to be sure, but it is an art of a different type than painting or music, and I'd refer you back to my comment about the Hungarian language's differentiation between delectation and aesthetic appreciation. In response to your other point: Yes, these discussions are open. You're right, in that sense, that this is not an elitist site. However, I think it is an elite site, in the senses I mentioned before (the general degree of knowledge and discrimination among eGullet's current membership). By the way, it was a lot of fun meeting you at Peter Luger's. Best, Michael
  23. Pan

    Craft

    This reminds me of The Emperor's New Clothes a childhood story with which western society attempts to pass on some of its collective wisdom to the next generation. Our society, although generally hypocritical, is keen on believing innocence is a true judge. Your analysis of "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a valid one, but I have a somewhat different take on this story, which I agree (?) is very important. I'd say that its moral is that one should trust one's own senses and mind, even and perhaps especially when they contradict received "wisdom." I strongly agree with that position. Getting training and filtering it through one's own independent mind are not so contradictory as might be implied by your reference. I would argue that, to the extent I've had informal training in art from an artist, it's enabled me to form judgments independent of the "received wisdom" from the critics, the advertizers and publicists, the gallery owners and curators, the investors, and the promoters.
  24. Pan

    Craft

    I'll bite: Yes. As long as eGullet continues to attract a select group of people, most of whom are more knowledgeable than the average diner (and some people here are _VERY_ knowledgeable about all sorts of things) or/and have more discriminating taste than the average diner, eGullet will remain an elitist activity - or at least an elite activity. Right now, eGullet could benefit from more posters. But think about Chowhound. There are so many posters there now - and many who I believe, frankly, don't know much and have no institutional memory of previous discussions - that many threads eventually reached a low level there (though a number of the old regulars are still there). And when Chowhound ceased to be an elite activity (except inasmuch as - well, let me not discuss the management's policy), it soon ceased to be fun for me. I like to read things here, even if they're often about restaurants I'll probably never go to because of expense, and I like to share information here because I believe that some eGulleteers will appreciate it. Now, if I were posting on a board where people thought Ollie's was as good as Grand Sichuan and McDonalds was as good as Teresa's, wouldn't that be a bit like casting pearls - even if fresh-water pearls - before swine? And if I had no idea whether any of the posts I was reading were the least bit accurate or trustworthy, would it be worth my while to read them? So yes, a resounding yes to your question. None of which means I lack egalitarian impulses, politically, but let's not go there...
  25. Well, my folks and I had a wonderful and very memorable Indian feast in Tokyo (in 1975!). The restaurant turned out to be associated with the Indian embassy, but we went to it purely by accident - we just happened to see it when we were hungry. I really don't know whether making one's own shrimp paste would make a great difference. I'm glad to provide some information about Malaysian cuisine. I just hope that I find a Malaysian restaurant in New York that I'm consistently delighted with. I have to say that, for a while, it was impossible to get _ANY_ Malaysian food in New York, and the immigration of Chinese Malaysians to New York has been a sort of godsend, in that it has provided me with a lot of comfort food that reminds me of a place I called home for two important years of my childhood.
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