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Everything posted by phlawless

  1. since I'm new to this site, I will concede to the majority. But I would be more in favor of high quality goods over any of the places mentioned.
  2. Action! I love action! Especially instead of bitching! It's funny, after writing the above statement I paused for a good forty-five seconds. Like you, Varmint, I'm stumped about how to make a difference, especially since I'm a mere kitchen rat without the funds to inspire true change, or loads of free time to devote to the very animal I loathe. But, and this is a big but, I have some pretty strong convictions that motivate me in many less deserving ventures, and I'd like to stop talking about the problems and move in a more productive direction.
  3. I don't know how to do all the fancy cut/paste stuff, so forgive my unorganized responses to the comments from previous posts. I don't agree with you varmint, about Mag Grill's success in Raleigh. For one, the atmosphere sucks. And Raleigh diners equate a certain blingbling with their meal. Ben and Karen aren't terribly interested in an all-over dining experience; they want to have the food transcend all other aspects that most people consider 'important'. Now neither one of them have actually said this to me, but I see where they spend their money on improvements to the restaurant, and very little goes into the dining room. Second, and maybe this is changing, but Raleigh diners have a bit more of a conservative palate, not that the Grill is cutting edge cuisine by any means, but there are a few more risks taken there than Second Empire, or even Vin. I've only been to Fin's once, and it was quite a few years ago, so I can't lump them in. Ben has even done an informal survey of his regulars structured by city: Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, and has seen the way these people order. Most often it's two courses instead of three, and stick to soup/salad, beef entree, and chocolate dessert. They know there is a market here, but they refuse to compromise anything they do. Anyway, I don't know how much longer I can talk about Ben and Karen. They are great to work for, but I'd like to discuss other things on my day off! I do agree that Slowfood is not the answer, but to see the effect they have in areas like Iowa gives me hope it could do some good here. I got a response to my email about upcoming events, and there is a dinner at Panzanella this week-end. Maybe I'm ungrateful, but that doesn't excite me very much. I went to a few of their meetings and was disappointed by their focus on olive oils and cheeses, not that those foods don't deserve attention/celebration, but this area isn't known too well for it's olive groves and cheesemakers, with exception to Celebrity, of course. I'm sure they've had many more events than I know of, and probably are more locally focused, I just haven't heard of any, and that's the problem.
  4. Another technique that works quite well is applying the syrup a few minutes after they come from the oven, then wrapping in plastic while still warm. I do this for wedding cake layers, and it works like a charm. You don't want to wrap them when they are hot, allow them to cool for about thirty minutes, but trust me, they'll be dense and moist and incredibly easy to slice.
  5. Ben Barker is not a fan of Raleigh, and probably never will be. I used to scoff at his insolence about Raleigh, but now I understand his reasons. He knows he could make more money here or in Cary but would have to compromise his menu to do so. The atmosphere he creates in his kitchen is one I haven't seen paralleled anywhere else...maybe that's a good thing. But I will defend the incredible commitment he has made to a level of food preperation and community involvement that is regretably absent in other fine dining establishments. No corners are cut, the kitchen is unbelievably staffed, every item in the walk-in and freezer cataloged...sorry, I'm straying from my point. But unfortunately, there aren't that many others (chefs, restaurateurs) who have the vision, much less the energy, to involve themselves in that type of movement. Andrea Reusing of Lantern is an exception. I think what we can do as consumers and professionals is not to allow some certain places to get away with the sub-standard fare they're feeding us. I don't hesitate in giving an honest, yet diplomatic, opinion when asked, and I'm usually thanked for it. Some local professionals see me as uppity and a snob, and maybe I am a bit too opinionated, but it seems that most everyone is too delicate with their criticism in fear of hurting someone's feelings, or more accurately, diminishing their Saturday covers. Our food writing and reviews in this area is the perfect example. Greg Cox is incredibly kind to most of the establishments he reviews, and I feel it's only hurting them in the end. Very few places strive to offer what's lacking, or improve on what's already been done. And that's why I spend my time and money in my own kitchen rather than risking an evening spent on a mediocre meal. I could get started on the grocers in the area, but I'll refrain. My coffee is enabling my ranting, and I need to save the buzz for a wedding cake I've got to start on today. So I'll try to be a little less critical and more proactive in my attitude: is anyone interested in the Slowfood movement? There is a local convivium that doesn't seem to do much, and I'd like to see it have more influence in the area. It's based primarily out of Durham/Chapel Hill (of course) and I know the guy who heads it...I think it needs a sizeable shot of interest to make it the effective catalyst that it strives to be. I emailed him a couple of days ago about upcoming events, but haven't gotten a response.
  6. I don't think the problem is a lack of three star restaurants, what i despise is that an enjoyable meal must come with a ridiculous check. Our mid-price selections have all been eaten up by the mega-mall franchises. People in this area dine out either for special occasions or ultra-convenience; few modest-priced locals exist, and this is what gauls me. Ben has had great forsight by establishing relationships with local producers, and I only wish we could have more options like that. We just learned however, that Carolina Organic Growers, a state wide distributor out of Asheville, will no longer be making runs to this area. Lack of organization maybe, but more likely is lack of interest. what's up with the new co-op planned for 2005?
  7. I find myself choosing an atmosphere that i enjoy and sacrificing culinary gratification. Bloomsbury is such a place; I love the bar, though hate the dining room, and appreciate a Raleigh wine list not limited to California. I haven't eated enough of the food to have much an opinion, maybe that's the problem, it's boring as hell. Who's soupkitchen?
  8. Honestly, as you might have already guessed from my previous posts, I'm not real hot on dining in the triangle at all. But i do love Lantern, and i'm excited about the new effort by former Lilly's owner Benji whatshisface next to Elaine's. I think it's expected to open in a couple of weeks. In Raleigh I usually end up doing the cheap and easy: Dalat, especially their subs, Farmer's Market shrimp burgers, Cooper's...I try to avoid Glenwood South because parking has become such a pain. Though Vin's wine list has emptied my wallet on more than a few occasions. As I'm a pastry chef, I have my nights free, so my schedule is more flexible than others. I haven't been to Cosmopolitan yet, is it pretty much the same as Bloomsbury?
  9. Like soupkitchen, i've been cooking in the area since my early twenties, and have worked at a number of the places varmint listed. I do, however, think this area has prevented me from moving on to larger markets. Maybe that has more to do with my lifestyle and professional preferences, i.e. i don't care to spend 15 hours a day making money for someone else, like i know i would if i were to experience the kitchens of Le Bernadin, the Laundry, or Trio. This area affords you a more relaxed pace, and as a result, i think most professionals, just like the diners of the area, get a bit slack. Expectations are lowered, creativity stifled, and there is just a general atmosphere of laziness. It's very disheartening when you see flocks of people hoarded around the likes of PF Chang's and even on a more 'local' level, Sullivan's, paying a good amount of money to eat basically corporate food. That's what people want here. It sucks. Don't listen to me, smogle, I've become too cynical too early, and I turn green whenever I travel as well. For chrissakes, even Asheville has a better food scene than here.
  10. I'd love to get together and meet some fellow NC's who dig more than Rigazzi's. Though as an employee of Mag Grill, i'd love to do it someplace else.
  11. There's a relatively new place for BBQ in the Triangle: the Q shack...owned and operated by Scott Howell of Nana's. Wondered if anyone from here has an opinion, though it's not true eastern NC style, they have some sort of 'battle' between Western NC and Texas style. He's got one open in Durham now with a shop in Raleigh soon to open. Though an eastern fan myself, i appreciate the option they provide. But the sides suck...why doesn't anyone do mac n' cheese right? Where are the collards, and decent black eyed peas? The experiences i've had (Wilber's, Lexington, Cooper's: except the pork rinds) all make good Q but the sides are severly lacking.
  12. I didn't read all three pages of replies to this message, so i apologize if i repeat anything anyone else has already mentioned. I have been working as a pastry chef along side Karen Barker for the past five years at Magnolia Grill. I'm not a true southerener, but have fallen in love with the style and sensibility of southern food and especially sweets. The desserts you listed all sounded great, and i thought that i might be of some help with how a pastry chef goes through the creative process when designing a dessert menu. First and foremost, always go seasonal. You don't want to use peaches or berries in November, most diners tend to naturally eat seasonally anyway. Berry desserts are craved in the summer cause it's hot and you want something light. In the cooler months you have more freedom loading them up with heavy custards and layered cakes. Try to make each dessert unique in flavor and texture from eachother. For example you don't want to have a sorghum custard and serve a maple ice cream on another dessert. This is hard to do, but you'll have a more well balanced menu in the end. Make texture and temperature as integral a part of each plate as flavor. Also keep in mind how important acid is needed to balance very rich components, i.e., we have done an apple cider vinegar ice cream with an applesauce cake. Don't put anything unnecessary on your plate, like a ubiquitous mint sprig or cocoa sprinkle. Make your desserts beautiful, and you won't need to embelish.
  13. I'm wondering about the difference between using non-stick and regular angel food pans. Does the coating affect color, or the rise? What about bake time?
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