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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Bux

  1. Chinese food, preferably in Chinatown, although that Chinatown could be in Queens as well as Manhattan. I'm not a fan of take out food. Stir fries suffer ignoble damage. (Put good pizza in cardboard box and it suffers in terms of taste and texture as well.) Appetizing, as a noun. Basically smoked fish and non-meat NYC Jewish specialties. Barney Greengrass on the upper west side and Russ and Daughters on the lower east side. In both cases, it's always been take out for me, Barney Greengrass serves tables. The great Jewish traditions of bread baking have all gone downhill. There's little to be found in the way of great bagels or rye breads. Kossar's still makes bialys worth seeking out. Fortunately other bakeries have sprung up and overall, bread in NY can be great. Top of the line dining, French or otherwise. Daniel, le Bernardin, etc. Younger talent. Blue Hill, WD-50, etc.
  2. As has already been pointed out, Ruhlman has his own blog now, but since following his blog on megnut.com I've been making it a point to check it out regularly. Ruhlman and Bourdain are frequent commentors there and it's an interesting site on its own.
  3. Bux

    Sincerest Form

    Pete Wells explores the mysterious world of kitchen spies, copycat chefs and copyright lawyers who might, one day soon, change the way we eat. -- Pete Wells in Food&Wine. Cantu is going to great lengths to protect his intellecutal property. EGullet gets significant mention in Pete Wells' article. First about a charge of plagiarism thread and then about Steven Shaw's hopes to convene a summit meeting with some of the smartest people in the food world to hammer out a workable model for copyrighting food. Yesterday (Oct. 10) posting on her megnut.com, Meg Hourihan said Shaw's suggestions sounded "down-right frightening." This morning, Tony Bourdain had another take on the matter. He said "Shaw's comments reflect a shocking degree of self-importance and detachment from the real world of cooking."
  4. I read an advance copy a few months ago. I imaging it's basically the same as published minus most of the typos. It's as much a book about Business as it is about the Restaurant business and as such may require some skimming by those only interested in the restaurant aspect. Note that it's published as a business book and some less than astute booksellers may neglect to put some copies in the food aisle. Business is not my forte or interest and I found it dragged a bit later on in the book, but only for a while. I've always been a fan of Danny's, yet I've never completely agreed with his philosophy as I understood it. I'll endure less than perfectly hospitable service for great food and not return to a restaurant where the service surpasses the quality of the food. Still, all other things being close to equal, hospitality counts, and it counts more with the general public, than it does with me. Still, truly inhospitable service has driven me from returning to certain restaurants and excellent service has persuaded me to give the food another chance. To an extent, restaurants are like other retail stores and services. There were some key parts I noted, but unfortunately, I passed those notes on to someone else who was going to read the book after she lent it to me. The one intersting thing about Danny and the USHG, is that they're moving on to "haut-er" cuisine with The Modern and the new chef at Eleven Madison Park. I expect more of that with Mike Anthony at Gramercy Tavern, although I expect that with its high popularity ratings with current diners, he's going to have to make changes slowly. The new menu isn't scheduled for implementation until January.
  5. It's easy to get around in a city like NY. Most of us rather enjoy an excuse to eat in someone else's neighborhood just for the change in scenery. We'll do it on no excuse at all, or make one up. I live in SoHo and have met upper east siders on the upper west side for dinner and the upper west side is hardly a destination neighborhood for dining. I've been known to reserve a table in advance in Paris at neighborhood restaurants about as remote from my hotel as possible. I'm not alone. At one such restaurant, I ran across some fellow Americans who managed to find my restaurant in spite of the fact they spoke very little French and didn't understand much of what they said themselves, let alone what the waiter said. To make it worse, they didn't understand the basic food and send back dishes they ordered in ignorance. Just because a restaurant makes the a of best restaurants in a neighborhood, or best neighborhood restaurants, in a magazine and thereby attracts outsiders, doesn't make it a destination restaurant to my way of thinking.
  6. I now the difference between a destination restaurant and a tourist trap, but I don't know that I could articulate the difference in a way that would make sense to someone who wasn't a dedicated gastronome. There are restaurants in every capital city in the world that are world famous and a destination for the rich and famous as well as the tourist, but many of them don't make my wish list.
  7. Do most people dress up to go there? If a restaurant is enough of a special occasion place for people to dress up for the purpose of going there, I don't think it's a neighborhood restaurant. ← Spain, which not all that long ago I thought of as a stuffy country with a stuffy population, has become very casual. You can still find the old set in suits with their wives dripping in gold jewelry, but the new restaurants, even those with two and three stars, expecially outside Madrid, can attract a very casual crowd. ElBulli is seven kilometers to the east of a beach resort. It's not uncommon to see men in shirtsleeves, particulalry in summer.
  8. Bux

    Shanghai Cafe

    Had a quick lunch there. We thought the xiao long bao had thick wrappers--a little too thick. On the other hand, none of them broke between steamer and mouth. In fact, they could be treated rather roughly without fear of breaking. I don't find that a plus. The Shanghai noodle soup was quite a bit different from that served at Joe's Ginger which used to be right across the street, but now gone. It was more like my favorite Shanghai Noodles. Joe's' was mostly noodles, chopped cabbage, pork and broth. Shanghai Cafe had pork, a few shrimp, vegetables, mushrooms and very al dente noodles. Both versions were good, but if pressed, I'd pick Shanghai Cafe. Mrs. B thought the broth was richer at Joe's. It was hardly enough food to make us come to much of a conclusion about the restaurant, but I suspect it will be at least good enough not to make me miss Joe's Ginger--that, and the fact that Joe's Ginger had gone to hell on the last visit. At least I can now surmise that the chef was reassigned to the new Joe's down (or up?) the street from Joe's Shanghai and a few blocks further south of Canal. I live north of Canal and am always looking for places north of Canal. Service was cold and perfunctory at best. The check arrived without my asking. Tea comes in a water glass. Six guys can't come in and order just a noodle dish--there's a three dollar minimum per person! Three dollars a person! Pork xiao long bao are four bucks. With crab, they'll set you back another two dollars, actually I think it's $5.95 and thus won't qualify as a meal for two. The soup wasn't much more. It's hard to fault the service at those prices, although the staff at Joe's Ginger had become very friendly. Come to think of it, they were rather reserved the last time we ate there. It was as if they knew they were going to serve unacceptable food. It seemed more like 21st century Hong Kong than a throwback to any Chinese restaurant style in New York to me, although I judge that by other restaurant opening in NY. I was in Hong Kong once and that was back in the 90's. At any rate, it seems typical of a new Chinatown style that's an abrupt change from the one I first became familiar with in the early 60's. I miss the wood paneled Chinese restaurants that were already going out of style then. I don't miss the red and gold dragon interiors that are still around. I miss the second floor and basement dives I knew well. I found Shanghai Cafe far more hospitable and comfortable, at least for lunch, than a description of pink, blue, green and yellow neon behind plastic diffuser panels might suggest. Table are a bit small, but I imaging rents in the area are going up along with the new luxury condos. Something has to give. Either it's the price or the table size. I guess the food could also be an alternative. Small tables could be a good sign. I've always assumed it's proper, or rather expected, for one to eat the fat when having pork belly. At Grand Sichuan, I recall being asked if I want fatty pork (belly) or lean pork in a dish at least once. I've had cubes of very fatty pork belly in western restaurants as well, including with cassoulet at Payard on the upper east side and at Blue Hill more than once. Blue Hill is known for more delicate food and I'm not sure that pork belly has ever appeared on the menu. Think unrendered lard and it might stick in your throat. Think savory ice cream, smooth and rich. On the other hand, I don't play a doctor, even on the internet, and I'm not telling you to eat a lot of it though it's not the killer fat some make it out to be.
  9. I have been disappointed by my one meal in the Bar room at the modern and thoroughly satisfied by two meals in The Modern dining room. One was a dinner some time ago and the other was a lunch very recently. The meal at the bar room might not have even brought me back, had I not had Kreuther's food at Atelier when he was chef there. It may be that the menu in the bar room is less interesting or less accomplished.
  10. Define "fine meal." It shouldn't need dessert any more than it needs any other course, but there's a reason most fine restaurants have fine pastry chefs and I think most diners think of a fine meal as a series of fine courses, nicely served. As for Blue Hill, I tend to agree with Dave H. Blue Hill is my favorite restaurant in NYC and a contender for best restauurant in the city, but then again I was remarkable impressed with my one dinner at the French Laundry. By the way, Blue Hill, does not, I believe, have a resident pastry chef.
  11. What's the opposite of classical--romantic? expressionistic? or do you need Greek columns? The design of The Modern stikes me as very classic, although perhaps there's some drama in the proportions of it's very high ceiling in relation to the floor space. In spite of the exciting proportions, I find the space quite sedate, or at least the restaurant is sedate, perhaps the bar is less so, but that's probably true at every restaurant I can think of. I've been in the restaurant at both lunch and dinner. I probably prefer lunch because of the view to the garden and the natural llight, although with less natural light, the room is probably more sedate at dinner.
  12. Bux

    Shanghai Cafe

    Is this place that old?
  13. What kind of a New Yorker are you? New Yorkers complain about everything and anything. What's to understand? However, a fine meal without a fine dessert is simply defective in my opinion.
  14. This seems like a totally subjective decision you need to make for yourself, but may I ask how great a part the food plays in your overall "fine dining" experience? I know there's only so much classical elegance I can eat. The Modern far surpasses my subjective need for an elegant setting. It really is an elegant setting and I like its style, but the design of a restaurant almost always plays second fiddle by a long shot to the food for me. Then again, as at many fine restaurants, the best food may be on the most expensive menu or the a la carte menu.
  15. Indeed, Michelin rather precisely defines its stars in terms of "destination." A three star restaurant is "worth a special journey." A two star restaurant is "worth a detour." A one star restaurant is very good in its category and "worth a stop on your journey." Of course this tends to apply to country restaurants and motorists. The aspect of special journey and detour manifest themselves a bit differently in an urban city and a subway or taxi ride for pizza may be no longer than one to Daniel, le Bernardin or Per Se. I've often wondered if one might classify urban restaurants on the basis of how far in advance you'd be willing to plan and reserve ahead. A good film may be finer art than a bad opera, but the movie theater is less of a destination than the opera house, it that's of any use in this discussion. It also strikes me that a destination restaurant might be one for which the average diner is willing to change his clothes and dress for the occasion, although perhaps no one dresses up specially for anything these days. We will bog down in semantics as Sneakeater suggests and clearly one man's idea of destination is not anothers. Too may members can't seem to get over their subjective view and look at a subject related to food objectively. They know too well what they like. There are great hamburgers and great pizzas, but neither qualilfy for me as a destination. Nevertheless, as a traveler, I have gone dozens of miles out of my way and altered an itinerary for a local specialty. A proto hamburger might be a destination for a European visitor to NY just as Katz's (not a destination restaurant, imo) is a destination for visitors to NYC. That said, does devoting a day to getting to and eating in a place that serves "authentic" paella make the target a destination restaurant?
  16. Small difference between trans fats and foie gras: to my knowledge, foie gras is not carcinogenic to humans. (Not that I would really care to live in a world without french fries, either!) ← We may be getting off topic here, but the subject of trans fats and french fries can use some clarification. Most of my information comes from Good Fat by Fran McCullough, published by Scribner. Denmark virtually banned all trans fats in processed food in 2003. Trans fat labeling became manadatory in the US this year. Generally speaking, trans fats are an unnatural fat created by hydrogenizing unsaturated fat. Cancer cells and bacteria also produce trans fats. The body has trouble dealing with this fat, but to make things more difficult, it should be noted that a natural trans fat, conjuugated linoleic acid, which is found in milk and meat, is good for you. Trans fats resemble saturated fats, but are not the same thing. Saturated fats don't become rancid as quickly as unsaturated fats. There's probably no such thng as a fat that's 100% saturated or unsaturated. Bacon has plenty of the same good monosaturated fat as olive oil is famous for having. Of course not in the same amount or proportion. You don't need trans fats to get good fries. You'll get better tasting french fries using saturated beef tallow than hydrogenated trans fats. You'll also get healthier fried food. For some reason, naturally saturated fats are less likely to be absorbed in the fried foods than hydrogenated fats. Thank lobbyists for pressuring McDonald's to make the switch from beef tallow. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a misnomer if there ever was one, is a prime example of this kind of lobbyist. Duck fat, goose fat and foie gras is actually a pretty healthy fat resembling olive oil perhaps as much as it resembles lard, not that lard and bacon are entirely bad fats, especially in moderation. The problem for me in all this legislation is not that the goverment doesn't have the right to legislate in these areas, it's just that they're too damned ignorant to make the decisions. In fact, there's still disagreement among scientists, and I mean real scientists, not the pseudo scientists/real lobbyists, for anyone to enact the sort of health bans being proposed. Education and labeling is good and proper. Beyond that, the consumer is responsible for making decisions. Foie gras is not particularly unhealthy, at least not any more than most salad dressings. The issue here is not a health issue. I don't see it as an ethical issue either, but that's what Panter, a vegetarian according to an AP writer, wants us to believe it is. I've been very outspoken about my opinions here, on my site and elsewhere. I won't repeat most of what I've said before. There are all sorts of shameful abuses of animals raised for food. Gavage is not one of them. It's been wel documented that the process causes no stress or harm if done properly. Foie gras, like chicken, can be raised ethically or inhumanely. To the best of my knowledge, the farms currently raising ducks for their fattened livers, treat their poultry far better than the industrial chicken raisers producing cheap protein for supermarket shelves.
  17. "Creative" is such a loaded word these days. I think WD-50 best fulfills most people's expectations, at least in the direction of molecular gastronomy, but creative exists on a number of less technically obvious, but nonetheless, sophisticated levels. Blue Hill can be exceptionally creative, but in the same soft understated vein as most of the food it serves. One can have a deep appreciation of food and cooking and still not get, appreciate, or enjoy the food at Blue Hill, but it really helps to understand food and cooking and how it's evolved recently to fully appreciate Blue Hill. Their slow cooked poached egg is a revelation and testament to dedication to technique and technical excellence. As for creative flavor, I've had that egg a number of times at Blue Hill and at Stone Barns. It's never been the same dish twice. I found it interesting the other day, that in a conversation with Blue Hill's manager, Franco, he expressed both some surprise and admiration for Juan on finding out that Juan had read McGee's On Food and Cooking cover to cover. I guess most cooks use it more as a reference book. It's no secret that my wife and I have pretty much been regulars since Blue Hill opened and I am one of Blue Hill's most ardent champions. I really don't eat out as much as peole think I do, nor do I eat all that often at the most expensive places in town, however last year we managed to eat at Per Se, have the largest tasting menu at Daniel and an incredible multicourse, off the menu, tasting menu at Blue Hill within about a month and a half. Even we were surprised to find that the Blue Hill dinner impressed us the most, and that's not to take away from Per Se or Daniel. At Per Se, everyone takes a long tasting menu that is spelled out for the evening. At Daniel, one chooses the number of courses, with a set price for each number or courses, and then one discusses allergies and preference with the waiter, often with an eye to the dishes on the regular menu. Far more preferrable at Daniel would be to discuss the number of couses and their composition before hand, although for the most part, I leave the choice up to them. I don't know how well this will work at Blue Hill. As I said, I'm one of their longest running diners and often send Dan long critiques on our meals. At this point they expect me to let them feed me when I arrive. It's a matter of ordering two or three dishes and dessert, or perhaps five savory courses of smaller portions and two desserts (at an increased price). I'd recommend calling in advance, speaking to Juan Cuevas, the executive chef, and seeing what could be arranged. Note only that it's a very small kitchen and that if they're working off the menu, you might expect some delays along the way. It's worth it. Just go with people whose conversation you enjoy. By the way, no one has more perfect fresh products than Blue Hill, except for Stone Barns located right on the farm.
  18. I can't hardly accurately remember that far back in time when our daughter was a new born. Today she is a culinary professional having staged in one of NY's best restaurants, gone on to head up a pastry kitchen at another, wrote a few articles on food and finally moved to publishing where she edits cookbooks. She does have one of the best palates of anyone I know in, or outside, the professional culinary world. I mean to imply that she has both good taste and the ability to discern the various flavor components in a dish or tastes in a glass of wine. We followed our pediatrician's advice which was cereal after mother's milk was not enough to hold her between feedings and until she was old enough to eat from our table. It started, of course, with pureed versions of the vegetables and then meat we were having and went on to small bites of the same, starting with the softer foods she could gum even before she had much in the way of teeth. She was breast fed longer than most kids of her generation, although perhaps not long enough to be considered ideal. My wife also had an infection early on that required antibiotics. That meant moving from breast milk while she was taking antibiotics. It was evidently too early for cow's milk as our daughter turned bright red/orange with white spots at the first taste of it. Our solution was a short period of soy formula. Less than ideal, but at least not an allergen. Fortunately my wife pumped away and could return to breast feeding. We avoided as much in the way of unnatural additives in our food at the time anyway and became increasing conscious of avoiding artificial stuff. Today she is also the mother of a fine son. She continued to breast feed well after her maternity leave was up, although it was a chore. She's also more conscious of additives and far more inclined to pay for organic food where her son is concerned. She's also far more into whole grains than I was, or am. In general, she followed our pattern of introducing the foods she and her chef husband ate, although she more consciously considered nutrition as well as taste. She also had a good chart suggesting the age at which certain foods should be introduced into an infant's diet to reduce the possibility of allergic reaction. This, in turn influenced the family meals. By no means should it be implied that our grandson was fed less than gastronomic baby food. At an early age his beans were pureed with extra virgin olive oil and bacon or pancetta. His other grandparents are French, and at two and a half months shy of his third birthday, he just returned from his second trip to France where his major complaint was the absence of squid on menus. Not until he ate at an upscale restaurant in Paris did he find octopus, which is an acceptable substitute for him. It was in a rather spicy sauce, but met with his approval. Breton Andouille, is anothr of his favorite foods.
  19. Daniel Boone was a "pioneer" long after Asian migrated to and occupied North America. He was a "pioneer" in the same territory as well. It's all relative. He was a pioneer in the way that Boulud and Bouley were early adapters of the technique in the US. Perhaps "pioneer" was not the best word, but there's clearly historical precendent for that usage. Were I writing a legal brief and not a web post, I might well have spent more time on the subject and chosen my words more carefully. I've never had cheese at Blue Hill. The bread is probably the low point of any meal I've had there. I've never found it shameful and am willing to admit, without shame, that I've eaten my share of it.
  20. Surely you jest. Can you explain what aspect of the cuisine at Blue Hill is "molecular", "cutting edge" or "adventurous"? ← I'm not Eatmywords, but perhaps he's like me. My sympathies if he is. Perhaps I could expand my previous post to support Eatmywords', although I don't generally think of Dan's cooking as "Molecular." On the other hand, he is a relative pioneer in sous vide cooking and works with some pretty sublime flavor combinations, it's just that they're far more sublime than one expects when one eats in a restaurant known for molecular cuisine. I recall the time I complimented Dan on a particular fish dish we had. He asked if I wanted to know the secret ingredient, in a way that implied I would be incredulous if I were told. Then he said "mango sorbet," holding up an empty container as proof. Trust me, there couldn't have been a pint's worth in a week's worth of fish. I didn't taste it. On the whole, all those terms are meaningless in comparison with the experience of the food itself. A meal at Blue Hill can be edge-of-your-seat exciting if you put yourself in the hands of the kitchen. That satisfies whatever I want out of cutting edge adventure. I don't know that I would have chosen to say what Eatmywords said, but I think I understand what he meant. In the end, I don't think Dan would be the spokesman for sustainable agriculture with as wide a reputation as he's received, were it not for the way in which he handles his provisions. Apparently he's making himself known in Spain for his "farm-restaurant" and will be a participant at Madrid Fusion next year.
  21. I'm tempted to ask who else is like me. Indeed, there's very little that's nearly as simple as it appears coming from the Blue Hill kitchen. In that one way, the food reminds me very much of Daniel Boulud's food. Both seem to sublimate the raw ingredients, which is odd because from both kitchens the dishes often seem pure and simple. They are pure, but highly complex. Perhaps I can explain what I mean by having to buy a slew of ingredients to make a tomato soup from a Boulud recipe. I recall buying a head of fennel because the recipe for eight people called for one stalk of fennel. Would we have missed the fennel stalk if I omitted it? I don't know, for in the end, the soup tasted like pure tomato soup. Likewise, those shots of soup they serve as amuses at Blue Hill always seem to be simple, until you strain to pick up the underlying currents. My impression is that even if you don't strain to get those undertones, they affect most diners in a subliminal way. I mean to try The Tasting Room, but the prices aren't inducive. Blue Hill opened with much lower prices and earned a loyal following before they dared raise prices slowly to what they are now. I did try, and recommend as a neighborhood restaurant, InTent on Mott between Spring and Prince, though it's perhaps destined to develop a trendy clientele. I don't think it's a destination restaurant, at least not a place one shouldn't miss on a trip to NYC, but it's well above what one should demand from a local place with its current prices. The online menu shows apps at $8-11 (vegetarian options at the low end and cured salmon or octopus at $11) and mains at $16-25. ($19-23) if you ignore the eggplant tagine and black angus sirloin steak, not that I have reason to believe either is not a good buy. I'm just looking to narrow the range of most offerings. Desserts are $9.50 and worth it. This is François Payard's restaurant and the dessert chef is a protegé. I'll expect prices to rise as the clientele gets steady.
  22. Let's not under emphasize the amount of fossil fuels consumed in just growing corn, not to mention that used in processing corn to make any and all of its byproducts including methanol. Less germane to this article perhaps is the result of pumping all this fertilizer onto the fields of Iowa and neighboring states--polluted lakes, rivers and drinking water. Recently, I read an article about a new corn based fabric in a glossy magazine with an article touting the move away from petroluem based artificial fabrics this might offer. Having just read the section on Industrial Corn in Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, I shook my head wondering why they didn't consider this commodity corn fabric a petroleum based fabric. The whole distinction between the agribusiness, which many farmers see as part of the military-industrial complex, and small farmers is becoming muddled with one distinction. Agribusiness is screwing the small farmer. Nevertheless, the small farmer can less and less afford a bio-diverse farm and is more and more forced into growing nothing but corn, or soybeans, on his acreage, and for many reasons has little choice but to grow commodity corn--that is the cheapest, least nutitious corn--simply because it's a commodity purchased by quantity, not quality. To stay afloat, he's forced to be a servant of the few large agribusinesses and polute the land and waters that were once our great prairies and farmlands. The more corn he raises, the lower the market cost. Fortunately for the farmer and big business, the government will make up the difference to the farmer in supports, thus allowing the agribusiness industry to reap the benefits of low market prices at the expense of the taxpayer. Let just add that Pollan's book is a real eye opener, and you don't have to agree with any of his conclusions to be rewarded by reading it. In fact, his point is that we have a dilemma that's not easily solved or which leads to easy conclusions.
  23. Bux

    Gramercy Tavern

    USHG Press Release I'd look for and expect some changes. It would be a waste not to let Mike have a pretty free hand. I also see some major changes of style in the kind of restaurants Danny Meyer is interested in operating, or perhaps more accurately, I see an interest in a broader range of restaurant and an interest in "haute cuisine" as evidenced by The Modern and the change at Eleven Madison Park--at least according to what I've heard. I haven't been to Eleven Madison Park recently, but it's high on my list. Mike already gave up the farm at Blue Hill when he left. Many of us were expecting him to open his own restaurant. I can understand this was an offer he couldn't refuse, and I assume that to mean he will have considerable freedom. As for the Blue Hill farm, a food professional living in Barcelona told me he thought any chef in Catalunya would die to have the provisions Stone Barns is able to raise and serve. (I've seen fantastically positive reactions to both Blue Hills by Spanish professionals I've taken there.) That's an incredible statement, but Dan Barber still shops the Union Square Greenmarket to supplement what he can grow and the Stone Barns farm works with a number of other sustainable farm projects. I'm sure Mike will have access to to many excellent sources as a result of the contacts he's made over the years. As much as I've been a fan of Tom's, I'll be disappointed not to see major changes by the end of the year.
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