A Chowhound Christmas

Can you believe it’s less than 16 hours until Christmas?  I’m so excited, my toes are tingling.  Tingling, I say, tingling.

Having completed and sold my piece to Gastronomica on the microbiology of artisanal cheeses, I’m back to things Japanese.  Tonight, for example, it’s The Feast of the Four Nippon Fishes, thanks to the stunning collection found at New Deal. We’re talking sushi grade hamachi, toro, and hiramasa followed by a salmon collar the size of a Buick.

That’s the good news.

The weird news is Chowhound.  I was on the Boston and NYC sites plenty this week and here’s my action-packed report:

The NYC hounds were uniformly energized and informative.  Where to eat?  What’s a good wine budget?  Here’s a summary of my lunch at Le Bernadin.  Happy, well fed, smart.

The Boston hounds?  Not so much.  Specifically, the comments made by many revealed a gross misunderstanding of how restaurants work.  Have any of these people cooked in a restaurant?  Known a friend who did?  If so, it’s not evident.  They talk like a basketball fan who wants to know why Paul Pierce doesn’t play 48 minutes, a patient who wants his PCP to treat him when he’s in the hospital, a dog who doesn’t understand why his owner has to go to work.

Anyway, I suspect Santa will be bringing baskets of food to the good dogs and to the bad dogs?  We shall see, tonight, we shall see.

Tingling toes.

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4 thoughts on “A Chowhound Christmas

  1. So, I need to know how a restaurant works to know whether food is delicious or not? Does that mean I need to know how to take apart and re-assemble a carburetor in order to drive a car? I guess I haven’t actually been driving for the last 20 years; it’s all been a figment of my imagination.

  2. Anonymity has its benefits, I can see. Getting out more often is often a relief for stress and can expand one’s horizons. For example, you meet more people and, recalling their names, can tell others who they are. In addition, you learn more so that you can build upon the emotional and sensual with facts and broader knowledge. Finally, getting out of one’s city provides contexts without which life has less meaning. Specifically, if you meet a woman who dresses up like a queen and pretends to be one you will know, after meeting a real queen, that she’s not one. With respect to food, eating in cities other in Boston helps one understand what this town excels at doing and what it pretends to do well. One reason why some cities have great restaurants and others do not is that the customers demand more in the cities with better restaurants; they set the bar high. There is great food in Boston: Craigie on Main, Rendezvous, Bistro du Midi, CK’s Shanghai, Hi-Rise, Toro, and Market; there is good food in Boston: Harvest, East Coast Grill, Grill 23, Hamersleys, PICO, Iggy’s, Legal’s, and Flour; there are wonderful neighborhood places: Santarpio’s, Franklin Cafe, Little Vinny’s, and Galleria Umberto. And there a whole lot of places that dumb down their food, settle for less, and don’t try hard. It’s ironic that Boston has the largest produce market on the East Coast and is port of entry for so much shellfish/fish and still cannot produce a world class restaurant. From my article on Boston restaurants that appeared in The Boston Globe, “Every city gets the restaurants it deserves,” says Ruth Reichl, editor in chief of Gourmet magazine. “You need great diners to hold the chefs to really high standards, people who want really good food, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars.” Go on, praise the restaurants and settle for what you’ve got.

  3. That’s all well and good. But your original post implied that you need to know how a restaurant is run in order to find food delicious.

    Moderator: I’ve honesty been thinking about your observation and wondering. The best palates I know–chefs–belong to people I’ve interviewed whose knowledge of food production and tradition and cooking equal their personal experiences. So I wonder if the knowledge provides a framework for taste. Or: Are you correct? Does the context matter? Maybe. I think it does. You don’t seem to think it does. It’s a fascinating discussion, really.

    Your original post DID NOT discuss a population holding a restaurant to higher standards. If it had been clear in that regard, I wouldn’t have replied.

    Speaking of implications, your reply implies that I have not been to over 20 countries, lived in New York, and spent the equivalent of months in San Francisco and environs. Oh, and lived briefly in London and Vienna. Almost forgot about those. And I have lived in the South as well, so I’ve got my “regional cred”, if that is something worth having.

    And yet, I have done all that. So, does that change the “get out more” element of your response?

    And so I still stand by my statement: you do not need to know how a restaurant is run to know whether food is delicious or not. A statement which you did not really respond to. I’m not sure where “Go on, praise the restaurants and settle for what you’ve got” comes from.

    I do see your point about how an educated general populace can be the high tide that lifts all boats, as if were. However, that thesis appeared nowhere in your original post, from what I can see.

    Moderator: The statement comes from Ruth Reichl who wrote that, “Every city gets the restaurants it deserves,” quoted in a piece on Boston restaurants I wrote for the Globe magazine.

    I think you’re correct 100% that you don’t need to know how a restaurant is run to find the food delicious, but why not add information and analysis to the experiential and sensual experience of eating? I do think that knowing that a food item is seasonal or that the chef was schooled in Hong Kong or what an expediter does, etc. add to dining. The reverse is also true: On Chowhound recently someone wrote that he tends not to like restaurants where the chef isn’t in or where the chef has more than one enterprise; that implies that a chef’s presence influences the way the food is prepared. That’s not true and not knowing how a restaurant is run seemed to influence this person’s perception of the food being delicious or not.

  4. Oh, I didn’t realize you replied since you logged on as moderator. OK, I think I see what you were getting at. I would quibble at the “chef being in or not in” matter, but no need to go round in circles. Thanks for your reply.

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