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Where to take culinary European boyfriend out to dinner in NY?

I'd love to know more about your tastes and those of your boyfriend. For instance, what distinguishes a culinary adventure and how does that differ from a fine dinner for you?

Blue Hill is frequently my first NYC recommendation to anyone really interested in food. Although the food is very subtle and delicate, I've had some of my most exciting meals there.

WD-50 is more obviously cutting edge in terms of technique and that seems to get in the way of some diners' appreciation of the taste. That should not be a problem for anyone into culinary adventures.

Of all the luxury temples of gastronomy in NYC, Daniel remains our personal favorite, but you won't go wrong with le Bernardin or Per Se.

A New York culinary adventure should included some local treats and probably some ethnic food. Suggestions for both are not likely to be in the fine dining category. I'll start with a pastrami sandwich at Katz's, and let me emphasize pastrami. I see all sorts of tourists at Katz's, clueless at what to order, who end up ordering turkey or chicken salad when they could get as good at their hometown diner. Unless you're arriving from Hong Kong, Vancouver or San Francisco, I'd recommend dim sum at Dim Sum GoGo.

Trends That Should End

cindy, I guess I was suggesting that part of the responsibility for enjoying a fine dinner is borne by the diner and that includes learning how to eat certain dishes. I clearly recall the first time I ate out with fellow college students at a "nice" restaurant. What I noticed more than anything else was that they were more adept than I was using a knife and fork. I resolved to to appear more sophisticated by the time graduated--or at least to be a more confident boor in public.

My second thought, as expressed in my post, was that some foods are just naturally messier than others, but still worth it. Isn't that why god gave us napkins, or rolls of paper towels where appropriate.

To a greater degree, I might have been reacting to the idea that anyone should call for the disappearance of any food based on his own subjective taste. It didn't even make sense for Ed to call for an end to savory flavors in ice cream--I assume that would include black peper in vanilla ice cream--when he had just called for more salted caramel ice cream. Even the basic license for inconsistency assumed by food critics should call for a day's pause.

As for instruction on eating frisee, I have to think about that. It's been a while since I've ordered it and we rarely have it at home. My wife doesn't like it much. ;-) Therein lies the best suggestion. If you don't like it, just don't order it or buy it. I suspect that in some restaurants it's more daintily prepared, reducing the problem. Although I can't recall for sure, I suspect I am more likely to try and and use my knife and fork to fold the frisee into a manageable bundle, than I am to cut it, but that too is certainly an option if the kitchen is sending it out in hunks resembling small heads. And yes, sometimes I get dressing on my beard and even egg on my face. The key in that case is to make the others at the table believe they just didn't enjoy the meal as much as you did.

Trends That Should End

cindyprice, As someone more likely to have a face full of whiskers than pimples, maybe I'm not the one to comment on frisee salad, but I think a good frisee salad with lardons and soft poached egg is well worth learning how to eat. I mean some people have trouble handling meat, fish and poultry if still on the bone when on their plate, but I'd hate to see restaurants cater to those who have issues with some dishes simply because those dishes require a bit of finesse on the diners part. On second thought, I think it would be a greater shame if restaurants removed all food that was messy to eat, no matter how good the diner's technique.

Trends That Should End

Bad pork bellies, bad 'molecular gastronomy" and bad hamburgers are all part of the larger food group--bad food--and as such, really don't reflect on the superior examples of their type. Is it really worth singling them out for scorn? Even good pork bellies may take some acquiring of taste to appreciate and a little goes a long way, although admittedly, bad pot roast is probably still edible. Perhaps I should be grateful my grandmother never made pork belly. AdriĆ , by the way, says 'molecular gastronomy' doesn't apply to his cooking and that he was not influenced by the movement or workshop that is credited with the origin of that term.

Savory ice cream, however, is worthy of more discussion. Are you objecting to savory flavors in dessert, or the use of ice cream in savory courses? Maybe ten years ago or more, I had pear ice cream flavored with tarragon in a three star restaurant in San Sebastian and poached fennel with vanilla ice cream in an unstarred Paris bistro. Since then, the incorporation of savory ingredients in ice cream has seemed uncontroversial and the results delicious when handled by a good pastry chef. An incompetent pastry chef can muck up chocolate. As for savory ice creams in savory dishes, the only problem I've seen is perhaps the need for sugar to keep it from crystallizing. For all the examples one might offer in terms of fruit with meat and sugar in Asian savory dishes, I find sweetness a taste most chefs don't handle well when being creative.

Give the Gift of Noshing

Perhaps bialys suffer loss of freshness all too quickly. If I buy a dozen bialys at Kossar's, there are never more than ten in the bag when I get home (which is why a dozen is never enough). Fresh and warm from the oven, they not only don't need toasting, but they don't need butter or cream cheese. An hour later, toasting is most helpful. As for bagels, it's been a long time since I've had one produced in Manhattan that didn't improve drastically with toasting. Maybe I should mail order from Queens.

No argument on Russ and Daughters for quality, but my subjective choice would be to include some smoked sable (black cod) and some herring in cream sauce rather than the fish salads. I'd also get a big fat whitefish over two chubs. In general I hate preselected gift baskets and while I've been known to have a jones for marshmallow twists (especially straight from the freezer) they're just not worth the cost of shipping.

Best brunch in NYC?

That's kind of like asking where is the best place to get dinner. Food, decor and value are all subjective, but even my subjective view on those issues may not matter if my idea of brunch is so different from yours. I'm not much of a fan of buffets, to say the least, although I've experienced some very fine hotel buffets. Actually, I'm not all that much of a fan of brunch in restaurants. Be that as it may, I enjoy Balthazar, and Pastis when the weather permits sitting outside. Good bloody Marys and some good poached egg dishes make it for me.

Are Expensive Pans Necessarily Better?

The speed with which the pan heats is of less concern to me than how evenly the pan heats. Aluminumm is a good conductor of heat; copper is even better; steel is not as good and stainless steel is very poor conductor among metals. A heavy aluminum pan with a thin stainless steel lining is going to be a better frying pan over time than a stainless steel pan with a thin layer of aluminum. It's hard to tell if the butter burns in one spot first or all over at once. Nevetheless, a pan that responds quickly to heat is good, especially if it also cools down as quickly as it heats up. Hot spots can, and often do, develop over time. The plinking would lead me to suspect the pan was heating or cooling evenly. I'd worry about both hot spots and warpage over time, but I don't have the scientific background to provide good reasons for my worry.

Sometimes it's more economical to buy a cheap tool and replace it when it wears out than to buy a good tool once, but I find I tend to keep on getting by with the cheap tool long after it's stopped functioning properly. To protect myself, I've learned to buy better tools in the first place. On the other hand, it's often as easy to abuse good pans as cheap ones and the low cost pans may be good first choices for beginners learning to cook.

Question of the Day: Latkes—Applesauce or Sour Cream?

Either, both or neither. Applesauce is great if it's home made. A little salt is enough if the latkes are crisp and if they're not, well they still bring back fond childhood memories.

Is There Such a Thing as a 4 Star Bargain?

"two courses for $28 and have a Haagen Dasz bar for dessert"

Skip dessert with a pastry chef like Johnny Iuzzini in the kitchen at Jean Georges? On a more abstract level, I'd also argue that there's no such thing as a four star experience without an exceptional dessert to complete the meal.

Why Do the French Fries at Blue Smoke Suck?

I seem to recall that the first time I ate at Blue Smoke, the fries were great. Subsequent to that visit, they were not. Is my memory of the first visit unreliable or did they once use fresh potatoes?

Almost everyone I know likes the French fries at Shake Shack. I've never understood why. They suck. It's nice to know someone agrees with me. They are a poor excuse to consume ketchup, a condiment I generally avoid.

The Tuna Salad of My Dreams

I think I once posted about a relevatory tuna sandwich I had in a corner bar in Madrid--olive oil packed tuna, roasted red peppers and plump anchovies, all canned products. It would be as good on a plate, although I've never seen anchovies as plump here in the states. Once we accostumed ourselves to Italian tuna canned in olive, we've had no taste for Bumble Bee or any American brand packed in just "oil," water or broth. After having mayonnaise in France, say with a plateau de fruits de mer, the Hellman's mayo of my childhood now tastes like dessert with all it's sweetness, but Americans like sugar in their vinaigrette. Taste in food is very subjective.

Pizza Slice Crisis in NYC: The Ray's Syndrome

... patronize the good and defeat the bad

There was a time when my addiction to slices demanded at least one a day particularly if I was covering ground by foot. Today, I'm loathe to try a new place and don't really like most of the old ones I know.

Abitinos can't fill Joe's shoes, huh. I think I instictively knew that from the look of the place from a block away. Yet, it appears to have a thriving business and the eaters are smiling. One one hand, eating in the city is so much more rewarding than it was a couple of generations ago. At the same time, there have been so many unreasonable losses that it makes you wonder how many people actually appreciate good food.

Pizza Slice Crisis in NYC: The Ray's Syndrome

Clearly, we need a Real New York Pizza Association with the balls (actually, chutzpah for NY pizza) necessary to certify pizzerias as authentic. It would perhaps differ from the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, although I'm inclined to agree that take-out looses any designated status. Re-heated slices may be equally unentitled to the Neopolitan status. There are two certified purveyors in NYC. I don't believe they certify places that sell by the slice or use ovens other than wood fired. Neither do I believe that NYers are making a beeline to the two plces certified, but then in NYC, a crowded restaurant doesn't always signify good food, or even good value.

The specs (English translation) defining "Pizza Napoletana" for the EU are at:

The US site is here:

Oh yeah, and I'm nominating you as president of the charter chapter and certification committee.

Delicious for a Dollar?

Canal Street around Mott and Mulberry used to have a number of carts selling pork buns at 50 cents a piece, at the time. My recollection is that Rudy Giuliani banned the vendors in the name of "improving the quality of life in NY." My life didn't improve and guess who never voted for Giuliani and never will.

These were steamed buns that were reheated on a griddle which gave them a nice crust on the bottom. The shells were relatively thin for steamed buns and the insides were full of meat and cabbage. There may have been two suppliers to the vendors as some buns had a brown sauce and others didn't. They were very tasty and a buck bought a nice snack or lunch on the street.

I haven't seen these in years. Does anyone know if they are available elsewhere in Chinatown?

Sandwiches That Will Change Your Life

My memorable sandwich was served to me in Madrid, at a corner bar advertising hot dogs and hamburgers as well as tapas and sandwiches. It wasn't a particularly inspiring place, but it was usually full of locals. I was almost put off by having to edge my way to the counter, and as soon as I ordered tuna, anchovies and roasted red peppers on some sort of crusty roll or baguette, I wondered if that was really what I wanted. As it turned out, the ingredients, all from cans, were of superb quality and the sandwich, dripping in olive oil--no mayo--was an epiphany. I think you can get tuna packed in olive oil here that's almost as good. I'm less sure about the peppers, although I usually raost my own. I have never seen anchovies in NYC half as plump and meaty as the ones I had in my sandwich and I suspect they are the ingredient that will be hardest for me to find here.

Is a Fancy-Pants Burger A Contradiction in Terms?

Pete, I'm sure Telepan, Zakarian, Burke and Flay could hardly care less whether I think they are running a restaurant that competes with Daniel.

I don't know why Boulud had to dress the db burger like a burger. I doubt he had to do it at all. He chose to do it and I'm sure his choice was very much affected by the prospect of some publicity. For what it's worth, when I had one, I pretty much ate it like a burger. As for its success, Boulud constantly tinkers with his food. When a dish stays on the menu for years, it's almost always because his clientele keeps demanding the dish. Beyond what pleases your, or my, subjective taste, that pretty much defines "successful dish" for a restaurateur. We both seem to like the flavor, or taste, of the db burger and we both acknowledge a certain PR consideration in its creation, but I think its success has been judged by others and its appearance on the menu shouldn't detract from our enjoyment of db Bistro just because others are having fun.

Is a Fancy-Pants Burger A Contradiction in Terms?

I think Ed is absolutely correct in removing the work of first class chefs from the discussion of fancypants burgers. The db burger for instance, has really moved well outside the envelope of burgers, plain and fancypants. It tastes great, but legitimately may have no appeal to those specifically looking for a burger. Likewise, my favorite burger may have no appeal to others. What sucks for Mr. Cultlets, is what may attract others, including myself. Skinny burgers are second class burgers for me, but once a burger grows too massive, it looses all appeal as well. The diameter needs to fit within the confines of a bun, roll or even sliced bread and fit comfortably in my hand and I need to be able to comfortably get my mouth around the whole thing. The burger at Balthazar comes close to stretching my limit on size. I've not tasted any of Ed's nominees and thus can't say if the Balthazar burger should've been on his list. I'm probably not much of a burger fan anyway, as it's not one of the foods for I'll make much of a detour.

Is a Fancy-Pants Burger A Contradiction in Terms?

Since my childhood, which dates way back to a time when I think grassfed beef was still the norm, a burger thick enough to be rare on the inside was always considered a better burger at home or away. I don't think I ever got to taste a thin burger, of the sort that covers the range from McDo to Shake Shack, until I went away to college. And there is nothing "meatloaf" about a burger that is rare in the middle. Burgers don't start to have much appeal to me until they get thick enough to order medium rare and thick doesn't necessarily mean fancypants.

Fries don't matter much unless I have to pay for them. If they're included in the price of the burger, they matter just like the bun and the rest of the ingredients in the package. If they're something to be ordered as a side, they don't count.

I'm not a fan of American cheese, that is to say the processed cheese food loaf. I generally prefer hamburgers to cheeseburgers, sweet raw onions and tomatoes are great, but ideal might be melted gruyere or compte and onions fried on the griddle or grilled. Mustard with that, please.

I'm with you on the value of a "fancypants" burger, though our tastes in them may not be the same.

Food Network Personality or Porn Star?

Hey, am I the only one who isn't willing to assume the site got the categories right in each case?


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