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The only vaguely weird thing I've been served there was an oyster, and the frozen foie gras shavings. It's not filled with offal-y things, if that is what you are asking. I think there might have been snails on a recent menu...

See here:

I was not totally stuffed to capacity by the end of my dinners there, but neither was I totally starving (lunch sounds a whole other story, though).

Buffalo Burger from Casino El Camino in Austin

> maybe it wasn't crowded when you were there though, I don't know. just a thought.

I was there on a weekday around 2pm, and there were maybe 2-3 other tables of people, tops. Someone who lives in Austin told me they are always slow, and it's because they only *cook* the burgers once an hour.

Buffalo Burger from Casino El Camino in Austin

It's really good, but it takes forever to actually get to you when you order. Their kitchen is slow!

Where to Eat: SXSW 2009

It's hard to stray too far from downtown when you have 1.5 hours to grab lunch between panels, no car, and everybody is trying to grab lunch at the same time.

Eating in Taipei

Seconding fresh fruit (guava, wax apple, lychee, dragonfruit, mango), beef noodle soup, night markets, Taiwanese breakfast (soy milk with freshly fried you tiao aka oil stick aka fried cruller), fresh seafood and sushi.

I would also add on soup dumplings, shaved ice, hot pot, fresh mochi, pearl milk tea, zhua bing, and gua bao (pork bun with mustardy greens, crushed peanuts, etc). Avoid any faux Italian or American--bleh. And don't be afraid of buffets and malls. For whatever reason, they are cheap, fresh, and tasty, unlike the buffets and malls in the United States.

Do try the McDonald's locations and mass marketed chips/candy there. I found the novelty amusing. I went about 4 years ago and Nacho Cheese Doritos were being marketed a new and exciting!

Here's some food photographs from my trip:

Candied Ginger—what to do?

- Garnish for any cocktail with ginger beer in it
- In the recipe for 3 Way Gingersnaps
- Mixed into butter to make ginger butter, to accompany pumpkin pancakes

Eating/Staying in New York

Caracas Arepas Bar is on 7th STREET not 7th Avenue, there is quite a bit of geographical difference.

Java and free WiFi Cafes

I've found that very few Manhattan coffee shops offer free wireless Internet access, simply because it isn't profitable enough for them to encourage you to linger. They benefit a lot more from foot traffic, especially if you aren't trying to use their electricity to boot.

A lot of the ones that HAVE offered free wireless (Cafe Ari,, 17 Bleecker, Lotus) end up closing after a while anyway. The notable exceptions are Think (although it's quite spotty), Aroma (bring headphones as they play terrible music), Soy Luck Club (minimum purchase required), Mercury Dime (but it's always empty, so possibly not long for this world), Roasting Plant (LES location only, I think, but they have like 3 seats and it's pretty uncomfortable).

Chatting in Chinese with Flushing Cooks

Ha! We also stumbled upon those robotic toilets this weekend. Amazing place, Flushing.

Serious Eats City Guide Premiere: New York (How to Leave Here Pleasantly Full)

Also, lots of places known for late night dining in NY are open late only on weekend nights (Thursday through Saturday or Sunday). Here's a recent eGullet discussion on nicer, sit-down places who are open late Monday through Wednesday.

Serious Eats City Guide Premiere: New York (How to Leave Here Pleasantly Full)

For unsuspecting tourists, you might want to clarify that:
- Totonno's and Una Pizza are pies only. Totonno's pies can feed 2-3 people. Una Pizza's pies can feed 1-2.
- Most reputable pizza places don't do slices. Di Fara and Patsy's are notable exceptions. But non-New Yorkers often don't know this.
- Una Pizza is pricier than the others (possible out of towner sticker shock ahead) and there are no extra toppings per se (pepperoni, mushrooms, etc) and for the love of God don't ask him for BBQ chicken or anything.
- Totonno's has multiple locations but you only recommend the Coney Island one.

All of these are newbie mistakes that could easily be avoided and I hate to see pizza lovers turned away because they had different expectations.

I'm with greenfield on the cocktails. Flatiron is good but D&C and PDT are better, especially with Death & Co's new, expanded menu of 70+ cocktails. Tailor is also excellent but more on the avant garde side of things.

@cookingwithamy: Ed's list is pretty much "essential NY": pastrami on rye from Katz's, recession special at Gray's Papaya, smoked salmon at Russ & Daughters, bagels, pizza. The only other essential he left off was the egg cream.

12 Burgers in 8 Hours, a Burger Bender

@Summerfield: SE Overlord Ed Levine, writing for the NYT, says they're made by Sabrett's parent company:

Thoughts on Babbo?

I love Babbo. Go to Babbo. You must try it, at least once, in your lifetime.

Before you go, it would be great to read Heat by Bill Buford, a writer (he freelances for the New Yorker, too) who spent time in Babbo's kitchens and eventually traveled to Italy, inspired by Mario and all that he learned about in the Babbo kitchens. It's a fascinating look inside the restaurant industry, as well as Mario Batali's start and eventual rise. Buford is a great writer, Mario Batali is a great character, and you'll be salivating and chuckling and sighing as you read through life in the Babbo kitchen.

Make double (triple?) sure you confirm your reservation the day before via the confirmations-only phone number, with confirmation code. Note that this number is different from the main reservations line!

Getting a reservation can be difficult. They take reservations starting one month in advance to the calendar date. They take them starting at 10am over the phone and in person. Go in person if you live in NYC, just stop by on a Saturday or something, it's so much easier than calling. It's worth the hassle and saves you time in the end (who really wants to be on redial for a few hours straight? Not me!).

Request to sit on the upper level, where it's more spacious and less noisy. I like my rock'n'roll music but hearing the Pixies or The Strokes or MGMT or whatever blast at a nice restaurant is odd even after dining there a few times! Some people are turned off by the soundtrack, though, but not me.

Arrive on time and with your entire party there. Be prepared for some chaos in the bar area (their coat check is the worst-designed coat check ever) because of the walk-in parties waiting, and also people dining at the bar. Smile and be nice to the host. I've heard he can be crabby but he's never been anything but nice to me. Then again, I always have a reservation.

Don't order the tasting menus, none of the greatest hits are on there. I don't know anyone who has been disappointed by the tasting menus, but the most-discussed dishes are not found on there. The one criticism I've seen about the pasting tasting menus is that it's a lot of pasta by the time it's done -- only you can be the judge of whether or not it's a good thing. A friend of mine who is a food critic/writer went to Babbo and had the kitchen send out their best dishes, as a custom tasting menu....and it contained most of the dishes that people rave about (which aren't on the regular tasting menu). That fact, to me, is telling and very counter-intuitive.

Order wine and take advantage of a really interesting wine list and knowledgeable sommeliers! They have some very interesting stuff on there, and it's all Italian, I believe.

Service can be hit or miss, but most of the servers there know the menu like the back of their hand if you're having trouble deciding. The worst service I've had was just a waiter who was a bit absent during our meal. Bartenders are nice but the bar is often packed full of people dining or waiting for a walk-in table.

Don't eat the bread, it's kind of boring. Save room and arrive hungry. Note that they don't offer olive oil or butter with bread service (supposedly the more traditional Italian way to do it). The amuse is typically chickpea bruschetta. It's OK.

For two people I've done two antipasti, two primi, and split a secondi between the two of us, sharing plate the whole time. They can also divide portions onto two plates if you wish. Ordering conservatively on the secondi dishes leaves some room for dessert. The secondi are pretty big by the time you get around to that course. Note that most of the secondi don't come with any sides, you should order sides separately if you want them. IMO, the antipasti and primi menus are stronger than the secondi menu.

Assuming you are adventurous/don't mind offal, I'd do for the appetizers: the lamb's tongue vinaigrette with three minute egg, crispy pig's foot (don't worry, it doesn't really look like a foot), grilled octopus, or tripe (comes with bread, very messy). If you are trying to save space, the salumi plates are also very good but a much smaller portion. You can get the salumi they make in-house (prosciutto, lamb's tongue, lardo, spicy salami, and more) or the salumi that Mario Batali's father makes (slightly smaller selection). It's all great, though, and at the very worst, you'll wish you brought more people with you, so you can try more things out!

For pastas, they are second to none. Everything is cooked perfectly (al dente). I love the goose liver ravioli the most and so has everyone I've ever taken there. Others like the beef cheek ravioli, chianti stained parpadelle, gnocchi with oxtail, or mint love letters, but I think the goose liver wins over those four (still haven't tried the lamb's brains yet though). Personally, I am not a huge red sauce fan and though the gnocchi and mint love letters were good but not great. YMMV. I love Babbo's pastas, every single one, though I love some more than others. Their pasta, overall, is great, fresh, properly cooked, and far more interesting than you might think pasta should be.

For the main, the fennel-dusted sweetbreads are fantastic. The pork chop is excellent: well-cooked and juicy. Easily split between two. The rabbit is also nice, too. The skirt steak is only OK. I've also heard wonderful things about the duck and lamb chop. There are often very good specials too (had some braised pork cheeks once time). For the big chops, you can spot a big rack of meat coming from across the room! It smells divine. If only I had a second stomach....

Save room for dessert. If you are very full, you can get the assortment of gelati and sorbetti. A recent trip yielded: olive oil gelato (perfect as usual), hazelnut gelato, bittersweet chocolate gelato (so intense, and dark, like a punch in the face with chocolate), espresso gelato (so smooth and gone in about two seconds flat), coconut gelato (wonderful even if you don't like coconut), pineapple sorbetto (nice and sweet), green apple sorbetto (sharp and tart but refreshing), rhubarb sorbetto (very tart), mango sorbetto (addictive and reminiscent of Indian mangos), and huckleberry sorbetto (nice and with bits of real huckleberry). I also like the seasonal fruit crostata (right now it is still Tristar strawberry hopefully). The chocolate hazelnut cake is also nice. Other popular desserts are the maple cheesecake or the semifreddo.

Really, I've never had a bad meal there food-wise and in comparison, the other complaints (space, noise, service, difficulty obtaining a reservation) seem to disappear by the time the petit fours come around. And the check is surprisingly reasonable for a celebrity-chef, three-star restaurant in Manhattan. I've spent more on dinner for two at other places and been less satisfied and less full.

12 Burgers in 8 Hours, a Burger Bender

@drmoze: the Blue 9 burger is fine in a pinch but you can tell that the ingredients at the Shack are better. Their bun is too soft and starts to fall apart (very McDonald's ish), the lettuce is cheap iceberg (and there's often too much of it), the tomato is watery. I did like the quality of the beef, though, but I think I prefer a more fatty patty, with a little bit more seasoning. It's not bad for the price though and should be considered a good "fast food" burger.

Food Photography/SLR Camera

Note also that the Nikon D40 and D40x lacks the motor necessary to drive Nikon's current lineup of fast primes. So if you buy a Nikkor 50mm f/1.7 lens, your D40 will be manual focus only, no auto-focus.

For Nikkor lenses, only AF-S and AF-I type lenses will autofocus on the D40, from what I found on the Nikon web site. View all Nikkor lenses. I don't shoot Nikon, so I don't know the lineup as well but it's something to be aware of before you go out and buy a D40 and start getting lenses. For the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens, if you have a Nikon D40 or D40x, the autofocus, however, will work. More on the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and D40 combo.

Vvvanessa, the following Canon SLRs have liveview (you can frame your shot using the LCD screen, not just by looking through the viewfinder):

EOS-1Ds Mark III

Best Mint Julep in NYC?

Death & Co is fantastic. Alex is a really nice, sweet, talented bartender, and Kelvin, the doormand, has been nothing but pleasant to me and my fiance.

Not sure what the "terrible track record" comment is about, Barbara; my understanding is that a single upstairs neighbor has a vendetta against the place. Do you have a noise complaint? The bar closes at midnight each night and the doorman takes pains to ensure there aren't large, rowdy crowds on the sidewalk.

Food Photography/SLR Camera

Robyn, actually I believe the latest version is now the XSi but if you can find an XTi used, it will be a lot of camera bang for your buck.

Note that for a lot of popular lenses, like the nifty fifty, your minimum required distance from your subject is much further away than with a point and shoot. Go to a store and try it out yourself, you'll be a little surprised. Your little point and shoot can get much closer than an SLR can with a non-macro lens. However, with a digital SLR you can get gorgeous, low-light, low noise, blurred background (bokeh) food shots.

You can get pretty decent shots with an XTi with kit lens. Just note that the kit lens is a starter lens and isn't suitable for low light shots. Once you know more of what you want, you'll probably want to upgrade. But if it's your first SLR, it might be worthwhile to stick with the kit lens for a little while just to see what you end up using the camera for, whether it's kitchen food shots or party food shots or restaurant food shots or whatever. Each one of these situations has unique challenges and requirements from a camera (and photographer).

Dinner with 'Top Chef' Marcel Vigneron

Marcel and Hung are apparently friends from chef school; in fact, it was Marcel who encouraged Hung to try out for Top Chef.,,20132583,00.html

Caffe Florian: A Tourist-Free Gem in Hyde Park, Chicago

BTW, Di Fara in Brooklyn uses fresh artichokes. So does Artichoke in Manhattan.

Blue 9 Burger

Wow, I've avoided Blue 9 for a while now due to service issues (really slow cashiers, forgotten drinks, employees who wandered around the store doing nothing when there were customers waiting) so it's good to hear that they've tightened up the ship.

Serious Sushi thats not Masa

Are we talking omakase like chef's tasting menu, with a mix of hot and cold dishes, or sushi omakase, where we're comparing nigiri against nigiri?

I really like Blue Ribbon Sushi but their nigiri sushi isn't as good as some of the other stuff on the menu.


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