Eat at Chipotle, Help a Good Cause

August 30, 2010

I’m going to make this a very short post: go to the Cary or Glenwood Avenue Chipotle Tuesday (August 31) evening with this flyer, and 50% of the proceeds go to the Lucy Daniels Center.  I’m the Chair of the Center’s Board, so please think about doing this.  It’s a worthy cause, and Chipotle is pretty good for a chain.

Don’t forget the flyer!

Chipotle_fundraiser

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I Could Like this High-Tech Stovetop

August 27, 2010

The William Stovetop has just about all the features, and the control, that any home cook would want.  If this thing could crank out the BTUs and is easy to clean, I could see having this in my home.  The data that the unit offers is very cool, as it the basic concept.  It’s just a prototype right now, unfortunately.


Happy 15th, Ryan

August 25, 2010

I embarrassed my daughter last year somewhat by describing the dinner I was going to cook for her birthday party as a type of father-to-daughter love letter.  I’ll not do that again, but I’m pretty pleased that she asked me to cook for her and her friends again this year.  I’ve got a tentative menu planned, including a couple of Thomas Keller dishes, but she may have me tweak it a bit.  It is her birthday, you know.

Hors D’Ouevres
Gougères (French Cheese Puffs)

Soup
Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips (Keller)

Salad
Baby Spinach with Avocado and Grapefruit, Poppy Seed Dressing (Thanks, Ann Cashion)

Pasta
Farfalle with Pesto, White Beans, and Local Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Entrée
Sautéed Curry Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Butter Sauce, Pole Bean Ragout (Keller)

Dessert
Raspberry Buttermilk Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache, White Chocolate Ice Cream (Thanks, Crumb!)


Restaurant Review Roulette: Flights

August 25, 2010

This week’s review is of Flights, the restaurant in the Marriott-owned North Hills-based Renaissance Hotel.  So, it’s a Marriott, eh?  They’re not really known for putting top notch restaurants in their hotels.  But what’s this on the menu?  Pork from Cane Creek Farms?  Locally sourced produce?  Goat cheese from Elodie Farms?  So, what you’re saying is that this Marriott doesn’t get all their stuff from US Foods???  Hmmm, maybe this restaurant won’t suck.

I have an inherent bias against hotel restaurants, but I suspect this place just might be better than it needs to be, and decent enough to hold its own versus the other places in North Hills.  With that, I’m thinking this is a 3.5 to 4 star restaurant, and my hunch is that it’s going to be the higher rating.  We shall see on Friday.  Here are this week’s odds:

5 stars — 35 to 1

4.5 stars – 7 to 1

4 stars — 2 to 1

3.5 stars — 5 to 2

3 stars — 5 to 1

2.5 stars —  6 to 1

2 stars — 9 to 1

1.5 stars — 15 to 1

1 star — 25 to 1

Do I have a single reader who has made it to Flights?  And, be honest, how many of you never even heard of this place?

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Edit: Flights soared to a 4 star rating, with Greg Cox using every airplane metaphor possible in his review.  As I would have done, too.


Restaurant Review Roulette: Il Forno Italian Grill

August 19, 2010

I can’t remember the last time I’ve been to Holly Springs, so I’m pretty sure I’ve never been to Il Forno Italian Grill, the subject of this week’s restaurant review in the News & Observer (note: the website has music, but at least this time, it’s Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To The Moon”).  Il Forno seems to be a pretty standard Italian-American joint, with all the typical offerings found at nearly every other Italian-American restaurant.  The key to guessing how good this restaurant is, and thus, how many stars Greg Cox will give it, then comes down to execution.

The Yelpsters seem to like it, but once again, there’s some reviews in there that say something like, “I’m from New York and my parents spent a week in Italy, so I know Italian food.”  Geesh.  I mean, we all pretty much know Italian food, although far too many people have had their minds and palates numbed by the likes of the Olive Garden — blecch.

But I digress. I suspect that Il Forno is probably a little better than average.  That comes across in some of their Facebook page’s photos, but it’s also because they were serving bucatini dishes at the time.  If a restaurant serves bucatini (and mind you, there’s no mention of that tubular pasta on the menu), then they care!

So, I’m going to waffle between 3 and 3.5 stars, with 3 being the slight favorite.

5 stars — 555 to 1

4.5 stars – 111 to 1

4 stars — 7 to 1

3.5 stars — 5 to 2

3 stars — 3 to 2

2.5 stars —  3 to 1

2 stars — 6 to 1

1.5 stars — 13 to 1

1 star — 20 to 1

Place your bets!

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Edit, August 20, 2010 — Ah, the dangers of this game of Review Roulette: Sometimes, places look a lot better than what they are, as evidenced by Il Forno’s 2.5 star review in today’s N&O.  Greg Cox stated that the place has “flashes of promise” but are “still ironing out the wrinkles.”  Oh, well.


What Is a Foodie?

August 17, 2010

Anyone who knows me even peripherally understands that I’m obsessed with food.  I think of food the way many a college sophomore thinks of sex — it’s always on my mind to one degree or another.  When I’m finishing one meal, I typically start thinking of the next.  Most everyone I know would consider me to be a — egad — foodie.  But to tell you the truth, I hate being called that, even if the label fits.

There are several traits of a foodie, and although I fit many of them, I still try to convince myself that I am not a foodie.  First of all, a foodie is not an insider.  If you work in the food industry, as a chef, cook, restaurateur, bartender, farmer, supplier, wine vendor, or food writer, you are not considered a foodie.  I don’t know why that is, but I have come to learn that folks within the industry never get tagged with the label, “foodie.”

Foodies are the groupies of the food industry.

Foodies are typically chef sycophants and individuals who like to brag about how many Michelin-starred restaurants they’ve been to, adding notches to their belt with each new place.  Essentially, they love to say, “Look at me!  I ate at Alinea and Per Se and Ko (and yes, I got into Ko 3 times last month).”

Most foodies I know take a very clinical approach to their food.  They analyze it, obsess over it.  They want to photograph it and post it on Twitter.

Foodies love to get together with other foodies to share their war stories.  Sometimes they bring a dish to show off some really cool ingredient or technique.

I like to cook, even to the point of showing off.  I like to talk about food.  Some of my best friends are chefs or food writers.  But for some reason, I just don’t like calling myself a foodie.  My self-denial is driven partly out of arrogance, that I’m somehow better or more insightful than others.  But I’m not really.  I’m no different than all those other individuals at the Tweet-ups and farm-to-fork potlucks.  I can try to convince myself otherwise, but I’m just being delusional.

I’ve learned over the years that I don’t particularly love hanging around most other foodies.  I can talk for hours with chefs and food writers, but when I start talking with another food groupie, the conversation often comes quickly to an end.  Sure, I have lots of friends who are foodies with whom I can talk all day, but I struggle conversing with the vast majority of foodies.  Is that me, or is that them?

One distinction I try to make in distinguishing “me” from “them” is that I want to have greater knowledge of food and its place in society, whereas most foodies merely want to have more culinary accomplishments.  For instance, I know foodies who have gone to culinary school, and I think some of them did that simply so they could say they went to culinary school.  On the other hand, I know a handful of folks who went to culinary school to truly learn what the industry is about. This might be a completely bullshit distinction, of course, but it might have some merit.

Ultimately, I think that I’m the type of foodie who deep down wants to be an insider, but with the sad realization that that will never happen.  I will not be a chef or a line cook or even a bus boy.  I will not be a restaurateur.  I will not be a food writer.  But I want to have the knowledge of those people and to be treated like a peer, rather than a groupie.   I try to convince myself that I’m not the type of foodie who likes to rack up gastronomic merit badges, just clinging to the insiders in order to show off to the world.

But once again, I’m probably fooling myself.  And at the end of the day, what difference does it make?  I like food.  I like making it.  Studying it.  Eating it.  I like understanding the sociology and history and evolution of food and cuisine.  I like bullshitting with insiders, and I like showing off my skills to everyone.  Hell, I even write a food blog to say, “Look at me.”

I guess, when it comes right down to it, I’m gonna have to live with being a foodie after all.  Dammit.


Restaurant Review Roulette: Bravo’s Mexican Grill

August 11, 2010

To be reviewed this week is Bravo’s Mexican Grill, which appears to be a fairly standard Mexican restaurant in Cary.  Nothing stands out about the menu.  The website has the most god-awful sound ever, which I think is music, but it comes through as distortion (and I would hate it even if it were nice music).  The owners apparently have two other places in South Carolina, but I know nothing about those.

This is the type of place that screams for a review of 2 or 2.5 stars, but the teaser in today’s N&O suggests that it might be a bit better than that.  Maybe it’s their “Pollo Relleno” that is served with something called, “Creamy Broccoli Gravy.”  I have no clue, and the online reviews don’t provide any great insight, either.  Damn it, I hate guessing these places.  But I suspect that this place just might be better than mediocre, and that’s why my target is 3 stars.

5 stars — 2,000 to 1

4.5 stars – 250 to 1

4 stars — 25 to 1

3.5 stars — 3 to 1

3 stars — 5 to 4

2.5 stars —  2 to 1

2 stars — 5 to 1

1.5 stars — 7 to 1

1 star — 25 to 1

Let me know if you’ve eaten there.  And how many stars you think it will get.  And if you go back, please tell the owners to drop the music from the website!

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Edit, August 13, 2010 — Hah, take that, you naysayers!  Bravo’s got 3 stars from the N&O.  And so what if there really weren’t any naysayers?  I just like to say that I’m right and create controversy when there really is none.