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How to Order Off-the-Menu

7 Oct

Image Courtesy of #HacktheMenu

While it’s not officially on the menu, everybody knows about In-N-Out Burger’s Animal-Style burger. The secret’s out on that, to the point that the California burger chain is using the menu as a marketing tool to responsive service. But what about Liquid Cocaine at Starbucks? Or the Burritodilla at Chipotle, the turducken of the taco world? The amazing people at #HacktheMenu have created a resource for every major fast food chain’s closely guarded menu secrets, with recipes included for decoding the nicknames. Here’s their comprehensive guide to fast food secret menus.


Reblogged: “Pho” Pas

21 Jul

Here are the essential yes-yes’s and no-no’s of Asian dining out:

Most of these could apply to any list of cultural etiquette (ex: don’t serve yourself with the same utensil you use for eating; don’t grab something off of a shared plate and immediately shovel it down), but there are some rules I’ve certainly broken:

Never stick your chopsticks straight up into a dish.

Don’t use chopsticks for any non-noodle dish at a Thai restaurant.

Eat pho out of the spoon. DON’T SLURP LIKE THIS JERK:

Pho Jerk

Receive all Korean dishes with two hands.

Eat nigiri in one bite and with your hands.

Personal rule: clap with both hands.

TBT: The Worst Waiter Ever

29 May

In light of training to be a server this weekend, this was a fun read about Edsel Ford Fong, the worst waiter in San Francisco. The amount of abuse the man slung about at Sam Wo’s Chinese restaurant could make a guest’s skin crawl. He seems of a mythical status, a 6′, 200 lbs tower of staunch rules, without a single regard for “rules of table service.” He’d spill half of your soup while handing it to you. Your chopsticks were tossed as an after thought. And don’t even think about ordering fried shrimp.

This also makes me wonder about the more masochistic side of service. I know I’ve sung my fair share of praise for the irascible Kenny Shopsin. I loved being accosted and derided at Chicago’s Weiner Circle. I’m fond of everything about French diner Gaulart et Maliclet, but what I really miss is the anxious and snippy owner, Jean-Marie. The Soup Nazi? He’s one of Seinfeld’s most endearing characters. Why do we romanticize an abrasive front-of-the-house?

Going through food memories for TBT, I thought a little bit about dining as an experience. There’s a strong desire to preserve the eating experience, mostly through photos but also through stories. It’s why I write everything down about a memorable meal. Edsel didn’t give a crap about “the customer always being right,” and it turned Sam Wo’s into a distinct destination, preserved in a wall of Polaroids. People described Sam Wo’s as an “experience,” but not really one where you felt treated like a royal.

I’ve never been kicked out of a restaurant (although I have been ejected from an art museum), but I bet it’d make for a good story. And I do love stories.


A First Look at NYC’s First Nutella Bar

13 May

Last night, Mario Batali’s retail giant/Italian superstore Eataly NYC cut the ribbon and let the hazelnut-chocolate gush from its brand new Nutella bar, a great example of adaptation. After closing down their wine store for six months over somewhat dubious issues, Eataly proves that you can bounce back from over half a million dollars in fines and State Liquor Authority infractions. How? With Nutella. It truly does make everything better. When life gives you lemons, make pastries and cover them with delicious goo.

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And what’s happier than Nutella? Maybe a basket of puppies, but I doubt it.

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How to Prep Lettuce, as told by Jeremiah Tower

30 Apr

Just like with favorite bands, I go through a period where I’m obsessed with learning about chefs’ history, technique, and networks.

I had a huge crush on Alice Waters back in October, when I went and saw her at Book Court in Brooklyn.

She said you can change the world one person at a time.

I went on and read everything I could by and about her, from The Art of Simple Food to the gorgeous photo collection 40 Years of Chez Panisse. In all of that reading, I found out about Jeremiah Tower, who worked as the head chef of Chez Panisse from 1973-1978. He approached cooking with a lavish and surrealistic bent; dishes such as duck stuffed with its own liver or sweetbreads in brioche pastry with Champagne sauce sound sinful. The two eventually split over philosophical reasons, and Chef Tower went on to lead Stars restaurant. I found Tower’s instructions on how to prepare lettuce, and they’re the most caring treatment of lettuces I’ve seen. Might have to print this out and hang it up.

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René Redzepi shows how to give a speech

30 Apr

Hearing Noma win the San Pellegrino’s Best Restaurant title on Monday wasn’t huge news. The Copenhagen restaurant known for serving live ants, dirt, and whatever sorrelthe culinary team finds outdoors won for the first time in 2010 (6 years after opening) and again in 2012. From the cover of Time to his recent book, Work in Progress, the food world seems saturated with Noma’s executive chef René Redzepi.

And for good reason, too. His restaurant looks like it’s playing host to a food revolution, where suddenly “local” is an extreme (see: #foraging) and casual is perfectly acceptable at the finest restaurant in the world.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 11.57.55 AMHis acceptance speech at this year’s San Pellegrino ceremony is everything he’s wanted to say since Noma first won. After seeing the emcee rattle through the winners with the emotion of a census taker, Redzepi’s loose and nervy energy is like getting Nordic icewater thrown in your face. His 6-minute speech is all over the place but ultimately a testament to the new way in dining, where there are less linens and expensive wines and where geeks are the cool guys.

Have Some Sympathy, Have Some Taste

21 Apr
"Salsa Flight"-acrylic

“Salsa Flight”-acrylic

About two months ago, I was working an office job. I trudged through the polar vortex’s mounds of snow with the occasional ray of sunlight. I looked forward to free coffee at work. I daydreamed of the rush of my time in college spent experimenting with new recipes and cooking for friends. That was what I needed, to cook something. Anything. Maybe even professionally. A respected taqueria in the city was hiring a line cook and without really thinking, I applied and got a chance to trail. A trail is a professional kitchen’s version of an audition for potential hires. They check out your work ethic and see if you can handle the kitchen rules and gel with the staff. In return, prospective employees see if they’d like the atmosphere. You end up learning more than you’d expect, especially since things are happening so quickly around you. I had my own limitations thrown in my face and then sent out my best.

Note: I changed the names of employees and places.

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