The Ingredients For A Good Meal
Wednesday - December 16, 2009
A New Yorker article on the writers for the Michelin Guide restaurant reviews got me examining my own food qualifications and tastes as a sometimes-eatery recommender in my MidWeek columns.
I don’t do much of that because there are too many new and very good restaurants, and I’m trying to bring my body down to a svelte 210 with unclogged arteries.
Whose taste (or those newspaper ballots) should elevate a restaurant’s standing? That’s a tough one to postulate. My little goodie might be your recent nightmare. (“We waited a half-hour to receive menus. My girlfriend waited 20 minutes for her wine.”) To Chau isn’t my best pho place. Pho South King is. I say Sam Choy’s saimin is much better than Hamura’s of Lihue.
I hope those who’ve dined at our house will concede that I am a high-end cook and should know good and bad food when I encounter it. Too much butter or salt? Too much labor spent on inserting tiny grasses in the garlic mash and inflating the labor cost?
But there’s also your mood, how you’re greeted and seated, if you really like your waiter, think the prices are reasonable, and had to pay to park to eat (bad.)
I’ve anointed Le Bistro in Niu Valley Center one of the best in Hawaii. Never had a better piece of roasted sea bass or French onion soup.
Also warm ambiance - I like Paesano in Manoa Valley and Duc’s Bistro in Chinatown for that reason. Waiter Marc Andres can tell me exactly what’s in a dish and how it’s cooked and whether I’d do better with something else.
But I’m not persuaded that I or any newspaper food writer can be your accurate conductor.
We “taste” mainly with our noses. Our tongues pick out sweet, salty, sour and bitter. The fat globules from cooked bacon floating into your nose are what make you swoon and think of sweet-home breakfast.
Our eyes help. Food should look nice. That’s why I hated my mom’s big dish - fatty spareribs baked all afternoon in sauerkraut, carrots and potatoes, served as a plate of meaty mush swimming in grease.
Price matters. Entrees at good restaurants are pushing $40. At some point soon, I think we’ll start staying home.
Reviews can be beneficial. They get you to try something new if the review’s good. But kitchens change. For example, innovative chef Sean Priester split from the Top of Waikiki to do his own thing.
I think my food-column writing is pau. I cannot keep up and I feel bad about missing excellent restaurants that deserve mention. I don’t get around to them.
I’m going to donate more at-home dinners to local charities next year. That way you can come and criticize my cooking. I’ve been reading about those claiming there’s a secular war on Christmas because more people are saying “happy holidays.” I
always say “Merry Christmas” and I’m totally secular. I have a tree with an angel on top - a black angel we’ve used about 15 years, so not post-Obama. I sing or whistle carols to myself. I lived my college life in the Messiah chorus and as the tenor soloist.
I’m one of the merriest Merry Christmas people in our town.
Next week: Have you ever wished anyone ‘Id Sa’id?
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