tastyjon's Profile

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An app to help you find a restaurant

I travel all over and Yelp is very solid and probably has the most reviews of more places than anyone. Some of the newer apps like Foodspotting are great concepts but don't yet have a a critical mass of user data. Others, like Zagat, are limited by editorial filtering.

For example, Flushing Queens is the arguably the epicenter of Chinese food in greater New York City but Zagat has just 12 listings. Yelp has 260 places reviewed. And what's remarkable to me is that Yelp (at least in larger cities) seems to defy the traditional city polls of "best whatever" which often results in Olive Garden being a city's Best Italian or Subway as best sandwich. Somehow the crowds using Yelp tend to focus more on unique, local places.

Jul 17, 2012
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Fat Chef

Has Food Network officially "jumped the shark" with this show?

It's kinda like programming the "Mormon Tabernacle Choir Hour" on the Playboy Channel.

I get that "Biggest Loser" draws ratings, but do we need this type of program on a food network, after showing 5 hours of cake wars? And if it's all about stealing ratings from other networks, are we going to see:

- Chefs of the Jersey Shore?
- Storage/Restaurant Wars?
- Chef by night/Pawn Shop owner by Day?
- American Cookers/Pickers?
- Cooking up Gold on the Klondike.

Feb 09, 2012
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Street food question

Good stuff - thanks!

Dec 21, 2011
tastyjon in Manhattan

Street food question

While there's a huge diversity of food trucks in NYC, why is that so many other street vendors (non drivable truck) offer essentially the same thing? Especially at night.

Example:

- Hot dog/pretzel/chestnut cart
- Halal/Gyro/Falafel Chicken on Rice cart
- Nut cart / kabob cart.

I walked many miles this weekend on a photo project and probably walked by 50 street food vendors in the evening, all of whom were one of the above.

Just curious... are the permits issued to a select few who don't deviate from what they know or supply chains? Is there a limit to the kinds of foods that can be offered?

Thanks!

Dec 19, 2011
tastyjon in Manhattan

Smaller portion size options?

More of the latter, but not just steak.

As an example, if I have a craving for some good seafood, I can scratch that itch for under $10 at a number of sushi places. No need to order a whole fish.

Or in other words, I think it's great that XYZ place has a huge, $20 lamb burger that's out of this world. I want to try the great $5 lamb slider on a typical day!

Nov 18, 2011
tastyjon in Manhattan

Smaller portion size options?

Running errands, I found myself outside one of the city's most noted steakhouses last night and it smelled delish, wasn't busy (rain) and I considered popping in and trying it. It's a place I've wanted to experience, but when the boss is in town and paying!

Still, I looked at the menu and pretty much all the offerings were huge. Big, pricey and probably perfectly well valued pieces of meat, no doubt. But I wasn't in the mood for that level of commitment!

There are times when I can eat whatever is in front of me, but usually I'm more of a grazer on most days... little meals/snacks rather than 2-3 big meals. I'm also more a fan of variety... like a bento box or Korean meal with a bunch of small, contrasting bites. Eating 24+ ounces of anything, usually, means I grow less appreciative of the food each bite.

So it got me wondering... are there places that serve up higher quality fare, but in a portion size that is attractive to a single diner/budget watcher/lighter-meal type of foodie?

Thanks, Jon

Nov 17, 2011
tastyjon in Manhattan

9/11 Commemorative Wines vs. Bourdain

Because if you're classy, you donate some money as a company.

If you are attention whore, you name a product after a major disaster/act of violence and then donate money.

Aug 24, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

No More French Toast on Chopped

Just get rid of the dessert round completely. How many people choose an eatery based on desserts? I'm sure some do, but also there are loads of dessert-only places where that sweet tooth can be satiated. Or just get a scoop of gelato, a sweet coffee, fancy liquor, etc.

Desserts are the post-coital part of a meal... you've built up to and peaked earlier. They are the cuddle part... nice, but not needed.

Aug 24, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

chowhound vs. yelp-pros & cons?

I love Chowhound and have been active on here for 12+ years (names have changed as I've moved across 5 states since then).

CH has and is a great place for discussion. And a great place for knowledge sharing, especially on city-wide subjects. It's perfefct for asking such questions as: I'm visiting Santa Fe in 3 weeks and want to experience green and red chile... where to go? Or, "what's the best Pizza in Phoenix."

Yelp is great for instant access to a broad variety of reviews on very specific corners of a city.
Example: I'm in Santa Fe tonight and want to see the best rated New Mexican themed eateries within 3 blocks of where I'm standing at this moment. Or, "what the best Punjabi takeaway in this 6-block section of Queens on my train stop?" Right now.

Both brands have some really great, expert people who contribute. And idiots. Here's the thing.. you learn to trust people who you learn to trust.

It ain't perfect, but we have 10-20 thousand restaurants and there no way any media outlets can follow them. Power to the people but keep a pinch of Salt.

Aug 17, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Rocco's Dinner Party

I actually like the show for this very reason. Also like Chopped, but often times the ingredients are far too remote that I lose interest... Vermouth, Aardvark Legs, Fingernail clippings and cat hairballs - now "go make a dessert!"

Likewise Top Chef is often more about testing their contestants ability to create fast fare under different pressures.

I agree Rocco is a smarmy ass and has snarky guests, but the show usually gives the competing chefs a pretty wide berth and enough time to create what they want.

Of all the competition shows out there, this one is actually pretty close to the challenge that home cooks face when throwing a party... fixed budget, adhere to a theme, try to create a number of memorable courses, yet deal with the odd guest who doesn't or can't eat XYZ.
I've gone through the same challenges when throwing Saturday backyard pool BBQs, let alone NY loft parties with semi-celebs! :)

Aug 17, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

How Did ElBulli Make Money?

I saw that pricing and thought they must make a a decent profit from drinks/wine.

Often the suggested drinks menu with tasting meals is just as much, with the bevs delivering a bigger profit margin. Even if that option wasn't chosen by non-wine folks like me, I'd still feel the need to order some top notch drinks/bottles, simply due to the occasion/effort/journey.

But it did seem remote, which is possibly a negative to drinking. Perhaps a trendy motel next door would have helped!

Aug 10, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Bar Rescue

It's actually quite close to the BBC version of Kitchen Nightmares, where Ramsey imparted help and knowledge rather than continually increasing volume/tirades when it moved to the U.S.

Like you, I enjoy learning more about the business side of running a business. The focus might happen to be bars, but there are lessons for anyone interested in better managing customers/products/people.

Aug 08, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Pret a manger- Fast food, with a smile? And decent food? [moved from Food Media and News]

I try to avoid chains if there are other nearby choices, but have grabbed meals at PAM when convenience/speed was needed.

And my opinion of them is completely neutral.

I don't recall them being overtly friendly, nor indifferent. Likewise, their food offerings are somewhat varied/different than most chains, but I can't recall being wowed by anything. In other words, I trust that their tuna sandwich is probably fresh and like that its on a decent roll, but wouldn't go out of my way to eat it. But sometimes you don't have the time or energy to go out of your way, so they're probably filling a niche by being in more places.

Aug 07, 2011
tastyjon in Chains

Gotta give Food Network credit for being loyal

Never said "inordinate" but Tuschman's been there since 98. Fogelson has been there for 12 years. Is that exceptional? I'm guessing yes in terms of the TV industry, though there are certainly other execs who've been at their respective brands for years. But usually it's an industry with a lot of movement.

Jul 26, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Taco Bell Previews the Dark Future of Public Dining

My guess is that certain segments of the industry, particularly places like Taco Bell - where a major percentage of people order food to go or via drive thru - are interested in keeping people around longer. Does anyone currently spend more than 20 minutes inside a Taco Bell if they go there? If they have space, use it.

From a business perspective, it's often better/more profitable to get current customers to spend more money than to get new ones in the doors. If that $7, 20-minute lunch customer decides to watch a game for 3 hours and eats another $7 in food/drink, then you've doubled profits. It doesn't sound impressive, but multiply that by daily visitors and it's really significant money.

One chain that's current a Wall Street favorite is Buffalo Wild Wings, who just reported a 26% growth in earnings. In the current economy, getting double digit growth from a consumer-driven business is amazing. To me, they were always a place to eat hot wings. But they've seemingly turned their business into a destination/sports bar experience.

Jul 26, 2011
tastyjon in Features

Gotta give Food Network credit for being loyal

Has anyone noticed how few people ever actually leave the Food Network? From management to hosts, it seems here's very little turnover compared with TV networks in general.

It's true that some chefs have graduated to other things (usually to more fame), but their overall roster has retained many whose initial stardom seemingly peaked a while back... Irvine, Cora, Summers? Even Ming Tsai comes back for many cameo roles. Meanwhile Flay has been on 15 different shows (according to Wikipedia). I'm not even sure which shows Tyler F., Alton, Ted Allen, Alex G. and others are most associated with these days..

I'm not complaining. In fact I think it's unusually refreshing that a modern network keeps re-investing in core people they seem to click with. Think of how many networks made billions from folks like Cosby/Seinfeld/etc., and promptly abandoned the people/shows when the ratings became average.

Like the talent or not, does it seem like "The Firm?" Ha ha. But really, I work in other parts of the media industry and there's usually an entirely new staff at most places every few years. FN seems to provide a lot of second, third and more chances.

Jul 25, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Why Yelp Sucks!

I've reviewed a lot of places on Yelp and have never had anything removed - even reviews where managers/owners didn't quite like my observations. As someone who has worked for years in restaurant/hotel/casino and other public serving jobs - and being fully appreciative of bad nights/bad apples, etc, - I aim to be honest and rarely give perfect or imperfect scores.

But just like any other kind of reviews, from posters on Amazon and IMDB to reporter reviews of TV shows or movies/music, you learn to take things with a grain of salt and graduate towards people with whom you find common tastes. In other words, you spot trends and learn to ignore noise.

There can be wisdom found in crowds and I appreciate Yelp's ability to provide some insight into so many places. In NY, there are something like 20,000 restaurants and there's no way traditional media could hope to cover them. If I find myself in a corner of Queens, having Yelp suggestions nearby is better than randomly trying a place.

It's not perfect, but I find it usually contains a lot of good info. from passionate food followers.

Jun 30, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Soul Daddy closes its FINAL location

I can't think of 3 worse locations. None are local resident dining destinations, and are mostly filled with people there for other attractions, looking to spend money on other goods (not unknown food).

Nothing's easy, but I would bet that if they had located in the downtown/daily workforce lunching areas of those cities, they might have attracted a curious crowd, looking to try something new.

Jun 30, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Do you use a needle meat tenderizer?

I see them for sale and occasionally hear people promoting their use, but it also seems to run contrary to what is also preached when it comes to cooking meat - don't stab/sear in the juices/etc.

Thoughts?

Jun 22, 2011
tastyjon in Home Cooking

What makes stewed meat tender?

Thanks. What got me pondering the topic was this:

- If a meat is sitting in an open hot tub/pot of sauce, it might be happy simply passing along the heat and flavors to their natural, northern-bound direction.

- if that same pot is capped, it might force the meat to take on the rebounding heat/moisture/flavors as they are being rebounded.

Convection ovens seem to benefit from the recycling of heat/air, as do pressure cookers.

Jun 20, 2011
tastyjon in Home Cooking

What makes stewed meat tender?

I was making a chili recipe today, with the main protein being small cubes of chuck beef. I browned the meat separately, then simmered gently in sauce (uncovered) for 2 hours. After testing, the meat was still somewhat tough and dry (not so much dry, but not infused with the surrounding moisture). Up to this point, I was cooking in a big, uncovered pot with beer, broth, and other sauces, so I wanted it to reduce.

After the meat test, I then put a lid on the pot and let it go another 45 minutes. At this point, the meat got tender and took on more flavor and moisture.

I'm simply wondering if it was the added time that made the difference, or covering the pot - which seemingly redirected heat and steam back into the pot?

I know "low and slow" cooking tenderizes meat in a smoker, but so does a pressure cooker. Pretty much all the chile recipes I read were focused on ingredients and not tactics... simply suggesting a cooking time of 2-5 hours.

In the end, I liked the final product but am not sure how I arrived there. Any suggestions on future tactics? Thanks!

Jun 19, 2011
tastyjon in Home Cooking

Is meat losing its allure?

I'm a fan of all meats, but am cognizant of my total consumption.

As such, I've not so much reduced the number of times I eat meat, but do try to enjoy it in simpler forms and simpler portions. In other words, it need not be the focus.

For example, instead of buying a giant steak to grill and eat at one sitting, I'll buy a certain cut that can be sliced thin and used for multiple dishes over the next few days. Or instead of a meal with 3 pieces of chicken, I'm happy with some chicken mixed in with a burrito that's also packed with other stuff.

Upon reflection, this isn't so much driven by meat-related decisions, but a desire to enjoy food in smaller, variety-filled portions.

Jun 15, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Genoa

I have and it's excellent. It's one of those "back street then down another alley" type of places you'd likely skip if you didn't know better. As such it's full of locals. I'm NY-based but work for a Genoa company and we went there for my first meal on the town. Mostly seafood focused but with a variety of other dishes as well - the quality of the ingredients was excellent. It's quite busy/hectic but in a good way.

Apr 17, 2011
tastyjon in Italy

Sorta odd: Where to buy kabob cart parts or the mini kabob grill in NY?

Thanks. I like Weber, but in this situation would like something rectangular. The spaces I'm working with are narrow (think of resting a grill on a wall).

Apr 07, 2011
tastyjon in Manhattan

Sorta odd: Where to buy kabob cart parts or the mini kabob grill in NY?

I moved to NY from a place with a yard and the one big thing I miss is grilling. Here, I don't have a yard, but do have access to a tiny outdoor space. As such, I've been checking out small Webers, etc. Most seem flimsy.

Then today I was grabbing a bite at a kabob vendor and noticed he was grilling the food on a small, shoebox-sized, cast iron, charcoal grill (not a steam table). It's nothing new, but it dawned on me that the small grill box might perfect for the home cook who only wants to flame cook a couple of burgers, a few kabobs, some chicken, etc. Obviously not to feed a crowd. So I asked the kabob vendor if he knew where to buy just the grill, and he had no idea.

Therefore I'm throwing this question into cyberspace, hoping someone lives or works near a kabob kart assembly business, or anyone else who might have shoebox-sized grills for sale.

Any leads?

Mar 24, 2011
tastyjon in Manhattan

Where to buy lamb (raw) in the boroughs?

I grew up in a Welsh family, so I'm a big fan of chops, roasts, legs, stews, etc.

But for some reason, this variety of meat, despite it being seemingly equally disliked as liked in the US, is often one of the pricier options in a typical market. $10 for two or three tiny chops?

As such, I'm wondering if it might be better to source lamb from markets who cater to populations where lamb is not exotic, but rather a typical staple. Middle East? Indian?

I don't mind riding the train in order to get some good, safe fare. Suggestions?

Thanks!

Mar 11, 2011
tastyjon in Outer Boroughs

Top Chef All-Stars - Ep. #8 - 02/02/11 (Spoilers)

She didn't make moules frites. She made moules. That's it. Steam them for 2 minutes with butter, shallots and wine (+ whatever) and that's a fine dish. I agree its often a wonderful meal, but I don't get how the win celebrated her uniqueness. What was her signature spin? Did she do anything that made them her own brand? Are you rushing out to find her unique twist?

That's my point. She won with a dish that's likely been done a 1,000 times before by a 1,000 chefs. They rewarded sameness. That was the strange theme of this show. Usually one is rewarded for creativity and ambition, but this episode seemed to reward one for being safe and meeting expectations. Meanwhile the folks who tried to make fresh food from scratch were chided for not buying dried, pre-made basics. Blah.

It celebrated karaoke. Even more, it suggested taking short cuts and being content with mass produced products.

I'd hate to say it but maybe "Top Chef" has jumped the shark,

Feb 02, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Top Chef All-Stars - Ep. #8 - 02/02/11 (Spoilers)

This is one of those episodes that leaves me scratching my head.

For the winning dish, Antonia gets the nod for mussels in a broth. Huh? I'm not a chef but like to cook and yet I avoided mussels for years, thinking they'd be complicated. It turns out they are simple to make. The mussels part it easy (if you can source them fresh)... and the sauces/broth part is limitless. Fabio (and the rest) were rightfully irritated. He, for example, cooked a much more involved 2-part course. Simplicity is nice, but you shouldn't win a chef's competition by hitting a bunt.

Likewise, I don't get the judge's hate for Mike's dish. Yes, he's an annoying personality. But he actually attempted fresh pasta. Maybe he failed. Maybe it didn't work. But there were several comments that implied he'd be smarter if he cooked the boxed stuff. What?

To me, this episode seemed to reward non-creative food and penalized attempts at creativity/authenticity. Strange.

Feb 02, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

The Best Thing I Ever Ate...

I don't think Triple D is pay-to-play. It makes no economic sense.

Most of the places visited are pretty small, one-location joints, often in non-hip places. They aren't going to blow what modest marketing budget they have on a national show when they are a $7 a meal, suburban strip mall place in Omaha, Phoenix or San Bernardino.

It makes no sense for the restaurant or for the show.

For a small restaurant in Memphis or Montana, are you really gonna hope to have people travel cross country when you've not yet tapped the local eaters? Your key market are locals.

Likewise, if you were going to produce a P4P show, you'd likely target well funded restaurants in major destination cities. For example, there are plenty of well heeled places in Vegas with celeb chefs and casino money backing, but Guy hits "The Keg" - a dive strip mall bar for beers and stromboli.

Jan 15, 2011
tastyjon in Food Media & News

Red Medicine Boots S. Irene Virbila Out of Restaurant

Good points. That said, the person who writes a food blog or Tweets about fave places is probably aspiring to have a bigger audience follow them. When you see a restaurant target a reviewer that has "voice," it makes the place look bad, even if one might not like that particular commentator.

In other words, when a restaurant starts preemptive strikes against mainstream media critics, aren't they also showing their teeth against any of us who might write opinions on here or other sites?

Dec 24, 2010
tastyjon in Food Media & News