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detlefchef's Profile

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New in Durham: Dos Perros

Full disclosure: I'm the owner and am only replying because this is a pretty straight forward question. People bring in kids all the time. Like others have mentioned, it's not a quiet place especially when it gets busy, so that shouldn't be a problem.

We don't have a kids menu but happily make quesadillas and the like for any kids too young to find something off the menu they like. So far, most haven't had much of a problem finding something for the youngins.

Also, as a point of clarification, while the website lists entrees that range from $15 to $30, the $30 one was a whole fish intended for two. We've found smaller whole fish to use now, so our entrees actually range from $12 to $18. We need to get on the website to update the menu but we've been tweaking it so much in the first weeks that it's hard to keep up.

looking for authentic Chinese restaurants in the Triangle are

And that's the rub, isn't it. We can all pine for places that serve inspired food on the cheap but the simple costs of operating make that harder and harder unless you're prepared to torpedo your chances by opening up in the middle of nowhere.

So, the most logical thing to do is dress up the experience to justify prices high enough to pay the bills. Of course, then you garner the ire of the "purists" who blast you for selling the same dish you can find in some dive for a few bucks more.

May 04, 2009
detlefchef in Southeast

sad chow

Wow, that is about the last thing I would ever say about Chowhound. In fact, one of the things that my friends and I tend to complain about is that posters are often cheap to a fault. Fixating so much on price that places are actually panned because a meal costing less than $10 failed to inspire rapture. I've gotten into it with other posters for making comments such as, "it was a satisfying and delicious breakfast, but at $5 was a little steep".

The moderators heavy hand may be driving posters away, but I doubt it has much to do with weeding out those who like to talk about inexpensive, tasty grub.

Oct 23, 2007
detlefchef in Site Talk

breakfast in Barcelona

Don't forget the Tuna tartare at Cal Pep, freaking awesome. I totally hear you on the fried calamari, I would get tired of counting if I started to list the better versions I have had.

Oct 17, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

Thoroughly fed up with Whole Foods in Raleigh

Suse's story about the slicer is hillarious, but, as RR says, much of it is either in reponse or in an attempt to avoid hassles from clients. Once you put the bar up above the usual grocery store, you invite all the loonies which means the bar keeps getting pushed higher and higher. It's pretty much the same with anyone who tries to do something better.

To a degree, we are all guilty of this if even to a lesser degree. Cheesecake Factory, etc just open their doors to the non-demanding public and blissfully cranks out basically tasty if un-inspired food day after day. Nobody ever truly scrutinizes their efforts. Smaller places try to make a differnence and proceed to ride the roller coaster of praises and pannings because they've targeted the hounds. A group that is not about to let any misstep slide.

Now, I have my own complaints about Whole Foods, so I'm not trying to give them a free pass or anything. I can, however, emphathize with the rather quioxtic attempt to appease the vocal minority. Somebody sees me at the farmer's market and asks me if 100% of what I use is local. I reply that, regretfully it is not, and then have to endure a lecture on why it should be. Of course, I could blow the whole thing off, buy all my produce from elsewhere and never have to meet this whackjob, but then everyone loses.

breakfast in Barcelona

I ate at both Cal and Passadis back to back nights and would not say that Passaidis is just a more formal version. The food was much better at Passadis. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Cal Pep, but there were a few mis-steps there unlike at Passadis where everything was immaculate.

Our meal was about 50% more expensive but I thought it was well worth it.

Oct 12, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

Er gou tou (white liquor) in Durham area?

For whatever reason, the mods decided to delete my last post regarding this so I'll try again. None of the Asian places will be of any use since it would have to be brought in by the ABC stores. As for that, good luck, NC is not an easy place to get things special ordered.

Gift certificate for coach in Durham

I'm certainly with you in regards to Chamas. However, I've only eaten there once and have seen plenty of solid reviews from others who's opinion I value. In addition, it's a lively place that would be a fun night out. Between it and the Barn, I would vote for Chamas in a second.

Of course, you can find a steak many places that aren't steakhouses and most of what Durham is doing is down to earth enough for anyone with even a shred of refinement. I mean, Vin Rouge, Rue Cler, Piedmont, none of them really smack of "fancy pants". From what I can gather from the comments, Watts Grocery would fit that as well. Really only Nana's and 4-sq. might be too much.

With all the opportnities to hook him up with something interesting that isn't weird, I would think that going with the barn would be a bit of a cop-out. I'm guessing that you got put in charge (or took charge) of this because you're the resident foodie. Time to answer the call.

Best Places to Eat In Basque Region

La Cuchara de San Telmo was hands down my favorite stop in San Sebastien. Innovative and delicious tapas made to order at prices that you should feel guilty about. 3.2 E for a huge chunk of foie with apple puree. The size of which would anchor a $15-$20 app anywhere in the states.

Seared sweetbreads, duck breast with figs, Tempura cod with tomato confit... just really cool and delicious food all for about 3 E a plate.

Oct 05, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

Passadis del pep reservations

We managed to walk-in but we ate at the very un-cool and early hour of 9pm. While it certainly got more full, it never filled up. It's actually a reasonably large place.

Enjoy, dinner was insanely good.

Oct 05, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

North Carolina vegetarian recs

Udipi Cafe in Cary is amazingly good and just happens to be veggie. Beautiful Southern Indian fare and very nice people to boot.

Chapel Hill, NC recs

Chicken Biscuit at Sunrise as well as an immaculate cappucino at Driade (both on Franklin not far from downtown heading towards Durham you can walk it but it will take at least 15 minutes both ways) should be on your short list of morning options.

If you want to eat on Franklin, I would vote for either Lantern or Elaines. If you're prepared to venture out a bit, your options open up.

I'll second the Merrit Store for a BLT at lunch. Great sandwich.

Speaking of sandwiches, Sandwhich is right downtown and does a fabulous job. They're right behind Panang (a place that I don't endorse not only because the service can be horrible, but I think the food is average at best).

If you like beer, check out Milltown just towards Carrboro from downtown CH. Nice selection of brews and some tasty pub fare as well.

Sep 27, 2007
detlefchef in Southeast

wine tasting in Spain

Are you looking for visits to the wine country or places with good wine flights in town?

In Barcelona, there's a cool little wine bar on Calle Argentina in the Barri Gotic right at the front door of a big church that has a great wine list and sells many of them by the small taste.

Barcelona is also right next to where most Cava is made and just south of some very impressive red wines. We visited Castillo Perelada just outside of Figures. A beautiful castle with great wines ranging from cavas, to interesting light white and red blends, all the way up to very impressive reds that cost upward of 100E. If you don't mind laying down some cash, they have a very nice resort just outside of the town as well as a very swank casino in the castle. Straight out of a James Bond flick. Ancient tapestries on the walls, crazy french high rollers with fancy suits. I was half expecting to see some dude in a white dinner coat with a patch over one eye. We were fortunate enough to get the industry hook up since I serve their wine at my restaurant or would not have been able to afford the experience. Mind you, you can likely get a tour and a tasting for little or nothing.

Sep 22, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

Akelarre vs. Arzak

Hit Arzak right around the same time as you. Also found the food to be lovely and did have to work to figure out what I was being served. Curiously enough, a young man came up to me and spoke to me in English when I first got there, guiding me through my drink choices and showing me around. He also explained they'd describe every course. I assumed, he meant himself, but I rarely saw him again. Instead, they were all described in Spanish. I was able to figure out most of it and only made a point of requesting him when I was completely clueless.

The other odd thing was they took the bit of not pushing the check on you to an extreme. I was dining alone and literally sat there for 15-20 minutes with not so much of a glass of water in front of me before anyone even gave me the chance to ask for the check. Then I sat at least 10 minutes more before I got it.

None the less, it was an inspirational meal.

Sep 22, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

Cal Pep-ordering

That's kind of how it worked for us as well. They just brought the noise. The only thing that didn't turn me on was the fried calamari. Just very, very average at best.

The garbanzos and baby squid were great.

The tartar, as you mentioned. The tortilla is orders of magnitude better than other places. I actually told him I didn't want one because I didn't want to waste the precious stomach space on some eggs and he gave me a look like, "You have no idea what you are talking about" and gave us one anyway. He was right.

The fried green pimentos, the tiny, tiny clams... Those also stand out.

If you're up for a bit more evolved, higher end experience, walk up the street to his brother's place Passadis del Pep. It might not be a bad idea if you don't get to Cal P exactly when they open and are forced to wait in the 20 deep line for the 20 bar stools (translation: about an our or so). Set menu of 8 course of immaculately prepared shellfish and a bottle of very nice cava. It was $130 E for the two of us just a few weeks ago. A lovely, lovely meal to say the least. There's an optional fillet fish course as well if you want it.

Highlights there: Besides the usual suspect of buttery, garlicky presentations of shrimp, clams, snails, etc. (all great mind you) The baby squids cooked with rice and ink and the crayfish cooked with onions were trascendant.

Here's the deal. It is literally impossible to find. There's no sign on the street. Walking from Cal Pep back past the Irish Pub and the place with Asian waiters that try to tackle you into coming to their place, look for a hallway with a fancy brown door with frosted glass at the end of it. If they're open, there might be a guy on the street holding business cards.

Of course, Cal Pep has business cards with a map that shows both places on the back. That said, in typical Spanish style, neither P de Pep or C Pep are actually shown in the right places on the map!

Sep 22, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

Cooked Tripe in the Triangle?

If you're looking for non-menudo tripe (not that there is anything at all wrong with that), I think Vin Rouge is known to make it from time to time. I would certainly call first, of course.

1 night only in Raleigh/Durham

What about an outstanding restaurant that is completely vegetarian? Udipi Cafe in Cary serves impeccible Southern Indian Veggie Fare. Lunch is good but rather typical Indian buffet sort of deal, but dinner is much more inventive. That said, I'm not sure how one person would do since the menu is sort of driven towards family style sharing. Of course, 3 of us shared a ton of dishes for about $45 one night and most places (including mine) would charge upwards of that for a tasting menu for one, so you could just order a bunch of things and take home the leftovers.

Fresh Market is coming to Chapel Hill

Well, the bad news for me is the price of running out of something at the restaurant and running across the street just went up a bit.

Of course, I often wondered what the point of having three HTs so close to each other. After all, there's one in University Mall as well as Meadowmont

Specific Question regarding Arzak vs Akelare in San Sebastien

My wife and I will be there for about a week in September and I have booked back to back lunches at those two. However, reality has kicked in and we've realized that we simply can't afford both. Frankly, this has much to do with the fact that we both appreciate simple fare as much as crazy hight end and feel there's no need to spend over $200 on back to back lunches that may both be the most impressive we've ever eaten. Now, if money was no object, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

So, I've read plenty of boards and have gotten universally split opinions on both.

"Arzak is tired, Akelare is really where it's at..."
"Arzak is still the place to go if you have only one great meal..."

And so on and so forth.

So, I've had a few less than thrilling experiences in the US with people making food inspired by the innovations of Spain. They have always been more interesting than delicious. I get off the bus where it becomes apparent that it is about the chef and not the food. My wife gets off even before then.

So, of these two, which is the most grounded? Which uses the lighter touch and stays furthest on the side of purity and tradition rather than chemistry?

I'm asking this because I know there are plenty who get off more than I on truly revolutionary food. You know Cantu's stuff. I want the one that is least like that...


Jul 27, 2007
detlefchef in Spain/Portugal

allen & son's obsession

In general, this board seems to prefer the wood-cooked version on 86 over the other. That is the only one I've been to but a friend of mine who takes his cue rather seriously claims to prefer the 15-501 version despite the fact it is cooked over gas.

allen & son's obsession

I hear you on your issues with Allen and Sons. I like it well enough but it doesn't knock me out. Of course, I'm not a huge fan of Eastern NC que. I mean, it's tasty and all, but then again, it's made from pig so that should be a given. My issue is that there are about a million and one tasty things you can do with pig and Eastern NC que doesn't crack my top 20.

As for calling the triangle a pork black hole. Us "yuppies" are doing a lot of great things with pork, we're just not smoking it and covering it with vinegar. The menus of progressive upscale restaurants around here are loaded with great preparations of lesser known as well as common cuts of pork; bellies, jowls, cheeks, shanks, and of course, shoulders to name a few.

Oliveto's: who loves it and why?

Well, I don't want to be misunderstood because often times these claims are simply wrong. Also, assuming the service, ambiance, and execution are on point, it might, in fact, be a value. Also, as Rbt mentions, if you don't have a wood oven...

At very least, there is no prep, cleaning up afterwards, etc. and when you want something, you tell your waiter and it is brought to you. These things cost money.

I am actually one of those people who can, in fact, make much of that stuff at home but I still enjoy places like this immensely. I was really just pointing out that the fact that the east bay has a number of restaurants that serve very simple food as well as a savvy population with well stocked pantries makes it ripe for such a critique.

I would say, however, that the vast majority of friends who I feel are truly qualified to make such a statement are not inclined to do so. Those same friends are happy to pay for a perfect bowl of cannalini beans with fresh herbs and great olive oil or some other such dish.

Salt Cod

I saw a bunch at Compare foods off Avondale near where the old Kmart was in Durham.

Oliveto's: who loves it and why?

Very true indeed.

Oliveto's: who loves it and why?

I really think you are getting hung up on a very minor distinction at the expense of understanding what is the root of many people's complaints with restaurants such as this.

More importantly, as with anything, there is often a pantheon level of quality at which point it becomes rather silly to argue which is better. I have never eaten anything from Knoll Farms. I have, however, eaten a "perfect" tomato, cooked a "perfect" beet, seen "perfect" salad greens. I would not say they were better than any other, but certainly as good as any other. At some point, you can do no more than simply say something is "among the best you will ever experience".

For instance. What is the "best" wine in the world?

Oliveto's: who loves it and why?

I'm not saying that you can make everything at home, I'm saying the the nay-sayers often gravitate to those dishes. "$25 for some seared scallops with olive oil and heirloom tomatoes?" or what have you.

As for the Knoll Farms produce. I'm not in the bay area anymore and am not familiar with that farm. I'm sure the produce is amazing. However, during my years in the both the East Bay and in Santa Cruz, I do know that there is no shortage of simply amazing produce. To imply that having to substitute tomatoes from, say Happy Boy farms, instead would make your dish worse is a bit of a stretch.

One thing I've really noticed having lived in the east bay as well as many other areas of the US, is that it has, quite possibly, the best stocked pantries in the US. If you go to someone's house, you are likely to be served produce from the farmer's market with some tiny production olive oil that Kermit Lynch brings in and some rad little crottin, etc, etc. So, it is not completely unlikely to find yourself at a place like Oliveto and be thinking, "This is really no better than what we had at so and so's house last night." Only, you're sort of bent 'cause you just laid down $70 for some random bottle of Rosso de Montalcino and are staring a $200 bill in the face.

In short, I think that some of the people who often get put into the "don't get it" category are simply those who do get the food but just don't like forking over big bucks for what is often peasant food. Back in the 80s and early 90s, when everyone was doing silly food, duck confit with white bean gratin was almost cutting edge. Now it appears you can get duck confit at costco. That's all I'm saying.

Oliveto's: who loves it and why?

This has been a very interesting read. I worked at Oliveto in the early 90s when Curt Clingman (now of JoJo) was the chef. Honestly, I learned more about food and wine in the two years I spent there than during any other period of my life. Not just because we were making beautiful and real food from scratch but because everyone who worked there was so into it that we always got together after work or on our days off to do more of the same.

I left the country for a while and came back to work there, leaving again right before Bertoli took over and it had certainly fallen off. I recall being annoyed by all the stories that followed about him taking this derelict restaurant and turning it into something great. In reality, it had been great and had just gone through a tough time. When I opened up my own place in Santa Cruz a few years later, I brought one of the guys who'd been a line cook when I left to be my sous chef and was excited by all the things he'd picked up under Paul.

This isn't the first bad report I've read on the "new" Oliveto and I am truly curious. I do agree that the same type of person is going to either like or dislike both Oliveto and Chez Panisse. At least when I was at Oliveto, we often considered them a sister restaurant of ours, doing an Italian version of what they were doing with Provence.

One problem that both these places face is that, as better and better products avail themselves to consumers, much of what they're doing can be done easily at home. The food can be so transparent and people might want to get back-flips for the kind of money they're spending. It is an understandable stance. Of course, in all fairness, many of the complaints in this thread are more than that and are from people who really did not like the food at all.

At any rate, thanks for the read...

Need Upscale Mexican in San Jose or other Southbay

I'll be in Santa Cruz for a week in early August and know the usual suspects on that side of the SC Mountains. I'm on a fact finding mission and am looking to check out a few upscale Mexican places nearby that are serving traditional food.

Not so much looking for Nuevo Latino, Tex-Mex, or Southwestern.

Modern ambiance is a plus, innovative beverage programs are certainly a plus.

The somewhat recent thread about this seemed largely focused on SF. Anything south of there?

Greg Cox- is there *any* restaurant that he reviews and doesn't rave about?

I'm often amazed by the fact that so many people can't read between the lines with his reviews. Like every other food critic that doesn't have the teeth of a major newspaper (NY Times, et al.) behind them, he's like got some serious pressure not to completely trash a place. You have to know that going in. Honestly, despite the comment that one should check the stars rather than the text, I think it's the opposite. Both the title of the review and the stars given often point to some optimistic chance the place might be good. It's in the actual body of the review where he reveals that a place is not likely worth a visit. There have been plenty of places he's reviewed where he didn't obviously pan the place but certainly led me to believe that he didn't much like his experience.

I will say this. As someone who's been reviewed by him on two occasions, he's quite thorough in terms of calling after he's been in a few times and preparing his review to do a complete fact check and make sure he's not getting something wrong. This might seem small, but I've been the subject of many reviews in my career and have been very frustrated by how much they get wrong. This isn't sour grapes mind you. Quite the contrary, it's been a matter of getting rave reviews for a grilled dish in a kitchen that didn't have a grill or for the subtle inclusion of an spice that was actually so subtle it didn't even exist.

Like many other things often complained in the triangle, I think this falls into the category of, "Not as good as major food cities but likely much better than other markets of our size."

Jun 26, 2007
detlefchef in Food Media & News

Raleigh/Durham/Cary Farmer's Market. Which is the best?

The only markets that I ever go to are in Durham and Carrboro and I've actually always prefered the Durham market. It's just a whole lot easier to deal with (especially if you're buying for a restaurant and need to haul a lot of stuff). Parking is much closer (not as close, mind you, as it used to be) and it's just easier to navigate. Many of the same farmers are at both, FWIW. There might be a somewhat larger selection at Carrboro, but, honestly, if you're not lucky, you're gonna be shlepping your produce a long way to whatever parking spot you might have found.