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josephnl's Profile

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Plate sharing fee- why?

So wsg, do you think it's ok for restaurants to deny service to solo diners? I don't, and as I've said elsewhere in this thread, I've dined solo at some of the best restaurants in the US and abroad while traveling on business. I've never been denied service, and have never been treated poorly. Indeed, I'm almost always treated very well. I however order and tip appropriately, and although I by no means hurry, I don't dawdle excessively.

about 1 hour ago
josephnl in Not About Food

Settebello Newport

I'll try Ford's next time, although Nolet's was very good...but for $16, I expect a reasonably sized martini. My drink last night might have been 2 oz., but seemed less. Nevertheless it was very small compared to the martinis made at most local OC spots. Hillstone's restaurants, Wildfish and most everywhere else in Newport Beach/Irvine/Costa Mesa pour at least a 3oz. martini

about 1 hour ago
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Settebello Newport

I've only been to Sotto twice, and last time was several months ago, so although it was very good, I'm not sure how it fits in the comparison. I think overall, I enjoyed Settebello better than Ortica. I'm trying to think of only the pizza, but it's hard to ignore the fact that imho the ambiance at Settebello is much nicer, and also, there is a greater larger selection of starters, and also pizzas (although there is no pasta at Settebello). I do think that I enjoyed the pizza more at Settebello. At Ortica, the center of the pizza often seems wet. I don't mean floppy which I now realize is how Neopolitan pizza should be…I meat wet with either liquid or oil. At Settebello, the crust was perfectly cooked, floppy in the center, chewy at the edges, but it was not wet in the center. Ortica is very good, but I'd give my vote to Settebello…if only I could get a good Bombay Sapphire martini there...

about 3 hours ago
josephnl in Los Angeles Area
1

Where to "wow" a visitor with "do NOT miss this place" recommendations

So is Madeo.

about 15 hours ago
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Where to "wow" a visitor with "do NOT miss this place" recommendations

Yep, regardless of where your out-of-town guests are from, it''s highly unlikely they'll have anything even close to Taco Maria at home. I third this recommendation without hesitation!

about 15 hours ago
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - August 2014

You're correct, iciness in ice cream is almost always the result of the product being allowed to thaw out and soften, and then refrozen.

about 15 hours ago
josephnl in Chains
1

Settebello Newport

Just had dinner at Settebello, Newport Beach for the first time. Overall, it was a good experience…but not without room for improvement.

The atmosphere/ambiance is very attractive and pleasant. Interestingly, half of the restaurant and bar are totally uncovered, and with no way of covering them when it rains. I can see this working for the dining room where there is an easily enclosable dining area…but half of the bar is open to the sky with no protection. We'll see! Nevertheless, the area is very attractive and pleasant.

We started with drinks, me a martini and my partner a negroni. They advertise themselves as serving "craft cocktails" and pride themselves on serving spirits from small producers and avoiding the more common brands. Therefore they did not have my favorite Bombay sapphire in the bar…but they did have Beefeaters gin, Tanquerey gin, and several very common vodkas…Ketel One, etc. This is a trend I cannot understand. Certainly it's fine to have spirits from small producers and encourage guests to try them, but when you know that many guests will want something as basic as Bombay Sapphire, it makes no sense not to stock it. OK…even if I can accept that, Settebello must serve the smallest, most measured drinks anywhere in Orange County. My $16 gin martini was the smallest I've been served anywhere.

Our server was very pleasant and professional. The service was fine.

The starter salads we had were good, but not outstanding. Certainly not is the same league as the excellent salads at P. Mozza. We did note some charcuterie boards, and bruschetta going by, and they looked better.

The main attraction…the pizzas…were excellent. We had both a margherita and a diavolo pizza. They were both terrific. The margherita could have had more basil on it, but am sure on request they would have added extra. The diavolo, was spicy and delicious. The crust was perfectly cooked Neopolitan style, floppy in the center, chewy at the edges, and nicely speckled with brown at the edges and on the bottom. Really very good.

I had a nice glass of excellent beer with my pizza, and my partner had a nice glass of red wine. The list is small, but has some good choices.

We went at 5 o'clock and the restaurant was empty. By the time we left at 6:15, there were other customers there, but it was far from busy. The bar was pretty empty…but with the small drinks they serve, this was no surprise.

There is major opportunity for improvement in the bar and with their salads, but the main act (pizza) is definitely solid!

about 17 hours ago
josephnl in Los Angeles Area
1

What 5 TJ's products...?

If your shopping at TJ's were limited to only 5 products (forever), what 5 products could you not live without? For me they would be:

Coffee bean blast ice cream
Frozen almond croissants
Greek feta cheese in brine
Greek kalamata olives in olive oil
San Marzano mini tomatoes (fresh, grown in USA)

about 21 hours ago
josephnl in Chains

Settebello Newport

Any recent CH visits? Few reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor have not been great?

1 day ago
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Am I the only person on the planet that doesn't "get" Trader Joe's?

You may be one of the few who don't like TJ's...so don't go there. I don't get In 'n Out Burgers that seem too be loved by many CH's, so I don't go there. To each his own. I love TJ's. Not that it will replace my everyday market, but there are things that I love there...the Greek feta in brine, the Greek kalamata olives, many of their cheeses, the 4% fat ground beef (is there leaner ground beef anywhere), rosemary raisin crackers, etc. I could go on for much longer with things they have at TJ 's that I can't find elsewhere. But like most things, if you don't get it...forget it!

1 day ago
josephnl in Chains

Marche Moderne…what's happened?

Was this a privately arranged 9-course tasting menu? I don't recall seeing a 9-course dinner listed on the menu, certainly not with foie. Was this true "foie", or was it the "faux" gras (duck liver, I think) that has been on their menu intermittently since the ban?

Without question Chefs Florent and Amelia can put out a truly spectacular privately arranged special tasting menu. They did this for us a few years back, and we're still talking about it.

Aug 25, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

What cookbooks have you bought lately, or are you lusting after? August 2014 Edition!

Not exactly a traditional cookbook as such, but I love the new "Joy of Cooking" app on my iPad. It's the complete cookbook, very easy to skim or search, and simple to print a single recipe from (either via a wireless enabled printer, or by emailing the recipe to yourself). Oh...and it creates a shopping list too! Like this basic cookbook a lot!

Aug 24, 2014
josephnl in Home Cooking

South Coast Plaza Din Tai Fung Rates With International Counterparts

Where do you think the best XLB are to be found nowadays in OC?

Aug 22, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Taco Maria brick + mortar 1st Report, Costa Mesa - Excellent Tasting Menu

Perhaps we should be thankful. It's still pretty easy to get in.

Aug 22, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Taco Maria brick + mortar 1st Report, Costa Mesa - Excellent Tasting Menu

No. As a matter of courtesy, I mention it when I make the reservation, and they always say "no problem". I then remind them when we arrive, but I suspect that as long as Chef C is in the house (which seems to be always), I doubt that advance notice is even necessary.

Aug 22, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Taco Maria brick + mortar 1st Report, Costa Mesa - Excellent Tasting Menu

Chef Carlos was himself once a vegetarian and loves cooking amazing vegetarian dishes "on-the-fly". Whenever we go to TM, he graciously and happily accommodates my vegetarian partner with stunningly delicious food!

Aug 22, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Can anyone explain the absence of Taco Maria from Bon Appetit's list of Best New Restaurants?

Of course it's one of the best restaurants around. Maybe it's best that we keep TM our own "little secret". If it get's too much publicity snagging a reservation will be like Maude or The French Laundry!

Aug 22, 2014
josephnl in Food Media & News

Taco Maria brick + mortar 1st Report, Costa Mesa - Excellent Tasting Menu

Great report! We love the place...and it's also terrific for vegetarians! Chef Carlos is not only talented, he's extremely gracious and accommodating. Last time there he sent over what was likely the best bowl of guacamole and chips I've ever had!

Aug 22, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

August dinners in Palm Springs area?

As a follow-up, we had dinners at:

Spencer's - food generally poor, but service and ambiance are good.
Shame on the Moon - always pleasant, with good food and service. Also, it's a bargain!
Bernie's Lounge and Supper Club - pretty good food, service and ambiance, but too expensive for what it is.

Johanne's where we've been before would have been better...and of course when they are open, Copley's and Le Vallauris are way better!

Aug 21, 2014
josephnl in California

South Coast Plaza Din Tai Fung Rates With International Counterparts

Thanks, Porthos for another great report. Looks outstanding. Wow…did you eat all of that yourself? With $22.5 for the truffle dumplings alone, how much was your tab…for one, two? Do they serve food at the bar, and is the wait for the bar similar? Thanks!

Aug 21, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - August 2014

Assume you mean the Kozy puddings, right? I find them all delicious...especially the tapioca and the caramel custard. I could probably eat a dozen custards in a row...but would then be really sick!

Aug 19, 2014
josephnl in Chains

South Coast Plaza Din Tai Fung Rates With International Counterparts

Please let us know if it's worth the wait! Also, would love to know what you liked, and didn't. Do the have a full bar...I mean with martinis?

Aug 19, 2014
josephnl in Los Angeles Area

Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

On domestic flights, I always am in coach and although I suppose I could bring food aboard, I never seem to do so. There's no way I'm going to buy the garbage they try to sell as "food" on most planes, so after several hours en route, I frequently (but not always) want a light meal upon arrival. Fortunately, Houston's is right nearby and will usually work out.

Aug 19, 2014
josephnl in Not About Food

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - August 2014

I have tried to get anchovies at 3 different TJ's in southern CA and none had them, and each store told me they were currently unavailable. Savour also reports above that his/her store does not have them. I suspect the problem may be a regional supply issue, rather than the "seasonal" nonsense.

Aug 19, 2014
josephnl in Chains

Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

I'm talking about returning home from travel and there just happen to be 4 Hillstone restaurants in my area. Their policy I have learned is "to seat guests" up until their closing time. Once seated, they will of course, serve you dinner. And I, of course, if I arrive shortly before closing will order promptly and will certainly not dawdle over a lengthy meal. I guess as you LindaW suggested earlier, restaurants should have a clear policy (ideally posted) re closing time, and kitchen closing.

Aug 19, 2014
josephnl in Not About Food

Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

I don't think it's just coincidence that among the most successful restaurant groups in the country are those that provide wonderful service and yes, hospitality. I've never seen a Hillstone restaurant (Houston's, Bandera, etc,) that wasn't busy, nor a Danny Meyer restaurant (Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, etc.) in NYC that wasn't packed.

Aug 19, 2014
josephnl in Not About Food

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - August 2014

It's absolutely ridiculous that TJ's often (indeed most of the time) does not have anchovies. They have canned tuna, salmon, smoked trout, etc. and yes anchovies, but only on occasion. The manager at my store said that they are seasonal, but of course this is ridiculous. It shouldn't be an availability issue because every other market in our area has them all the time. What do you think's the story?

Aug 18, 2014
josephnl in Chains

Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

So, when I land at the airport at 9:30pm and call a restaurant and tell them I'm on my way and ask when they close and am told 10:00pm, and arrive at 9:50pm, they shouldn't take good care of me?? This is a regular occurrence with me, and it's never been a problem...and IMHO, it shouldn't be. This has been with Hillstone restaurants (Houston's, Bandera, etc.), which always provide wonderful service, but it shouldn't be a problem anywhere. Obviously as LindaWhit has suggested, restaurants would avoid this confusion and any hard feelings by posting both a closing time (when guests are expected to leave), and a kitchen closes time (after which no new orders are accepted). Both however IMHO should be subject to reasonable exception in that restaurants are (at least should realize that they are) in the hospitality business, and as such should try toro vide the best customer service possible.

Aug 18, 2014
josephnl in Not About Food

Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

I often return home from business trips late in the evening and wanting dinner, either phone to find out (or know from prior experience) the closing time of local restaurants. If I arrive before the closing time, I expect to be treated just as if I arrived an hour earlier. If a restaurant is open and seats me, why should I expect anything less.

Aug 17, 2014
josephnl in Not About Food
1

Is it right for restaurants to stop seating people before closing time?

Just my opinion, but if a restaurant posts a closing time as say 10:00 pm, they should happily provide the full normal dining service to a guest who arrive at 9:55 pm. If they truly want to close the kitchen at 10:00 pm, and let the staff off at 10:30 or 11:00, then they should post their closing time at 9:30 or earlier. To me, closing time means the time when the doors are locked and no more customers are allowed in.