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Top Chef for School

I'm going to go ahead and disagree and say that having kids watch Top Chef during class isn't necessarily good for their education. I could understand doing a Top Chef day once during the quarter as a one-time event they can get excited for and anticipate. But you're showing your kids an hour-long reality TV show once a week, and the bottom line is that they shouldn't be learning from reality television.

Don't get me wrong, I do like watching Top Chef myself - it's an entertaining show. However, I wouldn't be happy if my kids watched it during school every week, during time that they could be learning something more useful.

Looking at the bigger picture, I think you are contributing to the trend of increasing numbers of young "cooks" who pick the career path of a chef because they want to be on TV, and not because they actually enjoy the craft.

May 04, 2008
wax311 in Food Media & News

Bouchon Slips

On my first trip to Napa this weekend, I got a chance to eat some great food and drink plenty of good wine. On Friday night, after my parents and I flew in earlier that afternoon, we ate at Bouchon.

Dear Thomas Keller,

Please close Bouchon while you undergo renovations in the kitchen. The starters we ordered were nice - cold pea soup with crab salad had a pleasant smooth, creamy texture, and the cassoulet with duck confit was textbook - pretty good start. Then we waited. And waited. Fifteen minutes go by. At that point, our server said our entrees "should be here in just a couple of minutes". Fifteen minutes after that, our food arrived...lukewarm. Starving, I dug into my Coquille St. Jacques - diver scallops with asparagus, chorizo, and pequillo peppers. The scallops were cooked very nicely but underseasoned, the asparagus was overcooked and underseasoned, and the chorizo was overcooked and chewy. I had a few bites of my mom's bouillabaisse. The fish and shrimp were plated in a bowl, brought to the table, and then the broth was poured in tableside. Well, the seafood was quite cold and devoid of seasoning. What a boring dish. Thinking back, we really should have returned our food and asked for something else, but we were so hungry and tired by the time we got our food that we didn't even want to bother.

I am a big fan of yours Mr. Keller, having enjoyed the best meal on my life at Per Se even though it costed me an arm and a leg. I'm a cook, and The French Laundry cookbook is one of my favorites. So I'm sure you could understand that I was excited to eat at Bouchon. I understand closing for a week or so during renovations costs money, but your reputation is at stake. As I went to the bathroom in the temporary outhouse of a men's room next to Bouchon after the meal, I wondered to myself how customers would react if they had to relieve themselves in an outhouse next to The French Laundry down the street.

Eating at Redd the next night was like night and day. I'll review it later.

Apr 08, 2008
wax311 in San Francisco Bay Area

Restaurant week sucks! [moved from Boston board]

This is my opinion of restaurant week, from a cook's perspective working at a pretty good restaurant that does RW dinner only.

Most cooks and servers that I have encountered through the years hate RW, but I must say I do enjoy it. Where I work now, we run only the RW menu, which has about 4-5 choices per course. This means that I only have to prep a small amount of dishes in bulk. During service, I am only have responsible for four dishes, instead of the 7-8 I am normally responsible for. Due to the smaller amount of items I need to prep for (albeit in much larger quantities) and the fewer dishes I need to juggle in my head during service, RW week is much easier mentally. So basically, I get two weeks where I don't really need to think much, just cook. Physically, it's about the same level of exhaustion as normal.

I have worked at restaurants who do both lunch and dinner and restaurants that do both RW and their regular menus. I must say, these are the types of places you should avoid during RW. Two services - lunch and dinner - is very taxing on cooks and servers, especially when the restaurant doesn't normally do lunch. At one restaurant a few years ago, I had to work every day during RW from 9 in the morning until midnight because they wanted to do lunch to boost sales for that month. Running two menus during RW- the regular menu PLUS a RW menu - is very taxing on the cooks, as their workload increases dramatically. At one place, I was resposible for 8-9 menu items instead of 5-6, and not only did that result in longer hours, but my I didn't have enough room at my station for extra ingredients for three more dishes.

SO I think RW can be good or bad depending on how each restaurant does it. My one complaint for RW city-wide is that now it is two weeks in the winter and two weeks in the summer. It used to be just one week in the winter, then one winter one summer, then two weeks both seasons. Now, restaurant week takes up a whole month out of the year, which is just too much. It should be limited to just 1-2 weeks.

Mar 17, 2008
wax311 in Not About Food

Choucroute garni in Boston??

I had the choucroute at Brasserie Jo a couple nights ago. The smoked meats and sausages were great, but the sauerkraut was way too acidic for my tastes, and the potatos were pretty bland and boring. However, it was a rediculous amount of food, probably enough for two, for like 24 bucks.

Jan 14, 2008
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Disappointing L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon Experience

If you have a restrictive diet of any kind, such as vegetarian, or even if you're just a picky eater, then do yourself a favor and check out the options AHEAD OF TIME before you go to a restaurant. Going there blindly and expecting the kitchen to cook off the menu is unfair to the staff.

Now if you think the options they did offer weren't very good, then fine. But don't "mark one off" for the kitchen not cooking off the menu (or for your server not being desperately apologetic that they wouldn't do so).

Jan 12, 2008
wax311 in Manhattan

Mozzarella di Bufala in Boston

^^^^This is exactly what I was going to recommend. They sell the same brand at whole foods but it's $5 per ball...4 balls for $10 at Costco for some quality mozz di bufala is a great deal.

Jun 12, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Ten Tables - special meal, pretty much flawless

My girl and I went to Ten Tables for the first time last night after wanting to go for a while. The chef came and ate at the restaurant I work at a month or so ago, my coworkers think highly of the place, and I've noticed the high regard that this board has placed on Ten Tables.

I went into it with pretty high expectations. I was not let down. In fact, our meal exceeded my expectations.

Right after we sat and before we ordered, we were given shot glasses of celery granita. Nice clean celery flavor with an aggressive but pleasing amount of salt. Nice and refreshing on a hot night.

Bread was pretty good, served with extra V.

With our meal, we enjoyed a nice bottle of Sauvignon Blanc recommended to us by our waiter. I forget the name now - I drank pretty much the while bottle minus half a glass (my girl isn't a big drinker) - but it was a little fruitty, grassy, and very refreshing.

First came a chilled pea soup with pistacios, mint, and a drizzle of olive oil. Nice velvety texture, good pea flavor. Excellent way to start a meal.

Next came a salad of romaine, cucumber, radish, and French feta for my girl, and for me a dish of duck proscuitto, pickled ramps, and a small salad of ramp greens and toasted hazelnuts. My girl's salad was great - wonderful salty feta, good olive oil, and chervil made it a nice salad. The duck proscuitto was special - nice fatty cured breast with ramps presented two ways - the whites pickled and the greens in a mini salad with toasted hazelnuts that were still warm from the oven. Oh yeah.

For entrees, we shared a buttery gnocchi dish with peas, carrots, and shaved parm and the pork tenderloin with romesco and a ragu of chickpeas and favas. The gnocchi were pretty light and fluffy, and the sauce was rich and buttery, with some sauce left over to sop up with a couple peices of bread. The tenderloin was perfectly cooked, tender, and topped with a pretty tasty romesco.

Then, we were sent a palate cleanser of lemon sorbet from the kitchen. Another refreshing treat on a hot night.

For dessert, we ordered the chocolate terrine with thai basil ice cream, and the hazelnut brown butter cake with berry compote and vanilla ice cream. Very nice desserts. The thai basil ice cream with the chocolate terrine was excellent, and the brown butter cake was nice and light.

Service was great - attentive, competent, knowledgable about the food and wine, and very helpful even on a busy Saturday night (although it is Memorial Day weekend - the only reason I had the night off in the first place). I introduced myself to one of the cooks (Josh), and he stopped by the table a couple of times and brought us our sorbet and dessert. Nice guy. The place is tiny - I asked where the bathroom was and was pointed downstairs, where I was able to scope out the full extent of the kitchen. The things they are able to do there in the tiny amount of space they have is impressive. I am sometimes frustrated with the amount of space I have in the kitchen at La Morra, and they have less than half the amount of storage and prep space that we have.

From the point of view of a cook, I am very impressed with Ten Tables. Overall, this was the best meal I've had in the past year or so. I'll be returning there again very soon.

May 26, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area


You know, I trailed in the kitchen at L'Espalier for a day when I was looking for a job, and I was very surprised at how small the kitchen was. On one hand, I was impressed how they were able to get their prep done efficiently, but at the same time I was wondering to myself what they would be able to do with some more space.

With the influx of customers with deep pockets flowing from the hotel, they'll be more successful. I bet the food will get better, and even more pricey.

May 17, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Fasika - Strange...

The atmosphere at Fasika is surely seriously lacking, but when my girl and I tried it a month ago or so, the food was great (and cheap).

That's weird about your experience (or lack of experience) there. Thanks for sharing though - I'll be calling ahead from now on before I leave.

Apr 10, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Boca Grande in Kenmore Square

I like the Boca Grande in Brighton Center - cheap and satisfying for a quick meal on the go. I've eaten at the Boca Grande in Coolidge Corner and find the Brighton Center location to be much better. It just opened a few months ago - spotless kitchen, really nice dining room.

Jan 20, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

good Italian outside of the North End

Trattoria Toscana!

Jan 06, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Pino's or Presto's?

Presto for sure. One slice of veggie pizza is $3 and a meal's worth - loaded with veggies. Good sicilian, and cheap-ass specials like 2 slices and a soda for $5, medium pizza and 2 sodas for 9 or 10 i think.

Also, the guys the work at Prestos are much nicer than the people at Pinos in my experience.

However, Pinos makes a pretty good calzone.

For cleveland circle, Presto's > Pino's > Roggies. Roggies sucks.

Jan 02, 2007
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Antico Forno - bad food, great pizza

Yes, we went to Antico Forno because we decided kind of last minute that we didn't want to spend as much as we would if we were to go to Prezza or Carmen (and we went to the Bs game after, so North End was a convenient destination). I had heard good things about it on this board and else where, and wanted to give it a try.

You know, maybe the pizza just seemed that much better in comparison to the other underwhelming food we had. Maybe it's not one of the top few places in the city for pizza, but until I have it again in the future, I'd say it's in the top 10.

As a side not, we did have a wonderful anniversay...dinner together, Bs won 2-0, nice dessert at Finale, and great second dessert if you know what I mean wink wink

Dec 23, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Antico Forno - bad food, great pizza

Went to Antico Forno for the first time last night. We had an excellent pizza with sausage, broccoli rabe, cherry tomatoes, and mozz di bufala. Perfect crust, nicely salty, crumbly sausage perfectly cooked, not oily at all.

However, the rest of the food was pretty bad.

We started with bowls of ribollita - terrible. Very bland, underseasoned, only a couple little cubes of bread - it tasted like they used canned soup and chucked some croutons in it. After the pizza, my girlfriend had baked rigatoni with sausage and ricotta, and I had veal scalopini with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, roasted potatos, and green beans. The rigatoni was overcooked and the sauce tasted like spaghettios sauce. The veal underwhelming - bland, underseasoned sauce, underseasoned boring potatos and green beans, canned artichoke hearts, and shiitakes that were clearly just chopped thin and thrown into the sauce and not sauteed first.

I might be back for pizza at Antico Forno (some of the best pizza I've had in Boston), but I have the feeling that is the only item they have on the menu that is any good.

We did go to Finale for dessert. I haven't been for a while, but I was pleasantly surprised. I had the seasonal sampler - bundt cake with creme anglaise and cranberry sorbet, a chocolate mousse tower with whole almonds and chocolate rice krispy thingys, and half a roasted pear with peach sauce. Excellent - bundt cake was moist, mousse very rich, and pear very refreshing. Girlfriend had their chocolate souffle - good, but not amazing. Finale can be a bit overpriced, but I feel my sampler was worth 12 bux.

Dec 22, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Habanero Oil? [moved from Boston Board]

like hotoynoodle said, chili oils and for that matter infused oils in general are very easy to make. dice up your habeneros (MAKE SURE YOU WEAR GLOVES), put them in a squirt bottle or empty olive oil bottle, and fill said bottle with canola oil. let it infuse for a few days. if it comes out too hot, you can always dilute it with more oil.

this takes all of five minutes to do, and you can do it with any fresh chili pepper you find at the grocery store.

Dec 21, 2006
wax311 in General Topics

Anniversary dinner on a budget

Thanks for all your recs, everyone.

Haha a bunch of you recommended La Morra and that's where I work (line cook)! It is the type of place I'm looking for, but I definately don't want to be bothered by coworkers on our anniversary. Glad to see we're going something right, though!

Will definitely check out Ten Tables, Pigalle, EVOO, Chez Henri, and Lumiere for prix fixes. Grotto is a possibility, too.

Dec 16, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Anniversary dinner on a budget

We've been, and while the food is very good and affordable, it can get pretty noisy and crowded. Will consider it though.

Dec 15, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Anniversary dinner on a budget

I will probably have 1 glass of wine, but my GF doesn't really drink that much. We'd rather buy a bottle of champagne at a liquor store and drink it at home they pay a lot for wine or champagne at the restaurant.

So yeah, $120 not including drinks.

And I don't think it's unrealistic. I work at a very good italian restaurant with a $35 4-course prezzo fisso. I just don't want to eat there - I don't want my coworkers hounding me during our anniversary.

Dec 15, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Anniversary dinner on a budget

My girlfriend and I have 4-year our anniversary a week from today. We're college students, so money is a factor, but we can probably drop around $120 for the two of us including tax+tip. We definitely want to have 3+ courses, so recommendations for places with well-priced, good prix fixe menus would be greatly appreciated.

We're looking for French, Italian, or American - my GF doesn't want to try too many new things this time around. We're not into trendy/pretentious places. Romantic atmosphere, relatively quite, and unintrusive service are all pluses.

Thanks ahead for your recs!

Dec 15, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

How Do You Order a Meal?

I'm not a picky eater, so if I'm going to a restaurant I know to be good, I just tell my server to surpise me and let the kitchen cook whatever they want. Of course I tell them I'm a chef first, as to avoid them just cooking up whatever is easiest for them. The courses I order depend on my company - if I'm dining with my girlfriend and she just orders two courses, I'll ask the server to bring my any salad/app and any entree.

I think one logical progression is light -> heavy, although I am not too particular about it. I have no problem eating a foie app followed by a fish entree. I'll be happy as long as the whole meal isn't exclusively light or exclusively heavy.

I find palate cleansers unnecessary. If you're eating something like large chunks of raw onion or garlic, heavy spices, or strong cheese, then fine - serve me some crappy lemon sorbet (although I beleive all of those ingredients should be served with enough moderation to avoid palate cleansing). Other than that, nothing you eat should have a significant impact on the next course, assuming you have a couple sips of water and a few minutes between courses. If it's something creative and interesting like a peach honey foam then kudos to you.

My one recommendation that makes eating more enjoyable for you, your company, and the kitchen is this: the whole party at your table should all order the same number of courses. By this, I mean that if your three friends all want to order just one app and one entree each, you should not order the five course prix fixe. A six top should not have one five course prix fixe, one 9 course tasting, and the rest various a la carte. Dining is much more enjoyable when you all receive an equal number of courses at the same time.

Nov 01, 2006
wax311 in General Topics

Chicken Stock w/out the Onion Family

I wouldn't worry about it at this point.

Onion is IMO the most important element in stock other than chicken bones and water. I've never made any stock without onion - my guess is it'll probably come out alright but not as good as usual.

Nov 01, 2006
wax311 in Home Cooking

Korean Food

I just got back from lunch here a little while ago. I am not at all familiar with Korean food, but god damn...the BBQ ribeye (I forget the Korean name) lunch special was AWESOME. Only 9 bucks for about 8-10 oz of excellent meat - quite possibly the best steak I've had all year. Kimchee, veg salad, soup, rice - everything was very tasty and quite cheap. I'll be going back for sure, and soon.

Sep 06, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

hip place for a dessert date?

Athans would be perfect for you if you don't mind traveling a bit, but I'd go to their factory/bistro location in Brighton Center. Much bigger dining/cafe area with plenty of tables, great atmosphere with large art-school student paintings and cool lighting. Plus you can get table service there, and the staff is really friendly.

Jul 22, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Trattoria Toscana, Fenway, Boston

I went here just last night for the first time.

Everything looked great on the menu, so I just asked the waiter to have the guys in the kitchen pick any entree and surprise me. My girlfriend ordered the grilled sirloin with rosemary and olive oil.

Our waitress brought me the Tagliatele Al'Ragu Toscano - taglitele pasta with ground veal and pork and porcini mushrooms. This dish was pretty good - pasta cooked perfectly, ground meat was tasty. However, the dish lacked seasoning and didn't have a noticible porcini flavor.

My girlfriend's sirloin was cooked perfectly, but it wasn't anything special. The potatos were pretty good and the cold marinated grilled zucchini is fine. A very simple dish well executed. For $18 it's still cheap for steak at a restaurant, but I could make this dish easily and quickly at home for a fraction of the price.

This is not a romantic restaurant for a date. Service was very attentive and friendly.

Overall, both of our meals were good, simple, and affordable. I wasn't Wowed by my first meal there, but I would like to go back and try a few more things.

Jul 22, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

hidden meal deals in boston?

When I lived in Allston, I used to go to Our House, a bar close to Comm/Harvard Ave that had 2-for-1 burgers and appetizers from 4-7 on weekdays. They make a pretty good burger and have great cris-cut fries, and their honey hot wings are awesome. It's the kind of place where you could go with a buddy for dinner and watch the Simpsons or Family Guy on TV while sitting on a comfy couch eating good burgers. And all that for a grand total of 10 bucks including tip for two people (2-for-1 burgers plus fried = $6.50).

Jul 22, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Can't miss food in Bean town

Bartley's in Harvard Square in Cambridge is my favorite burger joint - great onion rings, frappes too. For your unique market experience you definately have to hit Quincy Market/Fanuel Hall - there's some cheap, pretty good food although I generally take the short walk to the North End if I'm in the area for shopping.

Jul 22, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Good Italian places in Brookline, Brighton, Allston

Thanks everyone. I plan on trying all three of your recommendations.

Jul 14, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area

Good Italian places in Brookline, Brighton, Allston

I've tried La Morra in Brookline Village and Firenze in Collidge Corner. Both are pretty good, but I'd like to try out a bunch of different places. I've heard good things about Tartufo in Newton Center so I plan on trying that as well.

I'm a culinary student finishing up my last semester, and I really want to learn Italian. My plan is to try a bunch of places in the area and see how they are, and hopefully land a job in September after I come back from vacation in Spain.

Not really looking for too upscale, just places that are moderately priced (15-25 entrees) with simple, good food.

Edit: First post. This site is cool!

Jul 13, 2006
wax311 in Greater Boston Area