Tuesday, February 26 at 11 AM
Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online. Host Todd Kliman

Editor’s Note: Washingtonian Online moderators and hosts retain editorial control over chats and choose the most relevant questions; hosts can decline to answer questions.

Published February 20, 2013

Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online.

From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.

Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country's best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper'sThe Oxford American, Lucky Peach, The Daily Beast and Men's Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies.

He is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.

Todd previously taught writing and literature at American University and Howard University. At Howard, he was also the editorial advisor to The Illtop Journal, Chris Rock's humor magazine modeled after the Harvard Lampoon.

Can't wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world. Or write to him: tkliman@washingtonian.com

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W H E R E   I ' M   E A T I N G   N O W   .  .  .


Pabu, Baltimore
Why drive to Baltimore when there's plenty of good sushi in DC? The skewered chicken parts, for starters -- luscious mini kabobs of heart, skin, tail, all of them cooked over smoldering logs of Japanese white oak that perfume the room and call to mind the mood-altering atmospherics of a pricey sauna. The sake list (bottles start at $13 and run to four digits) is fantastic, the best and most extensive in the region, and with helpful annotations worthy of a good wine list. And then there's the sushi -- 22 varieties of fish on offer, including a daily selection from Tokyo's famed Tsukiji market. Take note of the excellent sushi rice; it's made with fermented vinegar, which tastes like a cross between a craft beer and a digestif and gives the grains more flavor and character.

DGS Delicatessen, DC
My very early -- and very brief -- word on this artisanal Jewish deli: Go. The matzo ball soup is just about perfect, with a light and exceedingly well-skimmed broth that's flavored by the (superb) matzo ball and vice versa. The chopped liver -- made by a champ at pates and terrines -- is just as good, rich but not at all dense, full of chopped egg, and wonderfully capped by a dice of pickled onion and gribenes (schmaltz-fried chicken skins that might as well be called Jewish cracklins). The housemade pastrami is closer to the Montreal model than the Lower East side model -- a thick, juice-oozing cut edged with so much spice you would think it had been dipped in coffee grounds; it's served on good, twice-baked rye with a zesty housemade mustard. One of the biggest, and most welcome surprises, is that while chef Barry Koslow has lightened many of the traditional dishes that DGS features, and upgraded the quality of ingredients of standard deli fare (the pastrami is made with locally sourced meat), he hasn't sought to prettify the cuisine, or impose his will too strongly. And the prices are eminently reasonable for a casual restaurant in the heart of the city, let alone a deli. Compare tabs with the vastly inferior Second Avenue Deli, in New York, which relies upon mass-produced ingredients for which it charges significantly more.

Rappahannock Oyster Bar, DC
This hopping oyster bar is the best of the early attractions at the new Union Market. Hop a stool and order up a platter of Rappahannock River oysters, either raw or roasted (the latter preparation transforms them from salty-sweet and light to rich and meaty and savory). You can wash them down with a small selection of craft beers, including Chocolate City Beer and DC Brau, or a glass of sherry. The surprise is the crabcake, a contender for the city's best. Dropped onto the griddle with an ice-cream scoop and given a slight, flattening press to develop a good sear, it's a massive thing, but also unexpectedly light and delicate for all its girth. It's not that there's no binder --  every crabcake's got binder. It's that the binder that's there is good binder, and smartly deployed. 

Izakaya Seki, DC
Arguably the most exciting restaurant to debut this year. Hiroshi Seki and his daughter, Cizuka Seki, have fashioned a spare, intimate izakaya from a former barber shop on V St. It's a no-frills setting that suggests a gallery and serves as an ideal backdrop for beautifully simple dishes that all but command you to slow down and focus. Hop a seat at the wraparound counter that consumes the entirety of downstairs to watch Seki, a sushi master with 50 years experience, work with grace, speed, economy and calm as he executes his repertoire with a small team of cooks: thick slices of veal-tender beef tongue with a painting of mustard-miso sauce; succulent filets of grilled mero, the Japanese term for Chilean sea bass; springy soba noodles with flakes of nori and tempura; and some of the most exquisite cuts of aji (horse mackerel) and yellowtail you'll find. 

Blue Duck Tavern, DC
On my Twitter feed some months back, I teased the news that made a "massive and exciting leap," then sat back and watched the guesses pour in. No one came up with the right place, and to be honest, if I hadn't been there to enjoy it, I would never have guessed, either. Sebastien Archambault is a major talent, and without overhauling the menu or concept has given a restaurant that had slid dangerously close to irrelevance in the past year or so the kiss of life.

Vin 909 Winecafe, Annapolis
I feasted on a couple of superlative pizzas not long ago, and they didn't come from 2 Amys, Pete's New Haven Style Pizza, Pupatella, Moroni & Brother's, Comet, Orso, Haven Pizzeria, Graffiato or Menomale. They came from the kitchen at this always-swarmed, no-reservations wine bar, housed in a restored craftsman bungalow just over the bridge from Annapolis in tiny Eastport. The key players are Alex Manfredonia, who works the front of the (tiny) house, and Justin Moore; the pair met working at a restaurant in San  Francisco, and headed east to take over the space previously occupied by Wild Orchid Cafe. Moore and his team produce a crust that's close to perfect—thin, marvelously hillocked, chewy where it needs to be and crispy everywhere else, and hit with just enough salt. The Margherita is more heavily dressed than is usual, but it's excellent, and so is an unlikely concoction of baked beans, Tillamook cheese, fontina and coleslaw. Don't miss the spin on a lobster roll, with creamy, chive-flecked crab salad tucked between two griddled squares of bread; there's a cup of seafood bisque for dunking.

Moa, Rockville 
You'd never find it if you weren't looking for it. Situated in the fascinating industrial sector of Rockville, amid a slew of old warehouses and specialty supply stores, this cozy Korean mom 'n' pop is about as hidden as hidden gems get. The cooking is vivid and punchy—great bibimbap, served several ways, along with a parade of soups, noodle dishes and stir frys. Order a soju to wash it all down; the mango and watermelon are fresh and gently sweet, a good counterpart to the garlicky intensity of the food.

Maple Avenue, Vienna
Some diners might be skeptical of splurging for $20 + entrees in a tiny, repurposed diner where the 8 tables are wedged together so closely the room can feel like one big dinner party when the drinks are flowing. Others might be skeptical of the menu, which bends in a dozen different directions, implying a kitchen with a scattered, be-everything-to-everyone vision— which is to say, no vision at all. But this is a surprisingly focused restaurant —and a surprisingly rewarding one, too, a place that feels like a personal statement, backed by an amiable staff that clearly aims to send you away smiling. The chef and owner, Tim Ma, does his part, too. He makes a mean shrimp and grits, and his beef cheek sandwich with beer battered fries is one of the best simple plates around. Don't miss the bread pudding.

Fiola, DC
Fabio Trabocchi's edge-of-Penn Quarter restaurant has put its tentative beginnings behind it. The dishes emerging from the brick-framed, herb-potted kitchen find the prodigiously talented chef moving further and further from the controlled elegance of his work at the late Maestro. They also find him cooking with a renewed confidence and conviction. The best of these plates—an astonishingly flavorful ragu of wild hare with thick bands of papardelle, a double-cut, prosciutto-wrapped veal chop with toasted hazelnuts that accent the sweetness and nuttiness of the meat, a bowl of tender meatballs in a tomato sauce that frankly puts most Italian grandmothers to shame—marry rusticity with refinement. Desserts—including a fabulous cone of sugar-dusted bomboloni, with pots of apple marmalade and cinnamon gelato—remain a rousing finish.

Mintwood Place, DC
Perry's owner Saied Azali was lucky to land Cedric Maupillier, formerly the chef at Central and before that the chef de cuisine at Citronelle, for his rusticky new bistro. The Toulon native is doing typically great work—cranking out lovingly faithful renditions of such bistro classics as cassoulet (see if you can finish it without two glasses of wine) and steak tartare (the tiny, crunchy tater tots on top are a clever allusion to his old boss, Michel Richard) as well as offering up some sly, smart takes on tradition (frogs' legs with black walnut romesco, a lamb tongue moussaka). There's a whole boneless dorade with picholine olives and braised fennel that's a knockout—beautifully conceived, perfectly executed.

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THE CARVING ROOM, IN PENN QUARTER/CHINATOWN ...:

We went to the Carving Room in Chinatown for their opening day and it was fantastic!

Of course there were some kinks since they just opened but the food was delicious and well priced. We plan to go back often.

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for writing in …

I’d be interested in hearing just what sort of kinks they had.

Speaking of which: I was at Buffalo and Bergen, in the Union Market, this weekend, and their soda fountain was not working and they had only one bagel left when we sat down. Not in the mood for one of Gina Chersevani cocktail’s we made do — ok, we did not make do — with glasses of water.

The remaining bagel tasted stale, and I also found it dense; none of the lightness of a good bagel. Also, the schmear of cream cheese was awfully skimpy.

Had a couple of knishes. One a Buffalo chicken, the other a short rib. Pretty good on flavor, but the dough was thick, and the things sat in my gut for 6, 7 hours after. …

Morning, everyone.

We talked last time of kitchen gadgets and gizmos that you have discovered you cannot do without. I’d love to hear some more — if you have more.

And cooking stories. We didn’t have enough time last week to explore some of the experimental things you all do in your kitchen — the ways you push and stretch yourself. Would love to hear more there, too. …

And, as always, where you’ve been eating, what you’ve been eating, and what’s on your mind … culinarily or otherwise …

It’s great to be sitting down with you, with a cup of coffee by my side and a laptop on the table in front of me …

Fire away.

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IN THE KITCHEN: GADGETS AND GIZMOS, CONT. ...:

The SousVide Supreme seems like a lot of money, but I wouldn't want to be without it (or one of the newer more affordable immersion circulators).

It's great for making easy weeknight meals (chicken breasts, pork loin, and less expensive cuts of meat especially) and fancier stuff like rack of lamb.

Todd Kliman:

I’d love to hear more about this.

I had one, found it tedious, didn’t use it, and ended up giving it away.

How is it great for weeknight meals? Do you use it in a manner similar to a crockpot — leaving it on while you sleep and/or work?

Incidentally, does anybody out there use a crockpot? Seems unsexy, but there was a pretty good cookbook that came out a couple of years ago about how to use it to make vibrant, delicious dishes. Most of those dishes, though, it needs to be said, only used the crockpot for a sort of pre-cooking.

Pre-cooking. Makes me think of Carlin, on pre-heating:

“That’s another complaint of mine — too much use of this prefix ‘pre.’ It’s all over the language now — ‘pre’-this, ‘pre’-that, place the turkey in a ‘pre-heated’ oven. It’s ridiculous! There are only two states an oven can possibly exist in: Heated or unheated! ‘Pre-heated’ is a meaningless *&#$% term! … “

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DOSAS, CONT. ...:

Following up on last week's dosa discussion ...

The dosa place at Whole Foods Foggy Bottom serves dosas I've never seen or had in the US. The lady there said they are South Indian regional dosas hardly seen outside the country. Whatever. The favors are amazing unlike anything I have had in a long time.

Thank you Whole Foods!!

Todd Kliman:

Well, after all the huzzahs this week and last, the Whole Foods dosa station has now shot to the top tier of my dining to-do list …

Anybody else out there been?

Sounds pretty wonderful. And hey — you don’t even have to drop $75 for a bag of groceries to get one … ; )

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Re: ACQUA AL 2, IN EASTERN MARKET ...:

Hi Todd,

Just wondering, how come Acqua al 2 never gets much mention from you? I think it's one of my favorite restaurants- and definitely favorite Italian- in DC right now and it seems that a lot of other people agree too as it's often packed on the weekends.

What are your thoughts on it? Why hasn't it been reviewed yet? Why does it get passed over as a top 100 restaurant in DC?

Thanks! Love the chat!

Todd Kliman:

I found it pretty ordinary.

I like the space, and the vibe, and if that’s all it took then I could see making room for it. But there’s a thinness to much of the cooking. Doesn’t dig down deep enough.

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Re: TAVIRA, IN CHEVY CHASE ...:

Todd,

I wanted just to say Thank you to recommend Tavira. I have a great Dinner last saturday with my wife and friends. Our experience with Tavira was very nice. The food, the service, the ambiance and everything was so great, that we are going to come back to that place again as soon as we get a chance.

Thank you to the source ;) Peter

Todd Kliman:

Um, Peter — I actually DID NOT recommend Tavira. Re-read the transcript, please.

I’m glad you had a good meal, though.

(Anyone else thinking this is a friend-of-the-house plant?)

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Re: GRAFFIATO, IN PENN QUARTER/CHINATOWN ...:

Hi Todd-

Going to Graffiato tomorrow night for the first time! I am hoping to not miss out on anything amazing.

I am a pescetarian but no one else has dining restrictions- what are the "can't miss" dishes on the menu? Would you recommend trying the pizzas or just stick to the small plates or vice versa?

Thanks!

Todd Kliman:

I was just in recently, and can recommend the broccolini with a red pepper relish and walnuts, and the cheese agnolotti, which are lately being prepared with a chicken jus, bread crumbs.

And yes, the pizzas, which range from good-very good. I’d take a long look at the Jersey Shore, which eschews mozzarella in favor of provolone and is topped with fried calamari and drizzled with a cherry tomato aioli.

Remember to ask for a crispy bottom, by the way, if you like your pies to have a sturdier base, as I do.

That doesn’t just apply to Graffiato; that applies anywhere — well, anywhere you can talk to someone about tailoring a pizza to your desires. I.e., no Domino’s or Papa John’s.

Same with fish. If you worry about overcooking, make sure to ask a server to have your fish prepared “medium rare.” Sounds strange, I know, to invoke a term associated with a steakhouse, but most good servers know what it means when you say this and will gladly put in that request for you. Most of the time, I am happy to report, the fish comes out exactly as asked.

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TIPPING ON CARRYOUT ...:

Hi Todd,

First off, let me say that I eat out often and always leave a fair 18-20% tip, maybe more depending on the circumstances. But what is your opinion on tipping on carryout?

I'm not talking about Subway, either. I went the other day to order a couple of pizza's to go @ 2Amys. My wandering eye on some of the receipts that people had tipped the normal 20+ percent on their carry out orders. I always feel awkward when tipping is given as an option for carry out. It probably took me 10-15 minutes to get in and out, and all I did was relay my order.

How do restaurants feel about this? I don't want to by "that guy that doesn't tip", especially when the food is good. But I also see take out as a money saving plan (sometimes), so why would I pay as much as if I ate in?

Todd Kliman:

Great question.

And like you, I would love to know how restaurants feel about this. Oh, restaurants —?

I don’t think I have ever tipped on carryout. No, I take that back. I have tipped a couple of times, though tipped is probably too strong a word for it — I left a couple of bucks to the folks at the neighborhood spot where I’ll go every so often to pick up a pizza or something to take home.

Tipping on carryout — I mean, what are you tipping for? Someone wrapping up an order for you? And 20% for this? I don’t know whether to be encouraged or appalled that there are people out there who can afford to toss around money like this.

A quick, somewhat related story …

My mother, an excellent calligrapher with 30 + years of experience, someone who has done some very high-profile work as well as taught the craft, recently did a job for a client. It was a special occasion for the client, an event to honor a family friend, and it was a very involved job with lots of additional work that came up during the process. There were many meetings and many phone calls. My mother rushed to complete this job, and finished two days ahead of deadline. The client was overjoyed, and cried when she saw the finished work. And no wonder — it was beautiful, elegant, dramatic.

Well, she was so happy that she tipped … $1.64.

Yes, that was how taken she was with the work, and with the fact that the job had been completed ahead of deadline to allow her extra time to plan — she rounded up to the nearest dollar.

What a peach!

And someone who collects and wraps up a carryout order gets 20%.

This world …

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Re: THAI X-ING, NEAR THE HOWARD THEATER ...:

Todd -

I wrote in about Thai X-ing a couple weeks ago and just wanted to share our experience.

Despite going in with an understanding of what we were going to encounter, it was an underwhelming experience.

I applaud their efficiency but we had food on the table before we could even crack open our screw top wine! We were in and out in about an hour, and only that long because we stayed a bit to finish said wine. That's waaaaay t0o quick for the number of dishes being served.

The food itself was good, some very good, but it felt just like a better version of my neighborhood thai joint. I know its completely apples and oranges, but my incredibly "special" experience at Little Serow not too far back has potentially forever skewed my viewpoint!

Todd Kliman:

What’d I tell you? No pacing, none.

Yes, some good food, some very good. And, in my experience, some so-so, too.

I think the place would benefit a great deal by streamlining things — cutting the number of dishes, and cutting the price. It’d help the kitchen, it’d help the pacing, and it’d bring the cost in line with what the place really is.

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IN THE KITCHEN: EXPERIMENTATIONS ...:

Todd,

I tried my hand at making a dish called Tahari.

Made with stewed goat. Braise the goat and add rice. The key is having the dish finish in the oven. Added hard boiled egg as final touch even though it traditionally does not go with the dish.

Also chopped up some cilantro as a garnish and in the background added some green chili puree (from my mom) and added to some yogurt. not as visible in the background also sliced up cucumber, shallot, and cherry tomato to add a textural crunch to the dish.

Todd Kliman:

Sounds terrific.

Where’d you get your goat? As it were … : )

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HELP! -- ISO: DINNER IN ARLINGTON FOR TWENTY, WITH KIDS ...:

Friends who moved away are back in town next weekend and want me to organize an early dinner for them and a large group of their friends. There will be several young children in the group. They are staying in Arlington.

What is a good idea for a family friendly place that can seat 15-20 people at 6 PM on a Friday, preferably in Arlington? While we love ethnic food it is probably best to go to a place that has food that will appeal to everyone in the group and there may be some picky eaters. The only places I could think of are Pete's and Rio Grande. Thoughts?

In a similar restaurant type, went to Chef Geoff's because of your long glowing article. Really thought the food was just OK. Not sure why they do not spend less time on the details and timing of service and more time on the quality of the food. Nothing we ordered, a party of 6 people, was delicious. Nothing was awful. But, none of us could think of a single reason to return.

Just seems like they are wasting lots of time an effort focusing on things other than the food. Or maybe we all just missed something.

Todd Kliman:

What about Ray’s the Steaks?

Or Green Pig Bistro?

Or even Me Jana, which, though “ethnic,” has some of the same cross-over qualities as a Jaleo. Stylish setting, attractive food, and nothing that would make the squeamish feel that they were being forced to come to grips with a “different” culture of cuisine.

As for Chef Geoff’s — really? You read that piece and made it a point of going out of your way to dine there?

Because the point was not to extol the food. It was to examine the operation — the systems, the analytics. I even began by saying, there is nothing remarkable about a meal there, except how unremarkable it is.

You don’t seek out a Chef Geoff’s. You go when you are ten minutes away, or you happen to live in the neighborhood, and it’s one of those nights where you just don’t want to be bothered with cooking or spending a lot of money, and all you want, really, is a well-prepared, simple, no-fireworks meal in a friendly, lively setting.

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Re: BUFFALO AND BERGEN, IN THE UNION MARKET ...:

Buffalo and Bergen - I'd love to love this place. Heck, I'd love to even like it.

I tried three different times before giving up. But those knishes are gut bombs (not in a good way, and way to onion-y for my taste too), everything is $1-2 more than it should be, and service is indifferent-to-surly.

Red Apron and Neopol are the better grab and go options by miles. Would you recommend a good knish anywhere in town?

Todd Kliman:

I like how you put it — “I’d love to love this place. Heck, I’d love to even like it.”

Kinda how I feel about Union Market as a whole.

Good knishes? Try the ones at DGS Delicatessen. Stuffed with merguez and lentils. Terrific. Great pastry — light, tender, golden brown.

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TIPPING ON CARRYOUT, CONT. ...:

Of course 20 percent is ludicrous because nobody is plating anything.

But someone is in the kitchen packing everything up so that you can drive it home safely. I do 10 percent. I could see a case for 5. But 0 doesn't make sense to me.

Todd Kliman:

I hardly ever do carryout, given my work demands, so it’s almost never an issue.

I take it you — and perhaps others — think I need to rethink my view on this?

I’m surprised to hear that there are those of you who tip on take-out.

Who else?

And does no one else out there find this a little … odd? Twenty percent, even ten percent … ?

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TIPPING ON CARRYOUT, CONT. ...:

Re- tipping on carryout.

I usually tip on carryout when I order from a restaurant unless they have a cashier who is paid at least min. wage. If it's a wait staff that gives me the food, I will tip at least 10% to cover the tax as he/she may have entered my order and may have to pay tax on it.

Todd Kliman:

Interesting.

Ok, here’s what I’m not sure I get … When you dine in, you are tipping on someone refilling your water glasses, bringing you drinks, bringing you appetizers and entrees … you are tipping on attentiveness, charm, thoughtfulness … you are tipping on a quality of care that makes you feel looked after and even special.

And this tipping is not a given. You determine it at the end of the meal. I know some people who still tip 15% if all is good.

10 percent for wrapping stuff up?

Which takes maybe a minute, as compared with two hours for an actual dinner in.

Two hours to assess a performance and decide what is right and fair.

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HELP! -- ISO: A QUICK, QUALITY BITE ON CAPITOL HILL ...:

Wife and I are busy suburban parents, working downtown DC. Occasionally our high school-age children (on Capitol Hill) have events/sports that keep them until 7:00pm.

Where would you recommend we go in the city for a quick, quality bite to eat in the 5:30-6:30 time range, so that we can finish work, eat well, and pick up the kids and head home?

Todd Kliman:

You can stay right on Capitol Hill, and hit Montmartre in Eastern Market for good French bistro cooking (I like what new chef Brian Wilson is doing — he’s brought a new lightness to the cooking), or Cava, on Barracks Row, for mezze and drinks.

Neither place will be too crowded at that hour, which should help to move your meal right along.

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WHERE TO GET YOUR GOAT (AS IT WERE) ...:

Halalco in falls church carries good quality goat. they even now carry organic whole chickens and bone marrow.

Todd Kliman:

Ah, good to know. Thanks for the tip.

Anybody know if the Lebanese Butcher carries goat?

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TIPPING ON CARRYOUT, CONT. ...:

As someone who has bartended for years and done literally a thousand carryout orders, I suggest the following:

Tip half of what you normally would tip (10%). I say this because someone (usually a bartender, hostess or manager) has to take your order, then see that it is completed, put it in togo containers. Make sure that all accompaniments are also included in the package. Then close out the check with you (print the check and the receive payment). Other than drink service and removing some plates it is not much different than the service you receive when seated in a restaurant.

I think leaving a couple bucks on a $20 carryout order or five bucks on $50 is a pretty fair trade.

I have also worked in fine dining. If anything in tipping should be revisited it is the notion of tipping 20%+ on fine dining. A server will make the same effort to open and present a $100 bottle of wine and a $40 bottle of wine. Not sure why they get tipped more for the $100 bottle. Sure, some servers are excellent at wine service, while others are just trying to survive the experience, but generally each server will do the same routine whether or not it is an expensive bottle of wine. It is also not harder to drop a $30 entree in front of someone as it is a $10 entree. Still the server at the more expensive restaurant makes 3 times as much (I know tipout percentages are higher at expensive restaurants, but you get the point).

Tip your carryout guy/gal. They could be using their time at the restaurant to service their other tipping customers instead of dealing with your order and making sure that you are getting everything you ordered, exactly the way you want it.

Todd Kliman:

You make a good point about the carryout person possibly taking time away from other customers to deal with the order.

I don’t think, however, that getting and packing an order and closing out a check compares to what a server does at the table. The latter is a kind of performance; much, much more goes into it than processing a request.

Throwing in a couple of bucks on a takeout meal doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. It’s being a good egg, as they used to say. But a couple of bucks on, say, a $45 order also doesn’t amount to much.

I wonder if there are non-industry folks and non-insiders (I define the latter as people who know people in the biz, or who are hooked up with deals and whatnot, or who know how the biz works, or who like to identify a restaurant or two and become a looked-after regular) who has an opinion out there on this?

I can understand insiders and industry folk saying that tipping on carryout is just what you do. But the rest of you — assuming you are not insiders or in the biz — what do you think?

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IN THE KITCHEN: GADGETS AND GIZMOS, CONT ...:

Re: crock pot cooking. I use mine a few times a month.

I work full time and go to school part-time so it's an incredibly useful tool to be able to have a homemade meal without much cooking.

We've taken a liking to a Cooking Light Slow Cooker recipe book which uses a lot of great ingredients and bold flavors - a huge step up from the cream'o'soup recipes many recipe books feature.

Todd Kliman:

Trying to remember if that’s the one I was referencing …

Have to check my shelves later today …

Thanks for writing in. Good to hear, in a way, that the dowdy crock pot has not gone away …

Do you make primarily soups? That book had a lot of soups in it, some of them quite good looking. Any dishes you turn to week after week?

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IN THE KITCHEN: GADGETS AND GIZMOS, CONT. ...:

Tools I cannot live without: Kuhn Rikon parring knives.

I love these knives. Love that they come with their own covers, so they stay sharper longer. Really love that if I am cooking with a friend, who has a less well equipped kitchen, I can slip a couple in my bag and take them with me and do all sorts of things with them. I have the serrated ones as well. Can't tell slice bread, without squishing it with these little serrated wonders. . A little tool that does a lot. They are great to take along on picnics too. The perfect little knife!

Crockpot: Love it! Use it a good portion of the year.

Todd Kliman:

Another vote for the crockpot!

I’m not familiar with these knives — they sound fantastic. Thanks for the tip. I’ll have to give them a look. I’m actually looking for a good serrated knife right now …

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TIPPING ON CARRYOUT, CONT. ...:

Tipping on take out. Yes. A token of $1 to $5 depending on the amount of money you spend and the the amount of work they put into it.

Did you have a special request? For example all the sauces in separate containers? Plates and plastic flatware to eat with? Extra bread.

Yes, tip but not as if you are in the dinning room. The poor carry out person may be missing out on tips in the dining room cause they got put on takeout duty that night.

Todd Kliman:

That’s another good point, that last point you make.

I’m keeping an open mind …

What I cannot understand is 20% and even 10%.

Also, not convinced this isn’t coming from a very narrow segment of the dining population.

Is this really something people — ordinary people, not food-obsessed, restaurant-supporting folks — are doing?

As I say, I have my doubts. I know people who still tip 15% when everything went off smoothly. I have heard of people who start at 20% and ding the server — a big ding — for every slip, or every missed moment, etc. The result being that these people routinely tip around 10% and feel justified doing so.

IN THE KITCHEN: EXPERIMENTATIONS, CONT. ...:

Hey Todd, some recent home cooking adventures...the good and the bad.

Homemade Silken Tofu - A great success using the method from Andrea Nguyen's excellent Asian Tofu book. Added bonus having to go to 3 Stars Brewery to buy gypsum (used as a coagulant in the tofu making process).

Fermented tofu - turned into a moldy mess in the back of the fridge.

Homemade Worchester Sauce - Also ended up sitting in the back of the fridge, but that was some pungent stuff. Great in Bloody Mary's

Bread baking of various kinds - The tagine bread recipe from Paula Wolfert's The Food of Morocco is easy and excellent.

Alkaline noodles - Following the David Chang/Harold McGee method...involves baking baking soda until it's baked soda. Moderately successful, the dough wouldn't cut properly thru the pasta cutter. But it maked some tasty noodles.

I also cook a lot of South Indian food...who knew there is a sizeable Syrian Christian population in Kerala, and someone would write a cookbook about them. But they did and it's some tasty Indian food.

Up next on the agenda making Biang Biang Noodles and bagels from scratch.

Van Ness

Todd Kliman:

Van Ness,

I want that recipe for the Biang Biang noodles — assuming they don’t end up dumped in the trash. ; )

And what’s the name of that Keralan cookbook? I’d love to know the title.

Thanks for passing these things on. Sounds like you’re doing some great things at home to supplement what I know to be a wide-ranging restaurant interest.

…………………………………

Re: MGM ROAST BEEF, ON 5TH ST. NE ...:

Todd, now I feel like I really let you down with the Buffalo and Bergen bagel recommendation, so I have to atone, though I hope you give it another chance, perhaps earlier in the day on a weekend.

Get away from the chic chic, whitewashed (in more ways than one) Union Market by heading up 5th Street NE for something simple, no frills: MGM Roast Beef, which offers its namesake, and turkey, and ham, freshly made and carved.

It's old school enough to offer dinner from 11am to 6pm, when it closes, a reminder that while nobody in Washington "makes" anything, plenty of people in DC did and do

Todd Kliman:

Well, it won’t qualify as a tip — I’ve been going to MGM for years, and wrote about it some time ago — but it’s certainly a keeper.

I think the real reason to go is the ham. Just a beautiful piece of meat — roasted, glazed, and then sliced thin in front of you and piled on a roll.

Hungry just thinking about it …

…………………………………………

IN THE KITCHEN: GADGETS AND GIZMOS, CONT. ...:

Kitchen implements: does everyone else have a Dutch oven to make no-knead bread?

I don't because I still use my bread maker and I haven't found a cheap-enough one.

Recently I've gotten stuck on store-bought bread because I can't slice home-made bread as evenly and thinly as the store, which means that I have to guess at the toasting adjustment each time.

Todd Kliman:

I didn’t know you could do a bread in a Dutch oven.

Good to know, because I have one …

Anyone out there tried this? Do you have a good recipe?

……………………………………

TIPPING ON CARRYOUT & GADGETS AND GIZMOS, CONT. ...:

tipping on takeout: hi todd - when we get takeout, it's usually from a local, non-chain place and i generally will leave 10% or $5. if it is a larger order or something especially complex, it can get tricky deciding how much to tip. especially considering that with takeout you don't really know that you a) have the right food or b) any special requests were handled correctly, until you get home to eat. nothing worse than finding out your order was screwed up (and you tipped generously) after you're gone.

also, if you are still thinking about getting a mandoline, i have this product and think it does a great job: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000632QE/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&p sc=1

Todd Kliman:

Yep, still thinking about getting a mandoline. Thanks for the specific rec — I really appreciate it.

And thanks, also, for chiming in on the tipping on carryout question …

You make some good points.

All of you arguing the case have.

I’m surprised that this seems to be as widespread as it is — at least among a certain narrow demographic; still not convinced, there — but I am impressed with your generosity, all of you.

……………………………….

UNION MARKET, CONT. ...:

Todd, what do you think Union Market can change in order to become a winning destination?

I was excited about the concept (in its drafting stage) because I thought it would be like the markets that I went to as a child and loved. Instead, it's a shiny and often over-priced precious food-type market that is pretty eye-popping in costs.

Once people get over the newness, do you think it will be able to maintain its draw without making any modifications to the business model? And when I say business model, I mean all the catch-phrases with overhyped prices to boot?

While it sounds like I am a complainer, I just think that the quality is not all worth the hype. Thanks

Todd Kliman:

Thanks for writing in. Very thoughtful.

There is an awful lot of presumption with this project, beginning, I have to add, with the building itself — it does not appear to want to blend in with its surroundings and make a statement about restoration. It appears to exempt itself from its surroundings. And I will not get into my thoughts on the color of the building vis a vis the neighborhood and other, older structures and the way it glows, radiant, almost otherworldly.

Are there good shops inside? Yes, some.

And it’s exciting to walk around. Based on the two times I’ve been, I would have to say it’s already striking a chord with people — it was swarmed when I went this weekend.

But I agree with you — prices are high, and most of what I’ve tasted is not worth what I’ve been charged. Yet the whole vibe of the place is that it has already made it.

I will tell you that I am a big fan of the Oxbow market in Napa, which I was hoping this project might resemble. Maybe one day it will.

Anyway, the prices at Oxbow are high. It is not just about high prices. There are shops at Oxbow putting out some really delicious, memorable food.

………………………………….

IN THE KITCHEN: GADGETS AND GIZMOS, CONT. ...:

I meant to follow up about the plastic mandoline from last week and emphasize that it is, indeed, a cheap item. $10 for something that comes with 3-4 separate plates to do matchsticks, lasted me 10 years and replaced with another cheap item.

In terms of kitchen experiments, I find my tastes go through phases of time-intensive and laid back. Sometimes I'm happy to take a protein, doctor with store-bought sauce. I went through years of eating a lot of peanut and other-nut satay sauce and then finally O.D.'ed on it. It helps to eat something regulary - salad every weekday - because then I keep thinking about ways to make it a little different without a lot of thinking and effort. But then there was the summer I ate oatmeal with fresh peaches every morning until I couldn't face another peach for many years.

New items of the year - sodastream and adding different flavors, microwave idli maker.

Todd Kliman:

Microwave idli maker? Seriously?

My wife is gonna want one of those … Wow.

I got a Sodastream last year and love it, and I don’t even make many flavors with it — just to be able to do a seltzer with varying degrees of carbonation is great.

I’m running late for lunch, but thank you all — great chat! So many thoughtful questions and comments and so many interesting tips. I really appreciate it.

As always, if there’s something on your mind, or you need a rec during the week, you can always drop me an email — tkliman@washingtonian.com

Be well, eat well, and let’s do it again next Tuesday at 11 …







[missing you, TEK … ]



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