Tuesday, March 17th 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.

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’s, The 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. A finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, he took home first-place honors for feature writing, in 2013, from the Association of Food Journalists.

He is the author, most recently, 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. Barnes & Noble and The Oxford American both made it an Editor’s Pick. The Richmond TImes-Dispatch called it “an outstanding piece of literature.”

Kliman 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.

WHERE TO EAT NOW:

Bob’s Shanghai 66, Rockville

If my most recent meal is any indication, the kitchen is really clicking right now. Go for the bean curd and pork — the long, thin bands of curd have the slipperiness and chew of great noodles, and the saucing is delicate and tight — and a plate of tiny shrimps in a surprisingly balanced sweet-and-sour chili sauce. The two best meals I’ve had in Rockville’s Chinatown in the past six months were at China Bistro (aka Mama’s Dumplings) and here.

Taqueria el Mexicano, Hyattsville

Someone tweeted me last week after reading what I wrote about the mole poblano: “what else is good there?” What else? What else do you need when a dish is this good? The sauce is the thing — thick, brown-black, dotted with sesame seeds, and with a taste as rich and complex as any of the French master sauces. At the same time, it’s infinitely more idiosyncratic; each bite changes the way you think about it: now sweet, now slightly bitter, now spicy, now slightly smoky. Dark chocolate is the not-so-secret ingredient, and gives the dish its identifiable color, but the strange, mysterious character of mole poblano cannot be chalked up, simply, to the inclusion of chocolate: the mix also includes sweet, smoky guajillo chilis, fried nuts and raisins, as well as a larder’s worth of toasted, ground spices. Each order comes with two pieces of unexpectedly tender chicken (in most cases, a leg and a piece of meat cut from around the breast), good rice and stewed beans, and — an even bigger surprise — two handmade corn tortillas (if there’s anybody making tortillas like this in the area, with this perfect, pebbly surface, please let me know; these are fabulous). The cost to walk away with a memory: $11.50.

Hunan Taste, Fairfax

This kitchen works magic. Not all the time — I’ve had a couple of eh dishes over the course of two visits. But then you turn up a dish like the mushroom casserole with pork (best not to study its long, dark tadpole-like fungi), or fish fillet with bean curd sauce, or Divine Incense Mint Pork (chewy-crunchy strips of pork belly with fried mint) and can’t stop eating, and wow.

Crane & Turtle, DC

Makoto Hamamura reminds me of a certain brand of jazz pianist, the kind who knows how to play melodically but frequently chooses not to. I wouldn’t go so far as to describe his French-Asian dishes as atonal or dissonant, but he clearly means to push, and push hard, against expectation. Sometimes, it doesn’t work. Or, it works and you say to yourself: Interesting; I’m not sure I’d get that again. Often enough, though, the rewards are there, like his tuna tataki, which is accented not with a ponzu sauce but with a tuna sauce — a sly little play on the Piedmontese classic, vitello tonnato. His signature dish, a duck breast that has been on the menu since the restaurant opened in summer, isn’t paired with something sweet, like cherries — a move that many chefs in the West would make; Hamamura turns to bitter, in this case to seaweed yuba and tahini.

Ocopa, DC

Not cheap for H St., but the quality of the fish is high and 24-year-old chef Carlos is a talent. His plates are striking, and his flavors pop. Ocopa functions best when you think of it as a place to divvy up small plates of tiradito and ceviche and causa (his version of papa a la huancaina, a potato salad, is so sublime it makes the picnic staple you’re probably imagining look like prison food) while tanking down cocktails (among which you’ll find expert renditions of pisco and rum punch).

Saba, Fairfax

At a recent meal at this Yemeni gem, I ate injera, pita, and wheat bread (the latter baked for a marvelous bread pudding called masoob, layered with bananas, cream, honey and nigella that is a little bit different with each bite). Owner Taha Alhoraivi didn’t know how to cook a single dish from his tradition when he arrived in the States 15 years ago on a student visa. He didn’t even know how to cook. His mother and sister had barred him from the kitchen; cooking was women’s work. He subsisted for months on eggs, bread and cheese, until he returned home for a visit and prevailed upon the women in his family to share their recipes with him. Thus began a 15-year-journey of research and experimentation, as Alhoraivi sought to recreate the foods of his youth in isolation. Saba is the remarkable result. The two must-orders are the haneeth and the fahsa. The former is a strapping platter of slow-cooked lamb, seasoned with cardamom, cumin and cloves, that comes apart without prodding and some of the most flavorful rice you’ll ever eat — each grain is distinct, and tastes richly of the meat. The latter is a shredded beef stew in a sauce of tomatoes, onions and cumin so concentrated it might as well be a syrup; the crowning touch is a dollop of hilbeh, a tangy dip flavored with mint and cilantro.

Casa Luca, DC

The most casual of the restaurants in Fabio Trabocchi’s collection has found its groove. This is an assured operation from top to bottom, and from its opening nibbles to its pastas (go for the San Leo — ravioli stuffed with wild greens and ricotta and treated to a sauce of butter, toasted almonds and nepitella) to its dazzling preparations of fish and seafood to its light, colorful and exquisitely crafted desserts. I joked to a friend at dinner recently that the cornish hen minestrone was “too flavorful” — its broth so intense and rich that I had to stop talking and give all my attention to it.

Ananda, Fulton

Two of the best meals I had this summer took place here. And I don’t say that just because of the food coming out of the kitchen. The restaurant itself is a showpiece. From outside, it looks a little like a castle and a little like a bank, and sits in the middle of nowhere, amid a still-evolving development of townhouses in Fulton, Md. Inside, the space summons a polo club. The main dining room is a sumptuous lair of handsome dark wood, floor-to-ceiling bookcases and leather seats, while the veranda puts you in mind of an observation deck for a cricket match (it’s already one of the best places to dine on an unseasonably cool summer night, under the gently rotating fans and looking out on the lush treetops). In an age of casual, sometimes dashed-out service, Ananda leans toward greater formality — but without stuffiness. The young, affable waitstaff is got up in vests and ties, and is exceedingly well-drilled — not just attentive but vigilant, and determined to learn what it can do to make your meal better. The restaurant is the third from brothers Keir and Binda Singh, who also run The Ambassador Dining Room and Banjara, both in Baltimore. They maintain their own farm not far from the restaurant, complete with an herb garden — a highly unusual practice for an Indian restaurant in this area. Add to that the quality of the meats and fishes, which is several notches above that of the curry house, and you have a brand of cooking that is lighter and fresher than any Indian restaurant in the area not named Rasika. Given this emphasis, you might expect the dishes to experiment a little, to rethink traditional dishes in whimsical or dramatic ways. But for the most part Ananda is attempting a different, less obvious kind of fusion — the fusion of the local-leaning bistro with the conventional Indian restaurant. The preparations of black dal, chana, and raita are among the most complex I’ve tasted in years, and unexpectedly clean-tasting. A dish of salmon was perfectly roasted, with a subtle melange of tomatoes, cinnamon and cumin for a sauce. A watermelon salad with feta could have stood in for any trendy bistro in DC, except that its spicing was unmistakably Indian, and the dressing and its garnishes were both so stunningly fresh I would have thought I was dining at some gastronomic getaway in the country. I could have eaten three bowls of a recent special, a chilled summer squash and carrot soup, subtly spiced and tasting of fresh vegetables, not cream.

Thai Taste by Kob, Wheaton

On a three-block stretch of Wheaton, near the intersection of University Blvd. and Georgia Ave., can be found two of the area’s best Thai restaurants — Ruan Thai and Nava Thai. Time to add a third. Phak Duangchandr —Kob, to friends — has set up shop in the tiny space that originally contained Nava, in the back of Hung Phat market. Thai food fans may remember her, or at least her cooking; for 19 years she operated the Thai Food Carryout at Thai Market, near the old Safeway in Wheaton. The new setting, electrified with a paint job of orange and day-glo green, gives her a chance to expand her repertoire of dishes, while staying true to the from-scratch traditions that earned her a devoted following. The emphasis is on street food and homecooking, with a good many dishes you simply won’t find anywhere else, like bamee moo daeng, a meal-in-a-bowl of tender egg noodles, red-edged roast pork, baby bok choy, and fish balls; or kai yad sai, an omelette stuffed with ground chicken punched up with fish sauce and soy sauce; or a salad of shrimp paste-flavored rice, onions, cucumber and sweet, sticky pork). But even familiar tastes, taste different here — funkier, more pungent, and definitely hotter (a shrimp fried rice, alive with fistfuls of Thai basil and a generous pinch of chilis, set my heart to racing). Some customers have already been asking for more rice to accompany their orders. Partner and manager Max Praserptmate says he’s willing to accommodate any requests, but adds that his aunt’s cooking isn’t the aberration; it’s the great majority of Thai restaurants that are the aberration. “The taste,” he says, “is what you’re supposed to get from your Thai food.” Duangchandr imports many of her spices from Thailand, and toasts and grinds them herself. All the condiments on the spice tray, including a terrific chili vinegar, are made on the premises. Meats are given a long soak before hitting the grill — 72 hours, in the case of the pork that is pounded and threaded onto a skewer to create a must-order starter called moo yang. The other must-order starter sure doesn’t sound like it — when was the last time you had fried shrimp wontons that were any good? These are fabulous. Kiew tod comes to the table looking more like a plate of tortilla chips, the mix of shrimp and white pepper bundled within a sneakily rolled edge. The crunch is junk food-loud; it’s hard not to believe they weren’t engineered in a lab. No beer or wine yet; Praserptmate says soon on both. I would take the money you’d ordinarily spend on a drink and spring for an extra dish or two (most are under $10, and many items will survive into the next day).

Sushi Capitol, DC

This is a diminished sushi scene: Makoto is no longer special, Kushi has exited, and Sushi-Ko I is gone. That leaves Sushi Taro and Sushi Capitol, and for me, right now, it’s not a debate. Capitol is not as polished an experience as Taro, but neither is it the Zen-like spa of hushed voices and restrained manners — an Important Restaurant to save up for when you are looking to mark an occasion. This is a simple, unassuming spot, a workaday spot, with good, well-sourced fish and a chef who knows how to enhance the raw product without sacrificing the elegance essential to the form. Minoru Ogawa was previously in charge of sushi operations at every Mandarin Oriental property along the Eastern seaboard. He’s a purist at the bar, abjuring gimmicks, fads and clutter. The pieces are small, with tiny pads of rice, and the fish is sliced thin and delicately and draped just so over the pads. This doesn’t just make for an elegant presentation; it ensures that each bite is in balance, with the right proportion of fish to rice. I was in most recently for the omakase, which, at $50 for somewhere between 16-20 pieces, amounts to a sweetheart of a deal in the sushi world — particularly when the yellowtail is so sweet and still tastes of the sea, and the various white fishes are not simply there for padding, and the hand-rolls (passed across the bar as soon as they’re finished, their wrappers warm and crunchy) come with fresh-chopped toro. If you order a la carte, don’t ignore the rolls. The Florida roll, draped with whitened bands of blowtorched salmon belly and sliced avocado, is a stunner in every sense.

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FIOLA MARE GIFT CERTIFICATE? ……….:

My parents are rock stars. They have helped me out time and again and I seriously don’t know where I’d be without them. So in order to thank them, I’d like to to take them to Fiola Mare, which I know they want to try but think its too expensive. They would never let me pay, so I want to buy a gift certificate in advance and tell them I won it in a raffle or something so that I can treat them.

My question is, how much should the gift certificate be for? We don’t have super large appetites, but I would like them to be able to order anything off the menu without worrying about it (maybe appetizer and entree each plus one dessert), plus one mid-range bottle of wine. I would probably also order a cocktail. Do I need like $500? I really have no idea- doesnt have to cover tip.

Todd Kliman

So, the three of you?

I would say you could do it for $400, comfortably. Maybe $350, depending on the bottle of wine.

That’s a really nice, really generous present. I’m touched, and I’m not even your parents.

Good morning, everyone!

What’s on your minds on this St. Patrick’s Day, with the weather turning — finally, finally — warm?

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ANANDA IN FULTON ……….:

Hi Todd,

Have you been back to Ananda recently? It was interesting to learn that your colleague at the Post had such a different opinion of it, calling out “the worst naan ever” during a recent online chat.

Two people can certainly have different opinions, but there seems to be a real disconnect there.

Todd Kliman

We’ve talked about this kind of thing before on here.

There are times, when you see a discrepancy, when it’s a difference of opinion — or, to be more precise, a difference in sensibility, maybe, which accounts for that difference of opinion.

And then there are times, when you see a discrepancy, when it seems to come down to an issue with time. One review comes out six months in advance of another, which was glowing, and which brought all sorts of changes to the operation: maybe a chef leaves to start his or her own place; maybe the restaurant is inundated with diners and struggles to adjust; maybe a power play results, as the chef decides he or she is the one responsible for the great success, or the owner begins to assert his or her hand in the operation, thinking that he or she is the one who is most deserving.

I’ve heard from some people that Ananda has struggled since I wrote my review, which of course I don’t like to hear — mostly for them, because the place I wrote about was pretty wonderful, but also for me. I’m sure Alan Richman won’t like to hear that, either — he ate there, on my rec, about a month or so after I had written my review.

I think the Ananda discrepancy — The Ananda Discrepancy, it could be a movie, starring Matt Damon — is an issue with time. It sounds to me, now, that Ananda, at the moment, is a different restaurant from the one I was going to and enjoying.

I don’t think this is a case of a difference of opinion or sensibility, which, for instance, I think is the case in the example of Mango Tree, which the Post recently treated to a 2 1/2 star review. I only went the once, compared, I think, to three times for Tom at the Post. I found it to be a gorgeous space, handsome and richly comforting. But the dishes I tried were lacking oomph. Nothing called to me in any way. I wasn’t moved to return, hence, no review.

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COFFEE, CONT. ……….:

Hi Todd,

It’s been a long time since I’ve followed the chat in real-time. Catching up on past chats, I was amused by your article on a regular cup of joe. It appears to have been published a couple of weeks ago, which would time it with my own feelings a couple of weeks ago.

I was looking for ideas for dinner and my husband picked up an old food magazine. When I say old, I am talking 10 or 15 years, not a couple of months. I collect particularly interesting issues. What struck me was how interesting but real the recipes were, as opposed to nowadays, where food blogs, etc. seem to publish the same seasonal recipe with one slight variation to make it one’s own.

For example, the ubiquitous squash soup recipe that hits every Fall. It was so refreshing to see what now looks truly innovative but probably wasn’t when these recipes were first published. I really am missing the great recipes that weren’t trying to be anything but really good recipes.

Which brings me to your coffee observations, with which I so agree. When I go and treat myself to coffee out, I am finding myself drawn and looking forward to a straight plain cup of coffee served without pretense and bitterness.

With all the coffee shops, it is amazing how hard it is to find a really good cup of coffee in this city. Sad, I think. I have had my share of single pour overs and with the bitterness many of them have, the 4 or 5 dollar cost per cup (no refills), and the attitude, it is mind-boggling that these concept coffee shops keep opening up.

And, yes, I do know how and what makes a really good cup of coffee–long before single origin pour overs took center stage.

Thanks for doing a humorous, timely, and relevant piece.

Todd Kliman

Thanks so much for your thoughts and observations. I appreciate both.

And also for coming on today and reading along in real time, or, as it used to be known — TIME.

It’s been interesting for me to read the reaction to that little piece. I didn’t write it, as some have said or suggested, because I can’t find a good cup of coffee. I can. I do.

Two things. I don’t particularly like the phenomenon of under-roasting the beans, which leads to the sort of wine world vocabulary we’re seeing now, along with tasting notes, which feels unnecessarily sophisticated for something like coffee.

More and more we live in a world — and especially in this city, or in certain areas of this city — where nerd-level knowledge is privileged to the point that some people only take a thing seriously if that thing comes with endless classifications, full of sub-genres, full of arcana.

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THOUGHTS ON THE NEW, EMERGING SHAW ……….:

Hi Todd,

I’m curious, what are you thoughts on the news about all the restaurants destined for Shaw?

A pizza place from the Red Hen/Boundary Stone folks, a new restaurant for Tim Ma, a place from the Daikaya team and Neighborhood Restaurant Group (and those are just the ones announced in the past few days). How many “14th Streets” can Washington support?

Todd Kliman

It’s a great question.

My thought is great, if the restaurants are all really good — there’s no such thing as too many really good restaurants, too many Restaurant Rows …

But if they’re just going to feel interchangeable, one from the other — faddish-industrial spaces filled with the same sort of people you see all the time and cooking that looks great but doesn’t deliver (and ultimately feels like so much trend-humping), then, eh, not so good.

Which will it be?

I have hope for the latter, because it sounds like a good group of people moving in. All of those restaurateurs have been on the scene, here, a long time; they’re not the kind of restaurant folks who are intent on coming in and cashing in. That’s important to remember. And all of them have succeeded with quirky, specialized places. This bodes well, I think, for Shaw. It also bodes well that The Red Hen folks and Tim Ma seem to have an understanding of what it means to be part of a neighborhood, and how that changes what you are and do.

So, yeah, pretty optimistic at this point …

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COFFEE, CONT. ……….:

Re: Coffee, I respectfully disagree with you.

Would you ever go to a bar and say “I’d like a glass of wine?” or “a glass of beer?”

I think coffee is a very complex beverage with a large variety, I do appreciate the ability to get what I want especially if I am paying $4-5 for it. Frankly, I have sent too many cups to trash from “just coffee” places, and I don’t want to spend my money on average or weak coffee that doesn’t make my day (like Robert Parker said “life is too short to drink bad wine” – I say it’s also too short to drink bad coffee!) so just coffee doesn’t do it for me (no I’m not talking about all the possible additions either).

However, I agree with you that we’re not always in the mood or have the patience to go through the whole spiel (just like sometimes all we need a good chardonnay or cabernet without looking at the source or the vintage) so I appreciate being able to say “can I have a dark/bold roast?” at a place I know they treat coffee more than just a morning beverage.

My two cents.

Todd Kliman

Thanks for writing in …

But I gotta say, I’m not really sure what you’re disagreeing with me about.

I like a great cup of coffee just like you do.

And just like you, I don’t mind paying for it — if it’s really great (I mean, really great).

I also don’t really like “just coffee.”

I would prefer not to have baristas sneer at me and people I know for wanting something dark and mellow — sneer or call us “old-fashioned.” I would prefer not to go through so much of a routine every time I want a decent cup of coffee — reading the notes, talking to the dude behind the counter and hearing him wax on and on about what he likes in this particular origin.
I would prefer not to drink the under-roasted bean variety, which makes for winy coffee, I think, and encourages the sort of annotation and thoughtful consideration that I’m not real keen on when it comes to coffee.

I’m perfectly willing to admit that that may have everything to do with the role I assign to coffee in my life. Wine, I’ll delve into, and read notes on, etc. I find it interesting. But in part the reason I find it interesting is that I tend to drink my wines with food and not singly. I like the conversation they have. I like the way one changes or doesn’t change the other. I like the way a bottle of wine, when you first open it — and especially if it’s a really good bottle — is one way, and then twenty minutes later it’s another, and an hour later it’s still another. Coffee is never like that for me. And I don’t think of coffee as something I pair with my food.

So, it plays a particular role in my life, coffee does. I drink it in the morning in the hopes that it will help me wake up. Also because I like the mellowness and edge of bitterness early in the day. Ideally it doesn’t get in the way of the food (oatmeal, eggs); rarely does it complement it. I drink it in the afternoon to give me a pick-me-up. Here, I’m drinking it solo. I want it to be strong, but mellow, and rich. Complex, yes. But, because I’m drinking it alone, without food, and because I’m usually working, I don’t want acid. I don’t want notes of oranges. I don’t want the taste of cherries. I want to focus on my work and luxuriate in something good and strong and mellow and rich. I’m not interested, then, in making discoveries, unless, of course, the discovery is that this particular shop makes a damn good cup of coffee.

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LOOKING FOR A 14TH STREET RESTAURANT FOR A BOOK CLUB GATHERING? ……….:

Hi Todd,

Looking for a spot along the 14th street corrider for a book club meeting over dinner. We went to Birch and Barley for the first one and it was great.

This would be on a Tuesday so I’m hoping that will make things easier, just need a place that has decent food and a chance for 4 people to hear each other. Doi Moi? Tico? Le Diplomate and Ghibellina tend to be my go tos on that street so I’d like to switch it up a bit.

Thanks!

Todd Kliman

How about Posto?

Speaking of which — chef Massimo Fabbri, of Tosca, has moved to take over operations full-time.

In a recent email he wrote to tell me that “I have recently changed the menu and re introduced some of the Tosca classics (at a much lower price of course 🙂 and mixed them with some Tuscan classic dishes.” Sounds good to me. I think Fabbri is a talent.

Let me know how it turns out, if you go.

What’re you discussing?

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COFFEE, CONT. ……….:

“And I don’t think of coffee as something I pair with my food.”

That’s because you’ve never had the coffee paired with a slice of cherry pie from the Lamplighter Inn. Its on Highway 2 near Lewis Fork, WA. Damn good food if you ever get up that way

Todd Kliman

Noted!

And listen, I like a cup of coffee with a slice of pie or a muffin or a scone, I think they often go great together, I just don’t think in that instance that you’re saying to yourself — “wow, that’s fascinating, the way the acidity changes the taste of the cherries.”

But who knows? Maybe, with this pie, they do.

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BOOK CLUB DINNER, CONT. ……….:

Thanks for the recommendation! I don’t often hear Posto’s name pop up.

We’re discussing J by Howard Jacobson – it was my selection as I’m on a bit of a dystopian fiction kick, enjoying it so far!

Todd Kliman

Hey, that’s great — I read it a few months ago.

Ok, so let me change my earlier request — let me know how dinner is, and what you talked about when you talked about Jacobson.

I’m a fan of his. The best of the books I’ve read is Kalooki Nights. It’s funny and dark and sad and sticks with you. I read it many years ago and still sometimes think about it. The Finkler Question won a Booker Award a few years ago, and is also worth reading.

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PETER CHANG, IN ARLINGTON ……….:

Hey Todd,

Have you been yet? What should I be ordering?

Thanks.

Todd Kliman

Not yet, no, but as for what to order I would load up on all those things that Chang is known for.

Fish in bamboo, which is cumin-dusted fried fish in a bamboo basket.

Cilantro fish rolls.

Cumin lamb.

Ma po tofu.

Scallion bubble pancake.

Those are the dishes he has done in place after place after place. Those are the dishes to judge him by.

That’s not to say some of the new dishes, here, don’t look good — there are a dozen things, I see, on the new menu that look good to me. But start there.

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DAMN GOOD CHERRY PIE, AND COFFEE, CONT. ……….:

D’oh!!! You just got burned by a “Twin Peaks” reference! Damn good cherry pie indeed.

As to the previous poster who took you to task about “just ordering a glass of wine or beer”, clearly that snob never ordered a glass of “House” wine- the label-less, nameless wine that oftentimes is actually really good. As to the beer, that’s tougher- if you just say “Give me a draft”, you might be met with an incredulous look, and a battery of followup questions (unless you are at a place that has Yuengling on tap- if you ask for a lager, odds are good that you’ll be getting Pottsville’s finest export).

Todd Kliman

I think the thing for me is that everything, now, is complicated. Is involved. Requires learning.

Conversations with people, and not quick, mindless conversations.

Amassing a base of knowledge.

Acquiring the lingo.

And what are we talking about? Coffee.

The cynical side of me says that restaurants and shops and chefs and makers all do this in order to make their products more esoteric. More esoteric means different and, maybe, worth talking about, writing about, inquiring into. Means you can charge more money. Means, also, that you can market it differently, and because you can market it differently, you can position it differently in the minds of the media and people in the business of hype.

In the car industry, for instance, you can buy a precision driving machine. Is it precise? Probably. Probably very precise. I wouldn’t know — I’ve never owned or driven a precision driving machine. I do know, however, that it’s still, for all that, a car.

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COFFEE, CONT., AND PETIT LOUIS IN COLUMBIA ……….:

Had a lovely late lunch at Petit Louis In Columbia Saturday, but at the end I ordered coffee with dessert and it was awful. It tasted burnt.

I didn’t complain as we had to leave and I adore the place and have no other complaints. But, it really left a bad taste in my mouth . . . literally and figuratively. For some of us a regular cup of coffee is important.

Just saying . . . .

Todd Kliman

Oh, I hear you.

You didn’t want or need it to be special, just good. And it wasn’t.

Sometimes, just good is plenty.

Thanks for chiming in …

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TABLE ETIQUETTTE: SHOULD I HAVE SPOKEN UP? ……….:

I was recently at a restaurant where bouillabaisse was one of the specials and the waiter said that the chef only makes it a few times a year, so its very special, worth the extra $5 over any other dish, etc. In general, it is one of my favorite dishes.

However, it was a mediocre presentation and I know of at least one other restaurant nearby that makes it much better using higher quality ingredients including lobster at a lower price. So I learned no to order it again.

My question is should I have said anything to the waiter when he asked how every thing was? I ate it, but it definitely wasn’t special.

Todd Kliman

You should have, yes.

Now, easier said than done, because that’s not a situation that a lot of people find comfortable.

You don’t want to be bothered, maybe. The dish is fine, but not special, as you said — it’s not inedible; you can deal. Or you don’t want to appear to be conniving for something.

You could have said, simply: You know, it’s fine, but there’s nothing special about it, and I’m kind of disappointed in it, to be quite honest.

At which point, if this was a good server, the bowl would have been whisked away and you would have been offered a chance of ordering something else.

In some instances, a manager might also have come over and spoken with you. That’s also not a comfortable thing for a lot of people, even if that manager is just coming over to tell you that the server will be back with a menu for you to choose something else. Sometimes, all you want is to eat a meal in peace.

My guess is that it would have been just the first — just the server coming over and taking the bowl away and giving you a chance to order another dish.

One thing to remember, for next time — restaurants, the good ones anyway, really do want you to tell them what you think. They want to make you happy; they want you to leave with a good impression. And they want to be able to correct something that’s not working in the moment, when they can, and not have you, the diner, go online and carp on a public forum. 🙂

Gotta run, all.

Thanks for all of the comments and pranks and musings and food for fodder …

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

[missing you, TEK … ]

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