Side Bar

I enjoy keeping abreast of restaurant and cooking news and on occasion, I parrot off the topline to my husband, and follow that with my two cents on the matter.  Here are a few recent articles that I had something to say about:

Three Courses, 20 Euros: The Affordable Dining Renaissance in Paris

This appeared in The New York Times’ Travel section on April 10 (for some reason, it’s not cross-indexed under Food even though the article is as detailed as many restaurant reviews).

Affordable dining is not unique and I am not sure if the claim  that “…the comeback of the city’s bouillons — those working-class restaurants that thrived in Paris during the 19th century” is necessarily true but the notion of a delicious 3-course meal at a price point under $25 resonated with me.  Certainly, the news of a global economic slowdown alongside the ostentatious opening of Hudson Years in New York where restauranteurs cater to the nano-1% (Shake Shack does not count) made this story on affordable dining both timely and appealing.

I know that there are many restaurants in New York that serve amazing fare that are not as expensive as the Tak Room or The Grill, and not a takeout slice either. The problem is that most of these places still have a rushed vibe and I loved the comment from one reader of this article who recounted a story where she profusely apologized for being late to a restaurant in Normandy and was told not to worry because their table was booked for the evening, not for 90-120 minutes.

I know many don’t want to linger or event want to eat dessert anymore but I like how a 3-course meal feels like a special meal these days. I also like how that special feel can be had for $25. I mean, that is the cost of a Seamless order.

I thought about how New York has Restaurant Week where select restaurants offer lunches and dinners at a pre-fixe rate of about $30 for lunch and $40 for dinner.  Of course, this does not include tip or tax, and a glass of wine is not $5 as noted in the article.

That said, unless the restaurants are operating at a loss (which I doubt), it makes me wonder why this cannot be more prevalent all year long?

How Lucky Lee’s Could Have Gotten an ‘American Chinese’ Restaurant Right

I have been following the Lucky Lee debacle over the last few days. Esther Teng outlines the mini-horror show in this Eater article.

What I like best about Teng’s piece is that she is not shrill and saliently lays out the offense and where today’s “clean” eating movement can often be a bit too ‘holier than thou.”  Some choice snippets:

-Haspel has applied a goop-like element to her marketing strategy, further compounding her insult of American Chinese food.

-Their recipes were adapted for the American palate — for instance, adding sugar and frying more items — creating a new culinary genre in the process. And because Chinatowns were considered “slums,” Chinese food acquired its still-present reputation as dirty. That needs to be acknowledged and respected in its historical context: American Chinese food evolved into what it is today because white people were its primary audience.

– . . .the way [Haspel] voluntarily described her food was only in relation to how it’s a better version compared to everything that came before it.

I will note that all of this bluster back-and-forth has nothing to do with the actual dishes being served.

My take in reading Arielle Haspel’s comments and responses is that she really doesn’t get it, still.  She cannot get out of her back-handed insult cycle because she cannot understand how her language is infused with “Goop-minded” arrogance, e.g. “There are very few American-Chinese places as mindful about the quality of ingredients as we are.”

I think back to a conversation a friend and I had when she was recounting a dinner party where an Asian guest asked why “some Asians get offended or are overly sensitive when [insert offense here]?”  We talked about how it difficult it is for anyone who has not been made to feel conscious of their identify, or the heat of shame to have empathy for others in certain situations.  Usually economics (and hence social standing) has shielded them from racism and belittlement. They just don’t get it, and it will be hard for them to ever get it because they are protected from seeing and feeling it.  I feel like Haspel falls into this category.

I sometimes say, it’s best to just keep one’s mouth shut and let your work do the talking.