Monday, November 1, 2010

The un-celebration of the 100th post

 100 posts ago, I started with just a simple restaurant review.  The restaurant was The Stable, in St. Louis and this restaurant became one of my family and friend's favorite place.  My review was from a date with just me and my wife and after my honest review, no less than 10 others had since been there.  All of these others have told me how great the restaurant is and plan on going back again.

Since then, I have done about 18 restaurant reviews, about 7 recipe or cookbook reviews and the rest have mostly been articles dealing with food or food science.  I enjoy eating and going to restaurants and equally enjoy writing about my experiences. I did want to try to get something special, like an interview with Rick Moonen or even a local chef but have been turned down as a result.

During these past 99 posts, there are a few things that I have learned about food and restaurants and chefs:

 1.  Anthony Bourdain will never come to St. Louis.  In a bit of a sore topic, Mr. Bourdain was asked no less than 3 times, while he was speaking about his book at the Fox Theatre, this past October, if he was coming to St. Louis.  He responded that he was coming to the state to do some time in the Ozarks but not coming to St. Louis.  Once again, another person who thinks of St. Louis as nothing but an airport hub. We may not be as big as a city as New York or Vegas, but we have great food, great restaurants and great farms.  We have the oldest outdoor market West of the Mississippi and even one of the best chefs (Chef Larry Forgione).
2.  Most of the St. Louis area people have no idea what good taste is.  If you are reading this, then you are some of the few people with good taste.  I have been to at least 2 bad restaurants during these past 99 posts and the strange thing is that the locals around both establishments believe that these places are the best they have ever had.  So, either these places really are bad or I just have bad luck when it comes to restaurants.  Either the food has been way to salty and not enough to match the price or the food doesn't even come at all after an hour and when it does it tastes just like any other regular fare.  The best Mayan food in Maplewood is home to the saltiest and smallest portion of beef ever.  The newest restaurant in Columbia will likely not get your food served to you under an hour.  Both places have full houses and it amazes me that people are willing to put up with bad service or bad food.  If a place has food that you don't like, DON'T go back!

3.    Most celebrity chefs, celebrity since they have been on TV, don't do much cooking anymore.  In most cases, they are pushing their wares or doing book deals or things like that and are not found in the restaurants anymore.  These celebrity chefs, train chefs to be the executive chefs of their restaurants and therefore don't have to do a thing at that location again.  In some cases...  Some chefs, like Rick Bayless, for example, does work at his restaurant.  You can tell who has the love of cooking in them and who is in it for the money. If I had a restaurant and then became famous for any reason, I would wish to stay in the restaurant, because it is what I love.

4.   Most Americans will not or do not wish to try anything new and authentic.  My wife posed an interesting thought this past weekend: how do those bad Chinese places stay in business?  A family wants Chinese food for dinner and instead of going to a place that serves Chinese food like Dim Sum or other regional food, they wish to go to places like China Court or Panda Palace.  The difference is something real from something that is created and toned down for the American palette.  Which would you rather have: steamed bok choy and broccoli with some beef tendons or cashew chicken with fried rice?  This doesn't only apply to Chinese food but all foods of ethnic nature.

5.  Always try something new.  I try to post recipes involving new ingredients or something like the cactus leaves.  As a foodie and chef, I am learning that there are many different flavors out there and instead of hoarding the tastes that only you like, perhaps you wish to open up.  Let's say that someone had a new kind of chocolate out there.  Would you try it?  Chocolate covered bacon?  It's good.  I know because I tried it.  Chocolate is good and bacon is good and together it is good.  Why don't you try it?  A lot of people, older people, want to go to their usual stand-by's and never try anything new. It could be an older woman who doesn't like anything on a salad bar or someone who only gets chicken strips at whatever restaurant it is.  But try something new!  Life is too short to see something new, smell something new and then say "No Thanks" when it comes to taking just a small bite.

6.  Take care of yourself.  Smoking dulls the taste buds, which is why food is too salty in some cases because teh chef is a smoker and most likely cannot taste the real taste of the food.  It doesn't register for him.  Also, try to stay away from unhealthy junk food.  A great food leader in our country is McDonald's and while they have a burger for just 270 calories, that bun and ketchup has high fructose corn syrup in it.  So, in a culture that is just now discovering the dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup, one burger has two doses of HFCS and one dose of regular corn syrup and even sugar!  I suggest a substitution.  Are we that lazy of a society that instead of making food at home that isn't going to cause health problems or kill us we would rather eat the junk food?

What is amazing overall, is that the chefs that come up with food that is actually healthy for us, make far less money than those that kill us more quickly.  A chef that can come up with bacon wrapped bacon and then deep fries that makes more for his recipe than someone who makes sugar free jam without the use of artificial flavors and colors.  My wife always joked at the idea that a a box of snack cakes, filled with fat and sugar costs as much as one pound of apples.  It is almost as if our nation wants us to get fat. 

What can you expect over the next 100 posts? If I am lucky, I will get a local chef to answer some interview questions for me.  I will get more restaurant reviews and more recipes in here as well.  I have had some requests on Facebook for some low fat or sugar free versions of some favorite desserts and have been working and pulling those off. I will get more of those recipes online for everyone to see and try.

What would you like to see?

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