Photo: Julie Toy
Everything is shrinking, except the deficit. First, TV and the Internet turned our great big world into a global village, and now this: Restaurant napkins have shrunk, from a standard size of 30-inch square about 25 years ago to the paltry 20-inch square we find in most restaurants today.
Most, that is. Some napkins aren't even that big: Applebee's two-ply paper versions measure only 15 inches by 17 inches. Everything you ever wanted to know about this shocking shrinkage is contained in The Great Shrink, an article by William L. Hamilton, in the Wall Street Journal's Life & Culture section. I agree with Hamilton's lament. Being a messy person, I'm tired of my clothing doubling as napery, but at least I've come to understand that it's not my fault-I don't have enough of napkin to begin with.
In his humorous piece, Hamilton notes that the White House uses 20-by-20 linens for state dinners (great, if you're a visiting dignitary), but, as for Buckingham Palace, it would only say that it does not disclose housekeeping information. (I'm sure there's nothing to the rumor that Her Majesty now insists on squares of Bounty in an effort to save the taxpayers money.) Only the French Laundry in Napa County has those luxurious big, 25-by-25 squares of yore. Unfortunately, Thomas Keller's restaurant, often called the best in America, is impossible to get into.
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Filed under: Restaurants
If you're looking for ways to help relief efforts in Japan after the devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake (and looming nuclear threat), grab a fork or raise a glass: Local bars and restaurants across the U.S. have created a host of promotions designed to help those in need.
Check out what's happening in your area, or use our list as a guide:
- Seattle, which is home to a large Japanese population, has many participating restaurants and bars. Ten percent of today's sales at Blue C Sushi's six locations and Boom Noodle will go to American Red Cross. And if you buy miso soup at Issian, which is a Japanese restaurant, all of that money will go to disaster-relief efforts in Japan. Oddfellows Cafe & Bar pledged to donate 100 percent of today's profits to International Medical Corps, as has King's Hardware, Linda's and Smith. And finally, Fresh Bistro in West Seattle vowed to put five percent of this week's sales toward the cause.
- At Larkburger, a Colorado chain of natural/gourmet hamburger restaurants (in Boulder, Edwards, Fort Collins and Greenwood Village), today from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., 10 percent of all proceeds will be donated to the American Red Cross.
- From today through March 19, Ototo Food and Wine, Izakaya Den and Sushi Den -- all on South Pearl Street in Denver -- will send a portion of dinner proceeds to relief efforts sponsored by the Japanese Red Cross. These restaurants all specialize in Japanese cuisine.
- Chicago's Lockwood Restaurant & Bar, which is inside the swank and historic Palmer House Hilton, developed a signature cocktail for relief efforts. Fifty percent from every purchase of Sunrise Saketini ($12) will go to the American Red Cross.
Photo: New Media Publishing / Flat Art Studios.com
Time to tuck away those shiny Mardi Gras beads. Lent is officially underway, and for many observant eaters, that means several fish-focused Fridays. Lucky for you, we found some folks offering tasty specials where the spotlight shines only on sustainable seafood. That makes it easy to leave your guilty conscience at home.
While Wisconsin throws a mighty tasty fish-fry, they're not the only ones. At Jackson 20 in Alexandria, Va., chef Dennis Marron says they're adding U.S. farmed channel catfish to their traditional fried chicken offering during Lent, making it "Fryday". (He said it, not us!) "We try and stay true to our Southern-influenced concept, and we like to get our fish from as close to home as possible. We track our carbon "fish-print"," he says. The catfish he serves is raised in closed containment systems and fed a mostly vegetarian diet which garners it a Seafood Watch best choice rating. Pass the tarter sauce, would ya?
While Louisville is deep in the heart of the fried-food South, chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia steers clear of a fryolator. His Fruits de Maine is a play on the traditional French dish, fruits de mer. "We try and embody the entire North Atlantic in one dish by incorporating four or five different seafood items from the coast of Maine." Depending on what Maine fishermen bring in each week, that could mean line-caught cod, Maine lobster or fresh clams.
Other chefs are making thoughtful choices too.
Photo: Ezra Pound Cake, Flickr
Seafood lovers, where are you?
That's the question surf-centric restaurants are asking, from titanic-sized chains like Red Lobster to mom-and-pop clam shacks. Though other types of restaurants are starting to see their sales increase as the country slowly recovers from the recession, it appears that it's going to take more than another all-you-can-eat shrimp special to lure diners in for fish again.
As the Orlando Sentinel reports, sales at America's largest seafood chains during the recession sunk far faster than at other restaurants, in part owing to the fact that cash-strapped customers were shying away from higher-priced fare like lobster tails and seared salmon. While major restaurants overall saw their sales fall .8 percent in 2009, sales at seafood chains dropped 5.2 percent.
Photos Courtesy Wolfgang Puck
Master chef Wolfgang Puck (of Spago and CUT), who's already been chosen to cook for 16 Governors Balls (the official Academy Awards after-party), is revving up to prepare the 17th feast this Sunday night after the 83rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony. With more than 1,500 Oscar winners, nominees, presenters, and other guests eating your food, a chef just might get a little edgy. Slashfood chatted with Chef Puck to find out what he, partner chef Matt Bencivenga, pastry chef Sherry Yard, and their staff of 300 have up their sleeves for the glitterati, what makes the perfect Oscars party, and what makes for a kitchen disaster or two. Puck even reveals a surprise move that may shock Spago fans.
Slashfood: What's one of your favorite dishes from last year? And what are you excited about this year? We hear the menu packs a lot of Latin flavors.
Wolfgang Puck: We make something different every year. (Except Sherry Yard's gold-dusted desserts -- everyone goes home with an Oscar.) Last year we prepared Black Truffle Chicken Pot Pie -- we assembled the dish at night, and in the morning and we baked it perfectly hot for all of the guests. This year my tribute to The King's Speech is the entrée of Pan-Roasted Dover Sole with Fennel, Olives, Haricots Vert, Tomatoes, Lemon, Sherry, and Olive Oil. We're flying in 1,600 Dover Sole for the dinner.
What about the "Black Swan Paella?"
We have a Vegetable Risotto "Paellla" with Saffron, White Wine, Chile, and Parsley -- it has great flavors, and it's easy for Natalie Portman to eat since she is vegetarian.
Le Bernardin. Photo: Lyn Hughes
"Best restaurant" lists are tricky. How can any sensible eater compare an iconic pizza parlor or the joint that serves that simply transcendent cheeseburger with the lapidary perfection of a French Laundry or the genre-bending inventiveness of a WD-50? On what terms is it possible to stack the culinary monuments of Manhattan, Chicago, or Los Angeles up against the really-very-good but necessarily more modest establishments of, say, Buellton or Murphysboro? Talk about apples and oranges.
And yet here we are offering a best restaurant list of our own.
You may quarrel with our results, quibble over the panel's choices; ask how we could call that dump a "best" or why we left out that temple of gastronomy. It would be astonishing if you didn't, in fact. We're not presenting objective truth here. In case you haven't noticed, there is no objective truth when it comes to taste in restaurants (or anything else).
Rather, think of this list as the Senate of Culinary Greatness in our country -- every region, cuisine and price level is represented. It's the best of the best from each league, which is the reason why Katz's sandwiches can stand alongside Peter Luger's steaks and Arthur Bryant's barbecue alongside Bazaar's molecular gastronomy. We think our list turned out pretty well, and sincerely thank our panelists for helping us refine it. We stand behind these restaurants -- and would sit down happily at any of their tables.
Filed under: Restaurants
Photo Courtesy of Adsum Restaurant
When Adsum chef/owner and self-proclaimed "Philly fat kid" Matt Levin heard local Philadelphia baker Tasty Baking Company -- better known as Tastykake -- was facing bankruptcy, he immediately began "screwing around" with his longtime favorite treat, the Peanut Butter Kandy Kake.
Realizing that the chocolate-enrobed, peanut butter-layered treat closely resembled a burger bun, he decided to create a dish that would raise awareness of Tasty's dire situation. "The early versions were jacked up," Levin admits, "but they progressively got better. The sour component and the spice needed to balance the sweet."
Photo: Andrew, Flickr
Whatever happens in post-Mubarak Egypt, we know one thing that will never change: koshary. A favorite food of Egyptians, koshary (also spelled koshari or kushari) is a classic vegetarian dish of lentils, rice, chickpeas, pasta, tomato sauce, onions, garlic and cumin that's simple, comforting, fragrant and delicious. When in Cairo's Tahrir Square, before the revolution, chef Anita Lo (of New York's Annisa, and "Top Chef Masters") tells Saveur, she tried this national dish, and went from skeptic to big fan. A touch of a special sauce made all the difference.
Learn more about koshary, and get Chef Lo's top pick at Saveur.com.
Photo: Heart & Soul Cafe
Visit YumSugar to check out the photo and read all about the Suicide Stack.
Filed under: Restaurants