Archive for questions

Persistent Question: Is Dine About Town a good value?

Posted in Food for thought, News, Restaurants with tags , on December 29, 2007 by Susannah


Dine About Town is one of the few things that Bay Area residents look forward to in January. After all, what is there to do in this rainy, cold winter month other than eat?

The first two out of the past three years that I’ve lived in the Bay Area, I partook in Dine About Town with a certain level of enthusiasm. It began to occur to me, however, that my meals had never amounted to anything above average. In fact, my track record seemed to demonstrate that the Dine About Town meals are unimaginative, generic and, quite frankly, not that great of a value. While I concluded that these average prix fixes were typical, I hoped that the subpar experiences at the restaurants I’d visited were atypical. Last year I decided that I would rather save my money and spend it on a standard meal at any of the participating restaurants.

I suppose the empirical action to take would be to visit all the restaurants I’ve gone to in the past for Dine About Town and have standard meals at all of them, to validate my suspicions. I’ve not had the time nor the budget to do that. However, given my renewed enthusiasm this year for exploring new restaurants, I’m finding that Dine About Town is tempting me again…

(For a complete list of restaurants participating in this year’s program, click here.)

Welcome home, honey…dinner’s ready!

Posted in Food for thought, Susannah's Home with tags on December 10, 2007 by Susannah

Disclaimer: I don’t in any way profile myself as a domestic housewife. This disclaimer prefaces the question that I am about to ask:

What should I make Andy for dinner?

He’s in NYC for a yearlong master’s program but will be coming home to our place for the holidays. What courses mark a good “welcome home” dinner? His favorite things in the world are fries and strawberry shortcake, but he pretty much likes anything except oysters.

Seasonal restaurants: What a concept

Posted in Food for thought, News, Restaurants with tags , on December 3, 2007 by Susannah

Local, seasonal ingredients have always been at the forefront of California cuisine, and have recently become the focus for many top-notch restaurants across the country. Now Park Avenue Winter, a restaurant in Manhattan, has taken this concept to a new level, by introducing itself each season with a new name, a new look, and a completely different food and beverage menu to reflect time of year. Just two weeks ago the restaurant was named Park Avenue Autumn (far below photo), and several months before that it was Park Avenue Summer.

Park Avenue Winter

I first learned of this restaurant through New York magazine’s review. Interestingly enough, the venture is owned by the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group — at first guess I would not have supposed a chain restaurant company would invest more than $1.5 million in such a fluid venture. Recently, the restaurant closed its doors to make the switch from autumn to winter. Over a period of 48 hours, the restaurant updated its menu to include classics such as coq au vin and walnut gingerbread with pureed apple, switched its uniforms to be white suits with white ties, and changed its backdrop setting to be entirely white, in contrast to its fall setup of copper and auburn hues.

Park Avenue Autumn

Is this a smart idea? I’m not sure. From a business point of view, it wouldn’t seem to be that way, given the costs of renovating four times a year. However, it will almost certainly ensure that patrons will return regularly to scope out the new digs, so it’s a way to bring diners back on a semi-regular basis. What are your thoughts on this concept? Do you think it’s a fleeting idea, or here to stay? Do you think the concept will catch on in other parts of the country?

Either way, one thing’s for sure: This new experiment keeps the New York restaurant scene fun and exciting.

Photos: Park Avenue Winter (top); Park Avenue Autumn (bottom).

Persistent Question: What is the ‘right’ way to eat sushi?

Posted in Food for thought with tags on November 18, 2007 by Susannah

Eating Sushi

My friend Lisa and I stopped by Ace Wasabi’s for dinner last night. We ordered quite a few large rolls — like the vegetarian futomaki, stuffed with asparagus, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, gobo and kanpya — that were definitely too large to fit into the mouth in one bite. This turned out to be quite a challenge for Lisa, and we wound up with enough rice and vegetables on our plates and in our soy sauce trays to comprise an entire piece of maki!

“The seaweed is too chewy [for me to bite off a clean bite],” my friend complained.  She was right.

But given that sushi is eaten on so many first dates, I’ve got to assume there is a strategic way to eat large pieces of sushi without looking like a fool.

Any thoughts?

Where should I eat in Vegas?

Posted in Destinations with tags , , on November 2, 2007 by Susannah


Las Vegas might be the mecca for gambling, debauchery and one-night stands, but it’s one of America’s high-end dining destinations.

This year I’ll be celebrating the holiday season in Sin City as my extended family is a little too obsessed with gambling. (I’ve never caught on to that; my tenth-grade statistics teacher taught me that the house always wins.) Vegas is not my destination of choice, but I’ll be looking forward to trying some of the world-famous cuisine that America’s Playground has to offer.

Dozens of designer chefs from around the country have capitalized on the Vegas restaurant market, launching spinoffs of their highly successful originals: They include Thomas Keller (Bouchon), Daniel Boulud (db bistro moderne), Emeril Lagasse (Delmonico Steakhouse), Wolfgang Puck (Spago, Chinois), the Brennan family (Commander’s Palace), and Bradley Ogden (Bradley Ogden). Supposedly, there are excellent mom-and-pop establishments, too. And let’s not forget that the city is full of buffets to end all other buffets.

With a budget like mine, I certainly won’t be eating like a king at every meal, but I’d like to splurge on at least one or two excellent meals of any sort. If you can recommend (or discourage) eating at any restaurants in Las Vegas, please drop me a note!

Persistent Question: Why are meals offered in only one size?

Posted in Food for thought with tags , on October 31, 2007 by Susannah


My friend Fumiko and I pondered this question over our lunch hour. I can’t seem to get my arms around the concept, for the following reasons:

1. Size options are a necessity in a world of differing people and varying needs. After all, most things in life come in different sizes: shirts, socks, sandals, Starbucks. How can a 6’4″ male athlete and a 5’3″ female be expected to finish the same-sized meal? When we go for Chinese takeout at lunchtime, who is that $5 combo platter meant for?

2. This mentality is contributing to America’s obesity epidemic. The idea is that “one size fits most” and the average person will be able to finish the portion, give or take a little more or a little less. Like a kid’s menu “for ages 12 and under,” today’s default food serving appears to be something along the lines of “serves large, active men and smaller.” If you happen to belong to the “and smaller” part of the equation, it’s your responsibility to determine when to curb your ever-hungry eyes.

3. We’re unfairly paying the same price for different levels of need. If you wanted to buy a 15″ analog TV, would it be fair to pay the same price as someone who wanted a 30″ plasma flat-screened HDTV? No one would stand for that. So why is a small woman willing to pay the same price for food as a large man?

4. If Starbucks can do it, how hard can it be? Enough said.

The epitome of a great neighborhood restaurant

Posted in Restaurants, Reviews with tags , on October 28, 2007 by Susannah


My friend Steph raved about the fried chicken at Firefly in San Francisco’s Noe Valley neighborhood, so I leaped at the opportunity to go when my boyfriend Andy was in town.

We recognized the establishment by the gigantic firefly hanging above the entrance. As I walked into the restaurant, I was blown away by the warm, buttery smell of truffles. I did some investigating and soon learned it was the brussels sprouts appetizer. My nose could tell that they would be wonderful, so I made a mental note to order them, even though Andy doesn’t care for brussels sprouts, a fact that I’ve learned when cooking them at home. (At another time, I will have to tell you about the time I made “brussels sprouts two ways” — not his favorite meal.) To his surprise and my delight, it didn’t take long for him to experience a change of heart. Post-roast, these notoriously bitter greens were soft and sweet on the inside, and sported a crisp outer shell with a deep caramel flavor.

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