Sunday, November 28, 2010

Restaurant + TV = FAIL

What is it with this unfortunate trend of restaurants having televisions?

Last night, Rob and I went out for a date night.  There is a relatively new steakhouse in town (Flemings), and we had received a gift card.  We got all dressed up and headed downtown.  Our expectations weren't too high, as it is part of a chain.  However, it seemed to have a lot of elements in place for success.  The restaurant sources high quality ingredients.  It also had one hundred wines by the glass, a concept that I just adore.  At first glance, the interiors seemed lovely.

We entered at street level, where the bar is located.  Two televisions were on either side of the bar.  We were then escorted upstairs to the dining rooms.  They have dining rooms.  The one towards the back was somewhat crowded and acoustically challenged.  The one in the front, where we were sat, has massive windows looking out on the street and intimate booths.  There is another bar off to the side.  This would be perfect, except there were another two televisions in the dining room.  Ironically, the only place in the dining room you could not see the televisions is at the bar.  After placing our order, I had the misfortune of looking up and seeing blood and guts strewn across the TV directly in my line of sight....they had "CSI" playing on one of the channels.  I hailed the waitress over to ask her to turn the TV off.  That was apparently forbidden, but she agreed that "CSI" was inappropriate and changed the channel.

The evening certainly wasn't ruined.  I was there more for the company than the restaurant.  The food was good, but nothing amazing.  I was impressed by the wine list and our waitress was delightful.  However, aside from a pub or a sports bar, I can see no reason whatsoever for a restaurant to have televisions in the dining area.  If I wanted to watch TV while eating dinner, I could stay at home.  This is particularly true for a restaurant with a fairly high price point.  Also, any restaurant that prioritizes having the TV on over the comfort of the guests is missing the point of their existence.

I won't be returning to Flemings.  Chicago has steakhouses with better ambiance, better steak, and better overall experience.  If I want steak in front of the TV, quite frankly I can cook a better ribeye any day of the week.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Ramp DOWN

I adore Thanksgiving.  However, there is always an element of a let-down, especially when I am the one doing the majority of the cooking.  No matter how perfectly everything turns out, the duration and intensity of the consumption never quite seems to give proper merit.  The balance, of course, comes from the days of enjoyment of the leftovers.  Is it worth it?  You bet!  To doubters, I would refer to the words of the great Julia Child:

"Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes' enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet."

In toto, I am pleased with the success of the meal.  Yesterday was quite the frenzy.  The "perfect turkey" mode on the range was much more effective than anticipated.  I think it may be due to the convection feature.  I noticed that the turkey was cooking way faster than fact it was going to be done in almost half the time.  Fortunately, I noticed this before it became a disaster.  I still was sure that in the end the turkey was going to have the consistency of shoe turned out juicy and absolutely delicious.  My gravy was perfect.  The collard greens were even better than expected.  The black-eyed peas I had cooked earlier in the week heated up beautifully.  I wasn't too pleased with my green beans and my biscuits....guess everything can't be perfect.  My guests brought some lovely dishes too.

The whole meal seemed to last but an eyeblink in comparison.  We washed everything down with good champagne and wine.  I was so stuffed!!  We sat around and moaned for a while before attempting to eat some pie.  I don't know why we bother putting so much effort into desserts.  They never are truly appreciated on Thanksgiving.

...and yes...they mess for my sweet honey Rob was truly epic.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Ramp UP

Here I am once again preparing for Thanksgiving.  Fortunately, this year promises much less stress and confusion.  First off, we are not less headache to deal with on top of the meal and personalities.  The thought of actually celebrating in our home is, well, homey!  Second, this year we are hosting one other couple for the day.  It sounds so relaxing to have such a small intimate group.

Of course, hosting in never 100% relaxing.  My guests are bring several of the dishes, which is a huge relief.  However, I was determined that we would have all the dishes represented that each of us need to make it a REAL Thanksgiving.  There will be four of us at the table with food to feed forty.  A new twist for this year is that one of my guests keeps kosher.  I have kept kosher before so I certainly have the knowledge and skill sets to pull this off.  It required an extra trip to the kosher grocery store to buy the turkey.  The biggest complication is how to adapt some of my recipes to be non-dairy.  Well, that and trying to figure out how to cook black-eyed peas and collard greens without using bacon or ham hocks.  Somethings are just going to have be what they way to do the pie without condensed milk.

So far, things are going smoothly.  I cooked up the black-eyed peas on Sunday.  Last night I backed a praline-pumpkin pie (thanks for the recipe Aunt Jean!).  I got up early this morning to go into hyper mode.  The turkey is in the sink to make sure it is completely thawed.  I need to get the placed straightened up then start prepping for each dish.  The turkey goes into the oven at 1pm.  I will testing the Electrolux "perfect turkey" mode.  At that point, it will be 3 hours of non-stop cooking and coordination of dishes until dinner at 5pm.

Fortunately, the bargain in our home is that I cook and Rob cleans.  Good luck dear....this mess will be epic.

Wish me luck!