Some restaurants are turning to cheaper ingredients to offset the cost of more expensive ingredients
From an article on MSNBC.com,
Call it a menu makeover: Steakhouses are adding buffalo meat alongside filet mignon, pizza joints are trying new cheese products and seafood spots are replacing pricier entrees with humbler dishes like catfish.
Cheese “Products”? Plop plop, fizz fizz.
Sysco Corp., the largest food distributor in North America, is helping customers cope with high food prices, for example, by suggesting less expensive meat cuts, butter blends and other cost-saving substitutions.
“Butter blends” You know, that never even occurred to me as a cost-saving measure. I was at OCI the other day, and they had a nice basket of bread with some sort of butter spread. My companion and I kept saying, “It doesn’t taste like butter, but it doesn’t taste like anything else either.”
Worst service I’ve had in ages: 23Hoyt Happy hour
Started out good, but as business picked up a bit, we were forgotten. Even more bizarre, lots of staff was standing around, only our server was in the weeds. Sad, because the food was pretty good. Speaking of which, their happy hour will be starting one hour earlier, at 4pm in mid-May.
The Oregonian seems to have dropped some of their anonymity rules
Several of their recent publications and web videos have featured at least one food critic, the latest being Grant Butler discussing food carts. NOTE: an email from Grant says he’s no longer doing reviews. I ended up sitting next to Karen Brooks at NW Coffeehouse a few months ago, and recognized her because of her strange hair dye; red with a white splotch in front. Everyone else knew her too.
A new restaurant called 50 Plates will be opening in the Pearl District
Paper is up on the windows, opening set for mid-June. It will be an “American Bistro.” Look for it at 13th street and Flanders. Another possible addition to the pearl, the owners of Jopa Italian restaurant in Beaverton are opening a new venture in the Aveda space. Their restaurant in Beaverton bills themselves as a “Northwest Grill, with Italian roots”. No idea if the new one will follow the same cuisine.
The new Ristretto Roasters is being designed by the innovative Holtst Architecture firm
The new branch is more than three times the size of the current NE 42nd location. In addition to more seating, this will allow space for a coffee lab. Owner Din Johnson is importing granite cupping tables from Brazil, and will have a sample roaster and espresso machine for training and public cuppings. With the increased room will come more single-origin espresso and additions to their library of beans available for purchase. There will be a lounge with a variety of seating in the front, and a cupping area in the back.
Look for the new Ristretto Roasters to open early to mid summer.
Pascal of Carafe Restaurant just turned 50 – and does a triathlon
When I turned 50, I celebrated by crossing the street by myself. He is turning things up a notch by participating in a TRIATHLON benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Pascal has already raised $3,520 dollars towards his goal of $5,000, and it won’t take many donations to put him over the top. Anyone at any age that makes it through a Triathlon has my respect, and I’ll be cheering him on. PFD will make a donation to this good cause.
Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago has advanced oral cancer
An article in The New York Times Diner’s Journal caught my eye, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Many of you have probably heard of Grant Achatz of Alinea restaurant in Chicago, famous for using molecular gastronomy to coax flavors and textures out of food in new and exciting ways.
Last year he was told he had advanced oral cancer, and that unless he had his tongue cut out, he would be dead within a few months.
Ponder that for a moment. A world-famous chef, with no tongue, unable to taste. What would you do? Interesting article called “A Light in the Kitchen When All Else Was Dark“.
Happened to revisit Nostrana last Friday after probably two years. Still weird front of house: There were only two people waiting, four or five empty tables, but we were told it was a 30 minute wait for a table — unless we sat at the counter, which we did. We noted a two top and a couple of other tables were empty almost the entire time we were there. On the other hand, we enjoyed chatting with the women making pizza, they were a lot of fun, and the salad and pizza were very good. Good reasonably priced wine as well.
Food Dude says
johnee, thanks for the report. Restaurants don’t always open every section if they don’t have staff on hand to service the tables. Perhaps that is what was going on. It seems strange that they weren’t more crowded on a Friday night, but I’ve been seeing that in restaurants all over town.
We brought some out of town visitors to Nostrana about a month ago. We had reservations, were seated promptly, and had better service than what we’d come to expect from previous visits. The food was up to their usual high standards, though we were disappointed to see that the salumi plate was no longer on the menu *sigh*. No noticeable downturn for us…
Food Dude says
“No noticeable downturn for us…”
I’m hoping it is getting better!
So do those huge roll-up doors face onto Williams? Because I’m not sure I’d want them open with all the traffic and bus fumes just a few feet away. It’s a pretty busy street.
Food Dude says
Lexuh, no, the rollup doors face the side street. I have lots more pictures, but didn’t have room for them in the post. If folks are interested, I’ll add them.
So, where’s the donation link pal? I’ll donate to keep this stuff coming. Micropayments ftw!
Food Dude says
dietrich, there is a donation button on the front page, far right side under “Recent Donors.” Thanks!
Re: Aladdin- I watched the video, and to be fair, it did say that they had solved the major problems by the next inspection. It still grosses me out as we used to eat there a lot ( I feel it’s gone downhill).
Food Dude says
I also think it has gone downhill quite a bit since my review. Hmm.. i should make sure I did the down arrow thing.
Suds Sister says
I have been there a few times now since the change in ownership. I absolutely love the place. I think the food is out of this world. The pizzas are wonderfully thing and yet chewy with the perfect amount of char. I especially love the salads…they really know how to handle their veggies there. But the thing that has me coming back repeatedly in the last couple of months is the spring cocktail menu. Every cocktail I have had off the list has been great.
Service at Nostrana has been excellent. No wait ever. I have sat at the bar alone and at tables with groups. No problems whatsoever. Once when I was at the bar with my husband, the bartender poured us samples of some infusions that they were doing along with the ‘leftovers’ from cockatils that she had made for others.
P.S. I was there maybe a month ago and noticed someone ordering the salumi plate. Perhaps they were just out for the evening?
Suds Sister says
Was at Nostrana **again** over the weekend. Just wanted to report that the salumi plate was indeed on the menu. I ordered it and it was meat-tastic. I also want to point out that, thanks to the graciousness of the staff, our party of five was able to secure a last minute table. They were packed, and yet they managed to find room to seat us.
Food Dude –
I’m writing on behalf of Wildwood Restaurant. I’d like to address the rumor that we have any plans of closing.
This would be news to us. Last year was one of our most successful in Wildwood history, with executive chef Dustin Clark at the helm. Our strong kitchen and floor staff of seasoned veterans and fresh faces has us excited about our future. Also, thanks to the efforts of Jennifer Alfieri-Adams, Wildwood’s private dining and monthly dinner series are garnering new exposure for us all the time. Dining at Wildwood is evolving, and we’re going to continue to represent the best that Portland has to offer.
Wildwood has a proven record of supporting the community, from our tried-and-true food philosophy to our dedication to local farmers and artisans. While we do appreciate that tongues wag and the item was published under the caveat that it was “strictly rumor”, we would ask for a little more restraint when weighing the value of false press that might potentially have a negative effect on a local business.
Thank you sincerely,
The Wildwood Team
I have to say that this bothers me far more than the coffee shop/conflict back and forth.
It would have taken five minutes to try to confirm the veracity of the original post about the “rumors” regarding Wildwood. Even if you tried and they didn’t respond, at least you could have tried. But to print (and continue to leave on your front page) the gossip that they are rumored to be having troubles is in my opinion inexcusable.
The new Ristretto Roasters which is being designed by the innovative Holtst Architecture firm, is more than twice the size of the current NE 42nd location. In addition to more seating, this will allow space for a coffee lab. Owner Din Johnson is importing granite cupping tables from Brazil, and will have a sample roaster and espresso machine for training and public cuppings. With the increased room will come more single-origin espressos and additions to their library of beans available for purchase. Din Johnson is Food Dude’s gal-pal, Nancy Rommelmann’s, husband. Remember hypocrisy? Guess not.
What a dick. Nancy who? Cause the dude has kept it on the dl that he knows her/she contributes/whatever. Bored with McCain already, extra?
Who can forget hypocrisy? It runs in the best of circles. But seriously you MSG, this is a bit of a reach. Most people who check in on this site from time to time are savvy about Ristretto Roasters, Nancy, and Din. I seem to recall postings from Nancy herself about Ristretto. But even if people didn’t know, why exactly is not mentioning Din’s wife in a news update akin to FD being a hypocrite? Am I missing something here, is this where you think in the spirit of full disclosure it should have been mentioned? Please do explain. Thanks.
Food Dude says
If it makes you feel any better, MSG, I’ve seen Nancy once since last summer. I recall being at RISTRETTO ROASTERS, 0 times in the same time frame (even though their drip coffee is fabulous!) You and I have talked (in person) several times in the same period. Does that mean I can’t write about the place you work? (don’t answer that… I really don’t care.) It’s a news piece, not a review. Nothing I said isn’t news that is freely available. Don’t be a smuck.
Note: Where I said how Fabulous RISTRETTO ROASTERS is above, I should note that Nancy, husband of the owner DIN JOHNSON, is a casual friend of mine. (We’ve been having a TORRID affair for years, and have WILD MONKEY SEX on a regular basis. (This should bring some interesting google hits)
Kevin Allman says
1. It’s a press release, not a review.
2. Nancy Rommelmann’s connection to this site, and to Ristretto, is well-known. I know her too, which I suppose makes her my “gal pal” as well.
3. There’s probably some history, and some bad feelings, here that I don’t know about and don’t care to know. But I’d wager it has to do more with Rommelmann than it does the proprietor of this site. Just a guess.
4. It would be nice if the media in Portland didn’t go around taking snipey, passive-aggressive shots at one another (the O and the Willamette Week, the WW and the Mercury, the Tribune and All And Sundry), but goddamn: if you’re going to do it, do it right, and spell it out instead of insinuating. Nut up; don’t be a shitbird.
Nancy Rommelmann says
This apparent “conflict” has been raised at several publications in town. For instance, Willamette Week, where I have occasionally contributed stories. Does the publication ignore Ristretto? If the “Best Of” voters vote for it (which they did last year), do they ignore this because I ran two stories in WW in 2007? I completely agree in transparency. While I don’t contribute much anymore to PFD, some people know I have contributed here; some know I’m married to the guy who built Ristretto Roasters. It’s sort of a non-issue; no one has ever tried to make much or little of this. More, I think Food Dude has put in the miles to earn people’s trust with regard to being fair and objective. He would not mention Ristretto just because my husband owns it; he mentions it because he thinks it’s worthwhile.
The Hub, where Lincoln and Ristretto will be, is going to be a pretty big deal: lots of shops, lots of food; interesting location, and yes, the architecture should be smashing. It’s going to be on the map and people are going to want to know about it. As this is what Food Dude does, it makes sense for him to mention who’ll be in the Hub; we’re the only two new tenants lined up or I am sure he’d have mentioned others. This coverage, I think, outweighs what Nick Zukin (MSG) sees as a conflict of interest. I also have to agree here with the Dude: Kenny and Zuke’s has received an awful lot of interesting and positive coverage here. I never saw the Dude and Nick knowing each other as problematic, because I know the Dude writes what he thinks; that he’s not in Nick’s pocket. Nick might have enough faith that the Dude is not in mine.
Nancy Rommelmann says
I should have written, the only two new food-related tenants at the Hub: there’s also, so far as I know, a florist called Ink & Peet, and a naturopathic vet.
Let’s start with this:
STATEMENT OF CONFLICTS:
1. Food Dude: Gave me my first writing break here on his site. We have gone out to eat a few times over the years. I promised never to reveal his identity and have kept my promise. I like Food Dude.
2. ExtraMSG (Nick Zukin): I’ve known him for about the same length of time I’ve known Food Dude. I did the legal work for Kenny & Zuke’s and own a few percent of it. He and I go out to eat from time to time. I like ExtraMSG.
3. Karen Brooks: She gave me the chance to write for the Oregonian. She edits my stuff currently. We go out to eat from time to time. I like Karen Brooks.
4. Nancy Rommelmann: We have chatted a couple times and met for coffee once to talk about food and writing. I like Nancy Rommelmann though I know her the least well of the people I’m mentioning here.
5. I know lots of other people who write about food and who serve it. Before I quit practicing law a year ago, I represented several aspiring restaurant owners. Among writers, there is no one I really dislike–unless you count Stu Stein, who I never met, but for whom I have visceral disdain given his proven, extensive history of plagiarism. Among folks in the food service trade, the vast majority are good hard working men and women whom I admire.
If I understand the controversy here, it appears ExtraMSG is calling Food Dude hypocritical for challenging Karen Brooks’ ethics for not maintaining anonymity, yet in the same article Food Dude wrote a report on Ristretto Roasters in which Food Dude failed to reveal his friendship with Nancy Rommelmann, the spouse of Ristretto Roasters’ principal. Nancy Rommelmann asserts, among other points, that Food Dude is worthy of trust and is simply reporting on a clearly newsworthy development.
My take, fwiw:
I’m weary of the ethical attacks by folks in the local food journalism community against other members of that community. I’m satisfied beyond any doubt everyone I know in that community comports themselves with strong sense of personal integrity and avoids ethical lapses. There’s no profit in cultivating a bad reputation.
Portland is still a pretty small town, so anonymity and the appearance of complete objectivity are difficult–I would assert, impossible–to maintain. People in the restaurant trade talk. Food writers talk. Rumors get around about everybody and everything. I don’t think anyone’s perfect, but I do trust what I read written by the folks I know. And that’s the bottom line for me. (Hell, not to invoke old ghosts, but I still think that Jim Dixon got a bit of a raw deal. Whatever appearance or actual conflict he had, I never had any reason to doubt that he wrote what he honestly believed about the restaurants he reviewed.)
Not sure I’m going to make any headway with anyone, but I just hate to see the personal attacks. I’ve been on the receiving end–unfairly–and it is a bummer to have to listen to and defend oneself from that kind of stuff. I guess that’s a conflict I should have disclosed. Oh well.
Cuisine Bonne Femme says
Honestly, I think MSG is being asinine and is just overall a putz. His reputation around town journalism circles is cemented as that of “food bully” and this is a prime example – Personal attacks without any backbone seem to be his main forte. Honestly, I think it’s some weird desperate cry for attention or something.
It’s hard to take someone seriously who cries “ethics” wolf in such passive aggressive ways, so many times on this site, dropping little jabs here and there about Food Dude without ever really just coming out and saying what he really feels and why. He’s like an advanced blog troll or something.
Food Dude has said that Karen Brooks is unethical. If so, it’s a terrible fault. I’ve seen no evidence of it myself, and I see none above, but Food Dude is an honorable man, and if Food Dude says Karen Brooks is unethical, it must be true. I can only speak of that which I see and that which I know: the Oregonian provides the broadest and most comprehensive food coverage of any local media and it seems fair to me. But Food Dude says it’s unethical and surely Food Dude is an honorable man. Whoever he is.
Food Dude says
I’m saying that if she really thinks she’s anonymous, she’s kidding herself. She does public lectures. She played piano with Thomas Lauderdale a few days ago (quite well, btw.) Every time I’ve seen her in a restaurant, the staff is rushing around behind her back, making sure everything is perfect. One night, a server told me, “Sorry we are a bit slow. Karen Brooks from the Oregonian is here.” Yesterday she was at Coffeehouse NW. Most people in the Portland restaurant community know her on sight.
No you didn’t. You implied that she’s unethical. (Ironically, Karen Brooks is about the only local food journalist I don’t know by sight.) That’s more than just that she’s mistaken if she thinks she maintains anonymity.
And note that I didn’t say you’re unethical. I share mczlaw’s unease with these sort of attacks. I just think it’s hypocritical to attack Brooks over her anonymity in the same piece that you give publicity to a friend. (And come on, you’re much closer friends than you allow for above.) But personally, I see nothing wrong with you publishing PR, or even a review, of Ristretto. But then, I wouldn’t see a problem with mczlaw reviewing Toro Bravo even if a few years ago he did legal work for John Gorham, yet the “unethical” editor of the Oregonian won’t let him even do simple, non-review work about places he has even former professional ties with, let alone our place.
I do challenge your implicit claim of moral superiority based on your alleged anonymity, an anonymity that has more to do with your readers having little insight — and definitely less insight — into whatever linkages and “conflicts” you may have than people whose identity, such as Karen Brooks, are public and open to scrutinty. It’s supremely ironic for you to make such a fuss over others’ conflicts when your potential conflicts are not open for question, debate, or investigation. In your case, we have to take your claims on faith. At least with Brooks et al, someone can base their opinion on evidence.
Personally, I prefer to just judge the work on its own merits and not follow these red herrings. I think you do a fine job of reviewing. I don’t always agree with your take on places and I think you’re as prone as anyone else to influences beyond the food, but in general it’s good work. It’s your rumor-mongering and sensationalism, along with your non-substantive accusations towards the Oregonian and other mainstream media, that’s objectionable.
Food Dude says
Oh.. and don’t forget to wipe that brown off your nose. ;)
Rule #1: Don’t feed the troll! The more you feed it, the more you *become* it.
Public cuppings? I think we should be way more concerned about these “public cuppings” than who is or isn’t privately cupping.
Cupping tables? ahem? Do I live in Rome?
Food Dude says
Thanks for the good laugh! :)
Very interesting article in last week’s New Yorker on Ahcats of Alinea. He refused to have surgery and underwent chemo and radiotherapy. He is slowly regiaing some of his taste. Must be hell!
If you copy and paste this it will take you to the online version of it in the New Yorker.
Food Dude says
The NY Times did a piece too… link right before the comments on this post.
Nancy Rommelmann says
It’s an amazing article. Achatz was given an impossible choice, and chose a third way, a way that, so far, is working. Well worth the read.
Cancer suffering/recovery story aside, the article aptly demonstrates the supreme diligence and laser focus that makes Achatz one of the best chefs of our time. I had the distinct pleasure of eating at Alinea and meeting him in his kitchen a couple years ago and to call the experience memorable is a pathetic understatement.
I hope he has truly beaten his evil disease.
I think diligence and focus are necessary, but only if they are at the service of new ideas and Grant Achatz does seem to be supremely gifted, a true artist. I hope he does well, the protocol he is in is experimental, but sometimes those work the best for difficult to treat diseases! There may be a correlation between genius and a short life span, one of the most celebrated examples being Mozart (again, this is anecdotal, no statistical evidence to support the contention that geniuses live shorter lives…)
Food Dude says
Oh great. So you are saying I’m going to die young? Er.. wait a minute. I’m way too old for that… so you are saying I’m stupid?!
FD you are the exception to an (unproven) rule, brilliant yet made it to an advanced age, it must be the evoo!
Regarding the butter at the OCI restaurant: it is a compound (real) butter including citrus zest (at lunch anyway). (I am a student there.)
Has anyone out there considered the possibility that Extra MSG, Cuisine Bonne Femme, Food Dude, Mczlaw and Nancy Rommelmann are actually all the same person, operating out of a small anonymous office in a nondescript business park in Bangalore?
Considering the comments in this thread, that is a distinct possibility. The immature sniping behavior shown by all was what gave it away, methinks.
Edit: Nancy and mczlaw seem to stay out of the fray, so maybe that’s a different Bangalorean worker… playing good cop?
My God! You mean there’s… there’s… TWO of them???