Monthly Archives: September 2013

The transverse of my belief, if only for a moment.

From the get go of this blog and my approach to eating out has always been and will remain. Break the chain (corporate chain restaurants), support your local eateries.

Well I guess we all need to sit down to a nice heaping meal of crow, as in eating some crow when one is proven incorrect. In my own defense it was an extraordinary set of circumstances, a perfect storm of ineptitude meets server of the year. Basically in one twenty four hour period I left a chain restaurant not only satisfied but with the feeling I had, when a typically underpaid employee goes out of their way to better your dining experience. Followed by an employee whose skill set would be more appropriate scooping up road pizza’s (roadkill) then dealing with the public.

 

Below is two reviews of last Saturday’s experience, I will leave i up to you to differentiate which one was the better of the two:

 

Each Buffalo Wild Wing I have taken a table at, in different locations and in different states to this point have a common thread. Typically lousy food and terrible service.

The manager and staff have a odd sense of self, as if they work at the premier eatery in the neighborhood, serving up the best food all resulting in the head held high manner they carry themselves. Obviously a direct result of being the best. Problem is anyone that knows anything about food, from fine dining to bar food, finds the attitude sad. Serving sub par bar food, not getting orders right and bouncing around most jovially is sub high school in mentality.

Knowing this I entered the new Buffalo Wild Wings with much to be concerned about, in short blowing my money on another endless stream of bad experiences.
When I sat at the bar, I kept my previous experiences close to my chest and began reading the tap handles with little idea of what I was in the mood for.
I used to be behind the bar for many years and something I NEVER forgot to do was to acknowledge new clients when they sat down for a drink, even if I knew I was backed up many drinks. To my expected concern, this did not occur.
The bar was empty with just two gentlemen to my right so I was loosing what little faith I had mustered up prior to my entering the restaurant.
As if reading my inability to choose a beer and my concern about every aspect of being at Buffalo Wild Wings I was offered the suggestion of some small samples of anything I wanted to try. In addition, Alex the bartender offered up a few suggestions of his own.
I tasted the Bronx Pale ale and minus the 6.3% alcohol content, it would be a tough decision to order a pint, so shallow for a hi-gravity brew.
Saranac Shandy Utica Lemon was really unique but better suited for the middle of summer and to be phased out in the beginning of autumn.
The Left Handed Milk Stout was splendid and I had hope there would be some Michigan beers on the menu (FYI: The second best beer state in the U.S., loosing narrowly to Colorado. The Flying Pig does sell one Michigan beer from Founders)

The Green Flash Head rd IPA was my favorite followed by the bartenders recommendation of the Lagunitas. Alex also pointed out that there was a new micro-brew store on Austin Street next to my favorite clothes shop ‘Anthony’, which I had no idea existed.

Thinking back I recall Buffalo Wild Wings top heat index wing barley made me flinch. Bad memory I guess because the Blazin’ was complete fire and pain, which took every ounce to asbestos tongue mentality to tough out. Parmigiana Garlic was excellent and I asked for a samples of Caribbean Jerk to mellow out the Blazin’.

If I were to quantify my positive review based on my positive experience I would have to say it was all based on Alex’s desire to do a good job. While I was drinking and eating I did observe the waitstaff and unfortunately their behavior and antics resembled the past experiences far more that what I experienced at the bar with Alex.

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Cafe Kashkar is a prime example on how service can make or break a dinner experience.

From the moment we walked in to the restaurant, all indications were that this small business would be up to the simple task of delivering the cuisine of Kaskar, waiting on the new clients hand and foot making for a pleasant dining experience. When we arrived, there were about twenty four total seats inside, some empty tables outside, so the waitstaff had four tables a piece. On the side of the restaurant I was seated at there was only one four top which is a piece of cake for any semi experienced server.

The appetizer I ordered came as a recommendation from the server (mentioned in my tip that I wrote in real time) was not available but the server assured me would be ready at some point. What point may that be? When it is time for dessert? Perhaps after we have left?
So I ordered distant second choice which was the Kashkar Salad. At seven bucks it was reasonable, filled with peppers both red and green, yet with a late onrush of spice which was not intrusive to my taste buds.
The Samsa was excellent, hard pastry shell with some nice thin cuts of lamb and translucent onion, very worth the two dollars and fifty cents per.

Ground beef ka-bob was burnt on the bottom which, as it is not cooked directly on open flame is not an easy task.
We ordered the Naan which was very fairly priced at two dollars to go with our entree Nokhat, which we shared, which was another lamb dish and  was good, far from great.

Server errors:
~Telling me about an app that is unavailable.
~Never refilling the water even though we asked in two languages on three different occasions.
~Not serving butter with our bread, yet other tables had it.
~Serving us cold bread, this is such a simple one. Just ask it to be reheated. Like I am not going to notice the difference?
~Two tables were drinking wine and beer, but there was no liquor license. The server fumbled with reasons why the patrons were having beer and wine with their meals, he seemed to not have an answer. The best understanding I got was that they sneaked it in and the business was too embarrassed to ask them to not drink it in their restaurant. really? I must have looked simple to this guy, in that he could fabricate any reason to answer any of my questions and I would buy it hook, line and sinker.
~We asked for the check three times and in two languages as we were running late for an event. The server goes to the back, which I has to assume to prepare the check as it was out third request. Instead he comes out with place settings and begins to ready a table for customers that were not there. This guy must be related to the ownership as he would be canned on the spot if he were working in most establishments.
~I am sure I am leaving out a few gems of his inability to serve, however I am growing weary of listing and discussing his ineptitude.

Geographical note: Kashkar is  the westernmost Chinese city, located near the border with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

 

 

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When Herbs Come Due, cont..

I have heard that Armenian people store their parsley in a unique fashion which I did intend on trying,, below is a photo to illustrate my best efforts to recreate their long history of working with preserving herbs and vegetables.Image

The other preservation method I am employing is a simple dry parsley which will also be placed in the freezer, given to me by my neighbor..

Take a cookie tin, lay out your stemless parsley, bake in the oven on low heat and upon completion crumble the dried leaves into the storage implement of your choice.ImageImageImage


When Herbs Come Due.

As hopefully some of you have read my last blog piece about the ease of herbs, I focused on how simple they are to grow with minimal effort and the comparisons between herbs grown in fertilized planters to those planted in the dirt of my Queens home’s backyard.

Well I have stumbled upon a question yesterday that seems very elementary to me today.

When Do Herbs Come Due?

The basil I was contrasting a few days ago as to color, texture, leaf size and texture all the way down the list to flavor was missing a important comparative component. How many times did I clip off a few stems as the plant was reaching maturity? Regarding the basil, I did pull from the planter more times than I went to the garden for some leaves. So, were the planter basil a younger based on more regeneration? The answer as of now, I think is a Yes came to me yesterday as I was picking my parsley plants which I have never really pulled much from prior. “Who used parsley?”, I was thinking to myself as I purchased it in early May and planted it in the ground the same week. My neighbor has planted some parsley from seed l, in early July . I did closely watched its progress from my yard as I was watering.The plant grew so thick and full, from my kitchen window I could easily observe the plants progress.

My next door neighbor and I talk ‘Garden’ mostly everyday and in some cases, two to three times a day. ‘he Admirals Gardening Bio: Planting tomatoes for 30 years and had the best looking, the most abundant and the best tasting ones around. The trick he would say, is to take raw fish and plant then head to tail in line, about 18 to 22 inches under ground, dig in a straight line, so the varmints could not smell the raw fish and have a digging, eating and crop destruction party. The Admiral has many tricks up his sleeve and all of his produce that he shared with me and I can readily see,  just seem to change color in a perfectly timed manner,  ripened to its proper extent. From what has been shared with me from his harvest has been wonderful. Hyper-ripe, intense in texture, resistance to bite and delivery of natural earthy, yet city in location flavor, is, to me, hard to adequately describe in my overall enjoyment , its just so far from the bland store bought vegetables and herbs in taste and texture.

The Admiral’s celery grew to the point that he did take some trimmings which I watched from next to him. The leaves were so soft, so light in color, diffing completely from my deep green, overly sturdy and bitter, hardened parsley. To this point I had learned much from the old retired fireman about gardening so I was willing to defer my plans for my parsley harvest based on his advice.

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After picking the parsley, washing it thoroughly, I placed it into a salad spinner to remove and undue moisture. This is one of the 1970’s kitchen toys that really stood the test of time, it is a staple in my kitchen and always readily accessibleImage.

 


The Ease of Herbs.

The notion of using the planters for the vegetables made sense as the pots were chock full of fertilizer and compost, but I had no knowledge if it would hamper the plants growth and development.  I decided to plant a portion in the planter and mirror the planting of the same vegetable and herb in the unfertilized soil. This was to ascertain the growth and health of the same plant in different soils response.

The results were mixed as the basil in the planters really never reached the level of development in color and flavor as the same strain of basil had accomplished in the infertile soil. The dill and rosemary both were better suited in the enriched soil of the planters. The results could possibly be misleading as the basil planter seemed over crowded, but after moving some of the extra basil out of the large planters there was very little change.Image

Above is a photo of the basil in the planter. The color of deep green was never reached and it was clearly obvious when tasted straight or when used in my cooking.

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Although slightly sandwiched between some cucumber leaves and mint leaves, you can clearly see the difference in the basil leaves. More robust, sturdy and the flavor clearly is the most telling of the visual comparison.


Preparing for the planting season in NYC.

      This blog entry would have probably provided more value to the readers, had I posted it in April instead of close to the end of the growing season, a few weeks away from harvest. However, given all of the pointers I learned along the way I found so valuable to amateur growers and homesteaders, I needed to post it. “Better later than never” as they say.

My return to NYC after some time traveling the Midwest, was really looking forward to finally planting some of the vegetables and herbs that grow well in the climate of New York City in early May.

A neighbor who lives across the street really got my planting moving rapidly by providing me with five large planters that had nice, rich fertilized soil. With the large planters in place, I was needing  some smaller planters for the smaller vegetables I would be planting as well as additional fertilizer for my reserve. As someone who cooks almost daily, I knew I would want basil, dill, rosemary and a few other herbs that I would decide upon once I reached the nursery. The packets of eggplant, beefsteak, heirloom and green grape tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, 4 types of peppers, strawberries held between four and six tiny plants, so not really understanding how much room they would occupy in the yard, I bought more than I actually needed. When I got back home and began the transfer from the packets to the planters I was beginning to understand the yard could not possibly hold all of the vegetables I had purchased, given that it is suggested that all plants have a spacing between 12 to 18 inches. 

I then measured the yard and my suspicion that there would be a lack of plant-able dirt, was realized so I needed to make a planter box for the herbs that would not have deep roots. Using some of my parents old sliding wardrobe doors I measured, cut and nailed the planter together.

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It became glaringly obvious once the plants were planted in the soil and had a weeks worth of growth, that the planter was not deep enough to be useful for any vegetable or herb that I purchased. In theory this planter box would provide portability and allow more room in the yard for the vegetables, which really were my priority. It now became a frame for the mini planters and it began to seem that the only real use of my golden planter was to prevent the small pots from blowing over in the wind.

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After three weeks in the smaller planters I decided to tear up the entire back yard which was a neglected mess of crab grass and weeds. This was a new home I just moved into so the state of the backyard was not of my doing. There are tools to rent to be able to tear up the grass but did not extend deep enough to pull the root from the bottom. Over the course of one weekend, two ten hour days, I took a hoe and dug the yard, pulled clumps of unusable grass and weeks by hand. Even after shaking as much dirt as I could form the clumps I was pulling out, I still managed to fill four garbage cans to the top.