A Letter To Restaurants About Self-Esteem

Dear Restaurant,

You should know that restaurants come and restaurants go. But all restaurants, yourself included, have an ideal customer to attract or a genre they are trying to occupy. Diners do their no-fuss thing with Bunn-bearing coffee fillers while the truly fancy roll out the white-tablecloth hush-hush treatment.

However, you could be one of those restaurants that want to be FUN, trendy, visually appealing and hip. Sadly, these restaurants lack self-esteem. Yes, self-esteem. In a restaurant. You show it in practices that make you look like you are trying too hard, and one habit stands out the moment courses are served: fear of empty plate space.

This plain cheesecake is garnished with raspberry sauce AND chocolate ganache, neither flavor represented in the cake. Thanks, Chef ‘docgeek’. No disrespect.

This fear can be witnessed in places as diverse as wannabe midscale chains to wannabe midscale local joints with aspirations of hipness. It is on striking display on rims of plates from starter to dessert: an unwillingness to let the food sit unmoored on the dish. You see, plate rims are for holding the contents of the plate in. They do not need a dusting of dried parsley to add visual “whatever”. Here are common manifestations:

Oh gawd, the poor, poor crème brûlée….

One caveat, dear restaurant: not ALL showy saucing is superfluous. There are places where the artistic swirl of flame red was an essential flavor component of the dish, to be mixed in and enjoyed as a true sauce. You awesome restaurants follow the sauce/garnish rule, which says that they should: 1) complement or enhance the dish’s flavors and 2) be edible.

Everyone else: just stop it, please.

Restaurants, you do often have other (not so minor) issues like not having a phone number on the website or not being open when you say you are or forgetting food orders between your table and the kitchen. Fix those issues first, and then attend to the trying-too-hard stuff. You’ll be a better place to dine.

Sincerely, It-Can’t-Just-Be-Me

Advertisements

Perfect Paleo Thanksgiving 2013

baby-meme-paleo-dinnerPaleo for Thanksgiving? WTF?

Based on the last few years of my own pre-, quasi- and now full- paleo** cooking, I thought I’d share a list of my absolute favorite recipes that work for that glorious Thanksgiving turkey spread. Most, if not all, of them are completely normal. You’d be hard pressed to have dinner attendees complain that these dishes are weird or healthy or out of the ordinary.

In fact, the biggest difference in a paleo friendly Thanksgiving dinner is in the handful of dishes that can simply be omitted (if everyone is on board) or not eaten by those afflicted by caveman food preferences (if you still have lots of bread eaters at the table).

**Note that ‘Paleo’ is just a limp word in lieu of a perfect and egalitarian way to describe this lifestyle and way of eating. Some folks use “ancestral eating“, some use “primal“, some just like to say “real food“. Some are “nutrient seekers“, some are “grandma cuisine“, some are “unprocessed“. Here’s my definition of the food choices this entails instead of a single term:

Well-raised meat, sustainable seafood, and organic produce are all wonderful for the human body, with raw nuts and dairy and fermented foods on occasion and rare encounters with refined sweeteners or alcohol. Any processing is best done by YOU, by hand.

That’s the gist; I hope it makes things at least a little less muddied.

Now, let’s have some gosh darned recipes, shall we?

2012-11-22 18.35.54

  1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Maple Bourbon Glaze. Yow. This is a HUGE winner. The sauce is rather involved but is worth it in the end. You almost want to just drink it instead of port after the meal. Eesh.
  2. Brussels Sprouts and Bacon. Classic, from a reliably awesome magazine (Saveur). You kind of can’t mess this one up. Just don’t burn the bacon. Drizzle with optional balsamic at the end for extra awesome.
  3. Cran-cherry Sauce for tart sweet tastiness. This one’s from a genuine paleo blogger with an awesome list of recipes for year round cooking, and an iPad app that I would own in a heartbeat if I owned anything non-Android. 🙂
  4. DID YOU THINK I’D FORGET THE BIRD? Nope, this is Russ Parson’s famous Judy Bird. The dry-brine is stupid easy, not messy, and almost foolproof. Can you beat that?
  5. Pumpkin Maple Coconut Custard. I’m either making this or the next dessert and inhaling the whole damn thing.
  6. Bruleed Bourbon Maple Pumpkin Pie. With or without the crust – who cares when there’s BRULEE happening? Oh yeah, here’s another one with no crust to omit. Hah!
  7. Dry Fried Green Beans. Chinese style because when it comes to pan frying, they know what the heck they’re doing.
  8. Cauliflower with 4 Other Delicious Things (sage, brown butter, pears, hazelnuts). I might sub chestnuts for hazelnuts because TIS the season!
  9. Broccoli with Raisin Vinaigrette. It’s almost like that horridly delicious salad we had in the Midwest. Well, not really. But, raisins!

2012-11-22 18.40.57I could go on and on. There are things like wild rice with pecans (oh-so native!) or things even more native to my current home like chiles and squash and corn for stuffing. The recipes are out there.
2012-11-22 18.36.59

Just know that you don’t have to have that stupid-sweet marshmallow sweet potato dish or the green beans with canned soup and canned onion rings in order to have a “real” Thanksgiving dinner.

To have a REAL Thanksgiving dinner, here are the things you need: family and/or friends at a table, and food on that table. Got those? Good. Have a Kitteh:

thanksgiving-because-kitteh