inquiring minds want to know:

what haven’t i done from the observer’s top 50 things every foodie should do list? (it’s pretty much the purity test for the food-obsessed.) actually, quite a lot. first of all, i take issue with this list because it’s very anglo-centric (particularly with this reverence for that michelin constellation). and some of these are just plain stupid (see #11, 14, 50).

i’ve done:
#2 (not well), 17 (but not in noto), 18 (again, not well — i almost impaled myself and also managed to destroy most of the shell before prying it off), 25 (it’s pretty much inescapable where i live), 28 (several times — but why does this make the list? i can think of more worthy places), 29 (last week and the week before! see previous entry), 30 (but not in suffolk), 31, 32 (but from what i understand, there’s a market in asia somewhere that blows this one away), 40 (also not well — and this, absolutely belongs on the list)

i need to do:
2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 12, 13, 15, 20 (i know, i’m embarrassed), 26, 38, 47 (or chicken — every meat eater should do this at least once in his life, no?), 48

[sorry to not reprint the list here or make this more readable. laziness prevails.]

a clever little roundup of ways to deal with the age-old “what to order” problem, courtesy of your friend and mine, kottke. i would say that gladwell’s approach is the one i tend to use most — however my overanalyzing tendencies will kick in on occasion and that’s when the trouble starts. the schwartz method is interesting, possibly effective, while surowiecki’s tack is the LEAST useful. the last people i trust in the dining room — as far as taste is concerned — are those people at the next table. johnson’s (given that kottke’s being a bit of a smartass here) is just silly (and i’ll admit i’m more likely to go with this method as well — but it is possible to OD on fat: foie gras + pork belly + sweetbreads + puff pastry does not a happy stomach make).

i know of two people who always ‘win’ when it comes to ordering — and at establishments haute, dive-y, and everything in between, no less. tim, tell us, how do you always know what to choose? how often and in what cases should we be wary of servers trying to push ‘specials’?

what about the rest of you?
what’s your M.O. when it comes to ordering?

  • in my initial scan of the menu, i tend to focus on first courses (it seems like 90% of restaurants put their more inspired, interesting and successful dishes here).
  • i look immediately for anything with offal or forcemeat.
  • i am more likely to pick sweetbreads over foie gras. i am likely to be torn between head parts (tongue, cheeks, headcheese, brains) and sweetbreads, prefer sweetbreads and bone marrow equally, prefer foie to tripe, but would, most likely, pick tripe if it’s there.
  • i consider meat options before fish and almost never order salad (in fact, salad is usually my last-ditch option if i’m dragged someplace i would probably not have chosen).
  • and from most preferred to least, i go for: pork, duck or goose, lamb, beef (unless it’s short ribs, oxtail, or anything braised, in which case these supersede pork), chicken. (i tend not to get veal (again, unless we’re talking cheeks) or venison in the states. and with game, it depends on where i am and what kind.)
  • i definitely prefer fattier cuts to leaner. i’m not likely to get steak unless i’m at a bistro. and if i do, i’ll get a cut from the flank (like skirt or hanger steak), not from the loin (unless i’m at peter luger’s).
  • the primary exception i make when it’s fish vs. meat is for squid, octopus, or cuttlefish. i love me some good cephalopod. i like a meaty white fish, but i’ll take shellfish (crustacean or bivalve) first. and baccalà, too. no tuna. (and only recently have i realized that o-toro is worth making an exception for. but only at really, really good sushi joints.) poached, sous-vide, stewed and braised preparations over grilled. i choose fish maybe 15% of the time. and obviously, there are exceptions: if i’m at jewel bako or pearl oyster bar i’m not going to order pork chops.
  • potatoes or pasta before rice (i get rice rarely. even risotto). definitely pasta if it’s an italian place.
  • preference of desserts, from most to least: citrus-based, other fruit-based, tarts/pies, bread puddings, custards, cakes, chocolate-based. absofuckinglutely no molten chocolate cakes. never ever ever. i have newfound appreciation for fortified and dessert wines and digestifs.
  • good cheese list? bring it on.

clearly this reflects my new york dining habits. everything goes out the window in italy. except for the part about pasta. there are different sets of rules too for ethnic restaurants. but these rules are pretty much self-selected by the places where i usually choose to eat.


3 Responses to “111649075957808319”

  1. 1 Carl May 19, 2005 at 4:03 pm

    I came up with a rough estimate of $15k, excluding travel and lodging costs of at least another $8-10k if you stayed in hostels, to accomplish the top 50. Plus you’d need a lot of spare time, persuasive skills, and language abilities. But it would be quite a scvenger hunt.

  2. 2 winnie May 20, 2005 at 3:18 am

    but carl, don’t you think these aren’t meant to be done all in one go? i think $25k sounds reasonable spread out over, say, 30 years. which seems like the kind of timeframe one would need to get to all these places. i know i definitely couldn’t handle eating at more than 3 3-michelin star restaurants or the equivalent within a week. it would make me throw up. you going to answer my question or not? i’m curious how you order, carl.

  3. 3 carl May 20, 2005 at 9:02 am

    I’m actually much more picky about my choice of restaurant than my choice of dish once I arrive. There are a lot more restaurants in a city than items on a menu. I look for places where, upon tasting most of the menu over a long period of time, I might come in one day with a friend who’s new to the place and say “don’t worry– everything is good here.”

    I just woke up so I don’t have much more to say about this right now…

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